Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Movie Review: Alien Covenant (R – 122 minutes)

The first Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, was released in 1979 and featured the crew of the Nostromo encountering a mystery on an abandoned planet, and one member of the crew in particular encountering an egg pod, and accidentally getting a facesucker sucked to his face.  That resulted in a chestburster bursting out of his chest, growing rapidly, and killing off the members of the crew one by one until Ellen Ripley blasted it out of the airlock of the ship. It is an exceptionally made claustrophobic horror movie that waits until the end to reveal the alien. 

The sequel was directed by a James Cameron, released in 1986, and turned the sci-fi horror of the first movie into a sci-fi action movie in which Ripley wakes up from cryo-sleep and has to go back to the planet on which her crew discovered the egg pod, because there have been colonists there for 10 years, but their signal has been recently lost – and the Weyland-Yutani company may or may not want one of the xenomorphs, for business? Sure enough, upon arrival with her new crew of space marines, they get treated to colony full of the xenomorphs, plus, an encounter with the Queen who has been laying all those egg pods.
There’s a third and fourth movie, and two Alien vs. Predator movies (which I loved) but honestly, the first two are the best.  In 2012, Ridley Scott revisited the franchise – sort of – and released Prometheus.  Prometheus was very pretentious, and attempted to answer who we are as humans and who created us – seeming to demonstrate that earth was seeded by a large race of ‘engineers’, who also created a bio-weapon that infects people and then sort of creates the xenomorphs?  Listen, I saw the movie, a couple of times, and I still am not entirely sure what it was about. I know Michael Fassbender played the artificial – or android – named David, and he was very shady the entire time, and seemed way more into the alien virus (infection, bioweapon, whatever…) than the people he was supposed to be assisting. 

In this movie, Alien: Covenant, we’re introduced to the command crew of the Covenant as they are traveling to a new planet with some 2000 colonists on the ship.  They encounter a wave of something in space that causes an issue and Walter, the Fassbender-y android on this ship, helps wake up the command crew, but the captain gets accidentally fried in his pod, leaving his wife, Daniels, shaken. 
Since this is a colonizing mission, the command crew is made up of couples, so that they can help populate the planet once they arrive.  Because the captain is dead, Oram has to take over when they pick up a distress signal from a nearby location. Hopeful at the readings of the planet (it seems to be perfectly habitable!), they head there to check out the signal – after all, they have a few more years in cryo sleep, if this planet works, they can wake up the colonists now!

Upon arrival, several members of the command crew go in search of the signal, and sure enough, once they split up, two of them (one in each group, because that’s how movies work) stumble into little puff pods on the ground.

The pods release spores that enter the bodies, and basically do the same thing the facesuckers used to do – implant a baby xenomorph that then bursts out in the worst way possible. Because these xenomorphs come from puff pods and burst out whereever - not necessarily the chest - they look slightly different that the original Alien design.  

The xenomorphs take out several crew members just before the remaining group members are rescued by – surprise – David from Prometheus, who tells them that he and Elizabeth Shaw were the only surviving members of their crew, and the ship they had stolen/escaped in released the virus upon arrival at this planet – which may have been the home planet of the ‘engineers’ – but the virus killed all of the ‘engineers’ on their arrival, and that Elizabeth died in the crash.  Which I hope you don’t believe, you know you can’t trust that android.

In any case, Walter and David have some super creepy bonding/philosophizing moments during which David teaches Walter how to play a recorder he carved, and also eventually tells them how he continued to bio-engineer the virus to create the egg pods.  He tells Oram all about this, and Oram is foolish enough to put his face right next to an egg pod, so he gets his face sucked by a face sucker, which of course deposits a chest-burster baby in him. We get a more traditional looking xenomorph that takes out the crew as Daniels contacts Tennessee who is still on the ship to come rescue the survivors, which adds up to her and Walter.   

Honestly, it’s still confusing, but not nearly as confusing as Prometheus. Yes, there is still too much philosophizing, and pretentiousness – but far less than in the previous movie, and there is much more alien action in this one - which is what you want in an “Alien” franchise movie...well, it’s what I want in an alien movie.  The final action piece of Walter and Daniels battling a xenomorph as Tennessee tries to rescue them on a construction vehicle is just fantastic.  It’s well done, it looks good, and the cast is certainly interesting enough:

  • Michael Fassbender plays both David and Walter – and while Walter is a little colder and more helpful and has a strange maybe-southern accent, David is crazy, and way too emotional for an android.  The scenes he had playing off himself were definitely entertaining, but also a little too long.

