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The PopMatters Fall Film Preview – November 2014

November 2014 offers up standard award seasons fare, a couple of cool indies, and five horror films that, according to the calendar, are a bit past their celebration sell-by date.

November 2014 offers up standard award seasons fare, a couple of cool indies, and five horror films that, according to the calendar, are a bit past their celebration sell-by date.

 

Director: Christopher Nolan

Film: Interstellar

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/i/interstellarposter.jpg

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7 November
Interstellar

Ever since Bruce Wayne jetted off to Italy — with Selena Kyle in tow — to leave Gotham and a certain masked vigilante behind, film fans have wondered what Christopher Nolan would do next? Would it be another superhero movie? Would he drop the pomp and go for something small? Well, the answer is “No,” and “No” as the British auteur walks in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick for this far reaching space epic. Earth is dying an ex-astronaut Matthew McConaughey is recruited to man a mission through a wormhole to investigate possible replacements. As with all things Nolan, it’s big, it’s bombastic, and it’s breathtaking.

 

Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Film: Big Hero 6

Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Génesis Rodríguez, T. J. Miller, Daniel Henney, Maya Rudolph

MPAA rating: PG

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/b/bighero6poster.jpg

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7 November
Big Hero 6

Disney and Marvel continue to make magic, this time using another fringe title from the comic book kings (and you know how well their Guardians of the Galaxy experiment went, right?) to teach children the value of heart, intelligence, and a big inflatable robot. Indeed, this clever bit of animated imagination sees a young genius resort to revenge when tragedy strikes his family. All he has in reserve, however, is a collection of college age nerds and his brother’s balloon being. Apply a bit of that patented House of Mouse wonder and – Voila! – another cartoon classic is born.

 

Director: James Marsh

Film: The Theory of Everything

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/t/theoryofeverythingposter.jpg

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7 November
The Theory of Everything

Long before he was a physics savant, long before a debilitating disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS) left him reduced to a life in a wheelchair, Stephen Hawking was an exceedingly bright student studying at Cambridge. He also fell in love with a co-ed named Jane Wilde, and together they laid the foundation for one of the most important scientific careers of all time. It’s also a love story, though a bit on the fairytale side if you actually consider the facts. Still, Eddie Redmayne is Oscar-worthy as Hawking, and the film is earning big buzz as the annual awards season push begins.

 

Director: Kevin Greutert

Film: Jessabelle

Cast: Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, Joelle Carter, David Andrews, Amber Stevens, Brian Hallisay, Ana de la Reguera

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/j/jessabelleposter.jpg

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7 November
Jessabelle

Yes, Halloween was last week… Anyways, this film boasts Saw editor turned Part VI and VII director Kevin Greutert going James Wan on some silly Southern gothic. What do we mean by the comparison? Well, when you consider that both men are constantly mentioned when it comes to the now dead subgenre known as torture porn, and the latter is a legitimate filmmaker who reinvented the haunted house film with Insidious and The Conjuring, this little PG-13 nod from someone who made their name as part of the gorno franchise makes a bit of sense. Even for confirmed a fright fan like yours truly, however, this is a bit much.

 

Director: Tristram Shapeero

Film: Merry Friggin’ Christmas

Cast: Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, Clark Duke, Oliver Platt, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tim Heidecker, Candice Bergen, Robin Williams

MPAA rating:

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7 November
Merry Friggin’ Christmas

While he has at least two more movies in the can (A Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Absolutely Anything), many are calling this one of Robin Williams’ last leading roles. Unfortunately, this also appears to be an unfunny holiday “comedy” where the laughs are generated from jaded juvenile behavior and not actual human emotions. The late comedian was always praised for his performances even in the most mindless, paycheck cashing affair. This looks a lot like such a fiscal decision. Too bad, then, it may end up becoming a symbol of Williams’ onscreen career.

 

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Film: Open Windows

Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/o/openwindowsposter.jpg

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7 November
Open Windows

You gotta hand it to Elijah Wood. After walking through Middle Earth as part of the billion dollar Lord of the Rings franchise, the certified star has moved away from the mainstream for more unusual fare. He’s also indulged his love of horror, first with the excellent Maniac remake and then with a solid suspense effort entitled Grand Piano. Now comes a post-modern riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the story of a young man who wins a date with his favorite celebrity (Sasha Grey) only to see her renege on the deal. Offered a chance at 24/7 internet access to her life, he agrees. Then things turn dark — really dark.

