Reviews written by registered user
|38 reviews in total|
Now I will start by saying that for all the many flaws and silly plot
holes, which seem more glaring the more you think about them after
viewing the film, I did enjoy the ride. It didn't really stick closely
to it's own rules and some of the characters got lost in the shuffle -
well, most of them, I suppose - but at least Nolan was trying to create
something more than the same old flicks Hollywood churns out like the
hot-buttered popcorn you can buy at every cinema. It's not terribly
original and nor should anyone buy into the hype that it is, but that
doesn't mean it is without merit.
To dispel the myth that this is original, I have to say it draws fairly obvious comparisons to the following works, which isn't to say it lacks originality, more that it treads the same sort of path with a different flavour.
* The Matrix (1999) - Anyone who doesn't see this must be blind; they seem to come from the same seam. It's one of the few similar films that can stand up next to it though. * Dark City (1998) - The buildings, the gravity. I can't say more than that. * Blade Runner (1982) - Chris loves this film. It's more in visual styles than story but it's there. And when I think of the title I can't help but think of the term "incept date". * Star Trek TNG - For the holodeck reference/style mostly. * Heat (1995) - The action scenes, despite the fantasy settings, seem remarkably tight and often quite realistic. * Synecdoche, New York (2008) - The more I think about it, the more similar it seems to this film, and the more this film seems similar to Dark City. Which is why I like them, I guess. * Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) - Love is a big theme and how the mind deals with it an even bigger one. It would spoil Leo's story arc to say more. * eXistenZ (1999) - Can't believe I nearly missed this one. In that film it is virtual reality, as with The Matrix, but there are still a lot of parallels. * Ocean's Eleven (2001) - The whole thing about it being a concerted team effort to pull of such an ambitious caper.
There are a lot of tiers at work here, and it's probably going to be the case that it's good first time around, and perhaps more intelligible after another viewing or three. Of course, the folks who fund Nolan films are aware of this and are hoping to double their revenue streams, actually adding this observation to some of the marketing bumph in the hope of getting people to go and see it twice a la Fight Club which makes me more than a little cynical, but I can wait for the home release anyway and would recommend everyone else do the same. This looks like a fun one to learn, certainly something worth studying if you happen to have more than a passing interest in film-making and convoluted slight-of-hand storytelling, and you really need to be able to pause, rewind and freeze-frame advance certain sections in order to do that.
It mines the seam of "what is reality, really?" a favourite topic of Andrew Niccols and Charlie Kaufman, too. Those are among my favourite types of works because they beg endless discussion and if handled correctly can be a great source of inspiration. As I have a soft spot for those kinds of plots I suppose I'm naturally more willing to grant a bit more leeway, because credit where it is due I did find myself mulling over my perceptions of reality and re-evaluating the value of lucid dreams. Most films leave no discernible traces in the minds of anyone which makes this at least above average.
The special effects aren't overused and/or intrusive, merely adding to the story I feel. And the mixture of CGI with real photographed elements is deftly handled. There is the odd moment of "oh, too much" or "not layer blended so well there" but trust me, it's far superior to a lot of the junk that gets through and at times I actually think they were deliberately making it a little weird and obvious to show it's still not a real world.
To tie this review up: as one of the seemingly few people who thought The Dark Knight was a hopeless mess with very little to enjoy outside of a fiery Heath Ledger performance it's a welcome return to the twisting story lines that are usually a Nolan trademark. Despite the length there is enough going on that it doesn't feel like a moment of filler is present. Also, I would like to briefly point out that this is the first film DiCaprio has starred in where I actually enjoyed his performance completely.
This film is not his best but nor is it his worst. It is well worth a watch, no doubt about that, but it shouldn't be heralded as a masterpiece and as of the time of writing this review is far, far too high in the IMDb Top 250. I'll grant that it is better than most of the cookie-cutter remake product that Hollywood is very fond of dishing up as of the past decade or so, therefore it looks better by comparison, but it isn't quite coherent enough to be brilliant. Hopefully it will inspire other writer/director auteurs to come up with similar, perhaps more lucid works. As it is, Memento (2000) and The Prestige (2006) are still the high watermarks against which few others can measure up, even the man himself. But it's still one hell of a ride.
