FlixChatter Review: The Last Letter from Your Lover (2021)

Romantic dramas based on a book are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, and this one is based on Jojo Moyes‘s 2012 romance novel of the same name. To be honest, I’m not that familiar with her work but I remember her other novel Me Before You was also made into a movie, which I have yet to see. 

The film features a pair of interwoven stories, set in the past and present with its own set of romantic pairing. In 1965 London, there’s the wealthy and gorgeous young couple, Jennifer and Lawrence Stirling (Shailene Woodley + Joe Alwyn).


Lawrence is a successful industrialist and the two seem like a match made in heaven, except their marriage is cold and distant. There’s a scar on Jennifer’s face and it’s slowly revealed she’s been in a car accident that causes her to have Amnesia. Meanwhile, journalist Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is awake in a man’s bed and despite him appearing interested in her, she made a dash out the door after calling him by the wrong name, twice. We’re supposed to think of her as a modern, independent woman with a blasé attitude about love and romance. Yet, when she stumbles upon a trove of secret love letters from the 60s during work research, she is immediately intrigued and wants to solve the mystery of this love affair.


I must admit I have a thing for letters in movies… there’s something so enchanting about hand-written correspondence in the digital era. Letter writing is pretty much a lost art as people often make or break relationships via text these days. One day, a journalist named Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) turns up at the Stirling’s luxurious resort in the South of France on assignment to interview Lawrence. When he’s called away on business, as he often is, Jennifer and Anthony immediately formed a bond. Of course it’s no surprise that the initial friendship turns to romance, and Anthony asks Jennifer to run away with him to New York and leave her loveless marriage of convenience behind. As the Bard said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “the course of true love never did run smooth” … such is the case between these star-crossed lovers that make up the A + J in the letters.


Director Augustine Frizzell does her best in balancing the parallel storyline, which is a tricky task, but I feel like the constant back and forth between the two stories could’ve been smoother. That’s not the biggest issue for me though, but more in the chemistry, or should I say lack thereof, between the two couples. It’s crucial in a love story like this to be invested in the couple that make up the romance. Alas, the relationships of all involved feel superficial and lacking serious heat, despite the film packing ALL the quintessential romantic setting. Alluring European location, check. Christmas-y scenery with fluffy snowfalls, check. Hand touching/kissing in the rain, check. It sure is beautiful visually, but at the end of the day, it’s the genuine human connection that makes any film memorable.


I wonder if the casting is the issue. Right from the trailer, I was already skeptical about Turner’s casting and he didn’t exactly prove me wrong. Strangely enough, though Woodley is younger than both Turner AND Alwyn, she looks much more mature in the film, not sure if it’s the makeup or her outfits, but perhaps just the way she carries herself. Both Turner and Alwyn look more like frat-boys that it’s hard for me to take seriously. I think generally speaking the female performers out-acted the male ones by a long stretch here.

The pairing of Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan fares a bit better though. Again it’s no surprise that Ellie forms a bond with Rory, the sweet and polite chap working at the Archives department who’s helping her with the letter investigation Now, it’s not that they have a scorching chemistry, but their tentative romance feels more endearing perhaps because there’s less riding on their romance being all-consuming passion like the one between A & J. I do give the casting director props for finding suitable mature actors to play the older Anthony and Jennifer (Ben Cross and Diana Kent), which works quite well in the brief moment they appear on screen.


Now, I haven’t read the book so I can’t say if this is a faithful adaptation. There isn’t much depth in the film version, but I have a feeling there’s more complexity in the book that we don’t see. Apart from the fact that Lawrence is constantly traveling, he is not a horrible husband per se, but we’re expected to think what Jennifer does to him is justified. There’s even less we know about Ellie and Rory, and for someone who seemingly doesn’t care much about love and romance, Ellie sure goes out of her way to act the opposite.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is such a romantic title that immediately conjures up thoughts of a swoon-worthy affair. Unfortunately the actual movie is less swoon-inducing but more melodramatic and formulaic. I suppose this is a decent movie to pass the time on a slow Saturday afternoon, but far from being a romance classic. As far as films dealing with infidelity goes, best to just rent Brief Encounter that’s guaranteed to leave you breathless.


