Steve Jobs – A Review

 Danny Boyle directs Michael Fassbender in and as Steve Jobs.  Supported by an ensemble cast of Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlberg in a script by Aaron Sorkin this is the definitive Steve Jobs movie that we have been waiting for. By no means is this a flattering biopic at one of the 21st century’s most fascinating figures from the world of Technology. Equal parts genius and tyrant Jobs was an enigmatic figure who many credit to having revolutionalised the personal computing world.

Michael Fassbender is fast becoming the modern day Daniel Day Lewis with his chameleon like ability to transform into any character he is given.  The physical resemblance to Steve Jobs towards the later part of his life is uncanny.  Besides the physical similarities his mannerisms lend an uneasy energy to the scene, you are permanently waiting for him to lash out at something or someone. Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ work wife does an amazing job playing the emotional anchor of the movie. She plays the understanding yet exasperated partner to Jobs.  Winslet is assured a nomination as supporting actor and at this stage I am willing to bet that she takes home the gold. She is that good.   Jeff Daniels as John Scully the Pepsi Co CEO who joins Apple and is eventually responsible for the firing of Steve Jobs is understatedly brilliant. Seth Rogen as the lovable Steve Wozniak puts in a power packed performance as well.

But the real star of the movie is Script writer Aaron Sorkin. For anyone familiar with Sorkin’s work this movie is jam packed with Sorkinisms. To the uninitiated Sorkinisms is when a bunch of characters talk over one another in seemingly unrelated subjects yet everything seems to sound so profound. Yes many have disliked this very aspect of Sorkin’s writing but I couldn’t care less about them. I love it. It makes for an edge of seat drama where you hang on to every word being said lest you miss some pearls of wisdom. Sorkin has written this movie in 3 acts. The first one at the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 where we see Jobs ranting about how he was left off the cover of times magazine and how he fights the paternity law suit and how he does not want to acknowledge Apple 2 a machine he deems unworthy of his time and something that was a thing of the past. His relationship with Scully though has shades of a father-son dynamic where Jobs looks up to Scully.  Act 2 is after jobs has been fired from apple after the spectacular failure of the Macintosh and has set up his own company and is launching the aesthetically pleasing Cube. We see him closer to his daughter but his relationship with his wife is still strained. He still patronizes Woz while still there is that sense of friendship that goes back many years. The relationship with Scully though has changed and we see both their points of views about what happened when Scully pushed out Jobs from apple.  This is 1988.  Cut to the final act where Steve Jobs is launching the iMac. The same set of people around him, Joanna still trying to reign in Jobs, the reporter from GQ still wandering about t. Finally we see the tensions between Jobs and Woz come to a boil over Apple 2 again and this time Woz has the last word it is a scene that one would have never expected Rogen of Superbad to ever be able to deliver with a straight face. That scene is electric.Sorkin and Boyle infuse a lot of subtlety into the story telling that is usually missing from a biopic.  Trying to capture the eccentricities of Steve Jobs they masterfully weave the fact that he was vegan into the narrative when Jobs and Scully are meeting for the first time when Jobs wants Scully to come on board as CEO. The story behind the apple logo and how it may have been inspired Alan Turing is dealt with in such a matter of fact manner. And the final scene where Jobs is trying to connect with his daughter and promises her how he will put a thousand songs in her pocket someday so that she doesn’t have to carry around a brick shaped cassette player aka the genesis of the IPod. I am certain that this is a movie that will only get better with repeat viewing.

Daniel Pemberton’s understated soundtrack infuses each of the scenes with an electric energy. He deals mostly in silence and single strings but it has a profound effect on the overall viewing. There are no jarring orchestra pieces but subtle and complementary tones that never once seem to overpower the scenery. Alwin H Kuchler as the DOP brings the same sense of energy that he did to Hanna. It feels hurried and frenetic at the same time as it a chilling sense of calm. The opening shot is reminiscent of the Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on The Birdman where the camera follows jobs through the various corridors and rooms as Jobs meets with and talks to the different characters.I have read a few reviews where people are complaining how this movie does not live up to the image of Steve Jobs the Tech Messiah but rather paints a picture of a brilliant yet arrogant and a mostly flawed individual. I think that is the best way to portray a man who was exactly that. Unless of course it was Steve Jobs who was making a movie about himself then he would present that in a slick packaging with millions would be foaming at the mouth to get a piece of. This is exceptional film making and a story telling that is second to none.

Sorkin Fassbender take a bow, you have delivered one of the best biopics of all time. I cannot wait to go back and watch this again.

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Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – A Review

Sooraj Barjatiya reunites with Salman Khan in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo this time wooing Sonam Kapoor. Barjatiya and Salman have had a very successful run at the box office with movies that were milestones in Bollywood with Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun and Hum Saath Saath Hai. Barjatiya movies aren’t known for their path breaking storytelling or film making – he is known for his wholesome family friendly albeit slightly cheesy song and dance filled capers.  But then again Barjatiya also made the dastardly Mein Prem Ki Deewani Hoon.

With PRDP we are introduced to the Ram Leela actor Prem Dilwale who is the epitome of the typically Sanskaari Prem that we have come to expect from the Barjatiya camp. He is besotted by Princess Maithili who he saw once when she came in a helicopter to a flood relief camp nearly blowing off all the tents that were created on the banks of a river. Yep logic is nowhere to be found in this movie but bear with – maybe the earnestness that seems to have suddenly possessed Salman may help us tide over this minor mis-giving.  Enter Princess Maithili aka Sonam Kapoor.

