ROGER WATERS THE WALL – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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Roger Waters’ THE WALL is the greatest spectacle I have ever witnessed. I saw him perform THE WALL twice, the first was at an indoor venue on a smaller scale. The second was at Wrigley Field, and it was absolutely epic. Throughout the duration of the concert, a physical wall gets built, brick by brick until it is completed, only to be torn down at the final moments of the show.

Five years later at the Toronto International Film Festival, a concert documentary film was released of THE WALL. The film is as great as seeing the concert live. Cut into the concert, we follow Waters on his own journey from his home, traveling to France to see his grandfather’s grave from World War One, to Waters traveling to Anzio to finally seeing the memorial where his father died during the battle in World War Two. Along the way he’s joined by his family, a childhood friend and mysterious people. Are they actually there with him? Yes and no.

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Like any great piece of art, THE WALL is timeless as it is life changing. It can mean a vast many different things to many different people. Isolation, self hatred, fear, enlightenment, hope, self preservation. It is an incredibly personal journey that one has to take on their own, experience themselves, guide themselves through the journey of the double album.

Viewing the film is an emotional experience to say the least. Whether you’re searching for own inner peace along with Waters, or enjoying the film for the madness that it is, you can’t help but go on a personal ride with Waters, watching him on his quest for inner peace. Watch him read the hand written KIA letter his mother received about his father, or watching Waters play OUTSIDE THE WALL on a trumpet at each memorial site he arrives at.

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THE WALL asks, rather begs us as individuals – why aren’t we treating ourselves better? For if we do that, we’ll treat others better and therefore change the world whilst deconstructing our own personal walls, no matter how thick or how high. Tearing it down, brick by brick.

The film will be back in theatres 10/18/2015.  Check your local listings here.  The blu ray will be available on 12/1/15 and is now up for pre-order on Amazon.

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A chat with veteran film and voice actor Keith Szarabajka 

I’m proud to present my recent interview with accomplished actor Keith Szarabajka, who has many wonderful appearance in films including The Dark Knight as Detective Stephens, Argo, Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, We Were Soldiers, Staying Together, Billy Galvin, Missing and many more. He’s shown in up in television shows including Sons Of Anarchy, Prison Break, Charmed, 24, CSI, Archer, and more. A huge portion of his prolific career consists of an absolutely staggering amount of voice work, including video games and animated shows such as Halo 4, Bioshock, Fallout, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, L.A. Noire, Dead Space, Mass Effect, Darksiders, Metal Gear Solid, Batman: Arkham Knight, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spider Man, Batman Beyond, and so many more. He is currently directing a play entitled Watching OJ  the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles. He’s a great guy with a storied career. Enjoy!
Nate: How did you get into acting, did you always know it was something you wanted to do, or did you stumble into it? 
Keith: I was an altar boy for six years in grade school and high school, plus I was an officer in military school so I became accustomed to performing ritual in public. Then when I was 14, I discovered that being small left you out of a lot of school varsity sports, sports in which I participated vigorously prior to high school. I drifted into acting, as I had a knack for reading things well aloud. My first performance in public was at four when my mother made my cousin, Joyce, and I sing a duet of “I’ve Been Working on The Railroad “ in a talent night at the Bedford Park Community center near Chicago, Illinois. I’ve been hooked on applause and laughter ever since.

Nate: A Perfect World: Your character was extremely intense, and leaves a vivid impression despite only appearing in the first half. How was experience creating that character, and working with Clint Eastwood? 
Keith: Terry was very intense. I just reached into my inner self and pulled out my rage demons. It was fun, but as I said, very intense. I loved working with Clint. He’s one of my favorite directors ever. No B.S. with Clint. Two, maybe three takes at most. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it (and when he got it). I hope that I someday get the chance to work with him again. Though probably not, because he’s not big on working with people with whom he worked previously, especially villains (and who aren’t stars like Morgan Freeman or Gene Hackman.)

