Ready or Not ★★★★☆

What starts off as a simple family initiation ceremony with the in laws………..soon turns out to be a bit more sinister than your usual game of Monopoly. With an all star cast and plenty of dark humour to spare, it’s a nice Halloween treat! That ending though………

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell


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Stuber ★★★★☆

It’s a clash of two worlds as everyday man Stu, picks up the wrong customer in his Uber. A rugged vengeful cop drags our reluctant hero into a crime fuelled escapade. It’s good honest fun!

Directed by Michael Dowse

Starring Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Natalie Morales, Iko Uwais


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Review / Slenderman ★☆☆☆☆

Joey King

Seeing as it’s Halloween, it’s only appropriate to look back upon one of the slew of horror movies that have come out this year, but one in particular stood out, and it was so shambolic, it’s pretty much nailed on for one of the worst films of 2018!

Slenderman was all over the internet 4-5 years ago, the myth, the memes, the buzz, about our suited up stalker in the wood was at its peak, and of course there would be a movie cash in for it.  It’s now 2018, and the chance to capitalize on this trend has long gone, and unfortunately, it’s a horrendous effort that really should have been buried away in the archive room.

A group of teenage girls decide to summon our friend from the occult after hearing the rumors going around school. After one of the group suddenly goes missing, the friends realize maybe it wasn’t a prank after all.

The main issue with Slenderman was that it was coming off the Slenderman murder case which took place in the States back in 2014. With the film being released as that case was coming to a close, meant the studio was in an awkward situation.  What ended up happening is that vast chucks of the movie were removed. The trailers for this film are far more sinister and dark, compared to the toned down mess they ended up releasing, with key scenes missing, the film simply jumps all over the place, and they don’t even bother filming even the smallest of scenes to explain the jumps. You can see in the video below just how much of the film is removed.

Our main protagonist, Hallie, is totally unlikable, even while her friends start to go missing, she is far more interested in hooking up with her crush and making sure she looks cool.  Wren, her best mate, who ends up being driven mad, does her best to at least solve things at least, but Hallie, just yells at her to move on, ignorant to the ominous threat that her close friends are suddenly dying. While another character shows signs of being stalked/possessed, and everything builds up to a particular scene at school, but nope, nothing happens, and you never see her again. From the trailers you can see there was supposed to be a moment of dread here, but its cut, and the character is never addressed again! The scares are awfully weak too, if your neighbor was checking to see if you are safe, why would they be moving around the house in a creepy murderer like fashion? For drama?

It seems like the studio only had permission to film in the woods nearby, so the film spends a large chuck in the forest. School, forest, home, forest, school, forest. It’s almost comical how often they always end up back in the woods for some other reason. Slenderman himself is ok, but once he reveals himself totally, he loses all sense of dread, and is a CGI mess by the end.. He is far more sinister as a character when he is hovering in the background, looming. The movie also thinks showing clips of the clouds in the woods is scary, and constantly uses it as a transition between scenes!

All in all, there really isn’t anything good to say about this movie, but it’s worth a watch if you really want a scare on Halloween!!

Game Night’s A Winner

Starring Patrick Bateman & Rachel McAdams, as a super competitive, game loving couple, their weekly game nights with their friends takes a turn for the worst. What was meant to start off as a murder mystery night, soon becomes entangled with smuggling, law enforcement and organised crime!

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What on paper, looks like a pretty generic comedy, turns out to be a witty & amusing ride. We have our leading couple,  Max (Bateman) & Annie (McAdams), who regularly host a weekly game night with fellow couples. you have the typical childhood sweethearts couple, Kevin & Michelle, played wonderfully by Lamorne Morris & Kylie Bunbury).  They are also joined by Ryan (Billy Magnussen), a young and charming chap, though he may not be the brightest, his the one who brings a different date every week. Following the visit of Max’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), whom Max feels overshadowed by, from his successful career to his lavish lifestyle. His brother decides to step things up one night, and instead of the usual board games, ups the anti to a murder mystery night. Though it’s not before long, that things end up taking a more sinister turn!

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Game Night by far surpasses any expectation you may have coming into it. All the characters play off excellently off their partner. Bateman and McAdams both have such enthusiasm in their roles,  you warm to them right away, their interactions are hilarious, especially during their impromptu backstreet surgery! Ryan’s date for the night, is not one of his usual Instagram addicted models,  but the rather well educated, and well spoken Sarah. Their polar personality clash works perfectly here.  There is also one hilarious ongoing joke that runs throughout,  between Kevin & Michelle, and a certain famous movie star.  Jess Plemons as the creepy recently divorced neighbor Gary is an absolute scene sealer whenever he appears, he by far brings the most laughs to this flick. There’s also appearances from Micheal C. Hall and Chelsea Peretti adding to the fun.

