Tag Archives: movies

My review of Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’…

I have been a fan of the work of Edgar Wright for a long time. Spaced is one of my favourite TV shows and my wife and I revisit it often. I love the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, that is Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and I thought that Shaun of the Dead was an absolute classic when I saw it in the cinema. Twice. All three are immensely funny and rewatchable and, although my initial impression of ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’ wasn’t all that good, on rewatching I have come to love it and now consider it a favourite. All of these movies have thematic and stylistic similarities including Wright’s fondness for fast-cut editing and the choice of an excellent sound track. Which brings us nicely to his latest, ‘Baby Driver’, a movie that is literally about a guy called ‘Baby’ who drives a getaway car. So, onto the review!

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I think it is obvious upon watching ‘Baby Driver’ that it is entirely an Edgar Wright movie. Every frame of the movie has his stamp on it, every little stylistic choice seems his from the soundtrack which keeps the movie hopping along to each choice of camera angle or direction that the movie take. All of the actors involved seem to be having tremendous fun from Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ to his love interest ‘Debora’ played by Lily James. Jamie Foxx does crazy very well with ‘Bats’ and Kevin Spacey brings a nice turn as Baby’s boss ‘Doc’. John Hamm also enjoys playing ‘Buddy’ the husband to Eliza Gonzalez’s ‘Darling’. And yes these are clearly code names to maintain distance from each other. At times the dialogue of the movie verges on the cheesy, which also seems intentional, playing up the kind of movies to which this film plays homage.

 

One thing that took both my wife and I a little by surprise was the tonal shift from the first to the second half of the movie. The first seems like a musical, albeit one involving bank robberies and car chases, and is very fun and entertaining with matters playing out according to the beat, Baby meets his love interest and a couple of heists go well with Baby’s spectacular driving keeping things smooth. In the second the seriousness of things is stepped up, with several bad choices leading to a dash to the end and the inevitable confrontations that come. And of course a number of the cast meet an ignoble fate, as you would expect from an Edgar Wright movie. The ending was also interesting, not going where I expected it to and veering away many of the cliché’s that could’ve been settled on.

 

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s take on a Fast and Furious movie where the action is fantastic, the cars are driven insanely well yet unlike those tired movies this one is awesome. It reminded me of ‘Heat’, very high praise indeed, as well as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with the soundtrack being so integral to the action. It is well worth seeing in the cinema on a large screen and I am thoroughly looking forward to revisiting it once it is out on DVD as I think it will reward multiple viewings. I shall also be eagerly awaiting the director’s next release, as ever. I can’t wait!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of the excellent ‘Logan’…

I have been a fan of the X-Men movies since I saw Brian Singer’s X-Men and then the sequel twice each in the cinema, something I rarely do. I have watched each of the subsequent movies, with the exception of Apocalypse which I skipped due to the poor reviews, and for the most part I have enjoyed them all. Well, Wolverine: Origins is terrible, as is The Last Stand, and my favourites are X2, which I still think is a tremendously entertaining movie, and First Class which is directed by Matthew Vaughn who is one of my favourite directors (more here: https://tinyurl.com/gturgyw). As with my previous movie reviews, I will be talking full spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens please go and see the movie before reading any further. Seriously, I will tell you what happens, so go see it if you don’t want it spoiled!

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The first thing that should be said about Logan is that it is not your typical movie about superheroes or mutants. I’m not sure I would even put it in either of those categories. It’s part western, part action thriller, but it is mostly a film where our protagonists are on the run. It’s a movie about a lot of things and it actually has something to say about these things yet I think you could make this movie with ordinary humans and it would still work. It’s a film about how difficult it is living with someone who has a degenerative illness and about how the relationships of those who care for them change. It’s a movie about the hardship of life and of living with the consequences of your actions. And it also talks about  the brutality of both corporate culture and our obsession with war and finding more and more brutal ways to kill each other. Finally, it is about how hard it is getting old and sick and eventually dying.

