CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE review

Unlike a lot of kids, I actually never read the books this movie is based on. Can’t exactly explain why. I always had an interest, but I never made the time or any real effort to read them. So, to be completely honest, I have no idea what they were about. I actually assumed it was about a little kid with superpowers who saved older kids from whatever was terrorizing them.

I see that the movie is very different from my preconceptions. It looks like it’s about two kids who are notorious pranksters. One day, they go too far and their mean principal threatens to keep them apart in separate classrooms to prevent their diabolical schemes. Genuinely afraid to be apart, they hypnotize their principal via ridiculously random magic ring into believing that he is the kids’ personal superhero creation, Captain Underpants, who goes around fighting crime and monsters that don’t exist, until a real threat comes along for him to save the day.

I have to admit… I don’t think this looks good. I mean, I can appreciate DreamWorks keeping the animation the same style as the books, but man, I do not buy these voice actors as kids. Even if the movie happens to be really good, which I’m not holding my breath for, Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch will distract the living daylights out of me for how much they do not sound like kids. Look, I know Hart is a short dude with a high pitched voice, but he still doesn’t sound like a kid. He sounds like a high-pitched voiced adult. But hey, I’ll keep my mind open. DreamWorks has done amazing work in the past. But for every few great films, they’ve got one bad one too. Initial thoughts are: not a good movie.

But let’s take a look at the voice talent. As previously stated, we have Hart (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], GET HARD [2015], GRUDGE MATCH [2013], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RIDE ALONG 3, due out… who knows when), Middleditch (THE BRONZE [2016], THE CAMPAIGN [2012], TV show SILICON VALLEY, and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]), as well as Ed Helms (VACATION [2015], THE LORAX [2012], and THE HANGOVER [2009]). In support, we have Nick Kroll (SING [2016], and TV shows THE LEAGUE and PARKS AND REC), Jordan Peele (STORKS [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], and TV show KEY AND PEELE), and Kristen Schaal (THE BOSS [2016], and TV shows BOBS BURGERS and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is David Soren, known for TURBO (2013). Penning the screenplay is Nicholas Stoller, known for STORKS, MUPPETS MOST WANTED (2014), and THE MUPPETS (2011). Finally, the composer for the score is Theodore Shapiro, known for COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016), INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (2014), and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010).

Overall, not terribly thrilled to see this, but here’s to hoping it’s better than it’s letting on.

This is my honest opinion of: CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE

(SUMMARY)

Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) are a pair of kids who are the best of friends. They make comics together, their favorite creation being the crime-fighting Captain Underpants, and try to have as much fun as possible. This isn’t easy when they’re at school, which is run by their evil principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). They combat his authority by pulling off pranks. He’s been unable to get them in trouble due to a lack of proof. However, the inevitable happens and the two boys are about to be separated into different classes. In an act of desperation, Harold attempts to hypnotize Krupp using a magical toy ring… and it miraculously works. They turn Krupp into their comic creation Captain Underpants and he gets loose, trying to fight crime with super powers that he doesn’t have.

(REVIEW)

While I wasn’t wholly wrong about this movie, I’d be lying if I said was completely right. It’s no Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, it’s perfectly fine for what it is: a harmless kids movie.

Because the movie is painfully clear that it’s meant for kids, the humor is exactly that: kiddie humor. So most of the jokes aren’t especially funny. It’s just tolerable. Thankfully, DreamWorks had the foresight not to go all NORM OF THE NORTH (2016), but keeps the humor pretty innocent. I think maybe there was one fart joke that wasn’t too bad, and a surprising lack of potty humor. Instead, the jokes are pretty much what you’d expect them to be. The kids hypnotize their principal into turning into their undergarment clad superhero and laugh at him as any kid would, and the guy acting all goofy. Again, thankfully, it’s written in a way that isn’t annoying. It’s not written funny, for the most part, but it’s not obnoxious.

