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8/10
One-Line Review: Blackkklansman (8 Stars)
13 November 2018
Spike Lee's Blackkklansman is such a great and relevant satire that it almost felt like reality, thanks to some wonderful performances, flowy music, and the willingness to be bold. TN.
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2/10
One-Line Review: Thugs of Hindostan (2 Stars)
12 November 2018
More than anger it is the emotion of sadness that Vijay Krishna Acharya's hat-trick disaster epic period drama Thugs of Hindostan drives in me, watching thespians like Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan resort to tomfoolery and idiocy in the middle of a self-proclaimed freedom fight in the late 1700s whose shaky plot is, as a whole, as restricted as the number of expressions on the faces of the leading ladies, Fatima Shaikh and Katrina Kaif. TN.
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3/10
One-Line Review: Madeline's Madeline (3 Stars)
8 November 2018
It is easier to bear, and perhaps even cure, the passive-aggressiveness of two of the central characters (induced by mental illness and its exploitation) in Joesphine Decker's drama Madeline's Madeline than it is to complete watching it. Gosh, the exasperating background score made of vocal percussion just forces me to use another line here. TN.
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Street Lights (2018)
3/10
One-Line Review: Street Lights (3 Stars)
8 November 2018
There are a lot of ridiculous story arcs that come together to form Shamdat Sainudeen's Street Lights - in the most haphazard way possible - but what tops everything - even all the glamour and useless charismatic slo-mos - is how the makers try to justify a wrong committed by a character by reading out the victim's criminal record, followed by a stupid closing description of charity. TN.
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1/10
One-Line Review: Oru Kuttanadan Blog (1 Star)
5 November 2018
There is no reason or need for anyone to watch Sethu's Oru Kuttanadan Blog, a slipshod comedy drama of the highest degree even by Malayalam cinema standards, that has been made - without even a modicum of imagination or thoughtfulness - and only to bank in on the lead actor's fame and glamour. TN.
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Mandy (I) (2018)
1/10
One-Line Review: Mandy (1 Star)
4 November 2018
It takes more than an eternity for Panos Cosmatos's gory and ugly fantasy thriller Mandy to come to the point where a taciturn man (Nicolas Cage) seeks vengeance from a group of sadist hippie extremists currently on a streak of sacrificing human lives for the sake of a demi-god who seems to be a description of some of the real-life criminals we have around us in the world. TN.
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Tumbbad (2018)
8/10
Molecule Review: Tumbbad (8 Stars)
3 November 2018
Tumbbad made me sit up from my chair and take notice at how a thriller can be told without resorting to cheap tricks that are prevalent in other titles coming out of the Hindi film industry in recent times. Sohum Shah produces and acts in this fantastic narration of the quality of greed in humans using a folklore about a mythological god-like creature that is itself a symbol of greed. Based on and named after a village in Western India, Tumbbad is told in a way that captures your attention from the first frame and does not let you stray. With some quality performances and an electric background score by none other than Jesper Kyd (I was in tears when I saw his name in the credits), the horror thriller depends on the folklore to carve a story that emphasizes humanity's greed for everything - from money to food to exclusivity. The amount of references it throws at you - as a period drama set in pre-independence India - is further bound to fascinate you while you get embroiled in one man's (Shah) quest for greed which he hopes to pass down to his future generations. Tumbbad is nothing like you have seen before and it should be seen on the big screen and revered for its creative art. TN.
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Burning (2018)
6/10
Molecule Review: Burning (6 Stars)
3 November 2018
I could very much relate to the central character and his dispositions in Chang-dong Lee's Burning who becomes obsessed with his mysterious childhood friend and her even more mysterious new acquaintance who does not seem to be who he claims to be. Director Lee's slow-burning concoction (pun unintended) is a parable of sorts that tries to make its audience dive into the mind of the characters that are honest and dishonest at the same time. The build-up of the thriller drama is a pleasure to watch supported by a dreamy, nonchalant score and some great shots of countryside South Korea. And even better experience is the climax which will take some analysis on your part for you to make complete sense of it. And when you do make sense of it, you will find yourself sitting in your chair numb and unable to move. Burning is a silent attack on the philosophy of life and it's a pleasure best served in a 150-minute container. But not everyone will agree. TN.
