Divergent is a film adaptation of the novel, written by Veronica Roth, that takes place in dystopian Chicago. The society that resides there is split into five groups or “factions”, each representing different virtues: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite. On a certain day each year, all youth that are 16 years old take test that determined which faction is the best fit. In the end, no matter what the result, one is free to choose whatever faction they wish to. However, if that faction is different from the one they were raised in, they must leave their families and everything else behind and fully commit to their new role in society. Tris is one of these 16 year olds to be divided. On testing day she shows equal aptitude for three separate factions, making her “Divergent”. Confused, Tris is told to keep her results a secret and ends up choosing the Dauntless faction. As Tris deals with the grueling challenges of becoming Dauntless, she discovers that being divergent entails much more than she ever imagined.
The cinematography and editing I thought was also very well done. I really liked the costume and set designs for this movie, and how well they reflected the factions. From the clothing to their homes, it was all very well thought out on how such a civilization would actually love. However, with a taxing two hour and twenty minute run time, Divergent is a complete clunker. The real grit of the story doesn’t begin until well over an hour in and it isn’t until the last thirty minutes that some kind of resolve needs to happen. Since I haven’t read the book, I’m not sure if it is Roth’s lack of imagination or the screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor’s failure to bring the book to life, but Divergent is absolutely devoid of any kind of world building to make this film stand out besides its loony way of assigning factions to its citizens. They even use the Chicago’s L transit system to ride into Hogwarts, I mean Dauntless. Strangely, there seems to be no adults anywhere unless they play a small role in the plot, and yet there are so many kids running around. The bulk of the movie is focused on these kids and their plight to fit into Dauntless. Tris and Four’s parents become a convoluted piece of the puzzle near the final act, adding little relevance, clarity, emotional depth, or importance. Janine, an Erudite and President Snow rip-off, is one of the few adults we get to know and acts as the main antagonist, posing as a faceless, unmotivated, and irrational villain.
This underwhelming storytelling is thankfully carried by a more fascinating and delicious vision. Neil Burger creates it into larger-than-life, and they are much entertaining than what the script tries to deliver. Everything just moves briskly and makes sure that it doesn’t miss a satisfying thrill. The coolest scenes are proof that these filmmakers have big ambition to the project and yet the narrative fails to justify it. The cast has also done well. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are competent enough as the heroes, and Kate Winslet somewhat elevated her villainous character. Divergent could be like one of those vapid YA’s such as Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, or whatever. Except this one is probably the best among since it has a craft that at least made it watchable. But then the meat is not well defined.
We care, we fear, we admire their prowess and resourcefulness. Here I was hoping a nuclear bomb would come down and put all the factions out of their misery. In fact, a sixth faction was evolving throughout the film: the bored ones, those of in the audience who were looking for entertainment and still had hope we could rely on future installments of a “new” trilogy. A few years ago, a much better series with Kidman and Daniel Craig was not given a chance, though it had a very interesting premise. Wait! Did they pay tribute to that one, too? I wouldn’t be surprised. But, perhaps my biggest issue is that it Divergent follows a lot of the usual standards for Young Adult adaptation to screen. And I won’t spoil too much of it, but as you watch nothing really does feel like you can’t guess the next move. To me, this is better than The Hunger Games and so much easier to get into. So, at least I concluded this review on a positive note.
The snoopy reporter Sadie Blake is called by her nerd colleague Ethan Mills that has deciphered a code and found an address in Koreatown from information of the Goth Tricia Rawlins about a bloody cult. Sadie does not give attention to Ethan, but when she sees on the front page of the news that Tricia has been found dead in a dumpster in Koreatown, she decides to visit the address. She finds an abandoned house with a gruesome basement full of blood and she immediately drives to Ethan’s apartment. She finds the place in a complete mess and is abducted by a stranger and taken to Bishop, who wants to know what Tricia has told her. Then, Bishop and his mate Eve kill Sadie and they have a necrophilic threesome with her body. Later, Sadie awakes in the freezer of the morgue and sooner she realizes that she is a vampire and promises revenge to her sire.
