The Official Review Thread of 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:08 am

The Meddler

For the life of me, I don't understand why Lorene Scafaria didn't want to start the film with Marnie moving in near The Grove. Instead she's already moved in and it makes for a first act that already feels exhausted by Susan Sarandon's character in a dull way. I was fairly ready to bail on the film but it (and Sarandon) relaxes into a groove as it goes along as the narrative pivots on her behavior. Ultimately it reveals itself as a film that began as a character piece rather than situational narrative. I can't really recommend it but Sarandon is quite good and it's so rare that she gets a role like this that its worth a view. She's adorable. The movie isn't.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:24 am

I'm going to agree with Mister Tee that Hell or High Water is a compelling film, but also one that isn't maybe as great as it might have been.

For me, the film's greatest strengths were in the areas of direction, mood, and environment. I haven't seen any of David Mackenzie's other films, but this movie clearly marked him as someone to watch in my book. The opening heist is gripping, but in a way that felt real and not engineered in a movie suspense factory, and the film holds this level of tension throughout much of its running time. The final reel of the film is pretty nerve-wracking -- (nothing major spoiled here, but avoid the next line if you're super cautious about these things) -- beginning with the final bank heist gone ugly, through the chase/standoff, and culminating with the police checkpoint.

But even in the non-suspense sequences, I thought the film maintained a remarkable sense of unease. I found myself consistently noticing the framing in many of the shots, with the relationship of the characters to each other, to the edges of the frame, and to their environments contributing very effectively to the mood of the piece. And the music is really crucial to creating this sense of dread as well, with the composers bringing the same sense of Western gloom they brought to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

I hear what you're saying, Mister Tee, about how the fact that these characters are probably Trump voters makes one less sympathetic to their plight (though a lot of Ben Foster's actions aren't helping that cause either). But I thought the movie's cultural/political subtext enhanced the movie quite a bit. I agree that the "screw the banks" angle has likely helped the film resonate -- and I do think that theme is hit a bit hard, with a few too many billboards declaiming the message in case we missed it -- but I felt the movie's portrait of an America left behind had a lot of interesting details along the way, from the rancher who offhandedly remarks that his kids aren't likely to stick around to herd cattle for the rest of their lives, to the restaurant owner who scoffs at the New Yorker who wants food she doesn't serve, to the waitress who doesn't at first report the brothers because she needs their big tip for her mortgage. Scene after scene shows minor characters struggling to survive in towns where the people, the jobs, and the life just disappeared, and the resulting resentment a lot of these people feel (shown most strongly in the two protagonists) provides a powerful through-line to the movie. (I've visited a lot of towns like these, including in the Texas/Oklahoma region shown here, and I thought the sadness of the boarded-up street fronts and abandoned, struggling communities was depicted in about as authentic a manner possible.) If anything, I thought the movie effectively portrayed both "baskets" Hillary mentioned in her latest controversial speech -- criticizing the deplorables (take a look at the skin colors of the characters involved in the movie's most gasp-inducing murder) while also having empathy for those people frustrated that today's economy seems to have just abandoned them. (And the casting of these smaller roles was spot-on -- these people LOOK like small-town Texans, not actors out of central casting.)

All right, the problems -- while I think the script has a lot of good sequences, as well as strong dialogue (in particular, the scenes with Bridges and his partner have a lot of interesting exchanges), I agree that the plot left something to be desired. This wasn't so much an issue as I was watching most of the movie as it was after it ended, because a late-film story turn I assumed would be coming at some point just never arrived. The final scene is really unsatisfying I think, both because it doesn't much reveal any new information to us, and because Bridges's character doesn't come to his understanding of what happened in any interesting way. (This aspect, especially, had the writer in me thinking, you really aren't working that hard for your story right now.) And I totally agree that Pine's character's motivations were left really murky, and that Foster's just didn't really seem to make any sense. It wasn't so much that I thought the movie fell apart at the end, but more that it didn't arrive at a destination that justified such a long trip there.

