Thursday, October 16, 2014

Transcendence

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! The title itself just oozes with a superiority complex.







Transcendence – 2 out of 5


It’s an unspoken rule that trailers for films can and will lie to us.  Trailers are marketing, simple as that.  They are no different than the beer commercials that promise us that bikini-clad and incredibly fun women will show up the moment we crack open the bottle/can or we’ll be totes sexy if we walk around in a sheer, completely open satin robe while wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear or that Papa John’s pizza is somehow “good” or “digestible.”  And just like the shock we learn that beer will only help us in making embarrassing decisions, that without the body of a model that underwear won’t make us look like we could stop traffic, or find out that Papa John’s taste like a pizza from another chain vomited up and they just cooked said vomit, sometimes movie trailers will make a film look like something it’s not.  It’s a risk that comes with being a consumer.  In the case of Transcendence, the film looked like an action packed thriller about a computer A.I. gone mad and ready to rain death on the world of squishy and easily killable humans but the end result was…well…it’s wasn’t that at all.

She's crying because the computer that is her husband keeps showing
her cute cat videos...and their sex tape....together.
 
Will Caster (Johnny Depp) has become a rockstar in the world of artificial intelligence research.  While his work is appreciated by his colleges (and obsessed fans asking for autographs, for some reason), there are forces out there that want to stop him.  A terrorist group called Revolutionary Independence From Technology (or R.I.F.T., for short) wants to stop him and his research in A.I., so they set out and coordinate attacks on all the labs working on the project and shoot Caster with an irradiated bullet.  This is a little strange considering most people who feel like technology is ruining our lives aren’t so violent or proactive in real life and settle for just expressing their hatred of technology by using technology to post their thoughts on social media (and the irony is always lost on them).

"Man, I'll be so glad when we stop technology and advancements in artifi--Oh, sweet
my torrent of the latest episode of Game of Thrones is done."


"Close your eyes, Will.  The scanner will melt them if they're
open."
With Will rapidly dying, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his college Max Waters (Paul Bettany) help him upload his consciousness into a supercomputer.  Realizing the danger he is still in from R.I.F.T., Will and Evelyn flee to start their own research facility in a small town out in the middle of nowhere.  However, Will is becoming more powerful and starts using nanotechnology to create mindless slaves with heightened abilities that he can have complete control of.  When government scientist Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman) and FBI agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) visit the facility, they find terror waiting to happen and realize they must save Evelyn and upload a virus to stop Will.

"Save me in a minute, I'm watching my stories."
 

The trailer for this film looked like Will goes completely power mad and wants the world to bend to his might...but the end result was nothing like that.  In fact, the film really fails in creating any palpable threat from Will.  Yes, the movie shows that his little nanobots can heal injured people and the environment and, while doing it in humans, can make them stronger and even take control of them because he’s created a hive-mind; however, the film never really shows that he is a threat beyond the fact he has the potential to be one.  There is no problem with this—shit, the fear of a potential threat is how the film stars with the R.I.F.T. terrorist attacks but the climax of the film might have been better if the script had Will losing his shit and deciding that humans need to die and die horribly...or, at the very least, start to make him look more threatening and not look like the begin levels of becoming threatening.

"Yeah, so I have enhanced strength and speed now.  It's totally worth it being
enslaved to a self-aware computer and this ugly thing on my head.  No regrets."
 

Overall, the film felt like it didn’t want to vilify Johnny Depp in even the most remote way.  Hell, the film ends with him confessing that he’s doing all this—taking slaves and using nanobots to heal the environment—because he loves Evelyn just that much (way to set the bar to a standard that the rest of us slobs can’t achieve, dude).  While it’s not bad to have your antagonist redeem himself, Darth Vader turning against the dark side to save his son and return to the light is awesome, and this turn around can make for great drama, but in Transcendence, it felt more lazy than anything because he never really turns that dangerous or even mildly bad. 

"Am I on an iPad?  I feel smugger already!"