Now let's get one thing straight; this is a television program NOT for
the faint at heart. If you like your viewing saccharine, with easy
answers and everything wrapped up and snapped back to the beginning by
the end of the episode, Breaking Bad is not for you. The premise alone
should be enough to tell you that; a cancer-stricken father who is a
chemistry teacher turns to illegal drug manufacture with a
not-too-bright ex-student and struggles with his own mortality and
morality along the way, doing his best to hide the new career choice
from his pregnant wife, son with cerebal palsy, medic sister-in-law and
law enforcer brother. Yes, this isn't light-weight material by any
I'm not a fan of these shows that rely on "inflated sense of tension" to pump up the viewer's adrenaline levels while covering for poor scripting; stuff like 24, Lost and Prison Break started out well-enough but quickly descended into this cheap shock tactic approach to keep the audience hooked. Once I saw through this I stopped watching them completely and have been seeking out quality American shows that are well-produced and equally well-written, and I am happy to say that Breaking Bad is one of these.
Bryan Cranston is perfectly cast as Walt, the man who has to make tough choices to provide for his family. He so perfectly becomes the character that it was not until later I realised he was previously cast as Hal in Malcolm In The Middle. His emotional range is staggering; with a few well-timed gestures or vocalisations he can convey several feelings at once, and when Walt is in pain it is completely believable. Walt is a man of few words, but chooses these words very carefully, so when he speaks everyone on-screen and in the audience are listening.
Cranston isn't just carrying passengers though; he's ably supported by Anna Gunn as his wife Skylar, who brings just the right amount of care and concern for her husband and baby as needed and RJ Mitte plays the son who has CP and gives a very accurate, non-condescending portrayal of the condition so different from the ham-handed "sympathy ploy" approach so overused by shows from the States. Dean Norris plays Walt's brother Hank, the all-American police officer who doesn't take any guff and flushes out drug dealers for a living, with his quirky kleptomaniac wife Marie (the lightest character in this show, amusingly) who is handled with panache by Betsy Brandt. Rounding out the main cast is Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, every inch the nervy, paranoid and streetwise "cook" who becomes Walt's new partner and guide to the world of drug trafficking.
There's much to recommend. Tight, well-plotted scripts that make the unbelievable tangible and don't waste a line while doing so. Superb, inventive direction and settings that perfectly fit the mood of the show, an interesting mixture of steadicam, handicam, point-of-view and camcorder shots that appear to be captured by the cast themselves. Excellent choice of soundtrack; almost every episode ends with a classic song and the musical cues throughout really add to the atmosphere without becoming overpowering; witness the searing, high-pitched noises when we see through Walt's eyes as he is in pain or being given bad news for an example.
What is most remarkable is that the show never gives easy answers, never biases us towards the characters (we are given both sides of the debate and left to make our own choices, which respects the viewers intelligence) and always does things that you will not expect. There is not a single cliché to be found here, no way of knowing exactly how each person will react to the situations they are thrust into. These are complex, multi-faceted individuals with free will and their own motivations, who exist not as mere tools to advance the plot. The plot itself is always coherent and leaves very few loose ends. If you see an event or object framed, however subtlety, you can bet it will come back later on. Maybe not in the same episode, but as part of the story arc. And last but not least is the incredibly pitch black humour that crops up every now and then, so dark it almost feels uncomfortable to laugh.
If you liked the first season of Dexter but don't like the direction it has now, Breaking Bad is for you. Not since I saw Firefly (a very different kind of show) have I enjoyed a television program this much. If they can carry this program on for two or three more seasons and then end it without dragging past the logical closure point - and with Walt the way he is, this is crucial - it will be one of the greatest drama series of all time.
If you haven't tried it, start from the pilot episode, keep an open mind, and you just might find your new favourite show. I know I did.
I've only recently been made aware of the unusual, blunt but brilliant
comic stylings of George Carlin, a man whose expletive-laden
no-holds-barred observations on a sad sack society still feel ahead of
their time in a world full of wannabe "edgy" comics, mostly because he
packs in so much wit and veracity in a short space of time.
