Friday, November 29, 2013

The Book Thief Review

The Book Thief, based on the best-selling novel of the same title by Markus Zusak, hit theaters a few weeks back. However, the distributors decided to take the limited release route at first, which was probably a smart decision with how loaded November was. It just recently made it to a wide release, so I found a theater it was in and went and saw it. I have not read the book, but after seeing the movie, I have put the book on my long list of books I want to read, because the movie is a masterpiece.

The movie is narrated by Death, which puts an interesting light on the story as it follows a young girl named Liesel in Nazi Germany during World War II. Liesel's birth mother can't care for her, so she gives her up to her new Ma and Pa. Together as a new family they are simply trying to survive. Liesel is quiet and uncomfortable at first, but she soon starts to make friends and finds solace in books that, as the title of the movie suggests, she steals. The situation starts to get really risky as the family hides a Jewish friend in their basement.

Honestly this movie moves really slow. No crazy fighting scenes. No constant explosions. No non-stop drama. But, no, this is not a bad thing. Here we have a story about a young, innocent girl living and surviving in Germany during World War II. That's it. It's a character piece that really allows us to focus on the story and the progression that all the characters go through, and that is beautiful. In order to make a movie like this work, what you need is a strong cast that can pull the movie forward and help you get attached to all the characters. The Book Thief hits a home run in that category. Our lead girl Liesel is played by young French-Canadian actress Sophie Nelisse and by goodness she is such a doll. I loved her and her character. I also loved the little boy Rudy, played by Nico Liersch, who becomes Liesel's best friend. And of course we have Geoffry Rush and Emily Watson playing Liesel's adopted parents, both of whom do a great job.

Two other areas that I want to mention before I sign off. First is cinematography. The Oscars will be a crowded place this awards season, but if The Book Thief is deserving of any Oscar nomination, the nod for cinematography is what it should get. Also, John Williams does the score in this movie, and he once again showed why he is one of the best in the business. I'd be more than willing to give him another Oscar nomination for this. But yes, The Book Thief is a great movie, and I highly recommend you find a theater near you where it is playing and give it a shot. Grade-wise it seems like I have been giving out a lot of high reviews, but that is because there have just been a lot of great movies out recently. So here I go again, The Book Thief gets a 9 out of 10 from me.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Frozen Review

Frozen. Because now Disney has a thing about naming their movies after one-word adjectives? And speaking of Tangled, they just decide to copy the animation style of all the characters in that one? Meh. Who cares. I've been a tad bit nervous about this movie in the last few months, but when strong reviews started to come out, I became excited. And yes, Disney hits a home run with this one. In 20 years from now, when we are looking back on all the Disney animated classics, Frozen will definitely be a part of the conversation.

Since the trailers for the movie have been a bit vague, allow me to explain a bit about what the movie is actually about. It is loosely based on the classic fairy tale "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. I don't really know much about that fairy tale, but I don't think it matters too much. Disney always takes stories and does what they want with them.  The story centers around two Princess sisters named Anna and Elsa. Anna is the friendly sister, while Elsa is the closed-up sister. Earlier in their lives, Elsa almost killed Anna on accident with her ice powers that she was born with, and that's why she is the way she is. Now in the present, a certain chain of events happens where Elsa accidentally turns the whole city into a wintery wonderland as she is running away into the mountains. Anna then embarks on a quest to find her sister and convince her to turn the city back to Summer.

It's not too terribly difficult to predict what happens in this movie, but such is the case with most of Disney's classics, especially the Disney princess movies. A clever, unpredictable story is not what they are going for here. What they do have is a story that has a lot of heart to it, and one wherein you become attached to all of the great characters as you watch them learn and grow throughout the movie. In addition to our two main female protagonists, we have our two male protagonists, Hans and Kristoff. Hans is our prince is out to sweep Anna off of her feet, and Kristoff is the level-headed male who is helps Anna on her journey. And of course we have our comic-relief side characters in Sven the reindeer and Olaf the Snowman, both of whom are great.