Sonam Kapoor is pretty as a picture all through the movie – the self-proclaimed fashion icon dons many a beautiful looks. But Sonam Kapoor’s acting skills are non-existent.  Her eyebrows seem to have a life of their own and seem to doing all the acting for her. Sonam’s face seems to be permanently stuck in a worrisome look. Her lackluster dialogue delivery compounds the problem.  Speaking of pretty faces there is the actor with three names and zero talent – Neil Nitin Mukesh. His role in the entire enterprise isn’t exactly clear. Then there is the evil scheming Armaan Kohli who plays the estate’s CEO which is as absurd as it sounds.  Anupam Kher plays the trust worthy diwan of the royal family and carries the entire burden of the old and wise that was usually shared by Him, Alok Nath and Reema Lagoo.

Sooraj Barjatiya was all about a huge ensemble cast with simple stories which would be told with a firmly grounded moral compass which often veered very close to male chauvinism but still managed to pull it off. He was never the big set pieces and opulence guy and his attempt at the same this time around seems halfhearted with no real thought being put in to the outfits for most of the male cast. It seems like Ajay Arvindbhai Khatri regurgitated all over the cast with clothes that are on the clearance rack.  What Barjatiya manages well is the music – the songs are all memorable and hummable. But their dance sequences leave a lot to be desired. While Jalte Diye is a beautiful song the song sequence which tries to marry the Mughal-e-Azam scene with the feather with the color scheme of Chand Chupa Badal mein falls flat and it doesn’t help that Sonam lacks the sensuality of either Madhubala or Aishwarya.

Salman Khan tries his hardest to infuse some fun with his role of a simple village bumpkin pretending to be a prince trying to woo a princess while working to uncover the sinister plot that put him in this predicament in the first place.  The whole climax at the sheesh mahal seems pointless and completely out of place in a Barjatiya movie. The second half of movie seems to be entirely unnecessary just as the football match before the intermission.

Memorable songs, an earnest Salman make this a slightly enjoyable time spent at the cinema but it by no means is a movie I have any inclination to revisit this movie unlike other Barjatiya capers.

Spectre – A Review

Sam Mendes directs Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux and Christoph Waltz in the latest James Bond thriller Spectre. This is James’s 24th, Craig’s 4th and Mendes’ 2nd outing in the series inspired by Ian Fleming’s novels.

The movie begins with an exquisitely crafted opening sequence filmed during Dia De los Muortos or the day of the dead in Mexico City. A parade that is an explosion of colour and energy is given a sombre almost monochromatic appearance and a hypnotic rhythm thanks to Thomas Newman’s excellent score. From there on things go full on Bond mayhem as Craig blows up a building to kill an assassin he was asked to target in a message from M ( a much-missed Dame Judy Dench). Buildings fall like dominos and a helicopter threatens to send scores of revellers below to join the dead that they have gathered to commemorate.  This is also the blink and you’ll miss it appearance of bond girl no.1 the Mexican beauty Stephanie Sigman.

From then on we move to Rome to attend the funeral of the assassin that bond killed and we are introduced to bond conquest no 2. The alluring Ms Monica Bellucci. In between Mexico and Rome there is a lot of bureaucratic shenanigans going on at between M played by Ralph Fiennes who seems to be channelling his inner Voldemort and the new head of internal security C, Andrew Scott who does nothing to hide his villainous side. I think the makers of the film made a massive mistake in cast Scott as the man who would have the keys to the world-wide surveillance system – I mean come on he is Moriarty it is such an iconic role that you cannot help but see his performance as C coloured with Moriarty shades. 

From Rome we are taken on a mostly pointless and unengaging journey as we are introduced to several villainous characters. The Pale King, Hinx the henchman and Franz Oberhauser who are supposed to evoke a sense of Déjà vu but it just seems gimmicky. I completely understand that Mendes wanted to pay homage to the legacy of the Bond flicks but taking visual and character cues from previous outings but it just becomes messy. And with his penchant for unnecessary psychological drama which for me was the downfall of Skyfall. The entire back story with the reason for Waltz’s hatred towards Bond just seems half-baked just as Silva and M’s relationship dynamic was in Skyfall. 

The only saving graces with Skyfall were the amazing Adele’s Oscar winning title track and the new Q Ben Wishaw. With Spectre atleast Ben Wishaw is good but Sam Smith’s title track is just plain bad – it even put me off of Sam Smith a little bit and I love his music otherwise. Lea Seydoux as Bond girl is beautiful but she doesn’t have the same screen presence as Eva Green who was one of the most memorable one of bond girls in recent history. Naomi Harris as Moneypenny isnt given too much more than to play fetch and it is infuriating. Is it necessary to crowd the bond movies with so many female characters and giving them nothing more than 1 scene each ? why not have 1 solid female character. Here is an idea to ponder a Female Bond Villain – Mendes if you want to play psycho dramas there – create a female bond villain who is so hell bent on destroying bond and the world along with it just because he didn’t call the next day.  

To me Bond movies are about action, a larger than life secret agent that has almost no basis in reality and almost cartoonish villains with the plot to destroy the world that Bond will stop just in time. All this catharsis of the wounded soldier and his back stories and villains with mommy and daddy issues is just not how imagine the Bond-verse to be. If Mendes wants to do American Beauty he should do American Beauty but not in Bond-verse. And what is it with him destroying all of the famous Bond Symbols? First killing off M in Skyfall and now the iconic MI6 building – WHY SAM WHY! I am frankly done with Mendes’ run with Bond.

Christopher Nolan is thought to have sought to direct a Bond movie before Mendes was handed the reins. His influence on modern action capers is very evident with his hugely successful Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception. I actually think it would be a brilliant Idea to let him have a shot at Bond. I love Craig as Bond but he seems to be over it himself and it would be interesting to see how Nolan would do with Tom Hardy as Bond. Maybe reinvent the Bond series, give us a new origins story even – clearly that hasn’t been done with this one franchise and Nolan is as good a director as any and he clearly seems to want to do it himself.