Wizard-8

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Reviews

Night Moves
(2013)

Definitely not for all viewers... but I liked it
While the plot description on Netflix lead me to believe that this would be a more hard-hitting movie with a lot of action, that isn't what I got. I suspect that many other viewers were probably expecting what I was expecting, resulting in the many negative user reviews here on the IMDb. But while I didn't get what I was expecting, I did find enough to enjoy about the movie to make me glad that I watched it. It is certainly far from a perfect movie. The characters don't have all that much depth that really explains why they decide to pull off the deadly plan they have carefully planned. Also, the last 15 or so minutes has a couple of "huh?" moments that don't make it clear as to what happened... or will happen. And the movie IS very slow - this is definitely not a movie to see when you are in the mood for mindless entertainment. But all the same, I was pretty captivated by the events of the movie. It feels more realistic than a lot of other movies dealing with the same basic subject matter. And while the movie is slow, its peeling of one layer off of another made me eager to find out what would happen next. The movie is also competently made in other areas despite a low budget, from the cinematography to the acting. Not a great movie, not a movie for everybody, and not for watching at any moment... but if you are in the proper mood at the right time, you'll probably enjoy it as much as I did.

Kidnapping Stella
(2019)

Okay, but not up to the original
When I came across this movie on Netflix, I said to myself upon reading its description, "Hey, this sounds familiar." In the first two minutes of watching the movie, my suspicions were confirmed - this German movie is a remake of the 2009 British movie "The Disappearance of Alice Creed", which I had seen years earlier and remembered enjoying. I was not sure if this remake was authorized or not, but I was interested all the same to seeing an interpretation of the original story by filmmakers of another country. This remake does mostly follow what happened in the original, though it does throw in some new twists, as well as eliminate a few plot points. On its own terms, the movie is okay, being not boring, and acceptably acted. Yet I remember the original movie being more rawer and gritty than this remake, partially due to its lower budget. Because of that I found the original movie to be a lot more compelling than this somewhat more glossy and slicker remake. So far, the other user reviews of this remake have largely been very negative. While I don't think this remake is deserving of such harsh reviews, at the same time it is definitely a few notches below the original. So if you have a choice between seeing either movie, I would say watch the original.

Ha-Balash Ha'Amitz Shvartz
(1973)

I throw this "Gus" under the bus!
In his memoirs, Troma Films' president Lloud Kaufman said that this movie (known as "Big Gus, What's The Fuss?" in some versions) was, "The biggest failure, monetarily and artistically, of my entire life." Reading his lamentations about the movie made me, of course, want to see it, but for years it was seemingly impossible to see. But thanks to the Internet, the movie is now available on YouTube for anyone to see if they want to... though after seeing it, I don't think anyone would be able to find anything to enjoy about the movie. The movie is certainly severely damaged by its slipshod production values and being full of extremely simple-minded gags that wouldn't even amuse a three year old child. But what really makes the movie a failure is the extremely low energy of the entire enterprise. It quickly becomes clear that nobody in the movie seems to be very enthusiastic about being here, from the uninspired performances of the actors to the lazy and flat direction from the director. The whole package ends up being an utter bore that also insults your intelligence. Not as bad as the Troma movie "Curse of the Cannibal Confederates", but it's very close.

Tracers
(2015)

Close, but no cigar
It's always a little frustrating when you see a movie that had some good resources and some good effort put into it here and there, but in the end not enough was done to make the movie a real grabber. That is what unfortunately happened with the making of "Tracers". On the surface, the movie seems to have something going for it. While not a big budget enterprise, the movie all the same looks fairly slick and without any shabbiness. And while the parkour action does eventually start to look alike, some of it is pretty well done by the director and the participants (the latter many times being done by the actors themselves and not stunt professionals.) However, the first hour of the movie often really drags by. The main character's predicament seems to be that of being mildly inconvenienced. As a result of that (plus a really slowly moving story concerning his dealings with the other characters), there isn't enough dramatic tension or reason to get really involved with the characters and what they do. In the last 30 or so minutes of the movie, things do start to move in a more dramatic and tense manner, but it ends up being a bit too little, too late. Also, the movie ends on a note where it seems that the remaining main characters are refusing to come fully with terms as to what has just happened to them and the people they know. The whole package isn't awful to watch, but it's too flat and too uninvolving to make it worth going out of your way for.

