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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although the core narrative is not original by any stretch, there are
good reasons for liking this lightweight foray into the slasher genre.
There are some original elements incorporated into the hoary old
Groundhog Day chestnut just enough dusting and polishing to make you
forgive the pillaging. It doesn't aim for the same conceptual depth of,
say, Timecrimes (2007), Triangle (2009), The Butterfly Effect (2004) or
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) but it does manage to incorporate a nifty
murder mystery thread into the time-loop motif and the execution feels
a deal fresher than it probably should.
Bratty, morally challenged and egocentric frat girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself living her birthday over and over again, each day ending with her murder at the hands of a masked stalker. All she has to do is find out the identity of her killer and avoid being killed in order to break the cycle. The film is not hard core or extreme in any sense that might apply to the bulk of modern slasher flicks. There are no real scares, there is no excess of blood and guts, no explicit violence, no torture porn or gratuitous sexual activity or nudity. So what does it have going for it?
It's engaging, mildly funny in places and generally quite likable. Jessica Rothe is winningly cute in the lead. And not in a painfully forced or superficial way. Her gradual transition from selfish and self-absorbed sorority bitch to a more enlightened and humane persona is skilfully handled. You start out thinking she pretty much deserves her fate and then end up rooting for her to succeed. Rothe plays it just right and you can't help liking her. She is one of the most rounded and sympathetic female leads in a slasher movie since Jamie Lee Curtis in Carpenter's original Halloween (1978). In fairness, most of the cast deliver in terms of injecting some level of believability and personality into their rather clichéd stock characters.
HDD deserves credit for some stylish camera-work and editing both of which are tight, smart and in some places strikingly unusual. The key emphasis is on taking a well-worn concept, playing around with it and having fun. And that's what you've got here, a fun genre piece that doesn't take itself seriously and entertains for the running time. Unlike Scream it doesn't lose itself in self-reverential satire and admiration for it's own cleverness in ragging on genre tropes, and is all the better for it.
It doesn't do anything ground-breaking or jolting, won't set the world on fire, and anyone expecting a visceral thrill-ride is more than likely to feel short-changed. But, I found it enjoyable enough, even though I'm far removed very far removed from its target audience. And I must add that I was wrong-footed by the ending, fully expecting the stock horror movie twist which isn't really a twist anymore the one where you think everything's OK but suddenly evil triumphs. The twist this time around was a bit different to what I'd resigned myself to. And Groundhog Day does get a belated name check.
So all in all, not bad, just about happy enough.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Admittedly my expectations were low from the outset. Therefore, I was
initially (the operative word here, alas) pleasantly surprised as the
film capably and intriguingly set up its premise. Wayward son rescued
from creepy mask-wearing death cult and taken to isolated family cabin
in the woods for deprogramming by tough-talking ex-marine, divorced mum
and dad, resentful older brother and girlfriend and baby daughter.
Carpenters "Assault On Precinct 13" springs to mind as the cultists lay siege to the homestead and the motley troupe prepare to fight back with limited resources. I mean, if you want a classy blueprint, they don't come much classier than the classics (Rio Bravo, Night of The Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13, Straw Dogs, etc).
The set-up is a good one, the characters are portrayed by mediocre but to some extent competent actors, the script is a bit tawdry and clichéd, but what the hell, in the short term it looked primed to entertain. Until about twenty minutes in. Then it fell apart. It soon became transparently obvious where it was headed by signposting the foregone conclusion that our intrepid good guys were not going to win or put up much of a convincing fight. Why? Because there was no point, they were going to lose.
The ex-marine was mind-bendingly dumb and useless, walking straight into an obvious trap that stopped his clock, making him the first to fall. What a delight he must have been in a war-zone. The brainwashed son is portrayed as almost completely beyond redemption from the outset, a fact confirmed when he bites his brainless mother in the cranium, coming away with a snarling mouthful of wig. Everyone bickers and argues about what to do next, what course of action to take. This process burns up most of the running time and provides with only a sense that here is a bunch of delusional idiots who are doomed. The result is the nullification of any suspense or any feeling there may be a smart twist to the proceedings at some point.
