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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Movie Review
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:11 am    Post subject: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Movie Review Reply with quote

This film's cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character.

David Fincher's 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' loses what made the books and Swedish films so successful - Lisbeth Salander's humanity.

Los Angeles Times
Movie review: 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
December 20, 2011

It's not like "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" was ever going to be "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Not even close.

As readers of the Stieg Larsson novel and viewers of the recent Swedish film version know all too well, what's on offer is a bleak and savage story of crime and punishment that features generous portions of sadistic rape, twisted torture and murders that can charitably be called grotesque.

Still, adding David Fincher - the director of "Seven," "Zodiac" and "Fight Club" - to the mix has proved counterproductive.

Fincher is without doubt a gifted, uncompromising filmmaker with enviable skill and exceptional collaborators, here including screenwriter Steven Zaillian and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. And as the director says of his films in his press bio, "He hopes that people like them, but if they don't, it's not for lack of effort."

Though Fincher's gift for disturbing, twist-the-knife cinema made him the obvious Hollywood choice, using him here feels, in a coals-to-Newcastle way, like shipping truckloads of ice to the far reaches of the polar regions. More than that, it betrays a misunderstanding of what's at the heart of the phenomenal international success of the Millennium trilogy books, which clock in at 65 million copies and counting.

That would be the character of Lisbeth Salander, one of the most unlikely, idiosyncratic and compelling crime fighters to hit the scene since Sherlock Holmes. One reason Salander is catnip on the page is that she is anything but in real life. Antisocial when she's not downright furious, a sullen 24-year-old computer hacker with more piercings than friends, she is fierce, furtive and feral. You never want to get in her way.

Though less well-crafted than the Fincher version, Niel Arden Oplev's "Dragon Tattoo" did have the crucial advantage of actress Noomi Rapace. Her savage Salander was as skittish and tattooed as she should be, but there was always a sense of an actual person inside those fierce defenses that enabled audiences to connect on screen in the way readers do on the page.

Playing Salander this time around is Rooney Mara, an intense young actress who had a fine scene with Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg at the opening of Fincher's excellent "The Social Network." She committed herself totally to the "Dragon Tattoo" role and clearly did everything her director asked of her, but this film's cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character, and so the best part of the reason we care enough to endure all that mayhem has gone away.

Before Salander appears on the scene, "Dragon Tattoo" introduces its nominal protagonist, Millennium magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played with relentless surliness by an effective Daniel Craig. A crusader for truth against the bloated capitalists of the world (and likely Larsson's version of himself), Blomkvist is not having the best of days.

The journalist has found himself on the losing end of a libel verdict. Facing imprisonment and wanting to take a break from his magazine, Blomkvist is receptive when he gets a phone call from an attorney saying that one of Sweden's most powerful men wants to see him.

That would be Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a retired industrialist who lives on the family-owned Hedeby Island a few hours north of Stockholm and has, in his own words, "spent half of my life investigating the events of a single day."

Those events, which have something of the flavor of a classic locked-room mystery, involve the disappearance of Vanger's favorite niece, Harriet. On the day in question, when a bridge accident made leaving the island impossible, 16-year-old Harriet simply vanished. Vanger not only suspects she was murdered, he thinks it was done by a member of his family, and he wants Blomkvist to put his investigative reporting skills to work finding the truth.

So the journalist moves into a frigid cabin on the island, abandoning his it-works-for-us relationship with his married publisher (Robin Wright) and starts making charts and tacking photos onto the wall like he was one of the hard-core Baltimore cops on "The Wire."

Circumstances soon make Blomkvist aware of Salander and her particular skill set, and he convinces her to work with him. She is having deep troubles of her own, including a vicious sexual predator who thinks she is an easy mark (ha!). The Salander-Blomkvist collaboration is good for both them and the film.

Screenwriter Zaillian has adroitly pared down the 500-plus-page book (the chatter about a change to the ending is a tempest in a teapot) and what's on screen also benefits from the work of "Social Network" collaborators including production designer Donald Graham Burt, editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall and composers Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. But unlike that film, which profited from Eisenberg's humanity in a not particularly human role, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is too frigid around the heart to be really effective.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:16 am    Post subject: 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' movie Marketing Reply with quote

Stieg Larsson's Partner, Eva Gabrielsson, Attacks 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' movie Marketing

Eva Gabrielsson said Monday that Larsson would have used the buzz around his work to call attention to violence and discrimination against women, not to market products.
MALIN RISING - AP

STOCKHOLM - The longtime partner of late Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson says he wouldn't have approved of merchandise being linked to this week's release of a Hollywood adaptation of his bestselling novel, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."

