Tag Archives: 2015

‘Steve Jobs’ Near-Perfectly Acted and Written Biopic

SteveJobsposterIt’s going to be awkward when Michael Fassbender wins the Oscar for Best Actor over Leonardo DiCaprio for a role that DiCaprio turned down…

“Steve Jobs” is a biopic based on the man of the same name. Fassbender plays the titular Apple co-founder, while Seth Rogen portrays Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Daniels portrays John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple. Based off a script by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, the film follows Jobs in the hours leading up to the three biggest product launches of his career in 1984, 1988 and 1999.

I have been anticipating this movie for a very long time. I am absolutely in love with Aaron Sorkin’s brand of fast-paced dialogue and long monologues, and this film is a showcase for his craft. I also enjoy Seth Rogen, so even though he isn’t smoking weed and getting into hijinks with James Franco, he was a joy to watch, and he gives the most genuine performance of his career. However the real star of the film is Fassbender who while bearing very little physical resemblance to his real-life counterpart, embodies the brilliant, calculating and at times frustrating nature of the late-great Jobs.

The film is broken up into three main acts, each taking place in the hour leading up to an important product unveiling: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT box in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Each one of these time periods is shot on different types of film (16mm, 35mm and digital), so each has a different look and feel. Overall, I really liked these approaches, and thought it was a very unique way of approaching a biopic.

The writing in the film is nothing short of excellent, if not perfect. Like I said, I may be a bit biased because I love me some Sorkin (“The Social Network” is the best written film of all-time, fun fact), but his ability to have characters we should hate become likable and sympathetic. Plus his trademark rapid-fire, almost irrelevant conversations that are often side-splittingly funny, all make Steve Jobs, a man who neglects the acknowledgment of his daughter and makes the lives of all his co-workers a living hell, a man that we want to see succeed.

The acting in the film is all spot on as well, and that is likely a byproduct of the script. Like I said, Rogen is shockingly effective and emotional as the under-appreciated Wozniak, Winslet is quietly great as Jobs’ long-time confidant Joanna, and there is great fun in Michael Stuhlbarg’s abused engineer, Andy Hertzfeld. But much like the title of the film, the stage belongs to Fassbender, who is a tornado of energy and emotion. He is condescending, unreasonable and probably not a very good guy, but he continues to win us over with wise-cracks and breaking things down so that just maybe we can try and see the world how he does.

Director Danny Boyle, like Fassbender, does a great job keeping the energy going, especially for the first two thirds of the film. When Jobs is building Apple up and the trying to tear it down, it is near perfect filmmaking. It’s the third act, the final 30 minutes or so, that the film starts to get winded. It is probably just by comparison, but it felt like the stakes were never as high, and all the real conflict had already been dealt with. The third act, much like most any film, is where we get resolutions and closure with many characters, and I just wanted to go back to the days when Jobs was telling his engineers that if they didn’t fix a problem he would go out on stage and publically name them responsible.

The first act of “Steve Jobs” is fantastic, the second is great, and the third is good, which all in all combines to a pretty great end product. It is hands-down one of the best films of the year, and the writing, directing and acting will all likely win the film some shiny trophies come award season.

Critics Rating: 8/10



Top 5 Worst Films of Summer 2015

With the good, comes that bad. Summer 2015 gave us some solid films, but it also gave us a lot (and I mean, *a lot*) of trash. So I try my best to narrow them down to five films here. Thank God I get to list out 10 films at the end of the year…

Dishonorable Mention: Mad Max: Fury Road

This isn’t a good movie, it’s just a well-made one. People seem unable to separate the two. I don’t get how when Michael Bay throws explosions on the screen in sacrifice of plot or character development he is crucified, but when George Miller does it he is praised as a genius.


5.) Entourage

On top of being the biggest disappointment of 2015 so far, this was also just a miss on all cylinders. I love “Entourage” the show, I love Los Angeles and I love to laugh, and this film really doesn’t pay much honor to any of these things. It is an unfunny, skin-deep movie that was only not a total bomb because of the familiar faces in the best city on earth. That’s it.