The story jumps around a lot, flouting the conventions of time as we know them; things simply don’t happen in the exact order we’d expect them to, which clouds Sadie’s motives and intentions quite a bit. Is she good? Is she even human? After all, once she’s been attacked by the vampire people, she’s not exactly the picture of health, and she’s gotta eat to survive. Is her ultimate goal of revenge enough to offset the unpleasant facts? It helps that there’s a typically hissable bad guy, Bishop (James D’Arcy). He’s eternal, of course, and he kills and mutilates and rapes for the sheer joy of it. There are no moral or ethical quandaries with this guy.
Some of the spatial transitions involving Lucy Liu’s character seemed like an editor wasn’t paying proper attention. Probably the best case is where she’s getting tucked into a car trunk, unconscious, during a dialog about getting her car and the kidnapper’s car to another site and then the scene transitions to homeless people on cots and someone who looks like Lucy, dressed in scrubs (when did that happen?). She sucks the juice out of a fresh corpse, then wanders into the night and onto a bridge to kill herself. What happened to her car? When did she get redressed? Who were those morons who kidnapped her? Was that business about taking her to bishop part of a script that got rewritten? Other odd transitions make you wonder if you’re following the same character, or are there multiple characters who, in the failing light, look like they might or might not be Lucy Liu, making you want to go back and review scenes for the wrong reasons.
A couple of minor flaws here are what keep this one down, but otherwise this one here has a couple of really good points to help it. Give this one a shot if you’re into vampire films or a fan of the creative cast, otherwise stick this one into the heed caution category when trying to decide to watch it. The final confrontation in the barn is all of the above, with some really great suspense and atmosphere, a great location and some nice action, which is always appreciated. The fact that the flashback to the turning scene is continuously shown, going more into detail about what happened and it shows that it was a graphic, brutal, bloody scene that is a little uncomfortable to sit through, the way it should be. The fact that there’s also a really a really high body count is the last one, which is always great to have in a film, making it fun and really enjoyable. Even though there’s not a lot of blood spilled, the fact that a lot get knocked off is really nice. These here are the film’s best points.
Sam Waterston is Sidney Schanberg, a reporter working for the New York Times in the midst of a civil war in Cambodia in the early 70s. His dedicated interpreter is Dith Pran. In and around the capital are a few dozen other reporters and diplomatic personnel, including photographers John Malkovich and Julian Sands. It’s dangerous work. This is a most powerful and visceral film. It is probably the best of the Vietnam war/drama movies even though it is not directly about that country, but of Cambodia. It clearly demonstrates how war transposes into other countries and can forever disfigure them.
Civil wars and political upheaval can often bring out the best elements in a film: suspense, emotion, and the immediacy of current events, in this case turning yesterday’s headlines into a grim but gripping human drama. The 1975 collapse of Cambodia and subsequent ‘re-education’ of its population (through brainwashing and genocide) by Khmer Rouge insurgents is reconstructed through an unlikely but true friendship between two journalists from opposite ends of the globe: hard-nosed New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and his resourceful Cambodian counterpart Dith Pran. From their anxious refuge inside the French Embassy in Phnom Penh to the horrors of a post-revolution work camp, the film builds moments of agonizing intensity, although the latter half splits into separate stories of unequal impact: Schanberg, in New York, agonizes verbally and at length over the unknown fate of his friend, while Pran, in the newly named Kampuchea, endures a torment that surpasses words. The performances in general and the cinematography in particular merit special attention, with the moody colors suggesting the light of a solar eclipse: darkness in broad daylight.
