Ashton Kutcher’s ‘Jobs’ is a mediocre history lesson

In the contest between, who did the better job of being Jobs between Ashton Kutcher and Michael Fassbender, put your bet on Fassbender and the new Danny Boyle movie, “Steve Jobs.” Kutcher does a fair job of portraying Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the 2013 bio pic “Jobs,” but the script is disjointed, working best if you know your Apple history.

“Jobs” begins with an Apple Town Hall in 2001 where a middle-aged, gray-haired Steve Jobs talks about “1,000 songs in your pocket” an introduces the iPod. The music here is clearly about reverence and inspiration.

We get a close up of this version of Steve Jobs, before we flash back to the younger version at Reed College in 1974. This Jobs is sleeping on a couch in what appears to be the student union. He’s in jeans and barefoot. Jobs is talking about the education of experience. Locals will note UCLA standing in for the Portland, Oregon college. The purpose of these scenes is to establish Jobs as a rags-to-riches story and an introduction to the main characters.

Jobs has dropped out of school due to the cost by this time, but with the approval of Dean Jack Dudman (James Woods), he’s allowed to audit courses.   One of those courses happens to be on calligraphy. This will re-surface later.

“Jobs” soon picks up a girl, sitting under a tree and after little more than hello, they are in her dorm bedroom, post-sex and falling into drugs. Because of his groovy drug experiences, and Ram Dass’ “Be Here Now,” Jobs and his friend Daniel Dottke (Lukas Haas) go to India. Jobs wonders what he’ll do when he returns as we wonder how he afforded the trip there. (Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert.”

Fast forward two years, Jobs is back in Los Altos, California, living at home with his parents and working at Atari were he is known for berating fellow employees and his bad body odor. He becomes friends with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) and before you know it, Jobs gives an idea to Woz and Woz creates the solution and impresses the Atari boss but Jobs presents it as his own project. From there, Jobs and Woz create a company which they will call Apple and after a presentation at the Homebrew Computer Club garners interest by a local computer business man, Paul Terrell (Brad William Henke), they recruit Kottke, Bill Fernandez (Victor Rasuk) and Chris Espinosa (Eddie Hassell).  Their product is a motherboard.

Terrell is not impressed, but that disappointment inspires Jobs to make something better–a complete all-in-one computer with keyboard and monitor. To market the computer, Jobs is reduced to cold calling and no one he speaks with seems to understand his vision. Jobs does hire a biker dude Rod Holt (Ron Eldard whose portrayal of a dirt bike enthusiast garnered amusement from the real Holt and Kottke ). The biker dude part is all flash and no substance because this bit goes nowhere.

And while Jobs is complaining about some of the team’s lack of perspiration, up pulls a yellow Stingray with Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) and the Apple garage crew have a cozy conversation in the dining room surrounded by kitsch, they make a deal. Okay, mostly the guys stand around while Jobs does all the talking with Markkula.

You might not have known this, but Jobs had a girlfriend, since high school Her name is Chrisann Brennan (Ahna O’Reilly) and you might read something symbolic about her introduction. Jobs is at the kitchen sink, taking the skin off of a carrot. She tell him they are pregnant and he intimates that they have both had other relationships. He kicks her out of what is obviously a shared housing situation with Kottke as the third housemate. Jobs cries by himself while Kottke comforts Brennan. There is nothing here that suggests the inner toughness that will result in her taking Jobs to court for child support and you’ll be mystified as to their work relationship because none is suggested (Brennan worked for Apple).  Carrots will be introduced again much later and you might wonder, “Is this phallic symbolism?”

The crazy kids release the Apple II at the 1977 West Coast Computer Faire and yet the you have no concept that Apple has grown up beyond the garage except that Jobs is no longer living at home with mom and dad and Jobs now wears a grey suit and tie.

Jobs might not be driving a Stingray, but he does have a cool light blue car to take him to his “handicapped” parking space at the Cupertino, Apple campus in 1980. The company has grown and he’s now sporting blue jeans and a long-sleeved button-collar shirt. He’s working on LISA and he wants them to risk like Picasso. “I would rather gamble on our vision than make a me-too product. We’ve got to make the small things unforgettable,” he tells his team. Now the calligraphy class comes into play. A team player says that a typeface “isn’t a pressing issue” and Jobs fires the guy on the spot, who just happens to be the best programmer on the team and at Apple.

Out of nowhere we have John Sculley (Matthew Modine) and problems between Jobs versus the Apple shareholders. Jobs is now in a lovely big house with a wife when he gets a crayon-written letter from Lisa who wants to visit him. Jobs have been dumped from the LISA and brought in for the Macintosh. The intro to the team is less than inspiring, but the interest here comes from him dumping the original team leader Jef Raskin but he reconnects with Espinosa (Eddie Hassell). Jobs wants simple, “It has to work like an appliance.” We know that Raskin doesn’t fit because he’s older, has a thick beard and has a comb-over ‘do, and he is wearing a dark grey suit and a dark tie. Then Jobs goes on a recruitment spree and you can hear the subtle tones of an anthem and we see Jobs walking in the sunshine with a lot of solar flare before we see the Mac and the anthem becomes more prominent.

