Friday, November 29, 2013

One Piece

So November is wrapping up, and thanks to the busyness of this week, I got nothing else really to report on.  Luckily I've had this post hanging around on the backburner for awhile now, just in case we hit a dry spot.  Once December rolls around we're going to get deluged by the typical crop of serious Oscar-contenders, transparent Oscar-bait, and blockbusters, because the blockbuster season never ends.  But for now, let's talk about a humble anime.  One that has been on the air for nearly fifteen years, and has no sign of ending.  And the only cartoon on Toonami that lately I've even bothered to watch*.

"One Piece" by Eiichiro Oda is typically considered part of the "Big Three" of major shonen anime amongst Western fans, along with "Bleach" and "Naruto".  In Japan, however, there is really no competition.  The Soul Reapers and the Ninjas might make their money with their fandoms, but they're definitely both hiding within the shadow of the Pirate Juggernaut.  And its really obvious why "One Piece" would be better:  its more fun.  "One Piece" is bright, its fun, its happy, it isn't a bottle of angst and brutal combat.  Its a wacky pirate adventure involving a core crew of seven characters (though later nine) fighting their way across the ocean on a fantastic quest to become the greatest buccaneers of all time.  Shonen anime can be consistent, fun, and lean without relying upon ridiculous never-ending arcs, bloated casts, and idiotic plot twists?  The hell you say!

The lifeblood of "One Piece" is not high drama and huge wrestling-style brawls against increasingly absurdly powerful foes, its about high adventure on the high seas.  The Straw Hat Pirate crew of the Going Merry under their childish captain Monkey D. Luffy travel island to island across a colorful ocean full of danger and excitement, but still a bright universe of cartoon-y fun.  Though technically pirates, most of their job appears to be actually defeating more villainous and grotesque marauders who threaten the peaceful lives of villager and citizens of this exotic ocean universe.  The ultimate goal is to reach the treasure cache of the late King of the Pirates, the 'One Piece", the capture of which will turn them into the greatest pirates of all time, and make Luffy the next Pirate King.  "One Piece" is massive in scope - any story that's lasted this long could not hope but collect a huge cast of characters - but still solidly focused on its primary crew, the next island along the fabled 'Grand Line', a belt of riches that is the domain of only the toughest pirates in the sea, and the next bizarre villain who they must defeat.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of the Doctor

I feel like such a moron sometimes when I have to preface reviews with a warning of "spoilers".  I guess its essential consumer advise:  don't read this blog post until you've actually seen the television special, but it also feels so paralyzing.  When a major literary critic goes to discuss John Steinbeck, he doesn't preface his essay with "lol, spoilers".  Hell, even if you read the preface to a novel written a decade after the fact, it will spoiler the ever living time-traveling shit out of whatever that book is.  You can't make good, really intelligent points without giving away the real meat of the product, which unfortunately is exactly what a spoiler is trying to hide.  So if you're wondering "should I watch this Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special"?  The answer is "yes", and you should have seen it a whole day ago.  Now we're going deeper than that shallow thumbs-up, thumbs-down paradigm.

My immediate emotional reaction following "The Day of the Doctor" is best described as cautious pessimism.  The ultimate conclusion of this special is to completely recreate the paradigm and probably the overriding mood of the modern "Doctor Who" universe, shockingly retconning a huge portion of the Doctor's history.  This is actually doing the very thing that makes me hate time travel stories so much:  when all of history can be rewritten, you can just remove or change pesky points in a character's backstory, and suddenly nothing that happens has any permanence or meaning.  "Doctor Who" for the most part has been smart enough to avoid doing that thanks to all kinds of deeper rules about how you cannot interfere with your past, how there are certain points in history that cannot be changed, and even going so far as to call somebody who would rebuild history, no matter what the motive, to be committing terrible sins of hubris*.  Well, guess what?  The Doctor does all of those things at once, breaking every rule of logic and good narrative sense.