Nate:  At a certain point in your career, voice over work became a huge component of your work. How did you get into VO work? Do you enjoy it as much as in front of th camera in live action? How are they comparable? 
Keith: It was a natural segue while I lived and worked in New York. People in New York come to the theater, including ad execs and other creatives, so it just happened naturally. Of course I had a wonderful agent in New York for VO, Carole Ingber, who still represents me there. I have a long time VO agent in L.A. too, Tom Lawless @ VOX, Inc. , through whom I do most of my video game work.The great thing about VO work is you don’t have to learn lines or wear makeup. But don’t get me wrong, I like doing both acting and VO work. I like movies because you get to go on location and travel. I often confused my theatrical agent and my travel agent.
Nate: You mentioned that you have a play in the works that you are directing, when we spoke online. Care to speak about that? And any projects coming up that you are excited for. 

Keith: I just directed a new play at Ensemble Studio Theatre- L.A. Project, called WATCHING O.J. by David Mc Millan (where I am also interim co-artistic director). It’s a wonderful worms’ eye view of the O.J. verdict set in a small white-owned dry cleaners and its environs in a mixed urban neighborhood in L.A. on the day O.J. Simpson murder verdict came out, October 3, 1995. It was avery polarizing subject both in L.A. and the while US. It still is. We opened on the 20th anniversary of the verdict. (At this writing, last Saturday night. Still waiting on the reviews.)
Nate: You have a very distinct voice that stands out in the best possible way. It sure lends itself to voice over,  and I can see why that has been a major factor in your work. Have you done voice work, as in theatre classes or training? Or did the video game/animation work just kind of happen? 

Keith: As I said previously, it just kind of happened. I haven’t taken many VO classes. The one time I did, a promo and trailer class, I ceased working in that sector of the VO world. I guess it’s bad luck. I had the good fortune to live in the same building as the man, Isaiah Sheffer, who ran the Selected Shorts program at Symphony Space in NYC which aired on NPR here(our BBC Radio). We read short stories before live audiences at Symphony Space in NYC and at the Getty Center in L.A. That was in 1987, and I did Selected Shorts for as long as it ran until Isaiah died two years ago. The first time I did it, it was a cold February evening. I lived two blocks from Symphony Space, so after I did a sound check at 6pm there, I went back home and ate dinner. I expected very little from the show. When I returned for half hour at 730pm, people were lined up around the block to see it! I swear they were hanging from the rafters when we did the show! The atmosphere was electric. A lot of people in the industry in NYC came to see it and/or listened to Selected Shorts on the radio, so that’s a lot of the reason I made it into VO work.

Nate: The Dark Knight: you have an iconic exchange of dialogue with The Joker; how was your experience filming that with Heath Ledger, working with Chris Nolan, and portraying a Detective in the Gotham universe? Nolan has a reputation for seeking out actors. Did he come to you/your agent or were you submitted? 

Keith: I was submitted by my agent and auditioned. I didn’t hear from them right away, as initially they were trying for another actor, but ended up not making a deal with him. I received a call on Tuesday six weeks or so later, asking if I had a valid passport. I said yes, and by that Friday i was on a plane to London for a month. Heath was a complete pleasure to work with. Very friendly , very hard-working, very creative. It’s a loss for the industry and the world that he’s gone. Chris Nolan is … a very intelligent, very creative man as well. I would love to work with him again.
Nate: Some of your work is in some iconic games and franchises. Have you ever been asked to attend any conventions,  or comic con type things? Would you if asked? 

Keith: Sean Harry of Star Fury brought me to various UK venues twelve different times between 2003 and 2013, mainly for my work as Holtz in Angel. I loved meeting the fans and doing talks, and I got to see a lot of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on those trips. I have never been invited to a com for video games. I would go if invited, but I don’t attend these things on my own dime. I once went to Dusseldorf, Germany on a Star Trek convention invitation in 2013.
Nate: from film work, what else do you like to do in life? Hobbies, interests? 
Keith: I love to cook. I used to parachute and rock climb, but have given those hobbies up for tamer interests, like mountain biking and scuba diving (Advanced Open Water certification). I also coached baseball and soccer for 16 years, but my sons are now aged out of my league. 
Nate: Thanks so much for chatting, Keith!

