Film Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant (dir by Robert Schwentke)


Oh, Who Gives A Fuck About This Fucking Movie?

Oh, who cares?

I really hate to start my review with such a negative statement but seriously, after watching Allegiant today, I am now convinced that the Divergent movies are perhaps the least interesting film franchise since the Paranormal Activity sequels.  Not only are the films so derivative of The Hunger Games that I’m always surprised that Donald Sutherland isn’t lurking around in the background but they’ve also managed to waste the talents of some of the best actors of my generation.  When you’ve got performers like Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller at your disposal, there’s no excuse not to be interesting.

I watched Allegiant with my BFF Evelyn and I’ll admit right now that we talked throughout the entire movie.  We laughed at the most serious of moments.  When Jeff Daniels showed up, we had a very long discussion about how, when he’s good, Jeff Daniels is really good but when he’s bad, he manages to come across as being the most boring man on the planet.  When Miles Teller betrayed his allies, Evelyn said, “Again!?” and then she had to remind me that Miles Teller always ends up betraying everyone in every Divergent film.

(It makes you wonder why the Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) always bring Miles Teller with them as opposed to just killing him.  I suppose some of it might have to do with the fact that he’s Miles Teller and he’s a badass.  In fact, he probably should be playing Four.  He certainly has more chemistry with Shailene Woodley than Theo James does.  In fact, Theo James always looks like he’d rather be doing anything other than appearing in another goddamn Divergent film.)

And yes, Evelyn and I did get a few dirty looks from some people in the audience but you know what?  I fully understand that it’s rude to talk through a movie but oh my God, we had to do something.  Allegiant is such a boring movie.  The film moves slowly, as if the filmmakers don’t understand that everyone in the audience has seen enough YA adaptations to already know everything that’s going to happen.  If you want to truly understand what film critics mean when they say that a film is “draggy,” try to watch an entire Divergent film without standing up to stretch your legs or get something to drink.  Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make while watching Allegiant is to actually concentrate on what’s slowly playing out on screen.

The Divergent films aren’t terribly complicated and yet, I always find myself struggling to follow them.  They’re so bland and forgettable that I can never remember what happened in the previous film.  As Allegiant started, I was like, “Why is Naomi Watts in charge of Chicago now?  Oh yeah, Kate Winslet did die at the end of the last movie!”  And then I remembered that Evelyn was Four’s mother.

And then my BFF Evelyn (as opposed to the film’s Evelyn) said, “Four is a stupid name,” and I started laughing way too hard.  In fact, we made many jokes about Four’s nickname and then eventually, I remembered that he was called Four because he only has four fears.  But it took me a while to remember and, once I did remember, I couldn’t help but think about how stupid a backstory that was.

Anyway, the plot of the film is that the movie’s Evelyn is now in charge of Chicago but she’s turning out to be just as bad as the system that she’s replacing.  So, Tris, Four, and friends escape from Chicago and explore the barren landscape that surrounds the city.  Eventually, they are found by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  The Bureau is headed up by a boring guy named David (Jeff Daniels).  At first, David seems to be a good guy but then it turns out that the Bureau was behind the whole Faction experiment.  And now the Bureau wants to attack Chicago, wipe the slate clean, and start the experiment all over again.

Will Four and Tris go along with David’s plan or will they try to stop him?

At this point, who cares?

The thing that’s annoying about the Divergent films is that the storyline has potential.  At the heart of it all, the battle between the Factions and the Factionless has the potential to be a powerful, if simplistic, metaphor.  But the films are so plodding and take such an obvious approach that most of that potential is wasted.  Add to that, Shailene Woodley is a great actress.  In fact, I think it can be argued that she actually has more range than Jennifer Lawrence.  (Just check out her performance in The Spectacular Now.)  But the franchise has never known what to do with her uniquely off-center style.  Instead, it simply gives her speeches that feel as if they’ve been lifted from every other dystopian YA franchise.  The films insist on trying to make Shailene Woodley predictable and she deserves better on that.

