Only Lovers Left Alive

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7.5/10

Dreamy and mesmerizing are the best words used to describe this film starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as two vampires roaming the earth, and the love story between them that follows. The two lead actors play vampires better than anyone i have seen since John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). They hate the existence that they live in, but they make the most of every situation. Swinton is very intelligent as she has read thousands of books, and Hiddleston is a 18th century musician who collects vintage instruments. He also uses the Tesla way of running energy through his house.The love story between the two protagonists is something that feels eternal. Their love has lasted for centuries and it shows. They seem incomplete without each other.
I have to speak of the two best things about this movie because they both play IMPORTANT parts in this film. The first is the score. This is a movie that feels like the music never stops. It is mostly instrumental, but it comes in the form of these dark but beautiful pieces that echo off the walls of every scene. I don’t know if a soundtrack has ever been this perfect for a film in terms of generating the kind of feeling that the actors are going for. The second thing is the setting of Detroit. This is absolutely brilliant. It is in Detroit that these characters can go unnoticed and live in silence.The long shots of downtown Detroit play so well with the mood already set by the soundtrack and the characters. As for the vampires, they aren’t violent and there is something i like about that. The film only shows them attack their prey one time, and i am fine with that. It’s expected in too many films that vampires are violent, so it’s nice to go against the cliche. If i have one problem with this film, it’s the pacing. The slow and uneventful periods are what might take someone out of this film. I think to fix this problem they could’ve cut down about 15 minutes in some random script time. A lot of that cut time would be in the beginning because it does get off to a slow start. In comparison to some of the other vampire film lately, this is a beautiful breath of fresh air. Director Jim Jarmusch has created some great characters with his 2005 hit Broken Flowers, but this film i feel is even better than that one. Only Lovers Left Alive shows him venturing into territory that he hasn’t been used to since his mid 90’s days. It’s nice to see the director still has it with a film that pushes characters first and actions second. I recommend this film for anyone who doesn’t mind a slow build. You have to appreciate this film for the relationship and not so much the kinds of actions you are used to seeing in the Vampire genre. Hiddleston and Swinton carry this film to one of the year’s best so far

Divergent

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6/10

I liked this film a lot more than i thought i was going to. The Dystopian genre is really taking off in Hollywood, but this one stands out more than a couple dystopian films that are coming out this year. Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as Tris, a teenage girl who has to choose her future aspiration in a future world controlled by a brainwashing regime. The film is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and i can safely say that i was entertained for the first 2 hours of it. It’s in the last 15 minutes that the film loses a little bit of it’s steam with a cliche outcome. The ending was weird to me because it almost seems like they went with an ending that could work whether this film gets a sequel or doesn’t do good at all and ends here. Either way, it works. Woodley is excellent in this role. She is young enough to capture a typical 18 year old’s emotions, but she is a good enough actress to channel adult like transformation. She really does transform before our eyes from a weak duckling to a full on fighting machine. Kate Winslet is also outstanding as the lady in charge, Jeanine Matthews. You can tell that Winslet is having a great time as a villain for once. She gets under your skin with smiles and soft speaking. Theo James is a little bland to me as Tobias Eaton, but i think the ladies will love him just fine. They give him the yawning scene of him taking his shirt off showing his tattoo so he and Tris can hook up yada yada yada. He just doesn’t do a good job displaying the emotions of the terrible situation that these people are under. I did enjoy some beautiful scenery which included a capture the flag game at night with the army training. The colors of this dystopian future really work with the wardrobe and emotional symbolism. What i found the most interesting about this film is that it kept me entertained for 2 hours with just building these kids into the soldiers they are born to become. It’s the training and the transformation of Tris that is the best parts of this film. I asked two teenage girls who were sitting 2 rows behind me if the film was a good adaptation, and they said they got just about everything right. They can’t speak for everyone, but that is a good sign for you the readers. Divergent is a film that isn’t as good as Hunger Games (My opinion), but it gives you better character building than that film ever could. I wish a lot of success for this film as i wouldn’t be against seeing the sequels. I just hope they keep out the cliche love dialogue at home. I realize it’s needed because it’s in the books, but i can’t watch those scenes without rolling my eyes. Divergent is recommended to anyone who is into this kind of genre. If you aren’t into books like these, wait till the dollar theater. It’s not essential to see it. Overall verdict – In the middle of the pack for the 33 films i have seen this year.

