18/09/2014

BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY - REVIEW


After travelling through time in order to ace a school assignment, Bill and Ted are back and, this time around, they're not so much time travelling as they are dying and coming back to life, like a couple of rock Jesuses.

The plot, this time, is much more intricate (well, for a Bill & Ted movie, anyway) as an evil baddie from the future (Joss Ackland) sends back a couple of Bill and Ted robots to kill off the original Bill and Ted, take over their lives and ruin the battle of the bands they're meant to be participating in thereby denying the world of a hard-rockin' future. Everything goes according to plan as the dudes are disposed of and their "princesses" are tossed aside by their evil counterparts. The duo's adventure then mostly takes place in the afterlife where Bill and Ted foil Death by giving him a "melvin" (wedgie), hang around as ghosts for a while then try to escape from Hell, attempt to break into Heaven and challenge Death to a battle of wits.

Yeah, a lot happens in this movie.

It's like the What Dreams May Come of Bill & Ted flicks!

Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are, of course, back as Bill and Ted but, this time, we get to see them overact even more than usual as their villainous robot selves, which is a lot of fun. The shenanigans in this movie are endless: exorcisms, possessions, evil Easter Bunnies, the Devil, God, alien scientists with big butts, you name it: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey goes for it. So in terms of making the most out of a concept, this sequel surpasses the original, the higher budget definitely helping with that a great deal. That said, the simplicity of the first Bill & Ted movie is missing here as the plot is needlessly convoluted. Which doesn't mean it's hard to follow or anything, a cat could follow this, it just means that the characters don't really get that much development. That's all mostly just crammed into the last 5 minutes.

And as likeable as good old Bill and Ted are in this movie, it's William Sadler's surprisingly adorable turn as Death which steals the show. While he initially looks intimidating, as Sadler often does, he is quickly grounded to comic relief as his Death becomes a put-upon loser saddled with doing whatever the dim-witted duo ask of him but eventually enjoying the hell out of this bogus journey. The scene in which he is challenged to a bunch of board games is particularly memorable. It's not everyday you see Death from The Seventh Seal play Twister with Keanu but this movie makes a good argument for why it should be.

Overall, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is a worthy sequel. It's bigger, sillier and more ambitious while having just as much charm as the original. Fans should lap it up, just don't expect to feel any smarter after watching it, that's a mistake.

Excellent!

*air guitar solo*

It loses points for having too little Rufus, though.

More Rufus would have been most triumphant.

15/09/2014

K-PAX - REVIEW


Here's a forgotten little thing that happened back in 2001: Kevin Spacey starred as Prot, a man claiming to be from a distant planet called K-PAX in a movie called just that.

Prot is found early on wandering around a train station and is soon taken to a mental institution where Jeff Bridges' psychiatrist meets him and tries to figure out whether Prot is really from K-PAX or whether he's just a very troubled fellow and, if so, what could have prompted creating such a fantastical and convincing persona. The film is kind of a cross between Starman and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest as the very off-beat Prot meets all the colourful characters living in the institution and has an impact of some sort on their lives. Kevin Spacey finally lives up to his last name and delivers a decidedly "spacey" performance, his Prot being a complex character to say the least: on the surface he's a wise, friendly, if eccentric, alien with cool Bono-style sunglasses but there is something deeper and darker about him also.

The film works a bit like a whodunit in that you're constantly wondering who or what this Prot really is and, since he promises early on that he'll be taking one person back to his home planet, you're also wondering who the lucky person will be! The relationship between Prot and Dr. Powell (Bridges) is the core of the movie, though, and the conversations adapted from Gene Brewer's novel are just as involving as they were on the written page, as are the hypnosis sessions later in the film. Although Powell and the audience are given some answers, the film leaves enough questions open to keep the ending ambiguous and interesting enough. K-PAX could have easily backfired as a movie and been too cheesy or preachy but it does genuinely well to stay competent. The cast and Spacey in particular all do a brilliant job, Edward Shearmur's score is memorably spot-on and the whole thing is pretty darn charming, which is why the darker moments in the film work quite well as a sobering contrast to the magical wonderland that is K-PAX.

