Even Jeff Bridges cannot save "The Giver" from being a young adult… MoreEven Jeff Bridges cannot save "The Giver" from being a young adult retread that comes off even less inspired than its predecessors. The problem is, the Lois Lowry novel actually came out in 1993, fifteen years prior to the first "Hunger Games" novel and eighteen years prior to the first "Divergent" novel. That means this classic should have been the first out of the gate over a few decades ago. By holding off, the film actually becomes extremely derivative despite the novel being the catalyst to the entire young adult science fiction genre. To top it off, the film also waters down most of the story in order to make it completely consumable by all generations. Rather than challenging audiences with morality issues like class systems and imperialism, "The Giver" settles for black and white boundaries, where no one is actually even aware of the wrongs they are perpetrating.
The scope of the story is minuscule, following a city with a heavily medicated population whose memories beyond a certain point are non-existent. Everyone speaks properly, there are no altercations, and as portrayed through imaginary, there are no colors. Brenton Thwaites ("Oculus", "Maleficent") plays the lead, Jonas, just as he and his friends, Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush), reach their coming of age where they are then divvied up into their workplaces. Many aspire to be nurses, teachers, or military, but Jonas finds himself being selected as the "Receiver of Memory," the only one to carry the knowledge of human history. The Receiver becomes an adviser to the Elder counselor, led by the quietly villainous head, played by the mega-talented Meryl Streep. Opposite her is the current Receiver, known only as the Giver, played by Jeff Bridges, whose cranky old man routine is on full display here as he passes down the world's history to Jonas. Taylor Swift also makes an appearance in the film, as one of the strangest casting choices of the year and truly showing the studios hand in trying attract that particular age demographic.
The deck is stacked against the Receiver, as he must continue to live a normal life all while knowing what no one else knows, all while the black and white around him becomes color, and all while the unbearable emotion of what has happened in our sordid history comes swilling back after each session with the Giver. Among those emotions are feelings for Fiona, who does not know what feelings even are. How the Receiver can be expected to act natural when everything is changing around him is completely unrealistic. Jonas' mother and father are played by Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård, who might as well be robots, projecting no real emotion throughout the entire film. What ends up even flatter is the mission Jonas sets off on to bring the memories back to everyone in the city. One part "Pleasantville," two parts young adult science fiction, "The Giver" would have benefited greatly from being released ten or twenty years ago. However, a valiant and committed effort from most of the cast and a soundtrack with original popular music from OneRepublic and Capital Cities, Lois Lowry should be at least somewhat proud of her vision finally being brought to the big screen.
Sylvester Stallone continues to help write and star in his bombastic… MoreSylvester Stallone continues to help write and star in his bombastic action series, this time delivering the first PG-13 endeavor, "The Expendables 3". Overloading the cast with even more action stars and even poking fun at that fact in the trailer, Stallone has officially outdone himself. With almost all of the former cast returning, including Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jet Li, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger, at least the this offers some consistency. The film opens with the team on a mission to free one of its former members, Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a Somalian prison in one of the best action sequences out of these films yet. But upon finding out that his arch-nemesis Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is still alive and failing a mission in which Caesar (Crews) is severely injured, Stallone's Barney Ross decides to disband the aging group of thrill seekers despite their reluctance to retire.
Enter Harrison Ford, taking over Bruce Willis' role as the Expendables' government handler, with the next mission set on finally taking out Stonebanks. Ross is then sent off to put together a younger and fresher Expendables team with the help of Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammar). The new team consists of Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, and despite not being younger or fresher, Antonia Banderas, who offers most of the film's comedic relief. The story is exactly what one would expect from these mindless action flicks, with the new team getting captured and the old team being brought back to save the day. "The Expendables 3" lives and dies by its ensemble cast as well as its action-filled set pieces, to which there are three or four major ones, including the finale, which is set in an abandoned high-rise building rigged to explode in Uzmenistan. With none of the stars truly stepping out or producing anything notably new, the returning cast is really the only reason to even anticipate these films at all. What Stallone needs to do next is let the dust clear a little bit before returning with this group of buffed up guys.