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3/10
Molecule Review: Oru Pazhaya Bomb Kadha (3 Stars)
3 November 2018
Shafi's Oru Pazhaya Bomb Kadha (An Old Bomb Story) is the run-of-the-mill crime comedy containing random good-quality jokes Hareesh Perumanna and a cliched plotline about a specially-abled person (Bibin George) and his encounter with romance and vengeance. There is not much to appreciate here except some good comic writing and Perumanna's decent delivery of those written jokes. It also has Kalabhavan Shajon as this typecast policeman which makes the plot even more ridiculous. Everything else is a rehash of Shafi's previous filmography. Oru Pazhaya Bomb Kadha is not worth a watch other than when it premieres on TV during a festival. It is about time that filmmakers such as Shafi realize that the discerning audience will not bear with such trash comedies. TN.
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Widows (2018)
7/10
MAMI Review: Widows (7 Stars)
1 November 2018
At first glance, Steve McQueen's Widows looks like it has taken the gimmicky responsibility of highlighting the topic of women empowerment in face of recent movements around the world while taking an advantage. But then you realize that it is not, which is perhaps the best thing about this heist drama which is only succeeded by Robert Duvall's mouth-watering performance as this retired politician trying to put some brains into his son currently running for the elections. A story in parallel to this brain-feeding is about four women - all widows; some with kids - who try to get rid of the debt their dead husbands left behind through the only way they think they can get rid of it. Viola Davis plays the leader and mastermind of this small group as they set out to do what others - mostly men - think they can't. And there are a few dialogues that highlight this. Which is why Widows initially looked like that to me. But then the story picks up - unfortunately with its own share of unpredictable yet cliched twists unnatural to McQueen the Oscar winner but natural to McQueen the crowd-puller - and gives you some bang bang to look at and enjoy. Widows plods for some time before it pulls up its socks and serves entertainment, red and hot, and with four highly talented actors in the forefront. Hans Zimmer makes a subtle impact with his score as these widows make Widows a palpable thriller that stops making an impact five minutes after you move out of the hall. Definitely not an Oscar contender but a perfect evening thriller to be caught with friends and family. Widows looks highbrow but it is not. TN.

(Watched and reviewed its India premiere (closing film) at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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3/10
MAMI Review: Leave No Trace (3 Stars)
1 November 2018
Debra Grenik's Leave No Trace seems like a self-indulgent father-daughter drama set in a gimmicky urban forest to send the point about the "importance of one's roots" across. Unfortunately, it is. The duo's peaceful yet suspended life turns upside down when they are arrested and asked to stop living in the woods. And we are supposed to use this to understand the dynamic relationship between a father and a daughter who he is ought to provide. The 100-minute drama with absolutely zero spike in thrills is a snoozefest that has the power to put you to sleep despite Ben Foster giving you the stare treatment more than once. I really liked the brevity in the dialogues and the cliches that director Grenik so masterfully uses to narrate her bland story that almost felt like it was picked up from a children's story book. Reason: zero character development. Other than the shots of the exotic locations and some great camera work, I don't see any relevance or matter in Leave No Trace. There are a lot of such films based in forests that are coming out recently and this one here is a testament to the fact that not every such film is good. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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Climax (2018)
7/10
MAMI Review: Climax (7 Stars)
1 November 2018
There is so much energy in Gaspar Noe's Climax that I wanted to jump out of my seat and start dancing to the beats of the continuously humming techno soundtrack. Sadly, my fellow audience wouldn't have let me, but deep inside I believe that if I actually did, they would have only joined me. Such is the power of Noe's beautiful, philosophical, and insane techno-dance thriller that hypnotizes from the first frame itself through its immensely talented actors to the anti-climactic credits placement and shots of textual philosophical one-liners to eventually the conveyance of the moral of the short story. The story about a group of French dancers practicing in an old abandoned school premises for an upcoming tournament so that they can compete with the Yankees and show who rules the dancing world takes an ugly turn when the idiosyncratic characters - not one as same as the other - find out that their cocktail was laced with LSD by someone. Who? Why? These questions is in everyone's mind, but the music never stops and no one is in their right mind to sit and think and investigate. And by the time director Noe ends the shots - most of which are single takes - you realize that what you are seeing in front of you is the definition of intoxication and its consequences in its purest form. Climax is true madness and it will blow you away with its truthfulness. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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7/10
