Cinema Dispatch: Terrifier 2, Halloween Ends, and The Munsters

Halloween may be in our rearview mirror, but I saw quite a few movies that I wanted to talk about! After all, if Christmas can start encroaching on the months leading up to it, why can’t Halloween bow out with a bit of fanfare? Was this a great year for spooky movies and frightful flicks, or was this crop of films as disappointing as getting a rock while Trick-or-Treating? Let’s find out!!

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Terrifier 2

Terrifier 2 is owned by Bloody Disgusting

Directed by Damien Leone

One year after the horrific events of the first film, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) is back and ready to turn another Halloween into an unfathomable blood bath. This time around, however, he’s accompanied by a young girl in clown makeup (Amelie McLain) who is egging him on further and seemingly in the direction of Sienna (Lauren LaVera) who’s having strangely prophetic dreams about the killer while her brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) is becoming obsessed with last year’s killings. With such a nightmarish and cheekily-obnoxious villain on the loose, will anyone survive this Halloween with their sanity, and organs, intact?

It’s the 2022 Little Indie Film That Could as everyone in horror circles started talking this one up throughout October, and for the most part the enthusiasm is warranted. For me, the first one suffered from a very straightforward and uninspired narrative that was only salvaged by the interesting new villain at the heart of it, Art the Clown; truly a monster for our time. What we have with this film is exactly the kind of thing you want from a sequel as it bolsters what worked about the original but is unafraid to take things in new directions. The rather one-note grungy aesthetic of the first film got old fast, even with the absurd escalation of violence, and thankfully they improved greatly on that with a new vibrant coat of paint that makes the set pieces far more interesting, and there’s a depth to storytelling that allows for more than just picking off victims one after the other. Art gets to have a bit more personality and we see more of his internal machinations between violent murders, and Thornton’s eerie performance that’s one part Pennywise and nine parts Reddit Troll keeps his scenes compelling without allowing the film to twist things too far to his perspective as I did genuinely root for the cast of characters here who were caught in the crosshairs. Where the movie will gain its infamy will be the gore scenes which are at least a little more tasteful than they were in the first one, but are still some of the bloodiest and nastiest kills we’ve seen in quite a while, and it certainly helps that there’s more context here that gives some weight to the kills. Where the first film’s pacing stopped dead at the halfway point, this one manages to keep things escalating all the way to the bitter end. The film is a huge improvement in terms of tone, cinematography, and ambition, but where it falls short is in its writing which, as I said is much improved with solid characters and more creative set pieces, but it also feels rather amateurish. It’s a testament to the value of good nuts and bolts writing when you don’t even notice the movie establishing its characters, rules, and boundaries, and this movie is in too much of a hurry to show off that it keeps contradicting itself or leaves very basic things far too ambiguous. You could argue that it’s another feature and not a bug, that the unfiltered imagination of its creator is far more interesting than any number of overly polished horror remakes. I can get somewhat behind that given how out-there the movie is and that it at least partially operates on dream logic, but abstraction and symbolism are not the antitheses of coherent narratives and there are mistakes here that feel more to do with inexperience or carelessness than ambition. Perhaps the example that stuck out the most for me was how the movie could never settle on the age for its main character; a seemingly inconsequential point, but one that sticks out like a sore thumb when you consider how few other movies stumble over such a question. With a better aesthetic, more varied locations to wreak havoc in, and an imaginative spirit that grows the narrative far outside the confines of the original, this is definitely a sequel that gives you more to chew on and I’d say that it’s worth your time if you’re looking for something outside of mainstream horror offerings. Still, I feel there’s a ways to go for this series to truly live up to its potential and I hope that the creators are using their time in the spotlight to grow as filmmakers.

