Game of Thrones – “Mother’s Mercy”

June 15, 2015

Season Five, Episode Ten

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Grade: A

Pardon my language, but at the conclusion of the season five finale, the only words that I could put together to make some kind of sentence was: What the fucking fuck?

Okay, I think it’s out of my system for now. Let me start with the conclusion of the season five finale. Jon Snow has just been stabbed six times by his fellow crows, and he falls on his back as the blood pours out of his body, turning the white snow into a dark red mess. I just kept waiting and waiting for there to be a sign of hope that maybe this was all a dream. Or maybe he wasn’t about to take his last breath. But it didn’t seem like there was anything or anyone who could save him from those final moments. As the viewer, I really thought this would never happen. Sure, GoT has time and time again kicked me in the ass for expecting a major character to live a long and eventful life, but come on! This is Jon Snow! He’s been the voice of reason, the underdog among competitors, the sad misfit who’s been kicked around by everyone, and somehow throughout all of these seasons he has faced adversity and continued to conquer every obstacle thrown his way. So it’s no exaggeration that the entire GoT fan-base was in awe.

I haven’t read a single line from any of the books, but I understand from friends who have that this was where the latest book ended. So now the show and the novels are (somewhat) caught up with each other. In my opinion, that’s very exciting for the TV-viewers but disappointing for the novel-readers. But at least we can all band together and admit that this is a crucial loss, unless it isn’t! I’m sorry, but I still cannot accept that Jon Snow is gone forever. Maybe he does die, but there are elements of the show that suggests GoT has the capability to turn to magic. It took a while, but Frankenstein Mountain is alive and kicking again. And I doubt it’s coincidence that Melisandre roams into the crow camp right before he dies. While I’ve never been a fan of the Lord of Light story, it’s clear there is some real magic there. And it’s obvious that Stannis was the wrong leader to follow. Will the Lord of Light have anything to do with Snow’s possible resurrection?

As for Stannis, season five really dealt a lot with him, just to have him killed off at the end of a failed attempt to take Winterfell. I was really rooting him on up to the point where he chose to burn his daughter alive (oh how those screams still keep me up at night). But what happens here is slightly vague. Brienne steps out at the end of the battle and swings her sword at Stannis, but it’s never shown that he dies. That could mean she didn’t kill him after all, but I do honestly believe he’s dead. The last time I wanted to believe someone wasn’t dead because GoT didn’t show it immediately was Ned Stark.

So Stannis is done. Jon Snow is very likely dead. That means the Boltons have defended Winterfell and Ramsay will continue being the jackass he is. But as expected, Theon assists Sansa to try and escape. Unfortunately, this involves the bright idea to jump off the freaking wall. Are we supposed to assume that Sansa is going to survive that fall?! That would require a huge leap of faith, one that I don’t even think Sansa had when she decided to jump. But once again, we don’t see her land so we don’t know what happens. It’s just that this cannot be the last we see of Sansa. And if it is, this is definitely a weak way to go out.

Now let’s go over that extremely difficult-to-watch scene with Cersei walking through the streets to the Red Keep. If this doesn’t land Lena Headey any awards buzz then I don’t know what will. She displays such great control and ability during the scene, portraying a wide arrange of emotions until she’s finally able to let it all go when she reaches home. Cersei has never been a character who was liked, and even through this walk of shame I couldn’t feel bad for her. She has simply done too much to ever receive sympathy from me. But this is classic GoT here, taking a much-hated character and springing life into their story. It happens with Jaime Lannister, Theon, Stannis, etc. But I don’t believe one bit that Cersei has changed from all of this. She just did what she had to do to start planning how to destroy the Faith Militant.

Speaking of not able to let go, Arya finally finishes the deed of killing Meryn Trant. By doing so, she goes against everything that Jaqen H’ghar has been teaching her at the House of Black and White. And just as it seems he has killed himself, it’s all trickery. I don’t have much to really say about this story-line because there is too much unknown about the Faceless Men. I have no clue how it works and what is happening to Arya as she’s going blind, but all I know is that it has become one of the best plots in the fifth season. I’m excited to revisit Arya in the next season.