Eva Gabrielsson told The Associated Press on Monday that Larsson instead would have used the buzz around his work to call attention to violence and discrimination against women.

"We would never have sold any rights for merchandising," Gabrielsson said. "It has nothing to do with books."

H&M has released a Dragon Tattoo Collection, created by costume designer Trish Summerville, that it says is inspired by Lisbeth Salander the tattooed anti-heroine of Larsson's books and the film which opens Tuesday in the United States.

Gabrielsson and Larsson were a couple for more than 30 years, but never married. Larsson didn't leave a will, so his brother and father inherited the rights to his works when he died of a heart attack at age 50 in 2004.

The two have rejected Gabrielsson's suggestions that they are using Larsson's legacy for profit, and say they will donate their earnings to causes he supported, including an anti-racism magazine that he worked for as a journalist.

Still, Gabrielsson expressed concern that the political dimension of Larsson's books, including the feminist undertones, would be overlooked by the film's hype. She claims Larsson wanted to show that gender imbalances exist even in Sweden, one of the world's most egalitarian societies.

"The oppression of women exists everywhere, this incomprehensible discrimination," she said.

In Larsson's trilogy, Salander and journalist Mikael Blomqvist team up to solve serial killings and sex trafficking scandals. Rooney Mara plays Salander and Daniel Craig plays Blomqvist in the David Fincher directed film.

Mara suggested at a news conference last month that Salander isn't a feminist, and doesn't see herself as part of any group or subculture.

"Does she know what film she has been in?" Gabrielsson said, disbelievingly. "Has she read the books? Has she not had any coaching?"

Salander doesn't fit neatly into any category, "but she is still part of a movement," Gabrielsson said. "Her entire being represents a resistance, an active resistance to the mechanisms that mean women don't advance in this world and in worst case scenarios are abused like she was."

Gabrielsson said the feminist theme had been partly lost with the creation of the English title, which she thinks sounds like "a children's book."

She said the original Swedish title is "Man som hatar kvinnor," men who hate women. "In his (Larsson's) world that was also the basic theme for these books," she said.

Gabrielsson published her own book last year about her life with Larsson.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:32 am    Post subject: My take on it Reply with quote

I've seen the Swedish version, the American now and have read the first two novels. The sexual violence against women, the violence in general are a disturbing matter throughout both mediums.

Did the American version miss the mark, it's hard to say but the infamous bedroom scene was shockingly disturbing. The haunting music and the overall graphic nature of the act itself was hard to swallow and watch. If the scene was disturbing to the viewer, it supposedly had a great affect on the actor who played the rapist who admitted that after having filmed the scene broke down and cried in a hotel room disturbed by the whole event.

I wouldn't say that the acting was robotic, Salander was brilliant in the book version, the Swedish film and the American. As someone who enjoys seeing films inspired by books being true to their original source, the American version was very true to the book and the included scenes were important in the film. The only scene that was opposite of the book that should not have been done the way it was, was the moment when Lisabet confessed to Mikael of why she became a ward.

In order to judge the American movie properly, one ought to read the books, see the Swedish version and than compare it to the American version.

Of course, I'm a bit biased as I simply cannot get enough of Daniel Craig.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:13 am    Post subject: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Reply with quote

I was given the series as a present about a year ago but never got around to reading it. After seeing the reviews and comments posted here, I'm going to start reading the first book, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" during my upcoming trip. I already dug out the books from the pile they were buried in. wink

I'll let you know what I think. Doesn't sound like a fun read, though.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject: Dark Journey Reply with quote

An intense dark journey is probably the best way to describe the trilogy.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Dark Journey Reply with quote

Mr.Watch wrote:
An intense dark journey is probably the best way to describe the trilogy.

Hmm... Doesn't sound like a fun read for an airplane journey, but I'll give it a try.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:38 am    Post subject: Frostbitten, Dispassionate Thriller Reply with quote

‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ Review: David Fincher’s Frostbitten, Dispassionate Thriller
by Russ Fischer

Something at the center of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novels has captured the attention of millions. Actually, make that ‘someone.’ The first novel, Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women, softened to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in many countries) spins around an unlikely nucleus: counterculture heroine Lisbeth Salander, a determined outsider possessed of keen investigative skills, a vengeful spirit and a strong sense of fairness. In the 2009 Swedish film adaptation, Noomi Rapace played Salander as a character just different enough to be a forceful vision, and familiar enough to become nearly iconic. But the film in which she lives is a routine potboiler of a thriller.

