December 2012 Archives

Cosmopolis is the Pick of the Week

An acclaimed director takes on an acclaimed writer's book, and critics be damned, I'm gonna watch it.
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You might have noticed the absence of The Pick of the Week here at Cinema Sentries last week. The reason for this was quite simple: there weren't any DVDs or Blu-rays released last week. Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year I guess they figured no stores would be open or nobody would be interested in purchasing new videos on Christmas so they sat last week out. To make up for it they are doing new releases twice this week with some things coming out on Monday and other on Tuesday. Not that it will make much of a difference

An Evening with The Monkees, Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA, 11/10/12

"It's about the good work we did." - Mike Nesmith to Los Angeles Times
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The Monkees 12-date tour this past fall was a bittersweet affair. No doubt many were delighted to see the return of Mike Nesmith to the group. It was his first with them since their UK tour in 1997 and also his first Monkees tour in the U.S. since 1969. Unfortunately, it was again only three of Pre-Fab Four performing together, just as it had been on the previous tours through the past few decades, including last year's 45th anniversary celebration. However, this time fans weren't trying to parse press releases and interviews to learn the reason why because Davy Jones

Blackmore's Night: A Knight in York DVD Review: The Most Ridiculous Real-life Spinal Tap Situation Ever

Intended for those who have drank the Blackmore’s Night Kool-Ade.
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“King” Ritchie Blackmore and “Queen” Candice Night formed Blackmore’s Night back in 1997 to perform Renaissance music. When I first heard them, I figured it was just a phase, and that Blackmore would return to his rock roots soon enough. As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. The Blackmores are still happily plying their medieval trade, and have just released a live DVD titled A Knight in York. Along with Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore was one of the hard rock guitarists of the ‘70s. He led Deep Purple through their golden era, which produced such classic

Butter (2012) DVD Review: Destiny Carves a Smooth Path

A satire of the American Heartland that also offers an emotional story about acceptance.
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When Butter first came out, it got slammed by most critics, so let me state once again, I’m not most critics, but I could see inside the director's eye finding the different paths he and the characters chose. What we have here is a below-the-belt jab at the iconic ideals of the American Heartland, while plucking the emotional strings of a simple story. It is flooded with a sharp dry wit that glosses over the pale, stark reality of human nature. Director Jim Field Smith rises to the occasion with an all-star team. A young girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi)

The Good Doctor Blu-ray Review: I Cannot "Understate" How Unexciting This Is

The story doesn't warrant the cast it garnered.
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The Good Doctor tells the story of Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) who seeks to be the titular good doctor, but for all the wrong reasons. When prompted, he explains that he chose this career to feed his need for affirmation and respect, that helping his patients fell secondary to being liked by them. Sounds a bit like Dr. Gregory House, but without the confidence or wit. He quarrels with a nurse (Taraji P. Henson) and an orderly (Michael Peña), and brown-noses toward his superior Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow), when along comes Diane (Riley Keough), seeking treatment for a kidney/urinary tract

Gandu DVD Review: A Daring Bengali Film Low on Substance

An experiment in breaking conventions that easily runs out of steam.
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Directed by Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee), Gandu is an interesting but not entirely convincing Bengali film. It arrives packed with danger, having been “banned in India” and received a number of transgressive descriptors. Indeed, the motion picture may well blast away the boundaries of the sort of mainline cinema most are used to when it comes to India. It may even be “anti-Bollywood,” as advertised. The trouble doesn’t lie in its excesses or even its transgressions; the problem lies in determining whether or not Gandu is a good movie. Q seems to use the 2010 flick as an experiment, stating a

FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton DVD Review: Paying Tribute to the Album That Made Him a Household Name

The legendary live album gets the anniversary treatment on this new DVD.
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The 1970s were a time of bloated excess, disco, and the live album. Bands from Cheap Trick to Kiss were catapulted to stardom thanks to their respective live releases, but the biggest live album might have come from Ex-Humble Pie guitarist, Peter Frampton. Like the aforementioned bands, Frampton built his reputation on tight live shows, but hadn’t sold tons of albums until he released a live album himself. Frampton Comes Alive! changed all that, turning Frampton into a household name. Thirty-five years later, Frampton is still going strong. To commemorate the anniversary of his most famous release, Frampton played the

Doctor Who: The Snowmen TV Review: Happy New Companion

This year's Christmas episode has a disappointingly lame villain but an extremely effective setup for the Doctor's newest companion.
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Santa Claus brought Doctor Who fans a new companion this year, and she proves to be a keeper. As 19th century barmaid/governess Clara Oswin Oswald, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman ensures that the Ponds won't be missed. I know, that sounds like heresy in the wake of the immense fan-favorite Amy and Rory characters, but give the new girl a shot, she's going to be a classic. The baddie of the episode is underdeveloped, but I'm more than willing to forgive that for the great jumping-on point continuing showrunner/writer Steven Moffat delivered under our trees this year. Of course we've met Clara

Quincy, M.E.: Seasons 1 & 2 DVD Review: Lightning Strikes Twice for Jack Klugman

It makes for a good rental for fans of '70s/'80s television.
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Quincy, M.E., ran from 1976 to 1983 on NBC. The first four episodes of this three-disc set were part of the last season of The NBC Mystery Movie, which was an umbrella title for a rotation of television mysteries like Columbo and McCloud. Quincy was successfully spun off into its own hour-long series, which make up the remaining twelve episodes. It is a creation of Glen A Larson, a television legend of the ‘70s and ‘80s, who has a great track record creating and producing such hit series as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Hardy Boys, Battlestar Galactica, B.J.

