Divergent

Divergent

Like it or not, Hollywood’s current obsession with adapting (any and all, apparently) YA novels to the big screen got its biggest push from the tremendous success of the Twilight novels. The Stephenie Meyer-penned series set the stage for a hefty number of teen-centric (and paranormally influenced) features to go the cinematic route, even as her blockbuster franchise presented a very problematic view of teen romance and sexual obsession (something I touched upon before the first Hunger Games arrived in theaters). In the post-Twilight years, a number of other YA adaptations have arrived, bolstered by big-time romances that often overshadow stories that ostensibly center on youngsters (mainly girls) exploring special powers, from Beautiful Creatures to The Mortal Instruments. Being magical or immortal or witchy or intelligent might be a good thing, but it’s not the most important thing – but that’s starting to change. With the success of both Divergent (less than a week in release, and already headed straight to Franchise Town on a train populated by people who enjoy boarding and disembarking said trains in the most dangerous way possible) and The Hunger Games series, YA adaptations are steadily moving away from making their stories rely on romance, instead focusing on actual power and personal discovery. It’s a nice change for that genre, but it’s also a swift kick to the neck of other action films.

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Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in DIVERGENT

Let’s just get this out of the way. Divergent is not a good movie. And before you start lobbing accusations that YA adaptations never get a fair shake, know that the problem here isn’t that the film is aimed at teens. The issue is that the script, and presumably the source novel, are incredibly dumb. Post-war Chicago is a fractured place. It’s by design though as the survivors created a plan to ensure the people would never fight again. How? By crafting a system guaranteed to lead to war. Basically, everyone is born into one of five factions. Erudite is for brainiacs who look down their noses at those around them. Candor is for those who always tell the truth, a characteristic that we’re told (with a straight face) makes them the best lawyers. Dauntless are the parkour-loving punks who run and jump all over town while learning how to protect it from the possible threats beyond the great fence that surrounds the city. Amity are the peaceful farmers, a group apparently most notable for always being happy. Finally, Abnegation consists of the selfless, grey-wearing folk who give up mirror time in exchange for running the government. Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is Abnegation born, but her heart belongs with the free-runners so she chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. Her test results were inconclusive though, an outcome known as Divergent and something she has to keep secret. This essentially means she has varied interests and common sense enough to […]

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DIVERGENT

Sure, P.L. Travers might be the most publicly known disaffected author (at least as it applies to the full-scale cinematic and, on her end, utterly despised imagining of her beloved “Mary Poppins” by Walt Disney — what, did you miss Saving Mr. Banks?), but she’s far from the only one. Stephen King is notoriously not a fan of The Shining, Anthony Burgess so disliked the movie version of his A Clockwork Orange that he regretted writing his own book, Bret Easton Ellis almost roundly dismisses movie takes on his novels, and the list goes on and on (we’re betting that Mark Helprin isn’t too excited about the recent spin on Winter’s Tale), but it doesn’t always have to be the case. In fact, it’s sort of fun when it’s not. The YA genre has been mostly lucky when it comes to author-approved movies – at least when it comes to its most popular and recent ones – as massive franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have been generally pleasing to their respective writers (at least, pleasing enough to not warrant public outcry). Now it seems that the YA love train can add another car to its huffing and puffing movement, as Veronica Roth, author of the “Divergent” trilogy, recently shared her thoughts on seeing the Shailene Woodley-starring Divergent with her fans (hint: she loved it).

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Robert Schwentke

Tucked deep in the recesses of a Tuesday night, two large bits of entertainment news hit the metaphorical wire, lighting up the echo chamber of the Internet (and especially Twitter) with some good old-fashioned outrage. Our own Scott Beggs has already shared the heartbreaking news that (sad face emoticon) indie darling Greta Gerwig is now a huge sellout who will never again make another quirky and original film and will instead toil forever in the salt mines of corporate sitcom hell. Let us mourn. Amidst the Gerwig-centric rage, another piece of news also arrived – that Robert Schwentke is set to helm the second entry into Lionsgate’s Shailene Woodley-starring Divergent series, based on the very popular YA trilogy by Veronica Roth. If the Gerwig news did not already tap your rage reserves, come with me – we shall spend it here. Divergent director Neil Burger bowed out of the second film, Insurgent, back in December, as he was reportedly disinterested in keeping up with the backbreaking filming schedule that Lionsgate has demanded of the series (with Divergent hitting theaters on March 21, the studio has already set similar March release dates in 2015 and 2016 for the final two entries, ensuring an eye-popping production pace). At the time, we mused as to who we would like to see direct Insurgent, a film marked with significantly more action than its predecessor, an action-heavy outing that could benefit from some a similarly action-minded director. We dropped names like David Yates, Paul Greengrass, […]