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Several aspects of the film really stood out to me as excellent choices by the director, cast and writers. Allowing the characters to swear made more of a difference than I would’ve thought. It makes them feel like real people who deal with the shit life throws at you in the same way we do; with profanity. Keeping in the blood that was cut out of The Wolverine, but then returned for the Directors Cut, was also a smart move. Logan is someone who, as with Laura, stabs and maims a great many people so of course there should be blood. And the makers of this movie have clearly learned from the success of Deadpool in making both an adult and a very entertaining movie and choosing not to shy away from mature content. Without these elements I think Logan would fall very flat indeed as just another superhero movie and I am so glad that it is not that.

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The performances are also all excellent, with special mention for the newcomer Daphne Keen, who plays Logan’s daughter with an impressive ferocity, and on maintaining her silence until the last third. But Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant were also superb and each brought something to the production. If I have a criticism it is that the villains, in the form of Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant, aren’t really given enough to do but stand there and look menacing. And they do their best, but it seems a failing of almost all of the recent superhero and comic book movies that the villains aren’t developed enough for us to care about them. And of course both Charles Xavier and Logan have to die during the course of the movie because it is both necessary and this is exactly the movie in which that occurs. I found myself welling up at both of these moments and I did not expect a film about a mutant who mostly stabs people to do that, so all credit to it.

 

Logan is an excellent movie, truly it is, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it. My wife commented after the viewing that she hadn’t even felt the time passing and that she wouldn’t have minded if it ran another hour. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it did certainly zip along. Usually we prefer films to be as short and concise as they can be, but when it is done as well as this one then we really don’t mind. If you have any interest in Logan I thoroughly recommend that you see it in the cinema, and drag along your friends and family, to both support its creation but also to just enjoy something that is different and just so damned good! Go, go see it now!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars story’…

‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars (SW)’ movie that I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Seriously, it is. Back then my mother, brother and I had a routine of enjoying the original movies (yes, even the one with the Ewoks. Hey, I was a kid!) every Friday evening and so obviously we were fans. I saw and enjoyed ‘The Force Awakens’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/h4j3lng) when it was released last December but I felt that was a rehash of the classic 1977 movie redone for a modern audience and, though I have absolutely no problem with that, it wasn’t quite enough for me. That movie is fun and it zips along but, in the opinion of this reviewer, ‘Rogue One’ is easily the best SW movie since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It might even be the best one altogether! It’s an absolutely brilliant, genuine SW movie that features pretty much everything I want this kind of film to contain. Before I go any further, as with my previous reviews, there will be spoilers so if you want to see it unspoiled go and do so before reading on…

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As I said, this movie has everything I wanted: character arcs with actual growth, epic space battles, sacrifice in the name of a greater cause, all that good stuff! Sure, the plot is quite simple (we must get the plans for the Death Star at all costs!) but it works and we all know that they succeed, for the first Star Wars movie depends upon it, but what matters is the cost of succeeding (which one’s were the Bothans, by the way?). Jynn is a decent protagonist, the journey she goes on is completely appropriate for the subject matter, and the crew that she assembles are also enjoyable (especially the sarcastic droid, who’s jokes land well). The battle sequences are some of the best I can remember seeing in any movie of this kind, and the ending is suitably brutal (did anyone actually have a problem with it, cause I sure as hell didn’t). The only thing that even slightly bothered me was the inclusion of a digitally-resurrected Peter Cushing (could they not have just written him out and someone else in?) but that was a minor niggle in an otherwise impressive experience.

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Unlike in the prequels or in ‘The Force Awakens’ where they seemed in such a rush to keep moving forward that they barely had time to breath, the actors have actually been given the space to act. Actually, I think the three principle actors in ‘The Force Awakens’ did a commendable job with the space that they had but those in ‘Rogue One’ have much more to do and more room in which to do it. And what a ride Gareth Edwards, the director, has been on! My wife and I have been fans of the Kermode and Mayo movie review show for many years and I remember his interview for his debut movie, ‘Monsters’, some time ago. That was a very enjoyable character piece that features very few actual monsters (but when they do appear they are stunning!) but it did showcase the directors talents and it was obviously seen by the right people. Then Kermode and Mayo had him back on for Godzilla, a movie that I very much enjoyed both times I watched it, and now he has directed what I consider to be the finest ‘Star Wars’ movie since Empire. Blimey, that’s some career trajectory!

