Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jobs & Steve Jobs

I am fresh off having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend so my gift to you is a special two-for-one entry today covering the two recent biopics done on Steve Jobs from Universal. Those films are 2013’s Jobs (trailer) and 2015’s much more uniquely titled Steve Jobs (trailer). I am well aware and a fan of the TNT original TV movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley (trailer) from 1998, but I already dug that movie out of my backlog a couple years before I started this blog. I vividly recall in 2011 it was only a week or two after I rewatched Silicon Valley when Steve Jobs suddenly passed away.

Steve Jobs already finished his autobiography, Jobs, before his death, but it released a few weeks later to rave success and a film adaptation quickly followed in 2013. I read and really enjoyed the biography as it goes pretty in depth about Jobs’ entire life and he has a ton of insight throughout it. A lot of people know of Jobs to be the man who founded Apple and responsible for the Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod and iPhone. The mammoth book covers a ton of his other endeavors, both successful and unsuccessful, and unfortunately for the film version of Jobs it walks that fine line of the two hour mark and just manages not to overstay its welcome, but with that length it is just simply not enough time to devote to everything Jobs accomplished.

A lot of time is dedicated to seeing Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) and Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) founding Apple right out of the Jobs family garage. The avid game player in me will give Jobs brownie points for being the only one of the three movies about him that covers his brief time at Atari where him and Wozniak helped design the arcade hit Breakout. The film hits the main bullet points of Jobs Apple career with Apple making it big with the release of the Apple II thanks to their first big investor, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), the friendship and betrayal of Apple CEO John Sculley (Matthew Bodine), the big Super Bowl ad reveal of the Macintosh and its failure in the marketplace that lead to the ousting of Jobs from Apple. The film skips about a decade just in time to see Jobs return to Apple and takeover the iMac project to huge success that leads to him becoming the CEO of Apple.

The film ends at that point and other than a quick wraparound at the beginning of the film, there is no time dedicated to Apple’s portable devices that made Apple the behemoth it is today. I understand and get that because at some point you got to find a good “now you know the rest of the story” moment to cut off at and that seemed absolutely perfect. I wish there could have been some actual verbal nod to Jobs founding Pixar and all the success he had there in his years off from Apple, but the film mostly sticks to his computer career. There is a couple of brief scenes of Jobs distancing himself away from his estranged daughter Lisa early on, and she is far less of a focus of the film here than in Steve Jobs.

Jobs does a decent job with the massive ground it has to cover. Ashton Kutcher does a pretty solid performance of Steve Jobs, and he is excellent doing the Steve Jobs freak out at overworked Apple employees, but he is simply outmatched by the excellent Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs. I have seen interviews with the real Steve Wozniak and I would say he is somewhere in between how the two films portray him. Josh Gad portrays him as the stereotypical computer geek and Seth Rogen portrays him as an alpha and one of Jobs’ few peers willing to stand up to him and call him out in front of his entire team. Rogen’s performance is far more entertaining than Gad’s and there was part of me that was gratified to see Rogen knock a serious role out of the park and it was nice to see him go one flick where his on screen character does not use drugs.

I remember not seeing a trailer when I reluctantly saw Steve Jobs at the theater last year and I went in expecting a redux of the biopic with more credible actors and the film trying to cover more ground on Jobs’ life and career since Jobs had a mixed reception. I could not have been more wrong and was blown away at the unique concept Steve Jobs went with for its format. Steve Jobs is separated into three parts with each part lasting about 35-40 minutes before Steve Jobs delivers a big press conference for three big product reveals in his life: the 1984 Mac debut, 1988 Next Black Cube debut, and the 1998 iMac debut. In those 35-40 minutes before Jobs hits the stage he is shown frantically moving about and getting ready for the show while interacting with six key figures from his life. Those figures are the aforementioned Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). Joining them are marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), top programmer Andy Hertzfield (Michael Stuhlbarg), his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and daughter Lisa (Makenzie Ross, Ripley Sobo, Perla Haney-Jardine).

The dialogue for this script is unbelievably well written. Every encounter Steve has with one of these figures is usually an intense verbal clash acted to perfection. It would feel awkward to describe Steve Jobs as a ‘total nonstop dialogue’ movie, but that is exactly what it is and I absolutely loved it. The film wisely sneaks in very brief periods to let you breathe and digest what you witnessed from time to time. Every key conversation Steve has circles around a big moment around his life previously detailed above. As much as I enjoyed this film, I could not help but think to myself as I watched it, “there is no way all these pivotal exchanges in Steve’s life happened just moments before these three big press conferences.” I came to find out later through production interviews and the commentaries on the BluRay that the film used creative license where it took real exchanges in Steve’s life with these six figures, but spliced them all together so they transpired conveniently before the big press day.

