Author Archives: Brett

Movie Review: Wilson

A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time.

Based on the celebrated graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson stars Woody Harrelson in the title role and the end result is a bit mixed in quality. The first thing to understand about Wilson the character is that he’s generally unlikeable. He’s a middle age man that in many aspects is anachronistic and through every situation, he wanders into it’s clear he wonders what his legacy in the world is.

To understand the movie, you need to really understand the graphic novel it’s based off of. Wilson isn’t as much a narrative story as it is a series of short situations that have more in common with newspaper strips than a graphic story. There’s a big picture theme through it all and some work together to form a story, but this isn’t your traditional story. With those short strips (usually a page) the art style too changes mixing up the visuals as a caustic and grumpy tone remains constant.

So Harrelson in the title role has it tough. Even in the comic Wilson doesn’t have much of a personality beyond “dick.” He’s grumpy and gruff and seems to lack a filter saying what he’s thinking as if he’s just given up on societal niceties. So Harrelson is walking into a role where the character is unlikeable and he pulls that off. This is Wilson the comic character brought to life and doing anything beyond “straight guy” honest delivery of the material would betray the character. Adding a sparkle, a smile, a wink, diminishes the character who is none of those things.

Joining Harrelson is primarily Laura Dern as his ex-wife Pippi who’s recovered from what is told to us was a hellish period of her life with stories that aren’t recounted so much as hinted at by things like tattoos. That allows us the viewer to imagine the situations, which honestly is probably funnier than anything Clowes could come up with. Dern does exhausted and weary well and you can see her evolve in her demeanor and appearance as she grows up compared to Wilson’s devolution.

Also joining them is Isabella Amara who plays Claire, the daughter neither know who is the impetus by which the main story gets going. She’s pretty solid but is primarily the audience to Pippi and Wilson’s crazy. She’s not much more than a prop at times for Wilson’s mania or to act as a stand-in for the audience.

Cheryl Hines, Judy Greer, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Brett Gelman, all stand out during their scenes delivering entertaining performances and controlling the tone or setting it in some ways. Which is impressive since Harrelson is such a presence (for good and bad) in the film.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Clowes, Wilson is interesting in that it attempts to create a narrative but it comes off as a series of vignettes. That really stands out to me as the graphic novel was a series of vignettes. They attempted to create a story out of something that really wasn’t. Some of the funniest moments from the graphic novel is included by what Johnson misses is that interesting visual from the comics. Each story has a different visual and we saw in the comic adaptation American Splendor what and how mixing visuals can work. The film visually would have been stronger if it took some inspiration from that film mixing in different styles including animation with the live action.

The film itself isn’t bad in any way, but it also falls short from what I had hoped (expectations probably didn’t help). The movie feels like a mid-life crisis High Fidelity. Instead of figuring out the direction of one’s life, it’s more focused on what one’s legacy will be. The laughs are there but with such a dark tone it’s an uncomfortable one and with an audience, you could feel that exude from them. Calling this a “dark comedy” is an understatement.

There’s some narrative choices when it comes to the story, especially at the end. Some time frames shift and I left wondering why. If there’s a difference to it all and if so, what it was. Clowes feels like he’s saying something a little different with those choices, but I’m not sure if it’s meant to be different. Some of the message and themes shift a little due to this change.

There’s also issues with the women generally portrayed as all negative, but by the end it’s clear that Wilson corrupts everything he touches and the negativity is a natural and justified reaction.

Wilson is one of the most under the radar comic adaptations of 2017 and it’ll be one that should be debated as to the end result and if it’s better or worse than the original graphic novel. Like American Splendor, Wilson shows not all “comic movies” involve spandex, and some of the most thought-provoking don’t involve them at all.

Overall Rating: 7.65

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Where the Data Ranks 2016’s Comic Book Films

The summer movie season is over and we’ve seen an interesting year when it comes to comic book films. For months debates have raged as to who is more successful, Marvel or DC, which movies were successes, and which were flops. The answers aren’t so simple and black and white, which is why I like to turn to data to give actual rankings as to who were winners and losers.

