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    Jobs Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Universal

    Dec 01 2013 05:49 PM | Kevin EK in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Jobs downloads its app to Blu-ray with an edition that’s as lightweight as both the movie and the latest iPad. The movie itself is a superficial overview of the life of Steve Jobs, making some cursory and obvious points along the way of showing a kind of “greatest hits” in the evolution of Apple Computers. Some of the performances along the way have good moments, particularly Dermot Mulroney and Lukas Haas. But the lead performance by Ashton Kutcher is sadly lacking, and the direction by Joshua Michael Stern is shockingly inept. The new Blu-ray presents the movie with solid picture and sound, along with a skimpy array of extras and one of the most unintentionally revealing commentaries ever presented on disc.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Universal
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/VC-1
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 2 Hrs. 9 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 11/26/2013
    • MSRP: $34.98

    The Production Rating: 1/5

    A complex examination of the life and work of Steve Jobs has been in the works for over a year and a half at this point, with a script that promises to be as innovative and fascinating as the man himself. Sadly, we’ll need to wait another year or two before that movie, with Aaron Sorkin’s script, is completed and presented in theaters. In the meantime, we have the current offering, Jobs, a movie that barely scratches the surface. Steve Jobs led a complicated and contradictory life between his personal journey and his work in bringing Apple Computers through its evolution over the years. There’s plenty of material out there about the various choices he made along the way which would bring up some fascinating questions about the nature of creativity and personal interaction. He was a person who could see the future of how people would interact with electronics. He pushed technology into areas that seem obvious to us now (the Macintosh, the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad) but which were each major innovations to their fields. In each case, it seems he grew frustrated with the cruder forms of each idea and would push to find a way to make the application simpler and more direct. The Macintosh computer, in its original form, was a revolution in terms of allowing a personal computer user to have an image-based system – so that you could just click on an icon to activate a program rather than having to type in commands. (And it was a great adaptation of what had been seen in a Xerox system that started this idea.) The iPod made it possible to have thousands of compressed files of songs in a small hard drive in your pocket, thus exponentially evolving us past the Walkman or the Discman. The iPhone took the whole concept of the smart phone and kicked into a completely new world, just in terms of its ease of use. No doubt about it, Steve Jobs was a smart, smart man, particularly when it came to technical matters. His personal life was a much cloudier affair, including significant family issues and a refusal to officially acknowledge his first daughter Lisa for many years. Co-workers have described a driven man who at times was capable of quite ruthless behavior. And yet the same man was a disciple of Buddhist thinking and Eastern philosophy. So the possibilities for an interesting life story are all right there in front of us.

    Unfortunately, Jobs clearly has no idea what to do with all these ingredients. Instead of trying to dig into the material and really examine it, the movie is content to stay at the surface and mostly do a replay of some scenes of the 1999 TNT telefilm Pirates of Silicon Valley. The script provides a kind of travelogue of Steve Jobs’ personal journey through the 1970s, but without taking any time to examine what any of it means. We are instead given some really on-the-nose moments, such as the bit where Jobs, high on LSD, mournfully discusses how his birth parents gave him up for adoption. The movie never discusses how Jobs searched for his birth mother and reunited with her and his sister in the 1980s. The movie shows how Jobs disavowed his daughter when she was born, but then includes her in an offhand way as staying at his house in the late 1990s. Nothing of his journey to deal with this is included. Jobs’ apparent maturation after his removal from Apple in the mid-1980s is just presented as a given, with no examination of how he made this transition. In terms of scripting, this is all cursory treatment of more complicated events. (The notion of how the iPod was developed is shown in the crude terms of Jobs being frustrated with a Discman not working right for him. He presses a couple of buttons, gets frustrated, and chucks the thing in the trash. But that discounts the true innovation of the iPod – it wasn’t just that you didn’t have moving parts – it was the idea of having much more than one CD’s worth of music in your hand, instantly accessible.) In terms of direction, Joshua Michael Stern seems to be more taken with camera tricks than with actual storytelling. (This may be ironically appropriate for the story of Steve Jobs, but it doesn’t make for a good movie.) So instead of developing his scenes into complex ideas, Stern instead keeps everything as close to the surface as possible, gilding things with a big crane shot here or a 360 degree dolly shot there. Stern clearly enjoys the period 70s details, such as the long hair, the scruffy beards and the warm colors, but he doesn’t know how to utilize them to season his story. (A quick look at American Hustle shows a director who does understand how to do this – the difference is night and day.) The one nice grace note in the movie is that the end credits feature a new Cat Stevens song, written in the style of his earlier 70s work.

    Beyond the problem with the writing and the directing, the movie is hampered by the lead performance of Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher certainly looks a lot like a young Steve Jobs, but there’s no sense of what’s driving him. Kutcher has clearly tried to emulate the gangly walking style of Jobs, but doesn’t know how to find the core of the man inside. So we have repeated scenes of Jobs suddenly, incoherently lashing out at friends and family without any sense of why it’s happening. At the beginning of the movie there’s a look at the 2001 iPod announcement, where we instantly see Jobs in his latter years look of black turtleneck, beard and grey hair. At a long distance, this looks about right. Once we’re close up on Kutcher, the illusion falls apart. And for the rest of the film, we see Jobs in a much younger vein, even when the timeline is less than 4 years before that announcement. Some of the other performances fare a little better. Dermot Mulroney does okay as a key investor/partner working with Jobs over the years, and at least his aging looks about right. Lukas Haas does well particularly in his later scenes as an abandoned friend and associate of Jobs. J.K. Simmons turns in his usual performance as a blustery executive, although dialed in a bit. James Woods and Matthew Modine turn in quick appearances that don’t do much other than indicate they were on the shoot for a day here or there. Probably the most heartfelt performance here is from Josh Gad as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, but other than one late scene of confrontation, his role is restricted to kvetching over how things are going at each step along the way.

