Reviews

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – A Review

Last Thursday, The Hobbit: Battle of the five armies premiered in the UK – and I went to the midnight screening!
Hobbit Poster
If you have not yet had the chance to watch this movie, go do it now – for this review will contain spoilers (you can read them if you hover over the underlined words).
With this movie, a very long journey comes to an end. Not just the three-year journey of the Hobbit (for me it was three years, at least, from when I first heard they would bring it to the screen to this day), but also the 15-year long journey to Middle-earth on which Peter Jackson and his team embarked when they first started filming the Lord of the Rings in 1999. As far as we know today, there will be no further Tolkien movies.
So, I walked into the cinema with a mixture of anticipation, excitement, but also sadness – similar to the very last Harry Potter movie a few years ago. I have to say, the Hobbit did not disappoint. Lots and lots of action sequences that were absolutely breath-taking – Smaug, the elves, the dwarves. I watched it in 3D, which made it even better! In some movies the 3D effects seem forced and unnatural, but in this one, it all morphed together perfectly. Maybe it is because of the different filming technique?
However, there are also a lot of quiet moments. Moments of friendship, of sadness, of despair and decision making. For me, it was beautiful to watch how Bilbo transformed from the frightened and sort of clueless hobbit to a fiercely loyal defender of his friends, taking matters into his own hands . I also enjoyed Legolas’ development, understanding his motivation for breaking with his father. I always wondered in the Lord of the Rings, why he was on his own. Not it has become a lot more clear.
As with all the previous movies, this one also has some comedy aspects – some more subtle than others. Martin Freeman as Bilbo portrays most of these moments, e.g. facing Thranduil, but the character of Alfrid (counsellor of the Master of Laketown) also adds to the comical relief in the otherwise rather dark movie.
It is always a difficult task to tie in new movies with old movies, when the old movies are the new ones, story wise. One of the most prominent other franchise I can think of is Star Wars – and unfortunately, I know many fans who were not happy with the binding element, Episode III (actually, me included). Because if this, I was somehow cautious about how the last Hobbit would tie in with the Lord of the Rings, but I needn’t have worried. The love for detail and the filming team’s vast knowledge about the stories resulted in a lovely solution (in my opinion). There were hints about Lord of the Rings throughout the trilogy, e.g. Gimli as a drawing in Gloins amulet, and the very beginning where Frodo appears), and in the last movie, the hints were slightly more pronounced.. I especially loved one of the last scenes, where they took footage from LotR to link it with the Hobbit. I admit, I was in tears.
There was one thing I was rather confused about though, but some research cleared it all up.
In summary, this movie is a beautiful piece of art with lots of little details that I cannot wait to see when I rewatch it time and time again in the future. You can really feel the attention and love the team put into this. And the farewell song in the credits? Show me one fan that will not have some moisture in their eyes when listening to Billy Boyd (Pippin) saying goodbye to middle-earth.
One more thing that makes the new trilogy so fantastic: I am currently rewatching Lord of the Rings for a university assignment and while I was a bit bored the last time I watched the movies (because I had seen them so many times), this time I can actually see some little details and snippets that didn’t make sense before or I simply didn’t notice. So by knowing the Hobbit trilogy, it makes LotR worth watching again and I see it with different eyes.
I believe I have rambled on long enough. While I am sad that there will be no new movies, the fact that the old ones are now even more connected makes it all worth it. So all of you who are reading this, take some time off to travel to middle-earth. I shall do the same by watching the Two Towers while on the plane towards home for Christmas.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” – Gandalf

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Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – A Review

Here comes a brand-new movie review! Beware of spoilers (seriously)!

I had anticipated the new Hunger Games instalment for ages and yesterday it finally premiered in the UK. Mockingjay Part 1 has quite a different tonality than the previous two films – most significantly, it is no longer about the Hunger Games but about the revolution and rising civil war against the Capitol. The focus is on Katniss as a character (played by Jennifer Lawrence), illustrating how drastically the games and especially the loss of Peeta changed her. She struggles with nightmares and often questions her ability to keep fighting and to do what is necessary.

