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.

Ep. 67 – Steve Jobs, reaction to the new Star Wars trailer, Chris Rock is hosting the Oscars, and Edgar Wright is teaming up with Johnny Depp, Neil Gaiman, and Bret McKenzie

October 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys talk about “Steve Jobs,” their reactions to the final “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer, Chris Rock returning to host the Oscars, and the perfect storm of Edgar Wright directing Johnny Depp in an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Fortunately, The Milk” written by Bret McKenzie.

[0:00-12:37] Intro, weather talk, podcasting-over-Skype woes, and Kiko is somewhere noisy.
[12-37-24:33] Reactions to the final “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer
[24:33-33:29] Chris Rock returns to host the Oscars
[33:29-39:13] Edgar Wright and Johnny Depp to team up for “Fortunately, The Milk”
[39:13-56:30] Steve Jobs
[56:30-1:09:37] Wrap up/tease next episode

Click here to download the episode!

Trance

April 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Joe Ahearne (debut) and John Hodge (“The Beach”)

Though his movies are well known and his reputation as an impressive filmmaker is planted in the world of cinema, director Danny Boyle has never quite had a huge audience for his work. In fact, only one of his movies has ever crossed the $50-million box office threshold, and only three have crossed $20 million. Of course, that all changed when Boyle orchestrated and directed the opening ceremony for the 2010 London Summer Olympics, which was watched by an estimated 900 million people around the world. After being at the helm of an event watched by nearly a billion people, Boyle returns to his roots with another low-budget independent feature. In his follow-up to the stunning multi-Oscar nominated 2009 film “127 Hours,” “Trance” (which was actually filmed before the Olympic ceremony planning, shelved, and finished post-Olympics) is Boyle’s take on a psychologically skewed art-heist film.

In “Trance,” art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) helps to orchestrate a heist of an expensive painting. In the middle of improvising a double-crossing scheme, Simon suffers a blow to the head by ring-leader Franck (Vincent Cassell) and suffers amnesia. Unable to remember where he hid the painting, Franck enlists in a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) in an attempt to figure out where the priceless painting was stashed. Elizabeth discovers Simon is in trouble and from there, relationships, motives and greed begin to emerge.

The performances in “Trance” are fine, but nobody particularly stands out. McAvoy is the best of the bunch, as he gets to play a wide variety of emotions. With Cassell, you get an above average version of a very typical crime villain. Dawson brings an overt sexuality to the role, which is laid on pretty thick by Boyle. Ultimately, it serves no real purpose other than to unnecessarily complicate relationships between characters. Strangely enough, while they all have pretty good on-screen chemistry, their relationships within the movie are poorly written and difficult to buy into.

Screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge along with Boyle perhaps overload on confidence, expecting the audience to care about the eventual end point of the story. The problem is that while the half-cooked plot lines are left hanging, there is no suspense or curiosity attached to them. Though there are themes of greed, trust, and obsession, which linger throughout the entirety of the film, the script as a whole feels incredibly unpolished and haphazardly thrown together. The presentation of hypnosis throughout the film requires a suspension of disbelief and even then is still extremely far-fetched. For a director who has such a distinct visual style and flair, even the look of “Trance” fail to impress. Sure, there are some neat camera angles and shot compositions but certainly nothing that could be considered a unique stamp for Boyle.

While “Trance” starts with an interesting premise, it eventually collapses on itself after an exhausting series of underwhelming twists that takes entirely too long to develop. Even after a drawn out, overdramatic expository scene, which explains nearly everything, there are still narratives turns in what seems like a never-ending loop of penultimate endings. Instead of being a thoughtful and challenging suspense film, “Trance” is unnecessarily confusing and akin to being given pieces to a puzzle that you just want to give up on halfway through.

