Movie Review: Insurgent (2015)

August 18, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

insurgent

Let’s just be upfront about this. The Divergent series is to the Hunger Games what Percy Jackson is to Harry Potter. It’ll always be the less attractive, less appealing, shittier cousin.

It might be unfair to Shailene Woodley, who might be every bit as capable as Jennifer Lawrence in playing a strong, albeit unwilling action hero, though it remains unavoidable that the two franchises will always be compared to each other.

And accordingly, Insurgent compares unfavourably to Catching Fire as the second instalment of a post-apocalyptic teen franchise. It’s not badly made, but if you didn’t enjoy the first film all that much — put me in that category — then it’s unlikely this one will change your mind about the series.

One thing the film does well is in reminding us of the story, or explaining it to newcomers, using a short voiceover that more or less summarises the premise — ie, the future world, following an extinction event of sorts, splits humans into specific groups because it helps maintain peace. Everyone is put into either Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), or Erudite (the intelligent), or they are Factionless and ostracised from the community.

Woodley plays Tris, a teenage girl who happens to be Divergent, meaning she has elements of multiple groups and therefore can’t be squeezed into any. Big deal, right? Well apparently, yes, because evildoers led by Kate Winslet want to hunt her down and kill her.

All this is explained efficiently at the beginning so there’s not a lot of confusion. From there, Tris, her loverboy (Theo James), brother (Ansel Elgort, incidentally her loverboy from The Fault in Our Stars and Mr Fantastic (Miles Teller) find themselves on the run and scheming to defeat Winslet and her goons.

They meet people like Octavia Spencer and discover that James’s mother is Naomi Watts, but the whole focus of the film is about a secret box that came out of nowhere but is supposed to hold some really important info. And guess who is the only person that can open it? Yeah, you guessed it. There’s more of those virtual reality trials they had from the first film, and you can pretty much guess what happens in the end.

The problem I had with Divergent was that I couldn’t buy the concept of a society where everyone can be categorised by a single trait. With Insurgent, it’s more about not buying this whole “box” business. It seems like something conjured up to help create a point for the story to continue, and it makes the narrative predictable and cliched.

I don’t want to make it sound like Insurgent is a bad movie, because it’s not. It’s decently made with enough passion and quality performances from quality actors. But for me it was just such a “meh”‘experience. I was only mildly interested and entertained, and frankly, it just didn’t do much for me at all. I have doubts the next part in the series, Allegiant, annoyingly split into two parts as well, will be able to change that.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Age of Adaline (2015)

August 18, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

AgeofAdalinePoster640

The Age of Adaline, about a beautiful woman who suddenly stops ageing, is one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen this year. I liked it from a big picture perspective, but if I start to think about the specifics it starts to creep me out a bit.

Blake Lively plays Adaline Bowman, a young widow and single mother who suddenly stops ageing at the age of 29 after an accident. Being unable to have  a lasting relationship with anyone apart from her daughter (Ellen Burstyn), Adaline is afraid to love and basically lives like the Cullen family from Twilight, using fake names and moving locations periodically to avoid being recognised.

It’s a fascinating concept filled with intriguing possibilities, but The Age of Adaline barely touches on any of them so it can focus solely on love. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if the execution is as effective as it is here.

The story centres on Adaline’s relationships with two dudes — a young one played by Michiel Huisman (best known as Daario from Game of Thrones) and an old one played by Harrison Ford. I won’t divulge more than that except to say the dynamics are really weird; some might go as far as to call it plain wrong. Such is the problem with a woman who doesn’t age.

The best way to describe this film is a fantasy romance. It has a fantastical feel to it in the vein of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but it’s also a melodramatic love story that channels Nicholas Sparks. Not as cringy, of course, though it has the same type of sweetness and longing and regret Sparks is renowned for.

It’s a movie that relies on coincidences and promotes the idea of fate. It ignores what should be extreme awkwardness so it won’t get in the way of the “magical” vibe of the love story. There is even a narrator who talks like he’s reading from a children’s story book, explaining to us — in semi-scientific and semi-magical terms — precisely what is happening to Adaline’s body.

The result is a strange but also strangely satisfying experience. Full credit to Blake Lively for arguably the best performance of her career. I’ve always only seen her as Serena van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl, and this is the first time it feels like she has completely embodied a different character. It’s not easy playing someone who looks young but is old at heart, but she’s good enough to make it convincing, even when starring opposite a heavyweight like Burstyn who is 54 years older than her in real life.

Ford also puts in one of the best performances I’ve seen from him in years. I knew he could do brooding but I had no idea he could do yearning old man so well. Huisman, by comparison, is good-looking but isn’t charismatic enough to convince me that he would be capable of being the one to woo Adaline when so many others have failed.

At the end of the day, The Age of Adaline is a fable about mortality that doesn’t tell us anything new or better than what others have done before it. It’s also fantastical and absurd, though it’s hard to deny that there is a dreamy sweetness to the tale that tugs at all the right heart strings. While It may fall short of captivating, I found it entertaining and romantic enough to be enjoyable.

3.25 stars out of 5