The Bitch Is Back – A Full Rundown on Maleficent

Date: 6 Jun 2014 Comments:Comments Off on The Bitch Is Back – A Full Rundown on Maleficent

Hello, boys and girls. Did you miss me?Maleficent-Angelina-Jolie-Poster

I can’t think of a more apropos way to return to the old stomping grounds. Maleficent is an old favorite character to many, including me. Have you seen the film yet? Are you looking for a spoileriffic guide to let you know if it’s worth your time? If so read on, because this big budget burst into the box office is not to be missed.

Yes, summer blockbuster season has arrived once again, and this time a challenger has arisen to steal away profits from the mouths of Disney and Marvel studios in order to deliver them… right back to Disney studios. Disney is apparently planning on bolstering its Avengers 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy profits (read: all of the money) with reimaginings of their more classic works, starting with Maleficent; a live-action remake of Cinderella is to follow in 2015. Given Maleficent‘s massively successful opening (netting about $70 million its opening weekend), it’s reasonable to assume that live action rehashings will continue so long as the consumer cash taps continue to flow, but Disney’s next project post-Cinderella is anyone’s guess. My money is on a gritty reboot involving Gepetto.Yeah boiiiiii

The choice to start with what is arguably Disney’s most chaotically evil character is a bold one but one that seems to have paid off: in spite of a relatively weak second act the reviews have been positive, for the most part.

And admittedly, were I in the position to choose a villain to remodel as a sort of antihero I probably would have made the same choice (though it’s difficult not to draw parallels to another well-known black-clad villainess redrawn as a hero). Between the titillating imagery and the practically blank slate Maleficent herself presents as a character, this story is ripe for the picking and was practically a guaranteed money-maker from the get-go. I mean, Maleficent is one of Disney’s most beloved villains entirely because she is evil for the sake of being evil. Much like Batman’s Joker, she just wants to see the world fall into chaos. Who wouldn’t want to see a film about how she became such a terrifyingly awesome force of entropy?

Dem wings.

Dem wings.

And for the first half hour of the film, things go swimmingly. Angelina Jolie delivers a stunning performance as the title character, melting into the role as seamlessly as massage oil into the creamy thighs of a supermodel. This new telling casts Maleficent as a strong, eagle-winged fairy of the Moors, which border the lands of King Henry, a greedy king always trying to conquer and pillage his neighbors. After a young, orphaned (not yet king) Stefan wanders into the Moors, he and Maleficent become fast friends. Eventually the two drift apart as Stefan grows to love human pursuits and Maleficent becomes the protector of her realm. However, when King Henry declares that the person to defeat Maleficent would win the crown after his death, Stefan uses his cunning to worm his way back into her good graces… and then drug her and cut her wings off with a frigging steel chain.

A man using the trust of a woman he supposedly cares about in order to drug her and violently mutilate her? Hoo boy, I wouldn’t take my kids to this one!

But, Maleficent is a strong creature, one not opposed to revenge either. So she picks herself up, dusts off, and waits for a time to strike. Soon she learns King Stefan has a child. Perhaps it would be a good time to visit?

Iconic green flames ftw.

Iconic green flames ftw.

And when things go all pear-shaped for him when Maleficent shows up at the baby’s christening, we are all on board. This is what everyone is here to see. She shows up in the iconic black suit with the iconic green flames, ruby lips stretched into a terrifyingly beautiful smile. The sequence is line for line, a complete reenactment of the original christening from Sleeping Beauty, with vastly different meaning and implication. That scene is easily the highlight of the film: of course she’s there to punish Aurora for the sins of Stefan. Of course he literally begs her to stop, supplicating himself in front of his entire court.

God, how delicious the tableau is during the whole scene, particularly because the audience is rooting for her. “Yeah, you go, girl! Curse that defenseless infant!” Because at that point, from a storytelling perspective Aurora isn’t even really a character yet, she’s an object, one that Stefan happens to find very precious. We don’t think about the fact that this little girl is just a baby. Maleficent is vengefully using her power to take the life of a child. And the fact that that’s the last thing on your mind while she tears Stefan’s life apart in one fell swoop, that’s friggin’ scary.

It’s especially disturbing when you consider that as a character, Stefan is written in a pretty poor fashion. Yes, Maleficent has every right seek her revenge upon him, but part of what makes revenge good is what we know about the recipient’s background. Compared to Maleficent, we know very little about King Stefan’s motivations.

