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Posts Tagged ‘Danny Boyle’

Himash Patel

“YESTERDAY” My rating: B-

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

As gimmicks go, “Yesterday” has a killer.

A struggling Brit musician gets creamed in a roadway accident and wakes up to a world where no one has ever heard of the Beatles. He starts performing all those great songs (like the rest of us, he’s committed them to memory) and is hailed as a pop music genius. Only problem is the guilt he feels for getting rich and famous off the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who apparently never existed.

The big question here is whether “Yesterday” has anything to offer beyond its clever premise and its collection of gobsmackingly great Beatles tunes.

Kinda.

As written by Richard Curtis (“Love Actually,” “Pirate Radio”) and directed by Danny Boyle (possibly the most diversified filmmaker working today), “Yesterday” is an affable romantic comedy/fantasy with a nice star turn by  Himash Patel (a British TV actor making his big-screen debut). Patel not only embodies an in-over-his-head innocent but has the pipes to deliver in the musical sequences.

We meet our hero, warehouse worker Jack Malik (Patel), on the verge of giving up his dream of ever becoming a successful musician. He has a manager — actually, it’s his childhood friend Ellie (Lily James) — but the only gigs coming his way are kiddie parties and open mic nights at various seedy pubs. He does get to play in a regional tent at a big rock festival, but most of his audience consists of a handful of friends who come to all his shows.

No sooner has he told Ellie that he’s packing it in than the lights go out all over the world for about 12 seconds.  That’s enough time for the bicycle-riding Jack to collide with a bus.

In the accident’s aftermath, though, weird things happen.  He drops references to the Beatles (one of the film’s cleverer aspects is that it shows how many phrases from the Fab Four’s lyrics have become common parlance…sort of like quotes from Shakespeare) and is bewildered when nobody seems to know what he’s talking about.

When he plays “Yesterday” for some pals they are blown away and want to know why he’s been hiding such a great tune.

A trip to Google confirms Jack’s worst fears.  A search for “The Beatles” turns up only entomological websites. (One of the film’s running gags is that over time Jack discovers that other aspects of his old reality have vanished.  For instance, there is no Coca-Cola, only Pepsi, and nobody has ever heard of cigarettes; one assumes that public health has improved immeasurably.)

The film’s strongest moments come early on as Jack discovers his situation and finds himself being propelled into worldwide notoriety. He tours with Ed Sheeran (playing himself quite effectively) and even “debuts” “Back in the U.S.S.R.” at a Moscow concert.

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Michael Fassbinder

Michael Fassbender

“STEVE JOBS” My rating: A- 

122 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Love him or hate him, Steve Job’s life was epic…so epic that any attempt to encompass it in a traditional movie biopic is doomed to failure. (Exhibit A: 2013’s lackluster “Jobs” with Ashton Kutcher as Apple’s genius in residence.)

Leave it to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network,” TV’s “West Wing”) to find a way to embrace the salient features of Jobs’ life and personality while inventing a near-perfect narrative structure.

“Steve Jobs” works on just about every level, with a near-brilliant central performance by Michael Fassbender as Jobs, a jaw-droppingly good supporting cast, and effortless direction by Danny Boyle.

But it’s the script — not just the snappy dialogue but the way the story is told — that makes the film a small classic of operatic intensity.

“Steve Jobs” is essentially three one-act plays, each unfolding in real time and centering on the debut of one of Jobs’ landmark products.

The first 40-minute segment takes place in 1984 with the unveiling of the Macintosh computer. The second unfolds in 1988 when Jobs, having been fired by Apple’s board of directors, debuts his renegade effort, the ill-fated NeXT work station. Finally there’s the presentation in 1998 of the original iMac…by this time Jobs has returned to Apple in triumph.

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet

There’s an element of show-biz pizzaz and ticking-clock suspense at work here.  Jobs views each product debut as a sort of Broadway opening involving sound, video and his own central performance. And then there’s the not inconsequential fact that these various Apple products are often unfinished and still plagued by bugs.  When Jobs flips the switch will they perform or just sit there?

In a sense, the film is a sort of backstage drama. As with last year’s “Birdman,” the story is captured with a roving camera (the cinematography is by Alwin H.Kuchler) following Jobs as he stalks the theaters wings and subterranean passages, always in motion, always shouting orders and making demands.

Common to all three segments is a recurring cast of characters who grow older and evolve over more than a decade:

Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is Apple’s head of marketing and apparently the only person on staff who can tell the domineering and arrogant Jobs when he’s full of shit. OK, she’s more politic than that, but basically she is Jiminy Cricket to Jobs’ Pinocchio.

Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is the computer dweeb who cofounded Apple with Jobs, spearheaded the Apple II (for many years the only Apple product that made money) and over time was nudged out of the company (albeit with a huge golden parachute). Despite the betrayal and hurt, Woz still cares about his old partner.

“It’s not binary,” Wozniak cautions Jobs. “You can be decent and gifted at the same time.” (more…)

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Trance 1“TRANCE”  My rating: C- (Opening wide on April 12)

101 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Danny Boyle is like that little girl with the curl.  When’s he’s good (“Trainspotting,” “Shallow Grave,” “28 Days Later,” “`127 Hours”) he’s very good.

And when he screws up – as with “A Life Less Ordinary” and now “Trance” – he’s awful.

“Trance” is a crime thriller so overthought and overwrought  that it no longer makes any sense.

It begins with London auction house underling Simon (James McAvoy) attempting to save a precious Goya painting from a gang of crooks who have taken over the premises. In the process he gets banged on the noggin and awakens with no memory of what he’s done with the painting.

This is particularly galling to Frank (Vincent Cassel), the creepily threatening chief robber. You see, Simon was in on the caper and was to have delivered the painting for a fat cut of the proceeds. And now we’re supposed to believe he forgot where he put the goods?

After yanking out all of Simon’s fingernails, Frank is forced to admit that this may be a genuine case of amnesia. He sends Simon to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), hoping that she can unlock the secrets in her patients’ skull.

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