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Posts Tagged ‘Highly Recommended Movie’

Spider-Man: Homecoming”  –  movie review
On last Wednesday, my son (James) and I went to see the recently released “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) staring Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and Michael Keaton as a surprisingly good villain: the “Vulture”.  Ok.  Let’s just say it…  This is THE BEST Spider-Man movie EVER!  No, it’s not particularly true to the comics from the 1960’s – they play fast and loose with some of the characters, but trust me…   This is a GREAT movie!  Of course I mean comic-book movie and not Oscar-worthy drama, but even then, it’s still pretty good.
Robert Downing Jr. has some significant cameo time as Tony Stark / Iron-Man.  Maybe a little too much…  But, I found it made up for leaving out the traditional “origin story” which should have happened in this – with it being a series re-boot and all.  Filling out the main roles: Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds (Peter’s best friend and fellow nerd), and Zendaya as Michelle (“M.J.” – Spider-Man’s future “luv” interest).  And, of course, Stan Lee has his token “minute-of-fame” / cameo.
Does the movie work?  Yes!  Holland is a better Parker than Toby Maguire and a better Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield.  For one thing, Holland actually looks like he could go to high school.  Prior versions of Parker did not.  (There, we can finally admit it.)  Junior College definitely, but not high-school.  Plus, Holland plays both Spider-Man and Peter as a kind-of goofy teenager.  So, the main actor was a good match to the role.
How about the special effects?  Okay, not so great.  The costume was blurry against the green-screen “most” of the time.  Did it hurt the movie?  No.  At least I didn’t mind it (too much).  Action?  Got it in spades!  History?  The building lift scene is almost exactly the way I remember it from the comic book 40+ years ago…  Awesome!
Final recommendation and what’s next?  This is a great summer action movie!  Highly recommended!  Bring on Civil War II, Thor, the Black Panther and the next Avengers movie…  I can hardly wait.
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On This Day In:
2016 The Responsibility Of Freedom
2015 Face It
Birdfight
2014 Honoring Firefighters
2013 And Never Will
2012 The Human Adventure Continues
2011 Almost Never
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Today I have reviews for two movies I’ve just watched (initial viewings) over the weekend and a third which is a re-watch.
Beauty And The Beast (2014) — movie review (La Belle et la Bête)
No, this is not the Disney remake which came out earlier this year of the now classic Disney animated film (from 1991).  I’ve not seen that version yet, but I hope to when it comes out on DVD.  This is the 2014 Belgium / French / German version (a romantic / fantasy) of the fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.  The film stars Vincent Cassel as the Beast / Prince and Léa Seydoux as Belle.  I must admit to never having read the original fairy tale, so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the original.  With three young children growing up in the 1990’s, I have, of course seen the Disney animated musical multiple times.
This version is live action with special effects.  The “live action” is strangely European.  I’m not sure (quite) how to put my finger on it, but it is unmistakably NOT and American film.  That is not good or bad.  It just is.  The special effects were okay, but reminded me of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” movie from 2013.  (I believe that movie was titled: “Jack the Giant Slayer“.)  In other words: adequate, obviously computer generated, but okay.  The problems I had with the movie came down to this: worse than the predictability, too many parts made no sense or were never explained.  They just kind of happened.  This detracted from the overall theme of the movie: that true love is magical and can be redeeming in itself.
Having said this, I found the movie pleasantly enjoyable.  Not great, but enjoyable.  It’s not terribly frightening and can be viewed by the whole family – well, maybe not very small children.  I give it a moderate to strong recommendation.
War Machine (2017)  —  movie review
Brad Pitt stars as General Glen McMahon, a character based on General Stanley McChrystal.  McMahon is portrayed as an accomplished general with degrees from West Point and Yale brought in by the Obama Administration to bring a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan because he is an “expert” on counter-insurgency.  Pitt’s portrayal is one of a focused, disciplined, but rather buffoonish military leader who “seems” to be caught in a situation he can’t lead his troops out of.  In a terrific casting, Ben Kingsley plays President Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan.  “Caught” in a similar situation (one of figurehead leadership), Karzai only seeks to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Are the portrayals of the fictionalized characters accurate to the real people?  I can’t say because I have never met them and have not read enough about them to form a solid opinion.  Do they “appear” to be realistic portrayals?  Yes, they do.  So, is the movie a satire and / or a dark comedy or is it a realistic depiction of what happened?  My gut feeling is this movie is FAR more realistic than we want to believe.  Absent the horror of combat (injuries and death) and collateral civilian casualties, when viewed externally, most of war can easily appear as satire and dark comedy.
