Monthly Archives: May 2023

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid (2023)

I wanna be a part of your world, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Disney’s latest live action remake of one of their classic movies.

Ah, the Little Mermaid, that classic fish out of water (pun intended) story of whether or not the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence, or as Sebastian the Crab tells us, the seaweed isn’t always greener in somebody else’s lake.

It’s been widely lampooned online, from the dead-eyed emotionless talking animals (I can’t tell if Scuttle and Flounder like Ariel or want to kill her and eat her body) to the casting of an African American actress (much ado about nothing), it seemed like this would be more of Disney’s wokesterism run amuck.

But I gotta be honest. Even an only anti-woke curmudgeon like myself enjoyed it. The fun songs, the pageantry, the bright colors, the animation effects that take people and turn them into mermaids, it was all a lot of fun.

It’s the same old plot. King Triton’s (Javier Bardem) youngest daughter/princess, Ariel (Hallie Bailey), is a mermaid obsessed with the surface world. That’s a dangerous place, warns Triton, who forbids her from visiting the surface ever again, but kids will be kids and Ariel continues to defy her old man with BFFs Flounder and Scuttle (Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay) while royal lackey Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) tags along.

When Ariel rescues Prince Eric from a shipwreck and restores him to life with her magic voice, a romance blooms but alas it’s not to be, you know, because I don’t want to come right out and explain it to you but he’s a dude and her lady business is all mackerel, just for the halibut (pa rum pum pum.) Oh, what do you know? I did spell it out for you.

Alas, Ariel is tricked into striking a devil’s bargain with sea hag Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), trading her voice for legs. Creepo that she is, Ursula puts her thumb on the scales, and it’s a mad cap race for the bird, the fish and the crab to help the now human mermaid woo the prince into a smooch before the passing of three days.

Hallie Bailey captures a lot of that Ariel charm, a combination of ambition and naivete, where the youth really want something but have idea the fire they’ll have to walk through to get it, or the burns they’ll suffer and maybe even inflict on others to get there. Diggs does a fine Sebastian impression. Jonah Hauer King is a pretty standard Prince Eric, but plays Ariel’s match, as he too wants more than what his family wants for him.

Jacob Tremblay is a good Flounder though are fishy friend doesn’t get a lot to do, I can’t remember if he had a lot to do in the original. Scuttle gets a gender swap, which I squawked at, at first, but then I mean, I’m not knocking Awkwafina, but come on. She does sound a little bit like a bird. She gets to flex her comedy rap muscles too.

Hallie Bailey really does shine in the role and doesn’t deserve the crap she’s getting. Her renditions of classic songs like “I Want to Be a Part of Your World) match the quality of the original.

Whether it’s the original or the remake, I always found The Little Mermaid to be one of the most bittersweet of Disney flicks, as it mimics a lot of what most kids go through as they grow up. They have things they want to do but then there’s also what their parents want them to do. Their parents want them to do things that are largely considered the safest route, because they’re older and have been knocked around by the world and since it didn’t kill them, they came out wiser for it. The kids want to do something else but are young, dumb and trusting, easily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous. If they aren’t lucky enough to navigate such dangerous waters to achieve their wildest dreams, then they do may become the old world weary parent urging their offspring to be practical.

Is the seaweed always greener in somebody else’s lake? Maybe. Maybe not. The problem is a) you know the seaweed in your lake and you can’t help but see all its faults, so to you it stinks but you don’t see the greenery another might see. b) the seaweed elsewhere might be truly green, but you won’t find out until you’ve abandoned your lake and the family the comes with it.

That and there’s the whole Ariel has to change and become a human thing. It’s what she wants and um, well changing your body from one form to another takes on a whole new controversial meaning today, but one might argue that Ariel should accept herself as the half-lady, half-tuna, all mer-woman being that God made her as and if Eric doesn’t want any scales on his man business then that’s his problem.

It’s either a tale about a young woman who bravely defies the odds to follow her dreams or a young woman who completely changes her entire self to make a dude happy, depending on how you look at it.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I know a lot of people wonder why Disney keeps making live action remakes. I think it’s just to keep their famous core IP properties going and introduce them to new generations.