And then there is Daenerys, stranded in a far away place where Drogon is too lazy to bring her back home. I’m not sure where she thinks she was going, or how she could possibly be surprised by hundreds of Dothraki riders surrounding her in an open field, but her fate is left up in the air as well. One thing I am looking forward to for next season is the ruling of Meereen by the misfit team of Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei. If there was a Big Brother After Dark series of them living together, I’d watch every second of that. Also we have our new odd-couple, road trip tandem with Jorah and Daario.

After all is said and done, we still have to return to Jon Snow. I love how GoT has felt so real at times in such a fantasy world, but that is definitely one of its strengths. But recently the role of magic is becoming greater than I anticipated. From the murdering shadow to the wildfire used at the Battle of the Blackwater; the Frankenstein Mountain to the powerful dragons; Bran’s ability as a Warg to Beric’s resurrection. There has been so much magic within GoT and I believe the sixth season will be the most magical yet. Hopefully Bran does come back so we can have answers about his prophecies, and hopefully Snow is able to come back through some kind of resurrection. I’m probably way off with this, but I really hope I’m somewhat right.

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Game of Thrones – “Hardhome”

June 2, 2015

Season Five, Episode Eight

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Grade: A

By this point, we’ve become aware of how GoT likes to progress. Its penultimate episode every season contains such memorable moments that as a viewer, the slow-burn throughout the first half of the season is tolerated with anticipation for the ending. And even though this wasn’t that far off from the penultimate episode, I’m sure we were as surprised as Jon Snow was when the white walkers stormed the wildlings camp. But let’s back up a little bit.

Leading up to this epic battle, Jon Snow along with Tormund entered Hardhome to try and convince them it’s in everyone’s best interest to team up against the walkers. It was going to be a tough sell, but as Tormund discovered himself, Snow is a very good leader and everything he says makes a lot of sense. But the wildlings are a stubborn group of people, led by the Lord of Bones who stops them in their tracks only a few meters from the dock. If there was any question that Tormund would back-stab Snow, it was squashed the moment he beat the Lord of Bones to death (this was a great, dark comic relief to get on with more important and urgent matters).

When Snow and Torumund meet with the elders to discuss the proposal, you can feel the tension building inside of the tent. The wildlings and crows have been sworn enemies for decades, and now Snow is asking for the two to fight side-by-side with each other. No one trusts each other and no one can forget the pain both have imposed, but when asked Tormund tells the wildlings that he is behind Snow on this matter. This divides the wildlings as only part of them board their ships and rafts to travel to the Wall while the rest stay behind. And this is when the fun begins.

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Unlike the last few huge battle sequences (Blackwater and at the Wall), this comes out of nowhere. GoT wasn’t leading up to this epic event like it was with Stannis storming King’s Landing and the wildlings sprinting towards the Wall. This was a surprise assault on the wildlings by the white walker army, and boy was it intense! I don’t know if I can compare the battle of Hardhome to the others quite yet, but for starters it helped that this battle mainly centered on two characters: Snow and Tormund. It made the chaotic sequences a lot more focused, but gave me a feeling that neither of them would die. Nonetheless, the showdown between Snow and the white walker was great in all fronts. The action was great, plus we learn something new: Snow’s Valyrian steel sword not only withstood the walker’s strike, but it cut through the walker and shattered him into pieces. Go Snow!

All of this happens during the last 20 or so minutes of the episode, and while this was the most heart-pounding event all season long, that didn’t mean nothing else occured during “Hardhome.” For starters, we continue where last week left off with Jorah and Tyrion in front of Daenerys. The dialogue between Tyrion and Daenerys is everything I was hoping for. She boats her thick skin and cold stare at the Lannister, whom her family has always hated. Tyrion continues with his mildly sarcastic tone, but rich with logic and advice. He soon realizes that Varys was right, there is something about Daenerys that is worth staying alive for and even helping out. Those two are going to make one hell of a team.

