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“Divergent”  3stars

The futuristic action-adventure based on Veronica Roth's novel is set in the Chicago of the future.

Shailene Woodley stars as 16-year-old Beatrice Prior, who must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life -- Abnegation, whose members are selfless; Amity, peaceful; Candor, honest; Erudite, intelligent; and Dauntless, brave.

Regret your choice and you're out of luck; there are no mulligans. It turns out she doesn't fit into any single group, setting the stage for questions about the seemingly perfect society.

She lives with her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd), part of the Abnegation faction, meaning they dress in gray, drab clothing, wear plain hairstyles and adopt unassuming demeanors so they can focus on others.

When Beatrice undergoes a mandatory aptitude test to determine her faction, she shows equal leanings for Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite, which makes her "Divergent" and extremely dangerous in some unspecified way.

"Divergent" follows Beatrice -- now calling herself Tris -- as she discovers just how perilous her secret label is, experiences her deepest fears, thanks to drug-induced hallucinations, and uncovers a plan that endangers her and those she loves.

At roughly 143 minutes, it is almost exactly as long as "The Hunger Games" and, like that Jennifer Lawrence showcase, it benefits from a talented young actress at its heart.

"Divergent," to its benefit, gives moviegoers something to chew on. What happens when teens, especially, are stereotyped and defined by a single characteristic? Does anyone really fit into such a narrow slot, or are we all divergent?

Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

Extras include commentary and deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: "Bringing Divergent to Life" documentary and a "Faction Before Blood" featurette.

-- Post-Gazette

“Need for Speed”  2.5stars

You wouldn’t think Aaron Paul could be more of a menace to society than he was cooking meth in “Breaking Bad.”

In his first big role post-Jesse Pinkman, he’s rolling fast and furious on the streets with little regard for what’s in his way.

That’s his track in the video-game adaptation as Tobey Marshall, an underground street racer who runs Marshall Motors, which will get your muscle car running at 200 mph.

“Need for Speed,” directed by Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”), does have a plot, believe it or not. With Marshall Motors on the verge of foreclosure, Tobey agrees to take over a commission from returning nemesis Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) to modify a multimillion dollar Shelby Mustang with a goal of hitting 230.

An ill-advised race with Dino in Koenigsegg supercars leads to disastrous results, landing Tobey in jail for two years (and all of 30 seconds of screen time). Upon his release, he has a need for vengeance and less than 48 hours to reach San Francisco, by car, for the Super Bowl of underground racing, The De Leon, run and broadcast over the Web by a manic Michael Keaton in a show-stealing role as Monarch.

“Need for Speed” becomes a buddy road flick pairing Tobey, reluctantly, with the Mustang’s owner, a plucky blond Brit (Imogen Poots) who knows her way around an engine and is no slouch at the wheel.

After his showy role on “Breaking Bad,” Mr. Paul is buckled in here as the strong, silent action hero, although Jesse fans do get to enjoy flashes of that signature crazy-eyed look. The real stars are the stunt people, who pull off ridiculous, dizzying driving feats (in your face in 3-D), including a flying “double grasshopper” that is the stupidest yet surest way to avoid rush-hour traffic in Detroit.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language.

Extras include a making-of featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes and a “B-Camera” crash compilation Easter egg.

— Post-Gazette

“Oculus”  2stars

"Oculus" tells the story of a pair of siblings, Kaylie and Tim, whose lives and parents (Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane) fall apart when they move into a new home. The action glides back and forth between the present and 11 years earlier, and both periods are scarred by blood, deception, desperation and death.

As 21-year-old Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is discharged from a mental health facility, older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) informs him that she tracked down the mirror that once hung in their dad's home office. "We only have a few days to keep our promise and kill it," she reminds him of the looking glass.

She blames the sinister decoration for the events that turned wife against husband, husband against wife, and parents against daughter and son.

Although there are a tell-tale barking dog, whispery voices, ghosts with glowing eyes and images that may or may not be real, "Oculus" is more upsetting than spooky. And brace yourself if you have problems with children in peril; a fictional mother trying to strangle a fictional child is still reminiscent of unspeakable acts haunting the daily headlines.

Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.

Blu-ray extras include the original "Oculus" 33-minute short film, commentary, deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.

-- Post-Gazette

ALSO THIS WEEK: 

• “God’s Not Dead”: Freshman and devout Christian has his faith challenged on his first day of philosophy class. Kevin Sorbo stars.

• “Californication: The Final Season”: The last 12 episodes of the Showtime comedy series continue the wild ride that has been the life of Hank Moody (David Duchovny). Guest stars include Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham, Rob Lowe, Brandon T. Jackson, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Stephen Tobolowsky.

• “Community: The Complete Fifth Season”: The two-disc set for season five features the episodes, plus cast and crew commentary.

• “The Trip to Bountiful”: TV movie that follows Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson), who travels back to her beloved hometown.

• “Agatha Christie’s Poirot Fan Favorites Collection”: Features the sleuth’s finest investigations selected by fans.

• “Discovery Channel’s MythBusters Collection 11”: Continuing myth-busting efforts by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage.

• “Phantom of the Paradise”: Cult favorite from director Brian De Palma is now on Blu-ray.

• “The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season”: Contains all 10 episodes of the series from Bob Odenkirk and Ben Stiller.

• “Getting Go, The Go Doc Project”: A look at modern dating and lust becoming love.

• “Ironclad: Battle of Blood”: One of the survivors of the Great Siege of Rochester Castle fights to protect his family’s estate.

• “Perry Mason Movie Collection: Vol. 3”: The wining attorney travels from Las Vegas to Paris.

• “My Herzl”: Two brothers explore the legacy of Theodor Herzl’s life and career.

• “I’ll Follow You Down”: A sci-fi exploration of wormholes, parallel universes, love and the possibility of starting over.

— Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee


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