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CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

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CrAiGeR dishes out his TEN BEST and TEN WORST films for every year since 2000





CrAiGeR unleashes his list of ten films that he felt did not deserve universal fan accolades and critical praise.




CrAiGeR ruminates on ten films he feels most directly influenced the business and making of movies since 1986.



CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 2010's



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CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1940's








All sugar rush and no substance 

The preposterously titled new Netflix action thriller GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE is - to take a page out of the PULP FICTION vernacular playbook - not quite five dollar shake good.  More like a cheaper, less flavourful, and forgettable discount beverage way down on the genre menu.  This Navot Papushado directed affair is kind of like a hodgepodge of JOHN WICK meets THE KINGSMAN, but with a squadron of kick-ass women leading the murder-death-kill charge...

Posted July 27, 2021


(R) jjj

Strange and vile things are afoot in the Motor City

I usually lament when a proven veteran director goes back to the genre well, so to speak, but when your name is Steven Soderbergh and (a) you have nothing to prove to cement your stature in the industry and (b) you're so damn confident in the genre in question that it's really hard to argue with the choice.  I vividly remember when the Academy Award winner announced his retirement (yeah...right) way back in 2013 after releasing SIDE EFFECTS...

Posted July 27, 2021


We're in the long overdue end game now, Natasha...

There's a single scene in BLACK WIDOW - the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first of its fourth phase of films - that unfortunately sums up everything that's frustratingly wrong with it. During it a family member (so to speak, more on that in a bit) relays to her sort-of father (again, more on that in a bit) about how a particularly brutal part of her time as a brainwashed agent involved having her reproductive organs removed, rendering her completely incapable of ever having children in her life...

Posted July 19, 2021


(PG-13) jjj1/2


The original A QUIET PLACE was not only one of the most masterfully executed high concept horror thrillers of recent memory, but it also was one of the most memorable filmgoing experiences of my adult life.  It's highly ironic, then, that this 2018 John Krasinski directed affair did the unthinkable and unattainable of teaching audiences to keep their collective mouths shut while watching it in a cinema...but then its inevitable sequel was essentially silenced and put on hold by the shuttering of cinemas worldwide during the early stages of a global pandemic...

Posted July 19, 2021


A wasted trip back back to the future 

Amazon Prime's carelessly brainless THE TOMORROW WAR is so inexplicably generic, uninspired, and easily forgettable as far as alien invasion/time travel thrillers go that I doubt that I'll remember it in a day or so after posting this review.  Originally set for theatrical release, but then postponed because of the pandemic and later bought for a whopping $200 million by the streaming and online retail giant, this Chris McKay directed affair has a promising premise that's undone by fairly idiotic scripting...

Posted July 8, 2021


This frigid road isn't worth taking

THE ICE ROAD is the single worst Liam Neeson as a Manitoban semi-truck driver thriller I've ever seen.  It just has to be.  This film has to be seen to be believed.  Seemingly everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown in by writer/director Jonathon Hensleigh (THE PUNISHER and KILL THE IRISHMAN, making his first foray behind the camera in a decade): We got, yes, big rig trucks...we got ice roads...we got Manitoban snow covered vistas...we got trapped diamond miners whose lives are in danger...we got PTSD riddled soldiers trying to acclimate to a life on the outside...

Posted July 8, 2021

WRATH OF MAN (R) jjj1/2

A Statham/Ritchie one-two punch revenge knuckle sandwich

There's no questioning right now that writer/director Guy Ritchie has definitely got his creative groove back.  After wallowing in such mediocre fare as the live action ALADDIN remake or the thoroughly disposable KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, the British filmmaker made a solid return to form with last year's THE GENTLEMEN, which was a crime caper cut from a very Ritchie-esque cloth, to be sure.  He now follows up that solid piece of crime fiction with WRATH OF MAN, a remake of the 2004 French film CASH TRUCK...

Posted July 8, 2021


The Cumberpackage

All while watching THE COURIER it dawned on me that there have been so very few spy thrillers - historical or not - that have focused on common, ordinary people being called upon to do extraordinary things.  One of the simple pleasures of Dominic Cooke's film is that it places less emphasis on action and more on suspense and character dynamics, and more importantly it abandons any political sermonizing and instead hones in on themes of loyalty and how personal action can have a ripple effect on millions of others...

Posted June 30, 2021

NOBODY (R) jjj1/2

Don't mess with this everyman

It's very telling that NOBODY comes from JOHN WICK screenwriter Derek Kolstad and producer David Leitch.  That 2014 action thriller featured a murder spree by a lethal assassin that was spawned by the killing of his cute puppy (never forget!) and in NOBODY a similar orgy of murder-death-killing is launched because of a stolen kitty cat bracelet that belongs to the hero's daughter.  There's something about taken and/or murdered property that drives these once reclusive action heroes back into the limelight in these films...

Posted June 30, 2021

AWAKE (R) j1/2

A slumber inducing apocalyptic thriller 

It's highly ironic that AWAKE is a post-apocalyptic thriller that features a premise that shows a world where no one on the planet can sleep after a cataclysmic event...because this Netflix original is an easy cure for insomnia.  This Mark Raso written/directed end-of-the-world affair reminded me a lot of those many high concept driven, but idiotically scripted and executed M. Night Shyamalan efforts that thinks they were a hell of lot more clever than they actually are...

Posted June 25, 2021


(PG) jjj

Gleaming the Indian cube

The inspirational/overcoming all odds sports genre has been done so literally to death that I've frankly become numb to the prospects of seeing yet another example of it.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, but Netflix's SKATER GIRL, which changes things up considerably based on its character and geographical focus.  Marking the feature film directorial debut of Manjari Makijany (who previously worked on multiple high prestige projects as a second unit director...

Posted June 25, 2021


(PG) jj1/2

How to train your Disney dragon

Disney's latest computer animated fantasy adventure RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON - their 59th animated outing - has all of the requisite elements that we've come to expect from the House of Mouse: Sumptuous imagery and meticulously rendered spectacle, a plucky heroine of a decidedly different brand of "Disney princess," solidly invested voice performances, and worthwhile themes that speak towards audiences young and old...

