This movie freaking sucks
The Circle (2017): A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover a nefarious agenda that will affect the lives of her friends, family and that of humanity.
Ok! So let's talk about The Circle. What happens when you put a bunch of charming and charismatic actors and actresses in a movie then forget to hire a writer, editor, and director and base it off some crappy subject material? THE CIRCLE. Wow is this thing bad! It's a damn shame too because this is the final featuring length film for Bill Paxton. But of course the film does everything it can to avoid this topic. Because it's not smart enough to conjure up a touching tribute for the late, great actor. Sorry this is how you had to go, man. I will remember you for your classic roles, not this. Outside of Paxton you have guys like Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt sleepwalking through their roles, and other people like Glenne Headly, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, and John Boyega are given nothing to do. And at the center of it all..... is Emma Watson. She is trying, I'll give her that, but her character is just so poorly written it doesn't matter.
So, let's talk about the abysmal writing, shall we? This film is based off a best selling novel of the same name by David Eggers. In the novel, similar to the film, Eggers attempts to show us what a world of total transparency looks like. But it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. This is the biggest problem with this film. It attempts to try and make some elaborate statement on what would happen if we went 100% transparent, but then it just goes down the most generic twists and turns you could possibly imagine. You can see the ending coming from a mile away. Oh! Congress is investigating The Circle, and now the person leading said investigation is being investigated themselves? WHAT A COINCIDENCE. I'm sure The Circle didn't have anything to do with that! Most of these characters are just generic stereotypes that fill the void around Emma Watson. And what about that ending. GEEZ that ending is TERRIBLE! It is the most predictable piece of crap ending you can think of. Hey! Let's have a story about 100% transparency end with the top dogs getting in trouble for not being 100% transparent! Ya! NO. You have to be more creative than that, guys! C'mon!
In addition to the crap story, we had a pretty lackluster showing from the editing department, as well. Though, before I get to what I didn't like I have to highlight the one thing I did like in this film that came courtesy of this department....when Watson's character was being "100% transparent" she was basically live-streaming her life. During these moments, the editing crew put up the "comments section" of her live stream on the screen, which was pretty cool. Films have been struggling to figure out how to showcase texting and reading things on a screen for years and what they did to showcase that here was better than most films out there. This guy, Tony Zhou, did a great video essay on the subject. Anyway, moving on. While the editing crew showed up with those sequences, where they didn't show up was with the, well, editing of the film. There are a lot of cuts throughout this film that are either too late or too early. On multiple occasions I was sitting there thinking that there was going to be more of the scene forthcoming just to see it end abruptly. I don't know why the editing was as distracting as it was here, but it was.
I don't know if all of this falls back on director James Ponsoldt. He has struggled to recapture the magic of his earlier films like The Spectacular Now and Smashed. But with both of these films the argument can be made that he had better writers and actors that don't necessarily need to be told what to do from the director. That later one is the biggie for me. Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, and Brie Larson could be great in a film even if the director was an actual monkey, but there are just some people that have to have a director to help them through a movie, and the more I watch Emma Watson, the more I think she's one of them. Now there's nothing wrong with that....I think Natalie Portman falls into this same boat and no one is going to deny that she's one of the best actresses of the 21st century. But someone like Natalie Portman learned early on that she needs direction from experiences like Star Wars. Watson seems to have in her head that because she did a great job with Hermione she can make it on her own, but in a film like this where the direction is erratic she really struggles. I say this out of love, Emma. You have to pick films with good directors if you're gonna stay in Hollywood's elite. There will always be phone-it-in roles for you that you couldn't possibly screw up, (looks at Beauty and the Beast) but if you're looking to step outside your comfort zone you gotta do it with a great director. See Natalie Portman teaming up with Darren Aronofsky or Pablo Larraín.
Anyway, for the rest of the world not named Emma Watson....stay very far away from this film. Unless you're a movie nut like me and like seeing a bit of innovation when it comes to displaying Internet comment sections in a film, there's nothing for you here. Only pain.
The Critique: Erratic direction combined with terrible writing lead The Circle down a dark path to one of the worst films of the year so far, despite its charismatic list of stars.
The Recommendation: I know you long to hear it.....AVOID THIS ONE LIKE THE PLAGUE
The Verdict: 2/10 Garbage
Quick Reviews, Spring 2017: Beauty and the Beast, Ghosts in the Shell, Life, The Fate of the Furious, Free FireRead Now
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast (2017): An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
I'm not going to lie: I'm impressed. So far many of these live action Disney adaptations have left me thinking, "Is this really necessary?" and some of the "alternative" adaptations, like Maleficent, have left much to be desired. Well, that finally ends today: Beauty and the Beast is a surprisingly good film that still (mostly) manages to capture the magic of its source material. While it's not perfect, (looks at Luke Evans and some of the excess musical numbers) I still found myself humming along to some of its iconic scenes. I haven't seen the original film in years, so I think this definitely impacted my opinion of the film because I had forgotten just how good a story this is, but still. As far as Disney's (still unnecessary) live adaption of its classic fairy tales go, this is easily the best one yet. The CGI was excellent, (it needed to be with the talking furniture) and the editing crew showed up and really added to the movie with several well-cut numbers. These are things I have found lacking in several other iterations: if you create a well-rounded movie and don't just focus on retelling the story in as generic a way as possible, suddenly the film doesn't feel like a straight-up cash-grab. It's amazing how that works! If you've been holding out on these Disney reboots, Beauty and the Beast may be the one (and really only one so far) worth checking out.
