Divergent – A Movie Review

JumpDivergent transports us to the dystopian future of Chicago, a city that survived “the war” and is rebuilding from within through class-sanctioning means. Every person within Chicago has to join a faction in their adolescents, the factions (broken down into simpler terms) distinguish whether one will be a giver of social aid, a representative of the legal system, a well-educated (science based) individual, a farmer, or a protector of the citizens. If no faction is chosen or you get kicked out of your faction you ultimately end up homeless, depending on the kindness of those who give social aid. This is where we meet our main character, Tris, who is raised as a giver of social aid yet wants to be something more so when it comes time to choose she chooses to join the Dauntlets, a faction that protects the citizens. DIVERGENTTo join a faction you take a test to find out what your true character traits are and then you can decide whatever faction you want, but it is strongly recommended that you stick to your strengths because once you choose a faction it is yours for life and the audience is constantly reminded of this through a “faction before blood” mantra on repeat. Tris’ test is inconclusive, which means she is a “Divergent.” Divergents are threats to the system because it means their strengths cross over boundaries. Long story short, Tris has to choose whether she wants to conform to a societal mold of the Dauntlets or stand out, be unique and change the world.

RomanceThis movie is a cliché within a cliché within a cliché. It follows the formula that made other teen-based fantasy literature made into movie successful and people are buying it like its solid gold. But if we take the time to take a step back we’ll see that Divergent is nothing more than average, perhaps mediocre is a more appropriate word.

DIVERGENTThe first cliché that can’t be missed? The class divide. People are put into factions (similar to class) to keep them in their place. Look at The Hunger Games or Harry Potter or even the likes of A Game of Thrones. The first divide is always to create a villainous class. In The Hunger Games you have The Capital and the first few districts, in Harry Potter you have The Slytherins, in A Game of Thrones you have The Lannisters, and here we have the Erudites (the well-educated). Secondly you have a controlling faction. The villainous class have to have trolls to do their work for them.  This is across the board and I don’t want to spoil the entire movie, but it’s quite evident once it starts to know what’s going on and how it’s going to happening.

DIVERGENTThe next cliché of course is the divide within the class. Trouble always brews from within “the utopian” part of the dystopian society.  And like clockwork this trouble brews to add another level to our film of classic tropes. We follow the typical love interest, the whole “will they/won’t they” routine with someone who is wild but can be tamed. We follow the “twist” villains – and don’t have to ask the questions of: “will this person end up a villain?” because we know with the way everything else has played out in this story that they are. We follow the unlikely hero, someone who is way out of their league who suddenly becomes the most talented in the field overnight. This list goes on and on and doesn’t seem to end. There’s even the ominous “ride off into the sunset but not everything is ok” feel to the ending.

Maggie QThe characters are written so blandly that it’s impossible to connect with any of them, despite the impressive cast list. Shailene Woodley, who plays our hero, Tris, is so plain, boring and unengaging that I had to keep reminding myself that the story was about her… and then I would have to ask: “why the hell is this story about her?” I was extremely surprised at some of the actors who actually agreed to be in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I get that this film got a big financial backing from eOne, and it’s a big payday… but it’s still a hack job of a film. Ray Winstone. Really? This is where we’re sinking to? Kate Winslet. Academy Awards to this? I think the only person that I really expected to be in this film was Miles Teller and even still, he is sorely miscast… I also don’t think he should be Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four reboot.

Kate WinsletHere’s the thing though, despite the fact that this movie plays out like a children’s picture book I kept watching. Was I entertained? Mildly. It was like watching a movie for the third or fourth time. I’ve seen it before. I know what’s going to happen. I’ve had the chance to analyze some of the characters. Yet here I am watching for entertainments sake. Does Divergent work as a popcorn film that shouldn’t be read too far into? Sure. Does Divergent work on any other level? Absolutely not.

Divergent_film_poster2 Brave New World Rip Offs out of 5.

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Bad Words – A Movie Review

BatemanI really like Jason Bateman. I think he’s really funny in a bitingly sarcastic manner. So I was really excited to see his feature length directorial debut Bad Words. In Bad Words Jason Bateman plays a childish adult, named Guy Trilby, with a grudge. A grudge so huge that he enters a child’s spelling bee on a technicality to make it to the National Level and win the big prize. He’s followed by reporter Jenny Widgeon (played by Kathryn Hahn) who is reporting on this unusual event. As the film develops the reveal on what Guy’s grudge actually is slowly, but coyly, starts to unravel as Guy finds himself making friends with the most unlikely person in the world, a fellow contestant named Chaitanya Chopra, played by Rohan Chand.

