MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SKATELAND and ADVENTURELAND

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SKATELAND (2010)

Drama of a young man coming of age in a suburban Texas town during the 80s is a well written and acted story focusing on teen Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez ) who’s coping with becoming a man while his parents divorce and his world changes around him. High school is over and it’s time to decide what he wants to do with his life, but Ritchie would be perfectly happy to continuing working at the Skateland roller rink and hanging out with his friends. But times are changing and life has no intention of standing still even if Ritchie wants it to. Along with him are best friend Brent Burkham (Heath Freeman) and Brent’s beautiful sister Michelle (Ashley Greene), with whom he has feelings he’s also not ready to deal with.

The movie smartly tackles the melodramatics and cliche’s usually associated with these type of flicks in a way that makes them feel fresh and keeps them quite effective. We’ve seen certain story elements before, but director Anthony Burns turns them back from cliche’s into life experiences we can all identify with by weaving them into the story and not presenting them as set pieces as many films like this do. The film really captures that moment in time between the end of high school and the beginning of the rest of your life, the one you wish could last forever, but life moves you forward whether you like it or not, as Ritchie finds out.

And as Ritchie, lead Fernandez shows some really nice acting chops here and that he has a lot of potential with a subtle but emotion filled performance. Leading lady Ashley Greene shows far more range than her supporting part in the Twilight films allows and proves with a good script and director she is more than just a pretty face. Heath Freeman is also a hoot as the rambunctious Brent, who dreams of being a famous dirt-bike racer and has to face that this dream may not come true. And Haley Ramm is impressive as Ritchie’s younger sister, Mary a headstrong and very mature teen trying to help keep her already fractured family from falling any further apart. The dynamic between Ritchie and little sister Mary is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Ramm and Fernandez are gold in their scenes together. The supporting cast of relative unknowns also give strong performances that help give the story it’s weight and sense of realism and come across as people and not characters.

Add to all this, there is a great 80s soundtrack and that is one cliche’ that’s always welcome with these movies. Having come of age in the 80s, I am a sucker for these kind of flicks and Skateland is one of the better ones I’ve seen in quite a while. I highly recommend it. Also stars James Le Gros as Brent and Michelle’s dad, Clive and Brett Cullin and Melinda McGraw as Ritchie’s mom and dad, David and Debbie Wheeler.

A solid 3 and 1/2 Rubik’s Cubes!

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ADVENTURELAND (2009)

Adventureland tells the story of James (Jesse Eisenberg) a recent college grad whose plans to spend the summer in Europe and then go to New York to grad school to study journalism are dashed when his dad is demoted at work. To earn the money he needs to go to the Big Apple, James is forced to get a job at Adventureland, a third rate amusement park in Pittsburg. But there he meets an eccentric group of characters and the pretty Em (Kristen Stewart), a young girl with her own issues and dreams. As James struggles to figure out how to get his life back on track, the two bond finding solace from their perspective woes with each other.

More drama than comedy, flick has grown on me a bit since first viewed, but overall, nothing we haven’t seen before. Yet despite it’s familiarities, it’s easy to identify with the story and it’s characters are somewhat endearing even though I wanted to throttle Frigo (Matt Bush). The cast give some very eclectic yet, down to earth performances. They seem exactly like the kind of people you’d expect to find working in a place like Adventureland and they grow on you as the film progresses. As for the leads, Stewart is not nearly as wooden as she was in Twilight though, still doing her disassociated thing. Eisenberg is fine, if not a little bland, as James, a young man who seems to be having a hard time accepting that life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to and that, occasionally, you have to take life’s lemons and figure out how to make lemonade. James needs to grow up and take control of his life. Sometimes you want to slap James out of his self pity, but that is part of his character and not the fault of the actor. Ryan Reynolds plays the park repair man, a musician wannabe named Mike who is married yet likes to sample the Park’s young female employees. He creates a guy whom you understand why people like, yet is obviously, in reality, a phoney douche. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader add some comic relief as the clueless husband/wife operators of the park and Martin Starr plays Joel, another intelligent college student who seems fine with wasting his life away as a pipe smoking slacker, but ironically, seems to support James’ not giving up on his dream.

Superbad writer/director Greg Mottola gives us some nice moments and there are some fun bits too, but sometimes there is just too much melodrama for it’s own good. It does poignantly portray love at that period of time in life when you are just becoming an adult but still haven’t fully matured. That first relationship when you start to think a bit more seriously about the person you’re with, yet are still hesitant to give up your freedom to commit to something more meaningful. And it also nails the sense of having a dream and the frustration of not knowing how to reach it when things don’t work out as you planned. Add to that a great soundtrack of 80s tunes that really helps add a lot of atmosphere.

