“Blade Runner 2049” #review

The year is 1982 and “Blade Runner” (a science fiction film) arrives in theaters that for the next 35 years will be considered one of the best science fiction films of all time. The year is now 2017 and the follow up film arrives in theaters and some, not all, had the highest of expectations. So, does “Blade Runner 2049” deliver on the quality of its predecessor or is this a replicant that needs to be put down? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.

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I was not one of the people who had a special place in their hearts reserved for this film. I didn’t see the first film until this year when I purchased “Blade Runner” on BLU-Ray at my local used book store. That story celebrates everything that was the 1980’s and science fiction. Seeing it for the first time in 2017 I couldn’t help but see the movie as a period piece stuck forever in 1982. The story by itself is well written and constructed however the movie as a whole is 1982 at its very most 1982’ish. So walking into the theater to see this sequel I didn’t have the same expectation as many who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of this story.

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The movie starts by acknowledging the fact that Replicants are a thing that’s not hidden in society which caught me off guard. I was pleased they jumped right into that because it allowed the story to progress forward into new territory not really analyzed in the first movie. I will say the story does feel a bit long in that we get to see a lot of emotion and epiphanies on screen. These moments are not brief and that makes the story drag at points which was unfortunate. However, as long as the movie felt it looked incredible. The colors, the lighting and use of shadows, the make up and the action all were spectacular. I was completely mesmerized by the cinemotography and I wouldn’t not be surprised if this film gets nominated for an Acadamy Award for Cinemotography. Rumors confirmed, folks. This is one of the best looking films I’ve seen all year.

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The story deals with a philosophical examination regarding what it means to be alive and to be human. The story resolves itself like a crime noir/detective story. It’s methodical in its delivery however the pacing is slower than I felt necessary. We get multiple view points or arguments that look at what society is, what it could be, power struggles to maintain the status quo and the opposite. In all, this movie explores the question, “What does it mean to be alive?” As I just wrote, this revelation takes time to be revealed. It’s not until we find out that a replicant had a “natural” born child that the overall plot of the film is realized. It’s at this moment the opposing view points are pushed to the fore front and we are seated amidst a debate that also has some great action and science fiction visual flare. This debate, unfortunately, is not very captivating and because of that will be lost, I feel. The film rests mainly on the visual astheatic and actors performances. It falls short on an engaging story that should be both at the same time thought provoking and exciting. The potential for this film is much greater than the final product.

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Blade Runner 2049” is in theaters now. I definitely recommend you see this on the big screen. This movie looks spectacular and I truly believe it will be nominated for best Cinematography. The overall look warrants a big screen viewing but I will caution you against paying more than matinee prices for the time spent in the theater. It’s slower paced and does drag at times but it looks incredible while doing that. Check this film out!

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“Battle of the Sexes” #review

There are certain studios that find their way by making smaller budget, almost indie, films with talented, well known, actors. In this particular case, Fox Searchlight Studios decided to tell the real life story of Tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It was a spectacle for everyone who saw it live. So, does “Battle of the Sexes” serve us a champions story or does it double fault its way in and out theaters. Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.

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First, we can look at the cast for this film as diverse, in that, many of the faces I don’t recall seeing on screen together. Outside of that, I wasn’t overly wowed by any of the performances because I received the caliber of talent that I expected to receive from each actor. In general, I thought the acting in this film was the high point. Plus, it was nice to see Natalie Morales in the film because I enjoyed the performance she gave in the hit TV show “Parks and Rec.” Also, Sarah Silverman plays a great older jewish woman who has a smoking addiction and enjoys managing women’s tennis players.

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The overall story I wasn’t familiar with despite its notoriety. All I knew was a dude and a lady were competing in a tennis match and the whole world was tuning in to watch. So, when I walked into the theater I was pretty open minded regarding the story that was about to be told. Curiously, the story wasn’t the story advertised. It was, in fact, only a small portion of the actual movie. The actual story revolves around Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and her determination to be a pioneer for women’s rights, her love affair with her hair dresser, the divorce of her marriage and her eventual victory over the chauvinist Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell). I felt mislead once the credits started rolling because I was under the impression that I would be getting a sports movie. Instead, I was given a lesbian love affair with a strong feminist message that had sports peppered throughout until the very end of the film in which we see the famed event unfold. It felt like the final tennis match was just a metaphor for the entire pro feminist message in the film which makes the title “battle of the sexes” misleading, in my opinion. More appropriately, the title I feel should have been, “The Billie Jean King Story.” The film as a whole had more to do with her life than tennis (even though her life was tennis).

