The Popular Kids

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love and Other Disasters


To call a movie cute often equals a death sentence in that it evokes fluff and a lack of substance. I just watched 'Love and Other Disasters" and cannot escape the dreaded word "cute".  Fortunately "clever" also comes into play. This movie which references romantic movies past and present does so in a way that is smart, hip and stylish.  Brittany Murphy who left the world stage too early excelled at playing two types of roles - troubled and damaged or wispy and flirty. Here we are treated to the lighter side with intentional nods to Audrey Hepburn. I had not heard of this movie before tonight and thought I would share.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Always Show Up In Time to See the Trailers, It's the polite thing to do..









Random thoughts on the trailers I saw before "Tron: Legacy".

-"The Eagle" - starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. Looks ok but only ok. I'm a big fan of Billy who did the "bally" all grown up but can take Channing Tatum or leave him in the acting department. The trailer wasn't interesting enough to keep my over active mind from renaming this movie "When the Blue Man Group Attacks!!"

-"Rio" - I'm really over self-referencing, hip, animated talking animal movies. Jessie Eisenberg seems to be channeling just about every other Jessie Eisenberg character, just animated this time. The 3D trailer was cool though when the Christ the Redeemer statue reached off the screen and practically slapped me in the face.

-"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" - What to say? The first in this franchise was light, fun and even original. The 2cd and the 3rd were loaded down with too many characters, too many special effects and too many plot points. Is this scaled back? toned down? They've obviously jettisoned two important characters to give us more Depp, Depp and Depp but it does not look like a film franchise going back to it's roots.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thor teaser trailer!!



I like it! Dark, moody, nods to the classic but updates the look, Natalie Portman (never a bad idea)  = success (?). I sure hope so.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris hits theaters Friday.



"I Love You Phillip Morris" finally gets it's U.S. release this Friday and I cannot wait for the reaction or to see the movie. It premiered at Sundance in 2009 and had an international release in April 2010. The expected limited U.S. release earlier this year was "delayed indefinitely" with reports being that there were concerns about how to market a film with two big name stars and "graphic sex" of the gay kind (hmm this all seems familiar somehow). You can see this uneasiness yourself by doing a Google search for the trailer. There are several and they seem to each be trying to find the right balance of Jim Carrey's manic style of comedy and the gay storyline. The trailer I am posting is my favorite and try as I might I could not find it anywhere without the French subtitles (??). I am really anticipating how this movie will be received and if it will have a mainstream reaction. I don't expect it to cause the protracted debate that occurred over "Brokeback Mountain" because American audiences seeing gay themed movies in wide release (rather than art house fare) find it more palpable if they can laugh about it. I won't get on my soapbox about that right now; so enjoy the trailer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Skyline - Pretty People, Pretty Lights, No Substance.





I've always been an easy fan of movies involving characters going about their normal lives who begin to notice that the extraordinary or possibly the horrific is sneaking in around the edges. This can take the form of natural disasters, biological threats or the quiet ( or not so quiet) arrival of hostile visitors from beyond. The recent release, "Skyline", takes on the alien invasion plot with the opening scene being luminous and ethereal blue lights dropping from the sky onto a sleeping Los Angeles. We flashback to the day before and meet our main characters of Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) who are traveling to L.A. to visit an old friend of Jarrod's who has made a successful go at fame and fortune in the movie industry. Very quickly we get the necessary but shallow set up for our characters. Jarrod is a knight in shining armor who helps strangers with their luggage on the airplane and Elaine is appropriately uncomfortable with the L.A. lifestyle they stumble into. Jarrod's friend, Terry (Donald Faison) has become a bit of a sleaze and has a girlfriend (Brittany Daniel) so instantly unlikable that you know attempts to humanize her later will fail. Terry throws a blow out party in his penthouse and we're  ready for the invasion scene this hungover group will awake to early the next morning.



I'll render my final judgement early and say that if the goal here was to create a group of vaguely unlikable characters and kill them off over 92 minutes, then they succeeded. There are obvious similarities between "Skyline" and 2008's "Cloverfield". I was a fan of the latter and despite any gimmicks used like the hand held camera work, I related to the characters and cared about them in the way an audience should.  That just did not happen during "Skyline". The first obvious issue I had was with the two leads. Jarron and Elaine have very little chemistry as an onscreen couple and the casting choice was odd. The actors have such similar and distinct faces that they look like siblings. It was as if they came from the same very pretty Eastern European, Calvin Klein "esque" family of models.



"Skyline" also lacks creativity and suspense. The aliens must be keeping up with Earth pop culture because they are a mish mash of creatures from "The Matrix",  "War of the Worlds" and the recent Terminator movie.  Out of the 92 minute run time there were only a couple moments that reached edge of your seat anticipation and those involved the decent special effects and an air battle that conjured a feeling of "hooray for U.S. military might"

"Skyline" should have ended with the forlorn scenes of the world's capitals in ruins and under the same type of attack as L.A. but instead we get an overly long ending that screams "SEQUEL".  In fact it is so long it continues in snapshot scenes during the credits. I'll spare you. You can exit the theater  as soon as possible because there is nothing left worth seeing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Always show up in time to see the trailers, it's the polite thing to do..









Here is a snapshot of the trailers playing today when I saw "Skyline"

-I Am Number Four - Blah. Based on the preview only, I will say it is just another movie about young, attractive people with super-powers of some sort.

-The Green Hornet - I'm biased here because I knew I wanted to see this movie before even the first glimpse. I was so intrigued by the casting of Seth Rogen as a super hero of any type.

-Gulliver's Travels - The jury is out on this one for me. It's such safe territory for Jack Black with a blend of his delivery and physical comedy that we've seen so many times before.

-Sanctum - nothing about this preview says "follow up to the highest grossing movie of all time" for producer James Cameron but he's James Cameron; so I'm sure this will be a blockbuster.

I'll just touch on Meet the Fockers III or whatever it's called but not make you watch the trailer.  The first in this franchise was genuinely funny but they should have stopped there. I am predicting the third to be painful in a way that cannot be numbed by any amount of buttery popcorn or sugary drink.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud - How not to make a I see dead people, drama, teen romance, semi-comedy.



