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The Amazing Race: Interplanetary Edition

I was just reading that CBS has ordered approved a 20th season of The Amazing Race. You knew they would. The Amazing Race is one of those Survivor type show that never end, ever. I’ve never watched The Amazing Race. It’s too stressful. And I stopped watching Survivor about twelve incarnations ago. But obviously plenty of people still like them.

You would think between the two of them they’d run out of places to go. Twenty seasons of The Amazing Race and twenty two seasons of Survivor… that’s a lot of places. They only need one remote place for each Survivor season but for The Amazing Race they need something like fifteen different destination cities filled with people to help/hinder the participants. Add in all the different regional/national variations and spinoffs and literally the entire Earth has been re-discovered by game show contestants (Magellan would be so proud…)

Eventually people are going to start complaining that they’re repeating themselves. Rather than give up on such big moneymakers (which are relatively cheap to film compared to one hour dramas) and next thing you know they’ll announcing Survivor: Marianas Trench and The Amazing Race: Interplanetary Edition. Now THERE’S something I’d watch.

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Asteroids: The Movie

original photo by Neitnagel on Flickr

When I first heard a rumor that they were making a movie out of Asteroids, I thought they were kidding. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Asteroids, it’s an extremely primitive first generation video game where you play a spaceship that has to shoot a bunch of little rocks that fall from the top of the screen. How could anyone make a movie out of something that thin? It had to be an April fool’s gag. But it wasn’t. In fact, Roland Emmerich (known as the Destroyer of Worlds and Budgets to his friends) is REALLY MAKING THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW.

By all all accounts, the movie is about some humans and aliens living in an asteroid belt. I don’t even understand why he needed to buy the rights to this game to make a movie like that. Did they need to buy the rights to Asteroids for that bit in Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo was shooting his way out of an asteroid belt? Did they need to buy the rights to Asteroids to make Deep Impact or Armageddon? No, because you CAN’T COPYRIGHT A NATURAL OCCURANCE. Asteroids hit ships and planets and break them. It’s just something that happens. You can’t slap a trademark on it and say you invented it, thus forcing everyone who wants to use the concept to pay you money. If you could, we’d all be paying royalties every time we sneezed or stopped at a stop sign.

Roland Emmerich’s movies are usually ridiculous, plotless, distructo-fests (see 2012, 10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Independence Day… or rather don’t, because they’re bad) but Asteroids takes the cake. There is literally nothing to it, which means there’s two whole hours free to showcase the destruction wrought by big rocks banging into things. Gee, I can’t wait.

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The Dangers of Not Reading the News

“Don’t read the news.”

That’s the advice that old-hat celebrities give to the fresh-faced newcomers they’ve taken under their wings. I can see why. You read the news, you find out about that awful picture they snapped of you in your sweats after that horrible haircut, and you get upset. Then you moan to your normal friends about how much it sucks to be famous, at which point they attempt to strangle you, because even with working 14 hour days they still can’t manage to buy their whiny kids the designer shoes they want, and you just bought a Pacific island. So it’s better to just ignore the news completely, right?

Sure, if you want to have things like free time and sanity. Except sometimes it can backfire on you. If you don’t read the news, you don’t find out what people are writing about you, and if you don’t know what they’re writing about you, you can’t call them on it when it’s a lie, and the writers can easily slip untruths into the minds of the unsuspecting public, who, let’s face it, eat this s*** up.

Case in point: this situation, which actually blew up in 2000 but is back in the news because a movie is being made about it (of course). It goes like this: a Swiss journalist made up interviews with major celebrities and sold them to major magazines. AND NOBODY NOTICED. Not the editors. Not the readers. Not the celebrities. Not their publicists. This guy had been working in Hollywood since 1993, selling stories to big name European magazines, and it took them SEVEN YEARS to figure out what he was doing.

Granted, he probably got away with it because nobody in Hollywood has ever bothered to read a magazine in another language (What? Europe? Is that a planet?) But seven YEARS? In all that time nobody’s publicist’s assistant’s secretary even glanced at the COVERS of any of these magazines and thought: “Hmm. That’s funny. I don’t remember arranging that interview.”

