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Ashton Kutcher (left) has a Jobs to do.

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Ashton Kutcher (left) has a Jobs to do.

Jobs

Better than expected, but not as good as it could have been, the biopic Jobs is a celebration of an innovator that is itself pretty much devoid of innovation.

The creator in question is Steve Jobs, the brainiac who, partnered with amiable uber-nerd Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), started Apple Computers in his dad's garage.

A warning flag may appear once you realize the tempestuously tempered genius is played by Ashton Kutcher, whose field of expertise is more in the line of the lovable goofball (Dude, Where's My Car?, That 70's Show).

But Kutcher delivers a decent performance that is equal parts impersonation (witness Jobs' stoner walk resurrected) and inspiration (witness Jobs' volcanic phone call to Bill Gates upon being confronted with the Apple-inspired program for Microsoft Windows).

There is personal drama laced with bitter irony: Jobs, haunted by the fact he was put up for adoption, rejects his girlfriend (Amanda Crew) when she announces she is pregnant. Mostly, there is business drama. Jobs, the Apple co-founder, becomes Jobs, the troublesome employee when his vision and his perfectionism land him in hot water with the board of directors, obliged to satisfy their hurting bottom line.

Curiously, the movie doesn't see Jobs to his own denouement: his death by pancreatic cancer in 2011. Such is the emphasis on his triumphs that the movie starts to seem like a particularly long Apple commercial, a celebration of Jobs' admittedly game-changing contributions to modern life.

He might have been creating still, but instead of accepting treatments for his cancer, he treated himself with a dietary regimen that proved unsuccessful.

In short, the movie Jobs should have also been a portrait of colossal hubris. Jobs himself wrote the perfect ending for that movie. ***

 

Red 2

BEFITTING a movie about aging, retired government assassins, Red 2 is a faded incarnation of its former self.

Red was the 2010 action movie that introduced us to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a black ops agent in retirement, poignantly falling in love with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the government bureaucrat who handled his social security cheques.

Frank is obliged to "get the band back together" when he and his unstable confederate Marvin (John Malkovich) are targeted by a ruthless government assassin (Neal McDonough) intent on tracking an insidious portable weapon of mass destruction known as "Nightshade."

The case takes them all over the globe -- a glamorous treat for Sarah, who is not thrilled with Frank's attempts to live a normal middle-class life of backyard barbecues.

But Sarah must rethink the sexy international spy game when Frank crosses paths with Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Russian vamp with whom he shares a lurid history. Much more palatable (to both Sarah and the movie audience) is Victoria (Helen Mirren), a regal assassin with the beauty of a mature English rose.

It turns out everyone is searching for Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the dotty inventor of the Nightshade device, rendered even crazier by decades spent in government captivity.

Director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) does a reasonable job of combining outsize action with sardonic humour. Yet the movie feels off. Some of this may have to do with Willis's recent tendency to squander his action movie cred on anything that comes his way. (The Expendables? G.I. Joe?!) Part of it has to do with the blasé approach to violence, which reaches especially disturbing levels. ** 1/2

 

Getaway

On screen, Getaway's automotive action is high-speed, but when it comes to smarts, this thing is stuck in the slow lane.

Prone-to-slumming Ethan Hawke stars as disgraced race driver Brent Magna. Having chickened out of the professional circuit after a bad crash, Brent has been living in near anonymity in Bulgaria with his lovely wife.

But when his missus is kidnapped, Brent comes home to wrecked Christmas decorations and blood on the floor instead of a welcoming toddy. He gets a call from a mysterious, malevolent Eurosleaze who orders him to steal a tricked-out Ford Shelby GT500.

He agrees and uses his driving skills to evade the police. He keeps getting orders to commit reckless acts all over the city of Sofia, for purposes unknown. When he stops for a breather, he comes close to being carjacked by a pistol-packing punk who goes by "The Kid" in the movie credits.

Played by Selena Gomez, The Kid is a whinging little monster who never tires of telling the driver how much she hates him. She recalls Kate Capshaw's wheedling damsel-in-distress in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the most obnoxious action movie heroine in the history of film. Until now.

It turns out (roll eyes now) The Kid has amazing computer-hacking skills, which she helps Brent employ in a counter-attack on the innumerable bad guys.

If she's so smart, maybe she can explain why it's so difficult for a race car driver in a souped-up vehicle to take out pursuers on motorcycles.

Action movies don't get much dumber and lazier than this. *

 

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 25th Anniversary Edition

It's difficult to believe that it's been 25 years since the debut of the groundbreaking Minneapolis-based series, Mystery Science Theater 3000, once deemed one of the all-time top 100 TV series by Time magazine.

Shout Factory's latest compilation features four episodes -- Gorgo, Moon Zero Two, The Leech Woman and The Day the Earth Froze -- but you'll want to check out the bonus episodes representing the last appearance of creator Joel Hodgson (the Joe Don Baker turkey Mitchell) and the debut of Mike Nelson (The Brain That Wouldn't Die, easily one of the sleaziest B-movies ever committed to celluloid). The latter is an outright classic in the MST3K oeuvre and an object lesson in how to turn crap to gold. ***1/2 stars

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2013 C6

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