Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ender's Game - Lost Hope for Mankind

Lost Hope for Mankind might as well have been the title for this film.

I imagine that it was extremely difficult to decide how to depict the main character “Ender” as a killer. Having a young boy who assumes that the best way to prevent future fights with other people (or species) is to possibly annihilate them from existence, might be hard to swallow. I understood from the onset that depicting this unsettling trait in a ten-year old boy would be tricky at best because if the actions were displayed too harshly, there would not only be no sympathy for the character but the film might also be rated as one that children really should not see.

The best selling book, by Orson Scott Card, takes the time to make the reader appreciate the struggle that Ender is going through, which brings him to these life changing decisions. The film, on the other hand, is very good at stating the facts that move the story along but it unfortunately does not take the time to develop relationships or reasons for cause and effect as the movie quickly proceeds forward to the "next chapter.”

As one of those who have read the books (I have thoroughly enjoyed the four-book Audible set), I was excited to see the characters from book one come to life on the big screen. To my sadness, that was about as far as the excitement went.  I felt as if the filmmaker sat down and said, “We are now on chapter seven, so we must have scenes on apprehension about the battle room and strategies on how to defeat Ender’s opponents.”  The dazzling special effects might draw you in for the moment but that’s where it ends. Prior to the excitement, if there had been proper character development, one might even empathize with the friends and the villians. 

Example: When a member of Ender’s team gets “frozen,” the moviegoer should have some feeling about that particular character. Instead, the focus stays on Ender with the feeling that everyone else is secondary. You find yourself not appreciating the other characters because you don’t know them. This is what I mean by Lost Hope for Mankind. Lost hope for all but Ender as far as this movie is concerned.

What I did like was the game play-dream sequence during which Ender discovers his psychic connection with the alien beings. The pretty young female seems to be his sister Valentine, who is showing him the way towards understanding. In fact, this is Jane, who does not appear in the stories until later on in Ender’s life.

Regardless, of my negative views, I am looking forward to the sequel film, Speaker for the Dead. Even if the book is not followed closely, I believe there will at least be good storytelling with hidden twists that are alive in the Ender Universe. Perhaps with the tying of the first movie with the second, more understanding of what the filmmaker what trying to portray will come through, but I doubt it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ender’s Game – Last Hope of Mankind

Can a child really be mankind's last hope? Seems unlikely, but this very question sets the framework for the upcoming movie “Ender’s Game” which debuts in theaters on 11/1/13. 

Ender’s Game is based on the 1985 novel of the same name, written by Orson Scott Card and published by Tor Books.

About six months ago, I discovered the Audible version of this book and was thoroughly blown away by Card’s depiction of what a world was willing to do to save itself from inevitable extinction. In addition, the strong willed protagonist was well-suited for the moment in time he is living in. Without giving away too much, here is a summary of the plot.

In the future, Earth has nearly been destroyed by an insect-type alien race which has been nick-named “buggers.” The decision that Earth will strike back to prevent imminent future annihilation affects everyone, especially children, who must be tested so that the best can serve.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is deemed to be the best of the best. The forces in power must now go about preparing Ender to be the military genius who will lead Earth’s military forces to victory, hopefully saving the future of humanity.

When I discovered that a movie based on the book would be released in November, I was more than thrilled. I've seen the coming attraction clips and I am so far impressed by the dazzling special effects and the cast of characters that were selected, especially the actor chosen to play Ender Wiggins.

If the film truly reflects the substance of the book, my expectation is that there will be controversy concerning the main character being a child (in the book, Ender was ten years old).  Some might find it disturbing that one so young could be purposely capable of acts which potentially cause millions of lives to be lost on both sides. Card explains that it is because of his youth that Ender and those like him are able to focus on the task at hand without the distractions of adulthood we all eventually face as we move through adolescents and beyond.

I am eagerly looking forward to the movie version. Hopefully, It will successfully depict Ender’s tough as nails endurance and his pure of heart intentions as he moves through his training. Take a look at the trailer below if you'd like a taste. See you at the movies.

Ender's Game - Movie Trailer

Don't forget to visit Endless Perceptions for other works by Lloyd A. Green

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(500) Days of Summer (and learning)

"This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know up front, this is not a love story." Even though the narrator states this at the beginning of the film, you still swear that you ARE watching a love story. What you are actually watching is the 500 days that it takes for the characters to learn about themselves. I know this is confusing, but allow me to explain.

This 2006 movie, now on DVD, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom and Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn.  Tom is a discouraged architect turned greeting card writer. He believes that one day, he is destined to find his soul mate. Into his safe and boring life walks Summer, who he instantly falls head over heels for. She is also smitten by Tom, and thus begins an extremely well-thought through story which is not just about the power of love. 