Jobs goes about seducing John Sculley (Matthew Modine) into jumping the Pepsico ship and coming to Apple. We get an inspiring speech but we all know who this goes as we jump to the Mac introduction and a screening of the controversial Superbowl commercial. That’s before Jobs is dumped from the company in 1985.

The movie then jumps to 1996 where Jobs in married and has a son, but also has accepted his daughter Lisa (Annika Bertea) as his own and has custody of her, or at least she’s living with him. For those who haven’t memorized the history of Jobs or Apple, Jobs has a new company, NeXT.  He returns to Apple and eventually becomes the new CEO. The film ends with the “Think Different” campaign.

Probably the best part of this movie is J.K. Simmons (before his 2014 Golden Globe and Oscar-winning performance in “Whiplash”) as Arthur Rock. Kutcher as Jobs can do boyish and charming. He can do hippy, but he can’t really do angry street bully as Jobs was called by a former co-worker. Russell Carpenter’s cinematography attempts to capture the golden haze of the times and then brings us forward to more contemporary times with less grainy pictures, and that helps the abrupt time jumps. However, Matt Whitleley’s script is more about connecting the dots between the events without any real explanation and sometimes, without any explanation. You’ll get the most out of this if you know the history of Jobs and Apple, but you’ll also be confounded by the liberties taken. While Rod Holt got to be a cool biker dude, the much beloved Woz is flattened out into an almost expressionless wallflower nerd. That’s not the impression, one gets after seeing the Woz perform on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Jobs” is currently available on Amazon streaming.









Ms. Geek Speaks: Using Yelp to write soft porn?

Dear Los Angelenos and Latinos:

Have you heard of “Mike The Curvy Latino’s House of Churro”?  Yelp lists this as an exclusive, expensive place and it has no address–just a ZIP code: 90017. So why haven’t you heard about this great Latino place?

Michelle Y. of Chicago, IL decided to celebrate her first year as Yelp Elite by using her “sexy imagination” to spice up her Yelp reviews by writing a bit of soft porn. Michele Y. has actually been to Los Angeles which is only slightly better than the Yelp Elite who are writing angry diatribes against the big game hunter Walter Palmer.

What do you need to know about Michelle Y.? If she isn’t a porn star, she wants to be.  She has written 107 reviews for Yelp and was an Elite in 2014 and is an Elite this year as well and lists herself as “Michelle ‘Spankarella’ Y.” with the tagline “I don’t have a dirty mind. I have a sexy imagination.”

She also wants you to know that “I start fires in pants” or at least she did in Nov. of 2013. But on January 30, 2014, she decided to let you know that her “review #69” was “an appropriately perfect number for me to review this fine establishment.” And that is how she begins her review of “Mike The Curvy Latino’s House of Churro.”

Then she continues with her soft food porn: “Every time I get that late night craving for a creamy churro, I cum here. I was a little apprehensive to try a Puerto Rican churro before, but I can now say I’m hooked!! From the very first time I placed that huge churro in my mouth to the burst of cream in the end, I can say it was well worth it. This is one of the pricier churro places, so it will cost you the shirt off your back. Don’t have a shirt? Don’t worry, Mike doesn’t have one either.”

That isn’t all, she continues: “My panties just drop as soon as I walk in. I like that there’s a TV at this place so I can watch some SportsNet or Food Network while enjoying a nice big churro. I daydream about Mike’s churro being inside of me numerous times throughout the day. Mike The Curvy Latino’s House Of Churro is definitely the perfect spot after a dinner date for a happy ending.”

Yelp Elite Joy G. of Cal-Nev-Ari, NV who has written 308 reviews decided to join in, writing: “This place runs backwards!  Apparently when customers arrive, they must provide parking space for the owner’s limo, if you know what I mean.  He’s not picky, he’ll park in the front or in the rear.  Quite a different concept, but apparently it has taken off based on the ratings. ” Joy calls herself “Human Garbage Disposal.”

Emily S. of Culver City, also an Elite of 2015 joined in with a modest “I found hair in the churro.  They don’t give refunds.” Emily “Captain Smack Talker” S. has written 2035 reviews and has been an Elite since 2009. She gave this non-existent place a five-star rating on Jan. 31, 2014.

Elite Yelper Roland R. added a photo. Apparently, some Elite Yelpers do not take Yelp seriously.

Shouldn’t these Elite Yelpers know that these reviews violate the guidelines:

  • Inappropriate content: Colorful language and imagery is fine, but there’s no need for threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other displays of bigotry.
  • Personal experience: We want to hear about your firsthand consumer experience, not what you heard from your co-worker or significant other. Try to tell your own story without resorting to broad generalizations and conclusory allegations.
  • Accuracy: Make sure your review is factually correct. Feel free to air your opinions, but don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your experience. We don’t take sides when it comes to factual disputes, so we expect you to stand behind your review.

