Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Comic book review: The Adventures of Superman #14 by Max Landis

Whilst this is a movie site, rather than a comic one, I think it is interesting to chuck some reviews of different types of work on here occasionally. Plus the main story in The Adventures of Superman #14  is written by Max Landis, son of the great John Landis, he of the exceptional pitch for Ghostbusters 3 and writer of the excellent script behind the much beloved Chronicle (2012). So there is a film connection to this review.

supes 14 cover

There are a couple of great, distinguishing factors about this story from Landis. For starters, it features a nemesis of the Batman – The Joker, showing up on Superman’s turf. I am not all over comic book history, so it is quite possible these two have interacted on occasions before. But it was a novelty for me. One captured awesomely by the cover of the book which you can see above, with the Joker striking an iconic Superman pose.

The second distinguishing factor, and one that is possibly my favourite thing about this story, is that the ‘action’ so to speak consists almost entirely of the two characters standing around having a chat (ok Superman is technically hovering, but you get  my drift). By having them literally just talking, trading dialogue, the effect is that the reader feels they can genuinely peer into the psyche of both a major villain and an archetypically perfect hero. I have not read a whole lot of Superman comics, but they generally seem ultra serious. Or at least the character is. It is great then that Landis sets up this patter between the two characters with Superman interacting and toying with the Joker on a really fun level. Some of the best moments here are when Supes laughs at the Joker’s jokes, a reaction that the supervillain is really not sure how to take.

Something else that will interest comic book readers, or just fans of their films, is the somewhat terse relationship between Superman and Batman that Landis constructs. I won’t give too much of the detail away cause you really should read it to get the flavour of it. During his discussion with the Joker, Superman perhaps reveals some of his true feelings about Bruce Wayne’s superhero alter-ego. And then toward the end of the story the two of them have a little clash over what the responsibilities of being a superhero. Landis expanded on some of these ideas on his twitter account, today. Check out some of his thoughts below (and if you are on twitter, Landis is a great follow and often tweets out really interesting stuff on the writing process.

I loved the boldness of some aspects of the art in the book as well. Artist Jock obviously did not feel constrained to present everything in the one style or even stick to one physical depiction of the Joker. It is an approach that is initially a touch disconcerting but definitely grew on me as the story progressed. And given my movie focus, it would be remiss of me not to share this amazing panel, which pays homage to the interpretation of the character by Nicholson, Ledger and others. It does not totally stick out as a gimmick either because I think the effect is to show the constantly evolving and shifting mental state of the Joker, even in a single sentence.

supes jokers

There is also a second, fun story about Superman babysitting in The Adventures of Superman #14. It is not written by Landis, so I won’t give it a full review. But consider it a fun little extra if you decide to pick this one up. Which I highly recommend you do. It is a breezy and original read with some interesting psychology and superhero relationship stuff going on underneath.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Chronicle and Comic Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier film tie-in.

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Trailer for your Weekend: The Guest

guest poster

Adam Wingard impressed many with You’re Next (2011), one of the most popular horror films of last year when it was finally released. I was also a big fan of his “Q is for Quack” segment in The ABCs of Death (2012). Wingard’s next film is The Guest (2014) which has been steadily building some buzz over recent times. This is only a very short first teaser, but it looks as though this will be a pretty atmospheric little film, with hints of the home invasion genre Wingard has mined before, even if it does not totally fit within the genre. Thoughts?

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: 2013 Horror Wrap (featuring a review of You’re Next) and The ABCs of Death.

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Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

vii poster

Sadly dear readers, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) is an awesome slasher film, ruining my bulletproof Friday the 13th franchise being the inverse of the Elm Street franchise theorem you’ve been hearing so much about. Not only is this the best odd numbered film in the series, it is the best film in the series fullstop.

