Author: Derrick

Into The Night

kinopoisk.ru

1985

Universal Pictures

Directed by John Landis

Produced by George Folsey, Jr and Ron Koslow

Written by Ron Koslow

INTO THE NIGHT is one of those movies that when I describe the plot and name the actors in this movie even my highly knowledgeable friends who know their movies tell me I must be making it up, gotten two or three different movies mixed up together while whacked out on caffeine and Benzedrine or plain out don’t know what I’m talking about. I can’t blame them because it seems as if INTO THE NIGHT is truly one of those 1980’s movies that have been forgotten. Considering the cast and the director, I’m really surprised it’s not become one of those cult movies that stays alive through word of mouth. I remember seeing it during its original theatrical run and just recently saw it again for the first time since ’85. It’s a light movie, running on the slimmest of plots, quirkiness and the likeability of its two leads. There’s also a truly extensive cast made up of some really unusual actors you wouldn’t expect to find in this kind of movie and cameos by nearly two dozen popular directors and screenwriters of the 80’s

Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum) is a man deeply depressed with his boring life, his dull job and his sour marriage. So depressed that he can’t sleep. He tells his best friend Herb (Dan Aykroyd) that his last good night’s sleep was in 1980. Herb tells Ed that he needs some excitement in his life. He advises Ed to catch a red-eye to Las Vegas, gamble, get drunk and get laid. When Ed catches his wife having sex is their own bedroom, he decides to act upon that suggestion.

At the airport Ed stumbles upon a hideously brutal murder committed by four Iranians (one of them played by John Landis) and helps the beautiful jewel smuggler Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) get away. Diana and her now dead partner have smuggled six priceless emeralds from Iran into the United States and now an eccentric assortment of extremely dangerous individuals are after her. Diana begs Ed to help her get to one of her high-powered friends who can get her out of this situation. It’s a situation that Ed really wants no part of but how can you say no to Michelle Pfeiffer?

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The emerald plot is just a MacGuffin to introduce Ed to a nighttime world he had no idea even existed up until now. During the course of his two night long adventure he runs into a variety of oddball characters such as Diana’s brother Charlie (Bruce McGill) an Elvis impersonator, a charming hit man (David Bowie) and a French criminal mastermind (Roger Vadim)

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And then there are the cameos: David Cronenberg, Jim Henson, Jack Arnold, Paul Bartel, Johnathan Demme, Richard Franklin, Colin Higgins, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Amy Heckerling. And that’s not even half of ‘em. You could watch the movie just for a drinking game where every time you see a director in a cameo, take a shot. Trust me, you’ll be stretched out on the floor before the movie’s half done.

Fortunately the cameos don’t get in the way of the cast that has to do the heavy lifting; Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas and Vera Miles. Most of the movie is actually on Goldblum and Pfeiffer as with such a large cast, characters come and go pretty quickly but they have a nice chemistry together. And Michelle is most definitely easy on the eye. And Jeff Goldblum had the trademark on this type of role back in the 80’s: a slightly eccentric everyman who seems to be always two steps behind everybody else but once he knows the score, rises up to meet the challenge and ends up three steps ahead by the time we get to the end credits

If there’s any problem I have with INTO THE NIGHT is that director Landis tries to have it both ways: he sets out to make an eccentric, quirky comedy thriller with occasional shots of slapstick but he insists on having scenes of pretty brutal violence. There’s one really jarring scene where it takes four men to drown one woman that I really hope Landis wasn’t playing for laughs as there was nothing funny about it. And the shoot-out at the airport near the end of the movie is a bloodbath Sam Peckinpah would be proud of. But I have no problem at all with B.B. King singing a couple of great songs on the soundtrack, including a kickass cover of “In The Midnight Hour” and the theme song “Into The Night.”

So should you see INTO THE NIGHT? Sure you should. It’s an undemanding, entertaining little movie that goes down real easy. You don’t have to burn up brain cells trying to figure out the plot or delve into the motivations of the characters. Just sit back, watch and have fun with it. It would make a good Saturday night double feature with Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” a movie it shares the same sensibility with. Enjoy.

115 minutes

Rated R

The Brave One

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2007

Warner Bros.