Pop quiz. You're inside and a gang of homicidal cultists are outside wanting to get inside and slaughter you. Do you:
A. Run around outside in the dark woodland, blunder about looking for help that isn't there, try (and fail) to take them on single handed with a knife on a broom handle, wander up to them unarmed and snivelling just to make it easy for them, or B. All stay inside, batten down the hatches, arm your group as best as possible and get ready to kill the living bejeezus out of anyone who tries to get in
The hapless bunch make something of a half-hearted stab at plan B, but soon reach the conclusion that plan A is the way to go. And as the audience can see the train-track trajectory after the first twenty minutes especially if they have the most meagre familiarity with the modern horror flick - what could have been a taut and chilling little repel-the-borders home invasion thriller disintegrates hopelessly into a by-the-numbers plod to an inevitable "evil triumphs" conclusion.
Some might argue that because I didn't get to see what I would have liked to see in the film I therefore didn't like the film. To some extent that is true. But it wasn't that the good guys lost as much as how they lost. They lost because the poorly conceived script made the characters dumb, mindless and irrational. If they'd gone down swinging and thinking, or thinking and swinging, then at least the outcome might have landed with some impact. As it is, what we got in the end, was jack all. Wasted potential is always a shame. This is no exception.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What do we have here in this critically mauled cinematic artefact? The
knee jerk is to hate and condemn right off the bat. Rather than do
that, a more measured and considered view might be in order. Let's not
be quite so hasty.
The Arthurian legend source material is itself a combination of fantasy and mythology which conflicts and contradicts itself. Did Arthur actually exist? We don't know for sure. Was he a product of England, the county of Cornwall, Wales or Ireland different accounts put him in different places at different times? The standard blueprint is and remains several pieces of literature by various authors and poets Walter Scott, Thomas Malory, Tennyson, Coleridge. And, of course, cinematic representations and retellings. As to the truth of the matter it's pretty much what you make it. Any version of the story is going to be a fantasy vision of a fantasy based on mythology mythology being mostly fantasy in itself.
Guy Ritchie chooses filter his fantasy version of a fantasy based on mythology through the murky prism of his Eastend mockney gangster stylings. Which are derived from concepts based on fact, modern urban legend and myth. You can see how he started to make the loose connections between these two fantastical worlds. And in a certain context it works.
If anyone expects the dreamy mystical philosophical vibe of Boorman's "Excalibur" that's not on offer. Those complaining about the lack of historical accuracy and realistic time-framing in terms of language and visuals should be aware that in reality there isn't any in any version or account. "Excalibur" and all retellings share the same level of "realism" as Disney's "Sword in The Stone."
What Ritchie gives us is a loud, brash, fast-moving, aggressive and massively pompous slab of popcorn cinema that will work for some and not for others. Personally, I found it to be entertaining enough for the duration and at least it's a stab at doing something a bit different with the old chestnut. It's visually impressive in places, with certain degree of sweep and scope here and there. It's a reasonable time-waster and at least it's relatively unpretentious. And to my mind undeserving of the mass kicking it's been given by elitist critics, punters and the historically delusional.
For now, it's a critical punching bag and box-office bomb. Give it ten years, it will probably re-emerge and be regarded as a "cult" item in genre cinema. Life is fickle like that.
The financial success of the original Blair Witch Project (1999) kick-
started the "found footage" genre into high gear. Although not the
first of its ilk, being predated by the likes of 84 Charlie Mopic
(1989) and The Last Broadcast (1998), it certainly raised the profile
in popular movie culture. The bi-product of that success was that every
Dick and Jane with a camcorder and some friends started making movies
in their backyard for next to nothing. And, whilst I certainly
appreciated and applauded the punk aesthetic of the approach it was
blighted by the numbing uselessness and tedium that infused most of
The industry, as with punk music, stepped in and took over, with bigger budgets and widespread distribution (Cloverfield - 2008), and, of course, franchising (Paranormal Activity 2009). Thus normalisation and sanitisation set in.
On a personal level the original Blair Witch Project bored me rigid. I found it to be little more than a protracted exercise in jumpy, jerky, running, screaming aural and visual mediocrity. Not for me, then. However, having enjoyed Adam Wingard's You're Next (2011) and The Guest (2014) I went into Blair Witch (2016) with an open mind, intrigued by the prospect of what he would do with the concept.