So...after the virus was uploaded, how many people died
due to life support systems shutting off and the lack of
technology to farm the food our massive population
needs?  But, you don't have to worry about smart-
phones ruining dinner time anymore, so I hope
you're happy.
And since the film barely has any resemblance of an antagonist to begin with, this makes the film feel like it has no real conflict to it besides pushing a heavy-handed hipster ideology that technology is just evil and we should go back to running around outside, stop eating processed foods, resume drinking from garden hoses, and all that other stupid shit that your Facebook friends share in order to call the younger, more tech-ingrained generation a bunch of shitheads (and FYI, the majority of my friends who share stupid stuff like that were not “free” from technology.  In fact, most of them saying how they played until dark and didn’t sit around watching TV were, actually, sitting around watching TV and playing Nintendo.  Get off your high horse—also, no one believes that you are actually obsessed with reading every time you share a picture claiming that you are really into reading).

"We're using keyboards as doorstops!  All those shares about how technology sucks
on Facebook were totes worth it!  I mean, my family is starving now because we don't
know how to grow our own food and my relatives in the North froze to death but it's
worth it because now I don't get Facebook game requests!"
 

And the nanobots war against the clouds begins...
Despite having a great cast giving very good performances, the film just feels like it is going through the motions at best and aimlessly wandering at worst.  The terrorist group R.I.F.T. makes very little sense as they are developed poorly.  I never got a sense of their dedication and really only learned about them and their motives from a quick little bit of dialogue from Cillian Murphy’s character.  They make less sense when you realize that they were very active in planning and orchestrating a massive attack on Will Caster’s A.I. research and were all over that shit like me on the donuts in the break room when they were trying to stop his upload into the supercomputer but when he starts creating his own compound the only thing they really do is question Max Waters (who they kidnapped) and then spread some flyers in the town the facility is located (they better have not used computers or printers for those flyers--ha ha, just kidding, this organization is seen using technology quite a bit in an effort to stop technology).  Overall, this terrorist group is already pretty silly but their place and part in the entire story feels even sillier.

"It's so great you kidnapped me.  The fact we haven't heard a single news report
about my disappearance is also fantastic."
 

The movie may have some good visuals and great special effects but the end feeling the film gives off is one of brilliance without the actual brilliance part.  The entire tone of the film wants you to believe it is being really deep and saying something important about our dependence on technology but the film’s only brilliance comes from the writer's own ego. 

Having people look in awe doesn't mean your script inspired it.


Freeman is looking ahead in the film and realizing that
nothing worthwhile happens.
The entire movie reminded me of a person who is quick to tell you how awesome they are but everything they produce are drowning in mediocrity.  In fact, the film reminded me of a girl I dated who self-published a book about vampires and she kept telling me that it was innovative and original and how “unlike” Twilight it was; however, after reading the book as a favor to her, I found a product that was EXACTLY like Twilight and contained every vampire cliché you can think of.  That is exactly what Transcendence is.  A film that thinks it is breaking new ground and sticks its nose in the air like it is the deepest and most amazing thing to witness but, in reality, is just a boring movie that does nothing special with its extremely weak conflict and has a story that ends before it ever feels like it gets up and gets going.

"Hello, I heard you say Twilight.  I am currently downloading the entire series
for us to enjoy."
 

The inclusion of solar panels made Fox News viewers
vomit in anger.
I was sold when I saw the trailer for Transcendence.  It looked like an exciting action thriller about computers revolting—kinda like Skynet in the Terminator franchise only it didn't need those damn pesky robots informing you about their imminent return and can handle all the human killing all by itself.  Plus, the film had a great cast of awesome actors, was produced by Christopher Nolan, and was the directorial debut of Nolan’s director of photography; Wally Pfister.  However, the end product wasn’t exciting, wasn’t action packed—fuck, it gave us this stupid sequence...

"Time to do something awesome..."
 
"And here we go..."
 
Wait, that was it?  Really?  I mean--come on!
Was it really worth the lame jump to save those few seconds of climbing?
 


Finally, the movie feels it’s smarter than it really was—and there’s more if you acknowledge all the plot holes the film has.  Yes, Pfister has some great visuals and his work behind the camera is great.  The film also has some great special effects and the cast is awesome but these elements can’t hide just how lethargic the story is and how bland and thrill-less the final product is.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nymphomaniac Vol. II

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I dare you to watch this with your parents.






Nymphomaniac Vol. II – 2 out of 5

You might have caught my review of Nymphomaniac Vol. I…or you might not have.  I dunno, I don’t have a lot of followers or a lot of traffic at my blog.  I basically do this for fun and the amusement of a couple other people.  Anyway, the first half of this film (originally intended to be a four plus-hour epic) was a pretty average outing.  There were things I liked, things I didn’t like, and some scenes of non-simulated sex that made me feel dirty and worry about somebody suddenly just entering my house and see me watching this and immediately thinking I’m a perv—or worse, my girlfriend comes home and thinks I’m a perv.  Anyway, against my better judgment of watching one after the other, I immediately took Vol. I out of the PS3 and popped in the second one…the experience wasn’t pleasant.

