Science Fiction has been around as a film genre since, what, the late 80s? (I'm joking.) From the earliest moving pictures, there have been stories of people traveling to distant worlds and even more of distant people traveling to ours. Adaptations of the works of Wells and Bradbury, not to mention the Star franchises, both Wars and Trek. There is no end to our curiosity about the unknown reaches of space, from the benevolent (E.T. and his large-headed ilk) to the sinister (hello, face-huggers!), and there seems no end in sight to the possibilities our modern film effects can offer.
This week, What to Watch offers up some pretty disparate views of Sci-Fi. On the one hand, there is Ender's Game, adapted from a beloved future-war tale of a young boy who leads us against an alien army; on the other end of the spectrum, there is the absurd chopsocky action of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which asks its audience to believe that a ruptured drum of ooze can anthropomorphize five turtles into pizza-loving martial arts experts with vocabularies that are somewhere sub-Bill & Ted. (Okay, to be fair, the rat made them into martial arts experts. The ooze just made them walk around on two legs without pants.)
Add to this mix a tale of Science... Maybe, which we find in Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. Not an alien invasion tale. Not a time-jumping future race or a comic book throwdown. Just some astronauts out in the black trying to survive. Is it completely realistic? Is it fantastical in the way a film should be, eschewing, in places, telling a true story for telling a good story? No matter your opinion, it cannot be argued that we continue to hunger, as an audience, for entertainment that is (pun intended) out of this world.
Initializing What to Watch in five, four, three...
[Editor's Note: We will be adding showtimes at the newly opened Carmike 13 IMAX starting next week. Stay tuned, readers!]
Enders Game (Savoy 16 IMAX): Ender Wiggin is a twelve-year-old boy who has to grow to be a leader in order to fight a race of alien bugs.
Why to Watch: I read the novel Ender’s Game at the end of my junior year of high school. For me, as well as many others, it is considered a classic of Young Adult literature. I love the military tactics of the book, and they translate well to the screen. It’s also incredibly gratifying to see that the virtual reality practice games are displayed exactly as I pictured them in my mind. Asa Butterfield proves to be a compelling star in a film that asks a lot of the audience, including what it means to be a soldier and what it means to be humane. Recommended viewing for Young Adults of all ages.
Showing daily @ 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m, 1:35 p.m., 2:05 p.m., 2:20 p.m., 4:10 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9:20 p.m., 9:50 p.m., and 10:05 p.m. Showing in IMAX @ 11:15 a.m., 1:50 p.m., 4:25 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 9:35 p.m.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (The Art Theater Co-op): A 1990 classic. The plot,in a half shell? Five turtles get slimed by ooze and save their city from a villain known as The Shredder.
Why to Watch: I make no apologies, nor do I have any qualms about the fact that this is probably my favorite childhood movie. That doesn’t make it good, but it’s worth it to see such an earnest attempt at bringing a cartoon series to life. Be on the lookout for a young Sam Rockwell as Head Thug. (Seriously, he’s the breakout star here. Head Thug.) A sentimental choice, but a worthwhile goof for a night out with likeminded friends.
Showing Thursday @ 10 p.m.
Wadjda (The Art Theater Co-op): This movie is the story of a girl who enters a Koran recitation competition as a way to raise money for a bike she wants to purchase.
Why to Watch: While the plot may appear a tad on the simple side, Wadjda has the benefit of exploring a culture with which some Midwest audiences might not be familiar. However foreign the subject matter, I think the film and its protagonist will be identifiable for most audiences in that this is a girl with a dream. Her dream is not respected by those around her, and she is undervalued, to say the least. A person who is powerless to change society around her is trying to give herself the only freedom she can have: the freedom to move the way she wants to. Highly recommended.
Showing Monday & Tuesday @ 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday @ 3:30, 6, and 8:30 p.m.; and Thursday @ 5 & 7:30 p.m.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Savoy 16 IMAX): A grandfather goes on a trip to deliver his grandson (although, y'know, not really), and hilarity ensues.
Why to Watch: To those unfamiliar with the Jackass television series and trilogy of films, I will get you up to speed by saying that it showcases dumb idiots pulling pranks and injuring themselves. When viewing with those expectations in mind, Bad Grandpa can be a very funny and entertaining film. Bad Grandpa is a character created by Johnny Knoxville for use in the Jackass series; only this time he has a child actor portraying his grandson. The child actor is particularly good on his own, and all the jokes will provide audiences with laughs ranging from a chuckle to absolute hilarity. A film definitely worth seeing, if only because people falling down will never not be funny.
Showing daily @ 11:50 a.m., 12:25 p.m., 12:50 p.m., 2:05 p.m., 2:40 p.m., 3:05 p.m., 4:20 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 5:20 p.m., 6:40 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:40 p.m., 9:00 p.m., 9:30 p.m., and 9:55 p.m.
Gravity (Savoy 16 IMAX): Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in this mesmerizing space adventure about a mishap during a "routine" NASA maintenancemission.
Why to Watch: All right. One last time, then I'll shut up about this movie... Alfonso Cuaron's visually stunning trip to outer space stars George Clooney as a seasoned astronaut and Sandra Bullock as a scientiest rookie. The two-person crew is sent on a relatively simple mission (if there is such a thing in zero-gravity) when, naturally, Something Goes Wrong. From there on, the film follows Bullock's character as she attempts to save herself and return to earth. Early buzz on the film is that Bullock's work is tremendous and that the film's look and effects are very much worth seeing on the big screen. I will be shocked if Bullock's performance isn't heavily touted at Oscar time. If you have the chance to see it in 3D, do it.
Showing in 2D @ 11:40 a.m.; showing in 3D @ 2 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 6:35 p.m., and 9 p.m.
Thor: The Dark World (Savoy 16 IMAX): The mighty Marvel film machine keeps ona-comin' with this much-anticipated sequel featuring the Asgardian god of Thunder (played by Chris Hemsworth) and his scheming brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). There will be a return to earth, necessitated by the machinations of a Dark Elf Lord or somesuch. Expect all involved to try to pump up the volume from the first film's origin story. It opens locally on Friday, following a weekend overseas that saw over $100 million in ticket sales. The Mighty Thor, indeed.
Dallas Buyers Club (Art Theater Co-op): This film features a couple of likely Oscar contenders in Matthew McConaughey (as protagonist Ron Woodruff) and Jared Leto (as a transgender activist). McConaughey is having a career renaissance right now, from Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and Mud on through to this film and this winter's The Wolf of Wall Street. And it should be pointed out that there has been quite a bit of buzz about Leto's performance. It just might be that the former teen pin-up and part-time rock star finds himself up for some gold as well. The trailer is a knock-out, and I can't wait to see this at The Art.
The Art turns 100!: The Champaign-Urbana landmark movie house is celebrating its golden anniversary on the 12th, and you can expect quite a to-do. Keep your eyes peeled to SP for more information this week, including an interview with Art head honcho Austin McCann.