It’s not like he was taking advantage of low level celebrities, either. Those guys would probably have let it slide because they still bought into the “any publicity is good publicity” tenet. No, he was making up interviews with rich, famous, big-name stars like Brad Pitt and Pamela Anderson.

There’s a lesson in all of this. It’s that you can make seven years’ worth of top freelance wages for lying, and then a bunch more money by writing a book about lying. I could use some more money. So here goes:

MY TOTALLY NON-MADE UP CELEBRITY INTERVIEW:

ME: Hey Brad Pitt! Got time for a few questions?
BRAD PITT: No. Get lost.
ME: Okay then.

Damn. Even in a fantasy land I suck at interviews!

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The 7 Stages of Being Stuck in a Time Loop

Last week, when I was reviewing the trailer for a movie called The Repeaters, I observed that in movies and TV episodes where a character ends up repeating a day, the character always goes through the same emotional progression, even if they don’t do the exact same things. It’s almost like the 7 Stages of Grief. I call them the 7 Stages of Being Caught in a Time Loop and I’ve laid them out for you here with an example that I made up myself.

1. Confusion

“La la la, I’m walking to school… argh! Dog poop! Wait… didn’t I step in dog poop yesterday? In the exact same place? What a weird coincidence.”

2. Disbelief

“No, no, no, it’s clearly not possible that this day is the exact same as the last day. Even if my homeroom teacher just gave us the exact same assignment. And is wearing the same clothes two days in a row… along with everyone else. It’s clearly all just a hugely elaborate practical joke.”

3. Curiosity

“Time for an experiment. If today is exactly the same as yesterday, then I should be able to kick out behind me right NOW and hit that jerk in the balls before he can sneak up behind me and put a spider in my hair… holy s*** it worked!”

4. Recklessness

“If tomorrow is just going to be today all over again, it really doesn’t matter what I do right now – like strip off all my clothes and run naked through the cafeteria! Wheeee!!”

5. Frustration/Hopelessness

“Ugh, god, how many times am I going to have to sit through this day? I’ve already stolen a boat, painted the school lime green, let chickens loose in the boys’ locker room, and exploded the chemistry lab. I give up. My fountain of creativity has gone dry.”

6. Determination

“That’s it. I’m not going to stop until I figure out why I’m repeating this day! You think maybe it has something to do with those green sprinkles mom put in my cereal after I complained about how she always serves the same thing for breakfast?”

7. Understanding

“Okay, what’s the antidote for green sprinkles? Red sprinkles? Nope. A tuna fish sandwich? Nope. Asking mom to lay off the sprinkles? Nope. Not eating the cereal? No again. Geez, something’s gotta work. Maybe I should just tell her I’m sorry already. Hey! There we go! This whole thing was just to teach me a lesson!”

Test out this formula by watching one of the following yourself: Groundhog Day, Source Code, Triangle, The Repeaters, The X-Files episode “Monday”, the Supernatural epsisode “Mystery Spot,” the Fairly OddParents Christmas special, or any one of a vast number of time-loop related stories. You can even read a book if you’re so inclined. Todd Strasser’s Help! I’m Trapped in the First Day of School and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, are likely candidates.

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Advice for People With No Valentines, Which I Have Learned From Watching Movies

Last year I wrote a list of unconventional Valentine’s Day movies to watch with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but if you’re like me, you have no Valentine for the upcoming holiday. When Monday rolls around, people like you and me have two choices. We can sit around going “boy, I sure hate Valentine’s Day” or we can get off our asses and go get ourselves a partner. How does one go about landing a boyfriend or girlfriend? Well, conventional wisdom states you should internet date or hang out in bars. But instead, try one of these sure-fire, guaranteed to work methods that I have learned from watching movies.

Get Fired

As movies like Morning Glory and How Do You Know show us, the instant you get fired from your job (as long as you work very hard, are not at all appreciated by your boss, and are fired through no fault of your own) you will immediately get a new and better job where there will be attractive people to date, or at least someone rich that you meet on a street corner who is willing to support you while you ponder your life choices.