14 November

Director: Bennett Miller

Film: Foxcatcher

Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/f/foxcatcherposter.jpg

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14 November
Foxcatcher

Ever since winning a prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (director Bennett Miller walked away with a trophy), this has been on everyone’s year-end radar, and with good reason. From an almost unrecognizable Steve Carrel to both Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum in Best Actor mode, this docudrama, based on the infamous John Du Pont criminal case, has Oscar written all over it — and with good reason. The performances are pitch perfect, and Miller finds a way to examine the cult of wealth and sports to underline the main character’s growing insanity and unstable home life. Even the rich, it seems, can buckle under the weight of psychological dysfunction.

 

Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Film: Dumb and Dumber To

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden, Rob Riggle, Kathleen Turner

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/d/dumbanddumbertoposter.jpg

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14 November
Dumb and Dumber To

20 years after Dumb and Dumber first stained cinemas with its crude, rude, and sometimes lewd sense of humor, Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, and the decidedly talent-free Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) are back for more slapstick misery. From the moment their faces appear onscreen, it is obvious that our featured players are back for some bank, while the humor which once felt so fresh and original (unless you consider John Waters’ entire creative canon) is now dated and derivative. It must be hard to see the cult of Apatow grow while the friends of Farrelly slowly fade into oblivion. This will make money, but it really shouldn’t.

 

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Film: Beyond the Lights

Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, Nate Parker, Danny Glover, Machine Gun Kelly

MPAA rating: R

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14 November
Beyond the Lights

Back in 2000, critics fell in love with a little indie film entitled Love and Basketball, proclaiming writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood an up and coming talent to pay attention to. Eight years later, she adapted The Secret Life of Bees for the big screen. Now, after another lengthy period away from the Cineplex, Prince-Bythewood is back, this time tackling the age old dilemma of love vs. career. Our leads are both looking to further their ambitions; she as a musician, he is a politician. Everyone says succeed first, then fall for each other. Naturally, our couple rejects their advice, bringing real world problems into their fairytale relationship.

 

Director: Branislav ‘Brane’ Bala, Nemanja Bala

Film: Love Hunter

Cast: Milan Mumin, Jelena Stupljanin, Eleanor Hutchins, Brian Berrebbi, Chase Coleman

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/l/lovehunterposter.jpg

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14 November
Love Hunter

Love Hunter is actually the name of a band out of Serbia who has used its music as a means of bringing various social, political, and personal causes to the fore. Over the last three decades, the band has tried to spread its message beyond its beleaguered country, going so far as to fashion this rock musical, about the difference between ambition and integrity. Filmed in Manhattan and featuring lead singer and guitarist Milan Mumin as a taxi driver hoping to make it as a musician, there is a real homegrown, caught in the moment vibe to this movie. However, there’s also a sense of aimlessness and amateurishness as well.

 

Director: Jon Stewart

Film: Rosewater

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kim Bodnia, Jason Jones, Dimitri Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/r/rosewaterposter.jpg

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14 November
Rosewater

Remember when Jon Stewart took a leave from The Daily Show to make a movie? And remember when it was announced that it would not be a comedy but, instead, a radical departure for the faux political pundit. In this case, Stewart takes on the true story of a previous guest, Maziar Bahari, who was accused of spying, The twist for Stewart? The Iranian government utilized Daily Show footage to “prove” their case. Sounds like the classic makings of a farce. Stewart, on the other hand, has taken the material seriously, showcasing the inequities around the globe while making sure to meter out his own political proclivities throughout.

 

Director: Karen Leigh Hopkins

Film: Miss Meadows

Cast: Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey, Stephen Bishop, Tyler Corbet

MPAA rating:

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14 November
Miss Meadows

Also known as Katie’s Got a Gun. Indeed, the former Mrs. Tom Cruise is taking back her big screen career with this jolly little satire. She plays the title character, a meek and mild mannered elementary school teacher who moonlights as a gun-toting vigilante. Hoping to right the many wrongs she sees, our heroine packs heat and shows no mercy. Playing far outside her comfort zone, Ms. Holmes hopes to leave her Scientology-tinged past behind and jumpstart her former film work. As long as she picks more parts like this (and fewer like The Giver), she’s well on the road to career rehab.

 

Director: Erik Peter Carlson

Film: The Toy Soldiers

Cast: Najarra Townsend, Constance Brenneman, Chandler Rylko, Jeanette May Steiner, Samuel Nolan

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/t/toysoldiersposter.jpg

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14 November
The Toy Soldiers

The title refers to a roller rink where a bunch of early ’80s teens like to hang out. Thus, we have another indie coming-of-age effort, except this time writer/director Erik Peter Carlson is a more Larry Clark than Rob Reiner mode. Indeed, this is another film where wild onscreen excess. The main narrative mantra appears to be sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and death (for some reason), which all function as substitutes for real characters expressing equally authentic emotions. While there’s a questionable small niche audience for a film like this, sometimes, a sleeper does emerge. From the looks of it, Toy Soldiers will not be such a success.