That I am not sitting here in tears shows the strength of show-runner Steven Moffat's writing and tone in "The Day of the Doctor".  It is a very good episode of this show, surprisingly grounded for much of its running time despite being a massive anniversary in the series history featuring three Doctors at once.  Basically the main foe of this episode is an alien race that could have been in any episode, featuring a small-scale adventure who is not exactly defeated but peacefully dealt with thanks to the Doctor's superpowered cleverness.  Russell T. Davies would have shot for the grandest most operatic of adventures in massive scale, but Moffat's strength is generally keeping the adventures small, even in anticlimaxes.  The new John Hurt Doctor is no cackling supervillain, he's just another Doctor with his own moments of goofy Doctor charm.  It could even be called an anti-climax, but only if you're judging emotional and narrative strength in that uniquely American scale:  by how big and expensive the explosions are.  What we have here is David Tennant and Matt Smith dancing together in a hilarious fashion, working off the emotional terror brought back by John Hurt's secret Doctor, and solving a universal crisis in grand optimistic style, its nothing an audience cannot love.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games has now become what "Percy Jackson", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice",  "I Am Number Four", "The Golden Compass", "The Mortal Instruments", "Beautiful Creatures", and "Ender's Game" all failed to become:  a massively successful young-adult blockbuster franchise.  The first "Hunger Games" was a very successful movie from the last year, managing to really break out and make a unique place for itself in the ruthless competitive market to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight.  This is mostly thanks to coming from a legitimately popular book series - how many people have read the "Number 4" books? - having very competent direction, a hot new actress in Jennifer Lawrence, and managing to be a family-friendly version of "Battle Royale".  So if you want to build a great new film franchise and make buckets of money, just do that:  get the right idea, get the right actress, and hit the world at exactly the right time.  Easy.

The first "Hunger Games" is a movie I recall not enjoying, but still feel some respect towards.  In the year and a half since, I can't say its memory has particularly been sour:  it was a movie with faults, but was sincere.  Sincerity is really half the battle with any movie, and its definitely what separates "The Hunger Games" from soulless failures like "The Golden Compass".  I know producers think they can just patch together a few ideas and Frankenstein them together to make a winning movie, but they must know:  audiences can tell when a movie is being made by people who just don't care.  A character's motivations should be the accomplishment of their goals, not the paycheck of their actors - you don't think we couldn't see the dollar signs in Robert Pattinson's eyes when he pretended to be in love with Kristin Stewart?  And I don't mean in the movie, his acting was worse in real life.

Speaking of sham romances manufactured by the producers to create false fantasies in the eyes of fans, there's this movie.  Jennifer Lawrence's Catnip Everclear has returned - though in "The Hunger Games 2" one character calls her "catnap" a few times, which is too close to my nickname.  So from now on she will be called "Claptrap Jellybean". Claptrap Jellybean must again suffer through the savage reality show called 'the Hunger Games', battling for her survival in order to entertain the foppish 1% of this dystopian universe* and remind the Depression-era districts to get back to their slave-labor jobs and stop doing that annoying three-fingered salute of defiance.  So the stakes are higher, the tension is growing, and basically "Hunger Games 2" expands its universe and plotline while thankfully correcting the worst mistakes of the original.  Well, most of the mistakes, there's still that blackhole of a romance subplot.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Lone Ranger

What in the name of Jay Silverheels' dusty rotting corpse balls was that?

"The Lone Ranger" is probably the ultimate proof that Hollywood studio executives are terrible at their jobs.  They're supposed to be the hard-nosed, hard-drinking, long-smoking cynics who can put away all passion, all love, and all pretensions of art to finally get to real meat and bone of what the movie industry is about:  making money.  Why else do you think we're up to "Transformers 4" when apparently every person in the industry - including Michael Bay - hates the fuck out of that franchise?  Cash up the wazoo.  How does Adam Sandler manage to look at himself in the mirror these days?  By counting the billions in his back account and wondering how much more he needs before he can fill an Olympic swimming pool pull of currency.  But even judging a movie in the worst possible way - how many tickets it sold - "The Lone Ranger" is a complete disaster.

And you don't need to really be Houdini to realize "The Lone Ranger" was going to flop, and flop hard.  Its based off an intellectual property that has not been culturally relevant since the Eisenhower Administration.  Even Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski are too young to have actually seen "The Lone Ranger" on TV when it aired, let alone its origins in radio serials.  Anybody could ask around the major demographics and realize that the public conception of "The Lone Ranger" is filled with cobwebs and the stink of old-timey Native American racist stereotypes.  Hollywood needs to understand that you can base new franchises off of old intellectual properties, but there are intellectual properties that people are excited to see again:  like Star Wars or G.I. Joe, and there are franchises so ancient and forgotten nobodies cares anymore.  Yeah, you could make a movie about "Buck Rogers" or "Commando Cody", but do you really think anyone would go see them?   ANYBODY could have told Walt Disney that "The Lone Ranger" was going to tank, it doesn't take a wizard.  Not people who get paid millions of dollars to know better.

