30 Dec 2013

Enders Game

Director:       Gavin Hood.
Screen Play: Gavin Hood (based on the novel by Orson Scot Card.)
Starring:       Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld,                                     Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis and Abigail Breslin.

Sorry this is a bit late, my PC has been having conniptions.

I think that Science Fiction films are having a good run at the moment, which will hopefully mean more and more hit the big screen.  Ender's Game  is the adaptation of a good book, by a bad author. That is my personal opinion and for this post I am just going to focus on the film.


Earth came under attack by an alien race and millions died. But at the eleventh hour the alien threat was defeated and Earth was saved. Ever since, Earth has been preparing for the next attack.

The world has united under a single government and military against a common enemy, and they are recruiting children to train up to be the best soldiers in a war which could spell the extinction of the human race.  Ender is one such recruit. Both his older brother and sister have failed the training program; Peter, his brother failed for being too aggressive, and Valentine for being too compassionate. Ender is desperate to succeed where his siblings have failed.  Ender has a gift; he can observe and understand his enemy, their strengths and weaknesses, and in doing so he can defeat them. This gift is of great interest to the military, but Ender first has to balance his more aggressive nature and his compassion.

Ensue child soldier antics.

Asa Btterfield ( Hugo) is very good as the brilliant but conflicted Ender. Unlike the book this Ender is a slightly more identifiable character. Ben Kingsly as the half Maori Rackham was also good, but his performance was let down by his South African/Australian/ UK accent masquerading as what can only be intended as a New Zealand accent.  It was very distracting  for me, maybe the rest of the world will not notice, but I suspect Kiwis will disconnect from the film. Come on Ben we expect better, say it with me; fush und chups, and repeat.
Gud'day maate

At 71 Harrison Ford gives a superb performance as Colonel Graff, and while the younger cast are good in their respective roles, Ford's scenes as the tunnel visioned Graff versus Viola Davis's conscientious Major Anderson were the stand out performances.

Ender's Game  has some of the best visuals since 2001: A Space Odyssey. The image of the training station orbiting the earth is spectacular, and one that sits in my mind. The wonderful cinematography, matched by fantastic music by Steve Jablonsky, could have made this into a real space opera.

Unfortunately the film suffers from a lack of exposition and a rushed story. Like all film adaptations the writers and directs have to balance being true to the original story, with practically transferring that story to two hours on the big screen. They run the risk of departing from the original material so much that too much is lost to be enjoyed ( I am Legend) or far too much (The Hobbit). Ender's Game really needed about 30 seconds of exposition to clarify the world we entered. Why was the fact that Ender was a third child so important for example? Also the training of Ender appeared to be too quick, while we don't need to see fifteen minutes of battle room training, maybe the montage could have been extended by another thirty seconds to really show the passage of time.

The ending also seemed forced and weird. But I don't really want to discuss that too much. Fans of the book may be dismayed by the slash and burn of story from the book, but of course the book covers a long period of time (around six years from memory) and the minor political story lines would only detract from Ender's own story.  It is not a bad film, it looks and sounds great, and has some very good acting. But there is so much lacking in the film's execution, you will probably walk out feeling that that it was wanting in some way.

Six monkeys from me.

16 Dec 2013


"The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise."

02 August 1932 - 14 December 2013

Best known for playing T. E. Lawrence in David Leans Lawrence of Arabia Peter O'Toole was a sensitive and talented actor of the very old school. Nominated for eight Academy awards, the only one he won was in 2003, and that was an honorary award for his contribution to cinematic history. O'Toole he did however win a plethora of other awards through out his career. I remember him not only in Lawrence, but in  Stardust, Zulu Dawn, Man of La Mancha and The Lion in Winter.  He was a contemporary of Katherine Hepburn, and fellow irishman Richard Harris and a damn fine actor'

