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!

Labor Day

January 31, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet, Gattlin Griffith
Directed by: Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
Written by: Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)

It’s a definitive strike one for four-time Oscar nominated director/writer/producer Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”) with his new film “Labor Day,” a ridiculous love story adapted from a novel by Joyce Maynard, who, based on the way the film plays out, might come from the same school of fluff romanticism as Nicholas Sparks. We’re not quite sure what Reitman saw in the novel to engage him in this project, but whatever it was, he fails to translate that narrative into anything believable on the big screen. With such a strong track record since he started making features in 2005, it’s an extreme disappointment all around.

In “Labor Day,” single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are approached by Frank (Josh Brolin), a stranger in a department store, who asks for their help. Feeling threatened, Adele and Henry drive him to their home where they learn Frank is an escaped convict and wants to use Adele’s home as a hideout until it’s safe to hit the road at night. His plans to lay low, however, turn into something completely different when Frank and Adele start falling for each other. Blame it on the way Frank’s manly hands caress the dough when he teaches Adele and Henry how to bake a peach pie or the fact that Adele is a lonely, desperate woman, but the connection between the two is far more eye-roll inducing than could ever be imagined.

Sure, in every romance there is room for a little corniness and scenes to sweep viewers off their feet, but what Reitman presents here between Winslet and Brolin would’ve been better portrayed on the cover of a novel where a scantily clad Adele is pressed against Brolin’s bare-chested, chiseled physique while the two stand in a meadow with the title “Convict’s Seduction” printed in script under them. Their relationship is that absurd. Adele’s fantasy – if that’s what you want to call it – is that insincere. Let’s also not forget the film’s other shortcomings, which include a series of flashbacks that do nothing for the pacing of the film; a secondary and extremely underwritten storyline where Henry is experiencing his own sexual awakening with a local girl; unnecessary and lazily written narration read by Toby Maguire, who plays an adult Henry; and a handful of plot holes, one of which shows Frank playing Mr. Fix-It for Adele in full view of the neighbors even though he’s supposed to be hiding out from cops.

“Labor Day” is a frustrating film, especially since everyone involved simply should’ve known better. Winslet and Brolin seem invested in their characters and are try to sell their love as something magical and complex, but without a script to support their efforts, “Labor Day” ends up being a waste of a lot of great talent, not to mention a long weekend.

Carnage

January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Directed by: Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”)
Written by: Roman Polanski (“The Ghost Writer”) and Yasmina Reza (“Chicas”)

With a title like “Carnage,” even if the weapon of choice is words, one might expect to see some type of intellectual bloodbath. In Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski’s (“The Pianist”) new dark comedy, the dialogue may be sharp at times, but the force behind the jabs is nothing a little Band-Aid wouldn’t fix. As overblown as it is, however, those involved would have you believe they were tossed into a pit of meat cleavers.

Based on the play “God of Carnage” written by Yasmina Reza (the Broadway version starring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden won Best Play at the 2009 Tony Awards), the screenplay — co-written by Polanski and Reza — starts off effortlessly enough before diving into a diatribe of irritating proportions.

Two preteen boys get into a fight at a park in the swankier side of Brooklyn. One of the kids busts the other’s mouth with a big stick (in a less privileged neighborhood it might’ve been a shank or a 9mm). The kids’ parents (Cristoph Waltz and Kate Winslet play Alan and Nancy Cowan; Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael Longstreet) decide the best way to remedy the situation is for both couples to meet in person and talk it out. But when their face-to-face goes from civil to sour, the Longstreets and Cowens flash their claws and berate each other on everything from parenting techniques to animal cruelty.

If you enjoy listening to people air their dirty laundry to the point of sick fascination, “Carnage” might produce enough snarky attitude to allow you overlook phony characters at their worst. Maybe that’s the point. Just because I couldn’t relate to these whiny parents who drink expensive Scotch, have out-of-print Oskar Kokoschka books in their bourgeois apartment, and use words like “conciliating” and “upbraided” in everyday conversation, doesn’t meant there aren’t some out there who will. There’s supposed to be an uncomfortable dark humor behind their snobbery, but as the quarreling continues and goes off on tangents, it gets less and less interesting. Despite the consistent rhythm Polanski is able to pull off in this contrived chamber piece, I kept hoping there might be a gas leak somewhere in the kitchen. Get halfway through the 80-minute “Carnage” and you’ll feel like you’ve earned some quiet time.

Now, I admit, I’ve only seen a handful of public theater versions of the play on YouTube, but I’m convinced this is one of those instances where a film adaptation was an ill-fated idea right from the start. Even the simple mechanics of the production don’t make sense in movie form. On stage there is nowhere to run and hide, but in Polanski’s take there are countless moments when the chaos would come to an end if someone just said good-bye and meant it.

“What the hell are we doing here?”Nancy asks well past the point of no return. A better question would’ve been, “How many times have we walked back into this apartment for more coffee?”