What Frozen also did to me was take me back to the nostalgic days of the 90's and earlier wherein Disney's movies weren't just great movies, they were also great musicals. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and other 90's classics are movies that I especially am thinking of. Sure Disney has always been doing this, but those movies stick out to me as being some of the best Disney musicals. I would say the music in Frozen is right on par with that generation. It wasn't just one or two good songs thrown in there, the whole movie was littered with times when our characters would burst out into music. And I loved it!

Overall, this year in my opinion has been great year in animation with The Croods, Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 all being enjoyable animated movies. Frozen ends the year in animation with a bang, and I hope it gets a good look when the Best Animated Movie award is being discussed in the Oscars. Frozen is a movie that the whole family will enjoy, both kids and adults. So give it a look this Holiday season. I give Frozen a 9 out of 10.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

And that blog post title is the first and the last time you will see me call this movie by it's actual title. For the rest of this review I will be calling this by the name it should've been called by, simply Catching Fire. Yeah, I get why they did it, so no need to argue that point. But anywho, I am a huge fan of the Hunger Game series. I didn't actually read them until after the first movie came out, but after seeing that movie, I was instantly converted. As it turned out, Catching Fire was my favorite book of the three (check out my review of the book here), so I had really high expectations. Did the movie meet those expectations? You bet it did!

As far as the story goes, Catching Fire picks up right where The Hunger Games leaves off. After Katniss' antics in the arena at the end of the first book, she has become a figure for rebellion in the districts, and of course that has made President Snow really angry. Katniss' every move is being watched by the capital as they try to figure out a way to use her to squelch the rebellion. In the meantime, it's the 75th annual hunger games, which means it's time for the third quarter quell, a special edition of the hunger games, and the capital has big plans to use this to their advantage.

One of the strong points of the movie was how close they were to the book. The story in the book is super engaging. So engaging that I literally couldn't put it down. I'm not a big reader, and it usually takes me a few weeks at best to read a book. The fact that I read this book in two days should say a lot. The philosophy of the movie seemed to be "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." I would argue that this is one of the best book to movie conversions that I have ever seen. There is a lot of drama that happens outside of the arena that the movie in theory could've shown, but outside the scenes with President Snow and new gamemaker Plutarch, they decided not to, thus keeping the surprise-ending of the book in tact for those who never read the books. Now in the final two movies, they will have to go outside the perspective of the book to make the movies interesting, but as far as Catching Fire goes, they needed to keep the perspective of the book and it worked perfectly for the movie.

The other strong point of the movie was the cast. First off, the returning cast was excellent. Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrellson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Liam Hemsworth all nailed their characters once again. But I especially want to talk about Jennifer Lawrence. In the first movie, she was fairly emotionless, which worked well because that's how Katniss was in the first book. In Catching Fire, Katniss starts to go crazy, having several emotional outbursts, so I was interested how she would do in this one. Jennifer Lawrence showed audiences who never saw Silver Linings Playbook why she won the Best Actress award in the Oscars for that performance as she totally nailed the Catching Fire Katniss from the books in this movie. And that really made me excited for the final movie when Katniss goes completely crazy. I hope that girl wins another Oscar sometime in the next few years, or at the very least gets some consideration.

Secondly, in terms of the cast, I want to mention the newcomers, because they would be the ones to make or break this movie. Catching Fire introduces several new characters that are very important to the overall plot of the series. Thankfully, all the newcomers nailed their roles as well, meaning the entire cast is just perfect. Sam Claflin is Finnick, Jena Malone is Johanna, Philip Seymour Hoffman is Plutarch, and Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer play Beetee and Wiress. Like I said, I thought all of them did great, but I will have to say my favorite newcomer is Jena Malone as Johanna. If you've read the book, you'll know that Joanna pulls off some pretty crazy antics, and is quite the character. Yes, with certain scenes they are true to the book, but honestly I was cheering and laughing the whole movie at everything she did. I loved it! Even when I probably shouldn't have.

