Blu-Ray

The latest winner in the format wars, we look at both television and movies that are hitting the shelves in this pristine new technology.

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Sunday, 08 June 2014

This Sporting Life - out now on Blu-rayRichard Harris (“Unforgiven”, “Gladiator”) stars as fictional rugby league sensation Frank Machin in this Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning film. Rachel Roberts (“Picnic at Hanging Rock”) co-stars as Frank’s widowed landlady, a woman he desperately wants to help but whose stony, embittered defences he struggles to break down. Despite his new-found wealth, Frank also seems incapable of jettisoning his working-class trappings and refining his rough and brutish persona.

Directed by Lindsay Anderson (“If...”), the movie also stars Alan Badel (“The Day of the Jackal”), along with a host of TV favourites such as original Doctor Who William Hartnell, Arthur Lowe (Dad's Army), Leonard Rossiter (The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) and George Sewell (UFO). This new Blu-ray release features a superb high-definition transfer made from original, black and white film elements in its theatrical aspect ratio.

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Sunday, 08 June 2014

If - out now on Blu-rayMalcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Star Trek: Generations”) stars as sixth-form schoolboy Mick Travis in this startling film about a British boarding school. Building on a common view of life in these educational establishments that includes bullying, elitism and authoritarianism, the movie follows a handful of students whose rebellion against the system knows no bounds.

Lindsay Anderson (“This Sporting Life”) directs a screenplay by David Sherwin (“O Lucky Man!”), whilst Albert Finney co-produced. McDowell's co-stars include David Wood (“Aces High”) and Richard Warwick (Mel Gibson’s “Hamlet”) as Travis' fellow anarchists, Arthur Lowe (Dad's Army) as the housemaster, Peter Jeffrey (“Midnight Express”) as the headmaster and Geoffrey Chater (“Barry Lyndon”) as the school's chaplain.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Ace In The Hole - out on Dual-Format DVD and Blu-rayKirk Douglas stars in this biting drama about the power of the media and one reporter's willingness to do anything to rebuild his flat-lining career. Chuck Tatum (Douglas) muscles his way into a job on a lowly Albuquerque newspaper having been fired from all of previous roles. He happens across the story of a treasure hunter pinned down in a partially collapsed ancient Indian cave-dwelling, and spies potential media gold.

Having gained the confidence of Leo, the unfortunate victim (Richard Benedict, who went on to be best known as a Director on the likes of Run For Your Life and the original Hawaii Five-O), Tatum takes advantage of the local sheriff's absence and seizes control of the situation, rounding up a local doctor, policeman and a mining contractor. On hearing how quickly they can rescue Leo, the reporter craftily talks them round to drawing the incident out by days by using safer but much slower methods, thereby maximising publicity of the event.

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Monday, 31 March 2014

Wake in Fright out in a dual format DVD and Blu-ray packageA frustrated school teacher consigned to a tiny outback village sets his sights on civilised Sydney for the Christmas holidays, to be with his girlfriend. The first leg of his trip delivers him to Bundanyabba, a larger but no less isolated mining town, and the beginnings of a downward spiral into a hellish state of near-permanent drunkenness and immorality. It is a journey in which he will discover a dark side to his personality.

On the eve of his flight, the teacher, John Grant (Gary Bond – “Zulu”, Frontier) is foolishly sucked into a high-stakes coin-tossing game with predictably dire consequences. He reluctantly becomes dependent on the hospitality and charity of the locals, including self-acknowledged alcoholic Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasance – “Fantastic Voyage”, “Halloween”) and policeman Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty – “Mutiny on the Bounty”).

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Monday, 31 March 2014

The Machine - out now on DVD and Blu-rayIn the not too distant future, Britain is in the throws of another deep recession and engaged in an antagonistic relationship with China that threatens to disintegrate into total war. The world's advanced powers are in a new arms race, only this time the goal is the ultimate, artificially intelligent, robotic killing machine. Nuclear weapons are so passé! If scientists can combine Turing test-beating AI with a killer android, the war could be over before it has even begun.

Head scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens – Vexed, “Die Another Day”) hires Ava, a promising AI specialist (Caity Lotz - Arrow, "The Pact") to develop cutting-edge software, secretly hoping that the project will ultimately help his mentally disabled daughter recover her faculties. Meanwhile, Vincent's boss Thomson (Denis Lawson - New Tricks, Wedge from the original “Star Wars” trilogy) plans to hijack their work to guarantee the creation of the ultimate weapon.

