Film Review “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Jeff Daniels
Directed By: Robert Schwentke
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 121 minutes

Our Score: 1 out of 5 Stars

“The Divergent Series” has apparently been hitting the snooze alarm for the past six hours because there’s nothing new to report on this third nauseatingly bad movie. It also appears that Lionsgate loves burning through all that money it made from “The Hunger Games”, one of the few successful young adult dystopian future storylines. “Allegiant” does nothing new as it simply shuffles around different set pieces, and rehashes the same, poorly constructed arguments for individuality.

It doesn’t take long after the death of Jeanine (Kate Winslet, but she was sparred a brief cameo or stock footage in this, for her potential replacements to rise to the occasion and attempt their own cou d’état to take over the crumbling city of Chicago. Caught in the middle, once again, is Tris (Woodley) and Four (James). They’re ready to follow the advice of the anonymous talking head from the end of “Insurgent” and go outside the walls surrounding the city. But Four’s mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts) seems more focused on keeping everyone inside, sealing up the walls even further. She also seems enamored with publicly executing members of the old regime, rather than restructuring society.

Johanna (Octavia Spencer) is ready to declare Chicago her pet project as well, believing that peace can be achieved through forgiveness of members of the old regime. Of course she also has some firepower and disposable goons with weapons of her own to take on Evelyn. While the two women bicker over nothing (literally), Tris, Four, and others escape from Chicago. They begin to explore the world outside the walls, which looks like the remnants of a trailer park after a tornado, on Mars. Nuclear fallout is weird like that I guess. Of course, Tris and Four encounter the civilization outside their own civilization. And of course, there are no good guys there, just more big bad guys with nefarious deeds.

“Allegiant” has beaten me down. I no longer want to look for positives or find any positives to talk about. There are some, but it’d be futile consider it’s like attempting to compliment a corpse. I’m now even considering taking back positive things I’ve said about Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, and other up-and-coming actors. I can at least forgive veteran actors, Octavia Spencer, Jeff Daniels, and Naomi Watts, because I can see that, “Did my check clear yet,” look in their eyes throughout.

Tris no longer seems like a heroine, but instead a hollow pawn inconsequently bumping into people, things, and plot devices. Then there’s Four, who seems like he’s a 30 pack away from giving Tris a black eye as he attempts to control and grab every person he comes in contact with. Miles Teller is in this movie. Mainly as a character that spouts off Kindergarten insults and sarcastic humor, but no one told him the script and serious line reading in this movie is already comedy relief enough.

What’s worse than everything I’ve said so far is that the movie has yet to stop with exposition. “Allegiant” is way more fascinated with introducing than it is concluding. The world outside Chicago needs explanation. The gadgets in this new world need detail and unnecessary character montage tutorials. The only thing lacking description is the key element to making this a somewhat worthwhile movie, the plot.

In the grand scheme of things, learning how to operate a new piece of military hardware should be much lower on the clarification totem pole. Especially when the new world we’re supposed to be learning about involves mass brainwashing, child abductions, and the crafting of a genetically pure human being. With two hours left in the franchise, I’m wondering if we’re going to have a logical conclusion to this cluttered mess or if it’ll be content with hitting the snooze button a few more time. It’s a safe bet for all of this to inevitably be trite.

I’m sure the fans of the books/movies will gobble it up and the people who watched the first movie and have already checked , will most likely be saving their money for “Batman V. Superman” next week. My apathy in this review matches my feelings towards this series. Both of the groups of people I just told you about will most likely not read this because they’ve already made up their mind. So let me talk to the few of you who have never seen these movies and may be interested in possibly starting this series. Don’t. Just don’t.

Blu-ray Review “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”

Actors: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller
Directors: Robert Schwente
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Run Time: 119 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Divergent Series” is really not one of my favorite franchises in Hollywood right now. The first film was rather painful to watch, the sequel is a bit more entertaining. I do believe that Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, The Descendants) is quite awesome though and definitely a really talent actress (but a girls gotta make a buck I guess). There is more action in this and I am sure it looks cool in 3D (thought not reviewed here) but still lacks the compelling story and drive to keep the audience interested. But I guess we still have two more films in this franchise left to try and make a good film.

Along with co-star Theo James (Underworld: Awakening), this film does back a solid co-starring cast including Octavia Spencer (The Help), Jai Courtney (Terminator: Genesis), Ray Stevenson (Thor), Zoe Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road), Miles Teller (The Fantastic Four), Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars, Carrie), Maggie Q (TV’s “Nikita”), Mekhi Phifer (Showtime’s “House of Lies”), Daniel Dae Kim (TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”), Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy), Naomi Watts (King Kong) and Kate Winslet (Titanic)…too bad it can’t translate this film.

Official Premise: Based on Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times best-selling novel Insurgent, The Divergent Series: Insurgent raises the stakes for Tris (Woodley) as she searches for answers and allies in this star-powered, action-packed second installment of the Divergent series. On the run and targeted by ruthless faction leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), Tris fights to protect the people she loves, facing one impossible challenge after another as she and Four (James) race to unlock the truth about the past—and ultimately the future—of their world.

Lionsgate is releasing the film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + Digital HD. Even though the film is not great, the Blu-ray is very impressive. The 1080p transfer is really solid and the CGI looks sharp. I am curious to check this out in 3D since the virtual reality scenes could be cool. The audio track is also impressive boosting a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which does rock with the action and Joseph Trapanese’s score. If your system can’t support Atmos, it will convert till Dolby TrueHD 7.1, which does sound amazing still.