3.5 out of 5
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Cinema Dispatch: Bullet Train, Elvis, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

We’re back with a few more movie reviews, and I’ve got to say that I’m starting to enjoy this format! I still get to watch the movies I want to, but now I can watch them on my own schedule and I keep things nice and succinct. The only problem is that I’m not getting these out in a timely manner, but relevance is overrated, am I right!? Anyway, let’s take a look at three movies that I’m sure you saw a while ago but are still interested to hear what some guy on the internet has to say about them! Let’s get started!!

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Bullet Train

Bullet Train is owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by David Leitch

A hapless assassin given the codename Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is on a very simple mission to retrieve a briefcase on a train heading to Kyoto. Naturally, these kinds of things never are that easy and he laments his bad luck while dodging other assassins on the train, and is haphazardly embroiled in a plot that is bigger than he could possibly imagine and seems to be heading in one very bloody direction.

I’m not a guy who will turn his nose up at over-the-top action spectacles or something that is intentionally cheesy and a movie like this should have been my jam by default, but even the best ingredients will go to waste if given to an untalented chef, and I just found this whole thing to be insufferable. It’s convoluted without being clever, smarmy without the charm to make up for it, and artificial to the point that nothing seems to actually matter. The only part of the movie that resonated with me was the relationship between Lemon and Tangerine as Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson had great chemistry and added some genuine heart to an otherwise insincere story, and while I feel like this is one of the most Monkeys’ Paw wishes imaginable, I’d kind of like to see what could be done with a spinoff focusing on them specifically. Andrew Koji also stands out from everything else with a very angry and desperate performance that’s still about as one-note as everything else in the movie, but at least it’s a different note being played and does a great job playing it. Everything else though is just laden with insufferable dialogue and compounding coincidences that just drain any investment you can have in the characters or the plot itself; especially our protagonist who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that kind of story to work, it has to ultimately circle back around to them actually being the right person to be there, but that would require a level of emotional investment that this movie is just unwilling to extend and so Brad Pitt feels like as distant to the story as those of us sitting in the theater watching him awkwardly stumble his way through a place he doesn’t belong; like an uninvited party guest asking everyone where the bathroom is. With the threadbare story, the quip-tastic dialogue, and the general lack of impact or weight from any of the narrative beats, it falls somewhere between a Rick and Morty episode and one of those award show skits with a bunch of celebrities are comically inserted into another movie. If we take it on these terms, as little more than entertainment fluff with a bunch of famous people in it, does it manage to work? Sort of, I guess. It’s competent in its action and the actors are fine for what they’re asked to do, but it’s also not that inspiring or clever in its shallowness and I had my fill of everything it had to offer well before it got to its big cameos at the end. At best it’s a misguided attempt from Hollywood to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of early Tarantino as well as the director’s own early success with John Wick, and at worst it’s the cinematic equivalent of Steve Buscemi in a backwards baseball cap asking his fellow kids how they are doing. It’s not without its charms, but why settle for the smoothed-over corporate version of stylized action shlock when the genuine article is easier to find than ever?

2 out of 5

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Cinema Dispatch: Prey

Prey and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios & Hulu

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

The Predator franchise has actually had one of the better track records out there. Perhaps it’s because they take a significant amount of time between each entry, or maybe it’s a premise that is almost foolproof. In fact, the only time they really screwed it up was when they gave it to the one guy who really shouldn’t have screwed it up, but then we’re not here to badger The Predator yet again. Instead, we’re gonna talk about this latest entry that was recently put on Hulu with a few interesting twists that have certainly caught peoples’ attention. Is it another solid entry in this dependable franchise, or did Shane Black’s giant mishap a mere harbinger of things to come? Let’s find out!!

