Published Post author

Prey Book Cover Prey
Michael Crichton
November 11, 2003

In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles -- micro-robots -- has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.

Every attempt to destroy it has failed.

And we are the prey.


Prey, like many of Crichton’s books, is hard to peg down into a single genre. Crichton had this masterful approach of blending sci-fi, mystery, thriller, and horror. Compared to some of his other books, Prey is a bit tamer. By that, I mean that the book is easier to read. The explanations of real-world science that leads to the sci-fi aspect are not as intense as in his other works like Congo or Jurassic Park. That being said, science and new technology will still scare you senseless after reading Prey.

The mystery, like the science, was on the lighter side in Prey (for a Crichton book). The story had the twists and turns you can expect from Crichton’s work but to a lesser extent. None of the reveals felt particularly surprising; Prey did not have any “I did NOT see that coming” moments. On the whole, Prey is one of the easier Crichton books for a general audience. It is a good starting point for people who want to test the waters with his novels and may not want to jump feet first into the sheer level of science and raw information that is prevalent in many of his other acclaimed novels.

Readers can see bits and pieces of Crichton’s earlier works repeating themselves in Prey. The book centers around a group of scientists trying to stop a threat the rest of the world does not know about that could ultimately have global repercussions, similar to The Andromeda Strain. The threatening technology was made by scientists basing their work off of technology they did not 100% understand. In other words, the scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn’t stop to think if they should. And when disaster finally strikes it is a battle of man vs. monster, a common theme in many Crichton books.

For the time being, Prey is one of Crichton’s books that has aged well. This was the 3rd-to-last book published before Michael Crichton died. The relative newness of Prey makes the sci-fi aspect more believable compared to his older works. Take something written much earlier like Congo in comparison. A lot of the “advanced technology” in Congo is technology we actually have today. Or are a least a lot closer to in the present than when Congo came out. The technology in Prey is still far enough away that it feels futuristic enough to be scary. Technology we have already tamed is not scary; upcoming technology that could potentially spiral out of control is very scary.

November 4, 2018

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

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Poster for the movie ""

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween was not quite on par with the first film, but still a good family Halloween movie. There are plenty of good things about this movie, but a few tiny adjustments could have improved it a bit. The pacing of the story was excellent; no part of the movie felt slow once the adventure starts in earnest. It is also family friendly enough to feel like a Disney Channel movie, but with a bigger budget. But as much as that helped, it also held the movie back a bit.

The plot was the first big thing that held Haunted Halloween back. There is nothing that makes the story back, it is just basic. There are no twists and turns the audience is not expecting. Considering the Goosebumps books usually did have some kind of twist (the first movie even poked fun at that), the lack of one was a bit disappointing. For kids that works, but as an adult watching the movie for nostalgia it did not. And as is the case with most modern movies, a good portion of the plot was spoiled by the trailer.

Characterization was something else that made Haunted Halloween a bit rough. The kid characters are a bit younger than the ones in the first film. While there is nothing wrong with younger heroes, they did not have that same chemistry going as the original group. The adult characters were extremely underutilized this time around. There was a healthy balance between kids and adults in the previous movie and that just does not ring true here. Most of the adults get one or two scenes and fall to the wayside for the rest of the movie. This includes Jack Black, which is understandable since he was working on another movie while this one was being filmed.

The really big thing in the first Goosebumps was…well, Goosebumps. Every monster in the first film was from the Goosebumps books. The main villain of Haunted Halloween is still Slappy, which was great. Slappy has significantly more screen time, better motivation, and shows how smart he is despite being a dummy. But while a few other Goosebumps classics make an appearance, most of the monsters are generic. Some of them looked really cool but did lack that nostalgia factor. And while the monsters still looked nice, many of them had one close-up and were then reduced to background pieces. While all this makes Haunted Halloween a fine movie for kids, it is not going to become a Halloween staple.