Have you seen The Last Letter from Your Lover? Let me know what YOU think.

FlixChatter Review: THE MAURITANIAN (2021)

Whenever one hears the words Guantanamo or Gitmo, it usually emits a pretty strong reaction. Honestly, I’m not usually keen on watching films that I know will depict torture, especially one based on a true story. The Mauritanian however, piqued my interested because of the filmmaker, Kevin Macdonald, and cast. French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim played Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who was held for over a decade without charges being filed against him. The story is based on Mohamedou’s NY Times best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, which according to a few book reviews is an extraordinarily vivid first-person account of his time in captivity.

The film opens shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when Mohamedu was called into questioning by Mauritanian police while he was at a family celebration. Though he assured his mother he’d be back soon, he was not able to return home as he was subsequently arrested and later transported to Guantanamo. He had been held there for a few years before defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch, doing his best American accent) cross path on two opposing sides. Stuart got assigned to serve as one of the prosecutors in the military tribunal vying for the death penalty for Mohamedou, and Nancy fought to get him released pro bono. Interesting to see Zachary Levi playing against type as an unsympathetic federal agent that Couch was trying to get intel from.

The film is an intriguing mix of legal drama and thriller, and despite the harrowing and captivating subject matter, the way it’s played out is a bit uneven. The procedural aspect with Nancy and her associate Teri (Shailene Woodley) feels decidedly mundane. Even the meetings between Nancy and Stuart fall flat despite the star power of the actors portraying them. The film really comes alive whenever Mohamedou is on screen, thanks to Rahim’s captivating performance. The first time Nancy and Teri meets with him at Gitmo, Mohamedou’s able to speak English with them, which apparently he learned while in detention. That’s one of the outstanding things I can’t help but being in awe of, as well as Mohamedou’s seemingly unbreakable spirit.

Macdonald’s extensive experience as a documentary filmmaker means he took great care in creating an authentic look for the film, making sure the detention camp itself is depicted accurately, etc. One thing I find most memorable is whenever Mohamedou gets his outdoor break where he gets to breathe fresh air and even ‘befriends’ a fellow detainee next to him. He’s not able to see that man, but he’s able to communicate to each other and shockingly, Mohamedou’s actually consoled him and inspired him to remain hopeful. It’s these moments showing his humanity that makes the subsequent scenes of graphic torture even more harrowing to watch. At the same time, Macdonald didn’t want to paint with a broad brush in depicting every single person who work at Gitmo as evil, as evidenced in the tentative friendship between Mohamedou and one of his guards.

While in shackles, Mohamedou was subjected to sleep deprivation, severe isolation, temperature extremes, beatings, sexual humiliation, even a mock execution as he was blindfolded and taken out to sea. Those scenes are truly hard to watch, I had to cover my eyes and ears during much of it. The guards torturing him wore halloween animal masks, and at that point it’s as if they’ve descended into animal as they behave like one. As if that weren’t horrifying enough, there’s the emotional torture of being threatened that his mother would be brought to Gitmo and be gang-raped. Obviously the filmmakers intends for the viewers to be truly appalled by what happened, considering the perpetrators is a country supposedly known for being a beacon of liberty and hope. I don’t think we need to see it in a cinematic form to realize there is absolutely no excuse for treating fellow human beings in such a savage way.

The fact that Nancy faced obstacles in her mission to free Mohamedou is not surprising, neither is the fact that Stuart eventually found evidence about his torture that render any of his ‘confessions’ inadmissible in court. What’s most astonishing and inspiring is that Mohamedou refuses to be brought down as low as his captors. Rahim’s sensitive performance never descends to over-sentimentality and is genuinely moving. As for Foster and Cumberbatch, their presence certainly add prestige to the production but I don’t think their performances are all that memorable. I mean they’re effective in their roles, but it’s Rahim that gave the film its best moments and truly the reason to see this film. I wrote this review long before Foster was even nominated for a Golden Globes, and honestly I was surprised to see her name on the list, even more so that she won (I was rooting for Olivia Colman for The Father).

