Movie review: The Divergent Series – Allegiant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not writing for more than a week. I was really busy with university work and midterm assignments. But since it’s the weekend, I have a little bit of time to give you my thoughts on The Divergent Series: Allegiant! I swear the names of these films just keep getting longer and longer. Thank God that this one doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, though.

IMDb summary: After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago to finally discover the shocking truth of what lies behind it.

While watching this film, I came to the conclusion that I might have grown out of these dystopian movies or, at least, moved on to a different phase in my life. I also don’t think that I am the only one who did that: I would be really interested to know how financially successful this movie will be and whether the mainstream audiences are still interested in this genre of YA science fiction. But then again, there are only 3 (or only 2, since THG has ended) of dystopian franchises left, while there are more than 10 different comic book series and those movies are always profitable, despite how oversaturated the market is.

SPOILERS

Writing

The script for this film was written by a whole bunch of people: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Stephen Chbosky. It was, of course, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Chbosky is the one person from this group whose work I am familiar with. He, of course, wrote the book and the screen version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and he also directed that film. That narrative is one of my favorite coming-of-age stories ever. Chobsky is also writing a script for next year’s Beauty and the Beast for Disney’s live action fairytale department.  Meanwhile, Oppenheim has worked in the genre of dystopian fiction before – he was one of the screenwriters on The Maze Runner. Lastly, Cooper and Collage have previously worked together on the controversial Exodus: Gods and Kings film. I think that all the writers of the film did an okay job. The story had some nice moments as well as enough of terrible ones.

Book To Movie

It has been 3 years since I read the book that this movie has been based on, so I do not remember all the tiny details, but I feel that the movie’s story was as faithful as it could be to the original material. As far as I remember, the book had more subplots and more characters, with personal aims, involved in the main events, but I am totally fine with the film cutting out half of them if that makes the plot more concise and focuses up the story. If they would have chosen to include everything from the book into the picture, we would have ended up with a whole lot of narration – basically, it would be the same as listening to the audio book.  Also, the things that were in the book, but weren’t present in this film, might still appear in The Divergent Series: Ascendant. Remember, while this film doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, it still is only the first half of the final entry into the franchise.

Speculations about Ascendant

Speaking about the story, I think that some of the book things that the were missing from this film but the last movie will probably include are:

  1. Nita’s subplot and rebellion inside the bureau
  2. Caleb’s and Tris’s relationship and the idea of sacrifice
  3. More scenes with Tris and Christina (I don’t think that they had one full scene together in Allegiant at all)
  4. The book ending – HUGE SPOILER for the next film. I remember that I was shocked when I read it in the book and I really hope that they will keep this ending. It’s not only brave and different but a quite nice cinematic twist. This franchise would definitely earn back my respect if they did it.

Changes

A few of the changes that I could spot were:

  1. The whole set- up for the escape was completely different. However, while the premise and the process were altered, the final outcome stayed the same.
  2. The actual group Allegiant played a slightly different role and showed up later in the film’s story than in the book’s story.
  3. A much smaller group of already somewhat established characters participated in the escape in the film.
  4. In the book, there was an inoculation serum which was not present in the film.
  5. I don’t remember anything about the plasma balls and drones in the book. I think that the filmmakers just thought that it would a cool visual,  however, it ended up being a kinda stupid idea.
  6. Lastly, I don’t think that there was such institution as the council in the book.

Gripes about the story

While reading the story in the book, I didn’t really have problems with it, but watching it on screen made me realize how annoying and frustrating it sometimes was/is. For one, the death of Tori was so obvious – why would she deliberately stand further back? Also, how could Evelyn not realize that the memory serum would affect everyone? The film also had kinda an abrupt ending as it was only the first 1 of the bigger picture. Other problems I had with the film were more visual or aural. For one, that 3D exposition in the bureau was obviously meant for the viewers and not the characters. Moreover, the technology and the architecture of the place wasn’t even remotely realistic. Lastly, all the screams, especially in that aircraft, sounded really fake.

Things I liked

Okay, I feel like I have been too harsh on this film, so I will tell you 2 things that I actually enjoyed about the story. Number 1: I liked the idea that old methods in new circumstances will equal to the same mistakes and Number 2: I enjoyed the fact that they didn’t portray David as a straight up villain. He was kinda right in saying that peace is impossible to achieve without the struggle.

Visuals and Directing

Insurgent’s director Robert Schwentke returned to direct the 3rd film. To my mind, he did a good job. I noticed that he used a lot of overhead panning out shots as well as the circle/around traveling shots. The short fight on the plane was probably my favorite action sequence, just because it was the most realistic. The CGI of the film was also okay – nothing too groundbreaking but nothing bad as well.

