jOBS (2013)

IMDB plot:

The story of Steve Jobs’ ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

Historical (accurate or not) spoilers here.

After a very interesting movie, an ok biography and whatever else they can throw to make more money of his name, jOBS is yet another take on the co-founder of Apple Computers.

Just to be clear here: I read the biography and watched the old movie (both links listed above) and I’ll draw some references from both to explain this all. So… yeah, triple spoilers event!

First of all, this movie is the one the paints Jobs more ruthless than any other thing I saw/read. In “Pirates of the Silicon Valley”, Jobs is portrayed as a fun guy who only mistake was to leave a daughter behind — someone who, later, he made peace. In his auto-biography, he’s a genius who left a daughter behind, lost the company he created but, ultimately, got back into the company, made emends with his daughter and, ultimately, made the company profitable again. In this movie, Jobs is a quirky guy, who left his daughter behind, pushed his employees to the brink of madness, drove out his only true friend, saw enemies everywhere, lost his company, got back into the company and decided to take revenge on everyone he saw as being part of making him leave in the first place.

So… yeah, this is not the “Jobs was a genius” kinda of movie. Maybe it is the more accurate one, maybe it makes him more dark for the sake of getting more points for showing a different facet (or maybe it’s Hollywood tendency of making everything “darker” these days leaking over a biography). Who knows?

Thing is, Jobs is shown as a dark personality here. And you know, when he talks in that calm tone he used to show in his previous WWDCs? Well, it’s there, but the way Kutcher makes the same movements and talk in the same pace and with the same volume… it sounds much more like a cold, vengeful person than a patronizing, friendly person.

Speaking of which, Kutcher kills on those two aspects: voice and movement. When he talks, you hear Jobs; when he moves, you see Jobs movements (at least, from the presentations he did). The looks… well, not so much. But yeah, I can’t point the good job doing Jobs Kutcher did.

I can give this 6 out of 10 IBM PCs.

Lone Survivor (2013)

IMDB plot:

Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

Enemy territory of spoilers ahead!

Also, let me spoil the end of this review: I won’t be generous with this movie, so I’ll say this: I’m being critical of the movie as a movie, not as the personal experience of Luttrell and his company/co-workers/friends.

The story is, basically this: A bunch of broguys in the army, doing brothings, like brorunning go into a bromission, which is find if a VIP target is in a small village in the Afghanistan. The do, their radios didn’t work, they are found by some villagers that support that Taliban and are left with three options: kill the villagers right away, left the villagers tied to die of starvation or cold or left them go and face an army of Talibans protecting the village. The pick the 3rd option, things go wrong and Luttrell is… the lone survivor! (and… roll credits!)

But seriously, the movie rubbed me in the wrong way right out of the start: It starts with some cadets training to be SEALs. Yeah, yeah, it’s the hardest job in the planet, they are the most trained people in the planet, yadda, yadda, yadda. I get it. I don’t get it, though, that it shows those guys almost drowning, almost dying of hypothermia and for those who can’t get it have to be public shamed in front of other guys, and why should I care for them. Oorah, good for them. I couldn’t care less on how hard you survived some abusive physical training.

And then cue to those guys (now the actors) buy bros, doing bro things, like going bare chested, in the morning, talk to another bare chested bro, to ask about horses. Again, I know how I’m making it sound, and I’m making it sound on purpose, but I don’t mean in any shape or form damage the real guys image. It’s just the way the movie put it.

But hey, I had to endure 30 minutes of this absolute no pace at all of the story so hey, I can make as many jokes about this as I want.

But ok, this is a movie about waaaarrrr, so what it is about waaaarrrr? Well, it’s a bunch of fuck ups that actually made me feel sorry for Luttrell and his company for getting into it: Apparently they barely knew the terrain, the really didn’t know anything about the villagers and their habits, they knew communications would have problems and they did absolutely nothing to mitigate those problems. Oh yeah, and none of them knew how to talk to the villagers, just in case. Military intelligence my ass.

Actually, that’s the best 30 minutes of this 2 hour long movie: Their movements in the mountain, how the collect more information about the village and the VIP, how the find good spots, how those guys can sleep in the middle of this… This part is actually the good — and only good — part of the movie.

And then you have the shooting scene. And from the village of 10 or so houses, about 200 Talibans appear. At least 25 stay in the mountain to cut their escape route, about 50 are killed by those 4 guys and there is still a bunch that come back to the village. A little exaggeration of the movie makers, I guess. In no way, such remote village could hold that many people — and we are talking to extra people, we are not counting the people who already lived in the village.