In any case, what’s definitely memorable is the appearance of the real Mohamedou during the end credits, who still retains his humor and playful spirit. Cheerfully listening to one of his favorite musicians Bob Dylan, it’s hard to comprehend this is the same guy depicted as having been brutalized and held captive for over 14 years. Mohamedou is quite charismatic that a thought occurred to me while watching him if the film would’ve worked more effectively as a documentary with Mohamedou himself at the center and unknown actors to re-enact some of the scenes. As it is, I’m not sure The Mauritanian does Mohamedou’s memoir justice nor is it the best movies about post-911, but no doubt its heart is in the right place.

Have you seen THE MAURITANIAN? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

AshleyBanner FaultInOurStarsPoster

I read The Fault in Our Stars and absolutely adored it. You can read my full review here! The dialogue was witty, sharp and fun and the characters were well developed. I’m also a huge fan of the television show “Friends.” Each friend lends a different perspective and balances each other out. Without all six friends, the show wouldn’t work. After digesting the novel in one sitting, this is precisely how I felt about each character. So, when I discovered TFIOS was destined for the big screen, I’ll admit I had my reservations. With that said, the film happily exceeded my expectations. 

Forget what you might’ve heard, but this is not a film about cancer. It’s about relationships; more specifically, two teenagers who experience real love for the first time. Cancer just happens to be their particular obstacle. Fun fact, the title is actually borrowed from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar:” 

“Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is battling Stage IV thyroid cancer, forcing her to wear a nasal cannula and carry an oxygen tank. Augustus (Gus) Waters (Ansel Elgort) has osteosarcoma (bone cancer) which caused him to lose part of his leg. The two meet in a cancer support group and they bond over ‘An Imperial Affliction,’ which just so happens to be a novel about a woman dealing with cancer.


For being so young, their relationship is so mature yet innocent at the same time.  

Both Woodley and Elgort were believable as romantic interests, and, in my opinion, captured the sarcastic and clever nature of their respective characters. More importantly, not only did they portray the fear of living with cancer as teenagers, but also showed they are more than just their cancer. Even with death close on their heels, they demonstrated compassion and wisdom beyond their years. Woodley and Elgort perfected the boldness and insecurities of their characters. 

Woodley and Elgort actually appeared in another blockbuster YA film adaptation as brother and sister in Divergent! Admittedly, Elgort’s role was somewhat forgettable. However, to be fair, he isn’t integral to the plot of the first story; whereas, I was blown away by my introduction to Woodley. I can pleasantly say Elgort’s performance in TFIOS will not be so readily forgotten. He was gentle, sweet, caring, and was surprisingly confident for one so young. 


There was one character I was particularly looking forward to seeing encapsulated on-screen. Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe) is the author of ‘An Imperial Affliction,’ but abruptly ended his novel in an unorthodox manner. Questions on what happens to the characters have plagued Hazel, and now Gus. Even though his novel was a vast success, Van Houten became a recluse and moved to Amsterdam. Needless to say, Van Houten is a quirky, bitter and cantankerous character, who also happens to be an alcoholic. I purposely avoided watching too many trailers and monitoring casting, as I wanted to be, for the most part, uninformed. So, I won’t spoil the surprise for you. I will say I loved the casting choice, and I think you will too. After seeing the film, I don’t think there was anyone else who could’ve pulled this character off (without being too showy or typecast).  


Also, I was relieved to see a majority of the novel remained the tone and plot remained intact. There were a few tweaks and edited scenes I would like to have seen fully, but as a whole it really works. Director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) has created an accurate, beautiful and humorous interpretation of a most beloved novel. I think in large, this is due to the fact author John Green was consulted and marginally involved with the production. Nevertheless, he has given his stamp of approval.

I highly recommend seeing this film; although, be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster. If crying in a dark movie theatre surrounded by strangers doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe save this one for the privacy of your own home. However, if you are bold enough, go see this film! It’ll make you laugh, cry and swoon all at the same time. 

4.5 out of 5 reels


What do you think of The Fault in Our Stars? 

FlixChatter Double Review: DIVERGENT


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).
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.
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.
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.




