Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 238: The Circle (2017)

Episode 238

Movie Podcast Weekly is watching you… Thank you for staying “plugged in” to our little circle of jerks. tee he. This is Episode 238, the show where we bring you our Feature Review of The Circle (2017), starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. Also in this episode, Andy finally catches up with “Arrival,” and he launches into another in-depth review of the logistics surrounding its premise. We provide a spoiler warning before moving into revealing discussion. Karl also tells us a story where he was a hero! And Ryan gives us a hilarious recounting of the Fyre Festival farce (and he provides a very interesting conspiracy theory)! You’ve already joined us! Keep doing it.

If you’re new to our show… Movie Podcast Weekly typically features four hosts — Jason, Andy, Karl and Geek Cast Ry — along with frequent guests. We give you our verdicts on at least one new movie release from the current year that’s currently playing in theaters, as well as several mini reviews of whatever we’ve been watching lately. New episodes release every single week!


I. Introduction
— The hosts will come and go throughout the episode
Movie Podcast Network has launched!
— The release of Special Features Ep. 001
— Comedy Movie Podcast

[ 0:14:08 ] II. Movie News Items
— Jeff Goldblum joins Jurassic Park 2
— Indiana Jones 5 delayed to 2020
— Frozen 2 release in 2019
— Live action Lion King in 2019
— Young Han Solo movie in 2018
— Star Wars Ep. IX in 2019
— Is impending writers’ strike pushing releases back?
— Logan B&W version in theaters in May

[ 0:27:38 ] III. Mini Reviews
Karl: An account of Karl’s heroism
Ryan: Luke Cage, American Gods, The Fyre Fest Farce (and a conspiracy theory)
Andy: The Magnificent Seven (2016), Arrival (plus a spoiler discussion), Comedian Bridget Christie, Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills
Jason: Lion, I Am Number Four, Jay’s Movie Mission 1997-98: Wag the Dog (1997), Later on… We Live in Public

IV. New in Theaters This Past Weekend [ Friday, April 28, 2017 ]:
The Circle
How to Be a Latin Lover
The Black Room
Able Bodies
Black Rose
Voice From the Stone
Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story
Bit by Bit: How Bitcoin Changed the World
Danger Close
The Mayor
Buster’s Mal Heart
NISE: The Heart of Madness
Baahubali 2


[ 1:42:31 ] V. Feature Review: The Circle (2017)
Jason = 6.5 ( Rental / Redbox )
Karl = 6 ( Rental / Stream on Netflix )

VI. Wrap-Up / Plugs / Ending

Episode 239 where we’ll be reviewing “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and “The Discovery” (streaming on Netflix). Join us!


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Able Bodies
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21 thoughts on “Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 238: The Circle (2017)

  1. Ryan,

    I agree with you on American Gods 100% and can’t recommend it enough.

    I haven’t read the book yet; I meant to before the show started and just let my to read pile get out of hand and never had time and wanted to watch the show. I look forward to reading it in the future because I’ve enjoyed the other two or three Gaiman books I’ve read immensely.

    I assume the scene you are talking about is what occurs on Bill Murray’s brother’s date? And if so, I agree that is one of the craziest scenes I have ever seen in a television show or movie for that matter.

    Hard to rate a show after one episode but if it stays even close to this level it’s a 9 or 10 easily. This is one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen.

  2. I think Andy’s review of Arrival is one of my favorites. I agree with his perspective. I believe when we reviewed it on the SciFi show I said something to the effect of “why doesn’t she alter her future by starting the relationship later? By having the baby at a different time? Maybe the events that take place wouldn’t if she waited a day or an hour or some nontrivial amount of time.”
    I think Andys argument is well reasoned and very relevent to the “reality” that the movie creates.

    • Also, Andy’s grasp of probabalistic outcomes would have made him a great quantum physicist. His talents are wasted as an Amazonian butterfly cataloguer.