"'Wasn't pleasant?' Dafuq?"
 

Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) continues to tell her tale to the kind-hearted Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård).  She reveals to him how she reunited with the man who took her virginity (Shia LaBeouf) and ends up having a kid with him.  She discusses about how her body starts to become disinterested in sex and starts to look for other avenues of gratification (well, Joe does, not her body.  Her body splitting off and looking for pleasure would be weird...but possibly an interesting movie)—this, ultimately, leads her to a sadomasochist (Jamie Bell) who regularly beats her.  She spits out a yarn about how her sexual appetite leads her to addiction meetings and, somehow, ends up working with a debt collector (Willem Dafoe) and that, while working for this man, takes an apprentice who goes all Sith on her and betrays her and leaves her where the first film opened up.  Then the film ends…just kidding, there’s a little shocker at the end.

"Hi Joe!"
 

This time around, while the acting is still great (especially Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the sex  is still around, the story becomes even more boring and a little too ridiculous for me to take seriously—and I’m the guy who thinks films that involve comic book heroes are awesome.  There was a grounded nature to Joe’s story in the first film and it showed a lot of respect to her and her nymphomaniac style.  This one, however, get a little silly, in my opinion.

Sigh...he's giving me another "dafuq" face...
 

He looks too innocent to be a dude who beats the shit
out of women for sexual gratification.
While it starts interestingly enough as Joe starts to see that sex isn’t as gratifying as it once was and she goes down a dark path that has a dude who gets violent with her, it ends with a story that is a shadow of its beginning.  The story does develop extremely well as her nymphomania becomes common knowledge at work and she is forced to go to an addicts meeting and also must deal with the abuse her body has gone through after years of lots and lots of sex and the beatings from Jamie Bell’s character.  That's the good part and it’s an interesting twist to Joe’s story and feels like an interesting and disturbing development, and, most of all, feels like a natural evolution to the drama—however, then the film takes Joe into debt collecting where she uses her love of sex and knowledge of sexual abuse to beat and boner-ize dudes out of their money.

"Yes...a debt collector!  It all makes sense now!  All those orgasms were
leading me to this moment..."
 

Once the film hit this point, I just couldn’t take it seriously anymore.  If the film went to a third Volume was Joe going to use her sexual knowledge to bring peace in the Middle East?  Had the series continued was Joe going to use her love of love-making to get a space shuttle to Mars?  If a third one came along was she going to use her intimate knowledge of all things intimate to invent a faster-than-light drive so that humans can conquer the stars?  Yes, these examples are ridiculous but Joe realizing that she has no place in the world and feels alienated so she turns to a life of knee-breaking and ball busting for debts owed felt like a jump to the fantastic when compared to the earlier moments of Joe’s story—even her turning to a sadomasochist in order to feel something is far more naturally feeling than her jumping to collect debts for Willem Dafoe.

"One more question to see if you have what it takes to be a debt collector...
do you have intimate or extensive knowledge of genitalia?"
 

The story gets even sillier as Joe is asked to take on an apprentice who will one day strike her down with her metaphoric lightsaber and take over for her.  This apprentice eventually betrays her in the deepest way possible by getting together with the man who is basically a bad penny in Joe’s life; Jerôme.  This betrayal and heartache that is delivered to Joe is actually great for the character and helped kept the film from ending on a snoozing note for me but I can’t help but think there could have been a better way to go about getting to this destination.  It’s just a personal preference by the whole becoming a debt collector and taking an apprentice that will turn on her was just too silly for me to take seriously and it really ended up killing the film.

"When I left her I was but the learner--now, I am the master!"
 

In the end, Nymphomaniac Vol. II still has some great acting to it and there is some intrigue to the story and some great drama unfolding (and yes, there’s still the real sex thing going on) but the story is even slower than the first half and the end gets a little too forced and many of the elements feeling like they were pointlessly tacked on in order to achieve drama and tension that could have been grown naturally and in many different ways.  In the end,  the Nymphomaniac films are just not my cup of tea.  There are elements I enjoy about them but as a whole (and this is as a whole when they are volume-ed—I haven’t seen the uncensored five and a half fucking hour edit) they are just not films I can find myself enjoying or even see myself thinking about again in the future…unless someone asks me, “Have you seen the movie where you see that scientist guy from Thor’s penis?”