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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.



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

Divergent interview with author Veronica Roth & cast member Ansel Elgort


It’s always fun when as a blogger I get to talk to some of the talents involved in a movie. I think it’s especially awesome when I get to chat with an author of a best-selling series like Divergent. As part of the press tour nationwide, author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who played Caleb Prior, Shailene Woodley’s brother in the movie) walked down the red carpet and greeted a throng of fans at Mall of America theaters. I only went to the screening right after that, but here are some pics from the festivities, courtesy of Zimbio:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, I haven’t got a chance to read any of the books before I saw the movie but I did go to the screening the night before the interview and I really dug it. It has similarities to Hunger Games in terms of having a strong female protagonist and that the story would appeal to adults as well as the targeted demographic of young adults. Yet I do think the story is quite different and a pretty compelling one too I might add. I’ve come to like Shailene Woodley a lot more after this (I’ve only seen her in The Descendants). I’ll definitely check out her next movie The Fault of Our Stars out this Summer, which also stars Elgort as Woodle’s love interest.

In case you haven’t read the books, here’s the plot of Divergent: The story takes place in the city of Chicago in the near future. The city is divided into 5 factions: Abnegation, meant for the selfless; Amity, meant for the peaceful; Candor, meant for the honest; Dauntless, meant for the brave; and Erudite, meant for the knowledgeable. On a given day each year, all 16-year-olds take an aptitude test that will tell them for which faction they are best suited. After receiving the results of their test, they must decide whether to remain with their family or transfer to a new faction.

Thanks ALLIED for co-ordinating the interview roundup. There are six interviewers in the roundtable so below are all the questions, I marked MY questions with an (*) in front of it.

Here’s the transcript from the interview:

Q (for Veronica): I work with 8th-graders and quite a few of them are into the books and the movie. What can kids like Tris who feels that they’re outsiders can take away from this?

Veronica: Gosh, I mean I’m a little afraid of messages, especially for young people. I just hope that the book entertains but also provokes questions that I hope they can find their own answers to them. But as far as kids who don’t fit in, I feel that what Tris ultimately learns is even though she can’t fulfill the expectations of her society, she can find belonging with people that she loves who can take care of her and whom she loves. That’s sort of the *message* that she embraces, which is that love and loyalties are more important than other categories.

Q (for Ansel): Do you have a favorite scene to shoot and why it’s your favorite?

Ansel: Well I have to mention two scenes for two different reasons. I’ve never done an action film before or something that had action in it, so chasing after the train and jumping off to it was pretty cool. Just ’cause like I’ve never done that kind of thing but now I got to do it for my job for the day. And the other one is the scene inside the Abnegation house as it was shot inside this gigantic studio and when you walk in, there’s this little house that’s so detailed, the floors are made out of this mosaic, wood tiles, I’ve never seen anything like it. The lights are like this [pointing to the bulb in the meeting room at Graves Hotel] except without the shade so it’s just the Abnegation-style light bulb and we did this scene, which was like the last supper before we leave our faction, it’s a pretty significant scene for my character and for Beatrice, too. I was in the kitchen, cleaning up and I say y’know, ‘Don’t forget, think about yourself tomorrow.’ So I enjoyed doing that scene… it was a nice scene to do.

[At this point Veronica turned to Ansel and said, ‘That was a good scene,’ as if to compliment him]


Q (for both Veronica and Ansel): Presuming that both of you are divergents, which category would you choose for yourself?

Veronica: That is a great question because everyone always asks which factions, and it’s like ‘no, no one should be in a faction!’ Everyone has multiple aptitudes. [turns to Ansel, do you know? Do you have yours? You can answer this as I have to think about this]

Ansel: I always answer this the same way, everyone has divergent, I think a little bit, so I don’t think anyone should have to choose. Like yesterday I said that I would be Amity, but sometimes I would want to be in Dauntless, it’s always changing. I’m not even 16, I’m 19, obviously I don’t know where I should go for the rest of my life, let alone a 16-year-old. That’s why it’s a super flawed system.