 "Charlie St. Cloud" starring Zac Efron is the story of the title character and how he deals with the loss of his younger brother, Sam, (Charlie Tahan) in a car accident made even worse by the fact that Charlie is driving. Seemingly from beyond the grave or only in Charlie's mind, Sam shows up every day for a promised baseball lesson. We flash forward five years and Charlie has given up on college, his love of sailing and become the town recluse all to make his daily appointment with Sam.

From my title of my post you may have picked up on the fact that I think "Charlie St. Cloud" is a awkward mismatch of ideas that don't necessarily fare well in the same movie. Self-editing is a valuable skill that would serve the creative forces behind this movie very well.  There are three, possibly four distinct story lines going here including a missed opportunity at a supernatural drama. I don't think any of them succeed because it doesn't appear this movie knows what it wants to be.

As far as acting, Efron has a charming face and disposition that lends well to the humor but not so much the drama. You can practically see him straining in the first part of the movie to keep up with the movie's over the top dramatics. It's further proof to me that Hollywood finds us a bit dense and believes we need a trail of bread crumbs leading to the obvious. In this case the obvious is that the sudden loss of a young family member is tragic.
Of course you cannot have Zac Efron as your lead without some romance. Charlie attracts the interest of Tess (Amanda Crew), a young woman training for a round the globe sailing trip. I hate to be harsh but my biggest criticism is for Amanda Crew. She has a delivery so flat as to suck any spark or chemistry out of the scenes between Charlie and Tess. Since I'm really trashing this movie, I will give some props to Charlie Tahan who plays Sam. He is genuinely funny and at times conveys the sadness embodied by his character.
Have I made this sound so terrible?  There is an audience for this movie but I don't think that includes people like me who take a cynical view about the state of creativity in film.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So Hollywood writers are all using the same plot generating software now?









These three previews were back to back today when I went to see "Due Date" ("No Strings Attached", "Love and Other Drugs", "Just Go With It" respectively). All three are essentially the same story - casual sex is great so I'm not looking for love + uh oh love found me + what hilarious hijinks and teary eyed drama will ensue as I work out this internal conundrum.  In fairness to these three,  "No Strings Attached" looks the best if only because Natalie Portman has the potential to rise above it all.  Usually Jake might win out but I guess I'm shallow because I'm hating his hair in this movie.
Thank the movie gods for the beautifully dreary "Sucker Punch" trailer that followed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Burlesque - Moulin Rouge or Showgirls?


Cher looking all of 40 + catty dialogue + Stanley Tucci throwing around his "The Devil Wears Prada" attitude + Cam Gigandet wearing a bowler hat  = gay old time at the cinema. Let me be clear, I mean gay as in "I like guys" not in the way of vapid 14 year olds.  Not sure if how this will work out but it should be fun.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let Me In = the real awkward teen falls for vampire story.

The month of October offers many pleasures including the beginning of fall weather, my favorite holiday, Halloween, and a selection of new supernatural themed movies. With that in mind I called up a friend and made plans to see "Let Me In". I won't name my friend but he did give me the ok to identify him as tall, foreboding and a sometimes practitioner of the dark arts.



"Let Me In", set in 1983, tells the woeful story of Owen (Kodi Smith-Mcphee) who is not exactly living the dream of adolescence. In addition to being thin, awkward and bullied, his fractured home life is anything but a refuge. Into his life comes new neighbors who will change everything. An older man and young girl move next door to Owen and he can easily eavesdrop on them from his bedroom. Owen soon makes friends with the young girl, Abby (Chloe Moretz) and almost instantly senses a soul mate. At first she is presented as timid, insecure and possibly neglected. The story moves pretty quickly and doesn't really try to hide that Chloe is actually a vampire, older than she appears and as much vicious killer as timid perpetual adolescent. 


There, now we've done the set up; so let's dissect this movie. The atmosphere in "Let Me In" is stark and never lets you rest from the sense of foreboding and that is exactly as it should be in this type of movie. I commend the director for keeping the gore and blood at a level that satisfies without turning off the viewer. He replaces some of the visuals for sound. Just know, when Abby feeds her need, you will have no doubt what is happening even though it may be shot in the shadows or off camera. 



The acting is good all around but success rests on the four characters who take up a majority of the screen time.  I am in awe of Kodi Smith-Mcphee's portrayal of Owen.  I instantly connected with the character and Mcphee's ability to play both the hopelessness and rage of a victim. His bullying at school is the most humiliating sort and is lead by a student who I will describe as a sadistic, future closet-case who is pretty scary despite having Justin Bieber hair. Chloe Moretz would really surprise at this point if she failed to deliver an excellent performance.  You will, I think, also be blown away by how she conveys tenderness toward Owen at one moment and animalistic need for blood the next. Richard Jenkins, a chameleon like actor who in his career has done the silliest of comedies and the tautest of dramas, plays Abby's shadowy protector who has obviously sacrificed his life to feed her endless appetite and protect her from the consequences. Owen's mother is played by Cara Bouno and don't worry if you don't recognize her. She is excellently shot the entire movie out of focus with a glass of wine in hand or nearby in a way that clearly says the parents are unimportant in this story.

I'll close by saying that "Let Me In" is a dark, delicious Halloween treat that I highly recommend. 