 

Director: David Hayter

Film: Wolves

Cast: Jason Momoa, Merritt Patterson, Lucas Till, Kaitlyn Leeb, Stephen McHattie

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/w/wolvesposter.jpg

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14 November
Wolves

David Hayter has a reputation in Hollywood. That fact is the only explanation for this YA rip-off that substitutes werewolves for vampires and legitimacy for laughs. As a writer, he’s worked on X-Men and X2, as well as The Scorpion King and Watchmen. As a director, well, his credits are limited to a 2010 short entitled Chasm. This will be his feature film debut, and it’s a dubious one at that. Jason Momoa and Stephen McHattie are on hand to give this preposterousness some “star” power. The rest of the cast is a cobbled together collection of failed CW series fodder and lesser “breakout” stars.

21 November

Director: Francis Lawrence

Film: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/h/hungergamesmockingjay1poster.jpg

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21 November
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

It’s the 800 pound cinematic gorilla in the room, a box office behemoth that threatens, in one fell weekend swoop, to reset the overall tallies for 2014. After a less than stellar (but still better than Twilight) introduction by Gary Ross, things were turned over to the far more familiar with dystopian action genre tropes Francis Lawrence and the result was the excellent The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Now the same filmmaker is back to bring Katniss Everdeen’s story to an (unnecessarily) bifurcated conclusion, and most fans can hardly wait. Given Jennifer Lawrence’s iconoclastic performance and the franchise’s popularity, it’s another billion dollar bonanza for the series.

 

Director: Morton Tyldum

Film: The Imitation Game

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Rory Kinnear

MPAA rating: R

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21 November
The Imitation Game

By all accounts, Alan Turing saved the Allies during the WWII. Without him, Germany’s seemingly indecipherable Enigma Code would perhaps never have been broken, allowing Hitler and his troops to secretly strategize outside of the enemy eavesdropping. Of course, Turing’s story got even more surreal when his sexuality was used against him in one of the rare cases of prosecution for same; his death remains controversial. (A few months back, the British crown granted a posthumous pardon to this important historic figure.) With Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, this looks like a legitimate Oscar contender. Early reviews have been a bit mixed.

 

Director: Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Aaron Scott Moorhead, Justin Benson, Aaron Scott Moorhead

Film: V/H/S Viral

Cast: Various

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/v/vhsviralposter.jpg

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21 November
V/H/S Viral

Part one of this found footage anthology was divisive, if decent. Part two was terrific, featuring two segments that were among the best the celebrated subgenre has ever seen. Sadly, it seems this third installment is not that strong. Critics have pulled out the old “found footage is DOA” resolve, even after praising the process previously. Granted, we don’t have directors like Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale and Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans participating. Also, a movie like this works because of vision and narrative, not because of a glorified gimmick way past its sell-by date. Look for a quick turnaround to home video.

 

Director: Colin Minihan

Film: Extraterrestrial

Cast: Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Melanie Papalia, Gil Bellows, Jesse Moss

MPAA rating:

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21 November
Extraterrestrial

The latest from the writing/directing team of Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, otherwise known as The Vicious Brothers, best known for their haunted asylum/paranormal activity hits Grave Encounters and Grave Encounters 2. This time around, the former is behind the lens while both contribute to the script. The story is often referred to as a take on the typical cabin in the woods concept… only this time, with aliens. Apparently, our vile visitors are more than happy to kill off their potential probe fodder, slasher style. Another negative: the movie is reportedly almost two hours long. On the plus side? Michael Ironside has a cameo.

 

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Film: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains

MPAA rating: PG-13

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21 November
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Otherwise known as “the first Iranian vampire Western,” this foreign novelty offers a unique glimpse into a closed world while arguing for the influence of outside cultures, at least, cinematically speaking. However, there is a tradeoff, if you believe the criticisms. Apparently, America-based Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour uses her slow moving monochrome approach to less than successful ends, with many mentioning it can’t compete with other recent revisionist neckbiters like Only Lovers Left Alive and Let the Right One In. Then there is the setting — or, rather, the lack thereof. While the movie takes place in Tehran, it was shot in California, undermining its authenticity.

