Tag Archives: Kate Winslet

Tech Titan

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

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Steve Jobs

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

Directed by Danny Boyle

R

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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Back to the Future

Hot youth reunite in grim dystopia for part two of ‘Divergent’ trilogy

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Insurgent

Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet & Theo James

Directed by Robert Schwentke

PG-13

 

What’s in the box?

That’s the question that drives the plot of the second movie based on author Veronica Roth’s young-adult Divergent trilogy about love, loyalty, politics and identity in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Chicago.

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Shailene Woodley, Theo James & Ansel Elgort

Shalene Woodley returns as Tris, a “Divergent” who doesn’t fit into any of the dystopian society’s other rigidly prescribed factions based on personality and aptitude: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). As the movie opens, the subdivided system has fallen apart, insurrection has swept across the land, and the ruthless Erudite overlord (Kate Winslet) blames it all on rebel Divergents.

Peace, we’re told, can only be obtained by opening a rune-covered, boxed-up do-dad containing a secret message “from the founders” of the long-ago, walled-in society that that has ultimately disintegrated into chaos and ruin. And the only person who can open the box—through a series of grueling, simulated tests, or “sims,” that are like wiring into a life-or-death computer game—is a Divergent.

Winslet’s icy CEO/empress orders her minions to round up Divergents until she finds one who can pass—survive—all five sims, each based on one of the factions. What’s in the box, that drives her to coldly sacrifice others to obtain it? The search is futile…until they find Tris, the purest, most “divergent” of all the Divergents.

Some viewers have faulted the Divergent series as being too derivative of The Hunger Games, which—fair enough—also featured great-looking, well-coiffed, repressed young people in a grim future world, fighting each other, held against their will and railing against an unjust, repressive, totalitarian regime. But every franchise of anything has its fans, and Roth’s trio of novels—like The Hunger Games—will also be stretched into four films before it finally wraps up in 2017.

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Octavia Spencer

Insurgent, in addition to Woodley, finds several other young actors returning to their roles, including hunks Theo James, Ansel Elgort and the series’ true secret weapon, Miles Teller, who provides much-needed levity—and what little real surprise there is to be found in the thin storyline. Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts are newly aboard, and their relatively seasoned maturity frequently gives them the air of grownups navigating a bustling high school hallway.

The plot is convoluted and confusing, moving at a gloopy glacial pace punctuated by spasms and spurts of running, chasing, shooting and scuffling. The special effects, when Tris is hooked up to the sims contraption, are bombastic, jarring blowouts that pummel, rather than dazzle, the senses. Some of the large interior scenes seem designed, propped, costumed and photographed less like pieces of a dystopian drama and more like a Broadway musical—I halfway expected someone to break into a song called “Beyond the Wall” or “United We Diverge.”

What’s in the box? Oh, that: The setup for two more movies!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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One Hot Holiday

Winslet, Brolin steam up more than the kitchen in ‘Labor Day’

Labor Day

Labor Day

Blu-ray $39.99 / DVD $29.99 (Paramount Home Media)

Based on a best-selling romance novel by Joyce Maynard, this dreamy drama stars Kate Winslet as a neglected single mom whose life intersects with a mysterious, troubled stranger (Josh Brolin) over one steamy weekend noted in the title—and things get heated in more ways than one. (Just wait for the peach pie-making scene.) Director/writer Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) also works in a subplot about teenagers fumbling with bubbling hormones, for younger viewers. Extras include a making-of documentary, deleted scenes and commentary.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Smells Like Teen Spirit

Young audiences can SO relate to the future-shock emotions of ‘Divergent’

 

DIVERGENT

Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in the first movie from author Veronica Roth’s futuristic trilogy.

Divergent

Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd & Kate Winslet

Directed by Neal Burger

PG-13, 139 min.

 

This latest vision of a totalitarian, dystopian future comes by way of author Veronica Roth, whose popular young adult novels are now Hollywood’s latest hopes to cash in with the audience—and payday—of The Hunger Games and Twilight franchises.

Divergent, the first in Roth’s trilogy of best-sellers, centers on teenagers who are tested and sorted into one of five groups, or factions, when they turn 16. The classification locks them into irreversible courses to become selfless public servants; brainy scholars and scientists; pacifist farmers; warrior protectors; or truth-seeking lawmakers.

Born into the public-service group, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) “tests” with evidence of more than one faction: Uh-oh, she’s a “divergent,” and being more than one thing is considered bad—and dangerous. She’s a mutation that threatens the social order.