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Resident Evil lumbers toward a 5th movie like one of it's brain dead zombies


I am a fan of simple and streamlined story telling; so I enjoyed the first movie in the Resident Evil franchise which came out in 2002. The story was easy to follow and enjoy - killer day at the office when all of the employees of the evil multi-national Umbrella Corporation are killed and turned into zombies by a super virus. Survivors and rescuers must fight their way out. I was totally there.  I was not such a fan of the second movie and pretty much ignored the third except for a glimpse here and there on cable.
 My desire to check out "Resident Evil: Afterlife" was driven by being a sometimes but enthusiastic Milla Jovovich fan ever since first seeing her in the dazzling, hyper-kinetic, Jean-Paul Gautier drenched movie "The Fifth Element".  For her fans I have some good news and bad news. You will see a lot of her in "Resident Evil: Afterlife", including, I counted, 11 clones in the opening scenes, but not much of her acting skill. My first big complaint is that she is nothing more than post-apocalyptic eye candy to fill the space between supposedly impressive 3D effects.
I was hoping this movie would have the prerequisite amount of zombie action sprinkled with dark humor and basically repeat the first movie because repetition is not always a bad thing. Nope. Instead there are 97 minutes of what feels like nothing except set up for a fifth movie. Sure there is a story (loosely) where Alice encounters a group of survivors but some of them are so expendable and cliched they are a waste of time. It all moves too fast and there is never a connection.
 I don't know what to say about the 3D, really. There was some stop action moments which if you took the time examine them were visually trippy and interesting but they were overshadowed by the multitude of slow motion fight sequences which were over wrought and boring. So much slow motion in fact that I began to wonder if someone had slipped a valium into my blueberry slushy(?).  Not to mention that this over used effect turned the big bad villain into a tired Agent Smith impersonation.
In the end Alice and her cohorts are on a giant ship full of survivors who look like they work for an Apple store in 2020. An army of black clad Umbrella agents are on the way promising an overblown and empty showdown for the next movie.  A funny note. Even though I am sure most of the audience, like myself, were heading to the restrooms, we all turned back to the screen like cattle for a super special bonus scene at the end. That's the last slight of the movie because I did not even know who the female villain reveal was until I got home and Googled it. Shame on them. Don't do that people who have to pee.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unstoppable - There's a runaway train on the tracks but wait, it get's worse.....



..the train is carrying explosive chemicals and it's heading straight for another train... but wait, that other train is carrying children... but wait, each of those children is holding a puppy.
Ok the puppy thing isn't true but it does sound like an exciting movie.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Addition to the Definitive Travel Porn Movie List


I'm reposting this because I've recently discovered a new movie to add to my list - "Cairo Time". This recent release stars the fabulous Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig who any real Star Trek fan will recognize as Dr. Bashir from Deep Space Nine. The story simply and elegantly chronicles a week Clarkson's character spends in Cairo awaiting the arrival of her husband. She has sensual but ultimately chaste flirtation with her husband's former colleague played by Siddig. The third character in this story is the  beautiful city of Cairo itself and that is what makes it fit nicely into my definition of  travel porn. Here is the rest of my original post in case you wonder what in the world I am talking about.


At a certain point in my movie life, due in great part to my partner in crime, I started labeling certain movies as "travel porn". These movies fall into two categories. First is where a person or persons travels somewhere, possibly foreign and completely out of their element. They interact with the people, places, food, architecture and find life transformed. They discover a new life or a new life discovers them if you want to be philosophical about it. Romance or sex can definitely be part of the recipe too. The second is movies that so completely capture ideas (true or not) about a place and time that the viewer may become whimsical and starry eyed about living in those places. Here is a list of our favorites for your consideration:

-"Under the Tuscan Sun" - recently divorced and bitter Diane Lane buys a home in the Tuscan region of Italy. In a testament to the breeziness of this movie, she does a whole 30 seconds of calculations on how much she can afford to pay after renovations (to be done in her words by "the descendants of Roman gods") and living expenses. If the typical American home buyer had this skill, we could have avoided the whole housing crisis probably.

-"A Good Year" - phone throwing manly-man Russell Crowe keeps this from being an all chick-flick list as a nasty, evil, greedy stock broker in London who leaves it all behind for a life of "eating, drinking, sleeping and shagging" in France.

-"The Holiday" - online vacation home swapping service leads to life fulfillment for English Kate Winslet and L.A. girl Cameron Diaz

-"Saving Grace" - small English village populated by quirky characters (as if there are any others in small English villages) helps a widow save her finances and home by growing and selling the best pot in the world. Notable performance by Craig Ferguson pre Late Late Show.

-"Tea with Mussolini" - based on the life of filmmaker Franco Zeffireli this is a coming of age story with fantastic performances by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Cher. Yes, Cher and I say that with no sarcasm or irony. You'll just have to see it.

-"Ladies in Lavender" - Judi Dench and Maggie Smith again. Snapshot of life in seaside England prior to WWII with two sisters sheltering a young man who washes up on shore after a boating accident. I know this description may sound really boring but it's not.

-"Raman Girl" - willowy, wispy Brittany Murphy follows her boyfriend to Tokyo and it turns out he is not so hot on the idea. She sticks around though conquers the language barrier and the heart of a grumpy master Ramen chef. This is the last Murphy movie I saw and although it was typical of her roles, it sure makes me miss what she brought to the screen.

- Ok, I see that the choices are skewing, recent, European and not very daring(vanilla travel porn if you will). These are honorable mentions that may round out the list a bit:
-"Enchanted April"
-"Lost in Translation
-"Nowhere in Africa"
-"Out of Africa"
-"The English Patient" (you don't have to point out post WWII Italy is not exactly a vacation)
-"The Beach"
-"Sweet Home Alabama" ( nobody says it has to be foreign and as the movie points out,"you - should need a passport to travel down here").
-"Eurotrip" - complete mocking parody of every tired European stereotype but it does make me laugh a lot.
"The Darjeeling Limited"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

City Island - I have not had this much fun watching people yell at each other since an unfortunate 1989 family Christmas