Under The Skin

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6/10

Truly the oddest film of the year i have seen. It’s got a lot of disturbing scenes in the form of Scarlett Johansson in the form of an alien who comes to earth to learn more about the humans she hunts. I say “hunt” because this alien attracts men while taking on the form of a beautiful woman. She brings them back to her apartment where they are all killed while under the sexual spell of Johansson. The idea itself behind Under the Skin is great but it suffers from a lot of the same sci fi problems that this month’s The Signal did. It has problems explaining itself, and maybe that is meant on purpose. You find out very little about the alien itself and why she is here to study these males. You never find out why these men are disposed of in a way that they are. The reason i kind of feel this is on purpose is because the movie has a couple meanings in the form of symbolism that i took from it. The first is that man is the most dangerous creature walking the earth. He is out for sex and doesn’t care who he hurts to get it. I don’t think a film like this can really be called feminism because the woman is clearly using the tool herself even if it is for death purposes. The second thing i took in the form of symbolism is that beauty is only skin deep. I can tell that the ladder is the thing this film was really going for, but it never fully commits itself in this direction. There is a scene midway through the film in which the alien picks up a man with a disfigured face. She continues to hit on him and shows more emotion in picking him up than she did any of the more physically attractive men. This is personally what i enjoyed most about the film as i felt it was heading in a direction that was more original and rare by today’s standards of good looking men and women in movie. The alien looks like Scarlett for a reason obviously and that is to prove how shallow these animals are. As i said before, it doesn’t fully commit itself to this direction and that is unfortunate. The last 30 minutes of the film are a scramble of a film that didn’t know quite how to end. It almost feels like the ending does nothing to add to the film’s originality because it’s the ending we were expecting in the first place. There are a couple other things i enjoyed about the movie. The movie is mostly a silent film with occasional dialogue being thrown in to get across the wants and obvious needs by her male suitors. It’s so hard for a movie to get across the points of it’s characters when there isn’t a lot coming out of their mouths, but Under the Skin made it work. This is by far Johansson’s best acting credit to date. In just a deer in the headlights stare, she makes the alien (no name given in the film) so pale and emotionless that we always prepare for the worst. We feel like these men are in for a world of pain that only we can see coming, but it never quite gets that horrific. SPOILERS – Some of the men are killed, but it only feels as bad to us because of Johansson’s powerful quiet demeanor. She is never too over the top while playing a character and a genre that she has little to no experience with. The camera shots are absolute beautiful and full of artful color. The fast paced shots of a motorcycle rider who is relative to Johansson’s character are done with the road underneath us speeding through quickly. It feels like we are chasing this man on a bike because of the absolutely brilliant and risky shots given. The location of Scotland is absolutely perfect for this kind of movie because of the foggy mist swallowing the forrest landscapes. It gives the area a sense of doom for the unknown that they don’t see coming. The direction is really hit and miss. The idea of the film is great, but it’s not amazingly executed by director Jonathan Glazer. Upon looking into it, he uses actual real citizens for shots of the alien in the mall and in a restaurant. This is brilliant because the star of the film has to react to the improv going on around her. His direction has pieces of miss because I felt like he had many great ideas, but got lost in some of the symbolism and that kept him from finishing a decent film. If the ending wasn’t so bland for me, i would’ve rated this movie a lot higher. It’s only an hour and 40 minutes, but you will be begging for answers by the end of the film, and it’s those answers that never materialize. I did enjoy Under the Skin, but i cannot for a second recommend this movie to a mainstream audience. Sadly, many people don’t like what they can’t understand in today’s society, so i can’t see this movie getting the world wide praise it kind of deserves. If you are curious for more things besides Scarlett Johansson’s nude body, give it a shot for her acting alone. It’s going to be unlike anything you have ever seen from her, but i think this film should be the cherry on the sundae for a great acting year for Johansson. Overall, the message of Under the Skin may go unnoticed by some, but the disturbing imagery and a mesmerizing performance from Johansson makes Under the Skin a haunting viewing experience

