Posts Tagged ‘jeff daniels’

the-martian

Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is exploring Mars on a mission for NASA.  Without warning, a windstorm approaches, and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is impaled by an antenna, and presumed dead.  Lewis and the rest of the crew reluctantly leave Watney behind, and head for Earth.  Watney however is alive and uses extreme heat sources to split hydrogen atoms, create water, and fertilize the Martian soil with his own feces to grow potato plants.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) realizes while viewing satellite pictures, that the Mars rover has been moved. Park summons Vincent Kapoor, NASA’s director of Mars operations (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and they conclude Watney is alive.  Kapoor in turn tells NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) that Watney is alive.  Sanders decides not to tell the public until they have a plan to communicate with him and at the very least resupply his food supply.  Watney is working on the communications issue, he is driving the rover to the Pathfinder.  When Kapoor realizes where Watney is going he gets the Pathfinder crew together, and works on getting the communications satellite on Pathfinder up and running,  Kapoor communicates with Watney first through hexadecimal and later through some kind of instant messaging system.

The rescue mission is more complicated.  Sanders doesn’t want to tell Lewis and her crew that Watney is alive, for obvious reasons, so he concentrates on a food re-supply mission.  But the rocket that the Jet propulsion lab builds blows up, so Sanders has to come up with another plan.  He comes up with a plan that involves a Chinese booster rocket and a second food supply mission, but Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) has a much more ambitious plan involving the Chinese booster rocket and Commander Lewis’ ship.  Do the Chinese give NASA permission to use their rocket?  Does Commander Lewis get wind of Purnell’s plan?  Do they think it’s feasible?

I liked the film adaptation of the book the Martian.  The problems I have with the story are the same problems I have with the book.  Can hydrogen be turned into water on Mars, even in a climate controlled environment? Can the Martian soil be fertilized so easily, by just dumping human feces on it?  Would the Pathfinder communications satellites be working after all those years of lying dormant on Mars?  My mind was reeling with questions, after reading the book? But the screenplay is better than the book in this way, the book tends to get bogged down in scientific terminology when trying to explain how Watney survives.  The screenplay streamlines the explanations and exposition, and gets from stranded, to survival to rescue mission much faster than the book does.  The humor in the book is also a vital part of the screenplay.

The acting also makes the characters better.  Matt Damon humanizes Watney, honestly I really thought Watney came off as a pompous jerk in the book, and I wondered why anyone would want to save him.  Damon makes him more likeable and gives him an everyman quality instead of a techie geek quality. This role and his role in Interstellar will surely revive Damon’s career. I also like Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, she exudes confidence in this role, despite the self-doubt she has to express when she leaves Watney behind.  The viewer can see why a crew would follow her on a mission.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Vincent Kapoor with a quiet confidence, and the viewer feels like everything will work out under his guidance.  He also plays the emotional scenes well, always understated not chewing scenery.  It’s a nice performance.  There has been some press asking why an Indian character named Venkat Kapoor in the book was played by the African-Englishman.  I don’t have a problem with it. Ejiofor is one of the best actors in film today, and certainly better than any Bollywood actor I’ve seen, so they made the character multiracial, that’s ok with me.  That said, Mindy Park should have been played by a Korean American actress, there was no reason for that casting decision.  Diversity in film is important, especially when the characters in the book are written as a certain ethnicity.  But, in its defense,  the film has a lot of diversity. Kudos to Michael Pena for handling the humor to his role well, Benedict Wong and Donald Glover played the humorous parts of their roles well.  Sean Bean is always good, and does not disappoint here

The direction by Ridley Scott is fast paced and decisive, he doesn’t linger too long on any one scene for too long.  The CGI is well done and really looks like the surface of Mars, the scenes in outer space are credible and Scott gets great performances out of the cast, although with a cast like this, that is not hard to do.

Here’s my book review of The Martian

https://reviewswithatude.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/book-review-the-martian-by-andy-weir-hardcover-369-pages/

The Martian:  Better Red (Planet) Than Dead.

steve jobs

In 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh.  Fellow Apple founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) wanted Jobs to share a little of his product introduction with the Apple II developers, he would not.  Jobs has other problems, his ex- girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) claimed that her daughter, Lisa (Ripley Sobo, Perla Haney Jardine) is also Steve’s daughter, a claim Jobs vociferously denied.  To make matters worse, the Macintosh did not sell.  Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) responded to the Board of Directors, who wanted Jobs out.  In 1985, Jobs resigned and founded Next in 1985, and made computers that were prohibitively expensive.  Whatever crisis is going on in Jobs’ life, the one constant is his right hand and confidante, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) who follows him to Next. Despite all the distractions, Jobs is working on an operating system while at Next, and he thinks that Apple may buy out Next to get their hands on the operating system that Jobs developed with Next.  Does Jobs make it back to Apple?  Is Lisa his daughter?   Do they reconcile?

