The Official Review Thread of 2012

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sabin » Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:00 pm

anonymous1980 wrote
I guess I'm a little bit more forgiving of a film because I actually PAY to see them with my own money. If it's somewhat entertaining, I tend to give it a C. Plus I usually avoid films I know I'm probably going to hate. If I give anything below a C to a movie I paid to see, it has to be really bad. One example would be 10,000 B.C..

I'm less forgiving.


The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)

It’s just as difficult to talk about The Cabin in the Woods without giving away the plot twist as it is to talk about Drew Goddard as much as Joss Whedon. Goddard is an incredibly successful television writer who moved onto features, writing Cloverfield, co-writing and directing this excellent curio. Once we see some of the very high-profile assignments he has underway perhaps it will be easier to do so, but there is so much in this film that is so quintessentially Whedon, a sensibility that flourished in the apple-cheeked WB of yesteryear.

SPOILERS AHEAD, SO SAYS THE HARBINGER

Every here on the level? Good.

There is a big difference between clever and funny. Clever is all about the concept and funny is about the moments. Clever often fails to invoke laughter because it can easily get tangled up in smug. One of Joss Whedon’s greatest skills is walking that tightrope between clever and funny. Fans of Buffy know that the vampire attacks serve more often as throwaway gags than act breaks in any given episode. Joss Whedon understands (just as Charlie Kaufman and those PIXAR nerds do) that clever is only funny when something is happening on a human scale. And first and foremost, Joss Whedon is a generous humanist interested in using concept to explore behavior. Generous to the point where every stock character is given a through-line or an inner-life regardless of whether or not it is necessary. Take the very subtle yearning glances that Amy Acker’s operative gives Brian White’s stoic guard, and the way that she back-peddles on the morality of this company’s actions when she thinks he might disapprove. I suppose it demonstrates the banality of evil, but mostly it’s just a wonderful bit of flavor to a functionary character.

The Cabin in the Woods has one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” notions that is just infuriating. It’s so damn clever. There is a corporation that has a vested interest in staging the terrifying events of a horror to satiate the Ancient Gods who demand sacrifice. The five archetypes must be done away with in a specific order or else the Ancient Gods will rise again and destroy this world – a world where presumably horror movies don’t exist on the screen, and only in life. Nobody seems to mention horror movies. Stoner Marty (Fran Kranz) leaps towards a more universal Puppets vs. Puppeteer revelation, as he notices that his friends are all acting drastically out of character in this cabin. Jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth, years before Thor) isn’t usually this drunk and boorish. Being in a cabin just turns every jock into an asshole. Why? Because pheromones are being pumped into his room by the company to elicit a specific reaction. And why would anybody split up to cover more ground when they’re clearly safer in one group? Nothing in the film is more zombie-like than the manner in which Hemsworth utters “Wait. Let’s split up. We’ll cover more ground.”

We shift back and forth from this group of five teens to the Company – I don’t recall getting a name of it, so I’ll just refer to it as the Company – and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) as they mastermind every horror movie cliché from a distance, just as they do around the world. And they’re doing a terrible job worldwide. One glorious throwaway joke features an ending to a J-Horror movie that wouldn’t be out of place in Sailor Moon. Jenkins and especially Whitford are hilarious together, and visibly earnest in their duties. We learn as the film goes along that, yes, their actions do stay off global destruction. But at what cost? In the film’s most inspired sequence, Kristen Connelly’s Dana is at her endgame. It doesn’t matter if the virginal heroine dies in a horror movie, so long as she suffers. The Company celebrates with libations, because they are literally at the point where it does not matter if a human lives or dies. Their task is complete. They schmooze indifferent to Dana’s plight, as she is tossed around and beaten by a zombie on giant, wall-like screens behind them.

It’s easy to see where Goddard and Whedon are going with this. Whenever we watch a horror film, the filmmakers are the Company and we are the Ancient Gods. We demand suffering for our satisfaction. That’s not a new point. Until The Cabin in the Woods builds to an incredibly satisfying third act, I found it incredibly clever and funny, but I was always asking myself where this film is going. If it was just about being clever. If it was just going to indict the audience along with every other audience and earn my brownie points for exploiting the concept fully. There’s really no way to root against anybody in this film. Whitford and Jenkins are too intriguing, the carrot of why they do what they do is dangled so enticingly before us that we can’t hate them. This is especially true because The Cabin in the Woods is clearly a satire. And you can’t root against the Teenagers, all of whom are very endearing plays from the genre handbook.