Her sister, Prim, gets some more attention in this movie, too. She has grown from being a helpless child to being a strong young woman training to become a doctor. I sometimes had the feeling that the relationship between the two sisters has become a lot more balanced. While in the first movie Katniss had to protect Prim from harm, they now protect each other – Prim is invaluable emotional support for Katniss in Mockingjay Part 1.

I loved the portrayal of Effie Trinket (mainly because Elizabeth Banks is just amazing). She sees herself as a prisoner of war and seems to have lost her spirit. But she gradually adapts to her new lifestyle, as can be seen through her increasingly more bold and fashionable outfits (though not colourful anymore, she wears a headband in various styles, using what she can to maintain her individuality). She becomes Katniss’s prep team, taking over Cinna’s job.

Finnick has also impressed me. He forms a bond with Katniss sharing the pain of losing a loved one to the Capitol and they help each other stay sane. I really enjoyed their friendship growing stronger and look forward to what comes next (I know of course, but I’m not gonna spoil this).

Peeta mostly appeared in television scenes, and although he didn’t have as much screen time, I felt he was always present and his deterioration was quite frightening. I personally felt that the connection he and Katniss have was stronger over the distance than the connection between Gale and Katniss, even though they are in the same place (I’m obviously on Team Peeta, but I heard there are some people out there on Team Gale 😉 ).

Some new characters have been introduced as well, President Coin for one and the camera team with Castor, Pollux, Messalla and Cressida (played by the lovely Natalie Dormer!) . I hope they will become even more important in the next movie.

The special effects and action scenes were well executed and thankfully not too pronounced in the movie. The focus was more on the propaganda and revolution and less on the action. While the overall tone was quite grim and emotionally draining, there were some sparks of humour, mostly coming from Effie Trinket.

In conclusion, this movie kept me perched on the edge of my seat, anticipating what would happen and being emotionally swept away – even though I already knew the story, it was still very exciting. I personally try to keep the novels and the movies apart from each other – since the movie version is completely different from my own imagined visions. My pictured version of the story is weirdly enough a lot lighter than the movies.

Anyways, I recommend the movie to everyone who has read the books because it gives a different view on things and of course also to people who enjoy dystopian, war, fantasy or sci-fi settings. The movie is rated as suitable for 12 years and older. I personally do not agree and would not let anybody younger than 14 see this. Not so much because of the action scenes but more because of the emotional trauma portrayed in most characters – Katniss, Finnick and Peeta especially. It takes a certain level of emotional maturity to understand everything that is going on in that story.

Also, as a side remark, I was very sad to hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away during the filming. He played Plutarch Heavensbee – a relevant character whose story will have to change now. He was an amazing actor and will be remembered.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – A Review

Hi folks!

After a few month, here comes another movie review! Last Thursday I went (rather spontaneously) to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and here’s what I think of it. BEWARE of Spoilers, there are some in there. So if you haven’t seen the movie and care about finding stuff out for yourself, don’t read this.

It is a ridiculously hilarious (or hilariously ridiculous) movie if you keep in mind that it is aimed at children/teenagers. The story itself is not that imaginative – young journalist whose father died in a science lab experiementing on turtles finds mutated vigilante turtles and teams up with them to save the world from a chemical contamination plotted by the bad guys who want to gain world domination. And obviously, they succeed.

While the main character April (played by Megan Fox) was not really impressive – and badly phone addicted yet incapable of taking good pictures of anything* – the turtles were awesome. Great animations, each character was well defined and distinctive. There’s the geek with all the technical know-how (Donnie), the two brooding warriors who both want to be the leader (Leo and Raphael), and the funny guy who always falls flat on his face and makes bad jokes (Michelangelo). Most of the humourous stuff came from “MC Mikey” which is probably why I liked him best.

* She tried to take a picture of a symbol on a wall, but you could clearly see the front camera turned on. So she basically took a selfie, yet the next day she has the symbol printed out. They must have tired of filming her taking pictures until she got it right…

The turtles have been trained by a mutated rat with rather dubious methods (and yes, that’s a slice of pizza!):

Anyhow. In this movie, they face the ultimate evil adversary – the Shredder. *drumroll*

The Shredder has a rather unfortunate ancestry. Imagine an ancient japanese warrior, like so. Then add the handy hands of Edward Scissorhands and put the whole thing into an Iron Man suit. What will you get?

