“Paranoia;” “Jobs:” Weekend Movie Reviews

By Karsten Burgstahler


It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

So I guess when a movie decides to skip the paranoia part and goes straight to the chase, making a character’s decisions completely justifiable, you’ve lost any hope of tension. And that’s how the singular scene that conveys a genuine sense of paranoia in the lame new thriller “Paranoia” comes across: flat.


“Paranoia” is technically three different genres of movies, including upper/lower class romance and a glimpse into the rich lifestyle. However the movie it so desperately wants to be a corporate espionage thriller, so I’ll describe it in those terms: Adam Cassidy (Liam “Please recognize me for something besides “Hunger Games”” Hemsworth) is a hardworking twentysomething in the mean world of New York. He’s poor and lives with his dad, mainly because the writers didn’t want to take the time to convey him as anything more complicated than a two-dimensional pretty-boy.

Adam works for Nick Wyatt (Gary Oldman), a powerful executive at a software developer. After Adam makes a few boo-boos with his boss’ credit card, Wyatt suddenly blackmails the kid into an extortion scheme worth millions: Adam is to go work for Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), Nick’s chief rival. Jock is working on something big that could revolutionize the cell phone industry. It’s really not that hard to understand this film’s plot.

But therein lies the problem.

Director Robert Luketic, who helmed the eh-worthy “21” and the cringe-worthy “Killers,” beats us over the head with music video –style shots and visual cues. At one moment, Nick and Wyatt play a contentious game of chess, and, after winning, Wyatt quietly, but ever so gleefully, says checkmate. We get it; this movie is a chess game. And perhaps if Luketic and his writers had a bit more faith in their audience, they could have done better than clunky dialogue and a twist so dull that it’s already been given away in the trailer.

The bright spots to Paranoia are the performances from Oldman and Ford. Neither seems to take this movie very seriously, so Oldman puts on his best evil accent and Ford smiles a lot more than he usually does. Oldman is enjoyable to watch, and it’s a shame he doesn’t get more screen time. Hemsworth isn’t nearly as interesting as these film vets. 1.5/5.


Quite often, the biopic is a one-way ticket to Oscar stardom. Reese Witherspoon took home the gold for her performance as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” Jamie Foxx won for his portrayal of Ray Charles. And while he didn’t win, there was a good deal of buzz about Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network.”


I can’t read Ashton Kutcher’s mind, but I’m guessing that when he signed on for the lead role of Steve Jobs in “Jobs,” the biopic chronicling the Apple icon, the man who managed to crank up the price of an item by sticking an “I” in front of it, he thought this could be the one that pushes him over the top. After all, Kutcher is known for being a pretty tech-savvy guy, so you’d think he’d be the perfect choice.

And Kutcher steps into Jobs’ shoes serviceably. But he never really disappears into the character. His performance is like watching a really, really good Jobs impersonator. The man is impressive but he’s still a fraud.

“Jobs” follows the entrepreneur from his company’s humble founding in a garage all the way to his appointment as CEO in 1997. We also get a brief flash-forward to the introduction of the iPod. And while the film looks at some interesting highlights of Jobs’ career, we never really get a good portrait of the man. Instead of really leading the film, he remains the most important cog in a vast cast of big business types whose names you’ll never remember, unless you’re pretty familiar with the ins and outs of Apple. The audience never gets any interesting probe of the man who was known for his unique thinking but short-fused temper.

The dialogue also fails to pop here. “The Social Network” had a distinct style, dominated by the hazy backrooms and the dreary outdoors director David Fincher is known for, as well as the snappy conversation spearheaded by writer Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for the film and just so happens to be working on his own Jobs film. Here, director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whiteley don’t spend much time trying to brand this as a different kind of biopic. It’s generic.

I was also disappointed the movie didn’t follow Jobs into his later years. Yes, Apple was a pioneer in the early ‘80s. But they’ve made such an impact in the new millennium with the iPhone and iPad that it would’ve been interesting to see the company’s resurgence.

Kutcher does bear quite a resemblance to Jobs, and he has the walk and voice cues down pat. It’s a valiant effort, and I don’t fault him for trying. But Jobs was a complicated man, and frankly he deserves better than just another biopic. 2/5.