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alexandre-desplat

Even though “Please Mr. Kennedy” is probably still stuck in most people’s heads, it is officially a new year full of films with music that will move us to tears, make us cheer, make us smile, or simply introduce us to something different. Sometimes a movie won’t hit all the marks, but the music will be unforgettable and other times the music ends up being the element that makes a film by tying all the other elements together. After looking over the titles set to hit theaters this year, the following 15 are the ones to keep your ears open for. From well-known composers embarking on new collaborations to popular artists once again taking to the stand to musicians stepping away from their usual genres into something new,  the upcoming year is poised to deliver films boasting an eclectic array of tunes. If you are still looking for something to use those holiday iTunes gift cards on, get ready to add these upcoming scores and soundtracks to your playlists for 2014.

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DIVERGENT

The next big YA franchise set to hit the big screen won’t arrive in theaters for nearly four months, but its director has already taken himself out of consideration for any sequels. The shoot was that fun, huh? Variety reports that director Neil Burger will not return to direct another Divergent film, the burgeoning film franchise based on Veronica Roth’s popular series that will star Shailene Woodley in its lead role. The first film in the series is already set to arrive in theaters on March 21 of next year, and Lionsgate has already lined up a similar release date for the second film in the series, Insurgent, which will hit screens on March 20, 2015 and the third film, Allegiant, which is now set for a March 18, 2016 release. Burger, however, will not be directing that second feature (and will not return for subsequent entries in the series). One of the reasons why Burger might not returning could be due to the fast turnaround time necessary to keep the franchise ticking along – Burger is reportedly in post-production on the first film and the second one requires a production start sometime next spring. That’s, well, a lot of moviemaking to cram into a relatively short amount of time (and that’s not even considering the huge press and publicity tour that Divergent will undoubtedly get). So if Burger is out, who is going to be in?

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DIVERGENT

It’s a feeling that’s familiar to anyone who has ever been a fan of a preexisting property that gets the adaptation route – this isn’t how I pictured it. Hollywood’s current love affair with turning bestselling books into feature films, crafting beloved productions into “reimagined” versions, and generally just mining other material to make “new” films means that such a particular feeling is one experienced with startling regularity. The next big project on the adaptation track – a big screen take on Veronica Roth’s bestselling “Divergent” book series – will kick off early next year with the Shailene Woodley-starring Divergent. As marketing for the feature ramps up, we wondered – but what do the fans of the original material think? Over at GoodReads, a site that fosters bonds amongst book readers while also giving them a place to post reviews of their reading material, the “Divergent” community is a thriving one. The first book is a hit with many GoodReads readers, and of a current 761,152 reviews of the book, 354,106 of them are either five- or four-star reviews, making it the second-best reviewed book in the very popular YA dystopia novel genre (“The Hunger Games” is number one). It’s also number nine on the Best Young Adult Books, a list that also includes classics like “The Giver” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside newer stuff like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Twilight.” The book rates higher than both “The Hobbit” and “The Outsiders,” so yes, it’s thought […]

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DIVERGENT

If you are not of the YA set and have never heard of Neil Burger‘s Divergent before the teaser trailer surfaced several days ago, fear not, because the cast and creators of the film are here to explain you a thing. This isn’t The Hunger Games. Oh no, this isn’t The Host. Or Twilight. Or Harry Potter. And don’t you dare compare it to Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Bonetropolis: Thunderbone. Divergent is based on a YA novel by Veronica Roth, set in the wondrous dystopian future Chicago (they don’t all have to be mystical lands), where society is now divided into five factions based on your personality. But then there’s Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), who is categorized as “divergent” – meaning she can’t be put in one of your societal boxes, man. And that makes her a threat. Check out the featurette for yourself:

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DIVERGENT

There’s a way to know when a YA adaptation is going to be the next big thing, and that’s when everyone had heard of the books prior to the making of the movie. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games all fit that rule, at least as far as I noticed. Divergent does not. I hadn’t heard the title before production began. In fact, I hadn’t heard about it until Comic-Con last month. I understand that many people are excited about this movie, which stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet and Theo James. But now that the first trailer has arrived, by way of MTV and the VMAs, I can’t for the life of me see why. Perhaps it’s a matter of just seeing The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this week and being reminded of all prior YA adaptations, success and failures. Then only afterward learning that it began as Harry Potter fanfiction. In the discussions of fanfic turning into actual hot “original” YA properties, I’d heard the notion that Divergent seems like it was born out of The Hunger Games, and this preview really drives that idea home. Sort of. It looks like a Hunger Games knockoff with a plot inspired by Harry Potter‘s Sorting Hat. For a movie that’s apparently about not fitting into a conventional box, Divergent sure doesn’t look very divergent.