As for Jeff Bridges, I just kept thinking, the man is an American treasure -- relaxed, funny, and able to steal the whole movie without even seeming to try.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Cinemanolis » Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:47 pm

La La Land
4/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Music Score, Song, Song, Sound, Art Direction, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Costume Design

Nocturnal Animals
3,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor (Gyllenhaal), Editing, Art Direction

Arrival
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography

Hacksaw Ridge
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Editing, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor, Sup. Actor (Hugo Weaving), Cinematography, Make Up

The Age of Shadows
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Foreign Film
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sound, Costume Design, Cinematography

The Bleeder
2,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Make Up

The Distinguished Citizen
3/5

Frantz
2,5/5

The Blind Christ
2/5

The Bad Batch
2/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Art Direction, Sound

A Woman's Life
1,5/5

Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez
1,5/5

The Young Pope Episodes I & II
4/5
Strong Emmy Prospects: Mini Series, Director, Actor, Sup.Actor (Silvio Orlando), all techs
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sup. Actress (Diane Keaton), Sup. Actor (James Crowmell)

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:00 pm

SULLY
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O'Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan.
Dir: Clint Eastwood.

This is Clint Eastwood's film about the pilot who saved 155 lives by landing on the Hudson River back in 2009. Wow. Has it really been that long? I'm kind of amazed it was that long ago. How time flies. Tom Hanks is actually the perfect guy to play Captain Sullenburger. During interviews i've seen with him, he always struck me as an ordinary man who was thrust into the limelight and fame due to his miraculous accomplishment and he definitely pulls it off. Clint Eastwood, as a director, still manages to make pretty good movies even at this age. This one, though far from a masterpiece, is still a pretty darn good film which somehow manages to mine drama and suspense despite the fact that most people know this story already.

Oscar Prospects: Picture and Director are doubtful. Actor (Tom Hanks) is possible. Supporting Actor (Aaron Eckhart) is only possible if they end really loving the film.Visual Effects and MAYBE Original Song are both possible.

Grade: B

PETE'S DRAGON
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Dir: David Lowery.

This is the remake of the 1970's Disney live-action animated musical about a boy and his friend Elliott, who happens to be a dragon who can go invisible. This film is decidedly very different in that it's not a musical and more of a family drama....with a dragon in it. This year, Steven Spielberg directed his first film for Disney and personally, I thought the result of that would be closer to this than The BFG. This feels like an old-fashioned family picture that doesn't feel the need to do fart jokes, "hip" humor or action scenes every 15 minutes to satisfy all demographics. It's a film which simply and elegantly tells the story of a lost boy and his dragon, quite stripped down and very, very refreshing. They almost never make movies like these nowadays.

Oscar Prospects: Widely deserving of Visual Effects, Cinematography, Original Score and (maybe) Original Song.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:32 am

American Pastoral

A difficult (maybe impossible) novel to adapt and this films really flounders. Most of the blame will be rightfully be placed on the screenplay, but no one gets away clean. McGregor demonstrates some minor directorial chops - I'd be interested in seeing him take on a thriller or something where he can get his calisthenics in before returning to "serious" material - but he drops the ball regarding the performances. It's one of those films that is less than the sum of it's parts, but at best, most of the parts are competent.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 09, 2016 3:43 pm

Hell or High Water, this summer's indie cause celebre, has some things to recommend it. There are interesting plot elements, the dialogue is fresh and has some snap, and Jeff Bridges is pretty much wonderful. (Had he not won that career Oscar, there'd be a maybe-successful effort to win it for him here in support. He may well get the nomination even now.)

But, as is the case with so many dead-season entries, I think people a bit overstate its merits. (THOUGH I'LL BE MOSTLY VAGUE HERE, SOME PLOT SPOILERS MAY BLEED THROUGH) Its plot is interesting but not especially ingeniously worked/mapped out. In fact, when I got to the end, I found myself imagining the plot reworked to disclose information in a more unraveling sort of way (possibly through the investigation of the Bridges character). As it is, we get the central "why-they-dunnit" info plunked down all at once, mid-film, with the rest of the story playing out somewhat routinely. I'm thinking the filmmakers might respond that they were making a social-statement film, about the evils of banks, not a thriller -- but I'd answer that I don't think their story/gestalt is strong enough to stand alone as social drama: it'd work better as serious undercarriage to a heist-y thriller.

