Ender’s Game

YA Adaptations

There’s little question that Hollywood’s “adapt anything YA!” attitude has helped shepherd a new line of strong (or, at least, pretend strong, as is the case with Twilight’s Bella Swan, a bell I will ring until the day I die) young female heroines into the pop cultural consciousness. The Hunger Games has the sharp-shooting Katniss Everdeen (who will soon incite a revolution in the next two films based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling three-book series), while Divergent has the fear-blasting Tris Prior (who will, hey, look at that!, also soon incite a revolution in the nest three films based on Veronica Roths’s bestselling three-book series). Even less popular film franchises, like Vampire Academy, The Mortal Instruments, and The Host are female-led endeavors that may include some cool (read: hot) male counterparts to help their kickass ladies where needed, though they are quite firmly dedicated to portraying ladies in charge. Yet, now it appears that boys are inching their way back into the YA game – not by way of wizardry or godly genetics, but by traveling the same path that the girls have already trailblazed: the gritty one.

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iron man original

You don’t have to see the RoboCop remake. Normally I’d say that if you don’t see the big new release that you can’t read the new Movies to Watch column, because you’ll get spoiled. But I don’t think there’s much in the way of spoilers here, even if you haven’t seen the 1987 original. There’s a cop, he becomes part robot and then he’s a RoboCop. Without knowing much more than that, you can gather that some obvious precursors include Frankenstein, Blade Runner and anything where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a police officer of any kind. Yet none of those are in this week’s batch of a dozen recommendations inspired by the new RoboCop. Some of my picks are more obvious with relation to the remake than the Paul Verhoeven version. Speaking of which, that too is another obvious selection I feel is a given if you see the new one and haven’t before seen the old. Go ahead and see the divisive RoboCop 2, also, and while you’re at it go on to RoboCop 3 in order to see something much, much worse than the reboot. Because it was difficult to be reminded of much else besides those predecessors, more than a few of the titles below are merely better earlier works by the talent involved. In spite of what I said above, here’s your reminder that the following list may spoil parts of this week’s movie, so if you haven’t seen the RoboCop remake and plan to, you might not want to read ahead […]

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header discs all is lost

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. All Is Lost Robert Redford stars as a man sailing solo who encounters trouble out at sea. He awakens to the impact of his sailboat colliding with a derelict shipping container and quickly sets about trying to fix the damage before catastrophe occurs. His experience grows increasingly precarious, and soon he’s fighting against nature and circumstance for his very life. Writer/director J.C. Chandor‘s follow-up to the excellent Wall Street drama Margin Call is even more engaging, but it accomplishes the feat through an opposite degree of dialogue. While that film was filled with fast-talk and lots of it, Redford’s character is the only one onscreen here leaving him no one to talk to but himself. (Sure, that didn’t stop Sandra Bullock from being a lonely chatterbox in Gravity, but this is a smarter movie.) The drama and suspense build naturally here as we work alongside the sailor in his efforts, and the script treats viewers as intelligent enough to follow along without needing every detail spelled out. This is a beautiful film about strength, resiliency, and the will to survive. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]

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2013: The YA Invasion Continues

If you hadn’t heard, 2013 is the year that a small indie production called The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring little-known commercial actress Jennifer Lawrence (am I saying that right?) stormed into theaters. In truth, the massive-scale production, bolstered by a months-long marketing campaign (step into a Subway sometime for a District 12 themed sandwich, because nothing screams “we’re actually starving” like footlongs), has earned over $600M worldwide to date, and is expected to reach $800M by the end of its theatrical run. This is also the year that everyone and their producer attempted to find the next Hunger Games franchise and fell completely, utterly flat. Line ‘em up: The Host, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters and Ender’s Game all tried their hand at making the jump from page to screen, but nothing achieved anything near what Catching Fire created, both in terms of financial success and creative content.

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2013review_scifi

This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012’s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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dallas_buyers

This November is a diverse month. Come Thanksgiving, there are all kinds of pictures to experience with your family: a boy preparing for war; a time travel romantic comedy; James Franco antagonizing Jason Statham; and Josh Brolin bashing a few skulls in with a hammer. If only every month had that level of variety, because this November has it in spades. One glaring omission from this list is Thor: The Dark World. I predict James Franco’s performance in Homefront alone will make that Sylvester Stallone-written actioner more of a must-see than Marvel’s biggest clunker to date. Despite Thor: The Dark World, there are still plenty other options to go with. Here they are:

