ORBzine - Young Adult Adaptations Movie Reviews


The Fifth Wave

The Fifth Wave Yes, yet another post-Apocalyptic action movie with a teenage heroine like Hunger Games and Divergent . The protagonist is Chloe Grace Moretz , but she is not the kick-ass hit-girl we are used to.

Alien starships arrive and hover over the major cities, like in V: The Series . Then they start their attacks. The first wave is an EMP, which makes planes drop out of the sky like in Revolution . The second wave is more literal, a massive tsunami like in Deep Impact . The third wave is an outbreak of disease. The fourth wave is a bunch of hillbillies with hunting rifles.

Finally the US Army arrives on the scene, led by a Colonel (Liev Schreiber - Scream ) and Sergeant ( Maria Bello ). It turns out they are building an army of child soldiers to fight the Fifth Wave of the alien invasion. Anyone who has seen the film Oblivion will be a bit cynical about this whole series of events.

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  • The Giver

    The Giver This is set in a futuristic city, isolated from the outside world - a standard trope in Sci-Fi. The story is based on a Young Adult novel, and is quite derivative of other works. Our protagonist (a male, which is unusual for this sub-genre) turns eighteen, and attends the standard job-allocation ceremony (like in Divergent ). He is allocated a strange job - he is to be a receiver of memories, the guardian of almost-forgotten knowledge. Jeff Bridges (almost as beardy and unkempt as he was in True Grit ) is his predecessor and trainer, who now becomes the Giver of memories. The old man teaches the youngster by means of a telepathic link.

    Naturally, when our hero discovers the dark side of his Utopia he rebels against the system. In this case the grown-ups are his Mother ( Katie Holmes ), Father (Alexander Saarsgard - True Blood ) and the community's Matriarch Meryl Streep .

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  • I am Number 4

    I am Number 4 This is based on a novel, but the unoriginality does not begin there. The producers are Gough and Millar ( Smallville ) and Marti Noxious ( Buffy ). The plot is a rehash of Roswell . Alien teenagers are in hiding on modern-day Earth. Our hero, Number Four, is one of them. His guardian/mentor is American Jedi Timothy Olyphant (the male Julie Benz - he is in everything!). Our hero goes to a new High School, where he meets love interest Diana Agron . She also plays a High School girl in Glee , though she (like the rest of the cast) is about ten years too old. There are the usual 2-dimensional jock and nerd stereotypes too.

    Our heroes are hunted by the Trench Coat Mafia - they have tattoos, they are the least subtle villains since Charmed . Their leader is Joshua from Dark Angel ! Speaking of that show, there is also a mysterious Buffy-lookalike, Faith-acting motorbike chick ( Eliza Taylor ) ...

    The result is predictable enough. But if you know what to expect, you have no right to complain.

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  • Hunger Games Franchise

    Hunger Games

    Hunger Games Once upon a time, 13 colonies rebelled against their Government. The Colonies - err, districts - were defeated. The victors, Canada - err, Capital - instituted an annual TV reality show ( Running Man ) as punishment. Every year, a boy and girl from each District are put in a giant televised dome ( Truman Show ) where they hunt and kill each other. Sort of a Battle Royale - avec cheese!

    Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ) lives in poverty, in a rural district where food is scarce. This is in contrast to the country's Capital, which is Nouveau Georgian in style - all powdered wigs and face-paint (and that is just the men)! Capital controls the districts through their food supply; So where is the food actually created if not in the rural districts?

    Our heroine volunteers for the Hunger Games in her sister's place. She gets trained (supposedly) by Effie ( Elizabeth Banks ) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ).

    The Great Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) and his minions - Wes Bently ( Underworld 3 ), Stanley Tucci ( The Core ) and Toby Jones ( Your Highness ) can manipulate the games. The Dome is fitted with hard-light hologram projectors that can create a forest-fire or a horde of man-eating hounds. Unfortunately, despite this massive Holodeck (a dome several miles in diameter) they cannot be bothered to build food replicators to feed the starving. Yes, they may have circuses but not bread.

    The result is a mediocre effort. The cast is incredible, but that is because there was a huge budget. The problem is that the action scenes, the real core of the film, are ruined by shaky-cam.

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  • Hunger Games: Catching Fire

    Hunger Games: Catching Fire Just like in the first film, we spend the first half of the film in the setup. The Presidential Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) is concerned that Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ), by prompting a change in the rules of the Games last year, is encouraging rebellion. The new gamesmaster, Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Mission Impossible 3 ), advises him that character assassination will be better than actual assassination. As a result, this year's Hunger Games will consist of the victors of the previous years' Games.

