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Steve Jobs (2015) movie review



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Grade: A

For all the “buzz” Steve Jobs had around it last winter the movie failed to live up to expectations at the box office. Written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) and directed by Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) Steve Jobs made on a relatively small budged made a relatively small haul at the box office.

And that’s a shame because I think that Steve Jobs was one of the best movies of 2015.

Told in three acts, Steve Jobs follows the titular character behind the scenes at three important product launches including the original Macintosh in 1984, Jobs’ NeXT Computer in 1988 and the original iMac in 1998. Which is one way Steve Jobs differs from just about every other biopic out there — it makes no attempt to tell the entire story of the subjects’ life. We only get to see Jobs in the high-stress behind the scenes environment minutes before he is about to stand on stage and deliver the next big thing. But because these events happened at different points in his life, when he was 29, 33 and 43, we see measurably different versions of the man.

In the first act, Jobs is this perfectly made organism almost built for the sole purpose of creating what he sees as the most important piece of technology in the modern age; the Macintosh. He doesn’t care about the feelings of his employees, denies that a little girl is his daughter and is willing to do almost anything if it means his vision will be represented in the final product. In the second act, a more mature Jobs is still pushing boundaries and burning bridges yet now has a relationship with the girl he now sees as his own. And in the third act Jobs’ is almost completely different then the man from 1984. He’s still driven and focused but not to the point of destroying the lives of those around him though he can still be extremely caustic.

But Jobs relationship with his daughter, played by three different actresses at three different ages in the acts, is what becomes key to his story. What starts out as someone he won’t recognize as his own slowly becomes someone so important to his life that he’s willing to change for her.

I’m not sure why the movie did as poorly as it did at the box office? One reason I can think of is that Jobs has always had such a polarizing personality. Either you loved or hated him. But I doubt that there was anyone who didn’t know him. And maybe people had already formed an opinion on him either pro or con and that’s why they stayed away? Also, there was talk about the movie being more fiction than fact, which after having read Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs which this movie is based on I’d say it’s probably more fact than fiction.

On the other hand — show me the biopic that is 100% factual and I’ll show you one boring movie.

What amazes me about Steve Jobs is its structure of the three acts in three different time periods. Other than a few flashbacks both Boyle and Sorkin keep the movie in its kinetic present, with Jobs at the center of the storm as they get ready for the impending product launch while at the same time dealing with various people needing his time for various business and personal reasons.

It’s the way the movie’s told that keeps its forward momentum at a breakneck pace. And for a genera of movie that’s known for being anything but “breakneck,” I think it’s something future biopics can take note of.




Star Trek newspaper comic strip art



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Superman II movie poster



Metropolis burns in the background.

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Opening Credits Sunday – The Renegades (1982)






Direct Beam Comms #42



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TV

The Exorcist – Grade: A-

To be honest, I’ve never seen the original 1973 film of The Exorcist. It was never one of those movies that turned up all that often “edited for TV” on the networks and for whatever reason I don’t ever remember seeing it on any of our pay cable channels we got either. Now I’m certain that I’ve seen parts and pieces of the movie over the years when I happened to catch it here and there. But I’m also very certain that I’ve never seen the movie from start to finish.

mv5bmtuznjg2odk5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwntiwotm3ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_And that may be why the new FOX The Exorcist TV series caught with me — I really don’t have anything else to compare it to.

This version of The Exorcist story takes place modern day in the same universe as the film — one of the priests of the show (Alfonso Herrera) sees a newspaper article mentioning the events of the film. In the TV version it’s Chicago and one of Angela Rance’s (Geena Davis) daughters has been behaving differently ever since the death of a friend. And ever since her daughter began behaving this way weird things have started happening around the house like voices inside the walls and weird shadows moving behind doors. Enter young Father Tomas Ortega (Herrera) who goes in and realizes he’s in over his head and isn’t even quite sure what’s happening and gets Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) who has experience in exorcisms to help.

And that’s pretty much where the first episode ends, well after a pretty big/interesting twist to the TV version. So it seems like the story of the TV The Exorcist will be of these two fathers fighting for the soul of Rance’s daughter while at the same time finding out that there’s more than one demon involved.

I really got a kick out of The Exorcist — even if it does fall into the trap of having the demons only affecting people who are already religious which doesn’t quite make sense. Isn’t evil equal opportunity?

I went into it not expecting much — it doesn’t pay to expect much out of new TV series. But I left The Exorcist liking it a lot with the show giving off a strong The Sixth Sense and The Mothman Prophecies vibe in a good way. The show is creepy enough with a few genuine scenes of horror — even if there’s a few scenes where things happen that don’t quite make sense logically other than they happened that way in order to make the scene scarier.

I’m genuinely excited to see where this one goes — with one caveat. I think what worked so well here is that it seems like the story of The Exorcist is going to play out over the course of a season which is great. But only if that season is something like 10 or 13 episode. I think if FOX tries to turn the story of The Exorcist into something more/longer it’s not going to work.

But for right now The Exorcist looks to be the best new show of the season so far.

Also, I realized watching The Exorcist that this is Davis second foray in starring in a remake of a horror classic. She also starred in the 1986 movie remake of The Fly.

Star Wars Rebels – Grade: B+

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

This third, and reportedly final season of Star Wars Rebels on DisneyXD jumps ahead a few years in time from the first two seasons. Here, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) has matured from a young boy to a young man, and where he once had burgeoning Jedi powers now wields these same powers as an almost master.

