Review: The Dark Knight

The mere mention of ‘Batman’ and anyone would associate it with the likes of ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Iron Man’ that are more crowd-pleasing and eye-candy. That is true if it’s ‘Batman’, but not Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’. Nolan injected this legendary comic book character with so much style, so much charisma, so much life that it instantly establishes itself way apart from all other superhero films as well as all other ‘Batman’ films in the past, into a sprawling epic that is infused with so much drama even the likes of Michael Mann or Martin Scorsese will be proud to call their own. Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’ is no child’s play, it is a gritty crime saga that is densely layered with gripping tales of revenge, corruption and of course, heroism. Multi-dimensional characters that are irresistibly intriguing and spectacularly play-out by award-winning actors litter the screen so abundantly that such an assemble cast will make even ‘The Sopranos’ hide in envious jealousy. ‘The Dark Knight’ is not just any superhero film, it is a film of masterful story-telling infused with spectacular style that is brought to life by stirring performances by its talented actors.

For a film with such high commercialism, one would rave rabidly about its action sequences or special effects. Not in this case. The highlight of ‘The Dark Knight’ (besides Heath Ledger’s take as ‘The Joker’, I’ll go there pretty soon) is the quality of the story. Co-written by director Chris Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan, the screenplay is the closest to a masterpiece of a crime saga not seen since ‘The Godfather’, and what is remarkable is that they pulled it off with a caped crusader and not with Marlon Brando. Now THAT is an extraordinary achievement. I’m not going into the details of the story as to avoid spoiling this incredible effort of story-telling for you, but I must mention that this is a giant leap from its first film and the story is densely intertwined with drama, humor and action pulled together with perfect chemistry. And the ending, you shall be enlightened as to why our hero is called ‘The Dark Knight’…

Now for Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’. He is absolutely stellar and compelling played to such delicious extreme, he literally takes command of everyone’s attention whenever he appears on screen. You just cannot take your eyes off him, he is simply magnetic. His every move, his every theatrics, his every crumbling make-up and his every lick of his lips are stunningly portrayed to perfection as a sadistic villain with a morbid sense of humor that brings new meaning to the word terrorist. The true strength of ‘The Joker’ is not those one-liner quips or smart-ass poses, but what completes the character is his much longer monologues that are infused with eccentric body movements and fits of fanatical laughter. His words weaves layers upon layers of havoc and madness on Gotham City, truths and lies overlaps and are unclear, every manipulating scheme are unveiled only at the very last effective moment and whenever he finishes any of his maddening speeches, he actually ends up as the smartest guy in the room. He lets you think he is insane, which is equal to reckless and un-intelligent. He is however neither. He embodies every essence of anarchy and villainy, and one would easily think that he is simply not just ‘The Joker’, but in fact The Devil himself.

Heath Ledger’s portrayal of ‘The Joker’ was so tremendous, it actually made me feel angry and ashamed that Jack Nicholson did not push his version far enough (in Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’). I used to think that Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a villain was the benchmark for all actors to seek manic badness from. But now, it dawned on me that Jack Nicholson and Tim Burton made ‘The Joker’ a laughing clown. Instead of being a true maniac, Heath Ledger made me dislike the Jack’s portrayal of a villain that I once enjoyed. Call me disloyal, but I call it a testament to how fantastic Heath Ledger did his job as being ‘The Joker’, and it’s no laughing matter. The status-quo of villainy has been redefined by Heath Ledger and Christopher Nolan, and now every over-reacting and moustache-twirling cheapskate that simply thinks by wearing a black suit with gelled-back hair will pull it off as a bad guy, well these cheapskates can think again. Watching Ledger’s every animalistic movement, every devilish speech and every serpent lick of his lips is something to behold and admire as it is something that is not seen before on screen, and I think we will never ever see again.

