The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

Advertisements

My Top Ten Bill Paxton Movies

I was sad to hear of the death of Bill Paxton over the weekend. He has such an impressive movie resume! It’s funny how, even though he was only in very small roles at first, he still managed to be in so many beloved, kick-ass classics. Especially numbers one & two on my list… AWESOME films! It’s great that he ended up in bigger roles in things such as Twister & Apollo 13 but I’ll always first think of him as the lovably annoying Hudson in Aliens and as the hilarious asshole brother Chet in Weird Science.

I honestly thought I’d already done a Bill Paxton Top Ten list in the past as he’s been in several of my favorite movies but it looks like I never did. As always, I’ve ranked these in order from my least favorite to favorite movie as opposed to character role. So, in his memory, here are My Top Ten Bill Paxton Movies (counting down from 16 to include everything I’ve seen):

16. True Lies
15. Mighty Joe Young
14. Nightcrawler
13. Frailty
12. The Last Supper (but need to re-watch & refresh my memory, really)
11. Near Dark (also need to re-watch)

TOP TEN:

10. Commando

9. Twister

8. Streets Of Fire

7. Apollo 13

6. Predator 2

5. Titanic

4. Edge Of Tomorrow

3. Weird Science

2. The Terminator

1. Aliens

Seen But Don’t Remember:
Stripes
Indian Summer
U-571

Never Saw:
Navy Seals (Can you believe that, with my Michael Biehn crush??)
Brain Dead (I like the sound of this one…)
Tombstone
Boxing Helena
The Evening Star
A Simple Plan
Haywire
2 Guns

Finally, I think most people my age know that Bill Paxton directed & starred in the bizarre Barnes And Barnes “short film” video for the song Fish Heads.

In looking up his film credits, I noticed he was also in two other music videos. Love the Pat Benatar video for Shadows Of The Night! I’d forgotten about that video. I miss the “story” videos of the Eighties. Anyway – watch out for Paxton in a small role as a WWII baddie in that video. Also, he starred in New Order’s Touched By The Hand Of God, which I must admit I’d never seen. What a great, eclectic career. Bill Paxton will be missed.

R.I.P. William “Bill” Paxton (May 17, 1955 – February 25, 2017)

Streets Of Fire (1984) Review

IMG_1385

Streets Of Fire (1984)

Directed by Walter Hill

Starring: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Daily

Music by Ry Cooder

Running time: 93 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB):
A mercenary goes after his ex-girlfriend, a singer who has been kidnapped by a gang.

IMG_1476

My Opinion:

Streets Of Fire is one of those movies I always regretted not seeing back in the Eighties. Then, after watching The Warriors a couple of years ago and absolutely loving it, I knew I should finally watch Streets Of Fire as it was also made by Walter Hill. But I still didn’t get around to it! I finally decided to check it out after watching Diane Lane in the great little obscure 1982 film Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Unfortunately, this is definitely not as good as The Warriors and even The Fabulous Stains is better in a lot of ways. This has a cheesy sort of appeal, though, and I’m sure it has its fans amongst those who saw it at the time & grew up with it. But it probably won’t connect with anyone watching it for the first time nowadays whereas I think The Warriors continues to gain new fans.

IMG_1472

As the poster says, this was apparently marketed as “a rock & roll fable”. There are a lot of songs in this and I think whether or not you buy into the movie will depend on if you like the music. A lot of the music was by Ry Cooder and I can’t say I remember any of it after a first watch even though it wasn’t long ago that I saw it (except for I Can Dream About You by Dan Hartman since I already knew that song. That was stuck in my head for days afterwards!). The songs by Diane Lane’s band in the film were a bit bland & reminded me of something Meat Loaf might sing. The movie is a very odd mix of the Fifties rock ‘n’ roll thing and the early Eighties style-wise & musically. I’ve never really been a fan of the Fifties rock ‘n’ roll thing so that may be why the movie didn’t work so well for me. Also, I just couldn’t really take the two main male characters seriously when they wore their pants so high. Seriously! This is NOT a good look. Especially whatever the hell Willem Dafoe is wearing here:

IMG_1475

IMG_1491

Hilarious! The hot one in the stupid suspenders there is Michael Paré, the film’s hero. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything else and as I watched this I thought “he’s cute but he’s a pretty damn bad actor – no wonder he wasn’t in anything else”. Then I looked him up on IMDB and he’s been in 126 things & he’s still going strong! What?! What are all these movies Paré has been in? This dude’s career has completely passed me by – I knew of him & that he was in Streets Of Fire but that’s all. Huh. Hopefully his acting improved? I suppose he worked as the sexy but dumb hero that women want to sleep with…