Both Jobs and Steve Jobs have a couple behind-the-scenes features and commentaries for their extra features on their respective BluRays. Jobs has a few brief EPK extras that serve more as extended trailers, a couple minutes of deleted scenes and a commentary with director Josh Stern. There is one really good deleted scene for Jobs that has a good moment with Steve and his daughter worth seeing. Stern has plenty of good facts and insight about the production, but he could have worked better in the booth with someone else to team up with.

Danny Boyle has the better solo director commentary for Steve Jobs, and he speaks just as fast as the dialogue moves in the film as he has tons of notes on the cast and production that he wants to squeeze in that made for a very informative and entertaining listen. There is a second commentary for Steve Jobs, this one with writer Aaron Sorkin and editor Elliot Graham. They have a remarkable discussion breaking down most of the intense dialogue scenes in the film and elucidate on their favorite lines and lines they regret cutting, but felt they had to. It got really into the nuts and bolts of the script writing process, but I was on board with them all the way. Sadly, both Steve Jobs commentaries reference a couple deleted scenes that they wish could have made the final film but presume we would be treated to them on the extras, but for whatever reason Universal decided to omit them on the BluRay. We do however have a far better Making of Steve Jobs behind-the-scenes special that is exponentially better than the EPKs on Jobs. The Making of is a thorough 44 minute piece interviewing the cast and crew on how this film was shot in its unique style and their thoughts on Steve Jobs himself.

If you made it this far it should come as no surprise that I easily prefer Steve Jobs over Jobs. If you got the time to devote to it, I would far more recommend the Jobs biography over the film. It is a decent Cliffs Notes version of his life to a certain point, and it would probably actually help benefit to watch it first before Steve Jobs to get familiar with a lot of the supporting players and key points it addresses so you do not miss a beat in the blitzkrieg of dialogue bliss that is Steve Jobs.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3

Last year WWE released what I presume will be the final collection of WCW’s Monday Night offerings with The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Vol. 3 (trailer). Former WCW star and yoga sensei Diamond Dallas Page did such a bang-up job hosting the last two collections that he returns here to host the third installment. DDP is an awesome host as he usually has a few behind-the-scenes stories about one of the wrestlers in the match he is about to introduce. I have the BluRay of Vol. 3, and just like the Vol 2 BluRay, it collects seven hours of matches, promos and other segments playing out chronologically throughout the entire 1995-2001 run of Nitro. Just like Vol 2, there is an an exclusive eighth hour of material just for the BluRay. Including the BluRay exclusives, there are 38, yes 38 matches on this BluRay. On top of that there are around a dozen other special promo segments interspersed throughout the matches.

For fans who did not grow up in the ‘Monday Night Wars’ the key thing to remember is that RAW and Nitro would give away main events worthy of headlining PPVs on TV every week, but to make up for it most of those televised matches would usually have some kind of wonky interference or lame DQ finish to the match. The reason for this was so the promotion would have the true match to end a feud at the ever-important monthly PPV fans had to pay around $40 a month for. Every great now and again the promotion would throw us a bone and give us an incredible televised PPV-caliber matchup with a ‘clean’ finish, and that ratio of quality is about what you get on this collection. For every five matches that have some serious star power involved, expect only one to have a finish without any interference.

Like my entry for Vol 2, I will not recap every single one of the 38 matches here, but will point out an assortment of highlights throughout the collection. I completely forgot Marc Mero, AKA Johnny B. Badd in WCW competed on Nitro in its first year before he went to WWE, and you can witness him and Eddie Guerrero put on a good high-flying matchup for the TV title. There is a World Title change on here from early ’96 in a match between Randy Savage and Ric Flair when those two played hot potato with the World Title during that time.

Vol. 3 has an extraordinary amount of Rick Steiner material on here. Most of it consists of him running in for interference, but there are a few Steiner tag matches on here and there is also the very short match of the Dogface Gremlin taking on Sting in December 1996. That bout is noteworthy because it will go down as the only time Sting wrestles in 15 months when he debuted the ‘Crow’ version of Sting after Fall Brawl ’96 until he won the title from Hogan at Starrcade ’97. Shortly after this match in the collection is Chris Jericho with his very first Cruiserweight title defense against Juventud Gurrera. According to the announcers this is just the second time we witness him using his new finishing move, the Liontamer, better known as the Walls of Jericho today.