There's something irresistible about this movie and, although it is admittedly derivative in some ways, it also manages to be its own little oddity, its own gem. While it's maybe not for everyone, most should have fun trying to decipher whether Kevin Spacey really does eat bananas like an animal or whether he's, in fact, from 1,000 light-years away in the Lyra constellation.

Recommended.

14/09/2014

LUCY - REVIEW


Well this was a movie and it happened.

As to what movie this was and what happened in it, I'm not entirely sure.

Initially, Luc Besson's latest looked like a fun but dumb sci-fi thriller about Scarlett Johansson going around kicking all sorts of butts with super powers. Admittedly, that does take place in this movie but somehow, it doesn't really work.

The main problem is that Lucy is REALLY dumb, to the point where each aspect of it becomes distracting. Hell, even the film itself is distracted as, during its first half, it keeps cutting to random footage of animals or whatever someone's talking about. If someone mentions reproduction, we get a montage of people and animals having sex, if someone mentions space, we cut to space. Some of it is obvious symbolism, some of it I think was meant to be a joke, none of it is new, edgy, funny or clever in any way. It's mostly irritating, frankly. Luckily, the plot kicks in quick and it makes even less sense than Limitless which, by the way, basically had the same concept: use more than 10% of your brain and become a superhero. After having a 1kg bag of some blue crystal substance being inserted into her stomach against her will, Johansson wakes up a bit dizzy and is sent away to transfer the goods. Unfortunately, some guy kicks her in the belly (great idea considering he's meant to be delivering said goods) and the crystals leak out. Instead of giving her the worst diarrhoea of her life or killing her, however, this enables her to access every part of her brain in increasingly ludicrous ways.

She can roll around walls and ceilings, hack into any TV or phone, make people float, make people faint, go back in time, I'm surprised she doesn't flat-out fly in this movie! She's basically like a deadly Neo and yet, for some reason, she doesn't kill the main villain when she has the chance (Choi Min-Sik, who is too good for this movie, by the way) but murders his henchmen no problem and she keeps some French cop around as a "reminder" of what humanity is. Talk about a flimsy reason to have a character in a movie. It is suggested that she might be falling apart thereby evolving into a new state of being about halfway through, which would have been interesting, but it then turns out she just needs more blue crystals. I would argue that, once she does get all these powers, the whole gangsters/French cop plot should have been abandoned for something more appropriate and involving. The film would have probably then become Transcendence, which it already kind of is, but at least it would have had the opportunity to bring a different twist to that concept.

As it stands, this just feels like you're watching a super-powerful being make dumb mistakes and essentially waste her time and yours.

Morgan Freeman is also in this movie as a scientist who churns out exposition during some dull, long lecture which seems to last for a whole half hour of the movie. Occasionally it is interrupted by stupid cutaways and awful non-actors asking him questions but that hardly helps. He becomes more useful near the end when Lucy starts having Akira-esque aspirations but, mostly, he just stands there so there's another character we didn't really need.

While Lucy does have its entertainingly absurd moments (cavewomen, space USB sticks), it's nowhere near as cool or as fun as it thinks it is and wants to be. A solid cast is wasted on an unfocused mix of unexplored sci-fi concepts and tired thriller clich├ęs.

Can't recommend this for the big screen but maybe it'll make a decent Netflix watch with some pals and a couple of beers.

Don't forget the beers, though.

13/09/2014

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR - REVIEW


Turn a corner in Sin City...

Wait about 10 years...

Then turn another.

Too little too late? The box-office seems to think so.

But what of the film itself? Was Robert Rodriguez's sequel to his own Sin City, arguably one of the best comic book movie adaptations of all time, worth the long wait?

This time, the film is mostly based on the Sin City stories "A Dame To Kill For" and "Just Another Saturday Night", though the latter is used more as an amusing prologue than anything else. The other two stories were put together by Frank Miller for the film specifically. One of them involves Joseph Gordon Levitt's gambler and the other continues Nancy's (Jessica Alba) story from the first movie. The problem with making a sequel this late is that you'll only be able to gather about a third of the cast from the original at best. And with the sad losses of Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan a few years ago, this was never going to be easy. Especially with the likes of Clive Owen, Michael Madsen and Devon Aoki not joining the gang for this one. This reshuffle does create a few minor distractions here and there, especially if the first film is fresh in your mind. That said, those changes thankfully never really take you out of the movie.