Directed by Neil Jordan

Produced by Susan Downey and Joel Silver

Written by Roderick Taylor, Bruce A. Taylor and Cynthia Mort

Maybe because she’s been around for so long we tend to take Jodie Foster for granted and forget just how terrific an actress she is.  I remember first seeing her in the psychological thriller “The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane” way the hell back in 1975.  And in recent years I’ve tremendously enjoyed her in “Maverick” “Contact” “Anna And The King” “Flightplan” “Inside Man” and of course, “The Silence of The Lambs”.  She’s one of the few child actresses who successfully made the transition to adult stardom.  She enjoys great critical and financial acclaim and it’s sort of amusing to me when I read professional critic reviews of movies she’s done such as “Flightplan” “Panic Room” and “Silence Of The Lambs” all of which are actually Grade B potboilers in art house movie drag as is THE BRAVE ONE.

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) has a life that appears to be perfect.  She’s the host of a highly popular radio talk show and she’s engaged to be married to a drop-dead handsome doctor (Naveen Andrews).  That life comes to a tragic and brutal end one night.  While walking their dog, Erica and her boyfriend are attacked in Central Park.

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Erica is beaten so badly that she’s in a coma for three weeks while her boyfriend dies on the operating table.   Erica recovers and tries to put her life back together.  But she knows she’s not the same person she was before that night.  In a very real sense she died as well and she struggles to deal with her traumatized emotions and find a way to re-integrate her shattered psyche.

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Erica grows increasingly frustrated with the lack of police progress in finding her boyfriend’s killers and tries to buy a gun.  Driven into a fit of anger because she refuses to wait the required 30 days, she purchases one illegally and goes out at night, deliberately setting herself up as a victim and before you can say ‘Charles Bronson’ New York’s crime rate drops sharply as there’s dead bodies of would be rapists, stick-up guys and muggers littering the streets.

Complicating the situation even more is Erica’s relationship with Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) who is assigned to investigate the vigilante slayings.  At first, Erica manipulates Mercer because he’s a fan of her show and she plays upon that to get close to him and find out how far along he is in his investigation.  But as they grow closer and more trusting, Erica discovers a true respect and even admiration for both the cop and the man.  At the same time, small things Mercer notices start to add up and he starts to have a horrible suspicion that his newfound friend may be the vigilante killer.  But Erica can’t stop her nightly activities, especially when due to a really bizarre twist, she discovers the identity of one of the men who killed her boyfriend and if she can find one then she can damn well can find the others…

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When I saw trailers for this movie I was convinced this was a remake of the classic 1974 “Death Wish” starring Charles Bronson and directed by Michael Winner.  It’s a film that after all this time probably still is the definitive thriller advocating vigilantism as a legitimate response to the problem of urban crime.  And after seeing THE BRAVE ONE I really think there’s enough similarity to the earlier film that it can legitimately be considered a semi-remake.  But it’s the way that the movie is acted and filmed that elevates it.  I mean, after “Death Wish” there were plenty of movies produced back in the 70’s and 80’s with the same revenge plot but those were filmed with a lot less pretension than THE BRAVE ONE is.  It’s a movie that works hard at trying to be a serious, mature study of a how a woman deals with a life-shattering trauma.  The direction is measured and even because the movie is determined to be taken seriously.  As a result the tension is dialed way down until the last fifteen minutes.  In fact, if the rest of THE BRAVE ONE had been as exciting and as suspenseful as the last fifteen minutes we’d have really had something here.  As if is, we end up with a movie that tries to be both a character study and a urban thriller and really doesn’t know which one it wants to be.  The material of THE BRAVE ONE is solid pulp/grindhouse exploitation but the director and the actors play it as if they’re all going for next year’s Oscar.

Now, that’s necessarily isn’t a bad thing.  Hey, it worked for “Silence Of The Lambs” which has similar B-movie elements that was elevated by the talent of the director, actors and crew to winning five Academy Awards (and I firmly believe that Jonathan Demme included Roger Corman in the movie as a sly nod to the exploitation roots of that movie) but I don’t think that THE BRAVE ONE is going to pull the same trick.  It takes itself way too seriously and spends way too much time trying to be deep and meaningful when what it needed was more thriller elements and more cat-and-mouse between Erica and Mercer.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable.  It’s worth going to see just for the performances of Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard, both of who are stunningly good.  One of my favorite underrated actors, Nicky Katt is here as Howard’s wisecracking sidekick who brings some much needed humor to the movie.  Mary Steenburgen plays Erica’s boss and she does her usual solid supporting role.

