Hello, movie freaks! If variety is the spice of life, you’re in for a tasty weekend. Steve Jobs, Crimson Peak, Bridge of Spies, Mississippi Grind, and Goosebumps are all playing in theaters NOW. Respectively, that’s an Aaron Sorkin scripted, Danny Boyle helmed, scorcher starring Michael Fassbender, Jeff Daniels, and Kate Winslet; a darkly beautiful Gothic romance (on IMAX!) from Guillermo del Toro; a historical drama reuniting Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks with writing from the Coen brothers; a throwback to 70s buddy movies/character studies about a couple of poker players on the fringe; and a Jack Black turn in a feature film based on R.L. Stine’s immensely popular scary teenage book series from the nineties. Decisions, decisions. To complicate matters, The Martian, Sicario, and The Walk are all still playing and are full of awesome.
I haven’t seen all of the new releases, but I’m excited to tell you about Steve Jobs, Crimson Peak, and Mississippi Grind.
Steve Jobs is the Steve Jobs movie to end all Steve Jobs movies. I can’t tell you if it’s an accurate depiction of the man or if the events portrayed onscreen are as they really happened, but I can tell you this: It’s a damn good movie. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I can’t wait to see it again. Aaron Sorkin’s script is phenomenal (*calling the Oscar win now*). His dialogue is crackling and moves at a breakneck pace that is difficult to keep up with at times (that’s a complement). I’m sure a second viewing will bring an even deeper appreciation. Sorkin’s writing, while enjoyable, has sometimes been criticized for being show-offy or unrealistically clever, but it’s a perfect fit here. You can tell that he relished writing for the brilliant and cruelly direct, Jobs, a suitable subject capable of slinging Sorkin’s potent poison.
The dialogue is nothing without the right people to deliver it and Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Seth Rogen are up for the task. Fassbender doesn’t really look like Jobs, but if looks are all that matters, Jobs (with Ashton Kutcher) would’ve been a classic (it sucks). Kutcher looks like Jobs, but Fassbender captures his spirit and attitude. It took me a few minutes to recognize Kate Winslet, but it was impossible to miss the dynamic she has with Fassbender. Daniels is complementary as well in a totally different way. He plays Jobs’ father figure/adversary, Apple CEO John Sculley, and his arguments with Jobs feel epic and are wrought with tension. They’re jarringly cut with sequences from years before and it’s chaotic, but it mostly works.
Steve Jobs is set backstage during three iconic product launches. Director Danny Boyle takes a mundane setting and makes it visually interesting with creative use of light and some cool shots. He picks up where Sorkin and David Fincher left off with The Social Network. The movies feel like companion pieces. Aside from the obvious similarities (billionaire genius subjects, Sorkin scripts) both have a dark look and boast delicious scores that help set the tone.
After the movie, I sat watching the credits. As the audience filed out of the theater, dozens of smart phones illuminated the room and I realized that never in my movie-going life had the impact of one of the movie’s characters– on society and the world as a whole–been so readily apparent. Crazy.
4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
More stills at the end of the article.
Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a Gothic romance in the tradition of films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. It’s visually stunning and is now playing on IMAX screens in 2D (woohoo! 2D IMAX screenings are the best and are super rare these days). The cast is strong–I’d watch Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain in anything. The production design is top notch; del Toro’s biggest strength is bringing dark, imaginative worlds to life and that is where this movie excels.
As beautiful as it is though, I didn’t fully embrace it. The first half is terrific, but once the story reaches the house, it hits a lull. I understand that it’s a Gothic romance and not a straightforward horror film, but even so, it drags a bit. The trailer, GDT’s previous work, and Daniel Danger’s stellar Mondo poster led me to expect more from the house, and in the end it was a little underwhelming. I was never fully invested in the characters and much of it left me emotionally still, but the imagery lingers in my mind and the visual effects alone warrant a rewatch. Making a $55 million Gothic romance is kind of a gutsy move for del Toro, one that I applaud. It feels like his most mature movie in some time and the more I digest it, the more I like it, but when I watched it I didn’t feel it in my gut.
3.25 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Mississippi Grind was a pleasant surprise. It’s instantly my favorite Ryan Reynolds movie/performance by a longshot. Ben Mendelsohn is always legit (if you haven’t seen Animal Kingdom remedy that asap) and I’m a sucker for poker/gambling movies. This one plays it’s hand nicely, and hearkens back to American cinema of the 70s; rollicking buddy movies that double as intimate character studies like Midnight Cowboy and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
The movie breathes nicely. It’s not in a hurry and the bluesy soundtrack washes over you. It’s effortlessly cool and oozes stripped-down Southern style. I kept waiting for some kind of twist or con, but it never really came, and in this case it’s for the better. The characters feel authentic and have an easy camaraderie. Reynolds has never been this relaxed and Mendelsohn acts with every ounce of his being, using his sad-puppy eyes, mischievous grin, and entire body to bring his troubled, gambling-addicted character to life.
Like the Woodford Reserve the fellas drink in the movie, Mississippi Grind has a distinct taste, and crisp, clean finish. “You want a Woodford?”
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Mississippi Grind is now playing in Houston at Sundance Cinemas and streaming on Amazon. See it in a theater if you can. Sundance has a bar and this is a good one to have a couple of drinks to.
Enjoy the weekend!!
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