Danny Boyle – 127 Hours

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

During a phone interview with me, Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) explained why his new film “127 Hours” is more than a story of survival – it’s a journey toward self-discovery he hopes audiences can help resolve. The film, based on Aron Ralston’s book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” takes audiences back to 2003 when Ralston became trapped inside a Utah canyon when his arm was pinned between a boulder and the canyon wall. Ralston survived the ordeal when he managed to amputate his own arm five days after the accident and rappel to safety.

What resonated with you when you read Aron Ralston’s autobiography?

I found it exhilarating and intense. It really showed the importance of the life’s spirit. It was complicated, as well, because here was a guy who was sort of regarded as a superhero. What I found in the book was a bit more complicated than that. He goes into that canyon as an incredible athlete – this independent, self-sufficient superhero. When nature stops him with that rock, he sort of has to look at himself and the other people in his life. Not just the people that he knows, but the spirit that connects us all. It’s that, I think, that helps him get out of there as much as it is his individual courage. It’s a story about all of us, not just a story about a superhero. We’re all capable of it. We all do it. And even more important than that, we help everyone else survive the bad times by the spirit that is with us all. He achieves a kind of grace, really, that he learns by recognizing his faults, which allows him to finally get out of there with this extraordinary act that he does.

Do you consider Aron a hero? Some people could argue he’s simply a reckless adventurer.

I think he’s both. This is a journey, not just a survival story. Some people would call him deeply reckless on his way in the canyon. He’s dangerous but he usually gets away with it like some of us do so often in life. He doesn’t think of it as reckless. I mean, it is fun for him. We all lead boring lives, you know. But there is something more important and deeper that he ends up having to understand. In order to be our hero he has to make a big change in his heart and mind. I hope, because it is such a great performance, that that builds with him so that when he does cut his arm off you are involved in it in a way. It’s not something horrific that you are watching, although it is horrific on some level, it’s watching something that you are helping and willing him on to do. When he gets released there is a sense of euphoria but it’s a deeper and more profound feeling of the life spirit.

Entertainment Weekly has dubbed it the “Franco limb syndrome” already.

(Laughs) Listen, it’s tough for everyone. What has surprised me is that there haven’t been any walkouts. There have been people that have felt queasy at the time. We had one guy that fainted and when he came around he said, “By the way, great film guys.” What I think is that it’s an extreme empathetic reaction rather that it being something out of a horror movie. You are so intensely involved in him that you feel vulnerable. It’s an extraordinary experience. It’s like that in the book. With a scene like that, the studio is very nervous. They’re wondering which way we’re going to go. You can sensationalize it by pushing the horror and making it really gross or you can trivialize it by not showing enough of it. It took him 40 minutes [to cut his arm off] and it involved pain that most men will never ever get near in our lives thank god. I wanted to follow the book exactly. The studio asked if we could take it back a bit. I said no because I wanted it to be as close to Aron’s experience as we could possibly make it. Although there is a small number of people who feel that reaction, most people get a deep sense of catharticism from it as if it is being purged. He said he left that canyon more complete of a person that he went in there, even with having to leave part of his arm behind.

It wasn’t hard for me to watch it as much as it was to listen to the way you incorporate sound into this painful ordeal he is going through.

It’s all in the book. There is one specific part where he breaks the bone in his arm and describes it as this incredible gunshot going off in the canyon. He also said when he approached a nerve – and we had to find an equivalent for it – he describes it as plunging your hand into red hot volcanic lava and just leaving it there. Many women who have gone through childbirth have sensed this pain threshold, but men rarely do unless you’re very unlucky. Not only did he feel that pain, but he pushed through it in order to get to the other side. That’s the journey. He has to go through that pain. I don’t think any of that would matter if we didn’t have an actor like James [Franco] who took you through that journey. You have sound and all that, but it wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t have this guy taking you through it on a journey. It’s an astonishing performance of endurance and courage for the greater goal beyond that pain.