And the shooting scene goes for another 30 minutes. And there is a lot of blood being splattered around. And there is a lot of talibans dying in a single shot. And there are those 4 guys being turned into pin cushions with so many bullets and cuts and whatnot, but they still fight ’cause MURRICA, FUCK YEAH! And there is so much blood in those 30 minutes that Dracula would have a hard on. And it’s boring, it’s hard to follow, the camera keeps shaking, and sometimes they put this “hey, look, this is the sniper scope!”, which cuts half of the screen space. And then you have “oh, look, this guy killed three talibans but oh, no, he took a shot in the shoulder, but now he killed more three but oh no, another shot in the leg now”. And it goes on, and on, and on, that after the first 5 minutes you get bored watching it.

Apparently there was some helicopter being hit by an RPG when they were almost saved, but I was skipping most of it to avoid the boredom of watching this nonsense that I partially missed it.

(Again, not saying that if Luttrell & co had to face that many people, take that many shots, still kill that many enemy soldiers while fighting for their lifes it’s pure bullshit; what I’m saying is that, for theatrical presentation, it’s bullshit.)

And the last 30 minutes is Luttrell being rescue by one of the villagers, getting caught by the Taliban VIP, almost dying, seeing the villagers raise against Taliban (in what, thinking now, it was a way of saying “see? Not all of them are bad!”) and his final rescue.

I won’t talk about acting, ’cause, again, bored to tears, I skipped most of it. The only thing I can say is this: Every time Taylor Kitsch was on the screen, every time he spoke sometime, all I could think of was “Wil Weathon?”

In the end, I have to give only 3 saved soldiers of a battalion of 10. Everyone else died in the hands of the enemy.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

IMDB plot:

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

Smuggled spoilers ahead.

In 1985, when people still didn’t know much about AIDS and AST was being introduced in the market, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) finds out that he has contracted the disease. He begs Dr. Eve (Jennifer Garner) about some experimental drug called AST, which she refuses to give to him as the drug is still in tests. Through some connections, he ends up in Mexico, getting drugs still not approved by the American government from Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne). Finding out how many drugs Dr. Vass has, he start to smuggle them into US, founds a “club” called “The Dallas Buyers Club” with trangender Rayon (Jared Leto), which specializes in smuggling non-approved drugs to those willing to pay US$ 400 per month.

And that’s basically it, I guess. There isn’t much more “story” that could be considered the main plot.

Thing is, this movie had a lot of talks about (including the nominations for the Oscars — some which it won) and that’s basically the story: one guy finds he has AIDS, can’t get the only medicine known at the time, doctors put him down ’cause it is still in tests, guy buys drugs illegally, guy gets kicked by smuggler and is send to Mexico, guy finds new therapy that actually works and discovers the government is slow in approving said drugs, guy goes back to the US to sell said drugs, guy creates club to sell unapproved — but functional — drugs to those who pay, government shuts down guy business, guy fights government, guy gets law approved for unapproved drugs for people without hope.

One thing I can’t get around is why McConaughey won an Oscar for his acting. I mean, it’s not impressive, he’s basically just doing the same character he always does, with a stronger Texan accent this time. Actually, I think his interpretation of Woodroof actually damages the person (at least, if you go into pure “Hollywoodian characters” and try to make a bad-guy-becomes-good-guy): He doesn’t seem to accept gays after being a strong homophobic in the start of the movie, he simply has to work with one because hey, it’s money; his denial of selling drugs to someone with less than the $400 required by his own club and later selling his car to buy more drugs simply doesn’t add up. Of course, maybe the real Woodroof did all those and the real Woodroof was a bad-guy-becomes-good-guy, but the fact is that acting… doesn’t add up. Either he was always a dick — which McConaughey acting doesn’t make him be in the end — or he actually changed — which, again, McConaughey acting doesn’t make him be in the end.

Leto and Garner, on the other hand, were exceptional in the movie. Leto is unrecognizable either by his posture and by his voice in the movie. Garner also does an absolute good job in the role of the doctor who is seeing hospitals doing things for money instead of actually helping people, feeling trapped in the mist of red tape.

I’m a sucker for “based on real stories” movies, so I’ll give it 8 out of 10 approved drugs in the end.

The Zero Theorem (2013)

IMDB plot:

A computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him.