The film scatters the nationalities of most of the other first world, usually Capitalist, officials Schanberg and Pran deal with; a deliberate deploying of varying nationalities representative of The First World attempting some form of aid to those of Pran’s ilk involved in the hardships, everything from Australia to Scotland to England to Russia. But the film is less bothered with the politics than it is of the true story of these two men linking up; Schanberg’s relationship with Pran, like Pran’s characteristics in regards to his own natives The Khmer Rouge, is in stark opposition to that of his getting along with The American Government, whom he berates from the beginning and clashes with on a number of personal and political points. After initially arriving and meeting with a relatively spaced out photojournalist named Al Rockoff (Malkovich), Schanberg is forced into travelling to the site of an American bombing raid with some locals when denied access to fly out along with the Americans; a later event as Schanberg attempts to practise liberalism in trying to photograph some atrocities leading to arrest and later realisation at press fabrication with what they perceived to have happened there that day.
This is powerful, engaging and disturbing. The violence and blood is never gratuitous. I doubt anyone could sit through this and not be affected. It does not make for a pleasant viewing, but it is important and should be respected, not ignored. While there is some humor in this, it is seldom if ever a light experience. The script is well-written throughout. It is very difficult to find flaws in this. Wonderfully filmed, well acted, brilliantly scripted, The Killing Fields is a timeless, important classic. A must see for any student of history or film.
By a subtle meshing of reality and fantasy, Michel Comte and his team bring to the screen a visual orgy of modern ballet, opera and narrative film-making. Filming took place in various locations including Japan, Germany, the US and Italy. The grand finale of the film shot at Teatro Valle in Rome, one of the first opera houses to premiere Puccini’s original. The Girl From Nagasaki stars both Mariko Wordell and prima ballerina Polina Semionova as the tragic geisha Madame Butterfly. Yoshida plays the faithful maid Suzuki and both Edoardo Ponti and Christopher Lee star as Officer Pinkerton. The cast includes Robert Evans, Nobu Matsuhisa, Michael Nyqvist, Michael Wincott, Anna Orso, Clemens Schick, Lisa Zane, Mehmet Yumak, Burhan Öçal, Marianne Faithfull and Sasha Alexander.
The film stars Polina Semionova, who is a prima ballerina and Principle for the Berlin State Opera, as Madame Butterfly, and the cast is very diverse. It feels like it ought to be a beautifully produced film. If you haven’t seen Puccini’s opera, we encourage you to do so. It’s a classic tale that has been told and retold, and there are several modern day references and allusions to it throughout modern society. It’s well worth the time to find a video with subtitles and sit in for an evening with the opera. The emotions are all outsized, operatic, and the film flutters between live performance and staged scenes, computer animation and abstract imagery. Christopher Lee is in there, as is Michael Wincott, who rhapsodizes about the various flavor notes of sake. It’s all a bit exhausting at times, but undeniably strange and daring.
The director said something quite interesting regarding the film: This film was never supposed to be a film. It was supposed to be a contemporary art installation. But my wife and I found that the opera world is getting too old and that opera season tickets for the metropolitan or the Berlin opera or any of the big operas around the world have become too expensive. What better way then to just make it yourself? There are dance sequences meant to illustrate the main character’s state of mind that are both thematically blunt and laughably over-the-top, even if they do look spectacular. The movie was projected in 3D for no apparent reason other than this is a thing that some experimental films are doing now. By the time a spacewalk sequence set to, you guessed it, Space Oddity, rolls around, I was more than through. It’s a pity the movie kept going on for another hour.
Done in the style of a 1970s mockumentary, “Finishing the Game” is based on the premise that, when Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the age of 32, he left behind twelve minutes of footage for a movie entitled “The Game of Death.” Determined to bring Lee’s final dream to fruition, a group of dedicated filmmakers set out to find a replacement for the star in the hopes of finishing the project. “Finishing the Game” is a fictionalized account of that search (the actual movie was released in 1978).
Unfortunately, beyond its spot-on ’70s fashions and hairstyles, oh-so-groovy soundtrack and overall air of genial good-naturedness, “Finishing the Game” offers little of quality for anyone craving a good behind-the-scenes movie parody. Lacking both polish and finesse, the movie represents a major comedown for director Justin Lee after his stunning triumph with “Better Luck Tomorrow” a few years back. The half-hearted Josh Diamond screenplay scarcely makes an effort at being funny, and the concept itself is simply too thin to be successfully stretched out over even a relatively meager 84-minute-long running time. Barely flash-in-the-pan cameo appearances by the likes of James Franco, MC Hammer and Ron Jeremy do little to support an otherwise likable cast. And there isn’t even any decent martial arts action to make the movie much fun for fans of the genre being satirized.