Crash a Vehicle

This never fails. Crash a car, crash a plane, crash a train, crash a dogsled…you don’t even have to be driving it. All you have to do is be on it and a hero/heroine will swoop in out of nowhere a la Speed and sweep you off your feet. Or, if you happen to crash on a deserted island, whichever man/woman you happen to be traveling with or near will automatically become your boyfriend/girlfriend by the time you get back to civilization (see Romancing the Stone, Six Days, Seven Nights).

Move to the Middle of Nowhere

Persons with common sense would naturally assume that the bigger the city they move to the bigger the dating pool and therefore the greater the chances that they find a compatible mate. But these people are wrong. You need to move to the most godforsaken corner of nowhere in order to find your soul mate. It happened in Twilight, it happened in New in Town, and it will happen to you.

Kill Your Friend

Experience (gleaned from watching Life As We Know It, No Reservations, and Raising Helen) says that if you bump off your friend/relative and his/her partner, they will leave you their child and automatic pass into the land of significant otherdom. You may end up falling in love with a person you hate right now, but them’s the breaks.

Go on Vacation

This is probably the easiest one to accomplish on short notice (remember: Valentine’s Day is on Monday). It doesn’t have to be anywhere exotic or expensive, and you don’t even have to go alone. But leaving your home country is guaranteed to get you a hot partner, even if you don’t really want one. It worked in Eat, Pray, Love, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, French Kiss, and Letters to Juliet, so it must be true.

Become Terminally Ill

Sadly you’ll only get a couple of months of couples bliss out of this one, but it never fails, at least if you believe Nicholas Sparks. A better bet would be to try and get on the other side of the equation by hanging around sick people in the hospital. It worked for Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs and for Izzy on Grey’s Anatomy, though the trade off is usually having to look after them and then be sad when they die.

Become Embroiled in an International Conspiracy

This can be difficult to accomplish if you don’t work for the “State Department” (and by that I mean the fake State Department, the one that employs CIA agents), but if you believe Knight and Day, RED, and every James Bond movie ever made, all you have to do is hang around doing the things you normally do, like traveling on planes, answering phones in a call center, or being a nuclear scientist, and a hot secret agent will one day just fall into your lap accompanied by a whole lot of trouble. If you’re lucky, the hot agent will stay and the trouble will leave, not the other way around.

Act Like An Idiot

This one works especially well for men, particularly fat and/or ugly ones who like to tell jokes. As movies like Just Go With It, Hitch, and The Invention of Lying suggest, the more you act like a hopeless tool the more irresistible attractive women will find you. It even sometimes works for women. Just look at When in Rome. She acted like a lunatic and she landed Josh Duhamel!

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New Words for Movie Reviews

If I hear one more movie described as “a high-octane thrill ride” or “laugh out loud funny,” I’m going to gnaw off my own arm in annoyance (not really. I need two arms to type). I’d lambaste the movie reviewers who keep using the same reviews for everything, but I can’t really blame them. A bjillion movies come out each year and most of them are not appreciably different from the ones that have come before. There are only so many words in the English language to describe the same thing (yes, I know they’re called synonyms, smart ass) and we’re running out, throwing the movie criticism industry into crisis.

Some reviewers have tried to work around the rapidly evaporating pool of witty criticisms by simply comparing new movies to old ones:

“[insert name of move that came out this year] is this year’s [insert name of similar movie that came out last year]!”

EXAMPLES:

Observe and Report is this year’s Bad Santa!”

“Iron Man 2 is this year’s Iron Man!”

Other reviewers make claims that whatever new movie they’ve seen is the best of some genre (just not any genre that’s already been topped by a movie that’s actually good.) A tightly confined, made up category, usually further narrowed down by being limited to the current year:

“[insert name of movie] is the best [insert four qualifying adjectives] of the year!”

EXAMPLES:

Tangled is “Disney’s best non-Pixar animated movie since 1994!”

“Dinner for Schmucks is the best awkward dinner comedy starring a former Daily Show correspondent of 2010!”

