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'Steve Jobs' and 'The Lady in the Van' - Reviews

18/11/2015 14:50 GMT | Updated 16/11/2016 10:12 GMT

"So I said to mother while buttering a cream cracker, 'Would you like a more expensive Apple computer; one that was self contained and incompatible with others?'

"She said: 'No Steve Jobs. I wouldn't. And why do you sound like Alan Bennett has written your dialogue instead of Aaron Sorkin?"

That's because I'm in two minds as a film reviewer having seen both Steve Jobs and The Lady in the Van back to back. I'm not sure where one started and the other began.

"But surely they're two completely different films?" argues you the reader (in a non Alan Bennett voice).

Well yes they are, but both are penned by playwrights; both still feel like they belong on stage, and both feature British directors. Yet strangely as a double bill, they worked rather well together.

Anyway, here's the verdict.

Steve Jobs

Like every Sunday, I grab my iPad and book a couple of movie tickets. Then I check my emails and Facebook, listen to a few itunes from my portable tablet and reflect on some digital holiday photos.

Without Steve Jobs all this would have been so different.

Like many, I've been living with his legacy for a chunk of my life, either during his early days with Apple or later years with the iMac, iPod, iPad and so on.

The visionary computer wiz left such an indelible mark on our lives, it's hard to imagine a world without those ubiquitous products.

So when it came to making an inevitable biopic, the project needed someone who could compress key moments of Jobs' life into digestible portions and a director who could do the story justice.

Step forward Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle, who between them deliver an absorbing, rewarding, well constructed yarn which doesn't paint the eponymous protagonist in a positive light.

Had it done so this would have been a pointless exercise.

There's enough Macheads out there gushing over Jobs' work to turn off newcomers instantly. Unlike his sleek iMac, this needed a few rough edges to make the project work, and both Sorkin and Boyle ensure there's enough to make this offering worth a look.

Michael Fassbender may not be the spitting image of Jobs but he captures the essence of the man, while Seth Rogen gives one of his best turns as right hand man Steve Wozniak.

Terrific support comes from Kate Winslet as marketing exec Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Daniels as CEO John Sculley, while the cinematography cleverly switches from the grainy finish of the first act to the high def finale. (Handy for those flashbacks in the third act).

One scene revolves around Ridley Scott's '1984' Super Bowl Apple ad, which still looks terrific after 32 years. (The director admitted in BBC documentary Eye of the Storm that he didn't have a clue what Apple was when he made it).

Is it a masterpiece? Not really, but as a genuine three act play with much walking and talking, Sorkin's script is hugely rewarding, while Boyle peppers the screen with enough visual gags to push it beyond the trappings of its stage-like setting.

Sadly it speaks volumes that Jobs saving a piece of digital art from his daughter after years of estrangement feels strangely empty. It's hard to emote over something saved to a hard drive rather than hand crafted.

Though it lacked a sucker punch moment which made me care about the eponymous protagonist, I still admired the craftsmanship of the product.

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Photo: Roger Crow

The Lady in the Van

The opening of The Lady in the Van involves a collision. That would have been dramatic enough, had the woman in the mobility scooter not enhanced the experience in the dark Castleford cinema by almost colliding with the screen as she did assorted three point turns.

Who needs 4DX and Dbox when members of the public accidentally mirror the on screen drama for no extra cost?

Aptly for an Alan Bennett-penned tale, I'm near his home town of Leeds and the cinema is packed. (A previous screening of Steve Jobs had eight viewers including my wife and I).

Maggie Smith is superb as the former ambulance driver and nun who winds up parked in Bennett's Camden drive for around 15 years.

She's plagued with problems, haunted by an event in her past and harassed by a shadowy figure (Jim Broadbent).

Alex Jennings is a perfect fit as Bennett, a dual role thanks to the writer's clever conceit of talking to himself.

Both will be shoo ins for Baftas early next year, as will Bennett's script.

There were echoes of the movie Shine (troubled protagonist with a fondness for the piano plagued by ghosts from their past).

However, despite being beautifully made, like Steve Jobs, it failed to clutch at the heartstrings.

There was an inevitability to the story, though the odd flight of fancy in the third act boasted a Gilliamesque touch.

Not so sure about the last minute which saw drama and reality collide, but the tale of one man's compassion for a troubled woman was a lesson many can learn from.