Nymphomaniac Vol. I

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! People be fucking in this movie...really fucking!






Nymphomaniac Vol. I – 3 out of 5


Lars von Trier isn’t a director that I usually seek out—and cue the comment about how it’s because I’m not “into art” and only desire to watch “shitty popcorn films.”  As a director, I think Trier has a great eye but his writing isn’t the stuff I find that particularly engaging.  However, I never let past experiences with writers, directors, Subway sandwich artists have much impact on me and I will always gives a writer, director, Subway sandwich artist another shot to wow me with their book, movie, or meatball sub.  I had heard a lot of things about his movie (mostly about how you see penises entering vaginas) and I decided to give it a chance…but, as you can see from the fact that I’m posting this in October after it came out in the summer, I wasn’t really rushing and knocking anything over that got in my way to see it.




Take one wild fucking guess what is happening to
this man.
 
 
 

One day, a man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) bleeding and prone in a back alley. 

"Martha and Thomas Wayne?  Are you down there?"



He helps her and brings her to his place to rest and tend to her wounds.  The woman says her name is Joe and admits to Seligman that she is a nymphomaniac—which, second closely to a maniac on the dance floor, is probably the only maniac you want to meet in your life.  Joe immediately starts to regale Seligman with her sexual exploits and her history.  She talks about when she first discovered her sexuality, losing her virginity to a man named Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), juggling her love of lust, and even the time that a man destroyed his marriage to be with her.

"It's strange but as your story continues, my pants seem to shrink more and more..."
 

Like everyone else on the internet, I heard about how this movie shows some real fucking going on (although, porn star body doubles and stunt cocks were used for this aspect of the film) and this immediately made me think the whole movie is just a gimmick in order to see some real fucking on film but not call itself a porn.  Of course, this is Lars von Trier and not some new filmmaker trying to scam his way into a career by, say—I dunno—filming a terribly written horror film and secretly filming it in an amusement park.

"To continue my story, I demand payment of peanut butter Oreos..."
 


While it was clear that boning was an important part of the film (it’s called Nymphomaniac, for crying out loud), the film isn’t just a sloppy story weaved into a fuckfest.  To be honest, the story is not bad and all the things that have gone on in Joe’s life are mildly interesting and actually make for some decent drama.  Additionally, the film is tremendously acted.  The scenes with Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe telling her tale to Stellan Skarsgård’s character of Seligman have some real chemistry to it and helps anchor the entire film.  The film also has some great performances from Uma Thurman as the woman who loses her husband to Joe, Stacy Martin as a younger Joe, and two performances that were better than I had anticipated.
For some reason, she left a copy of Kill Bill to go with her husband that Joe
just took...
 

Christian Slater plays Joe’s father and, besides the fact that I learned he still is alive, he was giving off a very strong performance—something I haven’t seen from him in a long time.

I haven't seen him this good since he played Teen Boy in Crime Story
back in 1986!


However, more surprising than that was the performance from an actor I don’t think very much of…Shia LaBeouf.  Nymphomaniac will mark the first time that I’ve watched a film with Stutter LaPlagiarist and said, “Wow, it’s like he’s not even Shia LaBeouf but someone with real talent.”  For the first time ever, I’ve watched a film where he was actually the character he was playing and not just Shia LaBeouf failing to be the character he was playing.  I was actually impressed…it doesn’t change my opinion of the guy but it definitely showed me that when he wants to, he can act.  However, it seems that when he wants to act it means showing off little LaBeouf in the process.

And then it turns out he just used someone else's performance without their
permission...
 

The look on young Joe's face is pretty much the same
one I had the entire movie.
The only thing I didn’t care for with Nymphomaniac Vol. I is that it bored me.  I know that sounds like a weird complaint since I just said that Joe’s tale was kinda interesting but that’s just it…it’s only kinda interesting.  I dug the fact this film didn’t make Joe look like a madwoman and, in reality, was just a girl who openly admitted that she liked the feeling of sex and liked being aroused and like exploring her sexuality.  I also liked the interaction Joe had with Seligman and his interpretation of her story and the fact he connected it constantly to fishing.  Finally, I liked the film’s use of metaphor in Joe’s story but, through all this, the film just moves slowly and, even with its mild interest it created in me, the movie was still just boring for me—which I know will open me up to insults from movie snobs who say my boredom comes from an inability to enjoy art and that I just want explosions and mindless entertainment.  That could be the case, Imaginary Movie Snob, or this film’s story just didn’t resonate with me…which is a possibility that a lot of people who hate when people disagree with them never consider (and, in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve already been told by a movie snob that I’m a moron because I only thought a Lars von Trier film was okay).