La Leyenda Del Diamante
(2017)

This treasure is complete fool's gold
Before watching "La Leyenda Del Diamante", I had seen a few other examples of modern day Mexican cinema, and what I saw didn't impress me, to put it mildly. This particular modern day Mexican movie does nothing to break the trend. In fact, it's one of the worst movies I have seen from *any* country for a long, long time. Where does it go wrong? Everywhere! The movie is technically shoddy, for one thing, with bad cinematography (especially in night scenes) that looks like it was photographed by a cell phone camera. The production values are virtually non-existent, with what seems to have been made with what farmland and old ruins the filmmakers could get their hands on, as well as what unconvincing costumes they could rent for a few pesos. The screenplay is a mess, taking a long time to (sort of) explain who is who and what is going on, and unfolding at an agonizingly slow pace. As for action, there is hardly any of it, and what little there is is executed in a feeble manner that has no impact or excitement. Believe it or not, this movie makes all those Mexican masked wrestler movies from the 1960s look lavish and exciting in comparison.

Emil and the Detectives
(1964)

Mediocre at its best, sluggish at its worst
During his lifetime, Walt Disney helped to make some great family films (both animated and live action) that are well know to this day. But there were also some films that fell through the cracks and are pretty much unknown today. "Emil and the Detectives" is one such movie, and upon watching it, it's pretty clear why the movie has been forgotten - it's not very good at all. I have not read the classic children's book the movie is based on, but it has to be a lot better and engaging than this movie plays out. The movie is often too goofy for its own good, from the strident narration to the unsubtle performances, becoming annoying when a more gentle approach would have been better. Also, the movie often moves at a really slow pace, and really lacks energy when mystery or suspense would be appropriate. The only real interest the movie has is when it showcases the shot in Berlin backdrop. I suspect kids as well as adults won't be very forgiving towards the movie, so there's no sense in tracking this down unless you are a true Disney fan.

The Omen
(2006)

Yet another unnecessary remake
I didn't think that the original "The Omen" movie from the 1970s was all that hot, and I think that the majority of remakes are inferior to the original. So why did I watch this remake of "The Omen"? Well, I was intrigued by the fact that this is one of the rare times when the writer of an original film (in this case, screenwriter David Seltzer) also is responsible for writing the remake. I though maybe that Seltzer might have thought of some improvements to his story in the decades that had passed. But the end results prove disappointing for the most part. Sure, the movie is technically stronger than the original, looking slick and expensive. And I admit that Mia Farrow does good work with her few scenes as the evil nanny. But the screenplay is responsible for most of the movie's failure. It is almost entirely a scene for scene remake of the original, just changing the dialogue slightly. There's almost no room for new ideas or new direction for the story to go for. And under John Moore's direction, the movie plods along at a really slow pace, with the relatively few horror scenes packing pretty much no punch. If you've seen the original movie, there's no reason to see this remake. Come to think of it, even if you haven't seen the original, there's not much in this update to make for entertaining or compelling viewing.

Recall
(2018)

Simply terrible
I know the many obstacles and pitfalls independent filmmakers have to face when making movies, especially when the filmmakers are Canadian. But even when you take that into consideration, there is no reason why this indie film had to be so unbelievably bad. I know the filmmakers were working with an extremely low budget, but even then they should have known to include things such as establishing shots and linking footage. As a result of missing essentials such as those, the movie sometimes has some bewildering moments. Actually, the bewildering moments momentarily woke me up from my near slumber, because the story plods along at a really slow pace, even though the running time is just a mere 72 minutes. Also what woke me up were the unbelievably amateurish performances by a no-name cast, though the dialogue is often written to be so awkward and unnatural that even an Oscar-worthy cast wouldn't be able to deliver them with firm conviction. The confusing and seemingly unfinished ending is the icing on the cake. Why on earth did Netflix think this utter weakling of a movie was worth picking up?