Instead of using her hometown, Chicago, or even the state where she resides, Illinois, as the topic of her soft porn creative writing, Michelle Y. decided to use Los Angeles. Should we be complimented or agitated? And just what does this say about the requirements and selection of Yelp Elite? As my previous essay on social media lynch mobs indicates, Yelp is slow to move on cleanup and doesn’t take quick action against Yelp Elite when they join in on the “rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.” How quickly will Yelp move on this?


‘Appropriate’ needs editing to strengthen this look a ghosts of the past

Death brings about many questions. What is the appropriate things to say? What is the appropriate thing to do? How does an executor keep appropriate relations between family and friends? These are questions that any family will likely have asked or be asking, but Branden Jacobs-Jenkins are less ordinary problems in mind, but not all of them are properly fleshed out and while you won’t die from the two-hour plus length with two intermissions, you likely won’t leave totally at peace with this production at the Mark Taper Forum.

The play begins in the dark, literally, and we are kept in dark figuratively for a while. Two young people are entering a darkened entry way by way of a window. Frank (Robert Eitzel), or Franz as he now prefers to be called, is a lanky, easy-going guy who seems more sensible than his companion and lover, River Rayner (Zarah Mahler). They have just traveled through the family graveyard which spooks River, but he recalls that in the forest there is a black graveyard as well. Where are we? Is this just a deserted mansion where two young lovers mean to have forbidden fun? Is this a burglary and do our two lovers mean to steal to support themselves?

Bumping around in the dark, they awaken a man who has been sleeping on the sofa, Rhys Thurston (Will Tranfo). We then learn that Frank is the prodigal son who has been lost to the family after losing his way. He has returned to the house of which he owns 1/3 of, at least until it is auctioned off in a few days. Rhys is his nephew, the son of his belligerent Toni Lafayette (Melora Hardin), the bitterly divorce  older sister who helped raised Frank after their mother’s death left the unseen father a widower. Toni’s son seems suspiciously like Frank in demeanor.

The father has died and his funeral was six months ago, but the lawyers couldn’t find Frank, who left in some disgrace after disappointing both Toni and their father who had meant to turn what had once been a summer home into a bed and breakfast in southeast Arkansas.

Besides Toni and Rhys, the older son, Beauregarde “Bo” Lafayette (David Bishins), his Jewish wife Rachael Kramer-Lafayette (Missy Yager) and there two kids, Cassidy Kramer-Lafayette (Grace Kaufman) and Ainsley Kramer-Lafayette (Liam Blair Askew alternating with Alexander James Rodriguez–the latter was the performer opening night) have come down to help prepare for an estate sale before the property auction.

Things are far from friendly, even between Bo and Toni. Bo feels he has been “bankrolling” the late father’s convalescence because “some of us don’t have fat alimony checks to fall back on” and he and his family do not want to be “held hostage to your own hardship.” While everyone hopes that the sale of the house will resolve many financial problems, Bo comments that “we are sitting on a hard sale” because the graveyards.

Frank who calls himself Franz in his new life is on a 12-step program. He has come to apologize, mostly to Bo. “I am an alcoholic; I am a drug addict” he declares. He asks for the forgiveness from his two siblings, but only Bo will forgive him. Toni has more to say and holds on bitterly to their past.

But other things come out. Different perceptions of the late father, particularly fueled by a photo album they find with disturbing photographs of dead black people. This isn’t the only skeleton in the closet that haunts this family reunion. Frank got involved with a local girl and the father was forced to “buy off that girl’s family.”

We don’t see the girl or her family. We don’t see any of the upstairs rooms. All the action takes place in the downstairs area where River and Frank first came in. One intermission is used to clean up the place for the estate sale and the auction, but Toni, who leaves in anger, has a trick up her sleeve, one that is a metaphorical slap in the face of the others.

In the end, we do learn a bit more about both the father and Frank and the scandals attached to both. Yet the resolution is not enough to hold our interest. The second act meanders and the third act provides some answers and an idea of what happens to this house. Hope is dashed by Frank’s actions although he means well. Cassidy and Rhys form a bond and there is hope for the future of this family.

Director Eric Ting could tighten up the flow of action, particularly at the end and perhaps make Hardin’s Toni more sympathetic. Yet the basic problem is the strength of the first act, is followed by a cluttered second and third act.

“Appropriate” continues through November 1, 2015 at the Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

Performance Days and Times:

• Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.

• Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 p.m.

• Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

• No performance on Mondays.

Ticket Prices: $25 – $85  (Ticket prices are subject to change.) 

Tickets are available

• Online at

• By calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.628.2772

• In person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center

  • Group Sales: 213.972.7231
  • Deaf community information and charge: visit or call TTY (213) 680-7703

Danny Boyle’s ‘Steve Jobs’ emphasizes Jobs’ showmanship

Do you like meetings? Are you one of those people who would line up for one of those large product launch announcements? Are you a fan of Apple products? Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” is all about the man behind the show, the man making the announcements with his personal life sometimes interfering with his ambitious presentations and his friendships often left in tatters. In Aaron Sorkin’s intelligent scripting, Jobs’ humanity is ultimately saved by his first child, Lisa, via intervention by his “work wife.”