Just a quick note to let you in on a recent release that rescued my movie watching options this weekend. After a dismal experience with J Lo's "The Back-Up Plan", I saw "City Island" at Red Box and remembered taking note of the trailer. The story here is of the middle class Rizzo family living in the working class neighborhood of City Island in the Bronx. It stars Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies ( oh how I miss ER) along with a wonderfully played side character courtesy of Emily Mortimer. The conflict that drives this small dysfunctional family comedy is that each member of the Rizzos is hiding a  secret. The secrets are from the mundane to the silly and not always to the character's credit.  The reason this movie works is that even though we may not like everybody, the characters are all endearing even in the midst of their faults; so check out "City Island" if it's not already on your movie radar.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I've been waiting for "Me and Orson Welles" to have a U.S. DVD release ever since seeing some clips during the 2010 BAFTA(s) and I can say it did not disappoint. The story is that of Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) a bored high schooler who in the course of a week, meets Orson Welles, is cast in the now famous 1937 Broadway production of Julius Caesar and just as quickly fired. It's a fantastic period piece with a backdrop of the sophisticated New York artistic set. Actually maybe that's not completely accurate. The real backdrop may be the over the top ego and personality of Orson Welles(which appears to rival NYC in size). Christian McKay (who has not one credit on IMDB I recognize) is incredible as Welles. The viewer should dislike him but perhaps like the real life person, he is too charming and funny to truly resent. Claire Danes equally impresses at doing well with a role that could be described as a bit flat. She is the older love (and sex) interest who introduces Richard to the unfortunate landscape of adult relationships. I love Claire Danes mostly because I can still hold onto the sixteen year old iconic mopey Angela Chase  and still appreciate her as a fully evolved adult actress.
The only stumbling point in this movie may be the "me". Zac Efron is a bit of a mystery to me. If he had given himself completely over the dark side of Disney, I am sure I would see him as "that kid" from "those annoying High-School Musical movies". However I genuinely enjoyed him in "17 Again"; so I had to get over that. Here he does the comedy of someone out of their element well but fails to fully convince when he is called upon to do drama. It's a minor complaint though that doesn't detract from the whole...and who knows maybe I will have to eat those  words when I see "Charlie St. Cloud" which is getting some good reviews for Efron.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Life As We Know It



Doesn't this movie get made every 3 years or so in which an otherwise ok parent ( or parents) leaves their "most precious gift" to the most inappropriate people? I'm not a big Katherine Heigl fan and less a fan of baby poop; so I don't see this movie in my future.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love all you want but a little less whining please..



It may have been a mistake to write about one of my favorite movie types previously - travel porn - because I think by trying to define it, I may have somehow ruined it.  I assumed the story of a woman seeking a new lease on life by spending a year of travel and exploration in Italy, India and Bali would have ample scenery and local color to ignite my natural wonder lust. However the movie conventions I usually adore, were just short of grating in "Eat, Pray, Love". Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, a writer who goes through a vague and hazy sort of mid life crisis, ends her marriage, jumps into another ill advised and doomed relationship and finally sets off on a year long journey to find her zest for life. This beginning set up is a little too long for my tastes and full of modern "Oprah" speak about "lost passion".  I did enjoy Liz's best friend played by the very hard working actress Viola Davis. She delivers some great lines like, "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You need to be committed". I never did completely understand the source or the nature of Liz's problems but soon she is off to three destinations that are defined by the movie's title.

Italy - This is all about eating and probably my favorite part of the movie. Liz moves into an aptly rundown but beautiful apartment and meets and assortment of funny, sweet international friends. The settings and the food are filmed in a way that really captures the romanticism of travel. My only nitpick with this part of the movie is the conceit that Liz and her new Swedish friend are gaining weight because of the sheer amount of drop dead gorgeous carbs they are eating. To pull this off may have taken some Bridget Jones action but instead we are served the silliness of a still sleek Julia Roberts trading in her really skinny jeans for the next size up of really skinny jeans.

India - Liz sets off to India to meditate and pray away her troubles. The first scenes in India are very well done and capture the overwhelming experience it must be for a first time visitor from the west. The rest of her stay in India is bit of bore in my opinion. We are treated again to a litany of Liz's woes but I still did not understand what she wanted. Again a side character at least supplies some interest. Richard Jenkins, who excels in everything from the deepest drama ("The Visitor")  to the silliest of comedies ("Step Brothers"), serves as the voice of the viewer (maybe?) and brashly tells Liz to get over it.

Bali - Liz's last destination answers the core question of the movie, will Liz find true love again? Bali is beautiful and nothing negative about the movie can take away from that. Roberts too is beautiful in a dress up Barbie sort of way as she wears lots of local outfits. You can probably guess that Liz does find love in the end after meeting a teary eyed, feminist wet dream sort of guy played by Javier Bardem.  I'll give him credit. He plays his part so well that this was the first time in three years that he did not scare the crap out of me due to flashbacks of the casual violence and menace in "No Country for Old Men".

Why so harsh on this movie? I don't know. Maybe it was sitting through the trailer for Katherine Heigl's new romcom train wreck that put me in a foul mood. To be fair, I'll give it another viewing when it's out on DVD.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunshine Cleaning - a story of love and human remains



I'll  point out that yes, I realize I am borrowing "love and human remains" from an indie 1993 dark comedy. I'm not going to really review "Sunshine Cleaning." Thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch this movie for the first time on my laptop yesterday and this is just a quick note that it is highly recommended. As two sisters who start a crime scene cleaning service, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt shine. Adams succeeds again at playing not cute and Blunt displays the range that allows this British actress to play the crisp Victoria and then do down and out mid-America.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chloe, a good movie gone bad....




"Chloe" was a bit of roller coster ride in that I did not think I was going to like it very much, got interested about 20 minutes in and ultimately was disappointed. The story here is that uptight physician Catherine Stewart ( Julianna Moore) thinks her husband, David ( Liam Neeson) is cheating on her. Instead of confronting him she has the novel idea of hiring the slick high end prostitute Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to approach him to see if he takes the bait.  Initially I thought this movie was going to be gratuitously sexual and explicit. The characters tossed around sexual innuendo and language in a way that did not seem realistic. Fortunately this "you heterosexuals just need to get a room" vibe mellowed into something more subdued and sensual ironically when the prostitute came on the scene.  An arrogance I often have is about 20 minutes into a movie, I will swear that I know exactly where it is going and how it will end. My thought was that Chloe by spinning a made up tale of an affair with David would remind Catherine of her lust and love for him. I know it seems like odd marriage therapy but you can see it happening as Chloe describes her encounters with David.  Catherine certainly needs to get her groove back somehow. She spends the first part of the movie being ignored by her husband and having her son slam doors in her face.  David as one of those mature but sexy college professors movie coeds always want to gobble up, is the perfect model of a straying husband too. All of the pieces are in place for the perfect story running through my head.
Alas it was not meant to be. In a sharp turn near the end, Chloe becomes obsessed with Catherine and suddenly they are acting out a lesbian version of "Fatal Attraction". Don't worry, no family pets are harmed although Seyfried does look at Catherine's teen son like a cute bunny she wants to boil. Instead she uses sex as a weapon and seduces him in mommy's bed. It's sad really because "Chloe" is a beautifully shot and acted movie that deserved better and I could have given it to them if Hollywood would just come knocking to pay me the big bucks.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What the world needs now is.. more Fockers?


