miles teller

FILM REVIEW: ‘INSURGENT’

‘Insurgent: The Divergent Series’
Insurgent_poster

Written by: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)

Directed by:  Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller

Story: Tris bands together with a group of ‘Divergents’ against an increasingly powerful alliance which threatens to destroy her. 

Ahh, ‘Insurgent’.. Or should we call it ‘Mockingjay Again’?! It certainly feels like it is. In fact, if you don’t have the time to watch Mockingjay, you can always watch the first hour of Insurgent and it should pretty much fill you in on what you missed. The reality is, it’s easy to be harsh on Insurgent because it is a sequel to a film that surpassed so many expectations. Divergent introduced the world to Shailene Woodley and made her a bona fide star. It also confirmed Theo James’ status as a teen heartthrob, and continued Jai Courtney’s meteoric rise to stardom. What’s more, it was enjoyable for people of every age and seemed so different to the other young adult franchises garnering attention.

Having said all of this, Insurgent kinda disappoints. Having not read the book, it’s easy to cast judgment on a lack of originality or stimulating content but we have to acknowledge that this might be the fault of the novelist, not those behind the film. Was it so wrong to expect something a little different to what appears to be the bog standard: young (self sacrificing) girl in dystopian future becomes the ‘chosen one’ (the divergent/mockingjay) and is protected and given strength by a band of misfits in an underground lair.

It’s not all bad. This is a basic summary of the first half of the two hour show. The second half really finds it’s footing so it’s difficult to say whether this is a film that is a slow starter, or one that couldn’t distinguish it’s own identity in a crowded franchise driven Hollywood. downloadIn the second hour there is a noticeable shift: the ‘Divergent’ we loved is back. Our main character begins to struggle with a more tangible demon, and the story seems to be making some sort of progression. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that the most enjoyable parts of this film are those where Miles Teller features heavily: though he provides comic relief, we see a lot of hope for a larger and more significant role in the next films.

The positive shift in the film is short lived. A disappointing ‘plot twist’ and resolution remind us that what we are watching is a ‘filler film’ – only serving to add context to future instalments. More disappointment.

The action sequences are well shot, and the ‘sim’ sequences are fun: if you’re looking for an action film then this is what you watch for and you won’t be let down. We also have the same audience challenges: ‘Is this still a sim, or is this real life now?’ If you have seen ‘Divergent’ then you will remember this well.

Shailene Woodley does fine here. There isn’t anything particularly memorable about her performance, not like in the first film where she stands out as a sure thing for future success. It almost seems that she herself is underwhelmed by what she is given to work with. Theo James is similar: almost symbolically his character takes a back seat for the entire film and serves as an underdeveloped and ‘vanilla’ sidekick. Uncharacteristically, Kate Winslet is also a little vanilla here. Where she usually stands out, she begins to pale. She almost smirks her way through cliche’d dialogue and a plain jane stereotypical villain role.

The thrills here come from Teller and Courtenay. Where Teller is providing a laugh track to an otherwise dry script, Courtenay is giving us the villain that Winslet wishes she could be. Whenever Courtenay is in a film we see a little more of something in him that makes us crave diversity. We can only hope that he isn’t typecast into an action star and goes for something a little more ‘meaty’. We can’t help but think that if these two had a little more screen time, we would of been watching a different film.

All in all, Insurgent is OK. If you don’t mind the clichés, dry dialogue and unambitious performances then you will have a perfectly good time.

Rating: 5/10

FILM REVIEW: WHIPLASH

‘Whiplash’download (4)

Written by: Damien Chazelle

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons

Story: A young drummer struggles with the ’make or break’ coaching style of his mentor who will stop at nothing to help him realize his true potential.

Writer and Director Damien Chazelle struggled to get funding to make ‘Whiplash’. Despite his efforts, he just could not afford to get it made. Instead of being discouraged, he turned Whiplash into a short film and submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Short Film Jury Prize. On the coattails of this success, Chazelle generated enough money to turn Whiplash into a feature length masterpiece. Whiplash is now one of the lowest grossing films in history to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. JK Simmons is hot tipped to take home ‘Best Supporting Actor’. The film is speeding towards a 9 star rating on IMDB.com and boasts a 96% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

All of this begs the question: Is Whiplash worth the hype? And can it be enjoyed by anyone, or is the audience very select?

The truth of the matter is that Whiplash is potentially one of the most intense, emotional, well made, and universally enjoyable films of the last ten years. Even if we keep saying this and driving it home, you will probably still be surprised by how it touches you and exceeds your expectations. 

Whiplash is a film with two main characters: everyone else is really contextual padding. Teller comes into his own and plays an incredibly childish character with maturity we have not seen from him before. His character is stunted and one track minded Whiplashand compliments Simmons character perfectly. Simmons is the driving force of the film: turning a boy into a man, and challenging him, incentivizing him, and degrading him towards success for the 1hr 45 minute running time. We have not seen JK Simmons like this EVER: he takes on this leading role and owns it completely to the point where you wonder if anyone else could of ever even been considered. He is deranged, but with a purpose stronger than many other lead characters this year. The driving force of both characters are clear, but not too clear, and their evolving relationship makes one thing very clear: true artistry, drive and passion are all worthy of respect.

One thing that really stands out in Whiplash is the editing which is *almost* drool worthy. We do have a few moments where the soundtrack is off key with what we see on the screen, but as we can imagine the drumming is done with such ferocity it would be near impossible to match up. Cuts and slides only add to the intensity of the viewing experience: we dare you to sit still! 

It is almost criminal that more people have not seen Whiplash: it made a paltry $135k on opening weekend. However, there is no mistaking that this is truly the start of something for Damien Chazelle and a lesson to all of us: do not get discouraged.

Rating: 9.5/10