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Movie Review – Fast X (2023)

Yowza. What a stinkburger with extra turd fries this franchise has become.

BQB here with a review of this drek.

Believe it or not, 3.5 readers, but there was a time when for me, a new Fast and Furious movie was the action flick gold standard. I went it believing I would have a great time watching the wacky car stunt mayhem unfold across the big screen and ever since 2011, when the franchise reinvented itself, the flicks never failed to disappoint.

The first, which came out in what, 2001? It was new and original. It was quite toned down compared to today’s installments, but no one had really ever made a good movie about underworld street racing before. Flicks 2 and 3 were so-so, though 2 didn’t have Vin Diesel and 3 didn’t have Vin or Paul Walker. 4 tried to get the band back together but was kinda meh.

But then low and behold, 5, released in 2011, brought us to Rio, where the crew steals a villain’s ill-gotten loot safe by hooking it up to cables and dragging it down the highway whilst attached to twin Dodge Chargers with the Rock chasing them and boy howdy, did that ever signal that the series finally found a way to kick ass.

The next few flicks, all the way through 8, upped the game. They were always over the top and at times, quite stupid if you bothered to think about the physics and logistics of all the out of control stunts, but this new world of street racers and car crooks turned into a multi-ethnic, diverse group of hip hop spies working for the government to take down villains whilst driving awesome cars really, really fast was a lot of fun.

I was disappointed with Fast 9. Jason Statham and the Rock weren’t in it and their absence was felt, such that I realized they had been carrying the flicks on the backs for quite some time. Also, the metoo era had begun, so the movie was completely devoid of the scantily clad female tushies shaking around at underground street racing competitions, the loss of which were a blow to me, because where else will I get to see underground street racing tushies?

Ah, but then the Fast X trailers came out this year and they looked good. I was prepared to forgive the franchise for one stinker. Jason Statham was even featured in the trailers and he’s a personal fave.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This one cranks up the stink to eleven, so let’s dive in and get this over with.

The film takes us back to Fast Five, the movie that took the franchise off life support and made it awesome. As it turns out, the Brazilian villain bested by Dom and company had a heretofore unbeknownst to us son played by Jason Mamoa, who at the time was really pissed off at the fast gang for his father’s death and vows revenge.

Why the revenge plot took 12 years from 2011 to 2023? Your guess is as good as mine but at any rate, son comes back to destroy and humiliate the fast crew at every turn. To his credit, Mamoa is the one saving grace of this film. We’re used to him being quiet, stoic and angry in other movies but here, he reminds me of the Joker, but a twisted version of the criminal clown who pumps iron and pops steroids. Constantly laughing, prancing about, cracking funny jokes and one liners – Mamoa chews scenery with glee and it was fun to watch him nail a completely different style than what he is used to.

But it’s not enough to bring the film from stink to pink.

Cameos abound. I noticed this trend in 9 and it continues in 10, I think largely because the loss of Statham and The Rock left a void they’re trying to desperately fill. Sometimes these cameos come in the form of the return of long lost characters who played minor roles in the films like, over ten years ago, and I supposed if we were true fans we’d remember them but we don’t. Helen Mirren, who played Jason Statham’s mother, stops by though if she hadn’t, you wouldn’t have missed it.

Other times, there are new characters played by famous celebrities, often playing relatives of characters once played by celebrities who apparently now want no part of this bloated behemoth. Remember Mr. Nobody? Kurt Russell’s fun spy who recruits the fast gang to work for the government? He’s been replaced by his daughter, Miss Nobody, played by Brie Larson.

Remember Dom’s Brazilian girlfriend Elena who died a few flicks back? She’s got a younger sister now, played by Daniella Melchior. I’ll give the film some credit in that Daniella looks like she could be related to Elena while Brie doesn’t look like she could be related to Kurt Russell.