So, is this a good movie?  Yes!  You (or I) may not like what it says about our politics or our wars, but I believe it is an accurate window into the crisis situation we place our combat troops in when we send them into (and leave them in) places where / when they cannot engage and destroy the enemy because they can’t tell the enemies from the friendlies.  Collateral damage becomes almost a certainty.
I highly recommend this movie!  If all you see is the dark comedy or the even darker portrayal of our military and civilian leadership, that’s fine.  If it is, re-watch the film and ask yourself: “What if it’s true and this is what it was (is) really like in Afghanistan?”  What does it mean to you?
Captain America:  Civil War  (2016)  —  movie review
I have reviewed this movie before (here) and watched it a couple of more times since.  Every time I watch it I see something a little different(ly) and I enjoy it even more.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not great drama and the physical effects of the combat scenes are completely ridiculous, but it’s a comic book movie and if it’s not “JUST” the way you would imagine it from the comics, it’s pretty darn close.
I highly recommend this movie (again).  I would add one side comment.  I watched this movie on TV with commercial breaks and found it MUCH less enjoyable.  Some movies can stand the interruptions, some can’t.  I found this to be one that did not hold up well with the frequent breaks.  Again, just my opinion.  So, watch it on a movie channel or get the DVD.
Apologies for such a long post.  Thanks for hanging in there with me (and finishing it).
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On This Day In:
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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Today’s reviews are for a pair of biographical movies about two geniuses.  The men are Srinivasa Ramanujan and Alan Turing.  Technically, both are mathematicians, but Turing is more remembered for his work with computers.  The two movies are titled: “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2015) about Ramanujan, and “The Imitation Game” (2014) about Turing.
The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2015)  —  movie review
This movie stars Dev Patel as Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as his British mentor (collaborator) G. H. Hardy.  Basically, a poor, self-taught mathematician moves to Trinity College at Cambridge after mailing some of his work to a world famous mathematics professor (Hardy).  The two collaborate (and publish), but the movie is basically about their personal relationship and not about their maths.  The movie is beautifully shot in both India and England and I was moved by the depictions of both environments: brightly colored poverty contrasted with muted earth-toned (relative) wealth.  A second major plot contrast is Hardy’s atheism vs Ramanujan’s devout Hindu faith.   Ramanujan tells Hardy that his math comes from the lips of his god.  Hardy can only struggle to understand divine inspiration.  In the end, Hardy accepts that his friend believes it is true even if he cannot share that belief.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended and I look forward to reading the book (of the same title) the movie is based on.
The Imitation Game” (2014)   —  movie review
This movie stars  Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes / Doctor Strange) as Alan Turing and  Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke who was Turing’s fiancé briefly.  Turing was a homosexual and at that time, being gay was considered a serious crime in England.  Both Turing and Clarke were mathematicians who became cryptologists.  They famously developed a computer which was used to break the Nazi Enigma cypher.   This movie describes this invention and Turing’s subsequent suicide.   As a personal note: I consider Turing to be one of the seminal figures in computer science and in artificial intelligence.  The “test” for general purpose artificial intelligence is named “The Turing Test” and based on one of his papers.
Turing and Clarke worked closely together and are reported to have actually been very close friends although I’ve seen Turing portrayed as almost autistic in dealing with social settings, so I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions or the portrayals have been.  In any case, Turing proposed marriage to Clarke and then later withdrew and admitted to being gay.  The movie purports to Clarke being indifferent to Turing’s sexuality as she is contented with having a relationship with a friend and an intellectual equal.
The “surprise” hack at the end of the movie is the realization that the Nazi messages all end the same and this can be used as a key to reduce the number of variations the computer needs to evaluate.  Whether this is what actually happened or not, I don’t know, but it did make for a plausible ending!  Final recommendation:  highly recommended!
While I enjoyed both movies I would rate “Infinity” slightly higher than “Imitation”.  I’m not really sure why, but I’ve already re-watched “Infinity” twice and I’m just getting around to my second viewing of “Imitation”.  But, again, both highly recommended…
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On This Day In:
2016 Come Dance And Laugh With Me
2015 Looks Good To Me
2014 Desire For The Sea
2013 The Fierce Urgency Of NOW
Happy Inauguration Day!
