Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



I know it’s a good movie, okay?  Shut the fuck up!

Look, I get it!  It merges multiple genres, has a great soundtrack, has some really iconic moments, some great action, some great gore…  I get it!  It’s Tarantino’s take on the martial arts genre.  It’s fun yet dark revenge movie that makes no real attempt to morally justify the actions of the woman seeking revenge.

Is it Tarantino’s masterpiece?  Maybe.  I could certainly see why people make that claim.  It certainly feels elevated above much of Tarantino’s other work.  More artful, and less shlocky.

I think that be my issue.

I’m not saying I don’t like more artful or thought-provoking movies.  I’m a huge fan of Lynch, Cronenberg, Jodorowski.  I liked Rubber.  Hell, I even like a couple of Harmony Korine movies.  Non-linear or even fully abstract storylines are fine by me.  Hell, I even like when Tarantino abandoned linear storytelling in Pulp Fiction.

…I just really hate this movie’s third act!

Yeah, I know!  I, someone who gave an overwhelmingly positive review to the third Human Centipede movie, doesn’t like the overblown violence of Kill Bill’s third act.

It’s not the violence I take issue with, obviously.  It’s that the film’s aesthetic sensibilities starts to dictate the action in a way I’m really not keen on.

Near the start, when Uma Thurman wakes up in the hospital, bites out that rapist’s tongue and then repeatedly slams that other rapist’s head in the door – that shit was great.  Why?  Because it showed her brutality, for one thing.  But it also showed her in a vulnerable position.  She couldn’t walk, and had no idea where she was.  All this and she had literally just realised she had lost her unborn child.  This was a great fucking scene because, in her vulnerability, we also saw her strength.

Later on, she does crazy impossible jumps and shit like she’s in the fucking Matrix.

I’m fine with characters exhibiting superhuman strength, speed, and fighting prowess, even if there’s no real explanation behind it.  What I’m less fine with is a character consistently shrugging off danger.

The bit with the spinny-ball-chain-girl would’ve been a great scene, since Uma Thurman was at a clear disadvantage and only got out of it due to quick thinking and a bit of luck – but then she dusts herself off and fights a fuckton of henchmen without even taking the time to catch her breath.  It had the chance to redeem itself in the final fight with Lucy Liu, but that fight was underwhelming as fuck.

I’ll be reviewing part 2 which, if I remember rightly, was a lot more grounded.  I feel like I’m gonna like that more.

I’m still giving this a 7.5, though, because it’s insanely well put together and well written.  I just…  I struggle to get by some shit.



Max Coulson on Screenwriting


Basically, I was looking through my old Reddit posts, and this was just something I left in a post about how to get started writing a screenplay.  I actually think I gave pretty solid advice, so here it is:

First off- you have to already have the idea. Don’t try and sit down at your computer, ready to write, if you don’t have an idea yet.

If you struggle to come up with ideas, speak to friends about hypothetical movies- even if they sound REALLY silly. Take an idea and just run with it, just as a general exercise.

A lot of my ideas come from personal frustration that I really want to see a new movie in a certain style, that nobody is making any more. Usually something I grew up with. Then I run with that idea and start thinking of what I’d like to see done in that style. Chances are, the final product won’t at all resemble it, because the story just ends up going a different way – and it becomes its own animal.

Once you have an idea- start to refine it based on practicality. What is it for? Is this a script that you want to sell to a large production company, or is it an independent film you want to put together yourself?

Think about what you have access to, and base what you write around your limitations. Even if you plan for it to be a big budgeted blockbuster – think as small as you can. Simplicity is key- and you don’t want to write loads, only for the company to start tearing out pages because they can’t afford to film those scenes – or for what you had planned to look like crap because it’s beyond the company’s or your own personal means.

The three act structure is your friend!

Write out simply what you want to happen in the beginning the middle and the end, as bullet-points.

Then split each of those stages into three more. Then you split THOSE stages into three more.

Once you have that – you’re ready to start writing.

Try to focus on one or two main characters. Ensemble pieces can be great – but can you guarantee that you’d have access to enough strong actors to pull it off? Also, when you’re starting out, focussing on one or two characters can really help you learn to build strong characters, because you’re not constantly switching your focus and bloating your story.

