The Problem with Live-Action Disney Remakes – Film Discussion

In years recent years, Disney has noticeably been taking quite an aggressive approach to reimagining many of the company’s classic animated adventures into live-action blockbusters, which I personally feel is having a bad influence on the rest of the film industry in more ways than one.

Despite Disney actually beginning the trend of remaking their classic films all the way back in 2010 with the semi-sequel/remake of: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ directed by Tim Burton. Disney didn’t begin to get truly rampant with its approach until the later successes of: ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ in 2015 and 2016 respectively, with ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Aladdin’ following not far behind, eventually leading to their most recent releases, that being: ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Lady and the Tramp’. Yet whilst all of these films did receive mostly positive reviews from both critics and audiences upon their initial release, I personally have never understood why. As for me, none of these remakes ever manage to really justify their existence, with each new film simply feeling like nothing more than a product, a money machine disguised as a film created purely for the purpose of rinsing profit out of Disney fans who desire to see their childhood classics recreated in a new light, and by this point, I just find it irritating.

Of course, remaking classic/iconic films is nothing new for the film industry, with dreadful remakes such as: ‘Robocop’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Robin Hood’ all being great examples of how taking a classic film and giving it a sleek modern-aesthetic doesn’t automatically make it superior to the original. However, it’s the way Disney goes about executing their remakes that makes them even more frustrating. As even though most reimaginings may not differ too much of the original story, the majority of Disney remakes feel almost identical to their animated counterparts, featuring nearly all of the same scenes and dialogue, now just dragged-down by much weaker visuals, vocal performances and songs. Which in turn, also allows directors and writers to simply borrow material from previous filmmakers without having to innovate much themselves. Another issue I have with Disney converting their animated classics into live-action is that many of the original stories were always envisioned to be animated as they were being written, meaning when transferred into a different style of filmmaking, they usually are forced to rely on enormous amounts of CGI.

Although most audiences seemingly don’t take issue with Disney’s constant remakes, there are still some Disney fans who have spoken-out about losing interest Disney’s future live-action endeavours. In particular, I personally recall many weren’t looking forward to watching the ‘Aladdin’ remake around the time of its release, which I feel is understandable. As just from its trailer alone, it was clear that not only would the film intensely mirror the original, but it was obvious just from a glance that its visuals were also far, far duller, as the remake was lacking in both colour and style. Focusing more on being semi-realistic rather than fully engaging in its elements of fantasy (which for a narrative revolving around a powerful genie who grants three magical wishes feels like a huge mistake to me). Whilst the original: ‘Aladdin’ may not be the most visually-enthralling of Disney’s catalogue of family flicks, the classic style of 2D hand-drawn animation is still very pleasing to look at even by today’s standards for CG animated films.

It may even surprise some to know that many of these bland remakes were actually directed by talented filmmakers like Jon Favreau and the previously mentioned Tim Burton. Yet with each new film, every-director’s unique style always seems to be stripped-away or completely absent. As not only does each remake barely utilise any creative cinematography or editing, relying nearly entirely on CG effects to impress the audience. But usually inventive directors such as: Guy Richie, who has made phenomenal use of his unique style editing and humour in the past within his films: ‘Snatch’ and ‘The Gentlemen’, suffers as a result of how simply generic and even somewhat boring his reimagining of: ‘Aladdin’ is, and while Disney may not be entirely to blame for this, I do believe the company would prefer to keep each remake fairly easy to digest in order to appeal to a wider-audience.

In addition to both the visuals and directing however, the cast of the original animated flicks were also a huge contributing factor to them becoming as beloved as they now are, with not only actors like Robin Williams as the original: ‘Genie’ of course, but also lesser-known actors such as: Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as ‘Timon’ and ‘Pumbaa’, to Jodi Benson and Pat Carroll as: ‘Ariel’ and ‘Ursula’. As all these voices not only gave the characters great comedic timing and a distinct tone, but they soon even became an extension of the characters themselves, making them recognisable purely through their voice. Whereas Disney’s newer remakes prefer to just take the much easier approach of simply casting the most relevant actors at the time and throwing them into an iconic role, and whilst actors like Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor will always be superb at their craft, forcing these performers into roles within ‘The Lion King’ simply due to their popularity will always make their vocal performance feel very out-of-place when in comparison with the original film.