Posted June 15, 2021

RUN (R) jjj

Confessions of a terrorized and wheelchair bound/home schooled teenager

RUN (which premiered last fall on Hulu before hitting Netflix internationally weeks ago) comes from writer/director Aneesh Chaganty, whom previously made the very topical genre effort in 2018's SEARCHING, which proved that you can tell an old school exercise in paranoia and terror in refreshing new ways.  At a super tight, lean and mean 89 minutes, the filmmaker's latest effort continues to show his willingness to go against the grain of audience expectations...

Posted June 15, 2021

THE DRY (R) jjj

A tale of multiple murders in the heart of the Aussie outback

Very few mystery thrillers as of late use their environment as a character of importance in their own right as well as Robert Connelly's THE DRY, which takes its name from a particular area of scorched dry land in Kiewarra, a farming community outside of Melbourne, Australia.  The film contains eerie echoes of the very recent and real wildfires that ravaged the nation, and its the environmental desolation presented here that bares down heavily on already troubled souls that figure heavily into the multiple generations spanning narrative...

Posted June 10, 2021


(R) jjj

Confessions of a Black Panther Party crasher

Is there a better actor working today at evoking teeth and fist clenched paranoia than LaKeith Stanfield?  Just look at his fever pitched performances in movies like GET OUT or SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and you'll kind of get the idea, or perhaps just seek out JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, the biographical historical drama that has him playing titular backstabber William O' Neal, who in 1960s Chicago worked as an undercover informant for the FBI within that city's chapter of the Black Panthers...

Posted June 10, 2021


This island Earth

IN THE EARTH is a new psychological horror thriller that works disturbingly well on two distinct fronts.  Firstly, it tells a highly timely tale of a world of the not too distant future that has been ravaged by a deadly and unstoppable virus (sound eerily familiar?).  Secondly, the film taps into well worn horror genre troupes - characters venture off into the untamed woods and wild, during which time supernatural and unexplained occurrences threaten their livelihoods - and does something refreshingly sinister and chillingly atmospheric with them...

Posted June 10, 2021


What dies in Vegas becomes undead in Vegas

I've always admired Zack Snyder as a director of fearless ambition.  He began his career by remaking one of the most cherished horror films of all time in DAWN OF THE DEAD (no easy feat, but he pulled it off superbly).  He then followed that up by helming some of the most thanklessly faithful and finely executed comic book adaptations in 300 and WATCHMEN.  From there, Snyder decided to embark on a fresh reboot of the most iconic super hero of all time with MAN OF STEEL, which kicked off the DCEU and culminated with him releasing a four-hour long team up film with ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE...

Posted May 31, 2021


Revenge of the Danish nerds

Anders Thomas Jensen's RIDERS OF JUSTICE is one stealthy movie.  It makes viewers think they're getting one type of obligatory and predictable genre picture, only to sneakily pull the rugs out from under our feet and give us something wholly different and unique.  It tells a tale that seems like it's been regurgitated from countless other films - mentally scarred war hero returns home to a wife that's just recently been killed by nefarious means, leading him to seeking bloody vengeance on the perpetrators...

Posted May 31, 2021


(R) j1/2

Panic room

The new Netflix psychological thriller THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is proof positive that having an acclaimed and highly competent director at the helm alongside a relative smorgasbord of Oscar nominated and winning actors can still produce a stunningly wrongheaded final end product.  This film contains a fairly intriguing premise (a chronic agoraphobic suffering child psychologist that spends all of her waking moments inside thinks she witnesses a murder next door)...

Posted May 25, 2021

LAND (R) jjj

Into the wild

LAND tells a story that initially seems to be painted with familiar genre strokes, only to slowly and surely reveal itself to be uncommonly authentic and raw in the manner that it deals with isolation, grief, and ultimately salvation.  It tells the tale of a big city middle aged woman that is devastated by gut wrenching personal tragedy and subsequent depression, so much so that she decides to completely abandon her life and flees into the wilderness to a remote cabin to spend her days fending for herself and away from humanity in general...

Posted May 25, 2021


(R) jjj1/2

In a cryogenic pod, no one can hear you scream

OXYGEN (now streaming on Netflix) is an unnervingly effective sci-fi thriller that does relative miracles with its extremely claustrophobic, mostly one setting premise (even though it was done better with the very similar BURIED years ago).  Directed with maximum efficiency and innovation by Alexandre Aja (who previously made a very different kind of tight spaced nerve jangler in 2019's alligators/hurricane versus a basement trapped woman thriller CRAWL)...

Posted May 19, 2021


A franchise starter without merit 

Ever since the release of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER over three decades ago the name Tom Clancy has become a recognizable and bankable brand in itself, which has spawned an espionage themed multi-media empire that has permeated novels, films, and video games (a pretty rare triple crown threat, if you ask me).  Whereas most of the cinematic Clancy inspired films have focused on CIA analyst Jack Ryan (in various forms via multiple actors)...

Posted May 14, 2021


An educational and endearing journey into a familiar neighborhood

There were two reassuring and beloved constants in my childhood life that I always could escape to: STAR WARS in the cinemas and SESAME STREET on TV.  It's almost impossible to overstate what a profound influence that this pioneering children's educational program has had on multiple generations of children since it first aired on November 10, 1969 and went on to spawn well over 4000 episodes since.  Produced by the Children's Television Workshop and created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett..

Posted May 14, 2021

PERCY (PG-13) jj1/2

Who has seen the seeds in the wind?

The new semi-biographical/environmental drama PERCY (aka PERCY VS. GOLIATH, depending on your location of release) details the plight of Saskatchewan based farmer and businessman Percy Schmeiser, who became a relative celebrity and spokesperson for independent agricultural rights when he waged a multi-tier legal battle against a corporation that accused him of using its own patented seeds without their permission...

Posted May 14, 2021


Hardly a flawless victory

I cannot understate how popular, important, and controversial the original 1992 MORTAL KOMBAT video game was back upon its original release.  It ushered in a new era of shocking (well, for then) graphic violence for the medium, which made players around the world gather around the Midway produced arcade cabinets.  It spawned legions of imitators and also spawned the creation of the ESRB - Entertainment Software Rating Board - after concerned parents and politicians had their heads turned...