Surreal and existentialist spoilers ahead.

The thing that impressed me most about this movie is that it was not written by Gilliam himself. The movie mixes so much color contrasts (people with purple raincoats walking around bright yellow/green coats), the decrepit buildings with luxurious interiors, the existentialist questions popping out of nowhere (“What seems to be the problem?” “We are dying.”), small details that don’t add anything to the general story (like all food thrown away falls near a rat hole, which is promptly picked by said rat and returned to the hole)… It all makes a perfect part of a Gilliam movie and, still, it was not written by Gilliam.

The story goes around Qohen (Christopher Waltz) — continuously called “Quinn” by his manager Joby (David Thewlis) — whose work is to be a number cruncher. He asks Management (Matt Damon) to work at home, in the hopes of being there when someone calls explaining the reason he’s in the world, and then allowed to do so while working in the Zero Theorem. His work, though, is completely interrupted by his sexy/”virtual hooker” neighbor Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry) and management’s son Bob (Lucas Hedges). While suffering from depression from his work, Qohen asks help of one online psychiatrist, Shrink Rom (Tilda Swinton).

Actually, there are two plots floating around: The first is Qohen waiting for the call that would explain why he is in the world, why he exists, what is the reason he is alive. The second is the search for the answer of the Zero Theorem, proving that everything adds to nothing — or, basically, that nothing adds up and everything is void of value, in the end.

The interesting thing is the way the number crunching was designed. Basically, pieces of the equation appear as small blocks and connecting blocks add to more complex equations, till it shows huge buildings with the equation — and added more pieces in one part of the equation may destroy another part of the equation, shown as buildings falling apart.

The problem with the movie is that it keeps adding nothing to the general plot — in other words, it keeps adding 0 to the equation. You could basically have the same story if you pick the first 20 minutes and the last 20 and ignore the whole hour in the middle. You’d lose the beautiful images of Mélanie, but that would be the price to pay for a concise, precise story.

If you don’t like Waltz, you’ll hate the movie. There is basically no scene in which he’s not part of it. He does an ok job being a recluse, depressed, workaholic guy with no hair and no eyebrows. There are a few scenes in which he really shines, but for a general role of someone being completely detached from the world, you couldn’t expect too much.

Matt Damon appears a few times and all the times he appears, I thought I was watching Phil Hartman. The looks, the voice, the tone… everything matches!

Tilda Swinton playing the online psychologist actually just plays her role in Snowpiercer: She appears to know more and is just tricking everyone. Even the damn prosthetic teeth is there.

Mélanie Thierry is there just to provide the sexual part of the quest in Qohen’s life — and boy, what parts she have! I mean… Yeah, I meant that. Lucas Hedges plays a super-active kid who knows everything and provides the friendship part of the quest. David Thewlis provides the work part of the quest, being the guy who wants to be super-friendly just for his workers work for him and think he’s the greatest boss ever.

I kept waiting for that “Memento” moment, the one that wraps everything and makes the whole thing make sense. But, sadly, it never happens. In the end, it’s a huge visual show in which the real story is hidden in 30-40 minutes of a 1 hour and 40 minutes of story.

Rating: only 5 out of 10 existential questions answered. By people in bright purple, bright pink and bright green coats.

The Lego Movie (2014)

IMDB plot:

An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

Interlocking blocks of spoilers ahead.

The shortest way to describe The Lego Movie is: This is The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, but with Legos. Or: A long version of the Lego games, but without the interaction.

So… yeah, a movie made entirely of Legos. The story goes around a guy (the worker) who supposedly gets in the wrong place at the wrong time and suddenly is confused by the ‘Special’ one. Yup, it’s the Lego version of “The Life of Brian”, except without Jesus, but still with the prophecy.

The visuals are pretty interesting ’cause everything is made of Legos: cities, cars, airplanes, fire pits, explosions, smoke, bullets, splashed water, clouds, waves… everything. Well, with the exception of the toys faces, everything. And some jokes about the Lego people not reading things properly (“Cloak of Bandaee”, for a bandaid, for example).

But, in the end, it’s a huge product placement, with continuous display of different Lego sets over and over again.

Sure, there is a message in the end — “Legos are made to be played with, not for displaying and never doing anything with them again”, or so it seems like it — but again, the message is a huge product placement. Oh, look, we need some special piece that exists in the “Lego Star Wars” set! The explanations for the multi-universes is, basically, showing the different Lego sets.