While a lot of the material is grating, the performances (even the miscast and sometimes overly-aggressive Foster) are just as proficient as the 11 Oscar nominations and four wins between the foursome would lead you to believe. The standout is Waltz who plays his father character with a menacing twinkle in his eye. He knows how silly all this is, but he’s still waiting for someone else to get the joke. If “Carnage” gets under your skin, however, the last thing you’ll want to figure out is why a cultural comparison between Ivanhoe and John Wayne is supposed to be clever.

Contagion

September 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
Directed by:  Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”)
Written by:  Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

Once a year or so, a national news program will trot out one of those gross-out ratings-grabber stories about just how dirty and germ-filled your workplace is. The reporter will take cotton swabs and run them across objects officemates unconsciously touch like doorknobs, copy machines and keyboards. Back at the laboratory, the Petri dishes invariably explode into a horror show of nasty germs that make you shudder at the thought of opening a door and eating a sandwich without dousing your hands in gallons of sanitizer. Who wants to catch Scarlet fever from simply grabbing the handle on the break room fridge?

In “Contagion,” the new film from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), the ickiness of passing germs around willy-nilly by touch turns deadly when a new virus emerges causing international pandemonium. Before anyone knows what’s going on, the virus has already gone global by way of carriers like the coughing man on the bus who grabs every pole and handrail before he comes to his stop, the sick kid leaving a snot smear on the door as he leaves school, and “patient zero” playing poker at the casino and passing infected chips around the table.

Here, “patient zero” is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), an American businesswoman who brings the virus to the U.S. from Hong Kong. Returning home to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her young son, Beth kicks off a chain reaction of infection in her hometown of Minneapolis (as well as Chicago, by way of a quickie extra-marital fling on the way home). The outbreak attracts the attention of the Centers for Disease Control, led by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) as well as that of inflammatory blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law). Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to track down everyone exposed to the virus in the states while Krumwiede pokes and prods and generally cries “government/pharmaceutical conspiracy!” at every turn.  The globe-trotting narrative works well in the character-heavy plot, which includes a World Health Organization doctor (Marion Cotillard) sent to trace the origin of the virus and scientists (Jennifer Ehle, Elliot Gould, Demetri Martin) charged with developing a vaccine. Mitch and his desire to protect his daughter as society crumbles around them stays at the center of the chilling story.

Soderbergh’s deft direction of a sprawling cast peppered with Oscar winners and nominees feels breezy and effortless, even when the story spirals into the darkness and questions what an event like this would bring to the real world. The only element that rings false is Law’s provocative celebrity blogger character, which is a clear attempt to modernize the old “intrepid reporter” archetype the rise of internet journalism has rendered obsolete. Fortunately, the rest of the film is rooted firmly enough in reality to make you thoroughly wash your hands afterward, and maybe turn your head in mild panic when someone coughs in a crowded room.

Revolutionary Road

December 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”)
Written by: Justin Haythe (“The Clearing”)

Married with a house and a mortgage and 2.5 kids. It might sound like the standard version of the American Dream for any conventional couple, but for the characters of Richard Yates’s best-selling novel, it is their prison.

In “Revolutionary Road,” directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (their first film together since 1997’s “Titanic”) give life and discontentment to Frank and April Wheeler, a seemingly happy husband and wife living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s.

It’s a peaceful facade from the outside, but like Mendes’s “Beauty,” there are unseen thorns under this bed of roses. Although they seem like the perfect couple to their friends, Frank and April are miserable. Frank is stuck in a job in office sales and having an empty affair with a naïve young girl at the company, while April, who once dreamed to become an actress, is trapped at home caring for her two children and making the best of a life she finds unfulfilling.

Despite the Wheeler’s marriage coming to an obvious end, April believes it can be saved if they just had a change in scenery. One night, she spontaneously proposes to Frank that they pack up and move to Paris to start over. She sweetens the deal by telling him that she will be the one to work and provide for the family while he discovers what it is he wants out of life. The plan sounds illogical, but Frank and April know that if it doesn’t work out their marriage won’t survive by simply “playing house” and accepting their apathy for each other as natural relationship wear-and-tear.

Through emotionally draining and depressing scenes, DiCaprio and Winslet scrape away at each other until both become fragile and feel worthless. Both are astonishing in their roles. The X-factor in this devastating story comes from supporting actor Michael Shannon, who plays “certified lunatic” John Givings, the manic son of one of the Wheelers’ neighbors who cuts the couple down to size and expresses opinions to them as if he was reading their minds. He talks to the Wheelers unlike anyone has ever dared to before. At first, the his candidness is appreciated, but when John finds his way into the heart of their problems, the confrontations become frightening.

Just as Frank and April keep each other on the brink of madness so will “Revolutionary Road” do to the audience as they watch the couple refuse to resign from life. Scored by “American Beauty” composer Thomas Newman and shot by “No Country for Old Men” cinematographer Roger Deakins (both should get Oscar nods), small town suburbia becomes a story of psychological survival between two self-delusional lovers backed into a corner.