Steve Jobs

October 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“127 Hours”)
Written by: Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”)

Never mind that Oscar-nominated actor Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”) looks nothing like the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. We all know from the uninspired 2013 biopic “Jobs,” which starred Ashton Kutcher in the title role, how making that the priority can end up not having much of an effect on the final product, especially when the script is about as interesting as binary code. Fortunately, in the latest Steve Jobs biography, aptly titled “Steve Jobs,” the screenplay and Fassbender are the stars of the show and give the iconic computer genius a film worthy of his contribution to the tech industry.

Based on the book by of the same name by Walter Isaacson, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”), delivers the type of fast-paced, sharp Sorkinesque dialogue he’s been known for throughout his career. Like his character Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” Sorkin has another larger-than-life leading man to express his biting quips and sarcasm as well as some heartfelt emotion into Fassbender’s Jobs. Sorkin also sets Jobs’ story in a unique way very few writers would dare to attempt when tackling the life of a man most would need a miniseries to capture truthfully.

In “Steve Jobs,” Sorkin takes audiences into Jobs’ life during three prominent milestones of his career – the 1984 launch of the Macintosh, the 1988 launch of the NeXT computer, and the 1998 launch of the iMac. Each of these “backstage” vignettes transports moviegoers into the inner workings of the high-profile launches and examines how Jobs handled the pressure of each event. We also get an incredible glimpse at Jobs’ interaction with Apple coworkers, most notably his longtime assistant Joanna (a wonderful Kate Winslet), who is the most consistent figure in his life, and his role as a reluctant father to his young estranged daughter he refuses to recognize.

Sorkin paints a thought-provoking picture of Jobs. Much of it is not a flattering one for his personality, but it does sing his praises as someone who is able to take control of any situation and be the conductor of his own symphony, as Sorkin so skillfully writes. While Danny Boyle does a satisfactory job at staging these events, nothing screams out that this is a Boyle film. Still, with Fassbender leading the way in this dialogue-heavy drama, “Steve Jobs” says a lot more than the average cradle-to-the-grave story. It might be Fassbender’s symphony, but Sorkin’s the maestro of the entire suite.

Jurassic World

June 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Written by:  Rick Jaffa (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Amanda Silver (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) and Derek Connolly (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)

There’s some reasonably sharp meta humor bubbling under the surface during certain scenes in “Jurassic World” referencing the notion that, 20 or so years after the world in the film became aware that dinosaurs had been genetically-engineered back to life, the public has grown bored with T. rex and company. “No one’s impressed with dinosaurs.”  The titular theme park- envisioned by John Hammond in the ‘90s – has now become a destination resort filled with kitschy souvenirs, Margaritavilles and families wanting more than the thunder lizards they’ve been seeing for the better part of two decades now. This not-so-subtle commentary alludes to the real-life trajectory of 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” the movie that not only started this franchise but is also nearly entirely responsible for the CGI special effects revolution that has dominated the summer movie season and beyond ever since. With knowing winks at the past and some fresher spins on the formula, “Jurassic Work” finally offers fans of the series a truly worthy sequel to the modern Spielberg classic.

Finally a fully-operational theme park to rival anything Disney has to offer, Jurassic World boasts 20,000 visitors a day, but executive Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) recognizes the park needs to evolve to survive financially, and that calls for and exciting (and dangerous) new dinosaur. After the on-site lab cooks up an unstoppable killing machine, the Indominous Rex, billionaire park CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) insists on bringing in an expert to check the safety of the paddock. Thankfully, there’s one on site in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a wiseass dino trainer with his own pack of semi-loyal velociraptors. When I-rex inevitably uses its genetic modifications to escape its enclosure, Claire and Masrani are determined to capture the valuable beast without evacuating the park. Of course this doesn’t go as planned, and it’s up to Owen and his dinosaur pals to stop the I-rex before InGen mercenary Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) can use it in his plan to militarize dinosaurs.

Messy and over-written, “Jurassic World” nonetheless overcomes whatever misdeeds it may commit in its overstuffed screenplay by giving us some thrilling dinosaur action. With no less than six different plots going on—four of them not interesting at all—the movie thrives when focusing on the banality of modern society in the mall-like atmosphere of an over-engineered theme park, filled with tourists staring at their phones, and cramming it up against the very real danger of unleashing murderous monsters into that ecosystem. The climax of the film, offering up a bronto-sized shout out to longtime fans of the series, is just the right kind of goofy craziness to leave you cheering and laughing at the same time. Finally, we have a reason to return to Jurassic Park.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”)
Written by: Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”)

This far into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it’s called, we’ve seemed to settle on a formula as far as movies with the word “Avengers” in the title and all of the other movies shake out: the other movies are ultimately there to lead us to the next Avengers movie—2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the good-time jam “Guardians of the Galaxy” notwithstanding—providing some entertaining spectacle engineered to kick up hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office while trying their best to cover up the fact that it’s all nothing but wheel-spinning until the next Avengers team up. And yet, here we are, after a banner year for Marvel movies both critically and financially, with “Avengers: Age of UItron,” a movie that feels less like the culmination of things and more like a set up for the next damn Avengers movie.

After the events of “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the powerful staff of villain Loki has ended up in the hands of Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) who is using its power to experiment on humans, namely twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in order to give them enhanced abilities. The Avengers, including Iron Man (Downey), Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), lead an attack on Strucker’s Eastern European hideout to gain possession of the powerful artifact. Victorious, the team celebrates back in New York City, but not before Tony Stark and Bruce Banner put Stark’s computer butler Jarvis (voice of Paul Bettany) to work using the staff to create the Ultron project, an artificial intelligence charged with protecting the Earth from another alien attack. Only something goes wrong, and the Ultron that emerges is a humanity-hating android (voiced by James Spader) bent on wiping out the human race, and, of course, only the Avengers can stop him.

Writer/director/nerd messiah Joss Whedon returns to script and call the shots here after turning the first “Avengers” film into a global juggernaut and cementing Marvel Studios as a bona fide blockbuster machine. His trademark witty banter and obvious affinity for stories of ragtag teams made the initial outing something special, a fun mega-budget adventure with a real beating heart, a style used once again to great success in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  With “Age of Ultron,” though, Whedon’s style seems lost in the excess – there is a LOT of movie to this movie – with no place to put things he likes to, so we’re left with weirdness like a Spader-voiced murderbot who cracks wise like a cast member of “Firefly.” As for the main Avengers, moments of growth and evolution from their last on screen appearances seem forgotten as well: Captain America exhibits no real fallout from the knowledge that the people he thought he was fighting for were the enemy all along, Tony Stark still has dozens of Iron Man suits even after destroying them and walking away in “Iron Man 3,” and Bruce Banner regresses to a self-doubting neurotic about his transformation into the Hulk, despite seeming to have it under control the last time the Avengers assembled.

With most of the main characters already penciled in to Marvel’s movie schedule through 2020, “Age of Ultron” feels inconsequential at best, like a place-holder at worst. When the now-obligatory mid-credits stinger is finished, you’ll be left wondering why THAT wasn’t the storyline of this adventure all along.