Gritty and Deep Fried Best Describes Killer Joe

Star Matthew McConaughey gives a frightening performance in a film that tests your will.
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The NC-17 is coming back with a vengeance between this year’s Killer Joe and last year’s Shame. Killer Joe itself is an interesting film in that one scene is all that pushes the limit over into the taboo rating, but boy does that scene stick with you. The entire film is gritty, brutal, Southern-fried crime film with some strong performances, but none better than Matthew McConaughey who is nothing short of terrifying as the title character. Take heed, Killer Joe is not for the faint of heart. It’ll hook into you and refuse to let up till the very end.

Lawless Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: Rarely Reaches Above the Conventions of its Genre

A fair piece of Sunday afternoon “there’s not really anything else on” fare.
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Inspired by Matt Bondurant’s 2008 biographical novel The Wettest County In the World, musician and composer Nick Cave wrote the screenplay for Lawless. With John Hillcoat directing and a cast including Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce andShia LaBouf, Lawless seemed poised to be the “moonshiner’s Goodfellas” and clearly went out of its way in an attempt to do so. They even got Willie Nelson to be on the soundtrack! Unfortunately, what was promised and what was delivered are two totally different things and Lawless turned out to be long stretches of pretty scenery punctuated by vivid and horrific violence

Christmas Movies [Snob Seven]

Recommended for those who have been either naughty or nice.
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As a gift to our faithful readers, Cinema Sentries offer up a few of our favorite Christmas movies. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) selected by Brandie Ashe Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), a successful single woman living in a cramped apartment in New York City, cannot cook to save her life. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be such a big deal, except that Elizabeth makes her living as a sort of Martha Stewart precursor, writing a popular magazine column about the supposed "country home" and delicious, "home-cooked" meals that she shares with her nonexistent husband and baby. When Elizabeth's publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet),

Purple Noon Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Treat for the Eyes and a Test for the Nerves

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, this tale of deception and murder made Alain Delon a star.
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Purple Noon (Plein Soleil), Rene Clement’s 1960 film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, is more brooding and unsettling than Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation. Long before Matt Damon took on the role of Tom Ripley, French actor Alain Delon’s chiseled good looks and cool demeanor breathed life into Highsmith’s suave identity thief. The Criterion Collection released a restored version of Purple Noon on DVD (and Blu-ray) earlier this month. Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), an arrogant, devil-may-care rich kid, is traveling through Italy spending his fortune. His concerned father back in America offers Ripley $5,000 to bring the

The Night of the Devils (1972) Blu-ray Review: Still Good, 40 Years Later

Serves as an example of what a horror movie can be if you replace gore and fancy effects with tension and storytelling.
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If there’s one thing that scary movies have taught us, it’s that if someone’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, asking the locals for help is a recipe for horrible things happening to the driver. Apparently this horror cliche transcends generations and borders, as this is the pivotal beginning of Giorgio Ferroni’s Italian horror cult classic The Night of the Devils, a film inspired by the tale The Wurdulac by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy. But let’s jump back for a moment, since the movie does as well. It starts with a man named Nicola (Gianni Garko) staggering beaten and

Osombie DVD Review: Good Dumb Fun

It's an amusing, offensive, complete waste of time with a ridiculous premise -- everything that cheesy action/zombie movies are supposed to be.
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Remember that time a dumb action movie got a great metascore on Metacritic or average review on IMDB? Yeah, me neither. Some of the best action movies don’t take themselves very seriously, and that’s exactly what you get with Osombie, a re-imagining if you will of the events surrounding Bin Laden’s takedown in Afghanistan. Instead of the S.E.A.L. team popping a cap and carrying him out, Bin Laden shoots himself up with a modified toxic agent and turns into -- you guessed it -- a zombie. The impression I got from the box art and synopsis on the back was

V/H/S DVD Review: Definitive Proof as to Why Beta Was Better

Not only is it a contemporary SOV flick, but it's a found footage flick, to boot. Joy, eh?
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Some of you may remember a point in the history of home video wherein amateur filmmakers who had managed to save up enough bread to buy a camcorder would make their own movies. These shot-on-video (SOV) items were usually of the horror variety, and were renown for their piss-poor quality in terms of, well, everything. Nevertheless, indie distributors managed to make a few bucks off these budget-less wonders — something that wasn't too terribly hard to do in an age when rental priced videocassettes often sold to mom-and-pop stores for a hundred bucks a piece, and private producers could easily

The Point Definitive Collector's Edition DVD Review: Celebrating Non-Conformity

Harry Nilsson's fable is certainly of its era.
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I must confess that I never really “got” Harry Nilsson. Now don’t get me wrong, I like what I have heard of his music, and I even own his Nilsson Schmilsson album, but I never quite understood why The Beatles considered him their “favorite American musician.” Personal taste is just that though, and evidently they heard something extra special in his music. Evidently he was a lot of fun to drink with also, and that may have been a factor in former party animal Ringo Starr’s involvement in Nilsson’s animated film The Point (1971). With the Peanuts specials, and various