Not to down-play the performances of other actors in this film, but the performances of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne aka ‘Batman’ are commendable, and we get to see an equal amount of screen time between Bruce Wayne and ‘Batman’. The only downside I find is that of ‘Batman’s awkwardly deep voice whenever he is ‘Batman’. I understand that he needs to hide his true tone of voice from identification purposes, but his deep-toned voice is sometimes distracting and fake. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent aka ‘Two Face’ also is praiseworthy for successfully portraying the dual personalities of the character. However, my annoyance with ‘Two Face’ was the repetitive flicking of his coin to decide the fates of individuals that confronts him. I understand that this is his distinctive practice of his character, but I think it has been over emphasized way too many times and should have been toned down a little. But I guess I’m no Chris Nolan. Other actors such as Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and particularly Gary Oldman as ‘Commissioner Gordon’ all delivered solid performances that successfully provided additional drama and emotions whenever needed. Oh, and for Hong Kong film fans, do look-out for Edison Chen’s very brief cameo in the film as well. I’ve never seen him since THOSE incidents…

As for technical aspects of the film, everything is done to stunning perfection across the board. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is richly textured and moody, and with the used of IMAX cameras for a few of the action sequences, every detail is captured and shown to the audience in grand magnificence. The editing is also smooth and seamless, as the film flows from scene to scene without feeling confused. The visual effects are done to a minimum without over saturating the film with too much CGI and that successfully manages to maintain the realism of Gotham City. As for the music by multi-Oscar winning composers Hans Zimmer (Gladiator) and James Howard (The Sixth Sense), the over-dramatic orchestra compositions are utilized to an effective minimum. In fact, the most memorable and eerie moments with ‘The Joker’ was accompanied by simply pulling a high-pitched note from a violin.

‘The Dark Knight’ is intriguing from start to finish, climaxing to a gratifying but daring conclusion that leaves the saga with just that little piece of cliffhanger that hints of a third film. Of course, the hint is indeed a no-brainer as all the major actors are signed up for 3 installments. In the end, this film is easily the most satisfying of all wide-release films thus far (even ‘Iron Man’ pales in comparison to this). A film that not only meets all expectations but also surpasses well beyond anything we came to imagine from a film of this genre. It is definitely re-watchable for multiple times, especially to admire the work of Heath Ledger that had left us at the most inappropriate of times as he was only starting to turn into a really great actor. He already got nominated for an Academy Award for his part in ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and I really hope he wins ‘Best Supporting Actor’ this time as ‘The Joker’ (‘Best Actor’ may be a bit pushing it). It sounds crazy I know but if George Clooney can win it in 2005 with the film ‘Syriana’, then why not Heath? My heart goes out to Heath for this remarkable contribution and my fingers are crossed when Academy Award nomination time comes… Oh c’mon Mr. Oscar, if you have any decency in you, just do this for Heath…

Verdict: 10 / 10 ... Heck, make it 20 /10 ... No no, wait it's 200 / 10 'coz this movie is off the freakin' charts!!!

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

EPILOGUE: (Belated) Birthday Surprise @ Home !!!

Just wanna mention abit more about THAT birthday surprise weekend. As you may already have known in my previous blog postings, I was ambushed and bombed by almost 100 water balloons in my own damn home. Not only that, I was rained with cold water and smeared with yucky slices of cakes. But I’m not pissed, I’m not angry….no way. It was all for fun right? Right….*cough* Anyway, there was a birthday cake for me and all so it was definitely fun and thoroughly memorable. Again, thanks guys.

But that’s not all that had happened during my time back in KL from 21st June to 22nd June. The very next day, V (yes, V) and Prasad took me and SL out to have some ‘celebrations’ of sorts as well. V and Prasad had been asking for a lunchie or dinner for ages every time I got back to KL. This time around I could not disappoint them again ‘cause I think it’s the 4th time they are asking me out (a curse from my popularity? Hahaha, joking joking).

Anyway, we whisked away in Prasad’s Vios and he took us for something that was SO unforgettably yummy and ‘shiok’. It was bowls after bowls of ‘chili pan-mee’. Yes, some of you might have already heard it or tasted it, but I haven’t. The ‘pan-mee’ is kinda ordinary and is served dry with an egg on the side (served with the mee, so you gotta mash it all up abit). But the magic ingredient was the delicious concoction of dry chili paste (chili flakes, chili padi, chili whatever that you can think of) and you will have to scoop this onto your ‘pan mee’ and do your best twister impression to mix it all up. The amount of chilies is entirely up to you, but the more of it is deliciously much better. But be warned, the crowd can get huge at times and so the wait is kinda long. Also, be sure to wear something comfy and cool, ‘cause the combination of huge crowds and bowls after bowls of ‘chili pan mee’ can get you all sweat up pretty darn good. This beats the gym any day in my opinion hahaha. Not sure exactly how much for one bowl as Prasad belanja all of us (and also for my treat as the birthday boy haha) but I think I saw a sign that said ‘RM4.50 per bowl’ somewhere. But it’s around that price la I guess. In the meantime, feast your eyes on the photos before you eventually go there to try it all out:

The noodles before the storm. Looks plain now but....