Overall, there are a lot more things that I could say about the movie, but I've touched the main points that I wanted to bring up, and I don't want to keep you reading all day, so I will end. But I will wrap things up by repeating the fact that Catching Fire was my favorite book, and so far it's my favorite movie of the two. It perfectly sets up for what should be an amazing and emotionally-draining two-part Mockingjay finale. Catching Fire is also one of my favorite movies this year, and I will give it a very strong 9 out of 10, although I did consider giving it a higher score. I highly recommend you go see it sometime this holiday season if you haven't seen it already! Just make sure you have seen the first movie beforehand, because you will be confused if you don't.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Last Vegas Review

Have you ever had a time in life where you and a group of friends decided to go take a trip to Las Vegas for the weekend? Now have you ever thought about that same group of friends getting back together in 50 years and doing it again? I'm sure many could say yes to both of those questions, and thus many could find a bit of nostalgia upon watching the movie Last Vegas, because that's what the movie is all about.

Last Vegas takes the Red approach when doing this movie. No, it's not an action movie at all, but rather it's just a comedy with old people. Not just any old people, though. Last Vegas has quite the lineup with Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline getting together as the group of friends. Specifically, Michael Douglas' character proposes to his girlfriend who is half his age, and the two decide to get married in Vegas over the weekend. Upon announcing this, the group of old friends decide they are going to throw him a Bachelor's party before that happens.

Being that this is a movie in Las Vegas, content-wise it is very much a Las Vegas-y movie with drinking, parties, and strip clubs and I personally didn't appreciate that. Certain scenes could've been left out, like the whole scene with Stefan Gordy of LMFAO, and it would've only made the movie better. That's not the whole movie, though. It is a comedy and there was a lot of scenes in the movie that did honestly make me laugh. Also, there are certain aspects of the story line that cause the movie to turn from a comedy to a drama, and when that happens, the excellent cast really carries the movie quite well even if it is a bit predictable. Given the subject matter, I wasn't expecting a ton out of the movie, but it turns out that it had a lot of heart to it and was rather intelligent.

Overall, this isn't necessarily a movie that I would highly recommend. No need to make time for this if you don't have much time. But if you do have the time and you really want to go out and see a movie, this isn't a bad option, especially if you can get it for a discount price at a dollar theater or on RedBox. I didn't walk out blown away, but I did walk out entertained. I give Last Vegas a 7 out of 10.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Review

I heard recently from someone that The Avengers franchise is beginning to be the James Bond of the Superhero movies. And that is quite true. As Bond 24 is set for November of 2015, Thor: The Dark World (why not just Thor 2?) is the eight movie of the Avengers franchise to come out since Iron Man debuted in 2008. And we're just getting started. Last year, The Avengers became the third-highest grossing movie ever, and the highest by someone not named James Cameron. Earlier this year, Iron Man 3 became the highest-grossing Iron Man movie. And now it's Thor's turn again. No RDJ in it will mean that it's not going to come close to the levels of Iron Man 3 or Avengers financially, but it's guaranteed to out-gross the first Thor significantly.

Now moving away from financial jargon and onto the movie. Reviews for the first Thor were mixed. Personally, though, I loved it. I thought it was one of the better Superhero origin stories due to the character depth and character progression that Thor went through as he got banished to Earth and was force to learn humility. It was also visually spectacular and had the perfect combination of action, emotion, and humor. It also introduced the best character of this Avengers franchise in Loki. In my opinion, it was the best of the Avengers Phase 1 movies.

In Thor 2, we introduce the Aether, which is certain to play role similar to that of the Tesseract in previous Avenger movies. When the Aether is discovered, the Dark Elves, led by Malekith, will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means destroying Asgard and Earth in the process. That brief intro is all that I will say about the plot. Thor 2 has a different director than the first Thor, and that is Alan Taylor, known for his work with the Game of Thrones TV series. And you can definitely notice that Game of Thrones feel that the movie has, thus supporting our subtitle of "The Dark World." It tries to be a much darker movie than the first and honestly I really liked that. However, what I didn't like was that it had somewhat of an identity crisis as far as that goes. Apparently, the first cut of the movie was "too dark" and so they threw in a lot of humor. Now the first Thor had a lot of humor in it, so I was expecting that to happen in this as well. However, the humor in the first was well-placed and thus added to the strength of the movie. In this one the humor got in the way. The movie kept switching back and forth from being a dark, serious movie to a comedy. I would've actually preferred to stay a dark, serious movie, but because it didn't, I wasn't able to get as invested in the movie as I wanted to.

