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Steve Jobs (2015)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/16/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/29/2016
If you've read one of my horror movie reviews on this site, you've probably seen (heard?) me rant about the rash of unlikable characters in these films. Why populate your movie with jerks and then ask us to care when they get killed? It seems that most modern-day comedies follow this path as well. Why does there also have to be an unbearable "friend" in these movies, as they are often incredibly unfunny. Now, here's a new question; What if the main character of a biopic was unlikable? What if the person who was at the center of every scene was someone that you wouldn't want to be with in the same room? This is the challenge facing the view in Steve Jobs, which offers a glimpse into the life of the late Apple mogul.
Steve Jobs is divided into three chapters, all of which focus on a key point in the man's life and all of which take place backstage. The film opens in 1984, as Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is about to help Apple introduce the Macintosh computer. Accompanied by his chief marketer Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Jobs attempts to make sure that all is under-control, while contending with Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the mother of his child, Lisa (Makenzie Moss), who is demanding more child support. In addition, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), is hounding Jobs to give a nod to some Apple employees. Jobs turns to Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) for a little support. The story then leaps ahead to 1988, where Jobs is unveiling his own creation, NEXT. Still accompanied by Joanna, Jobs must filled questions from Lisa (Ripley Sobo), who is intrigued by the look of the device. Wozniak and Scully come to visit again, and Jobs clashes with both. We then move to 1998, where the iMac is being unveiled. Here, we see Jobs dealing with the aftermath of a decade and a half of angering others.
I think that for most people, Steve Jobs is someone that they've heard of, but don't know much about. I knew that he was often seen introducing new Apple products and that he wore turtlenecks, but that's about it. If you are looking to learn a lot more about him, then Steve Jobs is not the movie for that. Yes, we are informed of some facts about the man's life and we do meet members of his inner circle, but the film is far more concerned with portraying Jobs' persona as opposed to chronicling his life story. Thus, we get the film's unique story structure. Instead of bringing us the typical narrative, Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, working from a book by Walter Isaacson, has brought us a backstage drama. (It's as if someone came to Sorkin and said, "We loved what you did on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Now do the same thing, but make it about Steve Jobs.) Again, the film picks out three very pivotal times in Jobs' life and shows us what happened on those days. The first one was a failure, as the hype from the Macintosh Super Bowl commercial couldn't translate into sales of the machine. The second one was a power-play, as it got him back into Apple. And the third showed Jobs on the brink of one of Apple's greatest triumphs. Throughout, these stories, we do get some flashbacks which show Wozniak and Jobs at work on the Apple II and another which shows how Jobs got Sculley to join Apple.
Again, it's clear that the goal here was to show who Steve Jobs was and clearly not how he became who he was. We learn nothing about his background or upbringing, nor do we learn exactly what his skills were. (At one point, Wozniak implies that Jobs doesn't make anything.) But, we do learn that he was a very determined, very self-centered, and often a very callous man. Things don't get off to a great start for Jobs, as we watch him try to deny that Lisa is his daughter and we hear how Chrisann and Lisa are living in poverty. Then we see him rebuff a very simple request from Wozniak. From, there, the film is a virtual roller-coaster of ups and downs, as Jobs will soften for a moment, and then suddenly become unbelievably rude again. The movie is clearly showing us that this can be what it takes to succeed in America. But, it's also draining. The movie is basically a two-hour long marathon of caustic behavior on Jobs' part. He's in every scene and we rarely get a reprieve from his repellant actions. It's admirable, but it's not necessarily enjoyable. (And there are going to be those in the audience who are completely turned off by a man who acts like this and was filthy rich.)
The film comes form Director Danny Boyle who tones downs his typical frenetic style for something somewhat more sedate here. But, that's not to imply that the film is slow, which is not. Boyle keeps things moving along and incorporates a good deal of moving camera in the film. (I think that Boyle may have gotten a lot of wackiness out of his system withTrance.) The cast here is very good. Having not seen a great deal of footage of the real Jobs, I can't say if Fassbender does a good impression of him, but I can say that he brings a great deal of passion to the role. Winslet, going for a decidedly dowdy look, stands toe-to-toe with him in every scene. The film is well-made and well-acted, but, in the end, it isn't satisfying. I think that if I already knew a lot about Jobs then seeing these vignettes would have solidified some things of which I was already aware. As it stands, I feel as if I walked into the middle of a conversation and I was left wanting to know more.
Steve Jobs teaches us to not trust tech demonstrations on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains and AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. Boyle has done a very interesting thing and used different mediums to shoot each era. The first segment was shot on 16mm film and it shows noticeable grain and some defects from the source materials. The second was shot on 35mm film, so we get only trace amounts of grain and no defects. And the third segment was shot on HD equipment, so we get a very clean, clear image. The colors look good throughout (if nothing else, 16mm always does a nice job with colors) and the image is never overly dark or bright. We get consistently nice depth and the level of detail is never in question. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven movie, we get a bulk of the audio from the center channel, but there are some occasional stereo effects and the surround speakers bloom when the audience applause erupts.
The Steve Jobs Blu-ray Disc contains only three extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Danny Boyle. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY from Writer Aaron Sorkin and Editor Elliot Graham. "Inside Jobs: The Making of Steve Jobs" (44 minutes) is a three-part featurette opens with Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin, and Michael Fassbender describing their vision for the film, the decision to go with this story model and their approach to the characters. We then hear from other cast members and parts of the creative team, as the production is explored. This includes on-set footage and a glimpse of the filmmakers at work.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long