....after you add these magical chili paste into the mix.... get this flaming bowl of spiced-up pan mee that will guarantee to make you sweat for more.

Wanna know where it is? Here’s the address:

Restoran Kin Kin,
Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman,
Kuala Lumpur.

Plain and simple address. But kinda confusing to find hehe....Good luck!!!

Anyway, after the flaming bowls of ‘chili pan mee’ (I had 2 bowls. And that was 10am in the morning) we headed off to a drink to cool off. This time we went for something slightly higher class instead, and headed off to Damansara Uptown’s 'Starbucks' to try out their new (and seasonal, which means the drink will be no more after the season is over!!) ‘Dark Mocha Frap’. Obviously if you love all things chocolate and chips, you are gonna love this. Cooling and not too overly-thick with chocolate, I think it’s a nice addition to the family of frap drinks at Starbucks. No photos taken unfortunately, but I'm sure you all know how it looks like. Standard cup and green straw lah of course ;)

And with that drink, we headed back to my home and I went straight to the airport. Arrived back in Labuan at the same evening, I thoroughly had a wonderful time and it was another memorable weekend back in KL....

Review: Hellboy 2 - The Golden Army

The director is absolutely amazing. Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most imaginative and creative individuals around and he is a prime model of how a filmmaker should be. He is one that remembers his dreams or nightmares, be it at childhood or adulthood, and transfers them into his movies with creative relish. Every wonderment, horror, curiosity or pleasure is ripped from his subconscious and are revealed in celluloid form for all to savor. His past films such as ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ as director and ‘ El Orfanato’ or ‘The Orphanage’ as producer, both in Spanish, are prime examples of his artistic and inspired palette. Both great films that intertwines fantasy with reality aided by a touch of horror, these films are modern classics that I guarantee will not disappoint even the most stringent of viewers, that is if such flavor is ideal for your cinematic tastes. Even though Hellboy is not a brainchild of Del Toro (Mike Mignola will be given credit to that distinction), Del Toro manages to inject fantastic visual and artistic stimulus coupled with great humor that raised the world of Hellboy to a degree of wonderment not seen or felt in any medium before.

Visually throughout the film, Del Toro paints an unbelievably beautiful canvas of fairy tale creations that exists no where else but only in the mind of Del Toro. Hundreds of creatures, characters and settings fill the screen from inch to inch with wonderful creativity, and at moments when I was in the cinema I wished that I had a remote control to pause scene by beautiful scene and gasp in awe of these amazing creations. My most memorable and favorite creation in the film was this creature that had a cathedral for a head. That’s right. Who would have though of it? Another aspect that forged my respect towards him was his many uses of animatronics, and it shows in the film. I am hardly a great fan of CGI (seeing CGI characters fighting each other just turns me off), the usage of a new form of animatronics called ‘Spectral Motion’ was surprisingly good as it not only gave the characters fluidity but also a greater sense of personality with an added dimension of realism.

There was so much to admire. ‘The Golden Army’ for example was a jaw-dropping sight to behold, and being given the distinction of appearing in the title of the film, they did not disappoint. The Troll Market. What a memorable experience what had me holding my every inch of eye muscle to not blink and miss a second of what unfolded before my eyes. A parade of grotesque and unique characters littered the screen, and at this sequence of celluloid magic we, the audience, finally get to actually glimpse into the wonderful and yet perturbed mind of Del Toro. This sequence may yet be his single most creative masterpiece as he lets the film and story move on as per usual, however at every corner and backdrop of this sequence we can spot an assembly of creatures that is simply screaming for your attention. Del Toro created this sequence with absolute brilliance and skill.