What's so sad is that ultimately "The Lone Ranger" doesn't feel like a tragically ignored passion project from a serious director who really wanted to bring one of his favorite stories and characters to the big screen, like last year's under-looked "John Carter".  It feels like a movie that nobody wanted to make, a basic recreation of tropes and setpieces that worked before, really without much care.  Everything about this is basically a remake of "Pirate of the Caribbean" just set in the Wild West, bringing along with all the unnecessary bullshit that series acquired over the years.  They made this movie because it meant Johnny Depp could wear a funny hat and play a silly over-the-top character - again.  But don't think this is going to be a fun, family-friendly romp through classic adventuring.  Its a sloppy bloated mess, moving at a snail's pace through two and a half hours of mindless parroting of action tropes done so much better in movies made a decade ago.  If you love Westerns, don't see "The Lone Ranger".  If you love The Lone Ranger as a character, don't see "The Lone Ranger".  Even if you just love movies, go for a walk instead.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What I've Been Reading (Fall 2013)

The Blue-mobile is currently in the shop, so that means I'm house-bound, for the most part.  I think I might be able to wrap my laptop with a hobo pack on the end of stick, pop out my thumb, and fair the dangers of the Garden State Parkway, that wretched hive of thieves and villains, to go see "About Time".  Or I could instead sit down and enjoy an old friend of mine.  I think you've heard of him.  His name is READING!!!  You may think that even though I spend most of intellectual power writhing over the performances in a Marvel superhero movie that I may be entirely illiterate.  But in fact, I read a lot.

Just last night I read no less than three books!  It was a time paradoxitive record of grammar-digesting brilliance.  And not little Goosebumps nonsense books, bit old fat novels full of texts.  These things had so many words they will spilling on the floor and on my good pants.  Which reminds me:  any of you ladies or gentlemen got a mop?  My house is completely cluttered with words, some quite long and very hard to scrub out.

So what I have here are three shorter reviews of the three books I read, none of them altogether connected in any way.  I considering writing out singular reviews for all three, but I decided that I didn't want to get as deep and involved as my film work.  I've read so many good books in just the years I've done this blog, and there's so much to talk about, I could spend a month just detailing the material I have, which is always expanding.  So from now on, I'll make a post like this:  "What I've Been Reading".  It will pull back and give a shorter but hopefully still extensive overview of the products, and hopefully you'll realize, like I have, how much genius are inside these tomes.  (Be careful though, because the genius gets on your pants sometimes, and that doesn't wash out.)  Really though, I don't want to write a post for every book I read like I do for movies and video games.  It would be too exhausting, and mediocre books are so much more tragic, considering the time and energy you have to invest in order to experience them.  I want to just review the best of the best, so you Space Monkeys can see what you're missing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

"Kingdom Hearts 3D: Goofy Subtitle" is now the fourth portable side-game released by Square Enix theoretically to expand the universe and set the stage for the next full title in the Kingdom Hearts saga.  By coming to the 3DS, this phase of spin-offs, side-stories, prequels, and less important adventures has now landed on no less than three whole gaming platforms, meaning that a poorly equipped fan of this series is going to have to pay an extremely high price for their entertainment.  Usually I'm more punctual with my Kingdom Hearts reviews and don't spend a year and change ignoring them, but I only finally purchased a 3DS* last month.  I definitely could have reviewed "Kingdom Hearts 3D" back in the summer of 2012, but it would have been a fascinating post-modern patchwork of educated guesses, dancing metaphors, and ludicrous poetry.  So thoroughly useless if you wanted to know how good of a game "Kingdom Hearts 3D" is.

