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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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From the Last 25 Years


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#21 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 05:42 PM

Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie - Feature film spin-off of the AdultSwim sketch comedy series Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim star as Tim & Eric, who have just squandered a billion dollars on a 3 minute movie. The film's financiers, the Schlaaang Corporation, demand a refund for the billion dollars, so Tim and Eric accept an offer to manage a failing small town, middle America shopping mall, since the previous manager promises that they'll earn a billion dollars for doing so. But getting the mall up and running again will be a difficult task. Also featuring Jeff Goldblum, Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, William Atherton, Ray Wise, Will Forte, John C. Reilly and Robert Loggia. To say that this is bizarre would be an understatement. Much of it is nonsensical, and a lot is in really bad taste, including one scene that will be hard to forget. I enjoy weird movies, though, so I didn't mind. Most others should probably avoid like the plague.  6/10

 

 

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#22 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 03:18 PM

Thale - Norwegian horror movie shows what can still be accomplished with a limited budget. Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and Elvis (Erlend Norvold) work for a biological clean-up company; in other words, after someone dies, they get to clean it up. Their latest assignment takes them to a remote cabin on a lake, where an old recluse has died. His body has been torn apart by wild animals, and while the two men are searching for the rest of him, they stumble across the old man's secret: he's been keeping a beautiful young woman named Thale (Silje Reinamo) captive in a locked room. Leo and Elvis call the authorities, but since it will be some time before they arrive, they search the cabin for more clues as to who the girl is and what the old man had been doing to her. The answers they get are beyond their comprehension. This was well done for the resources used, and the digital camera work showed a lot of skill. The performances, too, are good, especially from Reinamo, whose role as Thale is largely mute. My only complaint would be the short running time (77 minutes) precludes much depth to the proceedings.    6/10

 

 

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#23 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 01:02 PM

Terror of Dracula - Very low budget adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. It roughly follows the same plot, with London solicitor Jonathan Harker (Matt Davis) traveling to Transylvania to finalize contracts for a land purchase back in England. The buyer is the reclusive local nobleman Count Dracula (Anthony D.P. Mann), who is actually an immortal vampire. Once in England, Dracula victimizes Harker's fiancee Mina (Denise Wedge) and her friend Lucy (Angella Scott). Lucy's beloved Quincy (Ilke Hincer) summons noted physician Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Terry Wade) to try and get to the bottom of Lucy's recent mysterious affliction. This seems like a fairly well-done local community theater production. They get points for effort, and it's not the cheapest version of Dracula that I've seen, but it's close. The biggest problem is Mann as Dracula, but since Mann also wrote and directed the movie, I guess no one could tell him he was miscast. The film has an opening title card claiming that this is an old film version from before the Hammer films, and that is was restored. I was expecting them to play up this angle more, but beyond some very basic post-production filtering to add artificial film scratches and the like, nothing much is done to exploit this aesthetic angle.     4/10

 

 

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#24 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 10:35 PM

Tai Chi Hero - Follow-up to that same year's Tai Chi Zero, also from actor/director Stephen Fung. The Freak, now going by his real name of Lu Chan, marries the daughter (Angelababy) of the Chen Village Tai Chi Grandmaster (Tony Leung Ka Fai), making Chan an official member of the village and thus eligible for training in the Chen style. The Grandmaster's eldest son Zai Yung (Feng Shaofeng) returns to the village with dire warnings that the old prophecy that declared that if any outsider were taught the ways of Chen Tai Chi then the village would be destroyed, would come true if Lu Chan were taught. But Zai Yung may have an ulterior motive, and there's also the vengeful Fang Zi Jeng (Eddie Peng) to deal with. Joining the cast are Daniel Wu, Yuen Biao, and Peter Stormare. This is more of the same, so if you liked the first film, you'll like this. The plot gets a little more complicated, with various factions at play, but Chinese action fans should enjoy it.     6/10

 

 

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#25 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 08:49 PM

Tai Chi Zero - Big-budget Chinese historical action film, originally released in 3D, from actor/director Stephen Fung. Real-life wushu martial arts champion Jayden Yuan makes his debut as The Freak, a martial arts prodigy born with a small horn-like growth on his forehead that, when pressure is applied, turns him into an unstoppable fighting machine. Unfortunately it is also slowly killing him, and a kindly doctor tells The Freak to travel to Chen Village to learn the more passive Tai Chi style of kung fu, which will "realign his energies" and prevent his early death. Once he finds Chen Village, The Freak is turned away, as only natives are ever taught the ways of Chen Tai Chi. But when a railroad company wants to demolish the village to make way for new track, The Freak steps up to help out. Also featuring Angelababy, Eddie Peng, Shu Qi and Tony Leung Ka Fai.