Fuck, even Stellan is looking at me like I'm a moron for not worshipping
Lars von Trier.
 

There were definitely things I enjoyed about Nymphomaniac Vol. I (like the fishing metaphors, those amused me), things I didn’t care for (the pace of the story), and things I felt didn’t really need to be there (like the graphic sex—it still feels gimmick-y to me) but, overall, the film isn’t terrible or unwatchable.  Will I ever watch it again?  Nah.  But there is the second volume I have to watch…which will literally be the next review.  I could have combined them in one but I won’t have any of that nonsense.

The Zero Theorem

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! And now for something completely different...






The Zero Theorem – 3 out of 5


Since I first discovered the magic of Monty Python when I was younger, I’ve been an avid fan of all the Pythons and their subsequent works.  Above the others, I’ve always felt that Terry Gilliam had the most unique career because of his controlled madness he splatters onto the silver screen with the film’s he directs.  For the most part, I’m a fan of all his work and was pretty interested to see his new project; The Zero Theorem.

I put this picture here for no other reason than to share Christoph Waltz's ass.
 

I thought this said "Mancow" for a second and I feared
that a hack shock DJ was going to show up in this
film.
Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is not only a guy with a name that makes spell check wonder if I’ve suffered a mild stroke but is an eccentric man that is not-so-patiently waiting for a phone call that will reveal all the answers to him.  The anticipation of this call makes Leth desire to work at home and escape his job but the psych eval he gets from a group of doctors is saying he is completely fine and he should just stay the course with going to work.  However, shockingly, Management (Matt Damon) suddenly grants his request and is sent home to work on and solve a mysterious math formula called the “zero theorem.”  While working tirelessly on the formula, his life is interrupted by Bob (Lucas Hedges), the teenage son of Management, and a sultry siren named Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry).  There presence is a mystery as well as what the “zero theorem” is and so is what the end game is for Management.

Also, what is going on with that hair?
 

With a great cast giving great performances and terrific cyber-punk’ish visuals from a very talented and creative director, The Zero Theorem already has some interesting aspects working in its favor.  The only thing it really needs is a solid story to hook you…but that’s the problem.

Good to know that giant neon "Eat" signs survive into the future.
 

While I won’t go as far as to say the story is bad—because it’s not—it just felt like it lacked any real enthusiasm or even motivation to really move beyond an ambiguous state.  I understand the film isn’t intended to be a energetic tale and Qohen’s journey is a tragic one at worst and a bittersweet one at best and that being slightly dodgy with explanations is a trait of Gilliam and his films but the movie feels like one that is just too short on content.  Management’s involvement in the events surrounding Qohen’s research on the “zero theorem” feels unfulfilling and Bainsley and Ben’s place in the story doesn’t feel as feathered out as they need to be—Ben more than Bainsley.

Does that sign say "No Batman?"  A pox on this future!
 

He's mourning his missing eyebrows.
While the visuals of the film are chaotic, colorful, absurd, and fun all at the same time—and really help create a juxtaposition with what Qohen is going through mentally—the film feels like it is relying too heavily on the visuals and not more on the actual story.  In fact, when the credits hit, the film felt more like a short story that was packed with wild visuals in order to make the film feature length.  The story is asking some deep questions and what Qohen is going through was enough to keep me interested but, ultimately, the film felt like it was holding back all the possible intrigue the story had the potential to possess and seemed to settle on providing wild things for your eyeballs to absorb in order to show what a crazy world that Qohen existed in rather than probe Qohen’s subconscious.

At the very least, the film did give us this!
 

So, I was a little disappointed with the lack of meat the film’s story had but I will not say that it didn’t work on some level.  Qohen’s little adventure was interesting to watch and that was helped greatly by the tremendous performance from Christoph Waltz.  I’ve never seen the man give a bad performance and this is just another notch on his belt.  He was captivating to watch as the misunderstood (misunderstood even by himself) character.  In fact, the entire cast was very good in The Zero Theorem.