The final area I find Disney remakes to be most lacking is with the tampering of classic Disney songs, as although I’m personally not an enormous fan of musicals within the realm of live-action, I’ve always enjoyed many of the songs in Disney animated classics. As not only do I feel these songs add to the characters and the story of each film immensely, but many classic Disney songs also manage to become iconic amongst themselves, with nearly any fan of animation more than likely knowing all the words to ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘Under the Sea’ (just to name a few). But when it comes to the remakes, once again, both the original score and songs feel far more dull, even in spite of the legendary Hanz Zimmer returning for: ‘The Lion King’ remake to recreate many of his classic tracks. Still, a few of the reimaginings do at least attempt to throw-in some original songs, which unfortunately end-up being mostly forgotten due to them being overshadowed by the classic songs audiences more familiar with.

In conclusion, it seems the influx of live-action Disney remakes won’t be stopping anytime soon, with ‘The Lion King’ racking-in over £1.298 billion worldwide, Disney will most likely continue this remaking trend until their audience completely loses interest. As reimaginings of: ‘Mulan’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Pinocchio’, The Sword in the Stone’ and ‘Lilo and Stitch’ as well as many, many more, are already set for release. Whilst the ‘House of Mouse’ does still have a few original films on the horizon, Disney seems to be heading down a similar path to their paired animation company Pixar, that being one of laziness, relying mostly on their previous stories and franchises for profit rather than creating something new, which in turn is also encouraging other production companies to do the same. So if you share my opinion, perhaps sit-out Disney’s next live-action release, stay at home, and just relive many of the beautifully animated stories from the past, as I honestly believe many of these films are timeless.

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This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on. But for now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year.

Joker

Without a doubt one of my favourite films of the year: ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips (The Hangover, Old School, War Dogs) is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CGI action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a brilliant filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper’, as although I personally wasn’t an enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. I knew this director had talent elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knives Out’. A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle not to enjoy ‘Knives Out’.

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In the Tall Grass

One of many Steven King adaptations from this year, ‘In the Tall Grass’ comes to us from ‘Cube’ director Vincenzo Natali, and with that sci-fi classic being a personal favourite of mine, I had high-hopes for this Netflix thriller despite its somewhat weak source material. However, as the runtime continued-on, I soon realised the film was far more interested in attempting to explain its bizarre and messy plot rather than experiment with any of its unique ideas.

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Marriage Story

Standing out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances, which, despite not being anything outstanding in regards to filmmaking, still manages to be entertaining, emotional and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, mostly known for the awful: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon’. Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CGI effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from: ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Haunt

Although the plot of a group of teens heading into a haunted house on Halloween only to get more than they bargained for may initially sound incredibly over-done, ‘Haunt’ is actually one of the hidden gems of the year in my opinion. Utilizing some visually impressive sets and lighting in addition to an array of tense moments and creative ideas, the film is certainly one of the better horrors/thrillers from this year despite its issues.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan’, director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66’. Featuring some excellent performances from the main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is (in my opinion) near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite some-time leading up to its release. However, when I eventually watched: ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to once again bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a letdown. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long runtime, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CGI monsters.

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Crawl

Going off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl’, hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge of your seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of its runtime. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make up for its mediocre CGI effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

Whilst definitely not on the same level as many of the others films from director Danny Boyle’s catalogue, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel-good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable upbeat tone, and enough likeable characters to carry it through many of its cheesy moments and sometimes overly predictable story.