What he did was replicate the jumpy, jerky, running, screaming trajectory of the original with added snivelling, and extra histrionic gibbering complimented by an overwrought audio onslaught of loud noises, bangs and crashes. No shocks, no scares, just an hour and twenty-eight minutes of scrambled audio/visual ennui.
So, yeah, if the aim was to capture the spirit of the original and bump it up a notch, that was certainly achieved. But, for me, it didn't make for good cinema or a good experience overall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Without giving too much away, the writers and director might have
thought they were being really smart and subversive. But I'm afraid
they weren't. They were just being predictable.
A third of the way in there is a huge signpost on the subject of how to defeat evil in the context of the film. A murderer tells the main female protagonist that you knock a hole in a prison to let the prisoners out. He says this more than once. The female protagonist is a wannabe investigative journalist. Maybe the reason why her boss keeps her confined to writing a column on real estate becomes clear in the end. She has all the insight of a house brick.
The "evil triumphs" motif in 90-99% of most modern horror films is such a stale and predictable cliché. So much so that despite almost all, it no longer shocks and disturbs as it is so routinely expected by audiences. It's not a twist any longer. It just elicits a resigned shrug.
This is a silly drag of a film that does little to exploit it's inventive premise. Is it too much to expect that the main characters make some effort to win these days - rather than just resign themselves to being submissive, unintelligent pawns? People root for characters who actually try to put up a fight. The neutral and banal don't usually get much audience engagement or sympathy. Especially when they behave like thoughtless ciphers.
On the plus side, there are some decent production values and some FX reminiscent of those from a Disney theme park. But unfortunately for the most part it's safe, non-scary and reluctant to be visually explicit - or even properly suggestive - when it comes to carnage and mayhem.
On top of that, the story unfolds in a laborious by-the-numbers fashion and unfortunately fails to excite. You may want to give it a miss.
This was like a gift from the gods. A comprehensive documentary
focusing on one of the most under-exposed and under-appreciated bands
of all time. And, by the way, one of my all-time favourites. I have
been a fan since the seventies and even today I continue to love them
to bits. Add to the mix that the movie is a self-confessed labour of
love by director Wes Orshoski (who helmed the superb LEMMY) and it
means I was always going to be first in line for the pre-order of the
DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.
The Damned were nuts from the start. Not just happily eccentric, not merely fun-loving pseudo anarchists, not just a touch out there, you know, but outright, dyed-in-the-wool, full blown, completely, irresponsibly, barking mad, dog raving nuts. Jerry Lee Lewis once summed up his entire life and career in a single psychopathic sentence: "I did what I wanted." The Damned lived this philosophy in the absolute. Orshoski's film demonstrates it clearly and without apology. Forty years down the line, and the band are still going with two founder members from the original four remaining vocalist Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible. What lies behind them in their bizarre and erratic wake is a random trajectory of physical, emotional and psychological anarchy, chaos and destruction. From which a lot of people never recovered.
And there's the music, of course. The first British punk band to release a single (New Rose); the first British punk band to tour America and play CBGBs; the first British punk band to release an album (Damned, Damned, Damned); and oft credited with being the originators of the goth movement. Musically they ricocheted all over the place, from two chord speed punk (Neat, Neat, Neat) to seventeen minute prog-rock epics (Curtain Call) to sixties psychedelia (Naz Nomad and the Nightmares/White Rabbit), goth rock (Phantasmagoria), pop (Grimly Fiendish), synth rock (History of the World Part 1), apocalyptic ballad covers (Eloise), and so on and on and on. "Machine Gun Etiquette" remains a true musical milestone, the purest UK punk album ever made.
They've been on more record labels than the Queen's had corgi cremations, had more bass players and line-up changes than Taylor Swift's had boyfriends, been through more arguments, splits and acrimony than every British political party put together. Yet they keep on keeping on. Vanian puts it down to "sheer bloody-mindedness." This year, to mark their fortieth anniversary, they have toured relentlessly. At the Isle of Wight Festival they were as loud, fast, dynamic, lean, mean and smack bang on target with their set as ever. They somehow sounded fresh and propulsive, like they're still chasing something. Meanwhile contemporaries like Adam Ant and the Buzzcocks came across as old, lazy, bloated and tired-out relics going through the motions.