4.) Tomorrowland

Quick: what is this movie about? That’s OK, I’ll wait. Give up? Cool, because I have no idea, either. Something about George Clooney and his love affair with a 10-year-old robot (it is slightly less creepy within the context of the film), and I think there was something else about the end of the world and Dr. House was there. I really hated this movie. I walked out not liking it, but in the three months that have passed, I’ve grown to loathe it. Just not as much as these remaining three films.


3.) Terminator Genisys

Just like “Tomorrowland,” I didn’t mind this film while watching (I realized it wasn’t good, but in-the-moment I was tricked to thinking it wasn’t awful). But the ending draws on for 15 minutes, and it has some of the worst CGI I have ever seen in a film in the 21st century. It just isn’t good, and hopefully this franchise is…terminated. [clears throat] OK, what’s next?



2.) Pixels

Like most people, I was tricked by the trailer for “Pixels” into thinking this wouldn’t be a normal Adam Sandler comedy; but much to my dismay, this is just a normal Adam Sandler comedy, it just happens to have video games in it. It is bottom-of-the-barrell, lowest effort humor, and its best attribute is Josh Gad, which is never a good sign.



1.) Fantastic Four

HAHAHAHAHAHA oh my God, this thing is awful. Like I’ve forgetten like 95% of it but holy heck is this bad. Nothing happens until a rushed and horribly standard final fight sequence, and it wastes a fantastic young cast. All the behind the scenes drama is much, MUCH more interesting than the actual film, so go give those stories a read. It’s films like this that make it hard for people like me to trust the month of August…



Top 5 Films of Summer 2015

The temperature is starting to cool down, the leaves are turning brown and the children are back at school, which means one thing: we’re entering awards season. So that also means that summer movie season, my favorite time of the year at the theaters, is again over. There was some good, some bad, but a lot of meh. So here are the five best films from Summer 2015 (May-August), with the five worst stinkers in a subsequent post!

Honorable Mention/Surprised It Didn’t Suck: The Gift

I saw the trailer, the cast, and the August release date and I honestly thought this thing was destined for disaster. But to my pleasant surprise, Jason Bateman turns in a fantastic performance, and even if the film doesn’t pull as many twists as it wants, it was still a wonderfully uncomfortable viewing experience that I would gladly take again.


5.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Some people didn’t like this movie, which I have to believe was their own fault for overhyping it. “Ultron” is fun and exciting, with yet another fantastically charismatic performance from Robert Downey Jr., as well as an interesting villain portrayed by James Spader. It may have been a little bit similar to the first “Avengers” film, but this one kicked off the summer movie season with a bang.



4.) Trainwreck

It’s a funny movie with charming performances from Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, with a surprising amount of dramatic heft. It is definitely Judd Apatow’s most mature film to date, and it is arguably his most hilarious.



3.) Spy

One of the first comedies of the year remains its funniest. Melissa McCarthy continues her streak of only being funny when in Paul Feig-directed films, but what really makes this movie so great is the surprise comedy work from Jason Statham. I really hope he does more action-comedies, because that dude is surprisingly hilarious.



2.) Straight Outta Compton

It isn’t too often (or ever?) that one of the year’s best films comes out in the month of August, but that is the case here (the month also has one of the year’s worst films, but that’s for another article). The first half of “Compton” is so energetic and has such a powerful and engaging vibe to it, not to mention fantastically underrated cinematography by Matthew Libatique, that even when the film starts to slow down near the end, you’re on such a high you don’t care.



1.) Jurassic World

Some people hated this movie. And to that I say, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when it’s wrong. I saw this movie twice in the same week, and it blew me away both times. Chris Pratt is Hollywood’s next big star, and the film is the definition of a summer popcorn flick (even if it is so much more than that). If somehow you are one of the seven people who still hasn’t seen this movie (it currently sits 3rd all-time at the box office), you are doing yourself an immense injustice. See “Jurassic World” now; it’ll make you feel like a kid again.