October 28, 2018

A Dance of Mirrors (Shadowdance #3)

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A Dance of Mirrors Book Cover A Dance of Mirrors
David Dalglish
December 3, 2013

From USA Today bestselling author David Dalglish
One has conquered a city. The other covets an entire nation.
In book #3 of the Shadowdance series, Haern is the King's Watcher, protector against thieves and nobles who would fill the night with blood. Yet hundreds of miles away, an assassin known as the Wraith has begun slaughtering those in power, leaving the symbol of the Watcher in mockery. When Haern travels south to confront this copycat, he finds a city ruled by the corrupt, the greedy and the dangerous. Rioters fill the streets, and the threat of war hangs over everything. To forge peace, Haern must confront the deadly Wraith, a killer who would shape the kingdom's future with the blade of his sword.
Man or God; what happens when the lines are blurred?
Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power in the third novel of the Shadowdance series, previously released as A Dance of Death.


Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous two books.

A Dance of Mirrors picks up two years from where A Dance of Blades left off. While the Trifect and thief guilds are still holding to the peace treaty, Haern putting down anyone who threatens said treaty is the main thing preventing war from resuming. Then a second vigilante called The Wraith appears in the city of Angelport and begins a brutal murder spree inspired by The Watcher. With these murders provoking the local elves and threatening a war, Haern considers it his responsibility to stop the copycat.

With his mysterious, cloaked and threatening persona, Hearn takes on a classic vigilante role. He is very much like a fantasy world version of Zorro or Batman. Hearn is still a haunted character with the question of “Am I doing the right thing?” plaguing him throughout the story. Mentally, Hearn is still a very young man and it shows through his conflicting thoughts and emotions. Physically, Hearn continues to impress as a complete and total badass. Despite being a normal human with no magic in this fantasy world, he continues to keep up. Against people enhanced by magic, Hearn continues to survive on skill alone.

David Dalglish’s writing of action sequences continues to impress, whether Hearn, Zusa, or any other character is involved. While the protagonists are powerful, they are by no means invincible. Especially with the setting being a new city where they do not have their usual contacts and resources. And despite A Dance of Mirrors taking place in a different city, Angelport is no less corrupt than Veldaren. The corruption spreads its roots through the city in a different fashion, as Hearn quickly learns, but is still ever-present.

While A Dance of Mirrors is a good story, it is a somewhat specific type of fantasy. Whereas A Dance of Blades was more of a continuation, A Dance of Mirrors is its own story. On the upside, this means it holds its own as a standalone book. On the downside, there really is no overarching plot here. There is not a single, main antagonist whose dastardly plan must be stopped. But halfway through the Shadowdance series, you realize that is not the point. This is not a “save the world” story, it is a coming-of-age story. Hearn’s story. The boy raised as a tool who becomes his own man as he steps out of his father’s shadow. And I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

October 21, 2018

Fearless (The Lost Fleet #2)

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Fearless Book Cover Fearless
The Lost Fleet
Jack Campbell
January 30, 2007

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary tries a desperate gamble to lead the Alliance Fleet home-through enemy-occupied space-only to lose half the Fleet to an unexpected mutiny.

This review will contain some spoilers regarding the previous book, Dauntless.

Fearless picks up shortly where Dauntless left off, with the Alliance fleet still trapped deep in Syndicate space. As the Alliance fleet slowly makes its way home, Geary continues to implement combat tactics to overcome the enemy. All the while, he still suffers from personnel problems as some fleet officers fight against his command style. This problem becomes worse among the rescue of some POWs that include Captain Falco, a war hero less like Geary and more like Zapp Brannigan. Falco is not a bad person, he has good intentions but is very much set in his ways (i.e. the poor tactical choices that have kept the Alliance in a 100+ year war).

Geary himself remains an exemplary example to the fleet throughout Fearless. All the other officers have been fighting a war their entire lives. In a war that has gone on for several times longer than any of them have been alive. Actions that we consider horrific, like bombing civilian populations, are the norm for these people. Geary goes a long way to remind his subordinates that fighting with honor means being better than your enemy. To extend a hand of mercy in situations where you yourself would not necessarily receive one.