DIVERGENT

Zoe Kravitz (left) and Shailene Woodley portray new initiates to the warrior-like Dauntless “faction” who begin their training with a bold leap from a moving train.

Beatrice bucks her test results, gives a parting glance to her crestfallen mom (Ashley Judd) and runs off (literally) to join the fearless “warrior” group, Dauntless. She shortens her name to Tris and falls for her mentor/instructor, Four (Theo James), who becomes her partner in uncovering a diabolical scheme by the cold, calculating head of the intellectual Erudite group (Kate Winslet) that could spell doom for Tris and her kind.

It’s easy to see how this story has a built-in appeal to young audiences. Teenagers can certainly relate to its young characters leaving home, trying to figure out who they are, facing major decisions about their futures, and rebelling against forces conspiring to steer them places they may not want to go.

The plot is rather dense, often clumsy and clunky, and the whole thing could stand to be about 25 minutes shorter. Director Neal Burger can’t quite seem to get out from under the long shadow of The Hunger Games, which looms large.

DIVERGENTBut Woodley is a delight to watch; her face can convey a spectrum of emotion—delight, bemusement, betrayal, regret—with only the slightest movement, a subtle shift in her eyes or a morph of her lips. She’s also now become a capable action-adventure star. The camera also loves James, and the romantic heat between the two of them will melt away a lot of the shortcomings in Divergent as far as its sizeable target audience is concerned.

“We need to keep moving,” says Four in the final scene, as he and Tris leap onto a speeding train, heading toward the sun and tomorrow. Keep moving, indeed, and all aboard: The Divergent sequel, Insurgent, begins production in May.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Oh My, That Pie

LABOR DAY

Star power can’t keep food-centric romantic drama out of the goop

Labor Day

Starring Josh Brolin & Kate Winslet

Directed by Jason Reitman

PG-13, 111 min.

An escaped murderer from the state prison shanghais a single mother and her 13-year-old son, forcing them to drive him to their New England home. Then he ties the mom to a chair…

At this point, you might be thinking of several places a chilling scenario like this could lead. But only in the overheated, food-fantasy romance-drama that is Labor Day would hunky con-on-the-lam Frank (Josh Brolin) begin spoon-feeding lovelorn, rope-restrained divorcee Adele (Kate Winslet) a hot meal of his homemade chili, then proceed to fill the big, empty hole in her heart.

LABOR DAYBased on a 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is set over the steamy three-day 1987 weekend of its title, as Frank then bonds with Adele and her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), and they become a “family” despite their unusual, unorthodox and stressful situation. It is hard to have a relaxing barbecue, tune up the station wagon in the driveway or play a game of backyard baseball, after all, with a nosy neighbor (J.K. Simmons) dropping by to remind you of the dangerous felon on the loose, or the local cop (James Van Der Beek from TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”) tacking up “Wanted” posters and constantly patrolling past your house in his cruiser.

If you don’t already know by the time things get to the “pie scene,” those three squishy minutes alone will likely decide just how much of this hook, line and sinker hooey you’re willing to swallow. As Frank tutors Adele and Henry in making a peach confection (“A little bit of tapioca,” he purrs, guiding Adele’s shaking hands to sprinkle the seasoning “like salt over an icy road…”), it’ll either strike you as one of the most beautiful, erotic things you’ve ever seen, or a ridiculous, hoot-worthy spoof the two stars could be doing on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

LABOR DAY

And the movie totally overcooks its symbolism that homemade food means real love, stability and family bonding, while restaurant meals and fast-food milkshakes represent shallow men who leave good women, families split apart by divorce and parents who don’t know how to communicate with their kids.

Director Jason Reitman has made some fine movies, including Juno, Up in the Air and Thank You For Smoking, with some real satirical bite and teeth. But this film doesn’t have any bite, or teeth, because it’s mostly goop. Brolin and Winslet, fine actors both, do their best, but they’re fighting an undertow in a sea of cheese, and the movie fails to fan their coals of passion into anything resembling a flame. Young Griffith gets his own subplot as Henry navigates the emotional minefield of teenage hormones.

(If you’re reading the opening credits—and listening closely to the narration—it won’t be much of a surprise to find out the identity of the Recognizable Actor who pops in to play grown-up Henry at the end of the movie.)

“I came to save you,” Frank tells Adele. Well, you might save me another slice of that peach pie, or a bowl of that chili, or one of those breakfast scones, but nothing else on the menu of this preposterous holiday roma-drama is worth reheating.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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