Veronica: [turning to Ansel] It doesn’t change when you turn 25 either. Hmmm, aptitudes. Well, if I had to pick them, I don’t know, I feel like I’d sound like a jerk if I say, ‘well let me tell you my strength’ … I’m all of them … some more than others probably. [She then starts to mention all the factions slowly one by one] A little like Tris in that way but not in most other ways.

Roth with director Neil Burger on set
Roth with director Neil Burger on set – photo courtesy of DivergentFans.com

*Q (for Veronica): How much input did you have going into this, and how open was the studio/director to your suggestions?

Veronica: From the get-go, we have a very friendly relationship and part of that is I think that… the second the book came out, I kind of let it go. I think it belongs to the readers so much more than it belongs to me now. I mean I’ve always wanted it in a particular way, but everyone gets to interpret it in their own way and form their own opinion, so I already let it go repeatedly over and over again, even before it got to me. So I really trusted them for their respect for it and their enthusiasm for it, so I just said, ‘ok guys do what you do best.’ So I think that creates a good dynamic, like a mutual trust kind of thing, I was really open every time [director] Neil Burger or screenwriter Evan Daugherty came to me with questions. I talked to Neil throughout the process of making the movie. As far as control, I don’t even think that came up, that wasn’t an issue as I was writing my third book and that was what I wanted to be doing, so yeah.

Q (for Veronica): I’m curious about writing about kind of your own dystopian fantasy. What’s it like seeing in the film that it was projected on your hometown [Chicago]?

Veronica: It was incredibly meaningful I think. I was so proud, when they were shooting, all the jobs that was created in the area, it was the most beautiful parts of the process for me in to know that you’ve contributed in some small ways for people getting work is really wonderful. And to see Chicago on the screen. I mean movies are shot in Chicago sometimes, but they’re rarely supposed to be in Chicago, they’ll be like Gotham … so to have it be Chicago, I mean dystopian Chicago is also incredibly cool so people can see how beautiful my city is.


Q (for Veronica): What are you working on next?

Veronica: I have these four stories written from Four’s perspective, there are four of them actually. It’s coming out in July, it’s in a collection called Four. Three of them takes place before Divergent chronologically, but the fourth one sort of overlaps significantly, which was really fun ’cause it’s like writing a little love story backwards, so that’s gonna be out in July so I’m just finishing up. I don’t know what the future holds, maybe a nap …

[turns to Ansel] You need a nap too, you’ve had a very busy year. A long nap

Ansel: A long nap …

Q (for Ansel): Are you working on your next film?

Ansel: Yeah. Never mind, we don’t get a nap as we have to go to the next movie. We’ll do Insurgent in May or June. That’s the hope, You never know, I mean you really don’t know, but I’m gonna be optimistic.  I saw the movie and it’s good, right… you guys saw it, and it’s not like a bad movie at all, it’s a good movie… I mean if the movie sucks I’d be like, I don’t know, but they’re gonna make another one as it’s a good movie … It doesn’t have to be the biggest movie of the year, it just have to do well and I think it will.

Q: What’s it like to be successful at such a young age?

Ansel: Oh I don’t know. I haven’t got time to think about ‘oh I’m successful now’ yet. It sort of happened in the last year. Ah yeah, I guess I’m successful, it’s nice [laughter] I worked really hard. I went to an acting high school, acting middle school and I never wasn’t in a show for like 9 years of my life. And just, after school programs, Summer camps, whatever. And suddenly it sort of turned to be in real movies and stuff. Carrie [the 2013 remake] was the first one like I’ve been in anything with a camera in it, it was insane.

Veronica: [To Ansel] You said you worked really hard. But you’re also very lucky. Because to say that ‘Oh I worked hard and so I earned it or whatever’ is kind of lame because there are so many very, very talented people who worked very, very hard for a very long time and it just doesn’t happen. The timing of it I think is a big part of it, so I feel very fortunate. And also know that I have to work harder every day to become a better writer, because to say that you peak at your writing skills at 25, that’s kind of sad. So my goals is just to improve.

Ansel: I think luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

Veronica: Oh, nice. Whose quote is that?