The only other thing I can say is to play to your own strengths. If dialogue is something you’re good with, then centre your script around interesting conversations. If you have a very poetic brain, and have a knack for symbolism and layers of subtext- then maybe don’t aim to make the next Rambo movie.

If action scenes are your bag- keep in mind your limitations, but still play on it. Look at a movie like The Warriors. Plenty of action, but it’s mostly street fights and brawling. Simple to choreograph, easy for actors to learn, and no need for big special effects.

Lastly, don’t worry too much if what you write isn’t always very good. I scrap more screenplays than I keep. That’s just a part of the creative process.

Death Race 2050 (2017) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



What’s this?  A remake that doesn’t completely miss the point of the original, but instead builds on the themes and ideas laid out by it?  Holy fuck.

Yeah, this was a pretty solid remake, all in all.  Certainly beat the fuck out of that Paul WS Anderson “Mario Kart with Jason Statham” bullshit.

There were things the original did better.  While both films have their fair share of hokey acting, Death Race 2000 at least had David Carradine delivering a solid performance in the lead.  In this, the majority of the acting is probably better, but the guy playing Frankenstein was nowhere near as compelling.

Also, the driving sequences were better in the original.  Both films used a lot of undercranking to make it look like the cars were driving faster than they were, but the original handled it a lot better.  Also, this version has a lot of obvious greenscreen where the original would have the actors either actually driving, or would use camera angles to block the view of the road.

However, neither Death Race 2000 nor this movie are about slick driving sequences.  This movie actually ups the satire, and mostly in a way that benefits the film.  While Malcolm McDowell’s Chairman character parodies Donald Trump a little too blatantly, in a way that will likely date the film quite a bit, most of the satire is handled very well.

One running gag in the film is that all the US States (now each owned by a different corporation) have new names, which appears as a caption whenever the racers enter said state.  For example, “New Texaco: Formerly Arkansas.”  Another great twist on this gag is, during a scene in the white house, we see the caption “Washington DC: Formerly Dubai.”

Rather than focus solely on violence in the media, which the original did, this movie seems to pin most of its satire on globalisation and people’s increasing dependence on media consumption (violent or otherwise), as employment becomes less and less needed.

But, of course, neither the racing nor the satire are what people really watch these movies for.  And it wasn’t a lack of either that lead to people hating the Statham/Anderson movie.  I am of course referring to the mindless slaughter of random pedestrians – and this movie doesn’t skimp on that!

Hell, this movie sorta outdoes the original on that front, simply because the kills are gory as fuck in this film (in the overly cartoonish Troma/Itchy & Scratchy sort of way, naturally).  I don’t know if a car can actually split someone in two, right through the stomach, but I’m willing to roll with it – because it’s awesome.

There were more actual characters in this than there were in Death Race 2000, too.  Beyond Frankenstein, Machine Gun Joe and (I guess) Annie, the original didn’t really have many actual notable characters.  Whereas Death Race 2050 fleshes out a fair few of its characters.  Even the chairman has some believability to him, despite similarities to Trump.

The standout performance was definitely Folake Olowofoyeku (a name that makes me very glad this isn’t a video review because I have no idea how to pronounce that) as Minerva, the hip-hop star turned racer.  The character is definitely one that had more depth than she needed, and Olowofoyeku definitely added a lot to the character with her performance.

Overall, I can’t actually even say which of the two movies is better, because they both excel in different ways.  Just watch both.

Watch both.

Do it.

Murder Party (2007) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



Jeremy Saulnier may wind up being one of my favourite directors.  I’ve now seen all three of his movies, and all three have gotten top marks from me.

There are definite similarities across all his films, but this first effort is notably more…  well, more fucking hilarious.  This is an amazing black comedy/horror film that was tense when it needed to be, hit every mark comedically, and was sufficiently brutal in the gore department.

The film follows a traffic warden named Chris (played by Chris Sharp) happens upon an invite to the titular ‘murder party.’  Assuming this to be a halloween party, he hastily assembles suit of armour from a cardboard box and some duct tape, cooks up some pumpkin loaf, and heads along to the party.

The party, of course, turns out to be considerably more fucked up than Chris expected.  In fact, rather than a party, it is a group of aspiring artists in a warehouse, planning to murder him in order to impress this guy named Alexander – who is promising a large grant to the best artist in the group.