Seeing Basin City in 3D is, right off the bat, a sumptuous sight so if you can treat yourself to that, go ahead. Rodriguez and Miller, it's clear very quickly, have kept the unique look of their classic green-screened black-and-white (and some colour) world intact without letting it tumble into an over-CGI'ed cloud The Spirit-style. No, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is a gorgeous-looking flick and, although it may not capture the same wow factor as the original since its style is hardly a novelty anymore, that still goes a long way. If you allow yourself to not let the film's poor box-office performance and overall lateness disturb your viewing experience, this movie should totally satisfy you. Especially if you're a Rodriguez aficionado. Where the film fails to match and surpass its predecessor is by not linking all these Sin City stories quite as well.

A Dame To Kill For gives you more of what you don't really want (Jessica Alba acting + being the worst stripper ever) and more of what made the first film so popular in the first place (Marv, brutal violence, vast amounts of cool) so the whole thing basically evens out to a good film fans should enjoy but one that's not without its flaws. Gordon Levitt's Johnny is a great character and his story is an involving one but it ends rather abruptly and a long gap right in the middle of it leaves you wanting more. Eva Green is pretty much perfect casting, giving a gripping performance and certainly not shying away from anything, except maybe clothes. She's definitely one of the highlights of the film and she helps make the A plot, along with a worthy Josh Brolin, the most well defined of all of them. Good old Marv is a weird one as he sort of hacks into each story somehow, as if Mickey Rourke would steal the script at night and write himself into each act, whether he was needed or not. Luckily, Marv always makes those action sequences that little bit more enjoyable so no real complaints here.

You've got a few cameos in there and those range from welcome (Ray Liotta) to bizarre (Lady Gaga) and not 100% needed (Bruce Willis). Overall, the cast works though. The film's stories just needed to be woven together a little more convincingly and the whole thing ends abruptly when one of the best things about Sin City was how you really felt like you were zooming in and out of events going on in the titular city and how the Josh Hartnett intro and outro framed the movie so well. When a story ends here, you're suddenly dumped into another one without warning.

To cut a long review short, I would definitely recommend Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, even with its, at times, odd approach to its source material and its flaws. It's too late of a release to be truly relevant but if you like Miller and Rodriguez's original creation then you should find plenty here to enjoy. Besides, the latter is one of the last filmmakers who still makes trashy cool movies (Sharkboy & Lava Girl being the exception) and with a box-office disappointment like this one, he needs all the help he can get.

I mean, Machete must kill again!

That just has to happen.

TOP 15 MOST FIERY NICOLAS CAGE MOVIE POSTERS

Nicolas Cage is many things: amazing, awful, hilarious, dull, entertaining, unique, talented, fascinating and, most importantly, completely out of his freakin' mind.

He also has some weird obsession with fire.

Somehow, a huge chunk of his films seem to have "fire" as a main motif, especially where the posters are concerned. Whether fire is actually an important part of the film depicted or not, you can be sure that there'll be some spark here or there regardless.

Which is why I thought I'd list some of my favourite fire-related Nicolas Cage posters because it's frankly odd that this is a thing AND most of these posters are so bad, so ridiculous, they're in fact beautiful, awesome and perfect in every way.

Let's do this.

15
BANGKOK DANGEROUS


Who knows what the hell's going on in this poster?!

Cage's oversized left arm is clearly dislocated and he looks more like he's scratching the back of his right shoulder than he looks like he's digging for a gun, which I'm guessing is what this was going for. Furthermore, the man appears to be in front of a pane of glass riddled with bullets and a spark at the bottom left seems to have prompted a fiery ejaculation on the right side.

Bizarre.

14
NEXT


About as lazy as the film itself, this one.

The main focus here, as it is in most of these, is of course The Cagemeister's giant pouting face. With tiny ladies sprouting out of his cheek. And, because none of that is threatening or meaningful in any way, someone decided to put a general amount of fire near the bottom of the poster, consuming some nameless city. 