Just because you can do something does not mean you should......

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Twilight: Eclipse - three down and only one more to go ( thank you!!)



After seeing "Twilight: Eclipse" I had to watch a whole block of "Tru Blood" episodes just to remind myself that vampires are sexy, dark and bloody.  I am going to leave you with just a couple of thoughts about why I am saddened by the decision to see this one in the theater, a mistake I assure I will not make for the fourth. Robert Pattinson would rightly be said to carry the burden of male vampire sex appeal in this series. With that in mind, perhaps someone should have pointed out that a scrunched up "I small something nasty" face is not sexy especially for two hours. I recently saw him in  "Remember Me" which exceeded expectations and I must say he played the dark, brooding but always earnest bad boy very well. While were on this subject we might as well go ahead and say that Taylor Lautner's shirtless, "well defined" (bad pun, sorry) acting style in "Eclipse" tipped over into cheesiness of the worst sort. In a moment of self referencing humor, Edward even quips, "Does he own a shirt?".
"Eclipse" does offer up more action but undercuts itself with some not so special effects not to mention the fact that Twilight vampires when killed look like nothing more than empty mannequins. Maybe this is in line with the books, I don't know, but it was bloodless (even for PG13) and cold. The villain we have been waiting on in the form of Victoria once again has scant screen time and (spoiler!!) dies one of the cold, bloodless deaths. Can someone also explain Bryce Dallas Howard's bad choice of wigs?
I did say just a couple of thoughts so I will leave you with my last complaint. Bella's fragile nature is played up to the point of absurdity.  She really needs to be made into a vampire before she dies in some horrible toe stubbing accident.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't hate this movie because it's beautiful....


In our current time of folksy and populist sentiment, I read some early comments on just the trailer for "A Single Man" that labeled it pretentious or worse the "e" word (elitist). Well just forget all of that if you have not seen it. This atmospheric movie about grief directed by Tom Ford and starring Colin Firth, Julianna Moore among others is a beautifully made movie. The 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood is a first person story with a lot of inner monologue and tells the story of a middle aged college professor who is mourning the loss of his male lover in a era where sexual orientation was only whispered about in most situations. How to portray the inner life of a character has challenged many a movie maker but Tom Ford takes all of the elements that could have failed and succeeds for the most part. Don't go away from this though expecting a "downer" because there is genuine humor here. Colin Firth plays excellently droll opposite Julianna Moore and Nicholas Hoult ( a flirtatious student who you will recognize from BBC's runaway hit "Skins" and earlier "About A Boy"). I especially love Moore and Firth together. They act out a genuinely sad but funny scenario minus the silly baggage gay story-lines are often saddled with. Think Will & Grace if Will had not been essentially neutered and Grace drank too much.  One last thought... the above trailer, I think, tries to misdirect from the gay subject matter but the movie never does.
Now I am off to flex my "mocking" muscles and make notes for my review of "Twilight: Eclipse"

Many reasons this trailer looks awesome but Helen Mirren with guns sealed the deal...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Always show up early enough to see the trailers.




The Last Airbender review coming but sharing this now because it looks freakin' awesome and only increases the Johnny Depp love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Always show up early enough to see the trailers.



It's a "she's out of my league", will they or won't they "do it" romcom but for the kiddies?  Hungry Like the Wolf is icing on the cake of oddness....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lost and disillusioned? No worries, a wide eyed, sincere member of the Fanning family will lead the way



First trailer, I believe, for Sofia Coppola's "Somewere" releasing in December. This actually looks very promising with the same vibe that made "Lost in Translation" so charming.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

At least I got to see trailers for Tron and The Last Airbender...

First off, thanks to Staceybon from Twitter for helping me come up with a one word description for "Prince of Persia". You see, I thought I would be clever and asked for suggestions about what to call a movie where you ultimately enjoy the trailers more than the movie. She cut right to the chase with a concise and easy to remember answer - "crap!" Does "Prince of Persia" deserve to be called crap? I think to do so will at least nod toward the fact that some of these big blockbuster type movies are trending toward being unforgettable and unsatisfying. Don't worry "Iron Man II" I'm not talking about you but yes "Clash of the Titans" I am talking about you.  I guess now I need to justify such a lukewarm response to Prince of Persia...

I was never any good at video games although I did have a good run at Frogger one time. My characters are klutzes who bump into things and die in embarrassing and shameful ways. Based on all of the jumping, leaping and wall climbing involved in "Prince of Persia", I am sure I would have sucked at the video game the movie is based on.  This story is set in the sprawling empire of Persia and is about Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who was adopted by the King and rescued from the life of a street urchin. This happens because like most movie orphans Dastan practically glows with spunk and virtue that the King may see missing in his own over privileged family. The downside of this situation is that eventually somebody is going to try to discredit and/or kill you. When the King is killed, Dastan is framed and finds himself on the run with the most beautiful princess in all of Persia (Gemma Arterton as Tamina). She is no ordinary bare belly Persian princess though because she is the sacred protector of a dagger that contains the "sands of time" which can turn back time. While on the run we get all of the expected video game like action, effects like Dastan using the dagger and snarky flirting between Dastan and Tamina. It's the type of flirting that really begs "get a room" or in this case a tent but never rises to the level of passion implied later in the movie.

The plot really fails when there is exposition about what to do with the dagger. There is a source for the sand but putting the dagger there will lead to very, very bad things, It can be returned to the stone from which it was made or ( and this is where I checked out) there is a secret fortress where it can always be kept safe. Ok, why not keep it at the fortress to begin with? Also we only see one other person besides Dastan use the dagger and why not? Couldn't said brave princess use the dagger's power to keep it from being capture to begin with? Oh well, we end up with a huge finale full of sand, fire and death that leads to......wait for it.... a big fat reset  button that renders all we have seen moot.