Co-President Rione’s involvement in Fearless starts to establish The Lost Fleet as more of a space opera. The character introductions and world building in Dauntless left little room for other developments. Now with all that information established, the space opera element becomes more apparent. Specifically, Rione begins to show feelings and desires for Geary while still being wary of him. She makes it very clear that there is some attraction, but she is still ready to put a knife in him if he starts to become a threat to the Alliance. The build-up here is slow and will likely grow greater in the next book.

Character development, on the whole, is a bit stunted in Fearless. Captain Falco’s introduction helps push it along, but the main focus here is still big space battles and military tactics. For readers more interested in the military side of these stories, that works fine. But the characters do seem like that could feel more real. At this point, The Lost Fleet is still military sci-fi first and space opera second. And the series is still very enjoyable for it. Fearless was just as good as Dauntless and book #3 should be just as entertaining.

October 14, 2018

Overlord, Vol. 8: The Two Leaders

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Overlord, Vol. 8: The Two Leaders Book Cover Overlord, Vol. 8: The Two Leaders
Kugane Maruyama
Yen On
September 18, 2018 (English); December 26, 2014 (Japanese)

After being saved from danger by Ainz, Enri and the apothecary Nfirea have been living life to the fullest as they spend their days together in Carne Village alongside their goblin-guard neighbors. But after the Wise King of the Forest left the region, the balance of the forest has been disrupted and something has filled the vacuum of power...


The Two Leaders was…well, a little disappointing. This book focuses primarily on character development, with a little world-building and no real plot development. The novel actually contains two separate (although connected) stories: one focusing on Enri and the second on Ainz. In a nutshell, each story shows what day-to-day life is like for both of them as leaders of their communities. Both stories seem to take place around Volumes 5 and 6, as it is mentioned Sebas is still in Re-Estize. While having a different spin on Overlord is nice, The Two Leaders lacked the flair of the previous volumes.

Looking solely at character development, The Two Leaders was great. Enri’s story displayed how life is for normal, everyday people in this fantasy universe. It also shows how far Carne Village has progressed after being attacked way back in Volume 1. Readers are starting to see humans and non-humans living together peacefully, something that will be required in the future if Ainz is to successfully take over the world without using an iron fist. The resolve of the villagers is made apparent, as they refuse to be defenseless victims again. Enri dealing with many of the same personal issues, as a leader, as Ainz makes for a great comparison.

Ainz’s story shows something touched on in previous volumes: his transition from a normal man to an overlord. As a former Japanese salaryman, he uses what business skills he has to run Nazarick. Many other administrative functions are left to Albedo and Demiurge, since that is literally what they were made for. Ainz’s acting skills are also shown to have improved as he prepares himself for more public appearances as a leader. While seeing big fights is always neat, seeing the day-to-day activities that are normally passed over was interesting too.

Had it been placed between other volumes chronologically, The Two Leaders may have worked better. Having it so close to the also slow Volume 4 may have been problematic but being hypothetical that is really neither here nor there. The biggest gripe with The Two Leaders is that it interrupts an ongoing storyline. Volume 7 ended on a fairly sizeable cliffhanger that is clearly leading to something big. And then this side story just gets dropped in immediately following that, which is frustrating. Frustrating enough, in fact, to knock a star off the rating. But at least Volume 9 will, hopefully, impress well enough to make up for the interruption.

October 7, 2018


Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""


It was supposed to be a game

19941 h 30 min

Meet Evolver, the ultimate toy for the Cyberpunk generation, a virtual-reality game brought to fierce, three-dimensional life. With each battle, Evolver lives up to his name. He becomes faster, smarter and deadlier. Meet Kyle Baxter (Ethan Randall) the teenage video game whiz who wins the first ever Evolver robot. Suddenly, some fatal accidents begin to happen. With help from Jamie Saunders (Cassidy Rae), a beautiful rival game player, Kyle digs up a terrifying missing link: Evo was created from a scrapped U.S. Defense Robotics Department. Designed to infiltrate enemy encampments, he has the capacity to adapt to any situation, and he's programmed to leave no survivors. By the time Kyle and Jamie discover this, Evo has evolved to his most advanced and dangerous state and will stop at nothing until he annihilates the young man who is his one undefeated opponent.

