Critics Consensus: Ender's Game is Thoughtful and Well-Acted

Plus, Free Birds never takes flight, and Last Vegas is genial but predictable.

by | Thursday, Oct. 31 2013

This week at the movies, we've got a space-warfare strategist (Ender's Game, starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford), time-travelling turkeys (Free Birds, with voice performances by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson), and a document leaker (Last Vegas, starring Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro). What do the critics have to say?

Ender's Game

60%

Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is often a dicey proposition. That said, critics feel that Ender's Game does a pretty good job of bringing its source material to cinematic life, with strong performances and a thoughtful tone that helps to make up for occasional stretches of solemnity and dullness. Earth is under siege from alien invaders, and the fate of humanity rests on the shoulders of Ender (Asa Butterfield), a bullied teenager whose precocious gifts are cultivated in order to devise a strategy to defeat the enemy. The pundits say Ender's Game isn't always emotionally rousing, but it's still a smart, visually exciting sci-fi film that should (mostly) please fans of Orson Scott Card's book. (Watch our video interviews with Ford, Butterfield, Viola Davis, and Hailee Steinfeld.)

Free Birds

18%

The idea of an animated action comedy starring turkeys is pretty funny in theory. Unfortunately, critics say that in practice, Free Birds is thin stuff; with its slack pace and less-than-inspired story, this is one turkey toon that never takes flight. Pampered Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) and activist Jake (Woody Harrelson) team up to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving in order to kill the annual tradition of eating turkeys before it starts. The pundits say little kids might enjoy Free Birds, but their parents are likely to find the animation underwhelming and the jokes a bit flat.

Last Vegas

47%

A lot of people go to Vegas in search of a wild, unpredictable good time. Unfortunately, critics say Last Vegas plays things way too safe; while the combined talents of Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Mary Steenburgen keep things amiably watchable, the film never ventures outside its comfort zone. Douglas plays a longtime bachelor who's finally tying the knot, so he meets up with a group of longtime buddies in Sin City to celebrate; revelry and reflection ensue. The pundits say the cast of Last Vegas makes for good company, but there are few surprises to be found on this trip. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we count down Kline's best-reviewed movies).

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • These Birds Walk, a documentary about a home for Pakistani street children, is at 100 percent.
  • The Pervert's Guide To Ideology, a documentary in which philosopher Slavoj Zizek riffs on the subtexts undergirding a vast array of popular movies, is at 94 percent.
  • Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in a drama about a man seeking treatment for HIV in the early days of the epidemic, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent.
  • Casting By, a doc about the world of Hollywood casting directors, is at 90 percent.
  • Belgian import The Broken Circle Breakdown, a drama that follows the highs and lows in the relationship between two bluegrass musicians, is at 83 percent.
  • Aftermath, a drama about two brothers who suffer repercussions from their community after digging into the town's past, is at 75 percent.
  • In the Name Of..., a drama about a young priest who struggles with matters of the flesh while running a halfway house for troubled teens, is at 71 percent.
  • Man of Tai Chi, directed by and starring Keanu Reeves in a martial arts film about a young fighter who competes in an underground fight club, is at 71 percent.
  • Mr. Nobody, starring Jared Leto and Diane Kruger in a sci-fi drama about the repercussions of a child choosing which parent to live with, is at 71 percent.
  • About Time, starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams in a romantic comedy about a guy whose relationship with a beautiful woman is constantly stymied by time-travel problems, is at 65 percent.
  • Running From Crazy, a documentary about Mariel Hemingway and her attempts to come to terms wither famous family's history, is at 44 percent.
  • Last Love, starring Michael Caine in a dramedy about the relationship between a lonely professor and a plucky young dancer, is at 40 percent
  • Big Sur, starring Kate Bosworth and Josh Lucas in an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's novel, is at 38 percent.
  • Diana, starring Naomi Watts in a biopic of the Princess of Wales, is at nine percent.

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