One noticeable feature of the ultra-enjoyable Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) was the incorporation of more supernatural elements than the series had featured up until that point. This film not only maintains that, but expands on it greatly, resulting in the strongest ‘final girl’ of the franchise so far. Initially the character of Tina Shepard feels like ‘Carrie White lite’, a nondescript teenage girl with the power of telekinesis that she cannot control as yet. The introduction of Tina is not promising. In one of her first scenes, she manages to reanimate Jason whilst her nose glows bright red… yes like Rudolph. However for the most part, her character provides something original for the film, interacting with what is a pretty cliché cabin in the woods partyin teens style set-up. Just as Tina provides the best central (non-Jason) character of the series, her love interest Nick is the best male teen character as well. There is a real care in his actions toward her and a genuineness to their interactions that is shockingly assured. This film and the previous one are less obsessed with mindless Jason murders and actually bother with a dash of story which is quite refreshing. They also get the tone both unique and right. Part VI had humour that hit the mark regularly whilst this one adds in a heap of supernatural elements and a main character that you genuinely care about.

The brilliant Tina

The brilliant Tina

In many ways, Tina Shepard is the first real ‘final girl’ of the series. There is a point toward the end where she actually runs toward Jason to take him on, going full Carrie on his arse. For me it was one of the most rousing moments of the entire franchise. She was the first really strong and forceful female character that stuck with me from all of these films. I think it is a shame that they did not build more entries in the series around the character as she is the most fully formed character we have seen and brought to life well by Lar Park-Lincoln. The design of these films has rarely been something I have felt the need to comment on. Credit where it is due though, the design of Jason in this one is utterly badass. His shirt is ripped and his spine and the back of his ribs are showing, which really plays up the supernatural aspects of this somewhat new Jason.

The supernatural powers of the character of Tina are a real point of difference for this film and help to make this film comfortably the most satisfying of the series so far. I have to say, I didn’t think any of these films would be as compelling as this film. But not only is Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood one of the most compelling 80s slashers I have seen it is also one of the most downright fun to watch.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

Series ranking thus far:

  1. Friday the 13th Part VII
  2. Friday the 13th Part 2
  3. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
  4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  5. Friday the 13th
  6. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
  7. Friday the 13th Part III

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Frank

frank poster

Frank, otherwise known as the Michael Fassbender in a giant papier mache head movie, is delightfully one of the weirder films that will hit (kinda)mainstream cinemas this year. Which is kind of good, because anything less than that level of weirdness would have been a bit of a let-down given all the giant head stuff going on.

You wouldn’t know it from the marketing material, but Fassbender’s Frank is not really the film’s protagonist, or at least not the audience’s window into the film. That would be Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, a struggling songwriter and keyboard player who lands himself a one-off gig with Frank’s band. The gig does not exactly go well, but a few weeks later Jon finds himself working on an album with the band in an isolated Scottish wilderness. Jon’s journey is one about the desire and passion to do well and is also very much about the creative process. It is something that must be laboured at, but it also requires a certain ‘magical’ spark to ignite that work. One of the great strengths of the film is that it does a good job of telling this journey, whilst also establishing quite different ones for other characters. I was a little taken aback by just how funny Frank was because for some reason I thought the film was a drama. I laughed more in the first half of this film than I have watching any other 2014 release, with its array of really clever scriptwriting and a fair splash of over the top idiocy too. It is so refreshing to see an indie film (whatever that means these days) be unafraid to trade in a little jauntiness and rambunctiousness to accompany its brooding. It is a shame then, that the more serious second half is not quite as successful as the more straight up comedy of the first. Part of this is the imposition of something approaching a traditional ‘final act’ onto the film where the stronger earlier half of the film was not really concerned with story as such.

