Friday, October 30, 2015

STEVE JOBS (2015)

Written by Aaron Sorkin


Directed by Danny Boyle


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. October 9, 2015 8:05PM



Do you think you could imagine functioning without your beloved iphone?

I'm sure you would be fine but for many, that thought would simply never enter their heads. Thanks to the genius of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, used impressive showmanship and the skill of a seasoned huckster to thoroughly convince millions during his lifetime that their lives would be unmanageable and unimaginable without one of his computer products in their hot, sweaty hands.

Under the nimble direction of Danny Boyle and an expeditious script by Aaron Sorkin, the remarkable "Steve Jobs" explores the fascinating story of the man behind the machine, both physical and metaphysical. Instead of trying to cover all of the details in Jobs' expansive history, the film is broken in to three key moments in the inventor's life. Beginning in 1984 with the launch of the Macintosh, then four years later with Jobs, after being forced out of Apple, introducing his next venture, the NeXT computer to 1998 with the return of Jobs to Apple and the unveiling of the game changer; the iMac.

There is no physical similarity but Michael Fassbender is quite effective with an understated performance as he deeply embodies the inner workings of Jobs. And it ain't pretty. Ruthlessly driven, highly demanding, self-involved and emotionally detached, the man behind the curtain turns out to be nothing more than an asshole. A very gifted and creative visionary but still an asshole.

With the "1984"-inspired commercial that played during the Super Bowl, buzz has reached a feverish pitch around the new Macintosh but with a hour to go before the reveal, Jobs refuses to begin. He wants the device to say "hello" before the audience but there's a glitch and programmer, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlberg) doesn't think he can fix it before the launch. Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), a weary, Apple marketing executive and close confidant, wants him to be reasonable but Jobs relentlessly browbeats Hertzfeld until he gets what he wants.

Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), the other co-founder of Apple, shows up to plead with Jobs to publicly thank the team behind the Apple II. He refuses, proclaiming that he only wants to look forward, not back.

And waiting in the wings is Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), Jobs' former girlfriend with their daughter, Lisa. Not only is she upset that Jobs told Time Magazine that despite the paternity test determining the he's "94.1% likely to be the father" there's still 28% of the male population that could be Lisa's father but has to plead with the brand-new millionaire to provide more financial support or she'll have to go on welfare.

Sorkin's rapid fire script wastes no time revealing Jobs' abrasive manner, raving egomania and insensitivity but Fassbender's natural charm smooths out some of the jagged edges, showing glimmers of decency and kindness that the real Jobs had to have in order to have succeeded.

After a power struggle over Apple's future with the company's CEO and father figure, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Jobs loses the battle. Four years later with Joanna by his side, he is about to launch his newest venture, the NeXT computer. Wozniak shows up to lend support but Jobs only wants to confront him over negative statements he made to Fortune Magazine. Jobs has finally acknowledged the nine year old, Lisa as his child but still has no clear idea how to be her father.

As Apple enters the 1990's, the company has fallen on hard times leading to Sculley to be ousted and Jobs triumphantly returning home. By this point, most of his long-time close allies have either disappeared or grown impatient and fatigued from dealing with the mercurial Jobs. His relationship to the college bound, Lisa (now played by Perla Haney-Jardine) has frayed to the point that they're not speaking and refuses to pay for her education. Finally fed-up, Joanna threatens to walk away unless he makes it right with his daughter.

"Steve Jobs" had a long, tortured history beginning at Sony with Sorkin's script initially to be directed by David Fincher and Christian Bale as Jobs. Those two eventually dropped out and Boyle came aboard with Fassbender in the role. But then Sony dropped the project (with the notorious e-mail leaks indicating the casting of Fassbender to be one of the concerns) and found a new home at Universal. The Oscar-winning director has made fascinating entertainment from dark and challenging stories like "Shallow Grave", "Trainspotting", "127 Hours" and his Best Picture winner,"Slumdog Millionaire". He has achieved this once again with "Steve Jobs" by taking Sorkin's vivid but highly theatrical screenplay and keeping this chamber piece visually dynamic with the help of cinematographer, Alwin H. Küchler. Despite these efforts, there are moments that still feel static and repetitive but it's the outstanding performances that help keep the film in motion. Our key players, Fassbender, Winslet, Daniels and Rogan, bring much needed charm, warmth and a little humor to this somber, word-heavy affair.

As with many talented people, Steve Jobs was flawed and damaged but the volcanic "Steve Jobs" shows, despite his shortcomings, what an important, lasting impact he made on our society. For better and for worse, Jobs helped usher in the digital age, making our lives easier and much more complicated in the process.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 AFI FILM FEST PRESENTED BY AUDI


The 2015 AFI FEST is just around the corner as it begins on November 5th and concluding on the 12th. It remains one of major film festivals that continues to offer free individual tickets to screenings and events as a gift to the community. Once again, the fest will be held in the heart of Hollywood at several different locations including TCL Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, the El Capitan Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There will be a total of 127 features and shorts selected from forty-five countries.

