Tag Archives: emma watson

It’s Perplexing How Bad ‘The Circle’ Is

The_Circle_(2017_film)This may be the first ever movie where literally nothing happens.

“The Circle” stars Emma Watson as a young girl who joins a tech company that wants to put cameras everywhere in the world. I really wish I could give more of a plot summary than that, but as I said above: this movie isn’t really about anything. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswald star as the founders of the company and John Boyega is also in it for a minute. James Ponsoldt directs.

Once or twice a year, I randomly pick a movie that I am going to go in with no preconceived notions about; this means I don’t watch any trailers or read any reviews. I chose “The Circle” as one of these films and walked in not knowing much beyond “Emma Watson joins a tech company run by Tom Hanks.” Upon actually seeing “The Circle” I can’t tell you much more about it than it is Emma Watson joining a tech company run by Tom Hanks.

First things first, the script is awful. Based on a book by Dave Eggers, Eggers co-wrote the screenplay with director Ponsoldt. So you have the man who wrote the original work and the person in charge of translating it to the screen, yet somehow their screenplay lacks any vision or coherency. The basic rule of screenwriting is “show don’t tell,” meaning you should have actions explain motivations and feelings, not dialogue. The film abandons this basic principle and decides to have each “character” (I’m using that term liberally because no one is fleshed out) tell the audience what is happening and how they feel; every person a walking exposition machine and none act like real humans.

Emma Watson has never been accused of being a great actress but here she is extra stale and deprived of charismatic as our lead. She is unchanged from the opening shot of the film to the last scene, and it can be argued she actually isn’t even a protagonist worth rooting for. Tom Hanks is implied to be the film’s antagonist, but it is really just because he’s the CEO of a big social media conglomerate and that’s the stigma we hold upon people in those positions. He never does anything evil or make us hope Watson takes him down, and you can tell Hanks is trying his hardest to give his character *something* to do/be.

Ellar Coltrane, best known for starring over a decade in “Boyhood,” is Watson’s childhood friend (I think? It’s truly never fleshed out) and he is truly awful. His dialogue isn’t helping, but his delivery is atrocious and awkward, and had the audience in unintended laughter. The film also features Bill Paxton in his final career role (the only thing this film will ever be remembered for) and he is sympathetic as Watson’s sick father in his few scenes.

Even if we had interesting characters, they wouldn’t have anything to do. There isn’t anything resembling conflict or tension through the entire film, with only one scene in the entire film actually resulting in something resembling consequence, and even that feels unearned because of how ludicrous and unrealistic it is.

Even the editing is subpar. The film as a whole drags, with the runtime clocking in at less than two hours but you feel every second of it. Some of the way scenes are spliced together are also awkward, especially one where Watson and a friend are having a conversation in two different bathroom stalls but the camera is framed at the same angle for both women so every time is cuts back and forth it is jarring.

The one thing the film has going for it is its concept. Although the “Big Brother is always watching you” idea is about five years too late to be sci-fi and is now pretty much an accepted reality, the film does make a few good points about how willing people are to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and that maybe the tech companies don’t have our best interest at heart. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“The Circle” is more boring than it is bad. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a good movie, but at least it seems the people involved were trying; this isn’t an Adam Sandler joint. Unfortunately, their efforts are nowhere near enough to make this watchable. Not as enjoyable as a Periscope feed and featuring less drama than your aunt getting in a political argument on Facebook, “The Circle” is a square.

Critics Rating: 2/10


‘Beauty and the Beast’ a Colorful but Pointless Remake

Beauty_and_the_Beast_2017_posterMaybe they should just let Jon Favreau direct all the live-action Disney remakes…

“Beauty and the Beast” is a remake of the 1991 animated film of the same name (first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, fun fact). Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star as the titular characters, with Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson filling out the rest of the ensemble cast. Bill Condon directs.

So far, Disney’s reimaginings of their classic animated films has been relatively successful, with each adaption being better than the last. “Maleficent” was met with mixed reviews, most people liked “Cinderella” and last year’s “The Jungle Book” was universally praised. Films like “Mulan” and “The Lion King” have already gotten the remake green light, but hopefully they do a better job bringing their stories to the real world than Condon does with “Beauty and the Beast,” which is a colorful and at times heart-warming, but also empty tale.

Emma Watson is our Belle, and while she’s no Paige O’Hara she is a solid leading lady. She can hold her own singing and is attractive but doesn’t stand out so much that it’s unbelievable, like someone with modern day Hollywood looks would in a mid-1700s French village may do. Dan Stevens is fine in a mostly motion-capture performance, although we never really feel any real reason to root for him other than we know the story. The Beast design is alright, but I can’t help but feel practical effects would have been better suited here (Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy compared to his “Hobbit” films forever showed us that practical > CGI).

The real stars of the show are Luke Evans as the dastardly Gaston and Josh Gad as the bumbling LeFou. Evans is pitch-perfect as the alpha-male villain and his chemistry with Gad is phenomenal; if the film did anything well it was its casting of these two in their respective roles. Gad, who can be annoying in some films but is undeniably talented, has some great one-liners and facial expressions and provides the film’s biggest laughs. Maybe you heard about censor-run countries like Russia and Malaysia threatening to boycott the film because Condon chose to make Gad’s character openly gay, but it’s a non-factor to the plot and you wouldn’t even notice if people made a big pout about it.