127 Hours

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Danny Boyle (debut)

If the only reason you’re questioning whether or not to see Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle’s newest film “127 Hours” is because of the graphic amputation scene supposedly causing audiences to pass out in their popcorn, that’s not a good enough reason to skip one of the best films of the year. Suck it up, skip the snack, and go on this stylish journey of survival and self-discovery as soon as possible.

“127 Hours” is based on the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston, who in 2003 gets his arm caught between a boulder and a canyon wall in Utah and lives to tell about it after he makes the brave decision to cut through his own limb to free himself.

Trapped in the crevice for more than five days, we watch as Aron (James Franco in the best performance of his career) uses the few tools he has to chip away at the rock pinning him down, conserves the little food and water he’s brought along into the isolated canyons, and slowly lose all hope as the days get longer and nights get colder.

Through compelling flashback scenes and others where Aron hallucinates, Boyle makes some remarkable directorial choices to help us understand exactly the situation Aron has found himself in. Unlike the film “Buried” where our main character spends 90 minutes literally laying in a coffin, Boyle takes audiences deeper than just the idea of how claustrophobic the experience is.

Boyle allows us to enter the mind of our protagonist and into the crevice itself. When he takes short drinks from his water bottle, we’re aware of just how much time he has left. When he holds a sincere conversation with himself or records a message on his camcorder, we become transfixed in Aron’s need to escape and his acceptance of his own mortality.

Franco captures this through an emotionally-charged performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination. It’s a role unlike anything we’ve ever seen him in before and one that will truly be labeled as career definining when all is said and done. “127 Hours” is a fascinating example of what an actor can do with a intense screenplay and so little room to maneuver.

As graphic as the final scene is, it is not gratuitous. By that time, you will be so invested in Aron the pain he feels during these excruciating moments will become all too real. Boyle doesn’t let up and the film is all the better for having a director bold enough to make those tough decisions.

Slumdog Millionaire

December 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Sunshine”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”)

Deep from the slums of Mumbai, India, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a captivating story about life, love and predestination told in one of the most unique narratives of the year.

The film follows Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a poor orphan who has found himself only one question away from winning the grand prize of $20 million rupees on the Hindi version of the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Jamal, however, is not participating in the game show to win money. He is there for a more important reason – true love.  Jamal believes that the longer he manages to stay on the show, the more likely his long-lost love Latika (Freida Pinto) will see him.

But growing up in the slums with no education isn’t going to help Jamal answer the questions posed to him during the competition. Instead, he relies on fate to guide him through each query. The better Jamal does during the show, the more skeptical a police inspector (Irfan Khan) becomes. “What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?” he asks when they begin to interrogate Jamal and attempt to get him to confess to somehow cheating on the show.

But there is an inexplicable power helping Jamal through his quest to find Latika. As we watch him sit across from the show’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) answering questions, we begin to understand the profoundness of the event happening before our eyes through beautifully detailed flashbacks of Jamal and his brother Salim raising themselves after their mother is killed.

Each question Jamal is asked transports us to meaningful and sometimes tragic times in his life that he can’t shake from his mind. With those deep-seated memories, Jamal is hopeful fate will continue direct him until he is able to find the girl he has always loved.

British filmmaker Danny Boyle has created a powerful story about destiny and the ability of the human heart to continue to love despite life’s hardships. Shooting on location in Mumbai, Boyle encapsulates the ambiance and energy of the city through sweeping cinematography and one of the most stimulating soundtracks this year. Boyle has proven in the past that he can take on any type of genre (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine”), and do it with enthusiasm. In “Millioniare,” the project at times seems bigger than the the players but Boyle is able to take control of all its components and deliver an authentic piece of filmmaking full of exhilaration.

Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Interviews

The idea that life is predestined was a strange concept for British director Danny Boyle to wrap his head around until he began filming his newest feature, “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“I was very skeptical about [destiny] before I started filming ‘Slumdog,’” Boyle told me during a phone interview last month. “I thought it was something that made people very passive and accepting of the way things are. It doesn’t work like that, though. It’s a much more cohesive force that binds everybody together.”