THIS:

Yes, it’s a completely overpowered super evil robot that wants to destroy the Ninja turtles and is controlled by the bad guys. In terms of weapons, this is possibly the most efficient and bad-ass one. Emphasis on the bad. A bit less could have worked just as well…

And then there’s Mr. Sacks. He’s the bad guy (which will be found out later in the movie. At the beginning, April believes he is a friend and tells him all about the mutated turtles). I don’t have anything against the character (played by William Fichtner) – it’s just the name! Couldn’t they have picked something like Smith, Brown or ANYthing but the one name that sounds like sex? There’s this part in the movie where he talks about his company and its success – saying something along the lines of “sex chemicals, sex industry, sex robotics and sex construction”. My friend and I were dying of laughter at that point. Unfortunately, there was a young boy sitting in front of us and his mom turned around and asked us to shut up. I’m sure she wasn’t that amused, either.

So really, this name is just wrong. My friend and I thought about changing the vocal, but neither sicks nor secks, let alone socks and sucks would have been more appropriate. Oh Well.

In summary, I think the movie is a nice one to watch if there’s nothing else on – especially if you’re under 18. Or drunk. Or with friends. Or if you’re a die-hard fan of the ninja turtles. It is not a movie to go to if you expect a great film with amazing actors and a deep story and character development. I did enjoy watching it, especially since it has some pretty badass action scenes and the special effects aren’t bad, either. Bonus for the snow chase! Minus for the geeky bike helmet.

I apologize if this review sounds a bit insincere and sarcastic. Although, on second thought – nope, not apologizing for that.

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Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier – A Review

Hello, hello! I know, I haven’t been very active lately, but now I’m back with a brand new movie review on Marvel’s latest hero story! I’ll try very hard not to spoiler anything. But please read with caution!

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Marvel is pretty good when it comes to marketing. Want to know why? Well. They do so much more than just releasing a movie every few months – they are creating a universe where everything is affected by another. So each movie is part of a bigger picture.

Last fall, they started a whole series around agent Coulson and a team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents. (No superheroes there, just incredibly talented and clever humans). This show has connected both the Thor 2 movie and now the Winter Soldier. So basically, when a new movie comes out, the series stops for a few weeks and then incorporates  the events of the movies into the next episodes. How grand is that? It’s perfect marketing.

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Of course you can still watch the series without knowing what happens in the movies or rather you can decide to get the spoilers in the series. But really. Who wants that? I certainly don’t, so basically that’s why I ended up going to the cinema yesterday. Because I am completely hooked and want to know everything that happens in Marvel’s universe. And I hate spoilers.

Let see then, what I thought of Winter Soldier.

I watched the 3D Version – and it was bombastic. I loved the visual effects, not only during the explosions and action scenes, but also the general depth added by 3D. I can’t really remember the last movie I saw with 3D technology, but I think Winter Soldier so far was the best experience I ever had with 3D. It felt just real, not too overwhelming, not too forced. Thumbs up for that!

 

The cast was mostly known, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Cobie Smulders starred in previous productions such as The Avengers. But there were some fresh faces as well, such as Anthony Mackie as Falcon and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier. In my opinion, the cast was good, not great. They act well together, but I was missing a certain brilliance, some sort of deeper connection that makes me forget the names of the actor and completely believe in the characters. If I had to pick one, I’d say Scarlett Johansson had the best performance. I love the character Black Widow and she got the whole package: action scenes, a lot of funny remarks and some thoughtful inside moments. I still have no clue who she really is or what happened to her, but I felt that her character was portrayed very nicely and believable. I also liked the bantering between her and Steve Rogers. (Apologies to all Cap fans out there, I never really liked that character. It’s not Chris Evans fault. Or maybe it is.)