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thg

Movie trailers are commercials. We may forget that from time to time, especially when a particularly good trailer comes around, two minutes of something that’s good enough to make people start demanding Oscars and accolades for a film they haven’t yet seen, simply because someone found 120-seconds of good stuff and packaged it up with a stirring score and some cool visuals. But a movie trailer is a commercial, a marketing tool, a creation meant solely to entice people to see something else. The trailer is never the true endgame (no matter how many people buy tickets for one film just to catch a particular trailer beforehand and certainly no matter how many “events” pack theaters with people eager to catch early footage). The final film is the thing, but it’s easy to forget that when we’re constantly being convinced that it’s trailers we need to get excited for. After all, trailers are getting their own commercials these days, and people are eating it up. Most trailers clock in around the two-minute mark – anything much longer feels like it’s giving too much away, anything much shorter just feels like a bloated television spot. Want to entice? Make a minute-long teaser trailer. Hell, make it forty-five seconds and be done with it. But want to infuriate? Throw together twenty seconds of nonsense and call it a teaser for a teaser, a sneak peek at a thing that is, by its very nature, already a sneak peek. A commercial for a […]

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SHAILENE WOODLEY stars in DIVERGENT

One of the more useless trends to come around in the past few years is the “trailer for a trailer.” Trailers themselves are little teases for a film; a tease for a tease is redundant and unsatisfyingly brief. So it’s not super-surprising that the teaser for Divergent is pretty much useless. There’s so much to absorb here: multiple close-ups of Shailene Woodley, wide-eyed and vaguely upset. Someone takes an elbow to the face. Someone else gets flipped upside-down. The film’s name is mentioned, and then Woodley leaps a small gap in slow-motion. The end. Ideally, we’d be tiny glimpses of some nifty effects or set pieces that the trailer would showcase in far grander detail, but the only thing here that raises even the slightest bit of curiosity is some guy waving around some sort of fire-whip glow stick. The full trailer for Divergent premieres at the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday, but it seems highly unlikely that seeing more of Divergent will be stirring up any real hype. Check it out below, and learn from Divergent‘s example: this is not the way to tease a film.

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DIVERGENT

As Hollywood’s love affair with popular YA properties grinds relentlessly on, we’re doomed to be inundated with a whole mess of stories asking if the newest something or other is “the next Twilight” or “the newest Hunger Games” (hey, sometimes we wonder about it too), but easy associations aside, there really are some great teen-focused adaptations hitting the big screen soon. We promise. Fine, maybe we’re just talking about the cinematic version of Veronica Roth‘s three-book “Divergent” series, which will kick off next year with the release of the currently-filming Divergent, but Roth’s future-set and vividly imagined series is one of the best we’ve read recently, and we’re pretty highly anticipating it. Even better? The film stars Shailene Woodley in a role that has “starmaker” written all over it (if this summer’s The Spectacular Now doesn’t already accomplish that for her). Woodley stars as Tris Prior, resident of a future Chicago where all residents (and its a slim bunch, thanks to some sort of event that seemingly wiped out most of the world) have been divided into very different factions. Despite growing up in the Abnegation faction, Tris discovers that she’s (dun-dun-DUH!!!) “divergent,” someone who doesn’t neatly fit into just one faction. With an annual event that lets teenagers pick a new faction coming up, Tris is faced with a big choice. Oh, and discovering that being divergent is dangerous isn’t helping things. The film is filming in Chicago now, so we’ve been treated to a few looks at the production already, but today brings a new batch […]

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Caine

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s Associate Editor Kate Erbland, filling in for the intrepid Nathan Adams as he enjoys vacation. Also, it’s about casting. Also, there’s not much going on today in Casting Land. Also, it’s Friday. Let’s all relax together. Looks like Brad Anderson‘s Eliza Graves is getting increasingly more British-y. The film, based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story, already has Kate Beckinsale attached to star, and now Deadline reports that Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, and Jim Sturgess have also joined the cast. This one centers on a mental hospital that gives new meaning to the saying “the inmates are running the asylum.” Spooky and such. No word on who is playing who, but we’re willing to bet the pivotal role of the handsome new doctor in town belongs to Sturgess. 

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Robert De Niro

What is Casting Couch? News about actors finding ways to get paid. Today we’ve got word about a new job for that girl who cut up her face in Evil Dead as well as a possible comeback for Mischa Barton. Perhaps you’ve heard of an actor named Robert De Niro. He’s the funny old guy in all of those Meet the Fockers movies. Ring a bell? Well, Deadline is reporting that he’s just signed on to appear in a boxing biopic called Hands of Stone that will focus on Roberto Duran and his rivalry with Sugar Ray Leonard as well as his relationship with his trainer, Ray Arcel (De Niro). Édgar Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans) is also on board the film in the Duran role, but there has yet to be any word on who might end up playing Sugar Ray Leonard. Didn’t I just read the Wesley Snipes got out of jail a couple of days ago? Is he old now?