Sensible disparages miserable guitarists, says it's the best job in the world and he smiles a lot. He's sixty. He plays guitar like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and a vaudeville comedian. Vanian (the only band member to front and appear in every incarnation of the band) remains a force of nature, seemingly oblivious to any ravages of time, his vocals noticeably undiminished. He's fifty-nine.
Attitude. They just do what they do and they live it whilst doing it. Maybe that's the difference, a sense of enduring authenticity. In June 2016 they sold out a one night three hour concert at the Royal Albert Hall (six thousand tickets) a venue that ironically banned them in 1977. So there's something going on still, some draw. They've never lasted for long on a major label, never sold millions, never hit it really big. They never played the game. By rights they shouldn't exist. But they do and an audience always shows up.
Orshoski's film is a thing of great beauty and wonder to behold. The "do what you will" attitude permeates nearly every frame. The sheer hedonistic madness and frankly ludicrous dysfunction of the personalities involved is jaw-droppingly uncensored. Even the diatribes and sound-bites from bitter and damaged people who feel they have somehow been touched adversely by "the curse of The Damned" all resonate with something meaningful and positive as a result of their connection with the band. Long time drummer Rat Scabies and still the best the band ever had (in the context of the band gestalt) is sometimes aggressive, vitriolic, angry and "damning" about his experiences. Yet, there are flashes of affection, nostalgia and maybe even love and pride that filter through his dour missives.
It is, however, poignant and quite sad to see Scabies and Brian James, along with a wholly inappropriate female American vocalist in tow, trying to eke out a living playing live the songs from the first two Damned albums to practically empty venues. Sad fact is, you can always get another drummer and despite James having written most of the songs for "Damned, Damned, Damned" and "Music For Pleasure" the wealth of material in the band's diverse back catalogue was composed and recorded after his departure. You will never get another Captain Sensible or Dave Vanian. They are the essential core elements. Lose either of them and it's like Oasis without the Gallagher brothers. It's not Oasis.
Orshoski has delivered one of the most honest, heartfelt and powerful rock band chronicles yet compiled. I would suggest that for sheer entertainment value alone this holds appeal not just for fans (who will love it) but for those who are not fans and those who have never even heard of the band. So long as you have some interest in rock music, this movie will connect with you in some way. I'm going out on a limb and declaring it to be that essential. Watch it and be Damned.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've read a lot of reviews of the latest SW thing, and in many of them
the authors cite feeling as if they had been transported back in time
to when they first experienced the first SW movie when they were
younger. It evoked nostalgic emotions.
Over the festive period the opportunity arose for me to see Forced Wakeup, and so I went. And I saw. And I have to admit it I experienced the same nostalgic emotions the original film left me with after queueing in the rain to see A New Dope when it was first released unto the world. Yep, I'm that old.
I was impressed with the music then, and I remain impressed now. I was impressed with the visuals then (they were groundbreaking, technologically stunning for their time) and I was impressed now. The CGI is some of the best I have ever seen - dazzling stuff, brilliantly executed. The sound design remains a winner both then and now. And finally, on both counts, I experienced that familiar "what is everybody else seemingly seeing or getting or engaging with that I'm not?" sensation. It echoed down the decades with the force (see what I did there?) of a deja-vu moment on steroids and was as such undiminished.
OK, I wasn't bored, never felt the need to get up and leave, was wowed by the technology throughout, but the plot, the dialogue, the characters, the tweeness, the hollowness, the irrational stupidity of the whole thing marked the film as a B movie 50s potboiler dressed up in superb hi-tech clobber. I mean a key character buys the farm and the emotional response of the film is the equivalent of "Oh dear. Shame that. Anyway, roll on some more CGI and whizz-bang and let's get some more pyrotechnical eye-candy up in you!" The character who dies is, to all intents and purposes, the human heart and soul of the whole original trilogy. No special powers, you see. But it's not really worth the time of day when the ultimate aim is more "DUMB-DUMB...DUMB-DUMB-DA-DUMB-DUMB!"
