[REC] 4 Apocalypse Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for Spanish zombie movie ‘[REC] 4 Apocalypse’, with links below if you want to find out more.

rec_4_poster

Quick Summary

For some reason I’d completely forgotten about the ‘REC’ movies until I stumbled upon the latest instalment on Amazon. As I remember, the first two were great, ‘found footage’ horror movies that blended mystic catholic/demonic forces embodied in contemporary zombie hosts, all set in a single location. The third film was a stinker, with the budget being upped, the goofiness through the roof, and reverting to standard ‘movie’ photography.

I’m happy to say that the latest and final instalment, while still falling back on normal camera work mixed with security camera footage, is back on form, with all the action taking place on a trawler deep in the ocean, a small cast, and riveting action.

Laughs: 1/5

While still a bit tongue-in-cheek, unlike the over-the-top third film, the tension felt real, and therefore the laughs aren’t high. I am awarding a point, however, for the best use of the word ‘Monkeys!’ I’ve ever seen in a film, even if it was in Spanish and I was reading it from the screen.

Tears: 0/5

I can’t say it made an emotional impact. It was more about the survival, setting and action.

Cheese: 0/-5

I’m letting it off any down-grading. That’s not to say it wasn’t a little cheesy in places, but it did it well enough to slip me by.

Cheers: 3/5

There are lots of pay-offs here, with the plot twisting the characters around so you don’t know who you are meant to be rooting for, but then sorting it out all nicely and dynamically in the final third. The enclosed setting means every step and victory is earned and well thought out, and there’s lots of inventive zombie deaths. If you don’t like zombie films, this isn’t for you, by the way.

Fears: 2/5

This is a shock ‘jump’ film more than it is a tension or psychological thriller. The jeopardy is intensified by the claustrophobic location, and the make-up and prosthetics on the right side of gory to make you squirm and recoil. Not as dark and scary as the first two films, but a good watch if you are after a fright-night!

Bonus Category: Vamos! +2

I’m awarding bonus points for whoever made the decision to set this entire film on a deep-sea trawler boat thing. Like the ‘Alien’ films and ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, it sets a tone and palette that binds the whole together, and the natural boundaries force the characters and plot to do more of the work, in this case successfully.

Total: 8

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REC_4:_Apocalypse

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1649443/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

Sausage Party Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the R-rated animation ‘Sausage Party’, with links below if you want to find out more.

sausage_party

Quick Summary

Taken at its best, ‘Sausage Party’ is a well-conceived and realised spoof of the family-friendly Pixar/Disney animations built around an anthropomorphic premise. Taken at its worst, ‘Sausage Party’ is just puerile nonsense. For me, it wavers more towards the latter, but I guess that parents who are on their 100th viewing of ‘Cars’, or similar, might have found the pure effrontery of the idea a welcome change in their routine.

Laughs: 2/5

There are only so many times you can get a shock-laugh from cutesy animated food saying ‘F-you’ and ‘we’re f-d’. I would have found it funnier if not all the characters dropped f and c bombs at every opportunity, and instead, it felt like a Pixar film had been infiltrated rather than totally replaced by Seth Rogan and his mates swearing into a microphone while some stuff happens on screen.

The problem for me is that the Pixar films this is sending up are funny, generally, for kids and adults, and in a much more subtle and clever way. Therefore, why spoof them if you’re not going to be funnier? I did still chortle a bit though in the first half an hour of the film when I was seeing these audacious things for the first time, but it soon got repetitive.

Tears: 0/5

Not at all! It’s hard to give a f about f-ing food that f-ing swears all the f-ing time and thinks it’s so f-ing funny.

Cheese: 0/-5

The cheese category is very apt for this film, but as a ‘spoof’ it is almost immune to being accused of fake sentiment, as that is exactly what it is trying to send up.

Cheers: 1/5

Animated movies take a lot of hard work, and some of the action sequences were impressive and a credit to the team that produced them. At times, the things going on visually were weird and wonderful enough to distract from the mostly infantile script.

Fears: 0/5

Nothing to report on the ‘fears’ front.

 

Bonus Category:  Food Fight -3

Allegedly, many animators who worked on this movie were refused overtime pay and many who left as a result went uncredited, despite having worked on the film. That’s a shitty thing to do, if true, and if not I will adjust this modifier later on. However, I would still mark it down at least -1 for over-reliance on shock over content from the script writers.

