Monday Movies: About Time and Ender’s Game

Ender's Game adaptation shows flaws, while Love Actually writer-director steals two hours from unsuspecting movie-goers in About Time

Bland, actually

British writer-director Richard Curtis is a romcom specialist who started strongly with Four Weddings and a Funeral and since then has delivered glossy but underwhelming product such as Love Actually and Notting Hill, genre movies notable mostly for their impressive casting (hello, Hugh Grant!). His latest, About Time, is an amiable but distinctly bland feel-good exercise that resorts to the magical device of time travel in order to give the plot what little oomph it has.

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Dredd) stars as Tim, a kind-hearted but timid lad who’s a washout with the ladies. But on his 21st birthday, dear old dad (Bill Nighy) lets him in on a big secret: all the men in their family can travel back in time. This comes in handy when he moves to London and meets sweet and gorgeous Mary (Canada’s sweet and gorgeous Rachel McAdams). Thanks to a few judicious time jumps, Tim is able to rectify a few clumsy moments and also head a brand-new boyfriend of Mary’s off at the pass. True love wins out rather early, though, and Time then hangs rather heavy on our hands because there’s no conflict to overcome and too many scenes that fail to build up the comic energy that Curtis so clearly was striving for.

Domhnall has a slightly dorky charisma, McAdams is radiant, and Nighy is his usual brilliant self (the father-son relationship is really the heart of the movie). But the plotting is flimsy, the script second-rate. Light on laughs, a bit heavy on “life lessons,” and sadly lacking the stammering charm of Hugh Grant, Time succeeds mostly in reminding you that you now have two hours less of it than before you bought your ticket with misplaced expectations of being uplifted by a fun evening at the cinema.

Rating: ★★½

Take to the skies

Based on a teen-focused series of sci-fi books, Ender’s Game has a provocative premise: that uniquely gifted boys (and a few token girls), because of their young and malleable brains, can better absorb complex data and thus be better than adults when waging high-tech war in outer space. Assuming you get past the absurdity of watching the spindly and barely pubescent Ender Wiggin survive the rigours of military training on an orbiting boot camp and eventually be anointed as the supreme commander of Earth’s intergalactic space armada, then Game will offer solid albeit rather familiar entertainment.

The big threat facing Earth is a return attack by “formics,” ant-like monsters from another galaxy that invaded us 50 years ago with hopes of colonizing our planet. It was a battle where many millions died, and the whole focus of Military International is to be better prepared for their second, imminent invasion. The moral dilemma of transforming children and young teens into killing machines is extensively explored in the film, mostly in the arguments between Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford, in grumpy mode) and his staff psychologist (the great Viola Davis). The plot mostly toggles between Ender’s conflicts with some of his fellow trainees and zero-gravity training battles in a giant sphere.

Game is clearly influenced by everything from Star Wars and Starship Troopers to Harry Potter. The plotting is mostly predictable, and the characters, with few exceptions, are just cardboard. Things pick up a bit whenever Ben Kingsley, sporting Maori facial tattoos, chews the scenery as a legendary colonel. And let’s give points to the film’s design and CGI-heavy special effects, which show real flair. The climax of the movie has not one but two surprises, and goes a fair way to making this an intriguing albeit flawed debut of what is most likely going to be the newest Hollywood franchise.

Rating: ★★½

PERFECTLY POTABLE:

Let’s talk Martini. No, keep the gin bottle in the cupboard. I’m referring to Louis Martini, the family-run California winery that produces two different and equally attractive Cabernet Sauvignons. Their Napa-derived Cab sells for $33, while its little brother from Sonoma is more affordably priced at $20. Both wines are nicely balanced, and boast classic flavours of blackcurrant and cassis framed in oak. Given the generally inflated cost of Cal Cabs, these are, at their respective price points, very good value indeed.

MOVIE LISTINGS:

Film OPENING

12 YEARS A SLAVE -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4) Nothing but raves have greeted this harrowing, true-life tale of a free black man in 1840s America who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, and Brad Pitt.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) That hunky son of Odin has to grab his hammer and do some hurting as both the Earth and Asgard are confronted with a terrifying and seemingly unstoppable enemy. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba.