 

This movie has style to spare, with obvious nods to comic books, Japanese anime, Western-style blockbusters and video games. The fighting choreography from action legend Sammo Hung is very good, although a lot of CGI is used to realize the over-the-top antics. It's odd seeing "Big Tony" Leung Ka Fai in the "old master" role, but we all get old eventually, I guess. My chief complaints would be some of comedy bits fall flat, and Yuan, while obviously skilled in the kung fu department, is still learning the acting part. I also have to mention the odd way characters are introduced in the movie, with onscreen graphics exclaiming, for example, "Look! It's Andrew Lau, director of the Infernal Affairs Trilogy!", or "It's Siu-Lung Leung, founding member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team!" This was filmed and released back-to-back with a sequel.       6/10

 

 

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#26 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 07:06 PM

Storage 24 - British monster movie set in the title location, a 24 hour in-door personal storage facility. An Air Force cargo plane crashes in London, with parts of the aircraft scattered across the city. One  piece of cargo from the plane, a large crate containing a homicidal creature, lands next to the storage facility. The creature escapes and hides out within the recesses of the labyrinthine storage warehouse. A small group of people, including some customers and some employees, are trapped inside as the creature begins killing them off one by one. Starring Noel Clarke, Colin O'Donoghue, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Jamie Thomas King, Ned Dennehy, Alex Price and Laura Haddock. There are a few things that undermine this movie. The lead actor (Clarke) isn't very likable or very good, but since he produced the movie, he gets to star in it, I guess. The creature has an interesting design, but its execution is a little faulty, being a mix of practical monster suit and CGI enhancements that don't always blend very well. The movie also relies too heavily on exaggerated, window-shaking booms and other loud sound effects. While this is still better than your average Syfy Channel movie, it's nothing to go out of your way for.        5/10

 

 

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#27 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 02:58 PM

Smashed - Indie drama starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate, a twenty-something elementary school teacher and alcoholic. She's hitting rock bottom, waking up in strange places and drinking at work. A fellow teacher (Nick Offerman) takes her to AA meetings, and she starts to get her life back on track, which drives a wedge between her and her husband (Aaron Paul), who still likes to drink and party all night. Also featuring Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place and Octavia Spencer. Winstead is tremendous in the lead, and while I've seen more than a few movies about alcoholism, this one manages to stand on its own, even if it's rather brief at 81 minutes.   7/10

 

 

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#28 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:51 PM

Shadow Dancer - I should have watched this one yesterday. Set in 1993, Andrea Riseborough stars as young Irish single mother who is also a member of the IRA. She has resented the English ever since, when she was a child, her younger brother was shot by English soldiers. After she is arrested following a botched bombing run, she is shown evidence that it was the IRA who shot her younger brother. A British agent (Clive Owen) recruits her as an informant, which she reluctantly agrees to, and we have the usual cat-and-mouse, will-she-or-won't-she get caught scenarios. Also featuring Domhnall Gleeson, Aiden Gillen and Gillian Anderson. This is well enough acted, but the Brits vs Irish storyline has been done a million times, not to mention the reluctant informer storyline, so much of this is old hat.      6/10

 

 

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#29 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 11:26 PM

Seven Psychopaths - From writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) comes this overly convoluted crime comedy that's a tad self-indulgent. Colin Farrell stars as alcoholic screenwriter Marty who is struggling to write his next script. He has a title, "Seven Psychopaths", but nothing else. He's prodded to work by his goofy actor friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), who makes a side-living by kidnapping dogs and returning them for the reward, with the help of his older friend Hans (Christopher Walken). They make the mistake of kidnapping the dog of violent gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), and they soon find themselves on the run. The tremendous cast also includes Tom Waits, Zeljko Ivanek, Kevin Corrigan, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gabourey Sidibe and Harry Dean Stanton.

 

There's a lot I liked here, with some hilarious dialogue, and good performances, especially from Walken and Rockwell. I wasn't thrilled by the navel-gazing nature of the script, a common occurrence with writer-directors who have a very successful film and are having trouble with the follow-up. Much of the film is a dissection of screenwriting crime movies, and playing up and off of the cliches. Farrell's obviously a stand-in for the director, and he's unfortunately the weakest part of the movie. Still, I enjoyed enough of it to keep the DVD and I'll watch it again some day, which is as good an endorsement as any.     7/10

 

 

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#30 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 08:46 PM