Total: 0

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sausage_Party

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1700841/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

Blair Witch (2016) Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the mostly unnecessary ‘Blair Witch’ (2016) that can’t decide whether it’s a remake or a sequel…

blair_witch_2016_poster

Quick Summary

For me, the original ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was a classic and genre defining film. It kick-started the low-budget ‘found footage’ phenomenon for a start, and made up for lack of resources by using the audience’s imagination against them. This latest outing, while a major improvement on the shoddy ‘Book of Shadows’ sequel, makes the mistake of thinking a beat by beat sequel-come-remake with a few extra elements thrown in will recapture the spark that made the original such a classic. It doesn’t. Even though it is a fairly watchable film, it is very unnecessary.

Laughs: 0/5

You don’t usually go to the scary woods looking for laughs, which is lucky, because there are none to be found here. We get glimpses of the new group before they set out with some light-hearted moments, but nothing that stands out enough to score.

Tears: 0/5

Am I that cold-hearted that I didn’t care about any of these people? Or is it that I knew too much already about what was coming (given it was so similar to the original in pacing) and therefore the characters felt contrived? The latter, I think.

Cheese: 0/-5

I’m going to let them off with minus points for cheese. I was tempted because of the whole ‘teenagers go into the woods’ idea, but couldn’t pinpoint one particular example.

Cheers: 0/5

Oh dear. Not looking good is it? To be fair, if I was scoring the original, I don’t think there was any moments to cheer for in that either. The opposite, if anything.

Fears: 3/5

Perhaps not surprisingly, the horror that worked for me, like the original, was the dark, torch-lit woods with mysterious sounds and satanic symbols. And there was enough of that to carry me through to the end reasonably entertained. What this film does to ruin all that is go big and obvious in certain places, which didn’t work as well. The original was about ‘less is more’ – here we have ‘more is less’. The finale has a pretty claustrophobic scene that would put the jeebies up most people though.

 

Bonus Category: -1 Return of the twigs

I think the problem with this film can be summed up in a scene where after the groups wakes up, the twig effigies hanging around the tents are significantly bigger than they had been the night before, as if we are meant to go ‘Oh my God! Look how big those twigs are! This must be bad!’. Simply going bigger while having no innovation doesn’t work when trying to follow in the footsteps of an innovative film. A new angle was needed, and not found here. You won’t be angered watching this film, but you may as well put on the original instead.

Total: 2

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blair_Witch_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1540011/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

The Siege of Jadotville Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the Netflix original ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ with links below if you want to find out more.

tsoj

Quick Summary

Based on the true story of a band of Irish UN soldiers who were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission in 1961 and found themselves outnumbered and besieged by a mercenary force trying to assert the authority of a recent military coup at a time when world peace rested on a knife’s edge. A backdrop of tense global politics occasionally punctuates the action, but there are probably more explosions than dialogue. However, the tale is told pretty faithfully from what I can gather (and needed telling), so it’s hard to argue with true events.

Laughs: 2/5

The banter between the Irish squaddies gives this film the charm it needs to carry you through the relentless explosions that make up ¾ of the screen time.

As the situation unfolds, the humour is used by the troops to keep grounded, and I imagine it is probably a good reflection of how the real soldiers would have reacted at the time.

Tears: 2/5

There’s a valid reason as to why this film doesn’t score highly on the tears chart that I can’t reveal due to spoilers. However, people do die, and war is sad, but the events aren’t treated in a way to emotionally manipulate us, and are bound by the real-life events. If you are Irish and particularly patriotic you might score it higher.

Cheese: -1/-5

I’m giving a small deduction for characters occasionally info-dumping context, i.e. “Hey, you’re new to the Congo? Check out our Uranium mines which are a source of international conflict due their use in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. Bye!”.

But generally, the filmmakers appear to have resisted any attempt to pull out exaggerated or invented subplots and characters, which feels respectful to the events.

Cheers: 3/5

It’s funny how war films can turn you into an armchair murderer. Before long, given the right priming, you’re cheering with delight as poor local villagers, probably drafted into the militia against their will, are blown up in their droves. But this is a siege film, and as our ‘heroes’ were not the aggressors (or at least didn’t know they were), there is a point to it all, kind of.

Fears: 0/5

The fears category is for horror, but I would award points to war films that filled me with dread in an empathic way. This doesn’t really do that. It’s not like watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and thinking ‘that could have been me’ when you see the drafted soldiers crying for their lives in the landing boats. This film could have made choices to do that, but it didn’t, opting for the bravery and comradery angle instead.

