Friday movie roundup: November off to a so-so start
November starts out with some turkeys, some of them of the Thanksgiving variety.
Your pre-Thanksgiving movie is "Free Birds," a funny but undemanding animated kiddie comedy about two turkeys (voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) going back in time to change the dinner plans at the first Thanksgiving. The humor is largely throwaway, but it's got some funny moments.
No such levity in the weekend's big-budget blockbuster, the science-fiction drama "Ender's Game." Long awaited by fans of Orson Scott Card's 1985 novel, the movie tells of an 11-year-old boy (Asa Butterfield) pressed into battle training to face an alien menace that's expected to attack Earth. Director/screenwriter Gavin Hood ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine") overloads the action with workmanlike visual effects, and rote performances by Butterfield and Harrison Ford as the military academy's gruff commander.
(Also, read this week's Cricket column, which discusses Card's personal politics — and whether an artist's flaws have an effect on the artwork he or she produces. The Cricket will be taking part in a TribTalk on that subject, online today at 12:15 p.m.)
"Last Vegas" is by-the-numbers sitcom-level comedy, about four geezers (Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline) reunited for a Vegas bachelor party. The humor is pretty lame, but Freeman and Kline are entertaining as they try to rise above the material.
A day late for Halloween, the teen slasher flick "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" arrives seven years after its festival debut. It's standard stuff about a good girl (Amber Heard) joining her horny high-school classmates for a party — which is crashed by a stalker, who picks off the teens one by one. This is done in the most lurid and least imaginative ways possible.
The art-house list provides some relief. The Tribune's Scott D. Pierce liked the dysfunctional comedy "A.C.O.D." when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It's about a guy (Adam Scott, from "Parks & Recreation") who learns his childhood was the subject of a best-selling psychological study on the children of divorce. The cast includes such funny people as Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch and Catherine O'Hara, and its humor is pretty sharp.
Also from Sundance is a program of eight short films, a worthwhile sampler that ranges from documentary to surreal music videos.