So far this year, seven films have been released based on comic books (counting Batman: The Killing Joke). This feature will be weekly until the end of the year, as some films are still in the box-office and there’s till more to come.

Of note:

  • Doctor Strange looks like its worldwide total will be $677.6 million as it ramps down its run this past week. That puts the film at 18th of all time for comic films and right in the middle of the pack for 2016’s releases. It’s a bit mixed when it comes to Marvel films as it was below the average domestic, international, and worldwide totals, but that’s largely due to 4 films skewing things and making it a high hurdle. Compared to other “debut” films for characters, this one did about as expected.
  • Captain America: Civil War looks to be the top grossing film worldwide for 2016 though Rogue One is challenging that. The film earned $1.153 billion worldwide, about $98 million more than the next film. There’s still a chance that Rogue One catches up, but it’s unlikely to happen with $98 million to go and that film’s run winding down. Rogue One did pass the film when it comes to domestic earnings and is the top domestic film of the year. Civil War is third for the year, the best performing comic film.
  • Officer Downe continues to look like it hasn’t earned any more money. When it comes to the below stats, the film is being treated like Batman: The Killing Joke. The film is mostly a video on demand release, so it likely won’t see a wide release.
  • The Chair is currently not included in these stats. While the film is based on a comic, its release was done so through a service where receipts aren’t tracked in traditional ways.
  • DC’s films average $315.5 million a film domestically compared to Marvel’s $302.5 million. Internationally, Marvel earns $477.2 million and DC earns $446.8 million.

Here’s where this year’s movie crop stands as far as the actual numbers. Numbers are presented with and without The Killing Joke and Officer Downe which did not have an international run or wide release, so was not included in that average to start:

Total Domestic Gross: $1.901 billion ($1.897 billion without Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Total International Gross: $3.126 billion
Worldwide Gross: $5.026 billion ($5.023 billion without Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Total Reported Budgets: $1.215 billion ($1.211 billion without Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Total “Profit”: $3.812 billion ($3.811 billion without Killing Joke and Officer Downe)

Average Domestic Gross: $271.0 million ($211.2 million with Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Average International Gross: $446.5 million
Average: Worldwide Gross: $717.5 million ($558.5 million with Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Average Budget: $173 million ($151.8 million with Killing Joke and Officer Downe)
Average Profit: $544.5 million ($476.5 million with Killing Joke and Officer Downe)

Now that we have those numbers down we can get a better idea as to how films have actually done this year. Below are various rankings of where films stand so far and if the films are above average (green), below average (red), or above the overall average but below the adjusted average (yellow):

Beauty and the Beast Rules the Box Office Again with Power Rangers in Second

Even with a 49.4% drop from last weekend, Beauty and the Beast was a monster at the weekend box office. The film came in second again earning an estimated $88.3 million. That’s the fourth largest second weekend of all-time. It’s the top film of 2017 already after two weeks by a sizeable amount.  Domestically, the film has earned $317 million which is about $116 more than the second place Logan. Worldwide the film has earned $690.3 million which is about $125 million more than the second-place Logan.

In second place for the weekend was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers which opened with an estimated $40.5 million. That’s on the higher end of expectations. The film earned an “A” CinemaScore and was 60% male and 50% over the age of 25. It’ll be interesting to see how it does in the long run, but expect it to top out a little over $100 million.

In third place was Kong: Skull Island which added $14.4 million to its domestic total in its third week. The film has earned $133.5 million domestically and $392.1 million worldwide so far.

In fourth was the new film Life which brought in $12.6 million. The film worldwide brought in $28.7 million and with a $58 million budget, that’s not a disaster. The film earned a “C+” CinemaScore which does not bode well for the long run.

Rounding out the top five was Logan which brought in an estimated $10.1 million to bring its domestic total to $201.5 million. Worldwide the film has earned $565.5 million and is currently second place in domestic and worldwide earnings for the year.

Also new this week was CHiPs which brought in $7.6 million. With a $25 million budget the film should earn that back domestically when it’s done.

