Guest Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

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Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Runtime: 94 minutes

After reviewing a couple unimpressive comedies last week (Office Christmas Party and Why Him?), I was ready for seeing something a little weightier, so I was excited to get the opportunity to see Collateral Beauty. I was a little nervous it would be overly-sentimental, and while I did find some problems with it, I still thought it was very well-done.

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In Collateral Beauty, advertising mogul Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love (Aimee, played by Keira Knightley), Time (Raffi, played by Jacob Latimore), and Death (Brigitte, played by Helen Mirren) following a family tragedy. At the same time, three of his friends and work colleagues- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) – worry that Howard’s mental state may cost them their jobs and devise a desperate plan to prevent it from happening, all while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. I realize this is a vague synopsis, but saying more would spoil a lot of the plot.

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While I don’t think this movie will go down as a classic, it was a solid film. It was creative and handled the subjects of loss and grief well, without being too heavy-handed. The acting was, of course, phenomenal; how could it not be with such a strong cast? The stand-outs for me were Helen Mirren, who gave a both humorous and poignant performance, and, naturally, Will Smith; he barely has any dialogue in the first half of the movie, but his facial expressions and body language alone is striking, and if he doesn’t make you cry (or get a little choked up, at the very least), you are made of stronger stuff than I am. Naomie Harris as Madeline, the leader of a support group for parents who have lost their children, was excellent as well; she was able to bring both strength to the character as well as an underlying sense of grief without being too obvious.

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I did have a couple issues with this movie. One of the twists seemed way too obvious-there were too many pregnant pauses and significant glances hinting toward it- so when it was finally revealed, it felt a little underwhelming. I also thought the plan Howard’s friends come up with to prevent them from losing their jobs was really convoluted; admittedly, it was needed to get the plot moving, but suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far.

Overall, though, Collateral Beauty was an enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fantastic acting. If you’re looking for a light, heartwarming film with some tearjerker moments, check it out.

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Have you seen ‘Collateral Beauty’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: The Dressmaker (2016)

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The Dressmaker tells the story of an outwardly successful middle-aged woman named Tilly (Kate Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia, after having been ostracized from the town as a young girl. Most of the small town, including her own mother (Judy Davis), is not pleased to see her back. Regardless, she makes her entrance as colorful and fiery as possible and forges a place for herself despite the whispers and hostility of the townfolk.

The cinematography is completely gorgeous. The story is set in Dungatar, a part of Australia that evokes a sense of Oklahoma circa the dust bowl or the kind of Kansas that only exists in the Wizard of Oz. The barren dirtiness of the landscape is showcased in stark shots of decrepit buildings, dirty streets, and naked trees against empty skylines. This very deliberate setting eventually becomes the backdrop to characters wearing bold, colorful dresses in a way that seems to visually applaud fashion for being powerful and interesting while also admitting that high fashion might just be completely ridiculous.

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I hate to be cliché about it, but The Dressmaker is an emotional rollercoaster. The fulcrum of the story is the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there are competing sub-plots of a murder mystery and a romance which occasionally usurp the story of mother/daughter storyline entirely. The overall tone of a black comedy allows the film to push boundaries and upset audience expectations regularly. Moments that the audience expects to end happily wind up being the introduction to the next tragic theme and the darkest of moments are interrupted by well-placed moments of comedy.

The talent in this film is extraordinary. Every character is a little bit larger than life, caricatures that are just reasonable enough to make an audience feel in on the jokes without ever suspending their disbelief. The script lends itself to stand out performances by all, but especially by Winslet, Davis, and Hugo Weaving.


One of my favorite casting choices was Liam Hemsworth as Winslet’s love interest. Hemsworth is a solid fifteen years younger than Winslet, so the casting is an obvious response to Hollywood’s habit of usually casting love stories with large age differences in reverse. Much of this movie’s strength lies in similar subtle feminist moments: the film reverses the genders in many of Hollywood’s storytelling habits. For instance, it is a widely criticized reality that women exist almost exclusively as love interests or mothers in Hollywood. In The Dressmaker, the opposite is true. The primary characters of the story are women and most of the men exist only in relation to their partners. Despite this, The Dressmaker does not exist in a parallel universe where gender roles are reversed: women are still primarily homemakers and men have careers. It is merely the shifting of perspective that gives us a world made up of women with deep personal lives.

