Mini-Review: Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

PG-13, 141 Minutes, 2015

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About: Lawyer must negotiate for trade of spies with USSR because once upon a time we let civilians do that. There is also a bridge.

Starring: Tom Hanks as Our Generation’s Gary Cooper/Jimmy Stewart

Directed: Steven Spielberg. I am a Spielberg-completist having seen all of his films. It’s been over 10 years since Spielberg made a “fun” film (Terminal to some extent, Catch Me If You Can for sure, The Adventures of Tintin wasn’t fun enough). He’s gotten so serious and self-important.

Bridgeof-Spies-777x437Best Thing About It: Mark Rylance as the Soviet Spy Col. Abel. His dry wit and non-conformist role makes him the most memorable and worthwhile thing in the film. I anticipate an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Worst Thing About It: The word I have heard most about this film is “Old-Fashioned.” That’s not a bad thing as the movie is very well made. But it lacks much in terms of surprise, energy, or freshness. It feels very lived in – An old sweater you like, but don’t love.

Notable Thing About It: If anyone other than Tom Hanks was in this part, I think the movie would have failed. He brings such charisma and gravitas to a role that before he’s said a word, you are rooting for his character and trust him.

Overall: Everything about the film is professional. There isn’t anything weak in it. It is certainly the right kind of film for people who prefer more predictable, historical movies. You certainly don’t have to go to the theaters to see it. It is a good film, but forgettable.

Rating: 2 1/2 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Mini-Review: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

R, 122 Minutes, 2015

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About: There was this computer guy who was a jerk, but a genius. You might have heard of him.

Starring: Michael Fassbender, who looks nothing like Jobs (see below), but is brilliant.

Michael Fassbender and Steve Jobs

Directed: Danny Boyle, who has now made a bunch of very different, really solid movies – Transporting, 127 Hours, Millions, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire

Written: Aaron Sorkin in totally Sorkinesque dialogue. Lots of walk and talks. I once interviewed with a rabbi who couldn’t walk and talk. He had to stop whenever he had to talk. I knew I couldn’t work with him.

Best Thing About It: The cast. Kate Winslet would be unrecognizable if I hadn’t just told you Kate Winslet was in it. Seth Rogen is totally recognizable, but is very compelling as Steve Wozniak. Jeff Daniels has found a new role as an older, friendly, but somewhat insufferable boss (see him similarly as the head of NASA in The Martian). Michael Stuhlbarg is once again amazing. In most films it takes a minute to place him (ex. Pawn Sacrifice), but in every film he displays the incredible talent that was on display as the lead in A Serious Man.

Worst Thing About It: I often complain when the lead character is distasteful. I have to spend two hours with someone I really don’t like. Steve Jobs is like The Social Network – socially incompetent asshole who offends everyone around him, but is an absolute genius. Steve Jobs is more distasteful, but more of a genius than Mark Zuckerberg. While I appreciate what Jobs was capable of doing, it was troubling to watch him throughout the film when all I wanted was someone to punch him in the face. Spoiler: No one does.

Notable Thing About It: In a very original structure, the film takes place in 3 separate real time segments in the 30 minutes of so before three major product launches – the Macintosh (1984), NeXT (1988), and the iMac (1998) [Filmed in 16mm, 35mm, and digital respectively**]. Also, truth be told, I owned 3 of these computers and have exclusively used Apple/Macintosh home computers my entire computer life since my family got an Apple II Plus when I was 10.

Overall: This is an extremely well made film. The creative structure gives the film urgency and keeps it moving. The actors are excellent top to bottom. The ending tries to hard to make things work out. Also, if you somehow have never heard of the success of Apple computers, the iPod, iPhone, etc. you would be baffled that anyone thinks Jobs is a genius by what is shown in the film (2 failures, 1 predicted success). It’s a good film, but not great. But if you loved The Social Network, run right out as I wasn’t as high on that film as the rest of the world (I was rooting for The King’s Speech for the Oscar).

**Info added after initial posting of blog fro Christ Nashawaty’s review of the film in Entertainment Weekly.

Rating: 3 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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