So what’s it all about?

The Cabin in the Woods builds to a conclusion where it all comes down to sacrifice. Two friends given the choice of throwing their lives away to prevent the end of the world, possibly forced to kill each other. It’s a line in the sand that one of them won’t cross, saying quite plainly that if this world demands that a friend kill a friend for this world to keep turning, then this world isn’t worth saving. It comes from a throwaway line earlier inspired from a routine toke session, but this character has the courage to go through with it. It’s a beautifully gutsy sentiment that took me by surprise. After eighty minutes of clever, possibly hollow entertainment, I was pretty moved. I don’t know why I should be surprised. Joss Whedon doesn’t just walk a tightrope between the clever and the funny. It’s also between the epic and human scales. The Cabin in the Woods gets pretty epic, but it stays very human.

Goddard deserves all the credit in the world for coming up with this concept and for pulling it off. He has helmed what is likely to be one of the most enjoyable pieces of entertainment this year. That it’s likely to be remembered as the first of the three Whedon Joints we’re to receive this year marks it as the kind of pyrrhic victory where in my opinion he can go cry on a bag of money and future projects if he must.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:40 am

Bog wrote:I gotta give you credit anonymous, you get out there to see all the crap right away, and none of it ever gets below a C. I don't even have the guts to see Battleship at the dollar theater, I'm going to resign myself to knowing it'd be a solid F-


I guess I'm a little bit more forgiving of a film because I actually PAY to see them with my own money. If it's somewhat entertaining, I tend to give it a C. Plus I usually avoid films I know I'm probably going to hate. If I give anything below a C to a movie I paid to see, it has to be really bad. One example would be 10,000 B.C..

THE AVENGERS
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jenny Agutter, Powers Boothe, Jerzy Skolimowski, Paul Bettany.
Dir: Joss Whedon.

A million different things could have gone wrong with a film adaptation of The Avengers. It could have easily have been a ridiculous, bloated, silly train wreck of a film. Even after the news that Joss Whedon, a man whose works I have loved and admired in the past, is gonna be writing and directing it, I was at best cautiously optimistic. What he managed to do with this film is short of being truly miraculous. He took multiple larger-than-life characters and created a cohesive and compelling, near-perfect narrative while putting on a spectacular, exciting piece of popcorn entertainment where nearly every element works well. It's got great dramatic character moments but a the same time an organic sense of humor about it. It's the first Marvel film that I truly want to see again.

Oscar Prospects: If The Dark Knight Rises disappoints, look for fan boys to push this for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay but I doubt it. It's a strong contender for the usual tech categories: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Art Direction.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:18 pm

Oh ok. Well Italian critics are a bit tougher I guess.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:34 pm

I'm pretty sure Marshall is British.

You say "More or less positive reaction". I'd call it "middling". It's about as close a mediocre review can get to being mistaken for a good review, although it's a gold star compared to your savaging, Marco.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:45 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:The first English language review of To Rome With Love that I could find had this interesting bit of info:

"Allen’s latest premiered in Italy a good two months before its debut in the US (where Sony Pictures Classics will give it a limited release on 22 June, a week after the film does the opening honours at the Los Angeles Film Festival). This has a lot to do with the muscle of majority backer Medusa Film, but is hardly calculated to give the film a good send-off, given the Italian critics’ predictably lukewarm reception to a film that was widely dismissed for peddling outdated Dolce Vita stereotypes.

"Such was the nervousness surrounding the film’s Italian head-start that the international press were barred from the preview screening and no English-language copies were released, so the current review relates, of necessity, to the dubbed Italian version. However large swathes of dialogue – including the entirety of the Roberto Benigni episode – are in Italian in any case (which could also put a brake on the film’s international prospects, with long subtitled passages already on view in the US trailer)."

http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/the- ... 27.article

I can only assume the reviewer, Lee Marshall, is fluent in Italian.

As for those put off by how unrealistic the film's depction of Rome (or Paris; or Barcelona; or London) is, all I can say is: Welcome to Woody's New York City.