A quick shout out to the cinematography, which is surprisingly sharp for a routine comedy film.  The director makes fantastic use of tilt shift, to make the drop down shots look like pieces on a board game, and the car chases also include some pretty nifty camera work!

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While the humour is pretty much on point, the story line at times does feel for more convoluted than it really should have been. It’s OK to have one or two twists, but any more, and it starts to all look for more messy than it really should. The story would have worked perfectly fine if there was just one huge revelation, rather than the constant double bluffs. Once there are several layers to the plot, the obvious plot holes start to reveal themselves.  The film also suffers from showing pretty much all of its best jokes in the trailer. Fortunately, I never had a chance to see this trailer, so enjoyed all the jokes first time, but if I had, it probably would take away a lot of the effect.  I can understand trailers trying to sell a movie they may think is a risk, but certainly they could have cut some of the better lines and scenes out the teasers.

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Game Night is a perfect mix of comedy, wit and cringe, and works pretty much is a similar format to The Hangover, group of mates trying to figure out whats happening, with the involvement of criminals! The story-line may have become slightly entangled by the finale, but it has enough to keep you laughing throughout (Cyberdyne reference!) and is a great way to spend a night out!

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Locals: Laugh Out Loud Fun

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere of the British made “Eat Locals” at FrightFest in Leicester Square. I met the director, producers and cast, and got to watch their hilarious creation.

With a low budget of just £1.6 million, you are not expecting “Tchaikovsky” as first-time director Jason Flemyng put it in our interview, you are expecting a fun piece of cinema lovingly put together by a group of friends. And that’s exactly what we got. After quite a sincere start, you soon realise that the actors are not taking themselves so seriously, creating a more laid back (and surprisingly realistic) environment than any other modern vampire movie you will have seen – until the violence commences.

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Left to right: Freema Agyman (Angel), Vincent Regan (The Duke), Charlie Cox (Henry), Eve Myles (Vanessa), Annette Crosbie (Alice)

In a quiet country farmhouse, 8 British vampire overlords have met to discuss matters of feeding quotas and territories. Following the death of one of their own, they will also decide whether to turn or kill poor, unwitting Sebastian (Billy Cook); led to the farmhouse by sexy vamp Vanessa (Eve Myles). Before they can carry out their verdict, the vampires are interrupted by a team of Elite vampire-killers sent by the Vatican and under orders from Captain Bingham (Robert Portal) and Larousse (Mackenzie Crook), chaos and blood shed ensues.

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Eve Myles as sexy cougar “Vanessa”, leading Sebastian astray. 

The dialogue in the vampire meeting is natural but quite serious (with a slightly eerie and ominous soundtrack), making reference to some current events and expressing a few opinions on such matters (from a vampire perspective of course). The conversation devolves into quite a grim scenario, but with the introduction of Sebastian humour is injected into these scenes. This is later followed by what sounds like a pretty horrific scene between the vampires and some soldiers. This variety of scenes display a contrast of character and a breadth of acting ability; they attempt to be both modern, civilised individuals, and the viscous vampires they are. Others are just viscous vampires *cough*Tony Curran*cough*.

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Left to Right: Vincent Regan (The Duke), Henry (Charlie Cox), Angel (Freema Agyeman), Alice (Annette Crosbie), Thomas (Jordan Long), Peter Boniface (Tony Curran). 

 

Converse to Tony Curran’s crazy portrayal of vampire “Peter Boniface”; Charlie Cox, having been temporarily poached from Netflix and Marvel, plays a slightly softer vampire than some of the others. His character “Henry” is a vampire who refuses to feed on humans,  and tries to keep the peace between his fellow vampires and keep young Sebastian alive during the battle.  Between martial arts proficient Chen (Lukaz Leong) and sweet old Alice (Annette Crosbie) with an assault rifle, there’s plenty of action for everyone to sink their teeth into. And with Jason Statham directing the fights, it maintains a good level of ridiculousness.