Good points? The scenes of vast deserts and Persian palaces are done well. Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley can go to the head of the class because they play their one note characters well. Molina is used for quite a few laughs and Kingsley arches his eyebrows in just the right deceptively evil way throughout the movie. I've read that Jake Gyllenhaal's nicely buffed up body might be a reason to pay up and see this movie. I prefer leaner Brokeback Jake but when you can find pictures like the one above on the Internet for free, I don't think the abs factor even makes this movie worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One safe bet and one risky movie..



I've written a review of Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" before but watched it again on DVD this past weekend.  No startling revelations to add as it was a safe bet already knowing it to be an enjoyable movie. Burton has taken the loose knit original stories and given us a more complete narrative with touches of female empowerment and Narnia like fantasy. Visually, the movie is stunning and as my friend Ben described it, "a bowl of Skittles for the eyes".  The set up is that Alice like so many female characters of her time and place finds herself in quite a dilemma. She has a mind of her own, is misunderstood and in constant danger of being married off to the worst match possible. After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice manages to get her "muchness" back and in a quick wrap up ending she handles her problems as easy as 1.2,3....  She even finds a career strangely enough as probably England's first young, blond, perky Imperialist (off to economically dominate China).

The second movie of the weekend was one that I had never heard of, and I made one of those quick decisions in order to exit the video store as quickly as possible. "Amreeka" is a first time directorial debut by Cherien Dabis and stars a mostly unfamiliar cast ( for me at least). It does star Hiam Abbass who has been showing up in some of my favorite indie movies lately - 2007's "The Visitor which I highly recommend and 2008's "Lemon Tree". The story here is very straight forward, understated and sweet. A mother and her teenage son immigrate to the United States from Palestine in the turbulent days following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Along with all of the problems of starting a new life, there is the added omni-present reaction of normal Americans to anyone of Arab descent following 9/11.  The worst behavior is experienced by the teenage Fandi who has to navigate the social nightmare of American high school with students who don't hold back muttering "terrorist" in his presence. I like movies that are small and don't overreach in making a point. "Amreeka" does this well. There is no inspirational speeches or worse yet a "shocking" act of violence that puts everything into perspective. The movie ends in a real world way with the main characters happy and hopeful even though no major problems have bee solved.

Friday, June 4, 2010

IFC Showing "out" movies during June - This is one of my favorites...

Watching this last night, I could not help but think about how Hugo Weaving's career has exploded since 1994. His IMDB list includes movies that are now ingrained in pop culture  - The Matrix movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, V for Vendetta and coming up (someday, hopefully) The Hobbit movies.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The drama, angst, anxiety and ambivalence caused by February 14th........





With about 25 highly recognizable names and interconnected story lines that orbit an upcoming holiday, "Valentine's Day" has been compared mostly negatively to 2003's "Love Actually".   "Love Actually" starred just about every British actor/actress I would expect average American movie goers to easily recognize, took place during the weeks before Christmas and chronicled the loves and losses of a group of Londoners. "Valentine's Day" is set in L.A. and you get the feeling of different "types" all bumping up against each other  (in cute ways of course, no "Crash" like edginess simmering in this large multi-ethnic L.A.).  The most outright accusation I can make of ripping off "Love Actually" is the presence of an overly serious adult like child who is struggling to express his feelings to a first love. He has the absent mother too and all of the cute bells and whistles that are expected. Not to antagonize a child actor, but I did find Thomas Sangster in "Love Actually" cuter and just a tad bit more precocious without going overboard. Most of the individual stories in "Valentine's Day" are fairly predictable. For example we have a "running through the airport" scene which I would love one day to see played out with the character tasered, facing charges and on a nefarious no fly list.  With that said, there are some charms. Anne Hathaway as a young woman juggling a temp job, a new boyfriend and a secret live as a phone sex operator made me laugh out loud a few times but I was a bit disappointed that the boyfriend (Topher Grace) immediately wanted to break up with her when he found out about the phone sex job. I can't be the only person who would think that was titillating and let's be honest, cool.  My final estimation is that if you are ever faced with just these two choices on movie night,  choose "Love Actually".  Now that will probably never happen; so rent "Love Actually" and wait for "Valentine's Day" to show up on cable. One more thing (spoiler alert), despite what the trailer may show, Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts' characters are not hooking up.......

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hasidic Jews smuggling Ecstasy? My interest is piqued...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Can't decide if I should cynically compare this to Dark City or The Forgotten

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup- Two good movies to wash away the taste of bad romcom



"Leap Year" - First off, despite the beautiful Irish scenery, as the official gatekeeper of travel porn, I will not be adding this to the list.  Romcoms are often described as light and fluffy but here we will go with flimsy and paper-thin. In a short and shallow set up, we meet Anna  (Amy Adams) and her boyfriend. All you need to know about them is that she stages high-end apartments and he is a cardiologist. This tags her as the control freak obsessed with the little details that create perceived perfection. Not much to say about the boyfriend who will from this point forward be referred to as "the cardiologist" . He is rich, accomplished and needs the same in a mate. Like so many female movie characters before her Anna yearns for a marriage proposal as the final piece of the puzzle to "stage" her life. Said cardiologist is dragging his feet on this matter and disappoints one time too many. He is off to a conference in Dublin and she decides to follow him. We're fed a story about an Irish tradition where women propose to their boyfriends on leap day. This is supposed to supply urgency because she wants the romantic story this trip will supply. However she is so frantic I just wondered what bad things would happen if she proposed on, say, the day after leap day?  Would she have been breaking some Irish law against female empowerment?
 I won't bore you with too many details but bad weather lands her instead in what must be the Irish version of redneck land and at the mercy of Matthew Goode's grumpy innkeeper/taxi driver. He calls her "idjet"(idiot), she calls him jackass and they are off on the race to true love. I think "Leap Year" may have been better served with at least a PG13 rating. The two lovebirds could have expressed their early distaste for each other in some more colorful language and the sexual tension may have been amped up. Also don't worry about the cardiologist. He's left behind in Boston with enough of Anna's shallow female friends, that he'll be hooked up in no time.