I really did like the story behind the movie, but if I'm being honest about this, the execution wasn't quite as smooth as I would like. And I'm going to say nothing about the ending of the movie, but as far as the plot goes, this had the potential to include a super epic final battle that rivaled Iron Man 3's awesome final battle. However, I was slightly disappointed at it. It wasn't nearly as bad as Iron Man 2's horrible final battle, but I thought it was a little on the weird side of things, which was disappointing considering all the potential it had.

Up to this point, you will think that I completely hated the movie because of what I've been saying. I didn't, and here's why. Loki. In the first movie, there are those who say Loki completely stole the show, but I would disagree with that because I loved everyone else as well. In this one, he actually did steal the show. In the first movie, Thor went through a ton of character progression. In this one, Thor was awesome, but he was the same in the beginning as he was in the end. Natalie Portman did a great job as Jane, but I liked her performance in the first one better. Supporting characters Darcy and Erik, who I loved in the first one, I think actually got in the way in this one. But Loki. Wow! I will leave the specifics unspoiled and not dive into it, but his character was super interesting in this one and Tom Hiddleston completely hit a home run with that performance. In fact, he did such a good job that he single-handedly took this movie from a near disaster and turned it into another fantastic chapter in the Avengers franchise. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that they could've re-titled this movie "Loki: The Dark World."

I also can't end this review without mentioning that I also really loved the Dark Elves. I do think they could've done a lot more with them, but they were great. Christopher Eccleston of Doctor Who plays their leader Malekith and I thought he was brilliant. One of the best villains so far in the Avengers franchise.

Overall, I do prefer the first Thor over this one, but that was actually a somewhat difficult choice for me. Both movies are quite different and have strengths and weakness of their own, but I do think Thor is better. Also, in comparing the two Phase 2 movies, I also prefer Iron Man 3 over Thor 2 because RDJ is awesome, the psychological aspect of the movie was brilliant, and the final battle was epic. In officially grading Thor 2, I give it an 8 out of 10.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie Preview: November 2013

October of 2013 was led by the monster performance of Gravity, which grossed over $200 million. Unfortunately, that was about it as Gravity's gross ended up being 30 percent of the month's overall gross, and thus overall business was down from recent October totals. This month, though, promises to get things back on track as Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hit theaters. Those two movies alone will make this a huge month for the box office, but there are several other movies scattered in there aiming to please audiences as Oscar season continues to move forward. Here's the lowdown:

November 1st - 3rd - 

The first weekend provided several new releases for audiences to enjoy while waiting for the big blockbusters of the month. Winning the weekend was the long-awaited movie adaption of Ender's Game. Ever since the novel was originally released back in 1985, studios have begged author Orson Scott Card to let them turn his book into a movie. Card smartly waited for an offer that he felt comfortable with, and thus turned many people down that wanted to rush the book onto screen, a strategy that authors like Christopher Paolini should've learned from. As always, fans of the book were divided as some still forget that movies are always going to be a little different from the books, but overall audiences were pleased at the result as Ender's Game holds a 7.2 on IMDb and remains fresh on rottentomatoes.

Coming in second place out of the newcomers was old man comedy Last Vegas. And by old man comedy, I don't mean it's a movie targeting old men, but rather it follows the formula of the Red movies, which is having a cast starring several famous old men. Specifically, our old men cast is Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline. The premise of the movie is the four friends go to Las Vegas to have a bachelor's party for their last remaining single friend. So far, it's done of good job of pleasing audiences. It didn't have a huge budget, so it'll be considered a success when all is said and done.

The final new wide release of the weekend was this weekend's loser in Free Birds. The concept of the movie was actually a brilliant one. There hasn't been many Thanksgiving-themed animated movies in the past, so why not make one? In this movie, a couple turkeys go back in time to the first Thanksgiving with the goal in mind to take turkeys off the menu. With Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson leading the cast, this seemed like an excellent idea. However, the movie was poorly advertised and, according to reviews, poorly executed.

