Tag Archives: Movie Review


I didn’t see Divergent (the first movie in the trilogy of which Insurgent is the second) because I found the whole premise too ridiculous to swallow, and while I like a single-threaded thought experiment as much as the next person (read: “they’re okay, but can I see the dinner menu?”)  the film itself didn’t look like it was going to reward my patience.

InsurgentInsurgent, on the other hand, put some really cool visuals on display in the trailers. Also, the local IMAX has $5.00 showings on Tuesdays. I decided that for $5.00 I would shell out two hours for the chance to see those visuals all big and pretty-like.

The movie took far too long to get to them.

The story being told by the film, the CORE story, the protagonist’s journey, could have been told very well in a tight, 88-minute film that showcased not just the special effects, but also the impressive range of emotion that Shailene Woodley can bring to the screen.

Instead, it did what book-to-film transductions usually do — it compressed the story of the book, fulfilling some promises made in the prior stories, and including along the way a big pile of stuff that didn’t really matter to the core story of the film itself.

I understand completely the drive to be epic in scope, but for me an epic needs to have more foundation than an absurd premise–and when I say “absurd” I don’t mean “fantastical” like rockets and ray-guns, or dragons and dwarves. I mean “absurd” like “let’s pretend human nature works THIS way instead.”

Ultimately, for me, Insurgent commits the venial sin of taking an extra 30 minutes to tell a story, and spending those 30 minutes wandering a crumbled-concrete wasteland that has long since lost its appeal (sometime before Fallout: New Vegas, I think. I need to check a calendar.) It comes in #4 for me fun-wise this year, but it does not clear the Threshold of Awesome.

On a semi-related note of clumsy silliness, I really liked the music, but when I went shopping for it I accidentally bought the Divergent score, by Junkie XL, who I had never heard of. It sounded kind of thin. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I’d remembered.

Then I realized my mistake, and went back to Amazon and bought the Insurgent score, by Joseph Trapanese. It sounds wonderful.

(Note: These are the film scores, not the soundtracks with the pop tunes on them.)


ChappieWith Chappie, Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) delivers a very sweet story about sapience set in a very violent vision of Johannesburg.

The film takes some of the usual shortcuts where movies with lots of computer jargon is involved, but even without making allowances for that stuff I had a great time.  I don’t know how the effects were done, which meant that early on I stopped looking for the line between the practical effects and the digital effects, and just sat back and believed in the robots.

One of my favorite aspects of the film was the location shooting and the audience’s immersion in South African accents and dialects. Having been to Joberg several times myself, it sounded exactly like I remember it.

Chappie comes in #2 for me so far this year, easily clearing my Threshold of Awesome

Kingsman: The Secret Service

KingsmanSecretServiceKingsman: The Secret Service falls short of “summer blockbuster” status by virtue of more than just its February release. Its R-rating is earned, at least in part, through some spectacularly violent moments whose absence, were they to be edited out for broader audience appeal, would leave the movie bland. For genre fans like me it’s way better than the usual February fare, but I can see why 20th Century Fox opted out of a spring or summer release.

This film is a rags-to-riches super-spy mashup that nods to its forebears with all the subtlety of an exploding head. So, brief nod, then ASPLODEYGOO. Its core premise is no more or less absurd than the ones found in the usual “save the world” superhero films, and the dastardly plot is a blend of chilling “what if” and brow-lifting “WTF.”

In short, it’s spot-on. If you loved the action scenes in The Matrix trilogy, and have a soft spot for dapper do-gooders for whom “good” means “over the top awesome,” you’ll enjoy Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I did, and as of this writing it’s #1 for me for the year.

There’s still a lot of year left, though. This clears my Threshold of Awesome, but may drop a dozen notches before the year is out.

Jupiter Ascending

JupiterAscendingIt’s got some Wachowski-sized holes in its world-building, and it feels too long to sit through, but Jupiter Ascending has some of the very best sci-fi action scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. The running, the flying, the shooting, the fighting… all of it hung together in ways that made sense, and the directors luxuriated in slow motion for some of the best bits. If you want to go to the movies to watch people do cool things with toys we don’t have, Jupiter Ascending is a good choice.

But the plot holes? Ugh. Look, if you decide to see it, I recommend the brain-armor: anytime a non-Earthling says “DNA,” pretend they’re saying “magical soulprint,” because whatever they’re talking about has as much in common with actual DNA as pixie dust or midichlorians.

To my even-more-critical eye, the film looks like it suffered from a re-shoot, late story edits, and then a throwing up of the hands by the director, who then went on to say “there’s no more money and no more time, and the producer is done chasing sunk costs, so we’re releasing in February.”

Have I made it sound like I hated it? No. I loved the baroque BDO visuals, the ship designs, and most especially those action scenes, which bought the rest of the movie for me. I just hope that whoever is out there in Hollywood writing a really GOOD space opera can hit the same level of visual awesome that Jupiter Ascending did.