Film Review: Why the Divergent movies are trash

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by Becca Schumacher, sophomore writing coach

Don’t get me wrong, the books were fantastic, but I’m pretty sure the movies’ director only read the summary on the back cover and figured he got the general idea.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Divergent books, they comprise a young-adult trilogy written by Veronica Roth detailing a dystopian society in which everyone is divided into groups—called factions—based on personality. Being a fan of the book, I arrived to the theater in 2014 to see the movie adaptation, bouncing on the edge of my seat with anticipation… and left feeling deflated. My frustration was mostly due to the horrible choices made when adapting the books to script.

For one thing, the movie does not fully develop an understanding of the main character, Tris. Tris’s most defining conflict that drives the majority of her decisions is her struggle with selflessness and bravery, and what these traits truly mean for her. The fact that the film ignored them and their effect on her, instead portraying Tris as a cardboard vigilante teenager, made the adaptation an instant disappointment.

The film made the same mistake with Tobias, another central character. In the books, Tobias grows up overshadowed by his physically abusive father. One of the major conflicts in Allegiant, the final book, is his struggle to avoid becoming exactly like the father he despises. This is relevant to many teenagers today who want to develop their unique selves, but feel trapped by their perceived inability to avoid associations with their parent’s achievements, or break the cycle of their parents’ mistakes. Why the filmmakers felt the need to blow off this idea that so many young adults connect to—just to focus their attention on a cheesy plot and shallow characters—is a mystery to me.

Ultimately, the most frustrating part of the Divergent movies is the fact that the filmmakers completely changed the plot of the final two movies—and the manipulation of events was far from an improvement. Instead, the change made the plot feel more superficial, while important and original plot lines were left out. Characters that fans adored and cheered for in the books were also left out or majorly downplayed, and all in order to create a stereotypical action movie; the film was peppered with the kind of dramatic explosions and rapid gunfire that make for exciting trailers, but don’t add anything of substance to the actual story. The filmmakers had an opportunity to capture a terrific story with so much depth and relevance, but they unfortunately missed it.

A Cinematic Sensation: Hidden Figures

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By Molly Smerillo, sophomore writing coach

Ever since the early 1900’s, people all over the world have been obsessed with movies. The options for a Friday movie night are overwhelming. How are you supposed to know what genre to pick from when you have sci-fi, rom-com, horror, comedy, and more to choose from? The possibilities are endless! What if you want to go and watch a movie in theaters? How can you decide which movie to spend your hard earned dollars on, especially when 5 new movies hit theaters each week? I personally experience this movie-picking anxiety on a weekly basis and so, for my fellow indecisives, I am here to take some weight off of your shoulders.

Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, is one of the newest Hollywood hits in theaters, starring big names such as Taraji P. Henson, Jim Parsons, and Glen Powell. It is a captivating, true story about the real brains behind NASA, African-American women, and their role in launching some of the most important space missions in American history. The movie takes place in a time when African-American people were highly discriminated against, so the fact that these women were working on important projects for NASA was absolutely unheard of. They were chosen for their amazing way with numbers. They were called “calculators” because that was their job, to calculate. They were given complicated equations with huge numbers and were expected to calculate the solutions rounded to the smallest of decimal places. During this movie, you are taken back in history to experience the joys and hardships of life in the United States during the 1960’s.

This is definitely a must-see for anyone who enjoys learning about history, space, or simply wants to feel empowered and encouraged to pursue whatever it is that they are passionate about… No matter how stacked against them the odds seem to be.
Enjoy the movie!

The Best Underseen Movies of 2016

 

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By Kate Schiltz, junior writing coach and Joe Schiltz, class of 2011

At the end of the year, it seems like we hear about the same five or six movies over and over again—whether it’s huge blockbusters like “Rogue One” or surefire Oscar contenders like “La La Land.” Of course, these movies usually deserve the attention they’re getting, but a lot of the time there are equally deserving movies from earlier in the year that lose out on some of the attention. So, before you run out to get your tickets to “Passengers,” here are a few other options from 2016 to consider.

I Am Not a Serial Killer Based on the 2009 YA novel by Dan Wells, this indie movie tells the story of John Wayne Cleaver, a teenager who, indeed, is not a serial killer—yet. He has, however, been diagnosed with clinical sociopathy, and is desperately fighting to keep his darker urges at bay. But he becomes tested when his hometown becomes attacked by a real serial killer, and John decides to use his knowledge of the serial killer psyche to stop him. The movie was filmed last year in northern Minnesota, and it perfectly captures the look of a small Iron Range town and the chill of a frozen Minnesota January. (Available on Netflix and to rent on Amazon & iTunes.)

The Monster As you might have already guessed, we’re both big horror movie fans, and one of our favorites from the past few years was “The Strangers”—one of the most intense 80 minutes of our lives. Luckily for us, the director, Bryan Bertino, finally released another film: “The Monster.” At first glance, it’s a simple story: a mother and her daughter drive through the woods and get attacked by, well, a monster. What makes the movie especially impactful, however, is the complicated, angry relationship between the two main characters, which at times is more terrifying than the creature trying to kill them. That relationship also gives the movie an emotional payoff far more satisfying than typical for a horror film. (Available to rent on Amazon & iTunes.)