Like I said: lazy.

13
THE WICKER MAN


It would have been difficult not to mention The Wicker Man at all in this list seeing as fire is a big part of that movie and, of course, the original film. The iconic image of both versions being the burning wicker man, though Nic Cage in a bear suit or with a beard of bees are strong contenders also.

Not much else to say about this one except that Nicolas Cage looks like a 30-feet tall Keanu Reeves and the fire is burning the wicker man's wicker crotch.

12
NATIONAL TREASURE 1 & 2


Lumped these two together for obvious reasons.

(they're the same movie)

The first poster sees a heroic Indiana Jones-esque Cage being framed by two burning torches while the second sees a roughly photoshopped Cage holding a burning torch while standing in front of obvious European landmarks and seemingly burning in hell as a fire inexplicably takes over half of the poster because...

Secrets?

11 
DRIVE ANGRY


While not the main poster, which had a vague amount of fire on one corner of it, this particular one at least gives us a couple of burning cars. And, seeing as the entire plot of the film is about Nic Cage driving out of Hell IN A CAR, it feels quite fitting. Drive Angry is little more than a Ghost Rider B-movie which just happens to also star Nicolas Cage and, as that, it's loads of fun delivering exactly what you'd expect and want it to.

Things are hotting up, can you feel it?

10
LORD OF WAR


C-could it be?

Finally a decent movie?!

In Lord Of War, Nicolas Cage plays an arms dealer with questionable morals so having him stand in front of exploding missiles makes sense. It's not as cool as that alternative poster of him standing on about a million bullets, though.

9
STOLEN 


Nope, this one's not a joke: Stolen is indeed Nicolas Cage's attempt at a blatant Taken rip-off.

The poster, however, seems to focus on an amusingly terrible photoshop job depicting Cage running away from a burning car which clumsily suggests that the film is about stealing cars, which it isn't. I've seen variations of this poster where the car's scrapped completely, leaving nothing much at all. I like this one, mostly because it looks like Cage has a Kermit The Frog-style muppet hand.

Adorable.

8
WILD AT HEART


Awesome movie, cool poster.

David Lynch's sex drugs and rock n' roll tale of Wizard Of Oz symbolism and Elvis impersonations was one hell of a wild ride. In case you don't know, it's a road movie about two seemingly doomed lovers headed for an uncertain, prickly future, hence the fire in Sailor and Lula's horizon on the poster.

Good stuff.

7
LEFT BEHIND


Man, where to begin with this one...

Ok, so Nicolas Cage plays a pilot in some pseudo-religious disaster movie about the rapture... and planes. Something like that. I'm sure the film itself had some form of budget but the poster looks like it was put together in 5 minutes by a vision-free teenager. No planes in sight. Instead, we get a chubby Cage and a bunch of other people all standing in the middle of some road, each of them looking nice and clean, totally not scared and totally not in the same place as the others when the pictures were taken. In the background, the city's on fire because... fire BAD.

Add to all that a hilarious "Bwaaaaah?!" expression on Nicolas Cage's face and the awful, overused tagline "The End Begins" and you've got yourself one of the worst posters out there.

Wow.

6
SEASON OF THE WITCH


The movie itself may not have been anything too special but the poster at least delivered.

Nicolas Cage holding a fire sword? I'm in!

Oh, also, somewhere far into the background random things are on fire.

Season Of The Witch was, you've guessed it, about a witch and the film led us to a wholly unconvincing if entertaining climax involving some Hell demon. Which is why fire's such a big part of that poster.

5
CON AIR


Left Behind probably dreams it had this poster!

Buckle up, this is Con Air and Con Air doesn't f*** around.

You know what makes a badass poster? A big cast to boast about, a cute, playful little logo and a dude holding two guns up in the air as a plane bursts into flames as it seemingly lands 10 metres away from him. It's over-dramatic, it's ridiculous, it's great.

It's Con Air.

4
RAGE


As a title, "Rage" suggests that Nicolas Cage is very angry in this movie.