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Battle of the Sexes” is in theaters now! If you don’t mind two women making out on screen then you won’t be offended by this film. It’s a very well acted piece however you do need to keep in mind that it’s not about tennis. Tennis is the resolving plot point that, again, felt more like a metaphor than a resolution/conclusion. This is the Billie Jean King story and if you’re interested in her life, the struggles she went through and her love of tennis, I think you’ll appreciate that story. It does feel like a Hallmark or Lifetime film at points and it’s based on a true story that you might enjoy it during matinee prices.

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Kinsman: The Golden Circle #review

The news broke that Matthew Vaughn was coming back to write and direct the “Kingsman” sequel and that made movie fans everywhere happy. The first story had a fresh visual style to spy/action films with entertaining characters (both hero and villain) and it made enough money that another film only seemed logical. Did “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” live up to the magic of the first film or should we give this franchise its burn notice? Let’s dive and take a look in this review.

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The important characters in this film were limited however there was no shortage of supporting characters. In fact, the majority of this film felt like an equal distribution of screen between most all of the actors. Also, the two main heroes, Eggsy and Merlin stay who they were in the first one without much, if any, development. We knew them in the last film and that’s who they are in this one. In general, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The James Bond franchise has been giving us the same character for over 50 years. Each new actor who has played Bond has given us just a little bit more each time but theres nothing dynamic with regard to character development for Bond. He’s Bond. He drinks Martini’s, kills bad guys and has sex with the hottest women on the planet. So, to not really explore who Eggsy and Merlin are isn’t terribly tragic. That being said, killing Merlin at the end of the film while he sang a John Denver song was a decision I didn’t agree with. I would’ve understood it had Eggsy survived and everyone else, including Harry, died and Eggsy had to go at it alone creating a brand new agency for Kingsman. That I would’ve understood. However, leaving Harry and Eggsy alive felt like they just rehashed the first storyline but changed main characters at the end. Harry dies and Merlin survives in the first one and then Merlin dies but Harry survives in the sequel. This felt lazy to me and I didn’t care much for it.

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The villain, Poppy, in this film was a cartoon caricature. The idea behind her character was intriguing but not enough to keep my attention. It’s surprising how much I didn’t care for her character when I’m a fan of Julianne Moore’s acting. Her basic motivation was to create a drug empire and have it legalized by holding the world hostage until they comply. In order to achieve this, she has a chemical(s) in her drugs that quickly kill its users and only she has the cure. She felt like a villain from Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching in the 80s in all honesty. It was over the top and unbelievable.

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The violence was just as ridiculous as the original which was definitely a highlight for me personally. I enjoy the unbelievably wild fights and style of gun play this franchise uses. It’s definitely one of the things I look forward to the most when I watch these movies. I don’t need it to look believable I just want it to be fun and both films nailed that. However, I wasn’t a fan of the blatant “Sweeney Todd” rip off, twice, in the story. Two men walk into the restaurant to meet Poppy and she has one of the men thrown into a meat grinder to be made into raw ground meat. She then proceeds to use the man meat to make a burger, cook it and then serve it to the surviving guy who just watched everything unfold. Two men are ground up in this film and I just sat in the theater scratching my head because all I could think of was the “meat pies” from “Sweeney Todd.” This, again, showed me lazy story telling and I was not impressed.

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is in theaters now! I’m not gonna recommend people see this movie in theaters. It’s not great but it’s entertaining. Plus, hearing Elton John swear like a sailor is a lot of fun. If you want to see this in theaters I’d recommend a matinee showing before noon so the price of admission is more affordable. If you can wait for Redbox or Netflix that is probably your best option. Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges aren’t really in the film at all but this is the second film Tatum is in this year that highlights John Denver tunes. So if “Take Me Home Country Road” is your jam, then you’ll enjoy some of the soundtrack.