While shooting “Slumdog,” Boyle found he was connected in a profound way to the more than 13 million people living in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the city in India where the film is set. He saw the economic gap between those living in the slums and those who lived a more stable life by taking advantage of the country’s booming market. The citizens of Mumbai, Boyle says, were one despite destiny’s separate plans for them. Though he was an outsider, Boyle said he, too, became a part of their integrated world. His skepticism about fate slowly diminished during the year he spent there filming the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a teenager from the slums of Mumbai who relies on destiny to help him find a long-lost love while competing to win the grand prize on the Hindi version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Last week, Boyle earned Best Director accolades from the film-critics associations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and the National Board of Review D.C. critics also named “Slumdog Millionaire” the Best Film of 2008.

I read you actually almost turned down the opportunity to direct this film.

I didn’t know if I wanted to make the film because it was first described to me as a film about the TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” and I felt very ambiguous about that. Although I compulsively watched the show like everyone else, especially since it started in Britain, I wasn’t sure about it because they take ordinary people and dangle staggering wealth in front of them. Most of them aren’t going to win it. Then they humiliate people even when they are very good-natured. So, I wasn’t sure it was really my thing.

What finally made you overlook the vague description first pitched to you?

There was a wonderful story attached to it. The show is just a device to get to the real story. Also, setting it in India was interesting because there is contrast between the country and the money the show offers. In India — in terms of the cost of living — it’s the biggest cash prize in the world. There is contrast between that and half the population living in the slums. It’s that extreme difference that makes it such a gift for a storyteller.

I can remember when the $5,000 slot on “Wheel of Fortune” was considered a lot of money. Now, you can go on a game show and become a millionaire overnight.

I know. I remember when they launched it in Britain. You could win a million pounds! It was almost like a joke. They had to pass special legislation in Parliament to permit it because it was so beyond anything that had ever been offered on a game show. [“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”] lifted [game shows] into a different world.

And now the show is getting more global. I just read Afghanistan recently launched its own version.

It’s unbelievable, I know! It’s an incredible world. No matter what is happening people want to play these games.

Since this was the first film you’ve ever shot in India and since you knew you were going to dip into the talent pool of Bollywood, were there any doubts about anything since it was all so unfamiliar?

Well, the biggest worry was that I thought no one would recognize anyone in the movie. Anil Kapoor is a very famous Bollywood star, but you worry no one in the U.S. or U.K. will know anybody. But that’s part of the appeal. It is something fresh and different. The country itself feels very young like [Jamal]. It gives the story a different dynamic.

“Slumdog Millionaire” opens in Mumbai in January. Did you feel a sense of responsibility to the city to capture their culture, people, and way of life correctly, especially since you are an outsider?

Yeah, you are definitely aware that you are a Westerner going in. The only way to do it is to fling yourself into it as subjectively as possible. You don’t go in with any attitude or objectives beyond the emotion of the story. That’s the technique I had to use. It’s a very bustling city full of energy and life and stories. It’s got this growing economy and this heightened sense of their role in the world.

What about filming in the slums? I have a hard time believing if you walked unannounced into a housing project or extremely poor neighborhood in the U.S. with a camera crew you would get much support, especially if the people who live there think you’re exploiting them.

We took a very small crew, and the rest were local Bollywood people who grew up there. They knew we were making the right kind of film. They didn’t want us to portray them in a pitiful way. They are poor, but they want to have dignity. They don’t want to be objects of people’s pity. [The slums are] a great resource for a filmmaker. If you go in not trying to change it or organize it too much, it gives you all this free stuff. Everything is naked on the surface. There are all these extreme and shocking elements to it and you have to get your head in line to get the best parts of it. Mumbai reminded me of the first time I went to New York. It’s a city that shakes you by the neck. You can feel it in every molecule you breathe.