Posted May 5, 2021

STOWAWAY (Unrated) jj1/2

For all mankind...minus one sacrifice

Brazilian director Joe Penna made a big splash with his feature film debut in 2019's ARCTIC, which was a brutally efficient man versus nature outdoor survival thriller that portrayed an ultimate nightmare scenario of a lone man trying to stave off death from the frigidly hostile Arctic Circle environments.  Not only was that film a one-man performance showcase reel for star Mads Mikkelsen, but it also introduced us to a confident new filmmaking talent in Penna...

Posted May 5, 2021

CHAOS WALKING (PG-13) 1/2j  

Dead movie walking

CHAOS WALKING is a colossally wrongheaded and bewilderingly awful sci-fi thriller that kind of has to be seen - make that endured - to be believed.  Beyond wasting the established talents of stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley and containing absolutely D.O.A. world building, this film is proof positive that a novel's premise - no matter how intriguing - can indeed still translate horribly to the silver screen and simply not work...at all...

Posted May 5, 2021


Like a woman named Trish, this is a movie to count on

BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR is like a perpetually weird and unimaginable hodgepodge of THE GOLDEN GIRLS meets any random Elvis Presley travelogue musical meets AUSTIN POWERS.  If it's not one of the silliest films that I've seen as of late then I don't know what is.  Buuuuuuuuuut.....this is also one of the funniest films I've seen in an awfully long time...

Posted April 28, 2021


Failing to land the genre kill shot

I'm usually a staunch apologist for the sub-genre of action films that would be best described as the Aging Liam Neeson takes names and kicks ass series.  I'm a sucker for old and grizzled stars getting their second wind late in their careers in genres that they never once fully occupied, and Neeson is arguably the poster boy for this.  Having said all of that, his latest action thriller in THE MARKSMAN - which features the 68-year-old star play a rancher and guardian of sorts for a Mexican child that's forced to defend him against a vile drug cartel - is an awfully hard one for even me to swallow...

Posted April 28, 2021


(R) jjj

Home, home on the urban range...

Netlfix's CONCRETE COWBOY is a modern day urban western that taps into and utilizes familiar genre conventions while also subverting them to their core.  Showcasing the directorial debut of Ricky Staub and adapted from the novel GHETTO COWBOY by Greg Neri, the film and source material find inspiration in the real life Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, a group comprised of African American horse riders in Philadelphia...

Posted April 28, 2021


(PG-13) j

An abysmal super hero satire that's not a force of nature

Melissa McCarthy is a great actress. A movie like CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME is proof positive of that. However, she really needs to stop making movies with her writer/director husband in Ben Falcone, and their past collaborations have resulted in some of the most aggressively unfunny comedies of recent memory like THE BOSS, LIFE OF A PARTY, TAMMY, and now, yes, Netflix's THUNDER FORCE, a new would-be hysterical super hero action comedy-satire that, for me at least, became borderline unwatchable just a mere 30 minutes in...

Posted April 19, 2021


How the have nots live

Chloe Zhao's NOMADLAND is one of those rare human dramas that's small and unassuming in scale, but one that nevertheless speaks volumes towards how certain forgotten segments of society - the poor, desperate, and downtrodden - try to eek out a living and provide for themselves.  It's a modestly scaled, but wholeheartedly powerful and authentically rendered movie about ordinary people stuck in painful ruts that are trying to pull themselves out to achieve a piece of the American dream, but face nearly insurmountable odds in the process...

Posted April 19, 2021


(PG-13) jj

Remember the titans

I've screened and reviewed a lot of films during my sixteen years doing this, but GODZILLA VS KONG is arguably the only one that I've seen during that time that features a sequence involving a 350 foot tall gorilla being defibrillated back to life. True story. It's moments like this - and many, many more - scattered throughout this fourth film in the so-called Monsterverse that help to establish a baseline of the preposterous silliness that permeates it...

Posted April 13, 2021


(R) jjj1/2

Forbidden love on the American frontier

Romance tales of two lost souls being trapped by circumstance and time embracing forbidden love are as old as time, making the core premise of the period drama THE WORLD TO COME seem like it's made up from highly familiar genre ingredients...but it's what the film does with those ingredients that makes it special.  This Mona Fastvold directed and Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard scripted affair chronicles two neighboring frontier households in mid-19th Century America..

Posted April 13, 2021


Processing dementia from the inside out

Florian Zeller's THE FATHER - adapted to the screen from his own critically acclaimed 2012 play LE PERE - is the third drama in this very young year alongside FALLING and SUPERNOVA that has tackled families desperately struggling to deal with loved ones facing crippling dementia, but this one is undeniably the most unflinchingly raw, intimate, and powerfully told...

Posted April 6, 2021

MINARI (PG-13) jjjj

The uniqueness and universality of the immigrant experience

I don't profess to know much of anything about what it's like to be a farmer, let alone a Korean one living in Arkansas, but the new autobiographical period drama MINARI attempts to enlighten and educate viewers on those very matters.  The film does indeed tell a tale of a Korean American family trying to the best of their abilities to acclimate to rural Americana while sustaining their farm.  Writer/director Lee Isaac Chung (who just recently became just the fourth East Asian filmmaker to even be Oscar nominated for Best Director) bases his film on his own personal upbringing...

Posted April 6, 2021


My time with J.D.

he title of this film is just a tad deceptive.  MY SALINGER YEAR is not, as some would expect, a biopic about the infamously reclusive author of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE in J.D. Salinger, but rather is based on the memoir by Joanna Rakoff about her very brief time in the 1990s working for a literary agency in New York that just so happened to represent - you guessed it! - Mr. Salinger.  Obviously, the whole aura of mystery surrounding this legendary author casts a rather large shadow over the characters in this film...