MAMI Review: One Cut of the Dead (7 Stars)
31 October 2018
What if you saw a badass film and wanted to see how they shot it exactly? One Cut of the Dead is what you're looking at - a fresh and charming zombie comedy that gets better and better, funnier and funnier with every second. Although there's a brief period of stagnancy in Shin'ichirô Ueda's 100-minute feature film - that has everything from sweet performances to seamless, mouth-watering camera work to laugh-out-loud comedy - you will only remember the good parts of the clever craft. The way the film - the story of a filmmaking crew who camp at an abandoned Japanese Second World War facility to shoot a film on zombies but end up finding real zombies - is structured will make you think about the genius behind the writing for the jokes are multi-disciplinary and beyond creative. Ueda does not only depend on dialogues to create humor but also uses the art of filmmaking itself to make us laugh while also show us how complicated everything is behind a screen. With subtle references to the importance of relationships, One Cut of the Dead excels in almost all departments. It is a film that you watch with your friends in your home theater again and again, year after year. And it is not to be missed. One Cut of the Dead is the reason why we dig zombie comedies so much. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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4/10
MAMI Review: The Gentle Indifference of the World (4 Stars)
31 October 2018
The little use of music and sporadic humour in Adilkhan Yerzhanov's dull drama aspiring to be energetic, The Gentle Indifference of the World, are all that I enjoyed. The tale of two countryside people moving to the city in search of hope for themselves is a cliche but director Yerzhanov carves it in a way that evokes a sense of merriment in the light of despair. One of these people is in a complicated situation more than the other, and that is the start of the conflict that The Gentle Indifference of the World probably boasts about. The colour scheme and the impressive sound mixing kept me up as I struggled to complete this slow-moving drama that is not exactly about not giving up but about losing your way in the city (filled with other people who only care about money) while trying to find yourself. It's a critique of the cityside where innocence either gets killed or gets transformed into evil. And there is not much need for you to put your head into this mess that is projected one frame at a time. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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Border (2018)
3/10
MAMI Review: Grans (3 Stars)
31 October 2018
Ali Abbasi's Grans (Border) is a vague critique of the humankind from the eyes of primates where Eva Melander plays Tara, a physically deformed woman who has the ability to smell fear, shame, and guilt among other things in her fellow men and women. This is why the story has her working as a customs officer where she helps the department nab smugglers and child pornographers who try to get into the Scandinavian countryside through the port. But the essence of the film lies in Tara's encounter with Vore (Eero Milonoff), a person who doesn't seem to be who he claims to be. Abbasi's weird drama is very uncomfortable to watch - with shots of raw copulation and birth - but it still sends the point across that humans are the most dangerous creatures on Earth. The eerie music by Christoffer Berg and Martin Dirkov really stood out for me as I struggled to complete the final act almost 30 minutes after Grans had made its point. I won't recommend this to anyone to watch on the big screen but if the plot intrigues you, it can be viewed on VOD. To understand a hypothesis where, say, animals could react to what humans are doing to them and to the Earth. TN.
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Rajma Chawal (2018)
4/10
MAMI Review: Rajma Chawal (4 Stars)
30 October 2018
In Leena Yadav's Rajma Chawal (Rice with Kidney Beans), Rishi Kapoor's character creates a fake account of a random girl on Facebook just so that he can chat with his son (Anirudh Tanwar) who hates his guts. The drama, with shoots of comic relief here and there, feels like a fake embodiment of everything it wants to be. Other than a fresh performance by Amyra Dastur as a woman with a hurtful past, there is nothing else that does not look convoluted. From the pretentious title because the movie is set in the modern day Chandni Chowk to a weak performance by the lead actor to cliched elements; these things take up most of the screen time in Rajma Chawal. You enter the hall and in the first five minutes you know what is going to happen with the characters and how they are going to end up. Blame it on Vivek Anchaliya's formulaic writing but Rajma Chawal felt like not much research was done on the audience and their intelligence. It's a rehash of all those father-son dramas you have seen in Bollywood over the last couple of years and definitely not worth your time. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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3/10
One-Line Review: Khajoor Pe Atke (3 Stars)
29 October 2018
There is some comic relief in Harsh Chhaya's comedy drama Khajoor Pe Atke (Got Caught in the Bushes) which tries to mock the serious issue of death by bringing members of a huge family together to mirror the opportunistic nature of human beings even in times of death and despair but ends up being a tone-deaf escapade that has all the social elements and cliches that we are currently trying to eradicate. TN.