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So should you see THE BRAVE ONE?  Sure.  Especially if you’re a fan of Jodie Foster and/or Terrence Howard.  It’s a well made psychological revenge thriller and on that level it’s worth your time. Enjoy.

Rated R

119 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solomon Northup’s Odyssey

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SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY

1984

The Freemantle Corporation/Past America, Inc.

Directed by Gordon Parks

Produced by Yanna Kroyt Brandt

Written by Lou Potter and Samm-Art Williams

Based on “Twelve Years A Slave” by Solomon Northup

Talk about stumbling over a treasure. Here’s a movie I had no idea even existed, much less expected to be able to watch. First let me explain how I found it: I usually watch Netflix on the Vizio Blu-Ray player in the basement and my wife has the Roku box upstairs if she wants to watch something on Netflix and not disturb me while I’m writing. Today I borrowed the Roku box as it has movie channels on there where I can usually find movies that I need for research for my Better In The Dark podcast.

So I’m going through the various movie channels and search through Popcornflix and I’m gobsmacked to come across SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY, a film aired on PBS’s American Playhouse anthology television series back in 1984. It was later released on video under the title “Half Slave, Half Free” but the source material is the same as the movie “12 Years A Slave” released earlier this year to great critical acclaim.

It’s Avery Brooks playing Solomon Northup in this version. We see how he’s offered a job playing violin in Washington, DC by two supposedly respectable white men who are prominent in the entertainment field. Solomon is drugged and wakes up in chains. He’s been sold into slavery, an inconceivable notion for him as he was born a free man and is a well-known, well liked prominent member of his community in Saratoga New York. He’s a homeowner, a husband and father of two. None of which makes a lick of difference now. His first taste of his new life is to be beaten to a crisp by his new master who wields a huge wooden paddle so viciously that he breaks it over Solomon’s back.

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Renamed ‘Platt’ Solomon is hijacked to New Orleans and sold to Mr. Ford (Mason Adams) who isn’t all that bad a master, all things considered. He’s a lot better than the sadistic Epps (John Saxon) who sees right away that Solomon is a lot smarter than the other slaves and he doesn’t like it one little bit. Luckily Solomon has the wisdom of Noah (Joe Seneca) an older slave to educate him in how to live his new life.

There’s some significant differences between this version and “12 Years A Slave.” Of course, this being a made for television production the language and violence are dialed way, way way down. You won’t hear ‘nigger’ being tossed off every thirty seconds and in fact, I do believe it’s only used once. There’s a scene before he’s kidnapped where Solomon and his wife Anne (Petronia Paley) argue over money which gives some added motivation as to why Solomon takes the job. Except for that first beating we don’t see any real physical violence being inflicted on the slaves. And the really bizarre relationship between Epps and his wife that was displayed in “12 Years A Slave” is non-existent here. What really sets SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY apart from that later movie is that SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY occasionally goes back up north to see how Solomon’s wife Anne is dealing with the sudden disappearance of her husband. We see her get a letter that Solomon has managed to smuggle north and her efforts to get him freed, pleading with their white friends to get involved and use their influence.

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The acting in this movie is more than capable of telling such a powerful story. Avery Brooks and Joe Seneca are nothing less than wonderful in their scenes together and John Saxon also steps up to the plate and displays far more range here than I’ve ever seen him in anything else he’s done. Avery Brooks is excellent at playing a man placed in the most degrading and dehumanizing of situations imaginable and still holding on with both hands to his dignity and self-worth.

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And I’ve convinced that Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years A Slave” must have seen this movie. There are whole sequences in his movie that he lifted from SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY shot-for-shot or I’m a string on Solomon’s fiddle. But that’s okay. If you’re gonna swipe, swipe from the best and Gordon Parks is most certainly one of the best.

So should you see SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY? If you’ve seen “12 Years A Slave” I definitely say Yes. It’s a fascinating story and it’s even more fascinating that this earlier version was made  back in the 1980’s and apparently forgotten, even with all the publicity “12 Years A Slave” has gotten. I’m hoping that when “12 Years A Slave” is eventually released on Blu-Ray, SOLOMON NORTHUP’S ODYSSEY is included. If you’ve got a Roku box, it’s on Popcornflix. It’s also available on Amazon Instant Video.  You can see it for free on Popcornflix.com and I’ve provided a handy link below. Enjoy.