But I guess now I should talk about the story. The usual suspects return to entertain us with their dark humor and atypical antics such as Ron Pearlman as Hellboy, Selma Blair as his love interest, and most interestingly Dough Jones as Abe Sapien. But this time around, Abe Sapien is much more evident and plays a more critical role in this sequel. He even gets to kick ass once in awhile, which was refreshing. Not only Dough Jones did a wonderful job in providing the body language and motions so distinctive for Abe Sapien, but he also voices Abe to perfection that gave us an interpretation of a character so wonderful and distinctive not seen since Andy Serkis portrayed Gollum in ‘The Lord of The Rings’. His character development is thorough and apparent, and to see him bonding with Hellboy is a joy. My favorite moment? Abe, Hellboy with Barry Manilow and many cans of beer. Watch it to believe it.

Oh, and the introduction of Dr. Johann Strauss to the character mix has a fresh and enjoyable kick too. If you are a fan of the Marvel comic book universe, you will notice a resemblance to the Mysterio character that gave Spider-Man a few good lessons in villainy. A harbinger of things to come? I am not sure but my finders are sure crossed with much anticipation and enthusiasm. Anyway, the good Doctor Johann Strauss is voiced by Seth McFarlane from “The Family Guy” fame, and is voiced deliciously with a staunchy german accent. This somewhat mysterious character that is noted for this efficiency is a fantastic addition to the ‘Paranormal Research and Defense’ team and I am definitely looking forward to seeing more from him in upcoming sequels (if there are any).

There is so much more to mention and yet, I will not, as all of it will be just words to many if it is not been admired or seen in the cinema hall. But one thing is definitely clear. There is no doubt in my mind that Guillermo Del Toro is one of the world’s few visionary directors in existence at the moment. His past works were marvels of fantasy brilliance, and from such successes we now have more greatness to look forward to as Del Toro is assigned to handle ‘The Hobbit’ films in the near future (as Peter Jackson did not involve himself due to personal clashes with the distributor). To be given such a wonderful task is a testament to his genius and talent as a creative filmmaker, and we, the audience of modern cinema should captivate every vision and every work from him with optimum fascination as only so few creators exists to amaze us to such a fantastic degree. May the mind of a strange and yet wonderful creator like Guillermo Del Toro live on for ages to come.

A wonderful film not for its big-bang action set pieces or for its grandeur such as ‘The Lord of The Rings’ as admittedly the action in ‘Hellboy 2’ is nothing new, but still it is a film to be admired for its ingenuity and also as a celebration for a film of wonderful creativity. In my opinion, this is the best film of the year so far (although with the impending arrival of ‘The Dark Knight’, things COULD change), but whichever turns out to be the better, ‘Hellboy 2’ is a film that is definitely not to be missed.

Verdict: 8 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

Review: Hancock

Even before 'Hancock' went into production (with a earlier title of 'Tonight He Comes'), news of its fresh and innovation script that takes on a much more alternative perspective at a superhero attracted much innovative praise. Never once Hollywood had done a film on a hero that “don’t give a f**k” about who he is or what he is supposed to do. He is simply him and just wants to get on with his life as he sees fit. Although this kind of angle has been done to death in the comics world, but in Hollywood is still deemed fresh. As such, the script attracted a major movie studio to finance it with mega-big-bucks, attracted a major star to play the main character, and attracted a much-acclaimed director to wave his celluloid wand to bring us superhero magic. How can anything possibly go wrong? Well, in one simple word, everything.

The film starts off pretty well with a premise of some great possibilities, i.e. redemption from his never-care-less attitude towards everything and everyone around him, his lack of responsibility towards his superhero abilities and his habit of alcoholism that are centered in a true-to-life setting of Los Angeles provides a solid basis for an interesting story arc. But half way through the movie, the strong concept collapses onto its on weight and runs aground into a quagmire of disorder that altered a promising film into a medium that is attuned to the needs of Will Smith’s star commercialism. In other words, it went all too Hollywoody.