As the film plays out, we know that he once cared for her, but then stopped for some reason. That would be easy to write it off as typical teenage fickleness if it weren’t for the fact that every other aspect of his character just sort of… plays out, like some kind of predestined act of fate. He decides to stop hanging out with her for no reason. He decides to start climbing the social ladder, even though the film specifically calls out his lack of attachment to both the human race and material possessions. He decides to go after the throne because…? I have no idea. And then he decides to be a bad king, bad father, bad husband, bad human being, just terrible all around. He has no redeeming traits whatsoever, so by the time we’re halfway through the film the script has to take the easy way out and paint him into the “paranoid psychosis” corner because there’s nowhere else to go. He transforms from what might have been a reasonably good villain character to a cardboard cutout with a Snidely Whiplash moustache stuck on the face.

Don't be fooled. He's crazy.

Don’t be fooled. He’s crazy.

The film’s narrator chalks it up to “falling into the greed and temptation of humans,” but I’m not buying it. It would be one thing if that broad generalization about the human race were matched by the behavior of at least most of the humans, but other than King Stefan and King Henry, all the humans behave in pretty decent, reasonably good fashion. Nearly the entire second act is spent using Aurora’s childhood to prove that oh-so-tired point, “not ALL humans are bad, just SOME of them!” You can’t try to paint humankind as a complicated animal with the ability to be or become inherently good, and then have one character just be completely evil for no reason. That angle might have worked if Stefan had had even one iota of redeemable character, just one ounce of repentance at the end that hints at the good person he once was. Obviously the film fails in that regard. Though I have to admit, the irony of having Stefan, rather than Maleficent, act the “chaotic evil” alignment is not lost on me.

I’m guessing that in reality, act two was originally about Maleficent and Stefan’s budding relationship and the subsequent fallout, but was deemed too dark for a film aimed at children. Instead, the redemption angle was crammed in with all the grace of a champagne glass being delicately filled with a live manatee. Maleficent follows Aurora around, making sure that she stays alive long enough for the curse to take effect, but instead ends up forming an attachment to the girl and decides to find a way to revoke her curse, which can’t be undone. It hits all the exact bullet points you’d expect; we’ve seen this story before a hundred times. This conflict is the last to be introduced and the first to be resolved–It’s like the story doesn’t even need it in the first place.

However, the redemption angle does lead to a large chunk of the film’s denouement–that is, the princess waking from slumber, the kingdoms uniting, and the narrator finishing the tale with as close to “happily ever after” as one can reasonably get without dragging into the cliché. Clearly, the writers and producers wanted it in the film very much on purpose.

I suspect this is because of the way the conflict is resolved–it’s not Prince Phillip’s kiss that brings Aurora back from sleep, but a gentle kiss on the forehead from Maleficent herself. Yes, that wonderful plot device that Disney has already used time and again, most notably in both Frozen and Once Upon a Time, the strongest love is not the love formed between teenagers in the space of a few weeks, it’s the familial bonds that keep us together throughout our lives.

You would think that the execs at Disney feel guilty for bringing up multiple generations in the belief that all their problems can be solved with brief heterosexual romance or something.

I’m hardly the only writer to talk about the feminist themes, particularly those alluding to violence against women in particular. Many film critics have noted that while there are some great messages put forth by the film, only Angelina Jolie and her character seem to be equipped to carry them out, as opposed to the rest of the cast.

Honestly, though, we can’t pretend that this film is a victory for feminism. Lest we forget, ultimately, this story is about a man violating a woman by mutilating her in the most gruesome fashion imaginable, whereupon she takes her revenge by violating the autonomy of another woman (albeit a tiny proto-woman). Yes, Maleficent‘s character grows as she comes to realize that this was the wrong thing to do, but I find little comfort in the message “you can overcome the hurt of your past by taking care of your attacker’s baby.” This film almost has it. Almost. But its theme is kind of wishy-washy, the characters are all over the place, and overall I feel like there were enough opportunities to fix both story and characterization that were just missed.

The film does have a few things going for it, though.

MaleficentBetween the flawless visual effects, the stunning cast performance, and the omnipresent if underdeveloped themes, the building blocks of a good film are all there. Furthermore, Maleficent is a film that, though rife with female empowerment, presents itself as entertainment “for everyone,” not just “for girls.” It’s a strong blow against the theory that people don’t like standalone female protagonists, a theory that seems to be particularly strong among action and comic book movies (though there have been a few steps in the right direction announced).