One of the really enjoyable points of the movie is when Tom realizes how much he loves Summer. The musical number that erupts has everyone around him feeling as he does. Symbolic or not, all have to agree that birds can't help but sing and the sun has no choice but to shine when when love is in the air

Throughout their relationship, Summer states that she is not looking for a boyfriend. Tom interprets her mounting affection towards him as a natural progression which can only mean the opposite. As Tom pushes for a commitment, love turns to despair. That despair turns to a hope for their reconciliation, but watch what happens next. 

The film effectively moves back and forth through time without missing a beat in terms of understanding the film. The contrast of the different stages of their union are thought provoking and at times playful as Tom attempts to decipher the enigma which is Summer Finn. 

As the narrator said earlier, "This is not a love story." Whether we choose to accept it or not, we learn from each relationship. Some are determined to make that special person the one, but even if they are not, we gather bits of information, deal with our emotional state and are forever changed when the next one appears.

A superb movie and a great love story. A must-see which Prince, Oliver and I all give a 10 out of 10 score.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Avengers - Teamwork Works

Oliver and Prince are my two doggies who love to sneak away to take a peek at the latest flick. As in the past, they were able to push through the crowds and long lines and find a comfortable spot in the theater. Once they get back home, I couldn't help but listen to their contrary views on what they just saw. This is what I heard after their Saturday evening trip to see Marvel's The Avenger. Take a listen to their review of the film.

Prince: I've waited for years to see this film and I was not disappointed. I love the old Marvel style of superheroes.

Oliver: Not being as familiar with comic books, I guess I've got a more objective outlook on the movie. To me, a lot of the movie was over done and a bit confusing. There were always too many main characters on the screen.

Prince:  I think you're missing the point on the project. Let me try to explain this so even you can understand it. These bad guys from another dimension were determined to steal an ultimate power source and then destroy the human race. Heroes with special abilities were then brought together to hopefully save the world.

Oliver: No need to be insulting. I got the basics. I always have a problem when a film is almost two and a half hours long. I understand that they were trying to give information on each character but to me it seemed like more than I needed to know.

Prince: You've got to be kidding. Each of these superheroes has their own personal history which could have taken even longer but I feel that the producers did an excellent job of bringing the audience who might not be familiar up to speed. The ability to continue the old story lines while they were creating a new one, was tough enough but the way they did entwined conflicts between these strong personalities made for a more believable film.

Oliver: I don't get you. What do you mean?

Prince: Look at Thor (Chris Hemsworth) for example. When he's made his decision to fight, he'll start swinging that hammer of his to get his point of view across. Take that force of nature and then add the technologically driven Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downy Jr.) disagreeing with the way that Thor has decided to handle things. Testosterone overload is one thing but the argument that these two can (and did) have, makes you happy that it was only on the screen.

Oliver: I see what you mean and I guess that I have to agree.  I must say that the special effects were extraordinary. Was there really a guy dressed up to be the Hulk?

Prince: Of course not. I do understand your confusion with the CGI (computer generated images) though. The Hulk/Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffulo) did facially look like the actor but there would be no way to safely accomplish the feats of strength that we saw. The computer science behind the super-human tasks were believable and almost seamless.

Oliver: I guess I have to agree again. Now that I think of it, I also liked the strong female characters. I thought that Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) was very athletic and great to look at. She makes me wish I had a new master.

Prince: I'd speak a little more quietly, if you still want dinner.  I must admit though, Black Widow uniform's did fit her pretty well. I'd let her walk me anytime. You're distracting me from my original points. What do you finally think about the movie overall?

Oliver: I'm embarrassed to say that I'm changing my vote. The movie did what it promised which was to give a non-stop roller coaster ride which could be appreciated by young and old alike. The touch of tongue-in-cheek, humor and sarcasm worked effectively to lighten some of the heavier moments, like when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was confronted by the Hulk. This scene could have simply been a physical brawl but the inserted repartee played out smartly and was timed just right. When this level was added to the scene, it was understood by all. I could tell by the way the entire audience laughed right on cue.  And oh yeah, the 3-D glasses didn't even bother my eyes. The slight effect only added to the movie. 

Prince: I could not have said it better myself. You're smarter than the half the audience that thought the movie was over when the ending credits started running. Too bad they missed the reference to what might be The Avengers 2 movie. How do you rate the movie now? I give it a 10/10.

Oliver: I guess we agree 'cause I'm with you brother. Wait a minute. I hear the food bag rattling. Race you.

