Tag Archives: Miles Teller

Spiderhead (2022) Review

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Spiderhead

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Steve Abnesti
Miles Teller as Jeff
Jurnee Smollett as Lizzy
Director: Joseph Kosinski

Two inmates form a connection while grappling with their pasts in a state-of-the-art penitentiary run by a brilliant visionary who experiments on his subjects with mind-altering drugs.

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Spiderhead didn’t receive the best reception when it released on Netflix, but I was curious to check it out. The premise and trailer did look interesting, most of all however is the fact that Joseph Kosinski helmed it, and earlier he delivered the especially great Top Gun: Maverick this year. So I went into it open minded and came out pleasantly surprised, even if it could’ve been a lot better.

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First of all, I liked the idea of this dystopian sci-fi thriller premise which definitely had potential, with it focussing on a prison with convicts having mind altering drugs tested on them. Spiderhead is a slow burner and doesn’t move quickly, but it was intriguing enough to me; there was always something that had me interested in seeing how everything would play out, and it was playing. Also, I liked that it was goofier and weirder than expected, it gave the movie an off kilter personality. That being said, the writing is the weakest part of the movie. For all its ideas and potential, it could’ve been so much more. It felt like the script was undeveloped and needed a lot more fleshing out. It definitely plays around with some thought provoking ideas, but doesn’t do much with them. It feels like it could’ve been made as an hour long Black Mirror episode, or feature length if there were a few more rewrites. The characters are well acted, however they aren’t that interesting outside of maybe Chris Hemsworth’s character. At a certain point form the third act to the ending, it just really falls off with no effective thrills. It seems to give up on taking any of its themes anywhere interesting and rushes towards a very predictable and safe climax.

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The acting is one of the best parts of the movie. Miles Teller delivers some really good work in his second collaboration with Joseph Kosinski this year, here playing the protagonist. The rest of the cast are also solid including Jurnee Smollett, although her character is unfortunately underutilised despite playing a notable part in the movie. However out of all of them, Chris Hemsworth is the standout in a rare villain role; his natural charisma is utilised incredibly well, and the movie lights up whenever he appears on screen. This is one of his best performances, and between this and Bad Times at the El Royale, I would like to see Hemsworth more in these types of different roles because he’s great at it.

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Joseph Kosinski’s last sci-fi movie was 9 years ago with Oblivion, so it was nice to see him to return to the genre with Spiderhead. Overall his direction is very solid. The cinematography is strong, and the production design works with the futuristic interiors, as well as the remote island that it takes place on. The sound design is effective too, its strong on a technical level. The score from Joseph Trapanese adds a lot to the movie, and the soundtrack on the whole really adds personality to the tone of the movie.

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Spiderhead isn’t one of Joseph Kosinski’s best, in fact its probably his worst movie yet. That being said, there’s a lot that works here and I probably like it more than most people. The actors are really good in their parts, especially Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth, and Kosinski’s direction is solid on the whole. There’s even some tense and enjoyable moments throughout, and I like some of the ideas here. It’s just that the story and script needed a lot more fleshing out to really work, and feels subpar when compared to the other much better sci-fi movies that it is taking from. Still, I’m glad that I watched it.

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Review

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Top Gun Maverick

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Miles Teller as Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw
Jennifer Connelly as Penelope “Penny” Benjamin
Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson
Glen Powell as Lieutenant Jake “Hangman” Seresin
Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Floyd
Ed Harris as Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain
Val Kilmer as four-star Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Monica Barbaro as Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace
Director: Joseph Kosinski

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.

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Top Gun: Maverick was a movie I was a little curious about; a sequel to the original over 3 decades in the making. There certainly was a talented crew involved, Tom Cruise of course returns, Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) is directing, and it has a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jon Hamm and more. However, I wasn’t admittedly super hyped for it. I liked the original Top Gun but to me it was just pretty good, a lot of 80s cheese and some good action sequences, not much beyond that. Yet the new film seemed to be receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, akin to the level of praise that Mission Impossible: Fallout had. So I checked it out, and I can confirm that Maverick is more than deserving of all the acclaim.