  • Katherine Waterston plays Daniels with the same wide-eyed fear she used in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, but it’s more towards terror here.  She proves to be a fairly competent action lead for this adventure.  

  • Billy Crudup plays Oram, and while he’s not ready to be captain, he’s second in command, so when James Franco gets fried in his pod, Crudup has to step up.  They mention that he’s too faith-based as opposed to science-based to lead – and that could have been an interesting plot point, but it is never developed, just mentioned off-handedly a couple of times as if it was part of a huge discussion that happened or a central theme to the movie - it's not.

  • Danny McBride plays Tennessee, and has several good scenes as he gets more and more desperate to help the people on the ground, at what could be the expense of the 2000 colonists on the ship with him.

  • Those are the cast members who get the most to do – the others have a couple of scenes a piece.  Demian Bichir plays Lope, who seems to be in charge of security. 

  • Carmen Ejogo plays Karine; Jussie Smollett plays Ricks; Callie Hernandez plays Upworth; Amy Seimetz plays Faris; Nathaniel Dean plays Hallett; Alexander England plays Ankor; Benjamin Rigby plays Ledward; and Uli Latukefu (my favorite actor on Marco Polo) plays Cole.

  • And yes, Guy Pearce shows up again as Weyland, so if you were wondering if they wasted him in that old age makeup in Prometheus – not necessarily, since he gets a scene in this one.

  • Also yes, that was James Franco who plays the captain who gets fried in the pod.

Overall, I liked it more than I liked Prometheus, but I didn’t really like Prometheus, so I’m not sure that’s saying much. It’s interesting, there’s some great action – but I think my issue was that I was expecting this to end where either Alien or Aliens began, and it doesn’t quite do that yet.  So – go in not expecting anything, and you should be pleasantly surprised!

6 out of 10. Lost points for xenomorphs coming from puff pods, lost points for the pointless shower sex scene, and against my better judgement, gained points for double creepy Fassbenders playing recorders. Gained points for the tippy drinking bird.

Cast Interviews;

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Movie Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG13 – 126 minutes)

The Legends of King Arthur Pendragon date back to the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD.  Whether or not he was a real person, or just legend, is still debated.  According to the stories, he’s most known for pulling his father’s sword Excalibur from the stone, battling the Saxons, assembling the Knights of the Round Table, and searching for the Holy Grail, which of course was perfectly conveyed in the Monty Python story, which I am sure was mostly historically accurate.

The most recent film version was Antoine Fuqua’s version in 2004 which removed all the magic from the story and was based heavily in leftover Roman Empire legends. The action was good, but the magic is so key to all the legends that this one felt a little static.

My personal favorite was the TV movie Merlin starring Sam Neil that really had Arthur as more of a side character, but leaned heavily on the magic side of the legends.

In this most recent edition particular version, the whole story is ‘Guy Ritchie-d’ up.  We start the story with Uther battling Mordred, who has broken from Merlin and the other Mages to unleash darkness on the land. Uther defeats him thanks to his mastery of the magic of the sword Excalibur, but his brother Vortigern decides he’s ready to usurp the throne and calls on his own dark magic and sea monster/witches for assistance.  Uther ushers his wife and child out of the castle and she falls, but the child lives. He battles Uther, and at the end of the battle, Uther ensures that Excalibur will be trapped in stone until his rightful heir, the ‘born-king’ comes back to claim it.  Meanwhile, little Arthur floats, Moses-Style, down the Thames to Londinum, the ancient Roman outpost that will eventually become London. 

There, he goes through an aging montage that shows us he becomes essentially a Guy Ritchie-style street tough as he is raised in a brothel. He goes from being cared for by prostitutes to caring for prostitutes, all the while, accumulating quite a fortune and a running crew, including Tristan and Backlack.  Inevitably, a group of Vikings mistreat one of the prostitutes, so Arthur and crew have a ‘word’ with the Vikings.  Word gets back to now-King Vortigern, who is also having all ‘men of a certain age’ tested by trying to pull the sword from the stone.  Arthur gets arrested by the ‘black legs’ (Vortigern’s men) and taken to pull on the sword, where David Beckham yells at him.  Shocking everyone, David Beckham most of all, Arthur pulls the sword.  