There is a story longer than “Legos!” but it is really shallow and the jokes are all based on reverse clichés, which are also clichés: the special one is not special till it appears special by not being special (or “being himself”), the secret knock is not super complex or even a secret. And on, and on, and on.

There is a bunch of “I know that voice”, but none are original. I kept hearing Megamind all the time when the bad guy was talking. And some others I was “I know that voice” but couldn’t pinpoint the source.

Altogether, it is a “not so bad” product placement. But you can get the same jokes from SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, without the same placement.

In the end, a 7 out of 10 blocks, but all different colors, so you can’t build anything nice with them.

Noah (2014)

IMDB Plot:

A man is chosen by his world’s creator to undertake a momentous mission before an apocalyptic flood cleanses the world.

Spoilers of biblical proportions ahead.

There was one weird thing about “Noah”, just after the release: Christian people claimed it was not biblical enough and Atheist people said it was too biblical.

Fact is, both were right.

So “Noah” is — let me put this bluntly — an attempt to make a biblical story not so biblical. It goes to tell — and I’ll kick your butt if you claim “spoilers” for this — the story of Noah, which was guided by God to build an ark to carry two of each species to repopulate Earth, ’cause everything would go underwater for cleansing.

(In other words, God gave Noah a cheat code and everybody else had to play the underwater level. Which sucks.)

But, again, the story tries to be a non-biblical biblical story. And by trying to push both ways, it gets nowhere.

For example, when Noah is telling his children about the story of the creation of the world, using the Genesis as basis and the whole “everything was made in 6 days”, what happens is that you see a very accelerated display of evolution. I got that what Aronofsky and Handel (the writers) tried to do is explain that, for God, a billion years is nothing more than a day, in a way to reconcile the biblical description of the world and the scientific creation of the universe. That is trying to make biblical non-biblical. But you actually see, early in the movie, a dry seed actually become a fountain that creates a whole forest in less than 1 minute. That’s is trying to make biblical biblical.

But the thing is: Those two don’t mix. You can’t expect me to go “Oh, so maybe the biblical part may be true” when you throw such magical happenings going around.

And then you have Noah being the last descendant of Seth, while the rest of the humanity is descendant of Cain — the killer of Abel. So this gives Noah his special powers of receiving Gods message and then going crazy and deciding that he must kill his whole family because God says so. It felt much more like the story of Abraham than Noah, but hey, let’s make it epic, right?

Those mix ups really pull the movie down, but it is not completely bad. At some points, it really reached some very strong emotional points to keep you grasped into the story, but… It’s like Olivia Wilde slapping you continuously: Sure, the view is awesome, but at what price?

There is the use of “Guardians”, which help Noah build the ark, with a very interesting back story as angels that decided to help humanity in the new world created by God, disobeying his orders to stay away and then becoming stone giants — becoming “part of the planet”. But something in me raged furiously when, in the end, when they die, they go “Sorry Father, for failing you” and then suddenly they are forgiven and go back to the heaven, when just minutes before they were clubbing people right and left. Oh yeah, kill everybody, just ask for forgiveness before dying and you’re all good.

Also, in the “non-biblical biblical story” sense, in no point at all God is called “God”. All references are done purely as “the Creator”: “The creator gave me this vision”, “The creator punished us for disobeying his orders” and on and on and on. At some points it gets really tiring hearing “creator” so many times. And my personal guess says that they avoided “God” specifically to not say “Hey, this is Christian story, too bad for you, Muslims!”

If I said “acting is weird” (a phrase I’ve been using a lot in my reviews) is only because the script is weird. There is one point when Jennifer Connelly, playing Naameh, the wife of Noah, goes rampage over him and I could barely understand what was the point she was trying to make. After a few phrases is that she finally reaches the point and then it makes sense but before… (sorry to say this but) she just sound like some woman who just watched a weird romcom in her period.

Russel Crowe goes fine as Noah — in its “I’m Noah, but I’m also Abraham and some crazy fanatical dude” — but only because the story goes around him and I guess the best lines were written for him.

Logan Lerman, which starts acting pretty much like he did in Percy Jackson, goes as bad as expected but suddenly improves — in the very last minutes of the movie, which makes the point completely moot.

Emma Watson was a complete deception but, again, since the best lines were written for Crowe, I wouldn’t expect too much anyway.

