Film Friday #175

Divergent (2014)

In a dystopian future Chicago, society is divided into five factions according to its citizens virtues and values. Abnegation, who also run the overall government, believe in selflessness and service, Candor believe in truth and transparency, Amity believe in peace and kindness, Erudite in the power of knowledge and Dauntless are a wild, fearless warrior faction responsible for protecting the city from whatever it is that lurks beyond its walls. As each member of the society comes of age, they must undertake a test which will tell them conclusively which one faction they belong in. So when Abnegation teen, Tris (Shailene Woodley) receives a mixed result and discovers she is “divergent” she must hide her true identity to avoid being hunted down by Erudite purists who believe divergence threatens societal harmony. She decides to join Dauntless, enticed by the apparent freedom of their lives but finds herself subjected to a brutal and ruthless training programme at the hands of instructors, Eric (Jai Courtney) and Four (Theo James). Those who do not make it will face a fate worse than death – becoming factionless, alone and forced to beg and scrape to survive. At the same time someone is spreading rumours that Abnegation are corrupt and the Erudite are becoming progressively more aggressive in their hunt for divergents. Will Tris survive the Dauntless training programme? Will she and Four become more than just friends? What will she do if her secret comes out? And what exactly is Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), the Erudite leader up to? I went into this one with very low expectations having read several less than glowing reviews so I was quite pleasantly surprised. I have read the books and although I didn’t love some of the changes, I thought for the the most part the interpretation stayed true to the essence of the story and I really enjoyed Shailene Woodley as Tris. On the downside, the character development of all the secondary characters was almost non-existent, which made it hard to care about them, the chemistry between Woodley and James was completely flat, it dragged a bit in the middle and Tris’ transformation from zero to fighting machine seemed a little too sudden. Worth a watch but no match for Hunger Games. 3/5


I know I was much hotter in the book, but just go with it

Monster-in-law (2005)

Hippie artist, Charlie (Jennifer Lopez) thinks her dating woes have come to an end when she meets Kevin (Michael Vartan), who has looks, money, charm and a big heart. Ah bless! Unfortunately Kevin’s mother, Viola (Jane Fonda) is a psycho hose beast who doesn’t believe anyone, least of all unsophisticated Charlie, is good enough for her perfect son and sets about systematically trying to ruin their relationship. There are lots of things wrong with this film. It’s utterly predictable and J-Lo plays her character as an annoying, passive and somewhat pathetic little girl. However, Fonda is actually really funny playing a devil in a designer suit and the diabolical plans her character comes up with to discredit Charlie are kind of brilliant. In the end Monster-in-Law is nothing special but it is watchable and mercifully only 101 minutes long. 2.5/5

What do you mean a tea cosy isn't appropriate wear for lunch at a country club?

What do you mean a tea cosy isn’t appropriate wear for lunch at a country club?

Ender’s Game (2013)

Years after Earth was invaded by a race of voracious, water seeking aliens called the Formics, young Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) is recruited into a military programme where children and young teenagers are training for a future invasion through games and simulations. Under the watchful gaze of Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), Ender shows remarkable leadership potential but struggles to integrate with his teammates until he takes over his own team of “misfits” and he not only makes friends but also proves himself to be a force to be reckoned with. Now he will lead the attack force against the Formics but will he be able to control his aggression and are the Formics really as evil as he’s been lead to believe? Ender’s Game looks really good and the young actors do a great job but I ended up with way too many questions. If the Formics were completely unable to communicate, how did they know they were called the Formics… or did they just randomly name them that? Also the explanation that children were being used for complex military missions involving extreme violence and killing because they “played a lot of video games” wasn’t enough for me. I mean, seriously? What kind of a society is this? And then they ending was summed up in about five minutes. I know there is a YA novel behind this so I am assuming this is yet another ham fisted screen interpretation. Disappointing. 2/5

Yes, fine, you look like a giant wasp… now get on with it!

World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

Lance (Robin Williams) is a lonely widowed high school teacher who has trouble connecting with his rude, obnoxious, sex obsessed teenage son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara). When Kyle dies in an autoerotic asphyxiation accident, Lance can’t bear the shame so he decides to make Kyle’s death look like a suicide, complete with heartfelt note. Unsurprisingly Lance is deluged in sympathy and he can’t help but enjoy the attention, which only becomes more intense when Kyle’s touching “suicide note” is leaked. Soon a cult of personality is built up around the late Kyle, who becomes posthumously popular when Lance releases his diaries… which he has of course written. As the obsession with Kyle increases so does the perception of Lance as a wonderful bereaved father, leading to the fame and fortune he has craved as a frustrated writer but how far is he willing to go? This is comedy of the absolute blackest order and Williams does a great job of portraying a character that is both very sympathetic and loathsome at the same time. It doesn’t seem like World’s Greatest Dad got much publicity at the time that it came out, which is unfortunate because it’s kind of great in all it’s twisted glory. Recommended for anyone who prefers their laughs on the macabre side. 3.5/5

"All these perfect fake boobies... it's enough to bring tears to your eyes."