Through all of this, Chris must take advantage of the constant in-fighting and drug-induced insanity, in order to get away.

In some ways, this plot feels somewhat familiar – but as with Saulnier’s two later films, this movie completely flies in the face of genre expectation.

Many filmmakers would’ve chosen to give Chris a knack for strategy, fighting, or just have him be level-headed enough to get his shit together and make a plan but that just isn’t the case, here.  Chris is fairly hapless and, while he does make the occasional smart decision, most of the time a situation tilts in his favour, it tends to be more the result of either dumb luck, or the stupidity of one or more of his captors.

That’s the other great thing, here – the villains don’t have much of a plan, either.  Hell, they seem fairly surprised that anyone even showed up to the murder party at all.  They’re all self-obsessed, not all that smart, and more than somewhat inebriated.

If this movie proves anything, it’s that a film can be mostly dumb fun, without having to be totally predictable.

I…  I fucking loved this movie.

Watch it.  It’s good.

Foxy Brown (1974) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



Why is this the most well known Jack Hill/Pam Grier movie?  Is it because of its name being a clear influence on Tarantino’s Jackie Brown?  Is it because of the admittedly brilliant opening credit sequence?

Look, this isn’t a bad movie by any stretch – but compared to Hill’s previous three blaxploitation movies (ESPECIALLY Coffy!) it was really a bit lackluster.

The things that are good about all of Hill’s blaxploitation films are still good here – great music, Sid Hague, a more intelligent social commentary hidden within the subtext that a movie like this really needed, fun action set-pieces (even if the fight choreography in these movies has always been weak) and, of course, Pam fucking Grier.

Pam Grier’s characters, particularly Foxy Brown and Coffy are really perfect examples of how to hit that balance of smart, sexy and badass, without causing audience members to roll their eyes in disbelief every few seconds.

For a start, she isn’t some martial arts expert for no reason, she doesn’t have abnormal strength for a woman of her build, and she is hardly unbreakable.  Generally speaking, when a couple of guys attack her, she will struggle or outright lose – but she ends up ultimately winning because she’s smart and level headed.

She uses her sexuality to get what she wants but, even in those moments, she never attempts to appear air-headed.  She knows that the people she’s dealing with aren’t the sort of person to go easy on a ditsy character.  Her approach is, “I’m sexy, and you can make money from that – but it’ll be on my terms.”

The times where she does come across as an airhead is when attempting to trick people who are obviously far stupider than the gang leaders she’s out to get.

Her lack of brute strength or fighting prowess is actually something that brings not only realism, but a sense of excitement to these movies – because she has to think her way out of a problem, rather than just fight her way out.

All these elements are present in this movie, as with previous efforts.  However, this movie’s biggest drawback is that it’s…  kinda fucking boring.

Coffy got going straight away – to the point that she’s already on her revenge mission by the time the movie starts.  This film takes more time setting it up, which would be fine, but it doesn’t really offer the audience anything to make that setup interesting.  The opening action sequence with the car is embarrassingly bad, and its awkward attempts at humour really fall flat.  Foxy’s brother is such a pointless addition to the film that really adds nothing of merit, and the villains are just kinda stock villains.  They do nothing to really make you hate them, save for the two rapist drug dealers at the ranch – but having characters rape someone is a pretty lazy way of making the audience hate them, because it’s just too easy.

Some of the set-pieces are really fun, especially the escape scene in the ranch, and the piece near the end.  However, the barroom brawl (as much as I have to give the movie credit for being the only film I can think of that has a bar fight in a lesbian only bar) was really tacked on and could’ve been cut from the movie with little effect on anything.  This wouldn’t bother me if this was a Jim Kelly film, but as I mentioned before – the fight choreography in these films is pretty bad.

This film is so similar to Coffy in so many ways, so it’s hard not to draw comparisons and, really, that’s this film’s biggest problem: it’s never going to be as good as Coffy.

As good as this film is (and it really is), and despite my 8 out of 10 rating, I don’t really know how strongly I can recommend this film – when I could just recommend watching Coffy.

So watch Coffy.  That’s a 10/10 for me.  Then, if you get curious, check this one out.  It’s not as good, but you’ll still have fun with it.