A commercial film it may turn out to be, and yet, at certain moments in the film the tone turns dark with constant swearing and at-times vicious fight sequences that left me in a state of perplexity. At certain moments, it is violent in its action sequences (especially in the hospital) and yet juvenile in its jokes (and yet not particularly funny) with ‘colorful’ language that do not do go well to children’s ears. It is a juxtaposition that left me in a state of total confusion and I took on an uneasy feeling throughout the film. I’m not sure which demographic the director, Peter Berg (The Kingdom, The Rundown, Friday Night Lights) is aiming for but in my opinion he should just stick to one direction and focus on it. If he wants it to be sinister toned, then by all means be consistent with the violence. If this film is for the kids, then the ending with the fight sequence in a hospital should not have been there as I think its way too brutal for the eyes of children. I think Peter Berg was way to ambitious with this project by wanting to please way too many types of people, and in the end all he had achieved is diluting this promising premise into a concoction of celluloid mess.

The story itself is saturated with lame sentimentality and is tied down by a backstory that gets all the more tiresome as the film progresses. The film tried to be too elaborate with themes of lost love and cheating fate until at times it contradicts itself and leaves the audience all the more confused. The attempt to add depth to the Hancock character turned out to the biggest mistake of the film until it all becomes useless pieces of fillers to plug the gaps between one grand fight sequences to the next and to carry us limping towards its finale.

In the end, ‘Hancock’ is a cumbersome mess that elates only the most loyal of Will Smith fan or is a gargantuan supporter of CGI-induced films. The shaky-cam effect that was so effective to the 'Bourne' series were also very nauseous-ly executed which didn't help the film at all in any redeeming way. The promising story of a superhero with a redemption theme mixed with scathing black comedy were thrown out the window and became a film that got pulled into way too many directions that satisfied no one. Too dark for kids, too tame for teens and too dumb for adults, it’s all a complete mess. This is one Will Smith movie that I regrettably watched with total dissatisfaction. But if this film still does well at the box-office, I guess it’s a testament to the star-power of Will Smith. If he can sell this mess, he can definitely sell anything.

Verdict: 5 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

PROLOGUE: (Belated) Birthday Surprise @ Home!!!


Just wanna share with everyone just how those people planned my birthday surprise attack at my home that resulted in me being bombarded with water balloons, smelly cakes and cold water. It all started with a sneeky thread in Facebook...Cheeky blardy devils all of you!!! (*Thanks to Maj's blog for the transcript).

( Initiator of discussion wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons [probably Maj] ): want to start planning for his “welcome back party”? his actual birthday is on 9th june. any idea when he’ll be back? he’ll definitely suspect an ambush, so i suggest we switch tactics. like get SL to invite him for a romantic dinner and we’ll turn it into a nightmare. i’m thinking water balloons. and tissue paper. lots of tissue paper. what do you think?

uncle: first of all, lemme check with SL first when he’s coming back. i knew he’s coming home but for 2 days only…guess on sat-sun somethin like that, unless he changed plan.

nei: well water is way much more better than whipped cream!! I don’t wanna have another stinky head just in case i kena backfire again -_-

VJ: once bitten twice shy eh!!good good, you learnt your lesson.

nei: spit spit spitttttttt at kanasai vj!! of all place u wanna corner theva to!!

VJ: oii chill lah!! not confirm yet…i was just saying….ok my bad, wrongly constructed the sentence….it was suppose to be, ” Is the surprise party going to be on Monday? Just wondering so that we dont end up doing after he has come and gone.” Now, isnt that better!!

uncle: got the latest news, he wont be back tis weekend….he will be back only on 20th & probably back to Labuan on 22nd or 23rd…so, how?

nei: LOL cepat confirm plan!! i need to check on my “BUSY” schedule and YES I am quite the busy nowadays tho still considered as bumming.

emma: ehhh im so out of touch, so long never log in, anything MSG me k??

nei: emma u sukkkkkkkkkkk

uncle: from what i knew is he’s definitely goin to spend the whole sat wif his gf. maybe sun nite is just nice with little help from his gal…wat’s ya thinkin?? but he being a mobile person, u wont be expecting him to be at home for most of the time for these 3 days…..think of that bloody theva’s event.. so…how bout at his home? or any bigger plan or idea?

nei: btw SIVA’s birthday is coming up TOO. Why not double combo!

