*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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MAD MAX: FURY ROAD REVIEW

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Mad doesn’t even come close.

Feel the fury of the merciless car chases. The Road Warrior is back. But badder and better?

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

George Miller brings his Road Warrior to the 21st Century. Rebooted, rejuvenated and relentless.

Hardy was the perfect choice. On paper. I felt his performance was a little shaky. His interpretation was a little disjointed. I’m not sure whether it was down to Miller’s direction or what?

Hardy seemed too mechanical. He barely said a word. Which wasn’t a problem but when he spoke, it was drivel. I preferred Mel Gibson. He may have played the mystery man but he did have some charm and charisma.

It didn’t help that Hardy had that metal mask on his face for the first 45 minutes. Badass, yes! BUT he looked like a post-apocalyptic Bane. He must be born into these roles 😉

John Seale’s cinematography was something else. Absolutely breathtaking. He really brought Miller’s dream apocalypse to life. Miller made full use of that mega million budget to make his future apocalyptic wasteland.

It’s great watching the original Mad Max trilogy before hand. Fans will know that it was all building up to this. I was still debating whether it was a reboot or a sequel.

If you are unfamiliar with the original films then it isn’t essential at all. But for MM fans, the car was there? So was it a reboot? The voices and the vision of the child asking Max to save them felt like a reference to the trilogy? So a sequel?

Either way, not a MUST!

The set pieces were intense. I was impressed by what Miller had done with the original trilogy. Proper cars, proper chases. For the majority of the action, it was still in that vein BUT on a biblical scale.

However, as with all blockbusters CGI inevitably makes an appearance. I only saw this in 2D. You could tell what bits would have been in 3D and to be honest, I’m a little miffed that I missed my chance.

BUT it also made everything look way too cartoony. The CGI in the sandstorm sequence was too much and killed the intensity of the chase. It was worse than the dated props and dummies of the 80s.

The Mad Max franchise may have been starting to show its age and what do you expect after 30 years?! It was always strange. I loved the nihilistic undertones. Dark, brooding, haunting with the right level of silliness.

Miller just cranks it up to 11 and revs the engines for sheer balls craziness. From the off, it’s fast, frantic and violent. I was hooked. Merely because it doesn’t give you a chance to take in all the quick-cut editing and sweeping shots.

Hugh Keays-Byrne was brilliant as the demented Immortan Joe. The patriarchal leader that rules all. Controlling the water supply. Turning it on at small intervals to watch the slaves fight for thirst.

And of course, in typical Mad Max fashion, he sends tankards out on quests to seek . . . that most precious of substances, gasoline!

Nicholas Hoult was superb as Nux. The ailing obedient servant hell bent on earning Immortan Joe’s respect. He really has excelled from About A Boy and Skins. Delivering another scene stealing performance.

There were a couple of angles that did intrigue me. The idea that this strange colony abduct people from the road and use them as blood bags was messed up. The weird mythology that Immortan Joe enforced about Valhalla was laughable.

I felt like I was on drugs watching the thing. His servants getting pumped before a gasoline siege by spraying some weird chrome stuff over their mouths while praying to the Gods of V8? What a lovel- strange film! And that dude with the guitar? WTF?! To remind you. Un pic below:

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Que?

I know the film has sparked debates with its feminist context. I merely review films but the idea of women against the patriarchy certainly made this installment stand out a little more. And let’s be honest Mad Max fans, it had been heading that way.

Let’s not forget Tina Turner’s surprising turn in Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome and maybe forget the Hook Neverland kids vibe in the last part.

If anyone could play a strong female defying the odds and breaking free, I couldn’t think of anybody better than Charlize Theron. She was very good as Furiosa. Immortan Joe’s most valued servant. Or so he thought.

My main issue was that the supporting ladies had such unmemorable characters. Zoe Kravitz was very weak. I think the only one that stood out was Rosie Huntington-Whitely (No, not because she’s the model. Although . . . NO! Focus) BUT because she was the only one who had a teeny tiny piece of back story to support the rather weak story line.

There were a few twists along the way. Miller may have lost it with the OTT demented silliness BUT he still wasn’t afraid to shake things up when the pace seemed to lumber. And unfortunately, it did in parts.

For MM fans, I felt that Fury Road was a revamped Mad Max 2. One of the best installments in my opinion. Immortan Joe felt like he had been torn from the same cloth of Lord Humungus. He even had a stupid and memorable mask as well!

The musical score by Junkie XL was incredible. I don’t normally commend movie soundtracks but it really made the chases that much more dramatic and engaging. Exhilarating and frantic. Very much like the movie.

I just wish there were more memorable supporting characters. The endless visions, hallucinations and flashbacks that Max experienced were really annoying. The more they popped up with that annoying kid, the more I could feel my patience wading.

Max only really got to shine in the last 20 minutes. I’m sure that was the point but Max was always the one you were routing for. The underdog. This time, you have Furiosa. Max just seemed so bland. He got lost in the mix. BUT how could he not with this demented wasteland?

Mad. Not at all. I was hooked. The action was intense. BUT Miller could tone down the craziness and crank up some plot and characters for the next post-apocalyptic western. Maybe.

3/5

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!