Set in the early eighteenth century, we follow Naru (Amber Midthunder), a strong Comanche warrior who wants to prove herself as a hunter to her tribe and to her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) who would rather she put away the bows and arrows to pick up a mortar and pestle. It’s not that she’s unskilled as a healer, but she’s not about to let others tell her what she’s gonna do and she continues to hone her skills for whatever tries to invade their territory. Of course, she’s picturing some wild cats and maybe a bear here and there, but it becomes clear that there’s something in the woods that’s stronger than all the cats and bears combined! An alien creature with a chip on his shoulder and covered in advanced alien tech, lands nearby and starts looking for the most dangerous creatures to kill and prove that itself to be tougher than. With such a dangerous monster lurking in the shadows (and the just as dangerous specter of colonialism looming nearby) can Naru and Taabe protect their tribe from the threats around them? Will Naru prove herself to be a worthy warrior to her tribe, and what will it cost her to finally get the respect she’s after? I don’t know, it seems a little bit unfair to be busting out the laser-guided bolts when your opponents still don’t have gunpowder. Seems like a hollow victory at best for the Predator, am I right?

“Is it just me, or is it a little TOO quiet?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Nope

Nope and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Jordan Peele

Very recently I’ve started watching Key & Peele in earnest as I had seen little more than clips online in the past, and frankly, it’s not all that surprising that at least one of them became a horror director. The duo made some very funny stuff, but there are also quite a few sketches throughout the show that not only have a sinister edge to them but almost feel like precursors to Jordan Peele’s first feature Get Out. Now he has two wildly successful features under his belt and much like M Night Shyamalan when he was in that position, his next move is to go for a spooky movie about aliens, or at least the general idea of them as the marketing has done a very good job covering up the true nature of whatever is going on here. Does this updated take on the classic sci-fi genre prove to be as groundbreaking as Peele’s previous films, or is even the best of filmmakers unable to escape the occasional dud? Let’s find out!!

OJ Haywood and his sister Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) are left running their father’s horse ranch after an unexpected (and unexplained) accident took his life only a few months prior. Now Papa Haywood (Keith David) ran Hayood’s Hollywood Horse Ranch like a true professional as he took great care of the horses and worked well with the production studios, but unfortunately, his kids aren’t exactly filling his shoes with Em having the personality but not the business sense and OJ working great with horses but not with other people. The only thing keeping them afloat is selling horses one after another to the local rodeo owned by former child star Ricky Park (Steven Yeun), but that’s only going to last for so long before they will surely need to sell their father’s ranch and his legacy off to whoever will throw a few dollars their way. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, there seems to be this strange thing in the sky that will occasionally pass soundlessly through the air in the middle of the night and has some sort of effect on electronic equipment which can only mean one thing; aliens, and therefore opportunity! Em is gung ho about capturing some fantastic footage of this mysterious spacecraft on film and selling it to the highest bidder, and OJ is just kinda going along with it since there isn’t much more they can do to save the ranch, so with the help of a local electronics store clerk (Brandon Perea) they set up a series of cameras around the ranch hope to get a once in a lifetime shot that will put Haywood’s Hollywood Horses back in the spotlight! What is this mysterious thing in the night sky that Em and OJ hope to capture on film, and can they do it without drawing its attention; or wrath? What is it doing here in the first place, and are the Haywood’s the only ones trying to catch a glimpse of it? Seriously, with the way things have been going lately, how much are they really gonna get for alien footage? It’s not like there won’t be another dozen or so terrifying news stories the next day!

“If we can sandwich the release between the end of the January Sixth hearings and the latest news from climate scientists, we may have a solid six hours on Twitter’s Trending topics!”     “And that turns into money, how?”     “That comes when they make the docu-series on Netflix.”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Nope”

Cinema Dispatch: Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Taika Waititi

Much like Thor himself, I find myself in something of a slump recently with a few different roads to get out of it. I won’t go into details, but I’m definitely taking a few steps in some sort of direction and we’ll see how things shake out in the next few weeks. For now though, I’m working on these reviews on my schedule and no one else’s which means that unfortunately, this is coming out long after everyone else has said their piece on it. Still, no harm in throwing my opinion out into the void and seeing if the void spews anything back up! Does this latest entry in the Marvel Forever-verse shock a few more minutes of life into the franchise, or will this be just fine and watchable to the consternation of those who are waiting for a big enough disaster to finally topple Disney’s firm grip on the genre? Let’s find out!!

