Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Worst Movies of 2018

Are we done with the good stuff of 2018 already!?  It’s really starting to get a bit annoying how lopsided things have gotten with just how much bad there is to get through compared to the good, but as your travel guide through the highlights of the year that came before I will be here to fulfill my duty and give you an idea of just how bad movies had gotten in 2018!  Okay, it wasn’t a SPECTACULARLY bad year at the movies as my initial assessment of good versus bad films I reviewed this year came out to pretty even split, but it’s not as much fun making these WORST THINGS EVER lists when everyday life is pretty much that already.  At the very least, I hope that I turned at least some of the negativity you’re about to see on this list into something that’s at least informative enough to justify my salty attitude!  Anyway, we might as well dive in head first and hope we come out on the other side no worse for wear!  LET’S GET STARTED!!

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Dishonorable Mentions: Robin Hood & Holmes and Watson

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Robin Hood Review; Holmes and Watson Review

I figured I’d start this list with something a little light as both of these movies are utterly DREADFUL, but I really couldn’t get too mad at either one of them.  Robin Hood is certainly the more watchable of the two as its mistakes are downright laughable, but even with Holmes and Watson being an unfunny and painfully boring slog to sit through it at least didn’t have some really messed up message or an utter scumbag on screen.  If nothing else, these two are more or less the baseline for what would qualify as a WORST OF THE YEAR contender.  These movies are terrible, but they don’t have something extra to make it a MEANINGFUL selection for highlighting on these lists.  Robin Hood’s earnestness and some decent (if utterly anachronistic) designs as well as how much fun I had laughing at its many ridiculous ideas such as crossbows that work EXACTLY like pistols or making a visual allegories between the Crusades and the War on Terror balanced out its worst moments.  Holmes and Watson is a terrible comedy but ultimately a harmless one which means that even if it doesn’t make ME laugh it’s not something that is active detriment to the genre; something we GENUINELY have to worry about now with more comedians coming out as rather terrible people in recent years.  I don’t recommend you watching EITHER of these movies, but if you did and your baffled why they didn’t actually make it on the list, just know that it has to be a lot worse (or at least terrible in a uniquely specific and off-putting way) for it to be listed below.  Speaking of which, let’s get the click-bait one out of the way first!

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10. Avengers: Infinity War

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Full Review

Look, I’m trying to be as nice as I can about this by putting it at the top of the list, alright?  Infinity War doesn’t work as a standalone movie because of how deeply unsatisfying (and frankly repetitive) of a journey it is, and I’m starting to feel a bit skeptical if it’s gonna look any better once the second half comes out.  Even if we get the big happy ending or at least one that’s emotionally satisfying, there’s no reason a narrative like this needs to be as long as it’s inevitably gonna be.  This film is over two and a half hours and if early reports are true (there’s still time to edit it down), the sequel is gonna be over three!  That’s AT LEAST five hours to tell a story that frankly doesn’t need that much time to tell as PLENTY of other movies have dealt with apocalyptic scenarios without running longer than a TV mini-series.  It’s got its bright spots with a few great action sequences (particularly the fight in New York), and while the backlash against the Thanos praise has been more than justified, the character is still rather compelling to watch and one of the best villains that Marvel has given us.  I HOPE the sequel ties everything together and makes this the greatest two parter of all time, but I seriously doubt that ANY movie would be good enough to make this experience any less miserable.  Marvel got PLENTY of attention on the good list and they’re still kicking the crap out of all their competition (at least in terms of quality AND films produced), but this felt like the first big stumble from them.  Not a mistake that can be rolled into something better like Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, but something that is clearly meant to be their magnum opus and a clear assertion of their place in popular culture.  At least for me, this didn’t prove how untouchable they were but instead that even with all the resources that Disney can offer they can still miss the mark as badly as Sony, Fox, or Warner Bros.  Okay, MAYBE not as bad as their low points, but we still need to see Infinity 2: Cosmic Boogaloo before we can say for certain!

