Today, here are quick mini-reviews for: Ender’s Game and Last Vegas.
Directed by: Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Starring: Asa Butterfield (Hugo), Harrison Ford (42), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and more.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and scifi action
Trailer: Click HERE
Synopsis: “In the near future, a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young minds to find the future Mazer.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy but strategically brilliant boy, is recruited to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult challenges and simulations, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham himself to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.”
Based on the worldwide best-selling novel, Ender’s Game finally has been made into a film. Author Orson Scott Card received numerous requests from filmmakers since the release of his book to make it into a film, but every single one of them wanted to make it into a love story to follow the trend of recent “teens in angst” series. Thankfully, while I cannot say much in favor for Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine I can say that Ender’s Game was almost exactly what I wanted it to be.
(Note: I have NOT read the book, so those looking for a comparison between the book and the movie must look elsewhere. I prefer to watch movies first and then read the books in order to 1-avoid disappointment, 2-avoid spoilers and 3-avoid the temptation to nit-pick every minor detail. Movies are simply adaptations of words on a page and not everything translates so well and thus changes are inevitable. I encourage readers to consider that prior to watching any favorite book made into a movie.)
From the beginning, Ender’s Game sets up its parameters and tells the background in narrative form in preparation for the story and characters to come. Visually enjoyable as scifi films go the technology and troubling scenarios are shown both in believable and relatable fashion. Strong in characters and their progression, the film clearly sets its protagonist on his journey and, through the lens of his person, brings this story of massive moral, philosophical and psychological weight to a level that keeps the interest and expectation level high.
Those expectations, however, are not met 100% when it comes to the inclusion of characters not needed and the exclusion of pivotal explanations that would have served the story’s telling better. While Ender’s Game maintains a fantastic level of appeal in its set designs, special effects and character cohesiveness, the plot progression missteps in a few parts that accelerate the story but may leave the viewer behind. Its inconsistent pacing, especially toward the end, tends to ruin elements that would have served to ease audiences into the “second ending” that seems almost a bit unnecessary. A runtime of 114 minutes definitely could have been longer to expound on certain elements and characters for smoother transitions.
Still, strong performances by Asa Butterfield (who has perfected the art of tearing up on screen), Harrison Ford (thankfully, after so many duds lately) and Hailee Steinfeld. Several of the supporting castmembers filled their roles in a “supporting” manner. Ender’s Game is a scifi adventure that is better than most with a story that is not overly recycled and therefore can be seen as refreshing to a degree. Contradictions, conflict and character development both help and hinder this game and make the film a mediocre great movie worth seeing on the big screen.
SCORE: (3.5/5 stars)
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure)
Starring: Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Morgan Freeman (Red) and more.
Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual content and thematic material.
Trailer: Click HERE
Synopsis: “Billy (Academy Award®-winner Michael Douglas), Paddy (Academy Award®-winner Robert De Niro), Archie (Academy Award®-winner Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Academy Award®-winner Kevin Kline) have been best friends since childhood. So when Billy, the group’s sworn bachelor, finally proposes to his thirty-something (of course) girlfriend, the four head to Las Vegas with a plan to stop acting their age and relive their glory days. However, upon arriving, the four quickly realize that the decades have transformed Sin City and tested their friendship in ways they never imagined. The Rat Pack may have once played the Sands and Cirque du Soleil may now rule the Strip, but it’s these four who are taking over Vegas.”
The Rat Pack and the Wolf Pack meet in this fun and funny movie of friends, family, love and relationships…you know…all the things you go to Sin City for!
The 6-decade old friends meet up in Vegas to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of their own. Along the way they find plenty of debauchery, gamble with thousands, judge a bikini contest, get in fights, take risks and hope to find plenty of rewards.
One of the most annoying things about this movie is that the trailers already gave away some of the funniest moments that would have been extra delights in the film had they not been spoiled. I’m a fan of trailers, but the ones for this one took away from moments that would have been better had they been reserved solely for those watching. That’s not to say the movie still isn’t fun, but I had to say that first.
Another comedy that relies on its location and cast and does well in both regards. All of the members here have fun and they do so while poking fun at each other as well (plenty of jokes about Michael Douglas’ bleached teeth, bronzed skin and hazelnut appearance!)
Together they do all the things that you expect people of a much younger age to do, and they bring the laughs along with it. People watching, picking up girls, practicing dance moves and pounding down the shots, they hang with the best of them and do it better.
But that’s not what the story is about. Last Vegas surprisingly also brings about a level of authenticity and bonding that isn’t brought out too much in comedies such as this. Freeman, Douglas, De Niro, Kline…all of them being what one might imagine them to be in real life, bring their level of acting to this story of the nature of friendship that never dies and make it an entertaining viewing.
Listen, Last Vegas is endearing, entertaining and full of fun. Reeling in the fun with moments of family, friendship and emotional bonds it not only is a party but it also gets personal with something for many people to relate to. It will not be an award-winning film but it turned out much better than initially expected…thanks to its cast and location delivering. Last Vegas shows that fun and happiness can come at all ages, so long as you’re looking at the right place, I’ll tell you this though, a trip to Vegas with these guys is a trip not to miss!
Last Vegas (Score: 3/5)
(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 250 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
–T, The Focused Filmographer