The rest of Frank's band

The rest of Frank’s band

As well as being hilarious, aspects of Frank are quite serious and dark. The second half of the film, set predominately around the SXSW festival brings the themes of the creative process and ‘selling out’, to their more serious conclusion. Not only more serious, but a little more familiar as well. Some of the beats here are ones that it seems every single band biopic needs to hit, even if this does hit some of them with more originality than most. On the ‘dark’ front, Scoot McNairy spearheads a subplot of a man struggling to subdue his sexual urges to “fuck mannequins.” This subplot was confronting but simultaneously both funny and boundary pushing. It got me pondering what passes as bold or crass comedy in cinema these days. Every film that thinks dropping a rape joke in a film makes it edgy (which is close to every comedy I’ve seen this year), should watch Frank for a lesson in how to push the boundaries, be uncompromising in your film and not resort to utter crassness or offensiveness. The ending is both dark and serious, engaging in the theme of mental illness in a way that is thoughtful but also perhaps the slightest bit unsatisfying. As a big fan of Monsters (2010) it has been awesome to see Scoot McNairy in not one, but two films of late. He appeared in The Rover (2014) as well as this film. Hopefully we keep seeing more of him, because at the very least he is a really effective supporting character actor and creates something pretty complex in this film with his limited screen time. Domhnall Gleeson continues to hone his somewhat malleable onscreen presence, which I think works in this role and it also helps you forget this is Brendan Gleeson’s son. The much-written about performance from Fassbender is downright impressive as well, conveying so much through his voice and occasional tics underneath that giant head.

It is always so lovely to see a distinctive and weird film garner both buzz and a decent release. Sure having a gimmicky papier mache head containing Fassbender helped. But Frank is much more than just that and is especially worth checking out in a year that is shaping as being pretty devoid of decent comedies. It also culminates in a rousing musical moment that is like no other.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Searching for Sugarman and Hold Me While I’m Naked.

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Trailer for your Weekend: Birdman

birdman poster

Look, I’m a sucker for an interesting/awesome song choice in a trailer. So this trailer for Birdman (2014) had me at the cover of Gnarls Barkley. But it doesn’t hurt that the director, cast and premise are all intriguing. It is rare these days for me to literally know nothing about a film before I catch the trailer, but I had never heard of this one at all. This trailer is definitely a teaser, with very few real details given on the film. But the taste that you get from it is that it is hopefully going to be uber cool and original. I am definitely looking forward to this one now. The poster is badass too.

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Robocop.

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Fitzcarraldo

fitz poster

“The land where God did not finish creation” – Fitzcarraldo.

Recently when I reviewed The Omen (1976) I mentioned the cursed production that film endured. The production of Fitzcarraldo (1982) whilst not cursed in the same way was probably a more tortured production, one which spawned the infamous making of doco Burden of Dreams (1982). Of course that old cliché that there is a fine line between genius and insanity probably holds more truth than many of us would care to admit. Director Werner Herzog and his leading man Klaus Kinski straddled that line through their whole careers and in reality probably spent large swathes of time on either side of it, which is certainly a recipe for on-set fireworks.

Molly, played by Claudia Cardinale

Molly, played by Claudia Cardinale

In reality though, little of Herzog and Kinski’s on-set warring permeates the film on screen which is assuredly made with none of the raggedness you would expect from such a production. The story focuses on the character of Brian Sweeney ‘Fitzcarraldo’ Fitzgerald, played by Kinski, a man who desires above all else to build an opera house deep in the Amazon. He wants it with such a manic fervour that his desire has in a way broken him and sent him over the edge. For Fitzgerald,  opera “gives expression to our deepest feelings” and that is something he is desperate to be able to share with all those he comes into contact with.  In a get rich quick scheme he decides to travel up the Amazon in order to claim a patch of rubber trees. It is an arduous journey which culminates in transporting his huge ship straight over a huge mountain. So much of Fitzcarraldo feels like a Western. Iquitos is referred to as a frontier town. Brian and his lover Molly, who runs a bordello are very much the new outsiders in this slightly lawless place. Not only because they are not locals, but because they also do not fit in with the other blow-ins who are mostly ultra-rich rubber barons. Then there is the long perilous journey into the unknown where the ‘natives’ pose a serious threat. Not only that, the journey is for territory that can hopefully be exploited for wealth.