BTW, in case you forgot Elena, Dom longingly glares at a photo of her on the wall, a photo that looks like it is a publicity shot of Elena in full police gear taken to promo one of the past movies. Dom misses Paul Walker too and has several similar, well-produced publicity style photos of Paul hanging around his shop. I miss Paul Walker too, one of many reasons being that if he were alive, I doubt he would have allowed this franchise to become so stinky.

Rita Moreno, really for no reason, stops by one of those oft parodied “It’s all about family” barbecues as a long lost Toretto auntie, to give the gang a pep talk. Like several other cameo characters, if you’d gone to the bathroom during her scene, you wouldn’t have missed.

Really, from what I gather, Universal must have decided to go with a strategy where they skimped on the writers and just hired a bunch of famous folk to stop by and have unnecessary chats with Dom every five minutes.

There are two other tropes abundant in this flick that I didn’t care for:

#1 – Like that crappy Matrix sequel that everyone hated, this film is kind of meta and refers to itself and past sequels often, doing highlight reels of past films. Done well, flashbacks are fine but there’s a lot of them such that the movie becomes a promo for itself.

#2 – The gang splits up and goes on a lot of side-quests. Perhaps you noticed the fan backlash for the recent season 3 of the Mandalorian, where there is an incoherent plot, where either Mando or friends of Mando go on side-quests all eventually leading up to a weak story line. (Think of a video game where the end goal is to defeat a villain, but first you must go on a mission to find a weapon to defeat the villain, then you must go on another side quest to find a friend who will help you defeat the villain and so on.)

Here, the Fast gang goes on a number of side-quests. Letty and Cypher get whisked away to Antarctica, prisoners of Nobody’s elusive “agency.” Ramsey, Roman, Tej and Han go to London on a mission to buy gear the gang needs. John Cena’s Uncle Jake goes on a superfluous road trip with “Little B,” Dom’s son named after Brian. Ultimately, if you’re a cynic, you begin to wonder if the point of all these side missions isn’t just a ploy to make production easier and cheaper in that the cast can come to set for less time in smaller numbers and no one is paying for, say, Dwayne the Rock Johnson to hang out on set all day for weeks at a time.

I feared that streaming would turn movies cheap and sucky and my fears are coming true.

Was Statham in this? Yes, for absolutely no reason and for all of five minutes, despite what the trailers show. Spoiler alert: the Rock is in it too for a quick post credits scene. Big cameos. Big stars stop by quickly. It looks like the studio can’t come up with a script good enough to spend the money needed for big celebs to come to the set and be involved for more than five minutes.

STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy, but it goes way, way back on the shelf so I won’t be embarrassed by it, and it only gets a spot on the shelf due to Mamoa’s fun performance. This film is billed as the first of a franchise concluding trio and it ends on a cliffhanger which frankly felt less like a cliffhanger and more like the chimps on typewriters they hired to be writers decided the movie got too long and it needs to be over now so we’ll end it here and pick it up in the next trainwreck.

I say this with love because I loved films 5-8. This can get better if they really put the effort in. Or then again, maybe it can’t. Movies are made by and geared toward the young and this generation doesn’t care for machismo or fast cars or scantily clad women unless it’s the dudes dressing like scantily clad women, so the glory days of the Fast and Furious franchise may be over.

But if they rub some brain cells together, I think they could come up with some great scripts and even they can’t get big stars like the Rock or Statham to be in it for more than five minutes, then they could go in a new direction with entirely new characters, that’s fine but they have to bring the story. I know the past stories were ridiculous too, but they were still better stories.

One more sidenote – the franchise may be suffering from the fact that the car stunts have become played out. We’ve seen cars jump out of planes. We’ve seen cars ransack big cities. We’ve seen cars flip around on cables. We’ve seen cars heist big things of value and cars narrowly jump across great divides. We’ve even seen cars fly into outer space. Is there something new for the cars to do? I don’t know but come on Hollywood, you can think of something.

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Movie Review – About My Father (2023)

Italians marrying WASPS?!

How utterly controversial…had this movie been released in 1953.

BQB here with a review of this silly rom com flick.