Waltz's 80's rap album will drop when?
 

Sexy nurse?  That reminds me to get my sexy nurse
costume ready for Halloween.
Whether it be the performances from the three doctors (played by Peter Stormare, Ben Whishaw and Sanjeev Bhaskar) or the computer program shrink (Tilda Swinton) that is assigned to help Qohen or Qohen’s manager played by David Thewlis or Matt Damon as Management or even Lucas Hedges and Mélanie Thierry as Ben and Bainsley, the entire cast felt right at home in the eccentric and technologically odd world that Terry Gilliam and the production had crafted.  When all is said and done, it was the performances from a terrifically put together cast that ended up being the best thing about the movie for me.

It's like WebMD.
 

I really wanted to enjoy The Zero Theorem more.  As it is, the film isn’t terrible and is watchable and mildly entertaining for those who enjoy films that are slightly off-kilter.  However, the story just didn’t feel as development as it needed to be and it left me feeling like visuals were more important that content.  While decent, the film was nothing more than a single-shot viewing for me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Divergent

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! When will this golden age of Tween-centric Fiction end?




Divergent – 1 out of 5

When I got to finally achieve my lifelong dream of visiting my holy land of San Diego Comic-Con, the first thing I did was get involved with a drawing for the autographs of this film.  It’s not that I really wanted the autos (in fact, I gave the poster away after getting it) but there was nothing else going at the time and my niece really wanted them so having me there only helping her chances.  Anyway, I did end up getting the autographs but, and here’s my point, that was when I discovered Divergent, the latest tween dystopia book saga that was adapted into a movie.

Now there's a man who looks like he carries around a copy of his band's demo tape
everywhere he goes and really, really wants you to listen to it right now.
 

In Future Chicago, society has boiled itself down to five factions in order to control its population (don’t think too deeply into this concept because it is pretty ridiculous—even by dystopian fiction standards).  You have the selfless (Abnegation), the peaceful (Amity), the honest (Candor), the brave (Dauntless), and the smarty-pants (Erudite). 

Just a quick stop here...the Dauntless are the soldiers/police force in this dystopia but
are shown mostly running around laughing and climbing on things...I have no idea
how this society is functioning in any productive way.

However, there is one more class they don’t speak of and those are the ones who carry multiple traits from several factions.  They are called Divergent.  They are independent and impossible for the government to control—so they don’t like the Divergents very much.  When the time comes for young Tris (Shailene Woodley) to be chosen for the Hunger Games tested to see which faction she belongs to, she is (and here’s a shocker) discovered to be a Divergent.  She is told by others to keep this a secret and she finds herself joining up with the Dauntless faction.  There she is tested to see if she belongs and meets the man who will be her prerequisite love interest; Four (Theo James).  Soon, her and Theo discover that the evil Erudite leader Jeanine (really?  The bad guy is named Jeanine?  Well, at least we have Kate Winslet playing the evil Jeanine) has plans to use mind control devices to kill all of the Abnegation class.  Now it’s up to Tris to reveal her Divergent-isms and stop them and be the hero that she was born to be.

Because baby, she was born this way.
 

Like anytime I watch something that was clearly not made for me, I admit that I was not the intended audience for this film and base my entire review on my experience of being an alien in the audience.  When the tween novel by Veronica Roth was optioned to be made and become the next Hunger Games, the production wasn’t thinking, “Hey, we should make this movie for that dork Rev. Ron!”  However, even though I’m not the guy they intend to buy the tickets on opening day…or a week later…or a month, or even when it hits the budget theater and then RedBox, there is still the chance that I might like the film.  Hell, I gave the Hunger Games a shot and even though I didn’t really care for the film, I had enough interest put into me to watch the sequel and I actually liked that one.  So, even though I acknowledge I’m not the droids that the production was looking for, I didn’t rule out that there wasn’t a glimmer of a chance for me liking it.




Hopefully she is not like those fish that attack their
own reflection.
 

But, in the end, I didn’t care for it.

"Quick pose for our album cover..."
 

