Ramblings: The Movies of Matthew Vaughn

So in keeping with this, the subject of this week’s blog post is the movies of Matthew Vaughn. Now, most people are likely not familiar with this particular director and producer for I do not think he is a household name. But in my opinion he should be as the movies that he has made and directed are of the highest quality and I’m sure that most of you have seen or at least heard of some of them. They are Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class, and Kingsman: Secret Service. He has also been active as a producer for many movies including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and The Debt among others.

Layer Cake : Cinema Quad Poster

In my opinion the five movies that he has directed are all excellent. Layer Cake is a fun, gangster movie that was released in the 90’s and is among the best of the gangster movies released during that period and it stars Daniel Craig as he tries to leave the world of drugs behind him. Stardust is an incredible fairytale where we follow Charlie Cox’s character Tristan as he tries to retrieve a fallen star for his beloved but things take an unexpected turn when he finds that the star is a young lady in the form of Clare Danes. Kick-ass is a movie where our young hero, an ordinary boy played by Aaron-Taylor Johnson, dons a cape to fight crime and consequently gets his ass kicked (see what I did there!). X-Men: First Class is an incredibly fun X-Men movie that deals with the early formation of the team and stars James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as a young Professor X and Magneto respectively. Lastly, Kingsman is a James Bond-esque style movie, starring Taron Egerton, that cleverly parodies Bond without ever becoming too ridiculous and features incredible action sequences (I’m looking at you, church sequence) as well as the heart that I feel is characteristic of Mr. Vaughn’s movies.

Star dust

Now, one of the really remarkable things about the movies of this particular director is that, in my opinion, three of the five movies are better than the source material on which they are based. And that is not an easy thing to do especially more than once. How many examples are there of movies that are thought of as better than the books that they are based on rather than the other way around? I am sure there are some, but I think the weight is rather balanced in the opposite direction. Now, I have not read the Layer Cake novel so I cannot comment on that. And I like the works of Mark Millar and enjoyed the graphic novels that Kick-Ass and Kingman were based on but there are other books from this author that I prefer such as Chronanauts and Jupiter’s Legacy. And I think both movies are far superior to their source material. And I am also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, as you can tell if you read my previous posts, but even in the case of Gaiman’s brilliant book I feel it has been adapted into a truly magical movie.  Actually, Stardust is one of my favourite movies of all-time.

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Kick-Ass actually nicely illustrates my point. Matthew Vaughn, along with Jane Goldman on writing duties, has adapted a well-respected, but particularly brutal graphic novel, into a superb movie with a hell of a lot of heart, which I feel the comic lacks, and considerable panache. In my opinion Kick-Ass is a seriously brilliant movie. Vaughn and Goldman then pulled the same trick again turning Kingsman, an enjoyable graphic novel also from Mark Millar, into an incredible, spectacular adventure that parodies Bond with aplomb. And Kick-Ass 2 then aptly demonstrated what happens when these two are not involved. You get a movie with all of the brutality of the source material, but none of the style and heart that Vaughn and Goldman bring to the project. Kick-Ass 2 is a steaming pile of shit of a movie, a turgid mess that did not understand what made the first film so fantastic. It looked at its predecessor and thought it understood what made it so wonderful but it did not. And we got something that was just horrendous.

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So, I guess that the point of this (always) Rambling blog post is that, if you don’t know the movies of Matthew Vaughn, then I would recommend that you hunt them out and watch them. Each is excellent, directed with a hell of a lot of style and heart and they are some of my favourite movies. And once you’ve seen them tell your friends and families how great they were and then maybe this director will get some of the acclaim that I feel he is due. And I eagerly await Kingsman 2, which is out in 2017. I actually wish that Matthew Vaughn made movies more frequently than he does but then his films are of such high quality that I guess I can endure the wait. Besides, I can always watch them again on DVD, as I often do. His directors commentaries are also a lot of fun. Check them out too but only once you’ve seen the movies. You won’t regret it!

Kingsman

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings: My all-time favourite comic book series

So, I recently posted an article detailing my five favourite currently running comic book series, and now I thought I would turn my attention to my all time favourites, the only rules being that these series cannot be the same as those in my last list and also that they must have concluded. So Saga, Mind Mgmt, Astro City, Transformers More than Meets the Eye and The Fade Out aren’t here. Instead we have Locke and Key, Starman, The Unwritten, Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers and Gotham Central. These are the series that I consider to be the best I have ever read and my absolute favourites. Right, let’s get on with it…

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First up we have Locke and Key and if there ever was an argument that a series should not use fill-in artists then this is it. Written by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, and drawn by Gabrielle Rodriguez, this incredible series follows the Locke family as they move into a new house following a bereavement and find all manner of interesting keys scattered around. And these keys can do amazing things like allow your spirit to leave your body or open up your head so you can either put in or take out information. Locke and Key is a horror comic that is unafraid to take us to scary places and both the writing and illustration work wonderfully well to create an incredible series. Now that the run has ended you can buy it in beautiful hardcovers and race through the series without the delays that the individual issues suffered from. In my opinion this is probably the finest comic book series that I have ever read, I love it!