A War  This movie was released way back in February—in fact, it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Oscars. But it was so fascinating and emotionally wrenching that we’re still thinking about it eleven months later. It tells the story of a Danish soldier fighting in Afghanistan, who must face an agonizing decision in the battlefield and then face the consequences of that decision when he returns home to stand trial for war crimes. Both the combat and the courtroom scenes are incredibly suspenseful—like the director’s last film, “A Hijacking,” this movie enriches an action-movie plot with fascinating characters and difficult themes. (Available on Netflix and to rent on Amazon & iTunes.)

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Joe Schiltz graduated from MHS in 2011, and worked at the Writing Center as a junior and senior writing coach. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2015 and studied English and Studies in Cinema and Media Culture. He now is working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Berlin.

Calling All Star Wars Fans: the Saga Continues!

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My two consecutive Star Wars themed Halloween costumes

by Ceci Stratton, junior writing coach

A long time ago in my grandparent’s porch I watched Star Wars for the first time. I was hooked, and remain obsessed to this day. Of course, the new movie helped to rekindle this obsession and crank it up about 100 notches.

So here we are, anxiously awaiting what will possibly be the highlight of my year thus far.

Seriously. I am not exaggerating. I teared up watching the trailers. I mean, how couldn’t you? John Williams just does that to me, and seeing my all-time favorite movies being brought back to life? Priceless.

I have my timer going, and by the time this is posted there will be approximately 11 hours until I am sitting in the movie theater, eyes glued to the screen, and watching the classic Star Wars crawl text (JJ Abrams better not leave this out) scroll across the screen.


But let’s get to the point: Star Wars nerds went crazy with accusations and premonitions about the new Disney owned Star Wars. The trailers especially sparked some crazy theories. Has Luke Skywalker turned to the dark side? Is Rey, the new female protagonist, Han Solo and Leia’s daughter? What the heck is everyone fighting over this time?

The possibilities are endless because the movie has now been declared canon; this means it is not required to include any information from the massive Star Wars expanded universe (comics, TV shows, books, etc.) and is only based on movies I through VI.

Of course some were outraged, but it really does make sense. In the expanded universe, Chewbacca dies, Luke has a son, Han and Leia have a set of twins, a girl and a boy, and another son. I mean, you can’t expect JJ Abrams to make an amazing movie if he had to pay attention to every single thing that has ever happened in the expanded universe.

But hey let’s face it, Star Wars fans have REALLY high expectations. In other words, don’t screw this up JJ. Please.

With all of that aside, let’s appreciate the new Star Wars for what I believe it is all about. Yes, it is the continuation of a classic story, yet it is so much more. The Star Wars movie gives our generation the opportunity to be a part of movie-making history. It is the start of a new story, of new surprises, of new classic quotes and characters, and all of these are linked to us—to our time period. These are things we will identify with in our future. But really, how cool is it to tell someone you went to the public premiere of a Star Wars movie, or even to have simply seen it in theaters!


Now on to some fun facts about Star Wars, because who doesn’t love some fun facts?! Also, if you ever feel out of the loop with your nerdy friends, whip out a few of these and blow their minds.

  • Chewbacca has a son and a wife! In the 1978 Star Wars Christmas special, Chewie’s family is showcased on Kashyyk waiting for Chewbacca to celebrate Life Day with them.
  • “I have a bad feeling about this” or “I have a very bad feeling about this” is said in EVERY Star Wars
  • David Prowse who was in Darth Vader’s costume (he doesn’t portray his voice) is banned from all official Star Wars events because George Lucas found him annoying.
  • In The Phantom Menace they had to rebuild all of the door frames because Liam Neeson, who portrayed Qui-Gon Jinn, was too tall!
  • You probably always thought Chewie just stuck with Han Solo because they were best buds, but think again! In Wookie culture if someone saves your life, you must dedicate your life to protecting them. This is called a life debt. At some point between the 3rd and 4th movies, Chewbacca became indebted to Han Solo, resulting in their inseparable lives.

And now for some fun Star Wars quizzes:

http://www.starwars.com/news/quiz-which-star-wars-creature-are-you

http://www.starwars.com/news/quiz-which-star-wars-quote-should-be-your-motto

http://www.starwars.com/news/how-much-are-you-like-darth-vader

http://www.starwars.com/news/poll-are-you-a-die-hard-star-wars-fan

Okay I suppose that is enough … for now.


What do you think is going to happen in the new movie? Who is your favorite character? If you could have any lightsaber color, what would it be? Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Leave answers in the comments below!


The Force Awakens is bound to be amazing.

Don’t be a nerf herder. Go see it in theaters this break!

So long, and may the Force be with you.

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P.S. This is called a Force FX lightsaber. I’m sure Santa won’t mind a last minute addition to your Christmas list.