The directly translated Swedish title is promising in a way, as ‘men who hate women’ hints at a thriller that will use the conventions of a serial killer story to explore the ways in which abuse and violence shape people and their relationships to one another. The first film didn’t skimp on the intersection of sex, power and violence, as a dethroned magazine publisher is hired to discover the truth about the murder of an industrial magnate’s niece, but it was never any good at getting under the skin of the story.

Enter David Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian with their own take on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher also doesn’t skimp on sex and violence, and in the middle of his dark, frosty film is a strange but tightly controlled performance from Rooney Mara as Salander. This film trims minor players and subplots to focus, in a slightly more effective manner, on these characters who have been molded by violence. And yet it remains merely a routine thriller. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a technically proficient piece of work, but it is almost as bloodless as an old murder victim.

Daniel Craig is Mikael Blomkvist, the magazine publisher in the midst of losing a court case in which he was accused of libel against a powerful businessman, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a man with a grudge against Wennerström, hires Blomkvist to investigate the decades-old disappearance of his niece, Harriet. In return for the detective work, he’ll give Blomkvist ammunition to use against Wennerström. To aid his investigation, Blomkvist recruits Lisbeth Salander, the investigator who did the background check on him that led to his hire by Vanger.

There is a lot more plot than that — so much so that Sony created four- and eight-minute trailers for this film just to acclimate audiences who have managed to avoid the book and earlier movie. Parts of the story are greatly streamlined, but this Dragon Tattoo is still a bloated piece of work, at more than two and a half hours. That’s partially the fault of the source material. Nothing less than a radical plot restructuring, or at least some healthy cutting, is the only way to focus the novel into a surgically effective film. Zaillian and Fincher don’t go that route.

Stieg Larsson had the freedom of prose, and indulged in a plot thread about Blomkvist’s own revenge tale against Wennerström, and took the time to paint Blomkvist as a fantasy version of himself. Larsson was a journalist, and there can’t be much coincidence to the fact that the hero of his story is a journalist who is disgraced, but not really, and who is sexually successful with women in his own social sphere, even as he also proves irresistible to the wild, damaged Salander. As part of the larger character portraits that span three novels, those threads may play a part, but I think they’re detrimental to the effect of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as an isolated story.(Whether we should really look at this film in much the same way as we might The Fellowship of the Ring is a question that will be best after Sony produces films based on the next two Millennium novels, assuming such a thing happens.)

Larsson, it is worth noting, also made a career out of railing against certain abuses of power, and considered his own witnessing of a gang rape a formative moment. He saw the crime at age 15, and did not or could not help the victim. He spent his life regretting that inaction. So he’s also Lisbeth Salander; I get the impression that the pain she directs against herself, and the rage she screams, are as much his as an attempt at empathetic expression. When Salander becomes Blomkvist’s heroine, it may be a personal victory for Larsson.

Fincher’s film captures that spirit in some manner, but I never found myself captured by that pain and rage, or by any sense of vindication or salvation. Without a magnetic pull towards the characters I could only look at the movie as a mechanic evaluating a machine. What decisions do Fincher and Zaillian make, and why? I could see a power in their work, but I rarely felt it.

Fincher and Zaillian dismiss some components of the investigative procedural. They present Blomkvist and Salander’s process as something akin to what we saw in Zodiac, where most of the work is done in the depths of file archives. Zodiac is a much better movie, and also a more tiring one, but that is by design — we’re meant in some measure to be as exhausted as the characters. Dragon Tattoo is not as tiring, but it also has few moments of elation or discovery. Because subplots have been stripped away or minimized (flashbacks seen in the original film are gone, for example) there isn’t even much of a mystery at hand.

This isn’t a whodunnit so much as a ‘why would anyone do that?’ The mystery in Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo isn’t really who the killer might be, but why that person kills. Not only that, but why does Lisbeth Salander’s vengeance take the shape that it does, despite her suffering a lifetime’s worth of abuse in mere decades of existence? Why might she turn out one way, while another victim of abuse turns into a wholly different person? There are no revealing answers, perhaps in part because with all that plot, there is no time left to think.