This pisses off Vortigern, and he’s determined to kill Arthur in front of everyone to prevent him from gaining support of the people.  Well, that plan goes awry as Arthur is rescued by what’s left of Uther’s crew and a random Mage. Eventually Arthur’s running crew meets up with the remains of Uther’s old crew, and together they begin to stage a few ambushes here and there to begin to take down Vortigern as Arthur first struggles with, then comes to accept Excalibur and the responsibilities that come with it.  Spoiler alert –  in the end he defeats his uncle, takes back the throne, builds a round table, knights some guys, and swears to bring honor, justice, and chivalry back to the kingdom. 

The movie is very much a Guy Ritchie movie, and I think that is a good thing. I’ve been a fan of his since Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and honestly – this feels like a medieval Lock, Stock.  The very cockney and modernized version of Arthur is going to not resonate with a lot of folks, but I found it entertaining.  The movie looks lovely, the sets are amazing, and I enjoyed the foot chases and fights through ancient London.  Yes, there’s a lot of CG in terms of magical beasts and what-not, that didn’t bother me too much, and seemed to fit the story.  Yes, it’s probably a bit too long, and a little sluggish in parts, but since I was expecting it to be terrible, I was able to tolerate that.  The cast is decent and filled out by a charming supporting group of characters.

  • Charlie Hunnam is actually better in this than I have seen him in anything else. Since I didn’t watch Sons of Anarchy, that list is really just Pacific Rim, and he was terrible in that – so I guess it’s not a huge achievement, but I enjoyed his rough and tumble version of a grumpy Arthur who is more concerned about his friends and family than his overwhelming destiny.

  • Astrid Berges-Frisbey plays The Mage with no name (there are some articles and cast listings where she is listed as 'Guenivere' but she's never called that in the movie), and she is okay, but a little one-note.  There’s no Merlin in this story at all, which I suppose is fine.  She does a pretty good job of helping Arthur, but seeming to be annoyed about the entire situation.

  • Jude Law chews all the scenery as Vortigern, and that was very entertaining. He’s a pretty great villain and should do that more often. He’s familiar enough with Ritchie’s style thanks to his two outings as Watson in the updated Sherlock Holmes.

  • Djimon Hounsou plays Bedivere, and essentially it’s the same role you’ve seen him play multiple times before. He’s the old, wise, warrior who is ready to help Arthur step up to his destiny. He is excellent at this role, so I’m not complaining.

  • Eric Bana shows up briefly as Uther, and does some impressive sword fighting before locking up that sword in a stone.

  • Aidan Gillen plays Bill – a leftover from Uther’s group who first gets Arthur aware of the issues happening at large, since he was mainly paying attention to his own affairs. Thanks to all the GOT experience, he’s just fine in this medieval flick, and gets to take some awesome arrow shots.

  • Freddie Fox plays Rubio, another member of the gang who helps Arthur begin to get his kingdom back.
  • Craig McGinlay plays Percival, who at first seems a bit skeptical of Arthur, but then is won over.
  • Tom Wu gets to keep his Marco Polo hairstyle, and basically the exact same character, as ‘kung-fu’ George, one of Arthur’s London friends who steps up to help him once his destiny comes calling.
  • Kingsley Ben-Adir plays WetStick (Tristan), and sticks by Arthur’s side throughout everything long enough to be knighted by the end.

  • Neil Maskell plays Back Lack, and along with his son, Blue, are a part of Arthur’s London crew.

The movie is not great, and it’s not doing all that well, which is a shame, because this really functions as an origin story, and I would like to see further adventures of the group of knights that is assembled around the round table by the end of this.  Who knows, perhaps it will do better globally and we’ll get a sequel anyway?

6 out of 10 – Bonus points for the random knights, and here’s hoping we get more from them. More bonus points for the Guy Ritchie cameo - it's quick, keep your eyes peeled.

Cast Interviews:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG13 – 136 minutes)

The Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in 1969 in a Marvel Comic, and had many different members and cosmic adventures over the years - yes, you could refer to them as 'Space Avengers' and it would make sense. 

