Review: Ender's Game - No, It's Not Monopoly

There’s certainly a fair amount of derivative content in Ender’s Game. Star Wars, The Hunger Games and a big scoop of Starship Troopers were thrown in to tell the story of one young boy, Ender Wiggin, as he is enrolled by Harrison Ford into the space military to fight giant bugs in space, with lasers. That said, it’s important to keep in mind it was a novel dating back to the 1980s (as some people actively point out, due to the author Orson Scott Card’s infamous anti-gay opinions), so while the visuals and action may look familiar, the plot and thematic elements are indeed original, and definitely have a larger impact.

It’s undeniable that Ender’s Game looks terrific. The special effects, along with the set design and cinematography, are top notch, effectively creating the bright vivid environments one may encounter whilst shooting lasers at things in space. There’s plenty of action to be had, from huge fleet battles to enclosed zero gravity shoot-em-ups, it’s a shame that these only really vary from average and ordinary to sometimes mediocre and underwhelming. It’s not til the end that we are fully impressed by a sprawling battle simulation, and that brings up something else altogether.
The soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky proves to be effective in heightening the very emotional moments of the movie, especially as the credits roll. It may give less of an impact when the same uplifting rift plays over all the ‘character building’ moments, which there are many, but overall it makes some easy listening.
The first half seems a little bit rushed. With a running time of just short of two hours, it feels pleasantly brisk, but for the sections where Ender is enrolled in ‘Battle School’, it plays out very formulaically and devoid of any interesting hooks to keep you involved. It’s only once we leave the enclosed and high-school-esque environment of the floating space school is it that we tread on some properly sturdy ground. 
The most impressive parts of the film are the themes. About halfway through, the movie turns suddenly quite thematically sinister, and by the end you’re left more than a bit perturbed and depressed at the, although not shocking plot-wise, very dark third act you actually have. Always renowned for its striking political significance, it was initially seen as difficult to translate the book into a blockbuster and (essentially) a kids movie. For the most part, this comes across effectively, after the film has finished the rather heavy-handed messages about leadership may vanish quite quickly (along with the complexity of the mind connection gobbledegook that served only as a distracting confusion) but the more poignant aspects like sacrifice and defense remain like a bitter aftertaste. Like Prisoners, the depression gained from watching only benefits the strength of the movie.
Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) gives a strong performance as Ender Wiggin, and is probably the best out of the child actors, with Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) presenting a fair but mostly wasted character serving as Ender’s “love interest”. She just doesn't do enough to be anything but filler, same going for Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Ender’s sister, giving such jarringly contradicting advice that I was sometimes confused about what she was actually doing. Some of the other child actors are mediocre at times, which was quite distracting. To add to this they serve up bland and explanatory dialogue more than once, leaving only a dastardly cruel performance from Moises Arias (The Kings of Summer, Hannah Montana: The Movie – I couldn't find anything else okay?) to save these sequences.
It’s the adult actors that pull it out of the bag. Harrison Ford has never been this grouchy and growly since … well since the last movie he did, but it’s still undeniably entertaining. Viola Davis (The Help) does a great job of being the only one in the whole movie concerned about the psychological repercussions about sending under 15 year olds into a huge war in space and told to kill as much as they can. But it’s Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Shutter Island) who gleefully and unashamedly chews the scenery, his face lauded with intricate tattoos and his voice in some odd mix between South Africa and New Zealand. Like the early Harry Potter films, regardless of the shaky child acting, we’ll always be able to count on people like Alan Rickman hamming it up for our pleasure.
Despite its shortcomings and expected acting flaws, Ender’s Game remains to be a visual treat and a surprisingly dark and melancholic blockbuster. You’ll be more concerned with the political and social issues it brings up than its momentarily glaring flaws. If all else fails, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley growl and garble respectively at each other for a scene or two. That’s pretty funny.

I give Ender's Game 3.5 out of 5 stars
So what'd you think of Ender's Game? Do you think this could be the next major book-based franchise?