Posted April 6, 2021


(R) jjj1/2

Consider these Justice


George Lucas once famously stated that movies are never finished, they're abandoned by their makers.  I think that has an awful lot to do with the financial and bureaucratic motivations of the corporate studios that fund and release said films.  By hook or by crook, major tentpole blockbusters have production timelines and release dates that need to be met in order to turn hefty profits, even if that means compromising a director's vision...

Posted March 25, 2021


(R) j1/2

Definitely not the best post-MCU dessert film from the Russos

CHERRY is one of those rare kind of films that contains a virtuous performance that's completely capsized by unchecked directorial hubris run afoul.  This Apple Original Film comes from directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have spent much of their recent filmmaking career helming some of the biggest blockbusters of all time in the last two AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA sequels (with THE WINTER SOLDIER still remaining for me to be one of the finest MCU efforts to date)...

Posted March 23, 2021


(PG) jj

Just say NO to this disposable family comedy

Question to all parents out there: How many times do you say " no" to your children on a daily basis?  My prediction would be a lot.  The new Netflix comedy YES DAY feels like the love child of the similarly premised YES MAN and HALL PASS, albeit engineered for a family friendly audience.  This Miguel Arteta effort hinges itself on a fairly intriguing premise: Two parents allow their kids to have a fantasy day that allows for them to do anything they want (within safe reason, of course) that they ask for...and the parents can't decline them...

Posted March 23, 2021


It's game over, man...again...and again...and again!

At one point in the new time looping sci-fi action comedy BOSS LEVEL the protagonist that's stuck re-living the same day over and over again comments that his fate is "like being stuck in a video game at a level you can't beat.." That's extremely on the nose.  Probably the best way I would accurately describe this film is that it plays like GROUNDHOG DAY, but Arnold Schwarzenegger-ized on a level of gleefully barbaric  action and over the top violence.  It comes from writer/director Joe Carnahan...

Posted March 23, 2021


A return trip not altogether worth taking

The best compliment that I'll give COMING 2 AMERICA is that I enjoyed being in the company of its characters again after a very long thirty-plus year absence.  I only wished, though, that the film built around these people was more engaging and enjoyable.  This long gestating sequel to the Eddie Murphy starring, John Landis directed 1988 original features a return trip back to the colorful and eclectic world of Zamunda, and it's not without its modest charms...

Posted March 18, 2021


Putting a face on the darker side of the War on Terror

THE MAURITANIAN is one of those obvious kind of Oscar bait wanna-be prestige pictures that, in all fairness, tells a story that absolutely needs to be told.  Based on the 2015 memoir by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the film chronicles his true story of being held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp post-9/11 for a period of fourteen years...and all without having been formally charge with any type of crime...

Posted March 18, 2021

COWBOYS (R) jjj1/2

Show me the way to go home...

In the early stages, COWBOYS makes audiences think they're getting one kind of film, but then it slowly, but surely  changes course and radically becomes about something else entirely, thusly defying our expectations.  What initially begins as what appears to be a story about a father plagued with mental health issues and his snatching away of his young daughter from his estranged wife becomes an LGBT themed tale of the liberation of said transgender child, a girl that desires to live as a boy...or cowboy in this story's case...

Posted March 9, 2021


Psycho Goreman...Qu'est-ce que c'est

I'll be frank right upfront in this review: You'll either be willing and game to take the plunge into the insanely madcap and schlocky rabbit hole that is PSYCHO GOREMAN...or...you simply won't.  It's just that simple. I took the leap, and I'm glad I did so. This Canadian made indie is a ludicrous cocktail of a weird B-grade horror fantasy and a family/coming of age comedy, and it's all made by writer/director Steven Kostanski with maximum cheesy, retrograde exuberance and a never-look-back cheeky audacity...

Posted March 9, 2021

I CARE A LOT (R)jjj1/2

The care home con game from hell

The ultra black comedy/satire thriller (and ironically titled) I CARE A LOT (streaming either on Amazon Prime or Netflix, depending on your region) begs an often asked question of me: Can a film be truly entertaining if it contains a cavalcade of toxically reprehensible people? I would answer yes, and this film from English director J. Blakeson (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED) is no exception. And, man, are the characters that populate I CARE A LOT ever toxically reprehensible...

Posted February 28, 2021


Making the most of the time that is left

There's nothing in life more emotionally deflating than knowing that a loved one is slowly dying and there's little you can do to prevent it or numb their pain.  SUPERNOVA makes for a compelling companion film to this year's FALLING in the sense that both deal with the debilitating effects that dementia has not only on the sufferer, but also on those caring and concerned family members that try to tend to the needs of the afflicted on a daily basis...

Posted February 28, 2021


(PG-13) jj1/2 

A glitch on the matrix...

BLISS is the kind of high concept sci-fi drama that has an awful lot on its mind and some ambitious concepts that it wishes to explore, but lacks a thorough and satisfying follow-through on them.  This latest Amazon Prime original film comes from Mike Cahilll, the director of the terribly underrated ANOTHER EARTH, another genre brain teaser containing a killer premise that was, in its case, compellingly explored...

Posted February 23, 2021


(PG-13) jjj

Haven't we met somewhere before?

Is it just me or is the time loop genre becoming the next big genre? Also, is it just me or is the time looping genre becoming the next big genre? Obvious sarcasm aside, the new Amazon Prime original film THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS has the unenviable position of coming out after the critically adored PALM SPRINGS from last year, and both films bare a striking similarity to one another...

Posted February 23, 2021


(R) jjj

Mr. Mom

Justin Timberlake has had a relatively shaky career as far as the movies go.  He has certainly been effectively in supporting roles in the past, as was the case in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, ALPHA DOG, and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, but for every one one of those there's a RUNNER RUNNER, SOUTHLAND TALES, or BAD TEACHER.  I still concede, though, that the pop star can be decent when given just the right movie role, and he's quite stellar in the new Apple TV+ original film PALMER, playing an ex-con that's trying to get a new lease on life outside of the slammer...