Since the Guardians were fairly unfamiliar characters to the general public, the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which came out in 2014, took many people by surprise. Equal parts fun, action, and emotion, the movie was as close to perfect as any of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies had gotten to that point. The movie ended up being my favorite Marvel movie to date – followed very closely by Captain America 2 and 3. It had the amazing ability to bring me to tears while also making me laugh out loud.  I still tear up at the beginning where Peter’s mother dies – and at the end, where Groot sacrifices himself to save the others – only to be repotted and show up here as Baby Groot.
The story of Vol. 1 was a pure origin story.  We were introduced to the Guardians, Star-Lord (Peter Quill), Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot, as they encountered one another, assembled into a rough team, evaded then teamed up with Yondu Udonta and the Ravagers, and defeated Ronan the Accuser when he broke from Thanos and attempted to use an infinity stone to destroy the planet Xandar and the universe at large. 

Vol. 2 picks up just a few months after Vol. 1 ended.  The Guardians, after their Vol. 1 escapades, are now fairly known heroes and are taking random jobs for pay.  They have agreed to take a job from ‘the Sovereign’ to battle a giant space-slug type monster that is all teeth and tentacles to protect some very fancy batteries.  The Sovereign consider themselves to be perfect, and so could not take a chance with any of their own citizens being in danger while defending the batteries.  In exchange for their help, the Sovereign gives Nebula, Gamora’s ‘sister’, back to them so that they can cash in on her bounty on Xandar.  This all goes pretty according to plan until Rocket steals some of the batteries on the way out, because "they were really easy to steal."  

Furious, the Sovereign send a fleet of remotely piloted ships after the Guardians, causing some catastrophic damage to their ship, the Milano.  The team is miraculously saved by a surprise visitor.  After crash-landing on Berhart, the team does some high-quality bickering, and gets greeted by the surprise guest who introduces himself as Ego – Peter’s Father.  Peter, Gamora, and Drax head off with Ego and his associate Mantis to visit his planet (he has his own planet!), while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to keep an eye on Nebula.  This becomes dangerous when Yondu Undonta and his crew of Ravagers are hired by the Sovereign to collect the Guardians and swiftly arrive.  Hijinks ensue, and I really, truly mean that in the very best possible way.  These are the best hijinks of the year so far.

From this point on – Spoiler Alert – I am not going to mention much more about the plot – but it’s really hard to say anything else without ruining bits of the story, and you really should see this movie without knowing exactly what happens.  I will complement the marketing team on this (I know, I almost never say that!), but each of the trailers and commercials I saw really only covered plot bits and clips from what I mentioned above, which is really only the first twenty minutes or so of the story, which is exceptional.  Most trailers lately show entirely too much of the movie, and you feel like you know what is going to happen before you get to the theater (looking at you SpiderMan Homecoming trailer).  In GOTGv2, there are a few twists and turns, and it was wonderful to be genuinely surprised when they happened in the theater!  There was an audible gasp by the audience at one point.

Like Vol. 1, James Gunn wrote and directed Vol. 2, and if you’re not following him on social media – you should be.  He's funny, witty, charming, and really cares about the fans because he is a fan. Last year, while in production, he would weekly release a storyboard picture – one that wouldn’t show any plot points, but that would keep everyone interested in what he was shooting.  He treats every single one of the characters with care and devotion, and has completely delivered on giving each of them space to grow, but also stay true to who they were when we met them.  If the first movie was about family – this one is also about family, but the more detailed relationships between parents and children, especially fathers and sons. 

The look of the movie is exceptionally beautiful, and this is one where I will say that it is worth seeing it in 3D.  Gunn has created a lush and colorful galaxy with gorgeous planets, space, ships, people, and creatures in it.

Another thing that James Gunn does almost better than anyone else right now is the music in the movie.  Vol. 1 was a surprise in terms of the music – which was fantastic! When I was younger (wow, I’m old enough to start sentences that way), movie soundtracks were a much bigger deal than they are today. They would essentially function as pre-made mix tapes that you would pick up after seeing the movie and how expertly the songs worked in it. It’s rare to find that in today’s movies, but James Gunn manages to make the songs in this movie fit seamlessly into the movie, to the point that they can be parts of the story. I once again bought the CD on the way out of the theater, and it is fantastic.

The cast is once again pure perfection. Each returning character gets to grow a little bit and deepen their already established personality.  New characters are each given their own moment to shine as well.  Be warned again – spoiler alerts here!  It is really hard to say why I loved some of the performances without a little explanation:

  • Chris Pratt proves again he was born to play Star-Lord.  He saunters through the movie, trading quips and snark with his teammates and everyone else.  Pratt ups his own game here in some of the scenes with Ego, where he is able to convey the absolute longing he has felt his whole life without a father to the doubt he feels when his father suddenly appears.  His joy once he realizes he has found his family is quickly tempered once Gamora starts raising some really good questions.  He’s good the whole way through – but his reaction to Yondu’s final moment in the movie absolutely broke my heart.

  • Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, and once again proves to be the most dangerous woman in the galaxy. Watching her and Nebula continue to battle, and then finally get down to why they are so angry at one another was wonderful. 

  • Dave Bautista continues to be absolute perfection as Drax. He’s still overly literal, but in this one, he laughs so much more. The laugh is a thing of beauty because he laughs with his entire being, and honestly, every time he laughed – everyone in the theater laughed with him - #DraxLaugh.  While that was fantastic, his best moment is a quiet moment on the steps of Ego’s palace with Mantis as he shares a memory of his daughter – perfectly played, infinitely sad and beautiful.

  • Vin Diesel voices Baby Groot, and man, if he stole the first movie – he certainly steals the majority of this movie as well.  Again Gunn prepared a special script for Diesel where Groot’s lines are all written out in English, and Diesel gets to figure out how to convey all those lines in only three words, "I am Groot." All the commercials and trailers you’ve seen where the Guardians are fighting the giant space octopus? Well, that all happens in the background during the opening credits as you just get to watch Baby Groot dance in the foreground to Mr. BlueSky. It is incredible.  He’s so cute, so tiny, and yet somehow conveys so much emotion on his little adorable face!  There are a couple of scenes where he is sad or in pain, and I instantly felt overwhelming concern for this tiny CGI tree.  I particularly loved the scene where he explains why he doesn’t like hats.

  • Bradley Cooper voices Rocket Racoon, with Sean Gunn doing the on-set motion reference. He’s once again surprisingly one of the characters with the most heart, learning after a conversation with Yondu that trying to piss off everyone around him to convince himself he doesn’t need anyone is not going to work.

  • Michael Rooker plays Yondu, and absolutely steals every piece of this movie that does not have Baby Groot in it.  From his first appearance where we learn a bit of his background with the Ravagers, to surviving a mutiny by his own crew, to realizing that Peter is with Ego and that is bad news, to eventually letting Peter know that he has always thought of him as a son – get your tissues ready for his few final scenes, they are absolutely beautifully done.

  • Karen Gillan plays Nebula, and actually gets a bit more to do in this movie than just be angry as she was in the first one. She finally explains to Gamora why she hates her so much, and starts building a bridge to where they may eventually have a working relationship.

  • Pom Kementieff joins the cast as Mantis – Ego’s empathic associate – who can read emotions, and help to control emotions as well.  The bizarre but beautiful relationship that builds between Mantis and Drax is definitely a highlight of this story.

  • Sylvester Stallone plays Stakar Ogord, who also goes by StarHawk, and was in the comics as one of the Guardians in the past.  He’s very good in his two scenes, especially the one where he gives some angry exposition of why Yondu was kicked out of the Ravagers.  Also – he gets a post-credit sequence that hints he may get more to do later on.
  • Kurt Russell plays Ego, the living planet. And, yes, he really is a living planet.  Honestly, Russell is a perfect pick to play Pratt’s dad. He is genuinely thrilled that he has found Peter after all this time, and as his motivations for doing so become more and more clear – he shifts from loving father to determined god (“with a small ‘g’”).  The transition is fascinating, as he completely believes what he is doing is his right.  It’s a fantastic performance and really made me remember how good Kurt Russell is.  Maybe it’s time for me to watch Overboard again.

  • Elizabeth Debicki – who stole most of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. reboot for me – plays Ayesha, the head of the Sovereign. She’s composed, condescending, and cool.  There is an absolutely brilliant visual gag with a blue carpet that she is walking on when going to meet Yondu that could have been a throwaway moment, but instead is comedic genius.  Also – Farscape’s Ben Browder shows up as her Admiral!

  • Sean Gunn plays Yondu’s right hand man, Kraglin, again. He is just fantastic in this one. He first starts to question Yondu and his devotion to Peter, but then once he realizes that the other crew members seize on that questioning to launch their mutiny, gets a moment to really be disappointed in himself when most of his friends get killed.  He also gets a moment at the end when he realizes why the other Ravagers have arrived on the scene that just – again – broke my heart.  I did a lot of crying at this – in a good way.