While I won’t knock the audience that does like the film, I have to admit that there are a lot of problems and clichés that come with this tween subgenre of dystopian societies that involve a female character rising up against the oppression but manages to fall in love with the nearest guy with the perfect jawline that was pretty antagonistic towards her but she suddenly loves out of nowhere and with no real “getting to know each other” development.  Despite the title, the characteristics of a majority of the characters, and a lot of the basic plot elements, is really no different than any of the other tween books about dystopias out there.  Hell, the Abnegation faction looks suspiciously like Katniss’ district in The Hunger Games and they even settled for casting the daughter of one of the stars from that franchise.
"Alright, we don't want to be compared to The Hunger Games so let's be careful with
our cast.  Get me Lenny Kravitz's daughter!"

 
"Fools.  You can't oppose me.  For I am Jeanine."
Visually, the film looks fine.  The dilapidated buildings and the dull color schemes help set the tone of the film’s story quite well.  Hell, even the acting is pretty decent.  Granted, I didn’t see a powerhouse performance anywhere in the running time (despite having Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet in the cast) but the acting really wasn’t bad—even with Shailene Woodley’s performance seeming to be mostly just staring wide-eyed around her immediate area and refusing eye contact.  However, the complete lack of any really compelling characters helps only to make the passable acting look worse than it really is.

Incidentally, this was the same look I had the entire time I watched the movie.


I already mentioned how “by the numbers” the story is and how, basically, it looks no different from any other of these tween pop culture crack morsel that the kids can’t get enough of.  However, this one seems to do things a lot worse than The Hunger Games did but infinitely better than something like The Mortal Instruments did.  Yes, you have your female hero but she is no Katniss.  Instead of being determined with purpose and duty, Tris is born into her abilities.  She isn’t brave because she has to overcome anything, she was just born as a Divergent and just has to master being said Divergent and that’s why she has skills, talent, and bravery.  I hate to keep comparing this film to The Hunger Games but, even though I didn’t care for the first film, it still handles its hero a lot better than Divergent did.

I have to assume that Ray Stevenson's character will play a bigger role in the franchise
because he kinda looks like he just wandered on set and forced himself in the film.
 

Okay, so your female hero isn’t that special because she didn’t really have to overcome anything beyond really working on her birthright—that shit happens with male heroes, too.  Just look at Wolverine.  We have absolutely no reason to see anything cool in him because all of his bluster, bravery, and badassness exists only because the guy can heal fast and, in turn, takes a lot to kill him.  So, Tris is basically an X-man…only she has lame mental fortitude powers and not the ability to shoot optic blasts from her eyes, teleport, or have claws that shred their way out of her hands.  In all honesty, Tris’ hero’s journey isn’t bad because she is just written to be born with the right genes, it’s lame because of how grossly predictable it is.

Holy fuck, this movie just went all Battlefield Earth.
 

The tween dystopia story has become so big so fast that they are on the verge of parodying themselves due to their common formula.  Every genre eventually gets to the point where it will call itself and its bullshit out but this tween dystopia subgenre might end up doing it sooner than later.  Divergent is so alike its other tween pop culture droplets that the film is entirely too predictable.  Right off the bat, you knew the film would be about the hero finding out what makes her all hero-y and that she would train to hone her hero-y stuff and that some conflict will occur that makes her put her hero-y stuff into action…then, along the way, she falls for the guy she has very little meaningful interaction with and, because she has the mentality of the audience watching it, quickly falls in love with him for reasons that can only be explained by the fact he has dreamy eyes and he gives her lady-boners.  All of this happens in Divergent and happens so expectedly that you can easily zone out for an hour, return to the film, and know exactly where you are.  To make matters even worse, this formula also means your characters develop in the exact way you expect.  So, the whole “zoning out” scenario is only given further support because the characters will neither grow or change in any meaningful way that you couldn’t have already guessed from the moment they were introduced.

"I love you because you're attractive..."
 

Gah!  Zombies!  Nope, sorry, I was wrong...of course,
that would have probably improved my score...
There is an audience for Divergent and that audience loves it.  I won’t mock them for that.  In the end, Divergent just wasn’t one of those dystopia tween novel adaptations that really spoke to me—granted, I only became a fan of The Hunger Games when the second movie came out…so, maybe, when the sequel Insurgent comes out next year, I may give it a shot and find that I enjoyed it more than this one.  However, judging by the foundation that was planted in this one—like the very obvious storytelling formula, passable acting, and characters that are just too bland to really care about—I don’t know if that prediction will come true.  When all is said and done, Divergent just wasn’t a movie for me and what I took away from it was just a lack of interest.