2012 One Path
Sorrow And Joy
The Seven Year View
2011 Emergent Practicality

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The following are my brief reviews of four documentaries I watched on Netflix…
Requiem for the American Dream  (2016)   —  movie / documentary review
This documentary is (more or less) a seminar about the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few (1%) and the subsequent use of wealth to control the government and thereby use the government to increase their wealth.  The documentary presents the views of Noam Chomsky, an MIT emeritus professor who made his fame in the study of linguistics and philosophy.  Chomsky is a long-time “leftist”, but not in the traditional sense of Communist or Socialist, and more in terms of being pro-democracy, that is supporting the rule of the governed as opposed to the rule of the elite.  More specifically, the people should control the governmental (government and regulations) business environment, not the business’s (or the mega-wealthy).  I didn’t find much which was really new in this documentary, but then I have considered Chomsky’s positions previously and have long agreed with him.  If I have any problems with this film it’s that it is presented in a “relatively” dry (“academic”) format.  So, while I agree with Chomsky, the American public doesn’t seem to mind government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite – hence, the election of Donald Trump.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, particularly if you are angry about the state of the country and / or worried about your job / career and place in our economic class system.
Sneakerheadz  (2015)   —  movie / documentary review
A short (just over an hour long documentary) summary / description of people who obsessively purchase sports shoes.  I agree with one of the commentators – a young lady – who says (in effect): “If you grow up poor and wanting things, like name-brand shoes and clothes, when you grow up and have enough money to buy them, you do.  To excess…“)   As I watched, I recognized myself and realize that except constrained by money, I could / would otherwise fall into this “addition”.  Beyond the simple ego-boost of being able to get something you previously could not afford, there is an underlying message of people seeking a place in society by creating an image of themselves which they can project out to others.  Interestingly, it seems this message is learned at an early age and then becomes the goal of their (the Sneakerheadz) life.  There is also a strong message about societal values and the ability of marketing to influence those values.  Not an original idea, but I still found it interesting to hear it stated so openly in documentary about shoe collectors.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
A Drummer’s Dream  (2010)  —  movie / documentary review
What happens when you take some of the greatest drummers in the world, put them in an isolated Canadian farmland with a bunch of kids and all the drum kits and money the drummers can bring together?  It seems you get smiles, effervescent passion and irresistible personality. Starring drummers: Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr, Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio “El-Negro” Hernadez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini and Raul Rekow, the documentary captures you with Rock, jazz, Latin fusion, and soul, but mostly it is about the drummers and their joy in playing…  And, did I mention smiles!  These musicians are driven by the beats of their hearts – full of love and joy of life.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  I found myself tapping my hands and feet for days after watching this.  Fortunately, my attention deficit disorder prevents me from becoming obsessive (in this way) or I’d still be drumming and trying to find / share their joy.  Come for the percussion, stay for the smiles…!
The Real Miyagi  (2015)    —  movie / documentary review
Back in the 1960’s, a young Japanese man came to America with little but an expertise in Martial Arts.  He subsequently went on to become an internationally recognized Martial Arts instructor and stunt back-up actor.  That man is Fumio Demura.  If you have seen any of the first four “Karate Kid” movies, you’ve seen sensei Demura in action (probably without realizing it). Pat Morita’s iconic sensei (Mr. Miyagi) in ‘The Karate Kid’ was based on sensei Fumio Demura and Demura was Morita’s stunt double in the action sequences.  I don’t mean based on Demura’s actual life, as Mr. Miyagi was a fictional Japanese-American character who fought in World War II.  Rather, Mr. Miyagi is based on the idea of a man perfecting (improving) himself using art – in Miyagi’s case it is Karate and Bonsai trees.  The documentary traces sensei Demura’s life and offers multiple tributes from his students which offer insight into the man behind the title “sensei”.  Final recommendation: strong if you have only a casual interest in Martial Arts, highly if you have a personal interest in Martial Arts or in historic Martial Artists.
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On This Day In:
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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Today’s post is reviewing four movies – one re-review and three new reviews.  The movies are: (old) “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016); (new) Immortals (2011); (new) Jason Bourne (2016); and, (new) Moneyball (2011).  Because this post is for four movies, it will be longer than normal.  If you’re not interested in my movie reviews, move along…  So, in alphabetical order…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)  —  movie review
My original review can be found here from back in April.  Back then I gave it a “strong” recommendation as “entertaining”.  That review stands.  If anything, I might raise it to high.  I think I actually liked it more.  The plot still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as previously stated: it’s a marketing gimmick to get three super-heroes together so DC can start a franchise.  Even given that, I still liked the movie a lot – more so than the first viewing.  I particularly liked Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).  And, while Superman is never going to be my favorite super-hero, Henry Cavill owns the role like no one since Chris Reeves in the original “Superman – the Movie”.  The movie worked for me.  Bring on the Justice League of America!
