Vampires and Aliens (TV reviews)

Van Helsing

Van Helsing (Season One) Kind of SPOILERS

After a volcanic eruption permanently dims daylight vampires, long hidden in shadows, emerge and devastate and enslave humankind. 3 years pass and the world is dealing with a vampire apocalypse where humans are either food, slaves or rebels. But all hope is not lost as a mysterious women who has been unconscious since the world went to hell, wakes up and promptly becomes the most wanted woman of the apocalypse; wanted by the vampires anyway. Who could she possibly be…think about the title of the show.

I wasn’t sold on this show at first but it did grow on me. I like apocalyptic tales, I like vampires, so after given it a couple of episodes I got over some of the mild cheesy stuff and just enjoyed it for the gory, sometimes unnerving story that unfolds. I believe Season 1 finished in December so it’s a bit of a wait to see what happens after the dramatic ending. Highly recommend checking it out on Netflix.

Colony

Colony (Season One) Minor SPOILERS

And now for something completely different – an alien apocalypse. Colony begins in Los Angeles 6 months after the arrival of an alien species. The details are sparse and bits and pieces of what occurred filter through the season but basically humans are now the aliens bitches. Why…not sure yet but they apparently have a purpose that is yet to be revealed.

During the first episode I felt a bit lost not really knowing what was happening but eventually I caught up. Like Van Helsing, the humans are either slaves, willing minions doing the monsters bidding or rebels. While watching this show I kept thinking about Fear the Walking Dead. There is something very similar to it and not just because Sarah Wayne Collins from The Walking Dead is in Colony. What I liked is that the invasion and devastation is still fresh and society is adapting to the new world under the rule of beings that the average person hasn’t actually seen but fears. All and all quite enjoyable and another show I suggest to check out on Netflix which has Season 1. Season 2 just started airing on TV a couple of weeks ago.

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The Great Waste (that would be TV)

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Yeah, TV can certainly be a great time waster but it also helps to alleviate the mind to drift elsewhere. And yes, that is an excuse for not writing more. The intent is there, some thoughts have passed over and through my muddled mind however, it’s the focus that is eluding me. So in the interim what feats of visual storytelling have garnered my attention….

Westworld – I remember seeing the VHS video cover for the original movie in the video store and thinking, that looks silly. Well, I never saw the movie but after watching the first season of the HBO series there is nothing silly about Westworld. I’m very impressed with this show. Great acting, twists and turns that keep you wondering when everything is happening and just overall engaging story telling. I did find it lagged in parts and wanted it to move forward quicker to the answers and show more of what Westworld truly is but all in all a good series opener.

The Strain – SPOILERS – Season 3 picks up with our heroes scattered, each looking for salvation and a way to kill the Master and take back New York. This season only advanced the story (in my opinion) in a couple of episodes, the final one bringing about a major event and a game changer for the story what with the nuclear explosion just outside of New York. What I didn’t really like was Samatha Mathis’ character yet again in this season and I’m not sorry to see her gone and I can’t stand the kid Zach. I love Quinlan, Setrakian and Fet when he isn’t pouting over Dutch who is another character I don’t really care for, in fact Eph is on that list as well. And what hell was with the lacklustre Gus story this season, lame. Why do I watch this show? Oh, for everyone but Dutch, Eph and Zach. I’ve read the books and I know how it all ends. I hope with the final season they stay true to the books because I liked how it concluded.

The Exorcist – SPOILERS: The TV adaptation of the book by William Peter Blatty or is it more the TV adaptation of the movie…So in this telling of demonic possession and exorcism the Rance family is terrorized by a demon that has taken over the youngest daughter (she is 16 I think) and matriarch Angela seeks help from her local priest Father Tomas. One thing – in the first episode when one of the daughters is acting odd, Angela immediately jumps to possession which seems odd but after about 5 episodes the viewers discover the truth – Angela Rance is actually Regan O’Neill from the original Exorcist which explains the jump to demons. Father Tomas enlists the help of Vatican approved exorcist Father Marcus to try to save the girl. There is another plot at play in at the same time which I found more interesting – a group of powerful people are plotting to….kill, possess…do something to the Pope who is due to visit the city where all this is taking place. That’s a poor description but I found the story with Father Marcus trying to protect the Pope more interesting than what was happening with the Rance family. If there is a second season, I can see Marcus and Tomas being the focus and I think that would be a good way for it to go.