You grow to seriously dislike “Captain Bingham” and “Larousse”, which is always key to making good villains and gets you rooting for the vampires; however, even though he was on their side, I liked “18” (Johnny Palmiero). He was terrified of the vampires and sympathetic to the Thatchers (Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones) who own the farmhouse, both of which make him smart and a good person, which I like.

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Bingham (Robert Portal)

There’s a few twists and little surprises, and many, many, MANY laughs. Everyone in the cinema was laughing along, cheering for their friends when they came on screen, and woo-ing whenever anyone did anything cool. Eve Myles was sat in front of me and believe me she was LOVING every minute of it. 

If you want something that is easy and fun to watch, and are a fan of something a little silly, you definitely need to watch this film. But ensure you begin with no expectation of this being a masterpiece of film making. The cast and crew have clearly had a fantastic time making this and we all had an awesome time watching it with them.

It’s also nice to meet people who you’ve been watching on screen for years and find out they’re genuinely nice, funny people.

And Jason, as promised, I think I’ve been pretty nice 😉

Check out the Live coverage and interviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYUi79fR1no

 

 

American Made: It’s Just Fine

Sure it’s based on a true story which sets some limits, but a change of pace here and there would have been much appreciated.

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This is the story of Barry Seal (played by Tom Cruise), a tired TWA pilot recruited by CIA agent ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) to run reconnaissance flights in Central and South America. Over the course of the movie Seal evolves into gun runner, drug smuggler for the Medellin cartel, and informant for the DEA. Through all this Barry and his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) raise a family and contribute to their community. As you can imagine, juggling so many jobs, things start to fall apart.

You’d hope that a film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman (responsible for such action-packed flicks like The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper, Fair Game, and Edge of Tomorrow) would have some excitement and good action. Especially if that movie is about a guy simultaneously working for the CIA, DEA and Escobar. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there was a lot lacking in terms of pace, excitement and much emotion of any kind. I left the cinema not really filming anything, but not quite feeling like it had been a waste of time.

The story is an interesting one and the actors play the characters well, there’s even a few decent laughs thrown in; but the film itself had no dynamics, it seemed to sit at the same level throughout. I can’t fault the actors for their portrayal, they were smart and most importantly believable; especially Sarah Wright as the wife, she was often skeptical of her husbands behaviour and was pretty vocal about it until he told her the truth.

More than likely it’s the script that has no flavour and lacks the changes in pace to make this film a little more intriguing. Unfortunately, in this case the story of Barry Seal has been narrated, but not really told.

Still better than The Mummy though….

The Hitman’s Bodyguard:Forgettable Fun

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one of those summer movies that you can watch, enjoy, and then simply forget about afterwards! Ryan Reynolds teams up with Samuel L Jackson team up as a pair of polar opposite personas, and travel across Europe leaving a trail of destruction!

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Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is a private bodyguard for all the world’s top notorious criminal overlords. Or as he would put it, a ‘Triple A Executive Protection Agent’! His glamorous lifestyle is torn to pieces after losing a premium client to an assassination. Having to go back to low key jobs, and losing his ‘Triple A’ rating, he is forced to escort Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson), a convicted hit man, to the Hague. Kincaid will testify against brutal dictator Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), in return for the release of his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek) from prison. It’s not all smooth sailing from the UK to the Netherlands, as Dukhovich’s thugs will stop at nothing to prevent Kincaid from his testimony!

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By far, the best part of the movie is the constant bickering between Reynolds & Jackson. It saves the movie from being utterly ordinary. On one side, you have Bryce, someone who lives by his rules, planning every mission to the very step, considering every possibility of failure. Then you have Kincaid, who lets his heart rule his actions, his devil-may-care attitude to life being a stark contrast.  It’s the standard formula for any onscreen partnership, and both actors do a hilarious job with their roles. Salma Hayek is also a blast, though she is pretty much the generic fiery Latino character here, seen in several movies before.

VLADISLAV DUKHOVICH (Gary Oldman) in THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD.
VLADISLAV DUKHOVICH (Gary Oldman) in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD.

The rest of the film is a play by the books number, with uninspiring characters and troupes. You have the brutal eastern European tyrant, the hot ex-girlfriend, an elite task force that get taken out within 10 minutes with only the rookie surviving, characters managing to miraculously find each other in sprawling cities! The dictator storyline could have been entirely removed, and replaced with a mafia/gang boss, and it really wouldn’t make a difference!