With time given to so many of Blomkvist’s personal concerns, the most that Dragon Tattoo gets around to saying about violence against women is “that’s awful.” Which isn’t useless, and in fact is more than we usually get. So I shouldn’t complain. It’s really what all versions of this story are, at the core. But I’d hoped Zaillian and Fincher might have plumbed the depths of a violent spirit to a greater degree.

Daniel Craig’s patient, curious work is balanced by an unexpected vulnerability that makes his Blomkvist into a good compliment to Salander. Despite being the prime mover for a good portion of the story, however, he still feels like a bystander.

Salander is the focus, and Mara the star. She swims through the film like a deep-water fish that evolution ignored. Impossible to look away from, she’s all huge eyes, pale brow, sculpted hair, and strategic piercings. Her effect on the film is substantial. She is isolated and controlled and as emotionless as she can possibly be, and the movie very much follows suit. The score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is often the only thing that lets us really get inside Lisbeth’s head. David Fincher stays at arm’s reach, and watching even the film’s most horrifying moments I felt more like an investigator than a vicarious participant. Given the nature of those moments I suppose I should be thankful for that.

/Film score: 6 out of 10
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:02 am    Post subject: Re: Dark Journey Reply with quote

Mr.Watch wrote:
An intense dark journey is probably the best way to describe the trilogy.

You know what? It took over 100 pages (the pace is rather slow, IMO), but finally I got hooked. Yes it is dark, but it is very well presented. Of course, this is just the beginning. Blomkvist and Salander haven't hooked up yet to become the team they're going to be. But I did read that infamous bedroom scene (I suppose it's the one where Salander gets brutally raped by her "guardian"?) - I don't wonder the actor was badly shaken up after he played that scene, if in real life he's not into S/M. What I really liked was Salander's revenge. I re-read that scene a couple of times, it was so satisfying.

I'm going to get back to that book now. Will post further comments as I go.

I half want to go see the movie and half don't want to. I'll make up my mind after I've finished the book.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:50 am    Post subject: The NY Times Review Reply with quote

Movie Review | 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
Tattooed Heroine Metes Out Slick, Punitive Violence
By A. O. SCOTT

Tiny as a sparrow, fierce as an eagle, Lisbeth Salander is one of the great Scandinavian avengers of our time, an angry bird catapulting into the fortresses of power and wiping smiles off the faces of smug, predatory pigs. The animating force in Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy — incarnated on screen first by Noomi Rapace and now, in David Fincher’s adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” by Rooney Mara — Lisbeth is an outlaw feminist fantasy-heroine, and also an avatar of digital antiauthoritarianism.

Her appeal arises from a combination of vulnerability and ruthless competence. Lisbeth can hack any machine, crack any code and, when necessary, mete out righteous punitive violence, but she is also (to an extent fully revealed in subsequent episodes) a lost and abused child. And Ms. Mara captures her volatile and fascinating essence beautifully. Hurt, fury and calculation play on her pierced and shadowed face. The black bangs across her forehead are as sharp and severe as an obsidian blade, but her eyebrows are as downy and pale as a baby’s. Lisbeth inspires fear and awe and also — on the part of Larsson and his fictional alter ego, the crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played in Mr. Fincher’s film by Daniel Craig) — a measure of chivalrous protectiveness.

She is a marvelous pop-culture character, stranger and more complex than the average superhero and more intriguing than the usual boy wizards and vampire brides. It has been her fate, unfortunately, to make her furious, inspiring way through a series of plodding and ungainly stories.

The Swedish screen version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” directed by Niels Arden Oplev, often felt like the very long pilot episode of a television crime show, partly because of Larsson’s heavy-footed clumsiness as a storyteller. Despite the slick intensity of Mr. Fincher’s style, his movie is not immune to the same lumbering proceduralism. There are waves of brilliantly orchestrated anxiety and confusion but also long stretches of drab, hackneyed exposition that flatten the atmosphere. We might be watching “Cold Case” or “Criminal Minds,” but with better sound design and more expressive visual techniques. Hold your breath, it’s a time for a high-speed Internet search! Listen closely, because the chief bad guy is about to explain everything right before he kills you!

It must be said that Mr. Fincher and the screenwriter, Steven Zaillian, manage to hold on to the vivid and passionate essence of the book while remaining true enough to its busy plot to prevent literal-minded readers from rioting. (There are a few significant changes, but these show only how arbitrary some of Larsson’s narrative contrivances were in the first place.) Using harsh and spooky soundtrack music (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to unnerving and powerful effect, Mr. Fincher creates a persuasive ambience of political menace and moral despair.

