Valdosta Daily Times

November 9, 2013

Does ‘Ender’s Game’ score?

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA —

“Ender’s Game” (Science-Fiction: 1 hour, 53 minutes)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley
Director: Gavin Hood
Rated: PG-13 
 
Movie Review: Another film based on a popular book, it feels more for fans who have read the book than those who just want to see an entertaining movie. This exists because of the film’s inability to fill in gaps because it is too busy showing neat visual effects and energetic sports games in zero gravity.
In the year 2154, Earth is in a post-war mode after a hostile alien race called the Formics, an insectoid alien species, attacked the planet. In preparation to secure Earth, the International Fleet trains young children to find a future Cmdr. Mazer Rackham (Kingsley), the military hero responsible for stopping the first Formic attack. Col. Hyrum Graff (Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Davis) lead the International Military’s elite child-training program. One recruit stands out from the rest, Ender Wiggin (Butterfield of 2011’s “Hugo”), a loner, but strategically intelligent boy. Very quickly, Wiggin distinguishes himself at Battle School, and becomes a commander to lead the International Fleet against the Formics.  
Based on the best-selling, award-winning novel “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, this adventure is entertaining. It is good on its science-fiction elements. However, the plot fails to create an appropriate setting. Unlike most books turned into films, this one has a standard straightforward story. It is too straightforward. 
A book creates an entire universe with divergent stories to facilitate a plot. A movie does have the leeway to be divergent with sub-stories, but it must also tell the main story. “Ender’s Game” is too busy telling its story that it forgets to create an adequate setting to understand characters, their actions and the plot in which those personas facilitate. Some side elements would have been nice here.
On the plus side, the film offers good science-fiction action, grand views and reasonably good acting from several members. Plenty of action exists for this tale that is easily acknowledgeable as a very serious “Starship Troopers” (1997) or futuristic version of “War Games” (1983) with a side of “The Last Starfighter” (1984). Plus, the visual effects are very energetic space views similar to that of the currently showing “Gravity.”  
The cast, including Ford, who has not done a major sci-fi space film since the original “Star Wars” trilogy, manages to make the characters just interesting enough to hold one’s attention, although the plot makes them flat by not offering more chances to get to know them.
This exists due to a screenplay that is more about story than substance. This story marches a straight line without allowing observers a chance to share in the characters’ experiences. When the film ends, you have observed a story, but it feels like a mere shell of a story.         
Grade: C+ (Interesting, but where is the scoreboard?)
 
“Last Vegas” (Comedy: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, sexual innuendo)
 
Movie Review: “Last Vegas” is a film with plenty of flaws, but it is entertaining. It is pleasurable entertainment with plenty of laughs. The film works thanks to the camaraderie of four talented actors, who are all Oscar recipients.  
Longtime friends Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) assemble in Las Vegas to have a bachelor party for Billy to celebrate his first marriage. The men find it is a correct time to live a little, something they haven’t done for a while. It is not long before this group of 60-something-year-olds are the talk of Las Vegas.
This tale is the perfect vehicle to show one is never excessively old to live. “Last Vegas” shows age is no reason to stop looking for love, happiness and some fun. This is where this comedy scores points.
De Niro, Douglas, Freeman and Kline appear to have some fun. Considering three of these guys are in their 70s, it is fun to see them having fun. Think of them as the mirror image of the “Golden Girls.”
The story has gaps that are plentiful. Some parts of this plot appear missing or unfinished. For example, some character development is lacking, but this does not stop one for appreciating them. While the story could be better, the entertainment value provided makes this a guilty pleasure. In addition, audiences hear nice music on the side.        
Grade: B- (What happens in Vegas provides laughs.)
 
“Free Birds” (Animation/Comedy: 1 hour, 31 minutes)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and George Takei
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Rated: PG (Violence and crude humor)
 
Movie Review: When one thinks of Thanksgiving Day, one rarely thinks of it from a turkey’s perspective. This may exist because people just find turkeys taste good. This all changes when two turkeys find they are about to become the main attraction on the dinner table.
 “Free Birds” attempts to show how two turkeys, Reggie (Wilson) and Jake (Harrelson), plan on stopping turkeys from being the main course on Thanksgiving Day. Reggie and Jake, using a time machine, go back in time to the first Thanksgiving to make sure turkeys stay off the menu.    
Two turkeys deliver a mild story and lukewarm entertainment. The film scores with the talents of voices like Wilson, Harrelson, Takei, Amy Poehler and Colm Meaney. The story, however, is not convincing. It bounces around as if trying to make itself more important by inserting unneeded moments that, while appearing smartly written material, come off as wayward ventures to fill time.  
Grade: C (Angry birds gone awry.)