The smart ones, however, realize that it’s not going to take very long for people to notice a pattern in their obvious contortions to say something new and complimentary that will end up on the DVD box. These savvy but still panicked critics often resort to using random, semi-applicable dictionary words that nobody understands.

Duplicity is an “effervescent espionage with two irresistible forces”!
TRANSLATION: Duplicity is lively and exhilarating and it has two sexy people in it.

Babies is a “joyous and buoyant new documentary”!
TRANSLATIONS: Happy babies float in water?

Since all of these movie critics seem to be having so much trouble coming up with things to say, I thought I would help them out by appropriating, mutilating, and outright inventing new words that can be used to describe common facets of moviemaking. Hopefully they’ll put off the impending crisis for a few months until the new urban dictionary comes out and everyone can switch to street slang, yo. I’ll list them for you here along with their definitions. I’ll even use them in a sentence, like this is a spelling test.

Hyperventalatory

From the verb “to hyperventilate,” which means to breathe so quickly you can’t get enough oxygen. In this context, it means a movie that causes extreme excitement and/or fear.

EXAMPLE: “A Perfect Getaway is a hyperventalatory thriller that has made me afraid to go on vacation.”

Volumized

A made-up word usually used to describe the eyelash engorging effects of mascara, but in this case it means a movie that has less substance than it appeared to have, often because of an unusually good trailer.

EXAMPLE: “The Dilemma has been volumized to the point where a great idea for a five minute sketch was drawn out into a terrible ninety minute movie.”

Ectopic

A term that is usually used in medicine to describe a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus and must be aborted. In this case it describes a movie that is based on an extremely out of the box idea that just didn’t work.

EXAMPLE: “I was expecting it to be fun, but Michael McGowan’s Score: a Hockey Musical turned out to be ectopic.”

Thicktastic

From the root “thick,” a slag term used to describe a stupid person, it describes movies for muscle-bound thickos that are actually good or at least fun to watch, usually starring former sports players.

EXAMPLE: “Sylvester Stallone’s thicktastic new movie The Expendables will find a home on my action shelf.”

Antihesive

An invented antonym (opposite) to “cohesive,” which means something that makes sense or fits together well. It describes a movie that just can’t seem to keep itself together.

EXAMPLE: “Resident Evil Apocalypse turned out to be extremely antihesive, bouncing between plot points that had nothing to do with each other.”

Unicornacious

From the root “unicorn,” which is a magical horse-like beast with a horn on its forehead. It describes a film that is impossibly awesome and sharp, but that looked, at first glance, to be something ordinary.

EXAMPLE: “You could be excused for getting Easy A confused with Postgrad, but make no mistake: Easy A is extremely unicornacious.”

Luciferian

From the root “Lucifer,” one of the many names for the devil. Used to describe movies made by people who seem to hate their audiences.

EXAMPLE: “In a luciferian attempt to cause uncontrolled bleeding in viewers’ brains, David Fincher let Zodiac run on for nearly three hours before pulling the plug on its inconclusive plot.”

Fossicker

From the verb “to fossick,” a mining term from Australia/New Zealand which describes looking for gems and minerals in the scrap heap from an old mine. It is used to describe a director or writer whose Blockbuster movies are based on ideas stolen from other people’s reject files.

EXAMPLE: “When Michael Bay took the brief, aborted inclusion of human beings in the Transformer cartoons and turned them into a whole trilogy of big budget movies, he went down in history as Hollywood’s biggest fossicker.”

Strychnatic

Based on the root “strychnine,” which is a bitter alkaloid poison. It describes movies that have been made by bitter, angry filmmakers.

EXAMPLE: “Michael Moore’s strychnatic documentary, Farenheight 911, blames everyone and their dog for the trouble the country is in.”

Ecliptic

Usually used in astronomy to describe the orbital paths of celestial bodies. In this case it refers to a movie that goes around and around the point but never gets to it.

EXAMPLE: “Legion’s maddeningly ecliptic plot was supposedly about a modern day Mary but kept detouring away for monster battles and angsty reunions between angels.”