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9. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

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Full Review

If there’s one thing that will make you appreciate a mediocre movie it’s a much worse sequel and BOY do we have a bad sequel here!  Okay, so the first film got by on some nice visuals, a story that actually had a few decent ideas about Goosebumps fandom and the creative process, and an enthusiastic performance from Jack Black to tie it all together.  How does someone look at all that and decide the first things that need to go when the budget gets slashed is all the things that made it good in the first place?  Oh who am I kidding?  This is standard operating procedure for any mildly successful kid’s property; right up there with a sequel that anachronistically shoves Christmas into it and the introduction of cute babies to sell more toys.  It’s not even like anyone was really asking for a sequel in the first place, so what we got is better than nothing, right?  OF COURSE NOT!  This is a miserable and cheap follow up that has none of the charm of the original film and is even a regression of the story by turning Slappy from a dark mirror of R.L. Stine’s most ghoulish tendencies into some jerk who’s obsessed with having a family because reasons.  The fact that we had to sit through this ENTIRE movie without Jack Black or any of the likable elements of the first film (he doesn’t even voice Slappy this time around!) to only have the guy show up at the end and tell EVERYONE how little this piece of crap actually matters was just the icing on the cake.  It takes a lot of nerve to tell your audience that they shouldn’t have wasted their time watching your movie, but I guess having misanthropic scorn for your audience is the next best thing to having any actual talent.

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8. Gringo

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Full Review

Oh, you thought I forgot about you!?  No way will I forget the awful time I had sitting in that theater watching this movie with the only silver lining being that I was the only one in there.  The only downside is that despite having the freedom to pace around and talk smack at the screen, if any of the theater’s employees had come in to check, it would have been quite an embarrassing situation.  Not as embarrassing as admitting that I saw this in theaters though!  Ha ha!  That was all for a lousy joke, but admittedly it was better than any of the humor in here.  It’s just so sedate as our main character barely does ANYTHING in the movie (I’m pretty sure he’s sitting at a bar for the ENTIRE second act) and none of the myriad of subplots scattered around him amount to much in terms of comedy and drama with one subplot ending on a particularly mean spirited joke for absolutely no reason.  How bad is this movie?  They got Sharlto Copley to try and liven things up in the third act, and even HE couldn’t save this movie.  Maybe if he had come in earlier this wouldn’t have been as unbearable to sit through, but I wouldn’t want him wasting any more time on this Pablum than was ABSOLUTELY necessary.  Amazon has had a decent enough track record with films like Chi-Raq, The Big Sick, and even the recent Suspiria under their belt, but they’ve had their share of misses as well which I can more than attest to after seeing this.  If it was up to me, I would have just buried this on Amazon Prime streaming and never speak another word about it, but then again it’s not like anyone saw the dang thing in theaters anyway judging by its box office, so I suggest we all pretend none of this ever happened in the first place!  Sound good?

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7. Red Sparrow

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Full Review

Am I the only one still bothered by the fact that people seem to have taken the idea of “Sparrow Schools” being real at face value despite the only evidence being anecdotal and from one former CIA agent?  Go look up Sparrow School on Wikipedia and it’s a single sentence with the only sources being an interview with Jason Matthews and ANOTHER interview with Jason Matthews.  I think that alone is a good representation of what I feel about the rest of the movie which was trying really hard to convince us of something but did a rather poor job of doing it.  It wants to be a movie about rape culture, toxic masculinity, systemic oppression, and removing the romanticism from spy work, but it ends up being the opposite in every regard.  The film’s framing of rape, abuse, exploitation, and so on, is poorly handled and never really focuses on the victims to instead focus on how those things move the plot along.  Men are scumbags and monsters throughout the movie, but this film’s version of dealing with it is for women to square their shoulders, stare them straight in the eye, and DARE them to be violent which apparently works because abusive men only want obedient women and immediately lose their nerve (and boners) in the presence of resistance.  Take out the skeevy sexual aspects of this movie and at best it’s a mediocre spy film which doesn’t do nearly enough to compensate for just how off-putting and flat out WRONG the rest of the movie is about its subject matter.  Is that the point?  Is the Sparrow Program supposed to be an inefficient holdover of the past that is kept around as an excuse for powerful men to get their jollies off?  I ‘m really not sure, but if so then I guess I can applauded the filmmakers for their oddly specific sense of self awareness.

