Review: ‘Divergent’ Offers an Antidote to ‘Twilight’

It seems everywhere we turn these days, there’s an angst-driven but pure-hearted teen forced to fight for humanity in a darkly dystopian universe.

It started with Harry Potter, I suppose, and his fantastical battle against the Hitleresque Voldemort. Along came Ender’s Game, in which a boy is tasked with saving the world. The current reigning dystopian queen is Katniss Everdeen who takes on the Hunger Games with her trusty bow and arrow.

Divergent, based on the first of a series of books by Veronica Roth, treads much the same ground but has a completely different tone. In a post-war future, the citizens of what used to be Chicago divide into five factions. These factions are like character-based tribes, or maybe really intense fraternities.

Each faction is centered on a human strength and virtue: Abnegation values selfishness, Candor honesty, Amity kindness, Erudite knowledge, and Dauntless bravery.

Based on their personality, carefully calibrated by a personality test at 16, most people tend to fit neatly into one faction. But when Beatrice, an Abnegation teen, takes her test the results show she fits in no faction, or perhaps all of them. She’s Divergent, not easily categorized, and that makes her dangerous to the order.

There is a dark side to this arrangement, for with each virtue comes a vice. One can be brutally honest, for example, or passively kind, or viciously brave. It turns out human nature cannot be shoehorned into factions any more than it can shine in chaos.

For Beatrice, choosing a faction means keeping her dangerous secret, coming into a sense of herself, and finding an attractive boy she just might want to know better.

The adaptation of the book will make fans of the series very happy. Rising star Shailene Woodley plays Beatrice and she brings a fine mix of grit and angst to the role. Theo James as Four (yes, his name is Four) is little more than dreamy, but as the market for this movie is primarily teen girls, dreamy is just fine. There are changes to the plot of the book and to some characters, but none that matter very much. The gist of the story is the same.

The source material is quite dark, but the film manages to keep it within a PG-13 rating. Many characters die, although fewer than in the book, but the violence is safely within PG-13 limits. They use a few words, rhyming with schmich and schmassole, but very rarely.

Sexuality is another matter. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this line of books is the relationship that develops between Beatrice and her love interest. As it goes on, it grows in maturity and mutual respect, surviving misunderstandings and breaches of trust to become something quite interesting. This all starts, as most romances do, with mutual attraction, something explored in both the book and the movie. However, both characters work to reign in their desire as a sign of respect for each other and themselves. In fact, Beatrice both demands and earns respect from her young man, as well as others.

You might call her the anti-Bella.

 

She’s nothing like that vampire-girlfriend and this romance is nothing like Twilight.

That’s a good thing. However, while the attraction and restraint come through in the movie, the deeper growth of the relationship is not as apparent as in the books. Here’s hoping that they explore it a little more in the sequels, if there are sequels.

This movie suffers by comparison to The Hunger Games. It is not quite the event that Hunger Games movies are. But that does not mean it has less value in its own right.

The focus on human nature, with its glories and frailties, as well as the novel approach to love mean it’s a movie you can be confident in showing to your tween, and even tweens who are able to handle the dark thematic material. At its core, it’s edifying.

 

First Look: New ‘Divergent Trailer’ Is Finally Here (Video)

Are you looking forward to this movie? I have to say it looks pretty good. I’m intrigued. And Shailene Woodley is an amazing actress. What do you think? Yes or no?

Warning: You WILL Cry at Stephen Colbert’s Tribute to His Mother (Video)

This really makes me want to up my motherhood game.

 

Interview Video Clip: Bling Ring’s Israel Broussard on Fame and Twitter

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring tells the true story of a group of teens so caught up in celebrity culture that they merged with it – by breaking into celebrities’ houses, partying in their empty rooms, and helping themselves to their belongings. I caught up with Israel Broussard, star of the movie, and asked him what it all means.

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All About Apps: Advice for Parents About the Video-Sharing iPhone App VINE

Vine: the video version of Instagram, because pictures just aren’t enough anymore.

Vine is Twitter’s new video sharing app for the iPhone. It’s still fairly new and, judging by the lack of certain important features (like, say, privacy settings), you should expect to see many updates and enhancements to this app in the near future.

But, hey, I saw it on Ellen a few days ago so clearly it’s a hit and we should talk about it.