The OA – A Netlfix original which there seems to be a growing number of these days. 7 years after 21-year-old blind Prairie Johnson disappears she returns to her parents no longer blind with strange scars across her back and refuses to speak about where she was or what happened to her. At least she refuses to tell her parents or the FBI. She will however, reveal her story to 5 people from the community around her. The group is a mismatch of personalities and backgrounds but they come together to hear her extraordinary tale. No spoilers on this one. You just have to watch it and go down the path to find out what happened and what OA means….

Crazyhead – Netflix again. Two young women somewhere in England meet up and discover they are both meant to be demon hunters and that one of them is being hunted by a particularly nasty one. I’m not finished this yet one but so far I like it quite a lot. Female demon hunters with a humourous twist – nothing wrong with that.

Channel Zero Candle Cove – I believe this has something to do with Creepypasta. I’m not sure. I just saw the previews on TV and thought, that looks creepy. And it certainly did have those moments. Not great but the story was interesting and the tooth creature thing is just disgusting.

Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency – Hey look, Netflix again. What the hell is going on? That’s kind of how this show goes until near the end. There’s murder, a cult, an assassin, a kidnapping. Yeah, this is one that just has to be watched. It grew on me after the first episode.

Travellers – This is an interesting show that has people, Travellers, from a post apocalyptic future going back in time to 2016 to try to avert all kinds of things that we guess will lead to the ruination of the world. The show focuses 5 of these travellers and how they are adjusting to lives they take over when they arrive and how they handle those mundane lives with their bigger mission of saving the modern world. Did I mention that the travellers take over the bodies of people at the moment of death? Yeah, kind of weird and hard to explain but worth watching.

The Killing Season – And now for something completely different. The Killing Season is a documentary series created by the fellow behind the documentaries Cropsey and Killer Legends, Joshua Zeman. The 8 part series follows him and his partner Rachel as they investigate a series of unsolved murders in Long Island perpetrated by the as yet unknown serial killer dubbed LISK (Long Island Serial Killer). As the investigation progresses, the trail of unsolved serials murders spans several states and opens up many, many more deaths of the lesser dead. Prostitutes; women whom disappear and are forgotten by society but not by their devastated families. It’s shocking how many women die in the same way, in the same area and there is no one found responsible. It fascinating and terrifying how people can just disappear, be brutalized and there are no answers as to why or who could do such a thing. The world is a scary place filled human monsters.

And on that note….

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American Horror Story Freak Show: Massacres and Matinees (S.4, E.2)

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My Take: This week the freak show grows with the arrival of two new characters: Michael Chiklis as Dell Toledo (The Strong Man) and Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree (the Hermaphrodite).  With the arrival of Dell comes a new order to the freak show as he is now the barker and going to run things his way.  This doesn’t go over well with Jimmy and Elsa is upset when she is put on the bottom of the playbill, next to The Geek.

Dell has decided, against Elsa’s wishes, to have a matinée because  there is a curfew in place due to the rash of recent murders.  The headlining act for the first matinée is Dot and Bette and we discover that Dot is a great singer much to the dismay of Elsa it seems.  The twins are both clearly smitten with Jimmy and I sense some growing jealousy there.  We also learn that Ethel (the Bearded Lady) and Dell have a past connection (is he Jimmy’s father?) and that he was going to kill baby Jimmy to keep him from suffering humiliation all of his life.

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Later, Jimmy and others head to town to assert themselves as just regular people but it goes horribly and Dell beats the shit out of him.  There is also a sequence where Jimmy and two others dig up the body of the cop they killed and Jimmy presents Elsa with his badge, saying he is a real man who can take care of the freak show and they don’t need Dell.

Lastly we have the Clown, Twisty.  So creepy.  In last week’s episode we were introduced to a wealthy young man, Dandy (Finn Wittrock), who is a sadistic man-child and his mother Gloria (Francis Conroy), who treats him as a spoiled child, catering to his every whim.  Well after Dandy is denied becoming a member of the freak show (he believes it’s his destiny) he returns home to find that Gloria has hired a clown for his amusement.  Yep, it’s Twisty but he doesn’t kill Dandy or Gloria.  We watch the interactions between the pair and it becomes very clear that the two of them are of the same ilk -crazy killers.

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 Final Thoughts:  Episode 2, Massacres and Matinees was just OK.  The bad accents from Elsa and Ethel are annoying and I prefer to not hear them talk.  The introduction of Dell and Desiree should be good to add some strife among the freaks.  And Twisty was the best part again and we got to see what is under the mask over his mouth.  Gross and disturbing.  I’m not surprised that he and Dandy are going to be kill buddies and I feel even more sorry for Twisty’s captives.