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the_last_starfighter_3

By the time I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, I had already read a few Harry Potter books and I couldn’t help but think of the earlier sci-fi work initially as “Harry Potter in space.” It’s a comparison that continues for many now that the movie is out. “Harry Potter meets Star Wars,” claims a blurb used in UK ads credited to Sky Movies host Craig Stevens. And if you search Twitter for “Ender’s Game and Harry Potter” the results of both titles mentioned together is aplenty. All this is natural for the lazy way we relate movies to each other. The sad thing is some kids might think of the new movie as a derivative piece of YA fiction modeled after J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard. I don’t know if Potter was at all influenced by Ender’s Game. It’s not like Card’s book was the first messianic tale. The website TV Tropes even labels the relevant trope as “A Child Shall Lead Them,” a Biblical quote that also appears at the top of the New York Times review of the movie, in which critic Manohla Dargis breaks out the ol’ “Christ figure” descriptor for the main character. Still, I wish that I’d both read and seen the Harry Potters after reading/seeing Ender’s Game. If you’ve somehow avoided all the Hogwarts adventures before going to Battle School with the new Ender’s adaptation, consider yourself lucky. Watch the entire series now to see what I’m talking about. And right there I’ve got […]

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ENDER

Director Gavin Hood received mass acclaim for his 2005 film, Tsotsi, before moving on to direct Rendition and eventually land the gig for 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That comic book adaptation didn’t sit too well with critics or fans, but its shortcomings don’t all fall on the feet of Hood. That production was reportedly plagued with creative differences and had a script constantly in flux, which is likely why Hood says, while discussing his new film, Ender’s Game, how beneficial it is to have a completed script before shooting. His adaptation of Orson Scott Card‘s sci-fi classic centers around a young boy, Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), who literally has the world’s fate placed on his shoulders, and it’s a remarkably faithful adaptation when it comes to the book’s emotion and the finale its fans are familiar with. Hood sat down with us at the film’s press day to discuss the challenges of remaining faithful to Card’s book. Here’s what he had to say:

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review enders game

It’s been fifty years since aliens attacked Earth, killing thousands before a lucky strike brought the invading mothership crashing to the ground. The time since has been spent building up a military capable of fighting back in case the intruders ever choose to return. It’s not soldiers they’re after, though. The military brass are searching for a leader, a strategist capable of beating the alien swarms faster and harder than the space bugs can beat mankind. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) thinks he’s found that great mind in Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield), a young boy whose two elder siblings have both failed out of the academy — a brother for being too aggressive and a sister for being too empathetic. Graff suspects Ender might be the “just right” in the Goldilocks analogy he probably makes offscreen. Young Ender is whisked up to an orbiting battle school to commence with the training that just might save humanity, but his biggest battle will be within himself. Dun dun dun! Ender’s Game, based on the bestselling novel by Orson Scott Card, is a sci-fi action film that manages to best most YA adaptations at their own game. Card’s book was published before the YA designation came into fashion, but it has all the hallmarks including a teenage protagonist with social issues who just so happens to be the super special chosen one destined to save the world. A strong lead performance and some exciting action sequences follow, but they’re brought down by narrative lapses, […]

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Frankenstein 1931

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Ender

The first weekend of November is hallmarked by a continuing wave of prestigious Oscar contenders and pockmarked by the chaff that studios are still dumping into a handful of contractually obligated theaters. How else do you explain Last Vegas and Dallas Buyers Club landing on the same week? Beyond those we’ve got a boy vying to be the last starfighter, a pair of biopics that look difficult to swallow and a ton of limited releases that show promise. Get up off your knees, reach for the stars, and check out the trailer-ized list of movies coming out this weekend.

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Ender

If you can cram in 3,000 man hours into the next week, you can have your very own home version in time for Ender’s Game to see theaters on November 1st. To be fair, this featurette is more entertaining than informative, but it has a few layering shots that spotlight the intense process that went into building the world that Ender and friends do battle in. Digital Domain took the lead here, but the movie also features effects work from companies like Behold 3D (Riddick), Quantum Creation FX (Tron: Legacy) for specialty costuming and XYZ-RGB (Elysium) for 3D scanning. No word yet on whether they were able to digitally insert a smile onto Harrison Ford’s face.

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Ender

Unadaptable. It’s a scary word for filmmakers with a passion project, and an even scarier word for major studios with their eyes locked on the bottom line. With the trend in Hollywood ever leaning toward the edict of brand recognition, a great many books (mostly the ones filled with panels, capes, and conversation bubbles) are being translated for the big screen. And why not? If the audience is built-in, and the production demands aren’t too unreasonable, it would seem like a slam dunk. Yet there are written works that, for one reason or another, studios feel aren’t viable. These become earmarked as unadaptable, typically from a purely financial standpoint; shackled by the cost of logistics. Then there are occasions in which the content or themes of a written piece are deemed too edgy or risky for a studio to want to touch. Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game,” has the rare and unfortunate distinction of facing both hurdles. It’s the story of a young boy ripped from his home and trained by the military to kill an alien species in spectacular zero gravity simulators. These hurdles proved to be insurmountable for many major studios, which explains the project’s long gestation. But as we all know, limitations have a habit of becoming the footnotes of monumental achievement. The obvious science-fiction-to-actual-science parallel comes to mind. At one time it seemed impossible that people could communicate via a wire with folks across the country, then across the planet. For generations, the idea of actually […]

