Sunday, 29 March 2015

'The Divergent Series: Insurgent' Discussion (SPOILERS)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

(Off-topic: how cool is that poster?)

This is the first time I'm making a post specifically about all the spoilers in a movie. One of my friends suggested I start spoiler discussions on the blog, because let's face it - spoiler-free reviews can get a little boring for those who've already seen the movie and want to talk about it.

So here's a spoiler warning: If you haven't read the ENTIRE Divergent Trilogy, including the ending of the final book, please do not proceed. Thank you for the views.


I watched Insurgent last Saturday, and despite the many book-to-movie changes, I actually enjoyed it (you can read my review here).
So in today's blog post, I'm going to talk about about some of those changes. Here goes!

1) What's with the Rush?
True to the book, Tris, Tobias (er, I mean Four), Caleb and Peter do seek refuge at Amity headquarters in the beginning of the story, but in the film version, they limit their stay to less than ten minutes, if I'm not mistaken. Tris and Peter's fight is shown, but we don't see Tris high on the peace serum - something I was really, really looking forward to.
Next moment, Eric and his cronies are at Amity, searching for our heroes. Peter betrays them and Tris, Four and Caleb escape to the train.

2) The Mystery Box
We've all been whining about this ever since the second trailer came out. What is up with them introducing this 'box' theory? Jeanine claims that this box, which was retrieved from the wreckage of the Prior household, holds the key to the future of their world. But there's a catch: only a true Divergent can open it. And when I say 'true Divergent', I mean someone who has traits of ALL five factions.


3) 'Tobias'
A major change that occurs towards the end of the first Divergent novel is that Tris finally finds out her boyfriend's real name and starts using it. But here we are, at the second movie, and she's still pretending that Tobias is Four. I understand that the moviemakers don't want to confuse the viewers, but the name-change is what shows that 'Four' loves Tris enough to trust her with his past. Cutting that part out didn't help the love story.

4) The Sex
Okay, I'm from India, so the sex scene (whether PG-13 or not) was cut, that too, in a way that ruined the continuity of the movie. One moment Four is trying to convince Tris not to surrender herself to Jeanine, next moment they're both lying down next to each other, naked, and then Tris stands up and decides to surrender herself to Jeanine.

In the books, the sex didn't happen until Allegiant, and we still aren't sure if that even was sex. Veronica Roth wrote it with a lot of ambiguity so that the readers could interpret it either way.

5) Uriah, Marlene, Lynn, Marcus and Johanna
These are all prominent characters throughout the series, and although the director decided to include them in Insurgent, they're only given about five minutes of screentime each.
Johanna and Marcus' discussions at Amity headquarters are conveniently left out. Marcus only appears in one scene where his son and Tris are spiteful towards him.
Uriah is revealed to be Divergent, but nobody cares because he's a nobody. Marlene does fall to her death while under a simulation, but it has no impact on the viewers because she's a nobody, and Lynn is seen in a few scenes, but she's still mostly a nobody.

6) Tris' Divergence
As we've seen in the novels and the first Divergent movie, Tris shows Divergence for three factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. But in this movie, a device analyses her to be 100% Divergent. Does that mean she could fit into Amity and Candor as well?
And true to that assumption, Tris does pass the simulations for all five factions in order to open the aforementioned box.

7) The Final Fight
So remember how Peter and Four help Tris break out of Erudite headquarters so they can gear up for the final fight showdown where Tris (and Tori) attempt to find Jeanine so they can kill her?
Well, only fifty percent of that happens.
After escaping from Jeanine's clutches, Tris returns to the simulation room to complete her Amity simulation so she can open the box. There is no simulated army, no attack on any headquarters. Tris just opens the box with her 'superpowers'.


8) The Message
The box opens and sure enough, it holds the future the people deserve. Only it's not the future Jeanine expected it to be. The hologram lady (she remains unnamed) explains that this was all an experiment and when the Divergent population increases, the people must go beyond the fence into the new world. Jeanine immediately decides to hide this box and the message from everyone. However, the Factionless and Dauntless storm in and take control of the situation.
We do not find out that the unnamed lady is actually Edith Prior and is related to Tris. I'm not sure if that will be revealed in the next film or if they find it too irrelevant to include.