First Trailer For Captain America: The Winter Soldier Hits Along With New Poster And Stills

As is practically routine now with Marvel movies, every time one of their films nears it's release (In this case Thor: Dark World in just two weeks) we can expect the trailer for their next film to hit the web and it's marketing campaign to head into full swing. So it's no surprise that Marvel's kicking things into gear as far as the anticipation for next Spring's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the film's first poster, trailer, and official stills all making their way online. While the films plot has been relatively under wraps for quite some time now, we can now get a good idea of what to expect from the Russo brother's adaption of the famed Ed Brubaker comic book arc 'The Winter Soldier'.

Below is the official trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
As the sequel to Joe Johnson's 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, many fans (Including myself) have been very curious to see how director Joe and Anthony Russo (Community) would be handling the first outing for Captain America in the present day, and it seems that the duo is definitely going for a fresh approach to the original Winter Soldier story arc. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s influence in the film will obviously be very heavy, as was expected due to the many agents that would be featured such as Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Cobie Smulder's Maria Hill, Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson/Falcon, and Robert Redford as new comer Alexander Pierce. 
While details of Redford's character still remain shrouded in mystery, many fans have hypothesized that Redford's Alexander Pierce character may in fact be a cover for the character Aleksander Lukin of the original Winter Soldier story arc, who was a soviet general that was in control of Winter Soldier throughout the story's run. This possible twist may lead to a viable explanation in regards to the rumors that there would be much corruption in the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization in the film, which would explain the shots of Nick Fury in the hospital during the trailer, and earlier set photos of Samuel L. Jackson as Fury being shot by what looked like his own S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
While everything right now is purely speculation in regards to the story, don't be surprised if somewhere in the film Rogers and Romanoff (And possible Sam Wilson) are forced to stop working for the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization and must retaliate against them and their new leader Alexander Pierce. But hey, I could be wrong here, just doesn't hurt to make predictions, and these plot points surely reflect the Russo brother's description of the film as a "political thriller" where Cap questions his allegiances.
But of course back to what the trailer does indeed reveal to us, we now get our first look at Captain America in action in his all new costume, which in my opinion is a major improvement over the costume he wore in The Avengers, and closely resembles the original suit in The First Avenger (Which has been one of my favorite Marvel costumes). We also get our first look at The Falcon in flight, and the design seems to be much more simple and reminiscent of the Ultimate comics version of the character, which had been expected judging from the earlier concept art that had surfaced online. Similarly the Winter Soldier himself also got some great action sequences in the film, and his costume was nearly identical to the concept art, including the character's famed robotic arm and the new addition of an air respirator mask to help conceal the character identity. The film's action sequences are definitely looking top notch, and it's nice to see the Russo brothers sticking to some very nicely choreographed hand-to-hand combat that we haven't been seeing to frequently in many of Marvel's recent films. 

Here's the full version of the first poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Click to enlarge
And here are the first two official stills from the film, one featuring a scene between Fury and Rogers, the other depicting the final shot of Rogers after the elevator action sequence. Have a look below:
So what do you think of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer? Are you excited to see Cap back on the big screen?

Jurassic World Casts Ty Simpkins; Josh Brolin and Nick Robinson Both Up For Lead Roles

If you've been a fan of the Jurassic Park franchise for as long as I've been, then you might have noticed a reoccurring pattern throughout the films of the series. Jurassic Park; a film about the adventures of a paleontologist, his paleontologist gal, and two kids going up against the prehistoric monsters we loved seeing on the big screen for the first time. Jurassic Park: The Lost World; a lot like the first film, but this time with one kid, a Tyrannosaurus, and its kid wrecking havoc throughout San Diego. Jurassic Park 3; yet another kid in the mix, good old Dr. Alan Grant is back, so it's all good, or so we though. Well now we're getting our first cast announcement for Jurassic World and it it seems they'll be keeping into the trend of keeping around young characters, as we have twelve year old Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3, Insidious) officially joining Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) in the film, as well as Nick Robinson (Kings of Summer) up to play his brother, and Josh Brolin (Oldboy) eyeing a key lead role. 