Ansel: Not mine, I tell you that. Someone else told me that but now it’s mine [laughter]

Divergent's protagonist Beatrice 'Tris' Prior with Dauntless' leader FOUR
Divergent’s protagonist Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior with Dauntless’ leader FOUR

Q (for Veronica): Out of all the human characteristics in the world, how did you choose the five of that you choose to represent the factions?

Veronica: Because they’re very personal to me. I think um, because a lot of it was writing this series was examining my own tendencies, which y’know, I, like a lot of people, categorize other people easily. And I think when we find those categories, you find it easier to dismiss people. So writing the books was a little bit, it was deeply convicting for me to examine my own tendencies to do that. So when I was creating the system, that’s kind of how I thought of it as very personal, which qualities that I think would form like a functional society, but also tackle most of the areas that I think are deeply problematic in human nature. So Dauntless was first, Candor was last. That’s why Candor was a little bit like, ‘What did I do again?’ [laughter] Now I know what Candor does, but in the first book I was like ‘Hmmm, hmmm…’ But yeah, that’s how I chose those factions.

Q (for Ansel): Can you talk a little bit about “Ansolo”?

[Per Wikipedia, Ansel started a soundcloud account and a facebook account a while ago with the name of “Ansolo”, the alter-ego that he uses for DJ and producer of House/Dance Music. He does remix of popular songs like Lana Del Rey´s Born to Die. He plays has a DJ in times in different clubs. Check out his music on Soundcloud]

Ansel: Yeah, yeah, y’know, the last thing that I write was like 6 months ago, but now I have about 4-5 original records that are releasing. I’ve signed with a top agent too for music, it’s going really well. That’s the thing…  I don’t want to just be an actor my whole life. I mean I do want to be an actor my whole life but not only an actor, I want to be an artist. Before acting I was really into painting miniatures, when I was a kid I told my mom I wanted to be a miniature painter and she’s like, ‘that sounds good.’ I’m lucky that I have supportive parents and they’ve supported me in anything I want to do. Right now music is what I spend a lot lot lot of time on… specifically on dance music. Before dance music, I was just writing music on the piano and singing, like John Legend kind of like soul music. Then my friend showed me electronic dance music, and how you can produce music on a computer. It’s like our generation’s music and I was so into it and now I do it non-stop. My record should be coming out in about a month in a UK label, I’m excited to announce it and it’s gonna be cool. And yeah, all originals.


*Q (for Ansel): You’ve played Shailene Woodley’s brother in Divergent, but in your next one, you’ll be playing her love interest in The Fault of Our Stars. How’s the transition going, as you’re doing that in the same year, with the same co-star?

Ansel: It’s great. I took that as a huge, huge compliment. I mean of course there are people who aren’t actors, even people at the studio who I know were a little hesitant to cast me. But the fact that they put me with Shailene Woodley in two movies in a row. And I think Shailene is one of the best young actresses around right now, is a huge compliment to me. I was like ‘Damn that’s crazy, and of course I want to be in both movies.’ The fact that they overlooked that is great. But it should be overlooked. I mean Miles Teller was just in a movie with Shailene where they played lovers [in The Spectacular Now] and here [in Divergent] he’s Peter, who’s not exactly Shailene’s love interest in this movie. So that’s part of acting. I think back to in high school, for four years you’re with the same ensemble of actors playing Shakespeare, musical theater and all this different things, so it’s kind of cool that in the actual industry that I feel like I have this acting ensemble with Shailene and we’re really good friends, I hope that I’ll do ten movies with her before I die, y’know.

Q (Caleb): One of the more interesting things in the film is when Tris came to see Caleb and Caleb turned his back on her. Now, I was wondering about the motivation for Caleb, was he strong in his conviction or did he do it out of fear?

Ansel: No I think he was strong in his conviction at that point. I think in Abnegation in the beginning of the story, when Beatrice didn’t help the [faction-less] woman with the bags, he said, ‘What’s your problem?’ He plays by the rules, he’s a model citizen in any system he lives in. He leaves Abnegation because he wants to know more. But once he’s in Erudite, he’s proud to be there and he’s excited, he definitely believes in ‘Faction before Blood,’ He’s systematic and he goes with that, it’s pretty straight forward.