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6. Truth or Dare

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Full Review

I dare you to tell the truth.  I DARE YOU TO TELL THE TRUTH!?  This has got to be the worst year for horror movies since I started doing this (and we’ll get to more examples soon enough) and it’s not helped when Blumhouse takes like THIRTY steps back releasing his half-baked dreck in theaters instead of burying it in a deep grave and then filling it with cement.  Here’s a screenwriting tip that even a guy who’s never ACTUALLY written a screenplay knows: DON’T MAKE YOUR ALL POWERFUL BAD GUY A PUNK!  Sure punks are VERY useful for certain kind of bad guys like Kylo Ren where his inferiority complex is the entire point of the character, but when the unyielding powerful force that toys with the lives of us mere mortals is ALSO a sniveling little cheater and a tantrum throwing crybaby, THEN you’ve got a serious problem on your hands!  I’m actually reading a book right now (I DO THAT SOMETIMES) called Seven Footprints to Satan that feels like what Truth or Dare should have been, minus the racism of course which is kind of off-putting even if the book was written in 1927.  In that book, Satan has constructed a game where you can claim ALL the riches you’ve ever wanted if you win, OR you become his slave for a certain period of time depending on how badly you lose.  In the book, the (allegedly) ALL POWERFUL BAD GUY has a face, a voice, a personality, and a presence, and ON TOP OF THAT, the game serves an actual purpose for both Satan AND those who play it!  It’s just as much about the ones who would choose to take that chance as it is about how much power Satan can wield over them.  This movie on the other hand lacks any sort of meaningful motivation from anyone.  We don’t know why the evil spirit is making them play this game other than for the LULZ (not a motivation I’d sit for an hour and a half to watch play out) and the characters have no agency in their story as there isn’t even some nebulous end goal in mind or genuine strategy for outsmarting the evil spirit.  Something like It Follows is similarly bleak with its mysterious game (if you can call it that), but at least THAT movie had genuine characters and it didn’t have some easily anthropomorphized antagonist who will straight up cheat to get their way.  Rather than a game of wits between unlikely heroes and a dark force out to destroy them, it’s the equivalent of watching someone play a board game against a whiny brat who will scream and cry if a move doesn’t go their way and will straight up flip the table to declare victory.  I DARE YOU TO TELL THE TRUTH.  I’ve got better things to do with my time than babysit an ego this fragile, and I for DARN sure shouldn’t be paying for the privilege!

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5. Hereditary & A Quiet Place

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Hereditary Review; A Quiet Place Review

Believe it or not, this is me trying to be nice.  Hereditary was poised to be close to if not THE worst movie I saw this year, but I decided it would be a better idea to split the difference with another movie I wasn’t too fond of and talk about what I don’t like about them both.  Absolutely A Quiet Place is the better of the two movies, but the two of them (along with Annihilation which avoided this list due to the rather phenomenal third act) are just unpleasant to sit through and mask their clichés, overwrought setups, and bottom of the barrel attempts to elicit sympathy in artistic pretensions that frankly aren’t as spectacular as they think they are.  Or maybe I just got a big sad watching these movies and wanted to yell at someone for making me feel things.  I guess that’s one way of looking at it as these two movies did indeed fill me with less than happy thoughts, but I never felt that either movie justified their premises.  A Quiet Place is mostly held back by its ridiculous setup where monsters without weapons or armor whose superpower is HEARING apparently successfully invaded a country with stuff like guns and steel.  You’re telling me that NO ONE figured out that having super sensitive hearing means that they’re ALSO sensitive to high frequencies!?  WE FIGURED OUT HOW TO MAKE DOG WHISTLES BUT COULDN’T APPLY THAT TECHNOLOGY HERE!?  The reason why this is a problem (and there are smaller examples like this throughout the film) is that it ultimately undercuts the emotional weight of the story where it’s hard to be invested in the tragedy of everything if the movie does a poor job of selling the premise that makes it all possible.  Hereditary had a much harder hurdle to climb so I will give it a begrudging amount of respect for even GOING where it ends up going, but it all feels so… futile.  It’s a movie that has horrible things happen for seemingly no reason or without explanation (WHY WAS SHE ABLE TO FLOAT!?  WAS IT A GHOST!?) but then expects you to buy a Deus Ex Machina (or I guess a Diabolus Ex Machina given the circumstances) as some sort of final AH HA moment to leave the theater with; not to mention that despite the film not explaining anything that you can STILL see exactly where it’s going the moment Toni Collette picks up a throw pillow and more or less winks at the camera to let you know what’s up.  Neither of these films are poorly made or bereft of good ideas and solid performances, but to me there were some serious miscalculations at the script level that made them almost unbearable to watch, and while plenty of other people seem to have enjoyed them, I really have no interest in subjecting myself to these unenjoyable slogs ever again.