Starman

Next up is Starman. Published between 1994 and 2001 by DC comics Starman, was written by James Robinson with art by Tony Harris and then Peter Snejberg. The series follows the adventures of Jack Knight after he inherits the mantle of Starman following the death of his brother. This is very much a series that deals with family and legacy and the overarching story is very impressive. If you like stories, as I do, with a definite start, middle and end, then this is one for you and, like Astro City, this is super-hero comics done right with gravitas and heart and character deaths that hit hard. It’s brilliant stuff! There was also a 12-issue follow up starring the anti-hero, Shade, which is also excellent.

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Third we have the Unwritten. Now I find this kind of a hard comic to describe. This creator owned series was published by Vertigo and written by Mike Carey with art from Peter Gross. We follow Tommy Taylor, a clear analog of Harry Potter, as he battles to discover who and what he is and how to win the war that he was created by his father to fight. He is joined in this battle by two friends and a plethora of other characters, including a particularly foul mouthed rabbit who used to be a man, as they battle Count Ambrosio, a clear analog of Lord Voldemort. This series is literary comics at its finest, brought to you by the writer of the wonderful Lucifer series, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Read it people!

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As with the previous ‘best of list’ comics I published, there is one Transformers series on here. The Last Stand of the Wreckers was published by IDW Publishing, the current holders of the license, and was co-written by the current writer of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, James Roberts, and Nick Roche, who also shares art duties on the series with Guido Guidi. Last Stand is brilliantly bonkers and brutal story telling that is filled with insanity, excellent character work (and deaths), with artwork in the distinctive Nick Roche style. This series also brought us the talents of James Roberts and a sequel is now in the pipeline with the first issue due in November. I look forward to it!

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Finally, we have Gotham Central. This was a police procedural comic that focused on the lives of the officers of the GCPD and how they cope working in a city as demented as Gotham. Now Batman certainly does feature, but the series is not about him, it is about the police officers and their support staff. As a result the storytelling is very grounded, in the way that the main Batman series often is not, and it is more interested in the lives of its subjects than in Batman’s opponents. Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka with art from Michael Lark, Brian Hurtt and Kano, Gotham Central is a wonderful example of something unexpected that unfortunately didn’t find the support it needed at the time. It is now highly respected and thought of very fondly and the entire run is about to be released in a beautiful hardcover. I can’t wait to pick it up!

Now, there are obviously a few series missing from this list that others might take issue with. These include classics of the genre like Watchmen, Sandman, Dark Knight Returns and so on. I’ve read all of these and I agree that they are excellent but this is my list and they are not my favourite comics. Series that could also have been on this list include the brilliant Planetary, Transmetropolitan, Sleeper (or nearly anything from Brubaker and Phillips), Lucifer, and many more. As I’ve said before, I love comics and this won’t be the last time that one of my blog posts talks about my favourite series and the comics that I would encourage you to read. In fact, the next time I talk about comics it will be to tell you which are my favourite Marvel series currently being published. Until then, go out and read the ones above, You won’t regret it!

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings: my thoughts and a (brief) review of the Shepherds’ Crown.

For my next blog post I’m going to try something new- I’m going to review a book. I think I’ll be doing this more frequently in the coming months, and I plan on reviewing several works by other self-published authors, but I’m going to start with the last Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown. Now, I’m sure no introduction is needed for Terry Pratchett, the author of this remarkable series, except to say that I am a fan and that you should be too. And if you’re not then you need to go out and read his incredible back catalogue. It is seriously brilliant.

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As I’m also sure most people are aware, Mr. Pratchett died back in March after suffering from Alzheimers disease for many years. And I, like many people out there, was very moved by the news of his death. I learned about his passing through the medium of Twitter, having joined a short time before, and this was a novel experience for me. I saw reactions from many people whom I follow and respect as the news filtered around the network and I was genuinely moved, as were many, by this unfortunate news. I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears that day and, for the first time, I understood a little about what Twitter can do to help spread information and to create a shared experience.