Even the plot has been kind of done before. Not the superhero bit, of course, but the whole, “We’re fun-loving kids in a school that hates fun and we’re the rebels who want the rest of the kids to have fun too.” MIDDLE SCHOOL (2016) did that and you can argue that FIST FIGHT (2017) did it too to a degree, albeit it’s the teachers struggling to deal with unruly teens. Give the movie some credit, that’s not the focus of the story and they do segue into a more exciting story. But even that’s been done before too: unleashing a goofy adult that young people need to rein in and pretend they’re related, like in JUMANJI (1995). Once again though, it could have been worse.

The movie also does try to have a moral at the end: find something to laugh at yourself about. I can’t lie, I like that moral and it’s pretty unique in a kids movie. The problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t really back it up. The movie starts off about pranks and learning to lighten up, then it turns into a silly superhero movie, and it’s only at the end where the moral is brought up. But even then, it’s not really enforcing its moral. The kids are still laughing at the teacher’s name and spent a good chunk of time making fun of it in a self-made comic book they made. These kids never make fun of themselves or point out their own flaws. So the moral is completely confused and ultimately pointless.

Is there anything that’s funny? Well, I did like a few jokes in the beginning. You might recall from the trailer when the two kids try to leave their principal’s office only for him to press a button and then a high tech lockdown initiates, preventing their escape. By the end of the dramatic lockdown, George says, “Wow, that’s an expensive door.” But this is followed up with Mr. Krupp smugly saying something like, “Do you like it? I had a choice to spend school funding on a magnetically sealed door, or keep the theater-arts department open. I think I made the better choice.” I admit, I laughed at that. There’s another sequence where, if I remember correctly, Captain Underpants has turned the entire front of the school into an amusement park of sorts and Harold and George are like, “What do we do?! We have to stop this!” A shot of kids having fun goes by and then you see Harold and George going through a sugar rush, clearly enthralled by the festivities at some point. And pretty much anything when Professor Poopypants comes in. Yup, Kroll steals the show on this one. One line that just came back to me was when Poopypants has got these kids in a bind and he’s about to sap their ability to laugh at anything, the kids try to appeal to his good nature by saying something like, “Dude, you gotta lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself,” or something to that effect. And then Poopypants exclaims, “Oh really, Oprah?!” Again, I laughed quite a bit on that one. There’s also this running gag with this lady on hold. That was funny too.

That’s… kind of it, actually. It’s not like a good DreamWorks movie like How to Train Your Dragon where adults could go in without kids and get something out of it. No, you’d want to bring your kids for this one. It’s a movie for them and it works fine for what it’s supposed to do: keep ’em entertained, which it will do effectively. The animation is fine, and fast-paced, so it’s never boring. It’s colorful and competently made, so it’s not completely devoid of imagination. Personally, if you wanted to see a better version of this that both kids and adults would enjoy, LEGO BATMAN (2017) is the way to go. But if your kids are itching to see it, go ahead, it’s harmless and not painful to sit through. But if you’re an adult hit with nostalgia who grew up with the books unlike me, I’d say wait for a rental. It’s not exactly worth a theater viewing. Not bad, not that good, just… meh. I’m not the target demographic, so it is what it is.

My honest rating for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE: 3/5

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SNATCHED review

*Groan*

You know, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not the biggest Amy Schumer fan. I mean, she’s been funny before in her stand-up, but as anyone who knows me really well knows, I’m not exactly a fan of her brand of raunchy humor. I won’t even necessarily say that she’s insulting in a bad way, she isn’t by any means, but her jokes aren’t that funny to me. She rarely makes me laugh, or even chuckle. I see where her popularity comes from and I don’t blame anyone who likes or loves her work, but I can’t say I’m in the same boat.