Director Mark Rosman
Runtime 1 h 30 min
Release Date 31 December 1994
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not bad

Evolver is a nugget of B-movie gold mined from the deposits of the mid-90s. The premise of the film is not terribly complicated. Boy wins a contest and receives new robot toy. Robot toy is designed for a “combat” laser tag type game. The robot follows a less-than-loose definition of “combat”, not programmed to know its just a game, and carnage ensues. There is a bit more to it than that, but the titular Evolver quickly progresses from Woody scaring Sid Phillips to an R-rated version of Small Soldiers. The movie starts out like a family film and then Evolver is dropping F-bombs and rolling around town murdering people.

This is one of those sci-fi movies that is made with just a pinch of sci-fi. Plot-wise, Evolver is somewhere in-between Small Soldiers and Hardware. Character-wise, this is very much a teen movie. The main characters are mainly teenagers who find them in a somewhat ridiculous but very much life-threatening situation (think Gremlins or WarGames). Thinking about it, Evolver (the robot) is fairly similar to Joshua (the computer) in WarGames. A machine made for a particular purpose that grossly misunderstands its creator’s intentions because that is how machines work. Except more murder-y.

The film works well because the cast and crew clearly knew what type of movie they were making. This is by no means an A-list movie its creators were fully aware of that. A B-movie that is self-aware of its status can really shine bright for what it is. Going in with those intentions often makes for a fantastic experience (looking at you Sharknado). Occasionally you wind up with a B-movie that was not intended to come out that way, but they are rare. Basically, anything that feels like it would be a Syfy Original if it was made today is a top B-movie.

September 30, 2018

The Kaiju Survival Guide

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The Kaiju Survival Guide Book Cover The Kaiju Survival Guide
Wes Parker
Wes Parker
May 11, 2018

The Kaiju Survival Guide is your only option when it comes to preparing for a giant monster attack. Developed by members of the Kaiju Research and Survival Department (KRSD), this illustrated guide is the number one Kaiju resource in the world. Inside you will find all there is to know about these behemoths, including:

• Origins, biology, abilities, and most importantly weaknesses
• The classification system used by scientists to identify the most dangerous Kaiju
• Military support; such as firepower, vehicles, and even giant robots
• Proven survivalist tactics to use when they attack
• Living off the land, how to survive in a Kaiju filled world when all else fails

This text also features first-hand accounts from survivors of almost every recorded attack since the 1930s. Hear their stories and learn from their experiences, so that you and your loved ones survive the Kaiju menace!


The Kaiju Survival Guide seems pretty heavily influenced by The Zombie Survival Guide with a dash of World War Z. In that sense, the book is a bit more down-to-earth than the average kaiju film. As opposed to “the only thing that can beat a giant monster is another giant monster (or robot)” rule, The Kaiju Survival Guide tackles what we would do if this actually happened. A real-life military response, as opposed to a convenient plot device, as well as how civilians can survive. These matter-of-fact sections are also broken up with survivor stories from in-universe kaiju encounters.

The term “kaiju” is used a little loosely in this book. Instead of focusing exclusively on giant, Godzilla-sized creatures, the book covers various categories of monsters. These classifications are based on size as well as physical abilities. Monsters can range from something the size of a moose to building crushing behemoths. The Survival Guide advises that smaller creatures can be defeated by local militia while bigger targets are a military matter. There is a good amount of thought put into these tips, from detailed suggestions on finding weaknesses to simple tips like “aim for the eyes”.

Since many monsters require military-grade weaponry to destroy, parts of this book read like a regular survival guide. The Kaiju Survival Guide treats kaiju like a force of nature, so surviving one is treated similarly to surviving something like a tornado or earthquake. There is general useful information in here like getting a survival kit together. Survival tips vary depending on what type of monster you are dealing with. For huge kaiju, you hope you are not in its direct path and get out while you can. In other scenarios, you might have to fight your way past smaller monsters.