While it isn’t a sparkling example of perfect filmmaking, Maleficent is definitely an unforgettable epic, and one that will hopefully inform filmmaking to come over the next decade. Though this is a very adult retelling of the story, it is one that Disney would do well to continue. After all, now the Millenials are the ones filling up the box office and the trend toward revisiting nostalgic franchises of previous decades shows no sign of slowing. Thanks to Maleficent‘s success at the box office, I imagine it is a portent of better films to come.


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Top Ten Basketball Movies

Date: 15 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Top Ten Basketball Movies

University of Kentucky The Sixth Man Poster

March Madness, University of Kentucky, Buzzer Beaters, Michael Jordan, Lebron James and so much more make Basketball the most intense game we play. And one of the better ways to tell an underdog story. Who doesn’t love that? Here are the Ten Best Basketball Movies.

10. Hoop Dreams (1994)
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

9. Blue Chips (1994)
A college basketball coach is forced to break the rules in order to get the players he needs to stay competitive.

8. Coach Carter (2005)
Controversy surrounds high school basketball coach Ken Carter after he benches his entire team for breaking their academic contract with him.

7. Teen Wolf (1985)
A highschooler discovers that he is a werewolf. And plays basketball. I know this is a stretch but it was so good.

6. Air Up There (1994)
Jimmy Dolan is a college basketball coach who wants a big promotion. To get it, he needs to make a dramatic find. He ends up deep in Africa, hoping to recruit Saleh, a huge basketball prodigy Jimmy glimpsed in a home movie. But Saleh is the chief’s son and has responsibilities at home, since the tribe’s land is threatened by a mining company with its own hotshot basketball team.

5. Glory Road (2006)
In 1966, Texas Western coach Don Haskins led the first all-black starting line-up for a college basketball team to the NCAA national championship.

4. Semi-Pro (2008)
Jackie Moon, the owner-coach-player of the American Basketball Association’s Flint Michigan Tropics, rallies his teammates to make their NBA dreams come true

3. Hoosiers (1986)
A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.

2. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Black and white basketball hustlers join forces to double their chances. Oh yeah, and the white guy can’t jump.

1. University of Kentucky: The Sixth Man (2013)
Think you have the greatest fan base in college basketball? Unless you bleed TRUE BLUE, you’ll have a nation that disagrees and doesn’t care to let you know who’s #1!

The Sixth Man is a first of it’s kind film that turns the camera away from the historic program that is UK basketball, and directs it to one of the key components to it’s success….the FANS! A story of dedication and passion, it’s a celebration of what makes The University of Kentucky Basketball program so remarkable and distinctive.

This film captures the essence of what compels people from every walk of life to embrace a tradition that binds Wildcat fans from around the globe. It’s about heritage and legacy, it requires dedication and loyalty, and when you see it, it’s unmistakable.


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Top 10 Rock Star Cameos in Film

Date: 11 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Top 10 Rock Star Cameos in Film

Billy Idol - The Wedding Singer

So many musicians have dabbled in film yet so few have had any luck. Justin Timberlake comes to mind and Jennifer Lopez had some mild success. Ice Cube is probably the most accomplished musician to make the transfer to the silver screen.

But truth is, Rock Stars are generally best on the big screen in small roles. Let them say a few lines we didn’t see coming in a role that is a bit redicoulous then go away back to wherever you go. That’s what we really want out of musicians in a film role.

Here are the 10 best Film Cameos by a Rock Star… OK, 13. And one more thing, before you try to call me out on the exact musical genre of the artist, I’m just referring to all musicians as Rock Stars.

13. Dave Grohl – The Muppets
12. Bruce Springsteen – High Fidelity
11. Eminem – Funny People
10. Billy Idol – The Wedding Singer
9. Snoop Dogg – Starsky and Hutch I know it technically was a little more than a cameo
8. Dave Matthews – Just Go With It
7. David Bowie – Labyrinth
6. Pearl Jam – Singles
5. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World
4. Gwar – Empire Records
3. Coldplay’s Chris Martin – Shaun of the Dead
2. Anthony Kiedis – Point Break
1. David Bowie – Zoolander


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The 10 Best Military Themed Movies

Date: 11 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on The 10 Best Military Themed Movies

Empire of the Sun

There are so many great military movies to choose from, there is no way I can put them all in one list. Or to be honest, to even say this is the definitive list of the Top Ten Military movies. Lets just say these are then movies that I think are great. Notice I did not day patriotic movies. If you want that you can go to Top Ten Patriotic Movies – For The America in Your Heart. As I look over the list, I notice that these the majority are not really even action movies so well have to throw one of them up soon. Anyway here are the 10 Best Military movies.