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Monday, 17 February 2014

John Dies At The End on Blu-ray and DVD“John Dies at the End” is the latest horror-comedy from the director of “Phantasm” and “Bubba Ho-Tep”, Don Coscarelli. Chase Williamson (“Sparks”) stars as Dave Wong, a layabout who comes across a new recreational drug called Soy Sauce. The effects of Sauce go way beyond any other substance, in that they grant the user powers such as clairvoyance and cross-dimensional vision. Of course, these benefits come with a very hefty caveat.

Dave and his slacker mate John (Rob Mayes - The Client List) uncover an invading force of demons from another dimension and set about trying to avert the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Dave meets Arnie, a sceptical reporter (Paul Giamatti – “Sideways”, Downton Abbey) who finds the truth a little hard to stomach. And what role does celebrity psychic Dr Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown - Sleepy Hollow, “Highlander”) have to play?

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Monday, 27 January 2014

Kiss of the Damned on DVD and Blu-ray“Kiss of the Damned” is a vampire film for those horror fans who prefer a more gothic, Euro art-house take on the genre rather than the sparkly, angst-ridden “Twilight” blood suckers. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, “Rocky Balboa”) plays Paolo, a struggling screenwriter who one night bumps into a spellbinding woman called Djuna (Josephine de La Baume – “Rush”, “One Day”). Despite some serious sparks on their first date, Djuna tries to avoid him.

Paolo refuses to stay away and soon discovers the reason for Djuna's reluctance: she is a vampire and she fears she will not be able to resist feeding on him. The writer is not deterred and sure enough, she turns him. They try to adhere to a conscientious lifestyle but the arrival of Djuna's immoral and destructive sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida – “Rubber”, “Kaboom”) threatens to turn their world upside down.

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Monday, 13 January 2014

Riddick on DVD and Blu-ray nowSurvival: Riddick is extremely good at it as witnessed in both “Pitch Black” (2000) and “The Chronicles of Riddick” (2004). It is just as well, because the bald-headed, mirror-eyed anti-hero has got himself in a spot of bother once again. Having risen to the top of the food chain and become King of the Necromancers, he becomes careless and is left for dead on another inhospitable world, surrounded by a new assortment of deadly creatures and nursing a broken leg.

To add to his misery, despicable bounty hunters drop in to see if they can succeed where so many others have failed. Riddick thrives on a challenge, however, and nobody would bet against him making it out alive. David Twohy (“The Arrival”) directs once again, and Diesel's co-stars include Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Jordi Mollà (“Columbiana”), Matt Nable (“Killer Elite”) and wrestling juggernaut Dave Bautista.

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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Battle of the Damned - available on DVD and Blu-rayDolph Lundgren battles zombies with killer robots in a post-apocalyptic setting. As far as back-of-a-fag-packet synopses go it sounds tantalising if you like any one of the above elements, never mind all four. Throw in an “Escape from New York”-style rescue mission and we are all set, thanks to an irresponsible biotech firm who accidentally release a deadly pathogen into the world.

Lundgren (“The Expendables”, “Rocky IV”) stars as Major Max Gatling, a mercenary for hire tasked with rescuing Jude, the daughter of the biotech company's CEO. Oh, the irony. The good news is that Jude (Melanie Zanetti  - “Tracks”) proves to be quite easy to locate; the bad news is that she is holed-up with a slightly psychotic father figure (David Field – “Chopper”) and the blockaded city is about to be fire-bombed out of existence.

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Nosferatu comes to Blu-ray and DVDA little over ninety years since its original release, F W Murnau's gothic-horror classic returns in stunningly remastered high-definition. “Nosferatu - A Symphony of Horrors” (to use its full title) is a vampire movie that draws heavily from Dracula. Max Schreck stars as Count Orlock, a mysterious Transylvanian aristocrat seeking a suitable property in the fictitious German town of Wisborg, with devastating consequences for the local population.

A naive gentleman called Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) makes the long trek to the Count's remote castle to discuss housing options, foolishly ignoring warnings about the horror that awaits. Back in Wisborg, Thomas's sweetheart Ellen (Greta Schröder) is driven close to insanity by the misery brought on by their enforced separation, and also the influence of a strange telepathic connection to the Count.