There are a lot of allusions to famous monster movies in The Kaiju Survival Guide. The “first contact” incident, for example, is a homage to the original King Kong film. Another parodies the film Them! And the frequently mentioned “worst-case scenario” monster attack is clearly a Godzilla reference. Other sections were either unique or I have not seen the films they were referring to. All in all, The Kaiju Survival Guide is excellent for any fan of monster movies. Finding another book that can keep pace with How To Survive a Sharknado was a surprise, but a pleasant one.

September 23, 2018

The Fell Sword (The Traitor Son Cycle #2)

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The Fell Sword Book Cover The Fell Sword
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Orbit (originally Gollancz)
March 11, 2014 (originally December 19, 2013)

Miles Cameron weaves a tale of magic and depravity in the sequel to The Red Knight.

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand -- and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time -- especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?


The Fell Sword picks up shortly after the end of The Red Knight. Extending from the previous novel’s ending, The Red Knight and his company leave the Kingdom of Alba for a new job in the Empire. Whereas The Red Knight worked as a standalone story, The Fell Sword feels more like an installment in a series. It is better established here that The Traitor Son Cycle is one big story broken into five parts. Events are less resolved by the end and the characters are left with outstanding problems and an uncertain future.

As with the previous book, The Fell Sword jumps between various points-of-view. As the Red Knight and his surviving company members ride towards the Empire, events in Alba continue to move forward through the perspectives of the Queen and Jean de Vrailly. The Fell Sword also introduces a number of new characters, most of whom are located in the Imperial capital Livianopolis. All these different POVs, and the high page count, leave room for many plots and subplots throughout the novel. The new POVs do not extend exclusively to human characters either.

The creatures of The Wild are still present in The Fell Sword, though not as at the forefront as before. With the conflict here focused more on human vs. human violence, The Wild is more involved in world building. The various creatures of The Wild are better introduced with their own cultures and societies. They come across more as people than mere monsters as their history and relationship with humanity is expanded upon. Whether human or Wild, every character here feels complex and real. There is no black and white in Cameron’s world. Today’s enemy could be tomorrow’s ally or vice versa in these lands filled with shades of grey.

Along with the characters, the world building is greatly expanded in The Fell Sword. New lands are visited with new maps featured at the front of the book. The magic system also develops significantly, in no small part due to the magic university in Livianopolis. And as in The Red Knight, Cameron’s experience as a student of history shines during the battle sequences. That is not to say his expertise does not shine through elsewhere, but (magic notwithstanding) his battles feel like they could be recounting actual historic military campaigns. Also like The Red Knight, there is significantly more to The Fell Sword than can fit into this little review and it is recommended for any fan of epic fantasy.

September 16, 2018


Published Post author

Congo Book Cover Congo
Michael Crichton
Ballantine Books (original: Knopf)
January 1993 (original: October 12, 1980)

Deep in the heart of the darkest region of the Congo, near the legendary ruins of the Lost City of Zinj, an eight-person field expedition dies mysteriously and brutally in a matter of minutes.

Ten thousand miles away, at the Houston-based Earth Resources Technology Services, Inc., supervisor Karen Ross—watches a gruesome video transmission of that ill-fated team: a camp destroyed, tents crushed and torn, equipment scattered in the mud alongside bodies…and the grainy, moving image of a dark, blurred shape.

In San Francisco, primatologist Peter Elliot works with Amy, an extraordinary gorilla with a 620 “sign” vocabulary and a fondness for finger painting. Her recent drawing matches, with stunning accuracy, the frayed, brittle pages of a Portuguese print dating back to 1642…a drawing of the ancient lost city.