fitz record player

Having said all of that though, there is no doubting that the psychological side of this film is like no Western that has ever been made and in a good way, it is kind of hard to work out exactly what Fitzcarraldo is truly about.  Going into it, I thought it was about a dude trying to carry a boat over towering mountains. That is part of it, but it takes over an hour and a half to get to that part of the story. It is also I guess a film about opera, a form I know next to nothing about. Or perhaps it is more-so about the transformative power of art. Sometimes I feel a similar fervour for film that Fitzgerald feels for opera. The quote above is one from right near the start of the film and accompanies a wide shot of the jungle, which is immediately contrasted with a palatial house. This is also in part what the film is about, the clash of cultures and the exploitation of cultures by Western influences. There is for so long in the film a forcing of ideas on the indigenous population of the Amazon. But in a crushing sequence, probably not in the way you would expect, the locals have their stark revenge when both the viewer, and the characters in the film, perhaps least expect it. In the end though, the film is a nigh on indescribable fever dream simultaneously serious, psychological, weird, absurdist and bold whilst all these elements crash into and tear at one another.

Fitzcarraldo is essential viewing for any fan of Herzog and is one of his best fictional features. The film is complete with stunning visuals as the massive, battered vessel travels first along the river and then over a mountain. These visuals are the backdrop for a psychologically challenging journey that will make you think, ponder and puzzle.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

2014 Progress: 17/101

Progress 113/1001

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Jack Reacher and POV: The Loneliest Planet.

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This poster has me excited about Pixar again

lava poster

Yesterday Pixar tweeted out the above poster with an announcement that Lava would be the short that precedes their upcoming feature Inside Out (2015). With just this poster, I am all of a sudden excited about Pixar again.

Let’s be honest, Pixar have been in a bit of a funk recently. The last three films from what used to be the most consistently brilliant and creative studio out there have been Monsters University (2013), Brave (2012) and Cars 2 (2011). Even huge fans of the studio like me, would probably only be able to find one of those films that they are fond of (for me it is actually Cars 2, which I think cops a bit of a bad wrap). The decline in quality is starker when you ponder the three films that preceded those ones – Toy Story 3 (2010), Up (2009) and WALL-E (2008). Those are three stone cold classics and I believe are three of the best animation films ever made.

Something in the poster for the short film Lava excited me and suggests to me that hopefully the creative tide is turning. Sure its stylings are a little derivative of a Mondo poster. But there is also a sense that they are doing something a little new and at least for them original. Not to mention the visual splendour, I mean a crystal blue ocean teeming with whales and dolphins as a volcano towers above. Add into that the really original premises of two out of the three next Pixar films and there is definitely reason to hope. Inside Out takes a look inside the mind of an 11 year old kid with a voice cast including people like Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling (Cinema Blend had a first look at some footage yesterday and were definitely psyched by it, check out the details here). Whilst The Good Dinosaur (2015) was meant to be this year’s Pixar release, but a problematic production has meant that it has been pushed back, giving us the bonus of two Pixar flicks in one year. I am hoping that the production troubles don’t spell trouble for the film, but let’s face it, it has dinosaurs in it so will almost certainly be phenomenal. Following that will be a sequel, a concept with which Pixar have a mixed track run. But Finding Dory (2016) is a sequel to one of the company’s classics so here is hoping it continues an upwards trend for the studio’s output.

So, how do you feel about Pixar’s recent work, any of there recent films you need to defend? Which of their upcoming films are you most excited for?

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Cars 2 and Worth Watching July 2013 (includes a review of Monsters University).

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The Rover

rover poster 2


“You should never stop thinking about a life you’ve taken. That’s the price you pay for taking it.
” – Eric in The Rover

David Michod’s Animal Kingdom (2010) was one of the best received and widely seen Australian films of recent years. It is no surprise then that his follow up film The Rover (2014) has a fair bit of hype surrounding it, both here and abroad. Hype that is no doubt helped by the intriguing premise of the film and the fact that it features Robert Pattinson, he of the Twilight films I have never seen, in a lead role.