Bonus Category: Shhh! -2

I got a text from my wife (who was in bed) when I was watching this film that simply read ‘Shhh!’. There is, naturally, a lot of shooting and explosions, with odd cutaways to Mark Strong looking anxious and confused as he tries to unpick the escalating political crisis behind the scenes. However, I don’t think they got the balance right and could have showed more of the breaths between the waves of attack. It didn’t feel like the 4-day siege it was meant to be – more like one long afternoon with lots of shooting and explosions.

Given the concentrated nature of the setting, the palette needed to be broader either with more personal stories developed, or a more epic wide angle of the greater things at stake. It just needed something else, but hats off to Netflix who are very new to the movie game and chose an interesting tale to tell.

Total: 4

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Siege_of_Jadotville_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3922798/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

The Girl with All the Gifts Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for British zombie-flick ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’, with links below if you want to find out more.

the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_poster

Quick Summary

I’ve been looking forward to watching this, both because of my general love of ‘serious’ Zombie movies, and because a large part of it was filmed just a few miles up the road from me in my home City of Stoke-on-Trent. Although it falls a little short of being a classic in the genre, it is entertaining, and showcases the ambition of British cinema.

Laughs: 0/5

I like my Zombie movies serious, and by that I mean not goofy. So, it’s kind of a good thing that there is nothing to laugh about, but it could have lightened the tone a little in places to help develop the sense of bonding between the characters.

Tears: 2/5

All good zombie films find a unique route through the genre. In this case we follow the story of a young girl who is, well, different. Her charm and innocence contrast with the brutal life she has been born into, making the viewer sympathetic to her cause, mainly thanks to a very sweet and occasionally chilling performance from the young star Sennia Nanua.

The rest of the characters were a little too stereotypical to care much about, although Gemma Arterton’s ‘Helen’ came the closest.

Cheese: -1/-5

To avoid spoilers, all I will say is that at one point it goes a bit ‘Lord of the Flies’ meets George A. Romero, and I don’t think it quite pulls it off in the way that I think they probably imagined on the storyboard, or in the original book (that I have not read, so I don’t know…)

Cheers: 1/5

I’ve been a bit stingy with the ‘cheers’ category because while I enjoyed the film, it never quite reaches the heights of drama or depth of character done so well before in ’28 Days Later’, which you naturally compare it to, being a British ‘big-ish’ budget zombie movie. As such, the finale doesn’t have the impact or the sense of scale that is implied by the plot.

Fears: 2/5

There are some good, tense moments of tip-toeing through herds of ‘sleeping’ zombies that could spring into life at a loud sound or fast movement. But it is inconsistent, and soon overcome in ways I shall not mention. Also, a lot of the action takes place in relatively well-lit areas, which is rarely the bed-fellow of nail-biting horror and sometimes showed up the zombies for what they really were: a load of extras in make-up. I find it hard to be scared at extras in make-up, especially when I may well know some of them because it was filmed in the bus station I used to visit as a spotty teenager.

Bonus Category: Up ‘Anley Duck +3

I’m unashamedly going to award a whopping 3 bonus points for being both a British film, and because a large part of the filming took place in my home city of Stoke-on-Trent.

We occasionally get the odd film crew up here in Staffordshire, but not often, and I think a lot of local people were used as extras. Presumably it also brought some money in somewhere along the line, but mainly, it’s always good when the industry breaks out of London and remembers the rest of us (even though the film was set in London, I will always know it was actually the old Hanley bus station, which, to be fair, already looked like a dystopian nightmare before it was closed).

Total: 7

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_with_All_the_Gifts_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4547056/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

Where is what we actually want out of life in this whole rush-to-power malarkey?

martinlutherkingjr-063_0

It’s easy to forget with the 24 hour news carousel forever spinning, but there is a whole point to this politics malarkey – us.

I recently had a slightly frustrating and insulting exchange on Twitter in the wake of the Labour party NEC decision to (quite rightly) keep Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper for the potential leadership challenge. It went something like this:

 

Some bloke:

“Deluded Corbyn supporters can’t see Labour will never be elected again” yawn, etc…

Me:

“What’s the point of power for power’s sake if you don’t get the chance to enact polices you actually want?”

Some bloke:

“You really don’t understand government do you?”

Me:

“I suppose you do and are going to enlighten me with your superior knowledge?”

Some bloke:

“Power is all that matters. I guess you saw what the Conservatives achieved yesterday?”