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The Platform

Definitely a futuristic thriller fans of: ‘The Belko Experiment’ should check out, ‘The Platform’ is just as violent as it is suspenseful, as this Spanish sci-fi thriller deals with a variety of dark themes and ideas, all whilst keeping the viewer engaged through its interesting plot, decent performances and surprising turns.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes: ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled-down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CGI visuals, nostalgia and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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The Hustle

Although I may not have been the target audience for: ‘The Hustle’, judging by the dreadful reviews from critics and audiences alike, it seems as if I wasn’t alone in finding this comedy just as bland as it was unfunny, with many of the jokes feeling extremely lazy as the film takes all the obvious hits anyone would expect at Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson without attempting much else in terms of humour.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror/comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to going off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout its story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in its entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame’, a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed: ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set-pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy/drama makes all the right moves to keep its audience engaged within its story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout its runtime.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original: ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to its tone and story (with some elements mixed-up of course) and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CGI effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged down by weak characters, cheesy moments and at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the silver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’. Bringing us a slight subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

Of all the franchises dragging themselves out in an attempt to drawn-in whatever loose profits still remain, ‘Terminator’ has been by far the worst, with ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ only further proving this. Being extremely bland and cliché throughout, this time-travelling sci-fi series truly feels as if it’s got nothing more to offer, even with a talented director at the helm and James Cameron back on-board as a producer, this franchise is now really just a shadow of its former-self.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series, which sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. As many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of extremely out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately failed quite miserably. As overly fast-pacing and an extremely messy (and unsatisfying) narrative really dragged the film down despite its fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a long-rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks new ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes: ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst in my opinion, as although the film’s CGI visuals are nearly flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and overall personality of the original film. Resulting in the remake being nothing more than an overall boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming off as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror/comedy, which is just as predictable as it is dull, despite many of its decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

Whilst I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues. As director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Fractured

Overly predictable and formulaic, ‘Fractured’ focuses on the potentially compelling narrative of a father’s family mysteriously disappearing within the walls of a hospital, yet despite its few effective scenes, ‘Fractured’ soon ends-up feeling like a path nearly every-viewer has been down before. Resulting in the film becoming just another forgettable Netflix Original.

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The Lighthouse

Despite my dislike of director Robert Egger’s other film: ‘The Witch’ from back in 2016, ‘The Lighthouse’ had me gripped to the screen throughout its runtime. As the film’s black and white colour palette along with it’s eerie original score and intriguing story, leave the ‘The Lighthouse’ a film that’s just an interesting to discuss as it is to watch.

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Parasite

I went to experience Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ mostly due to its outstanding reviews rather than due to its trailers (which I personally found quite poor). But yet, with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances, ‘Parasite’ is now definitely up-there with some of my personal favourite foreign flicks such as: ‘Oldboy’, ‘Veronica’ and ‘The Host’, in addition to possibly being my favourite release of this year.

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Captain Marvel

One of the blandest Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing on themes of strong female empowerment that it forgets to actually create a likeable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film overall feel simply forgettable more than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, Zombieland: Double Tap’ was more enjoyable than I was initially expecting. As while far from as memorable or as enjoyable as the original for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Iconic director Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) returns to bring us another tale of crime and regret with ‘The Irishman’, and while the over three-hour-long runtime can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s runtime.

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Us

Director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’, was a far cry from excellent for me. As despite the brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with rushed ideas and ridiculous scenes, all adding up to a horror flick that placed more focus it’s themes than it’s narrative. Resulting in a film which was just as inconsistent with its tone as it was with its story.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy’, with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed-with poor CGI effects and dreadful comedic moments, leave the film pleasing no-one, despite David Harbour’s decent performance as the horned anti-hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set-off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Fighting with My Family

Directed by actor and comedian Stephen Merchant, ‘Fighting with My Family’ is a light-hearted British comedy-drama based on the true story of WWE wrestler: ‘Paige’ portrayed extremely-well throughout the film by Florence Pugh, and despite a few cringy scenes, ‘Fighting with My Famly’ was a huge surprise for me. As a very investing story and some brilliant moments of humour leave the film a genuinely enjoyable experience that seemingly went under most people’s radars upon its intial release.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the Second World War through the eyes of a child. All under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to life many of my favourite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern-horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, gory and fun throughout nearly the entirety of its runtime.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining’, ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel’, and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on its own very well, having a mostly predictable story with some pretty bland characters within its nearly three-hour runtime.