I never did understand the adulation expressed by people of all ages across the globe for SW. I didn't get it then, I don't get it now. And I love sci-fi flicks. But the SW phenomenon continues to leave me cold and mildly bewildered. Maybe it's my loss and I'm very likely in a minority - but hey, so be it. I certainly don't begrudge anyone their love if it, because in my experience we don't necessarily choose who or what to love. Authentically, anyhow.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A six part mini-series with a top-notch cast, headed by Sean Bean,
great production values and a nifty hook and line in grounding the Mary
Shelley mythos in a real-world historical setting. It screams PRIME
TIME, but finds itself inexplicably tucked away in a late night spot on
the less than essential ITV2 channel. What gives? John Marlott (Sean
Bean) is a London river cop in the early 1800s. In the process of
busting a smuggling gang he stumbles upon the washed-up corpse of a
child on the banks of the seriously polluted Thames. Only this corpse
is a composite of body parts of multiple children crudely stitched
together. It could never have lived, yet it briefly grabs Marlott's
wrist before lying still forever.
The Home Secretary (Robert Peel) charges Marlott with finding out who is responsible for the "abomination" and we're off full tilt into a Gothic world of fog, body-snatchers, rotting corpses, child prostitution and murder, bizarre medical experimentation and political intrigue.
Mary Shelley (Anna Maxwell-Martin) widow of the poet Shelley and author of Frankenstein and William Blake (Steven Berkoff) poet, writer and artist are key figures who pop up along the way and are instrumental in driving the narrative forward.
It is wonderfully creepy and disturbing stuff. So atmospherically shot and mounted that you can almost smell and taste the stench of death and decay as the characters instinctively recoil from it, covering their faces with whatever they can to blot it out.
Sean Bean gives a master-class performance as a good, honest man adrift in a world of physical and moral corruption. Marlott is an ex-soldier (from the same regiment as a guy called Sharpe, reference spotters), veteran of Waterloo, wracked by grief, guilt and despair after having unwittingly passed on syphilis to his wife and new born child, resulting in their untimely deaths. The illness is active within him, and combined with mercury treatment (a painful and pointless remedy) induces florid nightmares and vivid hallucinations. Anyone who ever wrote Bean off as little more than a movie rent-a-heavy, or sitting duck dead villain in waiting, should reassess on this evidence. His affecting portrayal of tragically damaged and conflicted humanity here is nothing short of superb. Re-imagine it as if Di-Crapio or Crooze replicated in a movie with a bit of a profile, and he'd be instant Globe or Oscar bait.
I'm going to watch the last episode in a day or two, anticipating an outcome that I haven't even been able to guess at. I have no idea how this is going to pan out exactly, and that's a good thing. It is always a great, and indeed rare experience to find a period drama that is both captivating and unpredictable. Set at a time when religion was railing and losing ground against the advance of science and in a capital metropolis teeming with filth, crime, social inequality and exploitation of the weak and vulnerable, it's a compelling canvas upon which the action is drawn. The script is thoughtful and well-rendered and although ultimately it lacks the gloriously overwrought and fantastical dynamic of, say, PENNY DREADFUL, or the heroic wild-west undertones of RIPPER STREET, it represents a solid and entertaining companion piece to those two shows.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First things first. Saw it last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Today, I
want to see it again. So, for me, it really is that good. Effectively,
it's a bit of a table-turner on the detractors/haters of the Craig-era
Bond movies. The ones who felt that EoN, in the process of
deconstructing Bond and the Bond movies, had thrown the baby out with
the bathwater. What they have now done is put both the baby and the
bathwater back albeit in an updated/modernised way.
There may be spoilers from here on in, so if you don't want to know, stop reading now.