RIDLEY SCOTT’S THE MARTIAN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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With the solidly entertaining The Martian, Ridley Scott has made a two and a half hour movie about science, and for that, he should be commended; he’s going to get some kiddies in love with NASA and the space program. I love the fact that three years in a row we’ve gotten a big-budget, original idea space epic from three master filmmakers, all made without the notion to sell toys or become franchises. The fact that Scott’s entry into the outer-space sweepstakes is my least favorite out of the bunch (Interstellar and Gravity being the other two) takes nothing away from how enjoyable a piece of entertainment it is; Scott has found that rare sweet spot between art and commerce with this exquisitely designed trip to the Red Planet. The film is going to be a MASSIVE worldwide hit, which Scott could use at this point. Dariusz Wolski’s stunning cinematography and Janty Yates’ stylish space-suit costumes were some of my favorite aspects to the film. It’s also surprisingly funny – maybe too light considering the life or death stakes presented by the narrative – and that was the one big surprise about the entire thing. Scott is typically a serious with a capital S filmmaker, with only rare ventures into outright comedy (A Good Year) and a stab at black, gallows humor (Hannibal). Matchstick Men has its comedic moments, but that’s a drama first and foremost.

And while The Martian certainly has the requisite action and special effects and big-time money-shots that you’d expect from a lavishly appointed Scott picture, the film seems to be more happy at home in the smaller, more character based moments, and sort of obsessed with subverting the potential heaviness of a story that could have been made in a variety of ways. Matt Damon is never less than excellent in this film, displaying a warmth and humanity that was relatable to observe, with a star-studded supporting cast doing colorful background work both up in space and on the ground. But other than the humor, there was nothing surprising about The Martian, with all of it playing out exactly as I predicted, and while I can’t find too much to be displeased with, I wasn’t sent out of the theater soaring in the same way that I did with Interstellar and Gravity, which The Martian sort of feels like a curious hybrid of. And also, this thing where people are saying: “Ridley Scott is back” and “Wow, what a comeback!” – that’s pure horse-shit. Other than the turgid and wholly unnecessary Exodus, he hasn’t gone anywhere; he’s been here for years making one great movie after another. The Counselor came out two years ago and the film is a diamond-cut masterpiece. But back to The Martian – it’s Ridley Scott doing a four-quadrant family movie with just enough edge to still feel Sir Ridley-ish, and I’m glad it’ll make a ton of money so that maybe he can get another film like The Counselor made.

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DENIS VILLENEUVE’S SICARIO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

2Conceived with an incredible sense of grim fatalism and a cynical worldview that feels both refreshingly honest and tack-sharp, Denis Villeneuve’s utterly masterful Mexican drug cartel thriller Sicario is a feast for the senses while never skimping on introspective character beats and pulse-pounding action. Written with obvious research and keen intelligence by Taylor Sheridan, the film rarely feels “American,” in the sense that it offers up a damning portrait of a literal hell on earth (in this case Juarez, Mexico) and plunges the viewer head-first into disturbingly violent areas of society without ever pulling any punches; it’s a kindred spirit to something like Sean Ellis’ gripping Metro Manila and the absurdly underrated Miss Bala from director Gerardo Naranjo, two recent foreign thrillers that make mincemeat of the stateside competition. In Sicario, Villeneuve continues his red-hot-streak after Incendies, Enemy, and Prisoners (still need to see Polytechnique), and in tandem with the incomparable cinematographer Roger Deakins, has crafted an immersive topical thriller that stings with believability, inevitability, and a guiding sense of logical, clear-cut storytelling. It’s also the most tension-packed film I’ve seen in a theater since No Country for Old Men; at no point could I ever guess what was coming next and the level of atmospheric dread on display due to the insane sound design and haunting visuals kept me literally on edge for two hours.