Let me say this at the outset. I had no intention of seeing this movie. I’m sure I would have eventually caught it on streaming, but to actually go see it in the theater? No. I went to my local multi-plex last night in the hopes of seeing Fast X only to find it was sold out. Figuring I’m there so WTF, I bought a ticket to this delightful semi-trainwreck and before I poop all over it, I’ll say that I bought one of the last tickets before it too was sold out, so hey, Old Seabass must have down something right.

In the 1990s, at the height of Jerry Seinfeld’s fame, Jerry most likely could have gotten any studio to greenlight any flick he wanted. Ah, but Jerry knew himself. He knew he was no leading man or great thespian. His talent lied in stand-up comedy and his sitcom was but a mere vehicle for his observational humor. The characters never grew. They never changed. They never got better. There was never a very special episode. It was just a series of situations highlighting the ironic stupidity of life. So popular was the show that NBC famously offered Jerry millions for a season 10 but at that point, even Jerry knew the show was getting over the hill and it was time to move on.

I’m not sure Sebastian Manisculco has gotten that memo. (Then again, as great as a standup comic Sebastian is, I’m not sure he’ll ever reach Seinfeld heights, so I can’t blame him for cashing in on this flick.)

As a comic, Sebastian nails his routines and is riotously funny. As an actor? Let’s just say that while there might be an unproduced script out there somewhere that would launch Sebastian into the stratosphere as an actor, he hasn’t found it yet, and I have doubts as to whether this movie is it. Note that I say I have doubts. To me, it felt like a glorified Hallmark Channel movie, with just enough sass that your grandma might think it is edgy. Frankly, it reminded me a lot of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, another movie where a WASP falls in love with someone from Greece, Italy’s Mediterranean neighbor, and there’s a a culture clash to overcome as the extended family gets involved. MBFGW was the surprise hit of the early 2000s, and I’ll admit I observed a packed theater laughing at his schtick, so you never know.

But if you forced me to bet, I’d bet not.

The plot? Middle-aged Sebastian falls in love with Ellie Collins (Leslie Bibb with a different haircut that made me not recognize her until the credits rolled.) We know they are in love not because we see the romance blossom, but because Sebastian narrates this and practically every other plot point of the film. There is a whole lot of narration, such that you wonder if Seabass will start narrating his bowel movements any minute now.

Sebastian plays a semi-fictional version of himself. I assume he brought a lot of bits from his personal life to this movie. He too is the son of a hard working Italian-American family and married an artist, like Ellie. How much of the film mirrors his real life and how much is made up to be funny I don’t know. I’m not a Manisculco historian.

The great Robert DeNiro plays the film version of Sebastian’s father, Salvo, a hard-working self made man who immigrated to America 50 years ago, got married, had a son and built a career as a popular hair stylist in Chicago. Salvo has no trace of an Italian accent, but that’s ok. We’ll let that slide because Robby D faking one would suck.

Reminiscent of his role in Meet the Parents, DeNiro keeps the movie afloat with his no-nonsense style. He tags along with his son on a Fourth of July weekend to the Collins family’s Virginia estate, one of many as they are heirs to a vast hotel empire. He does so as a condition of turning over his late wife’s engagement ring, agreeing to turn it over to Sebastian so he can use it to propose to Ellie if he approves the family.

The culture clash ensues. The Collins live an extravagant lifestyle. Mom (Kim Cattrall) is a Senator and if there is one good thing to come out of this movie, it might be a Kim Cattrall comeback in that she’s so fabulous as Ellie’s tough talking mother that you wonder why Hollywood hasn’t utilized her more in recent years. Then again, she was at the height of her fame in the 1980s and this film feels like it should have been made in the 80s.

Fans of Workaholics will be happy to Anders Holm as Ellie’s frat boy dufus older brother, who plays the part of a dum-dum born on home plate yet acts as though he personally hit the home run well. Brett Dier plays Ellie’s clueless younger brother Doug, a dippy hippy who loves kombucha, bowl music and socialism. David Rasche rounds out the cast as the father of the henpecked father of the family.