VJ: hey if siva’s b’day also around the same time as raymond, then what we can do is con the both of them into believing that the victims is the other but in real fact, its the both of them!!Then both will kena super power combo X10!!

maj: geniuses. siva’s facebook is receiving this discussion tread la. refer to recepient list above.
uncle:hahahaha…great geniuses.!!!!

nei: that’s why i mentioned raymond the ONLY victim huhu!

maj: nei tries the cover line…

VJ: ARRGHHHH CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Didnt see la…….ok cancel plan. Time i keep my mouth shut
discussion continues in a second thread. minus siva. adds SL.

paul: Personally,I think just grab raymond + dunk him with ladies underwear. Post the pictures. haha..j.kidding.

uncle: (the original water plan) sounds perfect….although I doubted Siva can be sooo naive to believe us..he’s a lawyer anyway, blame vijay & nei for putting us in tis siutation. well, i can ask ray’s mum on tis matter & i’m pretty sure & would love to be part of tis..

nei: wahhh it was VJ!!!!!!! at least i cover line nice nice after i mentioned bout siva LOL. i bet ray’s mom will be happy to play a part since she and her hubby SABO you the other time in pangkor uncle LOL. They are definitely sporting enuff.

maj: getting to raymond will be the easy part. any idea how to get siva? we need to know if he is free on saturday night dulu. it would be so james bond to have both of them tied up on chairs with their backs against each other, kan? kalau ada police ronda masa tu, we all will surely kena angkut masuk balai. i’m assuming the twins don’t check facebook very often.

paul: someone will need to be my driver ..ehehhe… my driving license expired la..
emma texts everyone raving about watching a movie together.

uncle: since emma is suggesting of a movie tis sat…can we do like ” all in one”?? surprise first, then movie & then maybe dinner or wateva??

emma: yes yes KUNGFU PANDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

paul: it is a weekend after all. go out later,stay up late ler..unless u guys gone old and wussy ehehehe.

VJ: yes paul, if u have not realised, WE ARE OLD!!!!!old enough to get married (AHEM!!!)

paul: gonna be a bit of a problem VJ. I need to find myself a chick first. any introductions?

emma: eh hello, this is a thread on saturday’s plan, NOT your personal dating agency OK. if you want, paul, I could post something up for you in the personal ads.. but then you’d get a lot of calls from transvestites and paedophiles.. so better put it up yrself. its the only way.


paul: Vijay implicates marriage. I imply ‘kebujangan’…ehehhe
there were two meet ups to sort out details. participants of the meet up will remain anonymous. discussion continues in a third thread. subject: THE PLAN.

maj: so nei to start making water balloons at 9am. target: 16 people x 5 balloons each = 80 balloons (SOS: anyone has extra plastic buckets, please pinjam nei!). ETA everyone to arrive at ss14 padang at 7pm (VJ to join in. total number of persons: 11 persons minimum). everyone to get raymond to centre of padang. SL to remove raymond’s wallet + handphone.

nei: wake up 9 am make water balloons!! siao!!! And seriously la I NEED BUCKETS to store the balloons. Raymond’s parents won’t be joining us but uncle got the house key frm ray’s mom so we’ll be invading his house instead. So there will be few changes to the original plan! New location to bomb raymond (+siva) with water balloons = outside raymond’s house.

emma: shit, u guys are Oceans 11 or what?

paul: just tell me when to throw the balloon la

uncle: ok ok..this is the latest update… Ray’s goin to watch movie at noon tomorrow & will join us with SL. Nei, Maj & Thiru will have the time to go to Ray’s house to prepare the stuffs. I’ve passed the keys to Nei. Once kungfu panda movie is done, each of us will “suddenly” have other plans to do & need to go somewhere & will leave only SL & Ray. She will find ways to get him to go back home first. everyone shall be in his house before he arrives, pls call if u think ur not making it on time…

paul: Most my cash is in Hong Kong Dollars!

End of planning discussion. As Maj said, you know what happened after that (if you don't, read next post!!!) Photos are all over this blog, Maj's blog, Facebook, Friendster and videos are posted on Youtube!!!

From the Corner - A Musical Companion

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