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Child’s Play

From the producers of the ‘It’ remake from 2017, this reimaging of the horror classic: ‘Child’s Play’ does have some great elements, such as: some hilarious scenes of dark comedy, gory and creative death scenes and even a pretty memorable voice performance by Mark Hamill as the iconic killer doll: ‘Chucky’, and yet, the film never quite manages to escape its remake roots and goofy original idea, usually feeling more unnecessary than anything else.

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Wounds

Regardless of its atrocious reviews from both critics and audiences, I actually quite enjoyed: ‘Wounds’. As although this psychological horror may have some bland cinematography and an overreliance on jump-scares at points, the film’s weirdly unique narrative and main performance by Armie Hammer simply won me over by its end, despite the film being nothing that memorable in the long-run.

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Pet Sematary

In this new remake of Steven King’s classic novel, Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz portray: ‘Louis’ and ‘Rachel Creed’ a couple who move to rural Maine only to soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden within the woods near their new home, and aside from the dark and interesting plot the film provides. ‘Pet Sematary’ is nothing more than a bland jump-scare fest with little focus on building character or atmosphere.

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I Lost My Body

This unique animated French film co-written by the writer of the beloved: ‘Amélie’, is very charming and beautifully crafted throughout the entirety of its tight runtime, with a variety of stunning shots and plenty of creative ideas, ‘I Lost My Body’ is certainly worth a watch despite being overshadowed by many other films released this year.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with ‘Uncut Gems’, portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film brilliantly from start-to-finish, despite the film’s shaky cinematography and bizarre original score being a little distracting at points.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed: ‘Hereditary’, director Ari Aster’s other film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow-paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and attractive visuals simply couldn’t save from becoming the boring experience it eventually ended-up being for me, with the exception of another excellent performance by Florence Pugh from this year.

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Unicorn Store

Led by a mediocre and sometimes irritating performance by Brie Larson, ‘Unicorn Store’ attempts to be a fun, colourful and heartwarming tale of a grown woman letting go of her childhood. Yet unfortunately, the film falls far off the mark for most of these goals, as ‘Unicorn Store’ is more dull and forgettable than the whimsical tale it set-out to be.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Whilst I definitely would’ve prefered an anthology-type structure when it comes to an adaptation of the ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ children’s book series, this horror film for a younger audience certainly has its fair share of flaws. As although not awful by any means, the film is simply just a very mixed-bag overall.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is brimming with cheesy moments and a very out-of-place original score. Despite this however, the film still manages to utilize its fun story and exciting action scenes to the best of its advantage, resulting in an entertaining if not perfect family flick.

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Beautiful Shots in Film – Film List

There are many beautiful shots in film, combing amazing cinematography, with an attractive colour palette and some excellent lighting. Many shots can become truly iconic on themselves, even telling the story of a specific character or location purely through the visual itself. Here are a few of my personal favourites…

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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The Matrix (1999)

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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Psycho (1960)

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The Revenant (2016)

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

36(436)

Don’t Breathe (2016)

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American Beauty (1999)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Annihilation (2018)

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Scream (1996)

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Interstellar (2014)

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The Shape of Water (2017)

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Jaws (1975)

32(537)

American Psycho (2000)

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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The Road (2009)

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Life of Pi (2012)

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Fight Club (1999)

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The Shining (1980)

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Toy Story 4: The Forgettable Epilogue – Film Dissection

So ‘Toy Story 4’ has finally hit cinemas, supposedly to be the ‘true’ conclusion to the animated saga. But does it live up to it?

From back in 2010 when I first watched: ‘Toy Story 3’, I was blown away by the true greatness of this animated trilogy. Still to this day, I still honestly believe that the ‘Toy Story’ films are one of the best trilogies to ever be put to the silver screen. Combing beautiful animation, with incredibly memorable and iconic characters, in addition to plenty of humour, excitement and surprisingly in-depth themes at points. The films felt like one big story, split into three parts purely for the audience’s easy enjoyment, and I (along with many others) was very happy with the way the third film ended, finishing the story in both a satisfying and emotional way. That is of course until Pixar announced a fourth film to be released back in 2014.