9) The Ending
The contents of the box are projected everywhere in the city, and all the people of all the factions are shown walking out of their homes towards the fence.
This is in sharp contrast to the novels, where under Evelyn's rule, everyone was prohibited from going outside the city.
In the last few moments of the film, Jeanine is shot to death by Evelyn. The screen fades to black.


Now, here are some things I'd like to discuss with you, dear reader. What did you think of all these changes? Don't you find it weird that Tris is suddenly Divergent for all the factions? Did you also feel like Four didn't have too much to do? Did you also find yourself eager to watch any scene that had Miles Teller (Peter) in it? Oh, that boy is hilarious.
And now that everyone's moving towards the fence, how are the moviemakers planning to adapt Allegiant? I have a feeling it's going to be very different. They might even change the ending and not kill Tris. I personally won't mind if they're liberal with the changes. Allegiant is my least favourite book in the series.

Do you have any more thoughts about this movie? Let me know in the comment section.

I hope you enjoyed the very first Spoiler Discussion! I assure you that there will be many more to come. Bye for now, Geeks! :)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Pretty Little Liars 5x25 (Welcome to the Dollhouse): A Recap

 
'A' has always had fun playing with Aria, Emily, Hanna & Spencer, but now "they" have the biggest game to date in store for the girls. As shocking secrets come to light and the biggest clue to the 'A' mystery is revealed, is this one play date the Liars can survive? 

What. The. Hell.

So this #PLLTuesday was the season finale of Pretty Little Liars, and the makers of the show claimed that the biggest clue to the identity of 'A' will be revealed.
They revealed it, alright.

Recap

The Liars were arrested as accomplices to Mona's murder last week, and this episode opens with all four of them (Hanna included) sitting in the back of a police van, handcuffed, on their way to jail. And then suddenly there's a scuffle at the front of the van with the driver and 'A' appears to gas the girls.
When they wake up, they find that they're locked inside a dollhouse of sorts which has life-sized replicas of each of their bedrooms. They're playing the biggest game of their lives... and the referee is 'A'.

And as it turns out, Mona is indeed alive - and one of the contenders in this freaky game. Dressed in a yellow ruffled top and an Alison mask, 'A' has been forcing Mona to pretend to be the blonde that caused all this drama in the first place.


Then Toby (who is still a part of the police force; I suppose he isn't ready to part with his shiny cop badge yet) is seen speaking with Veronica and Peter Hastings about the abducted police van and the girls being hijacked. They decide not to tell the other parents or the media anything yet and instead decide to get to the bottom of this.

Caleb, Ezra and Toby are doing their best to hack into the police security systems and track the missing van, but in vain. The Hastings, after speaking with Alison and finally finding out that this 'A' business still isn't over, join forces with the boys. It is then that Mrs. Hastings gets a call from Melissa. As she picks up the phone, we see Andrew listening to the conversation with the help of his headphones and laptop. Why? Why is he still being creepy?

Meanwhile, the doll game continues. The girls are monitored 24/7 except for three minutes at night when the power goes out and the generators need to be switched on. It is then that all five of them can talk about where they are and how they can get out of it.

Spencer makes a shocking revelation at night when she discovers that the alphabet blocks in one of the rooms spell out 'CHARLES'. Could that be who 'A' is?


Detective Tanner decides to bring Caleb in for questioning. After all, who else could manage to hack into the systems and take control of the van? But his lawyers (the Hastings) make a solid case to convince Tanner to let Caleb use their computers to track the van.
As 'A' pulls the strings and makes them decorate a hall for senior prom, the girls devise a strategy to make the generators fail in order to escape from the dollhouse.

When their plan succeeds on prom night and Charles (still wearing a mask) is unable to stop them, Spencer and Mona discover a room full of pictures and videos of the DiLaurentis family.

Caleb tracks the location of the van and the police chase is on. Although Tanner finds the control room where 'A' keeps all his surveillance equipment, they are unable to find the location of the dollhouse.

In the final few moments of the episode, the girls finally make it out of the dollhouse... but they're still surrounded by an electric fence. And now that the power has come back on, and they seem to be in the middle of nowhere, how will they escape from 'A'?