 2012 For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada
Father Christopher
 2012 Highway to Hell (Video)
Narrator (voice)
 2010 Eager to Die
Lord Pelican
 2009 Iron Road (TV Mini-Series)
 2008 Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage
 2008 My Talks with Dean Spanley
Fisk Senior
 2008 The Tudors (TV Series)
Pope Paul III
 2007 Stardust
 2007 Ratatouille
Anton Ego (voice)
 2006 One Night with the King
Samuel, the Prophet
 2006/I Venus
 2005 Lassie
The Duke
 2005 Casanova (TV Mini-Series)
Older Casanova
 2004 Troy
 2003 Imperium: Augustus (TV Movie)
Augustus Caesar
 2003 Hitler: The Rise of Evil (TV Movie)
President Paul von Hindenburg
 2003 Bright Young Things
Colonel Blount
 2002 The Final Curtain
JJ Curtis
 2002 Rock My World
Lord Foxley
 2002 The Education of Max Bickford (TV Series)
- One More Time (2002) ... Sidney McKnight
 1999 Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (TV Movie)
Jeffrey Bernard
 1999 Joan of Arc (TV Movie)
Bishop Cauchon
 1999 Molokai
William Williamson
 1999 The Manor
Mr. Ravenscroft
 1998 Coming Home (TV Movie)
Colonel Edgar Carey-Lewis
 1998 Phantoms
Dr. Timothy Flyte
 1997 FairyTale: A True Story
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
 1996 Gulliver's Travels (TV Movie)
Emperor of Lilliput
 1995 Heavy Weather (TV Movie)
Clarence, Earl of Emsworth
 1994 Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III (TV Mini-Series)
Sam Trump
 1993 The Seventh Coin
Emil Saber
 1992 Civvies (TV Series)
Barry Newman
Lord Sarn
 1991 Isabelle Eberhardt
Maj. Lyautey
 1991 King Ralph
Sir Cedric Charles Willingham
 1990 The Nutcracker Prince
Pantaloon (voice)
 1990 The Rainbow Thief
Prince Meleagre
 1990 The Pied Piper (TV Movie)
John Sidney Howard
 1990 Wings of Fame
Cesar Valentin
 1989 Up to Date
Prof. Yan McShoul
 1989 The Dark Angel (TV Mini-Series)
Uncle Silas Ruthyn
 1988 High Spirits
Peter Plunkett
 1987 The Last Emperor
Reginald 'R. J.' Johnston
 1986 Club Paradise
Governor Anthony Cloyden Hayes
 1986 The Ray Bradbury Theatre (TV Series)
- Banshee (1986) ...
 John Hampton
 1985 Creator
Dr. Harry Wolper
 1984 Supergirl
 1984 Kim (TV Movie)
 1983 Pygmalion (TV Movie)
Professor Henry Higgins
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse (TV Movie)
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Svengali (TV Movie)
Anton Bosnyak
 1982 Man and Superman (TV Movie)
Jack Tanner
 1982 My Favourite Year
Alan Swann
 1981 The Antagonists (TV Mini-Series)
General Cornelius Flavius Silva
 1980 The Stunt Man
Eli Cross
 1980 Strumpet City (TV Series)
Jim Larkin
 1979 Zulu Dawn
Lord Chelmsford
 1978 Power Play
Colonel Zeller
 1977 Rogue Male (TV Movie)
Sir Robert Hunter
 1976 The Far Side of Paradise
 1975 Man Friday
Robinson Crusoe
 1975 Rosebud
Larry Martin
 1972 Man of La Mancha
Don Quixote de La Mancha / Miguel de Cervantes / Alonso Quijana
 1972 The Ruling Class
Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney - 14th Earl of Gurney
 1972 Under Milk Wood
Captain Tom Cat
 1971 Murphy's War
 1970 Country Dance
Sir Charles Ferguson
 1969 Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Arthur Chipping
 1968 Great Catherine
Capt. Charles Edstaston
 1968 The Lion in Winter
Henry II
 1967 Casino Royale
Scottish Piper (uncredited)
 1967 ITV Play of the Week (TV Series)
Garry Essendine
- Present Laughter (1967) ... Garry Essendine
 1967 The Night of the Generals
General Tanz
 1966 The Bible: In the Beginning...
The Three Angels
 1966 How to Steal a Million
Simon Dermott
 1965 The Sandpiper (voice, uncredited)
 1965 What's New Pussycat
Michael James (as Peter O'toole)
 1965 Lord Jim
Lord Jim
 1964 Becket
His king / king henry ii
 1962 Lawrence of Arabia
T.E. Lawrence
 1959-1961 Rendezvous (TV Series)
 1960 The Day They Robbed the Bank of England
Capt. Monty Fitch
 1960 The Savage Innocents
First Trooper
 1960 Kidnapped
Robin MacGregor
 1959 The Long and the Short and the Tall (TV Movie)
877 Privale Bamforth, C.
 1958 The Castiglioni Brothers (TV Movie)
 1956 The Scarlet Pimpernel (TV Series)