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Home Again #review

Single mothers already have a lot on their plates when it comes to raising their kids and providing financially for them. Now, add the city of Los Angeles, turning 40, an emotionally manipulative ex-husband, a supportive and loving mother and three charming young filmmakers from New York and we’ve got a story. So, was “Home Again” the feel good comedy it appeared to be or will we need to divorce ourselves away from this film? Let’s dive and take a look in this review.

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The overall movie examines life through the eyes of the main character Alice (played by Reese Witherspoon). We meet her on her 40th birthday and we get a glimpse into her life, as she perceives it. There are moments that depart from that as she is not in all the scenes and I’m happy to report the supporting cast of characters are each delightful on screen. This felt similar to films like, “Music and Lyrics,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It’s light hearted, humorous, sincere and character driven in how it tells its story.

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Some of the moments in this film felt very real however it tends to shy away from really digging into the issues they present on screen. We get a lot of surface level dialogue about relationships, family, friendship and achieving goals. Typically, we could say that’s a negative but not in this particular instance. The writing and the actors deliver genuine moments that, while they feel thin, still feel true.

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The character struggle that Alice goes through resonated with the (primarily older) female audience I was surround by. In fact, I found myself seated in the midst of women providing real time commentary on the behaviors and actions of the men in the movie as well as Alice’s reaction. This was not a quiet moviegoing experience as the theater, almost in chorus, had an opinion about the men on screen. So, because the film seemed to elicit real emotional responses from the female viewership I enjoyed the film all the more.

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Home Again” is in theaters now! I will recommend you get out and see this film on the big screen. As I mentioned, it doesn’t dig deeply into the characters but as I discovered from the audience response, it did well enough to communicate realism that would evoke true responses from my fellow movie watchers. I laughed and I also could relate to some of the characters in the film at different points in the story which is more than I thought I would get walking into the theater. It’s a heartfelt story that looks at family, friends and being human in todays modern society. Check it out!

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard #review

The idea of an action comedy is appealing. Now, add two dynamic onscreen personalities and a whole lot of ammunition and you’re promising something very special. To go one step further, add a few different locations to make this a road trip movie. What is going on?! Let’s find out more about “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” in this review…

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I was not prepared for this film at all. I walked into the theater expecting a “buddy cop” movie and got something much better. The realization of the film didn’t hit me right away. In fact, I didn’t know this was a stylized celebration of action films with comedy in it. This movie celebrates hyper violence that is so over-the-top and ridiculous it’s brilliant. There’s car chases, boat chases, motorcycle chases, people chasing each other on foot, cars exploding, rocket launchers, electrocution, helicopters crashing, massive explosions with people just walking away, fights in a hardware store, punches, kicks, a guy running around on fire and more. It’s chaotic insanity from beginning to end. Literally, beginning to end. If this movie ever let up on the action I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s because they kept going one step further and then further again that made me love my time in the theater.

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The soundtrack/score for this film is equally as enjoyable as the movie itself. There’s a funk band playing along to the scenes giving this film a feeling akin to 1970’s American cops tv shows (i.e. CHiPs). The musical selections were comedically placed to continue the absurdity that is present the whole way through. I can’t speak enough about how well done this movie was because it’s so ridiculous it’s amazing.

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Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson literally look like they’re having the time of their lives in this too. I don’t even know if they were acting or just reacting to each other naturally. The chemistry was great. Now add Salma Hayek (who is just as insane as Jackson’s character) and the ride we’re on is delightful madness. I am gonna say this movie holds the record for the most uses of the word “fuck” and “mother fucker.” They’re dropped so nonchalantly that it is almost inspiring. I couldn’t believe what I was watching on screen and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is in theaters now! If you love rude, sarcastic, action, road trip, buddy cop shows this movie is for you. I can’t wait to see it a second time. It’s over-the-top and unrelenting and because of that I walked out of the theater with a big dumb smile on my face. I couldn’t help but laugh at all the nonsense that was so well done. It’s not an oscar contender. It’s not really that great of a movie. It’s just so much fun you don’t care, at least I didn’t. I don’t expect this movie will deliver stellar numbers at the box office but I anticipate big returns once it hits BLU-Ray/DVD sales. This was a blast. Check it out!

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Detroit #review

Riots break out in the city of Detroit, Michigan, in 1967. The local police, state police and national guard are all called in to stop the disaster that is occurring. In the midst of this struggle, murder occurs at the Algiers Motel while the local police investigate gun fire they heard coming from the area of the motel. So, does “Detroit” paint a believable reenactment of the true events that took place ? Or is this just another made for television, historical, movie that high school kids will fall asleep in during History class. Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.

