Divergent

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Based off of Veronica Roth’s 2011 novel, Divergent, set in a futuristic Chicago, follows a young woman who is trying to fit into a strict personality-based society. Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), along with all of the other teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, is given an aptitude test to help decide her fate. The city is divided into five non-transferable factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave), and Erudite (intelligent). Tris’ rare trait makes her decision difficult, but she leaves her parents and their Abnegation lifestyle to branch out on her own.

I did not read the book, but it did not hinder my understanding of the movie. It also did not play a deciding factor on whether I enjoyed the movie or not. I’m actually glad I did not read the book. I’m not a true fan of science fiction novels so I doubt if I would have even finished the book. Similar to a preschooler, I like books read to me from time to time so my safest median is an audiobook from iTunes.

The broader theme of the movie reflects contemporary societal problems. Between labels and social groups, we inadvertently cast people out or force people to define themselves. Divergent reminds me that we are all different and not simplistic enough to be assigned to a certain demographic.

Divergent has an awesome cast. The second movie where Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller teamed up. Last year, in ‘The Spectacular Now’, the two portrayed an odd high school couple. Both actors have a working chemistry. Although they weren’t love interests in this movie, they still share memorable, intense moments.

For all my Scandal fans, Fitz makes a guest appearance as Tris’ father, Andrew Prior. Tony Goldwyn makes the same distraught, confused Scandal faces during the entire movie. I thought Liv was going to pop out and fix all his Divergent problems. Damn you, Shonda Rhimes!

It’s so hard to not associate Mr. Goldwyn with his most famous, current role on the hit ABC show, but him pairing up with Ashley Judd in Divergent was a move in the right direction.

divergent fitz

Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz’s only daughter, Zoe Kravitz, plays Tris’ dauntless gal pal, Christina. She’s outspoken, strong and valorous. This is my first theatrical encounter with Zoe and I’m eager to see her other works.

Divergent Zoe

‘Paid in Full’ actor Mekhi Phifer was a breath of not-so-fresh air in the movie when he played chubby villain and Dauntless leader, Max. While Phifer’s filmography is not lengthy of gluts and glory, he has given us some classics: Soul Food (1997), 8 Mile (2002), and This Christmas (2009). Like Martin Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne, and Chris Tucker, he’s put on a little weight lately. And while his role as Max was brawny and tough, I just couldn’t help but to notice how he’s packed on the pounds.

Divergent Mekhi

Even in his most notable TV role as Dr. Greg Pratt on NBC’s long-running medical drama ER, Phifer looked pretty fit. One thing that Phifer reminds me is that weight does not equate the quality or greatness of an actor. Overall, Phifer holds a medium yet meaningful role in Divergent.

Without spoiling the movie, the ending was sucker fair. Although there was no cliff hanger, a great movie like Divergent should have went out with a bang or at least ended on a more exhilarating, exciting part. All Divergent novel readers like Denele Hughson have reassured me that book ended in a similar fashion. (I’ll take their word for it!)

The IMAX experience is the only way to experience this movie. Divergent has the crispness of actually seeing it live like a play. After watching Divergent, I wonder why all movies aren’t viewed through IMAX lenses. It makes for a better movie experience.

4 Solid Stars: A fantastic movie about soul searching and discovering your life’s purpose. Also, a great series completion for anyone who has previously read the novel. I wonder if Veronica Roth’s other two novels (Insurgent and Allegiant) will become movies too.

That Awkward Moment

“I did what I was supposed to do. I checked the boxes” – Mikey (Michael B. Jordan)

That Awkward Moment

When three best friends find themselves in funky relationship scenarios, they make a pact to remain single in Focus Features’ latest film, “That Award Moment”. Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), a young doctor, faces martial problems, while his two single buddies, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) , are fighting their monogamous temptations.

