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‘Steve Jobs,’ ‘Black Mass’ among movies worth a watch this weekend

Brian Cranston in “Trumbo.”
Brian Cranston in “Trumbo.”

“Steve Jobs”

Guess who this film is about? Writer Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) takes Walter Isaacson’s book about the tech giant and encapsulates a very complex composite of Jobs by going behind the scenes of three high-pressured product launches, leaving us at the edge of Apple’s resurgence in 1998. Michael Fassbender is an unlikely candidate as Jobs, but he plays the role like a man possessed and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his obsession. Kate Winslet also received an Oscar nomination, hers is for Supporting Actress, and just as earned for her layered performance of Jobs’ marketing executive, Joanna Hoffman. Not nominated but just as effective were her costars – Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak. Director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) makes a product launch as suspenseful as a murder mystery. Drama runs high. The plot twists. It’s based loosely on real events, but it’s no nonfiction biography, and it’s worth a watch.

“Trumbo”

Guess who this movie is about? Okay, this name may not be as familiar, but back in the forties, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's most popular screenwriter. Then, the House Un-American Activities Committee came along and declared all communists were enemies of the state. Trumbo, an outspoken communist, and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) champions the role of Trumbo. Scene after scene, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Michael Stuhlbarg (yep, him again), Louis C.K. and Elle Fanning get swept up in the tornado that Cranston becomes as Trumbo. His churning performance garnered him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and director Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents”) recognizes the force of nature he has with Cranston and rolls with it. This movie could’ve been a standard biopic, but the cast elevates it to award-worthy and makes it worth a watch.

“Black Mass”

Now, we get to another movie getting stiffed by the Academy Awards Committee this year. In this case, maybe it’s just one actor who’s getting shirked. Johnny Depp really throws down in this tale about the real-life Whitey Bulger – the violent mob boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, the brother of a state senator and FBI informant. Depp plays Bulger with a layered deftness that allows for the story to be built on his back. This is Depp’s Oscar vehicle. Quality actors like Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dakota Johnson come along for the ride. He transforms his look. He delivers his lines with a deadpan, South Boston accent. He teams up with director Scott Cooper, who has a successful resume doing movies with dark content – “Crazy Heart” and “Out of the Furnace.” Depp does it all right, but the plot just isn’t rich enough. The stars should’ve aligned for Depp to score a gold dude. Instead, he got a black hole of a movie that’s worth a watch.

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