Yes, we are done with the wide releases for this weekend, but there are two limited release movies this weekend that should be noted. The first is Dallas Buyers Club. The big story here is lead actor Matthew McConaughey going for the Best Actor award for in the Oscars with this performance. Early talks are that he has a good shot at the award in a super busy year for that category. The movie is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with HIV back in the '80's.

Finally, opening up just shy of 200 theaters is romantic comedy About Time. Now imagine as a single male if you could go back in time and change what you have done in the past. That's what this movie is about. Main character, Tim, takes advantage of this and goes back to fix certain mistakes he made around a certain girl and gets himself a girlfriend. Now there's an idea. But of course this leads to complications. About Time expands nationwide in the second weekend of November.

November 8th - 10th - 

While 12 Years a Slave and About Time get a nationwide expansion this weekend, there is only one new wide release, and that is Marvel's newest movie, Thor: The Dark World. The original Thor was a decent success for Marvel, but didn't come anywhere near the level of Iron Man. Now that The Avengers has come out, it is certain that this second chapter increases significantly over its predecessor. However, despite the popularity that Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston got in The Avengers, Thor 2 will still be without the most popular avenger in Robert Downy Jr., and thus there is no way that Thor 2 hits Iron Man 3 levels. But Marvel fans should still be happy about more Marvel movies.

Now there is no new nationwide release that dares to challenge Thor this weekend, but there is one notable limited release that comes out this weekend, and that would be The Book Thief. In a crowded month, The Book Thief could end up being overlooked when it does make it to nationwide release. This would be due to a very crowded November. However, The Book Thief is based on a popular novel of the same title and that could propel it forward. The Book Thief centers around a young girl during WWII who becomes an inspiration to those around her by stealing books and sharing them with others.

November 15th - 17th - 

Opening up between Thor 2 and Catching Fire is a real risky business and that is why there is only one movie that dares to pull off the feat. That movie is The Best Man Holiday. This movie is an R-rated comedy with a primarily black cast. It'll definitely have its group of followers, but overall business for the movie should be quite slow as most people will either be catching up on Thor 2 or saving their money for Catching Fire.

Coming out in limited release is yet another strong Oscar contender in the movie Nebraska. Nebraska is a movie that is directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and is uniquely shot in just black and white. As the title suggests, the movie has something to do with Nebraska. In fact, it is about an old man who makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his son in an effort to claim a million dollar prize.

November 22nd - 24th - 

With the ending of Twilight last season, the pre-Thanksgiving blockbuster spot opened up. However, that spot didn't stay open for long as The Hunger Games reserved the spot each spot year through 2015. This year is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Back last March when The Hunger Games debuted, most people would agree it was going to be a big hit. Most people didn't even dream of it being as big as it actually was. An opening of $150 million and a final tally of over $400 million is insane for a non-sequel. That final total, in fact, is higher than any Harry Potter or Twilight movie here in the US. With how popular and well-liked that first one was, Catching Fire should be able to at least get close to both those numbers.

The only nationwide release daring enough to take on Catching Fire is Deliver Man. Delivery Man is another comedy coming out this month, this one starring Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, and Chris Pratt. It's only PG-13, so that could help it get a more expanded audience than The Best Man Holiday the previous week. It also has an interesting enough premise as Vince Vaughn's character learns that he has 533 children, 142 of which are suing him to learn his identity.

November 27th - December 1st - 

The Thanksgiving holiday will likely be dominated by previous week's blockbuster, Catching Fire. However, Thanksgiving will be very crowded with four new wide releases opening up on Wednesday the 27th, the day before Thanksgiving. The winner of these newcomers will be Disney's Frozen. Disney no longer controls the animated movie market, but recently they've done well with Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled. Both of those movies ended around the $200 million range and Frozen should be able to around that as well. It brings back the animation style present in Tangled, with several of the characters looking like they came directly from Tangled. They both even sport the style of a one word adjective title. Is Disney having creativity issues or are they simply trying to build on the success of Tangled with this? Either way, with little competition in terms of other animated movies this holiday season, Frozen should be able to do really well.