The LEGO Batman Movie was in ninth with $1.97 million to bring its domestic total to $170.8 million and $292.5 million worldwide so far.

In comic related movie news, Wilson debuted in 310 theaters earning and estimated $330,000. We’ll have our review later in the day.

Come back in an hour when we’ll have more comic focused breakdown of earnings.

The Walking Dead S7E15 Something They Need

walking-dead-5 photoA group of Alexandrians embarks on a journey; one member of the group must make a heartbreaking decision.

The Walking Dead‘ is setting up the next season which most assuredly is “All Out War” as Rick and his crew head to grab the gun cache we discovered exists in the isolated community of women from earlier in the season, Oceanside.

The episode is an interesting one as it shows where Rick’s head is right now and sets things up for what’s to come. While there’s some negotiations in an attempt to get the guns, there’s also a full out assault, though a non-lethal one, and it’s interesting where things go and who is willing to stand up and fight Negan and who’s not.

By the end of it all ends there’s some good stand up moments and you can see some of the characters breaking out at some point and going mainstream.

What’s great is some of the walkers we see at this point. The episode really takes advantage that Oceanside is ocean side and we see walkers ravaged by water and some of what you’d expect. It’s some amazing make-up and the detail is amazing. It puts the Pirates of the Carribean to shame.

But, it’s not all Oceanside.

Sasha is slowly slipping into madness in Negan’s custody where she still plots to kill him and Negan attempts to bring her on his side. Then Sasha attempts to bring Eugene to hers with a twist that’s really interesting and throws up the question as to where Eugene’s loyalty really is. We know it won’t end well with Sasha as the actress is heading to another series, it’s just a question as to how she’ll go.

The final part of the episode involves Maggie and Gregory. Gregory is a snake and the episode goes back and forth between his attempting to take out Maggie and not. Will he snap and turn her and Rick in? That’s part of the tension of the episode and Gregory is one that’ll get is comeuppance at some point. But, things are revealed about Gregory that’s key like he’s never killed a walker before. You can see Maggie slowly standing up and taking over the leadership role at Hilltop and this episode is another piece in that puzzle.

Then there’s the end of the episode where… well I’ll leave that one to viewing.

The episode is all about the build-up to the season finale which is the next episode and then the eventual war that’s about to break out between Rick and Negan. This is the set up with the pieces of the puzzle coming together. This is slightly different than how it shakes out in the comics so as a reader, I’m fascinated to see where it goes and what changes. You can feel the tension building to what I’m sure will be a cathartic explosion.

Not the best episode, but there’s more than enough action and lots of interesting interactions that’ll keep fans pleased.

Overall rating: 7.85

Unboxing: Loot Crate DX March “Primal”

Loot Crate DX is the next level of Loot Crate. Similar to the basic Loot Crate each box follows a theme each month but instead has over $100 value in every crate.

This month’s theme was “Primal” with items from Godzilla, King Kong, Predator, and DC Comics.

We open up to show off the box with some interesting items inside.

You can order the next Loot Crate DX now!

 

 

 

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Unite the League, The Flash Gets a Teaser Video

Warner Bros. has released a teaser video featuring the Flash in the lead up to the release of a new trailer for this year’s Justice League film.

Justice League is in theaters November 2017.

Unite the League with a Aquaman and Batman Justice League Teasers

Warner Bros. has released two teaser trailers for a new trailer out this Saturday for Justice League. This new video gives us more of a look at Aquaman and Batman.

Justice League is in theaters November 2017

Unboxing: Loot Crate’s March 2017 Box “Primal”

Loot Crate‘s March 2017 release has arrived and here’s what you can find inside. The theme for this month is “Primal” so check out what’s inside including items from Jurassic World, Predator, Overwatch, and Logan.

There’s a decent amount of items in the box and some cool properties, but how do they stack up?! Find out!

You can get your Loot Crate now!

 

 

Loot Crate provided a FREE box for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

While We Talk “Power Rangers” Breaking Down Barriers, How About Haim Saban’s Islamophobia?