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series Review: These Zombies Go After Your Brain While Tugging On Your Heartstrings

You will often find yourself regretting some of the decisions you've made, and the game seems designed to make you do just that.
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You way be under the impression that Telltale's The Walking Dead is a video game about zombies. And while, yes, it does take place during a zombie apocolypse and does feature a whole host of gnarly, shambling, scary, brain-hungry corpses, what this game really is about is one thing: decisions. Think of this like one of those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels where it's up to you to make the big decisions that impact what happen next. If you're a fan of interactive stories, and have a high tolerance for grisly violence, scares. and dark subject matter, then this

The Flying House Project DVD Review: A Travesty of Animated Proportions

Animator Bill Plympton's ill-conceived "revitalization" of a Winsor McCay classic is a slap in the face to McCay's legacy.
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Early 20th-century artist and cartoonist Winsor McCay is not exactly a household name, at least in comparison to other stalwarts of early animation like Walt Disney (though this fall’s Google Doodle honoring McCay's pioneering comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland went a long way towards familiarizing him with modern audiences). But there is no denying his groundbreaking influence in the development of the animated genre. In fact, McCay, whose work predated Disney's by more than a decade, practically invented the concept of animated film, spending thousands of hours producing, directing, and drawing every frame of his cartoons by hand, usually

Beasts of the Southern Wild Blu-ray Review: An Acquired Taste

Indie darling of the year is indie for a reason: it’s defiantly non-commercial.
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Director Benh Zeitlin‘s film is this year’s Little Indie That Could, a micro-budgeted, challenging art house effort that defied long odds to first gain distribution and then achieve substantial critical acclaim and a fair amount of public knowledge. That’s reason enough for some amount of adulation, as adult dramas have been in deep freeze at the megaplex for so many years now that it’s comforting to see one break through every so often. As for whether it’s worthy of its high profile, that’s entirely up to how much viewers are open to flights of fancy and tales of swamp people.

The Hour Series 1 Blu-ray Review: Would Have Been Better At That Length

First series stretches a glacially-paced tale over six hours.
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As we gear up for the imminent home video release of series 2, let's take a look back at series 1. The Hour has a great deal going for it on paper, beginning with its period setting in a ‘50s BBC newsroom, along with a uniformly great cast featuring a couple of players familiar to US audiences: Dominic West (The Wire) and Burn Gorman (Torchwood). The show looks great and is packed with fine performances, but it moves at such a leisurely and uneventful pace that even its short six hour running time feels entirely too long. I literally found

Grindhouse Movie Review: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and Friends Recreate the Experience

Tarantino's well of creativity as a screenwriter has run bone dry here.
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The word "grindhouse" used to refer to the old, run-down theaters that showed double bills of B-movies. Back before there was a home video market, these were the only places you could see the redheaded stepchildren of cinema: movies filled with plenty of over-the-top violence, sex, and/or gore, not necessarily in that order, because producers knew they could make a buck with it. They could only afford to create a handful of prints, so the films traveled across the country, each playing at many theatres, most of which didn't have high quality equipment or projectionists, resulting in quite a bit

This is Not a Film Movie Review: Maybe Not a Film, But a Masterpiece Nonetheless

Under house arrest in Iran, Jafar Panahi made a defiant, playful, heart-rending piece of protest cinema — and much more.
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Jafar Panahi’s defiant, playful, mundane, formally adventurous and consistently surprising This is Not a Film is one of the greatest things I’ve seen this year, whether you want to call it a film or not. I’m delighted it’s been shortlisted for the best documentary Academy Award, even if calling it a documentary doesn’t seem quite right either. Like Panahi’s previous films and those of mentor Abbas Kiarostami, This is Not a Film obliquely explores political ramifications through commonplaces, all the while questioning the power of a cinematic image and dancing on the line between reality and fiction. Yes, it’s a

Bernie (2012) is a Happy Film About Life, Death, and Murder

How can a film about a murder be so darn delightful?
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In the opening moments of Richard Linklater’s film Bernie, the title character played by Jack Black says, “You cannot have grief tragically becoming a comedy.” An ironic statement since that’s all Bernie deals in; the blending of the tragic with the comic. Bernie is a consistently funny murder story detailing a small Texas town, and the nicest man who ever committed murder. Remarkably unbelievable, uproariously funny, and with the best performance from Jack Black ever, be sure to seek out this gem of a black comedy. In the small Texas town of Carthage, Bernie Tiede (Black) is the nicest assistant

Purple Noon Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Talented Mr. Delon

Alain Delon is a dashing, magnetic force in this early adaptation of novelist Patricia Highsmith’s "The Talented Mr. Ripley".
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Remember The Talented Mr. Ripley? Director Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s crime novel helped launch Jude Law to international fame, but it wasn’t the first go-around of the story. No, that honor goes to this film, produced in 1960 just a few years after the novel’s publication. As in the modern-day incarnation, the film succeeds due largely to the phenomenal casting of the complex Tom Ripley character, in this case filled by rising star Alain Delon. Delon was in his mid-20s and just coming into fame at the time of the film’s production. He’s impossibly striking here, possessing

Exotica Movie Review: "What is It About a Schoolgirl?"