I guess that American critics will like this movie more than Italian critics did - though, if this Lee Marshall is fluent enough in Italian to understand the dubbed version, he should also know ITALY (the real Italy I mean), so his more or less positive reaction is quite surprising honestly.

I must also say that the combined factors of Woody Allen + Rome + Roberto Benigni have made To Rome with Love the most successful movie at the box office in its first two days (1.6 million euros, not bad at all), though it's very possible that word of mouth will change things in the next weeks.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:58 am

The first English language review of To Rome With Love that I could find had this interesting bit of info:

"Allen’s latest premiered in Italy a good two months before its debut in the US (where Sony Pictures Classics will give it a limited release on 22 June, a week after the film does the opening honours at the Los Angeles Film Festival). This has a lot to do with the muscle of majority backer Medusa Film, but is hardly calculated to give the film a good send-off, given the Italian critics’ predictably lukewarm reception to a film that was widely dismissed for peddling outdated Dolce Vita stereotypes.

"Such was the nervousness surrounding the film’s Italian head-start that the international press were barred from the preview screening and no English-language copies were released, so the current review relates, of necessity, to the dubbed Italian version. However large swathes of dialogue – including the entirety of the Roberto Benigni episode – are in Italian in any case (which could also put a brake on the film’s international prospects, with long subtitled passages already on view in the US trailer)."

http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/the- ... 27.article

I can only assume the reviewer, Lee Marshall, is fluent in Italian.

As for those put off by how unrealistic the film's depction of Rome (or Paris; or Barcelona; or London) is, all I can say is: Welcome to Woody's New York City.
"What the hell?"

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sabin » Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:44 am

Well, he may have originally titled it The Bop Decameron, but it sounds like the quality of the film is more akin to something as banal as To Rome with Love.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:31 am

Sonic Youth wrote:
ITALIANO wrote: and at least provides us with a chance to admire the great tenor Fabio Armiliato's voice (he plays the boyfriend's father, who, in the only nice idea in the whole movie, gloriously sings opera but only under the shower).


Flashback to my childhood:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0580248/plotsummary



Yes, well, it's exactly the same story... Let's say that it's a hommage to The Flintstones, then...

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:39 am

ITALIANO wrote: and at least provides us with a chance to admire the great tenor Fabio Armiliato's voice (he plays the boyfriend's father, who, in the only nice idea in the whole movie, gloriously sings opera but only under the shower).


Flashback to my childhood:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0580248/plotsummary
"What the hell?"

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:15 am

Woody Allen's To Rome with Love is, simply, a disaster. I don't see as many movies as I used to when I was younger, so I tend to avoid those that I know are bad - which include most from the latest phase of Allen's career; and for example I only went to see Midnight in Paris after reading the glowing reviews it got from respected members of this board. It turned out, needless to say, to be a complete waste of time - Oscar or not Oscar - but believe me: it's a masterpiece compared to this one. I wasn't even angry - I was embarassed. Embarassed for him, I mean - this may be the worst movie ever made by a director of Allen's reputation, and if I sound exaggerated, go and check - but at your own risk.

Rome is Rome and it's wonderful, though unimaginatively shot - most of the touristic attractions are there, but so they were in Jean Negulesco's Rome, and Allen's Rome isn't less conventionally pretty. Actually, at least Negulesco made Rome, while absurdly cliched, a main character in the storyline of his movie - in Allen's case, it's just a background, a postcard, but it could be any other big European city. You see Rome but you don't feel it.

Italian women in this movie wear humble dresses with flower designs which would have been out of fashion in 1955, and they grab the first knife they find when they get upset; men and women wave their arms as they last time did in The Secret of Santa Vittoria. But as this is a comedy, an American comedy, one can't even complain - Allen would reply that he used such cliches intentionally, as Italy in this movie is seen from a foreigner's point of view. But unlike some critics I didn't find this side of To Rome with Love especially annoying - there are much worse problems about it.