High-Rise (2015) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



I can’t pretend I’m not a little disappointed.  After seeing such great work from Ben Wheatley in Sightseers, A Field In England, and Kill List – I was really expecting to come away from High-Rise, totally blown away.  Sadly, I was not.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a good movie, and some of the elements at play were nothing short of brilliant.  But, taking the movie as a whole, it falls slightly flat.

The film mostly follows Doctor Laing, played by Tom Hiddleston, as he attempts to live a relatively quiet life in the titular high-rise.

The tower block the film takes its name from is basically literal representation of feudalist/classist society – with the wealthiest living at the top, having a seemingly non-stop stream of cocktail parties, and the poor families at the bottom, constantly hoping to get a home in a higher floor.

As time goes on, the building begins to suffer from power failure, and tensions between the social classes begins to grow and grow – before eventually culminating in total chaos.

My main issue with the film is in its pacing.  The aforementioned collapse of society all takes place within a short montage, with not all that much build-up.  The argument could be made that the abrupt nature of the descent into madness could be representative of how civilised society can fall apart so fast that we can hardly figure out how we let it happen.  But it feels more like the film was just trimmed for time.

Hopefully, there’ll be an extended director’s cut at some point, because the hyperactive pace of the movie really lessens its impact, for me.

When the film slows down a little, it manages to build some serious tension.  There was one scene of people dancing and partying, intercut with shots of the ceiling beneath them cracking and starting to buckle under their weight as a child plays in the room, and it really filled me with dread.

The performances were all very strong, most notably Luke Evans as the utterly sociopathic documentary filmmaker, Richard Wilder.  His wife, Helen, played by Elisabeth Moss, was also brilliant as a downtrodden woman who simply wanted the best for her family.

The production design was another big point in the film’s favour.  The design of the tower blocks, themselves, was perfect.  The way they loom over the otherwise desolate landscape really gave them an imposing character of their own.  The interior shots are claustrophobic and unfriendly, regardless of their level of luxury.

The soundtrack ranged from brilliant to slightly sub-par, but fortunately was more of the former than the latter.

Wheatley’s trademark dark sense of humour was very much present in this film, which it really needed, given the subject matter (not that I’d really describe any of the humour as levity – if anything, it makes it feel more twisted).

Great cast, great production design, some cool cinematography…  it’s just that pacing.  C’mon, director’s cut!  Make it happen!

Still worth seeing, though.

The Expendables 2 (2012) – review by Max Coulson



I’m really not getting it.  I’m just…  I don’t fucking get it.

Okay, this movie is better than the first one.  The action scenes are shot and edited in a way that doesn’t induce migraines, this time around, and the pacing has been dramatically improved.

It’s still fucking shit, though.  I get what these films are going for – they’re meant to be throwbacks to 1980’s action fare like Commando, the Rambo sequels, and a general love letter to everything big and loud that you just don’t really see, anymore.

The issue is that the end result is less like Commando or Rambo II, and more like Missing in Action 2 or Invasion USA, minus the charm.

These films really do remind me of Chuck Norris’ run of Cannon action movies.  Hell, this one even has Chuck in it.  More on that, later.

I just don’t understand the appeal of these cookie-cutter plot, fairly mediocre action movies.  These are the sort of films where I can be watching fifty people being gunned down, explosions left and right, and be utterly fucking bored, the entire time.

There is never any tension, partly because characters casually display superhuman strength and endurance, but because the story is so cliched that you can actually predict every story beat, about ten minutes into the film.

Okay, spoiler warning for anyone who’s never watched a movie – but Liam Hemsworth’s character dies.  He’s the token young member of the team (and the only one not played by an action movie icon) who is going to give it all up to be with his sweetheart.  No, really.  No, really!  The scene where he’s about to die is dragged out so fucking long, as well.

The whole time Van Damme was taunting the team and threatening Thor’s brother, all I was thinking was, “just kill him.  Kill him.  I know you’re going to kill him because this isn’t the first movie I’ve ever watched.  Fucking kill him.  Hurry up and kill him so people have a reason to start shooting things.”

Y’know the worst part about all this, though?  LIAM HEMSWORTH’S DEATH WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY TO THE PLOT!

The bad guys have a map to a bunch of cold war plutonium which they plan to sell to other bad guys who will fuck up the world with it.

