Tag Archives: James Ponsoldt

The Circle (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: James Ponsoldt (screenplay), Dave Eggers (screenplay)
Stars: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane

Having watched “The Circle” on Netflix I have mixed feelings about this film in so many levels. The main character portrayed by Emma Watson “Mae” is in a dead end job and portrays a young lady with an unfulfilled life. Receiving a life changing call from her best friend Annie (Karen Gillan) that she has been accepted into the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company “The Circle”

“The Circle” facility isn’t much different from working environments that major companies such as Apple or Microsoft create in blending working life with social life and an informal office space. Mae rises through the ranks and is encouraged by the founder of “The Circle” Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) to engage in groundbreaking experiments that push the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her personal life and in particular her family are affected by the environment that she becomes involved in.

Staying on this side of the characters it was one of the plus points of the movie and if they had shown us more of the effect on her family I think the movie would have been better balanced and added more Drama. Sadly portraying her parents Vinnie and Bonnie were the late great actors Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly who only passed away this year and tragically only 4 months apart. Both Paxton and Headly are fine in this movie and the characters give the movie some humanity and roundedness that is necessary in this story.

John Boyega (Ty) and Karen Gillan (Annie) sadly with their acting credentials they are supporting characters at best and don’t offer much to the storyline other than a link to normality for Mae as does the character of Mercer played by Ellar Coltrane who could have been potential boyfriend material for Mae at the beginning of the movie but dissipates as the story unfolds and only serves as a moral compass at the movies climax.

I mentioned earlier that I have mixed feelings about this movie and that is because of the acting line up for this movie offered so much talent but disappointingly come off a little wooden at times and I’ll even go as far as saying a little cringey at times with their delivery and dialogue. That’s not a direct dig at James Ponsoldt who Directed the movie and wrote the screen play. I just felt that some scenes felt over explained and dragged on and felt the Director was overemphasising the need to assume his audience would require a lot of the script to be dumbed down to understand the “techy speak”

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hanks for over 30 years now and he rarely disappoints and although the character of Eamon Bailey the founder of “The Circle” comes off as a Steve Jobs / Mark Zuckerberg hybrid pioneer I didn’t hate the character as much as the filmmaker was intending Bailey to be as the “Villain” of the movie. Just like the Jobs and Zuckerbergs of this world they pushed the technology envelope as far as they could and were always looking for the next “What Next?” in their companies. That doesn’t make them the bad guy in any sense. I have to admit I hated the staff at “The Circle” more.

“The Circle” if I am comparing similar tones is a blend of “The Social Network” and “The Truman Show” where it attempts to test the audiences feelings on privacy and morals but just falls flat as another flaw I felt in the movie was when this story takes place. If it’s in the near future then I can accept some of the processes and ideas the company are trying to project as they appear flawed and a little far fetched but “could” be possible one day (I’m thinking George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four predictions)

In Summary “The Circle” is a not bad film. Yes it has it flaws like most films and the potential is always greater than the end result. I would recommend giving it a watch as the subject matter is interesting enough although the drama is a bit run of the mill, it does make you think (however crass at times) I would give it a go.

The End of the Tour (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Donald Margulies (screenplay),  David Lipsky (book)
Stars: Jason Segel,  Jesse Eisenberg,  Anna Chlumsky, Ron Livingston, Joan Cusack

The End of the Tour begins in David Lipsky’s apartment whilst working on his computer receives a call with some devastating news. The first sound we hear in the movie is R.E.M.’s “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” from their 1992 album “Automatic for the People. What a fantastic track to set the tone of this movie and right away I’m there…..

Lipsky rummages around his apartment looking for some old cassettes (and batteries) from his interview with acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace.

In 1996, Rolling Stone Magazine writer David Lipsky (Eisenberg) begged his superior played by Ron Livingston and credited as “David Lipsky’s Editor” for a chance to interview Wallace (Siegel) on a book tour about his 1000 page epic novel, Infinite Jest, which he agrees to. Lipsky makes the journey to Wallace’s house in Minneapolis where he finds Wallace doesn’t look at all like he imagined. Wallace is tired, haggard with grunge like long hair.

Both Lipsky and Wallace on their initial meeting exchange small talk and over the course of a few days their relationship grows quite a bit. Lipsky (on whose memoir the film is based) having to balance his respect for the writer but at the same time concede Wallace is the superior writer between both of them and not forgetting his job as an interviewer. Jesse Eisenberg to me is a limited range actor. That’s not slating his abilities as all the parts I have seen him play in various genres are incomparable. He has chosen his parts over the past ten years extremely well. Here is another of those broken quick thinking personalities at which he excels in.

Whilst wary of his success, Wallace is aware that he’s been wired to want it and suspicious of the journalist who comes to interview him, but aware that there is a connection there it must be said that “End of the Tour”  doesn’t play up to intellectual snobbery on Wallace’s part or in fact Segal’s part portraying the writer but instead tries to understand the isolation and lack of trust to other people Wallace is experiencing. Segel is a revelation in this movie playing a very underwhelmed character which is a far cry from the sitcom / romcoms we are used to seeing him portray to  embodying a conflicted writer perfectly.

The supporting cast of Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Joan Cusack (High Fidelity) were exactly that. Chlumsky’s role as Lipsky’s girlfriend Sarah was sparingly to say the least and mostly in the first fifteen minutes of the movie and albeit a couple of phone calls later in in the movie. Livingston’s appearance is more a cameo playing a Rolling Stone Magazine Editor at the beginning of the movie. Cusack came into the film at the midway point as Wallace’s driver. As interesting as the one on one intensity of the majority of the film focusing on the two main characters  Cusack’s “Patty” gave a freshness at the right time and at no point took us out of the movie.

Donald Margulies’ writing for the screenplay captures the relationship between the two troubled writers perfectly and draws you in to their intense and sometimes intimate conversations. Aided of course by Lipsky’s memoir book tells the tale of tragic tale of two insecure male egos clashing and follows both of their journeys to and from the book-signing session in Minneapolis. Margulies’ previous work in writing is mostly in television and TV Movies.

Director James Ponsoldt is aided by the brilliant performances by Eisenberg and especially Jason Segel which must have helped him tremendously. But Ponsoldt’s approach to this project never undersells the drama or the storyline, but actually enhances it with its documentary style effect of being right in the actors faces and portrays as a real life interview. The up close and personal style of the interviews reminded me of the now famous and legendary interview between Jan Wenner and John Lennon in 1970 in New York for Rolling Stone Magazine with enough insight to the artists thoughts, beliefs, fears and hopes.

Running in at 1 hour and 45 minutes the movie flew by so quickly. I have to confess that I didn’t have a clue who David Foster Wallace was and never heard of his breakthrough book Infinite Jest. Nevertheless, knowing all this is not required at all to be enthralled by this fascinating and utterly compelling film.