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4. The Darkest Minds

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Full Review

I don’t like being THAT GUY whose way too old to be watching these movies and then proceeds to dunk on them mercilessly, but Hollywood DOES know that YA movies don’t have to be awful, right?  I mean I thought the genre was scraping the bottom of the barrel when The Maze Runner was the BIG FRANCHISE simply by default since no one was else was bothering, but then THIS comes along and gives us what is hopefully the final nail in the coffin for these kind of movies.  Now that’s not to say that I don’t think ANY books aimed at a younger audience should get big screen adaptations (Love, Simon was based on a book and that was pretty great!), but this specific kind of YA fiction that’s still trying to ride the Twilight train with love triangles and a confusing super-natural/powered/etc mythology needs to be put to bed.  It’s not just a bad rip-off of every other super-teenage-angst property we’ve seen in the last few years (there’s a WHOLE lot of X-Men in here), but it’s not even a rip-off that they had passion behind since everything in the movie is so poorly explained and we keep jumping from one thing to another without much rhyme or reason.  Not only do they want to sell us on the idea that bounty hunters roam the highways looking for these kids, they then want to drop that idea entirely by the halfway point!?  Did this movie spend an hour showing that EVERYTHING is abandoned but then they end up staying in the ONE HOTEL that hasn’t been!?  It’s utter nonsense from beginning to end and frankly the target audience for this stuff deserves SO much better.  I know that can sometimes sound like a justification for crapping on popular things (why do you like this new band when you could be listening to The Beatles!?), but there’s just so much wrong with every aspect of this movie from its storytelling and cinematography, to even its message which is just muddled and confusing (not to mention how brazenly this movie dives into dark subject matter it is in NO way equipped to handle) that I really do think that Fox should be ashamed of themselves for putting this kind of garbage out there for an audience that is already underestimated.  They pushed The New Mutants back a dozen times, yet THIS was good enough to release!?

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3. Bohemian Rhapsody

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Full Review

You’ve got to try REALLY hard to make the story of Freddie Mercury into a boring and cliché ridden slog.  Admittedly the job was made that much easier when they decided that Brian Singer of all people should be directing it (and he didn’t even bother to finish), but even ignoring how distasteful that part of all this is, whoever ACTUALLY directed this thing seemed to have had nothing to work with and just cobbled together something that was competent at best with the resources they had.  If it really was Dexter Fletcher who did the majority of the work on this I can hardly place the blame on him for everything that’s wrong with this movie.  Heck, even Brian Singer can’t get ALL the blame here considering he doesn’t have a writing or screenplay credit on this and frankly that’s the worst part of the movie.  Ignoring the tepid cinematography and the utter lack of genuine style, this is the kind of biopic that should have come out in the late nineties and AT BEST would have been kind of acceptable but feel really dated by today’s standards.  Trying to capture the magic that was Freddie Mercury and the rest of Queen (Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon) was certainly no easy task, but forcing their lives to fit into a cliché ridden RISE AND FALL story to the point of straight up making stuff up about the band feels like a disgrace to what they represent and their place in the hearts and minds of the many generations that grew up with their music.  Worse yet is the utter cowardice with which the film tries to halfheartedly waffle between how it wants to frame his homosexuality (presumably in an attempt to not scare off homophobes who will pay ticket prices to hear We Will Rock You on the big screen) and ends up settling on the kind of middle ground that’s almost as bad as ignoring it altogether.  None of his relationships with men in the movie are given half as much attention or framed in as nearly a loving way as his initial relationship to Mary which isn’t a knock against him being portrayed as bisexual, but it was clear what the filmmakers were more comfortable with showing.  Worse yet, the place where the script twists itself in a knot so much that you start to hear bones cracking is how HIV and AIDS is introduced into the movie as his symbolic low point; i.e. the FALL part in the RISE AND FALL story.  This disease is not a freaking plot point to be used for MAXIMUM DRAMATIC IMPACT and it’s a topic that needed to be handled with MUCH more respect that it is here.  I get liking the performances, both from the actors and in regards to the musical numbers, but there is just way too much that is lacking, insulting, and completely mishandled for even the power of Queen’s phenomenal music to overcome.  It’s a sentence I never thought I’d had to write, but there it is.  We have definitive proof that there is at least one thing that Queen’s music cannot save.  What a time to be alive…

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2. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Full Review

