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.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Borg Queen doesn’t love this sequel.

How to Train Your Dragon 2.  (C)

If you are looking for a funny, uplifting, happy movie, don’t go to see this sequel.  This movie takes place several years after the first How to Train Your Dragon, which I found quite charming and witty.  While I still enjoyed many moments between Hiccup (now about 20 years old) and his loyal dragon, Toothless, and some other humorous moments, the movie moved slowly and, at times, purposelessly.  I do not recommend this movie for very young children.  Dragons aren’t always treated terribly well, and there are deaths in the movie that remind me of Bambi, which scarred me for life.  I saw that movie once when I was very young in the theater, and left crying, and never saw it again.  I could see young children having that kind of reaction to this movie too.  I’d wait for the rental.

Non-Stop

The Borg Queen stops long enough to send us this review.

Non-Stop  (B).  I enjoyed this film much more than I anticipated, and it even kept the interest of my teenage daughter, which is saying something.  The story centers on Bill Marks (played by the always entertaining Liam Neeson), an air marshal on a non-stop flight to London.  Shortly into the flight when most people are sleeping, he begins receiving text messages from an unknown number threatening to kill a person every 20 minutes if $150 million is not transferred into a specified account.  Chaos ensues.  Throughout the movie you keep wondering – how is a person going to be killed every 20 minutes when everyone is in such close quarters and he can see everyone?  How is this person getting away with texting Marks without anyone noticing?  It’s not the next Lord of the Rings by any means, but the movie maintains a good pace, is humorous at times, and keeps you guessing.  My daughter and I made a game out of trying to guess first who the culprit was and how they are doing it.  A good rental for a Saturday night with the family.

Maleficent

The Borg Queen checks in on a current release.

Maleficent  (A-)

The first thing my 15-year-old daughter said when this movie ended was, “I loved that movie!”  And I felt the same way.  This movie is a retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty from the vantage point of Maleficent, the fairy (though in the classic she is a witch) that casts the spell that sends Princess Aurora into a deep sleep.  The story keeps many of the basic elements of the original, but the story overall is quite different.  At 97 minutes, the story wastes no time and moves at a good pace.  The special effects were outstanding and Angelia Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent is excellent.  It may have been a bit predictable, but even though you know how a rollercoaster comes to an end doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the ride getting there–at least, not in this case.  The film is rated PG.  Although I think the film overall is good for children of most ages, very young children may be scared by some of the creatures.  There is also one highly dramatic scene that I have since learned is supposed to be a metaphor for rape and plays a large role in the events thereafter.  Though that concept was lost on me when I saw the film, reflecting back on the film now I am struck by how remarkably well Angelina Jolie and the writer captured the emotions of that scene and the events that followed.  Definitely worth your hard-earned money to see this one in the theaters.

Divergent

The Borg Queen fires all phasers at a new release.

Divergent – C+

This movie failed to turn me into a fan of the latest young-adult-book-turned-to-movie craze.  It is yet another teen romance in the context of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Rather than being divided into 12 (or 13) “districts,” though, the people are divided into 5 “factions” and live within the crumbles of what used to be Chicago (partially rebuilt and partially left in ruin) surrounded by a mysterious large fence.  When the teens reach a certain age, they undergo some kind of testing that is supposed to tell them what “faction” they are predisposed to (selflessness, peacefulness, honesty, bravery, intelligence), and then the next day they have to choose which faction to live in, and cut ties with their family if they are in a different faction.  The purpose of this segregation is supposedly to put people in their “place” in order to prevent another uprising.  The story focuses upon Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now), born in the Abnegation faction.  The Abnegation (selfless) faction apparently is the faction that governs all 5 factions, and Tris’s father is one of the leaders.  When Tris undergoes the testing, it reveals that she is “divergent,” meaning she doesn’t fit squarely within any one particular faction – something that supposedly would make her difficult to “control” and a threat to their “everyone knows their place” society.  So, she must lie about her test results to keep her “divergent” result a secret.  On choosing day, Tris breaks away from her family and chooses a different faction, Dauntless (brave), which provides the “police” of the society.  There, she encounters Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening), who is responsible for training the new members/recruits . . . and the typical teen romance develops with Tris.  Kate Winslet (Little Children) plays Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite (intelligent) faction, which tries to overthrow the Abnegation faction.  Overall, the acting in this movie was great, the special effects were great, and the story kept my interest.  But at the same time, the story didn’t make any sense to me.  Dividing people into the 5 factions based on personality traits (as they exist in mid-adolescence) that all people would seem to possess without a significant amount of variance made no sense to me.  And they didn’t explain, at least not well, why Erudite wanted to overthrow Abnegation – especially when Jeanine is portrayed as someone who highly values a lack of uprising, yet is initiating an uprising herself.  This is probably a movie you might enjoy more if you have read the books and already know the story.  I left the movie feeling confused and disappointed.

World War Z

The Borg Queen steps outside her comfort zone.

World War Z – B

I am not a fan of scary movies, and I absolutely loathe zombie movies.  So, I’m not sure what possessed me to see World War Z.  This movie centers on a United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) who is traveling the world trying to find a cure for a pandemic of unknown origins that is causing people to turn into zombies.  One bite, and you’re a zombie seconds later.  The movie wastes no time getting straight into the action and it’s a roller coaster ride all the way to the end.  I was constantly on the edge of my seat (or, under it sometimes) and engaged with the film.  The movie has its fair share of scares and, thankfully, is not gory.  The camera work, especially in the action sequences, is too shaky for my taste, making it hard to see what is actually taking place at times.  I also heard some people grumbling outside the theater about the movie being different from the book upon which the film is based.  So, I guess if you’ve read the book, be open to differences.  Overall, though, this movie is a fun night out.

Man of Steel

The Borg Queen transmits a new movie review.

Man of Steel  (B-).  I was reluctant to see this film.  I’ve seen all of the Superman movies and did not really want to see the same story yet again.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Although many of the key aspects of the Superman story are in this film, the story is changed significantly.  You can go see this film without knowing exactly how everything is going to play out or what is going to happen next.   Although Amy Adams (Enchanted) is not exactly what I have in mind for Lois Lane (and still don’t), I really enjoyed Henry Cavill (TV’s The Tudors) as Superman.  I thought he did a fantastic job and look forward to see him in future films.  The move is long (2 hours, 23 minutes) but it keeps moving generally (though there are a couple of lulls).  The special effects are also generally very good, although there are a few moments (though brief) where the animation was almost comical.  Overall, this movie is certainly worth the price of admission, but I doubt seeing it in 3D adds much.