Showing posts with label shailene woodley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shailene woodley. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Insurgent (2015)

For a teenage-dystopian film in a sea of teenage-dystopian films, how does it stand out from the crowd? As a person, how do you accept your individuality in a world that shuns your differences, or in Tris Prior's case hunts you down? Insurgent addresses these ideas as it reunites us with the franchise created by author Veronica Roth.

Civilians of a futuristic Chicago are sorted into a faction system based on five virtues; honesty, amity, selflessness, bravery, and intelligence. Heroine Tris Prior, who defies the norm by qualifying for more than one faction, is on the run from the power-hungry leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) trying to eradicate those similar to Tris. The clash between an immeasurable hero and the society that can't confine her will inadvertently unlock secrets about the fate of their secluded world.

Taking us back to the Divergent world established by director Neil Burger in 2014, director Robert Schwentke separates this sequel from its predecessor. Every sequel gets a much grander stage than its prequel, and the sets, special-effects, and costume are not just familiar from what we've seen before but are improved upon. Amplifying its special-effects  and packing in much more gunfire, the action-packed scenes balances an empathetic portrait of Prior and delivers enough interest for the next installments - for readers and non-readers alike. With Schwentke attached to the next two installments, I look forward to how this world is going to grow.

While the film holds up in adventure, it also succeeds in bringing to light an individual defying the stereotypes of her society's enforced conformity. Like a million similar heroes we know in books and films, Prior is in search of accepting her identity. Defined as defective by the world, her evolution is not degraded or dumbed-down by other characters telling her who she should be. Instead, she is figuring it out for herself and that is the main draw. Though some of the script is not entirely organized, Priors' defiance of categorization is satisfying and rewarding as a viewer.

A great credit for the authenticity of the leading lady is Shailene Woodley. For such a young actress, she remains a versatile and intriguing talent. Equally, her main counterpart Theo James, continues to be a refreshing partner as her character's love interest, Four. Their relationship is not about coddling each other or playing cat-and-mouse with each other's emotions, which has tarnished the young adult genre. Together and alongside so many other members of the cast, the actors boost each other's performances and characters. Even if the story is centered around Prior, the film does not selfishly hold Woodley hostage to be a one-woman show. Everyone gives validity to their role whether it's leading or minor.

As a reader of the series, my only main con is that the translation of the world-building could have fared better. This is something I struggled with even when reading the novelsso the films are not necessarily to blame. The script does improve upon the motivations of Jeanine's hunt for divergents from the first film, however it can still feel disordered at times. While I truly look forward to Allegiant Part 1 and 2, part of my gripe towards the YA genre overall is that one story takes four movies to complete. Is this a fandom I love to be apart of? Sure, and each Divergent installment feels like its own stand-alone film. However, it's the in-between sections where I start to feel impatient towards the studios' prolonged cash-grabbers.

The Divergent Series is not trying to compete against the untouchable pedestal that has been emphatically (and wrongfully, in my opinion) gifted to The Hunger Games franchise. Instead the films are constructing their own world and heroine as best as possible. Compared to other aspiring series that were complete bombs due to horribly weak scripts or non-interest by audiences, Roth's series is managing to carve out a name for itself. The success of the series may not be in its ability to create a franchise-making logo of a bird encased by an inferno but the praise-worthy showcase of a layered heroine, visual aesthetics, and talented cast.

Rating: ★ ★

Monday, April 6, 2015

Wonder Women: Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley actress profile
The young adult fandom is vast and growing, and there are a number of young stars moving up in Hollywood's ranks. While it's hard for many to pave roles in projects outside of their television or movie franchise, Shailene Woodley is a leading lady paving a path for young adult stars.

Despite her rising popularity status for starring in films like Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, Shailene Woodley got an early start in show business As the central character in ABC Family's The Secret Life of an American Teenager, it could be said that my fandom for her started there. However, having never watched the show's episodes in their entirety, I might have seen clips of her characters' scenes on The Soup (an E!  television clip show that pokes fun at Hollywood's best and worst entertainment moments). Throwing teenagers into one cliche debacle after another was often how the show was regarded, Woodley came through the show's five-year running, she seemed to jump on everyone's radar in The Descendants.