I don’t know how much of the story is true, and how much is embellished, but the storytelling is electric.  I did know Jobs left Apple, whether he was pushed out or resigned depends on who you ask.  I know that he and Wozniak had a war of words in public.  Wozniak, the techie, never thought he got the credit that he deserved for the success of Apple.  I can also imagine that Jobs resented Sculley, because Sculley ran Pepsico before he became CEO of Apple, but that’s just an educated guess on my part.  I knew nothing about Jobs and Lisa, I hope their relationship was better than portrayed on film.  But it is wildly entertaining to see Jobs go from crisis to crisis, and try to manage his personal and professional life, and not doing a very good job at either for 13 years.  The ending is a little too Hollywood, but that’s a minor criticism of this movie. This is another great screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, who took on another tech titan in The Social Network.  This movie is just as good.

The acting is outstanding, Fassbender is very good at playing a man who’s so committed to his own vision of what a computer company should be, that he alienates everyone around him.  Jobs is a complicated man with a complicated life, who’s built a carefully constructed façade, and he lets no one inside.  Fassbender does a good job of illustrating the complexity, as well as the humanity of the man.  Fassbender’s American accent slips a little, but that’s a minor flaw in a largely flawless performance.  Kate Winslet turns in another great performance, as Jobs’ conscience.  I thought she was having accent problems too, but she was actually doing a Polish accent, and that made her performance even better. There’s a surprisingly good performance by Seth Rogen, especially one heated exchange with Fassbender as Jobs, Rogen held his own.  I was impressed.

Danny Boyle does another great job directing this movie, using unorthadox angles and shots to make this movie a visual treat.  He makes each product launch seem like a rock concert.  Boyle also gets an outstanding performance from Seth Rogen, it’s easy to get good performances from Fassbender and Winset, but Boyle gets a good performance from Rogen.  If you don’t think that’s difficult, watch The Interview.

I was disappointed that no one went to see this movie, the theater I went to was half empty, shame on the audiences who missed this movie.  The plethora of sequels must be talking a toll on the moviegoing audience at large.  They don’t know an intelligent, engaging movie when they see one.

Steve Jobs:  A Job well done.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO, from left: Jim Carrey, Rob Riggle, Jeff Daniels, 2014. ph: Hopper

Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) reunite after 20 years apart.  Harry needs a kidney and thinks he can get one from a daughter named Penny (Rachel Melvin) he fathered 22 years earlier with Fraida (Kathleen Turner) the town tramp. Penny’s now living with his adopted father Dr. Pinchalow (Steve Tom) and his scheming wife Adele. (Laurie Holden)  Adele is slowly poisoning her husband and having an affair with Travis (Rob Riggle)  Dr. Pinchalow has created a revolutionary invention, that will save humanity, it’s worth a billion dollars. Dr. Pinchalow wants Penny to present this invention at a scientific conference, and make a speech on his behalf.  But a mixup gives Harry and Lloyd the invention, and Adele and Travis are in hot pursuit. Will Harry be reunited with his daughter?  Will he get his kidney transplant?

Do not watch this movie.  It commits the cardinal sin in a comedy, it’s not funny, not in the least. A collection of bathroom humor, and teenage sex jokes are not funny.  When the bar is intentionally set so low that a snake’s belly can cross it, and the movie is still not funny, that is a problem, a huge problem! There is a cringeworthy “relationship” between Lloyd and Penny, and the movie is so badly written that the second hour absolutely negates the first hour of this film.  And it took 6 writers to write this piece of flotsam.

Jim Carrey should be ashamed of himself, he mugs relentlessly for the camera, as he does for most of his movies, but with no jokes behind the mugging, they are just empty gestures and gestures that the audience has seen before many times.  The really sad part is he has done better, the Truman Show was a movie he could try to replicate, but instead he plays it safe and cashes in.  Jeff Daniels actually has a career, he did the critically acclaimed Newsroom, to go back to a movie like this is insulting. And Kathleen Turner, how low has her career sunk?  I remember her in Body Heat, and Peggy Sue Got Married.  Is this Hollywood’s punishment for her weight gain?