Robocop

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6/10

Is it better to have a conscience when being a police officer, or is a blank slate the best way to go? This question is the focus of the newest Hollywood remake, Robocop. First of all, there isn’t going to be a lot of critique with this review. The Robocop franchise is ridiculous and possibly the furthest thing from realistic. It’s like reviewing The Fast and Furious films for realism. There are a couple of things i didn’t like about this film, but i will get to that later. Joel Kinnaman stars as Alex Murphy, a Detroit police officer who is left with damage to 95% of his body in a set up explosion. A corporate big shot (Michael Keaton) and a scientist (Gary Oldman) come up with an idea to put Murphy back on the streets with a robot suit that controls his actions. Kinnaman is decent as Murphy, but he isn’t given the proper development that Peter Weller had in the 1987 original. Kinnaman is a good enough actor to make us care what happens to Murphy, but it would be better if we learned more about who he is and what his actions are as a cop for arguably the most dangerous city in the country. The filming of Detroit is one of my biggest problems with the film. I understand that 90% of movies aren’t filmed in the cities they are portrayed in, but Detroit is one that is hard to fake. Everyone knows what you are in for when you travel there, so to see it as a beautiful lighted up town is almost comical. The movie was filmed mostly in Vancouver and that is understandable as it is one of the cheaper places to film a movie. Two amazing performances come in the hands of Keaton and Oldman. Keaton’s character change is the biggest one of the movie as we learn what his true priorities are. There is a calm storm to his actions on the exterior, but you know it’s all just waiting to blow. Gary Oldman is the best part of the movie for me. He is such a veteran of film that he can do roles like this in his sleep. The role he plays as Dr. Dennett Norton is written very one dimensional, but Gary puts a caring sense of Dr. Frankenstein in the object he has created. He cares for Murphy’s health, and that gives him more definition than the characters he is surrounded by.Samuel L Jackson cameos as a talk show host who comes close to stealing the spotlight at times. He knows more than the viewers he talks to, but relates to them as he only wants the best for America. The action in this film is top notch. There are a lot of fast pace chase scenes with vibrating camera shots to replicate machine gun fire. The new black suit is really cool, but i hope they revert to the old school silver if they make a sequel. The black is supposed to represent the modernization of the Robocop character itself. Overall, i would definitely recommend this film to Robocop fans and action lovers alike. I think it is only passed by the original Robocop (barely), but it far exceeds parts 2 and 3 by a mile. It’s a fun, action packed extravaganza that takes the best parts of 80’s action and 2014 cinematography and creates a hybrid worthy of the Robocop name. Well done Director Jose Padihla.

Vampire Academy

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3.5/10 – Combine “Clueless” with your typical Vampire genre entry and you will have Vampire Academy. The problem with that comparison is that it doesn’t have the memorable lines of Clueless, or the creativity of a 1960’s vampire film. What you are left with is a hip and sexy look at one of the oldest genres in cinema history. This film to me tries to even cash in on some of what made the Harry Potter franchise a success. It creates a cool school where the kids are vampires and carry magical powers. It just doesn’t work when you are talking about something as dark as vampires. I get what producer Don Murphy was trying to do here. He was taking six books in this genre and picking apart the best parts to grab the teen audience into coming along for a ride the same way Twilight did. I think that is my biggest problem with this film; it lacks originality. Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry star as two vampire teenagers who run away from their high school only to be dragged back after a year on the road. Deutch and Fry are two actresses who i feel could do a lot better in a straight comedy flick. They are too unbelievable to be in this role. They dress sexy, they say the cool lines and they never once seem like they are in danger. I did appreciate the attempt at classifying multiple vampire groups like the Strigori. I wish they would have explored the different families in that respect more and left the teenage lingo out of it. These girls are teenagers and so are their target audience, but it’s just so BORING for anyone outside of that group. The film clocks in at around 100 minutes, and you feel every single minute of it. It’s easy to get lost in the explanation of the families and what powers they possess because the stories carry on and on. There was a nice twist near the end of the movie which i thought was by far the best part of the movie. Other than that, the dialogue is laughable, the CGI is terrible and the fight scenes lack dedication. This film currently holds an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s easy to see why. I call out directors in children’s movies who treat kids like idiots, so i am calling out the same in teenage genres. I can totally get behind those of you enjoying these books. After skimming through their premises, i can clearly say that they sound like a decent read. But the film dumbs everything that you liked about the books and says sometimes books should just be left alone. I recommend this to the Twilight crowd, but no one else. To those people, i would still wait for DVD.

