For the sequel in “The Divergent Series,” the powers that be brought in a more rounded director in Robert Schwentke (“RED” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife”). He was able to lighten some of the heavy-handedness of the first film and streamline the action.
The surviving cast returns, and they’re a young and talented crew – Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller. Theo James may be the exception. His performances continue to be as stilted as a beach house painter.
The real surprises are the two Oscar winners, Kate Winslet and Octavia Spencer. They’re both stiff and out of place, like someone tricked them into doing these movies. It’s a better movie than its predecessor, but that’s not saying much. Fans of the book have already seen it and everybody else should give it a pass.
“Kill Me Three Times”
Simon Pegg is rarely asked to carry as movie by himself. Because of this he’s been able to play a lot of diverse characters – zombie killer, badass cop, a crew member of the Enterprise, a stoner, multiple cartoons, a member of the Mission Impossible team – the list goes on and on.
He may lead a cast, but he’s usually surrounded by other actors to help prop him up. In this unlikely role of a hitman caught up in three different botched hits, Pegg is asked to lead the charge.
But just as Pegg has done in the past, the scenes are stolen by the two lead actresses – Australia’s Teresa Palmer (“Warm Bodies”) and Brazil’s Alice Braga (“Elysium”).
This film is far from perfect noir or comedy. It is riddled with stock characters, but it is fun to see Pegg, Palmer and Braga do their things. These three make this one barely worth a watch.
“Woman in Gold”
Here’s one of those true stories tailor-made for the movies. It’s a tale of Nazis and stolen artwork and Jewish refugees and court drama and love and family history and two people versus a government.
It’s the story of Maria Altmann and her lawyer, trying to get the artwork of Gustav Klimt returned to her family where it belongs. It could be a swashbuckling affair, but director Simon Curtis (“My Week with Marilyn”) chose to deliver it with a just-the-facts approach, letting the drama unfold in a natural way.
Helen Mirren plays Altmann. Ryan Reynolds plays her young lawyer. The supporting cast is strong, and the script has a nice give-and-take dramatic flow. But the whole thing works because Mirren and Reynolds are just good at their jobs. It’s not solid gold filmmaking, but it is entertaining and informative to boot – worth a watch.