"Uncertainty" - A first glance I feared this movie was saddled with too much of a film school project type plot. Take two characters, film them in two polar opposite stories but have the same themes resonate in both. Fortunately this turned out to be my favorite of the three weekend movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins (IMDB her because she looks so familiar and not at the same time) play a couple who have to decide whether to spend the 4th of July with her family or head to Manhattan looking for adventure. The Manhattan storyline turns into an over the top contrived action adventure movie while the family weekend is fraught with it's own emotional dangers. This is very purposeful and plays out the overriding theme. I see this as the dilemma that filmmakers must face : do you produce the big budget action movie that probably is full of plot holes or the more nuanced character drama. "Uncertainty" may not be for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Levitt and Collins take up most of the screen time which can be a big burden but they rise to the task in excellent ways. 

"New York, I Love You" - Last but not least this movie is a companion piece to the 2006 movie "Paris, I Love You" with ten shorts populated by various "characters" in New York.  The cast of actors is really impressive -Natalie Portman, Shia LaBeouf, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Andy Garcia, John Hurt, Christina Ricci, Robin Wright and so many others. The cast alone is reason enough to see this movie. In addition one of the more beautifully filmed sequences is a project produced by the late Anthony Minghella. The stories range from the funny, to the sad, to the trivial. It works for the most part but since it is meant to be a love story about a city, I would've liked to have seen more of that city. Too many scenes give a big city vibe but nothing that seemed iconic of New York.  It definitely peaked my interest enough that I am adding "Paris, I Love You" to my Blockbuster que.



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup- 3 days late and 1 movie short - It's Complicated



 The set-up for "It's Complicated" seemed promising - middle aged woman (Meryl Streep) who thinks she has her post divorce life figured out finds herself "the other woman" when she starts an affair with her ex husband (Alec Baldwin). Meryl Streep does all things well including comedy and Alec Baldwin is the perfect fit for a character who is full of himself and conveniently self delusional. Throw in Steve Martin and John Krasinksi (who mines comic gold each week on "The Office") and I was expecting a diverting 120 minutes. Instead this movie irritated me continuously for 2 hours. What went wrong? I am going to cut the actors some slack and lay the blame at the feet of director and writer Nancy Meyers. She tends to write movies that have a thin veneer of neurotic self-entitlement. Sometimes it works or is at least tolerable as in "The Holiday" but here she lays it on a bit thick. Streep's Jane is the type of woman who has feng shui'd her life into submission, watches "The Hills" with her daughter, and makes ice cream when she can't sleep ( funny, all I get are bags under my eyes). Her romantic dilemma is a choice between two men - an architect who lost his wife to another man on a couples bike tour of Italy and the ex who lives under the twin threat of his younger wife's fascist ovulation schedule and a demon step-child. Cliché on top of cliché that eventually eclipses the acting.

Speaking of acting. What a waste to have Jim Krasinksi in this movie. His role as Jane's future son-in-law is to wince, shrug, smile and sigh. Note to Nancy Meyers, facial expressions and body language are only the beginning of emoting and not the final product.  Last note and then I will stop beating up on the movie, I promise. I don't know what Jane's three adult children are supposed to represent but they are harpy, over emotional and creepy in a Stepford sort of way. As a child of divorce I can tell you I would've ended up in therapy if anyone ever suggested snuggling in bed with my adult siblings as comfort from a divorce that happened ten years prior.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I am the target audience for this movie.....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Travel porn as a movie genre - and no, it's not that type of porn




























At a certain point in my movie life, due in great part to my partner in crime, I started labeling certain movies as "travel porn". These movies fall into two categories. First is where a person or persons travels somewhere, possibly foreign and completely out of their element. They interact with the people, places, food, architecture and find life transformed. They discover a new life or a new life discovers them if you want to be philosophical about it. Romance or sex can definitely be part of the recipe too. The second is movies that so completely capture ideas (true or not) about a place and time that the viewer may become whimsical and starry eyed about living in those places. Here is a list of our favorites for your consideration:

-"Under the Tuscan Sun" - recently divorced and bitter Diane Lane buys a home in the Tuscan region of Italy. In a testament to the breeziness of this movie, she does a whole 30 seconds of calculations on how much she can afford to pay after renovations (to be done in her words by "the descendants of Roman gods") and living expenses. If the typical American home buyer had this skill, we could have avoided the whole housing crisis probably.

-"A Good Year" - phone throwing manly-man Russell Crowe keeps this from being an all chick-flick list as a nasty, evil, greedy stock broker in London who leaves it all behind for a life of "eating, drinking, sleeping and shagging" in France.

-"The Holiday" - online vacation home swapping service leads to life fulfillment for English Kate Winslet and L.A. girl Cameron Diaz

-"Saving Grace" - small English village populated by quirky characters (as if there are any others in small English villages) helps a widow save her finances and home by growing and selling the best pot in the world. Notable performance by Craig Ferguson pre Late Late Show.

-"Tea with Mussolini" - based on the life of filmmaker Franco Zeffireli this is a coming of age story with fantastic performances by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Cher. Yes, Cher and I say that with no sarcasm or irony. You'll just have to see it.

-"Ladies in Lavender" - Judi Dench and Maggie Smith again. Snapshot of life in seaside England prior to WWII with two sisters sheltering a young man who washes up on shore after a boating accident. I know this description may sound really boring but it's not.

-"Raman Girl" - willowy, wispy Brittany Murphy follows her boyfriend to Tokyo and it turns out he is not so hot on the idea. She sticks around though conquers the language barrier and the heart of a grumpy master Ramen chef. This is the last Murphy movie I saw and although it was typical of her roles, it sure makes me miss what she brought to the screen.