So, things even out a bit when you add it all up and having graduated high school in the early 80s, this film is nonetheless nostalgic for me, so I cut it a bit of slack for some of it’s flaws. At the very least Mottola shows some versatility as this is quite different then his raunchy Superbad.

3 Rubik’s Cubes!

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NEW SET SHOTS FROM EXPENDABLES 3 FEATURE FORD AND SNIPES!

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Got some behind the scenes shots from the set of Expendables 3. Harrison Ford and a bloodied Wesley Snipes are featured as well as cast regulars Stallone, Crews and Couture along with director Patrick Hughes! Who would have ever have thought at this point that we’d see Arnie and Harrison Ford together on a movie set?!

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Source: Joblo.com

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

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THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

I’ll start out by saying this isn’t a good movie in the conventional sense but, I love monster movies, especially the old fashioned stop motion animation ones and, as you may know by now, I do love a ‘so bad it’s good’ flick. So, I cut this movie a lot of slack. Plus it does have a bit of personal nostalgia for me as I saw it at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater N.J. when it first came out in 1977. Low budget sci-fi/horror begins as a meteor crashes into a California mountain lake by a remote rural town. The lake temperature rises and a long dormant plesiosaur egg hatches and 6 months later we have a giant prehistoric monster on the loose feeding on the local livestock and any inhabitants who get near the water. It’s now up to Sheriff Steven Hanson (Richard Cardella who also co-wrote) to try to find a way to stop the rampaging beast. Crater Lake Monster has a good B-movie plot that is wasted by the totally amateurish handling of the production by director and co-writer William R. Stromberg. If the lame attempts at suspense aren’t enough, the weak dialog, awful acting and ridiculous attempts at comic relief by two good ole boys who rent boats (Mark Siegel and Glen Roberts), put the nail in coffin of this flick’s potential as a serious B-movie horror treat and catapults it into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory… though it’s on thin ice there too. Cardella claims the withdrawal of funds and hiring of a terrible editor by Crown International pictures was the cause of the film’s ruin but, neither of these reasons explain how sub-par everything other than David Allen’s cool stop motion animated dinosaur is done. The title creature is a fine bit of FX from the under appreciated Allen but, doesn’t have quite enough screen time to make up for the film’s flaws and even it’s climactic battle with a snow plow is far too short to live up to it’s entertainment potential. But there is definitely some fun to be had at the incompetent filmmaking here and there is definitely some 70s nostalgia to enjoy but, how much you enjoy it depends on just how tolerant you are of a bad movie like this. I enjoy them for what they are and I like this flick for all it’s badness and there is a cool beastie and with a couple of brews this can be a good time, if that’s your thing. It definitely is mine. In an era of senseless remakes, this is a title screaming to be turned into a better movie by more talented hands but, they sadly don’t make movies like this anymore, at least not with the kind of charm flicks like this had. And despite all Crater Lake’s flaws, it still has it’s heart in the right place and plenty of charm. And that goes a long way with a movie geek like me. A guilty pleasure for sure but, a fun one.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The full size creature head was made by Steve Neill, another unsung hero of movie make-up and prosthetic FX.

3 guilty pleasure plesiosaurs!

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JAMES SPADER TO PLAY THE VILLAINOUS ‘ULTRON’ IN AVENGERS SEQUEL!

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Marvel has just issued a press release stating that veteran actor James Spader will play the robotic villain in the upcoming Avengers sequel “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron”!

JAMES SPADER

The press release reads as follows:

James Spader will face off against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as the villain in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the sequel to 2012’s record-breaking “Marvel’s The Avengers.” The Emmy Award-winning actor will play Ultron in the Avengers’ much anticipated return to the big screen from writer/director Joss Whedon. The film comes to theaters on May 1, 2015.