The Final Conflict
(1981)

Underrated entry in "The Omen" series
Having not found the original "The Omen" movie all that great, and thinking even less of the first sequel, my expectations for this second sequel were not all that high, especially after reading a number of negative reviews about it. To my surprise, I though this entry was decent, enough so that I think it's the best in the series. It's certainly not a perfect movie - it is somewhat long and drawn out, and at the same time there are some minor plot threads that seem to have been edited out along the way or simply not filmed in the first place. But the movie is all the same quite compelling. Sam Neill is creepy and believable as the antichrist, especially since this character is given a lot more to do and say than in the previous films. There is also somewhat more plot than in the first two movies, and while it may unfold in a slow fashion, it does intrigue and keep you watching. While there aren't that many horror moments, the few that there are manage to be very memorable. And there is a great musical score composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The only really big downside regarding the movie is that you'll have to beforehand sit through the first two humdrum entries in the series so you can understand what happens in this entry.

Holmes & Watson
(2018)

It could have been worse... but yeah, it's pretty terrible
Normally, I avoid the movies of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, because their typical brand of comedy is a kind I simply don't find all that amusing. But I sought out this particular movie of theirs, because I had heard so many ghastly reviews about it labelling it as one of the worst comedies of all time, and I have a penchant for extreme cinematic disasters. So is the movie really all that bad? Well, there were a small handful of gags that did provoke some (very) mild titters from me, but apart from those moments, I did find the movie to be as bad as other have made it out to be. There are some additional attempts at humor in the movie that COULD have worked with better staging and execution, but they are badly botched by writer/director Etan Cohen and the cast. But most of the humor is so lazy, so familiar, and so predictable, that even the best direction and performances could not milk any positive reactions from an audience. I think an additional problem is that Sherlock Holmes has previously been done to death both seriously and comically that it would require a herculean effort to add new life to the character. All that Cohen can seem to do is stuff like make many modern-day references, showing a real desperateness that will be painfully evident to any viewers. Not the worst comedy I have seen, but it all the same sinks to a real low point in the history of Hollywood movie comedies.

Cold Pursuit
(2019)

As fun as trudging through lots of snow
Although it is possible to combine hard violence with humor, it certainly isn't an easy thing to do. As a director, you have to have an especially steady hand to make sure both extremes compliment each other. "Cold Pursuit" tries to mix violence with humor, but the end results don't really work well. To be fair, the movie could have been a lot worse had the humor been more of a yuk-yuk style. The humor here instead is more subdued and subtle, but all the same, whenever it came up it just felt... odd. It didn't really fit with the seriousness and violence elsewhere in the movie. But that's not the only big problem with the movie. The movie, for one thing, unfolds at a really slow and casual pace, making it too long for its own good. Despite running almost two hours in length, there are some glaring plot details that are either not properly explained or simply not explained at all. Also, some characters (particularly Liam Neeson's lead character) don't get enough opportunity to show a background or everything that is motivating them. Why, for example, does Neeson's character almost immediately decide to start on a bloody path of revenge after his son is killed? We don't know, because we were barely introduced to his character before his son's death. The movie has some atmosphere, I admit, and it's far from the worst movie I've ever seen. But in the end, you'll likely forget completely everything about it a few days after watching it.

Ji qi zhi xue
(2017)

A bleeding mess!
I have long been a fan of Jackie Chan's movies from the 1980s and 1990s. While I do admire Chan nowadays for the ability to keep cranking out movies even in his 60s, I have to admit that the majority of his recent movies haven't been that good, and "Bleeding Steel" is not an exception. I don't know what went wrong here - maybe it was the Chinese government poking its nose into its production like it does often with other Chinese movies, or maybe the script was just simply written to be so terrible that no effort could be made to overcome that handicap. Whatever the reason(s) may be, the movie is really badly done. The story makes almost no sense, with linking footage or entire scenes seemingly cut out or not filmed in the first place. Chan clearly can't perform his trademark martial arts and stunt skills like he could in the past, and sometimes seeing him struggle to do his best made me wince a little. The action both concerning and not concerning Chan is badly directed, badly choreographed, and badly edited. And the level of comedy here is simply lame. In fact, the only laugh I got was with seeing the many, many production firms listed at the beginning of the movie - did somehow ALL these production firms think that the end results would be a roaring success?