Immortals (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so in ancient Greece, some beefcake named Theseus (Henry Cavill aka Superman) is blessed / cursed by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect humanity (well, at least the Greeks) from a mad tyrant – King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).  Phaedra (Freida Pinto) plays the love interest, an Oracle of Delphi.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, Theseus finds a magic bow (“The Epirus Bow”) and saves the world from the Titans.
Since I’d never heard of this “legend” tale, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is completely made up.  The names of the characters appear in Greek history or mythology, but this myth / story does not.  Still, it’s a good tale.  The movie is from the same producers as “300“, so if you like that kind of bloody action, fights and special effects (and I do), you should find this movie to your visual taste.  Final recommendation: strong.  I picked this movie to see if Cavill can act in any other role beside Superman.  That didn’t work out so well as he plays a “minor” superman / hero here, too.
Jason Bourne (2016)  —  movie review
This is a movie I really wanted to see at the theater, but never got around to.  It’s the fifth in the series and the fourth with Matt Damon in the title role.  Matt skipped number four which starred Jeremy Renner.  (Wow.  Now I’ve got to go back and see that one again.)  While it was nice to see Matt back in the saddle, this movie makes absolutely no sense.  The plot is the same as the others (the first three), the CIA wants Jason Bourne dead and he fights back.  The special effects technology is upgraded, but it’s used badly and adds to the “huh?” factor.
I never thought I’d say this, since I much prefer Matt to Tom Cruise, but Ethan Hunt is now better in the Mission Impossible series than Jason Bourne is in this series.  And it’s not Matt’s acting.  It’s the story telling.  This movie is what it is: Matt / Jason fighting and running around and being super clever.  Other than that, it’s an extremely average action movie.  I’m sure Hollywood will try to string this out for another couple of sequels, but it’s running out of air and there’s a DNR on the patient’s chart.  Time for a better re-boot than we got with Jeremy.
Moneyball (2011)  —  movie review
What can I tell you?  It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Cubs won the World Series and I’m missing baseball…
This is one of those movies “based on a true story”.  Basically, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to make a small market (ie “poor”) baseball team competitive.  He does it by introducing “Sabermetrics” to baseball.  Here, Sabermetrics is renamed as “moneyball”.  The baseball team is the Oakland Athletics (better known as the “A’s”).  The A’s lose three of their best players to teams with more money and in the struggle to replace them, Beane tries to redefine how you evaluate players using statistics instead of experienced baseball “eye-balls” (veteran scouts).  What happens is he turns the “rebuilding” team into one which not only makes the playoffs, but sets an American league single season consecutive winning streak.
The movie gives a fascinating look into the “business” of modern baseball, and, yes, I did get caught up in both the streak and the “romance of baseball”.  I liked Brad Pitt in Troy, but most of his stuff is just kind of “so-so” for me.  He is excellent in this role!  Final recommendation: High!!
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On This Day In:
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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This evening’s post is a book review and a movie review.
Book review: Edward R. Murrow: and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism  (2004©)
This book was written by Bob Edwards and chronicles the life of the famous radio and TV news journalist: Edward R Murrow.  A little background – I grew up listening to the famous record series “I Can Hear It Now (1933-1945)“.  I’m not sure why my mom bought them for me as a child, but I have distinct memories of listening to these albums (actually, 78rpm LPs, as in “Long Playing” for all you music streamers) along with my copy of “The Lone Ranger“.  Incidentally, anyone interested can hear much of, if not all of, the records on YouTube.  You can certainly hear enough of Murrow’s voice to appreciate what he sounded like to Americans who were just discovering radio.
