Ender’s Game

October 30, 2013

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The long-awaited adaptation of the much beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game by the much reviled author Orson Scott Card has finally arrived, and though it strikes me as odd that anyone would be particularly interested in seeing this book brought to the screen (maybe a mini-series on TV, perhaps, but as a film, it never made much sense) it has been.  Years of development hell for the various attempts to do so have led us to an era of Young Adult adaptation mania, spurred on by the monstrous successes of Harry Potter and Twilight and, as a result, The Hunger Games.  As a result, we have a bland franchise hopeful written and directed by Gavin Hood.  These sorts of things don’t really rely on a strong authorial identity behind the camera – arguably, they’re antithetical to the business purposes of the pursuit – and so the adaptation runs straight down the middle all the way through, and unsurprisingly leaves us with a quick-paced, nuance-less YA film that mostly serves to highlight why it shouldn’t have been adapted in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gravity

October 9, 2013

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The seven year wait for Alfonso Cuaron to follow up what is, for my money, one of the greatest movies of the 21st Century, Children of Men, has been fraught with rumour and false starts and delays, but it has finally come to an end with Gravity, a science-fiction thriller that is short, fleet, and about the most stunning purely cinematic experience of the year.  Cuaron’s career has bounced from children’s films, both small-scale (A Little Princess) and as big as they get (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I have never felt to be great but which certainly saved the franchise from shiny, cash-in ignominy), to adult character dramas (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and of course, dystopian sci-fi parables (Children of Men).  His visual chops have never really been in doubt, and though he’s become one of the most technically innovative directors working today, it’s not easy to tell quite what film you’re going to get from him.  In this case, we have a survival story that is extremely simple in story and concept, and incredibly complex in execution.  It is, in essence, the most basic form of Hollywood you can conceive, in the best way possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Prisoners

October 4, 2013

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Much has been made of the death of mid-budget adult dramas and thrillers in the movie marketplace, and not without a great deal of truth.  Box office and, consequently, studio budgets (or is it the other way around?) are sinking more and more money into tentpole affairs looking to do huge dollars, and the modestly sized films that might appeal to an older audience are shut out.  The reasons of this are many and certainly debatable, but either way, it should be quite refreshing for a well reviewed (and festival hit) independent feature to top the box office.  There are few, if any, special effects and so little bombast in Dennis Villenueve’s Prisoners that it’s so-far moderate success (in the admittedly barren September/October period) might seem laudable on its own.  Of course I’m ignoring the success of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but there’s something slightly different about Serious And Significant Films About History/Race that is just plain different from a thriller.  The problem is that Prisoners is, while cinematic in duration and even somewhat in ambition, it isn’t terribly successful. Read the rest of this entry »