DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Darkmatters Review: The Magnificent Seven


The Magnificent Seven (12a)

Director Antoine Fuqua

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review over at: The Chronicle

“I seek righteousness. But I'll take revenge…”

Saddle up for some good ol rootin’ tootin’ slick gun-slinging action on the big screen as action director Antoine ‘Training Day’ Fuqua remakes the classic story of seven men willing to stand against impossible odds – as long as they get paid.

Original vs Newcomers

This modern vision may not have Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson or Yul Brynner but it does have guns, lots of guns and an explosions budget that would potentially win the war on terror.

So does The Magnificent Seven live up to its swaggering title? Well, kind of. If you’re a fan of the original put all thoughts of that aside as this new take is more like a western version of Suicide Squad –less back story and more action. I’m really not kidding about the action folks, pretty much the whole last hour of the film is a protracted gunfight which is both desperately exciting and wonderfully choreographed. If you’re adverse to seeing people getting shot, stabbed, blown up or beaten then this really isn’t the film for you (and it’s quite violent for a 12 certificate).

saddle up heroes 

The plot sees the good ol town of Rose Creek under the dastardly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter ‘Black Mass’ Sarsgaard). The good ol townspeople who include the lovely Emma Cullen (Haley ‘The Girl On The Train’ Bennett) seek protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns. The good ol seven are led by Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), an honourable bounty hunter. Then there’s Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), a likeable gambler who enjoys blowing stuff up, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), sharpshooter extraordinaire and expert tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio).

Also on the crew are Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a lethal assassin, token Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior. Yes, it’s a melting pot of races and creeds coming together as brothers for a single purpose – which made we wonder if on the frontier things were ever quite so good natured between such disparate folks.

mean looks

The build up to the violent showdown is handled well and even finds time to squeeze in some humour. Everyone goes about the gun-slinging business with gusto and damn Denzel Washington looks cool. The cinematography is decent and the action when it comes will delight those who enjoy a good big screen shootout.

So whilst not quite ‘magnificent’ this seven is certainly exciting and well worth a look!

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö1/2

(3.5 - Justice is more than a number)...

Awesomeness öööö – The firefight climax is suitably incredible

Laughs ööö – Some real funnies

Horror öö – Not too nasty but certainly violent in places

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Vengeance isn't righteousness


For a spiritual take on this version see; The Christian Today review

Friday, September 16, 2016

Darkmatters Review: The Girl With All The Gifts


The Girl With All The Gifts (15)

Dir. Colm McCarthy

Reviewed by Matt ‘Hungry’ Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review at: The Hemel Gazette

“The mission now is to try and stay off the menu…”

Meet Melanie, she’s a special girl. Bright, polite and caring, full of wide-eyed wonder at the world around her – oh – and she’s not actually human, even thought you couldn’t tell by looking at her…

feeling hungry...

Welcome to the near future, mankind has been infected by a fungal like Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis – which is bad new because it turns you into a ‘hungry’. A state where your mental capacity is replaced with a predatory need to feed on the flesh of healthy humans – thus spreading the disease.

Director Colm ‘Sherlock’ McCarthy takes the excellent, heartbreaking novel by M.R. Carey and brings it to brutal life on the big screen. The ‘Girl’ with the gifts Melanie is played with superb warmth and likeable empathy by newcomer Sennia Nanua (who has the capacity to be a big star based on this breakthrough role).

yeah that's me (running towards left, behind bald patch guy)

Melanie’s world is one of confinement, locked in a cell, she and her classmates are only let out to be taught by kind teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma ‘Byzantium’ Arterton) or experimented on by the callous Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Close) – who’s trying to find a cure to the disease.

When the base they are on is overrun by ‘Hungries’ - the zombie like infected humans – these three main players along with Sgt. Parks (Paddy ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ Considine) and a couple of other soldiers go on the run. Further threats emerge en route the last human main base which include not just contamination and getting munched by the Hungries but also a very nasty bunch of feral half human / half hungry kids.

me on the left 'full hungry snarl'

It’s grim stuff but the plot cracks along and these are characters you’ll soon care about. The action scenes are fantastic considering the small budget and the cinematography of a UK which has been wrecked will haunt you – as will the ending.

The Hungries are superb – fast running, nightmares, all teeth and wild eyes. I had the privilege of being one of them for the base attack scene (look out for the one with very little hair leading the run past Arterton in the midst of the action!?). It was an absolutely blast to get to be part of this film and I’m delighted that it’s turned out so well!