You know, I could go on. The film has some fun moments but nothing that made me laugh out loud. There’s no great conflict to overcome. Similar culture clash rom coms usually have one family member who takes an “over my dead body” stance when it comes to accepting a relative’s significant other, but that never happens here. The Collins are built up as this obscenely stuck-up rich family, but then they pretty much accept Sebastian, warts and all. Salvo has a clear disdain for all the excess but ultimately comes to like his new in-laws and the only real controversy comes from him being an old widower afraid his only son will move away with his new wife and never see him again.

STATUS: Moderately shelf-worthy, but I wouldn’t bother seeing it in theater. I did it so you don’t have to. It’ll be worth a watch when it comes to streaming, but it’s one of those movies where you could do your laundry while its on and still get the gist.

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Movie Review – White Men Can’t Jump (2023)

I can’t jump but it’s not because I’m white. It’s because I like pizza too much.

BQB here with a review of the Hulu remake of the 1990s comedy classic.

I have never seen 1992’s White Men Can’t Jump. I have no idea why. It’s just one of several movies I never saw and I never think of it when I’m scrolling through the various streaming services, unable to find anything appealing.

And therein lies the rub. The reviews are in and the critics agree this flick is a pale imitation of its original predecessor. I on the other hand, liked it but maybe I wouldn’t had I seen the Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes original.

Jack Harlow (who is apparently, a rapper and I only know this because I’m so old now that I learn of the existence of new celebrities when I see them for the first time hosting SNL instead of the past, when I was hip and knew who they were years before Lorne Michaels noticed them) and Sinqua Walls play the odd couple duo of Jeremy and Kamal, two young men who in many ways, could not be more different, yet they bond and become fast friends over their shared love of basketball.

Both were once stars whose careers were tragically cut short. Kamal was a high school all-star on the way to the NBA when a lost temper incident with an unruly fan cost him everything. Jeremy was a college player on the way to the NBA when an injury blew his knee out.

Now they’re in their late 20s, far from being washed up in most respects, though when it comes to sports, they’re circling the drain. Kamal has long accepted he’ll never play with the greats, but is rife with bitterness as he works a menial job and lives in poverty, depressed over what he lost.

Meanwhile Jeremy is cluelessly optimistic, popping all manner of dangerous pills in the unlikely hope of curing his knee and getting back to the game before its too late.

Both in need of dough, they team up and start hustling in street games for money, winning bigger and better bets, all in the hopes of winning the entry fee to a big neighborhood tournament with a hefty grand prize, not to mention public exposure that could turn their hoop dreams into reality.

I know very little about sports, so a lot of the technical details about b-ball went over my head. I have, late in life, become a health food junkie in the past 6 months, so I recognized a little bit of myself in Jeremy as he runs around preaching the benefits of veggies and turmeric. (Yes, he admits he is a walking contradiction as he pops pills but is also a vegetarian.)

You know what I liked most about this film? It was woke without being preachy. Two dudes who come from very different backgrounds who can’t stand each other at first but they grow closer over a shared dream and a shared love of something. Most streaming films these days (I’m looking at you, Netflix) feel a need to spoon feed the woke message to the viewer.

Here, it’s self explanatory. Jeremy helps Kamal make his comeback with yoga, meditation and green drinks while Kamal helps Jeremy navigate a whole new world of street ball, trash talking and not saying the wrong thing that will get his butt kicked.

In short, we’re all more alike than we are different. If we share a love of something, we’re even more alike and if we listen to each other, we can learn from each other. We have all experienced different things in life and we have a lot to teach each other.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, but I really need to watch the original now. P.S. – all the bright colors of the court in the final scene really pop on an HDTV.

Double PS: This is, I believe, the last film starring the late, great Lance Reddick who passed too soon in March. Lance stars as Kamal’s dying father Benji, who Kamal feels he has terribly disappointed, despite Benji’s best efforts to convince Kamal this is not the case.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s eerie that in the last two films Lance starred in, his characters die. His character, Charon the Concierge, dies unexpectedly in the recently released John Wick 4. I always liked him in the Wire. RIP Lance.

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Movie Review – The Super Mario Brothers Movie (2023)

It’s a me! Mario!

BQB here with a review.