TogetherThis film is dark. Yet it’s grossly hilarious. Bateman has perfect comedic timing and really shines in the spotlight. The audience watches, not in horror, but in gleeful delight, as Guy Trilby introduces the young and innocent Chaitanya Chopra into the world of being an adult, which involves a whole lot of alcohol, a whole lot of vandalism, a whole lot of swearing, and a whole lot of Marzipan, a street-worker who shows Chaitanya his first set of breasts.

The movie takes crassness and crude content to a whole new level, yet manages to maintain a level of sophistication throughout the process. I didn’t walk out of the theatre after the film feeling dumber for watching the movie. I felt it was well thought out, intelligently simple and extremely original. Definitely a film I would watch again. Definitely a film I would recommend.

Being ChasedIn fact the more I think about this film, the more I want to see it again. I had a great time at this film. The people I saw this with had a great time and the theatre just had a very positive energy to such a funny film that is centred around such negativity.

The film also features the hilarious Allison Janney, the ever funny Ben Falcone and Award-Winner Philip Baker Hall. I truly can’t wait to see what Bateman has up his sleeve next.

Poster4 Flying F*cks out of 5

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Rolin Humes: Rolin Humes Welcomes You to the Penultimate Supper 6/8 – A Music Review

BandRolin Humes is a four piece blues ensemble from Croatia who carries a larger-than-life re-interpretation of an entire genre within their first full length album Rolin Humes Invites You to the Penultimate Supper 6/8. Rolin Humes definitely exemplifies the motto they use: Vivat Crescat Floreat, which means Live, Grow, Flourish. With their unique talents they have nothing left to do but grow and flourish.

Their album starts off with What’s Your Big Secret. This track sets the pace immediately by creating a professional sounding musical cascade that needs no build up to push it into motion. Eventually the large resonating sound slows down slightly for the vocals, but at all times the music is extremely engaging. The music also works on many genre levels including blues, rock and even jazz. What’s Your Big Secret is long, but it never overstays itself welcome. Another great thing about this piece, and many other pieces on this album, is that the lyrics aren’t generic. They tell a story. They share an emotion. They connect with its audience.

Live 2The album transitions into Hero which has an opening and feel to it that is reminiscent of what Elton John was doing in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Rolin Humes truly set themselves out as talented musicians within the first few tracks.

Freedom, which follows Hero, is a more difficult song to analyze. It’s hard to pinpoint just one strength in the piece when there is so much going on, and every aspect just sounds right. It does become easy though to focus on the piano playing talent of Robert James Hudlin, who is also the singer and songwriter for the band. Freedom is preppy, perky and fun. It’s easy to tell that the band is having fun and the vocals are just so damn playful.

LiveWind of Honor isn’t as nearly energetic as the other tracks, yet it still carries itself as a deep song full of emotion and heart. In Flame is story-telling at its best. Rolin Humes re-creates an epic tale with vigour and excitement and make the listener truly connect to what’s happening. Then we have Pa Ti Ri Ri Ri which is almost a self-parody. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s not to be taken nearly as seriously as the rest of the album.

Rolin Humes BandFinally the album concludes with I Don’t Know What I Don’t Wanna Know and I Don’t Go Where I Don’t Wanna Go. There could be an entire full length review written on this 18:18 song. And no, it’s not a normal length song, followed by silence, followed by a hidden track. This song is fully 18:18 long. It is variations on a theme and continuously evolves. It starts with the bluesy feel we’ve come to know and love by this point, eventually it turns into what feels like a Christian soft-rock piece, yet as the story progresses we keep coming back to the original theme and feel that the song started off with.  We go through phases of marches, featuring the drums, happy-go-lucky moments, and tributes to the soft-rock oldies featuring electric guitar solos. Eventually one has to ask: how can this song keep going? Why am I still so engaged?  This piece is Rolin Humes epic. It’s truly what defines this album. It’s such a large sound for such a small band. All I could think of when I listened to this album on repeat is that it would be an amazing experience to hear this last song live.

