Movie Revue: Ender's Game, Last Vegas, Bad Grandpa, Free Birds

Movie Revue: Ender's Game, Last Vegas, Bad Grandpa, Free Birds

Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.


ENDER'S GAME.  This long-awaited adaptation of the sci-fi novel by Orson Scott Card tries but fails to kickstart a new franchise, like The Golden Compass and countless others before it.  Having never read the book, I can't vouch for the source material, but the movie is a giant bore, and the story grows more ridiculous as it goes along.  I never bought the concept of kids leading the nation into war, while battling real aliens like they would digitized ones on a Nintendo Wii.  Screenwriter and Director Gavin Hood has some money to play with, and some of the effects work isn't bad, but for a supposed "visual spectacle," Ender's Game lacks one memorable shot or cool sequence.  Hugo's Asa Butterfield isn't as compelling in his awkward teenage years, and the adult actors (Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley) just phone in their performances.  I love sci-fi as much as anyone, but I actively disliked nearly everything in this movie.  ** out of 5 stars.


LAST VEGAS.  The main draw of this Grumpy Old Hangover flick is its Oscar-winning cast.  There is a certain joy in seeing DeNiro, Kline, Freeman, and Douglas play off each other.  Even when the script (by Dan Fogelberg of Crazy Stupid Love (yay!) and The Guilt Trip (nay!)) drowns in cliches and maudlin dramatic moments that are never earned, the easygoing charm of the cast manages to rise above the dreck and make Last Vegas somewhat entertaining in spite of its many flaws.   At times it plays like a commercial for the Aria hotel, but there are worse ways to spend two hours than seeing Morgan Freeman act drunk and get his groove on.  At least he's having fun.  **1/2 out of 5 stars.


JACKASS PRESENTS BAD GRANDPA.  Look, you probably already know whether you're the target audience for this Borat-style comedy starring Johnny Knoxville under layers of fairly convincing old-age makeup.  I've enjoyed the idiotic pleasures of the Jackass films over the past decade, and Bad Grandpa continues to do the franchise proud.  There are a solid handful of laugh-out-loud moments, and, for once, many of them aren't already spoiled by the trailer.  It's rude and stupid, but also somewhat daring and innovative.  There is a playful, anarchic streak that runs throughout the movie, and, if you can get on its wavelength, there is plenty here to tickle your funny bone.  *** out of 5 stars.


FREE BIRDS.  Hard to believe it's taken until now for studios to release a Thanksgiving-themed animated film around the holidays.  Can't say it was worth the wait.  Casting Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson as the voices of two turkeys who time travel to the first Thanksgiving strikes me as a bit uninspired.  The script is packed full of lame gags ("now that's what I call some 'angry' birds"), and the time travel element seems out-of-place and, no surprise, undercooked.  The kids will probably like it enough, there are several scenes with cute little baby turkeys after all, but there's not much for adults to appreciate.  The animation is no better than most direct-to-DVD flicks.  Wait for Disney's Frozen, which comes out Nov. 27.  ** out of 5 stars.

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