After essentially getting ignored for most of the month, Thanksgiving provides plenty of options for family audiences as Black Nativity is the second PG-rated movie, along with previously-mentioned Frozen, to come out this weekend. Black Nativity is what it sounds like. It's the retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. Being more specific, the movie is a musical that is adapted from the Langston Hughes play of the same name.  The cast is led by Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, and Tyrese Gibson.

In addition to giving family audiences plenty of options for Thanksgiving, adult audiences also get a couple of options. The first of this is Homefront. Homefront is an R-rated action thriller that stars Jason Statham and James Franco. Now Statham has his group of followers that will show up to all his action movies, but outside The Expendables, Statham's outings haven't been overly successful, so this probably won't make much of a dent during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Finally, Thanksgiving gives audiences Oldboy, which is an American version of the popular 2003 Korean hit of the same name. The 2003 version currently holds a spot in IMDb's Top 250 with an 8.4 rating, so this remake is a bit of an odd choice. Both movies are about a guy who gets wrongly kidnapped and thrown in prison for a lengthy amount of time (15 years in the original -- 20 years in this one). Upon release, he is out to find who his captor is. This new version stars Josh Brolin, Samuel L Jackson, and Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the Olsen twins -- who is beginning to make a pretty big name for herself.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Saratov Approach Review

During the BYU vs. Utah game back in September, I was sitting in LaVell Edwards Stadium watching the game when, during a break, a trailer came on for the Saratov Approach. The premise of the movie immediately intrigued me and so a few weeks after it came out, I finally got around to seeing it. I came out of the movie super inspired, wanting to share it with and recommend it to everyone I see and talk to. So here I am! Yes, it's an LDS-based movie, but in my opinion it's a movie that really can appeal to everyone, so I highly recommend you give it a shot.

The Saratov approach is the true story of Elder Trevor Tuttle and Elder Andrew Propst as they were kidnapped and held for ransom while serving an LDS mission in Russia. A lot of historically-based movies take creative liberties in making the movie appealing to the masses, but how accurate is this one? In an interview, Elder Tuttle himself said, "The story is 100 percent accurate." More of that interview of the two Elders can be read right here. This to me is really impressive and thus much praise has to be given to director and writer Garrett Batty. No, it's not a secret how things turn out since the missionaries are around to do an interview, show up at the aforementioned football game, and help promote the movie. But that's not the point of the movie. It's not a "what happens at the end" type of movie, it's a "what happens as you go along" type of movie. Meaning the journey the Elders go through and the lessons they learn along the way are what this movie is about.

Yes, the movie is really intense at times, especially when lead kidnapper Sergei is around. This warrants the PG-13 rating. But in addition to the tense scenes, the movie is super emotional, super inspirational, and super spiritual. Movies have never made me cry. In general, I'm just not a super emotional person as far as that goes. But this is one of those movies that got me close, so if you are one that is more emotional than I am, remember to bring your box of tissues because there are several scenes that will break you. In terms of the inspirational and spiritual aspect of the movie, I'm not going to dive into those specifics right here because it would mean spoiling a lot of the movie, but if you have seen the movie, come talk to me because I have so much to say. There are countless lessons that this movie teaches, and I think that makes this movie really beautiful. I'll definitely be referring to this movie a lot in my life down the road.

In addition to having a beautiful message, what also makes this movie brilliant is that it excels in many movie-making categories like music, lighting, cinematography, and more. But right at the top of that list is the acting. The two Elders are played by Corbin Allred and Maclain Nelson and those two are just amazing. Before the kidnapping, they do a great job of portraying honest, everyday missionary life. As a person who has served a mission, I appreciated all the little things like the fact that for one of them it was their year mark and he was burning a shirt. And after they got kidnapped, they did a great job of portraying the emotions that they would've been going through during those five days. Also doing a great job was the two kidnappers Nikita Bogolyubov (Nikita) and Alex Veadov (Sergei). And of course we have the always great Bruce Newbold, who somehow manages to show up in just about ever LDS-themed movie. If you don't recognize the name, all I have to do is say that he plays Thomas in Finding Faith in Christ and the light will turn on in your head. In this movie, Newbold plays Elder Propst's father.