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The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary (S.5, E.1)

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spoiler_alert

My Take: When last we saw our heroes, things were looking pretty grim for Rick and the gang locked in a train car while Carol, Tyreese and Judith continued toward Terminus and Beth was still missing.  Season 5 defiantly started with a bang, filled with lots of action and some disturbing scenes.

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We open with Rick, Glen, Darryl and Bob being taken to the killing room along with 4 others and watch as the 4 red shirts are slaughtered like cattle but our heroes are saved from the same fate by an explosion and gunfire.  As the episode unfolds, we jump between the groups of survivors and get a brief glimpse into how Terminus became a slaughter-house.  Bad things happened to the people who founded it to be a sanctuary and when they took it back, they became monsters of a different kind but just as disturbing as the men that had tortured them.

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Meanwhile, Tyreese and Carol are getting closer to Terminus when they come across one of the Termites (that was what they were called on The Talking Dead) and tie him up so Carol can go free Rick and the others.  Tyreese has made it clear he will not kill which is a problem when the Termite threatens to snap Judith’s neck.  Tyreese is not to be trifled with and Judith is fine.  Carol played a pivotal role in this episode as she single handily took down Terminus and lead to the freeing of Rick and the gang.  There were explosions, gunfire and Walkers, so many Walkers, overrunning the sanctuary.  Not all the people at Terminus were killed but a fair number of them fell to the Walkers and to Rick’s wrath.

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All of the group gets out in one piece and no one is cut up for dinner but it’s not enough for Rick.  He wants to go back and make sure everyone from Terminus is dead: they don’t get to live.  This idea doesn’t go over well with the rest of group and the only thing that stops him is when Carol shows up and takes him to Judith.  You can imagine the emotion as he is reunited with his baby after believing she had died at the prison. Everyone is finally back together except for Beth but I believe she will be back in the next episode.

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Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this episode.  It was nice to see everyone (except Beth) reunite and for Rick to be with both of his children again.  Watching the scene with the 8 people lined up over the trough and the cold, routine of the killings was harsh.  It’s like these people have turned off their humanity which I suppose could happen to some people given the circumstances.  I hope the show keeps up this momentum for the rest of the season.  Rick is in full survival mode and on the offensive -kill them before they kill you- and now that Judith is back in his arms, you can guess that he will continue to take that mentality to the extreme.  A good start to the season.

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American Horror Story: Freak Show

American-Horror-Story-Cast-Poster

Monsters Among Us (Ep.1)

My Take: Season 4 of American Horror Story has begun and takes the viewer into the world of a freak show.  Set in and around Jupiter, Florida in 1952, we meet Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), the proprietor of the sideshow that features Lobster Boy (Evan Peters), his mother the Bearded Lady (Kathy Bates) and Siamese Twins (Sarah Paulson) just to name a few of the main characters that were introduced in the first episode.  Elsa has set-up her failing sideshow and attractions in a field near Jupiter much to the dismay of most of the townsfolk (bored housewives like Lobster Boy…a lot).  Elsa’s business is suffering but hope that she can make it profitable again comes in the form of Siamese twins Dot and Bette played by a 2 headed Sarah Paulson.  Did I mention the clown because the clown is fucking scary and maniacal. There’s a reason people don’t like clowns and this one embodies all that fear and disgust that makes them terrifying.

the clown
Nightmare fuel

Adding to the unwanted freak show near their town, there have been a few murders and 2 people -a young woman and a boy – are missing.  Clowns=evil.  We also get a glimpse of Elsa blackmailing a young woman whom she brought home, got stoned and then the woman and Elsa’s people have some fun. Once the woman sobered up, she was horrified at what she let the freaks do to her but she is faced with telling the police and having her exploits exposed because it was all filmed.

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Final Thoughts:  The opening episode of Freak Show was Ok.  I don’t care for the accent that Jessica Lange slips in and out of, I didn’t care for her musical number of what sounded like a David Bowie song from 1970’s (was it one of his songs?) and overall I wasn’t impressed with some of the writing/dialogue/acting.  I liked the killer clown. He is creepy and totally menacing.  We’ll see how the series progresses as more characters are introduced and hopefully the story develops and the acting gets better.  These are good actors but some of them are to clichéd or overacting in their approach to their characters.  I’m very interest and afraid to see how the clown fits in with the rest of the story; he seems removed from the sideshow and its occupants.  Freak show episode 1 was merely a Meh introduction.