The Dressmaker also excels in its acknowledgement of women who suffer at the hands of men, often their own partners. One woman’s husband is a notorious cheater who drugs and rapes her regularly. Another woman’s husband is a wife-beater and refers to most of the women in the town in a derogatory way, which the script suggests is probably because of his own perversions. The lovely thing about all the dark stories about abuse is that even though they are gross, they are understated in a way that is very true to life.

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There is a love story in the middle of the movie, which briefly disrupts the other narratives and might be the best tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood romance that I have ever seen. Winslet’s character avoids her romance with Teddy (Hemsworth) for as long as possible, invoking every manifestation of the hard to get narrative that we have been fed for the last fifty years. Tilly runs barefoot down a dirt road, only to be swept of her feet by Teddy when he chases her down in his car. Tilly measures a half-naked Teddy for a suit, getting tantalizingly close while he explains that the woman he loves (her) does not want him. Teddy wakes up one night with Tilly standing at his bedside with a lantern. The couple sits atop a silo with a picnic dinner and they stare at the stars together. Every last overdone and gooey detail is there. Every romantic moment is just overplayed enough that the audience understands that everyone involved in the creation of this story understands exactly how syrupy it is. It’s still cute. We’re just finally getting the story from a group of writers who know that it’s a little too cute and have fun with that.

The value of a female-led narrative film like this one cannot be understated. Directed by Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, this is a film to see in theaters and in groups. The gasps and groans and laughter of the people in the theater with me were literally of a different tenor than usual, which was a wonderful, surreal experience. If you want to see a film that completely understands (and really probably loves) Hollywood, but wants to approach it with a sense of humor and an inkling for progress, this film will not disappoint. The acting is superb, the story is full of surprises, and the jokes are both subtle and in your face. This is not a film to miss.

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hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Dressmaker’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: John Hillcoat’s TRIPLE 9 (2016)

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I’m a big fan of crime action thrillers of the 70s, 80s and 90s, so I was excited to see this new film by Aussie director John Hillcoat. As we all know, the last decade or so the superhero genre has been dominating the box office so crime action thrillers are rarity these days.

The movie opens with a bank robbery that didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The bank robbers weren’t there to steal money but a case in the safe box. In a pretty impressive opening action sequence, the robbers were able to escape unscathed. We then learned that two of the robbers named Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Ridriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) are cops and one is an ex-cop named Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul). The rest of the robbers are ex-military men named Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell Welch (Norman Reedus). They were tasked to steal something very important for a Russian mob boss named Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet, sporting a very 80s hairdo and weird Russian accent). Irina has a sister named Elena (Gal Gadot), who happens to be Atwood’s ex-girlfriend.

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After Atwood delivered the steal goods to Irina, she told him that she has another job for him and his team. Atwood of course wasn’t interested but Irina told him she won’t pay him for the job he’d just finished unless he gets the second one done. With no other choice, Atwood got his team together again and try to come up with a plan to make the biggest heist of their lives. We then were introduced to a detective named Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), he’s in charge of finding the bank robbers. Allen has a nephew named Chris (Casey Affleck) who’s also a cop and Belmont’s new partner. As the story progresses we learned more about each of these characters and how they’re all some-how connected and we found out meaning of the movie’s title.

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With so many well known actors in one movie, I wasn’t sure if they’re all going to get enough screen time, but to my surprise all of the big players got equal screen time and they played their respectively role quite well. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t really have a central character you want to “cheer” for, each of the characters has their own motivation and there’s no good or bad guy in the story. I had my doubts about Casey’s casting as the supposed “hero” of the story but his character played a central role in the plot and he’s pretty convincing.

John Hillcoat is one of my favorite newer directors and he didn’t disappoint with his direction for this movie. He staged some pretty good action sequences including his signature bloody violence. What really impressed me was how he avoided making the movie into a super dark and serious tone that has plagued most action movies the last few years. This movie feels like a thriller from the 80s and 90s.