Guess what…   that’s all the motivation you need!  They were there to retrieve the map, and the map was stolen – so they don’t need revenge as a motivator to kill the bad guys since, presumably, that’s what they’d have done anyway!

Fucking wasting my time with bullshit scenes that are not only cliched and predictable, but completely superfluous to the narrative.  Fuck you, movie.  Fuck you in the eye.

But none of that matters anyway, does it?  Nothing in the story matters, since all anyone gives a shit about is the fact that lots of people they recognise are in a movie together.

Big fucking whoop.

Oh no!  The characters are trapped in a cave with no way out.  How will they survive this?

Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up in a cave-digger thing, possibly as a partial reference to Total Recall, with no real explanation as to how he got there, how he knew where they were, and where he got a cave-digger thing.

Oh no!  The characters are all out of ammo and surrounded by bad guys.  How will they survive this?

Chuck Norris shows up with no real explanation, and guns them all down from off-screen.

This is bad writing.  It doesn’t matter if I know who the people are, it’s still bad writing.

Like, is that all people need?  “Ooh, a person I recognise!  I’m so amazed!  Oh, and they made a joke about another movie that said person is known for starring in.  How fun!”

I found it kinda funny how, since there are no well-known or iconic movies starring Chuck Norris, they just reference memes and have him walking around to the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Close enough, right?

It’s not even fun.  It feels more like a self-congratulatory circlejerk than an actual movie.  “Get it, they mention that Dolph Lundgren’s character is a chemical engineer because that’s what Dolph was in real life before he became an actor!  How fucking amusing!”

Literally the only redeeming moments in this movie are Jason Statham’s knife fight in the church, and…  no, actually, that might be it.

Even Terry Crews is dull in this movie.  Fucking Terry Crews!  How do you even manage that?!

I was gonna watch 2 and 3 but, nah.  I’m done.

Fuck this franchise.  Fuck it in the eye.

Death Race 2000 (1975) – Movie Review by Max Coulson



So, I spent a good chunk of last night watching Roger Corman interviews, and it got me thinking about how many movies he’s produced that I just fucking loved when I was a kid, and this one pretty much tops the list.

This was one of those movies I watched all the time when I was younger, and may be the only VHS tape I came close to wearing out as much as Road House.  The weird thing is, though, I think the last time I watched it before now was when I was about 14.

So, the big question is: Does it hold up?  Fucking yeah, it does!  It may actually be funnier, watching as an adult.  I always laughed at the scene near the beginning, where Frankenstein runs over the group of nurses, after they put all the old people in the middle of the road to die  –  but what actually made me laugh more, this time around, was Frankenstein casually referring to it as “Euthanasia Day at the geriatrics hospital.”

The actual racing scenes also hold up really well.  Yeah, it’s obvious that a lot of the footage has been sped up – but the scenes are shot well and are edited with a certain energy that really added a lot to those scenes.  I also appreciated that, when the actors were exchanging dialogue while driving – they were actually in moving vehicles, for the most part.  At no point do we see them in front of a projector screen.

This is just a really fun, schlock-fest of a movie, with some pretty good political satire, some great action sequences, people having their heads ran over, and topless women because, hey, it was the 70’s!

Actually, with that last part in mind, I’d just like to take the time to note how refreshing it is to watch an exploitation movie made in the 70’s, where none of the female characters get violently raped.  That’s…  that’s just great.

So yeah, see this movie – it’s fun!

The Greasy Strangler (2016) – Review by Max Coulson



This movie is awesome and you should see it, right now.

Imagine a John Waters film…  No, not Hairspray…  Or Cry Baby….  Imagine a John Waters film between 1969 and 1974.  Okay, think of that.  Now imagine Waters decided to throw in a bunch of Troma-esque gore, and even more disgust-inducing visuals.

Imagine all that, and you have *drum-roll* Kurt Dirt’s Life is Cheap!

Now, imagine that movie had an actual budget – and you have the Greasy Strangler!

Okay, that’s not strictly fair.  Life is Cheap and The Greasy Strangler are very similar in a lot of ways – but their are some pretty fundamental differences.