The central theme throughout “Hardhome” was forgetting the past and moving forward with what’s best. The Targaryens and Lannisters have never been friendly, but these two main characters figured out that they’re a lot stronger with each other than they are by themselves. The same goes for the wildlings and the crows. It’s imperative they team up with one another to stand a fighting chance against the white walkers.

Continuing one with the theme, Arya attempts to forget her identity and take on a new one, Lana, an orphan who sells oysters to learn everything she can about a gambler from Braavos. It’s always exciting to see Arya’s journey with Jaqen H’ghar and that smile on her face as she learns her mission explains everything she’s feeling.

And then back at Winterfell there’s Sansa, screaming at Theon for betraying her yet again. We get a glimmer of good from Theon, who likely does feel he’s doing the best for Sansa by not helping her escape. Like he says, Theon tried to escape but Ramsay caught him and made him pay the price. He would do the same to her. But the real moment here is when Theon admits to Sansa that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon. Right there, you see a flickering hope in Sansa’s eyes for the first time in a long while. Maybe there is something worth fighting for now that she knows she has family out there, somewhere.

Finally, there’s Cersei, unwilling to confess her sins to the Fath Militant and finds herself rotting in prison, sucking up every last drop of water from her own prison floor. She’s someone who simply cannot escape her own past and move forward. She knows what she has done and has made plenty of poor decisions up to now. She has made enemies, but none that she hasn’t faced the consequences for. With the sparrows marching around, her plan to keep her status at King’s Landing backfired tremendously. She keeps trying to hard to maintain everything that she has lost throughout the years, but like “Hardhome” has shown, her inability to leave the past behind her has forced her inside a dark pit with no hope of getting out. While everyone else are making changes and adapting to their situation, Cersie kept on plotting for her own gain.

With only two episodes left this season, I wonder if there will be anything close to as exciting “Hardhome” was, or did GoT use up all of its budget for that one sequence. That being said, there are still plenty of things that must be addressed. Will Stannis march onto Winterfell and will the Boltons be able to fend them off? Will Jaime Lannister be able to retrieve his daughter? Can Brienne rescue Sansa? What is Ramsay’s plan where he only needs twenty men? Let’s see what kind of surprises GoT will throw our way during these final episodes of season five.

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Movie Review: Song of the Sea

May 30, 2015

Song of the Sea (2014)
93 minutes
Rated – PG
Directed by Tomm Moore

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Grade: A

Once in a while there are films that remind me how imaginative and creative feature animations can be. They’re not always about talking animals cracking jokes, or overwhelming amounts of cute creatures and bright colors. Sometimes, they can transport your mind to a place you never could’ve imagined on your own. Song of the Sea does exactly that.

Inspired by the Celtic folklore tradition of the selkie, director Tomm Moore invites us through a journey with some incredible characters and even more incredible narrative. Beginning like plenty of animated tales we’re used to, a family has to deal with the loss of a mother after she gives birth to her daughter, Saoirse. We flash forward six years later and the family is still having difficulties dealing with the tragedy. Ben, Saoirse’s bigger brother, resents his baby sister and father Conor can’t help but celebrate Saoirse’s birthday with a pint at the local bar, mourning his wife’s death.

We soon find out that little Saoirse cannot speak and that is because she is a selkie, a being who can turn into a white seal when she enters the sea. Throughout the movie, we watch Saoirse and Ben learn about the magical myth of the selkie and how the stories his mom once told him are actually real. There is plenty of obstacles along the way that makes Song of the Sea a marvelous ride from start to finish. Just as the family drama becomes too heavy, the plot dives into a mystical tale with faeries and a woman named Macha who traps bad feelings into jars while turning those into stone.

Seeing so much CGI-animations nowadays made me forget how intimate hand-drawn animations can be. This style really brought me into the film as it dazzled me with contrasting colors and abstract images, yet everything was still extremely detailed from the children’s faces to the surrounding in every setting. Don’t miss out on this enchanting film. Your heart will be overwhelmed with warmth as you sing the Song of the Sea during the credits.


Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

May 28, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2
115 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld

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Grade: C-

The aca-bitches are back, but that doesn’t mean the sequel isn’t better than the original (and we all know how much I loved the first film). I know this is a ridiculous question, but did we really need a second Pitch Perfect movie? No, we didn’t, but that’s the case for more than half the sequels that exist. It’s just a shame when these films are made for financial reasons, leaving behind any kind of creative standard.

So where do I start? Since Pitch Perfect 2 is almost a mirror image of the original, let’s break it down. How are we supposed to get the three-time national a cappella champions off their pedastal and down to underdogs again? By opening the film with a failed performance that involved Fat Amy flashing the President of the United States. The consequences are rough and blown out of proportion, they’re suspended all the way up until the international a cappella championships, where they have no chance at all since the world hates America. You can already see how this film is going to end.

Most of the cast are from the original, including Beca and Fat Amy who are seniors now. Oh, and Chloe is still around because she wanted to fail classes just to continue her Barden Bellas run. But with all of these girls returning, we need a newcomer to keep everything fresh like the original. Enter Emily Junk (Steinfeld), a freshman legacy Bella who, like Beca, is a little different than the others. She’s an aspiring songwriter (hold your gasps, we’re just getting started).

Now what’s next? Oh, the Bellas need an enemy just like the Treblemakers. A group who is so damn good and intimidating that they second guess their every move and makes their chances seem slim-to-none. Enter the German team Das Sound Machine. They’re intense, scary, but achieve perfection at the a cappella game. They’re basically robots that can sing.

So what are the Bellas to do? They try and reinvent their sound, but fail miserably. They lose another riff-off because Emily decided to throw in an original song she wrote into the mix, which is a big no-no in a cappella competitions. Seriously, no one has ever done that before, so it would be entirely groundbreaking if somehow her original song played a huge part in this movie, like how Beca taught the girls the art of mash-ups. Just saying…

Despite how poor the plot is, how shaky the acting is, how silly and ridiculous moments are, and how predictable every scene ends up being Pitch Perfect 2 is exactly the way it’s meant to be. It’s guilty pleasure fun for all ages. It’s the movie your girlfriend wants to see as much as the thirteen-year-old girl down the block. It’s the movie you sort of secretly like and wouldn’t turn off if it came on TV. It’s like that weird kid in the corner of the cafeteria who is totall content eating by himself. You might not admit he’s a nice kid, but you understand he knows exactly who he is despite what you think. That’s Pitch Perfect 2. The movie is bad on plenty of levels, but it simply doesn’t care. It’s relentless in its unfunny jokes, auto-tuned covers, and undeveloped characters, but it does it with a smile. All that matters is that Pitch Perfect 2 is pretty enough to get away with its flaws. Ain’t that something to go through college with?


Orphan Black – “Transitory Sacrifices Of Crisis”

April 27, 2015

Season Three, Episode Two

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Grade: B+

After the season three premiere picked up where we left off and explored the story of Project Castor, we slowed down the pace in “Transition Sacrifices of Crisis.” This is when Orphan Black is at its strongest; When the show is able to focus in on specific characters and singular story-lines, without letting the twisty mythology weigh down every scene. That being said, it’s crazy to think how much the show has changed since its first season. The number of characters has sky-rocketed, so we know we can’t see every character each week. This week we’re without Rachel and Delphine but we do get to see Cal and Paul.

But let’s start with Rudy and Seth, two brothers from Project Castor who deeply care for one another. Unlike Project Leda, these Castor brothers have been brought up together with military values, which is why they all have that soldier-look and feel to them. If anything they’re a little bit too close, as the poor girl would admit from the beginning scene. As we’ve spent two seasons with the Project Leda clones, we’re not given a lot of time to learn about the Project Castor clones before they’re driven right in the middle of the plot. That being said, I’m still not exactly sure what they’re after and how Paul plays into the whole thing.