Melanie is a messy eater

The Girl With All The Gifts is a scary thrill ride you really should take.


Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - It's the Hungries that make it!! Best big screen zombie action of 2016)...

Awesomeness ööööö – Some unforgettable stuff goes down

Laughs ööö – Occasionally funny but it's laughter in the dark

Horror öööö – Strong horror violence - not for the squeamish

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Humans are so last year

Read my interview with Mike Carey who wrote the novel: INTERVIEW

blue top behind back of Landrover

I'm there somewhere...

just my standard look...

superb alternative poster


zombie photo byline this week in papers







Monday, September 12, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Suburra


Suburra (18)

Dir. Stefano Sollina

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)


“Manfredi Anacleti came to my house and kidnapped my son. You said you’d protect me and you didn’t…”

Prepare yourself for an Italian apocalypse of criminal chaos, corruption, sleaze and heavy duty violence. Suburra is a powerhouse of a film that beguiles and thrills in equal measure. Detailing the violent aftermath of what happens when Filippo Malgradi (Pierfrancesco ‘World War Z’ Favino) a prominent MP gets caught up in a very sticky situation after an under age girl dies of an overdose in his hotel room.

Italy looks very cool in this movie

Blackmailed by Spadino (Giacomo Ferrara) the unstable scumbag who helps dispose of the body, Malgradi turns to a dangerous thug known as Number 8 (Aureliano Adami) to make him reconsider. Needless to say things don’t go to plan and an escalating spiral of violence, kidnapping, revenge and brutal extermination ensues thanks in no small part to local crime boss Samurai (Claudio Amendola).

Tension in the air

Suburra is a gutsy, beautiful and haunting neo-noir crime-em-up that grips from the start and doesn’t let go. The violent set pieces are just incredible, burning themselves into your mind’s eye – from an impromptu hit on carried out in a steamy spa complex through to a reckless shootout in a crowded supermarket – they are handled with the stony cool cinematic style of say Michael Mann at the top of his game.

Nice night for a walk

What also elevates Suburra above the trashier end of the crime flick genre is the quality acting and characterization backed up by superb cinematography and a killer soundtrack from M83. I really wasn’t expecting such high standards from a big screen effort financed by Netflix – but now can’t wait to see the planned follow up TV series!


Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö

(5 - Stunning cinematic crime & punishment - possible film of 2016)...

Awesomeness ööööö – Staggering, breath taking scenes

Laughs ööö – Wickedly comic but in darkest possible way.

Horror öööö – Gets seriously violent and deals in very adult themes

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Molto bene

Rainier than Se7en?

Friday, September 09, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Ben-Hur


Ben-Hur (12a)

Dir. Timur Bekmambetov

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“First to finish, last to die…”

The Romans eh? What have they ever given us cinematically? Well apart from Gladiator, Spartacus and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, plus maybe King Arthur if you’re a Kiera Knightley fan… And now we have updated remake of Ben-Hur, minus the religious sub title but with added sub-300 CGI this time.

Romans > Pumpkins

It was always going to be tough to follow up the classic 1959 Charlton Heston starring, multi-Oscar winning version of the ancient novel by Lew Wallace but cool action director Timur ‘Wanted’ Bekmambetoc gives it a go. Meet Judah Ben-Hur (Jack ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ Huston) a Jewish prince who loses everything when his adopted Roman brother Messala (Toby ‘Warcraft’ Kebbell), turns on his family. Sentenced to slavery on a galley in the Roman navy, Judah vows to one day get revenge. Revenge in the circus! Not the clowns and trapeze variety but the bloody chariot racing where death and dishonour dished out in an ancient Fast & Furious destruction derby race.

Feel the need for speed

Cue an hour of tame background and vaguely interesting character build up in which Jesus (Rodrigo ‘Xerxes from 300’ Santoro) pops up in various cameos – doing some woodwork, obviously, saying some peacemaking soundbites and helping people including Judah when he stumbles on en route to his slavery commission. Also in the mix is Pontius Pilate (Pilou ‘Lucy’ Asbæk), hhhmmmm, I wonder if his seemingly random encounters with Jesus will have any pay off down the line?

21 Pilates - are you not entertained?

Anyway, Judah’s unlikely ticket to vengeance comes when his path crosses chariot team trainer Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman) who is willing to wager his fortune to give the wronged Jew a chance at racing his traitorous brother. Everything bar one exciting sea battle feels like padding, it’s the chariots of fire that is the selling point of this movie but it takes a while to get to.