It seems to me to almost be a sick joke on Tetsuya Nomura's part to name a game "Kingdom Hearts 3......D", considering the now eight-year wait we players have endured for the third true installment in the Kingdom Hearts saga.  You hear those words "Kingdom Hearts III" and suddenly your heart leaps - we've passed the handheld needless complications and weird experiments and we're finally back on track - then the rest of the title creeps in:  "...D: Dream Drop Distance".  There you go, three meaningless words alliteratively strewn together to piece together a desperate pun.  I guess as titles go we cannot go deeper into the pretentious rabbit hole of crap as "358 divided by 2 Days" but "Dream Drip Dissidia" is definitely a good run for its money.

Since "Dream Derivative Dissonance" is now the sixth or seventh Kingdom Hearts game I've played, one cannot help but feel the deep scourge of "haven't we done this all before?"  These games have made their innovations here and there in the esoteric battle systems, but the combat engine for "Kingdom Hearts I", "Kingdom Hearts II", "358/2 Days", "Birth by Sleep", "Re:Coded", and now this are all the same.  The only game that feels especially different is the 2D "Chain of Memories", which thanks to an ill-conceived and barely playable 3D remake, can also play exactly the same as every other Kingdom Hearts game.  "Dirty Dog Dirigible" offers a few additions like a Pokemon-esque support team and the opportunity to play in parallel storylines with Sora and Riku.  It also has the best graphics of any handheld Kingdom Hearts game yet.  But ultimately, it all plays like a measurably worse version of "Birth by Sleep", with a rougher camera, a smaller game, and unnecessary crap getting in the way of the game.  You can never really go too far wrong with a Kingdom Hearts game (unless you play Re:Coded") but "Dancing Dark Dolly" is about as bad and mediocre as this series gets.

Time for Some RealTalk

I'm steadily getting the uncomfortable impression that I might be talking only to myself around here.  I've always joked to real world friends and family that nobody reads this blog, but frankly in the last few months it feels like my humility is jinxing itself into reality.  Its been four years since I started this blog, and during that time its become an essentially hobby in my daily life.  I can't watch a movie in theaters anymore without pondering how to best word my upcoming post, and I constantly looking for new subjects to write about.  This is just a part of who I am, if I were to drop this hobby, my life would become considerably more empty and dull.  I have no idea what I could possibly replace this part of my life with.  But lately... I don't know, it seems so much more empty around here.

Steadily there have been fewer and fewer comments on my posts, perhaps making me wonder, am I doing something wrong?  Have I strayed somehow away from the formula that made this blog - an extremely small - but measurable community?  There were old faces of well-known users who used to comment all the time, now most of them have disappeared.  I get maybe ten comments per month, when back in 2010 and 2011 I felt like I got that may per post.  I know "Escape Plan" isn't exactly a movie that is setting the world on fire and creating an army of rabid fangirls rioting through our streets, but neither was "Sanctum", and damn, I got much more of a response for that back in the day.  I have to wonder:  what happened?  I try to improve my writing and this blog's presentation all the time, but yet everything I do differently seems to have more and more people running away.  Is there a smell around here I am unaware of?

Where'd ya all go?  Do you want cookies?  We have cookies.  Do you want a review of "Kingdom Hearts 3D"?  Because that's coming tomorrow - with cookies.  Do you want poop jokes?  Then the cookies are getting an extra special ingredient just for you.

So if I still have sentient readers (not that I dislike the adbots, you are valued citizens of Planet Blue too) please give any good advice that you may or may not have to get Planet Blue back on track.  Or if you have no good advice, give bad advice.  Anything would help at this point.  Because nothing in the world - not even "Man of Steel" - is more depressing than the words "0 comments" at the end of a post.  I'd like to see that go away.

EDIT:  Jesus, eight comments in just as many hours, that's really touching.  That means seriously a lot, you know.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor 2

The story I'm often told about Marvel superheroes is that they manage to walk the line so well between real human problems and fun crimefighting.  Spiderman is a lonely nerd living paycheck to paycheck while also beating up Doctor Octopus.  Iron Man is an arrogant showboating alcoholic but also beats up... whoever his villains are.  And the X-Men are all closeted homosexuals.  So where exactly does Thor fit in?  He's a fabulously handsome, indestructible cosmic prince whose main problem in life seems to be that his girlfriend lives on another planet and long-distance relationships are hard.  Why am I trying to bring humanization to a character that is literally a GOD?  Thor has earned nothing for his powers, they over no cost, he has no psychology that pushes him forward to fight evil, he's just a guy with a lightning bolt.  He is probably the blandest and most thoroughly uninteresting character in the Marvel cinematic universe - other than his girlfriend, a small piece of wood with a picture of Natalie Portman nailed to the front.  I don't really know how Thor acts in the comics, and I'm guessing somewhere there are several decades worth of fascinating stories involving the guy, but that's not what we have on screen.