Overlong and sloppily written, the movie is composed of four episodes, which never connect (a la California Suite) and are flatly edited: one scene from episode 1, one scene from episode 2, etc. The "best" episode features Woody Allen and Judy Davis as an American couple visiting their daughter's Italian boyfriend and his family; unlike the rest of the movie, it is slightly funny at times - I smiled once or twice - and at least provides us with a chance to admire the great tenor Fabio Armiliato's voice (he plays the boyfriend's father, who, in the only nice idea in the whole movie, gloriously sings opera but only under the shower). Then there's an unresolved episode with Alec Baldwin, as a successful architect who once studied in Rome, meeting a young student of architecture - Jesse Eisenberg - and witnessing (or re-living?) his tentative love affair with neurotic would-be actress Ellen Page. It doesn't go anywhere and it leads to an uninventive ending, but it's still better than the two other episodes, which are more "Italian", and played by Italian actors speaking their - our - own language. One is a copy (a hommage?) of Fellini's early hit The White Sheikh, about young, provincial, shy husband and wife (from Pordenone, a town in the North, though they speak with a strong Roman accent) getting to the big city, losing each other, and both separately experiencing new, exciting sexual adventures (the husband with Penelope Cruz as an Italian high-class prostitute whom he passes off as his wife to his Roman relatives - rather unrealistically, as Cruz's Italian, while certainly good, still preserves its Spanish accent). It's a childish, amateurish effort, much worse - as local critics have pointed out - and much less funny than similar episodes in the most commercial so-called Italian "comedies", those made by the infamous duo the Vanzina brothers. And then there's the much talked-about Roberto Benigni episode, a sort of metaphor of success - with him as an ordinary man suddenly becoming, for no reason, "famous". Benigni's wife and frequent co-star, actress Nicoletta Braschi - a kind of Italian Yoko Ono - emphatically isn't in it, and famously tried to convince her husband not to accept this role (she's even refused to appear at the movie's highly publicized world premiere); for the first time she may have been right - the episode is repetitive, obvious, and Benigni himself too (intentionally) subdued - Woody Allen may have given us a "new", "diferent" Benigni, but the old one was better and more genuine.

For the Italian audience there's an almost pathetic side: the movie is literally full of important Italian actors, most of them in bit roles, a la The Longest Day. It's not just distracting - and won't be distracting at all for American viewers, as the only face they might recognize is Ornella Muti's, who was once a big name here and also made a few international movies; it's humiliating, too. Some are young stars of today's Italian cinema (like Riccardo Scamarcio or Antonio Albanese, who is actually good as a pompous film actor - the Alberto Sordi role in The White Sheikh), others are respected stage performers (like Lina Sastri, Giuseppe Pambieri or Mariano Rigillo), and there are even cult actors from the legendary "genre" movies of the 70s (like former sexy queen Maria Rosaria Omaggio or spaghetti western icon Giuliano Gemma). They were so desperate to appear in a Woody Allen movie that they accepted one-line roles unworthy of their reputation and of their talent - and generally they aren't even good saying that one line, because Allen is obviously unconfortable directing people who don't act in English, and honestly as a result the Italian cast in To Rome with Love acts dreadfully.

There's no need for a movie like this - except maybe to provide Woody Allen and his family with a holiday in an exotic location - but, I mean, no artistic, or narrative, need. The movie is as banal and useless as its title. Which by the way should have originally been Bop Decameron - a reference to Boccaccio's masterpiece. Allen changed it because, according to him, even in Italy nobody knows what the Decameron is. This isn't true - anyone here knows the book, and not only because countless successful movies have been made of sections of it (the most famous being the Pasolini one), but also because, as it is one of the early examples of Italian literature, we all must study it at school. But at least it's good that the great Boccaccio's name isn't connected to this terrible movie.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Bog » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:06 am

I gotta give you credit anonymous, you get out there to see all the crap right away, and none of it ever gets below a C. I don't even have the guts to see Battleship at the dollar theater, I'm going to resign myself to knowing it'd be a solid F-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:55 am

BATTLESHIP
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgaard, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol, Gregory D. Gadson, Adam Godley.
Dir: Peter Berg.

I had low expectations coming into this film. I would have to say that this is Michael Bay-lite. It's got most of the tropes of a Michael Bay movie with less sexism, homopobia, racism and obnoxious humor that often goes along with it. The film is highly predictable and the script is strictly of Screenwriting 101 variety with the expected script problems of a film of this magnitude has: cliche, groan inducing lines, ridiculous plot developments, etc. But still, with my low expectations, I found it to be entertaining with a couple of pretty good action set pieces. Taylor Kitsch further shows that he's got potential to be a great movie star (though this will not be the one) and Rihanna acquits herself well in her acting debut. Overall, inoffensive but unremarkable.