Quick sidenotes: there are two bits of irony with the casting of the film. Originally, Ryan Gosling was in talks to star as the Beast but he backed out to star in “La La Land,” which landed him an Oscar nod. Conversely, Emma Watson was set to star in “La La Land” but dropped out to star in this, and she ended up being a Disney princess and earning $15 million. Neither likely regrets their decision. Also, Gad’s LeFou marks the first gay character in a Disney film but ironically, the ultra-masculine red-blooded playboy Gaston is played by the openly gay Evans. All just things I found interesting.

Back to the review.

There are certain aspects and scenes that people are going to be interested to see, such as the “Be Our Guest” musical sequence. Most will find it charming, with the entire thing seemingly being shot-for-shot of the 1991 film, although it does get a little distracting by the end with so much getting thrown at the screen.

Almost all of the musical numbers have something wrong with them, to be honest. Each of the ensemble pieces get muddled together and it is hard to make out the lyrics, similar to the opening highway scene in “La La Land,” and Stevens has a solo which just comes off as awkward. Emma Thompson’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” is the most pitch-perfect and resonating of any of the songs, and the scene itself is sure to kick up the nostalgia feels. And the score by Alan Menken is as memorizing as anything.

The biggest problem with the film as a whole is Condon’s handling of the material, and not sure if he should be honoring, recreating or reimagining the original story. The animated film is 84 minutes long, this one is 129 and that extra 45 minutes of padding is felt. Belle is given a backstory about her mother we don’t care about and the film tries to be relevant to 2017 audiences but none of it seems important.

This whole film seems unimportant, in fact, it never gives us a reason for it to even exist outside pleasing die-hard fans of the original and having Disney make a few hundred million dollars. Remakes should have a purpose: “The Jungle Book” was revolutionary with its special effects and put a new spin on an old tale, and films like “The Departed” introduce a great story to American audiences. In 10 years, no one will be talking about the “Beauty and the Beast” remake, much less imploring anyone to watch it.

“Beauty and the Beast” has an A-list cast and pretty costumes, and at times they mesh well to create a fun, nostalgic trip. Josh Gad and Luke Evans are fantastic together (seriously, we need these two to star in a sitcom, “The Gaston and LeFou Show”) and Watson is solid in the leading role. However all-too-often Condon doesn’t know what he wants to do, and the pacing and delivery of the film suffer from it. “Beauty and the Beast” is not a bad movie, it’s just not particularly very good, and while Watson may be the belle of the ball, the film is the belle of the blah.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

‘Noah’ Lands on Solid Ground

Noah2014PosterWhen a movie is based off a book, there are always the groups of fans that will claim the movie took liberties that it had no right to take, or that it left out things that needed to be in the film. Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Noah”, based off the story from the Bible, does not divert from this tradition. Russell Crowe stars as the titular character, with Jennifer Connelly playing his wife. Aronofsky wrote and directs the film.

People who are looking for a by-the-book (pun intended) portrayal of Noah and his ark should know right away that Aronofsky has taken numerous creative liberties. This isn’t your great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s Noah. This is a story for the modern filmgoer, filled with epic shots, hand-to-hand combat and giant talking rock monsters (I told you it diverted from the source material). It is a little like “300” in that it takes a historical event and adds mystical and mythical aspects.

Russell Crowe does a great job portraying the man who built a boat to save every kind of animal when God decided to flood the Earth. He struggles balancing his human instincts while at the same time obeying what the Creator is telling him to do. It is a multi-layered performance that connects with the audience.

Ray Winstone plays the film’s antagonist, the leader of a group of corrupt and treacherous people. He is scummy and evil and embodies every characteristic that has made the Creator decide mankind needs to be eradicated. The scene where Winstone leads his army against Noah in an attempt to take the ark is wonderfully entertaining and well-shot.

There is a bird’s-eye shot of Earth about halfway through “Noah” that shows the storm in full rage, and it had several members of the audience, including myself, whisper “wow”. That shot is the peak of the film. Everything after that is just not as interesting.

It is almost like every character on the ark has a sudden change in heart; they all become different people. Some people’s motivations don’t make sense, while other people’s choices are just maddening. It drags on for a little too long, and by the end of the film you feel like you have cabin fever from being trapped inside the boat with these people for so long.

As gorgeous as some shots are, there are other shots that seem like they were shot on a handheld camcorder. They are so shaky and so borderline vomit-inducing that I had to actually look away from the screen for a second. I’m not sure if they used up the $125 million budget before they could purchase a tripod, but it really was shocking that a Hollywood project could get away with several shots like that.

“Noah” really is a tale of two halves. The first half is full of an epic hand-to-hand battle, great story telling and that one jaw-dropping shot of Earth. But the second half of the film feels much longer than it actually is, and you simply don’t care about the character’s desires. Still, the film’s scope is impressive and the effects are first rate. As long as you walk into “Noah” knowing you are not getting a straight out of the Bible story, you will be entertained, and at times in awe. It is just a shame the film could not maintain its momentum for the entire ride. Then it could have been something special.

Critics Rating: 7/10