I feel like I should be staring mournfully at a swing set in the soft glow of sunset, set to a Simon and Garfunkel song of course, while talking about the depths to which the Harry Potter franchise managed to sink with this tedious abomination.  It’s not just that you’re an unrelenting horror of misguided filmmaking; you had to be BORING too!  Like many other people who were born in the nineties, Harry Potter was the book series that I grew up with and that connection extended to the movies which were basically a yearly tradition unto themselves.  I remember playing the Gameboy Color game, the PlayStation game, and even enjoying the heck out of that Quidditch World Cup game on the PS2 which bizarrely had that one over the top operatic number (Messa da Requiem: II. Dies Irae) in its soundtrack.  Sure, I never got around to reading that Cursed Child book and I never really got into the whole FANDOM aspect of it, but when that first movie came out it really did feel like the beginning of new era for The Wizarding World and that I might be able to jump onboard once again.  But then they go and make THIS movie!?  This piece of hyped up trash that’s trying to jump on the EXPANDED UNIVERSE bandwagon with all the grace of a horse trying to do the Charleston on a tightrope!?  I’ll admit that there’s something bizarrely compelling about all the nonsense that’ll make for a few killer video essays a few months down the road and probably from critics much wittier than I, but man did they just burn twenty years of goodwill in one fell swoop with this!  The plot is a puzzling mishmash of new storylines, old storylines reconfigured to fit a new status quo, and even storylines that were definitively closed but painfully reopened because apparently this film wasn’t busy enough as is!  I don’t understand what studios expect audiences to enjoy about movies like these that work AT BEST as a miniseries but are crammed into a much shorter runtime to be considered theatrical.  Something that SHOULD have been thrown up on Netflix or whatever ends up being overly long for one sitting yet doesn’t benefit from it because nothing is resolved and nothing is GOING to be resolved for another two years; assuming Warner Bros hasn’t already scrapped this spin-off and are planning on rebooting the whole thing.  It’s almost like another Avengers: Infinity War only without the explicit promise of a decisive ending and I can’t imagine anyone getting invested in any of these new stories; especially when so much of the movie is utterly unpleasant.  It’s not just the fact that this is the ONLY franchise that hasn’t figured out how utterly toxic Johnny Depp is right now; the whole movie sets up a dismal status quo for character who we’re SUPPOSED to be rooting for that I really don’t know what they could do to fix any of it.  Sure, not every Harry Potter book ended on a happy note (this feels A BIT like The Half-Blood Prince in that regard), but there was always the glimmer of HOPE there that was firmly established by the previous books and therefore it felt earned when things got gloomy.  Nothing here is earned; it’s all just ASSUMED.  It ASSUMES we’ll want to go along with certain characters turning into bad guys (HECK to the NO; especially considering HOW they got there), it ASSUMES that certain character reveals that as far as I can recall DIRECTLY contradicts the actual book series will go unnoticed by fans, and it ASSUMES that a gaggle of new characters who barely had enough time to be introduced here are somehow enticing enough to bankroll further movies.  Everything I loved about the first Fantastic Beast movie, the smaller scale and personal story as well as the neat ways that the wizarding world in the US integrated with muggle society, are utterly absent here and I am under no illusion that we’ll ever get back to those kind of movies again even if this was something of a disappointment for the studio.  I could probably do a Boggart joke right about now about how this movie is now the thing I fear the most, but frankly I’m just too tired of all this to even bother.

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1. Slender Man

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Full Review

Really, what else COULD it have been this year?  Sure this doesn’t have the SPIT IN THE FACE OF HISTORY qualities of Bohemian Rhapsody or the RUINED MY CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE sting of The Crimes of Who Cares, but when I think about what film felt like the absolute low point of the medium this year, there is no contest.  This film is an utter joke and clearly the filmmakers weren’t in on it who seem to have thought they were making the next It Follows or another shot at remaking Flatliners.  It has some bizarrely ambitious moments in it where the cinematography manages to be at least somewhat engaging, but the simple fact is that no one had ANY idea what this movie was supposed to be.  I’m not about to say that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to make a Slender Man movie, but because the story wanted to be all things to all fans it never ends up settling on one thing and instead has bits and pieces of ghost stories, urban legends, monster in the woods scenarios, and even a Ring style cures that never coalesces into anything coherent which saps whatever tension could be mined from the situation.  Whenever one generation starts to get pushed out of the spotlight for the successive one that some start to worry that it’s THE END OF CULTURE and we’re on a downward spiral into inanity and irrelevance!  Whether or not THE INTERNET generation gets their first great movie before video games do (which I’d argue already happened a few times by now, but whatever), movies like this one show that there are definitely some growing pains in trying to translate what works about something in a medium as fluid and segmented as internet fandom into a satisfying narrative so in THAT sense it’s a bit fascinating to see where this film stumbles, but as a film in and of itself it’s just a miserable experience to sit through.  If Chris Columbus is still working on that Five Nights at Freddy movie (the perfect intersection of video game and meme culture which sounds like a horror film in its own right), I hope that he gets a ghostly visit from the director of this film who will give him a proper warning before sending him to watch his good movies from the past (*cough* Home Alone *cough*) the awful trite he’s been making recently (*cough* Pixels *cough*) and what’s gonna happen if his FNAF movie is even as bad as this miserable dreck.

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And with that, we’re done with 2018! OR ARE WE!?  Yeah, there are a few more things that I’ll be looking back on so keep an eye out for those!  And of course, let me know exactly how wrong I am for liking bad movies and hating good ones in the comments below!!

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You can also check out the GOOD list from this year and even my lists from last year at the links below!!
Best of 2017
Worst of 2017

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