There’s a lot of things left out in between, but let me admit that I’ve never owned any kind of a computer besides an Apple product. I’ve worked on a PC as part of my job, but I’ve alway bought my own personal computer from Apple. I am a fan, so perhaps I, too, have bought into the Steve Jobs’ vision of the world and been seduced by the sleek appearance of the products. I often say to myself, “Think different” (as opposed to “Think differently”) when faced with a problem. That is, in many respects, due to Steve Jobs and Apple.

Having seen Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” along with the 2011  “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing” and “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” from 2012, I am not a Steve Jobs fan. I find “The Woz” or Steve Wozniak a more attractive personality. Boyle’s aim is not to make us like this irritating man, once characterized as a street bully by someone who knew him, but to understand and perhaps empathize with him.

To do so, we see Jobs (Michael Fassbender) doing what he did best: Selling Apple as a company and as a culture during three iconic  product launches: the 1984 Macintosh, the NeXT black cube, and the 1998 unveiling of the iMac. While the official website claims this is “an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter,” this isn’t really about his personal life but more about his personal relationships with his co-workers including Apple, Inc., co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) along with his very public and often cruel relationship with his former girlfriend, Chrisanne Brennan (Katherine Waterston), and the daughter she had by him, Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss as Lisa at 5 and Perla Haney-Jardine as Lisa at 19). He blames Brennan for his lost chance at being Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, instead of seeing himself as unworthy.

We see Jobs’ disregard for vital members of Apple, in particular the team behind the Apple II and how his work wife, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, almost unrecognizable) attempted to temper Jobs actions and harsh demands, particularly toward Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhibarg), a member of the original Apple team. In the beginning, Jobs seeks solace from John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the man who was CEO for Apple 1983 to 1993 and the question of family is brought up, but not so much about the father who raised Jobs as an adopted child.

Fassbender is intensely intelligent as Jobs and battles with everyone, most fiercely with Hoffman who is the voice of reason but also often left out in the cold from Jobs’ strategies. Winslet is strong, fast talking and strangely devoted as Hoffman. Oh, one wishes that relationship was explored more thoroughly.

There are a few things you might miss and misunderstand. Jobs did find his birth mother and make contact, but only after his adoptive mother had died and with his adoptive father’s permission. He never contacted his birth father, but he did visit his birth mother and learned about his younger sister, Mona, whom Brennan credited with repairing the relationship between Jobs and his first child, Lisa. After he left Apple, Brennan has said, Jobs apologized many times. Brennan did write a book, “The Bite in the Apple,” that was published in 2013 after Jobs’ death.

Brennan went on to become a painter, with murals in major hospitals. In this movie, however, she does not come off that well. Waterston’s Brennan is tremulous and needy, and there’s also a slightest suggestion of instability–more in what Fassbender’s Jobs says about her in the end of the movie.

Jobs married in 1991. So by the time, Lisa entered Harvard in 1996, Jobs was married and they had children (Reed in 1991, Erin in 1995. The last child, Eve, would be born in 1998. Jobs’ adoptive father, Paul, died in 1993. If Lisa was living with Jobs during her high school years, then she would have known Jobs’ wife, (née Laurene Powell) and her half-siblings.

Yet we don’t really expect movie like this to be documentaries. This is Steve Jobs with a dramatic license and while there’s an essential coldness and impersonal nature to this portrayal of Jobs as a showman, we see him in his work, doing what made him famous. In the documentary, “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing,” there’s talk about the phases of one’s work relationship with Jobs: seduction when he needs you, the cold shoulder when he doesn’t and the vicious scourging when he no longer had a use. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay (based on Walter Isaacson’s book) takes us through all these phases by using the three  product launches while simplifying Jobs’ relationship with the important women in his life, in some cases by not even mentioning them.

“Steve Jobs” is worth seeing for the performances of Fassbender and Winslet and for Sorkin’s scripting and Boyle’s vision. Winslet’s Hoffman is a fierce, intelligent character, an equal to Fassbender’s Jobs and how often does that happen in a Hollywood movie?

Is this movie worthy of Jobs? The Woz approved of the rough cut version he saw, telling Pete Hammond of, “I felt like I was actually watching him.” So despite the historical inaccuracies and deletion of some real people, Fassbender, Sorkin and Boyle have gotten to the emotional truth of a complicated man. Meetings of the minds can make a fascinating movie and makes you think they are more interesting back stage than on stage.

The doc to watch: ‘Steve Jobs: One Last Thing’

The month after Steve Jobs died, PBS aired a documentary “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing” and the documentary is worth watching before you see the 2015 Danny Boyle movie “Steve Jobs.” The documentary includes archival footage and interviews with the people who know him. Steve Jobs is portrayed as a genius of the modern world but a man who “ultimately betrayed everyone.” The documentary is available on Netflix and on PBS online.

