Tag Archives: Jeff Daniels

Tech Titan

Smart, savvy ‘Steve Jobs’ shows the man behind digital revolution


Steve Jobs

Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen & Jeff Daniels

Directed by Danny Boyle


Steve Jobs was a digital pioneer and technological entrepreneur whose ferocious drive and tenacious zeal for perfection lead to companies, products and services that today define much of the world’s lifestyle: Mac computers, iTunes, iPhones, iPads, iPods and Pixar movies.

But Jobs wasn’t successful right off the bat—and his life wasn’t nearly as sleek and smooth as the clean, uncluttered lines of a thin, new iPhone.

“I’m poorly made,” Jobs (Michael Fassbender) confesses to his head of marketing and longtime business associate Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) in Steve Jobs, the sprawling new biopic directed by Danny Boyle based on former Time magazine editor Walter Issacson’s 2010 bestseller.

Michael Fassbender and Seth Rogen

Michael Fassbender and Seth Rogen

His former partner, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), comes to agree. “Your products are better than you are,” he tells him.

The movie begins in 1984 at an event heralding the launch of Jobs’ Macintosh computer, which turned out to be an overpriced, underpowered flop and ended his career at Apple, the California computer company he started in his garage in the 1970s with Wozniak. The film continues through two other “acts,” also around product launches: Jobs’ NeXT cube, in 1985 (another flop), and then the 1998 unveiling of the iMac, which marked his triumphant, full-circle return to Apple.

Director Boyle, an Oscar winner whose previous work includes Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, keeps things moving at an almost breathless pace and uses three different types of film (grainy 16mm, standard 35mm and crisp, high-def digital) to define each of the movie’s trio of distinctive segments. The screenplay by Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is full of the smart, savvy, rat-a-tat-tat dialog that made The Social Network, Moneyball and the TV shows The Newsroom and The West Wing zip and zing.

Steve Jobs

Jobs introduces his daughter (Makenzie Moss) to his latest invention, the Macintosh computer.

As the man at the center of it all, Fassbender portrays Jobs across a span of three decades and masterfully summons the powerful gravity that pulled other objects into his orbit—as well as the icy, distant chill that pushed most people away, including his daughter, Lisa (played at three different ages and stages by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo and Perla Haney-Jardine), by former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson).

Jeff Daniels, a Sorkin mainstay, plays Apple CEO John Sculley, and Rogen steps outside his usual stoner-comedy roles as Wozniak, who comes to resent his former partner’s arrogance and hubris, his dismissive treatment of everyone who was ever close to him, and his rise to rock-god-like stardom.

Jobs—who died in 2011 from complications of a pancreatic tumor—may have been a tech and marketing genius, but Steve Jobs makes it clear he could also be a colossal jerk. To gazillions of Apple product uses, however, he became a guru, if not a messiah. Maybe that’s why Doyle’s closing shot—with Jobs bathed in blinding light, beaming, walking slowly into the camera before disappearing into a wash of white—looks so much like a resurrection.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Super-smart astronaut survival yarn will leave you cheering

The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed by Ridley Scott


Super-smart, sharp-witted, funny, dramatic and moving, The Martian is a gripping, gorgeous, geeky, high-tech, big-screen adventure-survival yarn that will leave you cheering.

When a brutal, blinding surface dust storm causes a group of scientist-astronauts to abort their Martian expedition after only a few sols (days, or solar cycles), one of them gets left behind, lost and believed to certainly be dead. But after the Ares III blasts off and heads for home and the Red Planet dust clears, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) revives, wounded but very much alive.

NASA and his crewmates have no idea he survived. He has to find some way to let them know, some way to stay alive, and some way to keep his hopes from fading—knowing that it could take years for another mission to mobilize and reach him.

What to do, what to do?

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his           ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m gonna have to science the s— out of this,” Watney says into a camera, in the video log he begins filming as a high-tech diary.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Watney “sciences” how to grow his own food, rig up a communication device, make water and generate heat from radioactive material. One of the coolest things about The Martian is the way it makes knowledge hip and cool, how Watney’s process of discovery and learning and figuring things out are integral parts of its plotline.