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Dave

What is Casting Couch? A bunch of casting news, all in one place. Today we’ve got more news about that YA adaptation, Divergent, as well as a possibility for what the king of YA adaptations, Robert Pattinson, may be doing next. And there’s other stuff too. You don’t have to be a young adult to keep reading. There’s been a lot of casting talk regarding Guardians of the Galaxy lately, but strangely enough, it’s all been about the same character—Drax the Destroyer. First Jason Momoa was said to have been offered the role, then there was said to be quibbles over money, then someone got wind that Dave Bautista was being looked at as a backup, and now THR is reporting that Bautista has officially signed. All of the hullabaloo kind of makes you wonder if they’ve even started to think about casting any of the other roles. But, anyway, Bautista is a huge ex-pro wrestler, he’s something of a charmer, and while he’s not as cool as Jason Momoa, surely he’ll make a fine Destroyer of Thanos.

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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup with the stiff upper lip, committed to carry on even as we lose Google Reader. Click through for news about what gentlemen like Robert Duvall, Jared Harris, and Charlie Day are doing next.

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Joaquin Phoenix

What is Casting Couch? It’s heading into the weekend with three pieces of casting news about three actors everyone has actually heard of. Star power! Remember how rumors were going around that Robert Downey Jr. was going to be the star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming project, Inherent Vice? Well, turns out that didn’t pan out. Don’t let the news that Downey and Anderson aren’t teaming up get you down for long though, because Variety has a report that says Inherent Vice is now going to star Joaquin Phoenix instead. Though opinions on The Master were a little divided, pretty much everyone agreed that Phoenix’s performance in that film was powerful enough to be hypnotic, so it should be great to watch the actor being directed by Anderson again. And, seeing as this one is supposed to be more of a comedy, it should feel fresh watching Phoenix doing something that isn’t so creepifying.

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Robert Downey Jr

What is Casting Couch? It’s a column that’s trying to talk about casting news on a day when Oscar nominations are king. Pity it. Paul Thomas Anderson is the sort of filmmaker who casts amazing actors in his movies and then directs them to the best performances of their careers. From Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight, to Tom Cruise in Magnolia, to Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, to Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, this has always been true. According to Showbiz 411, Robert Downey Jr. may be adding his name to that list soon. They say that he and possibly Charlize Theron are looking like they’re going to be the stars of Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice. If this ends up being true it would, of course, be completely awesome for film fans, and probably be the biggest thing that’s happened to Downey’s career since he got cast as Iron Man. That’s a win-win for everybody.

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Recent months have been very kind to the career of young actress Shailene Woodley. Not only did she make herself ridiculously famous basically overnight by standing toe-to-toe with George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, but recently she signed on to play the very high profile role of Mary Jane Watson in Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man sequel. This freight train of success isn’t stopping with acclaimed dramas and big comic book blockbusters, however, because Heat Vision is reporting that Woodley is now closing in on a deal to star in the next big YA adaptation, Divergent. Divergent, if you’ll remember, is the first adaptation of a planned trilogy of Veronica Roth novels, and is set to be directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist). Amazon’s description of Roth’s novel gives the story the following synopsis:

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Neil Burger and Divergent

While it’s easy to scoff and snipe at the recent explosion of young adult novels making it to the big screen, it’s also a huge mistake to do so. Of course The Twilight Saga is to be thanked (blamed?) for said explosion, but not every YA book slated to get a cinematic translation is Twilight – in fact, most of them aren’t. Case in point: Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series. The planned three-book series is already two books down (that would be 2011′s “Divergent” and 2012′s “Insurgent”) with the final one on the way in the fall of next year (while it’s currently nameless, it would be insane to think it won’t be called “Resurgent”). Summit Entertainment snapped up the rights to “Divergent” before the book even hit shelves (and they also own the rights to “Insurgent,” wily beasts), and now it looks like they’re really getting a move on when it comes to getting their next big series to theaters. Variety reports (via The Playlist) that director Neil Burger is “in early talks” to helm the first feature, Divergent, which is set to come with a script by Snow White and the Huntsman scribe Evan Daugherty, who was hired last summer. Burger last directed the Bradley Cooper-starring Limitless and he’s been attached to such hot-but-maybe-never-happening properties like Uncharted and a new Bonnie and Clyde in recent months. Though Summit won’t comment on the report, sources tell Variety that Burger “edged out several high-profile filmmakers” for the gig. But if there’s one […]

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