Jobs was not a scientist, he was not a programmer (although he did know how to program), he was not an electronics engineer and he was not an innovator himself. He was an entrepreneur, a show man and a salesman, but he wasn’t a nice guy. “If he needed you, he would be your best friend,” one person recalls early on in the documentary “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing.” The title comes from the Steve Jobs annual presentation and his habit of announcing the best and most impressive development as “one more thing.” He always gave the lucky few in the audience one more thing, but when he died on Oct. 5, 2011 of cancer, this documentary became one last thing. Of course, it isn’t the last we will hear about Steve Jobs.

The documentary includes Bill Fernandez, his closest childhood friend and the man who introduced him to Steve Wozniak. The problem was that Jobs was not only a salesman, he was hungry, aggressive and usually selfish.

“If he needed you, he would be your best friend” and yet when he was not, he could be a “total street bully.” For those who weren’t close, it was easy to idolize him because Jobs needed an audience, he needed customers and he needed to make sales.  If the typical pattern was 1) seduced, 2) ignored and 3) scourged, then the audience never was scourged, not like Wozniak, not like Chrisann Bernnan, the girlfriend who bore his first child, Lisa, and not like so many other people.

“Steve Jobs: One Last Thing” is more cohesive and less meandering than “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” but both are well worth watching.

‘Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview’ is Jobs between highlights

Six months before Steve Jobs would sell NeXT and a year before he would return to Apple in triumph, Jobs, then 40,  was interviewed by Robert X. Cingely for a PBS documentary, “Triumph of the Nerds.” The interview with Jobs was lost until after Jobs died and released as a 70-minute documentary in 2012.

The original documentary, “Triumph of the Nerds,” was a British/American production released in 1996 in three episodes in April in 1996 on British Channel 4 and then as a single program on PBS in 1996 and covered World War II to 1995 and included interviews with Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen, Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Ed Roberts, and Larry Ellison.

As with most documentaries, the footage collected is often edited down to a few minutes. Only 10 minutes of the interview was ultimately used in “Triumph of the Nerds.” The master tape of the interview had gone missing. This was a shame because there were very few in depth TV interviews of Jobs.  After Steve Jobs died, the director found a VHS copy of the original interview.

In “The Lost Interview,” Jobs talks about his first experiences with a computer when as a ten-year-old he would write a program in BASIC or Fortran using a timeshare computer which was basically a printer and a keyboard hooked up to a computer. At 12, he wanted to build a frequency counter and wanted some spare parts so he called up Hewlett Packard and was given the parts and an internship. He was introduced to the first desktop computer there, and would  hang around every week at Hewlett Packard.

Jobs recalls meeting Wozniak and how an Esquire article about Captain Crunch set them on a missions to learn how to make free phone calls which they learned to do  after finding the AT&T technical journal in a library. They even called the Pope, but what was essential was they also learned they could make a small thing that could control a large thing.

Wozniak and Jobs built a terminal to use a timeshare computer for free and Jobs claimed that an Apple I was an extension of a terminal. They made computer circuit boards and sold them to friends and then tried to sell them to others. They got parts on 30 days of credit, built computers that were fully assembled and sold computers to a local computer store and they were in business.

With the Apple II, Jobs also talked about how Mike Markkula got involved and how both he and Wozniak had different ambitions. In business, Jobs found that there was a type of business folklore and that by asking why things were done, he came to understand that a lot of things are antiquated and just done because it had always been done that way. 

Jobs felt that programming teaches you how to think. “I think everyone in this country should learn how to program a computer, to learn a computer language. It teaches you how to think,” he stated. “I view computer science as a liberal art.”

When asked what it was like to get rich, Jobs recited how much he was worth at certain ages, but he claimed it wasn’t about the money. “It was not the most important thing, The most important things was the company, the people, the products.”

Jobs also talks about the mistakes that he felt Xerox and Apple made. He recalls he was blinded by the graphical user interface, that he didn’t really see the object-oriented programming and the networked computer system. The big difference between old companies was that sales and marketing got promoted and ran the company. Product people get run out of the decision making process. Xerox missed an opportunity by not realizing the possibilities of some of the products and developing with a tunnel vision. Flexible thinking is important. The mistake in big companies is that they want to replicate their initial success and think that the “process is the content.” That also was a problem at Apple. “That’s what makes a good product. It’s not process. It’s content.”

After seeing Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” you might cringe when Jobs mentions the Apple II or the Lisa. If you’ve seen the PBS documentary “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing” as well as Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,”  you’ll also wonder about Jobs’ version of his dealings with John Sculley. Sculley is still alive and he has spoken about his views of Jobs.

“Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” is raw material and rough and worth viewing along with the more complete and polished “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing.”  Cringely introduces the segment and in places provides explanations. We see Jobs looking at Apple from a distance provided by his ouster a decade before and the perspective of his age. “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” is available on Netflix.