Kristin Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Back on Earth, the world becomes transfixed with the man marooned on Mars. NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) race to figure out how to reach Watney before he runs out of time and resources. America’s competitors in the space race on the other side of the world, the Chinese, offer their top-secret technology to help. And once Watney’s crew mates (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan) find out they’ve accidentally left him behind, they’re willing to spring into action, even if it means staying in space for another year or longer.

Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to space or the future, from Blade Runner and Alien to Prometheus. But there are no bioengineered androids, ancient astro-gods or acid-drooling space creatures anywhere to be found in The Martian—just real people, working together, using their heads, solving problems, focused on one man 50 million miles away and united in a single goal: to “bring him home.”

And despite its big ensemble cast, gorgeous special-effect space shots and marvelous, desolate red-orange Martian landscapes, this is Damon’s show. He is The Martian, and he sells every minute of it in a bravura, mostly solo performance that radiates humanity and humor, and shows the amazing, odds-defying things that science—and brainwork, and dedication and teamwork—can do.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Older, Not Wiser

Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniels return to roles as grownup nitwits

Dumb and Dumber To


Dumb and Dumber To

Starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels

Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Rated PG-13


It’s dumb, all right, more stridently dumber, even, than its predecessor, which made a dynamic duo of dummies out of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels playing clueless, nitwit grownups stirring a raging sea of stupidity. Now, 20 years later, Lloyd (Carrey) and Harry (Daniels) are older, but certainly—most definitely—not wiser.

Dumb and Dumber To reunites Carrey and Daniels with the directors of the original movie, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who turned slapstick, gross-out gags, crude jokes and potty humor into a cinematic calling card in pretty much everything they went on to make, including There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin and a big-screen reboot of The Three Stooges.

When the first movie came out, in 1994, Carrey’s comedy star was already red hot, thanks to TV’s In Living Color and the hit movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Despite occasional forays into semi-serious comedy-drama, he continued to find that audiences connected with him best as a rubber-faced, loose-limbed goofball.

Daniels’ career sent him in a slightly different direction, through dozens of diverse film and TV parts and finally into his current Emmy-wining role in the TV political drama The Newsroom.

Dumb and Dumber ToTogether again here, they’re a pair of 50-something stooges on a cross-country comedy collision course—which isn’t to say that I didn’t find some of it laugh-out-loud funny. (But parents and other concerned citizens, take note: Even though it’s rated PG-13, it seems to be straining to see how far it can nose into R-rated vulgarity without actually going over the line.) There’s a cat that farts bird feathers, a little old lady in a nursing home who tricks a visitor into “feeling her up,” and a steady stream of jokes about poop, pee, boobs and butt cracks. Are you laughing yet?

Twenty years ago, the idea of a couple of adults who acted like 10-year-olds in an otherwise “normal” world seemed like the latest bit of inspired idiocy on a long entertainment timeline running all the way back to silent movies. Now, with characters who’ve aged without maturing, in a story that seems sometimes too lazy to have tried to do much of anything different from the first time around, it just looks sad. And Carrey’s character’s clueless “craziness” now seems cruel and even pathologically twisted, taking advantage and making fun of people, insensitive to everyone and everything—not just dumb, but loathsome, pathetic and truly crazy.

Dumb and Dumber To

Kathleen Turner

Carrey and Daniels are game for just about anything, throwing themselves (sometimes literally) into all sorts of physical shtick. Rob Riggle is a hoot in a dual role, one of them as a special-ops assassin with special concealment skills. Kathleen Turner sends up her “sexy” image from the ’80s. Rachel Melvin, who portrayed Chelsea Brady-Benson on TV’s Days of Our Lives, plays a young woman who causes Lloyd and Harry to set out on a trip to a convention of brainiacs—where, of course, they cause quite a stink

At one point, Lloyd is asked if Harry has Aspergers. “Probably,” Lloyd replies. “I know he doesn’t wipe very well.” If that joke makes you grin, this may be your kind of movie. If it makes you groan, well, steer clear—because there’s a lot more like that where it came from.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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