Loki is a star, Loki is a masterpiece.  He's a shapeshifting schemer who is always nine steps ahead of his enemies.  You never really know what angle he's playing, which adds to the overall excitement.  That he's charming, witting, just a wonderfully-dickish troll just makes him all the more fun to watch.  Yeah, maybe he tried to wipe out the human race one or two times and that is pretty awful.  But when Earth is fill with such people at the Natalie Portman 2x4 and her disgustingly annoying comic relief friends, you wonder if maybe we deserve destruction.  In fact, screw the "Thor" business, this movie is now called "Loki 2".  Forget the Marvel Universe, I have a new title to offer:  "The Tony Stark and Loki Liesmith Show + Friends".

As for the movie, its really uneven.  The mood seems to be closer towards pulp high fantasy that the Marvel Universe is moving towards, its closer to Flash Gordon than a superhero movie.  Though occasionally the special effects and scenery screams Star Wars Prequel to me.  Loki and Thor working off each other are really the movie's soul, but they don't spend enough time together.  Some characters work, most don't.  The plot is very choppy, its got a very slow beginning, and very briefly picks up speed, but never takes off.  You got your action fix, you got your colors, you got your cheap laughs, and that's it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Explaining the New Recommendation Scale

Yesterday I instituted a new addition to the blog:  infoboxes.  Since everybody I've personally asked and the one comment I received have been positive, I'm going to say that they were a smart addition to the blog and will remain until finally I lose interest in writing or readership becomes so scarce I simply become too depressed with my utter failure to continue.  I've only gotten a chance to use them on movie reviews, but they're also going to appear in video game reviews as well.  On that infobox is the informative stuff of director, rating, release date, etc. but it also includes in the final row a new feature:  Recommendation.

Previously I've avoided using any kind of scoring system for my reviews for the simple reason that scoring systems are bullshit.  Opinions, positive or negative, should never be qualified into abstract numbers or stars or letter grades.  What exactly does it mean that say, "Pokemon X" has received a B, but another game receives a B+?  Some critics even push this further creating an entire mathematical formula of categories and values which somehow add up to a final whole.  So you could end up with a situation where say, "Metroid Other M" is a better game than "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories", because it has better graphics, tighter controls, and better level design, thus adding up to a higher score.  However, anybody who would seriously express that opinion would be met by me with a Japanese sword slash to the face.

I like my current system because it goes straight to the point.  It isn't stars, numbers, points, or grading, its plain old consumer advise.  Here's a movie or game or book, what should you, the consumer, do with your purchasing power?  It almost doesn't need any further explanation, but I've quite characteristically over-thought the system, so I feel like I need to explain it just a little bit further.  So I'm going to lay out the entire scale before you after the "read more" break, then explain in too many words exactly what it means and why I'd give that recommendation.  Finally, in case there is any remaining confusion, I will give some examples of movies I reviewed in 2013 for each Recommendation which were released before I made the scale up.  That way you can finally discover if I wanted you to see "Carrie Remake" or not, in case my text wasn't entirely clear.  (Hint:  don't see "Carrie Remake").

The Counselor

"The Counselor" has not had a very warm reception amongst critics.  Its current Rotten Tomatoes score is about 38%, which means it actually has a slightly worse score than "Only God Forgives", Nicolas Winding Refn's disastrously awful follow-up to "Drive".  Considering that 2013 has been the setting of a mass grave for potential adult crime thrillers, seeing the bitter failures of "Gangster Squad", "Dead Man Down", "Stand-Up Guys", "The Place Beyond the Pines", and most atrociously, "Pain and Gain", it looked to me like "The Counselor" was about to join that unhappy host.  Yeah, it had a great trailer, but the trailers for "Dead Man Down" and "Only God Forgives" were works of art - absolutely meaningless when compared to their horrible full products.  So I went into the theater well-braced to add another film to my list of Worst Movies of 2013*.  Instead I came out with a movie to add to that other list I make at the end of the year.

