Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Tuesday Double-Feature
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Ender's Game (2013)

Ender's Game is a 2013 American science fiction action film based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card.
Director and Screenplay: Gavin Hood
Rating: PG-13
Stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Orson Scott Card. (It's important to note that the author does have a cameo in the movie and contrary to reports that he was not involved in the making of the film, in an effort to minimize his anti-gay stance. So there).

The Alien Queen

Ender's Game plays out like an episode of The Outer Limits, but without any originality or intelligence. Most of the movie is Ender's training to engage the alien invaders in all-out war. There are many kids in training but they are superfluous since never is there any question that Ender will be chosen for the job. Harrison Ford's commander reminds us every five minutes. 

Neither do we get to know our invaders. Ender, toward the end of the movie, mentions that we chased them away when all they wanted to do was set up a colony (to share our water), but this statement seems to come out of the blue since we see footage of the aliens killing off humans. We're supposed to take Ender's word for it because he dreamed of the monster pictured above. Yeah, right.

It seems like an entire third of the film was left on the cutting room floor. And without that missing part, the ending doesn't have any payoff. It's downright goofy. Had we seen what terrifying creatures the enemy was, the long sequences of training might have had more impact or at least more meaning. As it stands, it's a bad attempt to be profound, but comes across as silly and even downright treasonous. The enemy just might want revenge on mankind. I'm sure those of you familiar with the book series know the answer to that possibility. 

I don't recommend Ender's Game, not even as a rental. It's not bad, but neither is it good. If you get the urge to go see it, rent a couple of The Outer Limits episodes. Start with The Architects of Fear. 

Grade for Ender's Game: C.

The Fifth Estate (2013)

The Fifth Estate is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Bill Condon, about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks starring Benedict Cumberbatch as its editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange.
Director: Bill Condon
Rating: R

In the 1960s we had the FREE PRESS, an alternative newspaper that dared to tell the truth about the War in Viet Nam, the politics behind the violence against war protesters on campuses across the USA, and promoted the withdrawal of troops from that land that had no effect or relation to or on our economy. Back then, the underground world of journalism spoke for the common man (or hippee, as the case might be), while the Big Papers represented The Establishment, The Man, Big Brother. The Fifth Estate is the Free Press of the modern world, where hacked cyberspace is the new underground. Or so the story would have us believe.

Initially, our heroes want to publish the "truth" on their website, WIKILEAKS, but as the story evolves and the site grows, the line between freedom of the press and national security begins to blur. Julian Assange turns into a megalomaniac, or maybe that's what he was all along, and maybe that's the type of person that we need to get to the truth. We never really learn too much, other than he appears crazy to his partners, but seems super-smart in front of the news cameras. I guess we're supposed to make up our own minds about whether or not WIKILEAKS was a good thing or bad, or whether Julian was a good person or bad. 

I liked the movie. Its two hour length seemed too short to cover the growth of the website, and it skimmed over the controversy that changed the federal government's attitude toward the site. The audience was left hanging with the abrupt ending, but for me that just made me curious to learn more about the website's history. Somehow I imagine I'll be more entertained by all the videos and articles that I'll be watching soon as I research Wikileaks. So, consider the movie a CliffNotes version of the real story. Same thing with the Free Press of the 60s: if you want to know the truth, read the papers, not the movie about the papers.

Grade for The Fifth Estate: B-.

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