    We get to meet some of the other survivors of previous games. Some of them are potential allies, while others may become arch-rivals. Johanna ( Jenna Malone ) is near breaking point. Jeffrey Wright ( Casino Royale ) is a brainiac. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ) is still around to give Katniss advice. His scene at the end sets up the next film.

    It is nice to see action scenes that are not ruined by shaky-cam. Also, as Big Government cracks down on the rural poor we get a lot more of the political background to the series. The first movie was about survival, while this is more about resistance.

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  • Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Katniss and the others reach sanctuary in District 13. The President of 13 ( Julianne Moore ) needs the Victors of the Games as a propaganda tool. Katniss agrees, under certain conditions. Unfortunately the scripted lines they feed her are dreadful.

    Katniss spends most of the film in an underground bunker. There is a single action scene she is part of, where she uses a single arrow to shoot down TWO enemy fighter-bombers. Apart from that, the film relies mainly on suspense and tension as she watches other people take all the risks. As a result, some viewers feel that splitting the book was a mistake - presumably most of the action-adventure stuff happens in the second half. Some people regard this as being too thought-provoking and not explosive enough.

    District 13 have been stockpiling weapons, although these are presumably out-of-date compared to the Capital’s next-generation weaponry. However, the tactics employed by both sides seem unusually wasteful of manpower.

    The Capital is a massive mega-city with a holodeck several miles in diameter. This is powered by a hydro-electric power plant similar to the Hoover Dam. So what on earth do they need ten thousand hillbillies to mine coal for? And for every ten miners there are five guards to act as slave-drivers. This is a terrible waste of resources!

    District 13 has weaponry and trained soldiers, but they do not distribute them to the local Resistance movements like the SOE did in World War Two. Instead they rely on the revolting peasants to use human wave tactics, losing so many civilians that the villains run out of ammunition. So is District 13 any better than the Capital in terms of wasting human life?

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  • Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ) is reduced to a propaganda tool for the President of 13 ( Julianne Moore ). However, our heroine has a different plan. She makes her way to the frint line, where she is talked into joining a team of combat aces. Despite being the best of the best, their mission is not to go after enemy targets - merely to shoot more propaghanda footage. However, they must do this in a war zone, within the Capital itself.

    The Presidential Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) uses his minion Robert Knepper (Prison Break) as a scapegoat for military failures. Then he gets the games-makers to weaponise their forcefield technology. Instead of repairing the mile-wide holodeck they create hundreds of replicators that function as boobytraps, creating deadly flame or oil to kill the approaching rebels.

    Katniss also has personal problems. Both her love interests are included in the propaganda team. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson - Bridge to Terabithia ) has been brainwashed by the villains, and Gaela (Chris Hemsworth - Expendables 2 ) is now too deeply integrated with the District 13 mindset for comfort.

    The gamesmaster, Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Mission Impossible 3 ) is missing from a couple of key scenes because the actor died during production. His loss is keenly felt, even though the film papers over his absence.

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  • Divergent Franchise


    Divergent This is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, when all life on Earth has been destroyed (apparently) except the MegaCity of Chicago. The population has been split into five factions, each representing one human personality trait. Sort of like Herman's Head, but dumbed down and without the jokes. They are the snobs (intellect), the rude people (honesty), the hippies (growing food), the public servants (giving the food away to the homeless) and the Dauntless (free-running teenagers). The teenagers must take a test to find their aptitude, so they know which faction to join. This is not a written test, it is a drug-induced state allowing the testers to observe the candidate's surface thoughts via a monitor. Maggie Q is the test administrator, so we know she will pop up later.

    Our heroine is Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), raised as a public servant, chooses Dauntless. She does not have the physical fitness necessary, and the necessary character traits are not established so it all seems out of character. I mean, Katniss in Hunger Games was established as a bow-hunter, but this girl is never shown as having an interest in free-running.

    There is another problem with her leaving her home Faction. You can choose a new Faction, but they do not have to choose you. The bottom 35% of testees are dropped, and since they cannot return home they become Factionless. They will be excluded from citizenship and all the creature comforts, but are still allowed to live in the city (as homeless scroungers in cardboard boxes). Now, this means that there are three times as many of them than of any single faction! That said, there are always the suicides and the selective murders.

    Kate Winslet , leader of the snobs, decides to launch a Coup D'Etat against the city leader, the head of the Public Servants - Ray Stevenson ( Punisher: War Zone ). His associates, including Katniss' mother ( Ashley Judd ) are all marked for death. Can Katniss and her friends save the day?