‘The Gift’ an Effective and Well-Acted Thriller

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1This was an interesting weekend at the movies. We got an awful film (“Fantastic Four”) and an OK one (“Ricki and the Flash”), so I guess it makes sense than we are rewarded with our perseverance with an actual good movie.

“The Gift” is a psychological thriller written, directed, and starring Joel Edgerton, and follows a couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) that has recently moved from Chicago to the Los Angeles suburbs. When Gordo (Edgerton), an old classmate from school, begins to continuously stop by their house and leave them gifts (I know, right? The title makes sense now!), they realize the past may be catching up to them.

I have to be honest: when I saw this trailer, cast and release date, I thought this film was going to be a train wreck. It looked massively conventional, and no offense to Bateman but I couldn’t see him carrying a dark, non-comedic film like this. Plus it’s no secret that August is one of Hollywood’s two dumping grounds for subpar films (see: “Fantastic Four”), so I was just ready for a stupid summer “horror” film. But I was pretty wrong, because “The Gift” is a well-executed and smart psycho-thriller, and I have to give both Edgerton and Bateman props: they turn in killer performances.

I like Jason Bateman, I’m a big fan of his deadpan comedy, but like I said, I was shocked how good he is in this film. He completely surprised me here playing a man who is harboring secrets and emotions, and while he has one or two moments of straight-faced delivery that produced a chuckle, he fully dedicates himself to the role of a broken man.

Meanwhile Joel Edgerton, who we last saw putting audiences to sleep while wearing mascara in “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” excels in every part of the film he had a part in. Whether it is his chilling performance as Gordo, his steady work behind the camera, or his smart script, Edgerton’s passion project really makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable while watching, which is exactly what it is going for. You don’t know if you can believe what Gordo tells Bateman and Hall, nor what his motivations are or the extents he is willing to go.

The film features several twists, none of which really floored me (some are foreshadowed, others are easily guessable based on the genre), but the film’s sense of tension and the uneasy feeling it gives both you and the characters is near masterful.

There are some slow parts that never really lead to a payoff, and then once the film reaches its climax it kind of just ends, but just like with “Foxcatcher” I wasn’t too bothered by these things because the performances and the feeling that we’re building towards an explosion had me too invested to care.

“The Gift” is a very well-acted and well-directed film, and it may make you start to question your relationships with the people around you now, as well as those from your past. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but in a summer of big-budget sequels and animated creatures, it is nice to see something be small and effective. I guess you could say “The Gift” is a real, come on and say it with me, effective and rewarding thriller.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Poltergeist’ Remake is Stupid, Clichéd Fun

Poltergeist_2015_posterHey, what do you know? A remake that doesn’t totally stink!

A remake/reboot/reimagining of the 1982 classic of the same name, “Poltergeist” stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris and is directed by Gil Kenan. The film follows a family that is haunted by evil spirits, and must save their daughter when she is abducted by them.

If the plot to the film sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Not just because it is quite literally a remake, but also the original “Poltergeist” was so revolutionary that in the past 30 years since its release, dozens of horror films have copied plot points. But despite being stupid and cliché, I kind of dug this remake.

Most modern horror films are PG-13, found footage garbage, and consist more of jump scares and soundtrack explosions rather than genuine tension and frightening moments. So, despite being PG-13 and having its share of jump scares, it was nice to see a scary movie that built on tension rather than special effects or gore. There are some genuinely well-executed moments of tension in “Poltergeist,” brought on my dark shadows and some pretty creepy clown dolls.

Sam Rockwell is one of the actors many people know the face but not the name, but I am a big fan of his. Here he is able to elevate an otherwise cliché and at times pandering script, creating moments of charm while also delivering some emotional bits as a father who just wants his daughter back.

Speaking of said script, like I said, it’s pretty standard scary movie stuff. David Lindsay-Abaire, best known for penning “Oz the Great and Powerful,” has some interesting twists and bits of dialogue, but just as much, if not more, clichés. Oh, the little girl is talking to a wall but it’s actually a spirit? Brilliant! The dad recently lost his job so the family has to move and the haunted house is their only option? Revolutionary!