It’s no easy task to make a movie based on 40 year old IP that will please both the middle aged adults who loved the brand as kids as well as today’s kids who have completely different childhoods than their parents, but darned if the geniuses at Nintendo and Illumination didn’t come together to find a way in one heck of a picture.

Truth be told, Mario’s adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom have been low hanging fruit, just dying to be turned into a good movie for decades, but Hollywood execs could never figure it out. There was a live action abomination in the 90s starring the late greats Dennis Hopper and Bob Hoskins as well as still alive John Leguizamo, but it had little to do with the subject matter.

That’s where I take my hat off to the producers here. Sometimes you have source material that is timeless and if you stick with it, albeit it with a few modern upgrades, it will stand the test of time for today’s kids as well as tomorrow’s kids.

The plot? Mario and Luigi (Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) live in a cramped Brooklyn apartment with their extended family. They just left a plumbing company run by frenemy Spike (Sebastian Manisculco) to start their own business, subjecting them to mockery from a fam that doesn’t believe in them.

Whilst on a job, the bros get sucked down a pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and are separated. From there, it’s up to Mario to team up with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor Joy) and Toad (Keegan Michael Key) to rescue Luigi from Bowser, who does a few vocal performances in this one because he’s voiced by Jack Black. Oh and of course, they’ll need to convince Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) to lend his furry muscles to the rescue mission.

That’s pretty much it. The film does not even try to explain anything about how the world works, why there are pipes that lead from earth to the Mushroom Kingdom, why there are all these boxes that give you special powers and so on. Many video game movies fail when they get bogged down in long explanations of why nonsensical things exist when ultimately the answer is because they’re fun when you see them in video game form.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Illumination is really kicking Disney’s butt as of late.

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Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (2023)

Genetic experiments most foul dominate the latest adventure for the galaxy’s favorite collection of super schmucks.

BQB here with a review.

My initial observation: it’s not their best, but it’s still worth the price of admission.


Well, the GotG movies have always depended on humor but quite understandably, the plot leaves our heroes rather sullen and depressed. This is Rocket Racoon’s (Bradley Cooper) movie, but he’s far from the lovable trash talking, wisecracking comedy fodder who carries the previous films. An attack orchestrated by the evil High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) takes Rocket out of commission, though through a series of flasohbacks, we learn how Rocket began his life as a hyper intelligent experiment, one in which the HE has taken animals and tinkered with their DNA to give them human traits like speech and higher intelligence. Much to the evildoer’s dismay, Rocket is smarter than his creator, his brain holds the key to making the experiments work, and the Evolutionary has been hunting Rocket for years ever since his escape.

It’s up to the Guardians to save their furry little buddy’s life but if you expect them to fill in with the funny…eh, I mean they do here and there but it’s nothing compared to previous films. Starlord/Quill (Chris Pratt) is depressed, having turned to alcoholism to dampen the loss of his GF Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who died in one of the previous films. There’s an alternate reality version of Gamora in this one because multi-verse theory has ushered in a new era of deaths in Marvel movies having little to no consequences, except the main consequence is this Gamora has no idea who Quill is and has no interest in dating him, which makes Quill sad and not the comedian we’re used to. Without his furry sidekick to bounce jokes off of, it’s like watching an uber depressing Daron Aronofsky movie with occasional quips and a space theme.

Don’t get me wrong. The special effects are there and then some, all best seen on the big screen. And while it lacks the joke a minute pace of previous films, there are still a few big laughs. The overall look of the film is a bit gross as many of the High Evolutionary’s genetic experiments will make you want to puke, thus bringing an overall message against tinkering with nature.

My main complaint: swearing. An f bomb is dropped an someone’s called an asshole. I will admit that sometimes it is possible to craft jokes that depend on swears that are so funny that the swearing can be forgiven but the problems are a) this is a Disney movie and b) it’s primary audience is children so…though I laughed (the only laughs of the movie) I still thought it was a bit much.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. You might want to watch the Guardians Holiday Special before you watch this as it sets a lot of stuff up. The plot gave us a lot of character development and the lack of laughs is understandable, but I hope they remember their comedic routes in the next one.

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