Thoughts

I can't understand what possible motive 'A' (or should I call him Charles?) could have to pull this off. Building a house that looks exactly like the Liars' bedrooms and living rooms? Why would anyone waste so much of money and time doing that? How mentally deranged is 'A'?

Next, I loved the involvement of the Hastings in this mystery. Thank you, writers, for realising that parents CAN be helpful when their kids are in trouble. I sincerely hope to see the other parents working together to bring 'A' down in season six.

Mona's alive... then how do you explain her dead body being shown? I'm confused.

It's a little surprising how dumb the girls are. They repeated several times that "there's five of us and one of him", so when the power shut down while Charles was standing in front of them, why didn't they attack him? Why didn't they unmask him, once and for all? Why did they choose to run towards an escape they didn't even know about, that too while wearing poofy dresses and high heels?


So Charles is 'A'... and somehow linked to the DiLaurentis family. In the video, there were two boys of the same age with Mrs. DiLaurentis. So Charles has to be Jason's twin and at least five or six years older than the girls.

I suppose that rules out Andrew. But why was he spying on that phone conversation? Was that a red herring? Why do all of Aria's boyfriends spy on other people so much?

Most Likely to be 'A' This Week

Obviously, it's Charles DiLaurentis. But who is he? My money is on the twin theory. Either he's Jason's mentally ill twin brother who escaped from Radley many years ago, or he's Jason with a split personality.

Next Season

I have no idea what's going to happen in season six with Charles or 'A' or whoever it is.

In short, it's decided: the writers of this show are never going to be direct or upfront with us. And I can't believe the 'Daisy' spoilers were all true.
I can't believe that 'A' is someone we probably haven't even met yet. I can't believe that this finale had such a... disappointing ending.


What did you think of this shocking finale, PLL Geeks? What's your Charles theory? Let me know in the comments. I really need to talk about this episode with someone!

I'll see you next time! Bye!

Monday, 23 March 2015

'The Divergent Series: Insurgent' Movie Review (Spoiler-Free)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

To be honest, I had relatively low expectations for Insurgent, the second movie in the Divergent series. The first one was a complete letdown, trailers and previews made this sequel look completely different from the book, and its Rotten Tomatoes rating was around 32%.

But I was still psyched to watch it, because a) it was my nineteenth birthday, b) I was watching it in 3D, and c) the trailer still looked mindblowingly awesome.

So when I walked out of the theatre after two hours, I was pleasantly surprised. Read on to find out why.

Insurgent picks up right after the ending of Divergent. Tris, Four, Caleb and Peter are now seeking refuge at Amity headquarters. Meanwhile, Jeanine's flunkies have recovered a mysterious box that claims to hold the key to "the future our people deserve". But this box can only be opened by a Divergent - that too, someone who shows the highest level of Divergence... someone who sounds exactly like Tris.


One of the main issues I'd had with Divergent was that the movie was too boring and slow-paced. Despite having the best book of the trilogy as its base, Divergent had failed to pull me in.

Insurgent, on the other hand, keeps up the pace all the way till the end. I wasn't bored for a single moment, although the director seems to have rushed through some of the parts of the book that I'd been looking forward to watch.

Shailene Woodley does a much, much, much better job as Tris Prior in this sequel. Instead of her usual deadpan expression, she showcases a plethora of emotions, although she does overdo it a bit during one emotional sequence. I'd say that crying isn't one of Shailene's strong suits.

Miles Teller, as the protagonists' frenemy Peter, has grown on me substantially since I first saw him in Divergent. He's an up-and-coming actor who's doing a variety of cinema, from The Spectacular Now to Whiplash to now Insurgent. Peter has always been very unpredictable, and Miles' take on this character is incredible. He is interesting to watch and has the best dialogues of all the characters in this film.


Theo James... I don't know how to review his acting. They haven't given Four much to do, other than performing action stunts and looking attractive. The same goes for Ansel Elgort, who plays Tris' brother Caleb. No spoilers, but I feel like they could have explored his character and his motivations a little more.