And of course, while the acting is better than most horror films, the character’s themselves are a few fries short of a Happy Meal. They move towards strange sounds in the dark, or don’t think it’s weird how a wooden stairwell can create static electricity, and you’ll groan every time they ignore the kid who of course knows what is going on.

Despite its clichés, however, I really enjoyed most of the “Poltergeist” remake. It has some great effects and production value in climax (I just reread that; I’m such a movie dork), and the acting and story are interesting enough to keep your attention when ghosts aren’t throwing chairs and flickering lights.

It won’t win any awards, and remains to be seen (or not seen, because ghosts. HA!) whether or not this remake was necessary, but for what it is, that being a 90 minute summer scary movie, “Poltergeist” gets the job done.

Critics Rating: 6/10



2015 Oscar Predictions

Well, it’s almost that time of year. Time for the King Daddy of all award shows, the Oscars. Here I will go over who I think SHOULD win (subjective) that pretty golden statue, and who I think WILL win (objective), on Sunday, February 22.

Best Picture

This is pretty much a two horse race, with two other films having a longshot of playing spoiler. The only film with practically no shot of winning is “Selma”, which only has one other nomination (Best Song, which it will win). Other films like “Whiplash”, “Imitation Game” and “Theory of Everything” were solid, but pretty much it will come down to “Boyhood” vs “Birdman”. “American Sniper” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” have picked up immense momentum since January, so they have the best shot of being a dark horse. Of the films nominated I personally found “Imitation Game” the best, but I think the final award of the night will go to “Boyhood” due to all that went in to making the film. Plus the theme song of the film, “Hero”, is fantastic.

SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game

WILL WIN: Boyhood



Best Director

Probably the most interesting competition of this year. It will likely come down to Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman”), but it goes deeper than that. Both men created projects that defied what we knew about film, with Linklater using the same cast to film “Boyhood” over 12 years, and Iñárritu shooting “Birdman” is continuous, sometimes 15 minute long takes. Whoever loses this award will likely take home Best Original Screenplay, so they shouldn’t hang their head for too long. I think Linklater wins because of his dedication and control of such a monumentally unique film. Other nominees include Wes Anderson (chance to win here or Original Screenplay for “Budapest”), Bennett Miller (who was nominated for his work on “Foxcatcher”, yet the film did not receive a Best Picture nod) and Morten Tyldum (“Imitation Game” was driven more by Cumberbatch and the script so this one somewhat baffled me).

SHOULD WIN: Richard Linklater

WILL WIN: Richard Linklater



Best Actor

Pretty much the same story as Best Picture, this award will likely go to one of two nominees. I love Steve Carell to death and his performance in “Foxcatcher” was amazing, but he and Benedict Cumberbatch both should just be happy to have earned their first Oscar nod. Like his “American Sniper” vehicle, Bradley Cooper has a small chance of pulling the upset, but it will come down to Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Eddie Redmayne (“Theory of Everything”), and Redmayne has won all the precursor awards needed to imply a victory. The Academy may give Keaton the edge because he is the older, more well-known actor; however Redmayne’s role was so demanding both physically and emotionally, I think he’ll win it.

SHOULD WIN: Steve Carell

WILL WIN: Eddie Redmayne



Best Supporting Actor

Well this paragraph could be as short as “it’s going to be J.K Simmons” because it’s going to be J.K Simmons. Most people know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Man trilogy, however he gave a fantastic performance in “Whiplash”, and it is good to see him finally winning awards. Edward Norton was equally amazing in “Birdman”, and he would get my vote, but Simmons has near swept everything else. Ethan Hawke got his 4th nomination, Mark Ruffalo got his second and Robert Duvall somehow got one for “The Judge” (my mouth hit the floor when it was announced). It’ll be Simmons, with 1% chance Norton comes in for the steal.