Ahoy there for CGI

The good news is that Bekmambetov unleashes his action violence chops at the climactic chariot showdown, and for that 15 mins, Ben-Hur becomes an adrenalin overload of brutal racing excitement.

As a Christian, I found the religious elements well handled, sure they are a little overcooked but not massively distracting from the main narrative and Santoro's depiction of Jesus is solid (- a million miles away from his bloodthirsty 'man god' Xerxes in both the 300 movies, which at least shows he's got acting range!).

Antiques Roadshow - this week we're 'joined' by Jesus

Should you check out Ben - huh?

If you’re in the mood for a mostly gentle sandal-em-up which pays off big time at the end, this is a decent enough effort. The chariot race is especially effective in IMAX where you can almost feel the sand in your eyes!

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öö1/2

(2.5 - Chariot salvation* for earnest historical retread)...

Awesomeness öööö – Love that ancient pod racing stand out scene

Laughs öö – Couple of laughs, not all intentional

Horror ööö – Actually has few grim moments which adds credibility

Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - Check that carpenter guy out!

Original and still best!

*remove 1.5 stars if you don't like chariot races...

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Sausage Party


Sausage Party (15)

Dir.  Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Friends... Ramen... Country Club Lemonade... Lend me your ears of Corn. I'm Frank and I am a sausage...”

Welcome to Shopwell's Grocery Store – there are some great special offers available today. Get your well meaning hot dog wieners like Frank (Seth Rogen), or his shapely bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) – they make an especially tasty lead duo. Or maybe you’re in the mood for a fresh ‘Jewish’ flavour bagel - Sammy (Edward Norton) and his bickering Arab flatbread - Lavash (David Krumholtz), who trade all you can eat Middle East stereotype banter.

made for each other

If you’ve a hankering for amusing spicy, raunchy and vulgar animation, Sausage Party has it on the menu. The plot sees the products of Shopwell’s looking forward to being purchased by the human ‘gods’ so they can be taken to ‘the great beyond’ which they have been told is a heavenly existence outside of their wrapping. But a returned pot of unwanted Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) has seen the grim truth of what humans do to the food they buy… Can Frank and friends convince the food that they are doomed to be eaten, used and thrown away – an unpalatable message that goes against the phony fable that has been spread by the sage long lasting unperishable items of the store to prevent despair and panic amongst the commodities.

fear the 'gods'

Directors Greg ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ Tiernan and Conrad ‘Shrek 2’ Vernon's filthy food-em-up is a foul mouthed blast of edible puns and sex organ sight gags – wrapped around a nihilistic analogy that mocks religious beliefs. It certainly isn’t for kids or anyone easily offended, Sausage Party’s talking food is possibly the sweariest film of the year so far, but it’s also very funny.

The humour certainly couldn’t be much less high-brow for the most part which does undermine any serious anti-religious messaging it tries for – but the scattergun bawdiness and simplistic racial stereotyping such as the Nazi-ish Sauerkraut encouraging the ‘extermination of the juice’ aim to offend so viewers should be prepared. This is a long long way from the family friendly Pixar classics but it packs some great voice acting such as a fun cameo from Paul ‘Ant Man’ Rudd as the ‘Dark Lord’ store employee who throws away goods with damaged packaging.

Middle Eastern verbal conflict

Sausage Party is a tasty new kind of comedy animation which delivers a filthy good time for adult fans of stoner comedies.


Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö1/2

(3.5 - Funny tasting food with a side order of nihilism)...

Awesomeness ööö – Some well observed scenes that'll stick with you

Laughs öööö – Low brow but laugh-out-loud in places

Horror öö – Not overly grim but serious adult themes

Spiritual Enlightenment -öö - Nothing to report


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Darkmatters Review: War Dogs


War Dogs (15)

Dir. Todd Philips

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“I’m not a bad man. But there are times I need to think ‘what would a bad man do?’”

War – huh, what is it good for?

Well for two 20 something pals David Packouz (Miles ‘Fantastic 4’ Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah ’21 Jump Street’ Hill) war is a chance to get seriously rich. Yes these two chancers bagged a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America's allies in Afghanistan – despite neither of them actually having experience in international arms dealing…

The fact that this actually happened is staggering – it was called a ‘case study of everything that is wrong with the US Government’s arms procurement process’ and it proves fuel for a fun cinematic recap of just how this might have occurred.