The Rover is set in “Australia – Ten years after the collapse.” The nature of the collapse is never really elaborated on and I have seen arguments online about if this is technically a post apocalyptic film.  I don’t think it matters, as I think that the film gives you everything you need to know about this place and is all the stronger for not dwelling on the details. Guy Pearce plays the quiet and imposing Eric whose car is stolen early in the film. Along the way he runs into Robert Pattinson’s Rey, a young man might be able to lead him to the people who stole his car. Much of The Rover is studious in its approach and there is a stillness that permeates so much of the film. Similar in a way (though vastly different in heaps of other ways) to Drive, the stillness is punctuated by furious bursts of violence that say a lot about what this place has become. Even more than in his first feature, Michod brings a singular artistic vision to this film through the dusty and sparse locales, that look apocalyptic without even really trying. The violence also helps to flesh out the atmosphere of the film, with its loud and almost random nature showing that this is a violent, lawless and more importantly amoral place.

rover pic 4

There are more than two characters in the film, but much of it rests on the shoulders of Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce. Pattinson has a gaunt physicality that suits the downtrodden nature of the environment perfectly. I have issues with the writing of his character as he feels a little underdrawn and oblique at times. Having said that though, that is one of the few issues I had with the script which is otherwise really well written with some bloody high points. His performance is excellent though and coming nearish enough to a totally different turn in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) shows he has quite the range. The real star of the film is definitely Guy Pearce. Again, part of it is his physicality. Grimy with a long beard, his character feels twice the size and twice as mean than Pearce no doubt is in real life. He is a man that has been battered into a hardened core by what he has seen and a exudes a resignation that he will see just as bad, if not worse in the future. The character of Eric is a seriously conflicting one to watch. He is the ‘hero’ of the piece I guess. However for so much of the film you don’t know if he is motivated by survival, merely a ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ attitude or something deeper. Not being aware of his motivations makes it all the more difficult to reconcile some of his heinous actions throughout the film.

I like it when films from my country are not afraid to be overtly Australian, and by combining universal themes with quite specific ones that will perhaps not be totally clear to an overseas audience, Michod achieves that with The Rover. The violence that I mentioned earlier explores the lengths that people will go to and the ease with which they can turn to that as a solution. The film itself is hyper-masculine, both literally and thematically. There are only a couple of females in this vision of near future Australia, but again Michod challenges his viewer here by leaving the why of this unexplained.  This fact lends a hyper-masculinity to the violence on display as the men on occasions pump up their muscles through their guns. The great quote above is a line from the film which exemplifies the theme of I guess ‘costs’ that runs through the film. Sins and karma if you will, though not in a spiritual way at all. But in the way that quite literally every action you take, no matter how little or great the thought that underpins it, will have very real ramifications and if you don’t get the chance to ponder them beforehand, you should do so afterwards. And then you should seek your redemption in some way, either by actively seeking it out, or by awaiting it. There is also a very literal and I think universal aspect to the ending that I will not  go into detail about here.

rover drOn the more specific to Australia side of the thematic equation are some allegories for the Indigenous experience in Australia, particularly personified by one very minor character. There is also some pointed criticism of the essentially unchecked usage of this nation’s land for mining interests that threatens not just the environment in a ‘green’ sense but the agricultural foundations of rural Australia as well. The ending is such an interesting one. Obviously I am not going to give it away, but I would love to get people’s thoughts on it once they have seen the film. It was totally unexpected, not because it is a showy twist. Rather because it is so grounded and matter of fact. It genuinely hit me hard though which was a total shock to me and is a credit to how the ending makes you consider everything that has come before it in a totally new light.

It is a rare that I give this rating to a film that I have some qualms about. But the rating is more a recommendation for you to go and see it rather than claiming it is perfect. It isn’t. It’s not all that far off though and the rough edges come from Michod and co attempting to push the boundaries a little in terms of the tale a contemporary commercial film will tell. The result was a film that left me feeling energised and enthralled like perhaps no other I have seen this year.

Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: 2010 in Review (including Animal Kingdom) and The Babadook.

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Trailer for your Weekend: Dumb and Dumber To

dumb to poster

There seems to be little middle ground in the reactions to this first Dumb and Dumber To (2014) trailer. People either outright hate it with a passion or seem ultra enthused with the humour contained. I think I fall into the rare middle ground. I loved the joke at the start explaining the time lapse between the first film and this one. But then it sort of regressed into solely consisting of jokes that were lifted unchanged from the first film. Oh and  a truly crass sequence involving an elderly woman. I don’t mind the recycling of jokes, because you would expect those beats to reappear throughout the film. I just hope the Farellys haven’t lost sight of the rambunctious silliness that made the first such a classic for people around my age and don’t make just another crass comedy that are a dime a dozen these days. What do you all think about this one?

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Save Your Legs and Worth Watching March 2013 (includes a review of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone).

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The Omen

omen poster

There is something distinctly 70s about The Omen (1976). That is not to say it has dated, but it has a sort of aura about it that only films from that decade such as Don’t Look Now (1973) seem to share. Just as many of our most beloved slasher films are distinctly and fundamentally 80s as well.

omen credits

One hallmark of the 70s horror film, and indeed great horror films of other decades, that The Omen nails is the genuinely creepy opening credits sequence. Church chanting and singing as well as aggressive music form the backdrop to a kid casting a crucifix shadow. From there, the early parts of the film focus on the successful American diplomat Robert Thorn played by Gregory Peck and his wife Katherine played by Lee Remick. Desperate for a baby, Katherine devastatingly delivers a stillborn child. A dodgy priest in the Italian hospital where this is taking place convinces Robert to adopt a replacement kid, without her ever knowing. Especially through the first half of this film there are a number of really atmospheric set pieces that are genuinely shocking. The most confronting of all, in one of the most shocking moments I think I have seen in a film, takes place at a child’s birthday and really sets up the course of the film. A large black dog appears to one of the party guests shortly before a truly outrageous death. In a chilling finale to the sequence the same large dog appears to Damien, the child of Robert and Katherine. There are other similarly wonderful sequences that take place in a zoo and then later in a cemetery. The latter lifts the film from a bit of a second half funk, as it had run out of some of the steam of the first half, before finishing strongly.

omen ladyI have already mentioned Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and it is a film my mind kept returning to as I was watching this one. They both share a very washed out colour palette, a dank fogginess that seems to permeate the furthest reaches of the plot and characters. I think that is the intent behind the palette as well, to convey a definite mood, not just a British locale that rarely sees the sun. Biblical symbolism and elements are the other elements that permeate the entire film. Much of the core of the film’s plot comes from a contemporary interpretation of the bible and the antichrist, whilst priests, crucifixes, Satan and even a little of the redemptive power of Christ make their way into the film. And whilst I did not find the second half of the film as engaging as the first, I quite liked how it shifted into an almost Indiana Jones-esque adventure flick for a time even rocking a little globetrotting and archaeology. Also, if you are into reading behind the scenes accounts of films, do some snooping around on The Omen. It was one of those creepy cursed productions where the cast and crew had planes they were in hit by lightning, there were near misses with IRA bombings, creepy car crashes with links to the plot of the film and plenty more horrid luck afflicting those who worked on the film and their loved ones. A real life curse on a horror film can only improve it in my estimation.

The Omen is a hell of an atmospheric horror film but it also brings a fair bit more than that to the screen, with a whole bunch of quite shocking scenes. Grounding the plot in much symbolism, Christian and otherwise, means there is plenty there to mull over if you so desire. If not, a dude gets his head sheared straight off by a massive piece of plate glass in a slasher kill par excellence that comes a decade before its time, so there is always that.

Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny

2014 Progress: 16/101

Progress 112/1001

Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: The Black Cat and The Masque of the Red Death.

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