“All these perfect fake boobies… it’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.”


  1. Lovely round up lady! Gotta say, Divergent really disappointed me. Yes, Four was much better in the books…

    Oh dear, and Ender’s Game looked like something I would have wanted to test out. Looks… bland.

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! I think possibly I was less disappointed because I wasn’t that into the books. They were good but I didn’t feel massively emotionally invested in the characters.

      Ender’s Game was a bit of a mess. It felt like the mythology was poorly explained and the ending was ridiculously rushed.

  2. I was pretty disappointed as well with how the movie turned out. I loved that it’s fast paced and how they tried to stay as faithful as possible from the source but it’s rather bland in some parts. I’ve to agree re: the chemistry between Shailene and Theo, they don’t seem to connect at all – I dunno, I guess they should’ve chosen a another actor for the part …

    1. Abbi

      They literally have no chemistry. In this kind of film you should be desperate for that moment when the two leads kiss but I just did not feel it. He was not at all how I imagined Four/Tobias.

  3. I haven’t seen the movie but your descriptor of Ender’s Game sounds similar to how I felt about the book.

    1. Abbi

      I haven’t read the book and now I’m thinking I probably won’t bother.

  4. Hi Abbi 🙂 I agree with all your ratings. It drives me nuts when films like Divergent or Ender’s Game are exciting in the novel form but fail to transfer to the screen. I’ll take the book version any day, but when I didn’t read it and look forward to the film, most times it’s a disappointment. I never read the Harry Potter books–there’s an exception.

    1. Abbi

      I know quite a few people who have never read the Harry Potter books but loved the films. Both are so magical though that it’s possible to enjoy them independently. They’re really something special. Most of the recent YA adaptations I’ve seen recently have been pretty crap. I was a big fan of the Mortal Instruments series and the film version of the first one last year was just terrible.

  5. Great round up Abbi! Some really interesting films here

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! World’s Greatest Dad was really different.

  6. Jen

    Agree that Divergent’s interpretation stayed true to the essence of the story in that both versions are irredeemably awful. If anything the film was better but only because it was over a lot quicker.

    1. Abbi

      Hahahahha! You really did hate them didn’t you?

      1. Jen

        So. Much. Poorly written, poorly executed, one dimensional characters. I only suffered through the first one cause I care less than -5000% about what happens. I feel personally victimised by how bad it is. And its popularity.

  7. Great reviews, Abbi. Haven’t seen two of them, but I basically agree on Divergent and Ender’s Game. Divergent is fun, but not as good as the Hunger Games films. I will say I think the chemistry between Woodley and James quite excellent, though I also think their characters’ romance is undercooked.

    Ender’s Game is a disappointing adaptation, primarily because it loses the essence of the characters, at the same time it sacrifices all political subtext. In the books, the use of kids to do this work is still questionable, especially because the kids are actually younger than they are in the movie, but it’s less so. Because Graff is so much more complex. In my own review of Ender’s Game I suggest they keep the plot but give up the novel’s heart. Which makes it a ‘blah’ experience.

    1. Abbi

      Thanks. It’s really interesting how differently people can experience the chemistry between other people. Whether it was the connection between the actors or something else, there’s definitely something missing in the romance department.

      I feel like the film has put me off reading Ender’s Game… or at least relegated it to the bottom of my reading list. I am a big YA fan but the film just didn’t inspire any interest.

      1. For what it’s worth, the book is much, much better. That you already know the twist ending might hurt a bit, but the characters are so much more complex and interesting in the novel that I suspect it would still resonate. And certainly would do so more than the movie.

        I agree that Divergent’s romance is lacking. I just think it’s the screenplay that misses, not the actors.

  8. I have not seen this movie yet, but the reviews are offputting and the fact that it was written by someone who was 21 at the time, is very off putting.

    1. Abbi

      It’s watchable but pretty forgettable. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

  9. Divergent looks awful! I am dreading watching it but my girlfriend will be dragging me to it soon enough!

    1. Abbi

      It’s not THAT bad. I’ve sat through far far worse.

  10. That last film sounds fascinating.

  11. Great review! I love Jane Fonda in Monster-in-Law 🙂

  12. Nice reviews. : ) I still want to see Divergent despite poor reviews – looks entertaining enough. I’m going to skip the books & just try to enjoy a movie for a change. Will watch Ender’s Game at some point too. Not seen the others either but… Michael Vartan? Wasn’t he in Never Been Kissed? I thought he was a cutie. : )

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