Subtle, understated dealings with grief in a club full of exotic dancers is a little unexpected.
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Exotica (1994), a Canadian contemporary of Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Atom Egoyan, revolves around the nightclub that gives the movie its title. It's told in a disjointed chronological order, which means by the time the viewer is invited into the action, everything has already happened. It's all very Pinteresque. At the Exotica the lovely young lady Christina (Mia Kirshner) is dancing to Leonard Cohen's “Everybody Knows” wearing a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. The club's DJ Eric (Elias Koteas) gives her introduction, often repeating the question, “What is it about a schoolgirl?” The club itself is strangely not as sleazy

Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2: An Artful Bloodbath

A perfect mix of dialogue and action.
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Back during the filming of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman cooked up a story about a Bride who goes on revenge spree against her former co-workers. The result of that doodling and daydreaming became a four hour long flick called Kill Bill. Played by Uma Thurman, The Bride (whose name is later revealed as Beatrix Kiddo), used to be an assassin, and worked with a group called the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad. Their boss, Bill (David Carradine), was her former lover. But at the beginning of the story, Beatrix is shown, bloodied and beaten, laying in her

The Yardbirds: Making Tracks DVD Review: Great Performances from the 21st Century Edition of the Band

As this set proves though, the band is not calling it a day just yet.
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The Yardbirds are a legendary British band, who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2013. There have been a tremendous number of personnel changes over the years, but The Yardbirds will always best be remembered as the band that launched the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Of the ’60s lineup, only Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), and Jim McCarty (drums) remain. But as the new double-DVD Making Tracks set shows, the young guns they have brought in certainly know how to rock. The first DVD is a 15-song collection of live material recorded during 2010-2012. I

Jackie Brown Movie Review: Yes, This is Quentin Tarantino's Best Movie

Despite its often little-loved status, Jackie Brown is the standout among all Tarantino films.
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A new Quentin Tarantino movie is generally a cause for excitement, even if the filmmaker is often his own worst enemy, overdoing it on the snark or the violence or another of his numerous self-indulgences. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy the vast majority of Tarantino's work, and I do believe his hip, hyper and referential aesthetic has been a bracing addition to American cinema, no matter how many bad Pulp Fiction imitations he's spawned. And once, he made a pretty much perfect movie, and its name is Jackie Brown. Less flashy and instantly quotable than its predecessors (and

Masters of the Universe: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition is the Pick of the Week

By the power of Grayskull, I have the coolest He-Man boxed set ever.
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With essentially every television show and movie ever made now available at the click of a button, nostalgia is taking a glorious beating. On a fairly regular basis, I go back and watch things that I used to love as a kid. Sometimes it turns out that particular show is even better than I remembered, but more often than not I have to wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I force-fed paint chips growing up? Did I sniff glue as a recreational activity? Surely I was smoking something wacky to ever consider that to be good. This

Rolling Stones DVD Documentary Focuses on First Years with Ronnie Wood

Ronnie Wood comes to the Stones' emotional rescue.
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Generally speaking, the music the Rolling Stones recorded and released in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is not considered by critics as among their strongest or most innovative. Of course there are exceptions—in my mind, at least, those would include 1978’s Some Girls, 1981’s Tattoo You, and a smattering of individual tracks from other albums (like “Memory Motel” and “Fool to Cry”)—but not a lot. Nevertheless this particular era is pivotal in the history of the band, during which Ronnie Wood would assume the unenviable task of replacing the prodigious Mick Taylor on lead guitar. The Rolling Stones: Under

Lady Antebellum: Own the Night World Tour Blu-ray Review: Fans Need This Now

Behind-the-scenes footage combines with concert performance captures this popular band.
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Before watching this concert, I wouldn’t have called myself a great fan of Lady Antebellum, which is comprised of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood. I had “Need You Now,” considered the greatest-selling country single of all time, on my iPod but never considered buying an album or seeing them in concert. With prices what they are these days for tickets and with my seats getting further and further away from the artist, watching a concert on home video seems like a solid solution. Taken from their Own the Night world tour, their second as a headliner, the concert

The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show Complete Animated Series Review: Put On a Smile and Stay for a While

These animated recreations of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip range from hilarious to predictable.
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In my review of Happiness is…Peanuts: Go Snoopy Go! in October, I mentioned that the disc included an episode of the 1980s series The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, containing short segments revolving around the abridged adventures of various characters. Though this episode was admittedly somewhat bland, it was nonetheless the highlight of that particular DVD (as the featured presentation, It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown, was relatively underwhelming in comparison). Although several other episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show have also been released previously on DVD as special features on the various Happiness is…Peanuts compilations, Warner Archive has