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Kincaid’s character is obviously given a background, in order for us to support him as the film approaches its finale, and it does work well. After all he is a serial killer, and they film does need to justify his actions. His actions may be twisted, but you can see why he is the way he is. Whereas Bryce, you never really care for his arch, and his love interest, Roussel (Elodie Yung)is just….there. Another character that could have been removed entirely to be honest!

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The film also had a habit of using a very strange filter effect, where the image would be blurred. The budget clearly wasn’t high, but the strange smudgy filter to hide some of the effects were very shoddy, You start to wonder if its the fault of the movie, or the projector!

If you enjoy a film with the buddy cop mechanic, and the wit of Reynolds & Jackson, then it won’t hurt to go check it out, but you probably won’t remember much about it after a weekend!

 

 

Atomic Blonde goes Nuclear

Atomic Blonde has the espionage of Bond and the action of John Wick; with Charlize Theron portraying the stone cold, cool-as-ice, and stunningly sexy agent Lorraine Broughton.

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Set during the fall of the Berlin War in 1989, though not related to this historic event whatsoever, we follow MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton in her journey to Berlin to investigate the murder of fellow agent James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) and to locate “The List”. As in many Cold War spy thrillers, “The List” is a piece of microfilm containing the names of all allied field agents active in the Soviet Union and, in true Bond style, the microfilm is hidden in a wristwatch. Unfortunately, things start going wrong for Lorraine as soon as the her killer heels touch the ground, but people soon find out she is a force to be reckoned with. Lorraine’s contact in Berlin is MI6 agent and station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) who seems to have adapted to his environment a little too well, being described in the film as “feral”, and has his own rules and motives.

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Friend or foe?

The narrative is a re-telling of the events that took place in Berlin by Lorraine in an debriefing led by MI6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). Throughout the film we are thrown, both seamlessly and abruptly, between Berlin and the London interrogation room, the questions posed to Lorraine driving the story forward and building doubt and suspicion regarding everyone’s intentions.

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In stark contrast to the seriousness of other cold war and general spy thrillers, and even the background and plot of this film, David Leitch has used a combination of very stylistic components to create an entertaining, anarchistic and glam rock atmosphere. The garish neon lights, spray paint screen annotations, breaking the fourth wall, a steamy lesbian affair, a new wave score, and bold outfits give a lighter edge to this violent and bloody thriller. This style is reminiscent of films made in the ’90s depicting anarchy, disregard for rules or an anti-establishment message.

The contrast extends down to the counterculture depicted on both sides of the Berlin wall. In the West, everyone is free to dress and drink as they please, whereas, in the East, we see youths being punished for partying, the inevitable rebellion and revolution. This is reflected in Lorraine’s image as well as the atmosphere; in the West her dress and make-up is bold, provocative and punk, in the East she switches the sheer blonde for brunette and dresses plainly with minimal make-up.

The soundtrack is as killer as Theron; tracks from the likes of David Bowie, Kanye West, The Clash, Queen, Public Enemy, Health and New Order give the film power and emotion. What is particularly interesting is the use of the original song, plus a reprisal using a cover in a later scene with a very different mood. At some points this reinforced the direction of the plot, descents into chaos, loss of control and stings of emotion. With the help of composer and music supervisor Tyler Bates (composer for John Wick), Leitch has put together a playlist that compliments the non-verbal storytelling occurring in much of the film and reflects the environment and rebellion of the period.

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Yes, that’s a hose and a saucepan

As well as a killer soundtrack, this film has absolutely brutal action sequences. David Leitch’s stunt background explains the satisfaction I got from watching those scenes; he has been stunt man, double, coordinator and co-director for a number of action-heavy films (Fight Club, 300, Bourne films, Matrix films, John Wick, and the upcoming Deadpool 2). The realism Leitch has injected here is impressive and effective; Theron insisted that she do as many of the stunts as legally permitted, training for months on her strength, wrestling and Muay Thai, and even getting a couple of sparring sessions in with Keanu Reeves!! Her style is what you would expect for a woman fighting men two to three times her size, the participants get tired as you would expect when you’re getting your ass kicked that hard, and people get horrific injuries, including Lorraine. We even see her emerge from an ice bath, battered, bloody and bruised, and no make-up to hide the swollen, blackened eye she received during the course of her Berlin antics. These are the consequences of her profession and entering heavy hand-to-hand combat. One of these scenes is around 7 minutes long and actually shot in continuity, this means no time to alter make-up, re-adjust wigs, or apply any extra effects, which is why I expect the characters look so exhausted and a complete mess by the end; but all this just augments the realism of the scene.