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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Snitch comes to Blu-ray and DVDInspired by real events, “Snitch” is the story of a father who goes to extreme lengths after his son is incarcerated for possession of drugs with intent to sell. John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson – “Fast & Furious 6”, “G I Joe Retaliation”) is the owner of a construction haulage firm who makes a risky deal with the DEA in order to commute his son’s 10-year sentence. John goes undercover and agrees to transport drugs to get closer to the local cartel boss.

Matthews’ son, Jason (Rafi Gavron – “Breaking and Entering”) is set up by his best mate and effectively tricked into harbouring drugs that land him in such hot water. To get him out, John approaches Daniel (John Bernthal – The Walking Dead), an ex-con on his workforce to help make contact with the cartel. Once they are in, the more trafficking jobs they do and the higher up the tree they go, the greater the risks, especially as Jason is struggling to keep his head above water in prison.

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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Red River comes to Blu-ray“Red River” is the work of legendary director Howard Hawks (“Rio Bravo”, “The Big Sleep”). It stars Western icon John Wayne as intrepid rancher Thomas Dunson. Following the Civil War, Dunson (Wayne – “The Searchers”, “True Grit”) vows to establish a successful ranch on the Texan border of the Red River. 14 years later, in 1865, he is forced embark on a long and dangerous cattle drive to Missouri to sell his livestock.

Helping to steer the 10,000 head of cattle are Matt Garth, an eager youngster adopted by Dunson (Montgomery Clift in his movie debut – “From Here to Eternity”), Nadine Groot (Walter Brenan – “To Have and Have Not”), a life-long friend of Thomas’, and gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland – “Spartacus”). Dunson strikes a hard bargain with his men and as the trek unfolds, the true cost of their venture threatens to be their undoing.

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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Halloween 35th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray“This isn’t a man!” says an exasperated Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence – “The Great Escape”, “Escape from New York”) of Michael Myers, an emotionless, diabolical serial killer on a rampage in Haddonfield, Illinois. Amidst the pleasantries of Halloween’s trick or treat celebration, the masked murder and asylum-escapee stalks a teenage girl, Laurie Strode (debutant Jamie Lee Curtis – “True Lies”, “A Fish Called Wanda”).

This 35th Anniversary Edition reissues director John Carpenter’s classic slasher in its sharpest, most terrifying format ever. It features a brand new high-def transfer along with 7.1 audio and fresh bonus content including a new commentary track by Carpenter (“The Thing”, “They Live”) and Curtis, making this a package fans and new-comers to the movie will not be able to resist. Lock all your doors and close all your windows, because tonight is ‘The night he came home’… Again!

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Wicker Man - The Final Cut comes to Blu-ray and DVDStudioCanal have produced what they and director Robin Hardy consider to be the definitive version of “The Wicker Man”. This so-called ‘Final Cut’ also represents the 40th anniversary of the movie’s original cinematic release, in a multi-disc limited edition that delivers everything fans of the cult British shocker could desire. Prepare to join Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) on his doomed journey to Summerisle one last time…

Howie, a devout Christian, receives a letter from a mother asking for help in tracking down her missing daughter. He flies to a remote and beautiful island, only to receive a frosty welcome. Having established his police credentials, the locals mysteriously become both hospitable and yet frustratingly evasive when questioned. Bewildered and disgusted by their Pagan rituals, the Sergeant is determined to uncover the truth despite warnings about leaving before the arrival of May Day.

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bring Me The Head of the Machine Gun Woman on Blu-ray and DVD“Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman” (or MGM for brevity’s sake) is a loving homage to those 1970s grindhouse/exploitation flicks that Quentin Tarantino is so obsessed with. Made by Chilean director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (“The ABCs of Death”), the movie stars Fernanda Urrejola as the titular, weapon-heavy lady and Matías Oviedo as Santiago, a kind of Chilean version of Chuck, a geeky DJ who gets into very hot water after overhearing some gangsters putting a hit out on someone.

Santiago is given an ultimatum by his unsavoury boss, the absurdly-named Che Sausage (Jorge Alis): kill the Machine Gun Woman within 24 hours or suffer the dire consequences. Fortunately the seemingly useless club employee is more resourceful and observant than he is given credit for, and manages to track the hit woman down. Thereafter the movie descends into a sequence of tense and bloody encounters with a variety of mercenaries keen to put an end to the Machine Gun Woman’s personal bounty hunt.