The Samaritan - Canadian crime drama stars Samuel L. Jackson as a former con man who has just been released from prison after serving a long sentence for murdering his partner-in-crime. He's approached by the grown son (Luke Kirby) of the man he killed, who has become a mid-level crime boss under the command of the brutal Xavier (Tom Wilkinson). Kirby keeps trying to lure Jackson into doing one more big con as a way of atoning for killing his father, but Jackson is insistent that he is going on the straight and narrow. When he meets a beautiful junkie-prostitute (Ruth Negga), though, Jackson may have a greater motive to do the con after all. Also featuring Gil Bellows, A.C. Peterson and Deborah Kara Unger. This was a decent neo-noir, although a major plot twist is lifted from the far superior Oldboy (oddly enough, Jackson would appear in Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy the following year). Jackson also sports a distractingly fake beard for most of the movie. He still gives a decent performance, as does recent Oscar nominee Negga.   6/10

 

 

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#31 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 05:17 PM

Red Dawn - Controversial remake of the 1984 cult action hit had a lengthy, troubled production before finally hitting cinemas with a whimper in 2012. The scenario sees the US being invaded militarily by North Korea (a nebulous alliance with other nations is alluded to but never really elaborated on), and a group of pretty young teens, led by a US Marine (Chris Hemsworth) home on leave when the invasion hits, start an insurgency against the occupiers. Also featuring Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Connor Cruise, Isabel Lucas, Will Yun Lee, Brett Cullen, Michael Beach, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. When production began on this, the antagonists were Chinese, but fears of political problems necessitated a change to North Koreans, a process that involved expensive CGI work and re-shoots. The film was completed in 2009, but didn't see a release for 3 more years. It's not as bad as I'd read, although it's nothing I need to see again. A few of the action scenes are well executed, but many of the more visceral moments of the original are left out for a PG-13 rating. The characters this time around are also less compelling, although the producers must have been thrilled that two of their stars (Thor star Hemsworth and Hunger Games star Hutcherson) had become marquee names during the lengthy post-production process.    5/10

 

 

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#32 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 02:06 PM

[REC] 3: Genesis - Third entry in the supernatural zombie horror series from Spain. While the first two films told a contiguous story set in the same apartment building, this story takes place at a large wedding reception with all new characters. One of the guests mentions having been bitten by a supposedly dead dog the day before the wedding, and as the evening progresses, he seems to get sicker and sicker until he becomes a bloodthirsty zombie. Everyone he bites turns into another zombie, and on and on, until only a few members of the wedding party are left to try and figure out how to live long enough to escape the grounds of the reception center. Starring Leticia Dolera and Diego Martin. The first two films were shot in the "found footage" style, as a reality TV hostess and her cameraman followed a fire department on a call to an apartment building. The first 20 minutes of this entry seems to be going the same route, as everything is presented as if from the cameras of those attending the wedding. But then the film shifts to a traditional, widescreen presentation. The result is a fairly standard zombie movie with little of the unique attraction of the first two films. This one also seems a lot more tongue-in-cheek, with some very over-the-top gore scenes.   5/10

 

 

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#33 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 12:30 PM

The Raven - Misguided period thriller stars John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe, who spends his days and nights drinking and roaming the Baltimore streets, living on the edge of destitution. He's in love with a beautiful girl (Alice Eve), but their plans for wedded bliss must be postponed when a mysterious killer strikes across the city, using techniques and scenarios from Poe's written works. Poe must team up with a dogged police detective (Luke Evans) to stop the murders. Also featuring Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Sam Hazeldine. This had one of the worst scripts of any major studio movie that I've seen in a while, with some really awful dialogue. Things aren't helped by Cusack, who in the last decade or so seems to have forgotten how to act. The production design is fine, and most of the support players are adequate, but the script undoes it all.   5/10

 

 

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#34 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 10:47 PM

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising - The tenth entry in the flagship series of movies from Full Moon Pictures. This is an immediate sequel to the previous entry, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), and the story picks up where that one ended. Set during WW2, a young American couple (Kip Canyon and Jean Louise O'Sullivan) have helped stop some Nazi saboteurs who were working in the US. Now they have to track down one of the "good" puppets who was lost during that mission. The Nazis are using it to create their own band of "evil" puppets. This entire series is cheap and silly, and while this looks even cheaper than most, they're all modestly entertaining if you aren't too picky.   4/10

 

 

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#35 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 09:08 PM

Piranha 3DD - Managing to be even dumber than the first one, this intentionally camp horror movie concerns a newly re-opened water park that gets its water from an aquifer tainted with the prehistoric killer piranha from the previous film. The young woman (Danielle Panabaker) who owns half the park warns her stepfather (David Koechner), who owns the other half of the park, not to open until the killer fish are properly disposed of. But of course he doesn't listen and the opening day festivities are marred by bloody mayhem. Also featuring Matt Bush, Katrina Bowden, Christopher Lloyd, Gary Busey, Clu Gulager, David Hasselhoff and Ving Rhames. This quickie follow-up to the surprise hit previous film lacks the gonzo verve that one displayed, and everything about it seems sloppy and half-baked. Only for the most desperate exploitation fan.   3/10