I really loved the mise-en-scene of the film. That includes the brown/orange/red/yellow wasteland as the setting and the soldiers’ costumes which changed colours (red outdoors, grey and black inside). I also have to praise the editing department for the opening sequence – I liked the futurist and pixelated font in the old school color of gold. It was a nice juxtaposition between tradition and modernity.

Soundtrack

Allegiant’s soundtrack was put together by Joseph Trapanese. I especially liked his pick for the main theme/end credits song – Scars by Tove Lo. Since I’m a fan of Lo, I have been listening to this track even before I watched the movie – I highly recommend you give it a listen even if you don’t plan on watching the film.

Acting

As with all YA movies, the cast consisted of young up-and-coming actors and older more accomplished ones.

  • The ‘youngsters’ were led by Shailene Woodley as Tris. She was good in the action scenes as well as in more challenging dramatic ones. Still, my favorite movie of hers will always be TFIOS. She will be starring in Snowden – a political thriller later this year. Theo James starred as Four, the love interest. He was perfectly fine in the role and is currently working on another Underworld film.
  • Ansel Elgort played Caleb, while Zoë Kravitz starred as Christina. Both of them had really tiny roles, but I quite liked their funny moment together in that aircraft. I am really interested in Elgort’s next project – the movie Billionaire Boys Club.  Kravitz doesn’t really have any big movies coming up, but you can always rewatch Mad Max Fury Road if you want to see a really good movie of hers. 
  • Miles Teller as Peter. I really hated the character of Peter in the book, but I loved him in the film, probably because Teller was playing him. I am a fan of his and would like to forget the disaster of Fantastic Four as quickly as possible. Teller as Peter had basically all the funny lines and one-liners of the film. Next, we will see Miles in the comedy Get a Job and in 3 other films later this year.

The adult cast of the film consisted of Jeff Daniels as DavidNaomi Watts as Evelyn, and Octavia Spencer as Johanna. I feel like, for them, this movie was/is the definition of a paycheck gig.

All in all, Allegiant was an okay film. I didn’t expect much from it to be truthful, so I wasn’t that disappointed. It’s not a must-see, but if you have nothing better to watch or do, you will have a pleasant time watching Allegiant.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Divergent Series: Allegiant trailer

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Movie review: Steve Jobs

Movie reviews

Hello!

I haven’t written a movie review in more than 2 weeks! That seems unreal to me since I have watched at least 5 films in that time, however, the majority of them were for school – feature films for my film studies course and documentaries for my anthropology course. Other movies were old classics for my own enjoyment, like The Sound of Music and V for Vendetta. But now, let’s review a new film and, to my mind, another awards contender – Steve Jobs.

IMDb summary: Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

I have always been a fan of Steve Jobs and the products of Apple. Yes, I know that they are way too overpriced and that one of the reasons why people buy Mac Books and iPhones is to look prestigious. And I still don’t care. Call me a hypocrite, but I will be a happy hypocrite with my apples.

Speaking about Jobs as a person – he was a genius in his own right. He was an inspiring control freak and a likable asshole. Never has there been such a bipolar and complicated individual. Jobs not only played the orchestra but manipulated it. Some people say that he had no talent, but to me it looks like he had lots of talent – we just did not know what his talent was.

Steve Jobs (2015) is not the first and probably not the last film about this interesting person. Countless documentaries and 4 features films have been created based on his life. The latest feature film (before this one) was 2013’s Jobs directed by Joshua Michael Stern and starring Ashton Kutcher in the titular role. More than 15 books have also been released on the same subject. The book that I want to read the most and would like to recommend to you is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The film Steve Jobs (2015) is an adaptation of this 2011 biography.

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Writing and Dialogue

The script was written by Aaron Sorkin who has previously written the script for one of my all time favorite films about a different genius of technology and media Mark ZuckerbergThe Social Network. Surprisingly, this film, being a biographical film, had no voice-over and all the exposition was made through the dialogue. The whole film was driven forward by the dialogue and it demanded the viewers’ attention – if you weren’t listening for at least a second, you could have easily lost the thread of the story. All of the actors did an amazing job with the deliverance of the dialogue – I have no idea how could they find time to breathe in between that back-and-forth non-stop arguing. It was an interesting choice to structure the film in this way and, in my opinion, this choice was the right one. I also enjoyed the fact that the film did not focus on the whole life story and was set in the backstage of the 3 product launch events. I also liked the open ending – I usually penalize the film for having no clear resolution, but when a film  doesn’t need a resolution, there should not be one and Steve Jobs falls into this category.