Posted February 15, 2021


Couples therapy...the hard way

If the makers behind MALCOLM & MARIE were aiming to make viewers feel like they were trapped in the same home with a dislikeable couple that's venomously arguing with each other for nearly two hours...then...mission accomplished.  For the most part, this new minimalist, two actor Netflix drama (shot with a skeletal crew and limited resources during the current COVID-19 pandemic) featuring an up-and-coming film director that's on the brink of superstardom having a protracted spat with his girlfriend (that's essentially the plot) is pretentious to the core...

Posted February 15, 2021

FALLING (R) jjj1/2

Of fathers and sons

FALLING is a very difficult film to watch based on its subject matter.  It dives headfirst into the challenges that families have to endure while dealing with an elderly member with dementia, in its case between a son and his ailing father.  This multi-generational drama marks the feature film directorial debut of Viggo Mortensen, and he certainly maintains an assured eye and confident hand in dealing with this problematic and challenging material...

Posted February 15, 2021


90s detective noir with familiar genre beats

THE LITTLE THINGS comes off as a throwback serial killer/police procedural thriller with definitive echoes of past efforts like SEVEN.  It should come as no surprise, then, that this is John Lee Hancock written and directed effort has been a self proclaimed passion project for him for over thirty years and was actually penned in the early 1990s (with hopes of Steven Spielberg helming it).  With Hancock having a reasonable amount of industry clout now ...

Posted February 9, 2021


(Unrated) jjj 

March of the magpie penguin

If the new Australian-American Netflix produced drama PENGUIN BLOOM wasn't based on a true story then I would have had an awfully hard time swallowing it.  Adapted from the 2016 photography book of the same name by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Grieve, the film chronicles the reality based tale a family from Down Under whose wife/mother suffers from a tragic accident that causes partial paralysis...

Posted February 9, 2021

THE DIG (PG-13) jjj  

A tale of unearthing the past in the past

NETFLIX's new historical drama THE DIG concerns one of the most famous archaeological finds of all time that occurred in Suffolk, England in the late 1930s.  The so-called "Sutton Hoo" treasure that was unearthed at the time included the astounding discovery of an undisturbed ship burial from the 6th to 7th Century and all of the wealth of astonishing artifacts of the era entombed within it.  Often considered to be the most important dig sites and finds in UK history, the items excavated helped to re-shape what historians thought of Anglo-Saxons of the distant past...

Posted February 9, 2021


More human than human

The new Netflix produced futuristic sci-fi military themed thriller OUTSIDE THE WIRE definitely has some compelling themes about the nature of mechanized warfare and the relationship between man and machine A.I., but it simply seems more disappointingly interested in delivering bombastic action and spectacle.  That, and its whole approach makes it come off like some low rent Neill Blomkamp wannabe, minus the thoughtful follow-through...

Posted January 31, 2021


On the range with Hanks and Greengrass

The very thought of Paul Greengrass shaking his career up by making a period western - and with his CAPTAIN PHILLIPS star in Tom Hanks no less (in his very first western of his career, almost impossible to believe) is beyond intriguing.  Coming after huge critical and audience successes like the last two entries in the original JASON BOURNE trilogy...

Posted January 25, 2021


(R) jjj1/2

A MeToo revenge thriller with a scathing satiric bite

Actor turned director Emerald Fennell's rookie effort in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN just might be one of the most audacious filmmaking debuts of 2020.  As a ultra black comedy and utterly uncompromising MeToo revenge thriller, it displays uncommon levels of patience in terms of not laying all of its narrative cards on the table too early in terms of its many revelations.  In this respect, the film almost becomes a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be put together, and it respects audiences' attentions spans as a result...

Posted January 25, 2021


Get us all out of this pandemic themed film!!!

LOCKED DOWN is not only a very early contender for one of the worst films of our very young year, but it's also unquestionably a surefire cure for anyone that suffers from insomnia.  I was just twenty minutes into this COVID-19 pandemic themed romantic comedy heist film (yeah, let that settle in quickly...and more on that in a bit) and found it to be almost insufferably dull and lacking in any type of forward momentum...

Posted January 25, 2021


Gremlins: The WWII Batch

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD is the kind of film that knows precisely what it is and frequently winks at its audience throughout to let them know that it's in on the gag.  The film is a spectacularly inane hodgepodge of divergent genres, like the creature feature, the World War II men-on-a-mission thriller, and the female empowerment action picture...and with equal parts of TWILIGHT ZONE mixed in for good measure.  It's the type of lurid grindhouse fare that might have had an audience back in the day for midnight drive-in screenings...

Posted January 19, 2021


Having one for the road...but on the way to school

ANOTHER ROUND marks a rather triumphant re-teaming of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg and star Mads Mikkelsen (who last partnered up on 2012's THE HUNT) and it features arguably the most deliriously - ahem! - intoxicating premise of any movie from the year that was.  There have been countless films about teachers, people suffering from mid-life crisis, and those afflicted with alcoholism, but this film manages to cover all three of those elements and blends them together into something that emerges as both darkly funny and touchingly dramatic all the same...

Posted January 19, 2021


Like a storybook fable come lovingly to life

Pixar's SOUL has been dominating the recent conversation as of late about animated film releases - and it is indeed quite good - but I personally think that the wonderful WOLFWALKERS is the better offering that's getting lost in the limelight.  This latest animated fantasy adventure is from the pioneering director tandem Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart via their studio Cartoon Saloon...

Posted January 14, 2021

SOUL (PG) jjj

Defending your life

Pixar's SOUL is one of their weirdest animated films, but that's precisely what makes it one of their finest of their recent crop of offerings.  It not only represents an audaciously strange change of pace for the Oscar winning studio, but it also emerges as a most refreshing kind of innovative change up after their mediocre and easily forgettable ONWARD from earlier this year.  SOUL tells an intriguing tale of a jazz pianist that dies (sort of) and then gets whisked to the afterlife and remains stuck there (yeah, not the most light hearted of fare)...

Posted January 14, 2021


(R) jjj1/2 

All they want is my voice

Netflix's MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM  - based on the 1982 August Wilson play - is set in Chicago of the Roaring Twenties and deals with black musicians trying to make names for themselves in a largely white controlled industry that wanted to use their music to make quick cash, even if it meant crudely exploiting them.  There's definitely something disturbing at play here when it comes to how these businessman yearned to claim an essential part of African American culture - Jazz and Blues - as their own...

