Movie Review Catch Up: “Steve Jobs,” “Completely Normal,” and “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”

A couple of weeks ago I sat through a day of watching movies at the Twin Cities Film Festival in St. Louis Park, MN.  As a catch-up post, here are my thoughts on the three movies I saw.  In the spirit of full disclosure, “Steve Jobs” wasn’t actually part of the Festival but it was showing in the same theater.

Steve Jobs

Directed by Danny Boyle, US, 2015

The box office was merciless to this film, so you may have already given up on it.  I can understand – I mean how many biopics about Steve Jobs can possibly come out?  This one is worthwhile though, and not just because Michael Fassbender is exceptional in the title role.

Steve Jobs isn’t a traditional biopic.  It is a traditional stage play, or could easily be converted into one.  Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter for this one, came from the theater, so this isn’t necessarily surprising.  What is surprising is how effective it is (although, not for nothing, it has its share of Sorkin-ese).

The three act structure takes us to the minutes leading up to three different product launches.  Jobs (Fassbender) has interactions with the same four people each time.  In these snapshots of brief moments, we see how these relationships evolve, and mainly, how an irritable iconoclast became one of the greatest business leaders of the last fifty years.

You might like Steve Jobs if: You enjoy Apple products, the American theater, or Michael Fassbender.

You might not like Steve Jobs if: You just can’t take another minute of hearing about a man who essentially sold us a bunch of expensive toys.

Completely Normal

Directed by G. Robert Vornkahl, US, 2015

I have less positive things to say about Completely Normal, but it depends how you look at it.  Here’s a synopsis:

Greg (Seth Kirchner) is shy, quiet, and nerdy looking.  In your average rom-com, he’d be a sympathetic character, but in this, he’s a creepy stalker. Not a creepy “I’m going to wear your skin” stalker, but close enough.  His quarry is Gwen (Jenny Grace) who suffers from dissociative identity disorder and is at once a maid, a southern man-eater, and a heavy metal frontman.

Here’s why I’m not sure what to make of this one.  If it’s supposed to be whimsical, then it fails miserably.  Greg is a dirtbag of the highest order, and Gwen needs to be committed.  If it’s supposed to be a satire of these kinds of movies where a stalker-ish guy gets the woman of his dreams by stalking her, it works a little better.

Still, I can’t say I really enjoyed this one.  The creepiness outweighs everything and you just feel like you need to take a shower after watching it.

You might like Completely Normal if: You have an aversion to creepy rom-coms and you approach it as satire.

You might not like Completely Normal if: You have an aversion to creepy stalkers creepily stalking vulnerable women.

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Over the course of the 1980’s, a group of kids in Mississippi filmed a shot for shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).  The film they created “Raiders: The Adaptation” is a cult favorite among Indiana Jones fans.  “Raiders!” is the story of how they did it, and how they got around to finishing it.

Raiders! is a charming, although uneven, documentary.  It’s interesting to see how a bunch of poorly funded kids remade one of the biggest blockbusters of all time without much adult supervision but with lots of fire.  It’s sad to see how they all kind of grew apart, isn’t that what happens with childhood friends?  Anyway the parts where they go back and talk about the making of the film and its ensuing popularity are the highlights of this documentary.  It’s also fun to see how they all get together to film one last scene – the famous airplane fight scene.

The problem with narrator-less, Cinéma Vérité documentaries is that they can lose focus really fast.  Raiders! is strong when its subject is the film, Raiders: The Adaptation.  It’s a good story after all, and the “finishing” of the that one last scene is a good framing device to tell the story.

When Raiders! changes its subject to the makers of the film, it’s much weaker.  Maybe there wouldn’t have been enough footage if they left out the parts about filmmakers and their lives, and some is important in the context of telling the story about the movie.  Still I would have liked to see more of it left on the cutting room floor.

Overall, it’s a good story about the making of a crazy fan film, the love of cinema, and so forth.

You might like Raiders! if: You love Raiders of the Lost Ark and/or you’ve ever made a fan project as an homage to a movie.

You might not like Raiders! if: You really don’t care about Raiders: The Adaptation and you’d rather just watch the real movie.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe