*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

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Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) 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.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes. Not good enough.

It doesn’t help that the silver screen has been flooded with endless teen bestseller adaptations since The Hunger Games. These films really need to hit the ground running or at least offer something different to make a memorable impression. The Maze Runner had messed up zombies and a MAZE! Hunger Games had . . . Jennifer Lawrence (What?!)

Insurgent offered the same old re-tread like its predecessor but with weaker results. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James still have cracking chemistry and kept the spark going. I just could have done with a little less schmaltz. Woodley seems to be shaking off the squeaky clean image and with that severe haircut, she certainly proved she can play the strong lead well. Okay, her haircut wasn’t that bad. I just wondered why the hell she did it.

The running sequences didn’t really grab me as much as Divergent. A chase involving a train certainly kept me quiet for a few minutes and there were some decent set pieces. BUT the story line and characters really hampered this yarn a treat.

Ansel Elgort’s Caleb grated against me. His constant indecisiveness was infuriating. Standing around aimlessly while watching his little sister being throttled and hung out of a train. Laughable. And when he finally strikes, he hit a semi-conscious Factionless with a lead pipe. Tut tut tut.

Naomi Watts was wasted in her role. There was potential in exploring Four’s background but it didn’t really surmount to much. If not for a revelation in the film (Don’t worry – no spoilers here), I would have deemed Watts’ character unnecessary. Obviously she will have a more prominent role in the next installment, but here’s the thing Insurgent didn’t really make want to see the next one.

Miles Teller played the wise cracking Peter well. BUT that BACKSTABBER label was stamped so hard on his head that it wasn’t a surprise when he inevitably picked his moment of betrayal. As much as I didn’t mind seeing more of Teller, it was at the expense of Zoe Kravitz and Maggie Q who were virtually absent.

Jai Courtney provided a perfect rival to Four and brought some much needed tension. Kate Winslet played a hard ass as well as she could but there was only so much pouting you can do while looking angry and holding an iPad.

I was baffled with where this film was going. I thought during the closing minutes of Divergent that Bea was already running to the gates or outskirts of the compound (or whatever it was) and escaping. Yet in Insurgent, the gang are hiding and then going back. For what?

Some mumbo jumbo about a cryptic box that can only be opened by a (Surprise, surprise!) Divergent. A box that did absolutely nothing and supposedly contained a message from ‘The Others’. A message that was not worth the two hour wait.

The Matrix style piping with Trish’s Inception style dream sequences went on far too long and didn’t really do anything. I was disappointed after all the promise that Divergent suggested. It seemed to take a darker turn half way through which did pique my interest but then chickened out.

This really felt like a case of filler before the final Part 1 and Part 2 sequels. The cast do their best with the material and the special effects and set pieces did enough to pick up the lumbering pace BUT I would really have to think twice about venturing to the cinema to see the next part.

2.5/5

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS REVIEW

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Maybe OK was what I will always say to these sort of films. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort bring to life a highly acclaimed bestseller making it an endearing drama and no doubt a teen weepie that will have people flooding to the cinema.

Now these sort of films never appeal to a cynic like myself but hey after all the films I assumed would be good, I went in open minded for a change and . . . not bad. Once I got over the fact that they are not Tris and Caleb Prior from the Divergent franchise, I could allow the pair to charm away. There is fantastic chemistry between the pair and their characters are very likeable. A topic like this is always difficult to convey and you can always imagine but never really know what these situations would be like.

Although the lingering subject of life and death is hovering above our young star crossed lovers, it is done with the right balance and generally in a light hearted and easy going fashion. It zips along with the odd plucking of the heart strings here and there. Elgort has proven that he will be one to watch. Finally awarded a big leading role, he has enough charisma and charm to pull it off. Woodley has proven her abilities before and plays her part to perfection. I fear the main battle with these films depends on how much you like the couple. This time around, you feel for them, you laugh, you cry with the inevitable lurking around the corner.

Nat Wolff provided the comic relief in Isaac, which I can see the irony in the name now. You can also feel for his frustrations and pain but his one liners and erratic behaviour helps break up the inevitable schmaltzy coming together of the loving couple. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) plays the understanding mother part very well and there are some nice moments between her and Woodley. Not enough for me. The problem is that I always want to see the whole impact on the family, which is briefly looked at.

I will admit that that I haven’t read the book so I can’t make comparisons in that sense. One question *POSSIBLE SPOILER* was their excursion into Amsterdam in the book? I felt the excursion slowed down the film and although it made for some nice moments between Elgort and Woodley, it did drag a little bit for me and Willem Dafoe’s (Spiderman) hermit writer character was a little pointless and didn’t quite fit in the film for me. I understand he may have been a metaphor that everything is not always what you hope or expect but our leading characters are fully aware of that.

This is well acted and nicely done. To be honest, this follows the lines of Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias. If you love these sort of these films, then you will love this. I don’t think this will be splitting fans of the book but again that’s speculation. The way it was advertised, I expected this to be really sad and heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, the finale is well done and sad but it is just the story of two people who found each other in all the craziness and madness of dealing with terminal illness.

I guess I wanted a little more on the impacts and what happened next and to be honest, Terms of Endearment is still the best film that tackles this story for me but the cast are great. Shame about Sam Trammell (True Blood) whose father figure was quite passive and anyone could have played him. But it is still a well acted, easy going film that zips along but still brings the odd tear. If you’re a unromantic cynic, then firstly what are you doing here but if you’re a cynic that can be persuaded, it is still rewarding and not bad. 3.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks 52 out of 188!

DIVERGENT REVIEW

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Watchable enough. Even if the film was Di-Verging on Being a Hunger Games Rip off.

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four (Theo James) must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

We’ve seen it all before. BUT with a well acted cast and likeable characters, I was happy to enjoy the ride.

I haven’t read the book. And after watching this, I don’t think I will any time soon. For those who also haven’t; the film is set in a post apocalyptic future Chicago. In order to maintain peace, the city has been split into five factions and shielded with a giant wall (Ironic). From what? Nobody knows. No, seriously. Nobody knows.

The factions are; Arudite, Candor, Dauntless (the irritating and OTT Dauntless), Amity and Abnegation. For those who haven’t swallowed a dictionary, Abnegation helps the homeless or “Factionless”, in this case. Introduce the lovely (and my new crush) Shailene Woodley as isolated teen Tris who is struggling to fit into said faction.

The pace chugged along as Tris was torn between fulfilling her obligations to her parents and finding her true calling, her identity (Zzzzz). Lucky for her there was a big test in which she can change factions. BUT everything is NOT what it seems.

Woodley is a very likeable lead and there were a couple of moments I didn’t expect to happen, which made a nice surprise from my teen blockbuster check list that I’ve accumulated over the years. Theo James played the brooding and mysterious (BUT NOT really that mysterious) Four well.

He has come a long way from sniffing p** in The Inbetweeners Movie (Yep, that guy). He even mastered a flawless American accent.

There was good chemistry between him and Woodley as inevitably sparks flew. The fighting through the ranks of the factions was very Hunger Games. The dinner halls were something out of Harry Potter, only more macho and messier.

The action sequences were entertaining enough; the Inception-esque dream sequences were interesting (if a little repetitive). The big twist reveals were predictable but the ending still kept me from twiddling my thumbs with a racy finish.

Kate Winslet played the icy bitch Jeanine with aplomb. She wasn’t in it enough. For someone of her gravitas, the role seemed minute. BUT of course, if there are more movies (Ha ha!) in the pipeline than I can wait.

The ending was racy, action packed and picked up a meandering pace that was putting me into a mini-coma. Two and a half hours? Really? Is there a Hollywood rule that decrees that these all best selling teen novel adaptations must be said length? Must be for the die hard book fans after the mistakes HP made.

In all fairness, there wasn’t a bad supporting cast attached to this. Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) played the nasty Eric to perfection. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd were good BUT anyone could have played them.

Miles Teller (Whiplash) was pretty much played the same old spiel as the cocky fast talker. Zoe Kravitz, the only person to come out unscathed from After Earth (and rightly so), gave her all. BUT Mekhi Phifer was terrible and, with Courtney being all the domineering presence, unnecessary but again if more is to follow then his part might be justified.

And if there will be more, I hope we will explore Four’s past. We got a measly taster and it was one of the more interesting subplots. My main grumble was that if this was supposed to be the opening movie for an ongoing franchise, it needed to come out guns blazing.

This didn’t BUT it had just enough to pique my interest.

Watchable. We’ve had the build up. Now surprise me with the next one.

3/5!