With everything that happened in that whole Thanos kerfuffle, which included the death of his brother and the near extinction of the Asgardians, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) really needed a break to try and figure things out. To that end, he’s been bumming around with the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as his friend Korg (Taika Waititi), until they run out of Big Lebowski jokes and convince him to go on some wild goose chase for some sort of God Butcher in a bid to get away from his mopey Asgardian butt. Turns out the threat is real, however, as a humble alien named Gorr (Christian Bale) loses his faith in the Gods and is rewarded with the Necrosword; a weapon so dark and powerful that it can kill these selfish Gods while slowly draining him of his life and seemingly his sanity. Well, we’ve got a new Marvel villain to dispatch of which can only mean it’s time for another team-up, and since the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t returning his calls he returns to the last Asgardian colony on Earth to see if a few warriors are still bumming around. Turns out that Thor’s hammer has been restored and there’s a new Thor in the form of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is called Mighty Thor to distinguish from the guy whose name is Thor but lost the title of Thor some time ago… or something like that. Needless to say, there are some mixed feelings there as their relationship didn’t end on the best of terms, but they need to work together, along with Korg and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to stop Gorr who, in classic villain fashion, has stolen a bunch of Asgardian children for seemingly no reason other than spite. Can Thor and Mighty Thor set aside their past difference and come together to stop this threat to the universe? What are the rest of the Gods doing while Gorr is carving his way through their ranks, and what is Gorr truly hoping to accomplish by stringing the two Thors along on this rescue mission? Seriously, are Jane and Thor gonna talk or will they just keep things awkward for the whole trip?

“Maybe you should tell her you miss her?” “Quiet! I’m busy! Doing… superhero stuff.”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #50

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Apologies for this one being as late as it is. I was out of town when the issue came out and all I got out of the trip was a lousy case of Strep Throat that’s left me sick and exhausted for well over a week now. Still, you can’t keep a Sonic fan down for long! Whether it’s illness, delays, or crappy games, we always come back for more; which is the operative word here because they went all out and made this an extra lengthy issue to fit in everything they wanted for the big celebration! Does this double-sized issue live up to the months of hype surrounding it, or will it land with an extra loud thud now that they’ve made it twice as long? Let’s find out!!

The issue begins where the last one left off as our heroes race to Eggman’s capital city as its being sieged by Dr. Starline and his two protégés Surge and Kitsunami. From here the story breaks down into three fights as Eggman comes back to take out Starline, Surge catches Sonic by surprise and drags him to a fight for survival, and Tails is left befuddled to deal with the sad fox with water powers and a particularly sinister look in his eyes. We’ll tackle these fights one at a time starting with Eggman and Starline which I consider to be the best of three as both characters are really allowed to stretch their muscles and give us a clash of personalities worth getting invested in. The biggest problem with these two is that, despite some solid characterization and a few ingenious plots here and there, they feel a bit underwhelming as threats and can lean too hard into goofy territory when they have to fend off the furry brigade and the unstoppable power of friendship. Here, the winner is going to be determined not by Main Character Powers or the heart of a champion, but by who can last the longest without dying as the two try to smash each other to bits with giant robots! What I found particularly satisfying about this (even more so than the giant robots) is the depths of Eggman’s ego as he would rather risk destroying everything than have any aspect of it not under his supreme authority and Starline (despite being the one who kidnapped and brainwashed two innocent critters) ends up sounding like the reasonable one.

“If I put you as the denominator in my calculator, it gives me an error message! Do you know why!?”     “… is it because I’m zer-”     “IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE ZERO!!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #50”

Cinema Dispatch: 2022 June Catch Up

With an out-of-state trip followed by a hellacious cold, it has not been the most productive week for me and I sadly could not get this done by the end of last month. Still, it’s been a rather slow month of releases as only three or four big movies have come out in the last few weeks with everything else presumably scared off by Top Gun, so taking things a bit easy and reviewing them on my schedule may not have put me as far back as you’d think. In any case, we’ve got three movies that I saw in June, and I’m finally ready to talk about them! Let’s get started!!