‘He Named Me Malala’ is about fathers and daughters and winning a Nobel Peace Prize

The saying is: “Behind every good man is a good woman.” Yet in this documentary, “He Named Me Malala,” we learn that that the person behind the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, is her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the man who named her Malala. Davis Guggenheim’s documentary uses vivid, impressionistic animation to recall the past while we follow Malala on her rehabilitation appointments, her speaking engagements and her volunteer work to promote the education of girls. “He Named Me Malala” pairs a visually lush past with an engaging contemporary family who has survived a great tragedy with great emotional strength.

Ziauddin has three children, but Malala is his only daughter. He named her after Malalai of Malwand. It’s worth knowing more about Malalai because it introduces two things: Britain and bravery. Malalai was born in 1861–the year the American Civil War started. Queen Victoria was on the throne, since 1837. The British were busy expanding their territories. Malalai rallied the local Pashtun fighters against the British troops during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). Malalai was there as were other women, to provide water and tend to the wounded. She rallied the local Pashtun troops and according to the documentary she cried, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 days as a slave.” The Pashtuns were victorious on that particular day in 1880.

Yet Afghanistan ended up becoming a British Protectorate with the tribal areas annexed to British India. It was a victory for Great Britain. Malalai’s defiance before her death on the battlefield was remembered

There are many places named after Malalai and perhaps many girls are named after her as well, but Ziaddin felt a particularly closeness to his daughter and he was an educator determined to educate his daughter.  The Yousafzai lived in the Swat Valley, a place of high mountains, green meadows and beautiful lakes that Queen Elizabeth II called the Switzerland of the east. This is a place that embraced Buddhism before Islam came.

According to the documentary, the pre-Taliban Islam was more accepting and gentler. Beginning with a radio personality, the slow influx of the Taliban started with a low key approach, gossipy news about who had been naughty.

In the meantime, Malala was growing up, her curiosity indulged by her father who ran a chain of schools. At 11, she becomes a blogger for the BBC (2008). By January of 2009, the Taliban had blown up schools and decreed that no girls could attend school.  Malala’s blog ended and her father had been threatened with death in 2009. Malala continued to speak out for girls education and her profile began to rise. She would be recognized by her country (with a National Yout Peace Prize in 2011)  and by the Taliban. She received death threats and in Oct. 2012, she was shot on a bus after taking an exam. Her friends Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan were also shot, but their injuries were not critical. Malala was shot in the head.  After receiving medical treatment in Pakistan, she was taken to Birmingham, England.

If people didn’t know about Malala before, the shooting made her famous and thrust her into the international spotlight. When she was able, after coming out of a coma and rehab, she began speaking, then traveling and then reaching out to other communities across the globe.

“He Named Me Malala” reaches out to audiences and asks them to care about Malala, about Muslims, about Muslim girls and girls in general. It asks viewers to recognize how important a father can be to a daughter. More subtly it asks people to understand the difference between Muslims, that there is a deep, wide gap between what some Muslims believe and what fanatics like the Taliban attempt to enforce through terrorism.

Yet the movie also illustrates why there is are doubters, even Pakistanis who do not believe that Malala isn’t as important as some people make her to be. One thing the documentary doesn’t mention here is that Malala is sometimes seen as representing what the Europe and America want to see. There’s an irony that while Malalai asked her compatriots to rise against the British led troops, her namesake, Malala, has sought refuge in Great Britain and is receiving her education there. Perhaps we can see both the good and the bad of British Imperialism and the implicit problems of former colonies and protectorates moving forward in a wold where modernism and progress are often linked to former rulers and conquerors.

“He Named Me Malala” tells us we have choices about facing the past and the future. And that education for girls matters to us all. This is a different kind of family film, one that everyone should see, especially kids in schools. “He Name Me Malala” is currently playing at the ArcLight Hollywood and will open at the Laemmle Claremont 5 and the Arclight Pasadena on Oct. 9. For the location of the theater near you, visit the official website. 


‘Gravy’ is a great feature film directorial debut for our favorite TV psychic

My husband and I once waited all night at San Diego Comic-Con to preview “Psych: The Musical.” We mourned the ending of the TV series “Psych” and now wish for reunion movies. Last night, we drove to NoHo for a late night screening of “Gravy,” James Roday’s feature film directorial and we were rewarded with plenty of laughs and a new appreciation of Roday.

Roday co-wrote “Gravy” with his writing partner Todd Harthan, partially inspired by an incident at a Mexican Restaurant (El Cholo), but it was almost a decade in the making. Although this is a soft opening at a few theaters today in Los Angeles and New York, the movie will also be available VoD on Oct. 6. The stars are an unlikely pair–Michael Weston as Anson and Jimmi Simpson as Stef.  “Psych” fans will be familiar with the pair: Weston played a nervous lawyer named Adam Hornstock in 2006 and Jimmi Simpson played Dr. Marion “Mary” Lightly III, an expert on Mr. Yang.