Rolin HumesAll in all Rolin Humes is a force to be reckoned with. They transcend genre boundaries and create one of the most unique and enjoyable albums I have heard as of late. Definitely watch out for these guys!

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Adam Gilbert: A Generation of Forgotten Kings – A Music Review

CoverA Generation of Forgotten Kings is Adam Gilbert’s 2012 follow-up album to his critically acclaimed 2008 release Fishing for Water, both of which showcase an alternative-rock band driven by beautifully crafted piano ballads and powerful classically trained vocals.  New Jersey native Adam Gilbert (vocals and piano) started writing and producing his music after graduating from the University of Miami in 2004 and it’s safe to say that his talents will not soon be forgotten.

Most albums have a generic build up where their strongest songs either go first or in the middle and the weaker pieces get slotted to the end of an album. This is not the case for A Generation of Forgotten Kings. While the opening title track A Generation of Forgotten Kings  creates an entitlement of self-aggrandized royalty and glory through its strong alt-rock feel to it, creating a vocal cross between Freddie Mercury and Mika, the album’s strength, not that it has many weaknesses, rest in its last few tracks.

Adam GilbertI’ll come back to some of the earlier and middle tracks, but I need to start with a huge chunk of praise where praise is due. The end of this album is full of haunting piano ballads which just truly touch the soul. The piano is finessed to perfection and the vocals resonated as a well-practiced and trained classical singer who can truly tell a story in a song. I’ll Hold You in My Arms matches all of that without a doubt. It quickly became one of my favourite songs on the album, followed by the hymn-like ballad Stay Awhile. The last track on the album, Listen is the perfect ending to a great album. It feels like a 1980’s rock-ballad anthem that was ahead of its time.

Other notable tracks include How Do We Respond which starts with an a cappella flair that was just getting going before the music kicks in. Don’t get me wrong, the music wasn’t bad, it really went hand in hand with the vocals, but Adam has such strong vocals that they don’t often get a chance to shine without the music backing him up and I thought this could have been the opportunity. The lyrics were a little generic to this song though and it truly stands out on musical talent alone.

Gilbert BeachOn A Hill feels voyeuristic. It sounds like a very personal song that is loaded with emotion and powerful lyrics. Better is another song that stands out for the same reason. Steady as We Go features how talented Adam is on the piano and has a Ben Folds feel to it. This Old World has some of the best vocal layering in a track that I have ever heard. A Little Emotion really lets the rest of the band shine. You wouldn’t know it by this review thus far but Adam Gilbert is a four-piece ensemble that includes Sean O’Flynn on Guitar, Matt Jaworski on Bass and Brian Prokop on Drums. The piano playing is phenomenal, but it’s nice to have that band feel to it from time to time.

My only complaint while listening through this album is that from time to time the songs started to blend together and started to lose the uniqueness that it holds in the beginning or near the end. Songs like Everywhere I Go break that trend by mid album going for a soft rock with a bluesy-jazz twist to it and a true romanticism to the music.

Albert Gilbert 2All in all Adam Gilbert’s A Generation of Forgotten Kings is a phenomenal album and well worth the listen to. Adam Gilbert just recently finished preliminary demo’s on tracks for a third full length album, and I genuinely can’t wait to hear what they have in store for us next!

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The Colony – A Movie Review

Romance in the ColonyThe Colony is a post-apocalyptic eco-thriller that follows a rag-tag group of survivors as they fight to survive Mother Nature herself and an oncoming plague of a roving gang of murderous and very hungry cannibals. The world has frozen over anyone who has managed to survive have found their way into decommissioned army bases and formed colonies that breed their own sense of government, own means to survive and their own relational bonds. Their biggest fear is sickness as the moment a single cold hits it could infect everyone else. Those who are sick are quarantined, and if they don’t get better they are given the choice of “getting to walk” (being released from the colony into the outer world to fend for themselves) or getting shot.

Run from Blood

The Colony follows Colony 7 who receives a distress call from neighbouring Colony 5. When they go to investigate they find the colony overrun by these mutant’esque cannibals who are feasting on their new treats. In a hasty retreat they obviously bring these cannibals back to Colony 7 where the fight to survive just gets a little bit harder.