So as I wasn’t really anticipating any-more sequels to the ‘Toy Story’ series (thinking this fourth entry was purely created to be a cash-grab) I wasn’t really looking forward to the film all that much. But after seeing all the fantastic reviews from both critics and audiences alike, I started to think that perhaps Pixar may have pulled off the impossible. So I went into the film with decent expectations, wanting to be pleased. Unfortunately however, although I don’t think the film is terrible by any means. The film is easily the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ films for me, feeling almost like an additional adventure with the occasional memorable moment sprinkled in. Aside from the ending of the film of course, which seems to be the main element that is really winning people over.

The film takes place a while after the third film, now focusing on the gang of toys living with their new owner: ‘Bonnie’. However, this is where my first issue with the film comes in, as although we don’t find out exactly how much time has passed. It seems to have only been a months going by ‘Bonnie’s age within the film, yet during this time she has now grown out of: ‘Woody’, completely ignoring him in favour of all her other toys. While I understand children can grow out of their toys in time, this simply feels like too large of a shift to me, especially when compared to ‘Bonnie’s love for: ‘Woody’ back in ‘Toy Story 3’. This also plays into the ending of the film that I already mentioned, as here we a difficult moment for ‘Woody’s previous owner: ‘Andy’ as he hands over his favourite toy entrusting it to ‘Bonnie’ with a promise, to which she now completely ignores when going onto the next film, making this beautiful moment now mostly pointless and making ‘Bonnie’ feel like a victim of some weak writing.

The main narrative continues on however, as ‘Woody’ follows ‘Bonnie’ as she nervously heads to her first day at kindergarten, where she creates her own toy out of pieces of rubbish which soon become a sentient toy. This eventually leads the entire gang on a road-trip with ‘Bonnie’s family as ‘Woody’ attempts to stop ‘Bonnie’s new creation: ‘Forky’ from throwing himself away, believing he is a piece of rubbish rather than a toy. This soon leads onto ‘Woody’ encountering his old flame: ‘Bo Peep’ as he finds her now a rouge toy living a free life. It’s around this point many more of my issues start to arise, as from this moment on, the becomes film entirely revolves around: ‘Woody’ and his love interest. Ditching many of the classic ‘Toy Story’ characters such as: ‘Jessie’, ‘Rex’, ‘Ham’, and ‘Mr. Potato Head’ in favour of many new characters voiced by famous actors, and while many of these characters are mostly entertaining, it’s a shame none of the other characters get any kind of conclusion or even anytime to shine like in the previous film.

Even one of the main characters from the franchise: ‘Buzz Lightyear’ has a very reduced role in the film, making his relationship to ‘Woody’ barely even notable, despite it being a very heavy focus throughout the trilogy. It’s also due to this that the film’s conclusion lacks the emotional impact I feel it should have, as when ‘Woody’ eventually decides the leave the gang for good. He only shares a simple hug with many of his long-time friends, many of which he’s barley even shared any screen-time or even dialogue with throughout the film. Which I do believe there was time for, as many of the new characters took up a lot of the run-time with a few of them not even adding anything to the story, purely just there for comedic effect, which is a real shame, as I feel if this scene was handled well, it could’ve been even more impactful than the ending of: ‘Toy Story 3’.

My biggest issue with the film is also relevant to the ending, as personally, I didn’t find ‘Woody’s decision to stay with ‘Bo’ within his character. While I have seen many people attempt to defend his decision, I simply don’t feel that fits in with the rest of the series. As the theme of sticking with your owner regardless of whether you get played with or not has always been at the centre of the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy and ‘Woody’s character overall. Obviously, the film does attempt to give ‘Woody’ a character arc throughout the film, focusing on a toy’s need for more than just an owner, and the overall focus of self-worth, which is interesting, but I simply feel with the film’s rushed pacing and very large character arc they are attempting to pull off, it just simply just doesn’t work. Perhaps if this was a single film I could believe it, but going off what we’ve seen before this, it’s just too big of a jump to me that ‘Woody’ would abandon his owner and friends of years for freedom.

