Divergent film

Some Movies to See This Weekend, March 20, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This is a weekend many people have likely had circled on the calendar for a while now. In many ways, it marks the beginning of blockbuster season. But like I have said in this space before, March is a little on the weirder side, where the films that get released aren't necessarily sure things to rake in a lot of cash. They're odder ducks, perhaps a little more niche in the audiences they seek. That's a good thing if you're part of those audiences, and it should be embraced. Anyway, let's get to it.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James

People, especially the younger set, loved Divergent, which came out last year. They really responded to the themes of being put in a box by society and the urge to break out. The critic community, including yours truly (I'm sorry, fans, because I hate not being able to share in someone's enjoyment of something), have less of a connection to it. It's overly long because it can't help itself from making the same point over and over, those artificial distinctions between groups don't make much sense even within the context of the movie's world, and the character motivations are all over the place.

But hey, I wasn't a huge fan of the first Hunger Games movie, either, but I consider Catching Fire one of the best blockbusters of the decade. Of course, Hunger Games is still better than its spiritual cousin Divergent, but bear with me for a sentence while I make a point. With a similar directorial change and the burden of world building behind it, perhaps Insurgent can make a similar leap in quality. Woodley's Tris and her cohorts, including Four (Theo James and his unnaturally large Adam's Apple) is now on the run from Winslet's Jeanine and her governmental forces. Revenge is on everyone's mind, so the stakes are higher.  There's a lot of hope here, even for a non-fan like me.

The Gunman
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Don MacPherson, Pete Travis
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone

The tagline for this movie is “Armed with the Truth.” Knowing a little about Sean Penn's personal history, I'm terrified to see him armed with anything, let alone with what he deems the truth. Morbidity aside, The Gunman looks like a mashup of Charles Bronson revenge thrillers and '70s paranoid conspiracy pictures, with a modern action sheen atop it all. 

Plus the cast includes multiple Oscar winners and some of the finest character actors in the business. Sure, Penn's career isn't what it used to be, but he's not exactly been slumming it recently, and guys like Elba and Bardem are still at the height of their powers. This many talented people in a room together is usually a sign of at least a germ of a good idea. Maybe it won't work out in execution, but there's a lot of enticing stuff in the mix.

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