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I had heard it mentioned recently on the internets that the film was a cross between Zero Dark Thirty and Traffic, and that’s not too far off – it’s as accomplished as both of those fantastic pieces of work, and while indebted to them in some ways, Sicario is its own, visceral animal from the very first frame. Emily Blunt, as usual, is tough as nails as an Arizona FBI/SWAT member drafted by some hush-hush superiors to tag along on a covert mission in Mexico to eliminate a major drug dealer. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are her mysterious handlers, who aren’t interested in providing too much background on their employers or their ultimate end-games; both actors are incredible, with Del Toro dropping an Oscar worthy performance that cuts hard both emotionally and physically. The numerous action scenes sizzle with bloody ferocity, never going over the top or reveling in the carnage, but being upfront about the damage that bullets will do to the human body. This is a dark, disturbing, totally nihilistic movie that’s not interested in being your friend or making you smile. It’s about something real and current and important and Villeneuve is too smart a filmmaker to start preaching or moralizing. It is what it is – and in this world – nobody is going home happy. And then there’s the film’s final shot, which implies so much without having to speak a word. I can’t wait to see this film again and again and again and again.

MILE HIGH HORROR FILM FESTIVAL DOUBLE FEATURE: THE DESCENT WITH DIRECTOR NEIL MARSHALL/THE SHINING WITH JOE TURKEL AND LISA & LOUISE BURNS

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The schedule for the 2015 Mile High Horror Film Festival is bursting with quality programming all day and deep into the night, but a double feature on Friday afternoon/evening was my primary target as soon as I viewed the calendar:  The Descent with director Neil Marshall in attendance, and The Shining with Joe Turkel (Lloyd The Bartender) and Lisa and Louise Burns (The Grady Daughters) conducting a Q&A session prior to the show.  Arguably the best horror film of the 2000s followed by arguably the greatest horror film of all time, with these creative forces behind them in the house?  No question I’d be at both, and each was fantastic.  The Descent and The Shining have important similarities, such as masterful senses of tension and locations that are crucial to the proceedings, but couldn’t be more different otherwise—a monster movie enclosed in darkness, gore and stone versus a brightly lit ghost story floating through spacious, impeccable halls.   A naturalistic, tough and large female ensemble; a stylized nightmare with few (living) souls inhabiting it.  Still, the two stand on equal footing because the purity of vision in each is unquestionable, and not a moment is wasted in taking the viewer on their respective dark journeys.

Neil Marshall’s The Descent is celebrating its 10 year anniversary, and one could see the pride and enthusiasm the filmmaker still has for discussing this gem by his effusive Q&A immediately following a fully attended afternoon screening.  He started by addressing the “alternative ending” controversy, stating that the UK received the real finale so he wasn’t as worried about its reception overseas, and the test screenings indicated US general audiences preferred something more upbeat, so he allowed Lionsgate to show the truncated cut here with the condition that they gave it the widest release possible, ultimately on over 2,000 screens.  He also pointed out that his original vision is the happy one; Sarah’s ending up with her daughter (played by Marshall’s niece) was the only version of peace she would ever find.

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The director continued by discussing the origins of the story and its early reception.  He originally wanted to expand an earlier student film revolving around space zombies called Brain Death into a feature, but was told it would be too expensive at a meeting to pitch producers and was asked to come up with something else.  Remembering a challenge he’d heard in the press about his debut, Dog Soldiers, not being scary enough, he determined to make the scariest film he could imagine, got on a train immediately after said meeting and let his mind wander.  By the time he’d returned home several hours later, he’d figured out a little-used location in horror to exploit with a cast almost completely devoid of testosterone.  The script felt more like a novel as he quickly entered extended sequences of little to no dialogue, and the stark descriptions within scared everyone who read it.  One of his producers labeled it “too relentless!” and asked him to let them out of the cave; Marshall’s response?  “They didn’t get to leave the boat in Jaws!  They didn’t get to walk away from The Nostromo in Alien!”  He knew keeping the heroes trapped was key.

