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.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an uneven film with an obvious secondary goal. First agenda item is to sell a few tickets. It will. Second is to establish a franchise that will live on through sequel after sequel. It will not.

The best thing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has going for it is the finest cool music soundtrack since Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen (from David Holmes). Much of the music (credit to Daniel Pemberton) has a mid-20th-century feel; some of it is used mainly to punctuate the action, a la Tarantino.

The second best thing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has going for it are the women’s dresses. The colorful costumes on the ladies are gorgeous and the outfits do a nice job of evoking the 60s.

The story, inspired by the TV show that aired from 1964 to 1968, has the two lead characters American Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) teaming up to foil the fiendish plot of some folks who have a nuclear warhead. The setting is Cold War era Europe.

Almost every time Cavill speaks in the film, I am reminded of Bill Hader’s SNL impersonation of Dateline’s Keith Morrison. Apparently Cavill was trying to channel the speaking style of the late Robert Vaughn, the original Solo from TV. Hammer is good, but not quite the compelling screen presence needed to keep the dream alive for more U.N.C.L.E. movies.

Gaby (Alicia Vikander) is on the good guys’ side. Her father has been forced to work on the bomb. She and Elizabeth Dibecki (as the villainess Victoria) get to wear the neat throwback threads. Vikander is beautiful and has genuine charm in this role that’s quite different from her breakthrough performance earlier this year in Ex Machina. Also in the film is Hugh Grant as Waverly.

Director Guy Ritchie (who co-wrote the script) maintains a good pace and delivers several memorable shots. Chuckles are spread throughout the film. My favorite silly moment has an unconcerned Solo sitting in a truck cab, enjoying a sandwich and a glass of wine, while Kuryakin is right in front of him in a burning motorboat trying to elude a pursuer.

While The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has the legacy of its TV antecedent to help generate ticket sales, the story is almost boilerplate and the lead actors lack the heft to carry The Man From U.N.C.L.E. onward to franchise glory.