Spader earned three Emmy Awards for his role as Alan Shore on “Boston Legal” and “The Practice,” and will return to television this fall in NBC’s highly anticipated series “The Blacklist.” Most recently Spader was seen in the critically-acclaimed film “Lincoln” directed by Steven Spielberg and has previously worked with a long list of accomplished film directors including David Cronenberg, Curtis Hansen, Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, Tim Robbins, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone. David Mamet also directed Spader in the Broadway play Race.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” will bring the Marvel Universe’s biggest heroes together again to face one of their biggest villains, with “Marvel’s The Avengers” director Joss Whedon returning to write and direct the sequel. “Marvel’s The Avengers” was released in 2012 and went on to earn $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the third-largest grossing movie of all time. “

Source: CBM

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE VIY (1967)

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THE VIY (1967)

Russian film, based on a story by Nikolai Gogol from 1835, is more of a spooky fairy tale than a horror film. The Viy tells the story of an arrogant young monk, Khoma (Leonid Kuraviev) who finds shelter one night, when traveling with companions, in the home of an old woman. When the old crone comes to Khoma in the middle of the night, he finds that she is actually a witch who taunts him with her powers and in his panic and fear, he beats her almost to death. As she lays there, she transforms before his eyes into a beautiful young girl (Natalya Varley). Khoma flees in terror back to the monastery, his dark secret with him… or so he thinks. In a horrifying turn of events, Khoma is called upon by a wealthy villager to preside over the body of a young girl found nearly beaten to death. To Khoma’s shock, it is the pretty witch Pannochka that he had encountered and apparently slain. She is the villager’s daughter and on her death bed, she requested that Khoma himself be the monk to preside and pray over her corpse during the 3 day wake. This means he must spend three nights alone locked in a church with the vengeful young witch’s body. Three nights, each more horrifying then the last.

The Viy plays like a story right out of the Brothers Grimm as the young monk learns the consequences of his wrongful deed the hard way. The visuals are worth watching this for alone and directors Konstantin Ershov and Georgi Kropachyov use them to create some haunting sequences and great atmosphere. The film looks very much like the dark fairy tale that it is and there are some very interestingly designed demonic creatures that appear to taunt our haughty young monk during his nightly vigils including ‘The Viy’ itself. The effects and sets are delightfully old fashioned and only add to the film’s dark fable charm.

A fun, charming and effectively goose-bump inducing supernatural tale that is a favorite of mine during the Halloween season and is highly recommended to those who appreciate something different. The film is available with English subtitles, the trailer below, however, is not.

3 and a 1/2 vengeful witches!

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BARRENS (2012)

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THE BARRENS (2012)

The Barrens is a moody and atmospheric little horror thriller set in New Jersey’s famous Pine Barrens and dealing with it’s most legendary native aside from Sinatra, The Jersey Devil. Stephen Moyer plays the emotionally troubled Richard, who’s taking his wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) and kids Sadie and Danny (Allie MacDonald and Peter DaCunha) on a family camping trip to the Pine Barrens. But, not only is Moyer’s Richard a bit stressed, he also has been bitten by a dog that might have rabies. Add to that having possibly seen the Jersey Devil as a child and we have a great mix for a really interesting family outing. Despite it’s convoluted set-up, Barrens is actually an entertaining horror. Obviously Moyer starts to see things and then people start to go missing and we are left to wonder is Richard hallucinating or is the Jersey Devil real and poor delusional dad taking blame for it’s actions. And I must say writer/ Director Darren Lynn Bousman keeps you guessing and keeps the film filled with an atmosphere of dread as we slowly learn what’s going on… or do we? That’s what makes this deliberately paced thriller work so well, just when we think we have the facts, we get handed more reasons to doubt. The cast all perform well, though Moyer’s heavy Australian accent is odd here since he is playing someone who has lived in the tr-state area since childhood. Kirshner is a little too deadpan at times but, not enough to hurt the film. I personally liked her hot girl-next-door MILF because she wasn’t playing the role that way, it came across naturally and she provides some delightfully distracting cleavage. There is some nice gore and make up effects to go along with Bousman’s visual style which is one thing he always delivers whether his films work or not. Personally I find his films very hit or miss but, they always look good. All in all, probably one of the better films I’ve seen on the subject of Jersey’s most elusive resident, so far… though that really isn’t saying much… and whether Bousman does give us a definitive answer as to who or what is really responsible for all the carnage or not, you’ll have to investigate The Barrens to find out. A slow burn but, a fun, spooky movie especially if you are a fan of The Jersey devil legend.

3 mythic Jersey Devils!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES AUGUST 23-25

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Complete estimates for this weekend’s box office are in and some new flicks show weak starts!