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Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe

Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe is owned by Paramount Plus

Directed by John Rice & Albert Calleros

Beavis and Butt-Head (Mike Judge) are living their pointless teenage lives in the early nineties when they get into trouble and are rewarded with tickets to Space Camp. Through a convoluted series of misunderstandings and poor adult supervision, the duo is launched into space and find their way into a wormhole that sends them all the way to 2022; a revelation that is awe-inspiring to them as seeing the numbers 69 on a billboard. With nothing else to do and still barely comprehending the situation, the duo tries to make it back to their house so they can score with a hot astronaut lady and watch some more TV. Said astronaut lady (Andrea Savage) is now running for reelection as Governor of Texas and doesn’t want these two bringing up questions about that botched space mission, so she’s hunting them down with the help of her Lieutenant Governor and hapless lackey (Nat Faxon), while the Pentagon is following their movements believing them to be extra-terrestrials. Can Beavis and Butt-Head avoid death and dissection on their quest to score and eat nachos, or will the universe itself be torn to shreds in their quest for food and babes?

If Disney spewing their entire retro catalog at us in Chip & Dale didn’t make things clear enough, we are firmly in the throes of a nineties comeback which meant it was only a matter of time before Mike Judge and co dusted off this franchise for one last ride. Unlike other revivals, however, that try to remind you of the nineties with rose-tinted glasses, Judge and co are more interested in making two characters that were inextricably tied to that decade work as a modern property. To their credit, they mostly succeed as this movie is funny and a solid entry in the franchise, but even with the best of intentions it still feels a bit mired in the past. Transplanting them to modern-day with a very modern conceit (multiverses are the hot new thing these days) was a wise move and it does give Judge some room to air his grievances with modern life, though as is his style he tries not to get too preachy about it and lets his characters react to it rather than say much about it himself. They also flesh out the duo in ways that we hadn’t seen before which is certainly rewarding for fans, and I like that Beavis gets to open up a bit more and shows some genuine heart in this. It also puts into stark relief how much Butt-Head is the Moe Howard of this duo and he has some pretty nasty moments in here that almost make him the villain of the story which is honestly a lot more plot and drama than these two are used to. It’s pretty much what you’d want from a modern Beavis and Butt-Head as it’s solidly funny but is not breaking any new ground. As fun as all this is, however, there’s a point where they completely run out of steam and what is supposed to be the subtext of the entire franchise becomes laid bare in a way that is just not funny or interesting. The thing about Beavis and Butthead is that they may be foolish and ignorant teenagers, but they are able to move through life with little consequence because the rest of the world is just as foolish and ignorant as they are. Where Beavis and Butthead are driven by simplistic desires for food, sex, and cheap thrills, the rest of the world is consumed by ego, comfort, and minimizing their shame, and while they do get a good amount of mileage out of that in this movie, it feels like they wrote themselves into a corner and gave up on trying to make this a clever punchline and instead use it as a plot device. Once that happens, the movie never truly recovers and the final thirty minutes are somewhat of a slog as no one seems to know what to do anymore and are just jabbering back and forth to pad out the running time. There are plenty of franchises that go on long after they’ve run out of ideas and I commend Judge and co for picking their moments to bring these characters back. Still, there’s a bit too much of this that’s stuck in the nineties and the few jabs at modern society are not quite enough to pull it into the twenty-first century.

