a) Steve Jobs
I generally like Aaron Sorkin's work but think that his TV work has been on a solipsistic decline, while his hired gun film screenwriting has generally been pretty strong. I think maybe he just benefits from being given a story to fill with his verbose speeches so he doesn't go on Sorkin autopilot. And Steve Jobs is probably his stagiest script to date, it really feels like it could've originated as a play -- it's even pretty cleanly divided into three acts, three long scenes of people arguing backstage at major events in Jobs's life. I don't actually know that much about Steve Jobs besides what everybody knows, so I have no idea how much is true and how much is just Sorkinisms, but I was impressed with Fassbender's performance and found the movie more compelling than I expected to, even if I'm kinda glad it wasn't the highly awarded blockbuster it was built up to be.
b) Term Life
I feel like Vince Vaughn has this weird career where being funny in Swingers put him on, then he tried too hard to be a 'serious' leading man for a few years, became an actual movie star with a string of comedies, and then went back to making lousy dramas and that misbegotten second season of "True Detective." So here we are with this year's straight-to-VOD heist drama, where he has hilarious hair for some reason but otherwise was too dull to hold my attention.
I wasn't gonna watch this or the other ancient Egypt movie full of white people, Exodus: Gods And Kings, but my wife put this on the other night and we just marveled at how awful the CGI looked. Alex Proyas has such a weird career, Dark City is a cult classic and I, Robot was pretty good and had great effects, but this falls more into the pompous camp of The Crow and Knowing.
I'm always up for a good horror comedy, and this one had a strong cast and a ridiculous premise about a town full of vampires and zombies being invaded by aliens. But it kinda felt a little too impressed with itself to actually make me laugh, and it ended with this stupid scene of an alien voiced by Werner Herzog quoting Billy Joel that kind of summed up how knowingly wacky it was.
It almost feels pointless to praise a Meryl Streep performance, like yeah, obviously she's great, but I really enjoyed the weird tightrope she was on, being kind of a vain musician with no self awareness but also really throwing herself into a role that required a fair amount of onscreen musical performance. Movies about family dysfunction can stress me out, but this one resonated with me, it was cathartic to have the characters just air out their problems with each other. And the children of famous actors appearing in their movies can be sketchy, but Mamie Gummer is so good in this.
f) The Gift
Joel Edgerton often has a kind of creepy intimidating air about him onscreen, so it makes sense that he gave himself such a villainous role in his directorial debut. He looks completely different than usual, with a super fake-looking beard and hair that look like they came off of a lifesize doll, but that kind (intentionally?) enhances the unsettling aura around the character. I'm glad that I managed not to have the plot spoiled for me before I saw it, I was genuinely tense as the whole thing slowly ramped up to its stomach-turning conclusion. The movie also made really good use of Jason Bateman's smug charisma that can make him really likable or really unlikable in different contexts.
g) Sky High
This movie has been running on Cartoon Network a lot lately so my son watched it, apparently it was in theaters in 2005 and did okay, but I have no memory of it ever coming out. It's not bad, though, it's kind of a kid-friendly version of all those satirical superhero movies, with an overqualified supporting cast. There are entire scenes that are just Bruce Campbell and two Kids In The Hall (Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley) acting silly.
h) Being There
I read Being There (and several of my dad's other Jerzy Kosinski paperbacks) back in middle school and high school, always meant to watch the movie and I guess it only took me 20 years. As it often is with movies based on books you've already read, this doesn't totally line up with how I pictured the story, and it's missing something that Kosinski's prose gave the story. But obvious Peter Sellers gives a pretty amazing performance in this odd role. And I feel like the satire of the story is a little more pronounced -- there's a great scene of this simpleton who's stumbled into meeting the president and being treated as a genius, and the black woman who raised him seeing it on TV and just saying "It's for sure a white man's world in America."