‘Wonder Wheel’ is Woody Allen at his worst

Try not to fall asleep during this flick.

Advertisements

Ginny (Kate Winslet) dreams of the movie star life, a bittersweet medicine that temporarily relieves the pain of her life that seems to be passing her by. Married to a theme park worker, Humpty (Jim Belushi, chewing scenery but effective), Ginny is trapped in a never-ending cycle of robotic family life. She cooks, cleans, deals with her troublesome son, and briefly departs into the fantasy land of the movies. Living next to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City doesn’t seem to help.

When two people, Mickey (Justin Timberlake) and Carolina (Juno Temple), enter Ginny’s life, the seemingly boring life that Ginny dreaded suddenly becomes full of drama.

Woody Allen’s latest, Wonder Wheel,  left me dreaming about what I could have gotten done with the two hours I spent watching this tiresome melodrama. A film where all the characters have faults and thorns sticking out of their sides, which means nothing will end well, and the movie will end coming to a sudden halt before the credits roll. Continue reading “‘Wonder Wheel’ is Woody Allen at his worst”

Triple 9: Easy to digest entertainment

Triple 9 may look familiar but the cast and action elevate it to worthy of your cash and time.

Triple 9 looks familiar. Good cops. Dirty cops. Robbers. Crime bosses. Innocence, brutality and a merciless urge to be the last one standing. All of it. Hundreds of crime films have covered this territory, with good and not so great results. Director John Hillcoat knew this so he acquired a truly unique and top flight cast.

Casey Affleck as the young and noble cop who partners up with Anthony Mackie’s maybe shady officer to police the streets. Bank robbing crew led by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s murderous yet not evil boss. Aaron Paul(Breaking Bad) and Norman Reedus(Walking Dead) are a part of that crew. Hey, there’s Kate Winslet as a Russian crime boss rocking some Goodfellas hair that would make Lorraine Bracco sweat. Woody Harrelson is a police sergeant who drinks too much and happens to sniff some of the evidence. Clifton Collins Jr. is a detective that can’t be trusted. Gal Gadot as the pretty faced temptation.

Throw all these parts into a stew pot, stir them, add some seasoning(great action choreography), a fast pace and what do you have? An entertaining and diverting action film.

Triple 9 doesn’t try to be anything other than what the poster tells you. Entertainment. It may get you thinking about black/white crime, the length cops will go to in order to make a dollar or how dire the world looks. That’s something you already knew going into the theater. It takes the familiar and makes it look better than what it really is. The sum of the parts outweighs any individual piece here in value.

A lesser cast, video game/commercial resume laden director and less exotic features would put this movie on the direct to DVD route chart along with the latest Steven Seagal or Wesley Snipes delivery. The cast and their buy in with the material along with Hillcoat’s dedication to not deliver over the top Malick like monologues keeps the film light and easy to digest. A perfect February treat. This is a film David Ayer writes and directs in his sleep.

When I left the theater, I wasn’t mad about where my money went. I was satisfied. I didn’t have to convince everyone on my way home they should see it but I got what I felt the film deserved to give me. A good time.

Avoid the awful poster tag line, the familiar setup and you may enjoy it too.

“Steve Jobs” will make you dream big again about movies

Steve Jobs is a movie that shows you how cinema can truly teach and engage at the same time.

“You don’t care how much money a person makes. You care about what they make.”

People want they can’t have. They need it to be whole again, if only for a moment. Steve Jobs knew this and dedicated his entire life to giving the people what they wanted. Options on a computer. Easy hook ups. Internet. Music in their pocket. The ability to have it all right in their palm. He just needed time to create his masterpiece. Like a painter figuring out which brush he should use first. He had to fail hard again and again before he put it all together.

Danny Boyle’s new film, written by the maestro of dialogue Aaron Sorkin, is exhilarating, propulsive and engages the mind because it effects everyone who carries an Apple laptop around, an iPhone, iPod, iPad or iWatch. It all started with Jobs. This movie makes you dream big again about the power of cinema and what it can do when used right.

Boyle’s film chronicles three events in Jobs life. The launch of Macintosh in 1984, the opening of Jobs’ independent project Next in 1988 and the legendary launch of the iMac in 1998. Two failed, and one exploded.