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Udalaazham (2018)
4/10
MAMI Review: Udalaazham (4 Stars)
29 October 2018
Some great musical compositions and the primary theme of homophobia in a tribal mountainous region in Kerala apart, there is nothing else that improves Udalaazham's (Body Depth) appeal as a social film. Director Unnikrishnan Aavala uses the raw tribal setting and equally fitting actors to show us that the stark social issue of homophobia and perversion is not just restricted to the urban. It is not an experience that will invoke surprise for someone who is in the know but for people in denial, Udalaazham will be an eye-opener and very uncomfortable. Although it has been edited without finesse - leaving out open nodes that affect the viewing experience and not tell you what is happening exactly - it sends the point home. What interested me more than the central theme are the subtle references to topics like forest encroachment, sexism, and consumerism that Udalaazham focuses on from the periphery to shed light into what is happening in places that we have no idea about or don't know exist at all. And yet you want it to get over sooner because not much effort seems to have been put in the editing room. It goes on and on, repeating what it tries to say, using characters that are not necessary, to eventually halt abruptly. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its world premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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Bhonsle (2018)
5/10
MAMI Review: Bhonsle (5 Stars)
28 October 2018
Bhonsle starts with a cinematically brilliant montage of the protagonist Bhonsle's (Manoj Bajpayee) ageing and gradual decay. And the crime drama repeats that cinematic brilliance a couple of times (including a 4-minute climax scene shot on a iPhone) in its 130-minute narrative of the man, an involuntarily retired cop, who is eagerly trying to get back to the service while completely disregarding the world that he lives in. Director Devashish Makhija's character Bhonsle does not speak much because he knows it won't have an affect. However, the slow movement of the plot CAN have a strong effect on your viewing experience, aggravated by the snoring of those who have already been impacted. But, not unless you stay with patience and watch director Makhija pull an Ajji (2017) on you. There's a stark resemblance between his Bhonsle and his Ajji, which also premiered at MAMI (in 2017). And especially towards the climax where the philosophy of an old person resorting to evil. Makhija tries to refer to several issues that has plagued the country - blind faith, racism, caste discrimination, and utter political violence - and those are what makes Bhonsle a socially relevant venture for me. The minute subtexts and symbolic references to these themes make it even more interesting until the protagonist sheds his developed idiosyncratic character and goes haywire just to make the film look punchy. Bhonsle tries not to be a regular Bollywood movie but unfortunately crosses the finish line without even knowing it. If you like Bajpayee and his performance and a setting that describes the "silent despair" of life, Bhonsle will be a better experience for you. Do note the subtexts surrounding the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi and the Marathis vs. Biharis issue in the Indian state of Maharashtra to make the most of it. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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Roma (2018)
8/10
MAMI Review: Roma (8 Stars)
28 October 2018
At around the 100th minute, Roma made me gasp. And then it stole a tiny tear from me. The story of a singleton, who works as a full-time caretaker and maid for an upper middle-class family in Mexico City in the year 1971 is what all the dictionaries around the world should change their definition of the word 'poignant' to. There is no other way to describe what director Alfonso Cuaron has carved in monochrome in Roma which is a film about everything, with an unpredictable and neat narration, somber music, and above all, a never-ending string of beautiful elements to look at. I have this theory that even if you don't watch Roma to understand what it tries to convey and just look at the flowy cinematography and the visually loud frames in motion in front of you, you will feel a peculiar energy transferring into your body. An energy to face the world like the protagonist Cleo faces (or tries to face) in this tragic drama that is built with so much attention to details that I would need an essay to describe the subtexts and small symbolic references that the film makes to send across a message about human nature and relationships, social hierarchy, politics, and violence. Roma made me gasp, laugh, and consider - and it does so in such a random order that you will find it difficult to realize that it's just a film. The running time might remind you that, but let's not talk about it because it is probably the only thing that will prevent you from feeling the film. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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6/10
MAMI Review: Ruben Brandt, Collector (6 Stars)
28 October 2018