1 Dec 2013

The Hunger Games Catching fire

Note wee spoilers follow

For the fans of the Hunger Games series the second film has finally been released.  Catching Fire continues on from The Hungers Games with Peeta and Katnis now living the high life as victors. The high life apparently consists of living in a house with running water and a roof in the isolated victors village.

But success has brought Katniss new problems. Even though her family is safe and she is free to be with Gale, she still struggles to let herself open up to Gale. This is further complicated by the public perception that she is with Peeta, and the PTSD that she suffers from.

But victory isn't just electricity and  access to regular food, as the victors of the 74th Hunger Games they must conduct a tour of the Districts under the close eye of President Snow and the Capital.

Unbeknownst to Katniss her performance in the last games has triggered something in the districts. The discontent of the poor has risen to boiling point and various districts are rioting.  The people have found a symbol to rally behind, and it that is the defiance and compassion that Katniss demonstrated during the games. For President Snow the 74th games were not a exhibition of power and oppression, but of hope.

But as a victor Katniss has fame and a certain security which makes it difficult for Snow to eliminate her.  However, a new game maker and the 75th Hunger games gives him the opportunity. This year the reaping will be from the existing pool of victors.,which means Katnissas, the only female victor in district 12, must return to the games.

Ensue more death!

Francis Lawrence replaces Gary Ross as the director. You might know Francis Lawrence from I am Legend and  Constantine, but despite those films Catching Fire doesn't suck. He has given the film a newer flashier look, for example the peace keepers are different and more Haloesque, and less of the classic science fiction feel that the  Hunger games  had which I missed.
However the new look works though as the story spends less time in the ghettos of District 12 and more in the Capital. The film needs that flash to create the decadence of the Capital.

The performances are still very good, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have a plausible awkward on screen chemistry, although poor Josh gets regulated to almost a damsel in distress figure.  Lawrence is a more sympathetic and considerate character than the Katniss of the books, which makes her more enjoyable to watch. I thought the scenes depicting her suffering with PTSD were particually well done. 

The confusion and tension between Liam Hemsworth and Lawrence as the other side of the love triangle continues at a believable pace. Hemsworth as Gale trying to connect with Katniss, but with Gale's concerns over Peeta, and their contradictory views on the future of Panem, they find their romance stuttering. It certainly seems more real than most love stories aimed at teenage girls.

But the real stars of Catching Fire for me were Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
I particually liked Elizabeth Banks as the vacuous Effie, whose dedication to the Capital and the games is starts to unravel once Peeta and Katnis are called to fight again. Effie is still a ridiculous figure, but Banks gives her more depth than you expect.

Sam Claflin as Finnick and Lynn Cohen as Mags as the tributes from District 4 were also favorites of mine. 

The elderly Mags was Finnick's mentor when he was in the games, and the bond the two have  as adopted mother and son is probably the best on screen chemistry in the movie.

I was worried that the violence would be too much for the 12 year old that I watched with, but it turned out to be fine. She loved it and now has 12 months to anticipate the final in the series.

Catching Fire is well made, with a good pace and story it was over too soon, which for a 146 minute film is a great sign. . As a sequel it carries the franchise on without trying to be the first. I think I enjoyed this more than the first film, but now that I have read the books that may have made the difference.

If you are a fan you won't be disapointed, and unlike most film adaptaiton of books this is not only very close to the original stories, but in someways a lot better.

 7.5 from me.