"shady"

Packouz serves as voiceover to this madness – he’s an all American young chap with a lovely girlfriend Iz (Ana ‘Knock Knock’ de Armas). When Diveroli his slightly dodgy high school friend returns to town with tales of crazy money to be made from finding and servicing small military contracts, he jumps straight in. For a time it’s all fun, games and new Porsches as the two guys manage to pull off some results – including a hair raising drive to Baghdad. But before long the stakes rise considerably when these chancer ‘war dogs’ find a huge million-dollar opportunity which leads them to make a deal with shady black market gun runner Henry Girard (Bradley ‘Joy’ Cooper).

The question at the heart of War Dogs is ‘how far would you go in pursuit of the American Dream of easy wealth?’ There are lots of influences and references from films including Wolf of Wall Street, Scarface and Lord of War but director Todd ‘The Hangover’ Philips manages to craft an effective greed-em-up that sucks you in and makes you care about the fate of the main characters.

"Dog eat dog bro"

Both the two leads are on good form – Teller is likeable innocent, in way over his head and Hill is out of control as the greed driven mogul who’s not afraid to break the law or trample on others to get what he wants. As the money rolls in, the criminality ramps up and so does the potential consequences. It seems there’s a reason that warmongering isn’t usually a career for earnest upright young men and suddenly it starts to look like not everyone is going to be alive to see the end credits.

War racketeering shouldn’t be this fun but War Dogs really delivers.

"Opportunities"

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö1/2

(3.5 - The first casualty of war certainly isn't greed)...

Awesomeness ööö – You'll feel the feels

Laughs ööö – Darkly comic with Hill's laugh alone!

Horror öö – Sweary and tense but limited violent horror

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Trust no-one

Friday, August 19, 2016

Darkmatter Review: David Brent Life On The Road


David Brent: Life On The Road (15)

Dir. Ricky Gervais

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review: The Chronicle

“I’m gonna roll you over, and rock you stupid, and leave you there just humming...” 

David Brent is back. I never thought I’d write those words but here is the middle-aged master loser – on the big screen as a documentary team follow his dream of a ‘rock tour’ to save him from life as a sanitary products sales rep.

The Office was incredible TV, that made you wince and laugh in equal measure, the likes of which we haven’t fully seen since. David Brent: Life On The Road picks up the potent unfulfilled dreams of Slough’s favourite office manager and presents the full horror of what happens when Brent cashes in his life savings and pensions to finance a tour for his band ‘Foregone Conclusion’.

T-shirt gun massacre

The good news is that this the best Gervais has been in years – capturing the brilliant comedy / pathos at the heart of The Office and delivering big time both in the laughs and the cringe inducing awfulness of Brent’s socially awkward overdrive. This isn’t for those who are easily offended or just after some gentle humour – Life On The Road is a comedy-tragic-em-up that will rip your heart out even while you’re spitting popcorn.

This older Brent is a lonelier than ever, his hired bandmates won’t socialise with him or even let him on the expensive tour bus he’s shelled out for, - he even has to pay them to have an after show drink with him at one point. The expected adoring crowds don’t exactly turn up and the record company scouts are more interested in the genuinely talented aspiring rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) who Brent has guest rap on some of his songs in an effort to make them both ethically friendly and youth.

Too much detail

The excellent Tom ‘Love & Friendship’ Bennett is great as Brent’s one Lavichem office pal and Diane ‘Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe’ Morgan has a fun cameo as a PR tasked with the impossible job of making Brent ‘cool’. Doc Brown though steals all his scenes with looks to camera of such sheer uncomfortableness that I’d love to see him get his own spin off movie.

Life On The Road takes mid-life desperation and blows the door off it in fine comic style. You’ll laugh, you might even cry but be warned you might also very well hurt yourself due to the unsafe levels of cringe.

Wondering where it all went wrong

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Might tear your soul apart)...

Awesomeness öööö – Goes beyond the cringe threshold

Laughs öööö – Superb but painful

Horror öö – Swears and middle age desperation

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Everyone has a need for redemption (even Brent)




Darkmatters Review: Pete's Dragon


Pete’s Dragon (PG)

Dir. David Lowery

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there”

Prepare to believe in dragons once more as the powers that be re-image Disney’s original boy-and-dragon-em-up Pete’s Dragon. Step this way or an adventure which sees unfortunate orphan Pete (Oakes Fegley) surviving in the wild thanks to his unusual best friend Elliott (a kind hearted furry green beastie).

