The Circle

The Borg Queen stops by with a new review.

The Circle  (C-).  When this movie ended, I said to myself, “I thought it was just getting started.” The movie never takes off. It is based on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson, Noah) getting a job at a big brother version of Facebook that basically records and monitors multiple aspects of a person’s life (and physiology) as well as in society. Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) channels his inner Steve Jobs as the leader of the technology and social-media giant, making presentations to his Circlers with a coffee cup in hand showing off his latest technology on a stage. You get the gist that he has some sinister plan, but it was never clear to me what exactly it was, but maybe I just got bored. John Boyega (The Force Awakens) plays Ty, who actually founded the Circle but managed to go “off line” and lurk around the Circle mothership without anyone noticing or even knowing who he is for the most part. Ty befriends Mae rather quickly, but the relationship storyline doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. It appeared to me to be simply a tool used near end of the movie, and then the movie suddenly ends. Overall I found the movie unrealistic and trying way too hard to be cool and mysterious, relying upon its casting over its storyline. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes an appearance as Mae’s father. This was apparently his last role before his unexpected death and I’ve read that there is a dedication to him at the end of the credits. This movie is supposedly based on a book. If you like reading, I’d suggest trying the book instead.

Gaslight

The Movie Snob checks in with a new review of an old movie.

Gaslight  (B+).  This 1942 classic stars the beauteous Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) as Paula Alquist.  In the opening scene, we see a very young Paula being escorted away from the London townhome where she has just discovered the body of her murdered aunt (her guardian since birth).  Flash forward a few years, and Paula is living in Italy.  She has followed in her aunt’s footsteps by studying music and singing, but we learn she has just been swept off her feet by a debonair foreigner named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer, Fanny).  Anton is strangely eager to move to London, and into the townhouse Paula inherited from her aunt.  And once they are ensconced there, Paula seems to start to lose her grip on her sanity, and Gregory becomes ever more controlling.  What is happening?  Straight-arrow Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten, The Third Man) senses something is amiss, but can he figure it out in time to help Paula?  I quite enjoyed this classic old noir.  Watch for a young Angela Lansbury (TV’s Murder, She Wrote) as a saucy housemaid.

Split

The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.

Split  (F).  I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while.  And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) play the villain.  So I decided to give it a try.  I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work.  McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder.  At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth.  He takes some of their clothes.  He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.”  In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent.  Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks.  I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in.  Much better.

P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one.  It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.

Nocturnal Animals

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Nocturnal Animals  (D).  I knew this movie was supposed to be dark, but it stars all-American girl next door Amy Adams (Arrival), so how dark could it really be?  Very dark, as it turns out, and disturbing as well.  The opening scene is grotesque and disturbing.  Then we dig into the real story–Susan Morrow (Adams) is a miserable Los Angeleno in a loveless marriage.  Then she gets a package from her long-ago ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch).  It’s the manuscript of his new novel, Nocturnal Animals, and we see the novel play out on the screen as Susan reads it.  In the novel (and on the screen), a mild-mannered husband (also Gyllenhaal) and his wife (Isla Fisher, The Great Gatsby) and daughter (Ellie Bamber, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) are terrorized by a trio of west Texas rednecks who run them off the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  After this sequence, which is suspenseful AND disturbing, the husband turns to a laconic lawman (an excellent Michael Shannon, Midnight Special) to help him get justice.  Is Susan’s ex-husband trying to tell her something with his novel?  I’m not usually very attuned to subtext in movies, but it seems like director Tom Ford is beating us over the head with one here.  Anyway, this movie was too dark and disturbing, and ultimately unconvincing, for me.  Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language — and they mean it.

Morgan

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Morgan  (D).  Okay, you are probably asking yourself, “Why did The Movie Snob waste his time with this poorly reviewed sci-fi thriller?”  Basically, I saw it because it features Anya Taylor-Joy, who was quite good in the recent spookfest The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and I wanted to see more of her acting chops.  Unfortunately, this movie was not a good showcase for anybody.  Kate Mara (The Martian) stars as Lee Weathers, a corporate honcho sent to investigate an “accident” at a secret research facility under a spooky old backwoods house.  Turns out that genetic experiments have resulted in the creation of Morgan (Taylor-Joy), a freaky smart and strong teenaged girl who is actually only 5 years old.  And we all know how playing God with genetic experiments goes.  There’s very little fun to be had, but it is sort of fun watching notable actors you didn’t know were in the movie pop up unexpectedly.  Hey, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now)!  And Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages)!  And that guy who played Agamemnon in Troy!  But the movie is basically a stale retread of other movies, some better (Ex Machina, Hanna) and some not (Species).  The ending is a real howler.  Skip it.

Hell or High Water

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Hell or High Water  (B+).  This is the best movie I have seen in a while–a tense little crime drama about a couple of brothers who go on a bank-robbing spree in various desolate west Texas towns.  Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) chews the scenery and steals the show as the grizzled old Texas Ranger (a few weeks from retirement, naturally) who is on their trail, but his Hispanic partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, Twilight) has some memorable lines as well.  The bank-robbing brothers are fine too: loose cannon Tanner (Ben Foster, The Messenger) and thoughtful, relatively honorable Toby (Chris Pine, Into the Woods).  What are the brothers really after?  Will the Rangers catch up with them, and what will happen if they do?  It’s rather like Bonnie and Clyde, I suppose, except I liked this movie even better.  Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan also wrote last year’s very good Emily Blunt pic Sicario, so I think he is one to watch.

Nerve

The Move Snob finally makes it back to the movie house.

Nerve (C-).  A suspense flick about about a bunch of teenagers who get caught up in a dangerous web-based game of truth-or-dare (minus the truth part) is not exactly the kind of movie that would ordinarily catch my eye.  But The Weekly Standard‘s movie reviewer, John Podhoretz, called it a “nifty suspense thriller,” so I thought I’d give it a look before it disappears from the big screen.  I should have looked for something else.  Emma Roberts (Hotel for Dogs) plays Vee, a good girl who gets caught up in the thrill of the game, and Dave Franco (Neighbors) plays the sketchy hunk that the game throws in her path.  It’s kind of like a cross between those classic 1990s flicks The Net and The Game.  It’s never terribly believable (or suspenseful), and the ending is ridiculous.  But if you’re a parent of teenagers or soon-to-be teenagers, it might make you even more nervous about what your kids are doing online.  If you’re not, it’s just a cheesy way to spend 96 minutes of your life.