Posts Tagged ‘john boyega’

the circle

Mae (Emma Watson) works as a customer service representative in a small company, when her friend Annie, (Karen Gillian) gets her an interview at the Circle, one of the most famous tech companies in San Francisco.  She aces the interview and starts work in the customer experience area.  Mae goes home her first weekend to take care of her father, Vinnie (Bill Paxon) who has MS.  That absence on the weekend earns Mae a visit from Renata (Ellen Wong) and Matt (Amir Talal) asking Mae to fill out her personal social media page, and attend more company parties.  Eager to move up in the company, Mae does just that, at one of these parties she meets Ty (John Boyega) inventor of True You, the social media arm of The Circle.  They talk for a while and then she goes back to her residence at the campus of the Circle.   Mae is now fully devoted to her life at The Circle, she video conferences her parents, and hardly sees her childhood friend, Mercer (Eller Coltraine) who now works as a carpenter, and makes handmade chandeliers.   In an attempt to help Mercer, Mae shares a picture of a chandelier that Mercer made for Mae’s mom, but the picture causes a social media backlash, and people label Mercer a deer killer, and he disappears.

While attending another party, Ty takes Mae to a hidden part of The Circle, where the executives keep files of everyone in The Circle and friends and enemies alike. Mae is clearly disturbed by the secrets that the executives are keeping, and by Mercer’s disappearance, she goes kayaking to clear her mind, but she experiences some rough waters and almost drowns  if not for the underwater cameras in San Francisco Bay.  After this traumatic event, and meeting the CEO of The Circle, Mr. Bailey (Tom Hanks) Mae decides to go transparent, having every aspect of her life documented on video.  Not only that but Mae also starts work on the Soul Search software program, which can find fugitives from justice or lost loves in record time.  The Soul Search finds a criminal in under 20 minutes.  The next search is for Mae’s friend, Mercer.  How does that search end up?

Imagine if Google, Amazon, Apple and Go Pro all merged and imagine what the resulting technology conglomerate would look like?  That’s what this movie imagines.  The Circle is very good at identifying  the dark side of social media, the complete lack of privacy, the cyberbullying, the group think, even the vigilantism possible with social media.  Further it explores work life balance issues at a tech company, and how much of an employee’s life belongs to the company.  The Circle as a company feels almost cult-like.  But the story becomes derivative of the Truman show, when Mae straps on a camera, and it makes Mae much dumber than she should be,  and then turns her into a victim of her own success.  The growth of the Circle’s social media software seems a little too quick to be realistic, but there are still many thought provoking ideas in this movie.  The critics panned it, but for the most part, despite some flaws, this is an interesting story.

The acting is very good.  Emma Watson is very convincing as a naïve girl, who joins a tech company, and quickly learns how much of her time belongs to the company.  The writers make her a little dumber than she should be but Watson fights through bad writing and makes the character strong, yet vulnerable.Tom Hanks does a great job playing a lovable Bill Gates type, people forget how ruthless Microsoft was in creating a monopoly for its products, but that’s how Hanks plays Bailey, all sunshine and rainbows on the outside, and ruthlessly controlling on the inside. The writers definitely did John Boyega a disservice by making his role so small, and making his character a shadowy person.  He should have been much better defined and had a bigger role. Patton Oswalt was also very good as the sinister scheming co-founder of the circle.  Oswalt is a comedian, who shows surprising range in this role.

There is nothing visually noteworthy about the direction, but the pacing is good and the story moves briskly, to a somewhat satisfactory conclusion.  James Ponsoldt hasn’t directed anything of note, but he wrote the screenplay and adapted it from the books of the same name.

The Circle:  Tom Hankering to control all of us.

 

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star wars the force awakens

The force is bending towards the Dark Side once again, as the First Order is in firm control, and the rebellion is in retreat.  Finn (John Boyega) a conscripted Storm Trooper sees the massacre of a village in Jakku, and decides to join the resistance.  Finn escapes the First Order with the help of a pilot for the resistance pilot named Poe. (Oscar Isaac) No sooner do they almost escape when Poe tells Finn he must retrieve a BB8 droid with important information on it.  The droid is now being taken care of by Rey (Daisy Ridley) who scavenges scrap metal and sells it for food.

On the way back to Jakku, the tie fighter crashes, Poe and Finn are separated, and now it is Rey and Finn’s turn to escape from Jakku.  Rey flies an aging rustbucket of a ship away from Jakkku, with Finn manning the weapons. When they are cornered on the ship by smugglers, Rey and Finn get some timely help, and fly to Takondana to meet Maz Kanata, (Lupita Nyongo) a mystic who tells Rey and Finn more about their future.  Finn and Rey still have doubts about their roles in the resistance.

While the resistance may be strengthened with the addition of Rey and Finn, the First Order has a new source of power named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is under the tutelage of The Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), who is schooling Kylo on the finer points of The Dark Side.  Kylo also has a new weapon to play with, a weapon that is aimed at the planets of the Republic, which support the resistance. Kylo just wants an excuse to test his new weapon out. Do Finn and Rey banish their doubts and help the rest of the resistance and stop Kylo Ren from using his new weapon?

I love this movie.  JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasden (who helped George Lucas write the first Star Wars movie) seamlessly integrate new and old characters and plotlines into one cohesive story.  The new characters seem to mirror some of the old ones, but not in such an obvious way that it would turn off a veteran viewer of the Star Wars saga.  There was one aspect of the plot which I didn’t like, but overall the story is well told, and brings many disparate aspects together harmoniously.

The acting is stellar.  John Boyega is outstanding as Finn who is conflicted by his friendship for Poe and Rey and his desire for self-preservation.  Boyega also gives Finn a false bravado that gives the character a nice comedic touch. Oscar Isaac uses all the wit, charm, and intelligence he displayed in Inside Llewyn  Davis to make Poe a likable character.  Daisy Ridley is the real find here, she shows astonishing range, vulnerable in one scene, fighting convincingly in the next.  She also has good chemistry with Boyega, and that is key to the story as well.  Lupita Nyongo eschews her beauty and plays a character role, quite convincingly I might add.  Whatever they paid Harrison Ford to reprise his role as Han Solo, it wasn’t enough, he plays Han as the crotchety old codger, he’s basically playing himself, but it works so well for this character.  Carrie Fisher acquits herself nicely, she still has great timing and chemistry with Ford, and their scenes together are a treat. The one fly in the ointment was Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, he looked like Gene Simmons and delivered his lines with the blandness of Hayden Christiansen.

The direction by Abrams is also superior, the pacing is excellent.  For a two hour and 15 minute movie, the scenes were lightning quick and action packed, and yet had backstory.  There were enough scenes reminiscent of A New Hope to make a veteran of these films comfortable, yet this movie can stand on its own too.  Abrams gets great performances from his cast, which includes a lot of newcomers.  Some of the scenes are predictable, but they had to be included in in the film because they are expected in a film like this.  Abrams had a lot of pressure on him to make a good film, and he did.  So all the rotten things I said about the later seasons of Lost, and Cloverfield, and the two Star Trek movies are forgotten, for now.

Star Wars The Force Awakens:  Abrams not sleepwalking through this movie.