Now I do feel this story for: ‘Woody’ could definitely work, and I do like the idea of the two best friends ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz’ going their separate ways. But I just don’t feel this was the way to do, perhaps if this character arc was built up for ‘Woody’ in previous films it would’ve worked better. In regards to previous films, ‘Bo Peep’ returning again in this film was a smart move on the writer’s part. As this character is far more developed than she was previously, and I can see her being used to convince ‘Woody’ down a different life-path over some random new toy introduced purely for that reason. Overall, it seems like there were trying to do something a little ‘different’ from previous films, and I think that’s great. But I feel this way mostly conflicts with what was set up previously in this series. It’s not that this film is ‘bad’ per-say, it was just very disappointing for me.

Of course, the film does have many merits, as the animation is phenomenal (being almost photo-realistic at points) along with some great voice-acting, an interesting/unique villain and a decent original score once again by Randy Newman. But personally, I find the story, characters and overall themes of: ‘Toy Story 4’ a little messy. The film has been described by many as an ‘epilogue’ to the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, almost like a little additional bit of story after the main narrative. Giving ‘Woody’ a conclusion alongside his old owner: ‘Andy’. But for me personally, the film doesn’t quite land on its feet. Feeling more than an additional adventure with the iconic toy cowboy rather than anything truly impactful or conclusive of note, and for me, the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy will always be the true animated classic, with this film serving as a decent side-adventure. But clearly, I’m in the minority on this, as it seems most people adore ‘Toy Story 4’, so it at least the franchise can still appease most.

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What Happened to Pixar Animation? – Film Discussion

Whatever happened to the beloved animation studio Pixar?

Pixar Animation used to make some phenomenal animated adventures that the entire family could enjoy together. Regardless of their age. Mixing brilliant storytelling with beautiful animation and incredibly memorable characters. Each film never failed to stand-out amongst the rest. Some of the films such as: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ or ‘Wall.E’ for example (my personal favourite Pixar films), really got creative with their own narratives and flushing out their individual worlds. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a serve downgrade in quality from their films. As it seems ever since the release of ‘Toy Story 3’ back in 2010, Pixar has had a real reliance on sequels, prequels and spin-offs over original films. While still mostly enjoyable, I have noticed the storytelling, character arcs and world-building all seem to be lacking when compared to their earlier films.

In recent years films such as: ‘The Good Dinosaur’, ‘Monsters University’, ‘Brave’, ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Cars’ 2 and 3 and of course the upcoming ‘Toy Story 4’. Have all ranged from sub-par through to simply awful, the ‘Cars’ series of course being the best example of this. As this series has always been Pixar’s black sheep. Never truly having the magic that makes Pixar special, always feeling like more of a cash-grab than anything else. ‘Cars 2’ being the easiest example of this, as this film is Pixar’s only rotten film to date. The ‘Cars’ series has always felt very immature to me, although I didn’t hate the original film, it’s definitely no one’s favourite. In regards to Pixar’s other sequels: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story 4’, ‘Finding Dory’ is nothing more than a reskinned ‘Finding Nemo’, with the exception of a few amusing characters, the film has nothing more really to offer. Despite having fantastic reviews from critics for some reason, the film was never anything other than a massive nostalgia slap for me. As of now ‘Toy Story 4’ hasn’t been released yet, but I feel when it does it’ll be another film with great reviews, but with nothing truly memorable about it. As I personally believe the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy was ended so well, I don’t truly don’t understand why they feel the need to continue that story other than profit.

