THE CIRCLE 

Could be the scariest film of the year. The title refers to a global tech giant with a suffocatingly “inclusive” corporate culture that pressures all employees to be “involved” (sound familiar?). The maguffin is a tiny fish-eye camera that can be stuck anywhere and watched by anyone from anywhere. The company encourages everyone to stick there EVERYWHERE. The goal is “transparency.” Everything is stored in the cloud. No more secrets, because criminals and terrorists and child molesters thrive in secrecy. Now everyone can know everything. Would-be Cassandras warning of the death of privacy are drowned out as social media wildly embraces it. Emma Watson becomes a global heroine after she volunteers to stay online 24/7.
The scare — for me, at least — is that this technology is so very feasible in the near future, and I can see the drones populating FB and the Twitterverse totally jumping on it. I’m well aware that privacy is a myth these days, but imagine Google or the government (they might be the same before long) knowing even more about you than it does already. A credible nightmare.
As a film, however, not so great. I loved Emma Watson as Hermione, but she’s flat here. There’s no suspense, but I was okay with that, because the premise is so horrifying.

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GIFTED

An intriguing film about how to treat the truly gifted among is. Little McKenna Grace does a star turn as the 7-year-old math genius. Her grandmother wants her to realize her full potential via tutors and the uncle who’s raising her doesn’t want her to grow up isolated like her mother (who committed suicide). A great cast but you will fall for McKenna Grace like you fell for little Dakota Fanning.

SHIN GODZILLA

Not your typical daikaiju film. In a way, it’s a “Gojira” reboot, but the drama is mostly human, the characters are politicians, and emphasis is on how a bureaucracy will respond to a daikaiju threat. Godzilla could be a typhoon or tsunami or any other natural disaster. Sounds awful, right? I can’t believe I liked it, but I did. I watched the whole damn thing with rapt attention. Script, acting, cinematography — all excellent. It has a message for Japan — and for Americans.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Vol. 2

After the disappointment of the most recent “Alien” installment, I almost sent this back unwatched, figuring I’d be wasting another 2+ hours feeling “Been there, done that.” So glad I didn’t. What a delightful romp. Check your brain at the door and let it happen. I couldn’t help flashing on Chris Morgan’s revamp of the “Fast & Furious” films with their emphasis on family (a theme that has carried the franchise into its 8th episode) because Vol. 2 here is all about family in its many varied forms. It is by turns funny, touching, cute, and relentlessly entertaining. Hardly a scene in its 135-min running time is wasted. (The opening credits were the weakest sequence.) Kurt Russell has a major role but Michael Rooker steals the movie. You can quibble about this and quibble about that, but from the git-go the film promises eye-catching sci-fi fun and that’s what it delivers. 

GIFTED

An intriguing film about how to treat the truly gifted among us. Little McKenna Grace does a star turn as the 7-year-old math genius. Her grandmother wants her to realize her full potential via tutors and the uncle who’s raising her doesn’t want her to grow up isolated like her mother (who committed suicide). A great cast but you will fall for McKenna Grace like you fell for little Dakota Fanning. FF=0

MOANA

I’m blown away by the beauty of the rendering and the in-your-face theme of self realization. This is not something you expect out of the statist-collectivist pits of Hollywood. According to the collectivists, the individual is worthless (“You didn’t build that”) yet here we have this gutsy, free-thinking gal ignoring her culture’s be-happy-with-what-you’ve-got ethic and striking out on her own to improve her lot, and thus saving everyone else in the process. This is right up there with “Tomorrowland.” Must be some closet libertarians at Disney beside Brad Bird.
FF=0

The Accountant

I’m not sure what to say or even think about this. It’s a little bit “Rain Man” and a little bit “John Wick” (though paced more like the former). It employs most of the thriller tropes but in a somewhat different way. Do you see my problem? I can’t say this is a must-see thriller but I was engaged enough to keep my finger off the FF button.
FF=0