Movie Review: Insurgent (2015)

Insurgent poster

Plot: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Rating: 5.5/10

I’m not gonna lie or even make this a terribly long post. WHAT are they doing with these movies? The books are awesome – I recently reviewed the first one here after reading it AGAIN (and I don’t often reread Dystopian novels). Let’s just take a look what they are doing right in here:

Tris Prior – Shailene Woodley

I think she does a good job as Tris. She might not be the best choice or someone I would think to cast in here, but she does fine. I actually thought her acting was much better in here than the first movie.

Theo James – Tobias Eaton

He is better in here. And still quite hunky. Although I will always think of him as Lord Pamouk, he has excellent chemistry with Woodley – have you seen those rumours?

Miles Teller – I think this guy makes a great asshole on screen. I’m sure he is quite nice in real life, but he has such a douchebaggy face. Teller is also always able to inject character depth into his roles when the writing lacks, and that is such a good thing in this case. This isn’t his best role – I mean have you seen Whiplash, but he does really good.

What doesn’t work:

Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior – I love Elgort, I do. I just can’t see him as the spineless worm that is Tris’ brother.

Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews – maybe they didn’t give her enough time to develop the character, but I was completely unimpressed by her in here.

Octavia Spencer as the leader of Amity – again, so little screen time allotted to this character that her acting abilities could not be properly utilized.

The complete deviation from the storyline in the books. I am not against changing some stuff from book to movie to make the movie flow easier, but at this point I have no idea how they plan to bring the movies to the point how the last book ends.

The movie loses pace and becomes terribly boring at the end – in fact, I have to watch the last half hour probably again.

Insurgent could have been more. It has little heart and keeps slipping further and further away from its storyline. The Hunger Games still leads dominantly in the Dystopian genre, and I don’t think that will change because it seems that Hollywood has become incapable to properly portray books at this point.

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The Fault in Our Stars (2014): The movie that broke my SOUL

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After a week of rushing around like a mad person at work, I decided to treat myself and go and watch The Fault in Our Stars with my little sister, who is turning 18 this week (FML I am OLD), since she is the only one who was willing to enter a movie with me that had became known as a tear fest.

You all know by now what happens: Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is living with lung cancer. Her mother and doctor are convinced she is depressed and encourages her to attend a cancer support group at the local church. The group is led by a strange man, but on the persistence of her parents Grace still attends.

A few meetings in, Grace stumbles into Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) at the door of the church. He is immediately taken with her and she is amused by his views on everything. When she notices that he smokes after defeating the cancer that took the bottom half of his one leg, she is disappointed and furious. He quickly assures Grace that he never lights the cigarettes he puts between his teeth, and by doing that he puts something between his teeth that could kill him, taking away its power.

gus with cigarette
They don’t kill you unless you light them. And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing. A metaphor.

Their friendship develops and Augustus makes no secret that he likes Grace. He even reads her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction, written by Peter van Houten, a recluse that now lives in the Netherlands. After reaching the end, he is furious that the book ends in the middle of a sentence, and Grace tells him it is part of the book’s charm. Grace tells him that she herself has written to Van Houten many times without answer, but Augustus finds a way around the red tape by contacting his assistant, and they get some answers. Grace is ecstatic when Van Houten invites them to come to Amsterdam and meet him, but needs to accept the fact that her parents just don’t have the finances for it.

Once again, Augustus saves the day. He uses his wish with the Genies, a company that grants wishes to cancer patients, to book a flight for him, Grace and Grace’s mom to Amsterdam. Grace is very excited, but their trip starts to fall apart when Grace is hospitalised after her lungs fill up with fluids.

A miracle happens – Grace gets better and they are allowed to visit Amsterdam. Grace is still treating Augustus as a friend after she told him that she feels like a grenade, destined to blow the things closest to her apart when she finally detonates.

in amsterdam

The meeting with Van Houten (William Dafoe) is a disaster but the two young lovers manage to have a good time nonetheless, and a visit to the Anne Frank house makes Grace realise that even though life is bad, she should still embrace the beauty in it.

After finally entering the relationship that is way overdue, Augustus has news for Hazel – that his cancer has returned in most parts of his body. How will they handle it now that Gus is becoming sick again? Can Hazel cope with the grief that comes along with it? What is Van Houten’s big problem with them?

Rating: 8/10

flowers

This movie has been reviewed frequently and excellently over the last few weeks, so I am going to try and write something fresh here. Firstly, I am not a stone cold bitch – sorry, ladies. I cried my eyes out. Well, I did cry twice. A few little tears, but they were there and they were real. I cried when Augustus told Hazel Graze his cancer had returned, and when the inevitable happened and Grace’s reaction to it. Both scenes were filled with grief and executed perfectly by Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley.

I think every actor or actress has a defining character in their career that brings their abilities to light in the best possible way. Ansel Elgort met his character in Augustus Waters. I couldn’t have found a better actor for him if I had looked at every single seventeen year old boy on the planet (which would have been weird). He did that charming confident cancer survivor perfectly and was full of attitude and cocky as hell. There is only one scene that shows a chink in his confidence, and it was so beautiful and sad and I think that few moments were so perfectly done my soul finally shattered.

Hazel Grace Lancaster became one of my favourite heroines after reading the book. She is sure of her fate and although not altogether at peace with it, she accepts that it is going to happen and there isn’t much she can do about it. Her courage, determination and intelligence set her in a class of her own and her whole persona is something young girls desperately need today in a world full of Kardashians. Shailene Woodley was perfectly cast here as well. The chemistry between her and Elgort is very strong and they made a realistic, plausible couple. Woodley seems to get her character perfectly and what Hazel is made up of, and portrayed the scenes in the book with the correct amount of humour, anger and grief.

The movie also achieved the same as the book – it made me so angry for a variety of reasons. I was angry because two teenagers who are in love should NOT have to deal with telling each other that their deaths are inevitable. Peter van Houten is another reason – I get his animosity towards Hazel and Augustus, but you have to be a truly low human being to treat a girl hooked on an oxygen tank like that.

My only (very slight) issues with TFiOS was that they completely underutilised Isaac (NatWolff), who was charming, fun and very well cast. I thought that they should have introduced Hazel’s friend who she meets at the mall once or twice in the book (I can honestly not remember her name or the frequency of her presence), as it would have showed the little sad bit of a social life that Grace did have.

A huge round of applause should to the director of TFiOS because this movie was not written to be a tear fest. There is plenty of outrageously grief stricken moments, but this wasn’t Nicholas Sparks that deliberately tried to make you cry every damn five seconds.

Recommendation: You should definitely see this at least once.

Movie Review: Divergent (2014)

Divergent

Plot

After years of war and discord, Chicago closed itself off from the outside dangers and divided its society into five factions – each faction representing and developing characteristics needed to make society successful. Abnegation lead the government because they were selfless and that is an important part in leadership, Amity farmed and they were the lovers of peace, Candor told the truth, Erudite were the intelligent part and found resources to keep people safe and healthy and the Dauntless were the brave upholding the law and protecting the citizens.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) lives with her parents Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and Natalie (Ashley Judd) and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in Abnegation. The year a teenager turns sixteen they have to undertake a test to establish which faction they are most likely to succeed in but it is made clear that the choice remains with them and that they can choose.

Beatrice tests with a Dauntless woman named Tori (Maggie Q). Her results are inconclusive, and Tori tells Beatrice that it means she is Divergent – something that makes her not easy to control and will cause her death. She tells Beatrice to pretend she was sick and not tell anyone her results.

That night at dinner their parents tell them that the Erudite, led by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) is spreading lies about the Abnegation because she wants to control Chicago. One of the stories she is spreading is that one of the Abnegation leaders, Marcus Eaton (Ray Stevenson) abused his son Tobias and that is the reason Tobias defected from his faction when he had the option.

The next day is the choosing ceremony and Caleb defects towards Erudite and although Beatrice intends to choose Abnegation she chooses the Dauntless faction she’s always admired from afar. Beatrice meets her fellow initiates, Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and Al (Christian Madsenn) who defected from Candor and Will (Ben Loyd-Hughes), an Erudite transfer. The new initiates are immediately put to the test when they have to board a train running at full speed. When they arrive at the Dauntless compound they are introduced to Eric (Jai Courtney), a young and brutal Dauntless leader. He tells them they need to jump into a dark pit to get to the compound and if they don’t they have failed their first test and will become Factionless, homeless beggars who belong to no faction and is the outcasts of their society. Tris volunteers to jump first and is helped from the net she lands in by Four (Theo James), the initiates instructor. Beatrice introduces herself as Tris when Four asks her name.