AHS Clown

The Strain: Season 1 (2014)

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The Gist

Vamps & HuntersCorey Stoll (Ephraim Goodweather); David Bradley (Abraham Setrakian); Mía Maestro (Nora Martinez); Kevin Durand (Vasiliy Fet); Ben Hyland (Zach Goodweather); Richard Sammel (Thomas Eichorst); Miguel Gómez (Augustin ‘Gus’ Elizalde); Jonathan Hyde (Eldritch Palmer); Ruta Gedmintas (Dutch Velders)

TheStrain

My Take: Vampires have invaded New York and it is up to 2 CDC doctors (Eph & Nora), an elderly antiques dealer (Setrakian), a rat exterminator (Fet), a kid (Zach) and a hacker (Dutch) to prevent the Master from destroying the world.  Leading the vampire charge is an evil immortal Nazi, Eichorst, and in the shadows is a secret organization of vampires hunting and destroying The Master’s brood and they have recruited a low-level criminal, Gus to help. Sounds pretty damn cheesy doesn’t it and it was but in good way. The Strain is based on a trilogy of books written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogen: The Strain, The Fall, The Night Eternal.  A plane lands in New York and every passenger is dead.  There are no signs of trauma and it seems that they all just went to sleep. Enter Dr. Eph Goodweather and Dr. Nora Martinez who soon discover that 4 of passengers are alive.  The media attention and the status of 2 of the passengers -a Goth rock star and a high-powered businesswoman with political connections – forces Eph’s boss to release the 4 from quarantine.  You should never release people from quarantine when you have no idea what the illness.  You can guess how things go from this point.

Strain

I read the books as they were released and felt they got better after the first book.  I’m hoping the same can be said for the TV adaptation.  I wasn’t impressed with the first couple of episodes but decided to keep going with it and I’m glad I did.  Once we get past what happens to the patients that were released from quarantine it seemed better.  There were a couple of episodes that were dull and more of the story could have been told if those boring parts were omitted.  Yes, character and story development.  Once the virus or rather the worms that cause the vampire infection begins to spread, the show did get better and I think the second season will be more interesting as the world crumbles.  I’m a sucker for the apocalypse.

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Final Thoughts: While I liked The Strain there were a few things that hurt it.  Some of the acting is questionable and feels like the actors are overdoing their performance to translate the book personae’s to the screen.  It’s not horrible but it can make some scenes cringe worthy.  There are wasted scenes or scenes that could be condensed to tell more of the story.  On the other hand the special effects and make-up on the vampires is pretty good although The Master is not as good as his minions.  The vampires are reminiscent of the vampires from Blade 2, which was directed by del Toro and clearly where he drew from for The Strain books.  I would recommend watching this series when/if it comes on Netflix for those who missed it’s summer run.  Just keep in mind that the acting has poor moments and you might need to slog through the first couple of episodes to get to the better part of the story.

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Hemlock Grove (Season 1)

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The Residents

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My Take:  This has been on Netflix about a year and I did watch the first episode when it started but I couldn’t get into.  I decided to give it another chance and started to enjoy it after about the third or fourth episode.  Hemlock Grove is based on a book by the same name by Brian McGreevy; I’ve read the first couple of chapters and not sure I like the narrative and the type of storytelling that the author is using.  The writing just seems mediocre, you know because I’m such an expert and all (sarcasm).

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The series revolves around gypsy Peter Rumancek and Roman Godfrey and their families in Hemlock Grove, a town pretty much run by the Godfrey family.  The show starts with Peter and his mother Lynda’s arrival in Hemlock Grove and the trail of eaten, mutilated bodies that start to show up shortly there after.  Peter and Roman aren’t fast friends but as the story progresses, they learn one another’s secrets and work together to try to stop the creature that is killing hot young women and turning everyone’s eyes on Peter as the murderer.  Adding to the cast of character’s is Roman’s mother Olivia, a cold, wicked woman who really loves her son; Roman’s sister Shelley who is like a Frankenstein type of creature in stature, doesn’t talk and has a big shiny black eye and skin that glows sometimes (I can’t figure out what she is, maybe I missed something); Roman’s uncle Norman who has had a decades long affair with Olivia and his daughter Letha who is Roman’s only friend besides Shelley and Peter.  These are the main players with a handful of side characters including Christina, a teenaged aspiring writer who is convinced that Peter is a werewolf and ends up getting a little to close to one of the dead bodies and a woman who poses as a wildlife inspector (or whatever) but has a hidden agenda that threatens our heroes.