Restructuring might also unmuddle some of the morality of the characters' actions. I was unclear at the end whether Pine's character had been ruthlessly using Foster's brother character -- certain he'd behave the way he did, to Pine's advantage-- or if things just turned out the way they did and Pine was as surprised as we were. The final scene tried to raise these issues, but I thought they did so in an opaque way. I'm fine with nuanced moral judgments; I'm less patient with purely murky ones.

Foster's character is, by me, one of the film's weakest elements. If there's anything I'm tired of in films, it's the loose cannon/rattlesnake character, who might do something phenomenally stupid or reckless at any moment. To me, it's lazy writing: it gives the scripter free rein to have him do anything without regard for common sense. And casting Ben Foster in the role? -- remember when people said casting Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela was redundant? Ditto here.

I also did a "Huh?" when Bridges, having stood in one place for about 24 hours, declaring it the clear way to play, suddenly comes up with a new plan on a moment's notice, for no particular reason.

The "blame the banks" theme is probably helping make the movie popular (it's something of a lift from Bonnie and Clyde), and it has its ingenious aspects, plus some nuance attached (Bridges' partner noting the people now being robbed of their land had their own ancestor-history of land-grabbing). But the political analyst in me couldn't help noting that, geographically/demographically, the characters in the film have probably spent the past few decades voting for exactly the people who made the bank perfidy possible, so my sympathy for them was somewhat muted.

Now that I've unloaded all this way, I have to caution that I didn't dislike the movie at all. It's a brisk enough 100 minutes, and, as an original script, it's somewhat on a par with Ex Machina -- another off-season success I found overrated but which was decent and well-liked enough it got Academy nominations. I'd say Hell or High Water could match that film's writing/acting nods next January, and wouldn't be entirely undeserving. Just don't go expecting a knockout.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby taki15 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:57 pm

Ok, first time I do that and English isn't my mother tongue, so be gentle.

Suicide Squad (2016)

★★★

An unscrupulous government agent rounds up the worst super-villains and recruits them to form a black ops team against supernatural threats that can't be defeated by normal military means.

Despite the poisonous word-of-mouth that afflicted its release, "Suicide Squad" isn't the worst superhero/comic book adaptation ever. Not even close. But that doesn't mean that it's very good either. As a matter of fact, taking under consideration the potential of its prime material, "disappointing" and "wasted opportunity" are more accurate descriptions of this flick.
The opening act which introduces our (anti)heroes and chronicles their capture and recruitment is strong and engaging. But when the main story starts, everything goes south. Hackneyed plotting and unoriginal action abound, and everything culminates into a climax that will leave only precious few satisfied. Granted, the movie never becomes mind-numbingly boring (like "Superman Returns") or hopelessly trashy (like "Batman & Robin"). But that's what we call damning with faint praise.

The main reason the film not only survives but is quite enjoyable are its actors. Will Smith as Deadshot turns on his charisma and gets the maximum out of his character. The fact that he has the most detailed and simple backstory helps immensely of course. Margot Robbie is deliciously sexy and unhinged as Harley Quinn. She even manages to make a couple of clunky one-liners sound good. The rest of the cast deserves kudos for not embarrassing themselves despite portraying paper-thin characters that look more like a screenwriter's pawns. Even the usually wooden Jai Courtney and Joel Kinnaman are quite good.

As a piece of mindless entertainment, "Suicide Squad" can be considered semi-successful. It won't set your world on fire but you won't be feeling robbed afterwards either. As usually with over-hyped franchises, the hostile reaction is more indicative of the moviegoers' heightened expectations than the quality of what's presented on-screen.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:21 pm

DON'T BREATHE
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minette, Daniel Zovatto.
Dir: Fede Alvarez.

