JOBS (2013)

August 21, 2013

jobs1 Greetings again from the darkness. One of the key characteristics of Steve Jobs was that he was constantly striving for perfection. Not just good. Not just acceptable. He wanted the perfect product in the perfect package sold in the perfect store. Whether or not you are a fan of Jobs and Apple, it’s painful to watch a middling movie about the man and the company … a movie that seems to strive for very little, and certainly not perfection.

Ashton Kutcher delivers an impersonation of Jobs complete with beady eyes, slumped shoulders and awkward gait. This is not one of those biopics where the performer disappears into the famous character. We never forget that we are watching Kutcher’s attempt to act and sound like Jobs. But Kutcher is far from the worst part of the movie … in fact, he is fine, given what he has to work with.

jobs2 The real issue with the movie is that it just offers no real insight into the man or the company. Instead we see only the headlines: Jobs drops out, Jobs goes barefooted, Jobs is a jerk, Jobs takes advantage of Woz, Jobs does drugs, Jobs eats fruit, Jobs is a jerk, Jobs is booted out, Jobs comes back, Jobs is a jerk.  The challenge to telling the story of Steve Jobs and Apple stems from finding the genius within the jerk.  Walter Isaacson’s book “Steve Jobs” does exceptional work on that front, and I believe there is a movie project in the works based on his source material.

The supporting cast is impressive: Dermot Mulroney (Mike Makkula), Lukas Haas (Daniel Kottke, Matthew Modine ( John Sculley), JK Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, John Getz, Ron Eldard (Rod Holt), Kevin Dunn and James Woods. Especially effective, and maybe the only reason to see the movie, is Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak.  Woz is known to be the technical jobs3genius behind the founding of Apple and Gad perfectly captures the spirit of Wozniak as we in the public have come to know him over the years.

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote), the film is written by first time screenwriter Matt Whiteley. This seems inexplicable to me. A writer with no credits is charged with coming up with a script on one of the most enigmatic and complex and successful people of our times. In fact, the result is what one would expect … a made-for-TV type glossy presentation that doesn’t dig too deep or offer any insight. In short, the kind of movie that Steve Jobs would have despised.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you want the “Cliff’s Notes” version of Steve Jobs and Apple OR you want to see Josh Gad’s best performance to date

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you want insight and substance behind the story of Jobs and Apple … instead, read Walter Isaacson’s book

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR6yMl2FZSQ

 


SUPER 8

June 13, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. A nostalgic feeling generated by nostalgic filmmaking at the hands of JJ Abrams and classic Spielberg. Yes, I meant to use nostalgic twice … the film has a familiar feel to it, but also entirely new twists and effects. That’s what happens when the master (Steven Spielberg) and the star pupil (Abrams) unite.

Part of the nostalgia is that this is kind of a throwback to the blockbuster era that Spielberg helped create. There are bits and pieces of Jurassic Park, E.T., The Goonies, *Batteries not Included, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws. Spielberg has always had a nice feel for kids and emotions, and in this film the genius of Abrams’ script and special effects make for a spectacular combination.

 You know there is nothing more fun for these filmmakers than a story about smart, outcast kids obsessed with making a movie! Throw in the adolescent battle over the out-of-reach older girl, the somewhat demented kid who just loves explosions, the sensitive kid dealing with the death of his mother, the wise beyond her years girl who is a natural actress, and the chubby, driven boy with a camera … mix it up with a couple of clueless parents and the evil, secretive Air Force, a sci-fi element and you have quite the exciting small town Ohio drama with comedic elements and startling special effects.

Not going to say anything about the “surprise” that was hinted in the trailer, but what I will say is that the first hour of this movie was pure movie magic to me. Unfortunately, the second half was a slight let down, though certainly not horrible. I just enjoyed the pure human elements on display before it became just another …

 The film really rides on the shoulders of Elle Fanning (probably the last time I will reference her as Dakota’s little sis). Ms. Fanning has proved again that she may be the most talented of the acting sisters. She really has a feel for her scenes and clearly melts the heart of young Joe Lamb, played by newcomer Joel Courtney. Also excellent are Riley Griffiths as Charles the movie maker, and Ryan Lee as Cary the demolition “expert”. Joe’s dad is played by Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), but again, this film really belongs to the kids.

The film is rated PG-13 for some pretty intense scenes and some language that many prefer not to hear coming from kids. It’s too bad more films “like” this aren’t made, but that’s probably a factor of not many filmmakers being in the class of Spielberg and Abrams (Lost, Star Trek).

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you can sit back and enjoy a big ol’ blockbuster with a fun script and giant special effects

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer high art that taxes the mind