Which is why the poster decided to have the guy take a little stroll and look around looking completely nonchalant. Seriously, it looks like Cage is thinking about feeding his cat or doing the dishes or something. It's like the man doesn't show up for photo shoots so random pictures of his face are passed around and photoshopped to death until Cage doesn't even really look like himself anymore. By the way, if I remember correctly, this is the film which had a trailer where Cage loses it and drives a car as it catches fire or something. Now doesn't that sound way more awesome?

Luckily, it totally looks like Cage himself is on fire in this poster and he hasn't noticed yet and that's pretty darn funny.

3
KNOWING


Knowing doesn't have much going for it as a movie, frankly.

In fact, the best scene in the entire thing was a plane crash and that's honestly what I would have pushed in the poster. Instead, we get a weird setup in which at the top the entire world is farting fiery numbers, in the middle some lady seems to be riding on Nicolas Cage's back while a little boy is tied back to back with her and, at the bottom, a city is burned to a crisp. I'm calling major spoilers on that last part, by the way. What happens when the numbers run out? Yeah, the city explodes. The poster gives that away like it's no biggie.

That one's so high up on the list because of its scale (the world's on fire).

2
FIRE BIRDS


Yes, that's right.

This one's at number 2 because the word "FIRE" is actually part of the title. Come on, I never said the list had to include pictures of fire, only that it had to be fiery and, unless I'm mistaken, fire is one of the fieriest words out there! You could argue, though, that the orange goop which seems to be swallowing up this movie's cast in the poster is actually fire and, if that's the case, then this one's ALL fire.

And finally...

1
GHOST RIDER 1 & 2


Surprised?

Didn't think so.

Fire's kind of a big deal to the Ghost Rider franchise and its main character who is, just to remind you, a flaming skull dude riding a fiery motorcycle. The films are about as pyromaniac as they get as they throw just about everything at us then douse it all in flames: fire horses, fire bulldozers, spitting fire, pissing fire, fire coming out of your nose, even the Devil himself's an important character in both movies. The only thing they could possibly do to up the ante is have Nicolas Cage walk up to the camera, pull down his pants and literally defecate fire right before our very eyes.

As for the posters, the one on the left sees a leather (and bad wig) wearing Cage standing there looking cool in front of his fire bike as the poster itself catches fire. The second poster is mostly just the Rider and his motorcycle showing off what is essentially fire and leather porn at this point.

Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance are, indeed, the most fiery Nic Cage posters (and movies) out there.

There are, of course, other fiery Nicolas Cage posters out there so feel free to comment below with more!

09/09/2014

THE BIG REWIND: EPISODE 42 - PODCAST


In this 42nd episode, Adam (aka The RetroCritic) and fellow film buff Jamie discuss movie news, review Luc Besson's Lucy and talk retro stuff.


Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

Oh and you can also find us on iTunes where you can subscribe to the podcast and download every episode thusfar!

@TheRetroCritic
#TheBigRewind
retrocriticblog.blogspot.com

TASTIN'... BEEF JERKY - EPISODE #8

08/09/2014

GOTHAMIZED: SQUIRRELLY & THE DOLLOTRONS - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this fifth episode, we discuss Professor Pyg, squirrels, Netflix, mushrooms and we end with a riddle.

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

UNKNOWN - REVIEW


To keep Liam Neeson fans satisfied in-between Taken movies, Unknown was made and claimed to be in the same vein boasting action-packed trailers displaying another European setting and shady bad guys wearing leather jackets.

The film itself does sort of develop into something resembling a Taken movie but, for the most part, this is a different genre altogether. Unknown goes for more of a Hitchcockian mystery like, say, The Man Who Knew Too Much but with a modern edge, of course. Neeson plays a man who arrives in Berlin for an event but, on the way to recovering his briefcase from the airport, soon has a car accident. When he wakes up and leaves the hospital, he finds that no-one, not even his wife recognises him and that another man has taken over his identity. The whole film is spent following Neeson's character as he tries to figure out exactly what the hell is going on, who is messing with him or whether he's somehow lost his mind.