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I heartily recommend that you see ‘Rogue One’ in the cinema, it’s a wonderful experience and it deserves to be seen this way. I look forward to revisiting it when it is out on home release but I am so glad I dragged myself to the pictures to see it. I loved ‘Rogue One’ much more than any of the other SW movies in the past few decades. Now, however, I do hope that we get to see something new in this universe, something different that isn’t a rehash or a prequel but instead moves the series forward from what it has always been towards the new stories it is now (hopefully) going to tell. And with directors as good as Gareth Edwards and J.J. Abrahms I have high hopes indeed! Can’t wait!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Arrival’…

I am a big fan of science-fiction in both movie and book forms. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favourite authors (my review of ‘Revenger’ is up next!)’ and my favourite movies of the last few years include Interstellar (which I think is an absolute masterpiece), Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max: Fury Road (sci-fi? apocalyptic fiction? hmm). So I was very glad to hear of the good reviews that ‘Arrival’ was getting and which were enough to persuade my wife and I to venture out to our local cinema to see if this movie lived up to the hype. This is something that we only do very infrequently for though we enjoy movies, we can’t often be bothered to trek out in the cold (it’s really not that far, but it is cold right now!) and we don’t often want to pay the associated costs (train fares, food and drink costs and so forth) when we have plenty of movies that we can enjoy at home. But Arrival was well worth the time and the money that we spent.

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So, Arrival, for those of you not in the know, is a move in the vein of ‘Independence Day’ (ID) and Jodie Foster’s excellent ‘Contact’ in that it is one where a number of alien ships arrive on Earth and proceed to position themselves all over the globe. But unlike ID, this film takes the route of intelligence and subtlety (and not so many shots of famous landmarks being destroyed) and focuses instead on the efforts of Amy Adams (who surely should win the Oscar for her superb performance) and Jeremy Renner as they struggle to communicate with these visitors. The movie then follows their story as they begin to piece together the aliens ‘language’ and as the rival factions all over the globe do the same. I won’t say any more about the story as I don’t wish to spoil it but I do love that it gets a bit twisted at times involving the use of glimpses of the future (including a lovely bit of head-fuckery involving the Chinese leader) and it again reminds me of the brilliance of Interstellar in how it deals with all of this.

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There were some very minor things that I found silly about the movie. The idea that these aliens would in any way be troubled by the presence of the weapons that we possess and turn towards their ships is one of these. If they have the technology to suspend their ships in the strange way that they do above the Earth and to communicate without us being able to understand how, then our puny technology would surely be of no concern. It’d be like tanks worrying about cave men throwing rocks! But despite these small niggles, my wife and I both  had a great time and fully intending to watch it again before too long. We probably won’t be venturing back to the cinema again but we might purchase the DVD when it comes out.

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Arrival is a truly excellent movie that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys intelligent, complex science-fiction stories (though it is easily understandable and well told) but I did wonder what the three teenage boys a few rows ahead of us made of it and whether they had been anticipating a more ID style story with all of the action that movie displays. Funnily enough, my wife enjoyed ‘Arrival’ even more than I did, declaring it her pick of the year so far and one of the best films she has ever seen. Let’s see if ‘Rogue One’ can pinch that spot before the year is out, personally I doubt it. Not because I don’t think Rogue One won’t be a great movie, it just has to go some way to best ‘Arrival’. It really is that good, go see it!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers!)

Seeing as the new Star Wars film has finally arrived and I saw the movie last weekend with my wife and family I thought I would offer my thoughts on it for my next blog post. Before I do so, I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with this universe and what it means to me. I should also say that I will be talking in graphic detail about the events in this movie so everything will be spoiled. And I do mean EVERYTHING! If you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further, go and see the movie and then come back to see what I thought. You should experience it as unspoiled as you can, I did and I was glad! If you’ve seen The Force Awakens then please continue…

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So, I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a huge fan, but a fan nevertheless. When I was quite young my mother, my brother and I would watch one of the original trilogy movies every Friday night while my dad was out playing squash with his friends. Consequently I saw them a great many times while I was growing up and I know them quite well. When the Special Editions were released I then saw SW in the cinema for the first time. And recently I revisited them in their original versions when I discovered that a friend had the versions of the DVD’s that came with the original prints. Having done that, I have to say that those versions of the movies remain the best ones, in my opinion. Nothing added to the movies since have improved them in any significant way, and some of the additions detract from the pacing of the movies. So, despite some shaky effects, I definitely think the originals are easily the best versions of the films.