How low have the Farrelly brothers sunk?  They used to make quirky, funny movies, like Kingpin, There’s Something  About Mary and Stuck on You, and now they make the Three Stooges and this movie, they have to rediscover the formula that made their movies great, and start making those movies again.

Dumb and Dumber To:  Freedumb means not having to watch this movie.

the newsroom season 1

Episode 1:  We Just Decided To

Cable news host Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) returns from vacation to discover that co-worker David Harbour (Elliot Hirsch) steals away Will’s producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadowski) for his own news show.  Will’s boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) calls in a former executive producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to lift his flagging ratings. Can Will’s new team act on a tip about the Deep Water Horizon oil spill?

The first thing that is laudatory about this episode, is the writing. Right away, there’s rapid-fire, whipsaw dialogue that demands the viewer pay attention.  There is an implied understanding that the characters have some history together, this is how people speak when they know each other, unvarnished, no niceties.  When the news team learns they can scoop competitors on the BP oil spill, the dialogue absolutely crackles with the excitement of nailing down the details of the story.

The acting is superb.  Daniels, Mortimer, and Waterston lead a great cast, but this is truly an ensemble show.  Everybody on the show makes a contribution, and it’s the totality of their efforts that makes the show worth watching.  The inferred romantic entanglement between Mortimer and Daniels adds another layer of intrigue around the show.

Episode 2:  Newsnight 2.0

After a ratings bump due to their coverage of the Deep Water Horizon spill, Reese Lansing (Chris Messina), president of Atlantic Cable News, wants wall to wall coverage of the spill. Mackenzie wants to move on to the Arizona illegal immigrant law. But Maggie Jordan (Allison Pill) screws up the pre-interview, and Will ends up interviewing a beauty queen, a gun enthusiast, and a professor from an online university.

Another great episode, great writing topical issue, great interplay between the characters, I’m loving this show. The humor makes a difficult topic easier to contemplate.  I’m sure cable newsrooms mess up bookings all the time.

Episode 3:  The 112th Congress

Will starts the newscast with an apology, for his lethargic newscasts up to this point.  Will then starts going after Tea Party candidates.  Reese Lansing and his mother Leona (Jane Fonda) discuss the change in tone in Will’s newscasts after Mackenzie takes over as executive producer.  Also, Maggie has a panic attack.

I like this episode a lot, because under all the bluster about the Tea Party, this episode asks the question, who is a news organization beholden to, its audience or corporate stockholders?  I don’t think enough real newsrooms ask that question.  There is some comic relief, and another relationship possibly brewing in the newsroom.

Episode 4: I’ll Try To Fix You

Will goes after the NRA, Leona pulls strings behind the scenes.  Will goes on a series of embarrassing dates while Maggie gets on the relationship rollercoaster with Don.

For the first time I started to see kinks in the armor of this show. I noticed a weak attempt to make Will seem omniscient, I don’t mind anyone spouting on any political issue, I quite enjoy it, but don’t make a character appear to have supernatural powers, it is not ingratiating, it does not humanize the character.  The relationships have turned juvenile.  Olivia Munn’s character is supposed to have two degrees in economics, but is a moron on everything else.  Allison Pill’s character seems like Janel Maloney’s character from The West Wing, but with a flaw.

Episode 5: Amen

Neil Sampat (Dev Patel) finds a stringer named Amen (Amin El Gamel) to cover the unrest in Tahrir Square.  Will prepares to report on the connection between Gov. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers.  Gossip columnist Nina Howard (Hope Davis) reports that Mackenzie might have a conflict of interest.

The Tahrir Square aspect of the show was powerful.  The Scott Walker Koch brothers portion of the show seemed sloppy and ham handed, maybe because it’s two years old, or maybe because I’m a political junkie and know all about the Koch brothers.  The gossip columnist angle is getting old, who cares about a news anchor or a producer?  I’ve never heard any gossip about a cable news anchor or a producer and I never will.  Another thing about this show is, there are too many people going out with each other in the newsroom.  That stuff happens very rarely in a traditional workplace, yet, everyone is dating everyone in this newsroom.  I don’t mind one romantic subplot, but two or three?  Olivia Munn’s character was actually talking about economics, but then stopped to talk to Mackenzie about her relationships with men.  Stop dumbing it down, people can handle an economics lesson on Glass Steagall without watering it down.  Even with all that was wrong with this episode, the ending was touching.