      • No, no, that was 10 or 15 episodes ago. He’s actually a janitor at the Large Hadron Collider these days. Come on, Brain, keep up. :-) You were even a guest on the episode where his most recently-claimed identity was unveiled.

  3. Tried to see Guardians 2 on Thursday, but there was a lightning storm in town and it messed with the computers at the theater. I was glad it cut out right before the movie was going to start, rather than halfway through. We went again tonight. It was just a’ight, though. Really suffers from “more of the same”-ness. The energy and vibe that felt so fresh in the original was kind of stale this time. Some fun and amusing parts, no doubt, and entertaining enough, I suppose, but just okay, overall, and even tedious in some respects, like with the two sisters fighting and some of the other side stories. The original was a 9 for me, but this one is just a 6.

    Also, speaking of entertaining galaxy hopping shows, I finally checked out Rick and Morty on Hulu recently after hearing a lot of raves. Definitely a new favorite show of mine now. It’s kind of like an edgier version of something like Futurama, following the crazy sci-fi adventures of a Doc Brown type of scientist and his grandson. And man, is it creative and brilliant and often very funny. Took about ten minutes into the pilot before it clicked, but from that point on I was hooked. Polished off the first season (11 episodes) in a few days, and should catch up entirely in another few.

    Also loving the new seasons of Leftovers, Better Call Saul and Fargo. It’s a good time for quality TV… which is making up for several mediocre movies.

  4. I took your advice and checked out the “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” OhBoy OhBoy OhBoy! I love that Francis McDormand! No release date yet, so keep us posted, ok?

    • I’m looking forward to ‘Three Billboards’ as well. Loved the director’s first two films, ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ so I’m in.

  5. OK, so it’s not like I opened the phonebook, found all of the numbers listed under Professional Colleagues of [REDACTED], and started calling them one by one to tell them about MPW and [REDACTED]’s participation in it. One time a few years ago I was asked under oath whether I knew any of the people whose names appeared on a particular list. [REDACTED]’s name was on the list, so I said that, Yes, I know that guy. Later on, a curious bailiff told me that she also knows [REDACTED] and asked how I’d met him, so I told her. The End.

    *** Warning: SPOILER-ish discussion of Arrival to follow. ***

    Interesting discussion of Arrival, which I love. Excellent movie regardless of whether the storytelling angles all square up perfectly. I happen to think that they do, but only if viewed through a certain philosophical prism that, as far as I remember, the movie does not explicitly state it is using. We’ve been trained by decades of Hollywood/TV time travel storytelling to think about the pattern of past, present, and future events, especially when it comes to stories about human protagonists, from a free will perspective. Essentially, that’s the philosophical view that human choices dictate outcomes. Past, present, and future events are driven by the interacting choices (and consequent actions) of human beings.

    A different philosophy that’s often contrasted with free will is determinism. The view here, to borrow from (which I know will please Jay), is that “all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will.” In other words, your actions are determined by your unique place in a complex natural system of causes and effects. Whole hog determinism is pretty hard to swallow, of course, because no one likes to think that they aren’t at least to some extent choosing what happens to them in life. On the other hand, most people incorporate at least a degree of determinism in their worldview to address questions like, “Why did I get cancer?”

    (As Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character says in 50/50 up on learning that he has cancer, “That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I recycle.”)

    If you apply a deterministic reading to Arrival, then the characters aren’t capable of “changing” the future (or past) by making different choices. They aren’t even capable of making “different” choices. Human lives are a fixed stream of events determined by causes and effects “external to the will.” If you think of the movie this way, then the heptapods — who have evolved to the point of having a language-based perception of reality that lets them have knowledge of future events in addition to knowing present and past events — aren’t seeing many possible futures and attempting to bring one of them to pass. They are seeing the one, fixed future of the reality they live in and their contact with humanity is the natural outcome of whatever causes drove them to evolve their advanced perception. They can see what they will do next, but they can’t choose to do things differently. For example, if you look at the movie this way, then Abbott and Costello already know when and how Abbott will die when they first contact the human scientists, but they can’t do anything to prevent that from ultimately happening.