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What I like about the Marvel movies is that in the end, there is always some sort of positive resolution, but the development to that moment is the most important part. The plot was interesting, not too complex but also not too shallow. There were some nice twists in there, I had a couple of “No that did NOT just happen!” moments – then again, some major surprises weren’t too surprising for me because of what happens in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D series. There were tons of references to previous movies, especially the previous Captain America movie. But for those who are not familiar with Steve Roger’s story, Marvel found a nice way of explaining the most important things: there are a few flashbacks and they also have a Captain America museum which plays a minor role.

The fighting sequences are breathtaking, there are some major badass moves (I love the  Black Widow’s fighting style and Steve’s round shield!). I was not the only person in the cinema who was stunned and thought “Wooooow what was that just know”. There were a few scenes – let’s call them “touching” – which were, to me at least, disappointing. For example the after-showdown scene between Cap and Bucky. Or what happens to Nick Fury. But that is just a personal feeling. I didn’t cry. I usually cry at those moments.

Let’s wrap it up: I liked the movie. It was good entertainment, fantastic visuals and a solid performance by a mostly known cast. The storyline was ok, some surprises but mostly building up to a reasonably good ending. There were moments where I was literally sitting in my seat rubbing my hands in excitement because I knew what was about to happen. Loved that. It feels so much better if you know more about the whole universe; I think I got a lot more references than the people next to me (who didn’t know much about the whole Marvel thing).

Nick-Fury-I-See-What-You-Did-There

 

If you liked the previous Marvel productions, go and see this one. It’s really worth it. Maybe not the best movie of the year, but definitely a good one. They left me and all the others with a huge cliff hanger, foreshadowing exciting events for the future, both the series and other movies. (I get the feeling Loki will be part of that future, yup, yup. But that’s just me.) You have to stay until the end though, to see it!

Also, if you haven’t already done that, go and watch the series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It helps to understand. And it’s fun to watch!(And if you haven’t seen any of the Marvel movies – start with Iron Man and then go up chronologically. It makes more sense that way 😉 )

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The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug – A Review

This review might contain spoilers. If you have not seen this movie, the previous one or read the book, do so first 😉

Yesterday was the day. I finally got to see the second part of the Hobbit, which I had been waiting for forever (a year, but that is so long!). I was so excited; I literally was jumping in my seat when it started and silently clapping my hands. However, I left the cinema slightly less ecstatic than last time. The movie was great, amazing pictures and all, but they changed the story a bit too much for my liking. I read the book after the first part last year and was amazed at how close they stayed to the story, but this time there was so much more action than in the original book. They also changed the scene with Beorn, the scenes in the forest, the scenes in the mountain, what happens in Dale… I like that they added Legolas, but the female elf and the blooming love triangle just seems forced. It’s not flowing, not natural. Too bad. (They also added about 1000 orcs. And they are all so handsome!)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo is downright hilarious. There are a lot more funny moments, and they are most of the time nonverbal. The way Bilbo moves, looks, shrugs, whatever. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing – as did the whole cinema. Amazing, amazing, amazing actor.

What I also thought amazing was Smaug. I regret that I couldn’t watch the movie in English because I really want to hear Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, but the German part wasn’t bad at all. Nice dialogue, fantastic animation. I actually like Smaug! Spoiler alert: He gets massive screen time. Deservedly so.

In total, I really liked the movie. I laughed, I was excited and I feared for our heroes. Although there were many changes to the story, it still makes sense in a way. As usual, Peter Jackson did an excellent job at capturing the scenes with so many details (look out for the very first scene in the movie, guess who’s walking past?) . I was not as flashed as last time, but then it is always hard for a sequel to live up to the previous one.

I will definitely watch the Hobbit again in English as soon as I possibly can (when’s the DVD release??). And then start waiting another year to get to see the finale. Oh Peter Jackson, what are you doing to me? 😀 thcc_bilbo_01

 

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Hunger Games: Catching Fire – A Review

I went to the cinema last week to finally see Catching Fire. I had been anticipating this movie since the first part came out, so I am glad the wait is over. It was rather spontaneous, I found the special one-time screening in English only about two days earlier (and there was no way I would endure the torture of watching this movie in German.)