I’ll start by saying Lone Survivor is a runner-up. It may make the top ten at some point but it’s really just too new to put on the list. It needs to sink in a little more before I put it on there.

10. Good Morning, Vietnam
9. Gallipoli
8. Top Gun
7. Empire of the Sun
6. A Few Good Men
5. The Dirty Dozen
4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
3. Gladiator
2. Patton
1. The Great Escape


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Top 10 One Direction Songs

Date: 11 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Top 10 One Direction Songs

One Direction

With One Direction’s new film the band has proven the are a major Box Office draw. They have once again successfully taken their music and story to the next level for their fans to enjoy.

One Direction: This Is Us was directed by Morgan Spurlock and takes a look at Niall, Zayn, Liam, Louis, and Harry’s meteoric rise to fame, from their humble hometown beginnings and competing on the X-Factor, to conquering the world and performing at London’s famed O2 Arena.

The band’s rabid fans have shown they will support in whatever manor offered. Recently the band even created a virtual holiday called One Direction Day 1. 1D Day was a seven hour stream, filmed live from a television studio and comprised a whole host of special features, celebrity guests and content created by fans.

But the real question is will the band have the staying power to be around for another 15 years. Many a teen star has fallen yet. Even Justin Bieber recently retired after his latest film bombed at the theater (technically the night before).  So anyway, lets take a look at the Top 10 One Direction Songs. Are they good enough to stand the test of time? Will they be putting our theatrical releases in 5 years? You tell me.

10. What Makes You Beautiful
9. One Thing
8. Up All NightLive While We’re Young
7. Little Things
6. Best Song Ever
5. I Want
4. Tell Me A Lie
3. Gotta Be You
2. Kiss You
1. More Than This


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People’s Choice Awards: Complete list of winners

Date: 9 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on People’s Choice Awards: Complete list of winners

People’s Choice Awards 2014

The People’s Choice Awards would be the most important awards of the season if the fans weren’t prone to picking crappy movies. Here’s the Complete list of winners of the 2014 People’s Choice Awards.

Favorite Movie
Despicable Me 2
Fast & Furious 6
Iron Man 3*
Monsters University
Star Trek Into Darkness

Favorite Movie Actor
Channing Tatum
Hugh Jackman
Johnny Depp*
Leonardo DiCaprio
Robert Downey Jr.

Read the rest of this story »


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The 10 Best Movies About The Office

Date: 9 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on The 10 Best Movies About The Office

Office Space Movie

Works sucks! Especially for those who work in a dreary, drab, boring office environment. Pointless meetings that go on for ever. Employees who know everything. Bosses who don’t. Employees who don’t listen… Bosses who don’t listen. And all your efforts go unappreciated day after day. It’s no wonder Hollywood has found a way create movie gold at the office.

10. Boiler Room
9. Nine to Five
8. Wall Street
7. Glengarry Glen Ross
6. Horrible Bosses
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
4. The Secret of My Success
3. Big
2. Fight Club
1. Office Space


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The Ten Best Road Trip Movies

Date: 8 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on The Ten Best Road Trip Movies

Dumb and Dumber

Nothing in life brings more memories than a great “road trip”. Whether it’s with your family to Disney World, the guys on their first ski vacation or young college coeds heading to the beach for their first Spring Break, the road trip has enough highs and lows to last a life time.

Here are the Top Ten Road trip movies to help you start planning your summer vacation now.

10. The Blues Brothers
9. Little Miss Sunshine
8. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America
7. Sideways
6. Road Trip
5. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
4. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
3. Tommy Boy
2. National Lampoon’s Vacation
1. Dumb and Dumber


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Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie

Date: 7 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie

Wake Up Ron Burgundy The Lost MovieDid you know about this??? Because I just found out about it. Did you love Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? Are you thirsty for some more? Here’s a little more Burgandy.

This “alternate film” companion to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) was compiled from dropped sub-plots and alternate takes. While Ron Burgundy’s rivalry with Veronica Corningstone continues, a group of unprofessional thieves better known as ‘The Alarm Clock’ try to make the truth known, whatever that may be. (Description from IMDB)


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Top Ten Patriotic Movies – For The America in Your Heart

Date: 7 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Top Ten Patriotic Movies – For The America in Your Heart

Rocky 4 and America Rocks

You got to admit it, America has done quite a few good things since its inception. And occasionally Hollywood showcases this splendor at the multiplex. I did not want every film on this list to simply be about the strength of the American military. I also wanted to showcase some films that showed us a nice slice of classic Americana. So here’s a few good films to watch on the 4th of July or any day you feel like celebrating the red, white and blue. I now give you Top Ten American Patriotic Movies. Oh and I threw in Captain America: The First Avenger just because of the name.