It is obvious that director Milorad Krstic likes to pay extra attention to details, loves animating the underside of cars, locomotives, and motorcycles, and has a weird penchant for absurdity for his Ruben Brandt, Collector would not have been a mixture of all these things and some more. Narrating the ingenious story of a loner psychotherapist who involuntarily hires a group of four criminals to steal popular paintings from around the world so that he can finally stop having those ugly nightmares that ARE about those paintings, director Krstic starts his animated drama with bang, bang, and nothing but bang. It starts at something and frequently digresses to a frame or a character that has absolutely no relation to the main plot, and that is exactly how the film pulls you in. With beautiful, beautiful things to look at and pop culture references about everything from Radiohead's "Creep" to Francis Ford Coppola's gangster epic The Godfather (1972) to Edward Hopper's 1942 painting Nighthawks, Rubern Brandt, Collector is a whirlpool of random events, dark comedy, and quotable general moments that you will find yourself so immersed in that you will stop having issues with how the characters look. Absurd, abnormal, and abominable - it is from these three elements that director Krstic churns out this epic adventure of a film, which, despite its overlong and ridiculous story arcs, makes for a great watch, at least from a perspective where it improves your pop culture knowledge by some great extent. It is nothing like you have seen in the animation or non-animation territory before. But don't take your kids along. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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7/10
MAMI Review: Ottamuri Velicham (7 Stars)
28 October 2018
If you don't pay much attention to how the CGI has turned out or how the scenes are sewed together in Rahul Riji Nair's hypnotizing debut feature film, Ottamuri Velicham (Light in the Room), you will be able to see beyond the simple plot of a housewife (Vinita Koshy) putting up with her newly-wed sadist husband's (Deepak Parambol) daily abuse, which tries to encompass the small evils surrounding the higher evil of marital rape and despair. It's a slightly overlong yet gradually encouraging thriller drama where the concept of light plays the role of the villain, as the wife considers the always-on light in her room - her husband's greatest invention - to be a driver of most of her issues, preventing her from sleeping at night being one of them. Her husband is a man who has all the qualities a person should not have despite being a masterful electronics technician. It is in this realistic depiction of the characters that director Nair hits gold, constantly putting the focus on the social issue that does not easily come up on discussion tables in India. There is tension in how the film has been structured, often making you slide to the edge of your seat, and predict what might happen to the characters who all live on top of a hill, in a decrepit house with no functioning windows or doors between rooms, away from all the hustle bustle of the city, giving the perfect facade that everything's hunky-dory and where a couple do not have the privacy to even utter a romantic word because what Ottamuri Velicham highlights is what is happening inside four walls and around us everywhere. It could be the house next door or one of your own and you don't even know about it. That is the effect and the moral of this brilliant and well-acted drama that should be on the top of the watchlist of every Indian who has been living in denial. But you don't accept that, do you? TN.

(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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7/10
MAMI Review: Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (7 Stars)
26 October 2018
If Gulshan Devaiah came to me and told me that he wants my house I would willingly give it to him. Such is his magical charisma in the film (and in almost all) that I can't resist but start this review of Vasan Bala's second feature, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain) by singing his praises despite it being a masterful work of superb cast performances (including the lead Abhimannyu Dassani and Radhika Madan). He comes second in the silly yet full-of-life plot that narrates the story of Surya (Dassani), a young man born with a life-threatning rare disease which prevents him from feeling any pain, who yearns to push evil off the face of at least his small world. Helping him in his venture are the characters that I am in love with. In addition to Devaiah, Mahesh Manjrekar is the man who helps in making the film more memorable as you end the film humming that one number from the indie, upbeat soundtrack that has stayed with you and reminded you of a time when fun was simply watching a video of your favourite kung-fu hero in a VHS tape at your wealthy friend's house. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is brilliantly crafted by Bala with some of the best action choreography and music mixing I have seen all year this year. The humour is local, original, and bang-on ROFL material. If you are okay with shedding all threads of realism and watching a film for what it is (ultimate silliness) you will love this action comedy film more than I did. It is made for the generation of cinema consumers who would get it more if I use a certain term, so I will: it's on fleek. TN.

(Watched and reviewed at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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High Jack (2018)
5/10
One-Line Review: High Jack (5 Stars)
24 October 2018
It baffles me how director Akarsh Khurana can manage to release two films (the other being Karwaan) in a matter of three months and still hope to earn what he spent on them while trying to entertain people who end up watching an aspiring DJ (Sumeet Vyas) become one of the hostages in a flight hijacking situation that is as silly as it can get. TN.
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Ranam (2018)
5/10
One-Line Review: Ranam (5 Stars)
22 October 2018
The Detroit setting makes Nirmal Sahadev's Ranam (War) look like an experimental rusty thriller about an immigrant's (Rahman) aspiration to take over the drug cartel in one of the world's most dangerous cities but, in fact, is so convoluted and overlong (while still at about 135 minutes) that you want it to end sooner. TN.
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