The movie was just as fascinating as the first part. As a huge fan of the book series, I was both excited and afraid to see all these characters and settings on screen, but they did a good job and I really loved it. The costumes are downright amazing, I want some of the dresses RIGHT NOW! Effie’s look is hilarious as usual and Katniss has some awesome dresses as well.

The relationships between all the characters are portrayed lovely. The old ones as well as the new ones. For example Finnick and Johanna are some of my favourites and in my opinion, Prim has developed much since the last movie. You can tell she grew up and understands her responsibilities. Also, you just gotta love Haymitch!

I can’t say much about the surprising twists and stuff like that, since I know that story almost by heart and I knew what was coming. Still, I was curious and excited about HOW they would represent certain events. Although I imagined the arena differently, I still liked it.

The soundtrack is also lovely, I believe music is a vital part of the success of a movie. In Catching Fire, the music, settings/landscapes, characters and costumes are very well done, you can tell how much detail they put into every scene. I will now wait patiently until the DVD comes out and then until the third part will hit the theatres. Geez. Will be another years or so, right?

Well, go and see Catching Fire now and experience for yourself the weird, twisted and hopeful story of Katniss and Panem. And may the odds be EVER in your favour.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness – A Review

Today I spontaneously went and watched the brand new Star Trek movie featuring the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch. I can’t even remember the last time I watched a Star Trek movie but I know it was part of my childhood and I enjoyed the Enterprise Crew’s adventures. I haven’t watched many SciFi movies in the last years, but I am in a mood for action and superhero movies recently, so this fitted in perfectly.

I loved the movie! There was a lot of shooting, fighting and blowing up, possibly a bit too much, but that was expected. As usual, the Enterprise nearly crashes on some planet or is otherwise destroyed and I know that in most movies, there is a good ending. I was still on the edge of my seat and anticipating what would happen next.

There were also quite a bit of hilarious moments where you just had to burst out laughing – many of them involved Mr. Spock. It took me back a few years – because I remember it was like that in the previous movies as well.

The story is interesting, though I cannot say whether it is original or not. I certainly enjoyed it and couldn’t foresee some of the twists. (But I usually never can because I’m not trying. Where’s the fun in knowing everything?) The actors were good, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and the guy who played Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto, apparently). I am not too fond of the Kirk actor, but I cannot put my finger on it. Maybe he’s just not THE Captain Kirk but an younger, more reckless version.

In any case, I am very glad I got to see that movie and I feel like I want to re-watch some of the older movies now for good times sake. I just finished watching the Batman Series and might be tackling Superman or Captain America next, might as well throw in a bit SciFi along the way.

If you’re not a fan of SciFi and can’t relate to the whole starship theme, this is not the movie for you. But in any other case, especially if you’re a fan of Cumberbatch, go and see it!

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Les Misérables – A Review

Finally, I got to see the musical Les Misérables! I had wanted so see it since I came here, but I waited for somebody to accompany me for too long. I have only two weeks to go, so I decided to go alone. I went to the early show and I had the perfect seat: Upper Circle, front row in the centre.  I had to lean forward, but that was quite comfortable.

I love the music, the story and the characters; it was a very powerful performance. I tried very hard not to cry, but of course I failed miserably –just like the girl sitting next to me. We were sobbing in unison at the end. Even though I know the story and I had watched the movie a few months ago, it was still so very touching and I was excited to see how they would perform certain things – for example Javert’s last song.

Compared to the movie cast, I liked most of the actors equally. The only one I preferred in the movie was Russell Crowe as Javert, he was just amazing. Eddie Redmayne was an amazing Marius, but I liked the singing voice of the musical actor better. The costumes were stunning and the backgrounds were incredible. They had a turning stage in the form of a circle. So you got to see what was happening in front of the barricades or behind in turns. Compared to the Phantom of the Opera, it was even better in terms of stage setting. All the different sets were very realistic and believable, no matter whether it was the House of the Innkeepers or the sewer system.