  • Chris Sullivan from This Is Us plays Taserface – one of the Ravagers that leads the mutiny. He’s big and dumb, and easily manipulated by Rocket in a truly hilarious way.

  • The rest of the Ravagers are made up of friends of James Gunn –which works out well.  Tommy Flanagan gets the most to do.

There are all kinds of cameos and guest spots – Seth Green’s voiced Howard the Duck shows up again, Gregg Henry is back as Peter’s grandfather, Ving Rhames shows up as Charlie-27, Michael Rosenbaum plays Martinex, and Michelle Yeoh plays Aleta – all Guardians from the comic who have a meeting with StarHawk during a post-credit sequence.  Could they get a spin off? Or just return in another Guardians movie? Either way, I would watch it!

Yes, there are five post-credit sequences, so stay all the way through - the end credits are also really funny thanks to a disco-ed up version of the instrumental Guardians musical theme that has appeared in both the first movie and this movie with some lyrics by David Hasslehoff. You read that right.

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this movie.  I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as the first, and so my expectations were low – which really helped me out, because I loved it almost as much as the first one. Yes, it’s a little slow in the middle, but that’s where you get the character development.  Yes, the action sequences are almost entirely CGI – but it’s beautifully done and looks amazing in this movie.  Yes, some of the comedy scenes are almost cartoonish – but I think that fits these characters!  It’s wonderful – I loved it – go see it.

11 out of 10 – yes, that’s how my math works.  Good luck everything else this year. 
Bonus - Here's the LAMBcast review of GOTG2 where I joined fellow LAMB members to discuss the movie! https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2017-05-19T13_47_18-07_00
Cast Interviews:  

  Cast Games!  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review: The Circle (PG13 – 110 minutes)

Inevitably, we were going to get to a movie this year that I hated – but I wasn’t expecting it to be this one.  

The Circle is a movie based on the 2013 novel by Dave Eggers – who co-wrote the screenplay with director James Ponsoldt.  Honestly, I broke my own rule on this and went to see it despite having hated the only other movie by Ponsoldt I had seen, the Spectacular Now.  Since I believe movies to be the director’s medium, I try to keep in mind how I felt about a director’s previous movies when choosing whether to see their new movies. 

I haven’t read the book, but in checking the synopsis on Wikipedia, I will say the movie seems to stick very close to the original plot.  It is centered around Mae Holland, a young woman stuck at a bit of a dead-end customer service tele-marketing type job who is very worried about her parents well-being, since her father has MS, in a fairly advanced state.  She unwinds by kayaking in the San Francisco Bay.  Mae’s friend Annie, meanwhile, is working at The Circle – a huge tech company that is inventing all sorts of operating systems and social media apps.  Annie gets Mae an interview, and she quickly accepts to join the Circle.

Once employed, Mae swiftly becomes enamored of the Circle’s fabulous campus, dorm-like living quarters, multiple activities, and super friendly (like creepy friendly) employees.  Mae is really beginning to enjoy all the aspects of her job – which is basically tele-marketing type customer service again – even after a weekend back at home lets her see that her dad’s disease is getting worse and her friend (her ex?) Mercer is warning her that the Circle is way to omni-present and folks need a little privacy. However, Mae is far too swept up in the ‘sharing is caring’ attitude of the company to pay any attention – even after meeting a handsome stranger at a company party – at which Beck is playing.  Beck.

At an announcement event by company head Eamon Bailey – Mae learns about the SeeChange, and new lightweight camera that transmits wirelessly and can be stuck to anything. Annie gets word to the Circle about Mae’s parents’ situation, and the Circle helps get them on her health insurance, and in exchange, they agree to have SeeChange cameras everywhere in their house.  After an evening of poor kayaking, where she almost drowns, but is saved by the fact that someone was watching on SeeChange cameras – Mae agrees to “go transparent”, letting SeeChange cameras watch her every single move as she goes about her day to day existence.  Annie, whose job is getting more and more stressful, gets a little jealous as Mae becomes the new poster-girl for the company, to the point that she is allowed in big-time board meetings and suggests technology ideas (what?).  Basically, she suggests the God’s Eye from the F&F franchise, or the thing that Lucius Fox and Batman created in Dark Knight. 