Speaking of the female roles, I can’t really understand why Aronofsky would force Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly to be so thin in the movie. I mean, all the man — at least, the adult ones — are bulging pieces of meat, like the stereotype of the lumberjack, while the women are so thin it seems they didn’t eat anything for days. Connelly beauty is almost ruined in the movie because of this.

In the end, it’s and ok story which tries too much to tell a very known story in a way it’s not to not piss too many people and accomplishes nothing. I’d give it 4 out of 10 mass extinctions.

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

IMDB plot:

Masked spoilers ahead.

I said that Kick Ass was a way to deconstruct what is a hero and, well, that kinda happens again, although it’s not the main focus.

So the city is now run by several masked vigilantes and Kick Ass decided to go under for awhile. Hit Girl is being coerced to stop fighting crime by her new dad (Marcus, Big Daddy friend in the previous movie), who wants her to live a normal life. But then Dave wants to be Kick Ass again and wants Hit Girl to come with him, but she doesn’t want because reasons and that’s where the story revolves around.
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In a way, this is much more a “Hit Girl” than “Kick Ass” movie, with some sad sad scenes, like Hit Girl going bananas watching her first boy band video clip and a puking scene. But the story really revolves around Hit Girl and her “I promised I’d not fight again” vs “I was trained for this” conundrum, with Marcus acting as the pressure towards “normality” and Kick Ass towards “fight crime”.

So while it is still about deconstructing what makes a hero, it’s not Kick Ass who drives the idea, but Hit Girl.

But does it do a good job doing it? Actually, no. As I mentioned, some scenes are too damn silly, breaking the pace of the story too much, instead of focusing on Hit Girls choice.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still the same as the first movie, so if it was Ok in the first, he is still Ok. Chlöe Grace Moretz, which should be the primal focus of the movie, is put in some scenes that really mess with her acting — although I’d say better than Taylor-Johnson. Christopher Mintz-Plasse finally graduated from the whimpy school and plays a more insane/bad-ass character — but still somewhat silly. Jim Carrey plays an awesome part and you can barely say it’s him under that mask: No silly faces, no silly voices — actually, he plays the whole movie with a deeper voice, which impressed me.

In the end, I’d give it 5 heroes out of 10 villains.

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

IMDB plot:

Po the Panda is the laziest of all the animals in the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.

Ok, now be aware that I may spoil things, as usual.

In an old China, a Panda, son of a noodle maker, dreams of becoming a grand master of Kung Fu. The village where he lives is also the place where The Furious Five, five masters of kung fu, live, fueling his dreams.

The part that I liked more is the very first scenes. Not because they have anything interesting, but because it looks like a cartoon, much like Samurai Jack, which was, in most of the episodes, more mature than anything going in the TV (ok, it also had some very childish episodes, but I think the mature outnumber the childish.) It made me believe it would be more mature than most “CG for kids” we see these days and, honestly, it was slightly above that. But just slightly.

One of the things that made me think “Why?” was the cast. I mean, wow, Angelina Joile, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan? Amazing. Except that they gave Angelina about 10 lines, Jackie got 2 and Lucy just one. Jack Black lines are mostly fun, yes, but after a while you start getting tired of his voice. It’s like the whole movie is just a “Here people: Come hear Jack Black for 2 hours!” And some of the things he says really don’t fit a kung fu movie, even if it is for kids.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It’s another of those “believe in you” movies for kids. The CG is pretty good (well, most of the CG movies these days are good and Kung Fu Panda is no exception), the movements don’t look too weird, although some scenes go for the child-cartoon-appearance and look really silly, specially when compared with the rest of the movie, where movement and more fluid and real-like.

Overall, it’s a good movie and fun to watch.

I’m out of sync with the movie critics

I hate George Clooney. Really. Every single movie he does make me like him less and less. His acting is not convincing and he doesn’t have facial expressions. Yet, every single critic says he is an awesome actor and that his latest movie, “Michael Clayton”, is so awesome it should get an Oscar. When I saw it, I wanted to pee on Clooney face and burn the theatre down, just to enjoy a little bit of my lost 2 hours in the cinema.

When I was in the plane back to Australia, I saw Ratatoule (or whatever, I don’t care if the name is wrong.) I thought it was unimaginative, boring story about “accept who you are” for kids. You know, the same thing they say in kid movies over and over again. I mean, I’m seeing that message since I was a kid. Yet, critics say that the Academy should reconsider its position about the movie, as it was ranked higher than the “best movie” movies.

Really, critics don’t know movies.