Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
Beneath the many tiers of convoluted sci-fi world building that make up the skin of Divergent, there is what might pass for a simple and humane heart: the message that a person should be more than "just one thing." That the truly worthwhile among us won't fit so snugly into the rigid compartments instituted by society — both ours and that of Future Chicago — because "not fitting in," as it turns out, is actually a better gig. That in Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), we — the silent majority of outcasts — have a new idol to vocalize the values in being different. But it's really difficult to attach yourself to a character like Tris with writing this terrible.
Although the parameters of her role would logically allow for enough personality, imagination, and good old fashioned chutzpah to make Tris a relatable human being, there is almost no personality to be found in the script's version of the hero. The entire Divergent world is lacking in this area, in fact. From the onset of her introductory voice-over (almost forgivable, because there might actually be no other way to introduce a society so cluelessly complicated), we can feel something lacking in the construction of the film's hero. Tris explains the nature of the five societal factions that exist in Future Chicago — Dauntless (the brave), Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), and two others that don't really come into play, mentioning with a foreboding tone that those who don't belong to any faction are shunned by the world and cast to desolation (that's her, if you don't already know). But in these crucial opening minutes, Tris' exposition is as lifeless as it is brainless. Starting with Erudite, Tris fawns like an empty-headed child, "They know everything." A regrettably imbecilic line, but probably the peak of the character's nuance. From there, we get very little out of Tris, or any other of Divergent's citizens, that isn't cold, bloodless exposition and the action necessary to courier it to a sating box office end game.
Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
No one in this story about "being yourself" feels at all like he or she has a self to be. Run through the gears of a world too insistently mechanical to evoke anything real (despite the generosity of its central "fitting in" conceit), the people end up flat, thin, and dry, never once uttering a line of dialogue that is in any way personal... or in any small way not tailored to the larger game of misguided set-up at play. Against this backdrop, a pronounced Tris Prior might have been doubly effective. But it's not some grand schematic on the part of director Neil Burger and screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor to paint a gray world behind a glimmering hero. It's just an ostensible inability to draw anything human.
There are a couple of reasons why we hesitate to call Tris a truly terrible character. The first is Woodley. With so little to work with, she is, admittedly, good. Her action carries weight, her tears beget ours, and we do actually root for her to come out okay. All of the charm we're accrediting to Tris is Woodley's doing, and we know from past turns that with a better script in her hands this rising star could do wonders. The second is that, in outline form, Tris might be the best YA heroine we've gotten lately. Her decisions stem from a drive for independence and personal fulfillment. True, her primarily relationship is with a brooding jock, the unfortunately named Four (Theo James), to whom she plays the eager therapist more than anything else. But she also has a somewhat empowering bond with her mother (Ashley Judd) and an admittedly under cooked but at the very least occasionally present rapport with faction-mate Christina (Zoe Kravitz). So... something.
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Without a real character in which to root these small victories, though, they amount to very little. Just additional slices of the soulless, joyless, mindless deep dish pie that is this movies. But Chicago's dystopian fiction fails the same way that its pizza does: over stuffed with empty calories and lacking any recognizable flavor.
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Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
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To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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After being in talks for months, Kate Winslet has been confirmed to star in Divergent, Summit Entertainment announced on Thursday.
Based on Veronica Roth's bestselling YA novel, the movie is set in a dystopian future where society divides people into five factions based on personality. Shailene Woodley plays the young protagonist Beatrice "Tris" Prior, who is classified a "divergent," a rare, dangerous classification, and is told she will never fit into any specific group. She leaves her family back in the Abnegation (selfless) faction to join the Dauntless (bravery) faction, and uncovers a conspiracy to destroy all "divergents" and start a war between factions. She must find out why she and others like her are considered so dangerous before it's too late.
RELATED: 'Divergent' Finds Its Love Interest in Theo James
Winslet will portray the villain of the series, the cold, calculating leader of the Erudite (knowledge) faction, Jeanine Matthews. Directed by Neil Burger, Divergent also stars Theo James, Jai Courtney, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, and Ansel Elgort.
James will play Tobias "Four" Eaton, a man with a mysterious past and Tris’s intense, charismatic instructor of the new Dauntless initiates and one of the leaders of the faction. He is her ally and love interest as they try to stop a war together.
RELATED: Jai Courtney Joins 'Divergent': Who Will He Play?
Courtney will play Eric, one of the Dauntless leaders and an enemy of Four. He is described as having many piercings and long, dark, greasy hair, with cold eyes that made him all the more menacing, scabbed-over knuckles, and a wicked smile. He is excessively cruel and makes life for Tris as hard as he possibly can.
Q will play Tori, the owner of a tattoo parlor in Tris’s chosen faction, Dauntless, and is part of the choosing ceremony that divides people into factions. She ends up as Tris’s ally. Kravitz will play Christina, a member of the Dauntless faction and who becomes friends with Tris. Elgort will play Caleb, Tris’s brother who turns his back on his family in the Abnegation faction, like Tris, to become part of the Erudite faction.
RELATED: 'Divergent' Star Shailene Woodley Queen of YA?
Aaron Eckhart, Ray Stevenson and Miles Teller are also in talks to join the cast.
Divergent hits theaters March 21, 2014.
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[Photo Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP Photo]
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Divergent has finally found its love interest. Golden Boy's Theo James has just been cast to star opposite Shailene Woodley as "Four" in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth's young adult fiction bestseller.