The jokes are tongue-in-cheek, but the problem with them is that they are simply not funny. The whole movie is filmed in a pseudo-documentary style that has become a most overused technique in the last 10 years of independent movies. The situations and plot lines are sometimes cute, but mostly predictable and definitely not intelligent enough. The story actually looks like a long episode of “Office” (the US version), and you have a twitch to start channel surfing instead. I’m not sure how many Bruce Lee fans are still out there, but this film has very little to do with his work and just takes the premise and runs with it – unfortunately the end result is bland and devoid of any creative spark.
I have no idea how this movie got made. I’m even more amazed that its gotten a theatrical release, and flabbergasted that IFC has picked it up. Frankly its the worst film I’ve seen from their releasing arm. While Time Out New York said that there are no laughs in the film I do have to say there are some, maybe five minutes of screen time, worth of jokes, including the Ron Jeremy stuff. Other than that this is just a an embarrassingly bad (and not really fun) movie that takes on a road accident quality that hypnotizes you for a few seconds before you speed off to something else since the carnage is too great. Easily one of the worst films of the year.
Scott Adkins leaps about in this really iffy low budget creature feature which doesn’t really scare or thrill. Nothing much happens at all accept for the odd obligatory water sequence where faceless people get snatched by the monster. Its all very ‘Lake Placid’ like but with really bad attempted humour and some atrocious acting all round. Travis and his team travel to China in search of what isn’t supposed to exist … their mission to capture a Cryptid which is wreaking havoc in a remote village and they need to do this before it is killed by Harker, the legendary bounty hunter.
The dragon in question isn’t really a dragon naturally (shame), they go down the more realistic approach and merely make it an overgrown gecko type lizard…salamanderzilla. So no fantasy element just a stupid looking big lizard that doesn’t really look threatening. The finale sequence in the caves really shows the creature in a bad light, hokey ass CGI. The moment Adkins wrestles the beast is fantastically crappy looking, even Harryhausen’s dated work looks better. The only thing more hokey than the CGI lizard is the lurching Lundgren and of course this being a flick with the two action men they gotta fight. Amazingly though neither of them gets their shirts off, old fashioned fisticuffs for this one. The entire film is basically trash accept for the finale which is slightly more exciting, as said the lizard looks awful but at least you get plenty of eating action. It feels like a homage to those old Doug McClure fantasy flicks more than anything, then you could easily forgive the schlock on screen, problem is it isn’t. Why would the Chinese hire Americans to search their countryside for a man eating amphibian?
I will say the movie was nicely shot, and had some really beautiful scenery to work with. And the lizards themselves, well, they were actually rendered nicely enough. As for the cast of the movie, well, I will just say that you know what you are getting with these people, and they deliver. Just about so, nothing more, nothing less. I mean, wouldn’t someone notice that lizards bigger than cars were roaming the Chinese countryside? Especially because creatures of that size would have to eat a substantial amount of food in order to stay alive, especially when there is more than one of them around. Secondly, why would the Chinese government bring in American researchers, soldiers and freelancers? It just doesn’t add up. Especially when one of the groups were running around armed to the teeth.
Dolph Lundgren is his usual self, playing the cigar smoking hunter who won’t even consider letting the animals live to be studied. Though really what purpose a 30 foot lizard, or bear are to helping make this a better world is something that this movie never gets clear. The sudden ending with everything all wrapped up is just too perfect after all the messy crap that no one was doing right for most of the movie. These people are all just going to get themselves killed, and then there will just be a park full of giant weird animals eating each other in the sequel for sure. I didn’t Enjoy this movie over all, the animals all look fake, and I never felt that anyone should be allowed to put themselves in that kind of danger for no real reason. You will most likely never see this movie, but if you do, I can tell you that you will come away unimpressed, and feeling like you should have just skipped it.
