Ender's Game (2013)

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Earth gets attacked by some sort of alien species, bringing the human race to the brink of extinction before one brave hero sacrifices his life, takes down the mothership and saves the planet. In the years that follow, Earth’s leaders vow never to suffer such an attack again, keeping their interstellar military in a constant state of readiness. The difference is they decide children should be in command. They’re more intuitive than the adults, they say.

And it is based on this premise that we find ourselves in Ender’s Game, following a young boy named Ender as he very quickly ascends through the ranks to command the entire Earth army. Aside from the use of children, this is fairly standard sci-fi battle fare, but I also found that much of the story felt incredibly superficial. We’re hit with certain tales of morality and hardship, but the narrative never lingers long enough to really explore any of these at depth. Instead, we rip through one scene to the next with no real sense for the passage of time. It’s almost like we are receiving a Coles Notes summary, rather than the full story.

We never fully empathize with the title character and we’re offered very little explanation for much of anything. The movie feels flat, lacking the depth needed to engage the audience. Some of the visuals are impressive, particularly the 3D projections of the interstellar battlefield, but it is really only in the final 20 minutes that we finally see anything of substance. Game over.

Gravity (2013)

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Maybe I was spoiled by Gravity before heading into the theater to watch Ender’s Game. It is absolutely true that Gravity has a very minimalist plot that really only involves a couple of characters, but this is the kind of movie that’s far less about narrative and far more about mood, tension and eye candy.

Sandra Bullock plays astronaut Ryan Stone on her first trip into space. They’re out there repairing, maintaining and installing some space equipment when everything goes wrong. Space debris starts flying at them at unfathomable speed, destroying instruments and separating our brave explorers from their ships and stations. We really start to realize just how quiet it is in space and just how alone you really can be. As the audience, we’re pulled to the edge of our seats with a constant sense of “look out behind you” as Bullock’s character narrowly evades death again and again.

Gravity is very much a visual movie, so if you’re a big fan of space like Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’ll want to catch this on the big screen and in 3D. It’s worth the premium.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

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When we last saw inventor Flint Lockwood, he created a machine that turns water into food. It was miraculous, but came with all sorts of disastrous problems. This time around, the people of the town are told to evacuate as they clean up the mess, but a new problem has sprung up. The machine that they thought they destroyed is still around and now it’s producing food-animal hybrids. Flint, along with his friends, return to their home to investigate.

As a children’s movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is filled with a lot of fun sight gags, but it’s also very heavy-handed with the puns. You’ve got the Tacodile Supreme, a hippotatomus, and a fruit cockateil, as well as some flamangoes and shrimpanzees. They even joke when there’s a “leek” in the boat. If you’re not a fan of puns, you’re going to hate this movie. If you like this cheesy brand of comedy, then this colorful adventure isn’t the worst way to waste 95 minutes of your life. Orange you glad you read this review?