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While I expected great things from the cast and the direction, the most surprising aspect is that of the story, which was actually really good. It improves in every single way over the first movie. Even when certain story beats are similar to the first movie, it’s executed much better here. It loses the 80s cheese of the original and instead instils the movie with a real sense of gravitas. It also helps that it actually feels like the story has a structure rather instead of feeling like a compilation of highlight scenes strung together. There are real drama here with a lot more emotion and heart, and the characters are given more depth and are fleshed out. The emotional core of the movie involves Maverick and Rooster (Tom Cruise and Miles Teller), and it pays off wonderfully by the end. It’s also a fun movie to watch, with a lot of entertaining scenes and comedy throughout.  You also feel the stakes a lot more here. In contrast to the first movie where the pilots are just training before suddenly needing to complete a mission in the last act, the training in Maverick is for a near impossible task, giving the aerial training sequences a lot more weight. So, by the time it reaches the third act, we really feel the stakes and tension. Some could say that the movie drags in the second act, and I can see that even though there was never a dull moment for me. However all the build up towards the final act is completely worth it, as it ends with one of the most exciting climaxes in recent memory. As for how it works as a sequel, Maverick does the original justice. It really is a mix of old and new, honouring the original while moving forward to do its own thing. It actually felt like there was a genuine reason for this sequel to be made, especially considering that the first movie was made all the way back in 1986. Most of the fan service moments are handled well and don’t get too distracting, and makes sure it doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. Top Gun: Maverick is very much a legacy sequel, not only by being a sequel to an original classic from decades back, but also being itself an examination of legacy, specifically for Maverick/Tom Cruise. It is a surprisingly introspective movie. As for whether you need to know the original film in order to watch the sequel, it does certainly help know about the characters and story from the first, Even then, Maverick does touch upon the main points well enough that you’ll be able to pick up what happened in the past even if you hadn’t watched the first movie.

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The cast are all great in their parts. Tom Cruise reprises his role of Maverick. Cruise is really sells his role incredibly well, while he was fun enough in the first movie, here he delivers potentially one of his best performances. He brings such an emotional weight to his scenes. Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick’s love interest in a romantic subplot and while it its perhaps unneeded and shoved not the movie, I thought it was believable and well-handled enough with enough subtlety, especially when compared to the romantic subplot in the original movie. Val Kilmer is the only other returning cast member from the original film aside from Cruise, reprising his role as Iceman. Without giving too much away, his role in this sequel is a small, yet memorable part of the film, and is effectively emotional and hard hitting. The rest of the cast including Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jon Hamm and more all play their parts well. However the standout in the cast aside from Cruise is Miles Teller who plays Rooster, Goose’s son. This is probably Teller’s best performance since Whiplash, he is great here. The relationship between Maverick and Rooster are the emotional centre of this movie and that is handled fantastically, helped by the believable chemistry between the two actors.

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Joseph Kosinski directed this, his work here is phenomenal and probably his best yet. I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it truly is an experience and it just wouldn’t be the same if you watched it on a smaller screen. Kosinski gives the movie so much energy throughout. The visuals are truly amazing, and the cinematography is stunning, particularly when it comes to the scenes filmed in the air. The movie is worth watching for the intense aerial sequences alone, they’re all fantastic. You actually feel right there with the actors in the air. What makes these scenes work so well is that these flight sequences are all practical, with the actors even having to do actual training to learn how to fly. None of it looks fake at all and the cinematography, editing, sound and everything else all come together to make for scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. The soundtrack is also great, of course the original movie utilised plenty of iconic 80s songs, and some of those songs make appearances here (including Danger Zone). However, it doesn’t overuse or over-rely on them and also allowed for more uses of the composed score from Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer. The score itself was great, taking tunes from the score of the previous movie and revamping it. They particularly complement the action sequences and make them feel even more thrilling.

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Top Gun: Maverick is so many things. It surpasses the first movie in every aspect, its one of the best legacy sequels, and its up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout as some of the best action films of recent years. The story and characters are given enough depth and heart, the cast are great in their parts (especially Cruise and Teller), and the excellent direction and phenomenal action sequences are incredible to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the original movie or haven’t even watched it, I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it is truly an exhilarating experience. One of the best films of 2022 thus far.

