Friday, April 1, 2016

What We've Been Watching: Hits and Misses


Steve Jobs

Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.
Wow. Brilliant.

All the performances were wonderful, especially those of Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. I saw some critics complaining because they felt there was too much talking, though I'm not sure how you have a movie about ideas without, you know, talking. Kudos to both director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for making the movie feel dynamic and exciting despite the fact that it is set backstage before three different product launches. The most fascinating thing, though, was that the revelation of Steve Jobs' personality and growth was so wonderfully revealed as we watched the progress of his products.

Tom and I knew so much about Steve Jobs already (for reasons I won't go into here - suffice it to say that we were amused when Jobs began being treated like a rock star by friends who "discovered" Apple because of iPods and iPhones) ... and about those launches in particular that it was fascinating to see how they were used as springboards for a character study.

It's also interesting thinking about how the stories of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are told, considering Aaron Sorkin wrote both but David Fincher directed one and Danny Boyle the other.

My Italian Secret (doc.)

A heroic story that was all but lost to history, until now. The film recounts how WWII bicycling idol Gino Bartali, physician Giovanni Borromeo and other Italians worked with Jewish leaders and high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church, risking their lives by defying the Nazis to save thousands of Italy’s Jews.
It never occurred to me before that the Italian Jewish experience during WWII would have been so different from what we've heard about so much of Germany or France. Fascinating.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.
If Fellini made a vampire movie, this would be the movie he made.

So much atmosphere, so little story.

The Verdict

Frank Galvin is a down-on-his luck lawyer, reduced to drinking and ambulance chasing. Former associate Mickey Morrissey reminds him of his obligations in a medical malpractice suit that he himself served to Galvin on a silver platter: all parties willing to settle out of court. Blundering his way through the preliminaries, he suddenly realizes that perhaps after all the case should go to court; to punish the guilty, to get a decent settlement for his clients, and to restore his standing as a lawyer.
And to restore his self respect. Let's not forget his self respect.

I was looking for legal thrillers for my movie discussion groups and The Verdict kept popping up on every "law film" or "legal thriller" list I found.

Paul Newman is, needless to say, terrific. The rest of the movie felt more like a slow character study than either a legal or thriller story. It was a good character study but not good enough to carry the entire film.

The Intern

70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin.
Another movie I tried to see if it would be good for movie discussion groups. Short answer: no.

There is much to like in this movie but the slow pacing removes any punch, whether for humor or angst. If they'd have cut 20-30 minutes out (and there were plenty of places to do it) it would have been a much improved film.

That wasn't the only problem. For example, there were a couple of speeches by Robert DeNiro's character which sounded as if they should've been coming from a best girlfriend instead of a 70 year old man who'd been married 42 years.

However, as I said most of it works adequately enough, or would if the editing had been tighter.

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