IMG_1483

Diane Lane’s character was a pretty big disappointment, especially just after seeing her in The Fabulous Stains where her character had far more personality & depth. She’s nothing but a pretty “damsel in distress” in Streets Of Fire. Luckily we got two better female characters with Amy Madigan’s soldier who helps Paré to rescue Lane & Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who was also great in The Warriors, as Paré’s sister. I’ve already mentioned Dafoe & his silly pants – it was funny seeing him in this as I didn’t know he was in it (he plays the main bad guy & kidnapper). Rick Moranis was also a surprise as was Elizabeth Daily once again starring with Lane in a slightly bigger role than she had in The Fabulous Stains. Plus we also get Bill Paxton once again looking like a total douche in an Eighties film! I miss good old douchey Bill Paxton from the Eighties. He was more fun than leading role Bill Paxton of later times. He’ll never top his Weird Science role! Remember when he was in that Fish Heads video? Am I going off on one of my tangents again?

IMG_1484

IMG_1486

Summary:

I clearly don’t have much to say about this film so I’ll just wrap this up. These are the kind of movies I find most difficult to write about: the “meh” ones. I can get a little passionate when I really love (or hate) a movie but have very little to say when I don’t really care. I know I’d like this a lot more if I’d seen it at the time but, despite it trying for a bit of a Fifties feel, it’s a little too stuck in 1984. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll always like a mediocre film from 1984 a million times more than a mediocre film from today and I did enjoy this a lot more than I’ve made it sound. I just feel bad because I really wanted to like it more than I did. I thought I might be discovering yet another little gem from my favorite era just like The Warriors & The Fabulous Stains. Oh well – two out of three ain’t bad. Hey, that’s a Meat Loaf song!

My Rating: 6.5/10

IMG_1481

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

IMG_7420-1.JPG

Nightcrawler (2014)

Directed by Dan Gilroy

Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Rene Russo
Riz Ahmed
Bill Paxton

Running time: 117 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Nightcrawler tells the story of a driven young man who stumbles upon the underground world of Los Angeles freelance crime journalism.

IMG_7432.JPG

My Opinion:

I’m not sure how to go about reviewing this one. I did think it was good but, unfortunately, not quite as good as I was expecting. I’ll say this isn’t necessarily my usual “type” of movie plus I’ve never really been a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal. I think I was just expecting much more of a hard hitting drama and something even darker? This feels like a “movie”. It’s pretty & glossy just like the news shows in the film. So maybe that was the whole point? I don’t know. We all know the issues raised in this film – people who may be willing to go too far in their pursuit of what they want and sensationalist journalism, etc. It’s not really anything new so the concept was totally believable. However, too many things in the film really weren’t very realistic so it made it feel too much like a “movie” as some of these things wouldn’t actually happen in real life. I can’t get specific as I have to avoid spoilers.

IMG_7435.JPG

I know a lot of people have praised Gyllenhaal’s performance. He’s definitely very good at playing the subtle creepiness of his character. I think it’s another case of a performance being better than the film itself. Man, why do I always sound so negative in my reviews? Am I too picky?!

IMG_7441.JPG

Here’s what I liked: I loved the look of the film and all the shots of the city at night. I’m a small town girl and big cities stress me out but I do love the look of all the city lights at nighttime. I far prefer London after dark! Like I said, Gyllenhaal is very good in this and it was also nice seeing Rene Russo in a movie again plus I really liked Riz Ahmed’s character. Oh, and Bill Paxton! Who doesn’t love Bill Paxton at least a little bit thanks to Aliens and Weird Science?? I also did really like the story overall and thought they did a good job keeping it interesting the whole time. Even though it’s pretty predictable, I was happy with the conclusion of the film and the final half hour is gripping.

IMG_7439.JPG

Summary:

Nightcrawler is a good film and if it looks like your type of thing or if you’re a fan of Gyllenhaal, you should definitely check it out despite my lacklustre review. It’s not a perfect film but I think my expectations were just a little too high. It’s thoroughly entertaining and perhaps it’s meant to be slightly shallow as it’s making a statement on our society being this way. Yeah… I probably just missed the point!

My Rating: 7/10

IMG_7433.JPG

Weird Science (1985) Guest Review

20140311-100808 pm.jpg

Today’s review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Kieron of What About The Twinkie?. Thanks for being a part of this, Kieron! This is the first time we’re getting a multiple review of something (but there will be plenty more – including several for Sixteen Candles!). If you want to see what Eric & I thought of this one, you can click HERE. But first let’s hear Kieron’s thoughts on Weird Science. 🙂

20140311-101332 pm.jpg

Director: John Hughes Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith & Kelly LeBrock Synopsis: “Two nerdish boys attempt to create the perfect woman, but she turns out to be more than that.” Runtime: 94 minutes Rating: 12

“We need more input. We gotta fill this thing up with data. We gotta make her as real as possible, Wyatt. I want her to live. I want her to breathe. I want her to aerobicise.”