1. “The Butler” $17 Million

2. “We’re The Millers” $13.5 Million

3. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones” $9.3 Million

4. “The World’s End” $8.9 million

5. “Planes” $8.6 Million

6. “Elysium”  $7.1 Million

7. “You’re next” $7 Million

8. “Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters” $5.2 Million

9. “Blue Jasmine” $4.3 Million

10. “Kick-Ass 2” $4.27 Million

source: box office mojo

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REVIEW: DAREDEVIL DIRECTOR’S CUT (2004)

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DAREDEVIL: DIRECTOR’S CUT (2004)

Daredevil is a film that splits the fanboys/girls right down the middle. I personally like the film but, I never read the comic so, I am not that familiar with the details of the mythos or protectively endeared to the material. The director’s cut is a bit darker and a little more violent which does give it more of an edge and definitely improves on the original. Daredevil tells the story of Matt Murdoch, (Ben Affleck) a Hell’s Kitchen lawyer who lost his eyesight as a boy but, all his other senses became incredibly enhanced including, being able to use sound like a form of sonar to see. Matt also takes to the streets at night as the masked vigilante, Daredevil to protect the people and avenge the murder of his boxer father by a local gangster after refusing to take a fall. Daredevil seeks to stop a mysterious crime boss named The Kingpin (the late Michael Clark Duncan) while crossing paths with a beautiful and yet mysterious heiress, Elektra (Jennifer Garner) who may be more then she seems. Obviously the fates of all the characters collide including a deranged yet lethal hit-man named, Bullseye (Colin Farrell). I don’t get all the hate lobbed this flicks way. It’s a fun enough superhero flick and while not perfect, it does entertain especially in the director’s cut which also adds some nice character depth. There is also an added sub plot involving Matt’s efforts to prove the innocence of a drug addict (Coolio) who is accused of murdering a hooker. This subplot gives us more insight as to how deep Matt’s convictions are and how far he will go to support them. The new cut also adds a bit more violence most notably the fight between Bullseye and Elektra is a bit nastier and has more intensity and impact. Mark Steven Johnson directs the film fine. The action is well staged and shot, nothing ground-breaking but, you can see influences from the Hong Kong cinema and there definitely seems to be a bit of “The Crow” thrown in in terms of look and mood. The visuals are nice and give the film a comic book tone and the only drawback is some very noticeable CGI during some of the action scenes that keep us from being completely drawn in. Ben Affleck is just fine as the blind lawyer turned vigilante. He gets a lot of flak but, I think his performance is moody and fits the character. Only a few of his scenes does he fall back into the smarmy acting style that earned him his critics and that’s early on, mostly when he first meets Elektra. And speaking or her, Garner is beautiful and handles her action scenes well but, she doesn’t quite come across as the fiery Greek heiress with the secret identity of her own. She’s fine in the romantic scenes but, once she becomes the vengeful assassin Electra, the role needed someone with a bit more of a smoldering intensity. As for the rest of the cast, Favreau is funny and charming, as always, as Matt’s oblivious law partner/ sidekick, Franklin. Michael Clark Duncan is well cast as the villainous crime boss, Kingpin. He exudes power, threat and strength beyond his massive frame and plays the role with just a bit of a wink. Colin Farrell is a hoot as the over the top Irish hit man, Bullseye. He is having a blast with the material and is both threatening and fun to watch as he skates the edge of camp without loosing the character’s lethal edge. And Joe Pantoliano seems a little out of place as an ace reporter looking to crack the true story of the mythical Daredevil. He’s played so many wise guys and smart asses that he doesn’t seem quite comfortable as a straight arrow despite giving a perfectly suitable performance. Add a cameo by Kevin Smith and David Keith as Matt’s dad, boxer Jack “The Devil” Murdoch and you have a suitably fine, but not perfect, cast for a dark tinged comic book flick. Even with an added half hour of footage… original cut is 103 minutes; director’s 134 minutes… the director’s cut moves along briskly and is never dull and the added material only helps enhance the film and it’s characters. The Coolio sub plot does tie into the Kingpin storyline eventually so, while it’s omission in the theatrical version wasn’t missed, it does fit in here unobtrusively. There is also a larger part for Murdoch’s secretary, Karen (Ellen Pompeo) who seems to have an eye for Franklin which gives Favreau a few nice moments where he doesn’t have to mug for the camera. All in all it’s a decent though, much maligned comic book movie, now become a good comic book flick with the added material. It’s not great, there are flaws, but, there are much worse comic themed movies such as director Johnson’s own Ghost Rider flick with Nic Cage and it’s even worse sequel. So, maybe it was time Daredevil and it’s leading man got cut a little slack. There’s also a really cool soundtrack too that I’ll take a look at below!