    So where does this leave the viewer? I would say that this movie really doesn’t break any new ground in telling Steve Jobs’ story, and that the reader would be better advised to wait for the Aaron Sorkin film, once it gets done. On the other hand, the reader could also look up Pirates of Silicon Valley, which at least covers more surface in less time. Spending two hours watching Jobs will sadly not bring the viewer any closer to having a real understanding of the man or the innovations he shepherded to the public.

    Jobs was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 26th. The Blu-ray edition contains a solid high definition transfer and a skimpy array of extras. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD edition,and instructions for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Jobs is presented in a 2.35:1 1080p VC-1 encode (@ an average 31 mbps) that excels in bringing Russell Carpenter’s lush camera work to the home theater. On a technical level, this is a lovely transfer, full of warm colors and plenty of texture. Of course, the level of detail also reveals the inadequacy of the makeup work on the “older” Steve Jobs. But that’s not a problem with the transfer.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    Jobs gets an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (@ an average 3.2 mbps), which mostly lives in the front channels, but uses the surrounds for the many period songs included along the way.

    Special Features: 1.5/5

    Jobs includes a small array of special features, including a commentary, some deleted material and a few quick featurettes totaling less than 10 minutes. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD edition as well as instructions for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy.


    Feature Commentary with Producer/Director Joshua Michael Stern (AVAILABLE ON BOTH BLU-RAY AND DVD) – A scene-specific commentary is provided with Joshua Michael Stern, and it’s much more informative than I believe Stern intended. He spends a lot of time reacting to the scenes and complimenting the work of the various actors onscreen, as one might expect. He also takes the time to point out that his method of showing Jobs’ earlier years was to emphasize his own interpretation of the 1970s and to use as many lense flares as possible! He talks about how he didn’t really want to go all the way in showing the 70s as people tend to in current movies, but at the same time, he admits he went for a modified look that isn’t really 70s either. He frequently discusses the potential backstory behind ideas like finding Jobs sleeping on couches or auditing classes at college, without realizing that he hasn’t really examined those ideas onscreen. Stern notes that he completely glossed over the whole period of Jobs’ life where he reconciled with his daughter, got married and grew up a bit, because it was felt that this wouldn’t be interesting! So Stern instead tries to defend the idea that he summed up all of this material with a few intercuts of Jobs gardening, and then reminds the viewer that he’s going to inflict a few more lense flares. Frankly, this may be one of this most inadvertently revealing commentaries I’ve ever heard – even more so than Francis Ford Coppola’s angry comments on the commentary for The Godfather Part III. It’s the kind of commentary where the listener repeatedly slaps their forehead and says “He did NOT just say that…”

    Deleted Scenes (3:31 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON BOTH BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Three bits of deleted material are thrown in here, totaling about 3 ½ minutes. There’s a further argument with one of Jobs’ girlfriends that just gives Ashton Kutcher another opportunity to present Jobs yelling at someone who cares about him. There’s a quickie moment of Jobs returning to Apple in the 1990s and dealing with a couple of guys in a cubicle. But other material, which might have been interesting, is not included. In the commentary, Joshua Michael Stern mentions a sequence about the creation of the “Blue Box”, which might have been something to affect later innovations – but this sequence is not present here. The three quick scenes on the disc can only be viewed as a group affair – there is no “Play All” option.

    Ashton Kutcher is Steve Jobs (2:28, 1080p) (ABAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Here we get into another annoying idea. This featurette is really just a minute and a half long, once you take out the various clips from the movie that buttress it. It’s really just an opportunity for the creative staff and Ashton Kutcher to share a couple of soundbites about their work. Given that there are three of these little pieces on the disc, you’d think they’d spare everyone the time and just combine everything into one little featurette.

    The Legacy of Steve Jobs (2:47, 1080p) (ABAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – The second of the mini-featurettes gives the guys an opportunity to talk more generally about Steve Jobs, in the midst of various clips out of the movie that extend about a minute of soundbites out to nearly three minutes of EPK time.

    Jobs: Behind the Score (3:22, 1080p) (ABAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – The third mini-featurette at least gets into mildly interesting territory. This is a quick glimpse at the work of John Debney to compose a score that would fit the character and the movie. The score ranges all over the place, sometimes evoking 60s and 70s folk music, and sometimes echoing the work of Philip Glass. Debney doesn’t have much of an explanation for this, but he does note that he was trying to find a “noble” theme for Steve Jobs. Again, this could have been rolled into the earlier featurettes and they could have just had one featurette running about 7 minutes, if even that.

    DVD Edition – Included in the Blu-ray packaging is the DVD edition of this movie. It presents the movie in standard definition anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix (@ 448 kbps). The DVD carries over all the bonus features, albeit in standard definition.

    Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie.

    The movie and special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, including a complete chapter menu.

    Overall Rating: 1.5/5

    Jobs is sadly not the in-depth examination of the man behind Apple Computer that viewers might have expected from the trailers and the advertising. It’s a much slighter affair, bringing far fewer rewards than one would wish from a movie running over 2 hours long. The Blu-ray at least presents the movie with solid picture and sound, and the commentary from the director is informative as to how things went this far off course. But unless the reader is looking for a case study in how NOT to make a biopic, I would recommend skipping this one and waiting for the Aaron Sorkin movie in the pipeline.

    Reviewed by: Kevin EK
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