I saw his 2005 work "Life is Worth Losing" before this, and while that was a superior (and longer) show "Complaints and Grievances" has plenty to recommend it as long as you realise that a lot of the humour is very tongue-in-cheek, perhaps more so than any other comedian you've ever seen. You can't believe that George really does go around running down people in his car - he's saying it for the shock value and to set up a line of related jokes that are sending up the habits and true intentions of a lot of drivers, things we want to do but social etiquette prevents.
George moves swiftly from joke to joke, story to story, so for the couple of lines that might not amuse there are another half a dozen right around the corner. He covers a wide range of topics and regularly changes his pacing and delivery, which for quick-witted viewers is just fine but it might confound a lot of people who prefer simpler humour and more obvious punchlines. But for me, this is part of his appeal - a unique approach that makes him a cult legend.
Certainly this show will not appeal to everyone - the Ten Commandments ending skit alone is sure to boil the blood of a few staunch Christians, although it makes some valid (and hilarious) points about religion as a system of mind-control. For the people it does appeal to though, they will love it and would be well advised to pick up his other, somewhat better, works.
Ah, British brevity. The ability to create and develop complex,
relatable characters and put them into entertaining albeit unusual
situations, then have everything summed up, done and dusted within a
few short seasons. This is a popular method used on shows like The
Office (UK), Extras, Fawlty Towers, Life on Mars and many more.
Once again, it works well; condensing all a writers best ideas and jokes into just a smattering of episodes makes for a remarkably consistent show and allows the plot to move at a decent pace, never stalling for time to introduce various inane subplots or numerous pointless side-characters.
Each and every one of the leads - not just Daisy and Tim - has personality traits and habits you will remember. They all have moments where they're heroes, and all have moments when they are losers. At every step of the way, brilliant and surprisingly original comedy and some deft parodies or homages to pop culture. Every actor plays their character as needed, never hamming it up - they become the role, which is after all the point of good performances.
Edgar Wright may have been tough on the cast but it was worth it - his multitude of takes are seamlessly edited together to maximise the comedy potential of each scene. For example, I'll never tire of Tim's nightmare involving his bear suit and ex-girlfriend from the second episode of the first season, or both of the times when Tyres appears and starts hearing rave music from the noises of everyday appliances. That's just a few of the "laugh out loud 'til your sides ache" moments, before even mentioning the deranged brilliance of Brian, who is not a million miles away from some of the more extreme artists I've met.
This show is like the alternate music genres, alternative comedy if you will - it's undeniably inspired and hugely enjoyable - but it does not appeal to the widest range of people (i.e. the lowest common denominator) because of its off-kilter nature. To me that just makes it more charming: I tire of seeing the same formula repeated ad-nauseum with the same clichés so this show, like a handful of my other favourites, is something I watch sparingly to preserve the magic and freshness.
This was the launching pad for Simon Pegg's cinematic outings, including the excellent "Shaun of the Dead (2004)" which has its roots here. It still remains his finest work, the moment when he moved from the shadow of fellow British comedians Coogan and Morris to become his own man with his own imitable style, one which is in such demand these days. It's overrated and forgotten rival of the time, The Royle Family, pales in comparison.
After a reasonably promising start our new Enterprise crew are thrust
ever backwards into a clumsy rehashing of an old TOS episode that I
wasn't too much of a fan of the first time around.
This episode easily takes the cake for "weakest episode of TNG", and if it weren't for the equally poor Voyager effort "Threshold" might well be considered the worst story ever written for the franchise. It shows us some of the problems the early seasons had: Picard changing from sympathetic and controlled to barking orders at people, Riker still too much of a Kirk clone for his own good and Wesley being the cocky kid genius that is about as welcome as Scrappy was to Scooby-Doo.
If you've seen the original episode "The Naked Time", you'll know what to expect. Crew finds virus, virus makes people giddy with joy and hijinx like they're drunk, virus spreads rapidly and is immune to old remedies. Embarrassing situations ensue.
Cringeworthy humour can work given the right script and actors (see The Office UK and Peep Show) but for all the strengths of the team, it falls flat here, with a lot of things unintentionally hilarious and some others painful to watch.
I think the scene with Data and Tasha sums it up; "it never happened".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now, by no means is the 2009 iteration/reboot/alternate history of Star
Trek a complete middle finger to Trek fans, as a lot of people
reviewing this film seem to think. As an attentive but not obsessive
fan I can say it has at least a little respect for the canon, although
the philosophical questions/seeking out new life parts of the franchise
are skipped in favour of flashy lens-flared action scenes. This will
annoy the hardcore Trekkies, but to be honest these are things usually
better handled in the episodes anyway. People go to the movies to be
dazzled; with television they merely expect to be entertained.