Even though I was very impressed with the performances and direction of the movie, I had some problems with the script. Matt Cook is a newcomer in Hollywood and I was surprised his script didn’t get rewrites or more polished by other screenwriters. The story is filled with so many layers that I think a well-established screenwriter could’ve made it into a great script. I’m not saying that Cook’s script is bad just that it needed a lot of fixing. My biggest beef with the script was how the story wrapped so neatly by the movie’s end. I won’t spoil anything but if you saw The Departed then you’ll know what I mean when you see this movie.

Triple 9 is a well made action thriller that could’ve been a classic had the script been more polished. Fans of the buddy cop action and crime thrillers from the 80s and 90s will be pleased with it.

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Have you seen TRIPLE 9? Well, what did you think?

Mini Reviews of Steve Jobs + Mr. Holmes + temporary blogging hatus

Hello everyone! You might’ve noticed I’m not blogging as regularly of late after the flurry of Twin Cities Film Fest. Well, I’ve been wanting to take a real blogging break and since this is Thanksgiving week, it sounds like the perfect time.

I’ve been wanting to really focus on my script and so I also plan to blog less in the coming weeks. I’m really close to finishing my script but as with many things in life, the last stretch is often the toughest. But before I do so, I wanted to share just my quick thoughts on two recent films in which the protagonist has been the subject of many films/tv projects. Thankfully we’ve got two very competent thespians in the lead of both movies (movie geeks will probably realize they’ve played the same role in the X-Men franchise).

STEVE JOBS (2015)
    SteveJobsMovie2015Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

My hubby and I are huge fan of everything Steve Jobs had built, as we pretty much use solely Apple products in our homes: Macbook, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, etc. So we’re quite familiar with his life and my hubby has read Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson and at first I was rather reluctant to see this given that it’s mostly a work of fiction. Well, ahead of the press screening, I read a bunch of articles that outline its inaccuracies, which I’ve listed in this comment section. That fact actually helped tamper my expectation about the film, but as soon as the film started I was immediately engrossed in the film. Ok so Michael Fassbender didn’t resemble Steve Jobs one bit, but it hardly matters once he started spewing lines from Aaron Sorkin‘s sharp script.

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I have to say the film is quite mesmerizing, Fassbender is as charismatic as ever, as I think he captured the essence of Jobs’s magnetic but difficult personality. Apparently he memorized the entirety of the 180-page script which is just incredible. The supporting cast is equally phenomenal. Kate Winslet is fantastic as Jobs’ loyal marketing exec Joanna Hoffman and the constant banters they have are entertaining, even her Polish accent is quite believable. But my favorite supporting cast has got to be Jeff Daniels as Jobs’ former BFF and business partners John Sculley whom Jobs stopped speaking with when he was fired from Apple. Even Sculley himself was reportedly impressed by Daniels’ performance, even though most of the conversations between them never took place. One thing I didn’t really care for is Seth Rogen‘s performance as Steve Wozniak, which seems so sensationalized and just didn’t ring true at all. Yes the rest was pure fiction but at least they seemed believable. It’s ironic since Rogen apparently met with Wozniak extensively for the role.

That said, I definitely recommend this film. Danny Boyle‘s fine directing brings the fine elements of the script and performance to life and the camera angles and intriguing shots certainly liven up an otherwise dull scenes of talking people. If you’re going into this film expecting excellent dialog and great acting, then you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect a documentary because Sorkin himself envisioned it more like a ‘painting, not a photograph.’

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Mr. Holmes (2015)

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Now, Sherlock Holmes’ adaptation has been done many times over, but this one seems to have an intriguing angle that’s rarely seen. The aged, retired London detective is dealing with early dementia, as he tries to remember his final case and a woman, the memory of whom still haunts him. Ian McKellen is perfectly cast in the role, playing Sherlock as a 60 and 93 years old. As he returns to Sussex  in 1947, he ends up befriending the young son of his housekeeper, Roger (Milo Parker). The interraction between these two is the heart of the film.

