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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Shailene Woodley, star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The Descendents, is currently in talks to star in the Summit/Lionsgate movie adaptation of the YA book series Divergent. This news comes close on the heels of ABC Family cancelling Secret Life and Woodley booking the role of Mary Jane Watson in the The Amazing Spider-Man sequel.
Divergent, the first of three books in Veronica Roth’s dystopian series, is set in Chicago in the future, where society is divided into factions based on human traits: erudite (knowledge), candor (honesty), dauntless (bravery), amity (happiness), and abnegation (selflessness). The story focuses on 16-year-old Tris Prior, who leaves the abnegation for a rival faction and falls in love, all while hiding a dangerous secret about herself. This secret could destroy the factions for good, but that may not be such a bad thing.
I am totally behind this casting choice, as Woodley would make a great Tris. Tris begins her life in a new faction completely alone and terrified. Woodley can pull off the role of scared teenager, as Secret Life proved when she was portraying a scared teen going through pregnancy in high school. As Secret Life went on, her character Amy became stronger and stood up for herself, which is what Tris learns to do in her new faction. Her transformation from scared, weak, and alone into a brave, strong, independent teenager makes up most of the first book in the series.
The secret Tris carries matures her quickly, and Woodley clearly has the talent to show all the emotions needed to make her story believable, as evidenced by her award-winning performance in The Descendants. One of the biggest reasons I am all for Woodley as Tris is that she actually looks 16, unlike a certain female protagonist in another dystopian YA book series movie adaptation.
Neil Burger (Limitless) is directing with the screenplay by Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman).
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Nicolas Cage and John Travolta may rip each others faces off once again -- but this time, they might wear thicker glasses and tighter jeans.
Vulture reports that the two actors may be reuniting for two indie thrillers. The first, called Shrapnel, was written by Evan Daugherty and appeared on the 2008 Hollywood Black List. It tells the story of a Bosnian soldier seeking vengeance against an American by creating a hunting game.
The project is supposed to start in June with Die Hard's John McTiernan as director, but there's one little hiccup. As Vulture points out, McTiernan has some legal troubles last year, when he was fined $100,000 and sentenced to a year in prison for perjury on a Hollywood wiretap case. He's currently out on bail and appealing the sentence -- so, you know, he might not be around for that June start date.
The other potential project is called Sea Trial, a Chuck Roven-produced film from writer/director Raymond De Felitta based on the novel by his father, Frank De Felitta.
Unfortunately, neither of these projects involve exchanging faces. So, to get that weird face-to-body thing, we're just going to have to watch The Curious Case of Chris Evans -- or in other words, Captain America.
Universal Pictures Snow White and the Huntsmen is one of many children's stories coming back to the big screen, but one of the only to have its cast nearly locked into place. Over the past few months Charlize Theron was on again, off again, but appears to be almost set to play the villainous evil queen while the main roles - that of Snow White and the Huntsmen - haven't gotten as much attention. That changes today as Viggo Mortensen, who has been rumored for quite a few parts in big-budget films lately, seems to be close to landing the role of the Huntsman, according to Variety.
Rupert Sanders will direct the picture from a screenplay by Evan Daugherty, while Joe Roth (Alice In Wonderland) is producing. This iteration of the fable focuses on a huntsman, who, in the original tale is supposed to kill Snow White but ends up letting her go. He becomes the young girl's protector and mentor of sorts as they try to escape from the evil queen who ordered her death. Michael Fassbender had been rumored for the role previously, but he's been busy courting other high profile offers...
Meanwhile, Snow White's part is a more interesting situation. Sources indicate that Universal has been screen testing untried youths for the iconic role, much like Paramount Pictures did (with great success) for True Grit. However, Heat Vision claims that Kristen Stewart is not only a front runner, but is being aggressively courted by the studio. The Twilight star supposedly is such a commodity that she's not even required to screen test, so she may just need to make her decision and we could have our star.
I could personally see both of these actors in the respective roles. Both are major stars, especially with genre audiences. Their involvement, in addition to Theron's, adds a bit of prestige to an otherwise mainstream project that would be less intriguing with a cast of relative unknowns. Adding in established stars gives it a dynamic that will undoubtedly work in its favor. Stewart, though most known for vampire romances, is a fine actress who's been playing her cards right, taking on lots of indie fare to balance the box office might of The Twilight Saga, while Mortensen is a respected thespian and a bankable lead thanks to The Lord of the Rings and his acclaimed recent work with David Cronenberg.
Snow White and the Huntsmen has been fast tracked by the studio as its already got a December 21st 2012 release date and its competing with Relativity's rival Snow White picture, which has Tarsem Singh at the helm.
Source: Variety, Heat Vision
Universal just set a bunch of release dates for some of their bigger upcoming movies. Are you intrigued? Yes, of course you are. Let's take a look.
Larry Crowne - July 1, 2011
Tom Hanks is directing and starring in this comedy-drama about the titular Larry Crowne, a middle-aged man who goes back to college when he is fired from his job. He smokes pot, joins the ultimate frisbee team, and gets into all sorts of hilarious collegiate hijinks. Wouldn't that be funny? No, actually he falls in love with his professor, played by Julia Roberts. Yawn.