The Point DVD Review: A Lesson in Tolerance

Long out of print, the restored film retains its multigenerational appeal, largely thanks to Harry Nilsson's timeless songs.
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In 1971, ABC aired the first animated special aired on primetime television, The Point, a lesson in tolerance told through Harry Nilsson’s wonderful music. A new collector’s edition, available on DVD, brings the charming cartoon to a new generation through remastering and bonus features. Those who grew up listening to such tunes as “Me and My Arrow” and “Are You Sleeping?” will enjoy this trip back in time, while its timeless themes may resonate with younger viewers. The Point tells the story of Oblio, a round-headed boy living in a land where everyone else sports pointed heads. In a land

2013 Golden Globe Nominees Have Been Announced

Political dramas lead both fields.
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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the nominees for their 70th annual Golden Globes Awards. Lincoln garnered the most film nominations with seven. Game Change led the TV categories with five. The awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, January 13, 2013 will be broadcast live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Competing Best Actress - Comedy or Musical nominees Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are the hosts. Nomianted films reviewed at Cinema Sentries are linked at the first mention of their title below. Were your favorites picked? Or did they get overlooked? Make your voice heard in the

Finding Nemo Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: The Art of Letting Go

A story of love and parenthood.
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Released in theaters in 2003 and now available on Blu-ray, Finding Nemo is the fifth feature produced by Pixar. Critically acclaimed and a smash at the box office, like much of the studio's output, the film delivers impressive artwork and animation, but the story, accessible to both adults and children, is main reason for its success. After the loss of his wife and a number of his children, Marlin (Albert Brooks) the clownfish is understandably an overprotective father towards his son Nemo (Alexander Gould). During Nemo's first day of school, he gets embarrassed in front of his new classmates by

The Qatsi Trilogy: (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi) Criterion Collection DVD Review: Fans Should Be Very Pleased

A true collaboration between director and musician.
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When Koyaanisqatsi (1983) came out, my girlfriend at the time talked me into seeing it with her. She was very much into the art house scene, while I was more of a Wargames (1983) kind of guy. I must admit that upon first viewing the film, I was dumbfounded. There is no dialog or narration at all, rather, it features a compelling series of images which are set to the music of Philip Glass. The movie is very much like a dream, and assumes the audience’s intelligence in deciphering the story that producer and director Godfrey Reggio is telling. Koyaanisqatsi

Dreams of a Life Movie Review: The Tale of Joyce Vincent

How could this have happened?
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Written and directed by Carol Morley, Dreams of a Life is a stunning documentary that tells a story that could not possibly be true. It details the life and death of Joyce Vincent, who was discovered in her bedsit above a shopping mall in North London. She’d been dead for three years before her remains were found. Her television was still on and she was surrounded by unopened Christmas presents. How could this have happened? How could anyone, let alone an attractive and generally well-liked 38-year-old, fade into the void in such a fashion without anyone catching on? Morley sets

Beasts of the Southern Wild Movie Review: Magical But Hard to Swallow

Magical realism and an astounding child actress do little to elevate a non-existent plot.
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I hate to be the one person to continuously chastise films that are receiving critical acclaim, but it feels as if certain films get a huge wave of people wanting to jump on the bandwagon, and those who disagree are labeled inferior for “not getting it.” Beasts of the Southern Wild is receiving that treatment currently as people scramble to decide where it will land come Oscar time. Recently, the acting from the movie is being praised through several Critics’ Choice Award nominations. And yet, I don’t understand the hype. Yes, the performance from child actress Quvenzhane Wallis is fantastic,

From Dusk Till Dawn Movie Review: Genre-hopping and Gore

"Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don't give a fuck how crazy they are!" in the immortal words of Seth Gecko.
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There is no reason to expect anything other than a hyperawareness of the very artificiality of the medium when dealing with a Tarantino movie, and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) is a prime example of the wild playfulness of the notion of genre-hopping. Note that Tarantino didn't direct this one, Robert Rodriguez did. Tarantino both wrote the script and co-stars, though, so it's a fair assumption that he had a heavy influence over the proceedings. Seth Gecko (George Clooney) is the beleaguered elder brother who has to try and keep little brother Richard (Tarantino) in check through breaking out of

The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection is the Pick of the Week

A big box of silent goodness just in time for Christmas.
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One of the more liberating things about college was to find people just as passionate about movies as I was. Sure I used to go to the movies with my parents on a regular basis, and me and my buddies would rent flicks about every weekend, but to everyone else it seemed as if films were just a way to pass time - mere entertainment - while to my mind they were so much more. They were Art, they were Life, they had Meaning and Import. At university, I was able to find likeminded folks who took these things seriously

Ted Blu-ray Combo Review: Pretty Damn Funny

There are a lot worse things you could do while sitting on the couch smoking pot.
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Do you enjoy programs featuring anthropomorphic animals hanging out with their loser best friends, drinking and doing drugs while making crude jokes and discussing semi-obscure pop culture references? Well Seth MacFarlane certainly does, and with Ted, he combines his passions with the Judd Apatow “man-child grows up in order to get the girl” formula to create an uneven and painfully predictable, yet quite often incredibly hilarious film. Through the magic of love and the power of a wish, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) saw his dream come true when his cherished teddy bear came to life. After a brief fling with

The Adventures of Mark Twain Collector's Edition DVD Review: Still Good for Fans; an Intro to Twain for Newbies