I think most people expect pretty boy Zac Efron to be the star of the movie, but Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller are both equally amazing! “Fruitvale Station”, which I named the best film of 2013, was only a stepping stone for Jordan’s career. He’s like your best friend’s adorable little brother; at first he was young and goofy so you didn’t really pay him any attention like his role in “Pastor Brown” (2009), but, now, he is mature, attractive, and cleared to play ball.

Michael B. Jordan was great in the movie. Completely in sync with the other main characters as a hip, funny New York slinging bachelor, Jordan was a strategic addition to the predominantly White cast.

On the other hand, Miles Teller initially grabbed my attention in 2013’s small-time movie, “The Spectacular Now”. Teller always plays the sarcastic, savvy cool guy. And he was no different in this one; very charismatic, flirtatiously funny, and unstructured.

The Awkward Moment was the mainstream version of “The Wood” (1999) or the testosterone-filled version of “Sex and the City” (2008). The movie constantly reminds me of the tenderness yet intricacy of falling in love and how “awkward” that process can be. Also, the 94-minute flick gives women a keener sense of how crummy guys are when peer pressure is involved, and how the power of a woman’s affection can change any circumstance.

I am firmly disagreeing with other film critics by saying “That Awkward Moment” is the best movie of 2014 thus far. I know it is only weeks into the year, but I have a seen a handful of films such as “Her”, “The Nut Job”, and “Ride Along”. Of course, that bold statement can quickly be retracted when another great movie comes along.

Also, please keep in mind that most film critics thought 10-time Academy Award nominated “American Hustle” was brilliant, while I thought it was exaggerated and cheesy. So, cheers to the power of opinions!

“That Awkward Moment” is in theatres today. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it is certifiably a “first date” type of movie.

4 Manly “Bro-mantic” Stars

The Spectacular Now

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The Spectacular Now, adapted from Tim Tharp’s book with the same title, is clever, witty, and the biggest movie surprise of the summer.

Set in Athens, GA, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) faces a broken heart, a new, unexpected love, a turbulent senior year of high school and alcohol dependency.

Yearning so much to not be like his unreliable, flighty father, inevitably, he ends up just like him. Sutter totes a convenience store “big gulp” size cup with him everywhere drinking away his fears. He meets a quiet not-so-popular hometown girl, Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), who changes his look on life as she overwhelms him with love and affection.

Also in the early spring release 21 and Over, Miles Teller captivates young audiences with his fresh screen presence and his authentic free spirit. Any young adult can relate to the characters he plays because there so many wondrous attributes that help you identify with your own younger years.

I’m 25 and because of his recent bad boy portrayals in movies, I can vividly remember senior-itis at Schenley High School when I just didn’t want to go my first period English 4 IB course. Or when I was in college and every college student anticipated in agony until the day when they were legally allowed to consume alcohol. Some experiences are universal and take you on a pleasant, grateful trip down Memory Lane.

More than just an acting gig, in The Spectacular Now, you can clearly see scars all over Miles Teller’s body. Not hidden by makeup or advanced technology, directors of the movie wanted to keep the scars visible to make the movie more realistic. Teller suffered life threatening injuries after a 2008 car accident where he was ejected 25 feet from the car. Ironically, the movie has a similar car accident involving Teller’s character Sutter.

I sat down with the writers of The Spectacular Now, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who also wrote (500) Days of Summer. Neustadter and Weber shared their 5 year journey of writing the screenplay and the difficulty of turning a book into a real life movie. “This whole movie was about how do we make young people feel that this movie is real,” said Neustadter. His co-writer Webber quickly added, “It felt really honest to us.”

The writing duo takes pride in every project despite the complexity this time around of turning a book into a movie. “There’s a bit of ambiguity to every thing we write,” said Neustadter. Who knew that this funny love story all started with a book that Neustadter and Webber fell in love with years ago.

4 STARS: The Spectacular Now is an acquired taste but once you get acclimated there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy it. I know it’s a lot to ask for a movie but it’s well worth it. The Spectacular Now is in select theaters now.

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