Also, seeing the movies recently I revised my opinions of them significantly. I realised what a great piece of cinema the original Star Wars is, how quickly it zips along and how it expects the audience, despite being dropped into a new universe, to keep up. It treats them with respect and that pays off. The second film is quite brilliant and that movie was superbly directed by Ivan Kershner. Since then none of the subsequent movies has quite captured that excellence. Return of the Jedi is a car crash of a movie, especially given the information available as to what it could’ve been had George Lucas not fired the director and taken the reigns himself. Nothing in it works like the first two and most of the plot can be dismissed as silliness. Until my recent viewings I quite liked Return but having seen it as an adult with something of a film education, I now cannot see it as anything other than the disaster that it so clearly is. It sucks. I’m also not going to discuss the terrible prequel trilogy as the less said about those the better.

Anyway, onto The Force Awakens. Before seeing this movie I’d heard pretty good things. The critic whose opinion I value most, Mark Kermode of the BBC Radio 5 live show and Wittertainment, very much enjoyed The Force Awakens and so I went in with my interest piqued. My impression of the film wasn’t helped by the projector breaking fifteen minutes into our showing and my wife, my family and I then having to reschedule for a showing later in the day. Despite that I really did enjoy it. It was fun, it zipped along like the original and I had a really good time. The new characters were excellently played by the young cast and the original cast members all did their jobs well, helping to please returning fans. The effects were stunning, as they should be, and the joy of returning to this universe was tangible.

Focusing the plot on the new characters and only using the original cast members sparingly also worked really well and I’m glad this is the approach they took. Clearly, they want these new characters to be the next generations SW and for them to be integrated into the existing cast without the reboot that Star Trek required. And I can also see that Abrams and his team have achieved what they did with Star Trek by reinventing this universe for a new audience who’ve grown up with the prequels and cartoons available to the current generation. There’s no doubt that this movie has been handled well by a smart director with a good team putting together a modern version of Star Wars and that’s exactly what it is.

So, the plot twists, (and, as I said, SPOILER!) for some reason I managed to see them all coming and I am usually terrible at seeing things like that. My wife often figures out the twists before they happen but in this instance it was me who realised that Kylo Ren was either Luke or Leia’s son, that Han was going to be killed, and that Rey was also the offspring of another original cast member, most likely Luke. Despite seeing all of this coming, every twist still worked really well and impacted as it should. Killing Han echoes information available online for events that were in the original Return of the Jedi plot and making this movie about the offspring of the original characters gives the film a lovely legacy approach that I like. Actually, my other primary experience of the SW universe is in the SW Legacy comics, of which I own the entire run in nice hardcover volumes, and I can see the influence of this run in the movie. Besides focusing on a descendent of Luke Skywalker, the comics also include tales told from the perspective of Stormtroopers and that part of the movie feels directly influenced by Legacy.

But, despite all that I like the movie does feel like a very well done, modern Star Wars greatest hits with original cast members thrown in because to do otherwise would be silly. You have, among others, an attack on a new Death Star (which they even joke about), the goofball scene where Han and Chewy grapple with a monster (a la the trash compactor scene) and Rey running around inside an imperial base, avoiding stormtroopers in a manner similar to Episode IV. There’s little that I feel is new and that detracts from the experience somewhat. Of course, the scenes where Leia and Han interact are just superb and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during them. I was also moved by Han’s death, as anyone who loves the original movies must surely be (where was his funeral?!?) and I look forward to seeing the impact of these events in upcoming films.

I guess that my overall impression of the movie is that I enjoyed it, it was tremendous fun and I came away thinking that it is definitely a Star Wars movie and that is a huge compliment. Not since the end of Empire has that been the case. But I was also a little underwhelmed, certainly more so than I had been during parts of the film when I had been immensely enjoying myself. Now that The Force Awakens has been released and Abrams and his team have established where things are and the new status-quo I would really like to see the next film exploring new territory and doing something more interesting than simply attacking yet another Death Star (even if they say that’s not what it was). It was still a lot of fun and a pleasure to see all of the characters that I grew up watching back on the big screen. I just hope that the next movie does something more with all that it has established. Here’s hoping!

 

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: 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.

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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.

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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!

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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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