Bonobous

Based on the root “Bonobo,” which is a species of great ape previously known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee. It is used to refer to a movie which was obviously made by monkeys.

EXAMPLE: “Leap Year is the most bonobous excuse for a romantic comedy since a monkey actually got hold of of a film camera and taped itself picking nits off its girlfriend.”

Dystrophic

A word usually used in medicine to describe the degenerative effects of faulty nutrition. In this case it refers to a franchise that has been slowly disintegrating due to poor writing.

EXAMPLE: “The Clone Wars is just the latest entry in an increasingly dystrophic series of Star Wars spinoffs designed solely to sponge money from nerds with OCD.”

If you’re stuck on a review, feel free to use the above words to make it more original. At least until enough people start using them for them to become cliched, and then it’s back to the drawing board. After a few years we’ll be doing all our descriptions in Portuguese.

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Pre-Grief Counseling for Writers

Writers are, by nature, control freaks. When they’re writing a book or a screenplay, they’re in total control. They create the characters, decide on the setting, invent the plot, and just generally bend the story to their will. A lot of writers will give you that “oh, my characters have control, really” spiel, but that’s just their overactive imaginations talking. They created the characters (consciously or not) and only they are allowed to tell them what to do. They get very anxious when anyone else tries to horn in on their territory, such as an editor or a producer or even (especially) another writer.

How then, do movies get made? With a great deal of pain and suffering on the part of the writer, that’s how. Once all the various people get their filthy mitts on the original story (agents, editors, publishers, screen writers, ghost writers, producers, directors, actors, etc.) it barely resembles itself at all, and by this point the writer is nearly out of his or her head with agony. (If you don’t believe me, read this).

Without writers, movies can’t get made. But they can’t get made without directors and producers and all the rest of them either. So what’s the solution? I call it “Pre-Grief Counseling for Writers.” I imagine it would go something like this:

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Unusual Uses for Socks and the Website Gets a New Feature

the future of stephen moyer's modesty sock from true blood

Usually on Friday I write something really insightful about something I saw on the internet. Though it was tempting to make some hilarious comments about the fact that people are actually competing to buy Stephen Moyer’s “modesty sock” from his nude scenes on True Blood (what does one do with a penis sock, anyway? Shadowbox it and hang it over the mantle?) but I stopped myself because that would be too easy. (And speaking of easy, if you’re only wearing a sock, and it’s not on your foot, you can pretty much stop calling yourself ‘modest’ and –) Hey! Stop that at once! We are not talking about genital coverings today! (So what kind of sock is it? A tube sock? A an ankle so–) No! Dammit. This is so hard! (Get it?) Argh!!

Anyway so I thought instead of making such crude and tasteless jokes (You could sew flappy ears on it and call it an elephant puppet) that I’d draw your attention to the fact that for the last week and a half or so I’ve been working on a new feature for the website. Look, you can see it on the nav bar there…. up the top of the screen… no, above the photo… no, under the logo thing… yeah, it’s that tab on the end that says “Review Library.”

You see, I watch way too many movies to review them all the long way with the pictures and everything, but I figured I’d share my opinions on them all anyway (you’re welcome), but shorter. Like in a paragraph. And with the poster and who’s in it and what it’s about in there too, you can use it to pick out what movie you want to watch if you’re renting some DVDs.

There are about twenty of these mini reviews up right now, and I’ll be adding more whenever I get time. Some of them are for newish movies that are still in the theaters, like The Other Guys or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and some of them are for movies that are on DVD but you probably haven’t even heard of, like Moon (which is awesome) and No Vacancy (which is not). So go check them out.

Anyway, now I have to go. I have to get down to the theater and back post haste if I want to see a movie before Hurricane Earl gets here and blows me to Newfoundland.