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Ford Enders Game

Listen, kids, you thought middle school was rough. You didn’t have Harrison Ford plucking you out of obscurity to yell at you every day about saving the human race from alien destruction. Luckily, the rest of us just get to watch it happen in the adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s beloved Ender’s Game this fall. In the second trailer for the epic space tale, directed by Gavin Hood, just a teensy tiny bit more of the plot is revealed than from the first glimpse. Here’s what we know: decades after a brutal alien war, Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis are training child super-soldiers like Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld to do battle once more. But their last hope comes in the form of an exceptionally gifted boy named Ender (Asa Butterfield), who will lead them to victory with his prowess.

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Marvel Studios Panel At Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con is a massive journey of discovery. Over the course of four days and five nights, people from all over the world converge on one spot to overload the tram system, punish the sewage system, hemorrhage hard earned cash for colorful plastic and printed pages, and take pictures of each other. In the midst of all that, we also find time to attend panels, catch up with creators, meet new people, reconnect with old friends, find the hottest upcoming trends, and get the early scoop on breaking news. This year the Film School Rejects were represented by two intrepid slack-jawed comic fans: interview specialist Jack Giroux and anger guru Robert Fure. We walked miles, spent hours in lines, followed CosPlay girls around the floor, and harassed the talent into giving us top secret information. After four days, two blackouts, a fist fight, and a cuddle session, here are our 12 favorite discoveries at San Diego Comic Con 2013.

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hood

Imagine a chubby, pasty high school kid who, to my great embarrassment, wore a military-style Red Hot Chili Peppers jacket. Tacky, I know, but also picture him obsessively reading Ender Game‘s — Orson Scott Card‘s incredible piece of science-fiction — during his sophomore year. That kid dreamed of making a movie of it one day, preferably with George Clooney as Colonel Graff. Sadly, that boy’s dream is dead, thanks to director Gavin Hood. But Hood can’t be blamed for crushing a wonderful child’s will to dream. One thing is for sure, Ender’s Game is a big ambitious swing of a project for Hood. Card’s novel is not a sure thing of a blockbuster, and considering its source material, it’s a story that isn’t exactly suited for all kids. Hood’s past film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, felt watered down all around, but with this latest project Hood seems to have captured the spirit of a sprawling space adventure.

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Did you hear that this weekend is Comic-Con? It’s true! It’s weird that no one told you. Fortunately, this week’s show features a visit to San Diego where our sentinels Robert Fure and Jack Giroux will tell us all the crazy stuff that’s happening on the ground there in geek paradise (which happens to be a hotel room that’s missing a bathroom door). Plus, Geoff and I disagree wildly in our reviews of the new season of The Newsroom, and we prepare for the possibility of Spike Lee’s retirement by discussing his legacy and forcing him to autograph old football paraphernalia. You can follow Robert Fure (@robertfure), interviewer Jack Giroux (@jackgi), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) for more fun stuff on a daily basis. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #25 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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trailer enders game

“Probably the most egregiously overlooked area of gay visibility is, if you can swing with me on this, science fiction…Since all these shows are set in the future, the grim possibility exists that, at least in their creators’ minds, there are no gay people in the future. It’s a curious notion for science-fiction to embrace…” Discussing queer visibility on network television, Bruce Vilanch wrote these words for The Advocate in 1997, but he might as well have been talking about films in 2013. Last year, I made a point that “the genres that dominate Hollywood right now are also the most heteronormative (action sequels, superhero franchises, and children’s films)”; outside of the occasional allegory, one could add science-fiction to this mix as well. Of all the conversations surrounding the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s affiliation with the homophobic National Organization for Marriage in advance of Lionsgate’s expensive adaptation of Ender’s Game, one repeated assertion has been bugging me quite a bit – the notion that the film itself will have nothing to do, and does not in any way exercise, Card’s problematic politics. Such a view sees the routine absence of homosexuality in popular movies – specifically, genre movies – as somehow apolitical.

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Orson Scott Card

Just last week, the trailer for The Boxtrolls spoke of gay marriage with kindness, simplicity, and acceptance. Now author Orson Scott Card has done the opposite. The online group Geeks Out recently called for a boycott of the upcoming Card adaptation Ender’s Game, urging viewers to stay away from the film. The group believes that anyone who thinks anti-homosexuality laws should be strictly enforced (as Card does) should not be allowed the opportunity to make tons of money from a blockbuster film starring Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield. In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, Card responds to the boycott and to anyone else questioning whether his views are a part of Ender’s Game: “Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

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published: 12.23.2014
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