With the new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film opening up this weekend, the full court press is on to show the film is updated and fresh with one Ranger being autistic and another figuring out their sexuality. While the changes have been met with glowing articles, the reality is they overlook the darker side of the Power Rangers. I’m not talking about the on-set homophobia experienced by actor David Yost (the original Blue Ranger) during the original Power Rangers show; my focus is a bit different.

If you look at the logo of the 2017 big budget film reboot of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers you’ll see the word “Saban’s” is subtly located in the advertising including television and posters. “Saban” is a reference to Haim Saban, the individual credited with bringing the popular kids show to the United States after coming across the concept during a trip to Japan. Saban was able to make billions off of it all and has parlayed that into political capital.

“I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”

Saban is the Israeli-American who is one of the largest donors to Democratic causes and campaigns. He not only runs an entertainment empire but also is a very politically influential individual who is able to shape policy. It was in a letter to Saban that Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. Her opposition wasn’t a surprise, the fact she did so in a letter to her biggest donor instead of a press release or speech was and suggests Saban’s influence within political circles and the parts of the Jewish community.

Saban vehemently describes himself as a one-issue person, and that issue is Israel, where he has shifted from a more left-leaning view a decade ago to more of a hardline right-wing hawkish view today. That view also includes disturbing statements about Muslims.

As reported by Haaretz, Saban is quoted as saying in November 2015:

“I’m not suggesting we put Muslims through some kind of torture room to get them to admit they are or they’re not terrorists,” he is quoted as telling The Wrap in a story posted Wednesday, “but I am saying we should have more scrutiny.” Suggesting that some civil liberties may need to be suspended in the face of security threats, he asked rhetorically: “You want to be free and dead? I’d rather be not free and alive.”

He later walked back some of those statements, but doubled down on the threats to civil liberties and opinions on policy that eerily echo President Trump’s logic for his Executive Order regarding immigration.

“I believe that all refugees coming from Syria – a war-torn country that ISIS calls home – regardless of religion require additional scrutiny before entering the United States. At this moment in time, with hundreds killed in Paris and thousands more around the world, freedom as we know it is under existential threat. And while in contradiction to our country’s principles in time of peace, I’m comfortable with the government taking additional measures, including increased surveillance of individuals they deem suspicious. Our first priority is to protect the lives of our citizens and no liberty is more valuable than our safety. I regret making a religious distinction as opposed to a geographical one: it’s about scrutinizing every single individual coming from a country with ISIS strongholds.”

Saban was also a leader in the organized effort to smear Congressman Keith Ellison during his recent bid to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison is a Muslim Congressman who has criticized the foreign assistance to Israel when some of their actions make peace difficult and run counter to requests made by the United States.

During the Brooking Institution’s Saban Forum, an annual gathering, Saban unprompted called Ellison an anti-Semite saying:

“If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual,” the Israeli-American said Friday about the Minnesota lawmaker. “Words matter and actions matter more. Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”

What Saban, and other Democratic Jewish donors like Alan Dershowitz, were hinting at is donations. This was a veiled threat to pull vital dollars that’d otherwise be donated to candidates and the party if Ellison became chair.

When CNN researched claims against Ellison, they turned up nothing. As CNN acknowledged when digging up old Ellison quotes:

“None of the records reviewed found examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.”

The attacks on Ellison led to numerous Jewish organizations and individuals such as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, J Street, and Senator Chuck Schumer to defend Ellison. In a statement, J Street said:

“It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies.”

In reality, Ellison is a pretty average liberal Democrat supporting a two-state solution and advocating for peace. But, the damage was done, the toxicity thrown towards Ellison was a factor in his loss as DNC chair.

But this wielding of influence shouldn’t be a surprise. At a Saban Forum event, Saban laid out his three-pronged approach to influence American politics: fund political campaigns, bankroll think tanks (Saban is the founder of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a foreign policy think tank that’s part of the Brookings Institution and a supporter of the conservative pro-Israel organization AIPAC with their Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar), and control the media (as part of a group of investor Saban Capital Group is a partial owner of Univision).

