A quartet of solid releases restored the video reputation of 2014 after last week’s misfires.
“Ender’s Game” — Orson Scott Card’s popular series of science fiction novels finally hit the big screen with this well-produced adaptation. The story centers on a future where earth has survived a battle with insect-like invaders. The fear is that they may return. To protect the planet, children are recruited and trained to defend us, but they don’t know that it’s real and think they are involved in a huge video game. Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley star as the adults helping to train the youngsters.
“All Is Lost” — Survival movies don’t get much better than this low-key effort. Robert Redford stars as a sailboat enthusiast who must find a way to pilot his craft into shipping lanes after it is destroyed by some very bad luck. The character only has a sextant and some maps to accomplish his mission, and no basketball to talk to, as he faces the raging seas and curious sharks. Great stuff, thanks to Redford’s silent performance. There is no narration either, so the whole story is told through the lens. Well done and quite a feat for the 77-year-old actor.
“Best Man Holiday” — A belated sequel to 1999’s “The Best Man.” It is 15 years later and the characters are having a reunion, but a lot has happened and the dynamics are no longer the same. A fine film that effortlessly blends comedy and drama. The fine cast returns with Taye Diggs, Nia Long, and Terrance Howard all on hand.
“Last Days of Pompeii” — This 1980s mini-series remains quite the spectacle, as it assembles an international all-star cast who cavort in the famed Rome city before it is buried under a ton of lava. Think “Caligula” meets “The Poseidon Adventure.” The huge cast includes Ernest Borgnine, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Ned Beatty and Franco Nero. This may be bloated and padded out, but it is great fun and was memorably sent up by “Saturday Night Live.”