As is typical of big franchise films nowadays, Allegiant is just part one of the Divergent finale and even the “to be continued” ending feels annoying because it’s so obviously lifted from every other franchise finale that’s ever been produced.  As with all the Divergent films, Allegiant never escapes the shadow of The Hunger Games.  The best that can be said about this franchise is that it will be over soon.  Hopefully, Shailene Woodley will be able to move onto a film more worthy of her considerable talents.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Quickie Reviews: The Big Game, The Connection, Graduation Day, McFarland USA, Taken 3, and War Room


Here are 6 more reviews of 6 other films that I watched this year.  Why six?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers, that’s why.

The Big Game (dir by Jalmari Helander)

In The Big Game, Samuel L. Jackson plays the President of the United States and you would think that fact alone would make this film an instant classic.  Unfortunately, this film never really takes advantage of the inherent coolness of Samuel L. Jackson playing the leader of the free world.  When Air Force One is sabotaged and crashes in the wilderness of Finland, President Jackson has to rely on a young hunter (Onni Tommila) from a group of CIA agents disguised as terrorists.  Tommila does a pretty good job and the scenery looks great but at no point does Samuel L. Jackson says, “Check out this executive action, motherfucker,” and that’s a huge missed opportunity.  As for the rest of the film, it takes itself a bit too seriously and if you can’t figure out the big twist from the minute the movie starts, you obviously haven’t seen enough movies.

The Connection (dir by Cedric Jiminez)

Taking place over the 1970s, the French crime thriller tells the largely true story of the efforts of a French judge (played by Jean Dujardin) to take down a ruthless gangster (Gilles Lellouche) who is the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in the world.  The Connection run for a bit too long but, ultimately, it’s a stylish thriller that does a very good job of creating a world where literally no one can be trusted.  Dujardin, best known here in the States for his Oscar-winning role in The Artist, does a great job playing an honest man who is nearly driven to the point of insanity by the corruption all around him.

Graduation Day (dir by Chris Stokes)

Hey, it’s another found footage horror film!  Bleh!  Now, I should admit that this horror film — which is NOT a remake of that classic 1980s slasher — does have a fairly clever twist towards the end, that goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the inconsistencies that, up until that point, had pretty much dominated the film.  But, even with that in mind and admitting that Unfriended and Devil’s Due worked wonders with the concept, it’s still hard to feel any enthusiasm about yet another found footage horror film.

McFarland USA (dir by Niki Caro)

McFarland USA is an extremely predictable but likable movie.  Kevin Costner plays a former football coach who, while teaching at a mostly Latino high school, organizes a cross country team that goes on to win the state championship.  It’s based on a true story and, at the end of the film, all of the real people appear alongside the actors who played them.  There’s nothing about this film that will surprise you but it’s still fairly well-done.  Even Kevin Costner, who usually gets on my last nerve, gives a good performance.

Taken 3 (dir by Olivier Megaton)

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back and he’s killing even more people!  Fortunately, they’re all bad people but you really do have to wonder what type of dreams Bryan has whenever he goes to sleep.  In Taken 3, Bryan’s wife (Famke Janssen) has been murdered and Bryan has been framed.  He has to solve the case and kill the bad guys while staying one step ahead of the police (represented by a bored-looking Forest Whitaker).  Neeson does all of his usual Taken stuff — the intense phone conversation, the steely glare, and all the rest — but at this point, it has literally been parodied to death.  If you’re into watching Liam Neeson kill ugly people, Taken 3 will provide you with adequate entertainment but, for the most part, it’s but a shadow of the first Taken.

War Room (dir by Alex Kendrick)

I saw the War Room in Oklahoma.  It was being shown as part of a double feature with The Martian, of all things!  Anyway, this film is about an upper middle class family that hits rock bottom but they’re saved by the power of prayer!  Lots and lots of prayer!  Seriously, this film almost qualifies as “prayer porn.”  Anyway, the film was badly acted, badly written, incredibly heavy-handed, and ran on way too long but, on the plus side, it did eventually end.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

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Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

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Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

hayride-2

Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

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Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

Poltergeist_2015_poster

Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

Tomorrowland_poster

Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

Scenes I Love: Punisher: War Zone


PunisherWarZone

In honor of Jon Bernthal being cast as the latest in a line of Frank Castles aka the Punisher for Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix, I thought I’d share with all my favorite scene from the only Punisher film worth the name. The film this scene is from was Punisher: War Zone by Lexi Alexander.