Safe House - February 10, 2012
Denzel Washington is a hardened criminal (sure) and Ryan Reynolds is a young CIA agent (why not) in this action-thriller from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. When a team of baddies destroy the safe house in which Washington is being held, the sardonic young Reynolds has to guide him to safety. It's like 16 Blocks, except Mos Def is Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis is Ryan Reynolds. And Washington won't have a speech impediment, hopefully.
Contraband - March 16, 2012
Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale are going to star in this remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavic-Rotterdam, in which the protagonist is a former smuggler trying to go straight, who gets roped in for one last job. Because there aren't already enough movies with this plot line, Universal is going to bring you another, and you're going to sit and watch it goddamnit. Baltasar Kormakur, who directed the original, will also be helming the English-language Marky-Mark version.
Untitled Judd Apatow Movie - June 1, 2012
'Untitled Judd Apatow Movie' is not the title of this untitled Judd Apatow movie, which is being written, directed, and produced by Judd Apatow. Or maybe it is? Has Judd Apatow's cultural relevancy reached such a point of critical mass that his only logical path now is to get all self-reflexive and make meta Judd Apatow movies about the process of making Judd Apatow movies? Maybe this will be a groundbreaking Charlie Kaufman collaboration. I would watch that.
The Bourne Legacy - August 3, 2012
Tony Gilroy will be directing the 4th installment of the Bourne franchise, which means Matt Damon won't actually be in it. Matt Damon told Universal he wouldn't star unless they brought back Paul Greengrass to direct. Universal laughed and decided to call his bluff. But no, Matt Damon is serious about not being in the next Bourne movie. And Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. So why are we still talking about this? Is anyone seriously interested in seeing a Bourne flick without Bourne in it? No? Okay then, moving on.
Ouija - November 9, 2012
Michael Bay's company Platinum Dunes is going to produce the hell out of this movie - as Michael Bay is want to do - with a rumored $80 - $100 million budget. Hell yeah! Enough with these pussy-footed $15,000 budget Paranormal Activity-type films. Anyway, this is a movie about a board game that people use to communicate with the dead.
47 Ronin - November 21, 2012
Keanu Reeves will star in this epic period film, based on the true story of a group of samurai in 18th century Japan who avenged the death of their master in a famous revenge-attack in 1702. Carl Rinsch, a promising commercial director we've had our eye on ever since we saw his very cool 2010 video short The Gift, will direct. Plus, Keanu is half Asian, so thankfully we won't have to deal with another brow-raising Tom Cruise-Last Samurai situation.
Snow White And The Huntsman - December 21, 2012
Tom Hardy (Inception) is rumored to be playing The Huntsman and Angelina Jolie the evil queen Ravenna in this reimagining of the classic fairy tale from spec scriptwriter Evan Daugherty. While I'm naturally skeptical of this project, The Playlist got their hands on the script and said it was "actually very strong, one of the better action-adventure scripts we've read in a while." Rupert Sanders will direct.
The Dark Tower - May 17, 2013
Oscar-winning director Ron Howard is set to helm the first of what Universal is setting up as a trilogy of films based on Stephen King's popular Dark Tower series, about the gunslinger Roland Deschain, who - long story short - sets out on a quest to find a tower-nexus at the center of his universe. This one's still a long ways off, but fans of the seven-book epic are already excited. You should be too, assuming Universal doesn't screw this one up. A TV series is also in the works.
John McTiernan is one of the few filmmakers who knows how to make an action movie that doesn't suck.
The director, whose credits include Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October, just signed on to helm the new action thriller Shrapnel (not to be confused with Len Wiseman's graphic novel-based sci-fi project of the same name).
Written by Evan Daugherty, the film follows two war veterans who hunt each other down in a game of cat and mouse. There will no doubt be lots of grunting and explosions. Paul Breuls and Anthony Rhulen will produce the picture.
"From the first time we read Evan's script, we believed we had the makings of a hit action film. With John McTiernan involved, the financing fell into place, and we expect to announce casting very soon," Rhulen told Variety.
Now that news is all fine and dandy, but one thing remains uncertain: McTiernan has a few legal issues to clear up. On October 4, the director faces sentencing after pleading guilty to making false statements to law enforcement officials during an investigation of Hollywood private detective Anthony Pellicano. Shrapnel's progress will likely depend on the outcome of the ruling.
Regardless, it's exciting to know that McTiernan will be behind a camera again, especially since most action films that hit theaters these days seem to be the same old, run-of-the-mill routine. Though the fore mentioned plotline sounds a bit thin, so did the loglines of most of his hits. It's his skill with the camera, his ability to create cinematic tension and his knowledge of the genre's conventions that have always made his movies better than the average actioner. Hopefully McTiernan can reinvigorate the action flick once again so that he can remind guys everywhere that his legacy shouldn't be defined by Rollerball.