Damien: Omen II
(1978)

Sloppily scripted sequel
While I didn't think that the original "Omen" was all that hot, I've got to admit that it does shine when compared to this first sequel. The biggest problem with this movie is that the screenwriters didn't apparently know what to do to make this sequel a real continuation of the story of an antichrist. The movie often seems to feel like it's being made up as it goes along, with a very slow moving (and minimal) story and characters that don't seem to have much point except to be killed off or to mysteriously disappear before the end credits start rolling. Indeed, when the movie ends, it's at a point where practically everything between the start and the ending did not matter at all. I guess there are a few sequences that are memorable, like the frozen river scene and the trainyard sequence, but even they seem tamer than they actually could have been. (The movie might squeak by with a PG-13 rating today.) It's no surprise then that the movie has essentially been forgotten by the general public in the years since it was theatrically released - it's pretty much forgettable.

The Omen
(1976)

Hasn't stood the test of time well
This horror movie certainly deserves some credit for not only capturing a great deal of public interest during its initial release, but also for being a big influence on many horror movies to come in subsequent years. However, seen today, the movie's effectiveness has sharply worn off. To a degree, the movie is still interesting in that it gets you curious enough to watch until the end to see what happens. But there are a number of flaws along the way that are very distracting. The fact that the movie is about the antichrist, yet gives this figure a limited amount of screen time (and even less to actually do) might have been forgiven had the narrative been better constructed. The narrative is strange in the fact that it simultaneously seems much too long and stretched out for its own good, yet at the same time is seemingly missing many plot details that would have made things a lot clearer. Many viewers might also be disappointed that while the movie was rated "R" at the time, the (limited) amount of horror is quite tame by today's standards. In the end, the movie is best reserved for die hard horror fans or film historians, though even they may find it somewhat of a slog at times.

Sharks' Treasure
(1975)

Best not to unearth this "treasure"
Although this independently made movie was picked up by a major American distributor, the distributor hasn't made much effort to push this movie to the public beyond its initial theatrical release - no release on VHS or DVD, and the movie only airs occasionally on TV. Seeing the movie, it's easy to figure out why - it's not a very good movie at all. Possibly because it was the project of someone (Cornel Wilde) whose glory days were starting to fade away at the time of production, the movie has a really old-fashioned feeling to it that must have seemed odd even to audiences back in 1975. But the bulk of the movie also gives off a much stronger feeling, and that is the feeling of utter boredom. Most of the movie is devoted to simply talking between the characters, and the dialogue isn't that memorable or interesting at all. There's almost no tension, suspense, or even mere interest. The little action there is isn't that much more compelling than all that dull dialogue, unless you like to see unfaked footage of real sharks being injured of killed. If you want to see a better effort from actor/filmmaker Cornel Wilde, watch "The Naked Prey" or "No Blade of Grass" instead.

Backtrace
(2018)

Sometimes silly, but mostly dull crime drama
Although Sylvester Stallone's name and image are used heavily on the advertising of this movie, in truth Stallone pulled a Bruce Willis and had a supporting role that was obviously filmed in just a few days of shooting. Actually, I knew that fact before I watched the movie, so I wasn't expecting to see a "Stallone" movie, if you know what I mean. But I sure was disappointed with the rest of the movie. Complaints here about the script are unfortunately correct - though the premise had some possibilities, the writing is pretty much predictable, even with the so-called "twists" near the end. Also, there are some ludicrous touches, such as with what Stallone's character does at the end of the movie. The biggest problem with the movie, however, is how boring it is. There's only action in the beginning and the end, and this limited action has absolutely no zip, just a routine feeling. The middle portion is even worse, with a slow-moving story with no tension or suspense. And it's clear throughout that most of the budget was blown on Stallone's limited appearance. Small wonder that Stallone in this movie just goes through the motions and gives very little effort. Take it back!

The Last of the Ski Bums
(1969)

Inferior clone of "Endless Summer" on skis
I had been searching for the movie for almost 30 years after stumbling across a review of it in Leonard Maltin's movie guide as a child, but I couldn't find it anywhere. For that matter, I could hardly find any mention of it anywhere else during that time. But I finally got to see it today. Maybe my expectations had built too high during all those decades, but I was kind of disappointed by what I watched. This "Endless Summer" on skis does have some of the ingredients from the original film, such as some good music, witty narration, and some spectacular footage of the participants doing their sport. However, the movie is simply missing much of the magic that "Endless Summer" managed to generate. Maybe it's because the ski footage becomes interchangeable after a while, maybe it's because there are a number of slow stretches, maybe it's because the footage between the ski shots is obviously staged and contrived, or maybe it's because the narration is too excessive and too jokey at times. Whatever the reason(s) might be, the end results make it clear why the movie has really faded into obscurity. But if you all the same want to track it down, as of this date it's posted on YouTube.