Posted January 3, 2020


(PG-13) jjj

Fighting for truth, justice and the Themysciran way

There is a sly moment in WONDER WOMAN 1984 that thoroughly captures the titular character's power, grace, charm and inherent goodness. It's set in a packed shopping mall during the neon colored Regan-era in question and features a squad robbers trying to make a getaway, with one of them nearly harming a young girl.  The most powerful Themysciran herself swoops in and quickly dispatches of the evil doers with lightning speed and ease...

Posted December 31, 2020


Staring into the apocalyptic abyss

To say that George Clooney the director has had a problematic and inconsistent career would be apt.  Nearly twenty years ago I thought he made one of the best films of 2002 in his rookie filmmaking debut with the biographical spy thriller CONFESSIONS OF THE DANGEROUS MIND and followed that up with the fine newsroom historical drama GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK...

Posted December 31, 2020


I want tomorrow to be tomorrow

Wait a tick...there's something awfully familiar about this film.  Haven't I seen it some place before?  Not only that...but there's something awfully familiar about this film.  Haven't I see it some place before?  Meta sarcasm aside, the new indie comedy PALM SPRINGS does indeed bare a striking resemblance to the iconic time looping comedy GROUNDHOG DAY, which featured a then highly novel premise of a disgruntled weatherman re-living the same day over and over again in a town he despises on an endless, purgatory-like replay...

Posted December 31, 2020


Coppola takes a re-edit offer he couldn't refuse

Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER: PART III opened in cinemas 30 years ago this month, which, in turn, came several years after the landmark success of the first two multiple Academy Award winning entries in the series that adapted author Mario Puzo's original novels.  The initial GODFATHER film was a massive audience and critical darling effort that put Coppola on the cinematic map, and its follow-up - just as praised, if not more so - solidified the director as one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation...

Posted December 22, 2020


(R) jjjj

Learning to live with the sound of silence

I remember something that the late Roger Ebert once said about the truly great movies being like empathy machines: They allow for us to live vicariously through the lives of different people and grown to understand where they come from, what drives them, and what forces either propel them forward or hold them back.   I could think of no other movie from this past year that fit this description more perfectly than Darius Marder's intoxicating and masterful SOUND OF METAL...

Posted December 22, 2020

FREAKY (R) jj1/2

Freaky Friday the 13th

The new Blumhouse produced horror comedy FREAKY is a wicked combination of FRIDAY THE 13TH and FREAKY FRIDAY, with the former being a mad slasher flick and the latter being a body swap comedy.  It comes from director Christopher Landon, who previously helmed the very funny and underrated HAPPY DEATH DAY, which was a fairly novel GROUNDHOG DAY copycat, albeit with horror film trappings.  Although FREAKY scores some laughs when it needs to and will definitely appease those of the slasher genre...

Posted December 22, 2020



A bed ridden screenwriter versus the boy wonder of Hollywood

I've been thinking an awful lot about David Fincher's new fact based Netflix period drama MANK, which takes its name from the famous American screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who's perhaps best known in cinema circles for co-winning an Oscar for the screenplay to what's largely considered the greatest film of all time in CITIZEN KANE.  Mankiewicz's collaboration with Orson Welles has been the stuff of contentious legend...

Posted December 11, 2020


(R) jj

Kentucky, we have a problem

Ron Howard's HILLBILLY ELEGY - streaming now on Netflix - is attempting, I think, to be an inspirational fact based coming of age drama about a young man growing up in abject poverty and strife that tries as best as he can to elevate himself above it without forgetting his roots.  Based on the memoir by J.D Vance that chronicled his troubled upbringing in the Deep South and his attempts to empower and better himself, the film contains so many superficially good performances by multiple Hollywood A-listers...

Posted December 11, 2020

MULAN (PG-13) jj

An uninspired Disney retread lacking in creative chi

Disney's MULAN - their umpteenth live action remake of an animated classic - is a real double dipper offender in terms of being wastefully unnecessary and a missed creative opportunity all the same.  Of course, this is based and adapted from the 1998 animated film of the same name, which, in turn, was taken from the Chinese folklore THE BALLAD OF MULAN.  I'll positively concede that it's unlike the studio's previous and near scene for scene remakes...

Posted December 11, 2020

UNHINGED (R) zero stars

Unbearable to sit through

UNHINGED is not only a putrid film, but it also lowers itself to the level of the worst kind of indefensible trash.  On paper, it's a hellishly violent road rage thriller that wants to be lurid, sensationalistic B-grade grindhouse fare and a thoughtful commentary piece about sensitive societal issues.  You simply can't have it both ways.  You can't offer up a portrait of toxically dangerous masculinity run amok and then revel in the bloodshed and carnage contained within while attempting to say something meaningful about what triggers psychopaths in the first place...

Posted November 30, 2020

LET HIM GO (R) jjj1/2

No country for old men and women

LET HIM GO is a thoroughly involving and sometimes positively chilling period thriller that's a welcome throwback to the types of slow-burn, character driven genre efforts of yesteryear that we frankly don't get in abundance anymore.  It's the kind of the thriller that places great respect in honoring the patience of filmgoers in letting its narrative play out slowly and methodically, so much so that when violence does permeate the picture it does so with a shockingly effective immediacy...

Posted November 30, 2020


(PG) jjj

The mystical power of nature

I'm not altogether sure that I coveted the last adaptation of THE SECRET GARDEN (produced by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope) so much so that I couldn't bare the thought of another cinematic iteration of this classic 1911 Francis Hodgson Burnett novel nearly three decades later.  One of the more iconic pieces of children's literature of its era, this fantasy drama has seen its fair share of versions on the silver screen...

Posted November 21, 2020


Caught between Ragnarok and a hard place

MORTAL is a new Norwegian/American action thriller from director Andre Ovredal (TROLLHUNTER) that emerges as yet another entry in an increasingly exhausting line of movies with the premise of what if ordinary people possessed god-like powers...and it does so very little of anything compelling with it.  That's not to say that compelling movies can't be made with this premise (see CHRONICLE), but MORTAL is so slow moving, so listless, and so serious minded with its subject matter that it frequently comes off as unintentional self parody...

