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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Hollywood's your star support group: The "Divergent" panel at Comic-Con 2013

It is nice to know that there is a kind of Hollywood support group for young stars of huge franchise film series. Before she started work on "Divergent," "Descendents"' Shailene Woodley put in a call to "Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence to ask for tips on surviving the pressure and scrutiny faced by actors in films with so many passionate fans. "She gave me really beautiful advice," Woodley said, and "really helped me in this journey….If you are the person you want to be, there’s nothing to be afraid of. The life outside of yourself can be invaded, but the life inside is safe."

Two years ago, young first-time author Veronica Roth appeared at Comic-Con to talk about the book she wrote between classes at Northwestern University. This year, she returned with the cast and director to talk about the series that is angling for the space vacated by "Twilight," the franchise series featuring extremely attractive young people in stories with high drama and hot romance.

"Divergent," scheduled to be released next March, is a dystopic story of a future world in which people are rigidly separated into castes based on traits – kindness, intelligence, honesty, courage, and peacefulness. Roth explained that she thinks of the book as "an indictment of myself." The book was inspired by her realization that the way she imagined categorizing people would be disastrous. "I would be a terrible god of the universe."

Director Neil Burger said that it is a young adult story with universal themes: "Where do I belong? Who am I loyal to? How do you keep a society together?" He liked exploring the book's idea of the "fear landscape," a simulation that challenges the participants with their deepest terrors. Roth said she allowed her mother to choose one of the fear landscapes in the book. "I said, 'Spiders or crows?'" Her mother picked crows.

Co-star Theo James plays Four. James admired his character's "quiet sense of masculinity, like the old movie stars, Paul Newman, that watchful, quiet strength, a strong sense of being…young but an old soul."

Maggie Q especially enjoyed a change of pace. For once, she is not playing any action scenes. "There’s a strength" to her character, she said, "but it's internal." She stayed in training anyway "for the look of it. I’ve never trained before to look a certain way," she said, but the character of Tori needed to look strong.

The story is set in Chicago, and Roth was especially glad that the Ferris wheel scene was shot on the real Navy Pier Ferris wheel that inspired the one in the book. Woodley said the night they filmed that scene the super moon was out and it became one of her "favorite moments in life."

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