The opening film will be "By The Sea", the latest feature by Angelina Jolie and stars the writer/director and her husband Brad Pitt. Set during the mid-seventies, an American couple vacation in France as the strain in their marriage begins to surface. Once they arrive at a quiet, seaside town, they are distracted by some of the colorful locals. Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud also star. "By The Sea" will arrive in U.S. theaters on November 13th.



There will be three centerpiece galas with “Concussion”, the Will Smith drama about the forensic pathologist who fought the NFL on revealing his findings on how the players have a greater chance of suffering from brain trauma, making it's world premiere on November 10th.



"The 33", a tense drama based on the real-life incident of thirty-three Chilean miners trapped in a collapsed mine and the frantic rush to rescue them. Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro and Gabriel Byrne star in this film directed by Patricia Riggen.



After a six year absence, the combative film maker, Michael Moore returns with a new documentary "Where To Invade Next". The film explores how the United States is apparently looking at countries such as Finland, Italy and France as possible contenders for our "next great enemy".



Brad Pitt appears again in the closing night film, "The Big Short" on November 12th. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, the film looks at the people warning that the build-up of the housing and credit bubble would inevitably lead to the devastating collapse of the U.S. financial market back in 2008. The impressive cast includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei. Adam McKay directs.



AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes are available right now for purchase. Free tickets will be available to the general public online beginning Monday, October 26. For additional information, please go to:

AFI FEST 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

25TH ANNUAL GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS

It may seem a wee bit early to be proclaiming the "best of the year", considering it's only October and some of the potential nominees haven't even been released in theaters yet. Regardless, the Gotham Independent Film Awards are the first to announce their nominations. This collective of film critics, journalists, festival programmers, and film curators determine the nominees while separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers and editors will be involved in deciding the final winners.

I'm thrilled that two of my favorite films of the year received major recognition. "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" received the most nominations with four including Best Feature and Best Actress for Bel Powley while "Tangerine" was awarded three for Best Feature and Best Breakthrough Actor noms for the leads, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. I'm hoping this is just the beginning for these great films and the nominations will bring more overdue attention to them. I'm also happy to see that veterans, Blythe Danner ("I'll See You In My Dreams") and Lily Tomlin ("Grandma") are up for Best Actress and the Brian Wilson bio, "Love & Mercy" and Noah Baumbach's "While We're Young" received Best Screenplay nominations.

The 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards will be held in New York on November 30th at Cipriani Wall Street, and will also honor filmmaker Todd Haynes, actors Robert Redford and Helen Mirren, and producer Steve Golin. Here is the list of nominations:

BEST FEATURE:

"Carol"
"The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
"Heaven Knows What"
"Spotlight"
"Tangerine"

BEST SCREENPLAY:

Phyllis Nagy, "Carol"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner, "Love & Mercy"
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, "Spotlight"
Noah Baumbach, "While We're Young"

BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR AWARD:

Desiree Akhavan, "Appropriate Behavior"
Jonas Carpigano, "Mediterranea"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
John Magary, "The Mend"
Josh Mond, "James White"

BEST ACTOR:

Christopher Abbott,"James White"
Kevin Corrigan, "Results"
Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
Peter Sarsgaard, "Experimenter"
Michael Shannon, "99 Homes"

BEST ACTRESS:

Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Blythe Danner, "I’ll See You in My Dreams"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Bel Powley, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Lily Tomlin, "Grandma"
Kristen Wiig, "Welcome to Me"

BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR:

Rory Culkin, "Gabriel"
Arielle Holmes, "Heaven Knows What"
Lola Kirke, "Mistress America"
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, "Tangerine"
Mya Taylor, "Tangerine"

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

"Approaching the Elephant"
"Cartel Land"
"Heart of a Dog"
"Listen to Me Marlon"
"The Look of Silence"

Monday, October 19, 2015

ALL 29 STEVEN SPIELBERG MOVIES: FROM WORST TO BEST




"Bridge of Spies", the Cold-War drama, did surprisingly well this past weekend making over fifteen million dollars. I know part of the appeal was star Tom Hanks but the other major draw to the film was director Steven Spielberg.

Another surprising fact is that "Bridge" becomes the twenty-ninth feature directed by Spielberg. That made think back on some of my favorites like "Jaws" (which really scared the hell out of this then-thirteen year old boy), the "Raiders of The Lost Ark" series, "Jurrasic Park", "The Color Purple", "Catch Me If You Can" and "Close Encounters of The Third Kind". "Amistad", "Saving Private Ryan", "Lincoln" and "Schindler's List" were films I admired more than really liked. And the less said about "Always", "Empire of The Sun", "The Terminal" and "Hook", the better. Overall, I think Mr Spielberg has made an impressive body of work and should be quite proud of his accomplishments in the world of cinema.