Episode 6:  Bullies

Will takes on an opponent of the Islamic community center, and then goes toe to toe with a Santorum spokesman.  Mackenzie pulls will off the air after a death threat, and gives him a security guard, Lonnie Church. (Terry Crews) Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) talks to a Fukashima plant spokesman about the meltdown in Japanese, and suspects the interpreter is playing down the seriousness of the post tsunami damage.

I liked the exchange with the Santorum spokesman, it felt like some honest emotion was  on display, and not Will getting on his soapbox and lecturing someone.  I don’t like how Sorkin juvenilizes the Sloan character, that is really disturbing to me.  She has an important storyline and if he’s trying to show a character arc, he fails, because no one is as infantile as he writes Sloan. There are many examples of male characters talking down to her and I resented it.  I didn’t need to know that much about Will, TMI as far as I’m concerned.

Episode 7:  5/1

Charlie gets inside information about a big breaking announcement from the White House, and the Newsnight staff assembles in teams to try to discern the story, and source it.  Will is in an altered state, but wants to report the breaking news anyway. Don (Thomas Sadowski) Sloan and Elliot (David Harbour) are stuck on a plane while the news is breaking, and Jim (John Gallagher Jr. picks 5/1/11 to break up with Lisa Lambert. (Kelen Coleman)

It’s a powerful episode, cheapened a lot by Sorkin’s insistence that the newsroom is full of breakups and makeups while major news is breaking.  Can we please have one unfiltered moment of realism and feel the full impact of that moment without delving into everybody’s personal life?  I used to think the relationships were a pleasant diversion, but now all that relationship talk actually takes away from really important stories, and really good writing.  It doesn’t help that Will is stoned while the story is breaking, more uncalled for comic relief.

Episode 8: The Blackout Part 1:  Tragedy Porn

Charlie urges Will to fight for the ratings he’s losing to Nancy Grace by covering the Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner stories. Will hires Mackenzie’s ex-boyfriend, Brian Brenner (Paul Schneider) to write a piece on Will.  Leona and Charlie battle on how Leona is using the gossip magazine against Will.  Sloan battles to get a few minutes on the air to talk about the imminent government shutdown.

This is an interesting episode, about the battle between ratings and informative journalism.  Also I learned something, that people like the Weiner accusers have agents that book them on these shows, I didn’t realize that these sensational stories have become a cottage industry of their own. There was the obligatory relationship entanglement. But I was glad to see Sloan actually have a serious scene, not watered down by some silly girl talk.  Good acting by Olivia Munn, who has become one of my favorite actresses on the show.

Episode 9:  The Blackout Part 2:  Mock Debates

Will and his team pitch their ideas for a new debate format to representatives of the Republican Party.  Neal has an idea to produce a story about internet trolling, starts out by trolling Sloan, and finds another story.  Lisa is a guest on Will’s show because she knew Casey Anthony.  The whistleblower that first contacted Will in 5-1 has some issues in his background that makes questions arise for the Newsnight staff.

I like how the mock debates storyline played out, but I think the trolling storyline was manipulative writing by Sorkin, objectifying Munn while pretending to chase a real story.  It’s also pretty obvious what the season one cliffhanger is. The two love triangles are about as clunky as the worst romantic comedies.

Episode 10:  The Greater Fool

The Newsweek story on Will  is released.  The whistleblower gives Charlie an ultimatum. Neal gets the green light to go after his story full force.

The secret to having a second season is not resolving anything.  What I thought was the cliffhanger wasn’t at all, instead there was a cliffhanger fakeout.  One of the love triangles becomes a love quadrangle, satisfying no one. And by the way, saying you’re a Republican is not the same as being a Republican.  That is my major problem with the show.  Will is not a convincing Republican.

Overall, it’s a good show.  I do like when Sorkin talks about real issues, I don’t like how he uses Daniels’ character to get on a soapbox and lecture people.  I also don’t like Sorkin’s overreliance on the office romance to lighten the mood after discussing a thorny political issue.  Let’s have the discussion about the issue and then move on to the subplot, he diminishes the debate by introducing people’s personal lives in the middle of a serious policy discussion.

I also don’t like how Sorkin writes women, as weak whimpering people, who don’t have an original thought and need a man’s approval for fulfillment.  The modern woman is a lot more complex than that, and maybe if Sorkin had a co-writer for this show, some of the writing could have been more balanced.