Oscar Prospects: Maybe Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sabin » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:15 am

Friends with Kids (Jennifer Westfeldt)

I haven't had a kid. But you know what's also stressful? Producing, starring, directing, and writing a low budget feature shooting in New York. Friends with Kids is Jennifer Westfeldt's kid, and it shows because she doesn't look like she's having any fun. And for the star of a romantic comedy, that's kind of important, right? Aside from the fact that she has a woefully inexpressive face, the workload couldn't have done much to help with things. Everyone else is goofing around and having a good time, and she is not. And with such a cast [of her friends], perhaps she should have just stayed behind the camera for this one or given herself a smaller role. I totally get why she didn't, but it's impossible to talk about the film without discussing Westfeldt.

She has a great leading man in Adam Scott, but he seems alone on camera. They don't have chemistry. You can argue that this is the point, but they don't really even seem like the kind of friends that would survive this many failed relationships. As for the film itself, it throttles forward incredibly quickly from one overlapping conversation to another, and I kind of liked that for a little bit, but it's all covering up the fact that as a director she doesn't really know how to delve into her characters' emotions and as a writer she hasn't constructed a narrative that compelling to begin with. Funny bits here and there, but it's far too tidy.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby Sabin » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:12 pm

Damels in Distress (Whit Stillman)

Well, we're now three months done with 2012 and all I've seen is the new Soderbergh and now the new Whit Stillman. And alas, I'm not a fan of this one either.

I've yet to see Barcelona, but I very much enjoy The Last Days of Disco and (although it's pretty badly acted) Metropolitan. After over a decade out of the scene, Whit Stillman is back like you've never seen him before!

Literally.

Oh, the interest in social niches and the conformities and little hypocrisies therein is still very much on his mind. But so is comedy, and that's the problem. Hal of the characters in Damsels in Distress are caricatures and the other half are, y'know, Whit Stillman characters, and the ship is always in danger of capsizing. To put it simply, broad comedy in a Whit Stillman movie does not work because said caricatures can't help but run off with the film. His dependably dour, introspective creations (usually not very well acted) can't hold onto the screen when it's shared with a Frat Boy who doesn't know his colors. "But that okay! I came here to, like, learn, y'know?" At least all of the Frat Boys are caricatures. Outside of that group, there is no rhyme or reason to why anybody is the kind of ridiculous that they are.

I think the casting and direction of Greta Gerwig's Violet is fundamentally wrong-headed. Although the film ostensibly begins as Analeigh Tipton's Lily (quite good in Crazy, Stupid, Love) is recruited by Gerwig's Violet, who has placed herself in charge of preventing suicidal young women from following through. It's a charming premise. She is joined by Carrie MacLemore's Heather and Megalyn Echikunwoke's Rose. They are both very astute caricatures who deliver their lines precisely and amusingly. Gerwig's Violet begins as an almost schoolmarmish outsider with a lot of antiquated ideas and a nosy streak. As the film progresses, she becomes Kerri Russell from Waitress, a woman perennially flowering and blossoming, but with more than a dash of crazy. And by the end, she's...well...Greta Gerwig. There is no consistency to her character. If the film presented her as a more forcefully comedic individual, I think it could work. But instead, she's just all over the place. The film never decides what to make of her.

Or the suicide prevention angle, which is an amusing enough idea that the film does nothing with. The film feels like it was drastically cut after its festival run. Aubrey Plaza and Alia Shawkat show up randomly and then disappear, in what I can only assume were larger roles.

Yeah. Not a fan.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2012

Postby rolotomasi99 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:33 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:I don't think I've sat alone in a movie theater since... hmmm, since "Rivers and Tides", the 2001 documentary about artist Andy Goldsworthy, which I remember because I had to complain to the manager for not starting the movie. And that was on a weeknight at the arthouse.


Oh my gawd, I love that movie! It was a big hit in the small art house theatre in my hippie home town. I went to see it twice. I was able to see a Goldsworthy piece in Washington, D.C. Very cool. :D
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