Saturday, September 21, 2013

Movie Reviews: Jobs / Moneyball


Jobs / Moneyball   
1. Short review: Jobs  / Moneyball

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:
Jobs: Josh Gad's performance as Steve Wozniak, and sometimes Dermot Mulroney's performance as Mike Markkula. Nothing else.

Moneyball: Brad Pitt's performance. The little girl's song. The truth of Moneyball which managed to fight its way through the twisted conflicts that the screenwriter -- Aaron Sorkin -- believed necessary to insert into a movie that, superficially, is about baseball but is in reality a movie about business.

2.2. What I did not like:
Jobs: Ashton Kutcher's performance as Steve Jobs. Kutcher played the title character, and he botched it. Evidently he spent hours studying Jobs's walk, Jobs's quirky hand gestures, and Jobs's rages. Kutcher seemed to believe that copying those external motions was enough. But his character had none of Jobs's fire, none of the passion, none of the drive. Kutcher's performance was a caricature of Steve Jobs and a poor one.

Moneyball: The script. Aaron Sorkin can write the life out of any story he comes in contact with. Why do we need to see Billy Beane's ex-wife and her new husband? Or Casey Beane? As much as I like the little girl Casey Beane's song -- and I do -- it does not add two cents to the movie.

I would like to say that I liked Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance of Oakland A's manager Art Howe, but I cannot. Hoffman gave a one-dimensional performance. The worst I have ever seen him do. Besides, Hoffman is about as good a fit to play Art Howe as I am to play Prince Harry. Fire the casting director.

2.3. Who I think is the audience:

Jobs: Ashton Kutcher.

Moneyball: Anyone who is interested in baseball or the business of sports. 

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? No sex, but some foul language. Your call.

2.5. On the basis of viewing these movies, will I pay to see the sequels? No to both.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:
-- I want my money back.<-- Jobs
-- Worth a rental, not more. 
-- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- Moneyball
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: Jobs, 122 long minutes. Moneyball, 133 minutes (with decent editing, could have done it in 100 minutes).

2.6.2. The plots in a nutshell:

     Jobs plot.
     The plot -- what there is of it -- is incomprehensibly incomplete. The movie begins with Jobs introducing the iPod to Apple employees. That frames rest of the movie. Everything else is a flashback. But the movie never returns to the iPod. The flashback ends in 1996 with Jobs forcing Markkula out of Apple's board. What comes between is only chronicle with no attempt to make sense of any of it. In effect, the screenwriter, Matt Whiteley, gave us an open-faced, regurgitated sandwich with one slice of bread, the rancid meat of Ashton Kutcher, and topped with the cornstarch-based gravy of Apple's mystique.
     Where is the iMac? Where is the iPhone? Why is so much missing?
     Forget the hardware and the software. Where is the passion that drove Steve Jobs? It ain't in this movie.

     Moneyball plot.
     Moneyball is a book about an idea -- sabermetrics -- that changed the business of professional baseball. I have a sample of the book on my Kindle, keeping company with thirty-six other samples. (Hey, that's down from last month's forty-eight samples.) The movie makes it out to be the fight of one man -- Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager -- to change the game against the opposition of his conservative scouts and his unyielding manager.
     Given the history of problems with the production of Moneyball, it is a wonder the movie got made. When it did, it got saddled with Aaron Sorkin who decided to make it a 'One Good Man versus The World' show. I don't know Aaron Sorkin, but I can tell he does not know how business organizations are run. The movie Billy Beane never explains the sabermetrics idea to his scouts or to his manager. He never tries to get them to buy into his philosophy. This is not the way an organization is run. Except in Aaron Sorkin's wild imagination.

2.7. Other:

     My wife is a big fan of Steve Jobs. This movie popped up on VOD, and she had to see it. We paid a premium price for the movie. First-run theater ticket price.
     For crap.
     I am not the only one who thinks so. Steve Wozniak 'read [the script] as far as he "could stomach it and felt it was crap . . . ."'  
     FWIW my wife -- fanatical as she is about Steve Jobs -- fell asleep half an hour in.
     Forget this movie. The writing is bad and Ashton Kutcher's acting is worse. Ashton Kutcher was good in That '70s Show when essentially he played himself. Since then, his best performance has been passable; that is, mediocre.
      If you want to see Steve Jobs, watch Pirates of Silicon Valley, a good movie, or Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, an outstanding interview with the man. Steve Jobs's passion comes across in the interview.

     After I had suffered through the disaster that is Jobs, I flipped off the VOD and lo-and-behold Moneyball came up for free on a different cable channel. I watched it while my wife slept. Why? Well, I like the movie, warts and all.
     There is a lot wrong with Moneyball, but Brad Pitt's performance is spot on.
     I saw A River Runs Through It and thought Pitt was just a pretty boy. Mr and Mrs Smith gave me some indication that he could act. Moneyball proves Pitt can act. Pitt's performance here reminds me of Robert Redford's performance in Jeremiah Johnson. It is a demonstration that he is something more than a pretty face.

     I have read other reviews. Some love Kutcher's performance. Others hate Pitt's performance. So . . .

2.8. Links:
Jobs: IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 
Moneyball: IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review

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