The script/story isn't bad. There were a few loose threads that never really got tied, such as the time-dilation effect of Spock appearing 25 years after Nero even using the same wormhole, why young Kirk trashed a car, what the purpose of the Starfleet base on the ice world was other than a plot device to find Scotty, and - most jarring of all - what happened to the black hole created really near to Earth? But as the focus of the tale is making it an emotionally-charged epic and not worrying about realism, some of these can't be considered faults, merely realisation of the intentions of it's creators.
The applications of Trek staple "psuedo-science" were skipped in favour of a better plot, which worked sometimes but not always; obviously no-one working on this picture understands what a black hole actually is, let alone the impossibility that a dab of a mysterious liquid (creatively named red matter, nice job there) could create one on-the-fly. They certainly can't cause time-travel; that's usually attributed to a wormhole, I'm surprised no-one noticed such a glaring error. These were obviously skipped to keep the picture moving swiftly, to keep things fun and entertaining, and since the film never really drags it can be considered a modest success in this respect.
The cast has a couple of standouts: Chris Pine's Kirk carries the cocksure charm of the original, without resorting to copying Shatner's mannerisms and inflections, which I really appreciated and Spock, as played by Quinto, is given a lot more depth by a great performance. Both play conflicted men well and have probably set themselves up for their entire careers with this film. Bruce Greenwood makes the most of his Pike storyline, though I do wish he'd been given better dialogue to work with as he strikes me as the most believable Starfleet officer in this particular version. Nimoy's return as Spock Prime is enjoyable; though he does get a clunky, expositional monologue his prowess as an actor saves at least some of it; I think he sees the potential in this new approach to Trek.
Bones, Uhura, Scotty (and his Ewok-style mascot), Sulu and Chekov are misguided attempts to retain the campy humour and feel of the original series distilled into one-dimensional characters. I found all attempts at humour fell completely flat, with none of the actors able to master decent comic timing. Karl Urban is especially guilty; he tries too hard to copy DeForest Kelley instead of bringing his own personality to the show. This would still be a fun movie without the cheap jokes; the screen time could have been used for character development instead.
The CGI effects are uniformly excellent: all of the space battle shots and the exterior ship designs look great, from the fearsome appearance of the Romulan mining vessel to the sleek, guns-akimbo fighter-jet portrayal of the Enterprise. This made the space battles much more epic than your average Trek flick. The sets are good - I especially liked the bridge of the USS Kelvin, and the design of the Romulan vessel was superb internally - but some, like the brightly-lit sterile Enterprise bridge and the engineering section, which looked like a sewage treatment plant, do not fit a genre whose best moments are usually found in dark mood lighting.
There is no doubt that this picture is far, far better than the two weak TNG outings it followed - Insurrection and Nemesis - but it can't live up to the three best Star Trek films (The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and First Contact). It is, in some respects, another in a long line of action films that distracts from inconsistent pacing/scripting with impressive whizz-bang graphics and good-looking actors. It has the fun, feel-good appeal of an 80s film, but it also has some of the same superficiality, glossing over things that could have easily given the picture more depth and resonance. Something of a missed opportunity.
Personally, I found 2008 to be a very underwhelming year for
film-making. Three of my favourite directors came up short (Chris Nolan
with The Dark Knight, the Coens with Burn After Reading and Guy Ritchie
with RockNRolla) and a lot of the currently popular 'superhero'
pictures just weren't cutting it. Every new movie I saw seemed to be
lacking in witty scripting, and most had disappointing endings.
Fortunately, somebody recommended I watch In Bruges. And what a bloody good decision that turned out to be.
This film has attracted a lot of flak. It seems to polarise critics. People who look on the surface just see a couple of hit-man types who swear all the time and are throughly unpleasant individuals, not at all likable. These critics perhaps missed two of the most important aspects of the picture: it's a dark, black comedy in the vein of American Psycho, and it is incredibly subtle in places. So subtle that it really needs a couple of viewings to appreciate the minimalistic approach of the scriptwriting and direction.