Me:

“You mean May getting to be PM? What’s your point?” (I must stress, at this stage I am genuinely wondering what his point is – I am interested to know now that his initial insult against my intelligence has subsided…)

Some bloke:

“You really are a fool aren’t you? Goodbye.”

 

A fool! A fool no less! For asking someone to clarify a point they were yet to make.

The conversation ended soon after that with me wishing him farewell and good luck with his megalomania. I very rarely comment on other users tweets who I don’t already know, and this is why.

However, he kind of proved the point I’ve made before and will make again: what is the point of power for powers sake?

The reason I support Corbyn, more so than I do the Labour party, is because I agree with the things he wants to do i.e. his policies.

According to random bloke, that’s not important. What’s important is that we all support a version of a party being led by people who I massively don’t agree with, because “power is all that matters”.

I don’t feel I need to explain the false logic in that argument, do I?

Maybe I do, because I hear this all the time. Firstly I hear it in the mainstream media (none more so than the BBC), and then I hear it spilling passively out of the mouths of people who I know and meet.

“Corbyn is unelectable” they say… Well, no, actually, he isn’t. In theory, in a democracy, no fully-fledged citizen is, especially when you happen to be the democratically elected leader of a major political party.

“We don’t want to be a party of opposition” they say. Well, Labour, by definition, IS the opposition party. Perhaps the reason they didn’t pick up votes under Miliband in the last two election was because they didn’t represent a significantly opposing view and therefore didn’t enthuse those who would have turned out to vote for them to do so? Or many (like me) moved our votes elsewhere in search for some other world view even remotely aligned with our own?

It doesn’t take much prodding to unravel these arguments, does it? (They are barely even arguments) And that’s what we need to do, because no one in the mainstream media is going to do it for us like they do for the Tories/establishment.

I guess that random Twitter bloke was trying to imply that the way the Conservatives steered Theresa May into power was some kind of ‘achievement’ in terms of public/media opinion and opposition to having an actually unelected person take the reigns of power with seemingly little fuss. And if you are a Conservative, who supports May, then maybe that is an achievement, but, what has that got to do with me, and people like me, who want to see the kind of policies Jeremy Corbyn is proposing represented in our democracy?

Absolutely nothing.

Because it may be about the never ending rush for absolute power, but that doesn’t make it a good thing for the rest of us.

We live in a country now where idealism, socialism, disarmament, tolerance and welfare  are branded as being undesirable tenets on which to base a society. This is thanks to the power of the media, the capitalists and the complicit politicians who want us to think this way. And for once someone who says they want to break down the power held by the unelected media and business conglomerates over our lives and democracy is able (against all odds) to even be allowed a platform to say this, and the world turns against him, and by extension, anyone who agrees with him.

What’s worse is they are making us say it too… to ourselves, to each other, as if we know something. We don’t know anything about politics, not really, not most of us, only what we are told, and we are told, relentlessly, “he’s unelectable… he’s unelectable… he’s unelectable…”

You know what? Fuck them. Elect him. Or at least stop just repeating everything and at least try to think about it and put it into your own words so we can all talk about it and see if there is some valid reasons behind it all worth discussing.

Don’t just tell someone ‘they don’t understand’ and call them a ‘fool’ for asking… Get angry, yes, but direct it constructively. I don’t know, write a blog or something…

The Book Marketing Diaries Part 3 – Asking for help

I’ve never been too proud to ask for help. I may sometimes be too British to ask for help, but that’s a whole different social anxiety altogether.

Over the coming weeks I will be asking many of my friends, family, acquaintances and the occasional tenuous contact to help me with my next book release.

Specifically, I will be asking a core group of people if they would like to have my book for free ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review so that on the day of the launch, other readers who I don’t know already have some guidance and (hopefully) reasons to pick my book out of the multitude on offer.

This will be happening soon. I will contact everyone who I think may want to help out with this, but I am also open to anyone letting me know that they would like to be part of this journey with me. If I am lucky enough to reach the golden number I am hoping for I may have to scale it back, but for now it’s open doors to early reviewers.

If you do, please let me know either through Facebook, or by emailing info@garryabbott.co.uk, and/or ideally by following this blog and leaving a comment with details of how I can contact you. I will be offering primarily digital editions in whatever format suits. I may consider providing a few printed copies if people are adamant! (but this will be limited… overheads and all. I got a marketing plan to try and fund here!)