The special features are actually quite impressive even though it kicks off with a lacking audio commentary with Producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher. Not a super chatty piece but decent. The save grace is a kick-ass feature extra “Insurgent Unlocked: The Ultimate Behind-the-Scenes Access”, which has picture in picture options and bunch of production featurettes. “From Divergent to Insurgent” features cast and crew interviews. “The Others: Cast and Characters” focuses more on the characters. “Anatomy of a Scene: The Train Fight” looks into this film. “The Peter Hayes Story” looks into Miles Teller’s character. Lastly “Divergent: Adapting Insurgent to the Screen” features some more interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Blu-ray Review “Divergent”

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ray Stevenson, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Maggie Q, Miles Teller
Director: Neil Burger
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Run Time: 139 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When I saw the trailer for “Divergent”, it is just one of those films that right away I knew I was going to hate. I understand that I am not the targeted audience for this film but I did read (or at least attempt to start reading) the book, which I didn’t dig either. “Divergent” just takes way too long to get started and then by the time it gets some speed, it stalls out quickly. With all the hype I was expecting something epic but was left yawning more than sitting on the edge of my seat. If you adore films like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” then you should definitely enjoy this film. I don’t and I certainly didn’t enjoy this.

Official Premise: Divergent is set in a future world where society has been divided into five distinct factions. But Tris (Woodley) will never fit into any one group-she is Divergent, and what makes her different makes her dangerous. Targeted by a faction leader determined to eliminate all Divergents, Tris turns to the one person she believes she can trust: Four (James), an instructor for the militant Dauntless faction, and a man full of dark secrets. Together, Tris and Four uncover a mind-bending conspiracy that will put their courage to the ultimate test and forever link their destinies.

Despite for my dislike for the film, it does come with a solid AV presentation. The 1080p transfer in presented with an 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It looks quite amazing for this picture quality, which is sharp and super clear. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is also quite impressive. It really gives this film a very big feel. The sound effects sound great and are well balance for this surround track.

Special features are ok for this release but nothing screaming Blockbuster. There are two audio commentary tracks. The first with Director Neil Burger, which is a bit of a bore. The next is with Producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick, which is a little better. “Bringing Divergent To Life” is a solid set of four featurettes, running over 45 minutes. “Faction Before Blood” looks into the faction systems. Lastly there are some deleted scenes, a music video and a marketing gallery included.

Film Review “Divergent”

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Zoe Kravitz
Directed By: Neil Burger
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 139 minutes
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

War has obliterated the planet, leaving what survivors there are to take refuge in a crumbling Chicago landscape. The residents have divided the city into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. By the age of 16, this bizarre society forces their teens to take an aptitude test that will determine which faction they are ideal for. Looks like it’s time for another movie based off a young adult novel that can’t differentiate itself from it’s siblings.

Beatrice (Woodley) is one of those teenagers mentioned above. She was born into an Abnegation family, but has always yearned to be apart of the Dauntless faction. Why? Who knows. She goes into to take her “test”. All she does is drink a concoction which induces bad acid trip visions. Once she awakens she’s told that she’s a divergent, someone who can actually fit perfectly into any faction. Her “test” administrator tells her to leave and not speak of the test results to anyone. Shadowy conspirators. Mysteries begging to be uncovered. A lot of decent ideas are set-up in the first five minutes followed by an over two hour rough tumble downhill.

Despite having an inconclusive test, on the selection day, Beatrice chooses…you guessed it…the Dauntless faction. And why? Who knows. Dauntless is the military wing of this society, although every time they make an appearance they seem more like adrenaline junkies as they scale buildings and run everywhere. She also decides to go by the name Tris now. Don’t even think about asking me why. We meet her boot camp friend and foes. Christina (Kravitz) turns out to be her true to heart tag-a-long companion. Meanwhile she has to deal with the sophomoric insults of Peter (Miles Teller) and the constant scrutiny of her leader Eric (Jai Courtney). There’s also her instructor and mandatory love interest, Four (James). The first half is an unnecessarily bloated prologue coupled by a few harmless laughs and way too much water treading. By the time things start picking up, we don’t know a whole lot and we don’t care.

The theme, individualism and being skeptical of authoritarian regimes, is the movie’s hammer and they bash you across the face with it repeatedly. This movie not only steals cliches, it repeats the same ones throughout the movie. There’s a dystopian world waiting to be explored along with a power struggle wanting to be uncovered, but this movie would much rather focus on training montages and capture the flag. The bright spot is definitely the acting. Woodley has shown in the past that she’s fantastic and really able to embody whatever role she’s given. She really gives it her all in this and is incredibly likable. The supporting characters played by James, Kravitz and others live and breathe their characters. This cast is also surrounded by an established group of actors and actresses like Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd and Ray Stevenson. Why couldn’t they hand something readable to these people?

At a certain point I merely entertained myself with questions. Like…what kind of war happened to where the remaining survivors thought a society based on dividing their people into factions that hate each other would be a good idea? Why is it one of the largest cities in the United States was spared full blown devastation? If people are given the free will to choose what faction they join, what’s the point of the test? These questions and more will never be answered in the near two and a half hours you’ll be sitting in the theater. Maybe the answers are in the book. Maybe I should go pick up a copy and figure out what’s going on. But I’m afraid if I go and read the book, I’ll be convincing Hollywood to keep up this young adult movie trend and I’m afraid if you go see “Divergent” this weekend, I’ll have to see the sequel.