Interestingly, Saban was rebuked during the DNC chair race. When asked if Saban should apologize, those running generally agreed he should.

“There were some fireworks. When asked whether billionaire Democratic donor Haim Saban should apologize for smearing Ellison as an anti-Semite, everyone on stage but Ellison and Greene agreed ― a rare rebuke from political aspirants directed toward a deep-pocketed supporter.”

Greene felt the question was a “gotcha” moment attempting to divide the party from its donors, showing where Greene’s loyalty lies. Turning the other cheek, Ellison said the following:

“I just think everybody should know that Haim and I did have a phone call, I won’t disclose what we talked about, but it was amicable, and we’re going to get together and build on our relationship. So I don’t want everybody to think that that was the last word, it wasn’t. And I think we’re on the road to recovery in that regard. So I just wanted people to know that.”

Keep in mind, the DNC chair is a leadership and management role, it doesn’t decide on policy. But, the damage was done with Saban sending one of the loudest messages. Ellison’s bid was sunk… because he’s Muslim and due to Islamophobia.

So while all the article praise the Power Rangers update they overlook a disturbing few recent years where an ugliness has reared its head. As seen in the DNC chair race and the President Trump’s actions, Islamophobia is alive and well. The advocating for profiling, the support of curtailing civil liberties, and unfounded attacks on a Muslim Congressman who wants to serve his party and nation, all in the “support of Israel.” For someone whose show espouses teamwork and bringing together individuals of varying backgrounds as a team, Saban’s statements and actions are divisive and refutes the lessons the show teaches. Go go Power Rangers?

Daniel Kibblesmith and Derek Charm talk the comiXology original Valiant High

At New York Comic Con last year, comiXology announced a line of original digital comics from various publishers and featuring various genres. One collaboration was Valiant High, a new take on Valiant Entertainment‘s impressive line of characters.

Valiant High is a hilarious reimagining of Valiant’s award-winning superhero universe by writer Daniel Kibblesmith and artist Derek! Before they became the world’s most formidable heroes, they were roaming the halls at a super-powered preparatory academy where Aric “X-O Manowar” Dacia is a record-setting running back, Colin “Ninjak” King is a debonair foreign exchange student, and Coach Bloodshot is way too into dodgeball! Now… Faith “Zephyr” Herbert is about to discover it all for the first time as the newest girl in school!

The first issue was an original fun take on the characters and second issue out this week! We got a chance to talk to Daniel Kibblesmith and Derek Charm about the series and some of its influences.

Graphic Policy: How did you come on board Valiant High?

Daniel Kibblesmith: I had done some miscellaneous work for Valiant, mostly humor shorts in anthology issues, like the amazing Unity #25. Then-Valiant editor Tom Brennan sent me an e-mail asking if I’d be interested in pitching on a “teen soap opera,” without yet revealing what the idea was. It turns out Valiant and comiXology had both been circling the idea of doing Valiant High, and were looking for people to pitch on the concept.

Derek Charm: I was actually initially just brought on to do character designs and help visualize what High School versions of the Valiant heroes might look like. Originally I wasn’t sure I’d be able to draw the book, since I’ve already got a monthly deadline with Jughead, but the designs and back and forth process was so much fun it became something I really wanted to make time for.

GP: How much of it was fleshed out at that point as far as the characters and world?

DK: They had a few preliminary suggestions, all of which I ended up keeping, I think — Harada as the Principal, obviously. Bloodshot as the shouty dodgeball-obsessed gym coach. I also got to see some of Derek’s designs early enough in the process that I could get inspired by the choices he was making, and it helped me flesh out the backstories of characters like Ninjak, or Gilad, based on their look and attitude.

DC: I was sent Daniel’s original pitch document, but was left pretty much on my own to come up with everyone’s looks and how their super suits might transfer to something more casual while still retaining something of their iconic elements. I went back and forth a lot with Daniel and the editors to make sure every character was close to what they were envisioning.

GP: A thing that sticks out to me is that the characters are reduced to their basic self and they really fit the archetypes of teen high school movies. That wasn’t something I really thought about before reading this. Was that something that you noticed before this?