New York magazine has compiled an interesting ranking of Mr. Spielberg's films (including his recent "Bridge of Spies") from his least successful to his very best. Click below to read the article:

All 29 Steven Spielberg Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THE INTERN (2015)

Written & Directed by Nancy Meyers



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA, September 26, 2015  5:45PM



"The Intern" is the latest sleek and tastefully designed romantic comedy by writer/director Nancy Meyers. Starting with "Private Benjamin", the fish-out-of-water Goldie Hawn hit comedy she co-wrote with Charles Shyer, her former husband back in 1980 to her directorial debut with the remake of "The Parent Trap" (which helped put the teenage Lindsay Lohan on the map), Meyers has used her gifts and hard-earned clout to make warm, engaging but overly glossy films that places strong female characters front and center. With "Baby Boom", "Something's Gotta Give", "What Women Want" and "It's Complicated", the director gave Oscar-winners, Diane Keaton, Helen Hunt and Meryl Streep the opportunity to play smart, funny and complicated mature women that don't turn up nearly often enough on the big screen.

"The Intern" sticks to this tradition with Anne Hathaway as a thirty-something, e-commerce business woman trying to juggle work and family. But the sixty-five year old Meyers is now interested in exploring how baby boomers fit in today's society and that comes in the form of Robert DeNiro playing a seventy-year old retired executive who decides to return to the work force. Because of the wide generation gap between them, neither believes they would have much in common but learn that age ain't nothing but a number.

Jules Ostin (Hathaway) has founded The Fit, an Internet fashion shopping site. The company is successful and growing fast which leaves her little time for her stay-at-home husband (Anders Holm) and their adorable young daughter (JoJo Kushner). Cameron (Andrew Rannells), head of operations, strongly recommends finding a seasoned CEO to help run the rapidly expanding company. Reluctantly she agrees to meet with potential candidates with the hope of being able to spend more time at home.

He also decides to hire a few seniors as interns for the company. Ben Whitaker (DeNiro), a recent widower has grown tired of spending his golden years trying to stay busy. He wants to get back to work and applies to be an intern at The Fit. Overqualified but happy to have a job, Ben is assigned to assist Jules.

Unable to recall agreeing to this plan, Jules is not comfortable around older people, as they remind her of the uncomfortable relationship with her mother (unseen but voiced by Mary Kay Place). She keeps her distance from Ben, finding him a bit too observant, which he is and quietly finds ways to make himself useful around the office.

Ben had been warned about Jules being a fire-breathing, dragon-lady, leaving us with the hope of seeing Ms Hathaway using what she had been a victim to in "The Devil Wears Prada". Alas, there is no Miranda Priestly type to be found. Jules lacks any edgy tension, remaining impossibly sweet most of the time despite the intense pressures of running her business while trying to be a good wife and mother. The actress doesn't have much to build on so her performance, while alluring and emotional, remains bland. It's nice to see the usually gruff DeNiro lay on the charm as the wise, good-natured retiree but we can feel him struggling to maintain this unnatural persona throughout.

Nancy Meyers' comedies are known for their visual delights with a long established focus on the world of the upwardly mobile, fabulously chic and flawlessly attractive crowd. This may sound strange but I think the cinematic counterpart to Ms Meyers in many ways is Woody Allen. Despite the many obvious differences, the most notable similarity is how each continuously enjoys creating these elegant worlds where we're supposed to be concerned about the great suffering and challenges of the well-to-do, struggling with the difficulties of their privileged lives. And people of color tend not to fit in their vision.

Now, I enjoyed "The Intern" (and to a lesser degree, Mr. Allen's recent "Irrational Man") and there's nothing necessarily wrong with holding on to this narrow worldview but film after film, it grows tedious, making it much harder to take their films seriously.

If Mr. Allen had made "The Intern", the director would have been compelled to create an unlikely romance between Jules and Ben. Ms Meyers appeared to be heading in that direction with a moment when the two, clad only in their pajamas, share a bed in a hotel room the evening before a meeting with a potential CEO in San Francisco. But the only action that occurs between them is Ben lending an ear and offering words of comfort and advice to a conflicted Jules. I'm sure that was her little joke on us where our long-held expectations in most rom-coms is to find our leads irresistibly attracted to one another. Thankfully, Ms Meyers is far more practical and finds a more age-appropriate romantic partner for Ben in the form of Rene Russo playing a masseuse that works for the company.

With "The Intern", Ms Meyers shares her thoughts and opinions on generational relationships, the current state of human interactions and what's lacking in the contemporary male with dazzling style and acute humor. You may find some of these ideas old-fashioned, elitist and overly melodramatic. But it does offer a lighthearted yet contemplative point of view which is quite refreshing in this day and age.