The story is about two brothers who have peculiar tastes: Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and Anson (Michael Weston). Stef has a girlfriend, Mimi (Lily Cole), who shares his peculiar tastes. The movie begins with Anson visiting a small dairy/corner store on Halloween (a poorly disguised Altadena Dairy mart). He meets and awkwardly flirts with the clerk Bethany (Sarah Silverman), who is dressed as a fluffy, lumpy rather than sexy white rabbit. Leaving, Anson changes into a clown costume. He’s going to a party.

Stef is dressed as Robin Hood while Mimi is dressed as a sexy cat woman with ears and black unitard that eventually reveals a tail that looks more like a cat-o-nine-tails whip than that arching fluffy tail. As the windowless Mexican restaurant is about to close down for the night, Stef and Mimi are dry humping in the corner. The things get a bit crazy as the people soon realize the doors have been welded shut by a clown and the clown, Anson, Stef and Mimi are taking over and demanding something different from the menu. Perhaps it helps to know that the restaurant is called Raoul.

Yes, the movie belongs in the genre of “Eating Raoul,” but this Bad Flan Film horror parody has more snap to the witty dialogue and better production quality. Forget the psychology. In the intro, there’s a quote to set the mood that “sometimes there is no clinical explanations for why someone is bat-shirt crazy.” The craziness is that Anson and Stef have an All Hallow Eve ritual. They have a “pseudo European-style gangster slumber party.” In case you’ve never been invited to one of those, this one involves gory murders and good food and a few games such as one that acknowledges Kevin Bacon as the center of the cinematic universe. The future menu items include a hefty black woman bouncer (Gabourey Sidibe) studying for an exam, the restaurant manager Chuy (Paul Rodriguez), Chuy’s nephew who is training to be a boxer (Gabriel Luna), the chef with a secret (Lothaire Bluteau), a waitress dressed as a beauty pageant winner (Molly Ephraim) who proclaims “I don’t speak poverty” and the bartender who is working her last day before becoming a paramedic (Sutton Foster).

There will be no singing despite the inclusion of two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster who played Millie Dillmount in the 2002 revival of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Reno Sweeney in  the 2011 revival of “Anything Goes.”  But there will be plenty of gore. At the Q&A following the private screening, Roday told the audience he felt that while zombies and vampires have had plenty of focus in recent films, cannibals, not so much since 1986 R-rated “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” or the 1982 black comedy “Eating Raoul.” Roday recalled that he wanted to write “a good gory cannibal comedy.” For Curt Smith of Tears for Fears, this is his second time scoring a film and he commented that he “concentrated more on the comedy than the cannibalism” and he’s seen the movie about 200 times and “still finds it hilarious.”

The title, Roday claimed, was a reference to the thought that “if we ever made this movie, it would just be gravy” on top of a life that at the time included “Psych,” a TV series that “presented me with every dream opportunity I could dream of.” Psych-Os won’t be disappointed and Roday also mentioned that if there is funding, he and his writing partner already know what happens in “Gravy 2.”

“Gravy” opens today, Friday, Oct. 2 in Los Angeles and New York.  In Los Angeles, “Gravy” is playing at the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood until Oct. 8. The Laemmle NoHo 7 is located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd.



An uplighting new production of ‘The Sound of Music’

I was raised on the Mary Martin original cast recording of “The Sound of Music.” My mother loved this musical well enough to buy the record and I now own the CD for both the Mary Martin original Broadway cast and the Julie Andrews-Christopher Plummer musical. This new version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic features a relative unknown as the troublesome Maria and soars on the wings of her vocals.

Julie Andrews just turned 80 this week. She was 30 when the starred in the movie version. The movie earned her a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination (The movie won five Oscars). The original musical premiered on Broadway in 1959 and was the final musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II because Hammerstein died nine months later from cancer. Mary Martin (1913-1990) was 46 when she starred on Broadway as the young Maria. The real Maria was about 25 when she married Georg von Trapp.  This Maria is closer in age to the real Maria and while this is Kerstin Anderson’s first national tour, she won the role over hundreds.

“The Sound of Music” took much dramatic license, but the story is that Maria Rainer (Kerstin Anderson) is a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey and as the Mother Abbess (Ashley Brown) evaluates the postulants, she has questions about Maria’s readiness to take her vows. She also has received a request from Captain Georg von Trapp for a governess and assigns the inexperienced Maria to go for a brief period to teach his seven children.  The Mother Abbess remembers her own joy of singing as Maria helps her recall the lyrics to a song, “My Favorite Things.”

After being widowed, the captain has run his household like a ship, with his children in uniform and the servants and kids on call by whistle signals. What has left the house it both joy and music. Rarely at home, the captain has been romancing the rich Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Teri Hansen) with their mutual friend and social leech Max Detweiler (Merwin Foard).

Maria wins the children over, first by introducing them to music theory “Do-Re-Mi,” and later by comforting them during a thunder storm and making them laugh “The Lonely Goatherd.” At first the captain is scandalized when he realizes the children have been given play clothes and been wandering about the village with less decorum and discipline than he had instilled into them, but is softened when he hears the musical presentation the children have learned for the baroness.