What I like most about the experience - and it really is an experience - is the deliberately grey morality demonstrated by everyone in the film. How nice people can be rude and indecent, and how those supposed to be evil can actually be incredibly tender and caring even if they might be confused about expressing it. Colin Farrell finally comes into his own here, demonstrating an incredible emotional range. He goes from childlike impatience to arrogant and presumptuous to heartbroken and desolate. It would be a tough job for any lead, but I was with him all the way. Veteran actor Brendan Gleeson has some formidable chops to add as well, with the camaraderie and gradual friendship/mentorship he gives to Ray being one of the focal points and a definite highlight. Everyone in this makes their screen time count, whether it's minutes or mere seconds.
It's an odd story, not completely original but certainly off-kilter. The swearing is necessary, as it is in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. That Martin McDonagh both writes and directs allows him to flesh out his script with more emotion, because as mentioned it's quite minimal and all the better for it. It relies on strong delivery and use of body language and facial expression. I honestly think you have to see it three or four times to truly appreciate the effect.
Bruges is captured beautifully on film. Without drawing too much attention to the backdrop, it is clear that the location is an intriguing juxtaposition to the moral dilemmas faced by our two protagonists. It speaks volumes about the young gun, Ray, that he finds nothing comforting or calming in the serenity of his hiding place. Ken, the wise and weary companion, finds peace of mind and a moral clarity it is obvious he had ignored for years.
If you can get your head around the violence (it's used sparingly but is, I felt, genuinely shocking and horrific) and the strong, blunt language, you might find not just the best picture of 2008 by some distance, but also the sort of drama you want to revisit time and again.
If you haven't yet, go and watch In Bruges. It's fine work to be sure, to be sure.
I must confess, I'm a huge fan of the cancelled and much missed
television series Firefly and it's excellent silver screen adaptation
Serenity; Nathan Fillion's work in particular. I consider him an
underrated actor and checked out this picture just to see more of his
range. What I was not expecting was a charming little picture alive
with intriguing fantasy touches, eager to tell a good story but not
eager to fill the audience with sap and morality tales, which is always
Keri Russell is a good-looking lady and she embodies her character well. I see hints of a young Debbie Harry in her features and the potential to carve out a good career - in fact if you check her resume you'll find she is keeping busy. Andy Griffith is a revelation as the crusty proprietor of the pie shop where she works as a waitress, dispensing wisdom and cynicism between tersely ordering his daily meals. Nathan Fillion does well as the somewhat awkward yet charming doctor who sweeps Jenna off of her feet - good to see him on the big screen again.
The film is shot simply, yet effectively. There are some good cutaways where Jenna defines her life as a series of pies she imagines in her mind, and the two "spontaneous kiss" scenes between her and Pomatter are among the most touching and subtly comedic embraces I've seen in this style of picture. Shelley captures several moments of emotion well and shows all that could have been had fate not intervened to stop her making more movies - her script and directing are consistent and enjoyable throughout.
The only thing that lets the picture down is the abrupt way it concludes, tying up loose threads so fast that the stitches run and make it look messy. It deflates the impact of the picture and loses a whole star, especially the way Old Joe and Pomatter are dismissed without any dwelling on the moment. Little thought is given to many of the other periphery characters too. The movie could have stood an extra ten or fifteen minutes to present us with a fully absorbed finale.
Still, some faults aside, this is yet another positive example of the creativity you sometimes encounter when delving into lower-budget independently financed films, made without executive meddling from the all-encompassing (and usually formulaic) Hollywood machine. It is vaguely reminiscent of "Mystic Pizza (1988)" in setting and execution yet manages to be a much more consistent piece of work, ending aside.
Anyone looking for quirky romantic comedy in the vein of "Sliding Doors (1998)", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)" or "Stranger Than Fiction (2006)" would do well to pick up a copy of this. Just be sure that you have a supply of delicious pies handy for consumption afterwards.
I feel saddened whenever I finish watching an episode.
It was with a hint of regret that I noticed the DVD read "Firefly - The Complete Series". It should have read "Firefly - The Complete First Season" and it should have been the first of many worth adding to your collection.
