BARE BONES: DIVERGENT and BAD WORDS

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Divergent

DIVERGENT (2014)

Another teen-centric sci-fi movie based on a book series. This one by Veronica Roth has a post-war walled city of Chicago where society is separated into 5 groups referred to as ‘factions’ that each serve a purpose to support the city. If you think this is a thinly-veiled metaphor for the high school class structure, it just shows how obvious it all is. Subjects are tested when they come of age to determine which group they are best suited for but, are ultimately allowed to choose their own faction… which kinda negates the point of the test. Enter Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) who is born into the Abnegation (the good kids) faction but, yearns to be in the Dauntless faction (the rebels, cool kids) who protect the city and maintain law. But, her aptitude test brands her a ‘Divergent’… someone capable of being in any of the five groups… and thus she must try to hide her designation, as being whoever you want to be, is frowned upon in this high school… ah-hem, futuristic society. Throw in her efforts to succeed as a Dauntless, falling for her hunky Dauntless trainer ‘Four’ (Theo James) and saving the city from a coup d’etat and we have all the paper thin messages about being who you are, being whatever you want to be, overcoming adversity and first love that any pimpled teen could want. The saving grace is that director Neil Burger (Limitless) moves everything at a brisk pace, takes this teen angst metaphor seriously and gets good work out of his cast especially leading lady Woodley, who is no Jennifer Lawrence and her ‘Triss’ is no Katniss, but, she is charming and endearing enough and makes a feisty heroine. Overall, it’s actually manages to be somewhat entertaining despite how obvious and derivative the material is. Also stars Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson and Jai Courtney.

3 star rating

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BAD WORDS (2014)

Actor Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut in this deviously funny and delightfully inappropriate comedy about 40 year old grade school drop out Guy Trilby (Bateman) who exploits a loophole in the rules to enter a children’s national spelling bee. Trilby obviously has an agenda, other than embarrassing a bunch of 10 year olds, as he drags a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) along and enters in a friendship/rivalry with a precocious Indian boy (Rohand Chand) who also wants the championship. Andrew Dodge’s script has some blisteringly funny moments, though there are a few sentimental ones too, and director Bateman gives a really hilarious performances as the bitter and angry Trilby, who will stoop to any level to mow down his pre-adolescent competition. Bateman also gets very good work out of his fellow cast members, including young Chand, and crafts a movie that is not afraid to ‘go there’ and present it’s young spelling bee contestants in hysterically inappropriate spots. Suffers slightly from a routine, sentimental climax but, otherwise is a daring and very funny work from first-time director Bateman and writer Dodge. Also, at 88 minutes the movie knows not to wear out it’s welcome.

three and one half stars rating

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REVIEW: OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

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OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

Olympus is a far fetched but, action packed flick that basically follows the Die Hard formula with a lone hero fighting terrorists in a besieged White House. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a former Secret Service agent and friend of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who is busted down to a desk job when rescuing the President during a car accident allows the First Lady (Ashley Judd) to be killed. But, old habits ‘Die Hard’ when a well organized and armed North Korean terrorist, Kang (Rick Yune) takes over the While House and with it, the President and his cabinet hostage. Banning gets himself inside and becomes the country’s only hope of rescuing the President and stoping Kang’s plan for nuclear destruction and forcefully uniting the Koreas. As directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, Olympus moves fast and keeps the action flying along with the bullets and blood providing a solid two hours of sometimes gruesome and brutal entertainment. And this is a good thing as, when all is said and done, the flick is ridiculous and filled with plot holes but, Fuqua keeps us from thinking too much about that with all the carnage that gets hurled our way. The cast are all good with Butler returning to bad ass action star after a string of sub-par romantic comedies. He kicks some major ass and it’s fun to watch him take out the Korean bad guys with brutal efficiency. The rest of the cast are good with Eckhart playing the type of cool President we wish we actually had and Morgan Freeman as The Speaker Of The House, who takes control of the Presidency once Asher and his cabinet become hostages. Rounding out the fine cast is Yune making a sophisticated yet appropriately slimy terrorist, Dylan McDermott as a traitorous ex- agent, Angela Bassett as The Director of the Secret Service and veteran Robert Forester as an army General who doesn’t quite have faith in the one man army already on the inside. Everyone takes their roles seriously and it helps us suspend our disbelief though, I wish Fuqua would have lightened up just a bit and had a little more fun with the outlandish premise. Sometimes Olympus takes itself a little too seriously. The biggest drawback with this flick, however, is that the action is marred by some really sub-par CGI FX with a lot of phony looking CGI blood and bullet hits to go along with the fake looking planes and explosions but, all in all it is an entertaining enough time on the couch and definitely better then the latest Die Hard sequel that was also released earlier this year. Fun as long as you go with it and don’t expect a classic.

3 bullets!

ex2 rating

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