SHOULD WIN: Edward Norton

WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons



Best Actress

If you thought Best Supporting Actor was a lock, then this is a steel cage. Julianne Moore will win. Like, 100%. Not too many non-critics saw her work in “Still Alice”, but like Simmons she has swept the board. The women who will stand and clap when Moore’s name is called include former Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon, as well as first-timers Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike.

SHOULD WIN: Julianne Moore

WILL WIN: Julianne Moore



Best Supporting Actress

The Oscars aren’t very fun this year. The front runner is Patricia Arquette for her 12-year-long role in “Boyhood”, and deservingly so. Laura Dern earned a nomination, as did Emma Stone, so that’s kind of cool. I loved “The Imitation Game” but have no real idea why Keira Knightley was nominated, and I threw up when Meryl Streep got her obligatory nomination (all she has to do is appear in a movie and the Academy will nominate her). Arquette did the best and most dedicated work, and she deserves the trophy she will likely take home.

SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette

WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette



Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Pretty cut-and-dry based on the title, but here are the films that I am most looking forward to in the upcoming year!

10.) Entourage

Following a weak final season of the show, it will be nice to see Ari Gold, Johnny Drama and the rest of the crew back together in Hollywood. Plus it features Tom Brady, Liam Neeson and dozens of other celebrities playing themselves. That’s always fun, right?



9.) Get Hard

Kevin Hart teaches Will Ferrell how to survive in prison. If that last sentence didn’t get you excited for Ferrell’s latest film then I don’t know what will.

USA Today

USA Today

8.) Ted 2

I personally enjoyed “A Million Ways to Die in the West”, but some saw it was a disappointing follow-up to Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted”. So that lovable swearing CGI bear is back in 2015, and even though Mila Kunis isn’t there I’m sure I’ll still find enough to enjoy with this one.



7.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

This year’s “Mockingjay Part 1” was arguably the best of the series and set up a fantastic confrontation between Katniss’ rebels and President Snow’s government. I wasn’t sold on the first two Hunger Games being able to deliver an enthralling conclusion, but now I really want to see how Katniss’ story ends. Plus, you know, Jennifer Lawrence…



6.) Spectre

The latest 007 film features Daniel Craig returning as Bond and Christoph Waltz as the film’s villain. Much like “Get Hard” if that sentence did not get you excited for this film, then you best check your pulse.



5.) Furious 7

The seventh entry (duh) into the car-turned-heist franchise, this one is extra enticing because it features horror film director James Wan behind the camera and also is the final film for the late Paul Walker, so seeing how the filmmakers handle that will be interesting. Plus Jason Statham is a vengeful bad guy, so that’s should be a good time.



4.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Aside from “Thor 2”, Marvel can do no wrong. Even if most of my excitement is aimed at 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, this Avengers sequel should be fun and looks like it will feature a much darker tone.



3.) The Hateful Eight

The movie that almost never was, Quentin Tarantino was all set to not make this film after the script leaked online. But following some begging from fans and Samuel L. Jackson alike, he caved and thank God for it. Another spaghetti Western, this should be a fine possible send-off for Tarantino, and a solid spiritual follow-up to “Django Unchained”.



2.) Ant-Man

All the drama with Edgar Wright’s exit from the project aside, this looks like it could be a lot of fun. It features “Yes-Man” director Peyton Reed replacing Wright, Will Ferrell partner Adam McKay rewriting the script and the impossible-to-hate Paul Rudd playing a superhero. Plus it is part of the aforementioned Marvel Universe. This one could be the next “Guardians of the Galaxy”.



1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is in first place on 2015’s most anticipated films by a mile, and for a few reasons. First, it’s Star Wars. The cultural significance of this film is huge, and in 20 years it will be something you will be telling your kids that you saw. Second, it is following the prequel trilogy so it truly can’t be worse, right? And finally the cast is impressive and exciting. Geek God J.J. Abrams writes and directs as motion-capture master Andy Serkis, the charming Adam Driver, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o all join the cast while Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill all reprise their iconic roles. I got jacked just writing this.



What movies are you looking forward to in 2015? Comment below!