Directing and Visuals

Steve Jobs film was directed by Danny Boyle. I have only seen one of his previous films – 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which I have definitely enjoyed. Speaking about Boyle’s work on this film, I do not have much to say: for me, the visuals were overpowered by the story or the dialogue, to be precise. However, I did enjoy the overlapping visuals in the scene in the corridor, when Fassbender’s character was telling a story (his plans) to Winslet’s character. In addition, I found it interesting how he used different gauges for different parts of the film: 1984 scenes were filmed on 16mm, 1988 on 35mm and 1998 on a digital film strip.

Acting

  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc – was amazing. I cannot imagine a different actor in this role. He is an extremely likable actor even if he plays a kinda unlikable character, so he was a perfect choice to play Jobs. Fassbender is a really versatile actor – he does big blockbusters – he is Magneto in the X-Men universe, but he also stars in smaller independent films. I have recently watched Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, starring Fassbender, and he was really good in that film – I warn you, the movie has a controversial scene, which involves Fassbender’s character. In addition, this year, Fassbender also appeared in Macbeth, which I, sadly, missed. I do plan to check it out some time later. Fassbender also has starred in one of my favorite and one of the most heartbreaking films of all time – 12 Years a Slave and he will be part of the highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed, coming out next year.
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, marketing executive for Apple and NeXT and Jobs’ confidant in the film – was also really good. I loved how blunt she was with Fassbender’s Jobs and how she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. Winslet is an established actress since 1997 – the Titanic era. She might be familiar to the younger audiences because of her role in the Divergent series. She will also star in another film this year – The Dressmaker. The trailer paints the film to be an interesting story, although, it looks more like a TV movie to me.
  • Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and creator of the Apple II provided great support. I prefer Rogen in dramatic roles much more than in comedic ones. However, I liked him in Neighbors. Still, though, I had an allergic reaction to The Interview.
  • Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993 was also a great addition to the cast playing a slightly similar role to the one he played in The Martian earlier this fall.
  • Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ former girlfriend and Lisa’s mother and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team were also great. I’m not familiar with both of these actors, although, we will see more of them soon. Waterson will be starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Stuhlbarg will be in Doctor Strange.
  • Sarah Snook as Andrea “Andy” Cunningham, manager of the Macintosh and iMac launches – I loved how her character provided if not a comic relief, then at least a quick break and a tiny smile, from all that non-stop arguing and dialogue.
  • I would also like to give a shout out to all the young actresses who played Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan: Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss. They all did a nice job.

All in all, Steve Jobs was an amazing motion picture. Personally, it was the type of film that assures me that my love for cinema is a justifiable and exciting hobby, which I would like to turn into a career one day. The acting was spot on and the dialogue – interesting, engaging and unapologetically on the nose.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Steve Jobs trailer

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Movie review: The Martian

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!!

I have missed you so much!! I haven’t written in a while because I was buried underneath piles of work. Living on my own while studying is way harder than I expected it to be. I already cannot even look at pasta and I still have 4 more years to go eating it. Anyway, we are not here to talk about my mundane problems. We are here to review the latest space opera – The Martian. I have actually seen it during the opening weekend but only managed to review it a week later…Sorry…

Also, I would like to give a spoiler warning for The Martian if you have not seen it yet.

BTW, it’s been a month since I started taking Introduction to Film course, so tell me in the comments if my reviewing style has changed somehow (maybe it improved, hopefully?).

Comparison

It is not a secret that in the last few years, we had a few high production astronomical blockbusters – 2013’s Warner Bros’s Gravity and 2014’s Legendary’s Interstellar. Now, 20th Century Fox takes its shot and creates a mixture of those two films (even borrows some actors): The Martian has a plot-line of a ‘lonely astronomer lost in space’ from Gravity and ‘his team trying to save him’ from Interstellar. While I have enjoyed both of these films, The Martian might be my favorite out of all 3. I have also seen this film described as Castaway meets Apollo 11, which, I agree, is an accurate representation.

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The tagline for this film was Bring Him Home and it was definitely true to the film because Mark Watney’s attempt to go home was the scientific and emotional core of the film. Also, for me as a newly created emigrant, it’s a theme near and-and dear to my heart. Yes, I’m not stranded on another planet, but being away from home is hard no matter the distance.

Water on Mars!

This movie had perfect time!! Just before its release, scientists actually found flowing water on Mars. Now, we are one step closer to turning The Martian from Science Fiction to Science Reality. If you like to learn more about this exciting development, I suggest you watch this Sci Show explanatory video.

Story & Writing

The Martian’s screenplay was written by Drew Goddard who has written mainly for TV before this. His credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Daredevil, which he also helped to produce. His last film script was for World War Z, which I, personally, really enjoyed but sadly been in a minority of moviegoers. Going back to The Martian, I really liked his treatment of this story. Although the movie has no real action, for the most part, a lot of crucial things still happen during the middle of the film and keep the viewer engaged and interested. Nothing happens and a lot of things happen at the same time (we actually just studied films like this in my film class last week). Moreover, it needs to be mentioned that this is not an original story but an adaptation of Andy Weir’s book with the same name. I added it to my reading list and you should too.  I have seen it in bookstores, re-released with the cover that looks like the movie’s poster, so it should be quite easy to get your hands on a copy of it.