A brief discussion of the technical details revealed a fun anecdote or two, including the time one of the “crawlers,” as he referred to them, sprained his ankle on set and was taken to the emergency room—in full costume.  Marshall continues to be proud that barely any CGI was used, not to mention the fact that they’d built sets so effective the viewer couldn’t tell the entire film was shot on sound stages at Pinewood Studios with a few exteriors shot in Scotland (apparently real caves fill with fog fast when humans are around and the slippery surfaces ensure repeated, dangerous falls).  He even pointed out a variety of obscure references to be found in the film, some as subtle as a shot of a sleeping Beth with her arm over her head nodding to Deliverance.  When asked if Alfred Hitchcock’s influential hand could be felt anywhere on The Descent,  Marshall balked at the notion yet then teased the audience that the next film he’s working on is his “Hitchcock Homage,” but spilled no further beans.  For broad influences he called John Carpenter the biggest and mentioned The Thing, Alien, Deliverance and The Shining as specific touchstones.

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Turning to that particular Kubrick masterpiece, the MHHFF and Alamo Drafthouse Littleton pulled out all the stops to celebrate the picture and set the mood for a 35mm projection with several cast members in attendance to discuss the famous filmmaker and their memories of the production.  Initial events, including several twin-themed dance partners interspersed throughout the crowd and a Redrum cake that doesn’t belong on any child’s birthday table, gave way to the honored guests of the evening.  Joe Turkel, spry and clearly excited for his chance to discuss fellow Brooklyn kid and longtime friend Stanley, was joined by Lisa and Louise Burns, the British twins who interestingly played sisters of different ages in their indelible, iconic scenes as the Grady girls.  Joe was quick to point out that he’s the rare actor who appeared in three Kubrick productions (the others being The Killing and Paths of Glory), and often mentioned how he and the director bonded over their love of the Yankees and Joe DiMaggio, the latter having passed away a day after Kubrick himself did.  Turkel also pointed out the ‘director’s bible’ that Stanley had with him on all three sets where they worked together, in increasingly dog-eared, underlined and battered form, a text by the great Russian filmmaker Vsevolod Pudovkin called Pudovkin on Film. He went on to describe the director’s demeanor as always quiet and respectful, but yes, famously thorough and prone to many takes.  He claimed the shot of Jack Nicholson walking past strewn-about balloons and entering The Gold Room with a ghostly party in full swing was done no less than 180 times.  As Kubrick asked for each new take, the camera angle or lens or lighting would always be slightly altered.  Turkel once asked him, “Are you ever satisfied with just one take?”  Kubrick smirked and responded “Oh yes!  Many times!”

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The soft-spoken Burns sisters didn’t have the same relationship with Kubrick but, like Turkel, had many memories of the director being warm, friendly and accommodating, even during the lengthy portions of their work.  They didn’t have a specific take count on any of their scenes, but recalled that his getting the single shot he ended up using of their bloody bodies in the hallway took three full days, during which they were awfully cold.  Kubrick personally went and retrieved a space heater for them when they complained, and when their birthday arrived he halted the shoot for several hours in order to throw them a proper party, wherein he presented them with an autograph book filled in by cast and crew.  Speaking further about the director’s personality and demeanor, Turkel insisted he was a plain-spoken kid from Brooklyn (he preferred everyone call him Stanley, not Mr. Kubrick, not Stan) who wasn’t a hermit but understood his celebrity would require him to be increasingly beholden to anyone he met, so he chose to limit how many new people he brought into his life.  Discussing the film itself, Lisa and Louise didn’t actually see it until they were in their 20s, and due to UK censorship the version they saw was a full half hour shorter than what audiences in other countries enjoyed.  Turkel pointed out how strange this was considering The Shining is far from a violent picture; outside of Nicholson’s brutal ax murder of Scatman Crothers’ Dick Halloran, there is almost no physical conflict portrayed.  As a result, the Burns sisters didn’t realize what a horrifying picture it was until much later.  Joe Turkel claimed to have only seen it 5 or 6 times, but said his enjoyment deepens with each viewing.  He took a quick shot at the original author’s negative take on the film and the resulting 1990s television miniseries version, which in his words “bombed” by not focusing on the psychological horror that Kubrick presented in masterful form.  The actor then shared two quick stories, one about how he and a friend ran into a struggling Nicholson at the horse races in 1961, when that performer was considering leaving Los Angeles and returning to New York City but stayed after Turkel’s friend repaid Nicholson some money he owed him with their gambling winnings (“I saved his career!”), and another about his last day on set.  Insisting Stanley was a warm man but not prone to physical contact, he walked up to Turkel, put his hand on the actor’s shoulder and said “you know, so far you’re the best thing in this movie.”  Joe Turkel responded by saying “Thanks Stanley—so don’t wait another 40 fucking years to cast me again!”  Kubrick smiled, walked away, and that was the last time the two spoke.