Veronica: I think it’s very logical, his Abnegation side. Ok I will follow the rules, it’s like what you’re supposed to do, I’m going to do it.

Ansel: There’s a woman with the bags, I go help her. That’s why he’s a lawyer in Erudite to begin with. [When Beatrice] says, ‘Our parents are in trouble, they’re gonna take over Abnegation’ And I said, ‘I know, I know they’re up to something, we should take over, Erudite should be in charge.’ Yeah I think it’s tough moment, you have to get yourself in that mindset, it’s a turning point in their relationship where she realizes there will be ‘faction before blood.’ It foreshadows what’s going to happen in the future.

Q (for Ansel): When you did your research for this book, did you talk to Veronica and say hey, this is what I see…

Ansel: No, we didn’t talk. I mean, now that we’re on a press tour together we talk about Caleb. It’s very beneficial to have the author, the creator of the character to be able to talk to you. But I did most of the figuring out for myself, and with Neil, because a lot of the times, the writer isn’t even on set. Or they give away, they sell the rights of the book and they’re off, they’re not part of the process at all.

Veronica: I was there.

Ansel: Yeah she was there.

Veronica: Pretty frequently, but for some reason less when Ansel was around.

Ansel: We almost never ran into each other, that’s why we didn’t talk. Otherwise we definitely would have as the talk we have was very beneficial.

Veronica: When I was on set, I’d just sit there and watch. If anyone had questions then I’d try to answer them It’s the actor’s job to breath life into the characters and to interpret them even if it’s different from the way I’d interpret them, because the character is theirs, in a way. So for me, it’s important for me to let them do their work, just like I would want someone to let me do what I do best. You know, so that’s kind of my policy. Besides, you have the source material. You have everything I think about Caleb, it’s right there. I don’t have much to add, well except for the series. But then we talked, so I hopefully I wasn’t imposing too much artistic license.

Ansel: Oh no, no.

And that’s a wrap! 😀
The interview was only 20-min long so that was the last question.

Yours truly with Veronica & Ansel

Both Veronica and Ansel were sweet and gracious during the interview. I’m impressed and inspired by Veronica’s grace, intelligence and humility in her answers, she’s got such an affable personality that you can’t help but root for her. I’m thrilled for her success and hope she’d continue to write great stuff in the future!

My three dear nieces are big fans of the series, so thank you Veronica for signing the book for them! 😀


Hope you enjoy the interview! If you’ve got any comments about the Q&A, do share ’em below!

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


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:


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.

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?

Five for the Fifth: February 2014 Edition


Welcome to FlixChatter’s one and only blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Whether you like it or not folks, movie franchise is a trend that’s here to stay in Hollywood, especially when it comes to the young adult demographic. As soon as a YA novel hits it big, you can bet a movie, no franchise is in the works.

So, let’s start this month’s edition with a trailer of another young adult franchise hopeful. In case you’ve never heard of this before, DIVERGENT is the first of a trilogy of books by a New York author Veronica Roth. Here’s the premise:

Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society.

Check out the new trailer just released yesterday:

Now, I barely remember what being a young adult feels like, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this genre, i.e. The Hunger Games. I must say I’m more intrigued the more I hear about this dystopian actioner, looks like it has potential and I think that has a lot to do with the actress playing the young protagonist.


I’ve only seen Shailene Woodley as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, in which she impressed me. I’ve also been reading rave reviews of her performance in The Spectacular Now, and she also has another indie drama in the works called The Fault of Our Stars. The 22-year-old seems to be *groomed* to be one of Hollywood’s next leading lady, and I think she has the chops. But what this film will attest is whether she can be a box-office draw. Kate Winslet lends some sophisticated menace as the film’s antagonist, whilst Theo James (another Brit who’s easy on the eyes) plays Woodley’s mentor/love interest.

Thoughts on DIVERGENT and/or Shailene Woodley as a leading actress?

2.  Switching gears to one of cinema’s biggest leading man Russell Crowe who’s trying his hand at directing his first feature.