‘Monster’s University’ is probably my favourite of Pixar’s recent continuations of their old stories, although I don’t think the film reaches the heights of ‘Monster’s Inc.’ Purley due to less originality and dark themes. I do still think the film is very funny, and it does explore the monster world further. It’s one of the few films I can say where it feels there was true thought put into it, as it doesn’t just lean on the legacy of the previous film. Finally, we come to Pixar’s original films. This being ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Brave’, now whilst I don’t think these films are awful per-say. They simply just aren’t that memorable. ‘Brave’ having a few funny moments and an interesting setting, but falls more into classic 2D animated story at points. As for ‘The Good Dinosaur’, it’s simply a returning home story, with nothing of note at all other than the nice animation. It seems most people agree with me on this one too, considering its very low box office return.

Now of course, there are some recent exceptions, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’, ‘Coco’ and last year’s ‘Incredibles 2’ I did enjoy very much. These films proved to me that Pixar still does have some great stories in them, although these films aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t rank them as high as the classic Pixar films personally, they definitely show potential. I would love to see more original animated films like this from Pixar. Considering how much money ‘Coco’ made when it was released, it’s clear they still make money just from the Pixar name alone. So why do they feel the need to rely on sequels? Many people would point to Disney pulling their leg, and although I could believe that. I also think it’s due to Pixar simply becoming uninterested, they now think of themselves as the animation giants the audience believes they are. This means they no longer take risks, and are comfortable simply gaining profit of their previous franchises.

This could also be due to a lack of original ideas of course, Pixar simply feeling more comfortable returning to their previous stories. But considering some of their big competitors such as: DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Animation, Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Animation are all still pumping out original films (granted not all quite to the Pixar standard). Films such as: ‘Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie’, ‘Ferdinand’, ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Despicable Me’ are all still a very enjoyable watch. Some of these films even making a pretty big box office return. With the ‘Despicable Me’ spin-off: ‘Minions’ even becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films ever earning over £900 million. Even the company teamed up with them: Disney. Are beating them recently when it comes to original animated flicks. With Disney’s ‘Zootropolis’ being one of my favourite films of 2016 when it was originally released.

In conclusion, what happened to Pixar Animation is very clear to me. They simply got lazy, focusing far more on wanting to make a large profit rather than give their audience new exciting stories. The company isn’t completely dead, films like ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’ clearly proving there is still talent there. But with the older writers and creators now backing down from the company with newer faces arising. I’m concerned that Disney and Pixar executives may continue to push for more sequels, prequels and spin-offs with the knowledge that the films will always make money regardless of their quality. This is mostly why I fear for: ‘Toy Story 4’, as even though I really hope the film is great, I currently have a lot of doubts in my mind about it. Pixar however, have also recently brought out a trailer for their next film following on from ‘Toy Story 4’ titled: ‘Onward’, which does appear to be a completely original story focusing on elements of fantasy and adventure, so perhaps not all is lost for the iconic animation company just yet. But only time will tell I suppose.

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What’s Wrong with Modern Horror? – Film Discussion

What’s wrong with the majority of modern horror films?

In my opinion, there are many different issues modern-horrors/thrillers, although there is a few films that manage to avoid these problems. Such as: ‘It Follows’, ‘The Descent’, ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘The Void’ to name a few. The majority of modern horrors follow a very similar formula, a group of stereotypical teenagers do something they shouldn’t e.g. find a certain object (Ouija board, cursed book, dead friend/relative’s photo). Or a family moves into a new home only for it to be haunted by ghosts/spirits. These two plotlines are the go-to for most of the new releases nowadays. But they are unbelievably drawn-out by this point.

Similar to how nearly every-horror plot of the 1980s involved a group of teenagers visiting a cabin deep in the woods only to get slaughtered one-by-one at the hands of a psychotic serial killer. Sticking to stories that we have become so familiar to means that there is little surprise left for the audience, and the narrative soon becomes very predictable. Another issue with the majority of the stories that are told is the weak characters, nearly every modern horror has such bland characters it’s difficult to get invested in the story at all. Just because these characters may be killed off doesn’t mean you don’t have to write for them, having some likeable or interesting characters actually makes the audience care whether they live or die, therefore increasing the film’s tension. Of course, hiring unknown actors who aren’t the most amazing at their craft also doesn’t help towards this issue.