11. Captain America: The First Avenger
10. Renaissance Man
9. The Sandlot
8. Glory
7. Miracle
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
5. Top Gun
4.Independence Day
3. Air Force One
2. The Great Escape
1. Rocky 4


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Top Ten John Wayne Western Movies

Date: 6 Jan 2014 Comments:Comments Off on Top Ten John Wayne Western Movies

John Wayne Westerns

No actor is more synonymous with the classic Hollywood Western than John Wayne, the Duke himself. So it’s only just that he gets an official Top Ten Western list for his efforts. Down the road will do a Top Ten John Wayne Non-Western list to show the famous wranglers versatility.

10. Red River
9. The Sons of Katie Elder
8. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
7. El Dorado
6. Stagecoach
5. The Searchers
4. Rio Bravo
3. True Grit
2. Big Jake
1. The Shootist


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New Production Video from Peter Jackson — THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, Production Diary 11

Date: 1 Jul 2013 Comments:Comments Off on New Production Video from Peter Jackson — THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, Production Diary 11

Last day of filming The Hobbit for Sir Ian McKellen with Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson takes you behind the scenes of the making of THE HOBBIT. In this video blog, he covers additional photography for movies two and three.


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A Nice Little ‘Man Of Steel’ Behind The Scenes Featurette

Date: 4 Jun 2013 Comments:Comments Off on A Nice Little ‘Man Of Steel’ Behind The Scenes Featurette

Man of Steel PosterWarner Bros has released a pretty nice little Man Of Steel featurette ahead of its June 14 release. It’s quite nice video and is getting me excited for the Superman reboot which I’ve mostly had a ho-hum attitude about until recently. The film was directed by Zack Snyder and stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner.


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Filmpopper Review: Stark Trek Into Darkness

Date: 15 May 2013 Comments:Comments Off on Filmpopper Review: Stark Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness One of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer has finally hit the theaters. The much anticipated sequel to J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek has been discussed highly among nerds and movie goers alike.

Chris Pine returns in his role of Captain James Kirk along with the rest of The Enterprise. The story adds few new characters along with reprising the original cast as well, giving it the feeling of another ongoing Star Trek series. The actors play their roles flawlessly and are part of what makes the movie so great. Because of the brilliant story and acting you feel for the plight of The Enterprise right from the start of the movie and it only improves.

Any of the flaws that people may have had with the first movie are dealt with excellently by Abrams. The lens flares still crop up from time to time but are limited to give it a better effect. This movie also has more of a true story arc and villain which helps to push it along amazingly.

Along with the score being outstanding as well the movie delivers a lot of pros with next to nothing in the cons section. It offers enough of the Star Trek humor to keep you laughing but possibly does not have the same lighthearted feeling the first film has.

I can sit and make comparisons all day but what I would really like to get across is how much I enjoyed this movie. It delivered everything I wanted and far surpassed many, already high, expectations I had. With no visible flaws and enough explosions, witty dialogue, and even love stories to keep every audience member captivated I award Star Trek Into Darkness an A.


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Harrison Ford Introduces First Footage from ‘Ender’s Game’

Date: 4 May 2013 Comments:Comments Off on Harrison Ford Introduces First Footage from ‘Ender’s Game’

Enders Game Move PosterAnd the Ender’s Game trailer hits the interwebs on May 7th. The adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s classic novel has literally taken decades to make it to the big screen. Let’s hope it was worth the wait!

Both Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield (Ender) sit in on the trailer announcement but Ford does most of the talking. The surprise in this clip is that we also get the first footage from the film. I know you can’t say anything about the quality of the film based on a couple of seconds, but the one second clip of battle school training looks better than I had imagined. Ender’s Game is my second favorite book and probably the movie I’ve most hoped would be great since Sam Raimi’s first Spider-man. Let’s hope Ender lives up to my expectations just as the webslinger did all those years ago.

Ender’s Game stars Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, Nonso Anozie, Moises Arias, and Aramis Knight. The film was directed by Gavin Hood. Ender’s Game hits theaters November 1, 2013.

Ender’s Game Synopsis:
In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.

Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult wargames, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.


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