Whiplash (2014) Review

Time: 168 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Offensive language and content that may disturb

Cast:
Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman
J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher
Paul Reiser as Jim Neiman
Melissa Benoist as Nicole
Director: Damien Chazelle

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life. But Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher pushes him to the brink of his ability and his sanity.

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I remember when I first saw Whiplash in early 2015, I had been hearing all of the hype and acclaim that it has been receiving and I figured I should watch it since it was being nominated for some awards. All I really knew going in was it was pretty much about a jazz drummer, with a somehow even grumpier J. Jonah Jameson being really mean as the jazz teacher. That’s what the mindset I had going into the movie, and I really didn’t know what to expect outside of that. I was not prepared for how phenomenally great this movie would be. Whiplash remains one of the most affecting movies I have ever seen and one of my most memorable movie experiences.

At an hour and 46 minutes in length, Whiplash is riveting from start to finish. I literally could not do anything else but watch until the movie had ended, and I can’t say that about too many movies. The idea about people being pushed (and pushing themselves) to perfection is definitely one of the most present ideas throughout the movie, and it’s really explored by both its main characters. It can be anxiety inducing and uncomfortable at points, however you just can’t look away, I just had to know how the everything would end. It also has one of the best third acts I have seen a film to date, so incredibly exhilarating, thrilling and satisfying. By the end I just felt very exhausted in the best way possible.

Miles Teller doesn’t get enough praise for his performance here, he’s often overshadowed by his co-star J.K. Simmons, who I’ll get to in a minute. Teller’s Andrew Neiman is not meant to necessarily be likable. However, you can still somewhat understand why he does the things that he does and you are right alongside him throughout his journey and change over the course of the movie. This is the best performance that Miles Teller has given in his career thus far and I do wish that more attention went towards his work here. When people usually think of Whiplash, even if they haven’t seen it themselves yet, they usually think of J.K. Simmons. His performance is outstanding and commands such an intimidating presence whenever he’s on screen. He can be extremely intense and scary when he flips out on people but he could be even funny at points. It’s for sure one of the most memorable supporting performances I’ve ever seen in a movie. Other supporting actors like Paul Reiser as Andrew’s father and Melissa Benoist as Andrew’s girlfriend also play their roles very well in their scenes.

Damian Chazelle directed this movie extremely well, it is so incredibly well edited and put together. The music naturally was fantastic, so well applied to the movie. While yes, the story itself is riveting, Whiplash wouldn’t work without Chazelle’s handle of the whole movie. It is a movie about Jazz and drumming, but Chazelle made all these scenes so incredibly entertaining and thrilling.

While 2014 was a year full of fantastic films with the likes of Interstellar, Birdman and Gone Girl, Whiplash is my favourite film of that year. It was completely riveting, and with Damien Chazelle’s phenomenal direction and writing, and fantastic performances from both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, I absolutely loved it. It’s been 4 years since I first saw the movie and the effect it had on me still hasn’t worn off. Chazelle would continue to make more films, with La La Land and First Man also being excellent films, and I can’t wait to see even more from him. However, Whiplash is still for me his best film to date.

Allegiant (2016) Review

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Allegiant

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Shailene Woodley as Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior
Zoë Kravitz as Christina
Miles Teller as Peter Hayes
Jeff Daniels as David
Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton
Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes
Maggie Q as Tori Wu
Bill Skarsgård as Matthew
Ray Stevenson as Marcus Eaton
Director: Robert Schwentke

Tris (Shailene Woodley) escapes with Four (Theo James) to journey beyond the wall that encloses Chicago. For the first time, they leave the only city and family they have ever known to find a peaceful solution. Once outside, they learn shocking new truths that render old discoveries meaningless. As the ruthless battle threatens humanity, Tris and Four quickly decide who to trust to survive. Tris must ultimately make difficult choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

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I’m not a huge fan of the Divergent series. It’s not bad, it’s harmless but I’m not excited to see every instalment that’s coming. So naturally, I wasn’t looking forward to Allegiant, it didn’t help that this is another young adult third book series split into two parts (they obviously tried to cover that up with the title), and I expected Mockingjay Part 1 all over again. After seeing it, I can say that Allegiant isn’t bad, it’s above average but I can’t in good conscience call it a good movie. The acting is fine, the action is fine and the story is full of plot holes and problems, it’s a Divergent movie, it’s exactly what you expect.