Gunbarrel back at the start and it's the old fade-to-black type rather than the zoom-out version. M complete with bureaucratically austere office is male and running the double-0 section. Moneypenny and Q are in place and Q ventures into the field with Bond as Desmond did on occasion. Tanner's back, always good to see him, and Felix gets a mention. There are gadgets exploding watch, tricked-out Aston with flamethrower, ejector seat (this time with parachute), etc. A globe-trotting plot that is hilariously silly, twisty and convoluted (par for most Bond movies). One-liners, some rude, some just smart. Ludicrous and inexplicably achieved changes of clothing for Bond and Swann. White tux always a nice touch. We get a very badass and mute (apart from one line) henchman who is infinitely more physically powerful than Bond (Oddjob/Jaws). Nehru wearing villain complete with lair (not a hollowed-out volcano, granted, but a meteor crater in the desert housing a high-tech and very explosive installation). Villain gets a very familiar facial scar (think Donald Pleasance). White cat also. Vehicles that turn up without any prior introduction (Bond arrives flying a plane at one point, where the hell did he get that? Never mind, doesn't matter, just enjoy the spectacle as it gets progressively trashed in the Alps). There are multiple action set pieces beautifully shot and choreographed, but the opening pre-credits sequence is one of the best ever. That long tracking shot is creative gold, and the faint echoes of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY in the helicopter climax brought a smile to my face early on.
I could continue for quite some time yet, but I think that's enough to illustrate the point that the stall SPECTRE lays out is fundamentally old school. General audiences and fans that accept it for what it is and go along for the ride will reap the rewards in terms of entertainment value. Those who want the more introspective vibe of SKYFALL, the muscular punch and nouveau tough edge of CASINO ROYALE or the rapid fire jump-cutting mayhem of QUANTUM OF SOLACE will not find that stuff here. There are personal elements for Bond, but they hardly have any effect on him and are shrugged off in favour of getting on with the mission. Craig plays him as a confident, ruthless, faintly sociopathic rogue with a cool steely line in sardonic humour and a penchant for shallow romance. And something of a heart and soul, of course. The past may influence the future, but the future is where this Bond is headed and what's behind him pales into insignificance in comparison with what's to come. And that's a good thing in SPECTRE.
Those "fans" and others who made up their minds in advance not to like the film probably won't. Those who slavishly indulged and bought into all the publicity and hype surrounding it may very well be disappointed, as like most movies it doesn't fully live up to it. All that jazz needs to be put aside everyone knows it's just smoke and mirrors...don't they? Those who feel they can appreciate an old school Bond movie in a modern context or just want two and a half hours of slickly made escapist entertainment featuring one of the greatest action heroes of modern film and literature, will very likely have a blast. For me, it felt too short rather than too long. Tempus fugit. Especially when you're having fun.
As for the negatives - can't really rave over the score or the theme song as I found them pretty underwhelming SPECTRE cries out for something a bit more rousing, but unfortunately it doesn't get it. Craig could easily throw in the towel at this point, as SPECTRE brings his tenure full circle if we look at it as a story arc. The ending a bit unsatisfying from my perspective - leaves things open-ended. I would have preferred something a bit more conclusive. But there you go. The world is not enough and you can't have everything and ain't that the truth?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"How are we going to get out of here?" "Which is the way out of here?"
"We should be looking for a way out of here," "Is that a way out of
here?" "Let's get out of here," "Forget the history lesson, how do we
get out of here?" "We need to get out of here," "We'll never get out of
here," "I'm getting out of here,"
This film may hold the record for instances of times the phrase "out of here" is used as the mainstay of the dialogue. Granted, the thrust of the plot - archaeologists and camera crew trapped in pyramid look for a way out whilst mythological Egyptian creatures terrorise and pick them off - does readily lend itself to the phrase. But come on, the audience gets it very early on, so maybe more show less tell should have been in order. And sometimes, when characters have nothing to say it's better they say just that.
Those gripes aside, here is a pseudo-found footage chiller that forgets the found footage aspect sporadically throughout and with some careless abandon. It's not been well written and the words coming out of the mouths of the characters have no sense of spontaneity or realism about them. Fans of The Inbetweeners might be interested to see James (Jay) Buckley as a bearded cameraman and therein may lie some novelty value. It's not particularly inventive, clever or dynamic and relies on the odd jump-scare here and there to excite - though they are signposted pretty obviously, so there's not much to catch anyone out.
It's predictable, feels familiar, but the Egyptian mythology angle is quite a nice hook and works OK in context. The acting never rises above the material and none of the performers acquit themselves particularly memorably. And the CGI is ropey at best.
A passable time-filler if expectations are kept low.
I'm out of here.
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