CONTINUING

ENDER’S GAME –(SilverCity/Westshore) Yet another teen book series comes to the big screen, this time featuring a young boy with exceptional powers who is cultivated as a military leader destined to save the Earth from a deadly alien attack. With Harrison Ford.

LAST VEGAS -(SilverCity/Westshore/Empire Uni 4) Four sixty-something pals head to Las Vegas for a last hurrah. The geriatric laughs will be generated by Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline.

FREE BIRDS –(SilverCity/Westshore) Animation goes to the birds in this comedy about a mismatched pair of turkeys who travel back in time to change the course of history . . . by getting a certain very tasty fowl off the holiday menu. With the vocal talents of Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.

DIANA -(Odeon) The very talented Naomi Watts looks convincingly beautiful as the doomed Princess Diana, in a biopic that focuses on the last two years of her life, including her secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.

ABOUT TIME –(Odeon/Empire Uni 4) Writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill) has been getting great reviews for this romantic comedy about a young man who knows how to time travel. When he decides to do something about his nonexistent love life, things become more complicated than he imagined. With the great Bill Nighy, and Rachel McAdams as the heart throb.

★★★★ RUSH –(Caprice) Gifted mainstream director Ron Howard (Apollo 13) delivers high-octane thrills and lots of human drama as he tackles this biopic about the legendary 1970s rivalry between Formula 1 race car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

★★RIDDICK-(Roxy, 8:45) Vin Diesel blasts back into outer space for the latest iteration of this gory and terrifying sci-fi series about a fugitive who once again finds himself battling alien predators and bounty hunters who want his head – literally.

SWEET SUMMER SUN: HYDE PARK LIVE -(Odeon) For those who missed out on the latest mini-tour by the Rolling Stones, check out this one-night-only showing of the documentary based on their recent, extremely well-reviewed performance in Hyde Park as they played their hits for an ecstatic hometown crowd. Mon., Nov. 4 only.

ALL IS LOST -(Odeon) Cinema icon Robert Redford is great in a near-wordless performance as a solo yachtsman whose life is threatened after his sailboat has a devastating collision with a rogue shipping container in the middle of nowhere.

BAD GRANDPA -(SilverCity/Westshore) Head jackass Johnny Knoxville spins off his “crazy grandpa” character into a full-length comedy about an irascible and incorrigible 86-year-old troublemaker who takes an accident- and crime-ridden journey across America with his 8-year-old grandson. Spike Jonze (!) co-wrote the story.

★★★★ BLUE JASMINE -(Roxy, 7:00) Cate Blanchett is headed for an Oscar nomination for her role as an emotionally fragile woman struggling to recover after her life as a glamorous socialite implodes. Complete with a great cast, this is one of Woody Allen’s best films. Ever. NOTE: No shows after Mon., Nov. 11.

THE COUNSELOR -(Caprice) Ridley Scott helmed this pretentious, inert and disappointing crime thriller about a lawyer who learns the (very) hard way that it’s a bad idea to get involved in the illegal drug business. Written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, and Cameron Diaz.

★★★★ CAPTAIN PHILLIPS -(Odeon/SilverCity) Talented director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy) tells the true tale of a ship captain (Tom Hanks) whose boat is captured by Somali pirates. Tense but also thoughtful, a thriller with a brain.

ΗΗ½ CARRIE-(Caprice) Stephen King’s horror classic gets a competent but unnecessary remake at the hands of Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry). Chloe Grace Moretz plays the shy high school outcast, while Julianne Moore is her religiously obsessed mom.

GRAVITY -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a harrowing, brilliantly-executed thriller about two astronauts aboard a space station who survive an accident only to find themselves drifting helplessly through space, with little hope of rescue or survival.