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Although I read the two previous books, I haven’t read the final book, so I can’t comment on the accuracy and/or what was left in, I can only comment on Allegiant as a movie. I have to say, this movie does have some pretty boring moments at times. Like with the previous movies there are still plenty of plot holes, inconsistencies and some of the characters aren’t very well written, which would make it hard for the actors do perform well (which I’ll get into later). The way the movie ends feels like it’s the end of a series, but of course that’s not the case, this is only part 1.

'The Divergent Series: Allegiant'

Acting effort is stronger here than in Insurgent. However a lot of the characters are badly written so they don’t really have much to work with. Tris not well written and isn’t as smart as in the previous movies, Shailene Woodley really doesn’t have much to work with. The film constantly tries putting her and Four (Theo James) together for romantic scenes and it seems completely forced. The other supporting actors are fine. Jeff Daniels is a great actor, but his character is so uninteresting and as a result, the movie just doesn’t give him a chance to shine. The one actor who I think did quite well was Miles Teller, his character was written finely enough and Teller did put quite a bit of effort into it.

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The action like in the previous movies is fine and mildly entertaining. Some of the CGI is fine, other times it is so obvious and quite fake. Also a lot of the designs are so generically futuristic and uninteresting, so it doesn’t really help matters. There are many times when it’s quite clear when characters are in front of a green screen, it was almost like I was watching the Star Wars prequels in that aspect.

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If you are a Divergent fan, you might like this movie. However if you don’t really like the previous movies and are hoping for an improved movie in the series, you won’t get that. It’s quite similar to the previous two movies in terms of the level of quality, when it came to the story, acting and direction. However due to the fact that I felt bored during certain sections of the movie, I’d say it’s slightly more flawed than the others. Now with the final instalment titled Ascendant coming out next year, I’m not looking forward to it. But if all the previous instalments have proven anything, it’s that these movies will always end up as being ‘okay’, so I don’t expect this last movie to be bad.

Fantastic Four (2015) Review

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Fantastic Four (2015)

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Miles Teller as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch
Kate Mara as Susan “Sue” Storm/The Invisible Woman
Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm/The Thing
Toby Kebbell as Victor von Doom/Doctor Doom
Reg E. Cathey as Dr. Franklin Storm
Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Harvey Allen
Director: Josh Trank

Transported to an alternate universe, four young outsiders gain superhuman powers as they alter their physical form in shocking ways. Reed Richards (Miles Teller) becomes Mr. Fantastic, able to stretch and twist his body at will, while pal Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) gains immense strength as the Thing. Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) becomes the Human Torch, able to control and project fire, while his sister Sue (Kate Mara) becomes the Invisible Woman. Together, the team must harness their new abilities to prevent Doctor Doom (Toby Kebbell) from destroying the Earth.

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Ever since its release, Fant4stic has received worldwide criticism, making only half of its budget back and having a 10% on rotten Tomatoes, there’s also been news of Fox interfering with the movie during filming. I will say that I don’t hate this movie but I don’t think it’s good either. It is an interesting take on the Fantastic Four with great actors and good ideas. However it is let down by a slow pace, obvious reshoots and a horrendous final act.

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This movie is a different take on the Fantastic Four, it aims to be much darker, grittier and more of a Science Fiction film, with elements of horror which I can give credit for. The main problem of the movie is that there is not much of the four doing anything in this movie, it takes a long time before they even get their powers. The film feels like it’s trying to build its world but forgets to be its own movie. The best two scenes of the movie is when they are on Planet Zero and when they discover their powers, it actually seemed like Sci-Fi horror. The second act doesn’t have much going on, and feels extended for no reason. The final act though is one of the worst climaxes I’ve seen in any movie. Doom pretty much returns to earth to destroy it (because why not?) and despite how powerful Doom is made out to be, the final fight with him (which is also their only fight) is about 5 minutes long (even though he has the ability to kill people just by looking at them). It breaks the slow tone that the rest of the film was going for and feels rushed, probably a reshoot as well.