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The curious kid had been through Holmes’ study and it’s clear that he wanted the detective to work again. Through his proding and also because he’s still hunted by his final case, Holmes started writing again. The film goes through several flashback scenes, which is handled very well and definitely adds the mystery aspect one would expect from a Sherlock Holmes film. Hattie Morahan is terrific as the woman central to Holmes’ case and there’s a heartfelt exchange between the two that undoubtedly left a mark on him. As the film progressed, it’s apparent that the older Holmes is a changed man and that he has learned that intellect and logic alone often won’t solve issues involving matters of the heart.

McKellen is effortlessly magnetic here, as he always is, and he is whom I’d imagine an older Holmes to be. The usually excellent Laura Linney has a rather distracting British accent here as Holmes’ housekeeper, though I think towards the end she redeemed herself in the role. I do love Milo Parker as Roger who more than held his own against his much older and far more experienced co-star.

I wasn’t impressed with Bill Condon’s direction of The Fifth Estate (which strangely enough starred Benedict Cumberbatch who became famous playing Sherlock on BBC), but he did a good job here. It’s a slow-burn narrative that remains interesting even when there’s not much going on, and the film is beautifully shot. It’s the quintessential character study of a titular character that certainly merits its existence.

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Have you seen either one of these? Do share your thoughts in the comments!

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

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I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

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Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

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There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.

FlixChatter Double Review: DIVERGENT

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I thought I’d post a double reviews as we have different perspectives coming into the film. Ashley has read the book by Veronica Roth, but I haven’t. Did we end up with the same or very different conclusions? Read on.

Ruth’s Review

Set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, society has been divided into five factions based on virtues: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Someone is considered divergent when the results of their required aptitude test show that they don’t fit neatly into one faction, which is considered a threat by the leaders who want to maintain a perfectly controlled society. When Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley) finds out she is divergent, she’s warned by the test administrator (Maggie Q) to keep it a secret. On Choosing Day, where every 16-year-old must choose which faction to belong to, Tris chooses to be in Dauntless. The film pretty much focuses on how Tris and fellow new faction members undergo the extreme physical and psychological training in Dauntless, the military-like group that’s assigned to defend threats from outside the city walls.

It’s a lot to take in but somehow director Neil Burger makes it quite easy to follow. It also helps to that right away I can identify with Tris, thanks to Woodley‘s engaging portrayal. Though in the promo materials she’s shown like this tough, bad ass heroine in skin-tight outfit, she actually appears far more human and therefore relatable in the film. The long exposition does a sufficient job developing the main characters, that is Tris and her mysterious faction trainer called Four (Theo James).
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I like the fact that Tris is realistically shown as being vulnerable and out of her element, as one would imagine if you’re thrown into a faction like Dauntless. There’s an interesting dynamics between Tris and fellow Dauntless members, most notably the bully (Miles Teller, who interestingly played her love interest in The Spectacular Now), and the best friend (Zoë Kravitz). Thankfully the romance didn’t become the main focus in the film, and I’m glad Tris wasn’t made out to be this clingy, lovelorn ingenue. There’s enough chemistry between Woodley and James, and if the romance feels unconvincing at times, I think it’s intentional as the characters are still trying to trust each other.
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As the male lead, 29-year-old Theo James proves to be another fetching, crush-worthy Brit who projects a ‘manly tough guy with a heart’ persona. I’ve only seen him as the indelible Mr. Pamuk who seduced Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, but I certainly would like to see more of him in Hollywood. Ansel Elgort is quite effective in his brief scene as Woodley’s brother Caleb who chooses to be in Erudite. The ‘faction over blood’ revelation is handled quite nicely here in their brief but important scene together. The supporting cast are pretty good overall. The casting of Ashley Judd as Woodley’s mother is so spot on as they have such a strong resemblance, and their scene together toward the end is perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching in the film.
The third act is the most action-packed, involving hostile coup d’etat by drugged-up troops, as well as hand-to-hand fight sequences. A lot of it reminds me of the futuristic actioner Equilibrium in which independent will/thought is forbidden under an authoritarian government, but without the over-the-top Gun Kata martial arts that ended up taking over the story. The filmmaker seems to care and respect Roth’s vision of a flawed dystopian society, instead of just setting out to make a cool action adventure. The cinematography is quite beautiful, especially the scenes from above the Ferris Wheel. Plus, as I’ve visited Chicago often, it’s nice to see it being prominently featured on a film as the city itself, instead of as a sub for something else, i.e. Gotham.
Now, the main issue I have with the film is the pacing. It starts rather too slow for my liking and it didn’t quite pick up until the third act. The script by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor spends most of the film expounding the idea of what these factions is all about and Tris’ struggle to find her identity. I don’t know if the book is the same way, but the film barely explains the bigger picture of the society we’re dealing with and what’s outside the city walls. We’re only told briefly that wars have destroyed most of the world, but how and what really happened was never mentioned. Another weak aspect is the main villain Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), an Erudite leader who adamantly believes Divergents must be eradicated. Now, I’m a fan of Winslet as an actress, and granted she has the presence to elevate the material, yet I don’t find her to be menacing nor sinister enough to be effective. In a story like this, I think a strong adversary would help convey what’s really at stake for these characters.
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In the end, it’s the earthy and affable Woodley that keeps the film afloat because I’m invested in her story and her journey. It’s inevitable that given the young adult target audience, the dystopian setting and the fact that it also features a young female protagonist, Divergent will always be compared to The Hunger Games. But having seen the film, I think it has enough distinguishing features to set itself apart and stand on its own two feet. It’s by no means perfect, but despite the flaws, I quite enjoyed it. The ending explicitly sets up a sequel and you know what, I’m actually curious to see what happens next for Tris and Four.