Immediately, a new expedition is sent into the Congo, descending into a secret world where the only way out may be through the grisliest death…


Congo contains Michael Crichton’s famous blend of mystery, sci-fi, and horror. This novel features a scientific expedition into the Congo in search of a lost city. But our explorers soon find that while they are the only people for miles around, they are far from alone. This is one of Crichton’s good early works, published a full decade before Jurassic Park. Congo is one of his more beloved books overall and I personally found it on par with The Andromeda Strain. Crichton’s style of writing science fiction in a way where it is just enough to still be believable shines here.

The first act here is a bit slow. Readers who have already picked up a Crichton book here will be familiar with this pacing. There is a lot of scientific information and explanation as the story is set up. The information is need-to-know, but if science was not your favorite subject in school it could be a deterrent. But also in Crichton’s style, once the action gets going the sense of danger is close to non-stop for the rest of the story. Some of the twists and turns in this one are a bit over the top for a Crichton novel. Once over the hurdles of the first act, the story displays Crichton’s famous straight-forwardness.

The background information in this particular novel is actually fairly varied. Reading Congo will teach you about the Congo, some African history, military-grade computers, and solar flares, among other things. Granted, the “fiction” part of the science fiction here is no longer grandiose since the book is 38 years old. Take it with a grain of salt and remember that for its day, the technology in Congo was cutting edge. This was back when we still had pay phones on every street corner.

Educational value aside, Congo is a fun read. As stated before, there is plenty of action in the second act. This is typical of Crichton books. Was the opening of Jurassic Park the film better paced than Jurassic Park the book? Definitely. Did the film have characters riding around with an RPG blowing up nests of velociraptors? No, and that would have been really cool to see on-screen. Take that same logic and apply it to Congo. Especially given that the Congo movie was sub-par and made in the post-Jurassic Park (movie) Crichton craze. Bottom-line, if you like sci-fi/mystery/horror and Crichton, you will like Congo.

September 9, 2018

Starship Troopers

Published Post author

Starship Troopers Book Cover Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein
Ace Books (original: G. P. Putnam's Sons)
May, 1987 (original: December, 1959)

"Starship Troopers" is a classic novel by one of science fiction's greatest writers of all time and is now a Tri-Star movie. In one of Heinlein's most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe -- and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind's most frightening enemy.


Starship Troopers the book is very different from Starship Troopers the movie. Having seen the movie first, it set my expectations for the book. While the book is very good, it is good for vastly different reasons. If you have seen the movie, you know it is one of the top-rated action films of its era. The book has some action sequences but it is more of a political/philosophical story set in a futuristic military-based culture. Many ideas presented in the book are radical and even controversial. If you go into it with an open mind and not expecting something identical to the film, any sci-fi military lover will likely find Starship Troopers very enjoyable.

In a lot of modern fiction, especially films, the military is portrayed in a hostile if not outright antagonistic role.  Usually in the form of trigger-happy generals looking for an excuse to launch nukes. Starship Troopers is the complete flipside of that, showing the military in a positive light. With less action than the movie, the book focuses a lot more on the boot camp training of the troopers. This adds in a lot more character development as they transition from civilians to soldiers.

The action sequences are a secondary focus of the book. At its core, Starship Troopers is about Rico and his path in life. He joins the military basically on a whim and comes to truly appreciate it. His goals change from putting himself first to putting his country and fellow soldiers first. Extending from that, the book examines what any country owes its citizens and vice versa. Starship Troopers is honestly more about philosophy than action, with Heinlein’s opinions dressed up in a military sci-fi action story.

There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Starship Troopers since its publication in 1959. Heinlein wrote this story during the heart of the Cold War and while the Vietnam War was ongoing. Opinions on the military were a hot-button topic and Heinlein was able to get these still-controversial topics across by putting them in a sci-fi setting. Bottom line, this book is not for everyone, especially anti-military individuals. Personally, I did not agree with every idea Heinlein presented. Some of them made sense, sure, but other things seemed extreme to a civilian like me. From the fictional point of view in this book, it all makes sense. Let me underline that, fictional. This is fiction, this is a story, it is not real. If you do not like it, do not read it. And as good as this book is, I did think the movie was better.

September 2, 2018