Now, for anyone who’s read my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ or seen any of the excerpts that I post on Twitter, it is not hard to tell that I’m a big fan of Mr. Pratchett’s. I’ve been reading the Discworld novels for a very long time and, like many of his fans, I have read each and every one. The series is not without its ups and downs and some of the novels are, in my opinion, not that good (I’m looking at you, Monstrous Regiment!). But they are the exceptions and not the rule and the quality of the series in its entirety is very impressive. So, without any further ado, here is my (brief) review.

In short, I loved this novel, which I guess is unsurprising. It begins with a dramatic event which I am now going to describe so if you don’t want to know what it is then I suggest you stop reading. Seriously, I’m going to talk about it so don’t keep reading! So, the book begins with the death of Granny Weatherwax, one of the longest standing Discworld characters. Now, I knew this was going to happen because I had it spoiled for me by another review, but it happens so early in the book that it is not really a spoiler to say that it occurs. Her death is told with remarkable grace and care and I was very moved by its handling and by the reactions to her passing from the other characters. It is beautifully written with brilliant character work that is absolutely heartbreaking but then I would have expected nothing less.

Now, I do not wish to spoil the rest of the book so I’m not going to explain much more about the story, merely tease it. What I will say is that we follow Tiffany Aching as she becomes the ‘head witch’, not that witches have leaders as such, and then as she deals with the ups and downs of trying to do far too much. And the glorious Nac Mac Feegles are there causing mayhem as usual. Then Tiffany tangles with the dark elves that featured in her previous books and that is as much as I will say. As expected the book is filled with the typical Pratchett wit and humanity and I enjoyed the story and the themes that it explores including responsibility and how you deal with your enemies. Also unsurprisingly, I thoroughly recommend that you read it. I also can’t help but speculate as to whether Mr. Pratchett was preparing his readers for his impending death with the death of Granny Weatherwax. I don’t know when this book was finished but it was reported that there were other books in preparation when he died so maybe I am wrong. The way the death is handled makes me wonder, and I might be reading too much into it, but that is what occurred to me as I read it.

Now, it was known for some time that Mr. Pratchett was unwell and that this series would not continue forever but it was still heartbreaking to finish the final Discworld novel and to read the words ‘The End’ one last time. And unless someone else is given permission to continue his legacy I suspect that this book really is the last one. Besides his daughter, or maybe Neil Gaiman, I have no idea who else would dare to touch this incredible series and the uproar from fans should it fail to meet expectations, as it surely would, would be considerable. It is likely best left as it is, an incredible series and a remarkable legacy of one of our finest writers. And now I have only one more thing to say: Mr. Pratchett, you will be missed.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings: reviews from readers and their importance for self-published authors

Right, so I’m an author who recently self-published his first book, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ via Amazon and Smashwords. I have plans to publish the sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, when it’s completed by the same means and this week I would like to talk about the importance of reader reviews for writers like me. Like many out there who chose this route I have no agent, no publishing house and very little in the way of budget that I can use to promote my work so I need all the help I can get ;). I have been plugging my book on social media for a few months, building up a small following, and I have sold a small number of copies. And then one evening recently I received a very nice message from one of my followers, someone who had been persuaded by my advertising to give my book a go. This person messaged me to thank me for my book. And then they posted this, rather lovely, review on Amazon:

“A thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 stars. Enjoyed this immensely, much more than I thought I would. Thought provoking and enjoyably quirky. Well worth the entrance fee. Recommended.”

You can see their review on Amazon UK here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Only-atheist-help-save-world-ebook/dp/B010QJFJMI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435819807&sr=8-1&keywords=only+an+atheist).

As a self-published author I have to say that it doesn’t get much better than that! And I have obviously been tweeting this review out as often as I dare! But it also got me thinking, not only about how wonderful it was to have someone say something so nice about my work, but about how grateful I was to the person for taking the time to write the review and post it on Amazon. I’m glad that they were persuaded by my incessant ranting on Twitter to give the book a go, for it is not an easy thing to convince people when you don’t have the aforementioned publicity team, but also that they had enjoyed the novel so much that they wanted to share this information with other potential readers out there and to encourage them to do as they themselves had done.

For I know that the only way that someone like me shall succeed is with the interaction and the enthusiasm of fans. These are the people who take the leap to give your work a try, who will then talk about it, tweet about it, convey their opinion to their friends and family and persuade them that the book is worth reading. For us that self-publish word of mouth really is everything! Also, when you receive a review like this one it is, undoubtedly, very gratifying and you get the feeling that everything you endured to get to this point might actually be worth it! As you can tell, I am very grateful to this person and I messaged them to tell them that I was.

So, if you buy my book, or you read the works of other self-published authors, and you enjoy them, as I hope you do, then please take the time to let them know what you thought and to post a review. I recently bought several books by other self-publishing authors and I will be posting reviews on my blog, and on the website from which I purchased the book, once I’ve actually managed to find the time to read them.