Another thing that’s always bothered me in regards to the characters in most modern horrors, is the character’s extreme stupidity. The film actually falls less out of reality due to the characters being so unbelievably oblivious to everything around them. It’s understandable the characters would have some doubts the first time one of their friends die. But after two or three, it’s ridiculous the characters still haven’t figured out what the audience has half an hour ago. Even if their curious but not concerned, it’s nothing but frustrating and less-believable. This unbelievability also applies to the attractiveness of the cast, as although I think a film featuring a few attractive cast members is perfectly fine, casting nothing but models takes the audience straight-out of the story. A film particularly guilty of both of these things is the Blumhouse production: ‘Truth or Dare’. As this film is a perfect example of the problems I have with most modern horrors, both in regards to their characters, actors and scripts.

However, it isn’t just the script or actors that’s an issue when it comes to modern horrors, the overall filmmaking of the picture is usually extremely bland. Again, due to the genre, some people may believe the filmmaking isn’t important. This isn’t true. The filmmaking can still be impressive while building tension and fear. ‘It Follows’ is a great example of this, the beautiful lighting, cinematography and original score all give the film style without taking anything away from the eerie atmosphere. Horror soundtracks are a huge issue for me when it comes to most of the films, as it is possible to create a great memorable score without making it just sound eerie e.g. ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining’.

Finally, we get to the biggest problem with modern horror, the classic jump-scare. Jump-scares only really came around in the early 2000s, but since then they have completely invaded the film industry. Not only appearing in horror but everything from action to sci-fi to even superhero films, they’ve now become almost a staple of modern filmmaking. I don’t believe they are an entirely awful idea, they can be used correctly every so often to shock the viewer, and give them a quick rush before the next scene. However, most modern horrors now essentially rely on jump-scares (most James Wan films being particularly guilty of this in my opinion), and I believe this is incredibly lazy. Horror should be about creating an eerie atmosphere, having creepy visuals and giving the audience some likeable characters to fear for. Almost placing the audience in that situation themselves, ‘Pyewacket’ from 2016 being a great example of this. Drawing out shots and using dark lighting/shadows and silhouettes etc. can all help build fear in the audience. Rather than just throwing ‘scary’ faces at the screen alongside loud noises to see what sticks.

The main reason all these bad decisions are made when it comes to the horror/thriller genre is mostly due to money, no matter how awful the majority of these horrors are, the reality is that they make money. As these films can be made on a very small budget as they utilize mostly unknown actors and very little CGI or make-up effects, with a target audience consisting of teenagers or horror fanatics who will pay to see the film, no matter how terrible the trailers may look. For example, the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ had a budget of only £11,800 and grossed over £151 million. The film only having an hour and twenty-minute runtime along with very few ‘ghosts’ even being displayed on-screen. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ also being another example. Having a small budget of £6 million with a gross of £21 million. Despite awful reviews from both critics and audiences alike.

In conclusion, modern horror films are suffering due to both a lack of creativity and a heavy focus on profit. I’m of course aware that film is a business, but in my opinion, creativity is the most important aspect, as without creativity film doesn’t exist. Horror is a fantastic genre that isn’t reaching it’s full potential a majority of the time due to production companies/directors not caring. There’s a reason a lot of indie horrors are praised, as they don’t set out to only make money, many of them are extremely creative and make amazing use of their micro-budgets. Although horror also wasn’t perfect in the past, I definitely preferred it. At least back in the 80s/90s we still had some creative concepts, from killer’s invading their victim’s dreams to murderous children’s dolls to even a hand-held documentary on teenagers finding an ancient evil witch in a forest. The possibilities were (and still are) truly endless. Hopefully soon, filmmakers and producers alike will look past the profit and truly see this.

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Welcome to JoeBakerReviews.com

Hello, my name is Joe Baker. In addition to being a current filmmaking student at Nottingham Trent University, I am also a passionate film fan and film reviewer. As ever since I first watched classics such as: ‘Alien’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Jaws’ during my younger days, I’ve always been obsessed with the filmmaking craft and the true wonders of storytelling.

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