For her first major film role, Woodley stood out as George Clooney's rebellious conflicted teenager who helps him track down her mother's lover. At first glance, she seems unabashedly outspoken and explosively reacting off of her father's guidance. Her insecurities are slowly unmasked as she replaces her mother as a maternal figure to her younger sister. During the award show season, Woodley gained momentum among the indie crowd earning Golden Globe nominations and a win at Independent Spirit Award. It was hard not to miss her as a young starlet to watch out for. Now three years later, her on-screen talent and off-screen personality are making monumental waves on me and Hollywood.

In The Spectacular Now (2013), Woodley stars alongside Mike Teller in about a young man floating through life and relationships. Sutter Keely (Teller) is not a slacker but numbs the pain of his father's abandonment with alcoholism and keeping up appearances in the cool crowd since his football days are long gone. As Aimee Finicky, Woodley is just a normal girl who falls in love with Keely. Their crises guide them through painful circumstances and courageously putting themselves first.

The best of the movie is in the performances themselves. Teller creates a complicated protagonist whose life is tied up in his abandoned father's ambition to live in the present moment, but he's not particularly motivated in school or life. Woodley, whose Finicky is confined by her mother's dependence, exudes patience, enthusiasm, and apprehension. Together, their performances are stellar, but perhaps more so for Woodley and her budding career in the genre.

For the time being as Woodley respectably portrays young women in a variety of dramas, her characters are significantly unique. Similar to her portrayal as Beatrice Prior in the big YA phenomenon Divergent (another female character trying to brave the storms of life and love), Woodley's characters are all young at heart but aren't cut from the same YA cloth. As she grows up on-screen as in real life, I'm excited to see where her talent leads her career from big blockbusters to the independent genre.

Perhaps most of all, I admire Woodley's candor and off-screen personality. Similarly to how much I could listen to Matthew McConaughey talk all day long, Woodley shares her interests beyond acting openly and passionately. It seems rare with young stars today to hear them share anything beyond one or two adjectives let alone some of their personal interests or their movie career with bold confidence and enthusiasm. Both aspects Woodley seems to be all the time.

Her easygoing personality makes it easy to listen her press rounds and read in-depth interviews. Often calling herself a "hippy dippy", Woodley stands by her organic lifestyle and her causes of being more environmentally friendly. Showing up on the red carpet with organic or without make-up, gathering her own water from springs and adapting a paleolithic diet to her life, she doesn't forcefully encourage people to follow her lifestyle but freely shares what she does. As someone who has always followed an organic lifestyle, it's refreshing to see a star follow through with her claims of loving nature and the environment, and not skimp out from photoshoot to red carpet event on her beliefs. Her frank nature doesn't necessarily mean the more personal a star is the more relatable or likeable I'll find him/her - I just like how she isn't afraid to let her free spirit flag fly.

Whether on the big carpet wearing gowns and sporting natural make-up, or hanging out at press conferences, Woodley seems to mix in every situation. Optimistic and happy-go-lucky, Woodley hangs out happily being in the moment. In a world where people are so cynical and judgmental, Woodley is down-to-earth. Bohemian and chic, she holds no expectations against others and holds no plans for the future - what will be, will be. In Woodley's own words, that's just rad and bad-ass.

Does Shailene Woodley inspire you? What's your favorite role of hers so far?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book vs Movie: Divergent

book vs movie divergent by veronica roth

Set in a dystopian Chicago, the city has been broken up into factions sparked by an old war. The separation of society based on different virtues - Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (kindness) - is meant to be the new world's pathway to peace. At the ripe age of sixteen teenagers must choose an official faction and leave their old life behind. Beatrice Prior, the main protagonist of the series, is a member of Abegnation navigating her way through the Dauntless world. However, there is more to her selection ceremony results that force her to realize she doesn't belong in this new compartmentalized society. She is Divergent - a member of the factionless that can't be mindlessly controlled by the government.

Based on the worldwide phenomenon by Veronica Roth, let me be the first to say that I didn't have high expectations for the film adaptation. My book review can be read here, however, let me summarize that I thought the film wouldn't be worthy of anything except to see Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet. However, my expectations were proven wrong. Director Neil Burger (of the forcefully cerebral Limitless) accomplishes a fun entertaining young adult flick.