Having said that, I looked at this flick and didn’t think too highly of it. I mean, when do I ever when it comes to comedies? I figured it’d just be a comedic take on being kidnapped by drug lords or whatever. I have a feeling it’s going to be a popular watch on Mother’s Day, but I doubted it’d be good. Then I saw the early ratings. RottenTomatoes has this at an eyebrow-cockingly low 39% (as of 5/11/2017), but what staggered the crap out of me throwing me for a damned loop was IMDb’s rating: 2.3/10 (as of 5/11/2017). Ho… ly… shit. That bad? I mean, damn, I figured it wouldn’t be amazing, or even all that good, but… 2.3?? I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I can’t comment on my own opinion, but I can’t find anything in the trailer that would indicate such a low rating. If nothing else, I’m interested in knowing if I agree.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we have Schumer (TRAINWRECK [2015], SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD [2012], and TV show INSIDE AMY SCHUMER) and Goldie Hawn (THE BANGER SISTERS [2002], THE FIRST WIVES CLUB [1996], and PRIVATE BENJAMIN [1980]). In support, we have Ike Barinholtz (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], SISTERS [2015], and TV show THE MINDY PROJECT), Wanda Sykes (ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT [2012], MONSTER-IN-LAW [2005], TV show BLACK-ISH, and the upcoming BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS [2017]), Randall Park (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], THE INTERVIEW [2014], and TV show FRESH OFF THE BOAT), and Joan Cusack (POPSTAR [2016], MARTIAN CHILD [2007], TV show A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Jonathan Levine, known for THE NIGHT BEFORE (2015), WARM BODIES (2013), and THE WACKNESS (2008). Penning the screenplay is Katie Dippold, known for GHOSTBUSTERS (2016), THE HEAT (2013), seven episodes of TV show PARKS AND REC, and slated for the upcoming THE HEAT 2, due out… who knows when. Co-composing the score are Chris Bacon (SOURCE CODE [2011], hilariously credited as Chris P. Bacon in SPACE CHIMPS [2008], and TV show BATES MOTEL), and Theodore Shapiro (WHY HIM? [2016], DANNY COLLINS [2015], JENNIFER’S BODY [2009], and the upcoming CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE [2017]). Finally, the cinematographer is Florian Ballhaus, known for ALLEGIANT (2016), MARLEY & ME (2008) and DEFINITELY, MAYBE (2008).

Overall, no, I’m not excited for this, but I can’t imagine agreeing this wholeheartedly with these low ratings. But I guess I’m going to find out sooner or later, huh?

This is my honest opinion of: SNATCHED

(SUMMARY)

Emily (Amy Schumer) is about to go on vacation and is beyond excited for it. However, her musician boyfriend Michael (Randall Park) breaks up with her so he can tour with his band. Desperate to find someone to join her, she’s forced to ask her overly-cautious mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) to come with her, who reluctantly agrees. At first, their vacation is enjoyable enough, and Emily even meets a nice and attractive guy named James (Tom Bateman), who takes her out partying. But after taking both Emily and Linda on a drive into the middle nowhere, they are quickly abducted by a local crime lord named Morgado (Óscar Jaenada). They manage to escape and find themselves on the run from him.

(REVIEW)

*Groan* Oh yeah, it’s bad. But… I’m not sure if it’s 3.2/10 bad (as of 5/18/2017).

Alright, so right off the bat, the humor is incredibly forced and almost doesn’t even make sense. The opening scene is Emily in a store, presumably shopping for herself for an upcoming vacation right. And she’s talking to another woman, presumably a friend of hers. But then a few seconds later, we’re privy to the truth. She’s at work, not attempting to make sales at the clothing store she works in, is about to go on this vacation that she never requested time off for, and gets fired. Here’s the observation in that first five to ten minutes: I see the set-up, I understand the punchline, but it’s not funny. Let’s break down the joke because, yes, comedy, good and bad, should be analyzed. Emily got fired from her job for being a shit employee, right? But then she’s all like, “No, please, I really need this job.” Well, shit, what kind of reaction did she think she was going to get by doing the things she was doing in front of her boss? She and the guest were talking like they knew each other, but I think any normal person would turn around and get away from some crazy employee oversharing their personal shit. Why didn’t Emily ask for time off from work? Most jobs permit you to request time off, provided you notify your manager within a reasonable amount of time. Even if you work those jobs that don’t, just get someone to cover your shifts. This really shouldn’t have been a hard thing to think through for Emily. None of her actions suggest that she “really needs this job,” so why make a big deal out of it?

