Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is like a stage play. The movie is filled with speeches delivered with more passion in the film than one would imagine they might have been in real life. Those speeches are also likely more eloquent than were their real-life antecedents.

The script is by Aaron Sorkin whose screenwriting includes The Social Network, Moneyball and A Few Good Men. Sorkin loosely adapted his screenplay from Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, published shortly after the death of the Apple giant.

The film is brilliantly directed by Danny Boyle. He includes cinematic elements—split-second flashbacks are particularly effective—but gives his actors plenty of room to shine.

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is a man with a narrow focus: his products and their introductions to the world. He has difficulty with personal relationships. He is an egotistical perfectionist who is concerned about design as well as function of his products. He also is obsessed with his own public image and his legacy.

The story is told in three acts, each preceding a product launch: in 1984, the MacIntosh; in the late 80s, the NeXT “black cube” computer; in the late 90s, the iMac.

Jobs interacts throughout the film with Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple’s marketing chief. She is the one person who is rarely intimidated by Jobs and, of necessity, is able to abide his casual disregard for other humans.

Jobs’ Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) has cashed in his chips but hovers on the perimeter, seeking acknowledgement from Jobs for the Apple II computer. Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels) who Jobs recruited for the position has a respectful but sometimes tempestuous relationship with Steve.

Three young women portray Jobs’ daughter Lisa, most notably Perla Haney-Jardine as the oldest version, at age 19. The evolving storyline involving his daughter makes Jobs seem like less of a selfish jerk.

Steve Jobs is not a bio-pic. The 2013 film Jobs, starring Aaron Kutcher in the title role, came closer to being a life story but it stopped at 2001. Click HERE to read my review of that earlier film. A documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine was released last month and is available on demand from iTunes and Amazon.

The actors, screenwriter and director of the new film create a close-up view of the man, his vision, his drive and his many flaws. The music of Daniel Pemberton adds to the tension and gives the scenes momentum. It’s an interesting and entertaining way to look at this intriguing visionary.

Unfriended

 

When an entire movie takes place on a high school student’s computer screen, it’s easy to expect the film to be dumb or cheesy. Actually, the presentation of Unfriended is rather clever.

For those of us who spend hours each day in front of a computer screen, with pings and bells alerting us to new emails, Facebook notifications and other updates, Unfriended takes place in a familiar, generally comfortable setting.

Unfriended is a short movie. Runtime from the first Universal logo to the first end credit is 77 minutes. A longer telling of this story could’ve easily become bloated and tedious.

Unfriended’s tale plays out during a Skype video chat among six friends, plus one mystery participant. The stranger who butts in seems to be a student who killed herself after being shamed in a Youtube video.

Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) Apple computer screen reveals the Youtube videos depicting the shaming of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) and her suicide. The screen also displays Blaire’s outside-the-chat messaging with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) where suspicions of something weird first arise.

Facebook plays a big role as Laura (or someone who has hacked her account) keeps messaging Blaire, even after Blaire unfriends her.

When this mystery online intruder begins a cruel game and threatens to kill chat participants, tension mounts and secrets are revealed.

Director Levan Gabriadze makes the film look seamless, as if it were completely shot in real time. The other main cast members (Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki and Will Peltz) interact believably with Hennig and Storm. (As is usual with movies depicting high school students, most of the actors are in their mid to late 20’s.)

It’s weird enough to get Facebook friend requests from deceased individuals. (I’ve had that happen.) My hope is that any laptop grief I experience today will be the result of glitches, not due to meddling with my accounts from beyond the grave.

 

 

 

 

Jobs

Was Ashton Kutcher cast as Steve Jobs because he resembled SJ? Possibly, because director Joshua Michael Stern ends the movie by showing us how much the actors looked like the real life folk they were portraying. (Honestly, who cares?) Nonetheless, Kutcher delivers a respectable performance as the megalomaniac visionary.

Jobs may disappoint the Apple fan who cherishes his/her iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macbook Air etc. because the story ends in 2001. Millennials familiar with the delight he communicated at Macworld presentations in the new century may not appreciate the portrayal of Jobs as, well, an asshole (as he is so identified in the film by his boss at Atari).

The upside of focusing on the 20th century portion of SJ’s life is that we are spared his illness, a sappy deathbed scene and final goodbyes. We are not spared a too long sequence depicting a 70’s acid trip which may have colored Jobs’ vision of life and computers.

Jobs’ relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (played by Josh Gad) is examined. They needed each other. Woz was the geeky tech genius. Jobs was the articulate guy who could deal and lead. An early scene shows Wozniak working to develop an Atari game, for which Jobs paid Woz just $350 (after SJ was promised $5K from Atari when the job was done).

When Apple is getting up and running with help from investor Mike Markkula (Durmot Mulroney), more of Jobs’ selfishness is revealed. He is stingy when doling out shares in the new endeavor, parks in handicap spaces with impunity, fires people spontaneously and has little tact in his dealings.

Arthur Rock (J.K. Simmons—with hair!) also invests and uses his power on the board to have some of Jobs’ power stripped away. Jobs suggests Pepsi’s John Scully (Matthew Modine) take over leadership of Apple. Jobs is put in charge of a new project called the MacIntosh. The Mac is a critical hit but a sales dud (oh, yes, it was), leading to Jobs’ departure from the company.

When he returns to a crippled Apple in the 90’s, he’s still a maverick (although he no longer drives a Maverick as he did in earlier scenes). The new Jobs, however, treats employees better, promoting creativity. A young man who visualizes the iMac with the colorful translucent shell is encouraged and motivated by Jobs’ guidance.

I had anticipated Jobs’ relationship with Bill Gates might’ve received a bit more play in the film. After Jobs looks at the new Microsoft Windows OS that’s a rip-off of the MacIntosh OS, Jobs is shown on the phone angrily berating Gates.

Kutcher brings the distinctive Jobs lope to the role. And his acting chops are okay. But his baby face belies his being the uncaring (about people, not product) jerk he depicts. He simply lacks the proper gravitas.

Jobs is the sort of movie you expect to see on a cable channel, not in a movie house. But hardcore fans of Jobs and Apple will appreciate Jobs and, while they aren’t likely to line up as if a new Apple product were about to be released, they should be curious enough to check out this decent biopic.