Not Rated

116 Minutes

http://www.popcornflix.com/Solomon-Northup/0a200b02-24e5-4cc1-8a45-1a7d8cc42d75

Thor: The Dark World

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2013

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Alan Taylor

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat

Based on “Thor” created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

“Malekith” and “Algrim/Kurse” created by Walt Simonson

Out of all the Marvel superheroes who have starred in movies I think it’s safe to say that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has the largest and most diverse supporting cast. On Asgard there’s his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) The Warriors Three: Voluminous Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) Fandral The Dashing (Zachary Levi) and Hogun The Grim (Tadanobu Asano) the warrior maid Sif (Jaimie Alexander) The all-seeing guardian of The Bifrost and The Rainbow Bridge, Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Thor’s adoptive brother, the ever scheming, always manipulative trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Then on Earth we’ve got the love of Thor’s life and brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) who in this adventure has an intern of her own, Ian (Jonathan Howard)

That’s a lot of characters for one movie and we haven’t even gotten to the bad guys yet: Malekith, king of The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim (Christopher Eccleston) and his right hand elf Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is transformed into Kurse, a terrifying creature of immense power capable of going toe-to-toe with Thor. But you know what? The screenplay is very well put together so that each and every one of these characters has something to do and each has their own part to advance the story. Even when a character is off screen for an extended period of time, there’s a logical explanation for where they are and what they’re doing and why we’re not seeing them. Each and every one of them also gets their own scene where they get a chance to shine. It’s a credit to the skill and generosity of the director, Alan Taylor that he manages that with slowing down the plot or making THOR: THE DARK WORLD feel cramped with unnecessary scenes.

After the events of “The Avengers” Thor, The Warriors Three and Sif have been busy restoring peace and order to The Nine Realms. Loki is being held in the dungeons below Odin’s throne room. Odin is well pleased that his once arrogant and knuckle-headed son has grown up and is seriously contemplating turning over the throne of Asgard to him.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane Foster is in London pissed off because Thor hasn’t come back to Earth for her as he said he would. She’s been neglecting her research but Darcy Lewis pulls her back in by taking Jane to an abandoned warehouse where objects are appearing and disappearing into invisible pocket wormholes. Jane finds out where these objects go and that leads her to being infected by The Aether, a weapon of hideous power capable of destroying the universe. Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim and his army of Dark Elves are awakened by The Aether’s release and go in search of it, the intention being to…well, destroy the universe, what else?

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But by now, Heimdall has alerted Thor that there’s something wrong with Jane and so Thor brings her to Asgard to try and remove The Aether from her and that brings Malekith and his Dark Elves to attack Asgard itself and from then on its hammer time.

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For those of you who complained that there wasn’t enough of Asgard in “Thor” this movie is for you. Most of the action takes place there with occasional side trips to Earth to check up on how the mortals are doing as they gradually come to realize that the Nine Realms are aligning themselves in a rare Convergence that will link the realms. Keep your eyes on Kat Dennings during the Earth scenes as she provides most of the humor and does it with flair and a wicked delivery that strikes exactly the right tone for the situation her character is in.

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Chris Hemsworth gives us a Thor in this one who has learned how to care for others and put their needs ahead of his own and so he’s a much more heroic character here than he was in the first movie. Anthony Hopkins is his usual magnificent self as All-Father Odin while Rene Russo has a kickass fight scene that makes me wish Mrs. Odin had way more screen time.

But it’s Tom Hiddleston who walks off with the acting honors in this one, of course. The relationship between Odin, Thor and Loki is a complicated one and the three actors get the most mileage out of it, giving it a near Shakespearean level of emotion. Hiddleston and Hemsworth especially shine during their scenes together when Thor and Loki have to team up to take on Malekith and they not only make quite the formidable team in battle but they honestly confront their feelings about each other and their relationship to their father.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD is visually quite magnificent and if you know your Kirby and your Simonson you’ll be able to see their influences on Asgardian architecture, clothing, armor and weaponry. I liked the story a lot as it expanded and enriched Thor’s universe and as I said earlier, didn’t leave any of these characters out of the adventure. Even Mjolnir gets a nice bit of characterization as we see just how seriously the enchanted hammer takes its command that it must always return to Thor’s hand. There’s a lot of really great fight scenes and some tragedy that is truly gut wrenching but there’s also just enough humor so that we know to take it all seriously but not too serious that we can’t relax and have fun. I’d love to sit down Zack Snyder and his “Man of Steel” screenwriters to watch THOR: THE DARK WORLD because this is the way to make a superhero movie. Stop reading this review and go see THOR: THE DARK WORLD right now.