That’s the entirety of this movie: structured jokes that have no punch. Even if you did laugh, you’re face-palming yourself thinking, “Jesus, girl, you are trying way too hard.” Some jokes think that they’re so funny, they’re repeated over the course of the story. Take Barinholtz’s character, Jeffrey, Emily’s brother. His shtick is calling his mom “Muh-ma” over and over. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but that’s something that he does nearly every time he’s on screen and it gets old in the scene it was introduced in.

I suppose if I had to pick any moments where I wasn’t bored with the humor, I did enjoy Jeffrey interacting with the government official dude over the phone. I suppose their banter was a little funny. I also didn’t hate Joan Cusack, who plays a former special ops character without a single line of dialog, but her physicality and expressions are over-the-top, but it’s still pretty humorous seeing her be all hardcore despite spending the movie in a sundress. But then again, how can you go wrong with lady-Cusack? The Cusack clan’s always known how to act. And you know what, fine, I thought Schumer and Hawn had good chemistry. They never really said anything funny, but they knew how to work off of each other. So there’s that too.

If you were to ask me if I thought this or TRAINWRECK was better, I’d say they’re more or less on par. While TRAINWRECK certainly followed a character that was horridly unlikable and not once did I care about her ending up happy, I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed Brie Larson and Bill Hader’s performances, and I did chuckle at LeBron James and John Cena. This movie isn’t funny, but it makes up for following characters that are at least a little more likable, so it’s really apples and oranges as to which I like better. Honestly, probably this just because of the unlikable factor, but I don’t ever see myself watching this again. It’s a comedy that doesn’t work, and it’s sad that this is Hawn’s first movie since 2002. I don’t recommend this movie. Maybe if you’re a die-hard Schumer fan and know her brand of comedy, then I think you’ll enjoy yourself fine. But as for the rest of us who actually want comedy in our comedies, this is a pass.

My honest rating for SNATCHED: 2/5

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COLLATERAL BEAUTY review

Oh boy… this movie.

Alright, so I would say like most people, this looked pretty good at first glance. I mean, Will Smith? Kate Winslet? Edward Norton? Helen Mirren? Kiera Knightley? This was a concentration of Oscar-winning (or nominated) talent. The story didn’t seem that bad either, the story of a man who loses his daughter, stops caring about everything, his friends try to help to no avail, and then the personified forces that binds people together come to him to help him find peace with his life. How could this possibly sound bad? It actually sounds pretty creative and moving, doesn’t it?

And then the reviews came out, and… it’s been getting worse than bad reviews. I won’t pretend to have read these reviews in depth, only getting a look at the ratings, but it seems universally panned by both movie-goers and critics.

But… but… Will Smith! Helen Mirren! Kate Winslet! Just… how??? No… no, all of you are wrong! There’s poetry that all of you are missing!! All you movie snobs and hoity toity GODFATHER lovers, you just can’t handle the raw emotions that is this movie has to have! That’s the explanation! And I’m going to prove every last one of you wrong!

Well… that cast, though. Everyone’s a fan of Smith. From his clean rap, to TV show FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR, to MEN IN BLACK (1997), BAD BOYS (1995), he’s an acting giant with popularity that practically defined a generation and continues to do so. Granted, it’s not like he’s done exclusively good movies, there’s some bad ones. MIB II (2002), WILD WILD WEST (1999), and AFTER EARTH (2013), we knew his feet were made of clay, but… it’s so rare that fans have to face that reality. Mirren… whatever you can say about Smith, Mirren is that on steroids. That’s not a jab at her age, it’s an acknowledgment of how timeless she’s become. She has an elegant presence in every performance that makes you pay attention. She’s about the best of the best actresses out there and her name on any movie, from EAGLE EYE (2016), to RED 2 (2013), to THE QUEEN (2006), you know you’re going to get a quality show from her. And Norton, who is notorious for being in only movies that challenge him as an actor, who is a perfectionist as an artist (making frequent appearances in “actors that are difficult to work with” lists). If Norton says yes to a script, then he’s seeing something worth being a part of. FIGHT CLUB (1999), AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998), BIRDMAN (2014), he’s got a rarer list of failures than even Smith. There’s too many names to go through, but I think everyone gets the point.