Pete and Elliot’s worlds are shaken up when Pete runs into Forest Ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) who has somehow managed not to notice the wild boy and his giant green pal living on her patch of forest for several years. He’s whisked off to civilisation and introduced to Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill.

BFFs

As Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about his dragon – whilst the townsfolk decide to catch Elliot to make money out of him. Can the two mismatched kids and kindly dragon believing old timer Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) – who tells the local children tales of a dragon residing deep in the woods – find a way to triumph?

Well, without wanting to spoil it, this is a Disney childrens’ fantasy but it does at least throw in some mild scares, a spot of tension and an impressive fire breathing finale. This new take on Pete’s Dragon updates the 1977 live-action / animation mixture removes lots of the cheese and adds some nice though provoking themes. Director David ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ Lowery does a decent job in making the whole tale bounce along with a bittersweet grounding that should appeal to both kids and those who can still find their inner sense of childlike wonder.

Knuckle-heads

Everyone goes about the fantasy fun and occasional peril with good spirit, Redford is the best I’ve seen him in years and the two young leads are very watchable. Howard has strong recent form with giant lizards after Jurassic World, plus there’s also Karl ‘Star Trek’ Urban and Wes ‘American Beauty’ Bentley to round out a great cast.

Pete’s Dragon is a family pleaser which stands above the cash in summer kids efforts and is certainly worth a look. It is even possible you’ll find your local church doing a Pete’s Dragon themed service as a special pack of resources has been created around the film for churches to use…

Check out the resource pack for yourself at: ETHOS MEDIA

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Puff ain't go nothing on Elliot)...

Awesomeness ööö – Some great set pieces 

Laughs öö – Some fun but not a comedy

Horror ö – Not grim but tense and occasionally scary

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - BFF's whatever species you are...






Friday, August 05, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Suicide Squad


Suicide Squad (15)

Dir. David Ayer

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

“We're bad guys, it's what we do…”

In a world rocked by the super threats highlighted by the destructive antics of ‘metahumans’ from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman the government decides to bring together a back up plan to handle the next attack.

"Soul sword"

Meet Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) the cold-hearted agent who creates ‘Task Force X’ by assembling a super team made up of metahuman villains forced to fight for us, not against us. And thus the ‘suicide squad’ is born – comprising of some of DC Comics’ most famous bad guys: Crack assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), Psychotic femme fatale Harly Quinn (Margot Robbie), Dangerous ‘Captain’ Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Flesh eating Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Fire manipulating El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Messed up Slipnot (Adam Beach), Powerful sorceress Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Expert martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara).


Can these ‘worst heroes ever’ actually work with special forces marines led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) for reduced jail terms or death-via-mini-bomb-in-their-necks if they disobey or try to escape? It’s a blast finding out.

Director David ‘End of Watch’ Ayer brings Suicide Squad to the screen as a sequel and worthy companion to Batman v Superman. Batman (Ben Affleck) gets some cool short action scenes and there is a fun cameo from another member of the soon to be formed Justice League. Suicide Squad works well as a stand alone adventure but also helps build the DC Cinematic Universe in fine style.

"stars of the show..."

This ‘Skwad’ of expendable baddies tear up the screen in an action packed romp which manages to be both dark and funny, and whilst these characters are the ones you’ll be rooting for, you’re not aloud to forget that they are nasty and each have heinous crimes to their names. Pick of the bunch are the perfectly cast Deadshot – Will Smith really delivers a top performance, and Harley Quinn - Margot Robbie might have to wear the most sexist outfit ever but she’s hypnotic and will steal many hearts with her cracked humour as much as her shapely form.

"Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha..."

Also mixed up in the action is Harley’s ‘Puddin’ - The Joker (Jared Leto trying his best to follow in the huge shoes of Heather Ledger) and succeeding, creating a wicked new take on the Clown Prince of Crime.

Pick apart the pacing of the plot and knock the ‘darker than Marvel’ tone all you want but Suicide Squad is a comic book fan’s dream writ large and I left the cinema grinning – both at what I’d just witnessed (stay for the end credits extra scene), and in anticipation of more to come!

"These criminals are animals!"

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - In Skwad we trust)...

Awesomeness öööö – Awesome and messy, high adrenaline stuff

Laughs öööö – Mucho dark humour

Horror ööö – Earns the 15 rating as grim in parts

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Who are you anyway?

"perfection"


DISCLOSURE: I loved Man of Steel and Batman v Superman - if you're a hater of the recent DC output you might want to knock off one star from the rating... But also, I pity you!?

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