★★★½ PRISONERS -(Caprice) Quebec director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) has been getting great praise for this bleak and violent police procedural about two kidnapped girls and the dad who will do anything to get them back.IMAX FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(1 pm, Mon.-Wed.)HIDDEN UNIVERSE -(3 pm, 6 pm & 11 am, Fri., Mon.-Thurs.)KENYA: ANIMAL KINGDOM -(1 pm)★★★★★ ROLLING STONES: AT THE MAX -(Fri.-Sat. & Thurs., 8 pm)SPACE JUNK -(noon, 4 pm, 7 pm — Fri. & Thurs.; 5 pm, Sat.-Sun.; noon, 4 pm, 8 pm — Mon.-Wed.)TITANS OF THE ICE AGE -(10 am, 2 pm, 5 pm — Fri., Mon.-Thurs. & 11 am, Sat.-Sun.)★★★★ WHALES -(10 am, noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 7 pm — Sat.-Sun. only)

VIC THEATRE

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN -(Fri.-Mon., Nov. 8-11: 7:00) A mismatched but very loving couple have a successful relationship. But when their six-year-old daughter becomes seriously ill, these two very different people will have to learn to fight for her together.

SHORT TERM 12 -(Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 14-16: 7:00) A 20-something who works as a supervisor at a foster-care facility experiences both personal and professional challenges.

NOTE: The Vic is closed Tues.-Wed. for a private event.

CINECENTA

★★★ DON JON -(Fri.-Sat., Nov. 8-9: 3:00, 7:10, 9:00) Talented actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) turned writer-director for this wry comedy about a guy with a porn addiction who is having trouble finding happiness and intimacy with his real-life girlfriend. Beneath the raunch this is a movie with insight, wit and even a bit of heart.

★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Sat.-Sun., Nov. 9-10: 1:00 matinee) Oscar winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) helms this visually gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel’s magical and spiritual novel about a young man’s epic adventures while lost at sea — most of which are shared with a terrifying Bengal tiger.

HAUT CUISINE -(Sun., Nov. 10: 3:30, 7:00, 9:00 & Mon.-Tues., Nov. 11-12 7:00, 9:00) This tasty film is based on the real-life story of the personal chef to former French President Francois Mitterand in the late 1980s. The film is a mix of mouth-watering foodie-film delights and social comedy as an obscure provincial chef suddenly has to confront pretension, bureaucracy, and casual sexism.

CUTIE AND THE BOXER -(Wed.-Thurs., Nov. 13-14: 7:00, 8:45) You don’t have to be an art maven to enjoy this lively documentary that shows the complex 40-year marriage of New York-based Japanese artists Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko. “This is a story about creative desire so strong it hurts.” – indieWIRE

SCREENINGS

MOVIE MONDAY – screens Still Mine, a marvellous – and under-seen  – drama. Themes of aging are powerfully and poignantly explored in this heartfelt true-life story about an 89-year-old New Brunswick farmer who ends up having to fight both a city hall bureaucrat and his wife’s debilitating illness. With fantastic performances by James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.

AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -is screening Trashed, a documentary starring a globe-trotting Jeremy Irons as he assesses and highlights the extent and effect of waste and trash around the world. WEDNESDAY, 7 pm, Edward Milne Community School theatre, 6218 Sooke Road.

IMAX FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(1 pm, Mon.-Wed.)

HIDDEN UNIVERSE -(3 pm, 6 pm & 11 am, Fri., Mon.-Thurs.)

KENYA: ANIMAL KINGDOM -(1 pm)

★★★★★ ROLLING STONES: AT THE MAX -(Fri.-Sat. & Thurs., 8 pm)

SPACE JUNK -(noon, 4 pm, 7 pm — Fri. & Thurs.; 5 pm, Sat.-Sun.; noon, 4 pm, 8 pm — Mon.-Wed.)

TITANS OF THE ICE AGE -(10 am, 2 pm, 5 pm — Fri., Mon.-Thurs. & 11 am, Sat.-Sun.)

★★★★ WHALES -(10 am, noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 7 pm — Sat.-Sun. only)

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