New Year’s Eve


After viewing The Social Network a few years ago, I felt inspired by Mark Zuckerburg’s story and was encouraged to follow my own dreams.  I thought the story of Steve Jobs might similarly inspire me, but after viewing Jobs, I felt no such inspiration.  Perhaps the filmmakers intended to portray Steve Jobs as a complex, charismatic innovator – and to a certain extent, they succeeded.  However, it seems to me that he could also be an asshole, and that was one of the salient aspects of his personality that stuck with me.

The movie begins in 1974 at Reed College, where Steve (Ashton Kutcher, New Year’s Eve) is a former student.  He bums around campus, occasionally sitting in on classes despite being a dropout.  He has close friends and a girlfriend, but his social interaction with others is strange, and his emotional maturity seems stunted.  Very early on he seems unaware of others’ feelings, but displays a keen curiosity that draws others to him.  In some ways he both repels and attracts other human beings, which is an odd feat.

Eventually Steve begins working for Atari.  The superior quality of his work makes him an asset to his supervisor, and he challenges Steve to improve one of their popular arcade games.  Steve enlists his friend, Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad, Love & Other Drugs) to help him with the project.  Steve was promised $5,000 for the successful completion of the task and told his buddy that he’d give him half of the money.  Only Steve told his friend that he’d only been promised $700 for the work; thus giving his friend a paltry $350 for providing invaluable assistance.  This may seem like an insignificant act, but I found it abhorrent and it both underscored and foreshadowed Steve’s social ineptitude.

While Wozniak assisted with the Atari project, Steve observed a rudimentary keyboard at his house one day.  Intrigued, he wanted to know more about this device that would ultimately serve as the prototype for the modern personal computer.  At the time it was only a keyboard that needed to be connected to a monitor, but eventually a local retailer encouraged Steve to provide both the keyboard and monitor for sale as one product.  I credit Jobs with brilliant innovation, but he certainly has others to thank for inspiring groundwork that was laid years ago.

The movie chronicles Apple Computer from its inception, through Steve’s monumentally successful tenure during the early 80s, and through his ousting by the company’s board of directors in 1985.  Though Apple was immensely popular and successful in the early 80s, Steve never seemed motivated by profit, but by creativity.  His work ethic was relentless, and he demanded excellence.  However, his loyalty was virtually nonexistent, and his results-driven approach to business appeared downright callous at times.  This is a man who screwed his friends and denied his child’s existence for the first two years of her life while her mother lived on welfare.

Perhaps these asshole tendencies are an attendant personality trait of genius; I’m not sure.  I just found that the movie didn’t portray Jobs as this likable, interesting man that he actually may have been.  Ashton Kutcher’s performance was uneven and inconsistent.  One minute he perfectly embodied Jobs, and the next minute he seemed to be imitating him, as exemplified by Jobs’ trademark shuffling gait.  I think Kutcher approached the role with the requisite seriousness that a biopic requires, but I can’t quite call his performance a success.  If anything, the movie may encourage people to learn more about this enigmatic visionary.  Unfortunately, I was left wanting more.  Grade: B-




Fast & Furious 6

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  In fact, milk it for all it’s worth.  That seems to be Universal Studios’ philosophy, considering that they have managed to spin the moderate cult success of the original The Fast and the Furious movie into a full-blown franchise.  Never forget that one of the sequels was literally called “Fast & Furious.”  They simply dropped the word ‘the.’  I couldn’t get past the absurdity of the title and didn’t see that one; but I’d seen all the other editions before this latest one.

Fast & Furious 6 picks up right where Fast 5 left off, as we find our merry misfits enjoying the spoils of their last heist in various exotic locales around the globe.  While Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Tej (Ludacris, New Year’s Eve) live flashy lives, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker, Takers) prefer more humble existences.  Dom is settled with his live-in girlfriend Elena, and Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster, Fast Five) are expecting a baby.  Han and Giselle are doing their thing, and everyone is living the life.  A hundred million dollars is a pretty nice retirement fund; so there’s not much that would induce the gang to return to their former criminal ways.  Their hiatus comes to a screeching halt when Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Pain & Gain) approaches Dom about helping him apprehend a criminal who uses his considerable driving acumen in a new type of “vehicular warfare.”

The man is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, The Raven), and his skills behind the wheel make him a worthy adversary for Dom and Brian.  Shaw is looking to acquire a processor, a necessary component in a device capable of disabling military communications.  He is in bed with the cartel and the CIA, and it will take a (former) crook to catch a crook.  This is where Dom, Brian, Roman, Tej, Han and Giselle come in.  Hobbs and Dom share a begrudging respect between each other, but there’s no way Dom would be helping the authorities without good reason.  We learned at the very end of Fast 5 that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Resident Evil: Retribution) is still alive.  When Hobbs produces a recent photo of her and tells Dom that she’s working with Shaw, that’s all the incentive he needs.

I enjoyed the movie due in large part to the immensely entertaining action sequences.  The fight scenes were plentiful, and both the guys and girls get in on the action.  Eye candy littered the screen, with beautiful people, beautiful cars, and beautiful locations in abundance.  There was never a dull moment in the entire movie, and everyone was a badass.  Unfortunately though, more than one scene was completely implausible.  I think you’re supposed to ignore the fact that there’s no way Vin Diesel can catapult himself from a moving vehicle to catch Michelle Rodriguez in mid air after she too goes hurtling through the air.  But that’s ok, because it was a fun ride.  The ending clearly sets us up for an astounding seventh movie – but I’m not sure we need another one, folks.  On the one hand, they are entertaining, but on the other hand – haven’t we exhausted the possibilities yet?  It’s kinda like making Ocean’s Fourteen.  I’m sure we could, but is that really necessary?  Nevertheless, if you want to be entertained, you can’t go wrong with Fast & Furious 6; a wild ride for sure.  Grade: B+

This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.