DK: Not until it was part of my job to think of the Valiant cast in terms of archetypes, and then map those archetypes onto OTHER archetypes of high school stories. But that was definitely the goal, same as any alternate universe story, to boil them down into their core character, so you could drop them in a new setting and it would still feel like “them.” Then the fun of it was seeing how all the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together, like making the armored XO Manowar an “armored” football star, or figuring out Dr. Mirage would be a science teacher and not one of the students, hence being a “Dr.”

GP: The comic really plays for comedy, not just in the story, but the art as well. It could have easily been a teenage drama. Was there thought about approaching it as a drama?

DK: The key phrase for me was always “soap opera” — which means a variety of tones and feelings are in play. I think the most satisfying stories play a variety of notes, and obviously, I love writing the jokes. But I wanted all the emotions to feel real, and the stakes to seem as high as they are when you’re that age. Plus, I tried to put at least one fight in every issue, because at the end of the day, these are still Valiant superheroes. I think the premise is so inherently heightened that it has to be on the baseline of comedy, but I hope it’ll dredge up people’s actual teen angst as well.

DC: It’s pretty light for the most part, but there are definitely some dramatic and action-oriented moments that come up later on in the story that were a lot of fun to draw.

GP: It being a digital series, how does that impact you as a writer and artist. Is there any difference than a physical comic?

DK: I’m new enough to scripting comics in general that I don’t play with the medium too much, but I definitely had a few rules in mind for a digital-exclusive release. For one thing, there’s no double-page spreads, just single-page splashes. Part of that was needing the real estate for telling a story with so many characters, but I was also aware that it affects my reading experience when I have to turn the device sideways and adjust to new dimensions.

DC: It was something we talked about. For the most part, I’m treating them as regular comic pages, but definitely keeping comiXology’s Guided View in mind as I go.

GP: Have either of you thought about taking advantage of some of the things you can do with digital like panel flow?

DK: I didn’t write in anything in particular, but as a commuter, I was really excited to read it in Guided View on my phone for the first time.

DC: For sure, I’ve found jokes work really well with the Guided View pacing. There’s a lot of repeated panels and held expressions that underline punchlines when you can’t see what’s coming. It’s like every panel is a page-turn.

GP: Were there any Valiant characters you wanted to include but didn’t get a chance to?

DK: It’s such a huge cast that a few got cut for time, or were reduced to background extras. I don’t want to reveal who, because I’d love to do a follow-up where we get to expand the world a little. For now, we packed in as many heroes as we could fit, and there’s still more coming in the next few issues that haven’t been revealed yet. Stay tuned.

GP: Do you have any favorite teen movies or stories? Any influence this series?

DK: My major influences were other High School Alternate Universes, of course, like the X-Men: Evolution cartoon show, or the weird, self-contained world that is the Avengers Academy App. Other big ones, oddly enough, were Power Rangers, or even Saved By The Bell, in the way they had such a limited cast of characters outside of the heroes and kept the action more or less confined to one location. I came to it late, but Archie and The Riverdale universe was obviously an influence. The big difference being that for our first glimpse of Valiant High, it felt early to expand the world to include the kids’ parents, pets, bedrooms, etc. But the biggest influence, and not-at-all high school related, was Marvel’s 1602, which is another AU that turns everyone into archetypes and then looks for the way they click in another time and place (in this case, the Elizabethan era).

DC: Daria and Strangers With Candy are probably my top High School-comedy influences, not just for this series but for everything. A lot of accidental Daria References worked their way in to this series.

GP: What other projects do you have up this year?

DK: Reading everything drawn by Derek. And some things not yet confirmed, so the best way to keep up would be to follow me on Twitter at @Kibblesmith. And watch The Late Show With Stephen Colbert at 11:35 ET on CBS (after your local news).

DC: I’m still on Jughead through the rest of Ryan North’s run, and then the beginning of the next one with the new team. It’s been fun jumping between the sci-fi/super hero aspects of Valiant High and the more down to earth world of Riverdale.

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