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines - out on Blu-ray and DVDRyan Gosling and Bradley Cooper star in this thriller about a drifter who resorts to robbing banks after discovering that he has a newborn son he wants to support. His trajectory puts him into the path of an up-and-coming cop (Cooper) who is trying to remain on the level in a police force peppered with corruption. The film then jumps forwards 15 years to see how the two characters’ sons have coped with the repercussions of their fathers’ choices.

Directed by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”), the film also stars Eva Mendes (“Hitch”, “2 Fast 2 Furious”) as Gosling’s old flame, Rose Byrne (“Insidious”, Damages) as Cooper’s wife, Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”, “Hannibal”) as a bent cop and Bruce Greenwood (“Star Trek: Into Darkness”, “I, Robot”) as a district attorney. It is a riveting study of guilt, revenge and the male struggle to find and establish one’s place in the world.

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Evil Dead - a new version out on Blu-ray and DVD“Evil Dead” is a reboot of the hugely popular, trend-setting and enormously controversial (at the time of release) horror classic. It is produced by three key figures associated with the original: Sam Raimi, Robert G Tapert and Bruce Campbell, who of course played Ash in the original trilogy. Five young adults take a trip to a cabin in the woods and fatefully uncover a book that unleashes an all-out assault by an evil spirit.

Mia (Jane Levy – Suburgatory) hopes to take advantage of the remote location to shake off a drug addiction with the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez – “Red Riding Hood”), and friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci – “Carriers”), Olivia (Jessica Lucas – “Cloverfield”) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore – Legend of the Seeker). When Mia starts to behave erratically the others assume it is a bad case of cold turkey…Until the bloodletting starts!

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Tuesday, 06 August 2013

Dark Skies - the movie - out on Blu-ray and DVDThe phrase ‘from the producers of “Sinister” and “Insidious”’ tells you all you need to know about “Dark Skies” (not at all related to the TV series co-created  by Bryce Zabel). If you enjoyed those movies and found yourself creeped-out by them, then this film is guaranteed to deliver. This time around it is not ghosts or demons lurking in the shadows, but rather some extremely spooky aliens in the ‘grey’ mould. The extraterrestrials have latched on to a suburban family and are intent on making their lives a living hell.

The Barrett family consists of mum Lacy (Keri Russell – The Americans, “Mission: Impossible III”), dad Daniel (Josh Hamilton – “The Bourne Identity”, “J. Edgar”), teenage son Jesse (Dakota Goyo – “Real Steel”, “Rise of the Guardians”) and his younger brother Sam (Kadan Rockett). With Dan desperately looking for work and Jesse getting up to no good with his friends, the last thing the family needs is an alien invasion!

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Monday, 01 July 2013

Grave of the Fireflies on Blu-ray and DVDMost of Studio Ghibli’s award-winning, animated films are playful, upbeat or even frothy. “Grave of the Fireflies” has its uplifting moments but the general tone is foreboding and harrowing. Teenage boy Seita (J Robert Spencer) and his tiny sister Setsuko (Rhoda Chrosite) are forced to flee their home in Kobe, Japan in 1944 when Allied forces firebomb the city. Their mother is critically injured and they are forced to fend for themselves.

Rationed food supplies are becoming increasingly scarce and their home has been reduced to smouldering rubble. The constant terror invoked by wailing air-raid sirens makes life hellish, and even a relatively comfortable stay with their Aunt is cut short when her increasingly vocal grumbles force them to move on once more. Settling in a basic shelter by a lake, the struggle to survive is agonising but Seita does his best to keep his sister’s spirits up.

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Monday, 01 July 2013

Kiki's Delivery Service on dual format Blu-ray and DVDStudio Ghibli’s first real hit features a 13-year-old girl called Kiki who leaves home on a broomstick with only a small bag of belongings and Jiji, her opinionated pet cat. She is a trainee witch, and tradition dictates that all witches must spend a year learning the ropes in the big, wide world. The courageous, carefree teenager arrives in a beautiful coastal city and soon finds a niche running a flying delivery service.

Kiki is given shelter by Osono, a kindly woman who slaves away in her bakery shop with her husband. Whilst fending off the advances of a curious boy, our heroine dispatches packages of all kinds from one edge of the city to the other. The English dub’s voice cast includes Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man”) as Kiki, the late Phil Hartman (The Simpsons) as Jiji, Tress MacNeille (Futurama) as Osono and Janeane Garofalo (“Ratatouille”) as Ursula, a painter who lives in the country nearby.