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I believe McGreevy is an executive producer and from what I have heard, the show follows the book very closely.  This might help to explain some of the issues that I have with the dialogue and storytelling however, the somewhat questionable acting doesn’t help to make the show engaging during the first couple of episodes.  It gets somewhat better as it goes along but there are definite flaws with it.

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Final Thoughts:  Hemlock Grove has a lot of good ideas behind it and is a decent supernatural show.  But it is flawed.  The dialogue at times can be hard to listen to.  I’m not sure what it is but it sounds so off the page and not natural.  Perhaps it’s because several of the actors have accents that they are trying to hide or it’s just written and presented in a way that feels forced, I don’t know.  The way the story is told is that there is a lot of implication about what is happening and what people are.  Some reveals are obvious while others remain shrouded.  There is a lot going on with the Godfrey’s medical research centre and it’s secret experiments mixed in with the supernatural.  As much as I criticize the writing, acting and dialogue, I did watch the entire first season, sometimes merely as background and I will watch the second season when it is on Netflix July 11.  Would I recommend it…yes.  But be warned, there are some very graphic scenes (not many) and it can be hard to get past the poor dialogue and not so great acting. Perhaps this is a guilty pleasure, pretty boys playing monster hunters.

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Salem (TV Series)

Theme song Cupid Carries A Gun by Marilyn Manson

The Witches & The Hunters: Janet Montgomery (Mary Sibley); Shane West (John Alden); Seth Gabel (Cotton Mather); Tamzin Merchant (Anne Hale); Xander Berkeley (Magistrate Hale); Iddo Goldberg (Isaac Walton); Ashley Madekwe (Tituba)

Salem

First Impressions: Salem is 3 episodes in and thus far, it is pretty good.  As the title suggests, Salem takes place in Salem, Mass. at the start of the witch trials that sparked paranoia, fear, murder and a community turning on its citizens under a threat, led by the word of God, of Satan worshipping witches.  While the true history of the Salem witches was hype and there is no evidence of supernatural influences during that time, the series is taking a very decidedly supernatural approach and portraying the witches as being in league with dark forces from the netherworld.

Salem

The series is manipulating history and it’s becoming an interesting tale with some facts mixed in.  It’s kind of a toss up whether or not to dislike the main character Mary Sibley. While she is orchestrating the murder of innocents as sacrifices and because she feels betrayed by her lover John Alden and saw the torture, humiliation and injustice that was inflicted on others in Salem for merely being human, she can also be seen as a kind of sad character because of her feelings of scorn and not being able to let go of the past.  What I’m wondering is how long the storyline can be stretched out beyond one season, let alone the second one that has already been confirmed.

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Final Thoughts:  After all that babble above, Salem is proving to be an interesting foray into witchcraft as it mixes history with supernatural fiction.  It’s not nearly as intense as I’m making it sound but it is a good and dark drama with a touch of sexy horror.  Check out that babe above.

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Dead Set (2008)

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The Gist: During a fictional series of Big Brother, a zombie outbreak occurs but the house-mates are unaware of the impending doom outside of the Big Brother House. (IMDB)Dead_Set_Kelly

(Non)Reality StarsJaime Winstone (Kelly); Andy Nyman (Patrick); Riz Ahmed (Riq); Warren Brown (Marky); Warren Brown (Space); Kevin Eldon (Joplin); Kathleen McDermott (Pippa); Davina McCall

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My Take: I’m not a fan of reality TV in this context (I like Face Off and Master Chef) but what could be better than watching annoying, self-centred reality TV “stars” being attacked by zombies.  The mini-series is comprised of 5 episodes and begins with the start of the zombie apocalypse and carries through as the house mates realize that they are no longer being filmed and that the world outside their bubble is in ruins.

Dead Set Riq

Joining the house mates as the world ends is Kelly, a new crew member who is kind of the focal point for the series, Patrick, who I believe is one of the producers and a total dick i.e. the first guy you want to get eaten and Kelly’s lover, Riq who must fight his way back to her.  The group holes up in the Big Brother house and we watch as the they come to terms with what is happening and make decisions that will either align them or force them to turn against one another.

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Overall, the series was well done from the unlikable reality stars (just like real life) to the story, acting and special effects make-up on the zombies.  The series basically takes place in the Big Brother and the surrounding studio with bits of the surrounding town and countryside thrown in.

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Final Thoughts: Dead Set is a well done zombie/apocalypse mini snippet that delivers gruesome zombies and brutal attacks and fulfills a zombie craving without being too lengthy and overdrawn.  The amount of screaming and shouting that the characters do however did get on my nerves.  All in all, a good little British mini-series to watch while waiting for the next season of In the Flesh.

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