A person who won't watch this movie has no advantage over one who can't watch it.
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I’m pretty sure that at some point growing up, I saw 1985’s The Adventures of Mark Twain, but I don’t remember much of it. Part of the Claymation craze of its day, it seeks to weave some of Twain’s life story with his own tales of adventure and mystery. Having been born in 1835 -- the year of Halley’s Comet -- Twain believed he and the oddity were inextricably linked, and that he would leave the world on Halley’s next visit in 1910. Strangely enough, he passed away that same year, as predicted. The events of Adventures are set in

Four Rooms: The Man From Hollywood Movie Review: Tarantino Doesn't Do Much with It

When you come in second in a four-person race, you aren't runner-up. You're the best loser.
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A look at Quentin Tarantino's body of work wouldn't be complete without a lesser-known writing/directing effort from 1995 - the short film The Man From Hollywood, which was the fourth entry of a four-vignette anthology called Four Rooms. The premise of the entire film is fairly simple: strange things go on in four different rooms in a Los Angeles hotel on New Year's Eve, and bellhop Ted (Tim Roth) finds himself in four different predicaments as a result. The hook to the film is that each vignette was written and directed by four different hot young talents with popular indie

Motorhead: The World is Ours Vol 2: Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else Review: Live at Wacken 2011 and More

Watching Motorhead perform is exciting as hell.
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I remember seeing Motorhead live at (of all places) Bumbershoot in Seattle about ten years ago. Unlike pure music fests such as Coachella or Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot has always been marketed as “family friendly,” with plenty of attractions for kids. Motorhead played in Memorial Stadium, which was a place a lot of weary people just went into to find a place to sit down and catch their breath. Whoever booked the show clearly had no idea of who they were dealing with, as the set began at noon. When Motorhead hit the stage, it was pretty clear that they had not

From Dusk Till Dawn Movie Review: Half Action Movie, Half Vampire Movie. Guess Which Half Sucks?

Tarantino and Rodriguez seemed like the perfect match.
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It was the best of films; it was the worst of films. Okay. So it isn't really either extreme. But it does suggest what I find wrong with From Dusk Till Dawn, the 1996 action/horror movie written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez: what it gets right it gets very right, and what it gets wrong is...well, you know. The story is about two brothers - Seth and Richie Gecko, played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino (respectively). As you might imagine (based on who is playing them), Seth, while a bit short-tempered, is the cool one in

Ruby Sparks Movie Review: Not Much Spark Found in It

Ruby Sparks has some light, but ends up being a dark reiteration of tired tropes.
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Ruby Sparks should have been a home-run film considering it’s directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame. Unfortunately, the whimsy of that previous film isn’t necessarily found in their follow-up. The first half of Ruby Sparks is a fun romantic comedy focused on following a writer’s hunt for inspiration and the literal muse that develops. The second half becomes a turgid and dark film that seems to have a bizarre message about control that isn’t given proper consequences. The acting is good, but for a film that starts out as a grown-up romantic comedy, it

Ice Age Continental Drift DVD Review: Drifting into Murky Waters

Scrat is still the star. Too bad he can't support an entire film on his own.
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Scrat’s back for more frosty adventures, but unfortunately so are the rest of those other boring characters. As anyone who has ever plowed through an entry in this long-running series knows, it really only comes to life during Scrat’s brief nut-chasing interludes, adding comedic gold to an otherwise leaden enterprise. This time around, the creators attempt to inject some excitement by adding a ferocious monkey pirate captain and his menacing crew to the mix. Yes, you read that right, Ice Age has turned into Pirates of the Caribbean. This is clearly the most unbelievable development of the entire series and

Star Trek The Next Generation: A Season Two Celebration

An evening of fun with fellow Trekkies.
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Enterprise-D was launched into the television universe where they boldly flew into the heart of American Pop Culture. To celebrate this event the entire series is being released on Blu-ray in HD. Every frame has been painstakingly re-mastered and all of the special effects have recreated in order to be as realistic as possible while still staying true to the original source material. To coincide with the release of the second season on December 4, Fathom Events held a one-night only

Wagner & Me Movie Review: Stephen Fry Gets Real About His Favorite Composer

Stephen Fry attempts to find light in the darkness that shrouds Richard Wagner’s career.
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If you’re a devoted Fryphile, you’ll gladly park yourself on the couch to take in anything Britain’s most beloved gentleman has to offer, whether it’s hearing him narrate a Harry Potter video game or watching him eloquently spew facts about kangaroos on ripped episodes of QI. But Stephen Fry and director Patrick McGrady may be asking a lot of even the most committed Fry admirers by requiring 89 minutes of attentiveness to view McGrady’s first feature-length documentary about a 19th-century German composer who wrote a 15-hour, 4-part opera, especially if said viewers can’t bear hearing two bars of classical music.