The book is a fascinating account of the parallel track of radio and TV news journalism with early to mid-20th century world / American history.  The main body is 166 pages in my hardbound copy and I found it a VERY fast read.  If you have any interest in the history of broadcast journalism this is a terrific introduction.  Having grown up during the 1960’s, when many of the names in the book were faces on my TV every evening, the book really brought back memories.  Of particular interest, the “Afterword” runs about 13 pages and more or less precisely describes the news we see on TV (broadcast and 24-hour cable) today.  The book would be highly recommended based on the “Afterword” itself, but I found the whole book fascinating.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  Needless to say, there will be quotes to follow on my blog…
Movie review: “good night, and good luck.”  (2005)
This is my second review of this movie / DVD.  The original review can be found at:  Journalism And Fantasy  from back in 2012.  My first review pretty much stands as is.  This is an outstanding movie about a critical time in American history – 1953 to 1958 and covers the conflict between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Edward Murrow.  McCarthy was trying to fight communism in the U.S. government (and then within the U.S. as a whole) and over-reached by using government intimidation to restrict free speech and association and, ultimately, freedom of the press.  When Murrow used the power of television to confront McCarthy and his bullying tactics, McCarthy fell from public grace.  He was censored by the Senate and, ultimately, died in disgrace as a cautionary tale about the abuse of power in a democracy.  Ironically, some of the individuals he “exposed / persecuted” were later found to actually be Soviet agents when the U.S.S.R. fell and some of their spying records became public.  This has not, however, vindicated McCarthy in the eyes of history.  Rather, these instances seem to be the exceptions which proved the rule of innocent until proven guilty.
If I have one critique of the movie, it would be that it leaves you hanging.  There is the drama of Murrow’s (probably) most famous speech – to the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (1958) – popularly known as the “Wires And Lights In A Box” speech (which can be found in its entirety here), which leads into and then ends the movie, but there is no summing up.  The viewer is left to do their own research on Murrow’s career and life, and the result / reaction to his speech.  The fact the speech is actually a prophecy of the type of radio and television news we are experiencing today is also left for the viewer.  This is the type of DVD I would pay more for to get the extras (but I NEVER do this).
Even with that single criticism, this is a terrific movie and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American journalism, history or the rule of law in a free and open society.
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On This Day In:
2015 Not Mine, Anyway
2015 South By South East
2013 Don’tcha
2012 I Hear A Distant Thunder
2011 A Poison Tree

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Today’s reviews are of a movie I watched earlier in the week and a book I finished today…
Movie Review: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
This is the third movie in the Star Trek reboot series which stars Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones/McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty).  All the main characters are well played as all the actors seem to have settled into their on-going roles.  Sadly, I never saw this movie in its original release.  To be honest, I just never made time.  As good as a 50-inch screen may be from three feet away, it’s still not the same as having to use your peripheral vision to absorb the spectacle of the big screen theater experience.  But, then again, there is much to be said for a pause button, having your own kitchen / food / fridge, and a toilet ten steps away.
Is the movie original, any good, plot, action, does it make sense, etc.?   No, not really.  Yes, very enjoyable.  The plot is okay.  The action is reasonable, but I found the special effects to be only so-so.  Does it make sense?  Does it have to?  It’s Star Trek!  Okay.  Yes!  It makes sense (as long as you don’t try to think about it too hard).  The “best” Star Trek has always been a commentary on its current times, with a sub-textual message that we can get through this if we work together (aka “the future is hopeful”).  I would only say I’m getting tired of the Enterprise getting destroyed.  This is like the fifth time in fifteen movies.  Enough already!  We’ve seen this Fx get worked to death, now.  All in all, I’d say this was the best of the three reboots.  Highly recommended, particularly if you are a Trekkie (like me).
Book ReviewJack Reacher Series #2: Die Trying  (1998©)
This book is the second in the Jack Reacher series of “male / adventure / action” genre books which I enjoy reading.  The series is authored by Lee Child.  Although it is the second book in the series, it is actually the third book I’ve read.  I got out of sequence because I read the book which corresponds to the Tom Cruise movie which came out several years ago (2012).  I enjoyed the movie, so I read the book.  I enjoyed the book (#8 in the series), so I decided to go back and read the series in order.
In this book, Jack is kidnapped (with a female FBI agent) in Chicago and taken to a posse comitatus (aka right-wing crazies) encampment in Montana where he must foil an attempt to secede from the United States.  All in all, the book is pretty standard faire for this genre and for this series.  Having said that, you will either enjoy it or you won’t.  I did.  Again, nothing earth-shattering here, just a good action / adventure story.  Even though it’s over 500 pages, it’s a fast read.  Strong to highly recommended book recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2015 Tell Me…
2014 Live Forever (To Remember Me)
Orange October (VI) – Giants Win Game 4
2013 More Than Just Words
2012 Egotist, n.
2011 Good And Bad

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