    The story has an open ending, because there are two more books in the series. Like Captain America 2 (which was released at the same time) it is PG-13, so the action is CGI violence - there are no realistic injuries. Of course, this effort has a much more simplistic plot, but that is really where the differences end.

  • Insurgent
  • Allegient
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  • Insurgent

    Insurgent The second book in the Divergent Series, this takes off just were the original leaves off. There is no character development to speak of, the characters are just as two-dimensional as they were in the first film. Yes, the previous film’s Hero’s Journey resulted in absolutely no character development for the supporting cast.

    The English BF discovers that his mother ( Naomi Watts ) has disguised herself by becoming a brunette and looking ten years younger. She faked her death, and is now the secret leader of the Casteless Untouchables. She plans a violent rebellion against the ruling clique, so she is the perfect ally. However, her son (who has had minimal contact with her for over a decade) condemns her as completely untrustworthy. How can he be so certain? And more importantly, is he correct?

    The teenage heroes must infiltrate the villains' HQ and overthrow the evil regime. No surprises there.

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  • Allegient
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  • Allegient

    Allegient This is the first half of third book in the Divergent Series.

    The English BF's mother Evelyn ( Naomi Watts ) has her own agenda. She kills anyone who does not do what she says. She starts with Kate Winslet's followers, but then goes on to kill Joan's followers as well.

    Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), her English BF and her brother make a break for freedom. Miles Teller ( Fastastic Four ) tags along, despite having double-crossed Tris (and been forgiven by her) in both the previous two movies. They discover a utopia ruled by ... However, Tris is paranoid about things that are too good to be true. After all, we all know how Mount Weather turned out in The 100: Season 2 .

    The villains plan to release a gas that gives everyone in Chicago a memory wipe. The heroes act as if it is a terrible idea, but it is a non-lethal weapon that will stop the war and prevent any further killing.

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  • Insurgent
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  • Maze Runner Franchise

    Maze Runner

    Maze Runner An amnesiac teenager wakes up in a location filled with other teenage boys. They are in a concrete pen, many acres in size, with only one way in or out. During daytime hours the gate is open, and the boys can explore the maze outside. But at night the gates automatically lock, while the Maze resets itself. And anyone locked outside at night is left to the mercy of monsters so terrifying that nobody has ever seen them and lived to tell about it.

    The setting is original but the storyline is quite basic. Our protagonist must make allies, explore the maze and eventually save everyone. It is adapted from a Young Adult novel, so it is not overly complicated. However, it is well-made and the style makes up for the substance. All in all, quite a watchable effort.

  • Scorch Trials
  • Death Cure
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  • Maze Runner 2: Scorch Trials

    Maze Runner 2: Scorch Trials The original film in the series seemed to be exactly that - original, to a greater or lesser extend. However, this sequel is a derivative and predictable piece of work.

    Our teenage heroes find themselves guests in a bunker where they are checked out by medical personnel. But does the boss (Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones ) have their best intentions at heart? Or is this like in The 100: Season 2 ?

    Our heroes make their way across the desert, AKA the Scorch of the title. It does not live up to its reputation, as it is not the thing that actually inflicts damage on their group. No, what puts them in danger is their tendency to REPEATEDLY wander around in dark creepy ruins where the Fast Zombies are lurking! Also note, when wandering in the desert everyone seems to use camp-fires that can be seen many miles away. And they assume that the villains will be unable to track them down!

    Our heroes meet Giancarlo Esposito (an untrustworthy renegade who is a more ragged-looking version of his character in Revolution ) and Alan Tudyk (not at all like his character in Firefly ). Can they find Sanctuary, like in Logan’s Run ? Will the rebel leaders ( Lilli Taylor and Barry Pepper - Battleground Earth ) shelter them? And since the villains use helicopters as their main assault vehicle, do the rebels have lookouts and Anti-Aircraft weapons at the ready?

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  • Death Cure
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  • Girls Kick Ass!

    Atomic Blonde

    Atomic Blonde The title character ( Charlize Theron ) is given a debriefing by Toby ( Your Highness ). The result is an unnecessarily convoluted tale filled with nonsensical twists and double-crosses.

    The title character is basically a female James Bond. The brutal violence is like something out of Jason Bourne , but she also has the sex drive of 007. The last female action character who could compete with Bond in this area is Barbarella .

    The blonde is sent to West Berlin, where she is teamed up with the local British agent (James McAvoy - Wanted ). They team up against the KGB.

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  • Colombiana

    Colombiana This starts in Colombia, 1992. A gangster and his wife ( Cynthia Addai-Robinson ) are targeted by a hit-squad. Their daughter turns out to be a free-runner, and she easily evades the gun-toting adult men who chase her. Then she outsmarts the CIA, and gets to Chicago. Her Uncle (Cliff Curtis - Risen ) trains her as a world-class assassin, like in Leon .