The supporting roles around Lorraine help to reveal distinct attributes of her character; with Gray, Kurzfeld and Percival she is cold and steely, she does not trust anyone and does not play nice. Even with the stasi officer, code name “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan), Lorraine has to protect and escort out East Berlin, she remains icy and emotionless in order to properly do her job. Conversely, the young and innocent French intelligence agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) brings out a more honest vulnerable side to Lorraine. Originally, the french agent was male in the graphic novel “The Coldest City” that Atomic Blonde is based on, Leitch agreed that the gender flip was a good move and makes the story a little more provocative which he describes as integral for his vision for his solo directorial debut.

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Still gorgeous

Overall this movie is a hit for me; with exciting action, bold fashion and music, great comedic timing and funny quips. It’s true that the storyline is a little generic and you do have to pay attention to make sure you understand what is going on and who’s betraying who, but it’s clear that Leitch’s focus was the style of the retelling. In his own words, he wanted to be fresh, provocative and reinvent the “stuffy” cold war spy movie. It sounds like Theron really enjoyed this role, saying that it was her perfect female protagonist, regardless of how many times she puked in training or how many teeth she cracked. She owned this part and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her kick-ass.

And as Theron’s costume designer Cindy Evans rightly said: “Yeah, because Bond could never do it—so you have to”.

Throwback : The Other Guys

Comedy is always subjective to the individual watching, so you can never really have a movie that is almost universally hilarious to everyone. For me though, The Other Guys, featuring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg has to be one of the wittiest comedies around!

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Right off the bat, the film starts off at 100%, with the high octane pursuits & action of Officers Highland & Danson, the wonderfully arrogant duo played by Samuel L Jack & Dwayne Johnson. They are the pride & joy of the department, solving crimes, winning accolades, getting all the money & women! But after their confidence gets the best of them (“Aim for the bushes”), the force is left with vast gap in their task-force. The perfect chance for some other guys to fill in that Alpha position. The other guys in this case, being disgraced cop Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), who craves to get back into the big time after being demoted following a mishap, and his desk happy accountant partner, Gamble (Will Ferrell).

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What make the film so amusing is the interactions between our two heroes. Most successful buddy cop movies require the partners to clash, be polar opposites, and it’s done perfectly here. Mark Wahlberg absolutely nails it as the constantly angry and frustrated cop, who would rather be out in the field, than stuck behind a computer. Gamble on the other hand, is more than happy to do paperwork and excel sheets, and as you can imagine, this does not go well his agitated colleague!

Some of the exchanges they have are comic genius! The ‘Lion v Tuna’ (“If I was a Lion, and you were a tuna, I would go outside my food chain to eat you!”) argument that they have will you in stitches, and of course, it ends with hot coffee being thrown, as Gamble systematically dismantles a frankly ridiculous argument of how a tuna would beat a lion in a fight! The general disdain Hoitz has for Gamble is plain to see, such as when he nonchalantly throws a gift out the car window, or his random insults like “The sound off your piss hitting the urinal……it sounds feminine!”

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The supporting cast are also on form! Eva Mendes plays the role of Gamble’s surprisingly attractive wife, to the hilarious dismay of the jealous Hoitz. Not only is Gamble oblivious to the fact someone as uninteresting & dull as himself, has ended up with a stunning wife, but he also talks down to her constantly, making Marky Mark even more annoyed at the situation!

Micheal Keaton shines as the dreary precinct captain, having to hold down 2 jobs to make ends meet, his character is constantly dropping in TLC lyrics mid convo, to the amusement of the audience. The silent fight during the funeral is another gem of a scene, where out duo end up in a fist fight with a rival pair of cops, also aiming to take over as the other guys! The scene is just so stupid, but seems to work so well!! The cops even pause mid fight, as some grieving mourners walk past!

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Steve Coogan features as the cowardly millionaire, who is clearly up to no good. The scene where he is consistently distracting our heroes with bribes is great, and eventually, no amount of free mineral water with cucumber can put our cops off the trial!!

The film simply has several moments that will stick to anyone who enjoys this movie. There’s the whole ‘GATOR!!!’ revelation, Gamble’s crazy hot Ex, the Toyota Pruis constantly getting roasted, the ‘desk-pop’ among other things!

The plot isn’t the most memorable or unique, cops who no one trusts or respects end up uncovering a hidden scam, end up the heroes. But it’s the presence of our two protagonists that make this such rollicking fun!

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