3 out of 5
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: 2022 June Catch Up”

Cinema Dispatch: RRR

RRR and all the images you see in this review are owned by Variance Films and Sarigama Cinemas

Directed by S.S. Rajamouli

We’re still trying to take things easy around here, and frankly, it’s the perfect time to do it as Top Gun was really the last film to hold much interest for me. The new Jurassic Park looks like about as exciting as a paint drying seminar, and while Lightyear roped me in by using Bowie in the first trailer, I bounced off pretty hard after the more recent ones had much less going for them. So with that, we’re still mostly just scrapping through streaming services to see what pops up, and I decided to give this one a chance after hearing a lot of glowing reviews from people I follow on social media. Is this the action bonanza that everyone and their dog’s Twitter account is telling me it is, or am I going to be the Grumpy Gus that rains on everyone’s parade? Let’s find out!!      

In the early twentieth century, back when The British Empire was occupying India, one of their governors (Ray Stevenson) kidnaps a child from a small village and takes her back to the consulate in Delhi. Unbeknownst to them, however, the village has a champion whose mission in life is to keep this tribe safe and to return this girl to her rightful family. The hero known as Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr) has already made his way to Delhi and so the government puts a bounty on his head which is of particular interest to one of their officers Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) who sees it as a chance to get a promotion. Considering how the dude single-handedly fights off an entire riot, it seems like he’s a shoe-in to catch this hero, but the task may prove more difficult than he anticipated given that no one knows what he looks like and that the dude is known for fighting (and winging) against wild animals. While following a lead, Raju witnesses a train accident that puts a child in danger, and a mysterious stranger helps him to save the child in the most spectacular and outrageous manner possible, and the two become quick friends. Oh, but what a twist of fate that this stranger is none other than Bheem and the two have no idea of the other’s identity and it will surely come to a head the closer either one gets to completing their mission. Will Bheem be able to rescue the girl from the British Governor, or will his best friend be forced to stop him? What convinced Raju to join this oppressive government in the first place, and will his friendship with Bheem ultimately be his undoing? Did I actually see this movie, or was it a beautiful dream I had after watching too many Jerry Bruckheimer movies?

Come on, look at this! You’ve just got to know what’s going on here, right!?
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Cinema Dispatch: Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

It’s true that I’m getting to this one pretty late, but it’s also true that the darn thing is still the biggest movie at the moment so I guess I can still call this review somewhat relevant. I guess it’s no surprise that one of the most enduring classics of the eighties finally getting the sequel everyone always wanted would hit like a meteor full of money, but it’s still pretty surprising just how much this has eclipsed everything else around it. Even MCU movies which are supposedly so ubiquitous that we should all be sick of them don’t manage to have the kind of staying power that this movie has! So what is the secret formula that turned this into a license to print money? Is it actually as good as its box office would suggest, or has nostalgia once again suckered us all into giving money to a movie that was better off being remembered than revived? Let’s find out!!

Captain Pete Mitchell, better known as Maverick (Tom Cruise), has been bumming around the Navy since the glory days of Eddie Money and Leisure suits, and it’s landed him a gig as a test pilot for experimental aircraft. Of course, Maverick being Maverick, he manages to screw that up by ticking off Admiral Ed Harris and is only saved from a dishonorable discharge by his old friend Admiral Tom Kazansky who was once known as Iceman (Val Kilmer). Instead, he gets sent to teach the next generation of hot shot pilots which just so happens to include Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Goose who died while flying with Maverick back in the first movie. His assignment, should he choose to accept it, is to get these Millennials in tip-top fighting shape for a ridiculously complicated and ludicrously dangerous bombing run to destroy a uranium enrichment facility, and there’s no one better than Maverick for making the impossible merely improbable! Can Maverick finally put his ego in check and be the teacher that these pilots need? What happened between him and Bradley that left him feeling so bitter, and is this Maverick’s last chance to make things right? Was waiting nearly forty years to make a sequel just a flex on Tom Cruise’s part to show how little he’s aged since then?

“Just hang tight and we’ll be done before you know it.”     “How long until we’re over Macho Grande?”     “Son, I don’t think we’ll ever get over Macho Grande…”     “Was than an Airplane 2 reference? Seriously, how old is this guy!?”
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