Eric tells the Dauntless initiates that there are only space for a certain number and that the weakest will become Factionless. As training starts, Tris knows that she will be thrown out if she doesn’t improve. She gets her ass kicked by Molly, a girl nearly twice her size. She slowly improves until a fight with Peter (Miles Tanner) an Erudite transfer who mocked her from day one. She is beaten unconscious and is hospitalized. Christina and Will visit her in hospital and tell her that Eric wants her thrown out. Determined, she chases after the train leaving with the initiates and helps win a capture-the-flag game. Her standing increases but she is still below the line but it is undeniable that she is getting better. Four also gives her a few tips and becomes kinder than what he initially seemed.

Tris makes the bar and is allowed to progress into the second stage of training but she and Al, her friend, are in the bottom spots so they are obviously competing against each other. The next phase of training is simulations where initiates experience their worst fears. Tris’ divergence makes her realise simulations aren’t real and she is able to exit her dreams in record time. Four is testing Tris and notices her secret. He warns her to conceal her secret and to exit her fear landscape the way Dauntless would – by finding a way to protect themselves and thus waking up.

Tris is terrified that she will die because of her divergence and goes to see her brother at the Erudite compound. He tells her that Erudite is planning to overthrow the Abnegation for leadership of their society. She is angry with him because she sees it as betrayal against their parents. On her way out she meets Jeanine Matthews again and Jeanine wants reassurance that Tris is truly Dauntless and that Tris will follow orders like a Dauntless soldier, even if it means hurting someone you love. Tris manages to lie herself out of it and can leave the Erudite compound safely.

Back at the Dauntless compound Tris is attacked and taken to the chasm where her assailants want to throw her off. Due to her training she puts up a massive fight but is still overpowered. She pulls a mask off one of the people and it is her alleged friend Al. Four arrives and saves Tris from death. She spends the night in Four’s room where he sleeps on the floor.

The next day Al begs Tris for forgiveness but she refuses and orders him to stay away from her. Later that day they pull Al’s body from the chasm where he committed suicide. Tris is devastated but Four tells her that fear makes people like Al weak and do crazy things and that his death wasn’t her fault. He tells her that he will help her survive her final test by taking her into his fear landscape and teaching her how to act Dauntless instead of Divergent.

In Four’s fear landscape she realises crucial points to Four’s characters. He is named Four because he has only ever had four fears: the fear of heights, confinement, his father and killing innocents. Four is revealed to be Marcus Eaton’s son, Tobias, the son that allegedly (and truthfully) left Abnegation to flee his abusive father. After they wake up they admit their feelings and kiss and Tris tells Four that she wants to take it slow. Four shows her the Erudite at their compound busy with some secret meetings with the Dauntless leaders.

The day of her final test Tris passes with flying colours and she is initiated without anyone suspecting her secret. Eric injects her with a tracking serum and she is uncomfortable with it. The serum turns out to be mind control serum, manipulating the Dauntless to attack the Abnegation. Divergent people are unaffected and Tris blends in because not doing so means certain death. On the way to Abnegation, Tris finds Four and when he touches her hand she realises that he too is Divergent.

At Abnegation, Tris and Four is walking with the controlled Dauntless when Eric spots them. A twitch in Four’s eye is all it takes to reveal their secret and they are taken captive. Jeanine orders Four to come with her but Tris to be executed. Tris’s mother shows up and takes her to safety but is killed along the way.

What happened to Four? Will Tris ever see him again? Will the Dauntless wipe out Abnegation? Can Jeanine Matthews be stopped? What does open war mean to their fragile society?

Rating: 6.5/10

Divergent could have been way more than what they came up with. It wasn’t that bad, but I think you would be very confused if you didn’t read the book. I loved the casting on the film and the special effects and the chemistry between Tris and Four and how dangerous Eric looked, and compared to the other book to movie adaption I’ve seen this year, Vampire Academy, it is a raging success. If you forgot what I thought about that, go read it here.