In the meantime, in lieu of the real artwork that will be coming at some point, here is something I put together for a bit of fun (this in NO WAY represents the actual artwork… I just like messing in photoshop now and again, and skulls are cool, especially in space, with a bowler hat, a monocle, a galaxy and a planet for eyes, coming out of a supernova…These are nearly all images that you may encounter mentally if you become one of my treasured readers!)

tgc teaser layers 2 copy

The book marketing diaries Part 2.5 – A series?

Alluding back to part 2 of this diary (here: The Book Marketing Diaries Part 2 – What’s in a name?) what I came to realise from feedback and seeing those names laid out in front of me was that maybe I was looking at more than one title here.

I have a general idea of the plot of a second book, which I have left open as a possibility in the upcoming novel, and thematically, it would follow on nicely to have the following two titles confirmed, with any third part being left for another time (say, when I was anywhere close to writing it).

So my current thinking is this:

BOOK 1 (Autumn 2016):

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Book 2 (2018 – I have an unrelated title in progress at the moment slated for 2017):

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Book 3: (Who knows? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but if I get a modicum of success from the first two, I would look at a trilogy).

Of course, as a free individual, I reserve all rights to not write another at all! But I do have enough confidence to think a second part would be of interest to my readers at least.

So, that’s my current thinking… But I am always open to having my mind changed (and have in fact, spent many years actively trying to do so), so PLEASE do comment in any way you can if you have an opinion and/or advice about this!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me out so far. even the littlest comment can make a big difference when you are doing something like writing, which despite everything else in life, can feel like a lonely endeavour sometimes.

 

 

The Book Marketing Diaries. Part 1

Hello there.

You may recall that in 2014 I launched my first book, ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’, or you may not, I really don’t know.

Either way, I did. I secured an agent to release it as an eBook through all the usual digital channels (including, alas, some that are now no longer with us), and a year later I released the paperback (without agency assistance).

I was, and remain, proud of that achievement, but it was a first step into a larger world, a world that I didn’t and still don’t yet fully understand how to reach out to.

You know the world I’m talking about, because you’re probably on it right now (unless you do crazy things like print out blog posts onto dead trees) – yes, I am talking about ‘The Internet’.

For anyone looking to reach out to fellow human beings and promote work, it would be ludicrous to ignore it. However, the internet does have a hell of a habit of ignoring you – and that’s the challenge.

Apart from the odd curiosity (especially if they include cats), violence, porn, and high-profile (and highly funded) campaigns out there; for the average person the internet can be a frustratingly aloof resource.

Yes you can start a Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Website/Blog and spend 80% of your time trying to fill it with things to ‘build your platform’ and whatnot, but does it actually work?

I’m not going to say it doesn’t, as I don’ think I’ve got the hang of it all yet. I especially don’t want to spend 80% of my time trying to do so (as some self-professed expert guides will have you think).

So, this time, I will be keeping a little diary of what I’m doing, what it costs (because, yes, there will be costs), and how successful, or otherwise, my attempts are.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have already spotted that this is in itself, part of the experiment/marketing plan that I have just today decided I’m going to need, given that I’m not having luck with any of the agents this time.

So, part 1 of this blog leads me to item 1 of my marketing plan…

  1. Keep a marketing diary blog.

Pros: Hopefully people will follow your journey and offer assistance, maybe even buy your books and help circulate word of your existence to wider circles.

Cons: I have to remember to keep an online diary and find something to write about at least semi-regularly. Plus, savvy people will realise that they are being marketed at, but then, I will point this out to them, making it some kind of fourth wall breaking ‘meta’ marketing strategy. This will be cool and they will immediately become ardent supporters of your cause.

I of course don’t yet know if this, like any of my activities, will be of use, but let’s find out together, you and I.

Item 2 is quite important, and I’ll cover that in more detail soon (it is already under way):

2. Get a great book cover and titles design from talented people who know what they are doing…

So. There we go. It has started. The only thing that could stop it now is one of the agencies who are still considering my work coming back with an offer, in which case, I won’t really mind that this blog has been for nothing.

Oh! And very importantly, step 3:

3. Actually mention the name of the book and a bit of blurb.

The book is called ‘The Great Connection’ and is a future set ‘first contact’ science fiction novel about the exploration of space through a global citizen-science project that connects deep space observation satellites with virtual reality environments, enlisting the help of ordinary people around the globe to explore uncharted worlds as a form of home entertainment.

It is on one of these worlds that Raif Masters discovers the first signs of alien life in the ten years since the ‘Great Connection’ project was launched: but it is a discovery that could tear his family, and the Earth, apart.

… So there you go!

Marketing Budget To Date: £0.00