We have proof that Stevie Richards was in WCW for a cup of coffee in 1997, as he appears here for a very short match against DDP. An extended clip of when the nWo takes over Nitro plays and it just goes on forever as they redecorate the announce booth. There are also many matches from 1996-1999 that feature a ton of interference from the nWo, so you have that to look forward to. Worth pointing out is about half of the entrance music WWE no longer holds the rights to so we get noticeably inferior music dubbed over instead (or in some cases some wrestler’s WWE themes get dubbed over their WCW music), but for what it is worth there is actually a pretty decent instrumental cover version of “Voodoo Child” for “Hollywood” Hogan.

Remember the Flock? Remember good ‘ol Reese? I hope you do not, but we are ‘treated’ to one of his debut appearances as he helps fellow flock member Billy Kidman get a victory. There are a lot of nWo interview clips from the summer of ’98 when the group split up into nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac. Still all these years later it just did not seem right to see Lex Luger and Sting donning the nWo colors after fighting them off for two years, even if they were part of the ‘good’ version of the nWo. There is a really good segment included here where Hogan and Bishoff call out DDP & Karl Malone which turns into a awesome encounter with a hot crowd to really emphasize the impact, and then DDP and Malone cut a righteous promo of their own too. This segment is easily one of the hidden gems of Vol. 3 not to overlook.

There is a surprising amount of Bret Hart matches on here considering he wrestled for WCW for only two years. There are really good clean matches on here with him squaring off against Booker T and Lex Luger. There are also a few matches on here where Bret faces the likes of Sting, Jeff Jarrett and Hulk Hogan that start off surprisingly good (yes, even the Hogan match!) but have rather awful finishes (especially the Hogan match, I am not even going to attempt to explain it). We get a surprise Sandman cameo from his short run in WCW where he competed as Hardcore Hak on this collection against Rick Steiner. It seemed only fitting that of all three Nitro collections the only one that has Hak in a match is a hardcore match that trails off backstage and he gets tossed off to the side and forgotten so Sting and Rick Steiner can brawl for a bit to build up their feud instead.

There is a bizarre tornado tag match from early 2000 I must recommend. An inside joke a couple of my friends and I have always had is our tongue-in-cheek love for WWE relaunch of ECW, with us especially loving the ‘Gulf of Mexico Match’ between Chavo Guerrero and CM Punk. Turns out WCW had a prototype Gulf of Mexico Match with Sting & Vampiro against Lex Luger & Ric Flair. It will probably be first and last time I see a match end with a piledriver in the water. It is a hilariously dumb match all Gulf of Mexico enthusiasts should watch! The last match on the main feature is a really good tag bout between Booker T and DDP against an all-evil Steiner Brothers.

Noteworthy from the BluRay extras are the aforementioned Bret Hart matches against Lex Luger and Hulk Hogan. There is also a really good interview with Ric Flair calling out Bret Hart to set up Bret’s first real feud in WCW in early ’98. There is a world title match between Jeff Jarrett and Sting that has an awful finish, and then it is immediately followed up with a blink-and-you-will-miss-it clip of a Goldberg monster truck for no apparent reason.

That wraps it up for The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Vol. 3. As mentioned above there is a ton of matches that have finishes that leave you cringing, but there are also a fair amount that have good action throughout and mostly clean finishes. It was also entertaining to see this volume have special cameos from guys I forgot about from WCW history like Johnny B. Badd, Reese, Hak and Stevie Richards. You get a pretty good mix of action from each year of WCW history, so there is a solid amount of high-flying cruiserweight action, a ton of nWo run-ins, a good dose of action from past their prime, but could still go hall-of-famers like Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Hogan, Savage and Sting and a lot of garbage 1999-2000 booking from Vince Russo that put the final nail in WCW’s coffin. A watched this in a few hour and a half to two hour sessions and usually by the end of each session I was starting to get good vibes of the Monday Night War all over again. With that said, if you want to relive this era of WCW and do not have the time to devoure every episode of Nitro on the WWE Network, then you cannot go wrong with this latest collection of Nitro history.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
RoH Supercard of Honor X
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016