On DVD & Blu-Ray: February 16, 2016


I know what you're thinking, "Hasn't there already been a movie about Steve Jobs?" and yes, there has, but nothing about this new film is comparable to the one starring Ashton Kutcher from 2013. Like the man himself, everything about this new Steve Jobs film is innovative in the way that it creates a product consumers will no doubt find engaging as well as hopefully being something most will feel the need to seek out the same way they feel the need to own an iPhone. Coming from an all-star roster of creative minds and performers Steve Jobs is an electric two hours in the theater that possesses an energy unlike anything I've seen in recent memory. There is so much going on in every scene, so many other things beyond the expected exceptional dialogue from writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network). It's clear this is a Sorkin script simply from the way people speak in perfect thoughts that are conveyed with precise wording, but more is the direction that Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) takes by highlighting this dialogue with a trained eye on the influencing factors that surround his actors and the words they're speaking to paint a fully-realized picture. While it is certainly necessary to have some pre-existing knowledge of Jobs and his reputation, this film is able to convey the major portions of what crafted the arc of this man's life in such an unconventional way that even if the film doesn't give you all you want in regards to story it will undoubtedly make you want to rush home and read more about the man and the myth that is Steve Jobs. One could criticize the film for not filling in these gaps or for feeling like an incomplete work by virtue of sticking to it's unique structure, but for me this only propelled the energy forward while keeping the intrigue at top notch. Beyond the craft of the writer, director and their respectful teams that put this work together it is the stellar cast that allow us to buy into these captivating monologue's. As Jobs, Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Prometheus) doesn't look much like the former Apple CEO, but he carries this film in every moment with a vicious performance that will no doubt keep him at the forefront of everyone's minds as we head into awards season. Full review here. A+

Director Scott Cooper has always had a knack for creating atmosphere. With only two feature films under his belt he has established quite a distinctive voice, but unfortunately his films have begun to deteriorate in quality as he goes along as well. I really kind of loved Cooper's 2009 debut that won Jeff Bridges a Best Actor statue and even found the consistently depressing Out of the Furnace to be a strong if not exceptional entry, but Black Mass is by far his least satisfying film yet. It's not for a lack of trying as there is clearly a large amount of effort that has been put into this production. The period setting is especially well rendered and Johnny Depp's lead performance as James "Whitey" Bulger almost single-handedly saves the production from being a complete loss, but even he can only do so much. It is impossible to talk about Black Mass without talking about the state of Depp's career and how badly he needed this to be both a critical and commercial success so as to reestablish himself as the "movie star" he was pinned as after Pirates of the Caribbean and while I'm sure the film will make a fine amount of money (not a huge amount, but fine) this will in no way place the actor in the "return to form" category many were already deciding to call it. What it is is a fine showcase for a talented actor to do what he does best and with as showy a role as this is Depp certainly delivers. It is all the factors surrounding this performance that don't live up to their potential with the main problem being screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth not finding an interesting way to adapt Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill's book. Full review here. C

Dalton Trumbo is no doubt an interesting figure and a perfect case of someone whom it would be worthwhile to make a Hollywood biopic about. Maybe it's simply that director Jay Roach, who has mostly worked in broad comedy while mixing in politics lately with the likes of Game Change and The Campaign, doesn't know what else to do as a director, but his latest effort that profiles the rogue screenwriter feels all too complacent to accurately depict the radical and rebel ways of Mr. Trumbo. In short, this is a by the numbers biopic that tells us what happened, why it happened, and how the titular character lived out the rest of his days with the obligatory pre-credit note cards. That isn't to say the history isn't interesting or that there aren't good or intriguing moments throughout, but more that Roach does nothing with these moments to make them feel as vital or illuminating as they likely were for these people in the context of their actual lives. More than that, the biggest downfall of the film is that of the same mistake many biopics about musicians make in that they never explore what makes the artist want or need to create. To this effect, Trumbo never delves into its protagonist's writing process. Now, I understand that this film is not exclusively about the life of Dalton Trumbo, but more specifically the decade long fight he put up that saw him blacklisted and sent to prison due to his political beliefs. Still, this man was largely known as the biggest and best screenwriter working at the time his political entanglements began and is a large factor in how he fought back-managing to win two Academy awards in a time when everyone in the industry shunned him. Writing was not just a part of who this man was, it was who he was and to essentially skim over this opportunity to explain not just that he was a good and prolific writer, but how he came to be this way and how he remained inspired is one that is missed in exchange for little more than hitting the cliff notes of who this man was and how he dealt with the biggest trial of his life. Trumbo is by no means a bad movie; it has a number of good to great performances and due simply to the nature of the story it is endlessly fascinating, but this particular representation is little more than average given all it had to work with. Full review here. C-

Another of the early fall releases I missed last year. I've heard fine to mixed reactions to The 33, a dramatization of the 2010 event where a gold and copper mine collapsed in Chile and trapped 33 miners underground for 69 days. The film stars a host of solid names including Antonio Banderas leading the film with support from the likes of Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, and Lou Diamond Phillips, but I don't know that I can muster enough excitement to want to experience this for two hours. I'm admittedly somewhat interested, but also feel that if I really wanted to see it I would have done so already. Oh well.








Labyrinth of Lies is a German film that garnered some attention last year that many thought might end up in the Best Foreign Language category at the Oscars this year and while it made the December shortlist, it did not end up making it into the final five that were nominated for the award. Nonetheless, much praise has been piled upon the film as it concerns itself with a story that exposes the conspiracy of prominent German institutions and government branches to cover up the crimes of Nazis during World War II. Interesting stuff, especially considering the perspective in which it comes from. Will add to me "to watch" list.