How the app works:

1. Create account.

The set up is the same as every other social media app. You set up an account, create a username, and find friends.

This app is a little tricky in the safety department. And by “tricky” I mean that it has zero privacy settings to protect accounts. I would guess that the developers will add in those features soon, but in the meantime, all videos and profiles are public.

2. Make a video.

Vine videos are created using the in-app camera, and are anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds long. Just a short 6-second-max snippet of life

The fun part of Vine is the way the videos are created: the camera only records while the screen is being pressed. So within your 6 second video, you can have several tiny clips. Think stop-motion video style, if you’re familiar with that. Better yet, I’ll just show you my favorite stop-motion Vine:

(To hear the sound, unmute the video in the top left corner.)

3. Share with friends.

Once a video is uploaded to Vine, a copy is saved to the iPhone’s Camera Roll.

Vine users can tag friends using @username, create #hashtags, and “like”/comment on others’ videos. (In other words, your kids can communicate with each other on Vine just like they can on Instagram or Twitter.)

A quick note about hashtags…

A hashtag is a hyperlink designed to group information together. It is basically a way to join in on a public conversation. On Twitter it groups tweets, on Instagram it groups photos, and on Vine it groups videos. (On Facebook it does nothing. So stop hashtagging there.)

When enough individuals have adapted a certain hashtag, it might show up under the “trending” section, allowing even more people to join in on the conversation.

For example, here are the trending Vine topics for today:

Seeing the trending topics, I might want to join in with a video of my own last day of school. I’ll create my video and use #lastdayofschool in my video caption. A quick search of that hashtag will pull up any and all videos using that tag (including mine). Make sense?

So, in a nutshell, Vine is 6 seconds of video clips, on a loop, with sound, shared with the world at large.

Parents: what concerns should you have about this app?

For starters, the lack of privacy controls. This is sketchy, especially if you have younger kids and are a protected-account-only family.

Also, stumbling upon raunchy messages and/or porn is always a risk in social media. With this app, I feel like I’ve seen a lot more filthy stuff than usual. I’m not just talking about naked people – I’m talking about more “f” words in 6 seconds than I’ve ever heard in my life. Part of it, I’m sure, is because video is more offensive to watch and hear than text is to read, but still. If your kids are on Vine, I would strongly encourage them to stick to their newsfeed to watch friends’ videos only, not do a whole lot of exploring. Videos from the Vine world at large are 1 part funny, 9 parts nasty.

There are a few types of Vine users: the girl making boring videos of every day life (me), the guy trying to record and edit a 6-second masterpiece (the flying broom guy), and the gross dude who should be voted off the internet forever (the one who favors the “f” word).

Still, concerns aside, Vine is unique and pretty entertaining. It has more of a creative element to it than other sites.

And, if your kids are on Vine, just like every other decision in life, they get to decide who they want to represent and who they want to follow. Their Vines can contribute to the filth, or they can showcase their creativity by flying around your living room on a broomstick.

Let’s encourage them towards the latter.

Because, really, Vine can be a fun place:

What do you think, parents? To Vine or not to Vine?

More Reading:

Sarah explains SnapChat here

Sarah explains Instagram here. The comments on her original Instagram post are here. 

Sarah’s follow up post on Instagram is here

Rebecca on explains why she Dumped Facebook.

Rebecca’s followup: Breaking Up with Facebook Feels so Right 

Rebecca two months later: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference it’s Made. 

Check out Sarah’s blog, Life as of Late,  follow her on Twitter, or, yes, check out her Instagram account. 

Video: Gollum and Fantine – Separated at Birth?

Watch this absolutely brilliant video of some guy singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables in the style of Gollum from “The Hobbit.” It’s sweeping the Internet.

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The more I watch, the more I think there’s some truth here behind the screamingly funny song. Gollum, the creature transformed by his carnal craving for his precious ring, and Fantine, the mother turned prostitute, are in the same state of being: Hell.

And we think Hell is a place. Silly us.

Video: Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe Give Sneak Peek of Les Miserables Duet

Can’t wait for the movie version of Les Miserables to release Christmas Day? Stars Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) and Russell Crowe (Javert) gave a preview of their intense duet, “Confrontation.” It happened in a pub on Saturday. Watch here.

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