The show was almost sold out I think, which is just another sign for how much people love Les Mis. The actors got standing ovations at the end and it was well deserved. Les Misérables now officially is my favourite musical of all times, placing Wicked as second. I can only recommend everybody to go see it if you haven’t – or see it again if you have. It is well worth the money and time. You should also go and buy the DVD or Bluray of the movie, which will be released tomorrow (13th of May)!

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The Phantom of the Opera – A Review

I had always loved the movie and the music, so I was excited to go to this musical. I went with my friend who was here for the weekend, but unfortunately we were running late – so that we were quite literally running to the theatre to get there on time. We barely made it, but we had to stumble to our seats in darkness, for the musical was about to start. So we didn’t get to enjoy the whole experience of waiting in anticipation for the show.

But in any case, we still enjoyed the musical. We had seats rather high up in the Grand circle, and we couldn’t see the left corner of the stage. Since the important stuff always happens in the center, I didn’t mind. They had great costumes and I wanted to get backstage and steal half of the dresses the actresses wore. Wonderfully coloured and sparkling and all. Really lovely.  I also admired the background setting; they had some kind of 3D-drawing of the beams and curtains and all that. It created a great atmosphere. And the candles in the basement where the Phantom lives, that was rather impressive! I liked the overall setting.

What I didn’t particularly like were the actors. Christine was beautiful, but her voice was not right. She completely ruined “Think of me”, which is one of my favourite songs, and that was disappointing. She hit the notes all right, but the emotion was somehow lacking. The Phantom was also not that great. He seemed to be rather short, same height as Christine, which didn’t impress me. He is supposed to be tall and intimidating, not that smallish. His voice wasn’t as resonant as I had hoped. The others were fine and I wouldn’t complain about them. I guess I just had the voices of the actors in the movie in my mind and they were simply different.

Overall, I enjoyed the show, despite those small drawbacks. I had a lovely evening with one of my favourite stories when it comes to musicals (and of course with my favourite friend from my hometown!). I recommend the show to everybody who likes the classical type of musicals.

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The Host – A Review

If you have not read the book or seen the movie, be warned that this review contains spoilers.

Friday morning, I went to see the Host with two of my friends. I had read the book (the German version) a few years back and was anticipating this movie. I had followed the casting process before and was not completely happy with the outcome, but I still wanted to see how they had portrayed the story. I enjoyed the book very much (even though I was very reserved, considering it is the author of that bloody twilight series), so I hoped for a good movie.

The cinema was empty, since we were there around noon. We were watching the subtitles version, which bothered me slightly at the beginning, but faded into the background after a while.

My overall impression was very positive; they stuck to most of the story and changed only a few details (as far as I could tell, I have to reread the book to be certain), but I felt that some depth was missing. The movie seemed a bit rushed, even though it is about two hours long. The relationships between the characters seemed shallow and not too convincing, especially between Wanda and Ian. In the book, I was completely taken by it – in the movie, it felt awkward. I was a bit disappointed.

Of course, I realize that in a book, you have more time to explain all that happens on a deeper level, but still. There were a few other details that didn’t quite fit. The seekers have shiny transportation. Meaning: silver cars, motorcycles, trucks and helicopters. That’s fine, but they are not only shiny, but they are also self-cleaning: you can drive them through the desert and they are spotless afterwards. Amazing, right? Mum, Dad, I want such a car, too!

I liked the way they portrayed the souls. Those little wormlike thinks with their tentacles. That’s pretty much how I imagined it. I was, however, not pleased with Wanda in the end. She was supposed to be blond! Why did they change that to brunette? It makes no sense!  That really disappointed me.

Cinematography and all that was fine, they had some lovely landscape shots in there and the cave system was beautifully done. So all in all, I enjoyed the movie, but it will not be my favourite. It didn’t move me as much as the book did, but it is a movie that you can watch while slouching on the sofa.

Unfortunately, my friend mentioned a certain Stargate story that is very, very close to this one and was published quite a long time before the Host. That made the whole book and movie kind of lame. Who likes people who just copy? I don’t. I still like the book, but I don’t see it as a creative piece of art anymore.

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