Bill PaxtonThe movie is predictable from beginning to end. There’s nothing truly profound in this film that makes it stand out on its own. As a disaster movie it is reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow as a post-apocalyptic cannibal movie it echoes what came before including The Day and even bits of The Road. There were two big draws to this film for me, the first is Bill Paxton. I really do admire Paxton as an actor and I think he’s quite often overlooked for some great performances. In The Colony Paxton plays the enforcer role. He’s the character who has to shoot those who are sick who decide they want to die. This power of life and death goes to his head and let’s just say knocks a few screws loose leaving a delightful villain within the colony.

Mutant Cannibal 2The second draw to the film for me was that it was shot in the decommissioned N.O.R.A.D. base in North Bay, Ontario.  I’m a huge fan of supporting Canadian film. I think that if we want more Canadian content in film we need to support it, even if we don’t necessarily like it right off the beginning, because it always gets better. Films like this can pave the way for directors like Denis Villeneuve, Erik Canuel and many more very talented Canadian directors to get more funding for Canadian-based productions.

The film is full of disaster and thriller clichés, it’s not the most exciting at times. I don’t understand why it took four people to write this screenplay because it’s a pretty straightforward story. In fact it’s pretty much the same story as The Day but with snow.

Kevin ZegersOne of the nice surprises of The Colony was Ontario native Kevin Zegers as Sam, the protagonist. Going through his IMDB page I noticed that he’s actually got quite a stacked resume, so it was nice to see some local talent really get the time to shine.

FisburneNow, yes, this film was full of conventional tropes, but it isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. It carries itself well from scene to scene. It doesn’t over dilute its storyline. It knows what it wants to do and it does it. It’s not perfect, but as a turn your mind off popcorn flick it ain’t half bad, even if Laurence Fishburne is under-utilized in every way.

Cover2.5 Polar Vortexes out of 5

Check out The Colony on IMDB!

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Tiger Suit: Tourist Attraction – A Music Review

TouristAttractionCoverOntario-based duo, Tiger Suit, is set to release their latest album Tourist Attraction on March 22, 2014. This album sets a new tone for the indie-fusion genre and is one that isn’t easily forgotten. Tiger Suit is comprised of Curtis Maranda and Renee Cross, who have been working together on this musical project since 2010. As Tiger Suit they have released one other album in 2011, and have spent a great amount of time touring through Canada introducing them to a new fusion of world, rock and electronic music. Before I continue I must admit my love for Canadian music, especially Ontario-based bands. It fills me full of Canadian pride to get to listen to new local artists and share them with the world.

Both Maranda and Cross are strong musicians. Each of their tracks starts off strong and carries a unique blend of cultural music into a modern fusion, light-rock setting. Tiger Suit does have some stronger tracks on the album including Lucid Dream which features Renee Cross on vocals and I’m assuming Curtis Maranda on instrumentation. While Cross is a strong vocalist it wasn’t her that won me over for this song, it was the beautiful backing. The melodic piano was soothing, relaxing and something that I wish carried over into every song on the album.

Tiger Suit LiveAnother strong track on the album was My Perfect Reflection which carried itself as a traditional folk song with haunting overtones. It was a song that just stuck with me, while I listened to it and even afterwards. It flowed flawlessly into the following track on the album Sleep Tonight which, similarly to My Perfect Reflection just jumps right into its lyrical content without any musical build-up, something that is very common with many of the tracks on this album, and it contains some of the best vocals on this entire album.


Maranda doesn’t have many vocal opportunities on this album, which is a shame because the few songs he does have a chance to share that part of his talent, are very strong, especially All of Life near the end of the album. In fact, the more I reflect on this album, the stronger it gets as it gets closer to the end. That’s not to indicate that the beginning of the album isn’t good, the tracks flow well into each other, but they all sound very similar, a few songs even have a certain lo-fi feeling to them.

One of Tiger Suit’s biggest strengths is its use of musical styles and languages from multiple cultures. It truly creates an orchestral cascade of the musical world around us and is exciting to explore. Tiger Suit comes across as the Canadian Enya for a new generation. Another unique aspect to Tiger Suit’s music is that 10% of all of their performance fees go towards the Sukritham Home, a home for abandoned girls in Kakkur, Kozhikode, India.

Tiger Suit

Tiger Suit will be hosting an album release party on March 22, 2014, at the A.N.A.F. Club in Guelph, Ontario with opening act Jesse Ronan.

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