Even though Jeanine is the villain of the series, so to speak, she is never given much weightage in the books, since everything is seen from Tris' perspective. In this movie, however, Kate Winslet dominates the screen in almost every scene. As far as acting goes, Kate Winslet is Kate Winslet, so need I say more?

Talking about how good an adaptation Insurgent is... well, as is clear from the trailer, there have been quite a few changes in the movie version of Insurgent. But the funny thing is that despite all the changes made (probably around a hundred pages of the book have just been snipped out of the script), Insurgent remains true to the novel at its core. I left the theatre thinking that as book-to-movie adaptations go, this one wasn't actually that bad.


One thing I'd like to mention is that although the ending might have been written as a cliffhanger of sorts, it actually gives a lot of closure to the audience. Some moviegoers not acquainted with the series may not even realise that two more movies are set to follow Insurgent. Personally, I don't see the need for two movies... but that's a topic of discussion for some other day.

I'm going to go with 3.5 stars out of 5 for The Divergent Series: Insurgent.
Funny, action-packed and more or less true to the essence of the book, most action movie fans will enjoy this one, along with book fans who have an open mind and low expectations.

Here's the trailer for Insurgent. If you've already seen this movie, let me know what you thought of it. Did you like it more or less than Divergent? The comment box wishes to know!



I'll soon be writing a spoiler-filled post about all the specific plot changes I did and didn't like in the movie. Book readers, stay tuned.
Bye-bye, Divergents! :)

PS: This movie released only in 3D/IMAX 3D in my city, but only a part of the movie was great to watch in this format. If you aren't crazy about wearing those oversized, smudged glasses, I'd wouldn't recommend 3D, because some of the darker scenes looked dull and blurry to me.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

'Whiplash' Movie Review

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.

To what lengths would you go to be the best at what you do? Would you struggle, day and night, only to fail to match up to the expectations other people have of you? Would you almost risk your life or suffer physical and mental torture for a small chance to show your skills?

Whiplash is the kind of movie that answers these questions, and then some.

I decided to watch this movie a few weeks ago when I heard that J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his performance. Add to that the fact that the plot revolves around music and school, and I was hooked.

Aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) thinks he can finally make it big in the music industry now that a respected professor by the name of Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) selects him for the prestigious school band.
What follows next is a series of events that will change Andrew and Fletcher’s lives forever. 

 I've never been a supporter of negative motivation. I've always believed that if you want to help someone achieve everything they're capable of, you have to do it with kindness and support.
Well, Fletcher stands to disagree.


He's a man who thinks that you need to pressurise someone until they crack, because he believes that if someone is truly passionate about their dream, they wouldn't crack at all. In his words, "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job'."
And this makes for a rather horrifying movie-watching experience as Fletcher tries to put Andrew to the test.

However, Whiplash brings out other aspects of Andrew's life, too, like his relationship with his father, his love life, and his need to justify his decision to go to music school. And although you may not (hopefully) relate to his traumatic experiences in the band, it's easy to see moments of your own life reflected in these other minor plot points.

But be warned: this isn't a movie that holds mass appeal. If you're looking for a light-hearted story about love and life, you may not even manage to get through twenty minutes of this movie.
If, on the other hand, you're looking for a critically acclaimed, thought-provoking film that's more anxiety-inducing than entertaining, this one's for you.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for Whiplash.
With electrifying performances by up-and-coming actor Miles Teller and Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, a fantastic soundtrack, and a jaw-dropping thriller of an ending, Whiplash leaves your heart racing and your head reeling as you explore the ugly side of the human psyche.

Here's the trailer.


What did you think about Whiplash? Are you an advocate of negative motivation just like Fletcher, or do you agree with me? And, most importantly, what did you think of the ending? The comment box awaits your response. 

Bye-bye!

Note: Part of this review was originally published in the second edition of The Onlooker, ASMSOC's official newsletter.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pretty Little Liars 5x24 (I'm A Good Girl, I Am): A Recap


Alison's trial is coming to a close, and the outcome looks even more bleak when the prosecution calls a surprise witness that not only paints Alison in a bad light but also the PLLs and Mike. Desperate to find any evidence or witness to save their friends, Aria, Emily and Spencer race to find someone or something that can prove Ali's innocence and put an end to this nightmare. Meanwhile, Mike becomes a target of "A" when it looks like he might be called to testify, and Ezra and Caleb have differing opinions on what he should do. 