With Life is Cheap, I felt like Kurt was going for all-out disgust.  Like if GG Allin became a movie director instead of a musician.  The film tried, and succeeded, at being a perfect gross-out fest.

The Greasy Strangler, while it certainly does assault the audience with disgusting visuals, is also far more conventional in its approach…  To a point.

This is a film that manages to merge a fairly traditional narrative with absurdism and totally gets away with it, against all the odds.  And, yes, I’m aware I just said that a film about a greased-up elderly man strangling people until their eyes pop out had a traditional narrative.

The real story of the film is that of a sordid love triangle between Big Ronnie (AKA the Greasy Strangler), his son Brayden, and Janet – who they meet while doing their Disco-walk tour.

The three main characters are all disgusting and bizarre in their own ways, but also have distinct and understandable personalities.

Aside from being a psychotic, greased-up murderer, Big Ronnie is reprehensible in less obvious ways.  He constantly lies about his past adventures, his knowledge of disco, and even convinces his friend that his son shits the bed, for no real reason.

Brayden is a pathetic, possibly developmentally challenged, man-child, who seems unable to escape his father’s shadow.  All he seems to want is a genuinely meaningful relationship with Janet.

Janet is, in some ways, the most reprehensible character of the bunch.  Clearly not a psychopath on the level of Big Ronnie, but almost as callous.  Janet seems happy to not only cheat on Brayden with his father, but even goes as far as to openly mock him after the two of them sleep together.

While these three characters actually have an interesting dynamic that goes deeper than a film like this really needs them to, the peripheral characters are where the film really gets its absurdist fix.

From Oinker, a character with a pig snout covering a bloody hole where his nose should be, to the three foreign tourists who will probably cause a very strangely pronounced version of the word “potato” to burn itself into your brain for several weeks after watching the film, the world this film inhabits is one full of weird and illogical people.

Then there’s the ending.  I won’t get into spoilers territory, but this film ends with what can only really be described as pure insanity.

Well-crafted, fun, absurd yet thought out…  this movie is awesome, and you should see it!

Just be prepared to hear the phrase “bullshit artist” a lot.  Because you will.

Tusk (2014) – Review by Max Coulson




I really wanted to be a fan of this movie.  Red State was a brilliant film that kept me guessing throughout, and was a great display of Kevin Smith’s versatility.  It was violent where it needed to be, funny when it needed to be, tense, and just a lot of fun.

This…  Okay, the first half of this movie is actually really good.  Like, everything prior to the whole “turning him into a walrus” part of the film.

Michael Parks once again plays the movie’s villain and, like in Red State, he absolutely steals the show.  This time, he plays Howard Howe – an insane former sailor obsessed with “resurrecting” a walrus that saved his life when he was lost at sea.

Howard Howe is a perfect blend of highly intelligent and completely deranged.  He believes that humans are savage and evil, but the walrus is a pure and perfect animal.

In the hands of another actor, this character could very easily come across as campy, but Parks manages to take the character to another level.  Even in the films silliest moments, he is always strangely believable.

The big downside of the film is…  everything else in the film.

Justin Long’s character is…  ugh…   Okay, look, Kevin Smith has a tendency to write shameless self-insert characters with gaping character flaws and this may be the most obvious of the bunch.

Dante in Clerks was Kevin Smith as he was in his 20’s.  Wallace in Tusk is Kevin Smith as he is now.  He runs a podcast (and does live shows), he’s a geek, aaand he has traded in his credibility in order to make more money.  Basically, he is Smith’s self-criticism made flesh, and I don’t think it’s a total coincidence that the entire film revolves around him being mutilated and tortured by a person he was intending to exploit for personal gain.

Then there’s his best friend and girlfriend but to call them characters would be generous.  I…  I really don’t have anything to say about them other than the fact that they have too much screentime.

Then there’s Johnny Depp as Inspector Clouseau.  He’s actually called Guy Lapointe, but he is basically Inspector Clouseau.

It’s actually really jarring to have Depp playing such an over-the-top and cartoonish character in a film whose comedy is more downplayed.  In that sense, he sort of reminds me of the bumbling cops in Last House on the Left.  Like with that movie, I think you could cut those scenes and you really wouldn’t lose anything.

But my real issue with the movie, the thing that I can’t ignore…   Okay, I’m going to issue a spoiler warning from hereon.

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