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is David Frankel, known for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006), MARLEY AND ME (2008), and HOPE SPRINGS (2012). Writing the script is Alan Loeb, known for ROCK OF AGES (2012), JUST GO WITH IT (2011), and THE DILEMMA (2011). Composing the music is Theodore Shapiro, known for GHOSTBUSTERS (2016), TROPIC THUNDER (2008), and SPY (2015). Finally, the cinematographer is Maryse Alberti, known for THE WRESTLER (2008), CREED (2015), and THE VISIT (2015).

Overall… man, I don’t know what to think. I guess I’m about to find out. This is my God’s honest opinion of COLLATERAL BEAUTY.

(SUMMARY)

Howard (Will Smith) is a man whose young daughter tragically passed away and has detached himself from everything else around him. His friends and co-workers are concerned because the job they work at is in trouble. If a deal isn’t successful, then everyone will lose their jobs. In a desperate attempt to get Howard to snap out of it, they hire three actors to pose as Howard’s personified subjects that he sends letters to: love, death, and time.

(REVIEW)

Did you read my summary? Did you also watch the trailer to this movie? Did you suddenly feel like these were two different movies and the trailer looked like a better movie than the one I just described? Yeah, SO DID I!!! Holy shit, was this ever misleading. I mean… holy shit! What went wrong, you might ask? You can already piece one thing together. The trailer make the story out to be a subtle fantasy/drama. Almost a non-Christmas take on “A Christmas Carol,” with the three ghosts trying to cheer up Smith’s character about the death of his daughter. It’s actually not a bad premise. But what do we get instead? Let’s run through it all. Prepare for a rant because there’s so much to say.

Let’s start with Howard’s best friends, Wit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña). All three of these characters are unlikable. Wit is supposed to be Howard’s best friend, but he seems to be the most detached. There’s this whole thing that the company is about to go under, and that’s what he seems to be most concerned about. So in order to snap Howard out of his depression, he hatches that idea to hire actors to pose as these entities. This… is really messed up and insane. I mean, who would do something that insensitive? Are there business protocols put in place for situations like this? If the owner of a company isn’t mentally sound enough to run it, he has subordinates that take that responsibility. To have something so elaborate and borderline juvenile… what words can one possibly have? But more than that, he has a side story. Yeah, this douche bag has a life that the audience is supposed to care about. Well, to be fair, it is a sad one. Yeah… it’s so sad that he cheated on his wife with a younger woman, and when his emotionally hurt daughter, barely ten years old, makes it clear that she’s upset with him… it breaks your heart to see Wit so distraught… that he goes back to work completely unaffected by the events that transpired with his daughter. Just talking about it brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? *SARCASM*

I suppose Claire and Simon are lesser offenders, but notice how I say “lesser.” They go along with Wit’s messed up plans and Claire even offers to pay the actors the full amount they ask for, which is like, what, some thousands of dollars for each actor? I don’t remember, it was an outrageous amount. She’s also written to be the one character that is most sympathetic to Howard, but when you are just as involved with these crazy plans, you lose all credibility. Being bland certainly doesn’t help. Next is Simon, who also has a side story. I won’t spoil this, though lord knows no one would really care, but do you notice another problem with this movie? Look how many side stories there are. The focus, from both the trailers and the opening minutes of the film, should be about Howard. But this movie is so desperate for emotional investment from the audience that they’ll give everyone sob stories that it actually becomes annoying. Worse, it’s unfocused. If this is supposed to be one of those multiple-stories type movies like LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) or CRASH (2004), then you can’t make it out like one character is the focus and then spend so much time on the secondary characters.