My Number: 7/10 Good
Ghosts in the Shell
Ghosts in the Shell (2017): In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.
Well, I must appreciate a film that goes all in on a premise. Ghosts in the Shell is a remake of a 1995 animated film by the same name, a film which has inspired multiple sequels and even a TV show since its release. And, while I appreciate a film going all-in on a premise and doing a great job with "immersion," this film does it so well (minus the fact that there's no people in this giant, sprawling city) that it will likely turn off most mainstream American audiences. There were many points throughout the film where I had to ask myself, "what just happened?" and before I had time to figure it out we were onto the next thing. So, eventually I just turned my brain off and enjoyed the visuals of this film. No doubt the strongest part of this film, the visuals here are breathtaking. Whether it be skyscraper-tall advertisements, or an invisible Scarlett Johansson taking on a bad guy in water, this film excelled at looking absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, though, great visuals does not equate to a great film, and the second you try and figure out just what the heck is going on in this story...you'll be lost. I went with some friends whom are super into this franchise and they seemed to mostly enjoy it, so if you're a fan of the originals you'll probably like this one, but for everyone else? If you like sci-fi and wanna look at something pretty check it out, if not consider seeing Life instead to get your sci-fi on.
My Number: 5/10 Average
Life (2017): A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
This movie is surprisingly fun. While it borrows heavily from other films, I still had a good time watching it. The movie throws you right into the thick of it with a thrilling opening sequence like the opening of Gravity, and as the creature develops it became more and more like the Xenomorph from Alien. Actually, this film might as well be called Alien 2.0. But that's not necessarily a bad thing! The tension of this film was unreal-it may only be a 104 minute film but it felt like 404 minutes long..... And yet thanks to the slow boil to start and a few breaks throughout the "everything is going wrong" sections of the second and third act, I actually really cared for these characters. Far more so than anyone outside of Ripley in the original Alien. The creature itself is also fascinating-they take the idea of the "perfect organism" and multiply it by about 1,000, creating a creature that is basically indestructible. As fascinating as it is, this may be the biggest misstep of the entire film-if the alien creature is actually invincible, you know what the ultimate outcome will be. And believe me: exactly what you think will happen, happens here. But that really didn't matter to me. The journey getting to the final outcome was still a fun one, and thanks to some great acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, (FINALLY she has a good role to tout following her breakout performance in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) I had more than enough fun on the ride. Just......don't expect too much from this.
My Number: 6.5/10 Almost Good
The Fate of the furious
The Fate of the Furious (2017): When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.
America's favorite series to hate is BACK with another big stupid action movie that is just so much fun to watch. Yes, I LOVE this franchise.....get over it. Even though this installment does not quite reach the pinnacle that was Furious 7, (I mean c'mon-you really want us to believe that Vin Diesel is working with the bad guys) its calling card - the spectacle of it all - is still an absolute blast to watch. The banter between characters like The Rock and Jason Statham is awesome and hilarious, the effects are great, and the cars are still sexy AF. Charlize Theron is the big addition here. She is clearly a villain this franchise is all-in on, and I can see why - she killed it as Cipher. Though.... her conclusion, admittedly, was pretty weak. This film also struggled to figure out how to write out Paul Walker without actually writing him out. The motivations of Diesel's character is the big loser with this - they basically write in a motivation for him that is not earned in any way. And they ask Vin Diesel to act too, which can be something if not hilarious to watch. Though he does his best! He clearly tried, so A for effort. But you don't go to a film like this expecting a good story! Heck you shouldn't even expect great acting. You go for the spectacle, and it's here and bigger and better than ever. I'll just say this when it comes to the set pieces: zombie cars, man. Freaking zombie cars. Now don't you wanna go see it? Plus, you know, a submarine chase scene which is easily worth the cost of admission alone. So, ultimately, if you go into this movie ready to turn the brain off and have a good time, you're gonna have a good time. But in terms of getting into the series? Start with Furious 7.
My Number: 7/10 Good
Free Fire (2017): Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.
Following their massive 2016 in which they took home Best Picture for Moonlight, this time the hottest studio in Hollywood right now, A24, teams up with the great Martin Scorsese and a cavalcade of stars to bring us Free Fire. What could possibly go wrong, right? How could a film starring Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, and Armie Hammer be dull? Well, by forgetting the definition of the term "pacing." A film like this should be flying through it's 90 minute run time, right? Not here! Free Fire is an absolute drag, turning basically 20 minutes of action into 90 minutes. While there are some great one-liners, and Armie Hammer in particular is FANTASTIC, there's just not enough content here to make this one truly enjoyable. For a film where everyone has a gun, there's an awful lot of useless talking! Not to mention basically the entire establishing of these characters was a waste of time - none of them have remotely interesting back stories. And some of the ideas flirted with in the fantastic trailer, like characters forgetting which side they're on, are not investigated AT ALL. This basically just turns into an overlong Mexican standoff, with Brie Larson being the only person to have something even resembling a character arc. So, at the end of the day, while there is a good premise here, and the actors involved are clearly having fun with their roles, poor writing and pacing sinks this film from being the best it could be. For a studio that has dropped some of the best films of recent years, it's hard for me to believe they ever let this one out the door.
My Number: 4/10 Below Average
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