PG-13

112 minutes

Last Vegas

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2013

Good Universe/CBS Films

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Produced by Laurence Mark and Nathan Kahane

Written by Dan Fogelman

If you saw the trailer for LAST VEGAS you probably thought like me: that it would be a raunchy, senior citizen version of “The Hangover.” I imagined that Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline got together after seeing the “Hangover” movies and said; “Let’s show these guys how it’s really done.” And you’d be forgiven for thinking that way because that’s precisely how the trailers sold the movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. LAST VEGAS is two things: a Lifetime movie made for men and a 105 minute commercial for Las Vegas.

Michael Douglas is Billy who decides at a funeral for a friend that he wants to get married and proposes to his girlfriend. He contacts his three best friends: Paddy (Robert DeNiro) Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) who decide to throw him the best bachelor party ever in Las Vegas. They also think they can talk him out of marrying a girl young enough enough to be his granddaughter.

The situation is complicated by a couple of things: Paddy is still mourning for his wife who passed away a year ago. And he’s still pissed off at Billy for not coming to her funeral. Archie has to break out of his own house as his overprotective son won’t let him do anything since Archie had a minor stroke. Sam is bored to death living in a retirement community and sees the trip to Vegas as a way of getting back his zest for life.

This aging wolfpack heads to Las Vegas where they quickly become friends with lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) and she joins the guys on their last big adventure while becoming attracted to both Billy and Paddy and the two of them find themselves really becoming attracted to her.

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Trust me on this, I’m making LAST VEGAS sound a lot more than it really is. Considering the star power in this movie I expected a really outrageous comedy but what we get is a predictable, flat product. I’ve watched episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” that were raunchier than this movie. Which is really disappointing. I’ve seen these guys cut loose and get crazy in other movies and I was hoping to see that here. Nope. This is a movie made for senior citizens who don’t like to see violence, sex, drug use or a lotta cussin’ in their movies. It’s as bland as white bread with butter. And not that that’s a bad thing. I’m glad to see that Hollywood is acknowledging that there’s an audience out there who isn’t interested in seeing superhero movies, CGI blockbusters and hyper-violent action thrillers and are making movies for them so that they can get out and enjoy an afternoon or evening at the movies like everybody else. It’s a good thing.

To give them credit, Kevin Kline, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Mary Steenburgen all look like they’re having fun working together. I only wish that Joanna Gleason had more to do here as she’s a very talented actress and what she has here is little more than an extended cameo as Kevin Kline’s wife.

The guys spend the movie flirting with young cuties, showing the kids how to get down and party, drinking, playing blackjack, teaching life lessons to a bully (Jerry Ferrara) judging a wet bikini contest and just hanging out in Vegas, making it look like a really hip and fun place to be. Like I said earlier, it’s a commercial for Las Vegas and on that level, it’s a pretty good one.

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Of course by the end of the movie, the guys have all resolved their personal problems, Paddy and Billy have kissed and made up and Diana ends up with one of them. There’s not a single surprise in the movie and it’s so structured by the numbers that you can safely predict what is going to happen and when. That’s not to say it isn’t amusing or cute. It is fun seeing DeNiro, Freeman, Douglas and Kline working together and they do their jobs. They’re just not stretching themselves. They’re basically doing riffs on their patented screen personas and they do it well.

No need to draw this out. Wait for LAST VEGAS to come to Netflix. Or if you really have to see it, then catch a matinee.

105 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Chev Chelios Vs. Machete

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Grind House

Better In The Dark #154: The Sunshine Evictors Who Own Lisa And The Baby Homebodies (With Special Guest Des Reddick!)

Better In The Dark Episode # 154: THE SUNSHINE EVICTORS WHO OWN LISA AND THE BABY HOMEBODIES (With Special Guest Des Reddick!)
Once more The Boys Outta Brooklyn unite with their Brother From The North for a special 70’s themed Obscure Horror Movies Episode!  Join us as we discuss films about murderous old people, blind marauders, lollipop-sucking devils and adult babies.  Plus gratuitous Don Cheadle Ass, the question of who killed who in Electra Glide In Blue and the new reality series Satanic Orgy House! You know you don’t want Zalman King pulling on your wig, so get to clicking (and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @BITDShow)!
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