Three young thieves break into the house of a blind Army veteran to steal his money only to get more than what they bargained for when they find out the blind man isn't as helpless as he seems. Fede Alvarez did a fairly solid job of remaking Evil Dead a couple of years ago. It's nice to see him tackle something original this time and really show his chops. This is a scary and inventive horror film that actually builds more on character and tension rather than cheap scares and shock value. It's also refreshing that there was an effort made to not make characters do stupid and unbelievable things for the sake of the plot like in many horror films and an effort to not write them in familiar tropes. It has been an unusually good year for mainstream horror cinema, I must say.

Oscar Prospects: None but something has to be said for this film's cinematography and sound mixing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:01 pm

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
Cast: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Ellie Kemper, Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress (voices).
Dir: Chris Renaud.

After his owner brings home an intrusive newcomer, a little dog plots to get rid of himself. This results in both of them getting lost and having to find their way back home. If that story sounds familiar, it's the exact same plot of the firstToy Story. It even follows similar narrative beats. Though, obviously, this is nowhere near as great as Toy Story, it's an okay feature-length animated film with good animation and some colorful and funny characters. Louis CK is good as the lead dog but Kevin Hart steals the show as a crazy rabbit. It's certainly no PIXAR but it's far from horrible. It's entertaining enough.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature seems competitive this year. There's no room for filler. This one will have a tough time getting in. Alexandre Desplat's score is pretty good though.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:57 am

There's nothing much to say about Southside with You. If you want to see a dramatic (I use that word very loosely) reenactment of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson's first date, have it at hoss. It's always nice to see a movie where two intelligent people court each other, but it's reigned in by a suffocating respect for authenticity. Watching the film, it's not difficult to lapse into sorting the film into two piles: written dialogue and pulled quotes. Remove the importance that the viewer puts up on these two on the screen, and it's the story of a black lawyer at a white law-firm who is exhausted at leading a double-life both in and out of work. She barely has an opinion of dating Barack because the idea of it just sends her mind into potential ramifications. Both Tika Sumpter (who is a bit too studied but with the harder role) and Parker Sawyer convince the viewer that you're watching two people who have no idea that they're destined for "superhuman" greatness (to reference a comment made by Barack early in the film) but it's effective and it's perfectly timed for saying goodbye to our 44th President in a more graceful way than Oliver Stone's W.

That said, it's a slight affair, poorly-shot, baiting nostalgia somewhat successfully, but it ends up feeling somewhere between tribute and pointless.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:56 pm

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Christian MacKay, Alan Corduner.
Dir: Stephen Frears.

During the 1940's, A rich heiress living in New York decides to become an opera singer. She becomes a sensation but for all the wrong reasons. (Hint: Basically, she was the 1940's equivalent of William Hung). I'm personally surprised I liked this as much as I did. I thought it was going to be a nice, fluffy little biopic and in a way it is. But I didn't expect this to be as funny, sweet and moving as it was. Largely thanks to Meryl Streep's performance. Yes, Meryl Streep gave a great performance. Big deal. But her gifts are well utilized here. This character could have easily been a ridiculous cartoon but she made us feel for her even though we may laugh at her ridiculousness. She's matched by both Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg as her husband and accompanying pianist respectively. It may not be the most exciting film out there but it's a delightful, solid little dramedy.

Oscar Prospects: Streep obviously may have one spot locked up. Hugh Grant is actually a co-lead here even though I think he will be campaigned as Supporting (which Simon Helberg is). Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling are all strong possibilities.

Grade: B+

WAR DOGS
Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana De Armas, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub.
Dir: Todd Philips.

Based on a true story, this is about two twenty-somethings who find and sell weapons to the U.S. army during the second Iraqi War. It tracks their rise to their meteoric downfall. This film is basically what director Todd Philips seemed to be heading to as the Hangover movies become darker and progressively shot more like thrillers than comedies. But still, even though it's slickly made and is filled with great ideas, this film falls horribly short. It clearly wants to be a Wolf of Wall Street-type of dark comedy but the serious elements and comedic elements doesn't seem to jive with each other well. Plus is it just me or does anyone else think Todd Philips simply can't write women? There's one female character here and she's severely underwritten and barely serviceably acted by someone who's attractive and nothing more.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:17 pm