Finally, the 35mm print rolled for the audience, and as with most great films it felt like a first viewing all over again to share the experience with an anonymous audience in the dark.  On a quick personal note, I must recommend that if any organization such as the Mile High Horror Film Festival or the Alamo Drafthouse gives you the opportunity to enjoy either of these films in a theater, take advantage of it.  The Descent’s darkness flows off the screen and effectively envelops you, and The Shining’s still-stunning sound design, visuals and atmosphere trap you, the viewer, in the Overlook Hotel just as it did Danny and his family all those years ago.  Seeing the two films this past Friday with these talented artists present to tell their stories made for a unique, revelatory and unforgettable day for the horror fans in attendance.

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Dead Man- A review by Nate Hill

Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man is a truly one of a kind film, a film that I have been entranced for over a decade by, and constantly revisit it’s haunting beauty, poetic absurdities and stark, gorgeous black and white cinematography (holla to Robby Muller). Johnny Depp basically plays a meek, downtrodden east coast boy mired in a wild, violent and confusing journey through a western outpost town and after a love triangle ends in murder, possibly his own, he embarks on a strange, spiritual walk through a Pacific Northwest netherworld of pine trees, outlaw bounty hunters, and oddball characters, led by a Native named Nobody (the excellent Gary Farmer). Is he dead? Was he even there to begin with? Jarmusch abandons logic for an expressionist approach, and the film ends up as a hypnotic tone poem and visual palette of events that don’t really make sense, and may frustrate some. But to those open to its idiosyncratic writing and determined, enigmatic style, oh what a film it is. The cast is absolutely to die for. Depp is incredible in the best performance of his extremely uneven career. The character arc he inhabits here is wonderful, taking a feeble, checkered suited mess of a man and morphing him into a ghostly, predatorial, terrifying wilderness archetypal bandit, a force of nature among the trees and mountains. Haunted eyes, quick draw kill streak, moody contemplation, it really is his finest work. Michael Wincott steals his scenes as a chatty assassin and Lance Henriksen is scary as hell, playing a hired killer who “fucked his parents, then cooked them up and ate them.” (Don’t ask, just go with the film’s demented flow). Gabriel Byrne, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Mitchum, Milli Avital, John Hurt and an especially weird Crispin Glover all nail their cameos, and Neil Young’s beautiful, melodic, elemental score is the beating heart of the film. Dead Man isn’t a traditional film in any sense, and in fact seems to take place in a cliché free, bizarro alternate western dream universe where the rules don’t apply, but all the beauty, mysticism and rugged frontier intrigue of the genre still remain. Fine with me. One of my all time favourites.

PTS Presents ARTISAN WORKBENCH with WADE EASTWOOD

WADE EASTWOOD POWERCAST

MI5-09932RcPodcasting Them Softly presents an explosive chat with Stunt Coordinator and Second Unit Director Wade Eastwood! Wade has an extensive list of credits on some of the biggest blockbusters of the last 15 years, including the latest Mission: Impossible entry, Rogue Nation, the upcoming James Bond adventure Spectre, 2014’s Interstellar, Godzilla, and Edge of Tomorrow, and numerous other high-throttle action films that have featured some of the most dynamic stunt work in modern cinema history. A true dare-devil at heart (he’s also a stunt driver and performer), we had a great time chatting with Wade, and we hope you enjoy!

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