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This film is advertised as a look back at the events that took place in Detroit, as well as, the Algiers Motel. This is partly true. The run time is close to 2.5 hours but the events that occur at the Algiers don’t take the full length. The riots in Detroit also do not take the full amount of time. I would say, it felt like three quarters of the movie is riots and Algiers. The remaining portion is the court hearing for the local police and a look at the lives of the people in the film after everything is said and done. So, the film is broken down in 3 different parts. I’m not speaking about 1st, 2nd and 3rd act either. The actual story is told from 3 different points of interest.

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The first point is a look at the city of Detroit. The film opens with a look at the migration flow of people moving to Detroit post the Civil War. From there we get to see the events leading up to the riots, the riots themselves and the journey that eventually leads us to the Motel Algiers. Once at the Motel, we see what is described at the end of the film as a look at the possible events as told from eye witnesses, court docs, etc. However, we don’t get that disclaimer until the end of the film. Once the horrific events at Algiers conclude, we’re now in part 2. This second portion looks at the criminal court case, and proceedings that took place, with regard to the shootings and murders at the Motel. Once that concludes, we’re safely into part 3. Here get to see how all the events shaped the lives of the people in the film. We also get to see where the survivors are today.

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The film initially confused me. As I walked out of the theater I had to recalibrate my thinking because I was under the assumption we’d see the Motel part and that was the movie. We get to see that, yes, but, and more importantly, the film examines life from the perspectives of the protagonists. Once the Motel scenes concluded I looked at my watch because I couldn’t believe 2.5 hours was already over. Indeed, the movie was not over and we were getting a deeper look into how the main characters view the world. It’s this sudden revelation that won me over for this film. This is not a story about the Detroit riots or the Motel Algiers. Those are merely plot devices used to show, on screen, the distrust that we hear about between black communities and the police. This movie brilliantly shows us the good and the bad. It puts to screen visual reasons that are understandable once the film concludes. You might not agree, but you will at least have a better understanding when you hear someone proclaim the system is rigged, police are out to get us, and more. This movie did well to show us the tragedy involved during the civil rights movement in America. Once I realized that this movie is more of a statement about race relations and culture over riots and murder, I appreciated this film all the more.

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The characters in this film are all important with respect to race relations. The entire time I didn’t understand why Anthony Mackie and John Boyega were in it because I didn’t see them really moving the plot along. However, once I made the realization that this is a story about race relations, it all made sense. Boyega plays a security guard who was helping the police and national guard but still gets thrown in jail towards the end of the film as a suspect to the murders. Even while doing the right thing, his character is mistreated. Mackie, a veteran with two terms of service who was in Detroit looking for work now that he’s honorably discharged from the military. He is abused and mistreated by the police at the Motel even after showing his government card for service. This film really digs into the mindset and beliefs we hear about on the news about cops mistreating black America. While you might not agree with this sentiment, the movie explores that belief we still hear about today, some 50 years later, approximately.

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Detroit” is in theaters now! If you like historical movies you’ll enjoy this. It’s a very difficult movie to watch and I don’t believe everyone has the fortitude to sit through the whole story. So, because of that, I will still recommend people see it but I will add a word of caution while you make your decision. This is intense, unsettling and disturbing. My only real criticism is the run time of 2.5 hours. I feel they could’ve edited this film down and not lost any of the drama and intensity they were going for. I enjoyed it but my goodness, it’s a long movie that requires a lot of emotional energy from the audience.

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Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

The animals are back and ready to save their beloved park in the follow up to 2014’s “Nut Job.” There’s familiar faces as well as some new characters who all work together to deliver an animated film that explores the lives of critters in a big city park. So, does this sequel provide an entertaining animated adventure or are all the nuts spoiled? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature” in this review…

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This movie is garbage. I almost walked out of the theater halfway in and the run time is only 90 minutes. This film celebrates laziness, the benefits of businesses failing, how horrid white business men are and it is also poorly written. This was the biggest piece of propaganda nonsense I’ve seen in a long while. I couldn’t believe what I saw on screen. The writers for this film didn’t even bother to try and subtly imply their political leanings. They were almost beating the audience over the head with it. Meanwhile, they decided to make it animated which almost feels like they’re trying to manipulate kids into relating with the protagonists who were, mostly, indolent characters. I sat through this film aghast at what I was witnessing.

