The Circle (2017)

The Circle poster

The Circle. Released: April 28, 2017. Directed by: James Ponsoldt. Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega. Runtime: 1h 50 min. 

The Circle is a familiar and generic corporate thriller about the dark side of technology, but it’s disappointing because it doesn’t go into enough depth.

Mae (Emma Watson) gets a dream job as part of the customer experience team at a tech company called the Circle which creates one single online identity for users. The work environment looks a lot like Google, which seems obsolete in this near future (we never get a specific year). The campus itself is in the shape of a circle – obviously to remind workers they’re working at the Circle, not the Pentagon. Eventually Mae uncovers a nefarious agenda, but she takes awhile to get to that.

The Circle’s world is working towards transparency, where you can’t have moments alone or private conversations. Everything you do is public and there are cameras everywhere. It’s like everyone’s a celebrity and there are paparazzi at every turn. The lack of privacy is also like the Edward Snowden conspiracy of the government watching, but taken to an extreme and it becomes far-fetched.

It’s a generic sci-fi thriller with an intriguing high-concept. The writing never creates compelling dialogue and its attempts at suspense are predictable. Its themes of the importance of privacy it tries to depict don’t feel significant enough, and the film generally places concept above any substance or in-depth character development.

The Circle itself is led by charismatic CEO Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), who’s like Steve Jobs if he were a social media obsessed cult leader. The Circle feels like a cult, especially when people think it’s weird Mae hasn’t connected her social media accounts to the Circle after her first week.

It’s a weird scene as Renata (Ellen Wong) and Matt (Amir Talai) tell her that she’s an enigma because people across campus don’t know her. They question why she wasn’t here on the weekend doing activities, and when she says she went kayaking they’re surprised because that’s not on her social media. Matt says, “I love kayaking. We could have gone together.” It’s awkward, drawn-out scenes like these that show everyone’s super weird.

Mae’s initially a breath of fresh air because she likes privacy and she’s a cute little guppy (what newbies are called at the Circle), but she soon gets eaten by the weird piranhas. Like the rest of them – she drank the damn Kool-Aid.

The Circle has a high-tech allure, but it’s not convincing when Mae willingly gives up her privacy because of a dumb reason.  Emma Watson’s great as Mae, but if it any other actress were playing her, she wouldn’t get much sympathy or have the same kind-of magnetism. She commands a crowd in public speaking and brings a natural charisma. Mae isn’t well-developed, and at times it feels like the only thing we know about her is that she likes kayaking when things get too hard.

The Circle movie

Emma Watson in The Circle. (Source

The only time I cared about anything happening is because I feel like it affected Emma Watson. She’s a great actress, even when she plays a poorly developed character whose motivations are hard to understand.  It’s surprising the film manages to create such a good cast, but doesn’t rise to the occasion in any other aspect.

Tom Hanks is fine as Bailey, even though he’s a generic CEO wanting to change the world. He gets less screen time than one might expect. Patton Oswalt is more generic as the company’s Chief Officer of Operations, Tom Stenton.

John Boyega gets a disappointing amount of screen time as his character, but he’s fine when he’s there. Bill Paxton plays Mae’s father with MS in his last theatrical film. His character is a reason Mae is more developed than most, since she wants to help him get better. Karen Gillan’s a good surprise as Annie, too, and she gets to her use her natural Scottish accent here.

I must talk about Mercer. His sub-plot about making deer antler chandeliers and Mae’s parents trying to play matchmaker for him and Mae is silly. His character could be written out entirely and wouldn’t be missed. He’s played by Ellar Coltrane, the kid who grew up in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. He plays an everyday worker man who likes privacy, and Coltrane looks incredibly uncomfortable on-screen. He’s so bad and awkward, and it reminds me of how uncomfortable Kristen Stewart looks in the Twilight films.

Director James Ponsoldt doesn’t bring any charm from The Spectacular Now. He and Dave Eggers co-write a screenplay based on Eggers’ own novel that’s a mess. The Circle’s plot wanders around aimlessly and doesn’t find a coherent storyline. It’s like Ponsoldt and Eggers played Hide ‘n Seek with a good story, couldn’t find one, and gave up.

Score: 40/100

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Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman

Release Date: June 1, 2012

Director: Rupert Sanders

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

Runtime: 127 min

Snow White, the daughter of the late King, escapes from the clutches of the wicked Queen Ravenna after years of imprisonment. She has just escaped when the Magic Mirror informs Ravenna that Snow is the only one who could defeat her, because of her innocence and purity. If the Queen obtains and eats Snow’s heart, she won’t have to feed on any being’s life source ever again, and she will achieve immortality. The Queen sends a squad of men, led by the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), into the dark forest to get her back. When the Huntsman learns he is being played like a fiddle, he turns against the Queen’s men and teams up with Snow in the process. Meanwhile, Snow’s childhood friend, William, learns that she is alive and he sets off on the road to find her and offer some assistance to the situation.

Ah, Snow White and the Huntsmen, you fulfill your purpose, and you do it well. Snow White’s purpose is to offer a nice twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and it does just that. Almost so well, that I forgot what happened in the general source material (but that may because I haven’t seen it for a while), and this became a film of its own. It’s so convincing, that this may as well be the source material itself.

The character of the Huntsman is okay, because one could understand his motivations, but he wasn’t anything special. He was pretty sweet in war, and he’s likeable enough that one would be upset if he died. Hemsworth offers an okay performance at the same time, and says, “Hey! Forget Thor’s hammer, I’m pretty good with an axe, too!”

Ughck, why couldn’t the filmmakers have found a better person to cast as Snow White? Oh yeah, that’s right, Sanders wanted a good candidate to sleep with after the film finished. Seriously, Stewart is such a boring screen presence. As for the looks, she’s pretty fitting as Snow, but as for the acting skills and presence, not so much. What happened to her potential flare in 2002’s Panic Room? She has gotten so boring since that time, and she really should not have had the chance to be in another potential teen franchise. Please, Bella, stop it, and no one believed that phony accent (whatever the Hell it was) for a second. It’s sad that I liked her best when she was sleeping. Two battles were being fought in this one: the obvious one, Ravenna’s forces vs. King Magnus’ forces; but, there was also a not-so-obvious battle between Kristen Stewart and Sam Claflin (William), entitled “Who’s Going to End up Being more Boring?”[.] I think Claflin won, but not by much. That one scene where it was just those two, I almost fell asleep. The real person who truly shines through is the always-fantastic Charlize Theron. She’s just great and sometimes truly eerie as the wicked Queen Ravenna.

Most of the characters are just okay for me, Ravenna is the best. Snow White in the source material is great, but she isn’t as good now, mostly because Stewart is the face of her. The dwarfs were pretty great. There’s a number of known actors as the little people (like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, the great comedic presence Nick Frost, and Toby Jones). It was sort of cool how they made them look so small, too. I like the characters of the dwarfs, but I wasn’t a fan of the appearances. I just couldn’t help but pick on their hair. As a kid, their parents must have given each of them a bad haircut. And to add onto that, they went to Kindergarden class and a class bully took safety scissors and thought they were a hairdresser, and he made the hair even worse, and it never grew back. At least, that’s my theory.

Snow knows where it’s going, but at times it feels like it’s a struggle getting there. It does get there, but after some effort. I must add, the finale was great. It’s a little better than that battle scene of Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it pales in comparison to any battle scenes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The make-up is great, the finale is great, and the characters were just okay. The action, when it comes, is purely great, and the human Mirror thing was actually very cool. Charlize Theron steals the show, and at times, she’s almost as ugly as she was in 2003’s Monster.

70/100