Prince: I'm way ahead of you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Before Alien, There Was Prometheus

June 9, 2012 - Premiere of Prometheus

So you think it's impossible to review a movie that has not come out yet. Well, you're probably right but since I found that there would soon be a prequel to the Alien movies, I felt the need to reminisce on the old and then share the upcoming film prior to it's debut.

In the first Alien movie back in 1979, director, Ridley Scott, brilliantly proved that you could scare your audience prior to showing an "Alien" through the power of suggestion. He wanted to terrorize your imagination to be  first. This tactic was used during the opening scenes of the interior of the spacecraft, the Nostromo. The camera slowly panned across the piloting area and then a seat slightly shifted but the cause could not be seen. The audience waited for some type of monster to be jump out. You later find that it was probably just the cat moving around on the floor, where the camera angle could not see him.

Only glimpses were shown of the actual creature until halfway through the movie. Prior to this, concentration was kept on the reactions of the terrified crew. Of course, when the alien was finally shown, it made you wish that you were still using your imagination. In 1980, H.R. Giger received an academy award for his masterful designs of the Alien creature.

Ridley Scott again directs the new movie, Prometheus, which is set prior to the original. There will be some explanations given for things let secret in Alien like the "Space Jockey" and where did the alien come from. Among the cast for the film are Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and  Noomi Rapace.

Please do not sit in my reserved seat when the movie does premiere. Take a look at the trailer and decide for yourself whether I have a reason to be excited.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Carter, Are You Coming Back?

Overall a very entertaining ride. I was not disappointed.

I was moved to see this movie from the television advertisements endlessly run through the week. The scenery seemed creative and other-worldly which started a sci-fi itch that I sometimes get.

I had gotten to the theater that opening night but arrived only fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled time. I figured that the long lines had already gone in and  I'd have to find whatever seat that I could (I love the center middle area). When I walked in, I found that the theater was only half filled and by the time that the feature began, there were not that many more that arrived. I suddenly felt that a lot of people might have known something that I did not. Fortunately, the $11.00 that I had spent was not wasted.

John Carter is the story of an earth-man (Taylor Kitsch) from the old West who finds himself transported to the planet Mars. He becomes embroiled in the civil disputes of the local inhabitants and because of his new-found abilities (which seem like super-powers) and his need to help others, John moves from being a lost soul to a man with a purpose.

The plot development seemed strange at first but soon impressed me as being imaginatively written. What I really liked was the writer's ability to draw parallels from the surroundings as John jumped back and forth from the old West and to Mars. The rawness between the two locations was similar enough that it worked to helped one to believe in the film's theme. On the down side, even though a great deal of time was spent detailing the conflict between hostile tribes and warriors grabbing for power, the filmmaker could still not make me believe that what I was seeing was little more than a small band of testosterone-driven maniacs trying to gain a few more acres of land.

The romance, which of course became John's focal point of motivation (I doubt this spoils it for anyone) was well done but the sucker-for-a-good- love-story that I am, needed a lot more depth. I felt I was looking at a teenager who had found love for the first instead of a mature man who had learned a bit of wisdom. Regardless, there was a chemistry between Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and John which made me hope that their relationship would endure their interplanetary differences.

The alien tribes were only believable and entertaining to a point. I will not bring up the trauma that I felt when I witnessed how Jar Jar Binks tried to bring down Stars Wars I. Fortunately, these creatures were not that bad.

In terms of movie facts, Taylor Kitsch did most of his own stunt work. The safety harnesses used to simulate his 80 mile per hour and 80 foot superhuman jumps were far from comfortable. Hitsch stated that he had the groin scars to prove it.
John Carter is a 2 hr and 10 min. feature whose story could have been told in about an hour and a half.Overall, this movie is worth seeing. With any really good movie, I yearn for a sequel and/or more detail but by the ending of John Carter, I felt that I had happily seen enough. I give a rating of 8/10.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Crash" is True To It's Name

I've just seen the movie "Crash" (1998) with James Spader. I'd heard about the premise of the movie years ago (people get turned on through car crashes) but was not that interested to see it until recently (came across it on Netflix). I have not seen a more perverted movie in a while. Being male, most of the sex scenes were pretty hot (NC-17, DVD version) but after a while, this theme got repetitious. The attempt to glamorize car crashing got to be lame and I've never heard this "underground rush" related to any group before I saw the movie or since. With as much nudity and as many sex scenes in this movie, you wonder what the auditions were like. I liked "The Secretary" (Spade & Gyllenhaal) with it's sado-masochistic theme. The characters were quirky but overall the sex scenes and the movie made sense (find this in another review). Too often Crash was sexual for the sake of being sexual and whatever underlining theme there was got lost. I felt like I should have rented a porno.    

The nude scenes just could not carry the theme of the movie. Good concept, disappointing movie.