What’s interesting is how everyone is looking for the same thing, which is the original genome sequence that the Duncans apparently had. Cosima and Scott talk to a Dyad doctor who tells them this, more than anyone has told them before. We also learn that Rudy and Seth are looking for the original genome sequence too because Seth is “glitching” and they’re desperate for some answers. So desperate in fact, that Rudy breaks into Felix’ loft and points a gun at Kira to force any information out of Sarah. The problem here is that she doesn’t know anything. They should be barking up Cosima instead, but I’m sure they’ll figure that out eventually. Seth glitches uncontrollably in the middle of  a fight with Cal and Rudy puts him out of his misery with two bullets in the chest.

This brings up a few thoughts about all of this. The Castor clones know that Sarah is valuable, but still are under orders from Paul. So they can’t hurt Sarah, but why did Rudy let Cal off the hook? It seemed like a real convenient way for Michiel Huisman to be killed so he can continue to do the nasty with Daenerys on Game of Thrones, but immediately after they roll out a story-line where Cal and Kira are going away from all the madness to protect the little girl. It was a nice, emotional moment for Tatiana Maslany to play and it definitely paid off. But with Kira gone, now it’s finally time to get down to business!

Meanwhile, Cosima is feeling better though no one really knows why. It’s nice how her and Scott are getting closer with Delphine out of the way, but I still don’t know if I trust that he knows about the book. As for Alison, her and Donnie always provide a good amount of comic relief for the episode. This time around, Alison needs money and decides to go into the pill-dealing business that her dealer is leaving behind for college. Yes, it feels like Weeds, but hey, I’ll watch the Hendrix deal pills all day long over Nancy Botwin.

There is still a lot for me to understand with Orphan Black, but for now it’s certainly a thrilling ride to be on. While the show will always be at least somewhat about who you can and cannot trust, this season we’re diving into what much the sisters of Project Leda and the brothers of Project Castor mean to each other. After all, they’re clones and those clones got to stick together, right? Are we headed to a clones vs. humans war?! Probably not, but then again I have no clue what’s going to happen next.

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Game of Thrones – “The House of Black and White”

April 20, 2015

Season Five, Episode Two

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Grade: B+

Power. It’s what everyone wants in Game of Thrones, but only one person can rule at a time. At this very moment, it seems like Daenerys is the most powerful in Mereen with the Unsullied (though without her dragons she loses a lot of points). Her power is why we’ve been spending so much time with her in the early going of the fifth season. It’s also the reason why Varys and Tyrion feel it’s important to travel to her. Does she really have what it takes to rule? We get a glimpse of that in this episode.

As ruler, one must always make difficult decisions that can be crucial to keeping order. There is no doubt that Daenerys is good at heart and wants the best for the world and the people who live in it, but when she has to be tough she can often let her emotions get in the way of her judgement. By all means, her decision to execute Mossador makes sense to continue the law and justice she’s trying to enforce, but he murdered the man who killed an Unsullied. Mossador has always been one of Daenerys biggest supporters, but she’s trying her best to unify the former slaves and the masters. I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible, but that’s not going to stop her from trying.

Meanwhile, Stannis rules with the way of fear. He’s tough. He knows that he’s tough and everyone else around him knows it too. It’s his fearlessness that forces people to follow him and have his way. Once you appear weak, the people will no longer respect and follow you. It’s a similar approach to how Tywin ran things, but we all saw where that got him. At the Wall, Stannis wants to promote Jon Snow away from Castle Black and as his adviser of the North as Jon Stark. He never intends to accept the offer, but is surprised when the Night’s Watch nominates him as the new Lord Commander. It was a great scene that turned Snow’s misfortunes into fortune very quickly.

As for Cersei, she’s doing her best to act the role of ruler at King’s Landing, but without much success. We all know her son isn’t fit to rule anything anytime soon, but she’ll also never have the respect of the council nor the people despite her royal name. That doesn’t leave her with much options, but for now she is most definitely the acting ruler. As for Jaime, he’s off with Bronn to Dorne to try and bring Myrcella back. Personally, I cannot wait to see more of their adventure together.

Finally, Arya gets invited into The House of Black and White with Jaqen H’gar, which should be the start to a very exciting future. What’s in store for her in Braavos? I honestly have no idea, but it’s good to know she still remembers the people she wants to kill. Oh, and that she got her coin back.