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The acting was decent but it’s pretty clear that these actors are underused and don’t have much to work with. The worst part was that Marvel’s first family didn’t really feel like a family, most of them only bond in the first act, and then are reunited to fight Doom. Toby Kebbell was wasted as Doom, he was decent in the first act but he’s only the villain in the last act of the movie and was completely underdeveloped. I couldn’t even tell it Kebbell was playing Doom in those latter scenes.

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The special effects are fine for the most part but there are many times where it’s quite obvious that green screen was used, especially when in ‘Planet Zero’. I also think that The Thing’s design was much better than the 2005 version but again, the CGI at times looks fake. There are many scenes where it’s pretty obvious that there have been reshoots, whether it be Kate Mara occasionally wearing a fake wig or Miles Teller having disappearing and reappearing facial hair.

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Fant4stic has many flaws but it’s not the worst superhero movie I’ve seen. The acting was decent, there was some good ideas but a lot of it was wasted and did nothing with it. It culminated in the worst final act of a superhero movie that I’ve seen and the movie is overall a massive disappointment. It is worse than the 2005 Fantastic Four because it least had the four acting like a team and the tone fitted much better. I’ll have to see Rise of the Silver Surfer to see if it’s the worst Fantastic Four but in any case, Fant4stic was a let-down, I’ve still seen worse from 2015 though.

Insurgent (2015) Review

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Insurgent

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Shailene Woodley as Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton
Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes
Jai Courtney as Eric Coulter
Ray Stevenson as Marcus Eaton
Zoë Kravitz as Christina
Miles Teller as Peter Hayes
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior
Maggie Q as Tori Wu
Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton
Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews
Director: Robert Schwentke

Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), and her remaining allies are on the run from ruthless Jean Matthews (Kate Winslet), and her Erudite faction, where they take refuge at the Amity stronghold. While there, Tris learns that the Erudite are gaining power and decides that she must fight with her inner fears and decide what to do to protect her home.

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Divergent for me was a decent enough movie, it wasn’t great and I haven’t watched it again since the first time I watched it in cinemas, however I found it better than most young adult book adaptations. Overall I found its sequel, like the first film, to be good but not great. Although the action scenes are good and Shailene Woodley continues to be great in this series, the acting by most people isn’t up to par with even the previous movie and the plot can at time be needlessly convoluted. Nonetheless it is still an enjoyable movie and will probably be liked by fans of the book.

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Whereas the first movie was much easier to follow, the story here is quite convoluted. I was able to just go along with it and I had a general idea of what direction it was going in but a lot of times while watching it I was wondering about what was going on. Now I myself have read this book and I do have to say that the film has made some changes from the book. I’m personally fine with the changes but if you have read the books you should know before going in that this movie does change some things from the original source material. I do wonder however how they are going to make the next movies because they do change some significant plot points.

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The acting is good by its main lead, Shailene Woodley and her character is the most complex and developed character in the entire series. Despite this, a lot of the other cast honestly didn’t seem that bothered or interested in this movie or their performances. It’s been a year since I watched Divergent but I remember these actors giving more emotions in that film. It honestly feels like some of these people are just phoning it in and don’t really care much. For example, Kate Winslet was okay in the previous film (however she was quite a weak villain), however this film really highlights how non-threatening her character is. She really doesn’t do anything in this film, she just runs some tests on people and Winslet gives a less interested performance. The only other actors who seem to give some emotions is Naomi Watts and Jai Courtney, even though Courtney’s character isn’t developed he still manages to emote more than most of the actors in this movie.

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The action scenes are well filmed like in the previous film and are entertaining, which is the most consistently good aspect in Insurgent. The special effects are also quite effective whenever they are used and are on a bigger scale than Divergent. The soundtrack was also really well done and added much more to the scenes.

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Honestly if you like the books and liked the way they did Divergent, go see Insurgent, you probably won’t be disappointed. Just know going in that there are some pretty big changes from the book that have been made. As for the rest of us, it all depends whether you liked the first film to begin with. Its lead performance and the action scenes are great and entertaining but the uninteresting performances from most of the cast and the complicated plot does hold it back from being greater. Hopefully the sequels will be better (and also hopefully the next film won’t be as drawn out as Mockingjay Part 1)