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! πŸ˜‰ 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):

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Paperhouse (1988) Review

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Paperhouse (1988)

Directed by Bernard Rose

Based the novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr

Starring:
Charlotte Burke
Glenne Headly
Elliott Spiers
Ben Cross

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Summary: (via IMDB)
Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare.

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My Opinion:

Well, what a strange little movie this was! I’m not quite sure what to think of it. If I’d have seen this as a 12 or 13-year-old, I think I’d have loved it. It’s very much the weird sort of dark fantasy/slightly scary kind of thing I always loved (my favorite TV show from a very young age was The Twilight Zone). Too bad I missed out on this one, probably because it’s an obscure British film. I caught this on the Horror Channel a few months ago and it’s a shame that the quality was sooo AWFUL. Just like when I watched the movie Popcorn, it was harder to fully enjoy because of that. I thought the story was great, though. Like all the other movies I’ve reviewed this week, this was based on a novel (Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr). I know nothing about it but imagine it’s a good read and, again, am sure I’d have loved it as a pre-teen. I bet the few now-grown-up kids who saw this in 1988 would be like “Oh, wow – I remember that movie!”. There are certainly some scenes that would stay with you if you’d seen it at a young age and a couple that were kind of “borderline” on the horror and violence so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 12 or 13. When looking this up, I saw that it’s from the same director (Bernard Rose) who later went on to make Candyman. A lot of reviews compare this movie to Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, which is kind of a fair comparison although Paperhouse is certainly less horrific. It’s just a bit “eerie” and slightly unsettling. It also reminded me in a small way of things like Labyrinth and Mirrormask, two other movies that involve young teens living in their own fantasy worlds.

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In Paperhouse, an 11-year-old girl is home recovering from an illness when she draws a house which she soon starts visiting in her dreams. She finds she can add to this world by drawing more of the picture but things soon turn sinister in her dream world. I was a little confused by the sudden turn of events having to do her father and am not sure what the meaning of that was meant to be. I enjoyed it because I like to see films that are a bit “different” but it’s not one I put much thought into afterwards. The movie doesn’t go out if its way to explain things and I suppose you could interpret her dream world in different ways. I’m curious about the book now and if it goes into more detail or if, like the movie, it’s up to you to decide what it all means. It’s certainly not a film for everyone and it’s hard to know if I’d recommend it to anyone. Hmm. Oh! I know who might like it! Laura – I think you’d be interested in checking this one out. πŸ™‚

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Summary:

An odd film that, I think, is aimed at a pre to mid-teen audience. I really liked the central story of a young girl living in an eerie fantasy world that she’s created in her drawings and the relationship she forms with the boy she meets in this world. Everything is dark and grey and dreary and I’m not entirely sure if that’s down to the horrible quality of the version I saw or if it’s just because, well, it’s set in England (Ha! No, I’m actually not joking – you wouldn’t believe how sunless & dreary it is here). It helps sets the tone & mood of the film, though, and makes it feel like more of a “horror” film than it actually is. I’m really not sure how to rate this one… In some ways, I found it great and very refreshing as it’s so unusual and I love to get a break from your typical mainstream types of movies sometimes. However, I don’t know if it’s exactly a “good” film. It feels very low budget & 80’s (not negative things in my book) and… I don’t know! Seriously – I have no clue what to rate this one. Brian is going to yell at me for my confusing ratings again if he reads this. I actually had this movie on my to-watch list for YEARS after reading about it a very very long time ago and liking the sound of it. I’m very glad I managed to finally see it & it’s one that will stay with me as the story and visuals were so unique. It may not be the best film I’ve seen this year but it’s one of the most memorable. I appreciate its creativity.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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By the way – Thanks to everyone for all your wonderful comments on my blog this week! I don’t get much time to reply to anyone during the week – I’ll catch up with you all this weekend! πŸ™‚

Don Jon (2013) Review

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Don Jon (2013)

Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Starring:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Scarlett Johansson
Julianne Moore
Rob Brown
Glenne Headly
Brie Larson
Tony Danza

Running time: 90 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Italian American Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) is a modern day Don Juan, with a short list of things he cares about: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. Although he has an active sex life with women he meets at nightclubs, he looks at pornography on the Internet habitually, preferring it to sex.

But one night while clubbing, he meets Barbara Sugarman (Johansson). Will she be the one to make Jon care more about a real live girl than his precious porn? (That bit via me)

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My Opinion:

This is an odd one – I’m not sure how to go about reviewing it. Great directing effort from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I like JGL so wanted to see how he’d done with this film and I think he did a good job as both director and star of the film. Did I like the film? Not sure. It’s a decent enough film but one I can’t relate to in ANY way, shape or form.

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The characters in this movie are, well, not the type of people I’ve ever known in my life. They lead a totally different lifestyle to mine and care about completely different things to what I care about. I’m assuming they’re a little like those on Jersey Shore? Well, I’ve never watched that and don’t plan to. EVER. Being so self-absorbed & all that sleeping around & watching football & going to church once a week to tell the priest dude that you’ve w#*ked to porn 35 times in one week…?? Not to sound like a prude but I can’t relate to ANY of that. Is this what people in New Jersey do? Maybe I’m too Midwestern. πŸ˜‰

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So Jon w#*ks to porn in this movie. A LOT. I liked all the crumpled up tissues in the trash throughout this. (TMI?). His sister is ALWAYS typing on her phone in EVERY scene, even while in church. This I loved and, as I figured from the start, the sister would prove the wisest of them all. Best character in the film. Don Jon’s family were also quite likeable – his mom was great and Tony Danza was perfect as his dad. But I always wonder if people go up to him in real life and sing “Hold me closer, Tony Danza!” ever since Phoebe on Friends thought that’s what Elton John was singing. I bet Tony Danza finds that annoying when people do that. You know they must. I totally would.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Scarlett Johansson – these are the main characters and they’re the ones who are the hardest to like. So, obviously, this movie is about whether or not JGL’s Jon can change his ways and, without giving too much away, he does become a bit more likeable by the end of the film. Johansson? Well, she’s good in the role and it was probably quite fun playing such a psycho hose beast… Then there was the quite unexpected Julianne Moore role. I won’t say what her exact role was but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. She’s good in this but, well… It’s just a bit odd. That’s all I’ll say. Not sure I bought the ending of the film. It was a satisfying enough conclusion but, all in all, I’m not sure what point the film is trying to make beyond “meaningful sex is better than lots of meaningless sex”? Well, duh. Or “Girls have unrealistic expectations thanks to sappy romance movies & guys have unrealistic expectations thanks to porn movies”? Well, duh. I did think they needed to show Johansson going through as many tissues while watching her sappy romance movies as JGL does while watching his porn… (TMI?)

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Summary:

A good effort from Joseph Gordon-Levitt both directing the film & starring as the churchgoing porn-addict lunkhead Jon Martello from New Jersey. The main characters are hard to like but some fun supporting characters, especially Jon’s family, help make up for this a bit. The moral of the story feels a bit pointless as it’s something we all surely know? Overall, I’m not exactly sure what the point of the film was but it’s an entertaining enough way to spend 90 minutes. But if you really want to watch some sort of sex addiction movie, Shame is much better (and far more raunchy, if that’s your kind of thing).

My Rating: 7/10

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