Last but not least:

– Poor Brienne. No one wants her on their side. Sexist pigs! But no, it’s the Starks who don’t trust her, which is that much more frustrating. At least she saved Podrick so we can follow them following Sansa.

– I’m still surprise how Petyr Baelish is still around and relevant. But what’s his endgame with Sansa?

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Mad Men – “Severance”

April 7, 2015

Season Seven, Episode Eight

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Grade: B+

And we’re back for the last seven episodes of Mad Men, and like AMC is saying this is truly the end of an era. So what’s new with our SC&P characters? It’s 1970 and SC&P has been bought out by McCann, which means the partners are filthy rich. We see that in an early scene at the diner when Roger leaves a $100 bill for a check that was only $11. According to the Internet, $100 in 1970 is about $600 today. Not like these guys needed more money, but now they’re practically swimming in it.

That diner scene is an interesting one, because it’s clear that Don and Roger have returned to their old ways of living with their snarky attitudes, women hanging on every arm, and plenty of cash to throw around. But Don keeps his eyes on the waitress, Diane, and asks if they ever met before. He’s intrigued by a memory that involves her, but he can’t place it. Meanwhile, Don seems like he’s enjoying being single again as he spends the night with a beautiful woman at his apartment. He doesn’t even allow red wine spilled on the carpet, or one of Megan’s old earrings under the bed to derail his mood. In a way, Don Draper is back.

Back in the office, Peggy and Joan meet with Topaz Pantyhose to explain that their line of tights are being squashed by the cheap, easily accessible product by Hanes. When Don is asked, he suggests they simply rebrand and sell the product in Macy’s stores. Is it really that easy to do? This is coming from the man who changed his identity, so for him maybe it is. Draper has a dream of another woman at casting, but this time it’s Rachel Menken, one of his earliest love interests in Mad Men. The dream obviously affects him and when he attempts to get in contact with her, he learns that she recently passed away from leukemia.

This somehow makes Don revisit the diner to get in touch with the waitress, who has some qualities that resemble Rachel. Don doesn’t know exactly what he’s searching for, but it ends up with them hooking up in the back alley of the diner. Diana considers this as the repayment for the $100 left before, but Don is more confused than ever. He eventually drops by Rachel’s shiva to pay his respect, but her sister Barbara is clear that he’s not wanted and that Rachel didn’t need him in her life. Once again, Don leaves confused.

“Severance” takes us along Don’s concern that he might not have lived the life he wanted to. He’s been married twice and divorced twice, a fact that pains him to admit as he hides behind his parade of beautiful women. Maybe somewhere between his marriages there was a woman whom he truly loved, but let get away. When you cut ties with people or things, there will be plenty of room for regret when you’re not happy. As for Don Draper, he looks like he’s living the dream, but looks can be deceptive. Take a look deep into his eyes, past the cigarette smoke and the alcohol buzz, and also past the fake smile and the expensive suit. What do you really see when you look at Don Draper?

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The episode also takes a look at Peggy and how she temporarily sees her life beyond her work. She’s a fun, free-willed woman who doesn’t have a problem with flying to Paris with a man she just met (aside from how she can’t find her passport). But all of that fades away when she returns back to the real world where she works too hard for too long to watch her colleagues (who she probably has more talent than) flaunt their riches in front of her. But she’s a fighter and she’ll always be, except for when she really discovers what she’s fighting for.

As for Ken, his severance is quite obvious. His father-in-law has just retired and then Ken gets fired because of a past spat with McCann. After his small tantrum, he realizes this is an opportunity, not a failure, and is rewarded by taking over the advertising department of his father-in-law’s company. Just as Pete put it, they’re screwed.

What does this all mean for the final episodes of Mad Men? Is it going to take the approach of showing how everyone’s story will be branching away from SC&P? Will it dive into Don’s life and the life he will be living towards? Or will it just be another month in the life of these men and women who all are missing something in their lives, and cannot figure out how to obtain it?

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