Deadline has reported the Simpkins' has joined the cast of Jurassic World, making him the second official cast member alongside Bryce Dallas Howard. Simpkins' is well known for his portrayal of Dalton in James Wan's Insidious films, as well as most recently in a supporting role in Iron Man 3 as a young boy who befriends Tony Stark in Tennessee. The Hollywood Reporter has also brought news that Nick Robinson is also in talks for a role in the film, which will be the older brother of Simpkins' character. Nick Robinson is well known for his role on ABC Family's Melissa and Joey, but recently has risen to fame thanks to his lead role in this year's indie film Kings of the Summer, in which his performance was highly praised by critics.
But what does the addition of young Ty and Nick equal; yet another sibling duo. One problem we will consistently see with brother duos in film or just siblings in general is the whole 'one sibling being in control while the other is defiant, but push come to shove they love each other' cliché. Can Jurassic World work its way around these problems? They possibly can, but director Colin Trevorrow needs to round out a large and talented adult cast to bring good balance to film's different sets of characters, similar to how the original Jurassic Park handled the situation back in the day.
With young actors being added to the cast, it seems as though we will likely have regions of the movie that will be less aggressive than they would have been if the actors were slightly older. But on the topic of older actors, fans shouldn't be too alarmed by the recent younger cast additions as according to Deadline, Josh Brolin (Oldboy) is reportedly circling a lead role in the film. It's likely he'll be playing the role of a new paleontologist and have some sort of relation with Bryce Dallas Howard's character. Hell, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume he'll be playing the father of Simkins' and Robertson's brother duo, but that might be pushing it. None the less he'd be a strong cast addition, and with his schedule relatively clear now that he wasn't chosen as Zack Snyder's Bruce Wayne in Superman Vs. Batman, we should be getting official confirmation of his casting some time soon.
But on a bit more of a sour note, to the disappointment of many fans rumor has it that this Jurassic World may not be featuring any of the original's characters and actors, including fan favorites Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum. While we can hope we'll be surprised by a few cameos from the original characters somewhere in the film, it will surely hurt the film if none of them are around for the adventure in Jurassic World. Out of all the child stars in the past Jurassic Park, I'd always thought the most promising was actor Joseph Mazzello (The Social Network), and I would've loved to see him return in some form now that his character is much older. He could have offered the "returning" aspect of Jurassic Park to Jurassic World, and then opened up the playing field to other young actors and new characters.
There have been countless other rumored candidates for roles in Jurassic World, and the most recent name to be rumored for a part is Jake Johnson (New Girl). Deadline has reported that Johnson is "in the mix" for a part in the film, but while there's been no official word on whether the rumor is true or not, it isn't unlikely considering the fact that Johnson has previously worked with Colin Trevorrow on his directional debut Safety Not Guaranteed. Other actors whose names have been thrown around are David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), who were rumored for parts back when Bryce Dallas Howard's name first came up before the film was delayed to 2015. While there's no word on whether either actor is in talks for a part in the film, Oyelowo has since been rumored to be up for a role in Star Wars: Episode VII, and Hedlund has been cast in Angelina Jolie's next film Unbroken, so both may have their schedules full at this point.
So what do you think of Simpkins, Brolin, and Robinson joining Jurassic World? Who else would you like to see in the film?

Saoirse Ronan and Michael B. Jordan Confirm They've Auditioned For Star Wars: Episode VII

It's safe to say that J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII is one of the hottest projects for actors in Hollywood right now, so it should come as no surprise that just about every big name rising star has been rumored for the project.  Well now two of these rumored actors-specifically Hanna and The Host star Saoirse Ronan and Chronicle and Fruitvale Station's Michael B. Jordan-have officially confirmed that they've auditioned for parts in the film. But just what roles are the two up for, and what other actors have spoken up about their involvement with the film? Find out after jump.

Ronan's audition isn't much of a shocker, as she was one of the first names to be rumored for the project back when rumors emerged that Abrams' was looking for a young female lead (Must likely the daughter of one of Luke Skywalker or Han and Leia). Ronan also mentioned  that her auditioned involved her using a lightsaber, which all but confirms that there's likely a young female jedi character in the film. Ronan had the following to say when asked about the audition:

“Yeah, I did [audition for Star Wars Episode VII]… I don’t know whether I should have said that now! I mean, everyone did. Everyone has auditioned for it. So many people I know have gone in for the part I’ve gone in for, and guys who’ve gone in for a particular part, so I’d imagine J.J. is probably just scanning the earth to find the people that he needs.”