He has always excelled at evoking invisible, nonspecific terrors lurking just beyond the realm of the visible. The San Francisco of “Zodiac” was haunted not so much by an elusive serial killer as by a spectral principle of violence that was everywhere and nowhere, a sign of the times and an element of the climate. And the Harvard of “The Social Network,” with its darkened wood and moody brick, seemed less a preserve of gentlemen and scholars than a seething hive of paranoia and alienation.

Mr. Fincher honors Larsson’s muckraking legacy by envisioning a Sweden that is corrupt not merely in its ruling institutions but in the depths of its soul. Lisbeth and Mikael — whose first meeting comes around the midpoint of the movie’s 158-minutes — swim in a sea of rottenness. They are not quite the only decent people in the country, but their enemies are so numerous, so powerful and so deeply entrenched that the odds of defeating them seem overwhelming.

Mikael, his career in ruins and his gadfly magazine in jeopardy after a libel judgment, is hired by a wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to investigate a decades-old crime. Dysfunction would be a step up for the Vanger clan, who live on a secluded island and whose family tree includes Nazis, rapists, alcoholics, murderers and also, just to prevent you from getting the wrong impression, Stellan Skarsgard, the very epitome of Nordic nastiness.

The Vangers are monstrous, with a few exceptions, but far from anomalous. The gruesome pattern of criminality that Lisbeth and Mikael uncover is a manifestation of general evil that spreads throughout the upper echelons of the nation’s economy and government. The bad apples in that family are just one face of a cruel, misogynist ruling order that also includes Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), the sadistic state bureaucrat who is Lisbeth’s legal guardian. And everywhere she and Mikael turn there are more bullying, unprincipled and abusive men.

Sexual violence is a lurid thread running through “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and Mr. Fincher approaches it with queasy, teasing sensationalism. Lisbeth’s dealings with Bjurman include a vicious rape and a correspondingly brutal act of revenge, and there is something prurient and salacious about the way the initial assault is filmed. The vengeance, while graphic, is visually more circumspect.

And when Mikael and Lisbeth interrupt their sleuthing for a bit of nonviolent sex, we see all of Ms. Mara and quite a bit less of Mr. Craig, whose naked torso is by now an eyeful of old news. This disparity is perfectly conventional — the exploitation of female nudity is an axiom of modern cinema — but it also represents a failure of nerve and a betrayal of the sexual egalitarianism Lisbeth Salander argues for and represents.

Still, it is her movie, and Ms. Mara’s. Mr. Craig is an obliging sidekick, and the other supporting actors (notably Robin Wright as Mikael’s colleague and paramour and Donald Sumpter as a helpful detective) perform with professionalism and conviction. Mr. Fincher’s impressive skill is evident, even as his ambitions seem to be checked by the limitations of the source material and the imperatives of commercial entertainment.

There is too much data and not enough insight, and local puzzles that get in the way of larger mysteries. The story starts to fade as soon as the end credits run. But it is much harder to shake the lingering, troubling memory of an angry, elusive and curiously magnetic young woman who belongs so completely to this cynical, cybernetic and chaotic world without ever seeming to be at home in it.

WITH: Daniel Craig (Mikael Blomkvist), Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander), Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Stellan Skarsgard (Martin Vanger), Steven Berkoff (Frode), Robin Wright (Erika Berger), Yorick van Wageningen (Bjurman), Joely Richardson (Anita Vanger), Geraldine James (Cecilia), Goran Visnjic (Armansky), Donald Sumpter (Detective Morell) and Ulf Friberg (Wennerstrom).
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Dark Journey Reply with quote

Mr.Watch wrote:
An intense dark journey is probably the best way to describe the trilogy.

I just finished the first book, and indeed it is an intense dark journey. The ending of that book is so sad! Poor Salander...

I must have missed the scene where she told Blomkvist why she was a ward though. Maybe they added it in the movie, or she tells him in one of the other books? Because I still don't know why she was declared incompetent by the courts. She's actually one smart gal, albeit quite a bit weird and definitely asocial.

She also gave me a terrible fear of hackers!!! - Hopefully I don't live within reach of any of those horrible "men who hate women" so much they stalk, torture and kill them, but I do have computers on which I store confidential data. To think that someone could crack my passwords in three minutes and play around with my money and my secrets, that's really scary! Eek

I've asked my brother, who's my purveyor of bootleg videos, for both versions of the movie, but I'm not sure yet that I'm up to watching them.
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