While the casting of Jon Bernthal looks to be a near perfect stunt-casting by Marvel for Daredevil‘s upcoming second season on Netflix, I thought Ray Stevenson’s portrayal as the psychotic antihero in Punisher: War Zone was the best one comic book fans have gotten. Dolph Lundgren was the first Punisher and the less said about him the better. Then Thomas Jane took a stab on portraying the character to some success though still not doling out enough punishing in my book.

With Ray Stevenson we got a Frank Castle who was well into his vigilante killing-spree of the criminal underworld. This was a man possessed to kill in as brutal and efficient manner every violent criminal he comes across. The film itself was so over-the-top that too many thought it was too campy in a violent sense when Lexi Alexander actually tapped into what made the Punisher tick and put it up on the screen. It also helped that Ray Stevenson owned the role he was given.

Jon Bernthal has some big shoes to fill, but with the success of Daredevil the series I do believe he has a chance to make the character his own.

Trailer: Thor: The Dark World (Official)


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The second film of Marvel’s Phase 2 for it’s Cinematic Universe comes in the form of Thor: The Dark World. I’m sure the title should give as to which of the Avengers character is front and center for this Phase 2 film.

Above is the official theatrical poster for the film which has a strong fantasy, Drew Struzan feel to it. That’s more than appropriate since Thor bridges the gap between the more grounded superheroics of Midgard’s (that’s Earth to the layman) heroes (Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Iron Man) and the more fantasy and scifi denizens of Asgard like Thor and the upcoming film, Guardians of the Galaxy.

While this latest trailer released by Marvel is not the footage that was shown to Hall H attendees during Marvel’s panel at this year’s Comic-Con, it still manages to show some new footage in addition to one’s already shown at the initial teaser earlier. For one, it has more Loki (which is smart of Marvel since Loki has become this Cinematic Universe’s resident bad boy everyone seems to love or hate to love.) and it also shows some hints at the darker, grittier look that Alan Taylor looks to bring from his time as director of episodes of Game of Thrones for HBO.

Natalie Portman’s character, Jane Foster still seems to come off as not belonging to this ensemble, but there’s still chance that the finished product will flesh her out and her relationship with Thor to everyone’s satisfaction.

Thor: The Dark World is set for a November 8, 2013 release date.

Trailer: Thor: The Dark World (Official)


Thor the Dark World

Iron Man 3 is already premiering in Europe and less than two weeks from premiering in North America. To help tie-over North American filmgoers until Iron Man 3 premieres on this side of the Atlantic Marvel Studios has released the first official trailer for the second film in Phase 2 of their Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Thor: The Dark World sees the Marvel action return to Asgard as Thor must now battle the return of an enemy older than the universe itself. Kenneth Branagh is out as director and in steps Alan Taylor of Game of Thrones as the filmmaker for this sequel. Most everyone returns for this second go-around in Asgard and the Nine Worlds with some new faces such as Chris Eccleston as Malekith the leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim.

Thor: The Dark World is set for a November 8, 2013 release date.

Source: Joblo Movie Network

Trailer: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2nd Official)


Today we saw the release of the second official trailer for Paramount Pictures’ G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra).

This new trailer show’s a bit more of the plot that was hinted at in the first trailer. That trailer told us that the President of the United States has declared war on the Joes and the survivors of a preemptive strike on the team has to try and figure out a way to get their reputations back (plus show the world that the group Cobra is not the saviors they’re showed to be).

This new trailer expands on the film’s story and also gives a bit more detail on why Bruce Willis’ character, Gen. Joe Colton, was a big part of the formation of the G.I. Joes. That’s all well and good, but everyone going into this film knows all they want is some kick-ass action. The trailers shows that and more. Hopefully, the action scenes showed is just a hint of the action in this film.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is scheduled for a June 29, 2012 release.

Trailer: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Super Bowl Spot)


If there’s a recent guilty pleasure of mine the past couple years it has to be 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Yes, that film was a mess with iconic characters from the G.I. Joe franchise of toys and comics so miscast that it was difficult to feel any sort of attachment to them in the film. But for some reason the film was still entertaining in that dumb, but fun way certain films just end up becoming.

No one thought a sequel would ever be made after that first film, but it looks to have made enough money to justify one for the studios making it. This latest trailer and Super Bowl tv spot for G.I. Joe: Retaliation has The Rock quoting Jay-Z while showing some new sequences in addition to ones already shown in past trailers. We get to see a more than quick glimpse of Cobra Commander in his new, but recognizable facemask.