I Frankenstein

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3/10

This movie had the ability to be so much better than it was. Aaron Eckhart’s latest role puts him as the creature himself from the famous legend. First of all, i had no idea Eckhart was actually playing the creature. I was led to believe he was Dr. Frankenstein. It is this casting alone that has a lot to do with what is wrong in I,Frankenstein. From anyone who has read the Frankenstein novels to anyone who has seen the countless number of films, they know what the creature is supposed to represent. He’s a tall, slow and practically brain dead science experiment that returns from the grave. The character that Eckhart plays is the EXACT opposite of those things. He’s quick, intelligent and even a master swordsman. This Frankenstein can do it all, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t get me wrong, i love Aaron Eckhart but the man clearly doesn’t belong in this role. For those of you who say this is a new take on an old tale, you would be wrong. They even talk about the events of the past films/books at the beginning of this movie.This film just picks what it liked about the Frankenstein story and leaves out the rest. Besides this, the film has cheesy CGI and laughable death scenes that haven’t been seen since Van Helsing. Frankenstein is in the middle of a modern day war between gargoyles and demons. When a demon dies, they float to hell on a fire streak. Ya know, because fire represent bad. When a gargoyle dies, they float to heaven on a beautiful blue streak. Because blue equal good guy. I hope i came off sounding like a moron in those last sentences, it was intended. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have good ideas. The story of the creature in the middle of this war had the ability to be a great after story, but because it never feels like Frankenstein we are never fully invested. The scenery is something straight out of an Underworld movie. There is nothing wrong with that, as i always felt Underworld had some beautiful landscapes with great shading. The fighting choreography is also beautiful in sync. They definitely had great intensity with every fight from countless amounts of gargoyle and demon armies. The ending is laughable (Unintended) and takes away from any creative buildup that the movie gains in the first 80 minutes. Coming into this film, i wasn’t expecting much from it. I was a little wrong in that regards. I, Frankenstein is a film that isn’t quite the monster that critics have dismissed it to be. There is a little something there behind the dead eyes of a nonsensical script. With the right casting and a little less overbearing CGI, this film could have been near the top of the list for January releases. I would recommend this film to a very small audience, and that is the people who have seen and loved every Underworld movie. I think you will get a kick out of this movie. If it’s your intention to see I,Frankenstein, wait until the dollar theaters.

Her

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8.5/10

Spike Jonze latest film is his greatest accomplishment to date. Her is a dramatic piece about the depths of loneliness and the things we look to for comfort in an aching wound. I saw the film even a little different from the description that i just typed. I saw it as a piece that warns us about the rise of technological advances, and how the need for human life is slowly getting phased out. Juaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombley, a man who is emotionally scared to open up to the world after the divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara). He buys a new operating system which gives the effect of an actual person in the room with him. What follows becomes the most emotionally invested relationship of Twombley’s life. Phoenix is absolutely breathtaking in this film. It sounds bad when i say this is a one man show, but he is definitely a step above the rest. That doesn’t mean that this amazing ensemble doesn’t do their parts. Led by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde and the voice herself, Scarlett Johansson. These characters give Phoenix all he needs to play through a series of emotions. The film for me was more sad than anything else. When you think about where we are today in our own technological world, it hits a lot closer to home than people might think. Problems quickly arise in the relationship when the voice lacks personal touch, and i think it is done in a manor that the audience will fully invest in. I wouldn’t be doing my job if i didn’t talk about the phenomenal cinematography. This is the most beautifully shot film that i have seen in a long time. The angles and close ups on characters faces that represent what they are going through is a Jonze classic in his arsenal. It works best in a film like this that plays off nothing but emotional depth. The use of light in the outside shots are like the beautiful path that Twombley is walking on his journey out of solitude. The dialogue does get a little cheesy at times, but the premise itself is kind of cheesy when you think about it. It honestly didn’t bother me as much as it might some other people. The only thing that worries me about a film like this is that it might be too artsy and slow at times for people to enjoy. I think the real lovers of film will truly enjoy this film because it’s everything that is great about Hollywood. Sometimes you only need a great actor like Phoenix to hit with such a powerful piece of cinema gold. The people who are expecting huge things to happen in this film will be set up for disappointment. The big things are there, but they come in the form of character growth. The original cut of this film was 150 minutes, and i would certainly be interested in checking out some of that deleted footage. In the end, this film shows us that the line between human interaction is being cut thinner with time. But if we are willing to accept help from the most unlikely sources, maybe we too can change for the better

Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones

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3/10

What can you say about this film that hasn’t already been said about the previous four Paranormal Activity films? Every time i write a review for one of these, i feel like i am just copying and pasting myself over and over again. The Marked Ones is the 5th film in the franchise. In this film, a boy named Jessie has graduated high school, but finds himself going through some frightening changes before his 18th birthday. After the death of his neighbor, he finds out some eerie things about his past. Lets get the good things out of the way. There are some better characters in this film compared to the other four films. That doesn’t mean 1. They make smart choices or 2. that you care about their survival. These films after all are the cheapest and most satisfying way to make a movie. They cost about 2 million dollars to make, but always see at least 20x the payback because they know cheap horror fans will see them. I also felt the ending had a decent concept but a terribly flawed execution. I won’t spoil much more about this film except that their is time travel. What is going on lately with horror films and time travel? After 2013’s Insidious Part 2 did a similar concept, i guess i can now look forward to Jason traveling back to 1974 to kill the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Wait, that actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea (wink wink). Anyway, The Marked Ones has all of the favorites that are included in these cheap movies; terrible acting, awful dialogue and the worst decisions made throughout this whole series. The film does connect decently with the past films, but it’s not enough to make me care. I am someone who actually did enjoy the first Paranormal Activity, but ever since it’s been a cheap knockoff of that one with small tweaks for originality. I wish horror movies would get back to the old days when a scene was built and built for a big payoff,not just jump scares. Don’t buy a ticket to Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones. Lets show the studio that they have to quit making a cheap effort to satisfy smarter fans. In closing, if you liked the other Paranormal Activities, you will enjoy this one. Everyone else? You aren’t missing anything

47 Ronin

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7.5/10

I cannot understand why this film is sitting at a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Simply put, 47 Ronin is a perfect film for someone who enjoys the fantasy genre. It’s a samurai dream composed of 2 hours of excellent fighting scenes and a great story to make you care about the characters. Keanu Reeves stars as a samurai who is cast out of his family when he illegally competes in a tournament. Keanu was dealt the right hand for a film like this. I think he is really good because (And i’m not trying to sound mean here) he doesn’t talk a lot. They keep his character very mute and let him show his actions with the sword. Keanu is someone who can show deep emotion without ever saying a word, so why do so many films ruin him with too much dialogue? In addition to what i listed, the fight scenes are excellent in this film. Some of the animation of the monsters can get a little cartoonish for me, but this film is well choreographed from beginning to end. It knows where it’s going and it knows how to get there. The only other problem i had with the film was the 3D. I don’t feel this is a film that is needed with the 3D experience. There are a couple cool tricks with a dragon’s tail coming at your face, or a ball and chain being thrown in your direction, but nothing to write home about. 47 Ronin tells a true story about a group of men who paid the ultimate sacrifice by standing by a leader that they always chose to fight for. It’s a tale of honor and sacrifice, and that is why i recommend the film. Fantasy genre fans will love it.