Now for the hired actors, Brigitte (Helen Mirren), Raffi (Jacob Latimore), and Amy (Keira Knightley). They’re despicable characters too. Brigitte is going alone with this whole thing because she sees it as a means of expanding her acting abilities. Yeah, not to help a man get over a terrible tragedy in his life (again, even if that were the motivations, it’s not an ideal means of going about it), but to showcase her talent. Yeah, so likable and relatable! Now for Amy. This movie was so close to having a good, solid character. When Wit has everyone gathered to talk about the specifics of his “screw with a man’s emotions” plan, Amy is the one character that is so disgusted with the notion that she actually walks out of the room.

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For the first time in this movie, I was so happy to see another person act like a real person. It was like the big man upstairs parted the clouds, reached down, and with the gentlest of hands, grabbed my shoulder, and whispered in my ear, “Everything will be okay. Keira will save this movie.” I suddenly felt safe… and hopeful.

And then… it takes the most magnificent swan dive from the top of the ugly tree and hits every Satan-blessed branch all the way down… finishing with a “perfect ten” face-plant into the rocky gravel below resulting in not a horribly disfigured diver, but a grotesque puddle of mush. Not only does money eventually sway Amy over to going along with this, but she even develops an unbearably forced romance with Wit. With… Wit. The most unlikable character of the three best friends, and she gets charmed by him.

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And Raffi? Um… first of all, who’s Jacob Latimore? When standing next to acting giant Mirren and wildly popular Knightley, Latimore is completely forgettable. No offense to the man (Apparently, he’s a singer. Sorry, I don’t listen to much music.). But as for the character… yeah, I think I remember him being another asshole. That was it. Considering how everyone in this movie is an asshole, I’d say being the forgotten asshole is a blessing.

But wait, I haven’t talk about Howard yet! Surly Smith is the true saving grace of this picture. Well… To be completely fair, the movie isn’t devoid of good acting. Even though the characters are horrendously written, the actors are trying their hardest to make it work, but that actually hurts the film and Smith is no exception. There’s this scene where he’s on the subway, and he snaps at Brigitte, who he thinks is death. But… the way he mocks his religious and philosophical findings at her is so awkward that it’s almost like his performance is supposed to be comical. Instead, it’s probably the most awkward performance Smith has ever delivered, and that’s saying something because I’ve seen both WILD WILD WEST and AFTER EARTH! At least his performances were consistent in those. Here, it’s baffling how inconsistent it is. But that doesn’t fully answer the question, is he the saving grace? No. He really isn’t because so much screen time is dedicated to the most unlikable characters in the film parading as Howard’s best friends. Even when he is on screen, he doesn’t get a line half the time. He just spends the majority of his scenes looking depressed. Hell, maybe at some point he knew this movie was going to be garbage and the director just didn’t bother trying to get him to feel anything else.

There are unfortunately people out there who have lost children, and this movie is almost saying, “screw you, the people around you matter more!” It lies and tells you that it has a heart and that it’ll make you feel, but this is far from the case. This film has no heart. It’s message is that it’s okay to lie to depressed people by making them feel crazy to force them to feel better about their downtrodden lives in order to make your own life easier, and even more sickeningly, profitable. That’s pure insanity. The more I think about this movie, the more insulting it gets. Fine, WILD WILD WEST is a failed comedy. Fine, AFTER EARTH is a failed sci-fi. Fine, MIB 2 is a failed sequel. Those happen. But what doesn’t happen is a movie that is supposed to have a strong and powerful message to give to the world, completely marinating it in poison, and gift-wrapping it to us thinking it knows a little something about humanity. Please, don’t see this movie. It’s rotten. Save your time, money, and gas. It’s not worth it.

My honest rating for COLLATERAL BEAUTY: 1/5

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