If there was one complaint about the movie, it would be the excessive use of the shaky-cam style. Personally, this doesn't bother me as I think it adds to the intensity of the movie, especially when they are getting attacked initially, but I do know that some people have a zero-tolerance for this. If you are one of those people, you probably won't like this as much as I did, but overall I think this is a fantastic, uplifting, inspiring movie. I highly recommend this to everyone even if you aren't LDS. And thanks to some record-breaking numbers for this type of movie ($500,000 in it's first couple of weeks in 24 Utah theaters), it has expanded to areas in Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii and will expand to even more nationwide audiences in early December, so you may not have to wait for the DVD to come out to see it if you don't live in Utah. My grade for the movie is 9 out of 10. Definitely one of my favorites from this year.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ender's Game Review

IT'S HERE!!! ENDER'S GAME IS FINALLY HERE!!!! I have actually been waiting for this movie to come out for a long time. I first read Ender's Game back when I was in Junior High School and I've been hearing rumors of a movie ever since. And I'm sure those rumors had been going before then, because the almost 30-year-old book is considered a sci-fi classic. However, author Orson Scott Card has been super stingy about his book and rejected multiple scripts brought to him. If they were going to make his movie, they were going to make it right or not at all. Honestly, I respect that so much! I wish more authors had that mindset because then we wouldn't have disaster movies like Eragon. But finally, after many years, Card came across a script he liked and now we have our movie!

Quickly, though, I need express a few quick thoughts about the actual book. Yes, I'll be honest, when I first read it, my Junior High mind was rather shocked at how it ended and found it slightly anti-climatic. Since then, I've had many years to ponder the ending and have actually grown to really like it. What I never was a huge fan of was the age of the kids. Yes, raising young people is a huge part of the plot, but I've always thought that ages 6-12 was a little ridiculous. Also, I wasn't a fan of all the kids walking around naked so often. Knowing that the movie would fix both of these problems, I became super excited for the movie to come out.

Having heard that the movie would be significantly different than the book, but knowing that Orson Scott Card was fine with that, I went into the movie expecting it to be a lot different and I was fine that. That said, I ended up being quite surprised at the fact that it was actually followed the book quite well. Yes, the book was rather dense and if they were to follow every detail, it would be a four hour movie. This is the problem that all book to movie adaptions have. Some do it well, others don't. Ender's Game was one that did it well. The changes they made were appropriate, like say the Bonzo fight or the ages of the kids like I mentioned before. They made sure to include everything they needed to. And the things they cut out I was fine with them cutting out. The Valentine and Peter story line on Earth was an example of that last one. Sure it was interesting, but it added nothing to the plot of this specific book.

More praise about the movie. The cast was perfect. Asa Butterfield played Ender and he was the perfect Ender. That kid deserves some serious praise. Hailee Steinfeld was great as Petra. Abigail Breslin was great as Valentine. Then of course we have our adult actors. Harrison Ford was Colonel Graff, Viola Davis was Major Anderson, and Ben Kingsley was the worst kept secret of Mazer Rackham. All three of those are super good in everything they do and this was no different. All together, you can look at this cast as just brilliant. And they all fit their characters just perfectly. In addition to the great cast, the visual effects of the movie are amazing. For example, I don't know how I imagined the battle room, but in the movie it was much cooler than I could've imagined. And that's one reason I'm glad Card held his ground on this movie. Back in the day they wouldn't have been able to come up with effects like this.

Now if there are any complaints I have about the movie, it's the unavoidable ones. Because of the limited amount of time they had, it was necessary for them to go pretty fast through the movie. This made it so that there wasn't enough time to dive deeper into the characters and thus the character progression wasn't as good as it could've been and some characters like Bean were essentially forgotten about. If you hadn't read the books, you wouldn't have even had any idea that Bean was a huge part of the book. And yes, they could've spent more time in the battle room because it seemed like Ender rose through the ranks super fast.

Overall, though, I was very pleased with Ender's Game. If you are a big fan of the book, I can confidently tell you that the movie does the book justice. If you've never read the book, I believe that this is a sci-fi adventure that you will enjoy, and it may spark an interest for you to check the book out. I will give Ender's Game a solid 8 out of 10.