 

looper

It is the year 2044.  Time travel is not possible, but it will be in 30 years.  What’s left of America is a dystopian society, filled with vagrants and guns.  Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a looper, a futuristic bounty hunter, who kills criminals coming back from the year 2074.  Abe (Jeff Daniels) who employs Joe and other loopers ensures that the loopers only work for 30 years.  Loopers have to kill their older selves when coming back after 30 years, that’s called closing the loop.  Joe has a chance to kill older Joe (Bruce Willis) but doesn’t do it.  Older Joe has moved to Shanghai, gotten married to a woman, (Qing Xu) and is quite happy and wants to stay alive.

Old Joe gives Joe a map with three names, the looper program has been taken over by a man named the Rainmaker, who is involved in mass killing of vagrants and closing all the loops.  Old Joe asks Joe to kill the Rainmaker before he grows up to kill masses of people.  Joe lands in Kansas, one of the locations where the Rainmaker may be.  Joe’s being chased by a looper named Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and fighting withdrawal symptoms from a drug addiction. Joe is taken in by Sara (Emily Blunt) who is a single mother, raising her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) Does Joe find the Rainmaker?  Does Joe kill the Rainmaker before Old Joe comes to Kansas and does it?

This is an excellent movie, it has a Blade Runner vibe, especially the city scenes, minus the robots.  There are several ethical/moral  issues, which the older Joe doesn’t seem to have a problem with resolving, but at least Joe struggles with it.  But it’s Old Joe’s savagery to stay alive, that adds plausibility to the story.  This is a very violent movie, on par with The Matrix, I wasn’t quite prepared for the violence, but it does stay within the bounds of time travel, as defined by Back To The Future in regards to the time space continuum.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is very good indeed, he gets Bruce Wills’ facial expressions and vocal inflections right, so he does actually look and sound like a young Bruce Willis.  Bruce Willis does a decent job with a deep multi-dimensional role, that he really sinks his teeth into.  Emily Blunt is very good as the tough mother with a tender spot for her son. She’s trying to raise a son in an obviously bloodthirsty world.  The only character I didn’t care for was Piper Perabo’s ubiquitous prostitute character, why oh why does Hollywood insist on a prostitute in every movie?  Is it really necessary?  I say not in this movie, or most Hollywood movies, but yet the trend continues.

Looper is directed by Rian Wilson who has written the Brothers Bloom, which was ok, but not as good as this.  The movie feels a little long at times, some of the scenes should have been shorter, but  the action combine with the concepts presented, make this an excellent film.

Looper.   I was thrown for a loop, you should be too.

Dumb and Dumber

Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) is a limo driver, and he’s driving Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) to the airport.  Mary leaves a suitcase for Joe Mentalino (Mike Starr) and JP Shay (Karen Duffy) but Lloyd takes the suitcase before Mental and JP can get it.  Lloyd’s buddy Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) is a pet groomer hopes to start a pet store with Lloyd. Both of them get fired, and Lloyd wants to travel to Aspen Colorado to return Mary’s suitcase, with nothing better to do, Harry agrees.  Mental and JP are in hot pursuit. Lloyd tricks a truck driver named Sea Bass (Cam Neely) into paying for their lunch, and so Sea Bass joins the hunt for Lloyd and Harry.  When Mental dies, the FBI becomes involved in tracking down Lloyd and Harry.   Harry meets a girl named Beth Jordan (Victoria Rowell) on the way to Aspen but strikes out with her.  Harry and Lloyd make it to Aspen, after a detour though Lincoln Nebraska, and find Mary’s name in an article in the local newspaper.  Do they succeed in giving her the money, or do the FBI or Sea Bass stop them?

Are you having a bad day?  The Sequester got you down?  Tired of hearing of athletes doping or meteorites crashing?  You need a movie that doesn’t require a lot of thinking.   Dumb and Dumber is that movie.  The humor is juvenile, there’s a lot of bathroom humor, if that is not your cup of tea, don’t watch this movie.  There’s also plenty of physical humor, and just a lot of ‘these guys are dumber than dirt’ humor. Jim Carrey steals every scene he’s in, but he’s supposed to, with a Prince Valiant haircut and a chipped tooth, he’s supposed to carry this movie.  However, Jeff Daniels holds his own, and has his own jokes and scenes that made me laugh.  Lauren Holly, Victoria Rowell, and everyone else are simply just straight men for Carrey and Daniels.  The Farrelly Brothers are known for their bad taste, and do nothing to change that in this movie, but again, I laughed a lot.  I watched this movie again because I hope that there’s a sequel, and that the Farrelly’s and Carrey and Daniels are all involved.

Dumb and Dumber:  Killing brain cells as you watch.