 

 

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#36 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 07:30 PM

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Novelist Stephen Chbosky gets to adapt his own novel and direct this excellent coming-of-age tale. Logan Lerman stars as awkward teen Charlie, who is entering high school as a freshman. He falls in with a group misfit senior classmen, including flamboyant Patrick (Ezra Miller) and beautiful Sam (Emma Watson), with whom Charlie is instantly smitten. They all navigate the treacherous waters of high school life together. Also featuring Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Paul Rudd, Tom Savini, Joan Cusack and Melanie Lynskey. All three leads are very good, and the film deals with universal issues with grace and honesty. It also goes to places few teen films do. Recommended.     8/10

 

 

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#37 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 04:28 PM

Passion - Brian De Palma wrote and directed this remake of a French psycho-sexual thriller. Rachel McAdams stars as an American executive at a prestigious German advertising firm. When she takes sole credit for a successful campaign away from a junior executive (Noomi Rapace), it sets off a battle of back-stabbing and humiliation that eventually leads to murder. Also featuring Karoline Herfurth and Paul Anderson. De Palma's style is at times very heavy-handed and even corny, and he throws in a few of his requisite camera tricks, with a few long tracking shots, and a slowly rising zoom-out crane shot. The score, too, is a bit silly, with some of it sounding like bargain-basement John Carpenter, while other scenes feature some sax-heavy slow jazz that would be at home in any number of early 90's "erotic thrillers". All told, the final package is goofy, and a little embarrassing, although if you view the whole thing as a parody, maybe it's not so bad.     5/10

 

 

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#38 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 12:27 PM

ParaNorman - Fun and energetic stop-motion animation film from Laika (Coraline). Norman is a young boy with a peculiar gift: he can see and talk to ghosts. His family thinks he just has a vivid imagination, but people start believing him when zombies erupt from the local graveyard and a witch's curse may spell doom for their small town. Featuring the voice talent of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, John Goodman and Elaine Stritch. This has an affectionate attitude toward horror films of the past, with many references and in-jokes. It reminds me of Tim Burton's aesthetic, but it's better done than many of his recent films. Recommended to horror fans and kids of all ages.    7/10

 

 

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#39 LawrenceA

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 09:22 PM

Paranormal Activity 4 - Another installment in the "found footage" series of horror films. [Series spoilers to follow] In the first film, we watched as Katie (Katie Featherston) and her husband are terrorized by unseen forces. At the end, Katie herself was seemingly possessed and escaped into the night. In the second film, we watched as Katie's sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and her husband and their small child are terrorized by unseen forces. At the end, the possessed Katie appeared, killed Kristi and made off with her 2 year old son. In the third film, we watched flashbacks to Katie and Kristi's childhood, where they were terrorized by unseen forces. In the end, we learned that all of the events of the series were set in motion by the girls' grandmother, a member of a coven of witches in league with an unnamed demonic entity.

 

In this fourth entry, we watch a new family, particularly teenage daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her young adopted brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp). They are typical suburbanites until they get new neighbors: Katie from the first film and her creepy adopted son Robbie. Robbie and Wyatt become friends, and soon Robbie is staying for sleepovers. Wouldn't you know it, this new family is soon being terrorized by unseen forces. This series, churned out year after year like clockwork, was really running out of steam by this point, and the repetitive formula had grown stale: long uninterrupted stationary security cam footage repeated over and over until something runs by, or a chair moves, or a blanket is whipped off of a bed, always accompanied by overly loud booming sound effects. The producers must have sensed that the gig was up, too, since they took a year off after this one and came back with a retooled formula in 2014's Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. I can't wait.   4/10

 

 

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#40 LawrenceA

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 07:14 PM

On the Road - Director Walter Salles adapts Jack Kerouac's seminal American novel to the screen and the results are a big blah. Sam Riley stars as Sal Paradise, a young would-be writer in post-WW2 NYC. He and his poet pal Carlo (Tom Sturridge) meet up with charismatic party animal Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and his 16-year-old wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart). The group begin a nomadic existence, crisscrossing the US on foot, hitchhiking or in a series of cars that come and go like their temporary jobs and love affairs, all in search of meaning, truth, or a good time. Also featuring Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss, Michael Sarrazin, Terrence Howard and Steve Buscemi. It's remarkable how a movie about getting high, getting drunk and having lots of sex can be so boring. Part of the issue is the casting, as Riley fails to evoke much sympathy or audience identification, while Hedlund fails to impart the kind of magnetism the Moriarty character demands. It may just be that this story works best on the page, or that any kind of meaningful adaptation should have been made 50 years ago. Viggo Mortensen is good in his brief role as the William S. Burroughs stand-in, though.    6/10

 

 

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