I’m definitely going to be watching this the weekend it comes out and with Channing Tatum barely being shown as being in the film then my wish that he may not make it past the early minutes of this sequel may have been answered.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is still set for a June 29, 2012 release date.

Trailer: G.I. Joe: Retaliation


I will admit right here and right now that I really enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra when it came out in 2009. I know that it was really panned by critics and many film-goers, but I thought it brought the cartoonish action of the original cartoon to life. I wasn’t too thrilled with some of the casting choices, but overall I had fun with the film. I wasn’t really the only one who enjoyed it since it made quite enough in the box-office to warrant a sequel. This sequel looks to bring in only a few people from the first film (Channing Tatum, Ray Park and Lee Byung-hun as Duke, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow respectively) while bringing in a new cast and, most important of all, a new director and writers.

Jon Chu, fresh off the success of Fast Five, took on this project and from the trailer shown above it looks like he has injected the very same fun action he did for the Fast and the Furious franchise. It’s going to be interesting to see if the action in this sequel follows the same cartoonish (lasers and stuff) kind they had in the first film or will Chu and crew go old-school action and just go with bullets, bombs and rockets. If they go with the latter then I am all for it. Plus, it has “The Rock” as Roadblock. That alone had me as ticket-buyer on Day One of it’s release.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is set for a June, 29, 2012 release.

Quickie Review: Punisher: War Zone (dir. by Lexi Alexander)


If there was ever a Marvel Comics character who was perfectly suited to star in a grindhouse film it would be Frank Castle aka The Punisher. He’s a character who takes the term anti-hero past its limits and who makes other film vigilantes seem like sissy, choir boys. In December 2008 Lionsgate released a sort of reboot of The Punisher by Jonathan Hensleigh and starring Thomas Jane in the titular role. This time around the role of Frank Castle goes to Ray Stevenson (The Other Guys, Thor, Kill the Irishman) with German-filmmaker Lexi Alexander taking on the director’s reins.

Punisher: War Zone takes much of the characters in the film from story-arcs found in the Marvel Knight’s Punisher MAX series which took the character and his stories into a darker realm of violence. This latest film definitely owes much of it’s darker and more violent tone from that comic book line while at the same time creating a look which brings to mind the garish and over-the-top grindhouse action films of the early 80’s. The film quickly establishes who the Punisher is and what motivates him to take on and kill (heavy emphasis on kill) the criminal underworld of the city. In an opening sequence that probably out-violences every other film released in 2008, the Punisher wipes out a gathering of mobsters in every bloody way as possible. Blood and gore flows and splatters a-plenty in the first 10-15 minutes of this film.

There’s a semblance of a story which involves Castle mistakenly killing an undercover FBI agent which causes him a momentary crisis of conscience, but it really doesn’t last too long as there are more criminals to kill, main and blow up. If there’s one thing the Punisher knows how to do best it’s those three things. Ray Stevenson in the title role doesn’t get to emote much, but does a great job in showing the characters ice-cold ruthlessness paired with a sort of dead-man walking persona which rings true to how the Punisher has been written up of late. His Frank Castle is dead inside and only when he’s the Punisher does he even show any sort of life (even if it’s the barest hint). His foil this time around brings one of the Punisher’s earliest arch-enemies in the disfigured mobster (caused by the Punisher) Jigsaw (played with over-the-top campy relish by Dominic West). Where Castle is deadly serious to the point of morbidity his opposite was all garish with a liberal dose of crazy.

Punisher: War Zone really dispenses with any complexities to it’s plot and just finds reasons and excuses for the Punisher to go on another killing spree against criminals that for some it might not be enough. As a lover of grindhouse and exploitation films what this film offers was enough and really goes a long way in entertaining in such an 80’s fashion. It’s a film that revels in its violent absurdities and campy storytelling. Even the acting by all in the film passes the line of campy and into a sort of Looney Tunes level which makes the extreme violence and gore of the killings more cartoonish than realistic. This was a film that celebrated it’s grindhouse roots from the actors, the filmmakers all the way down to it’s cinematographer and art directors. It’s disposable entertainment and it knows it so doesn’t bother to try and hide that fact and just tries to entertain in every manner possible and then some.