The movie didn’t feel rushed at all, and I’m sure they were dedicated to producing a loyal adaption. It followed script well and didn’t go overboard. I didn’t wish for it to end quickly or wondered why the fighting scenes were taking so long.

Why didn’t I grade it higher then, you ask? I felt it lacked emotion. I didn’t feel drawn to the characters as much I did in the books and there were critically few times that I was attached. The scene where Tris holds her dead mother was brilliantly done. I think there Shailene Woodley showed her star power and it gives a glimmer of hope that the sequels can be much better.

I really liked the Ferris Wheel scene and how fearless Tris came through. I loved Four’s bafflement with her terrifying lack of fear. The knife throwing scene? It was okay. Not so much came through the way I wanted it to but it didn’t deviate from the book.

Al’s weakness and Peter’s reproachable personality should have been given more screen time. Do the readers of Divergent remember Al crying him to sleep at night? I do, and I think it shows exactly how he didn’t fit into the Dauntless crowd.

I am not getting into the big Is Hunger Games better or is Divergent better debate because for me they are both exceptional ideas. The storylines are only similar in the fact that it is in the same genre. Veronica Roth is my hero for not taking some of Suzanne Collins’s ideas and tweaking it just enough to not become a law suit. I will make my point that I like the Divergent series, as books, more, but that the Hunger Games movies far outstrip the Divergent adaption.

What I liked

The casting of Tris, Four and Eric. They were AMAZING

Tris Prior/Shailene Woodley

I think this will be the year of Shailene Woodley. She is an amazing actress. She was so good as Tris. I think she was perfectly cast and deserves praise.

Eric/Jay Courtenay.

How absolutely cool was he? I admit that he was a bit under pierced and under tattooed but he came across as slightly flamboyant but still such a douche bag. He did a good job in keeping it secret if he is evil or just a plain assface. Also, I found him ridiculously sexy for some demented reason. Who else thinks he looks a bit like Macklemore?

Four/Theo James.

I have some issues how they didn’t fully developed the character. Four is a messed up guy who was beaten by his extremist father, escaped to the most notorious faction and gained respect there, and they just didn’t show that as well as they should have. Theo James was rocking it. He is ridiculously sexy but not a pretty boy and I found his attitude spot on. I loved the bluntness between him and Tris and how she didn’t mind putting him in his place when he deserved it.

The choosing ceremony I really liked. I liked the imagery of how perfectly divided the factions sit and how they are separated but functioning in society.

Kate Winslet as Jeanine Mathews. Well cast but I disagree with the amount of show time she got because she isn’t so present in the first book.

How the Dauntless were portrayed. They looked so fun loving and fearless and free.

The movie didn’t feel stretched (major points) no plots were changed and the fight scenes didn’t drag on until eternity.

Four’s tattoos looked amazing.

Ashley Judd as Tris’ mom worked well. She fitted into the plain beauty of the Abnegation.

The chemistry between Tris and Four is off the charts. Something that puts Divergent just a bit ahead of Hunger Games that Tris and Four is the only two people in the relationship and that there is never any triangle of any sort.

What I didn’t like

The plenty of screen time Jeanine Matthews got but there was no time to include crucial plot lines like how bad Peter really was, Al’s cowardness and all Four’s little tantrums and everything. I get that they wanted to include the star power Kate Winslet has but I think it is more important that viewers know what is going to happen later on in the sequels.

Molly (Amy Newbold) is always an enemy, not a respected rival.

Peter never got his ass handed back to him.

Soundtrack didn’t work with the movie material.

I felt a lack of emotion coming through. I expected to be enthralled by the movie but sometimes thought about other stuff in between. It wasn’t that gripping and I thought.

Compared to Captain America: Winter Soldier (Yes I know the vast difference between the two stories) if I had to choose I would go watch CA again. That movie really made me feel something and apart from Tris and Four kissing (hot stuff) and Tris sobbing against her mother’s dead body I didn’t really connect with the characters.

Have you seen Divergent? What did you think?