    Fifteen years later, the girl has grown up to be Zoe Saldana . She may be the best assassin in the world, but she has a very nasty habit of grandstanding. Leaving a calling card is bad enough, but instead of killing a man with a single shot she takes out all his security team as well for no reason. This does not get her enemy's attention, she just gets herself targeted by FBI Agent Lennie James ( Walking Dead ).

    The arch-villain, the Colombian drug lord who killed her parents, is under witness relocation thanks to CIA Agent Callum Blue ( Dead like Me ). However, he still has his old death squad hanging around.

    This was directed by Olivier Megaton , and is basically a cliched shoot-em-up.

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  • DOA: Dead Or Alive

    DOA: Dead Or Alive A trio of high-kicking kung-fu babes (Ninja Princess Devon Aoki , Texan wrestler Jamie Pressley and Australian cat-burglar Holly Valance ) are all invited by rollergirl Sarah Carter and suspiciously friendly Eric Roberts ( The Expendables ) to fight in a Mixed Martial-Arts tournament. Like in Mortal Kombat , without all the Otherworld stuff.

    Natassia Malthe is a Ninja sent to kill the Princess for abandoning the clan. The so-called Ninjas use Chinese skills, not Japanese ones, but this is not the kind of film to take seriously.

    The fights are well-shot and expertly choreographed, but it descends to typically OTT wire-fu. This was shot by a Hong Kong director on a Hollywood budget ...

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  • Ghost in the Shell (2017)

    Ghost in the Shell (2017) This is a completely unnecessary remake of a classic Manga cartoon. The story originates in Japan, but it is made in an era when the big Hollywood studios are attempting to open up the Chinese market. So who is the best person to play the lead role? The role is for an Asian female, but will the actress be Japanese or Chinese? Well ... it is the auburn-haired caucasian Scarlett Johannson ! Her sidekick is another caucasian - Pilou Asbaek ( Game of Thrones ). The only non-English speaker is the boss (Beat Takeshi - ), who talks in Japanese while everyone else responds to him in English.

    The film is intended to be shown to American audiences without subtitles. As a result it completely lacks subtlety. For example, when Johansson becomes a cyborg the doctor ( Juliette Binoche ) explains that her mind - the Ghost of the title - is in a shell-like robot body.

    The Major, a cyborg, is part of a police unit that runs a dystopian city. The villains are held to be bad people because they believe that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. In contrast, the police kill suspects on sight and rarely take prisoners, so the issue of morality is irrelevant.

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  • Hanna

    Hanna Hanna ( Saoirse Ronan ) is raised in a snowy wilderness to be an expert warrior - like Conan the Barbarian . Being a girl, however, a better comparison might be to say that she was raised like Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass .

    Eric Bana has been living in secret off the grid, like he did in Hulk . But when Hanna is old enough, he sends her to kill his arch-enemy Cate Blanchett .

    This has elements of fairytales, with Hanna as a Little Red Riding Hood and Blanchett as a Wicked Witch. But Bana is an unstoppable killing machine in his own right, especially compared to the mediocre henchmen that Blanchett deploys, that the main battle is something of an anti-climax.

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  • Haywire

    Haywire This is a modern 21st Century thriller, but it is closer in tone to the 1970s than the techno-thrillers of today. Mallory ( Gina Carano ) is a female Jason Bourne, on a roaring rampage of revenge, rather than a hi-tech James Bond. She is double-crossed and left for dead, as is typical in these things.

    Can the lead actress cut it? She is a Mixed Martial Arts cage-fighter, not a supermodel or Shakespearean thespian, but the script was written for her strengths. If The Rock can follow in Arnold Schwarzenegger's footsteps, why can a woman not do likewise? A look at the male action stars (Van Damme, Seagal, Lundgren, etc) shows a tendency towards athleticism over thespianism.

    Stephen Soderburgh delivers a lot of action, but the cast does not let up in terms of acting ability. Duplicitous characters include Michael Fassbender ( X-Men: First Class ), Ewan McGregor ( Star Wars: TPM ) and Antonio Banderas ( Mark of Zorro ).

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  • Lucy

    Lucy Scarlet Johannson is shanghaied (no pun intended) into delivering a mysterious briefcase to a gangster in Taiwan. Unfortunately, these gangsters have no concept of the word subtlety. They leave a lot of messy corpses all over the place, like a cannibalistic family of hillbillies in a clichéd horror movie.