I kind of hate to be a grouch about something as amiable as Florence Foster Jenkins, but I have to admit that I wasn't all that taken by it, especially compared to some of you guys. For me, this was a lot closer to Mrs. Henderson Presents Stephen Frears than The Queen Stephen Frears. I think the movie benefits from an overall air of likability, and certainly a game cast -- this is the kind of part twenty-first century Meryl just has a field day with, Hugh Grant hasn't been this light on his feet in a long time, and Nina Arianda is a dumb blonde hoot. (I would emphatically NOT include Simon Helberg on this list, who is the one member of the cast who I thought just needed to take everything down about five notches.)

But I think the movie suffers from two significant problems. The first is simply that there just isn't that much incident in the story. About half way through the movie, I found myself thinking, this plot hasn't extended much further beyond what I saw in the trailer. Florence Foster Jenkins sings badly but doesn't know it, starts singing in public, and then becomes something of a popular phenomenon...and up until the last reel of the movie, that's virtually all that happens. There are other elements woven in -- a traumatic backstory for Florence, the peculiarity of the relationship between Florence and her husband -- but none of these are fleshed out in any particularly impactful way. For a while, I started to feel like the movie pretty much had one joke up its sleeve -- Meryl sings badly! -- and I could only watch so many scenes of that before I got antsy.

The movie, eventually, does reveal that it has a bit more on its mind, but this led to what I felt was the other big issue: I don't think the filmmakers quite worked out what their take on the Florence Foster Jenkins story is. For much of the movie, the audience is invited -- no, encouraged -- to laugh as much as possible at Florence and her antics. And then comes the scene that flipp cites, where it seems like all of a sudden the movie views such laughter as cruel, and now wants us to sympathize with -- and even cheer for -- a woman just trying her best, no matter that her talent is abysmal. (The fact that Nina Arianda's character is the one who emblematizes the movie's shift in attitude -- and that her own character's change of heart is completely unmotivated and out of the blue -- brings out the problem even more.) It seems like there COULD be rich material to mine here, particularly if the movie had had a stronger point of view on what Grant is doing and why -- why he's in a relationship with her at all, why he's willing to encourage her to the point of public embarrassment, and why he might even realize that a bad product that's raking in money might possibly be a worthier investment than a good one that isn't. But instead I thought the movie didn't go much deeper than, "you go, girl!", and that, for me, was a disappointment.

SPOILER ABOUT THE ENDING OF THE MOVIE

Also, can I just point out how much I HATE endings where the protagonist articulates a very clear theme statement as their literal last words before dying?

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:28 am

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Ann Dowd, Missi Pyle, Erin Moriarty.
Dir: Matt Ross.

A hippie, far-left father of six who's raising his kids completely off the grid in the woods of the Pacific Northwest finds out his bi-polar wife killed herself and takes a trip to her funeral against his father-in-law's wishes. This would have easily have been an annoying, smug and too-quirky-for-its-own good indie but thanks to the more nuanced writing and characterization, as well as Viggo Mortensen's great performance, this film didn't suffer too much of those flaws. It does flirt with them occasionally, particularly towards the end. However, the film mostly avoids these missteps and presents us with a thought-provoking comedy-drama about an unusual family. Kudos as well to the kid actors who play the kids.

Oscar Prospects: Viggo Mortensen wouldn't be a bad Best Actor nominee.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:51 pm

Okri wrote: I'm not quite sure what to make of Indignation except to say I'm VERY curious what Tee thinks of it and there's a stunning scene partway through that might go down as the best writing of the year.

Look further down: I started a thread on it.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:35 pm

Did a double feature of Pete's Dragon and Indignation.

The former is a kid's film. I have no nostalgia for the original and can't definitely say if I've seen it or not. But it's made with enough feeling that it's passable, though I was definitely getting bored. My favourite moment came from an audience. The titular character is in peril and a kid in the back cried "are they going to hurt the dragon?" and spent the next portion of the film audibly worried.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Indignation except to say I'm VERY curious what Tee thinks of it and there's a stunning scene partway through that might go down as the best writing of the year.


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