In order to properly tell the story, you need great actors. One of a kind talents who can morph into any shape or form on a movie screen. You DON’T need Ashton Kutcher. Boyle’s greatest move here is putting British chameleon Michael Fassbender into the arrogant conductor’s skin for two hours. While he was a genius at knowing where pieces went and the big picture of technology, Jobs was a mean guy. A bad father and a worse friend. Everyone who stood face to face with him was a debate opponent. His own daughter couldn’t get compassionate love. As Jobs says towards the end of the film, “I was poorly made.”

If all you know about Jobs are the pictures of him at launches smiling at the crowd looking like God, Fassbender takes you inside the demons that curled and pinched inside his chest. The man had a wounded heart that seemed to never get completed before birth. His wiring was different, like in a computer where one plug needs to go into a certain outlet or the system breaks down. Calling Fassbender Oscar worthy is like calling coffee hot on arrival. It’s like saying the rain will make your clothes wet. This isn’t a performance. This is a transformation that peels Jobs like an onion. The man goes from Magneto to Jobs in a blink. That’s power.

Kate Winslet is nearly his equal as the long suffering assistant Joanna Hoffman. Fassbender and Winslet share many scenes literally firing verbal bullets at one another. She knew everything that he didn’t and knew how he worked better than most. When he needed to know which door was his door, Hoffman told him. When he couldn’t understand his daughter’s need for attention, he needed her. Without Hoffman, Jobs would have been a mad man stuck in a garage.

Jeff Daniels needs to work with Sorkin more. The writer’s words fit the actor’s speed. The Newsroom duo reteam here for Daniels’ former CEO and disgraced boss John Sculley. Throughout all the misery, Sculley was a father figure for Jobs, and watching Fassbender and Daniels trade dialogue like they were two tennis players on a hard court is award worthy itself. If there was an Oscar for best exchange in a film, these two guys get it hands down. Their tragic final moments will haunt you as the credits roll.

For the people who are still convinced Seth Rogen can’t act, come watch him work here as Steve Wozniak, the Ringo to Jobs’ Lennon and the guy who created the world that Jobs wanted but never got the credit. As the fumbling yet passionate partner in crime, Rogen instills Wozniak with compassion to balance the pride that is spread around the floor. A maker of the switchboard and the internal dynamics of the Mac never got the recognition he deserved and in three separate scenes, pleads with Jobs over giving credit to his co-workers. The acting here is so magical that you forget these are actors and just go with the flow of the film.

Michael Stuhlbarg(Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire) imbues the innocent yet Jobs flame resistant Andy Hertzfeld, the guy who Jobs told to complete impossible missions before the launch. When you go through your everyday life, remember that one man threatened another’s life because he couldn’t make a computer say “hello” on time. That’s the Tao of Steve and Andy.

Throughout it all, Sorkin and Boyle are rocket launchers. Sorkin’s dialogue is like David Mamet on steroids. A hyper kinetic orchestra of words, timing and emotion. He adapted a script from Walter Issacson’s book on Jobs. Boyle has worked with great writers before but he found his Jimmy Page in Sorkin. Someone who could give him the words required to make a masterpiece. Boyle has done it all. 28 Days Later. Trainspotting. 127 Hours. The underrated Sunshine. Slumdog Millionaire. His films defy genre placing and that’s why he is great. He doesn’t miss when he goes behind the camera and he may have created his best film here in Steve Jobs.

The movie plays out like Birdman’s sibling. One location. Long uncut takes of people walking and talking. The ability to do so much with so little is amazing. Boyle, Sorkin, Fassbender, Daniels, Rogen, Winslet, Stuhlbarg and company all deserve a mention for putting egos to the side and creating this masterpiece.

That’s the best thing about the fall/winter season of film. The overload of great movies. As much as I enjoyed Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron or whatever else arrived in the summer, October through December is the greatest time for cinema. It’s when the ring is cleared for the heavyweights. Films like The Martian, The Walk, Bridge of Spies and Steve Jobs. Movies that means something, are powerful and engage a viewer like few other films can. It’s where Hollywood breaks out its greatest hits record and gives it a fine polish.

Steve Jobs was a jerk but he knew it. He was a genius at everything that didn’t have to do with human emotion. If you don’t know who he is, look him up on your phone. If you are holding an iPhone, you are able to look up Steve Jobs because of Steve Jobs. As George Jung, played by Johnny Depp, said at the end of the great film Blow, “My ambition far exceeded my talent.” To me, that’s Steve Jobs.

If you crave a dose of history that connects directly to the present and the future, watch Steve Jobs. Better yet, just go watch it. Steve Jobs dreamed big. So should we.