I’m going to try and say as little as possible about the plot. Actually, nothing about the plot would be best. Some people spend the entire time watching a movie like this trying to “figure it out” or whatever. Which is fine and all but disrespects the movie to a degree. I’m not one of those people but even if I were, I seriously doubt it would help much. The story has quite a bit of mystery to it. You don’t really know much more than the characters for most of the run time, but it’s a good thing. It isn’t frustrating/mysterious like David Lynch or something, and there is a pay off in the third act. I’m not a particularly dumb man but a couple things I was still vague on at the end, but I prefer that to being beaten over the head with explanations or a narrator.
Boasting a cast including the fantastic Josie Ho and Sharlto Copley from Elysium, Open Grave hits the ground running with a great opening and keeps you guessing quite a bit as to what’s going on. The entire cast were very good and considering such an accomplished movie viewer as myself hadn’t figured things out within the first twenty minutes that was a good sign. The progress of the story is well paced and the style is gritty and quite violent at times. It’s a smart enough movie in a world where that’s a rare thing. It does cover some familiar ground however is all wrapped up and executed under a fresh feeling approach enough to have it result in a very enjoyable thriller/horror flick. Reminded me much on the fantastic and cinematic video game The Last of Us.
The cinematography is ambitious, the music and sound are used subtly and with good effect, and the film’s first quarter drags you in well and you want to know on earth happened just as much as the characters in the film. But as they begin to interact, it all goes wrong. The dialogue is forced and unnatural, their decision making strange, and the American accent by South African Sharlto Copley distracts, especially when you are trying to understand someone who has just woken up not knowing who he is. As the film gets past the hallway point, it loses its direction.
It’s a little slow at times, mostly, I think because the viewer should be trying to determine what the heck is going on. It’s as if they slowed the pace on purpose to allow time to think about what just happened. That does work, but I had only a little idea of what the real motivation of the film was by the time we actually find out. The movie is well worth seeing and although it pushes a couple of weird buttons about some potential challenges, I’d be surprised if you figure it out before the climax. A slightly above average film that welcomes the return of Josie Ho to the big screen.
Manjeet S. Gill called his film openly as a film “inspired by the films by Hou Hsiao Hsien”. Next came the email to review the film. Thirdly, came excitement. The story follows Rod, played by Roderick Masih, who has just resigned from his corporate job to pursue his dreams of being a photographer. Both British-Indian, Rod and his wife live a peaceful yet uneventful existence in middle class England. Rod’s wife is now the sole breadwinner of the household as her husband enrolls in classes at the local university. To me, the plot, and in some way the characters, seemed very fluid – you never knew where the film was leading you, and (as in many of Hou’s films) it’s left up to you to form your own opinion about the characters. “Coffee in Winter” is a very languid, soothing film, filled with marvelous images and memorable vignettes.
In his photography class, Rod soon meets Kim, played by Kim Bormann, a sweet and young German girl studying abroad. The camera’s still disposition to scenes, urban and interior, captures a landscape of objects and places through which the trapped love of our two lead characters journey in pursuit of a way to connect. Their affections for each other play like muted horns amidst a jingle of train station announcements and contemporary piano movements, there but not together. They are like two passengers, at times on parallel trains (and this is the film’s crucial scene), traveling in the same direction but separated by the window panes (pains) through which they direct their looks in a longing to collapse the space between the tracks, able to make the journey, but not together.
The camera doesn’t move much in Coffee in Winter. The characters come off as a bit empty, but this might stem from Mr Gill’s desire to create characters who are so absorbed within the interiors of their own beings that they chose to reduce their communications with the outside world. While a decent movie, Coffee in Winter is definitely not a must see unless one is either a major fan of Hou Hsiao-hsien or maybe even Manjeet himself. Another thing to touch upon is the sequences, very often separated from each other by long fade outs, which is a sort of homage to, is superficial indeed. Ozu can make you cry. This, despite its Hou Hsiao-Hsien-like structure, leaves you feeling rather blank. Perhaps this is because it’s essentially about people avoiding real contact with each other.