The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

 

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8/10

Coming from someone who is not a big fan of this series, i thoroughly enjoyed this film. This film has made walk away with the greatest feeling after seeing it, and that is for a few reasons. The first is that i was on the edge of my seat for this movie. The dragon Smaug is a great villain that adds even more because he can talk. The scene with the gold coins and his awakening scared me to death. There was just something about seeing his huge eye pop out that made my heart pump. The cinematography in these films is second to none. While i didn’t like the first Hobbit film, i can say that it was the most beautiful picture of the year. This one follows that trend, but it does it in a way to match the desolate mood of the Lake Town. This film’s views are seen more as dark and (hate to use this word again) desolate. The high frame rate is something pretty cool to read about with this film. The fact that they shot each frame at 48 frames per second is impressive, and it shows. I also really enjoyed the introduction of Bard the Bowman and felt Luke Evans was a perfect choice to play him. For those who don’t know, Luke has been cast in The Crow reboot, so i am curious to see what he can bring to Eric Draven. Some of the things i haven’t liked about other films are still there in this film, and i am sure i will get ambushed by fans of the series for it. Ultimately though, what kind of critic would i be if i didn’t put all of my cards on the table? These films are just way too long. I get that it is an epic story you are trying to tell with lots of characters, but maybe there in lies the problem; too many characters. I think the same story can be told without a couple of their back stories being learned. I also have never been a fan of Legolas. The guy is just too immortal for me to relate to. I mean seriously, could he get a cut or a scrape just once? Why do they even need an army if this guy can kill ten people in ten seconds? Just send Legolas to take care of any trouble in the town. I did enjoy the way the film ends as it sets up for There and Back Again quite well. I recommend this film to fans of the series for sure. As for non fans, it’s a hard prediction to make. I am not a fan and i loved it for the things i mentioned above. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire

 

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8.5/10

My favorite book of the trilogy is adapted in this sequel that is every bit better than the first adaptation. First off, there are some things that are left out from the book in this film. If you go into every film not wanting anything to change, then you might as well stick to the books. This film got roughly 90% of the book correct. Some of the adaptations are surrounded by beautiful scenery and awesome acted dialogue that puts the first film to shame. The biggest thing i loved about this film as opposed to the first one is the fact that the characters are much better in this one. The characters are given time to shine in their roles. My favorite character in the books has always been Finnick, and Sam Claflin plays him perfectly. The character isn’t too overdone with his charismatic charms that he comes off as feminine, but he carries enough charm to make the character lovable. Jena Malone also turns in an incredible performance as Johanna. She really adds her own attitude to an already rebel character. Phillip Seymour Hoffman kicked so much ass as Plutarch that i could never see anyone else in the role. It’s as simple as that. Peeta and Gale don’t get too much time to shine in this film and i hope their roles will be more important in the 3rd/4th film since they are a huge part of the Mockingjay novel. The film’s 2 hour and 26 minute run time didn’t even feel like it as the time breezed by. With the final novel being adapted into two films, i am curious to see how well they keep with the pacing. Especially since the first of those films comes out in less than a year. I hope they aren’t rushed too quickly. Overall, this film is great and definitely deserves a theater viewing. If you liked the first film, you will love this one. If you hated the first film, you won’t find much charm in this one

Ender’s Game

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6/10

I have a lot to say about this film, but i’m not sure where to begin. First of all, i am not reviewing the novel of Ender’s Game. I have never read the book and i will not even try to debate my knowledge on that subject. The film is an easily forgettable one. Is it a good film? Yes, but to anyone who hasn’t read the book or know a decent amount about the story, you will be lost at times. When i saw big names like Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley, i imagined that this film was going to turn in some incredible performances. But the trio of award winning actors are kind of left to waste with short dialogue that doesn’t give us any time to know their characters. Ford is the best by far in the fact that he is hiding more than we are led to believe throughout the film. For the first 90 minutes, i thought this film was all about practice and training, which would have put my review at around a 4 or 5. But this film redeems itself a little in the final ten minutes which pulls the wool from our eyes and turns around everything we were led to believe in the film up to this point. The action and set pieces in the film are beautiful. There is no debating that if you are to see this film, it must be at the theaters. I also enjoyed the work of Asa Butterfield as the story’s main character. His voice is a little pre-teen screaming when he gets excited, but i think he is great to play the role of a kid who knows he has a revolution that he is responsible for. In the end, Ender’s Game gives us a look at a possible sequel and i do think there will be enough fans to support that wish. To me, Ender’s Game is recommended, but it’s nothing incredible. The script seems rushed with so many of the events that are portrayed, but overall it’s not a bad little film. I would put this one somewhere in the middle of all the films i have reviewed this year.