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FREEBIE FRIDAY!

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Giveaway Details: The first 50 people who leaves their email address in the comments will be put into a drawing to win the prize pack. The sole winner will be notified via email on Monday March 24. Contest closes on Sunday March 23, 11:59 pm CST. Contest opens to Minnesota residents only.  Contest is now closed. Winner will be notified by Monday 3/24 at 6pm CST.


Ashley’s Review

Just a fair warning, I tried my best to keep my indifferent feelings about the novel separate from my feelings about the film adaptation. While the film followed the novel fairly closely, I wasn’t blown away by their interpretation. When I saw Catching Fire I felt so engrossed in the world and drama, it felt like I was actually right there with Katniss and Peeta; however, in Divergent I truly felt more like a spectator rather than a participant.  I’ve decided to break my review into three points: casting, score and cinematography.

Casting

This was my first encounter with Shailene Woodley (Beatrice Prior) and I have to say I was really impressed. Divergent explores the limits of a person’s mental and physical toughness, so needless to say they needed someone who could portray Tris’ struggles as she begins her training. In the novel Tris is described as being physically weaker than her other initiates and, according to her, plain. While I wouldn’t call Woodley plain, I think she fit the bill perfectly. I was continually surprised by Woodley’s range of emotions. She proved she can handle comedy by delivering perfect biting one-liners, we see raw and tender moments as it becomes clear she’s not the ultimate warrior (quite the opposite from Hunger Games) and her struggles to separate herself from the connection to her previous faction (Abnegation). However, I wasn’t convinced by her romantic portrayal with Four/Tobias (Theo James).

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As much as I enjoyed James for the eye candy (you’ll know when you see it), I honestly felt like he was too old. Especially since they tried to make Woodley look very frail and innocent, their pairing just seemed creepy. Here’s where the novel and film have a major difference. We’re given more scenes, stolen looks and inner dialogue to see a romantic relationship start to bud, but in the film everything felt forced, awkward and rushed.

I agree with Ruth about Kate Winslet’s performance (Jeanine). In the novel she’s supposed to be a threatening and controlling totalitarian leader, but instead Jeanine comes across as arrogant. I didn’t have the same fear instilled in me like I did with Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of President Snow.

