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Non-Review Review: Divergent – Allegiant

In terms of dystopian young adult science-fiction/fantasy franchises, Divergent is solidly mid-tier. It is in technical and production terms superior to The Maze Runner, but markedly inferior to The Hunger Games. It lacks the sort of spectacular camp that made The Mortal Instruments stand out, for better or worse. It is a reasonable execution of a fairly reliable (although also heavily problematic) central concept, but without anything that really elevates it above its competitors.

Allegiant is the first part of a two-part finalé to the series, as has become the norm for these types of films. However, it all feels rather rote. Allegiant does not feel like the first part of a two-parter, instead feeling like its own story that could support a sequel but alternatively would be a perfectly fine place to wrap up if the studio decide to all it a day. The fact that it is the first of a two-part adaptation of a source material feels like a decision that was made because that is just how you adapt young adult franchises at this point in time.

Hate to burst your bubble...

Hate to burst your bubble…

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Non-Review Review: Whiplash

The joy of Whiplash is in how the film subverts so many of the conventions of the “unconventional teacher pushes promising young student” subgenre. A one-sentence plot summary for the film suggest an inspirational and life-affirming tale. Andrew heads to a prestigious music school to hone his skills on the drums, and encounters an obnoxious and confrontational teacher who pushed him to his limits. One can already hear the applause, see the inevitable hug, feel the radiating mutual respect.

Whiplash carefully and meticulously subverts these expectations, avoiding many of the familiar plot beats that one might expect from a story like this. There’s a raw, gruelling honesty to the story – Whiplash is not a story calibrated or tailored to make the audience feel particularly comfortable or happy. Indeed, it addresses its central themes with a refreshing candidness. It asks some very tough questions about honing talent and the responsibilities of a teacher. It doesn’t offer any easy answers.

Anchored in two compelling central performances and a beautiful soundtrack, Whiplash builds to a beautifully cathartic climax, one that refuses to wrap too tight a bow around an intriguing little film.

Stick around...

Stick around…

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Non-Review Review: Divergent

As far as adaptations of popular young adult novels go, Divergent lacks the strong charismatic lead of The Hunger Games or even the campy pleasure of The Mortal Instruments. Working with a premise that feels like it would have made for a delightfully cheesy piece of sixties socially-conscious science-fiction, Divergent proceeds to take absolutely everything far too seriously. Cliché moments play to an over-the-top soundtrack, terrible dialogue is delivered with earnest profundity, the movie failing to take any joy in anything that it does.

There’s a sense of cynicism in Divergent, with the sequels already mapped out, and the studio committed to their release. The result is a movie that never feels compelled to rush, instead spending most of its runtime spinning its wheels, covering familiar ground. It’s over-long and poorly paced, with the first two acts often feeling like a hyper-extended training montage, meaning that by the time anything starts happening the audience can’t wait for it to end. The result is a heavy-handed and over-cooked attempt at social commentary, one reeking of anti-intellectualism and simplistic pandering.

Don't worry, her training covers this...

Don’t worry, her training covers this…

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Non-Review Review: 21 And Over

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore repeat The Hangover in this movie, while rehashing the same jokes and same ideas in a college party themed 21 and Over. On Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) 21st birthday, his lifelong friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), show up at his doorstep, unannounced, to celebrate all night long. However, Jeff has an important med-school interview in the morning and so convinces the two to take the night easy, a plan which quickly goes south. Miller and Casey eventually end up dragging an unconscious Jeff across the campus of his university in search for his apartment, leading to a number of alcohol filled shenanigans.

21andover1

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