Skjelvet
(2018)

Mediocre disaster movie from Norway
The filmmakers behind "The Quake" - which is a sequel to "The Wave", which I saw earlier - managed to make this follow-up very close to working well enough to be recommended. But in the end, the movie doesn't quite reach "recommended" status, and sits firmly in the middle between that aforementioned status and "not recommended" status. Some people with less patience than me might have a bigger issue with the movie's very slow pacing and lack of action than I did, as well as the fact that the title activity does not happen until quite late in the movie. Though a bigger issue I had with the movie is that after the movie goes through the expected (if belated) action and suspense, it then suddenly concludes with a really flat ending that doesn't even begin to deal with everything we have seen up to that point. It's a real disappointment. Technically, the movie is very well done, from the cinematography to the special effects, so all that is good, and prevents the movie from being too tedious and boring. I think had the filmmakers tried to play things out with a slightly more snappy pace, I would have definitely recommended the movie. But as it is, it's isn't that good... though as I indicated earlier, it isn't that terrible either.

Traffik
(2018)

Little logical human behavior here
Although I later learned that this movie got a somewhat substantial theatrical release in the United States, I had not even heard of the movie before I stumbled across a DVD copy of it at my local library. Though long before I got to the closing credits upon viewing the movie, I could see why it slipped under my radar - it's not very good at all for the most part. My biggest complaint with the movie was stated in my summary line above. The characters - both the protagonists and the antagonists - make a number of really stupid and illogical decisions that don't seem close to what real people would make in the same situation. If someone had a shred more sense, things would have been wrapped up much more quickly, which would be a relief since the first half of the movie is very slow and practically without any spark or originality. And the final few minutes are kind of infuriating, because there is not only no suspense since the movie basically reveals several minutes earlier what will eventually happen, the movie tries to make a plea for stopping human trafficking - which would have been okay for a serious treatment, but out of place for a piece of flashy Hollywood entertainment. I admit that I wasn't bored at any moment (even during the slow first half), and the filmmakers managed to make things look fairly slick despite their very low budget. But there is precious little that is logical or engaging enough to make it worth seeing even for free as I did.

Bullitt County
(2018)

Pretentious and annoying indie thriller
I feel I should first tell potential viewers of this independent film that despite its title, and the Netflix description promising this to be a hard-hitting and action-filled exercise, the movie actually has very limited action or suspense. There's nothing wrong with a movie being that way, as long as it's well made enough, but unfortunately this movie really misses the mark. It's a really slow exercise, for one thing - it takes about 40% of the movie before the characters truly find themselves in big trouble. Up to that point - and for much of the remaining running time after that point - the movie is jam-packed with characters spouting endless pretentious dialogue that sounds nothing like what people would say, even in the movie's 1970s setting. (And there seems to be no reason why the movie was set in the 1970s, by the way.) Towards the end (after there have been several points where linking footage seems to be missing, by the way), there are a couple of twists in the plot, but I was able to predict both of those twists long before they actually unfolded. The movie is well photographed, and there is some amusement with one of the key actors looking remarkably like Art Garfunkel, but otherwise, most viewers will want to put a "bullitt" in the head of the writer/director long before the end credits start rolling.

Atone
(2019)

Lord help us!
I'll give the people who made this "Die Hard" rip-off this: It's not only one of the few "Die Hard" rip-offs to have a female in the lead role, it's also set in a location not used before... a church! Also, there are a few brief instances when the hand-to-hand combat on display has some effectiveness. Apart from what I just mentioned, however, there is NOTHING well done or even barely competent to be found here! The biggest problems with the movie is how incredibly badly directed and edited the movie is. Linking footage constantly seems missing or wasn't filmed in the first place, there are continuity errors, the story often unfolds in a particularly garbled and head-scratching manner, and sound effects are dubbed in badly. The few special effects mostly use really cheap CGI that adds to the really low grade feeling of the surroundings. The acting on display is amateurish as well, and it doesn't help that most of the characters (including the so-called heroine) are pretty unlikable and not the least bit interesting. I could list other ways the movie fails, but it would be pretty redundant after saying that NOTHING, apart from what I mentioned at the top of the review, is good to be found here. This movie really dies hard.