Per Variety, we’ve got the first look of The Water Diviner, which is filming in Australia and later in Turkey. Here’s the premise:

The film is set four years after the devastating battle of Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. Australian farmer Connor (Crowe) travels to Istanbul to discover the fate of his sons, reported missing in action, where he forges a relationship with the beautiful Turkish woman (Olga Kurylenko) who owns the hotel in which he stays. Holding on to hope, and with the help of a Turkish officer, Connor embarks on a journey across the country to find the truth about the fate of his sons.

Some of the supporting casts include Turkish actors and some relatively well-known Aussie actors like Jai Courtney (A Good Day To Die Hard) and Isabel Lucas (Immortals), hmmm not exactly screaming quality ensemble at this point, plus the executive producer is… Brett Ratner?? But y’know, I’d be willing to give Crowe the benefit of the doubt. If his directing skills is even half as good as his acting, it’d still be a decent film, ahah.

So what do you think of Crowe’s debut?

3. A pair of actor and director named Michael is having a birthday today.

Director Michael Mann turns 70 & British actor Michael Sheen turns 44.


Some of you might know Michael Mann is one of my favorite living directors. He may not be the most prolific, having only done less than a dozen feature films, but he’s certainly one of the best. Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans and Collateral are some of my absolute favorite films. I’m looking forward to his mystery thriller Cyber starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis about what else, computer hacking. Apparently some of the filming locations include my native hometown Jakarta, according to this Indonesian article. Can’t wait to see that!

As for Michael Sheen, it’s interesting but two of the roles I remember him most are Tony Blair in The Queen and as a vampire breed Lucian in the Underworld franchise with his former wife Kate Beckinsale. He’s also memorable even in supporting roles like in TRON Legacy and Midnight in Paris. I still need to see Frost/Nixon, but I’ve heard he’s excellent in that one. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Far from the Madding Crowd, a drama directed by The Hunt‘s director Thomas Vinterberg.

What’s your favorite film[s] from each birthday fellow?

NicCage_pondering4. Good ol’ Nic Cage is always making the rounds in casting news. Hopefully his mountains of debts is getting shorter that he can finally make some decent films again. He’s reportedly in talks to do a heist thriller called Men with No Fear [per Deadline] Well it sounds right up his alley as Nic seems like the kind of *fearless* actor in that he doesn’t seem to care what people think, ahah. Here’s what it’s about:

The movie centers on Marty ‘The Mule,’ newly released from prison after being set up by his former boss Frank, a small-time neighborhood crook. While Mule was locked up, Frank went big time and became a ruthless drug kingpin. But Frank also took Mule’s most precious item — his son, raising him like his own. But now Mule is back on the streets and ready for revenge.

Bryan Singer is apparently producing this through his production company Bad Hat Harry. It doesn’t strike me as a challenging or career-making kind of role for Nic, but at this point, we can only hope anything is better than Stolen [facepalm]

What do you think of this casting news… or better yet, what role would YOU suggest Nic Cage to take on?

5. Now lastly, since Oscar is less than a month away… Morgan compiled a whole bunch of interesting Oscarama stats about what kinds of films get nominated by the Academy.

  • OSCARBestPictureEnvelopeComedy only makes 7% of the nominees
  • Romantic dramas really do seem to be popular with the Academy
  • Only eight foreign films have been nominated for Best Picture [Wish this year’s one of them as The Hunt deserves to be in the main Best Picture category]
  • Once in a while, sequels do make it to the Oscars. These are the eight movie sequels that were nominated for Best Picture:
    Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
    The Bells of St. Mary’s
    The Godfather Part II
    The Godfather Part III
    The Silence of the Lambs
    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    Toy Story 3
  • This is quite startling to me… 60 (or 11 %) of Best Picture nominees have been remakes.

Morgan came to an astute conclusion… The Academy doesn’t just like to keep nominating the same type of film, it likes to keep nominating versions of the same film.

Now, my last question to you are two-fold: Do you think Oscar should nominate more comedic films? If so, which ones do you think deserve to be nominated for Best Picture?

Well, that’s it for the FEBRUARY 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