The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season DVD Review: Don't Have a Cow, Man, or Any Hope That This Season Will Be Better Than the Last Five

I just can't fathom why they can't just spring for better, safer compartments for the actual DVDs to plug into.
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Any Simpsons fan worth his or her--okay, let's be honest here--his salt knows that once The Simpsons went into double digits on their seasons, the show had lost its magic touch. The jokes felt more forced. The plotlines became more bizarre and fragmented. Even the even-handed political satire gave way to increasingly left-wing diatribes. That's not to say that the creators of The Simpsons somehow became incapable of creating great episodes, as there are a few to be found in season fifteen, but on the whole, season fifteen of The Simpsons (originally broadcast in 2003 and 2004 and now out

Iron Sky Blu-ray Review: What Happens When Moon Nazis Tangle with Sarah Palin

The next step for the makers of Star Wreck.
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Directed by Finnish filmmaker Timo Vuorensola, Iron Sky nails down all the blockbuster tropes in a ludicrous tale that actually packs a political and social punch. Vuorensola, along with some friends, had made the parody film Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning in 2005 and enjoyed considerable success on the Internet. That movie was actually the seventh in a series but the first of theatrical length. It certainly laid the foundation for what Vuorensola and Co. were able to do with Iron Sky. The movie works because it combines the abject absurdity of moon Nazis with some surprisingly cogent points about

Saxon: Heavy Metal Thunder The Movie DVD Review: About as Rock and Roll as it Gets

The story of the premier NWOBHM band.
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Saxon were one of the premier bands of the short-lived, but glorious New Wave of British Heavy Metal, (NWBOHM) which they helped launch in 1979 with the release of their self-titled debut album. They were already veterans of van tours throughout Great Britain by that point, but their first album was actually a flop. Their fortunes changed dramatically the following year with the release of the definitive Wheels of Steel album though. As the new two-DVD set Saxon: Heavy Metal Thunder - The Movie shows us, the band have kept at it through thick and thin ever since, and their

Pulp Fiction: The Five Things I Love About It

Did yours make the list, Honey Bunny?
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What can be said about Pulp Fiction that hasn't been written since the film's release in 1994? With that, I didn't want to necessarily do a typical review citing the things I liked and disliked as that's been done before. I wanted to go back and count down the few things that I've loved about the film since I was a child. Yes, my mother was cool enough to let me watch Pulp Fiction when I turned 14, and I adored it. If I could go back in a time machine, these are the five things a 14-year-old me would

Call the Midwife Blu-ray Review: Call a Doctor, My Retinas Are Burned

Lushly produced UK period drama takes a nauseating look at a profession I’d prefer to ignore.
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Author Ayelet Waldman calls the memoirs that served as the basis for this series “tremendously moving”. I agree, but in my case I was tremendously moved to hit the off switch to avoid seeing any more distasteful medical situations resulting from the show’s subject: midwifery. I stuck in there so you don’t have to, but let me tell you, I wish my eyes could unsee some of the footage the creators chose to include. See, it’s one thing to explore the little-seen world of midwifery, but the show attempts to get dramatic mileage out of the extreme medical cases encountered

Kaijudo: Creatures Unleashed DVD Review: Rise of the Enjoyable Merchandising Tie-In

Not in the top tier of today's best animated series, but a worthwhile and enjoyable monster-fighting show with decent plots and artistry.
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What do you get when you cross giant monsters and sweet martial arts fighting? Kaijudo! I didn’t initially figure out the genesis of the title, even though it is fairly obvious, so I appreciate the bonus feature on this new DVD that explains how the creators married kaiju (the Japanese term for giant monsters) and judo martial arts to come up with their concept. We’ve seen plenty of monster-fighting cartoons in the past such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon, and just like those series this one is a tie-in for kids merchandise, in this case a collectible card fighting game. Like

55th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominees in Visual Media

Do you have a favorite?
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Last week, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States released their nominees for the 2013 Grammy Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry. The winners will be revealed February 10 on CBS. Music has been a major component of films, as well as television and video games, nearly since the medium's inception, and the Grammys acknowledge that with the following three categories for visual media. Nomianted films reviewed at Cinema Sentries are linked at the first mention of their title. Videos for Best Song can be seen and heard below. In the the

Unforgivable Movie Review: More Turns Than a French Soap Opera

Téchiné provides unpardonable melodrama.
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Directed by André Téchiné and based on a novel by Philippe Djian, Unforgivable is kind of an odd duck. It follows all the twists and turns of a French soap opera, swerving down wacky passageways with imbroglios that never quite go anywhere and ferocity that only just fizzes beneath the surface. It’s hard to suggest that this is a special or unique motion picture and Téchiné certainly is capable of more. Much is made of the veritable sea of oblique characters, most of who seem to pop in and out of the protagonist’s life at arbitrary intervals. Keeping things straight

True Romance (1993) Movie Review: The Tarantino Touch, Violence, Gore, and Humor

Sometimes the ghost of Elvis has the answer.
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True Romance (1993) directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino has all the hallmarks of a Tarantino movie. It's heavily meta-referential from the first second when comic book store clerk Clarence (Christian Slater) goes to a Sonny Chiba triple feature on his birthday and meets Alabama (Patricia Arquette) who, unbeknownst to Clarence, is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as a birthday present. Clarence literally sees Elvis (Val Kilmer), who acts as a kind of spirit guide for the hapless hero who promptly decides to take on Alabama's drug-dealing pimp Drexl, played by a virtually unrecognizable Gary

Paul McCartney: Live Kisses DVD Review: A Thoroughly Enjoyable Document of an Artist's Labor of Love