Recap

Crazy things happen in Rosewood every day, and you can never tell when the most random characters might pop up again to take the stand in a murder trial. Well, Mona's BFF Lesli does exactly that, revealing that Mona sent her a letter about being threatened by Alison. Amidst tears, she also drags Mike and Hanna into the topic of conversation, claiming that they were paranoid about Mona's room and belongings.

But Alison insists that she was at the playground when the murder happened, and she thinks someone else might have been there too, because she saw someone wearing a scarf inside a pipe. Was someone sleeping there?
Apparently, yes. A Rosewood High student who took shelter in the playground heard Alison's voice. But Ali's lawyer doesn't think this makes for a good alibi, given that the girl was high and drunk only a few hours before the incident occurred.

Awkwardness ensues when Spencer runs into Toby after a very long time. He's still a cop so that he can protect his (ex?)girlfriend from harm, but Spencer subtly lets him know that she has other people to seek comfort from - like Melissa's male roommate from London.
But by the end of the episode, Toby realises that Lieutenant Tanner is never going to take him seriously as a cop because of his love life, so our hero puts down the badge and tells Spencer that he will never choose policemanship over her.


Meanwhile, Aria's afraid that her brother Mike will come clean about Mona's 'fake death turned real death' plan. Sure, it could save Hanna and Alison, but 'A' would never let Mike get away with it. She commands Ezra to have a guys' night in with Mike at his cabin in the woods so he can be away from the trial, but Caleb gets there first and convinces Mike to tell the police what he knows.
Mike runs away from them and is beaten up and captured by 'A' (who also shoots arrows at Caleb and Ezra), but Lt. Tanner takes no notice when the men try to file a complaint against this mystery villain.
Aria is unable to get in touch with her brother and calls Andrew to enlist his help, but Mr. Brawny-with-Brains is MIA.

Alison and Hanna, back at the jailhouse, have to physically hurt themselves to be able to get away with discussing their plans. Alison's lawyer manages to confiscate a note from them where they were attempting to decode Mona's mystery riddle from last week's episode, but she can't make head or tail of it.


Ali's lawyer calls her to the stand and demonstrates that due to Alison's childhood arm injury, it would have been impossible for her to have used brute strength and force against Mona in order to kill her.
The prosecution, however, overrides this by bringing up an archery prize Ali won in her childhood. But she hadn't actually played - she'd rigged the competition in order to win. Too bad nobody would believe her if she said so.

The jury finally comes to a decision in the final two minutes of today's episode. Alison DiLaurentis has been found GUILTY of Mona Vanderwaal's murder.
And not just Alison, but the three Liars are taken into custody as well.


Thoughts

I still can't believe Emily and Spencer found the sleeping girl from the playground based on the description of a scarf that they hadn't even seen with their own eyes. Television, I tell you.

And Toby and Spencer, back together? I know that 'Spoby', as they're fondly called, have about a billion lovesick fans, but I just don't see the spark that had been there in the first few seasons. Why not let Spencer be single for a few seasons instead?

I'm not sure why all the Liars have been arrested. I thought the prosecution believed that Alison had just one accomplice. Then on what grounds are they arresting Aria, Spencer, or Emily?

Most Likely to be 'A' This Week

I'm still thinking Andrew, dear Geeks.

In this episode, he got incredibly jealous of Ezra... could that be why he'd shoot arrows at him later on? He was also the only person who was told that Mike was going to spend a night at Ezra's cabin. Plus, in the final 'A' scene, we see the masked figure pinning a corsage on a suit. Does this mean 'A' is a man?

Next Week

How are the Liars going to get out of this one? Will we finally find out who #BigA is, or is it going to be another cop-out? And what's up with all the 'dollhouse' business that we see in the promo?



What do you think the next episode will be about? And if you've come across the infamous 'Daisy' spoilers, do you think it'll all be true? And can someone as handsome as Andrew really be so evil?

I'll see you next week, Geeks. Can't wait. ^_^