    The McGuffin is a new drug that unlocks the human brain’s full potential. This was previously covered in the film Limitless , where the drug only increased intelligence. However, in this film the drug also gives the taker telepathy, then telekinesis … and finally turns them into a Star Trek creature of pure energy.

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  • Morgan

    Morgan Brian Cox sends a young female troubleshooter ( Kate Mara ) to investigate a robotic prototype that injured one of its creators. The robot, a girl they named Morgan ( Anya Taylor-Joy ), lives in a bunker in the grounds of a remote mansion. The mansion this was filmed at is in Northern Ireland, but it seems to be standing in for Canada. The scientists include a few familiar faces - Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Leslie .

    The film starts slowly, as we get to know a bit about each of the characters. This does not really make us care about any of them, because everything is so slow-moving that they just seem a bit boring. There is a certain amount of tension, however. That is because of the ever-present fear that this story might just be another Frankenstein story, the kind that every robot-based storyline usually turns into - one where the scientists are destroyed by their own creation.

    Things really start to happen with the arrival of the interrogator (Paul Giamatti - ). His scene-stealing, scenery-chewing performance really brings the show to life, and lets us realise exactly what is missing from the rest of the film. Unfortunately this is something of a high point. There are a few action scenes, including the compulsory car chase, but nothing in the original setup really led up to this.

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  • Salt

    Salt Evelyn Salt ( Angelina Jolie ) is a CIA Agent. She gets accused of being a mole, so she goes on the run to clear her name. Yes, the same plotline that Tom Cruise goes through in every Mission: Predictable movie. Liev Shriver ( Scream ) is in charge of the (wo-)man hunt.

    When this came out, mainstream critics lauded it as the first female-led action movie. Of course, not only is this a slap in the face to fans of the Resident Evil franchise or the Underworld series, but it also ignores the fact that the female lead in this film had already starred in TWO Lara Croft movies!

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  • Millennium Trilogy Franchise

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The The film kicks off with an Uber-stylish credits sequence, like something out of a James Bond film, to a Trent Reznor cover version of a classic rock song. It then proceeds into a pulp 1970s-style revenge thriller that Quentin Tarantino would be proud to have written. Of course, David Fincher gave us slick pieces like Se7en so this is much less gaudy or lurid in delivery.

    Our hero is Crusading Journalist Stieg Larson - oops, I mean Mikhail von Blumberg - who looks like International sex symbol James Bond (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale ). He is in trouble for harassing and slandering a businessman who is supposed to have helped finance the Croatian Militias in the defence of their families during the Serbian genocide of the 1990s. Wow, no political point-scoring here.

    The title character is Lizbo Salamander ( Rooney Mara ) , who has single-handedly invented the Goth-chick look. Wow, how original! She is a ward of the state - ooh, poor victim. Wait a minute, she is a violent sociopath with multiple convictions for violent felonies. If this story had been re-set in the USA, rather than having English-speaking actors pretending to be Swedish, she would be just another ex-convict being hassled by her Parole Officer. Instead we are meant to side with her against the corrupt socialist institutions that the author Larson himself champions!

    The protagonists are hired to investigate a missing persons case. They stumble across a serial killer - more of a Ted Bundy than a John Wayne Gacy, so it is Fem-Jep instead of gay-bashing. The implication is that this is linked to Nazis and anti-Semitism. In reality, Sweden was one of the LEAST fascist European countries in the 1940s - despite having pro-Nazi dictatorships for all their neighbours, and the spectre of invasion by Stalinist Russia, the Swedes remained staunchly neutral (and thus saved thousands of civilians from the Holocaust). Also, not all Nazis were anti-Semitic (and vice versa). But Larson, ever keen to make political attacks on people he disagrees with, ignores the facts.

    The morals of the story? Freedom of speech is vital, unless you disagree with Stieg Larson's opinions. Big business is corrupt and should be shut down - by an equally corrupt Socialist regime. Rape is horrible and should not be glamourised or exploited - except in stories like this. All in all, self-righteous hypocritical crap.

  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The
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  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The

    Girl Who Played With Fire, The This is a made-for-TV follow-up to the original film. It is in Swedish, with subtitles.

    A Female Supremacist ( Buffy meets Romper Stomper) takes on the organised sex trade. This is hypocritical, since she pays for lesbian sex herself. A pity that Emma Watson did not get the role for the US remake, because the film would be a great hit if it had Hermione Granger going down on another woman!

    This was written by a journalist with his own political agenda to push, and it shows. His hypocrisy is dreadful. In the book he states that a woman merely experiments with bondage, while he accuses a man who does the same of acting out sick rape fantasies.

  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The
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