Yes, "The Counselor" is good.  Really good.  Really really good.  Really really really really really really really good.  You will do yourself a great disservice if you decide not to go see it, by listening to the critics.  That being said, it isn't going to please everybody.  "The Counselor" comes from a screenplay by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy, best known for writing "No Country for Old Men".  McCarthy is not a writer who makes pleasant worlds for the whole family to enjoy, and he usually doesn't leave you with a nice warm feeling at the pit of your tummy.  He's a brutalist, constructing novels full of humanity's very worst behavior, reveling in the stark pointlessness of our species.  "The Counselor" is straight out of that mold:  it doesn't end well, the characters do not come out of this adventure as better people, and most of them do not survive at all.  They're all trapped within a faceless, monstrous machinery of violence at the American-Mexican border that moves forward the illegal drug industry.

Last week I reviewed "Machete Kills", which took the very same location and transformed into pulp swashbuckling for its protagonist.  That was candycorn, absolute nonsense.  "The Counselor" may still be somewhat of a stylized picture of the drug industry, but it is definitely moving into a far more interesting and profound artistic statement.  The movie begins with a very deliberate slow movement (though not slow-paced) of scenes and pieces getting laid outward, its not really clear what the plot is until roughly halfway through.  But once those pieces are finally put together, you can see the noose hanging around every person's neck.  Specifically its a steel-wire mechanical noose, fed by a grinding electric motor that will never ever stop tightening.  There is nothing you can do.  Nobody can help you.  This machine will keep tightening until the noose is fully closed.  Until its sawed through your flesh and left your blood spraying on the ground for all to see.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender's Game

(This blog is now something like four years old, so I'm trying something new, at least for a little while:  infoboxes!  Please give feedback as to how this looks.)

"Ender's Game" could have been worse.  As an adaptation of a classic SciFi novel written by Orson Scott Card*, this movie could have been an absolute train wreck.  Just imagine if they had tried to pull in the trends of modern teen fantasy movies, turning Battle School into a Space Hogwarts, or added a romantic plot line, or just casted Kristin Stewart in any role.  I could see a Hollywood producer, cigar in mouth, tearing out whole pages of the original 1985 novel, and shouting to his loyal minion, Gavin Hood, "this is too bleak!  I want more adventure, kids want fun!  They want Percy Jackson in space!  And throw in a funny alien sidekick."  Luckily, that wasn't the movie that got made.  Instead they stuck mainly towards a faithful, though badly rushed adaptation of the novel, with just as many good decisions as bad ones.

The original "Ender's Game" is a very interesting read, one that does not easily lend itself towards the easy mediocrity that the Hollywood system that made such crap as "Oblivion" and "Elysium" seems to love.  Its something of a precursor to "Neon Genesis Evangelion", where the main characters are not exactly the great child heroes following a Joseph Campbell journey, but rather tortured victims of a society manipulating them into becoming monsters.  There is a very bleak sense of cruelty that dominates everything about Ender Wiggins' journey in this novel, as every step in his journey, every bully he overcomes, is all just a pre-planned psychological manipulation turning this boy into a perfect computerized commander, a tool to wipe out an alien species (notably not called "Buggers" as in the novels) that serves as the greatest threat to humanity.  The results of his journey is not a proud return to Earth, but devastated people, carrying burdens that no child should ever have to bare.

Some of that narrative actually survives within this film of "Ender's Game".  I can't say this is a success of Gavin Hood, who previously directed one of the worst superhero movies of all time, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".  Rather its the actors managing to pull together decent performances despite terrible material to work with.  The script is rushed, desperately trying to fit every ounce of the novel's story within less than two hours of screentime, which is simply hopeless.  The tone is lost, which was probably the intent, trying to work off of the book's brand recognition while still making a stupid fun Blockbuster, an impossible task.  But I can't call this movie a complete disaster.  There are some special effects sequences that actually manage to work, most of the cast manages to breath life into their deeply-constrained characters, and the story's importance and brilliance still manages to breath through.  This isn't the great "Ender's Game" movie that you might have wanted, but it isn't any cause to demand Gavin Hood's head on a stick either.