Posted November 21, 2020


You can never go home again

I USED TO GO HERE is absolutely proof positive that a film with am extremely well worn premise (returning home to rediscover your roots) can be bolstered by the charming presence of its lead performer.  This indie comedy's ace up its sleeve is Gillian Jacobs, who's probably more familiar to most for her small screen work on shows like NBC's COMMUNITY and HBO's GIRLS, and here she plays a struggling author who makes a journey back to here alma mater and soon realizes that all of her past educational and career aspirations have hopelessly not come true...

Posted November 21, 2020

REBECCA (PG-13) jj

An attractive looking period romance thriller that lacks true sizzle

Netflix's REBECCA remake is sumptuously shot, handsomely produced, and simply looks sensational. Regrettably, though, it never elevates itself beyond being a dramatically serviceable and visually appealing bore that struggles to leave a lasting impression.  Of course, this is a redo of Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 effort (his only film to ever win a Best Picture Oscar), which in turn was based on the 1938 Daphne du Maurier romantic thriller novel of the same name...

Posted November 10, 2020


This sequel very nice

It makes perfect sense that the sequel to 2006's - takes deep breath - BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KHAZAKHSTAN crept up on an unsuspecting movie world without much notice, which kind of reflects the go-for-broke and throw caution to the wind comic bravery of its star, writer and producer in Sacha Baron Cohen.  Rumors were circulating online several weeks ago that Cohen shot this follow-up film in secret (both prior to and during our current pandemic) before finally releasing it to a surprised world just in time for the U.S. presidential election...

Posted November 6, 2020


(R) jj1/2

Father may not know best

There's a sly and effective moment midway through writer/director Sophia Coppola's caper comedy ON THE ROCKS (now streaming via Apple TV+) that showcases star Bill Murray at the absolute zenith of his wily on-screen charm.  His character in Felix (with his daughter Laura - Rashida Jones -  in tow in the passenger seat) are pulled over in the middle of the night in downtown Manhattan by police officers.  The soon-to-be ticketing officer asks him for his license and registration...

Posted November 6, 2020


(R) jjj1/2

A not so sleepy hollow

Writer/director Jim Cummings' THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is an absolutely superb, darkly funny, and intensely enthralling small town horror comedy that plays like a weird and gloriously audacious cocktail of the regional idiosyncrasies of FARGO, the nocturnal terrors of THE WOLFMAN, and the deadpan comic absurdity of a James Gunn.  There have been too many films to count about werewolves, but very few build nail biting tension and macabre laughs as well as this one. ...

Posted November 6, 2020



The whole streaming world is watching!

Aaron Sorkin's new fact-based historical courtroom drama THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (now playing on Netflix) contains the finest acting ensemble of the year and features an absolute embarrassment of performances riches.   Plus, Sorkin's scripting and dialogue - in true characteristic fashion - is as razor sharp and focused as it has ever been. ..

Posted October 29, 2020


True love hurts

SPONTANEOUS is one of the strangest high school romcoms that I can recall seeing.  It contains a premise that definitely has not been done before, which is really saying something for the jam packed, dime-a-dozen nature of the genre.  This Brian Duffield written and directed affair deals with a suburban high school where its students start to...spontaneously explode.  Not emotionally.  Not metaphorically.  They literally and physically just explode into geysers of blood and goo...

Posted October 29, 2020

2067 (Unrated) jj1/2

Solving the problem of climate change...the hard way

The new sci-fi thriller 2067 (yes, a creatively lazy title) has a truly compelling time travel premise and some thoughtful insights into topical themes of climate change/ecological disasters, but it never manages to fully commit to these ideas, nor does it handsomely pay them off in any meaningful and satisfying manner.  The central ideas surrounding this Seth Laney helmed film are enthralling enough in the way he chronicles an Earth of the future that has lost all plant vegetation...

Posted October 29, 2020


(R) jjj1/2

A feminist powered historical road trip biopic

Director Julie Taymor's THE GLORIAS - now playing on Amazon Prime - is a thoroughly involving and superbly acted biopic that utilizes an appropriately unconventional and avant garde stylistic approach to cover multiple decades in the life of iconic feminist leader Gloria Steinem.  Based upon her own book MY LIFE ON THE ROAD, the film honors Steinem's tireless work in her field as an highly influential American activist...

Posted October 14, 2020



What's worse then gentrification, you may ask?   Gentrification caused by an invasion of blood thirsty white vampires (not metaphorically...literally).  This is part of the darkly amusing and novel hook of the new Netflix original film VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX, which is about as specific of a title as one will come across lately.  Directed with great energy and style by Oz Rodriguez (who previously made a name for himself helming many lauded digital shorts for Saturday Night Live)...

Posted October 14, 2020

AVA  (R) jj1/2

Chastian has a view to a kill

The superb and finely in-tune ensemble cast in the new spy thriller AVA deserved much better than the prosaic, by-the-book scripting that was clearly given to them.  Quarterbacked by the always assured Jessica Chastain (who also serves as producer here) and also helmed by her THE HELP director in Tate Taylor, the film simultaneously tries to subvert genre expectations while playing into the most overused and tired conventions of it, which leaves the final product feeling misshapen and half baked at best...

Posted October 14, 2020


Pagin' Rod Serling...


ANTEBELLUM is, on a basic level, a psychological horror thriller that - much like GET OUT before it - uses the trappings of the genre to speak out about how racial tensions and the horrors of systemic bigotry affects the modern world.  Where this Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz effort does manage to one-up Jordan Peele's Oscar winning film is in its fairly ingenious plot twisty premise (which I'll get into in a bit and won't shy away from discussing, seeing as the marketing campaign for the film went out of its way to tip it off)...

Posted October 6, 2020


(PG-13) jjj

It's elementary, my dear brother Sherlock

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes holds the Guinness Book of World Records distinction of being the most portrayed character of all-time on film and TV.  I don't doubt that in anyway, but it does leave me in a somewhat hesitant state to explore yet another film featuring this iconic detective.  Granted, well known and utilized characters are always ripe for modern reinterpretation, I guess...