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Another big miss was the tension between Eric (Jai Courtney) and Four. In the film Eric is portrayed as this meathead, where in the novel he’s much lankier and values brains over brawns. We learn the rules for Dauntless initiation are changing and are more cut-throat, leaving the unsuccessful factionless. Four is a big proponent of the traditional ways, but in the film we only see glimpses of their discord. Not enough to justify Eric’s attempted murder towards the end of the film.

Score vs. soundtrack
I thought the techno-vibe score (composed by Junkie XL) was well done. It really seemed to match a futuristic setting and the sometimes abrasive mannerisms of the Dauntless. However, I had some qualms about the soundtrack. I’m a big fan of Ellie Goulding and realize she was selected to help produce the soundtrack, but it was Goulding overload. I enjoy her music but after featuring three or four songs, it felt like I was listening to her on repeat. It was enough to pull me out of the film. This might not matter so much to you, but I’m a big believer in a score or soundtrack’s ability to intensify a film’s emotions. To me it’s just as important as acting.

Cinematography

While there aren’t as many fantastical scenes as The Hunger Games trilogy, I think it could’ve been very easy to create the action scenes in CG, and I’m glad they refrained. There are still some elements, but I felt like they relied upon unique camera angles and amazing props instead. And it paid off. However, the film’s pacing felt rather slow. I can understand they were trying to adhere to the novel as much as possible, but I didn’t start to feel engrossed until 2/3 of the way in.

Divergent_Tris_Abnegation

One particular scene that comes to mind is when Tris takes her aptitude test. She awakes in a room made entirely of floor length mirrors. I thought this was brilliantly done because each time Tris turned, multiple versions of herself would appear, slowly, which really added to the panic, claustrophobia and confusion this scene was trying to convey. I was really impressed by how the film handled the fear landscape simulations. Again, this could’ve been very cheesy, but it definitely lived up to my imagination. I think fans of the novel will appreciate it as well.

As far as young adult dystopian film adaptations go, I felt like the Divergent did a really nice job of incorporating the big elements from the novel. I was really excited to see how they handled Tris begin her training in Dauntless, the Ferris wheel war games scene and finally the fear landscape simulations. To be fair, I think this is one of those films where it’s better upon second review (as was my first impression with The Hunger Games). Overall, I think this captured the tone of the novel and leaves you with anticipation with what’s to come.

threereels

PostByAshley


Well, that’s our thoughts on Divergent. Let us know what YOU think of the movie.

Advanced Screening Passes to DIVERGENT in Minneapolis, MN + Red Carpet Screening with Veronica Roth

Divergent_Poster

Hello fellow Twin City cinephiles! Local moviegoers and DIVERGENT fans are invited to check out the red carpet event happening before the DIVERGENT advanced screening this Wednesday (3/5) at the Theatres at Mall of America. Passes are required to see the film, but not to be at the red carpet, which opens at 6:00pm. Veronica Roth (author) and Ansel Elgort (cast member – Caleb Prior) will be walking the red carpet to speak with press and sign autographs.

FCInterviewBannerCheck out my interview with Veronica and Ansel

Author Veronica Roth & Ansel Elgort w/ Shailene Woodley in a still from DIVERGENT
Author Veronica Roth & Ansel Elgort w/ Shailene Woodley in a still from DIVERGENT

Check out the trailer of the film:


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Free Advanced Screening Passes

Enter to win passes to attend an advanced screening of the highly anticipated DIVERGENT on Tuesday, March 18 at the ShowPlace ICON theater at 7:00pm. To enter go to https://www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter the code FC2YTG; winners will be notified Saturday, March 15. Please be advised that seating will be first come, first served so it is recommended to arrive early.

DIVERGENT Screening
ShowPlace ICON
March 18 at 7:00pm

Divergent is an sci-fi action adventure set in futuristic dystopia where society is divided by five factions based on virtues. The story’s protagonist Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy the Divergent kind, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes them dangerous before it’s too late.

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn

Check out the featurette below on Factions:

U.S. release via SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT on March 21, 2014.


Stay tuned for my interview with Veronica Roth and Ansel Elgort!


Are you excited for Divergent?