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Realism

This movie has been praised for its scientific accuracy and it’s probably the most accurate of the 3 recent astronomical blockbusters. I am not expert on astronomy, physics, botany or any science but I am interested in these fields (that’s one of the reasons why I like sci-fi so much). Anyway, I found this Screen Junkies video on The Martian to be really interesting and helpful in thinking about Movie Science. I love all of their stuff on YouTube , but Movie Science videos are at the top of the list.

Directing and Visuals

The Martian is directed by the fan favorite Ridley Scott. His filmography includes Allien, Blade Runner (got its DVD from the library today), Gladiator, Prometheus and last year’s Exodus. Lots of people had problems with his last film and the whitewashing issue while I loved it. The interpretation of a biblical story was done in much better way than in Noah and the visuals were just stunning. Scott didn’t disappoint with The Martian as well. The Mise-en-Scene (I’ve learned a few fancy words in film class) was just stunning and really realistic while the futuristic technology was realized in a believable fashion as well. The action both on Mars and in the outer space looked amazing too. The NASA base was also a cool set, whose backgrounds could be analyzed separately from the narrative/on their own.

Acting

The titular character of the film and the main start, of course, is Matt Damon. It’s not the first time that Damon is playing a lost astronaut – he had a similar role in Interstellar. However, while he was an extreme douche-bag in that film, here he is a loveable, funny, witty, intelligent and self-efficient character who carries the whole film. Damon’s performance blew me away and definitely turned me into a fan of his. I’ve seen a few of his films and was always on a fence about him, but his role as Mark Watney changed my perspective. I also loved that he was a botanist – you never really see movies that focus on plant biology scientists, films usually tend to pick physics or chemistry scholars, so this was a nice and refreshing change.

While Matt Damon as Mark Watney is the central character of the film, he gets great support from a very diverse, established, and extensive supporting cast. I’m going to divide these characters into Space team and Earth team.

Space team includes:

  • Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander – another Interstellar alumni. Loved her in that film as much as this one.
  • Michael Peña as Rick Martinez, astronaut – the scene-stealer of Ant-Man shined in this film too. Can’t wait to see more of his work.
  • Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen, astronaut – played a similar role to the one she did in Fantastic Four. While they definitely messed up Sue Storm in that film, her character was a great addition to this motion picture’s cast.
  • Sebastian Stan as Chris Beck, astronaut – the Winter Soldier can be more than Marvel’s next Captain America. I am a fan of Stan, so loved seeing him popping up in this film.
  • Aksel Hennie as Alex Vogel, astronaut – rounded up the space part of the cast. Sadly, I’m not familiar with his work, so cannot really comment much, except to say that he was great in this film.

We didn’t get to spend much time with these characters and they didn’t get a lot of development. However, I believe that they served their purpose for this specific film perfectly by providing Matt Damon’s character with great support.

Earth team includes:

We did get to spend more time with the Earth-based part of the cast which had a few surprising performances.

  • Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, NASA spokesperson – was the biggest surprise. I have never imagined Wiig in not a comedic role but she blew me away. I wish she would do more action/drama films, but sadly her next movie is Ghostbusters remake, which I have mixed feelings about. Furthermore, I loved her character because she brought the public into the film. I haven’t seen the theme of public’s affect of NASA and NASA’s manipulation of public explored before.
  • Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director, and Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director were the powerful trio of NASA and for me, they worked best in their scenes together, because they played off of each others energy. Surprisingly, Sean Bean did not die. Also, seeing him make Lords of the Rings references was amazing!!
  • Donald Glover as Rich Purnell, a NASA astronomer and Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park, a satellite planner in Mission Control were the 2 younger actors in the Earth team. I liked the nerdy-ness that Glover’s character brought to the film and I appreciated the introduction to Davis as an actress.

Lastly, this film had a few international actors from China: Eddy Ko and Chen Shu. While I don’t know if this side-plot was the part of the original story of the book, but I guess we all know why it was included in the film. Get that Chinese Box Office, Fox!

All in all, this fall is proving to be one of the greatest movie seasons ever! I haven’t seen a film which I didn’t enjoy so far. The Martian is a great adaptation of (I’m sure) an amazing book with wonderful acting from the whole ensemble cast, especially the leading man – Matt Damon. In addition, it has stunning visuals and a strong emotional appeal as well as is scientifically accurate as much as sci-fi film can be accurate.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Martian trailer

The Martian movie poster