The only problem is that without the guiding hand of Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) Ezra is being lured by evil forces to serve the dark side.

The story complexity of Star Wars Rebels is surprisingly deep. This is much more than a simple action series where the good guys go and fight the bad guys. Instead, this is a show about what can happen to people fighting the good fight if they even take one step in the wrong direction. Like is Kanan’s decision to train Ezra as a Jedi which could possibly help bring down the Empire a good one, if it also means there’s a chance Ezra might instead be turned to bring down the Rebellion?

Now the rumor is that this is the final season of Star Wars Rebels since there’s a desire to rather than having a bridge show between the two film trilogies to instead have a new series focused on events around the new movies. Which is fine — it’s just a shame that Disney can’t find a few extra dollars in the billions that Star Wars is bringing in to support, I dunno, two Star Wars cartoons instead of just the one?

Just an idea. 😉

The Good Place – Grade: B

913084_770The premiere of the new show The Good Place debuted last week on NBC. It was billed as a comedy but after having watched the first three episodes that all ran last week I don’t think that The Good Place had many laughs — I think I chuckled a few times during the episodes. But what the show really is, is one of the darkest and most disturbing things on TV in the guise of a comedy which is actually kind’a interesting.

In The Good Place, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a newly deceased person who ends up in “the good place” where the good people go and not the “bad place” where everyone else ends up. Except it turns out that there was a mixup where Eleanor should’ve ended up in the bad place but instead wound up in the good place. And after Eleanor hears what it’s like in the bad place, which involves lots of screaming and loud noises, she wants to stay in the good place and enlists the help of her soul-mate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) to stay. Which means he’s got to try and make her a better person.

Except that every time Eleanor has a bad thought or does something not good it makes bad things happen in the good place — like trash being strewn everywhere or giant ladybugs attacking the city. So it’s a question of can Chidi reform Eleanor before the good place is destroyed by her, or should he turn her into the good place overseer Michael (Ted Danson) and save everyone else?

Much of the comedy of The Good Place is supposed to come from Eleanor doing bad things like getting drunk, being selfish and envying others. And there are flashbacks to Eleanor when she was alive doing those same sort of things. However, what she did when she was alive wasn’t all that bad — she litters in front of an environmentalist and sneaks off to have sex with a bartender when she’s supposed to be her group’s designated driver. She’s not bad, she’s just a self-centered jerk.

And I think that’s where the darkness of The Good Place comes from. In the mythology of The Good Place only the best of the best get in. New arrivals watch an orientation film of why they made it to the good place and it’s obvious that the vast majority of people on the Earth aren’t good enough to make it to the good place and go to the bad place instead.

I think what interested me the most about The Good Place was thinking about just how people get picked to go into the good or bad place? It seems like there’s some algorithmic based decision going on there — doing good things adds up in your favor and bad takes away, but doing really good things adds up more than just slightly good and vice versa — but who made the algorithm and who made the good place? Is it god who’s pulling the strings?

In certain ways The Good Place reminds me of the 1980s The Twilight Zone episode “Dead Run”. In so much as in that episode it turns out that god isn’t the one deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, that’s the devil’s job. And he’ll take anyone who’s even sinned in the slightest taking nice old grandmas who had impure thoughts and murders alike.

And The Good Place feels very much like the mirror of “Dead Run,” except here it’s the story of the lucky very few who avoid going to the bad place.

Honestly, if The Good Place were more of a drama I’d think it’s the next Lost wondering just what’s going on with the behind the scenes mechanics of the good place and the mystery of how and why everyone got there and what the bad place is like. Is the good place some lie? Are the people living in the good place not actually in the good place?

But since The Good Place is a comedy and not a drama I highly doubt this is the case. I’d be pleasantly surprised if there were something more hiding in the depths of the story of The Good Place, but I won’t be surprised whatsoever if there isn’t.

Lethal Weapon – Grade: C+

This new FOX series based on the 1987 Lethal Weapon film is basically Lethal Weapon-lite by way of the movie Last Action Hero where every police chase is a HIGH-OCTANE chase and every police shootout is a HIGH-OCTANE shootout. And, if a good character is going to be shot it’s going to be in their shoulder so they’ll be able to be up and around that same day. The bright shining spot of the mostly “we’ve seen this all before” Lethal Weapon is Damon Wayans as Roger Murtaugh who plays the role with just enough cheese to make the first episode at least watchable. Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs, on the other hand, starts off the episode with a thick southern accent which he somehow looses after the first ten minutes. His version of the Riggs character seems to prowl the depths of depression one minute, pining over a dead wife and child while drinking shots and almost playing Russian Roulette, and almost joyous the next.

I get that the Riggs character is supposed to be a loose cannon and suicidal, but in tone I’m not sure that the TV version of Riggs is there yet.

MacGyver – Grade: F

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

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Cool Sites

Pilot Callsigns: The web’s largest collection of callsign stories

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1951: Linda Hamilton of Terminator, Terminator 2 and the TV series Beauty and the Beast is born
  • 1952: Christopher Reeve, Superman, is born
  • 1968: Night of the Living Dead opens in theaters
  • 1985: The TV series Amazing Stories debuts
  • 1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation premiers
  • 2001: Star Trek: Enterprise premiers
  • 2005: Serenity opens in theaters