    After learning the heptapod language, Louise, the Amy Adams character, has to live with both the blessing and curse of knowing how her life will unfold. Again, however, applying the deterministic view, she’s not seeing ahead to possible outcomes that could be altered by her decisions. She’s seeing what she does in the future, and then experiencing those events in the present as they come to pass. Calling the Chinese general and convincing him to break off his planned attack is not a choice she makes. It’s what she was always going to do after coming into contact with the heptapods and learning their language. She knows the end from the beginning, as they say, but all that’s happened is that she looked ahead and found out how everything was going to play out all along.

    I haven’t read the short story that the movie is based on. It could certainly be argued, however, that the title of that story, “Story of Your Life,” has a deterministic ring to it.

    • I was going to hop on here and pretty much say exactly what you said Cody. But you said it much better than I ever could, so thanks. I think you are exactly right. I seem to also recall watching the special features to the film and hearing the creators confirm the deterministic view of the story.

      I didn’t catch it the first time and disliked the ending a bit thinking that Amy Adams decisions didn’t ring true. But when you consider that the timeline is fixed and she is only viewing snippets of what will be, it makes the character motivations in the film much more believable.

      For her, the future was no longer the future, it was as concrete as past actions. She had already experienced it all. Hence her quotes:

      “Despite knowing the journey… and where it leads… I embrace it… and I welcome every moment of it.”


      “We’re so bound by time, by its order. But now I am not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings.”

      For Amy Adam’s character, the future had already happened. It is brain-busting stuff. But as I understand it she can’t change anything. Her present, future, and past are all blended together and unalterable.

      • I couldn’t remember any specific quotes to enter as evidence when I was tapping out my thoughts, but those definitely support the case. :-)

        • A neat part about the film is that for the audience, just like for Amy Adam’s character, the future comes to her just like a memory from the past. The viewers even believe that they are seeing her past, when in fact, the memories she (and we) experience are from her future.

          I for one wouldn’t be taking her course on the Heptapod language. I wouldn’t want to glimpse my fixed future like that…Ignorance is bliss!

  6. Quiet here lately. I hope everything’s alright. J, are you still recovering well?

    I watched The Brand New Testament last night. It’s a Belgian film from 2015, and it’s a great one. The premise is that God is a jerk who lives in Brussels and controls things via his computer, making up laws like “the required amount of sleep is 10 more minutes.” He has an unknown daughter (his well-known son does play a small part) who manages to hack into his system and escape into the world. She sends a message to the world that tells everyone exactly when they’re going to die, which creates some interesting changes in people’s lives.

    The girl gathers 6 apostles to follow her (6 for an amusing reason), and each apostle has a short vignette about who they are and what changed about their lives upon finding out their death dates. Some of these were more meaningful and poignant and better realized than others, but on the whole, the film is a very clever and visually inventive look at humanity, and I loved the ultimate message. (Well, the message I took from it. You may take something else.)

    It’s available to rent for $3 on iTunes and Vudu. Might seem a little blasphemous with its premise if you are precious about your religion, and it’s a definite R for some of its content. But I think it’s profound in some ways, very amusing in some ways, and worth a look for being something unique and thoughtful. 9.5

    • I watched this again while I could (Vudu rental), and while its charms and inventiveness were still there aplenty, its shortcomings also stood out a bit more on a second viewing. As I said before, the six vignettes about the new “apostles” vary in quality, but some things about some of them are kind of in the “wtf” category, in particular the one involving a killer, and the one with Catherine Deneuve, which I won’t describe more about. (I think I get what they mean by it, but it’s still pretty twisted on a surface level… which, granted, isn’t the level that a lot of this is meant to work on.)

      Anyway, I’m downgrading my rating from 9.5 to 8.5, but still, it’s an easy 8.5 for what it aims for and mostly achieves, which is often brilliant.

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