These are bad times for Austria. Hitler has come knocking at the door and eventually invades, setting people against their fellow Austrians.  This becomes apparent when at the party so many of the guests are not speaking to others. Yet at the party, both the captain and Maria realize their attraction toward each other with the brutally honest Brigitta telling Maria. Frightened, Maria runs back to the convent, but the Mother Abbess admonishes her that the nunnery isn’t a place to escape the world. Sent back, she finds the captain and the baroness engaged, but that quickly is dissolved when the captain and the baroness realize they are on different sides of the Nazi question.

The songs and some of the action of the musical are more compressed than the movie and even the movie compressed the events. The reality of the escape was less dramatic, but then we wouldn’t have had a reason for a reprise of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

Kerstin Anderson, the Maria for the production at the Ahmanson, is a sophomore at Pace University, majoring in–what else? Musical theater. Her Maria is less prissy than the Julie Andrews’s version and more physically gawky. That is part of her charm. Ben Davis’ captain is less formidable and more humorous than the Christopher Plummer version. Their vocals blend pleasantly.

Three-time Tony Award winning director Jack O’Brien’s pacing seems a bit languid, but that’s not really a problem here with the wonderful music that generations have come to love. The vocals of Hansen as Schraeder seem to indicate that the baroness is not a good match for the captain and Jane Greenwood’s bold costume design for the baroness also creates visual discord. Of course, there’s a matter of the children (Paige Silvester, Eric Schuett, Maria Knasel, Quinn Erickson, Svea Johnson, Mackenzie Currie and the two girls playing Gretl–Audrey Bennett and Kyla Carter Under O’Brien’s direction, none of them are overly cutesy and that includes the youngest Gretl (played by Audrey Bennett and Kyla Carter). Gretl is still cute enough without being cloyingly precocious.

While this story is about Maria, the most thrilling vocals come from the nuns and Ashley Brown has a powerful voice that brings a thrilling close to Act 1 with her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Brown originated the title role in the Broadway version of “Mary Poppins” and has also played Bell in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway.  For SoCal fans of Disneyland, she is also the voice of Disneyland, singing the new Richard Sherman song “A Kiss Goodnight.”

This is a lovely special evening for the whole family although younger children might get antsy after the first act. The differences between the movie version and the stage version can be an opportunity for great conversations and possibly encourage children to read the actual account of “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria August Trapp.  The Ahmanson is the launching pad for this new production which will then tour North America.

Ahmanson Theatre

Performance Days and Times: Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.  and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m.  No Monday performances. Exceptions: No 8 p.m. performance on Wednesday, October 14. Added 2 p.m. performance on Thursday, October 29.  Ticket Prices: $25 – $150. Tickets are available online at  or by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at  (213) 972.4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center . For group sales call (213) 972.7231.  For deaf community  information and charge, visit or call TTY (213) 680.7703

The Ahmanson Theatre is located at 135 N. Grand Ave. in Downtown Los Angeles at the Music Center. 


‘Man Who Saved the World’ doc: Matt Damon dissed; Kevin Costner humbled

Today, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. is your last chance to see a provocative Danish documentary, “The Man Who Saved the World” at the Arena Cinema Hollywood. The documentary shows us that heroes do not have to have superpowers, and they sometimes aren’t charming or easy to along with. Harking back to the years of the Cold War, the documentary tells the story of Stanislav Petrov who on Sept. 26, 1983 went against protocol and ignored a report that five American nuclear missiles were heading toward Russia.

The Cold War was a time of high alert and new technology, but in this case, the technology failed. Petrov’s duty was to monitor satellite surveillance equipment information and report signs of missile attacks. Had he reported five nuclear missiles heading toward the Soviet Union, it is likely that the top leadership would have ordered a counter attack on the U.S. Judging that this was a false alarm despite what the new equipment programs indicated, he did not make a report of an attack and was proven to be correct. Instead of being honored, Petrov was reprimanded.

Using convincing recreations, the documentary mixes narrative film feature with actual footage of Petrov as he was in 2006 when he came to the U.S. to receive the second special World Citizen Award at the United Nations in New York City. During that time, he had three goals:

  1. Visit the United Nations
  2. Meet Kevin Costner
  3. Meet Robert DeNiro

He did all that and more with the help of an interpreter. At the time Costner was on the set of a movie with Matt Damon and Ashton Kutcher. Petrov has no idea who Damon is, but is told by his interpreter that Damon is a famous actor. Kutcher’s approach is humble.

Petrov is not an easy man to love. We hear his interpreter complaining about him to a friend. We also see him drinking too much. There are wounds, deep emotional wounds. His wife died of cancer. We see him caring for her in the re-enactments. When asked, he tells us he never loved again, he answers no. There’s a sense of tragedy, but also some closure.

Petrov doesn’t consider himself a hero, but he illustrates how sometimes one’s achievements aren’t immediately recognized and that an otherwise ordinary man can do something extraordinary and have an effect upon millions.

If you can make the last screening tonight at Arena Cinema Hollywood tonight, then visit the official website to find out when and where future screenings will be.

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