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Andromeda Season One comes to Blu-rayBased on source material by the father of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, Andromeda is a space-bound sci-fi series about a sentient starship and its crew’s mission to rebuild a galactic alliance. Developed by Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Alphas), the show stars Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) as Captain Dylan Hunt, a man frozen in time for 300 years on the edge of black hole.

When Hunt emerges from his temporal slumber, he realises all that he stood for has long since crumbled to dust in a terrible war, and chaos reigns. In an unsteady alliance with a small crew, the captain uses diplomacy and his much-prized warship to try to convince worlds to rejoin The Commonwealth, formerly a coalition of over a million planets. Against them stand countless self-interested, untrusting and often blood-thirsty civilisations.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dr Who Dalek Films - out now on Blu-rayIn the mid-1960s when Dalekmania was all the rage, Amicus producers Milton Subotsky and Joe Vegoda spotted a potentially lucrative opportunity to bring the Daleks to the big screen via their Aaru sister company, specially created so as to not cause confusion with the style of productions that Amicus had become famous for. Shot in colourful, widescreen Techniscope, the movies stood apart from the squarer, black and white Doctor Who TV series. Now, released in re-mastered high definition, the movies look better than ever!

Two TV stories were adapted: “The Daleks” and “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”. In a break from the TV series, the first movie’s cast includes Amicus regular Peter Cushing as ‘Dr Who’ (to appeal to the global box office), with Record Breakers’ Roy Castle as a bumbling Ian Chesterton, Jennie Linden (“Women in Love”) as Barbara, and young Roberta Tovey as Susan. Castle and Linden were replaced in the second film by Bernard Cribbins (“The Railway Children”) as copper Tom and Jill Curzon as Louise.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Halo 4 - Forward Unto Dawn on DVD and Blu-rayThis ambitious movie based on the hugely popular Xbox franchise was originally released online as a series of webisodes to commemorate the launch of Halo 4. The focus is a bunch of cadets at Corbulo military academy in the 26th Century. The cadets undergo a series of training missions in preparation for war against human rebels, though unbeknownst to them a far more terrifying and alien enemy awaits.

Thomas Lasky (Tom Green – Home and Away) has the aptitude to be a leader but he does not believe in the cause against the insurrectionists, and is struggling to move out of his brother’s broad shadow. Can he turn it around over the last few missions or risk failing the entire squad? Meanwhile, a fellow cadet is piecing together classified video clips from the battlefield that are about to reveal a secret that will blow their minds.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Evil Dead 2 - Special Edition Blu-ray Ash is back, and this time he knows of the horrors which await ... Or does he? “Evil Dead 2” may be the sequel to writer/director Sam Raimi’s cult horror hit from 1981, but it is more of a reimagining than a direct follow-on. Ash (Bruce Campbell – “Bubba Ho-Tep”, Burn Notice) and his girlfriend drive to a ramshackle cabin in the woods expecting a cosy break away from it all. What they actually get is a fast-track, rollercoaster ride to Hell!

The cabin’s previous occupants were researching The Book Of The Dead (aka The Necronomicon), but fell foul of its gruesome charms. Now a relentless, evil spirit is loose in the woods, and it wants to possess or kill anybody who ventures too close. As such it is not long before Ash’s girl is slaughtered and he is next on the menu. Strong-willed, he fights through the first night but then more unwitting victims turn up and the real fun begins.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Fear and Desire - Lost Kubrick on Blu-ray and DVDCopyrighted 1952, Independently financed with contributions from Stanley Kubrick's family and friends in an era when an ‘independent cinema’ was still far from the norm, “Fear and Desire” got its release in 1953 at the Guild Theater in New York, thanks to the enterprising distributor Joseph Burstyn. Now, with a new restoration carried out in 2012 by The Library of Congress, a film that for decades has remained nearly impossible to see has a proper release in the United Kingdom.

This Kubrick tale tells the story of an unspecified war waged between two forces. It is timeless, not specifying whether this is the past, present of future. In the midst of the conflict, a plane carrying four soldiers crashes six miles behind enemy lines. From here on in, it is kill or be killed. Kubrick once described it as “an ambitious allegory”.

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