 

Director: John Herzfeld

Film: Reach Me

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Terry Crews, Lauren Cohan, Kelsey Grammer,, Kevin Connolly, Tom Berenger, Danny Aiello, Omari Hardwick, Nelly, David O’Hara, Danny Trejo

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/r/reachmeposter.jpg

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21 November
Reach Me

A former football coach releases a self-help tome, and hijinx ensue. Apparently, members of the fame heavy ensemble cast (including Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Kevin Connelly, Nelly, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammar, and Sylvester Stallone) will play various individuals (a journalist, his editor, a former inmate, a hip-hop mogul, an actor, an undercover cop, etc.) influenced by the book. Some film fans are already grumbling, accusing the distributor — Millennium Entertainment — of editing the material to meet a PG-13 rating (it was originally given an R rating). Others have complained that movies such as these, with interlocking storylines centering around a single person or ideal, are no longer fashionable. We’ll just have to see.

26 – 28 November

Director: Sean Anders

Film: Horrible Bosses 2

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/h/horriblebosses2poster.jpg

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26 November
Horrible Bosses 2

The first Horrible Bosses was a surprise hit back in 2011, the $37 million summer release pulling in an amazing $210 million worldwide. So naturally, there was demand for a sequel. The only problem is, how do you repeat the premise (put-upon employees go after their awful employers), especially when two of the three title characters are either dead or incarcerated. Well, for this three years in the making update, you turn the tables, making our previous heroes the new target for termination. Our heroes are taken down by a shady businessman, so they kidnap his son has payback. Sounds promising… or pathetic.

 

Director: Simon J. Smith, Eric Darnell

Film: The Penguins of Madagascar

Cast: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, John DiMaggio, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich

MPAA rating: PG

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/p/penguinsofmadagascarposter.jpg

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26 November
The Penguins of Madagascar

A few days ago, Universal released a terrific trailer for their Despicable Me spin-off, the soon-to-be-everywhere Minions… and said preview highlights the problem with this barely passable Madagascar tie-in. In fact, the marketing makes it clear that this spy spoof (groan, Cars 2, grumble) has nothing to do with the Nickelodeon series of the same name, aside from the use of the same main characters. Considering how lame the premise is (a disgruntled octopus tries to take over the world, our waddling animal butlers try to stop him) this will probably only appeal to the youngest members of the family film demo. Clearly, Big Hero 6 has nothing to worry about.

 

Director: Andrea Di Stefano

Film: Escobar: Paradise Lost

Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac, Carlos Bardem

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/e/escobarparadiselostposter.jpg

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26 November
Escobar: Paradise Lost

Pablo Escobar was one of the most evil and ruthless international drug dealers of all time, so it may sound insane to say this, but the man really deserves better than this baffling fictional romance. Indeed, the storyline here is completely false, a weird way of bringing an American youth (Josh Hutcherson) into the criminal’s inner circle (via a fling with his niece) without implying any kind of felonious intent. Of course, the presence of Benecio Del Toro should make for an interesting movie whenever he’s onscreen. Unfortunately, from the looks of the bootleg trailer making the rounds, he’s often cast aside for more young actors making cow eyes at each other.

 

Director: Jennifer Kent

Film: The Babadook

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Ben Winspear

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/b/babadookposter.jpg

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28 November
The Babadook

Based solely on the buzz being generated by this Australian horror film, you’d swear it was the second coming of the scary movie. Of course, we give anyone credit for trying to create a new horror icon in this boos-by-the-numbers cinematic clime, especially one that avoids jerky jump scares and excessive gore (not that there’s anything wrong with excessive gore). And we’re dealing with a female fright master too, which is always exciting. So it’s a wait-and-see on this one. On a side note, this is the fifth genre film to be released since Halloween. What? Did everyone think Ouija was actual competition?

 

Director: Shawn Christensen

Film: Before I Disappear

Cast: Shawn Christensen, Fátima Ptacek, Emmy Rossum, Paul Wesley, Richard Schiff, Ron Perlman

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://ded5626.inmotionhosting.com/~popmat6/images/blog_art/b/beforeidisappearposter.jpg

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28 November
Before I Disappear

It’s based on an Oscar winning short, the man responsible for same adapting, directing, and also starring in this feature update. Shawn Christensen’s familial drama also took home the Audience Prize at this year’s South by Southwest film festival. Clearly, those in the know will have high expectations for this story of an estranged brother and sister and the 11 year old niece who needs babysitting. Many have praised its visual flair and storytelling agility. Others have cursed its hipster cool self-awareness and the material’s failure to successfully fill out a feature length effort.

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