3 solid men without fear !

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DAREDEVIL: THE ALBUM

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The Daredevil Soundtrack has a fun mix of moody andhard rocking songs on it and was also the first time I heard Evanescence who, are now one of my favorites and there are two of their songs here. We get Rob Zombie rocking with Drowning Pool on the theme “The Man Without Fear” and an assortment of good tunes from Fuel, Seether, Chevelle, Hoobastank and Nickleback… who, like the film, get a lot of flack but, I like their fun, down and dirty party Rock N Roll just fine. Not every band has to have some deep soulful message behind their music, some just want to have a good time and I think the fun they are having comes across in their songs. I came of age in the 80s and most of the bands back then were like that. But back to The DD soundtrack… It’ a really good selection of songs with some great bands at a time when they were new and fresh. A fun toe-tapping soundtrack with some really good stuff. Not every song is great but, all together a strong soundtrack and a good time listen.

1. Won’t Back Down – Fuel
2. For You – The Calling
3. Bleed For Me – Saliva
4. Hang On – Seether
5. Learn the Hard Way – Nickelback
6. The Man Without Fear – Drowning Pool feat. Rob Zombie
7. Right Now – Nappy Roots feat. Marcos Curiel of P.O.D.
8. Evening Rain – Moby
9. Bring Me To Life – Evanescence
10. Until You’re Reformed – Chevelle
11. Right Before Your Eyes – Hoobastank
12. Fade Out/In – Palo Alto
13. Caught In The Rain – Revis
14. High Wire Escape Artist – BOYSETSFIRE
15. Raise Your Rifles – Autopilot Off
16. Daredevil Theme (Blind Justice Remix) – Graeme Revell and Mike Einziger
17. My Immortal – Evanescence
18. Sad Exchange – finger eleven
19. Simple Lies – Endo
20. Let Go – 12 Stones

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Not perfectly cast but, the future Mrs. Affleck looked damn fine in tight jeans and tight leather!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GALAXY OF TERROR AND FORBIDDEN WORLD

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GALAXY OF TERROR (1981)

This sci-fi horror from Roger Corman has it’s problems, but for the most part, is a well made and effective film that actually stands on it’s own despite being inspired by the success of Alien. There is some clunky dialog and choppy editing, but there is also spooky and tense atmosphere throughout and some good creature effects and gore. The film has garnered a reputation over the years based on the ‘giant worm rape scene’, but it really is a good little sci-fi/horror that has plenty to offer aside from that quintessential Corman moment. The flick follows a rescue mission to the dark and mysterious planet Morganthus, a planet of horrors that holds a dark secret. The eclectic crew of the Quest must try and survive the mission and each other, as unknown forces seem intent on their demise. The cast is effective and includes Edward Albert, future Freddy Krueger Robert England, Happy Days’ Erin Moran and genre favorite Sid Haig. James Cameron of Titanic and Avatar fame was the production designer on the film, as well as, the second unit director and the set decorator was future actor, Bill Paxton. As usual, another Corman production featuring talent who would go on to fame and recognition. His films were the start of countless careers. A personal B-movie favorite. You can just see the similarities in production design with Cameron’s classic Aliens.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 and 1/2 giant space worms!

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FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982)

You have to be a fan of low budget B movies to appreciate this sci-fi/ horror from Roger Corman’s New World pictures. If you are, sit back and enjoy all the cheezy SPFX, nudity, sex and gore this fun and strangely stylish Alien inspired horror has to offer. Let’s not forget the slimy, nasty space monster that’s the cause of all the bloodletting. And if that’s not enough, the nubile Playboy bunny scientists that are responsible for all the nudity. Forbidden World is filmed by director Allan Holzman with an almost psychedelic music video style as it tells the story of a soldier, Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) sent to an isolated research station on the remote planet Xarbia to deal with a genetic experiment that has gotten out of control. Colby not only has to battle a growing and hungry genetic mutant, but handle not one, but two hot and very horny female scientists (Dawn Dunlap and June Chadwick). The type of B movie they just don’t make anymore. One of the last of it’s kind. Crack a few beers and enjoy!
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Yes, you’re not imagining things, those are fast food containers lining the walls of the space station. Corman thriftiness strikes again…
…and this may be the only film in movie history where a cancerous tumor is used as a weapon. Only in a Roger Corman production, folks!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 “Dingwoppers”!

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