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The main character, Surly, celebrates a businesses failure because it’s a nut shop and that allows the park critters to eat for free instead of having to hunt for food like a normal animal would. Instead, they are all celebrating this failed business that is now providing them shelter and free food. When charged with finding a new home, as their park is getting rebuilt as an amusement park, this same character leaves to find more free food from another failed business… instead of another park. The other lead in this movie, Andie, is openly mocked and ridiculed for trying to get the rest of the animals to go back to their normal life style of hunting and gathering.

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The villain in the film is such an over-the-top negative stereotype of the white business man it’s borderline ludicrous. The character refers to political contributions as bribes, the license plate on his car is about embezzling, and on and on. This film did so little to make me believe this was anything but an animated propaganda film attempting to lure kids or indoctrinate them into this bizarre view of the world. The writers didn’t even attempt in the slightest to make their points subtle or use any tact at all. This was a pile of animated garbage.

Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature” is in theaters now! Hopefully, it will be out of theaters sooner than later. I don’t recommend you see this film. I don’t recommend you let your kids watch this either. It’s a poorly written, piece of propaganda trash. I stayed until the end of the movie to see if there would be some sort of redeeming value and there wasn’t. This would’ve been a complete waste of my time except that I get to share this disaster with you in an attempt to save you from wasting 90 minutes of your life.

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The Dark Tower – #review

Countless times I’ve heard how movies have fallen short of the original source material when adapted from the pages of a beloved book. If you search for meme’s online you find pictures of icebergs and the tip of the ice berg is the movie while everything else is the book. So, does “The Dark Tower” manage to become more than just the tip or are we destined for frozen boredom? Let’s take a look in this review…

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The movie is based on a series of novels by writer Stephen King. The story blends fantasy, horror and western elements together to create something unique but still familiar. The run time was approximately 90 minutes and that was enough. The story itself was comprehensive, in that, we clearly understand what each character’s role is in the overall plot of the film. However, I will say, it took some time before the reason is explained. Little in this film is explained, actually. The director, Nikolaj Arcel, placed great faith in us as an audience that we’d be fine knowing things are a certain way without them being explained. For example, what’s the deal with the rat people and where did they come from? The gunslinger has a mantra, ok, but why and what’s the point of remembering the face of your father? Why does a child’s psychic ability need to be used to destroy the tower? Kids have psychic abilities? Sure, ok. How are all these kids getting kidnapped and the news not talking about it? How does the gunslinger live on a world that had an amusement park, but doesn’t know what an amusement park is? There’s no historians that kept a record of life pre the war/battle? In short, there’s a lot of questions.

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Overall, the story had great ambition but was executed only in mediocre fashion. I believed Chris Hemsworth (as Thor, in the 1st Thor) when he came to earth and had to adjust. I found that same story in this movie but not as well received. The kid (Tom Taylor) was actually more believable in his response to the dialogue of Idris Elba, than I found myself believing Elba’s performance on earth. Also, quite odd, in the hospital scene what was the point of mentioning several diseases that the gunslingers character had? It felt like they were trying to make a joke but it did not come across that way to me. The gunslinger pays in a gold coin, says he’s stronger than most, and then walks out of the hospital, to drop several pain pills on a bus with the kid while drinking a soda pop. What is going on in this movie??

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The Dark Tower” is in theaters now. You can skip this movie. There’s more story missing than present and because of that you’ll be scratching your head a lot. The ending makes sense only because that’s the ending we have been led to expect and Matthew McConaughey was just a demonic/sociopathic version of who is plays in the car commercials for Lincoln. In fact, since his performance was so similar it would’ve been a nice comedic nod to have his character move through worlds in that car. Ok, maybe not. Also, the last fight scene looks really bad. McConaughey looks like a mime the way he moved, waving his hands around, pretending to be a sorcerer of sorts. If you pick this up on RedBox or VOD I understand. It’s actually not a terrible movie. I could see what they wanted to achieve and how much they wanted to invest in the characters but fell short. I walked out of the theater thinking, “Well, at least they tried.”

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