It's a fun intrigue to try and decipher and the film is well made enough to keep you guessing and wanting to guess throughout. Add to that some car chases, explosions and punch-outs here and there and you've got yourself one entertaining little movie which should please Taken fans and fans of that type of psychological thriller in general. There are quite a few twists and turns to keep up with and, although admittedly the initial twist is surprisingly clever, altogether these many reveals don't add up to something that makes a whole lot of sense. And even if you're perfectly happy to not overthink the film and accept the dubious logic it chooses (I know I did!), in retrospect, a lot of Unknown is pretty silly.

I won't spoil it for you but suffice it to say that Neeson's not very good at his job in this movie, much like he wasn't in this year's Non-Stop.

The cast also includes January Jones, who once again barely emotes during the entirety of the film, Diane Kruger, who is probably too good to be in this and Bruno Ganz, who was once Hitler in that Downfall movie so good luck trying to resist the urge to picture funny subtitles during his scenes. Frank Langella also appears about halfway through but he doesn't stick around for too long. It's an altogether solid cast and, like I said, the film's well made and is rather fun but it's definitely one of those movies which goes for a serious tone but, if you think about its plot for two seconds, still manages to come off as amusingly ludicrous.

All in all, Unknown's harmless enough and offers an entertaining, head-scratching, at times suspenseful way to spend an hour and a half. It's a bit ridiculous but hey, isn't that really why we like these new Liam Neeson movies? Be honest.

Oh, and it should have been titled "MisTaken".

Goes without saying.

04/09/2014

BANDITS - REVIEW


2001 was a weird year.

Tim Burton was ruling the Planet Of The Apes, Billy Bob Thornton was married to Angelina Jolie and A Beautiful Mind was considered a good movie.

Also, a little Bruce Willis film was quietly nominated for a couple of Golden Globes.

That film was Bandits.

Directed by respected veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson (Rainman, Good Morning Vietnam), the film is a screwball heist comedy about a couple of mismatched bank-robbing pals nicknamed "The Sleepover Bandits" who meet an aimless, eccentric gal and together they all continue stealing dough while dealing with a pesky love triangle. I know, that's not much of a plot and, believe me, I'm making it sound better than it is. That said, Bandits' concept was a promising one: a Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid for the modern age but far more light-hearted and upbeat. The cast was/is solid and the trailer looked like fun.

Then the movie starts playing and, essentially, it's nothing but unconvincing dumb people doing unconvincing dumb things. And, although I guess that would have been fine had the film been funny, it's unfortunately hardly that at all. I would compare it to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang without the jokes but even then, without the jokes, that movie would have been an involving thriller. This is more akin to Conspiracy Theory without the jokes or the conspiracy. The film, by the way, is over two hours long which is absurd for what's meant to be a punchy little comedy with barely a plot to its name and it feels just as long as it is.

The sad thing is that Blanchett, Willis and Thornton are individually doing a decent job, it's just that their characters are so one-dimensional (the disillusioned wife, the cool playboy, the neurotic nerd) that they're completely unrelatable and never feel genuine. And neither do the people around them. Not only do these robbers not research the people they're about to rob but they somehow never have any issues with keeping entire families hostage over night. No-one ever tries to escape or call the police, everyone just gets along and somehow has a good time. Some people are even totally enjoying getting kidnapped, encouraging it almost! I realise the film was going for charmingly madcap but it just comes off as misguided and awkward.

Then there's that darned love triangle...

Just when you think that Cate Blanchett's character was about to develop interestingly and perhaps even lead us to a Matchstick Men-style twist ending, the film goes and reduces her to little more than a complication in the robbing buddies' dynamic duo. She yo-yos between one and the other before they all spend like 20 minutes talking about this situation and we're left wondering what the hell happened to the crime comedy we were originally promised. You could have easily cut like 45 minutes of this movie out and it would have made more sense than it does right now! The events in the film are intercut with an interview involving a couple of the characters and that completely gets in the way of the story, offering nearly nothing useful.

While the cast is likeable and the film itself has a couple of good ideas here and there, Bandits is still a missed opportunity. Overlong, not very funny, needlessly convoluted, this is ultimately just a thinly veiled excuse for having big name actors and actresses put on silly wigs for no good reason.

Oh, and sell that "Beautiful Day" U2 single, of course.

Butch & Sundance, this is disappointingly not.

Really not.

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