The movie is set in a dystopian future where society divides people into five factions based on personality. Woodley plays the young protagonist Beatrice "Tris" Prior, who is classified a "divergent," a rare, dangerous classification, and is told she will never fit into any specific group. She leaves her family back in the Abnegation (selfless) faction to join the Dauntless (bravery) faction, and uncovers a conspiracy to destroy all "divergents" and start a war between factions. She must find out why she and others like her are considered so dangerous, before it's too late.
A man with a mysterious past, Tobias "Four" Eaton (James) is Tris’s intense yet charismatic instructor of the new Dauntless initiates (those who chose Dauntless and were not born into it) and one of the leaders of the faction. In lazier storytelling, Four's character could have wound up just as romantic fodder for the protaganist, but in Roth's brilliantly-written novel, he has a compelling history with his own shocking secrets that come to light, and he shares the spotlight with Tris. He is more her ally than her love interest as they try to stop a war.
Other YA love interests, perhaps the best-known are Twilight's Edward Cullen and The Hunger Games' Peeta Mellark, spend their entire journey in the books/movies constantly trying to save their love's life. Sure, they may have interesting back stories but their main goal is always saving or protecting their girlfriend. Four has so much more to him than just being Tris's hero and savior. In fact, most of the time he stands back and lets Tris save and defend herself, instilling the brave and fearless values that the Dauntless faction teaches. Tris and Four don't let their relationship take priority over what needs to be done.
RELATED: Jai Courtney Joins 'Divergent': Who Will He Play?
In a joint statement, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, Co-Chairmen of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said, "Theo is not only an incredibly talented actor, he is also who we envisioned as Four when reading Veronica’s novel which has taken the world by storm. As we continue to develop the film, the studio remains committed to providing fans with a movie adaptation that stays as true to the book as possible and we are confident that we have done so with our selection of Shailene and Theo in the leading roles."
"We took our time to find the right actor to fill the role of Four, and Theo is definitely the perfect fit," said Erik Feig, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group’s President of Production. "Veronica has crafted a truly iconic character in Four and we cannot wait to begin production and bring him and this story to life for millions of fans around the world."
James joins the film – directed by Neil Burger – along with previously cast Woodley, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, and Ansel Elgort. Kate Winslet, Aaron Eckhart, Ray Stevenson and Miles Teller are also closing deals to join the cast, Deadline reports.
Divergent hits theaters March 21, 2014.
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @Sydney Bucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Scott Gries/Invision/AP Images]
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The Associated Press reports Robert De Niro has filed a $1 million lawsuit Monday over a photo taken of him and actor Sean Penn blowing out birthday candles at a private party last year. The actors share the same birthday--Aug. 17--and were celebrating last year at a rooftop party in New York's TriBeCa area when the photo was taken. Celebrity Vibe photo agency offered the photo for sale, and it has appeared in one newspaper and one national magazine, De Niro's lawyer told AP. The suit, which names Celebrity Vibe in the filing, claims someone sneaked into the party, while Celebrity Vibe maintains its photographer was invited.
The London Evening Standard reports Friends star Matt LeBlanc has announced plans to marry his girlfriend, Melissa McKnight, at Christmas. The pair have been engaged since November 1998.
Actor Jason Priestley remained in serious but stable condition Monday after undergoing six hours of surgery last Wednesday, People.com reports. The actor fractured both feet and his spine Aug. 11 when his race car hit a wall at 180 mph, but his doctors have said the 32-year-old racing enthusiast is expected to make a full recovery and could start rehabilitation as early as this week. That just sounds painful, doesn't it?
Lot 47 Films President Jeff Lipsky has resigned from the independent film distribution company he co-founded with his brother three years ago. Lot 47 has released films such as L.I.E., Scotland, PA and The Fast Runner. Variety reports he is leaving for "personal reasons," but will remain on the company's board.
Thanks to the success of Scooby-Doo, now there's going to be Hong Kong Phooey. Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 2) will adapt the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon about a clumsy dog detective who uses kung fu to stop the bad guys. It'll be a smash, no doubt.
American Idol producers are worried "power dialers"--so-called computer nerds with high-powered Internet connections and autodialing software--have been slamming the show's voting system with thousands of votes, making it difficult for individuals redialing manually to get their votes through. "We know who these people are and we're tracking them, and if it gets to a point where they're starting to support a specific person over another, then there are steps that we have discussed that we may take at that time," Michael Eaton, vice president of home entertainment for Freemantle Media, the show's London-based producer, told CNN.com.
A porn star on the next Survivor? This could be interesting. CBS producers are defending their decision to allow porn actor Brian Heidik, who also had a guest stint on Days of Our Lives, to join the upcoming Survivor: Thailand edition.Said the network in a statement, "CBS was aware of his past film credits, but all of our survivors ultimately have the option to decide what elements of their background they do and don't want written in their bios. Brian Heidik is certainly not the first actor to omit certain credits from his biography. While this is a part of his past, he is now a successful used-car salesman raising a family in the suburbs, and we feel he definitely brings something to the show." What that something is, exactly, remains to be seen.
Attorneys for Courtney Love are expected to ask for another extension on Tuesday in the singer's court dispute with her record label, Universal Music Group, as both sides continue talks to settle the case. Universal claims Love owes the company several more albums, while Love counters that the long contract terms are unrealistic.