Non-Spoiler @R eview | The Circle (film)

When it was first published, I weighed in on Dave Eggers’ book, The Circle, as I found a lot of the reaction to the book seemed defensive by those who mainline social media Kool-Aid. (You can read the review of the book for the TL;DR version of what I’m about to say about the film.)

I’m not a fan of those who judge a film by how closely it follows the book on which it is based. But I will note there are some backstories that would have been helpful to include, like how did a company emerge that would crush and replace Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google? (Non-spoiler answer: The founder of the company developed a non-hackable, secure way for everyone to have a digital identity (called TruYou). TruYou is mentioned a lot, but the disappearance of the current incumbent players is treated merely as a suspension of disbelief — that or the fictional device used when fictional companies, say Stark Industries, or cities, say Gotham City, are used to suggest a real version.

One of the criticisms of the book was Eggers’ boasting in interviews that he didn’t spend a lot of time researching the technology. The film feels the same way (unlike, say, something written by William Gibson). However, the film is more of a satire (not the funny SNL kind, but the literary device) than a techno-thriller, sci-fi drama. Eggers gets the technology “close enough” to make the points he’s trying to make.

Moreover, the past three years of the real-life march of technology has helped prove that Eggers didn’t need to know the workings of technology to predict the outcome that occurs when we start believing that any new announcement by Google or Facebook will lead to a greater good for mankind.

Downside: Unfortunately, the movie is boring at times.

But despite that, the movie is worth seeing for two reasons: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. They are allowed to develop as characters and they both have the acting skills to make us believe they are those characters and not the cardboard cutouts seen in most internet-tech films.

Only one other actor rises to his task in the film: the late Bill Paxton as the father of Emma Watson’s character.

Bottomline: The movie, like the book, does point out the unintended consequences of new technology. (Would we be better off today if Twitter was never created?) But it’s not a great movie — it’s not compelling and convincing beyond the two principals.

Recommendation: For people who think Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have taken over the world in evil ways, go see it.

Another Recommendation: Last fall (2016), I wrote a brief review of one episode of in the second season of Black Mirror called Nosedive. It, too, is a satire (the Jonathon Swift kind) of social-reputation gone amoke. While it differs in direction, it displays a lot more intensity by using sci-fi techniques that place it in the “near future” rather than the now future.

An Epic Binge Watch You Can’t Refuse

Next time you’re looking for a binge classic, this is it.

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic. Apparently neither has Rotten Tomatoes, as it has no reviews. First released in 1981, Epic is a re-edited seven-hour version of The Godfather and Godfather II, remixed into a “chronological” narrative instead of Coppola’s masterful flashbacks in the original films. Epic also added some scenes that didn’t make it into the original theatrical versions.

I vaguely recall there was a version of I & II re-edited into a TV mini-series called The Godfather Saga, but that version stuck to the original story sequence and edited out what Emily Litella used to call “violins on television” and dirty words.

Epic aired on HBO last Sunday (Jan. 24, 2016) and this link (at least, temporarily) has information about more showings and the film’s on-demand options (HBO Go, HBO Now, Cable company apps, etc.) and future air dates.

The Godfather for the Binge-watch Era

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While I was not able to “binge watch” it at one stretch (it took me most of a week), I can’t imagine there being a greater example of how to remix two classic films into the perfect binge whole. Epic successfully appropriates and changes an existing work of art to create something completely new and completely different, and, in its own way, completely great. However…

Two things to note about Epic:

1 | It wisely doesn’t appropriate anything from the god-awful Godfather III. In fact, I think it was released even before there was a Godfather III.

2 | If you have never seen Godfather I & II, don’t watch Epic first. Here’s a quote from The AV Club’ review of Epic that explains why:

While this sequential edit is an interesting way to rewatch the films after you’ve already seen them a half dozen times, it does lose some of the cinematic magic that made these films the classics they are today. The tragedy of Michael’s missteps as the Corleone patriarch is diminished somewhat when no longer juxtaposed with his father’s rise to power.”

That said, the reviewer goes on to admit:

…”(such) trifling criticisms are mitigated by glimpses at reinstated scenes like a conversation between Michael and his father about the need to avenge the murder of the eldest Corleone son, Santino (Sonny).”

Next time you’re looking for a binge classic, this is it.

Review: The Nickel Creek reunion tour proves that absence does, indeed, make the heart grow fonder

Rather than having a reunion, the three musicians picked it up where they left off six years ago, with a little more nuance and appreciation for what they’ve done–and continue to do–together. And a lot more fun.

For the past 12 years, posts about music on this blog have been rare. And on those rare occasions, those posts have been almost 100% about the members of Nickel Creek. (The reason for why “just them” is buried in those posts, somewhere.)

This post is the next in that rare tradition.

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