Those small complaints aside, this film was very well worth my time. The style, however, is still unmistakably Hou, with its long takes, extended silences, and focus on mundane conversations. Although the initial first meeting between Rod and Kim is made apparent, they seem to be very engrossed and even more fleeting moments now conserved. The biggest compliment I can give to Manjeet is that for his next film, he need not borrow anyones style or technique as he is worthy enough for others to emulate him. The story is minimalistic, and whoever looks for action risks to be deeply bored. Slow burn is my bag though, and this comes highly recommended.
47 Ronin is a highly fictionalized take on the story of the 47 ronin who took revenge on a court official who had the 47’s leader commit seppuku. In the film, Keanu Reeves portrays Kai, a half-British Half-Japanese outcast who is called upon by Oishi, the leader of the 47. The 47 seek revenge on Lord Kira, who also has an evil witch serving under him, who killed their master. For those who aren’t familiar with the 47 Ronin, this film does it’s best to bring the legend to the rest of the world. Although the film contains some great visuals, sets, music and costume design, infusing the story with fantasy elements and some new characters in an attempt up the action and appeal to a global audience is it’s greatest weakness.
The story of the 47 ronin is uniquely Japanese. It’s the concept of bushido and how much one, or many, is willing to tarnish their honor in order to restore justice. Unfortunately things have been simplified a bit too much and all we are left with is a rather typical action- driven revenge plot that could have benefited from being slightly more character-driven. The original story contains a much more intricate build-up to the final confrontation that not only tests the groups patience, but their leader’s resilience and cunning. Unfortunately, this film does away with these elements that made the original story so compelling. As good as the actors are (particularly Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano), i was definitely wanting more character development and drama throughout the film. Keanu’s character as an outcast is an interesting addition although he doesn’t really get much to do. His arc was fine but the character deserved more moments to shine. The villains were fine but could’ve been deeper. It would have been nice for Rinko Kikuchi’s character to have some back story in order to pit her against Keanu in a more emotionally driven confrontation. After all, these characters were created for the film, so why not add an extra layer of depth.
In other words, 47 Ronin is a faintly ridiculous addition to the wealth of Chūshingura – fictionalized accounts of the 47 ronin tale – that already exist in Japan. It’s the kind of big, dumb blockbuster in which the good guys literally live to die another day as long as the plot calls for it. These fearless ronin even survive when the villain is protected by a witch with crazy mystical powers! She can set an entire field on fire, create poisonous spiders and turn into a dragon! And the ronin – at least 47 of them – live anyway! I can understand the desire to want to do away with the philosophical musings of bushido and character drama in order to push the action and fantasy elements, but the action, although generally exciting and visually interesting, lacked impact. I feel they missed an opportunity to really showcase the awesome fighting abilities of the samurai, instead opting for some CGI creatures and demons and a couple of averagely-lit night battles. The cut-aways seemed to cheapen the experience for me, especially during the seppuku scenes. It seemed to have been framed a bit too closely and the sound was a bit off. No doubt in order to keep it’s pg-13 rating. Nonetheless, there were some truly moving moments and I found myself ultimately enjoying the film. Illan Eshkeri’s score helped elevate the film’s emotional scenes and I found myself with tears in my eyes at certain points during the film.
Forcing all the Japanese to speak in English also seems to be a huge problem for me as I find myself hard to immerse into the movie as all the dialog felt out-of-place. I think that the casts did the best they could for the movie, but nevertheless, the language of choice for the movie certainly plays an important factor in ruining it for me. I would’ve much preferred it in Japanese. All in all, I believe that if the movie has set itself on a certain direction by either being a movie whose main theme focuses on the way of the samurai itself without the addition of pointless CGI or just be an action blockbuster that showcases the badass-ness of the samurai, it might have gotten a higher score from us.