“But nobody has a clue what it’s about, and nobody’s read the script. So I’ve gone in and read for it, but I have to say, I think it’s the only time I’ve ever thought, ‘You know what? Even if I don’t get it, I had so much fun auditioning, pretending to take out a lightsaber – out of a bag, kind of inspect it and not know what it is. That was… that was great. A lightsaber! Star Wars!”

There's been numerous other female actresses around Ronan's age that been rumored to have read for a part including Ksenia Solo and Rachel Hurd-Wood, so it could be assumed that they're all up for the same role. While neither Solo nor Hurd-Wood have spoken out about whether they auditioned or not, Carrie and Kick-Ass 2 star Chloe Grace Moretz who was rumored to be up for a part has since denied her involvement via Twitter. So unless she's able to secure an audition in the coming months, there's one name you can cross off of the many people attached to the project.
Jordan's involvement comes as a bit more of a surprise,  and although the widely acclaimed young star was bound to be a name Abrams and Disney would be eyeing, the actor's upcoming schedule seems pretty crowded. Just a few months ago it was announced he'd be re-teaming with his Fruitvale director for the lead in a Rocky spin-off film based off Apollo Creed's son pursuing a boxing career. He's been rumored for the role of Johnny Storm/Human Torch in Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot as well as the son of Will Smith's character in Roland Emmerich's sequel to Independence Day. None the less, Jordan has come up front and confirmed he's auditioned for Episode VII.  The actor had the following to say on the possibility of landing a part in the upcoming film:

“I mean, everybody’s going in on this project. They’re trying to figure out what they want. That’s another incredible franchise. It’s pretty crazy! …We’ll see how it happens. I don’t know how I can do everything.”

As for what role Jordan is up for, it's open to speculation at this point but popular guesses have been making to rounds that he could be playing a relative of a past Star Wars character most like that of Lando Calrissian's son, possibly even the grandson of Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu of the prequel trilogy, or of course an entirely new character. Back when Latino-Review had broke news of Jordan's audition, they also mentioned that actor David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) also was up for a part in the film. While Oyelowo has yet to confirm if he hasn't or hasn't gone in for a part, his name has since been rumored for the voice cast of the upcoming cartoon series Star Wars Rebels, so I might've just been some confusion on just what Star Wars project he was attached to.
While numerous names have been thrown around for the project with no confirmation on the legitimacy of these rumors, the most prominent name going around has been that of Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness). While rumors of the actors involvement have gained traction since Abrams' has already worked with him, it had seemed the rumors were nothing more than speculation since Abrams' had denied Cumberbatch's involvement. Yet this week on an interview for the Graham Norton Show; which coincidentally featured Harrison Ford as well, when asked if they were set to star in the film both actors played coy rising suspicions that they are in fact going to be in the film. See for yourselves in the interview below: 

There's still been no official confirmation on whether the original cast will be returning, although George Lucas himself has all but confirmed it. Yet, while Ford me just be joking around when station "He hasn't quite made the choice" this could be a sign that the actor is still hesitant to sign on for the project. It's must likely that Ford evaded any real Star Wars confirmation due to the fact that it'd sort of over shadow the real reason he was on the show; to promote his new film Ender's Game. We'll probably be hearing confirmation from Disney and Abrams soon as just who will be returning from the original cast for Episode VII. And in our final tidbit of Star Wars news, there's currently to rumored working titles circulating which are Return of the Sith and Rise of the Jedi, which could be added to the list of already rumored titles which includes A New Dawn. There's sure to be many other possible names thrown around before Abrams settles on an official one, so far now it's all strictly speculation.
So what do you think of Michael B. Jordan and Saoirse Ronan possibly being in Star Wars: Episode VII? Do you think Ford and Cumberbatch are actually in the movie?