- Ok, I see that the choices are skewing, recent, European and not very daring(vanilla travel porn if you will). These are honorable mentions that may round out the list a bit:
-"Enchanted April"
-"Lost in Translation
-"Nowhere in Africa"
-"Out of Africa"
-"The English Patient" (you don't have to point out post WWII Italy is not exactly a vacation)
-"The Beach"
-"Sweet Home Alabama" ( nobody says it has to be foreign and as the movie points out,"you - should need a passport to travel down here").
-"Eurotrip" - complete mocking parody of every tired European stereotype but it does make me laugh a lot.
"The Darjeeling Limited"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup part duex - The Blind Side


I don't have too much to say about " The Blind Side" . Sandra Bullock looses herself in the role of Leigh Ann Touhy who practically adopts a young African American teenager and takes him off the path to becoming a sad statistic and puts him on one to success. She does this through a shock and awe campaign of southern charm and sassy attitude ( having a boatload of money doesn't hurt). Her character looms so large in the movie as to eclipse everyone else even Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) who you would have thought would be the center of the story. I like many others was taken in by Bullock's performance but for all of the attention "The Blind Side" received it was a pretty lightweight movie.

Weekend DVD Roundup- The Lovely Bones




As a fan of Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bone", I have been reading negative reviews of the movie with dismay for months. I made what was probably a mistake and read even more reviews on sites like IMDB after watching "The Lovely Bones" this weekend. The idea repeated in review after review goes something like this : Peter Jackson has gutted the story and left viewers with mostly an empty CGI shell. What can I say, I get it but very much fell for this movie. I can't imagine the number of choices that must be made when adapting a book into a movie. The pull to include as much as possible bumping up against the reality that you have to edit, edit, and then edit some more.

In the story of Susie Salmon, her tragic murder and afterlife Jackson has chosen to make a sparse story that gives you, if not all of the details from the book, then at least the feeling of Susie watching her family from a distance and exerting subtle influence. We get what could almost be described as vignettes of her family's life in the wake of her death. She is meant to be moving on but is constantly drawn back by their grief and desire for justice.

One element I'm surprised to find missing from all of the negative reviews is praise for the great performances. Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon is the literal and figurative voice of the movie. Her narration perfectly captures the sweet sadness that runs through the book and her portrayal of Susie before the murder is so endearing as to drive home even more the tragedy of what is to come. As a counterpoint to her role is Stanely Tucci as her killer. Without going overboard he perfectly portrays the idea of the nightmare you don't realize is living next door. I for one am glad his role is a bit subdued. I've tired of movies portraying serial killer's every motivation, fetish and macabre details of the crimes. I'll admit the under use of Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz is a mystery to me. Susan Sarandon deserves notice as Susie's grandmother, a woman after my own heart tackles life's challenges with a drink firmly in hand.

I probably could not change the minds of those who feel Peter Jackson has ruined a beloved book but decided I could enjoy the movie that is and not worry so much about the one that could have been.


Saturday, April 24, 2010



What did I think of "Avatar" on DVD you might ask? To explain this I am going to tell you about the Fleurburger which is served at Fleur de Lys in Las Vegas ( Mandalay Bay to be exact) and costs a whopping $5000.00. It is as you can see in the above picture a sight to see once plated and it has plenty of bells and whistles like fole gras and a brioche truffle bun. However when reduced to it's basic elements it is just a very expensive burger (not even any cheese!) . In the end, with the visual tricks and effects reduced to my 37" Vizio HDTV, "Avatar" is just a very expensive ($280 million) movie that takes "Dances With Wolves" and "The New World" themes and gives them a sci-fi twist.

Thursday, April 22, 2010



Finally got around to watching "Black Dynamite" and just in time because my friend Joe was about to revoke my membership in the cool kid's club. Not much I can say really that has not already been said about this all too funny spoof of the 70's blaxploitation genre. Everything you are looking for is here - character names like Cream Corn and Afrodite, lots of over the cliff exploding cars, good lovin' , purposely bad production values and a killer confrontation on Kung Fu Island. The best though is saved for the end when "the man" is finally revealed in a fight scene you must see to believe. So jump into this movie with a cry of "Not the orphans" and I promise it will go down smooth like Anaconda Malt Liquor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend DVD roundup





The DVD choices this weekend were definitely a study in contrasts with "Young Victoria" a PG movie with G rated tendencies and "Crazy Heart" about a washed up country singer whose life has went the way of the most depressing country songs.

Emily Blunt does a decent and admirable job as the young future Queen of England. The movie mostly covers her teen years when she bore the burden of being the only heir and was in essence a living chess piece in a political game between those jockeying to be the power behind the throne. Maybe I have been too influenced by "The Tudors" and the Elizabeth movies because despite their manipulations, even the worst characters in "Young Victoria" are so subdued as to be, let's see, Victorian. There is a sort of two word explanation - constitutional monarchy. Unlike some of her predecessors Victoria (to my dismay) does not have the power to even once imprison or execute anyone. That along with there not even being a hint of behind the scene dalliances (a nice way of saying sex) made this a blah experience at times.

"Crazy Heart" had a lot of hype to live up to with all of the praise during the awards season and Jeff Bridges best actor Oscar win. Bridges plays the aptly named Bad Blake who despite a promising country music career is close to hitting rock bottom when the movie opens. He plays gigs in bowling alleys, drinks non stop and probably wakes up most mornings next to an aging groupie he does not even remember. Bridges flawlessly abandons vanity and lets his body show every indignity this type of lifestyle would bring to someone his age. The movie charts his doomed relationship with Jean, a journalist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and an eventual rise back to professional success and sobriety. I am a huge fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal but in this role I wonder what direction she was given or personal choices she was making, Her character is so vague that at the end of the movie, I could not have really have explained why she became involved with Bad so quickly or why she doesn't give him a second chance. My most pointed criticism is for a last minute ploy that is supposed to drive home that Bad does not have many chances left. This comes in the form of him loosing Jean's young son in a public place. It's done in a clumsy and not very realistic way that smacks of "after school special" and is totally unneeded. We got the "he's an alcoholic" point the first three times he threw up in a trash can or toilet. My verdict is that Jeff Bridges was incredible at what he did but the movie itself was flawed by formula plotting.


 
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