The ex-Beatle uncovers some buried treasures and interprets them his own way in this deeply personal performance.
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Earlier this year, Paul McCartney satisfied a longtime ambition of recording an album of standards. Though other rockers have released American songbook collections, McCartney distinguished his album from other projects by selecting more obscure tunes. The resulting album, Kisses on the Bottom, allowed McCartney to pay tribute to lyricists such as Fats Waller, Frank Loesser, and Johnny Mercer who had influenced his own writing. On February 9, 2012, McCartney and many of the Kisses on the Bottom musicians gathered to perform the tracks at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. With the assistance of top jazz artists such as Diana Krall

Savages (2012) Blu-ray Review: Oliver Stone Makes a Torture Porn Flick

Guaranteed to give you a bore-gasm.
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At the very beginning of Oliver Stone's Savages, we are greeted to the sight of Taylor Kitsch's bare ass in motion as he rams his co-star, Blake Lively, who proclaims via voiceover narration: "I have orgasms, he has war-gasms." And, with that less-than-Blake's-last-name delivery, all expectations one might have for this dramatic thriller — to say nothing of the amount of respect one might have once had for any of the film's performers — goes out the door and into the rubbish bin like a big jug of sour milk. Granted, taking a gallon of curdled dairy out to the

Color Me Obsessed DVD Review: A Film About The Replacements

The low-budget film paints a fragmented picture of a complicated post-punk band.
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During the documentary Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements, one critic describes the band with one simple phrase: “a glorious mess.” The same could be said for this film, a tribute to the Minneapolis-based group that includes no actual music or footage of the Replacements. Instead, their story is told through the eyes of critics, fans, and roadies who struggle to explain how the post-punk band influenced college rock, grunge, and even emo. Longtime fans will enjoy this complicated, often humor-filled look back at their unusual odyssey; casual listeners, however, may walk away without a clear notion of

The Dark Knight Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

Christopher Nolan's Batman films get a nice boxed set.
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With his Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan not only created one of the greatest comic-book adaptations but one of the all-time best trilogies in movie history. He elevated a genre movie into the realm of brilliant filmmaking. Batman has always been a dark character but Christian Bale turned him into a brooding, morose, bleak, and spoiled hero for the modern age. The films are not perfect by any means but they turned what is generally a superficial genre and made it into Art. The final installment of the trilogy - The Dark Knight Rises - comes out this week and

Star Trek Into Darkness Poster Reveals Lack of Originality

Does it concern you or is the marketing meaningless?
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The newly released poster for Star Trek Into Darkness features a man clad in leather as he surveys the aftermath of an event that includes the destruction of a building, which results in an image resembling the Starfleet insignia as seen on uniforms for crew members of the Starship Enterprise. Previously, Paramount's website revealed the following synopsis for the upcoming film: In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes Star Trek Into Darkness. When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their

Doctor Who Series Seven, Part One Blu-ray Review: A Confusing Mess

It would probably be more advantageous to wait until the full season is released.
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The Doctor (Matt Smith) is back on DVD and Blu-ray for more adventures through time and space with his companions, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill). But this time the season is cut in half as his time with the Ponds is almost at an end. So instead of a complete season being released it's only half of the season, culminating with the mid-season finale "The Angels Take Manhatten". It's been no secret that The Doctor was going to lose his companions this year, leaving fans waiting anxiously to see how the season would unfold, exactly what would become

The Doors: Live at the Bowl '68 DVD Review: It Sounds Amazing

Should manage to light the fire of every music aficionado.
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The Doors’ 1968 show at the Hollywood Bowl has long been considered one of the band’s finest performances. Sadly, there were a variety of audio problems that evening, and though the concert has been available for quite some time, it has been incomplete. Thanks to the marvels of modern science, this legendary show has been restored and remastered from original camera negatives and remixed using original multi-track tapes to create the definitive version for home consumption. Speaking of consumption, legend has it that Jim Morrison may have ingested some LSD before stepping on stage. Judging by the faraway look in

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Blu-ray Review: A Nostalgic Look Back at the '80s

Thirteen years later, it has endured as a fun, entertaining film.
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It's been many years since I'd seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and will admit that I haven’t missed it or had any interest in watching it again. I remember enjoying it when it first came out in 1989 and watched it several times over the next couple of years but didn’t like it enough to seek it out since. When the opportunity to review it came my way, I figured why not take this opportunity to revisit it and see if still holds up. I was pleasantly surprised that it does. In 2688, human society has reached utopian levels,

Trilogy of Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Three Films, Countless Tales

A wonderful set from Criterion Collection, encapsulating some of Pasolini's most personal works.
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Italian filmmaker, poet, philosopher, writer, and sometimes actor Pier Paolo Pasolini has certainly generated his fair share of controversy. He’s probably best known to mainstream culture for his Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, a film our own Gordon S. Miller considers the “most repulsive” film he’s ever seen. Not for nothing, but that’s likely no small feat. Prior to the repulsion of Salò, Pasolini actually made a few less disturbing motion pictures - but they were no less controversial. His Trilogy of Life envelopes three films, each of which deals in a different piece of medieval literature. Thanks

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