Posted October 6, 2020

TESLA  (PG-13) jj

Let the future tell the truth

The fascinating, but poorly executed TESLA tries to cover a lot of history in a far too brief running time, not to mention that the titular Serbian-American inventor, engineer, and way ahead of his time futurist becomes sort of an underwritten cipher in his own movie.  Considering the sheer scope of Nikola Tesla's breakthrough ideas and inventions - some of which included the design of the alternating electrical current and even shockingly prophetic ideas about wireless transmission of currents a century-plus before Wi-Fi was even an ubiquitous thing...

Posted October 6, 2020


Southern Gothic

The new star studded Netflix period film THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is an impeccably acted and handsomely shot multi-decade and generational drama with a sprawling (yet sometimes too unwieldy for its own good) story that's about as unnervingly grim and violent as anything that I've seen this year.  Based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, this Antonio Campos directed effort details the deplorably seedy comings and goings of a series of southern characters in post World War II America...

Posted September 23, 2020


A creatively unplanned road trip comedy

HBO MAX's UNPREGNANT sometimes comes off like a annoyingly quirky sitcom version of the alarmingly similar NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, which I reviewed a few months ago and thought was one of the finest dramas of the year.  Both films contain the same basic premise: A high school aged girl discovers that she's pregnant and decides to secretly travel outside of her home state in order to obtain a legal abortion without parental consent...

Posted September 23, 2020


Eternal befuddlement of the streaming viewer's mind

I have a confession to make: I've been putting off writing my review for the latest Charlie Kaufman film I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS for as long as possible.  As a matter of fact, almost for a week now after screening it on Netflix (which produced and released it).  An adaptation of the 2016 debut novel of the same name by Canadian author Iain Reid, this film is almost impossible to classify (and discuss in detail without engaging in spoilers...but I'll try)...

Posted September 16, 2020


An urban gangster drama in need of a creative audit

Very few films these days that feature decent talent in front of and behind the camera are as unpardonably wrongheaded and thoroughly wretched as THE TAX COLLECTOR, a new urban gangster thriller that makes so many ill advised decisions that you kind of wonder how the finished product came out in its final form without any measurable checks and balance system.   ...

Posted September 16, 2020

GET DUKED! (R) jjj1/2

Straight outta Highlands

AMAZON PRIME's deliriously bizarre and thoroughly hysterical outdoor survival horror- comedy GET DUKED! (formerly known as BOYZ IN THE WOOD) is like a twisted stylistic merging of Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi combined with its own unique brand of propulsive energy.  Its premise is a basic one: A group of high school lads take a class mandated journey through the Scottish highlands and then are hunted like animals by some sadistic rich folk residing there...

Posted September 16, 2020

TENET (PG-13) jjj

What's happened...happened

There's an action sequence in writer/director Christopher Nolan's newest science fiction spy thriller TENET that almost defies simple explanation, but I'll endeavor to do so here without engaging in any tangible spoilers. Let's just say that it involves a fist fight.  Seems pretty basic, right?  We have two combatants vying for dominance, which is about as obligatory of a setup as there is in a movie.  However, this one is anything but ordinary...

Posted September 5, 2020


(PG-13) jjj1/2

A trilogy capper too good to be thrown in the iron maiden

There's a sly moment in BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC that pitch perfectly encapsulates the easy going vibe of its titular characters as well as the infectiously silly tone of this decades spanning series as a whole. It occurs during a pivotal scene when the now mid-fiftysomething Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) are faced with an insurmountable challenge that forces them into a decision that they fear will hurt their band's (Wyld Stallyns) reputation...

Posted September 5, 2020


(PG-13) jj1/2

Teachers...leave them mutant kids alone!


THE NEW MUTANTS - which marks the thirteenth installment of the longstanding X-MEN cinematic universe - is one of the many films this past year that was a victim of horrible release timing as a result of our current global pandemic, not to mention that it faced the added burden of being caught between a very public and recent acquisition of all of the Fox studio properties by Disney...

Posted September 5, 2020


(PG-13) jjj

A streaming pill mostly worth taking

Even though the latest Netflix original film PROJECT POWER runs out of creative juices during its final act, it nevertheless finds some refreshingly novel ways of fusing together the super hero and drug trafficking genres with a rather ingenious premise.  Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who made the stylish, but empty minded NERVE) conjure up one humdinger of an enticing hook...

Posted August 28, 2020


Teenage love and other drugs

In the wrong creative hands, Amazon Prime's CHEMICAL HEARTS - based on Krystal Sutherland's novel - would have been nauseatingly melodramatic and painfully hard to swallow as a high school coming of age drama.  Thankfully and in large part because of some fine writing and authentically rendered performances, the film emerges as an uncommonly perceptive, genuinely moving, and sensitive portrayal of adolescent heartache, loss, and first love.  And all of this is anchored by its two naturally in tune lead actors in Lily Reinhart and Austin Abrams...

Posted August 28, 2020

SPUTNIK (R) jjjj

In a Russian secret government base...no one can hear you scream


Yes, SPUTNIK takes its title from the world famous satellite of the of the same name launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, but it also translates (in English) as "companion," the latter of which makes more sense on a thematic level here.  This Russian made sci-fi horror thriller is a fairly ingenious hybrid: think of it as the love child of the combined work of Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, and John Carpenter.  It's also an unrelenting creepfest that deserves some very worthy comparisons to this year's THE INVISIBLE MAN...

Posted August 28, 2020


This is the dream...this is the goal...perfect jar of pickle

If you think that movies are utterly bereft of original ideas these days then clearly you haven't seen the new HBO Max comedy AN AMERICAN PICKLE, which contains a premise that has never been done before...or maybe it has, but just not quite like it.  The film stars Seth Rogen (also a producer here) playing a turn of the last century Jewish immigrant that accidentally finds himself locked in a huge vat of pickles and is preserved via its brine for one hundred years, after which time he re-awakens in modern day New York...

Posted August 17, 2020






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