Chang-gwol
(2018)

Movie delivers, if you bear with a slow first half
Let's face it - zombie movies nowadays are a dime a dozen. A lot of them look like they were only budgeted a dime! But this one obvious had a decent budget, which is a good start. But the most novel thing about this zombie movie is that it's not only Korean, but it's set in medieval times. That certainly gives this effort a novel air around it, and it helps to get though some of the problems to be found. The movie seems to assume its audience knows about Korean history and culture, but I can't really blame the movie for being murky in those areas. , since the movie was aimed at a Korean audience. The core storyline does have a few minor confusing plot points, but the biggest problem with the movie is that the first half moves really slowly, with endless dialogue and precious little zombie action. However, things do improve with the second half of the movie, where the zombie action suddenly bursts forth and runs... well... rampant until the very end. All of this rampant zombie action is pretty well done, and it makes it worth sticking through the movie's very slow first half. Obviously with the problems that I mentioned, this isn't among the very best efforts of the whole zombie genre, but zombie fans should find it all the same worth a look.

The Yesterday Machine
(1965)

Mostly a dull affair
Years ago, I read about this movie in a book, and it stated that actor Jack Herman gave an incredibly campy performance as an evil Nazi scientist. The prospect of seeing some really bad acting made me want to see the movie, but I couldn't find a copy of it in any video store. But today I found the movie on YouTube, so I could finally watch it, and I was mostly let down. For the most part, I found the movie to be very forgettable. The first half of the movie is really boring, with almost no action (and what action there is is extremely lame), and is filled with drab scenes of people engaged in dull chat that is clearly padding out the movie past the breaking point. The second half of the movie is a bit more successful, having a bit more energy and punch to the story. However, the highlight is Jack Herman's acting, which is indeed campy and over the top at times, though actually I was expecting something even more overdone than I had been lead to believe. But even at his "best", Herman isn't enough to save the movie and make it worth watching. I would only recommend the movie to true aficionados of mad scientist performances.

The Super
(2017)

There are worse movies.... but also many movies better than this
No, this movie isn't a horror remake of the lame 1991 Joe Pesci comedy of the same name, but the results might have been somewhat better had they gone along that route. To be fair, the movie as it is is better than the many one star ratings other IMDb users have given it. I admit that the twist towards the end of the movie was one I didn't predict, and the movie is pretty well produced despite having a very low budget. But the movie is all the same a failure mainly due to the fact that it creeps along at an incredibly slow pace. As a result, the movie is often quite boring. Also, there are a few plot holes that really come apparent when at the end you think about everything you have just seen. There is some novelty here and there when Val Kilmer appears, but in my opinion most of the novelty comes from the fact he's giving a really weird performance that doesn't fit with his surroundings, and the performance obviously makes his character a real red herring. Producer Dick Wolf should stick to television instead.

High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane
(1980)

Not a complete travesty, but certainly very forgettable
This made-for-TV sequel was available at one of my local video rental shops way back when I was a teenage, but I never rented it in part due to the bad reputation that it had. Just recently I was reminded about its existence again, and doing some subsequent research, I saw that the legendary Elmore Leonard write the teleplay, and he certainly wrote some good western stories in his career. Unfortunately, this particular oater doesn't stand up to his other efforts. While there are many criticisms I could list about this movie (such as the weird sight of Lee Majors trying to act in a Gary Cooper style), the main problem with the movie is that it not only does its story plod along at an extremely slow pace, there is usually no significant energy generated in any particular scene. The movie really suffers in comparison to the original in this regard, made worse by the fact that the story this time around doesn't feel like a story that needs to be told.

However... if you look at the movie without comparing it to the original, and seeing what it basically is - a 1980 made-for-TV western - it does come across somewhat better. And unlike other made-for-TV movies of the time, it does have the novelty of David Carradine and a few instances of somewhat more colorful dialogue than usual. Though even with this viewpoint, there isn't enough to make this a must-see. Even as a viewing when entertainment options are extremely limited is also questionable.

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