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A Parliament of Flames

As the owner of a movie related website, I frequently have cause to look up information on IMDB. Whenever I do so, I always make a point to scroll down to the bottom to look at the message boards, just for a laugh. I’ve found some pretty ridiculous thread titles, but the funniest part is always how even the most reasoned debates eventually degenerate into two people hurling insults at one another. This thread was so funny I had to read it out loud to my brother in its entirety. It was on the Sam Worthington boards, but it doesn’t matter which actor/movie you look up, there’s always a thread like this. Here are a few choice snippets:

rajak1: What you see as subtlety in your little fangirl world is a lack of acting talent in the real world.

Athena21: People in the biz obviously see him as talented. Someone like you (someone with the maturity of a two-year-old) will never understand why they do – but that’s ok because people are allowed their own opinion and retarded people like you are always given extra leeway anyway.

rajak1: I think you are the only one here on this board not able for a serious discussion, cause your behaviour on this (and other boards) is like a hormone-driven drama queen.

Athena21: You wouldn’t know a serious discussion if it bit you on the arse. For one thing, you don’t debate. I often do… I can’t decide whether to think of you as a kid that has lost their favorite toy or a hormonal thirteen year old. Either way you are someone who is a complete joke.

rajak1: If you cannot stand the critism here on this board, maybe you are too much a pantywaist…

Athena21: …you are a troll, and trolls aren’t welcome.

Two people with no idea how to debate debating over their (in)ability to debate… did your brain just explode? I think mine did.

As long as internet message boards offer users the ability to hide behind screen names and there’s zero possibility of “debaters” ever having to meet in person, this sort of thing will continue to happen. People have to let off steam somehow. It makes me wonder, though: what if the internet style of debating bled over into politics?

Currently, parliamentary debates in Canada are boring. Their discussions on renewable energy go something like this:

ALBERTA MP: Blah blah oil blah blah prosperity blah blah taxpayers blah blah deficit blah.

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: Blah blah climate change blah blah future blah blah biomass blah blah responsibility blah.

If, however, we let the politicians wear little paper bags over their heads…

I move that anyone who disagrees with me has to wear a PLASTIC bag

…. and pick out nicknames for themselves, then their debates would sound more like this:

Iluvtrees: We need to stop burning coal and oil or the environment will be ruined in only, like, twenty years.

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Twenty years, pff! Who cares?

Iluvtrees: U should! I care!

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Yeah, only cause u r like, married to a tree, you dirty hippie.

Iluvtrees: U should talk, what do u do with all that oil, ne way greaseball? Bathe in it?

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Shut up, u r so immature. We r supposed to be having a debate and u r just insulting me. U r so stupid, ur brain cellz must be dead from all that patchouli u r sniffing.

Iluvtrees: I m not debating??! U r the one who callz ppl dirty hippiez when they have legitimate concerns. Maybe if u wernt getting it up the bum frum the oil companies we could have a real discussion!

Icecapzsukmaiballz: I m not gay!!!!! Ask ur mom, I gave it to her last nite and she loved it.

Iluvtrees: F*** you, a**hole.

…and at this point the censor would have to step in, since these things are usually televised, but wasn’t that more entertaining? It’s like C-SPAN crossed with Jerry Springer. Apparently Australian parliamentary debates go something along these lines. Bill Bryson, in his book In a Sunburned Country, says it’s well worth the trip to Canberra to hear them go at each other. I’m totally putting that on my list.

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How to Make a Hollywood Action Movie

I have money (sometimes). I like to spend that money on tickets to action movies. GOOD action movies. Action movies that make me go “Yessss! That is so AWESOME!” not “Guuuugh, that is sooo LAME!” I have seen a disturbing number of the latter type films in theaters lately so I thought current and future Hollywood producer types might appreciate (okay, more NEED than appreciate) this guide on how to get my money from me.

You could be forgiven for looking at the less-than-stellar repertoire of action stars like Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damme and extrapolating the formula for making a successful Hollywood action film as follows:

The Hollywood Action Equation: Boobs + Bombs = Money

Roughly translated as: boobs plus bombs equals massive pile of money

But if all you want is successful, go back to Underachievers Anonymous, because you’re obviously not getting the message. Film is an art form as well as an entertainment medium. Contribute, dammit! You should be aiming for maximum entertainment value: and that means making a GOOD action movie.
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