At the next Friday announcement meeting, she and Eamon present this technology – which the world uses to find an escaped criminal in less than 15 minutes. At the crowd’s urging, they then use it to find Mercer, who has stopped talking to Mae – since she’s continuously plugged in.  They find him, and random people and drones are chasing him to the point that he accidentally drives his truck off a bridge while trying to get away. 

At this point, I expected the movie to turn the way it should have, Mae realizes how dangerous this ‘transparency’ is, and partners with the mysterious stranger who is popping up at the company and warning her to take them down from the inside.  However, she partners with him (it turns out he’s one of the guys who helped create the company by inventing its first system) to release Eamon and Tom Stelton’s (the number two guy in the company) private emails at the next Friday meeting, claiming they are not living transparently enough.  The movie then ends with her kayaking with drones – apparently completely bought in to the Circle and its goals of a total and complete lack of privacy for everyone anywhere.

If that sounds odd to you, you’re right.  The movie is really choppy and uneven. The character development is really lacking.  Why does Annie have a complete flip in her personality? Why is Ty lurking around?  Why is Tom so serious about getting that politician on board?  And has Mae really drank the kool-aid that hard?  I really feel like there was an entire middle portion of the movie that I didn’t see.  I do feel like the majority of the cast is great, and the majority of the performances were good – or at least delivered on what they were asked to do.  I just think they were poorly assembled as a whole.

  • Emma Watson plays Mae, and I think she’s really over-rated. Admittedly, I haven’t seen her in a ton of non-magical stuff, but she’s terrible in this.  Her American accent is just fine, but she’s really over the top and too big with some of the emotions, and then not emoting at all in some of the quieter moments.  I found myself hating the character – but I can’t tell if that was the goal or just a side-effect of her performance.  She’s so non-committed to the Circle in the beginning that her flip of being completed embedded into their worldview by the end is a little confusing.

  • Ellar Coltrane plays Mercer, and essentially has nothing to do but look panicked at Mae’s new job as it gets more and more scary.  You could see his death coming from miles away, and instead of it having the effect on Mae that it should – making her realize that she caused his death with her immersion in the Circle’s philosophy – it drives her further into the Circle.

  • Glenne Headly plays Mae’s mother, and she actually does a wonderful job of being a bit hesitant, but also supportive.  Bill Paxton, in his final role, plays Vinnie, Mae’s father.  His performance is amazing, and it was really depressing that this is the last thing we see him in, expertly playing a man slowly losing control over his body to a terrible disease. His performance was one of the best in the movie, but that was extremely upsetting – if that makes any sense.

  • Karen Gillan was also very good as Annie – but since we never really learn what her job is or what she’s doing, it’s a little confusing when she falls apart.  I’m assuming she gets more development in the book. She’s super bubbly and supportive in the beginning, and we learn she’s over-worked, which seems to lead to a total and complete breakdown – to the point that she quits and moves back to Scotland – far away from the Circle. 

  • Tom Hanks does his best to Hanks it up as Eamon Bailey – and I actually really enjoyed him in this as the just a bit shady, almost a super-villain, type role.  I would like to see him play a bad guy a little more often, I think he does a good job.

  • Patton Oswalt plays Tom Stelton, and he seems to be the lawyer/money-guy for the company – Bailey’s right hand man, the one interacting with the politician’s and making sure all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed - he feels very corporate evil.  Remember how amazing he was in that one episode of Dollhouse? Go watch that again instead of this.

  • John Boyega is completely wasted as Ty, the mysterious founder of the company who now seems to be lurking around the fringes of the parties and the basements of the Circle campus.  He really could have been an interesting character, just on the edge of losing his sanity and desperate to find an ally – but he’s not given a chance to develop at all – and while he helps Mae release the emails – doe she then betray him by staying with and expanding the Circle? Or is that what he wanted? I couldn’t tell.

Overall, I really did not care for it – it just made no sense, and I can’t help but wonder that if the point was that Mae was so sucked in by the technology, if a different actress would have helped to convey that better. Perhaps if they had flipped Gillan and Watson?  I actually like the idea of having the movie end completely unexpectedly – with Mae completely surrendering to the ‘transparency’ of the Circle – but, I feel like Mae devolving from the ‘hero’ of the story to a ‘villain’ could have been executed a little better, and could have been really creepy if done properly.  Instead, I just felt annoyed.

3 out of 10 – lost points for not enough Boyega, and for the creepy-friendly employees, and for Silicon Valley doing a better job of a similar story weekly.

Bonus – Cast Interviews