We in the self-publishing community need to support each other but we also need the support of our readers. If you have something to say then please feel free to get in touch with me. Either message me on Twitter or email me (onlyanatheist@mail.com) and I’ll do my best to reply. And leave reviews on whichever websites you buy self-published books from. It makes all the difference to those of us trying to reach an audience.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings : My favourite comic book series currently being published

OK, this week I’m talking about comics, more specifically the comic book series that I love and that I think you should be reading, that anyone who likes comics should be reading. If this comes across as me rambling about the comics I love, well this is my blog and sometimes that is what I feel like doing. Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with the world of comics it can be daunting finding a place to start and, as someone who loves the storytelling in this medium, I would like to make it clear that you definitely should start somewhere. And to help facilitate the journey into this world I offer some good places to begin.

So here is the list: Saga, Mind Mgmt, Astro City, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye and The Fade Out. At some point I’ll do a list of my all time favourite series but this is not that. This is five series that I absolutely love right now, some of which will be ending soon, and series that anyone who is even vaguely interested in comics should go out and find, buy and read. Notice that not one of these are published by the big Two comic companies, Marvel and DC. While they both publish very good series, and I may do a rundown of my favourites from these companies in a later post, for those looking to get into comics it is far easier to start with more easily accessible series that do not come with decades of back story.

OK, so let’s start with Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan of Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man fame and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga is easily one of the best comics of the last decade. It is a sci-fi romp that follows the story of two soldiers on opposing sides in a war that fall in love and have a child and then have to go on the run. Obviously hijinks ensue. Saga is brilliantly bonkers, and quite sexually explicit, so going in with an open mind is essential. It is, however, a wonderful comic and an easily accessible starting point for those who are new to comics. If you at all are interested this is an excellent series to start with.

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Number two on my list is Mind Mgmt, written and illustrated by Matt Kindt. This seriously brilliant comic tells the story of an organisation that brainwashes and converts people into operatives a la Jason Bourne. And they can do all sorts of weird and interesting things. In the first trade we are introduced to our central character, Meru, who is an amnesiac trying to figure out her place in the world with the help of a large and interesting cast. Mind Mgmt runs to six trades and consistently builds on the world it has created. It is wonderful and I could not recommend it more highly. Buy it!

Mind Mgmt

Third up is Astro City. Simply put, there is little need to read many superhero comics other than this incredible series written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Brent Anderson. Featuring recognisable analogues of well-known characters including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman it is the character and heart with which the tales are told that make this series stand out from most published by the Big Two. Astro City has been infrequently published for several decades but was recently rebooted and the trades in the most recent run are easy to find. Start with ‘Victory’ and go from there and if you like it the first run begins with ‘Life in the Big City’. These are seriously brilliant superhero tales!

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Now, the fourth in this list is the only one that is from a known property. Transformers has long been something of a passion of mine that has only recently faded. I’ve owned the toys, I’ve watched the shows and I’ve bought, and still buy, the comics. IDW Publishing took on the franchise quite a few years ago and have produced series of varying quality since but More than Meets the Eye, written by James Roberts and with art principally from Alex Milne, is outstanding. This is long-form, character-driven, science-fiction comics of the highest quality and James Roberts has an uncanny ability to make you care about giant, transforming robots, if you didn’t before. I love this comic, not because it’s Transformers, but because of everything that the creators do with their characters.

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Surprisingly, I actually struggled to find a fifth series to talk about. I love the work of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips and these two have been changing the comics landscape for years with their output from Criminal to Fatale, or my favourite, Sleeper. Incognito is also excellent. And I do like The Fade Out, I just like their other works more. Regardless, anything you choose to read from these guys will be excellent and I recommend all that they have published. I could have also mentioned other series that I love including The Wicked and the Divine, American Vampire, Lazarus, Rat Queens, and Descender.

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Now, I could go on and on about comics and this is unlikely to be the last time that I talk about them in my blog but for now my advice to anyone interested, but not yet invested in this world, is to please pick one, any, of these series up and give them a go. Most of the first volumes of these series are available very cheaply either from your local comic book store or most online book retailers. And if you do buy them and you like them then send me a message and let me know, I’d love to hear from you! And lend your trades to friends and talk about them and maybe we can shake the silly idea that comics are only about superheroes and nothing more. Comics is a medium in which stories of all types are told ranging from horror (Wytches) to sci-fi (Manhattan Projects) and fantasy (Fables) and everything else besides. The stigma surrounding comics need to be broken and I really hope it will be but, as ever, we shall see.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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