Weird Science is a movie I fell in love with not as a child or a teenager, but as an adult. As I must confess that I only saw the movie for the first time about 6 years on a VoD service when I needed something to cheer me up. The movie was released in 1985, which meant I was only a 1 year old at the time of its release, but unlike some of John Hughes’ other efforts such as Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, which I did watch growing up, Weird Science took its time in gaining my attention.

I’m not entirely sure how or why I missed out on Weird Science growing up, because looking at it now it had everything I could have wanted in a movie when I was younger. Two nerdish boys, who somewhat reflected my own time at school, goofy special effects, some brilliantly funny jokes and a smoking hot woman in the form of Kelly LeBrock all make up a delightfully silly movie about two nerds who create their perfect woman.

The premise is the best kind of nonsense, as two highschool nerds, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), decide one Friday night, after watching Frankenstein on the TV nonetheless, that they are going to create something of their own. After hacking into a government computer network, for more power, and then connecting a barbie doll to Wyatt’s computer a lightning bolt strikes which causes all sorts of mayhem only for Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) to emerge from the carnage.

The science behind Weird Science is pure 80’s nonsense. I doubt anyone seriously believed any of this was at all possible, especially at a time when technology was really only just finding its feet. Still, it’s this kind of loopy science fiction that gave many an 80’s movie its charm, and charm is something that Weird Science has by the bucket load.

Once the initial three leads are set up, the story moves quickly, as our protagonists move from staying in watching movies on a Friday night to bar crawling their way through the city as Lisa encourages them to let loose and have some fun for a change. Lisa is the kind of creation that can somehow manipulate environments and seemingly create things at will, as she has to make fake ID’s for our two heroes in order for them to be able to drink, drive and drink and drive legally.

Hughes makes the clever decision to focus on the characters and not so much on the plot here. The plot is established quickly, leaving the endearing charm of the three main characters to hold things together. Anthony Michael Hall, starring in his third Hughes directed movie by this point, gets some of the best lines in the movie and really excels in a bar scene explaining to his new friends how the girl “with the big titties” broke his heart. While Mitchell-Smith plays the straight guy who has to be the foil to Gary and his own older brother Chet, played by Bill Paxton.

Both Michael Hall and Mitchell-Smith are charming in their roles despite being the school nerds. They are ably supported by a superb cast who, despite limited screentime for some, manage to leave their mark on a movie that could easily have forgotten about them (see what I did there?). Robert Downey Jr. makes an early career appearance as one of the bullies who continually picks on Wyatt and Gary and then stupidly believes he has a chance with Lisa. Vernon Wells essentially makes an appearance as the same character he played in Mad Max 2, which further adds to the bizarre elements of the movie. While the previously mentioned Paxton plays Wyatt’s hardass military brother, who likes to give Wyatt a hard time throughout the movie, but pays for it when he encounters Lisa late on and who gives him more than he bargained for. When asking him to keep quiet about the movies events, she exclaims: “I can be a real serious bitch, if I don’t get what I want!”

Kelly LeBrock threatens to steal the show several times throughout the movie, getting some great lines and delivering them with a poise that makes her character even more likeable. On the John Hughes documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me, LeBrock admits to her character being “Mary Poppins with breasts” and in all honesty she is correct. Despite being sexy, she is never there for sex or to really pleasure the boys in any way, but more to give them a guiding hand and teach them a thing or two about self confidence. She is the emotional core of the movie, loving the boys, nurturing them and sticking up for them when they either can’t or won’t.

That is Hughes’ greatest strength here, as he directs a movie that is so daft in principal, that he manages to make a character piece about two teenage boys growing up being bullied and laughed at throughout their entire school life, or being told they will amount to no good from their overbearing parents. To then find the self confidence to break out of their shells and and become more than they thought they could. The struggles of teenage life are apparent in many of his efforts, particularly his earlier movies, and they remain here too. Despite the special effects and nonsense science, Weird Science is simply a, very funny story of two teenage boys encountering things for the first time in their lives. From drink, to women, cars to fights a simple tale exists of two boys growing up.

In summary: A fine effort from Hughes, with a young cast on top form, Weird Science is a superior piece of 80’s nostalgia that still stands up today.

Weird Science (1985) Review At The IPC

20140303-083724 pm.jpg
The John Hughes Blogathon reviews officially kick off now with my double review of Weird Science with Eric of The IPC. You can read what we both think of the film HERE.

I posted yesterday about how much the John Hughes films mean to me and why I’m doing this blogathon. It blew my mind a little when I found out that Eric, who is about the same age as me, didn’t watch most of the teen John Hughes movies back when we were teenagers. What?! So he kindly agreed to watch & review several Hughes films for this blogathon. Thanks again, Eric, for watching movies I know aren’t your normal type of thing and for inspiring me to finally do my own blogathon. 🙂

And stay tuned for a review later today from a guest blogger reviewing another classic teen movie from Hughes.