This had the potential to be one of the best science-fiction themed shows ever created, maybe even one of the best television shows. The potential was certainly there: Joss had plot arcs and character development lined up for at least four seasons. Although we got to see some of that in the Big Damn Movie, so much was crammed in that a lot of the sublime subtleties that make Firefly such a wonderful, inspirational show got buried under the (admittedly enjoyable) action sequences.
We'll never get to see the dark past that forced Book to become a religious man. The tale of how Wash and Zoe hooked up after their initial friction in my personal favourite episode, the astonishing Out Of Gas. More about Mal's twisted past and further skeletons falling out of the closet. How far the seemingly unrequited love duels between Simon/Kaylee and Mal/Inara (played by the achingly beautiful Morena Baccarin) could have gone.
Rarely am I so impressed with a show that I can watch more than a few episodes a week. But with this, I managed to watch the entire series and movie in a one day marathon, changing my plans because I couldn't tear myself away.
The universe of the show is so gritty... you can almost breathe it in thanks to the excellent choice of locations. Many lame sci-fi and/or Western clichés are put out to pasture, or shot completely. Watching this show killed much of my interest for Star Trek; in fact outside of First Contact and Wrath Of Khan I don't think I'll bother anymore.
What I take away most of all - and what really sells me on the show before even mentioning the incredible wit of the script - is the complete devotion every actor puts in, especially the main cast. There is genuine kinship and trust. They obviously love working with each other and for each other. And this brings out fine performances time after time, making episodes range from excellent to staggering.
It inspired the kind of fanatical devotion I've only seen from Lost and Heroes, but neither of those shows hold a candle to Firefly. While other shows get muddied down and lose their way, the first and only season of this is focused and fulfilling. It teaches us that the best choices aren't always the morally upstanding ones, and that bending the rules for the greater good is often the way to go.
To quote Blade Runner, the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long - and Firefly burned so very, very brightly.
When reviewing something - anything - I'll usually go into a lengthy
dissection of what worked well, which actor stole the show and what
could be improved upon. Praise where it is due and criticism where it
is needed, to advise a potential viewer what they're getting into
should they put money down for some tickets or the DVD/Blu-ray release.
I'm fully aware that I'm one amongst hundreds of thousands so my
opinion doesn't count for much, but I try and be as even-handed as
In this case though, I really CAN'T be fair to the picture. I can't find much nice to say about it at all, apart from the fact that there are few major technical errors in terms of sets and direction - although neither are much to write home about. It staggers me that mediocre remakes like this are churned out year after year, while struggling, inventive independent directors have trouble bringing their more interesting pictures to a wider audience. No - worse than that - it DISGUSTS me.
This second instalment of the Steve Martin-helmed recreations (or should that read molestations?) of the enjoyable Peter Sellers sleuth romps is worse than the first. I actually wish I could wipe the memory of it from my mind because some of the gags are so hackneyed and unfunny it made me squirm in my seat with embarrassment, watching the formerly likable lead caught up in lame slapstick gags that would make silent film master Chaplin squirm in HIS seat, should he be alive and also unfortunate enough to see this.
There are simply too many flaws to list. The story seems to be missing in action and the acting sits at two extremes - phoned in or hammy to the point of being so bad it's horrible. At points I often mused that not only was this portrayal of Clouseau too dumb to be a detective, he'd actually be too dumb to survive in anything resembling a real world. He would have been struck down by a bus years ago and buried, which I couldn't help but wish had happened to Steve Martin if it weren't for the fact I loved his performance in Planes, Trains and Automobiles so much. The directors might have had better luck making a Who Framed Roger Rabbit style animation/live action mix where Clouseau chases down the cartoon Pink Panther and gets struck about the head with a pan. And when I can dream up better ideas than a team of writers, actors etc then I know it's a bad picture. Epic fail? No doubt about it.
No, it certainly isn't the worst film ever made - I've seen worse that I haven't got around to reviewing because I don't like wasting angry words on things I rate as 1/10 - but I urge ANYONE, regardless of race, gender or age not to add to the box office gross of this film by going to see it. Even if you get free tickets, decline. Stay at home and buy or rent the original couple of Panther pictures with Sellers or watch the sixties cartoon cat in action, because those are leaps and bounds above this sorry excuse for entertainment.
Excuse me while I go and start work on that Steve Martin voodoo doll...
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