December 2010


 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] A direct-to-DVD sex/pot comedy rated 2.5 on IMDB? Brought to us by B-movie company The Asylum? I’m in! I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie filmed by The Asylum before. They’ve filmed some 50-odd films and distributed some 180-odd films. Most with titles similar to popular movies, such as “Snakes On A Train”, “18 Year Old Virgin”, “The Da Vinci Treasure”, and “Envy” (but not the Envy with Jack Black!).

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): Losers get drugs and sex.

PEOPLE: An unknown (to me) director with 2 main stars that are also nobodies. Only 1 of them was even in another movie. Seriously — this movie is pretty much made exclusively by nobodies.

QUIRKS: Sex. Pot. Boobs. Getting laid. The title really says it all. You don’t really have to dig much deeper to find the core meaning to this film; it’s about as deep as Mariah Carey. (Which is not deep. Remember her quote about how at least Ethiopians are lucky to be skinny?)

Really, this movie doesn’t need much further description. It’s very much in the same vein as National Lampoon / American Pie / teen comedy movies. Except with more gratuitous nudity. The plot sometimes took a backseat to simply showing boobies on the screen.

Which, if you go in expecting that, is a pleasing reward.

The two main characters are pretty much the same two main bros from every teen comedy: The sex-starved slob (who literally wears a t-shirt saying “I love to beat my meat” during most of the movie), and the nice-guy virgin (who has sex with a bagel in one scene). These may as well be the same characters from the movie College, from Sex Drive, Miss March, or any other generic teen comedy. It’s formulaic, but it works.

There are a couple comedic twists that were pretty funny, and some other interesting characters.

VISUALS: Boobs. Lots of boobs.

MORALS: Get stoned. Get laid. This movie has no morals.

BAD STUFF: An idea that’s been done a million times ago — and it’s not done nearly as well here as in other movies. Jokes are as low brow as possible. Sex Drive was a sophisticated movie compared to this. I repeat: Sex Drive was a sophisticated movie compared to this.

CONCLUSION: Despite the fact that this is gratuitous low-brow kitsch of the absolute higher order of generic, this is a kind of generic that I can’t help enjoy. Thus, I keep watching movies like this one. Even when they aren’t memorable and have no substance, they still entertain me — though I would not recommend trying watching this sober.

RATINGS: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 6/10. Generic pass.

RECOMMENDATION: Don’t watch this sober. Don’t watch this if you think sex and pot are automatically unfunny. Don’t watch this if you have better teen comedies / sex comedies to watch. Go watch The Stoned Age instead. Watch Sex Drive instead. Watch Miss March. Don’t watch this film unless you are a low-budget comedy completionist who wants to watch EVERY movie like this movie. If THAT is your goal, then you may watch this.

SIMILAR MOVIES: College. Sex Drive. Superbad. Most post-2000 National Lampoon movies. Except pretty much everything I mentioned is better than this.
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 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

PEOPLE: Part 1 is written by renowned master animator Satoshi Kon — but NOT animated by him! (What a twist!) That is how we came to watch this film; his 2010 death prompted us to watch everything with his name on it, since we loved Perfect Blue so much.

The three sequences (this is a collection of 3 30-to-40-minute ‘shorts’) are directed by Koji Morimoto (animator; director of of 1 Animatrix segment; producer of .hack//Roots), Tensai Okamura (animator:Cowboy Bebop the movie, 2 eps of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost In The Shell), and Katsuhiro Otomo (director:Steamboy; writer:Akira, Metropolis, Steamboy). Well-known Japanese voice actors were used for many of the parts in this movie, but I won’t go into too much detail there.

PLOT SUMMARY:

Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): It’s like Ghost Ship mixed with Planetes, but without the science, politics, or smoking chambers. And maybe with a sprinkle of Firefly and The Matrix.
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): A man unwittingly becomes a living biological weapon, killing everyone around him.
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): A militarized society seemingly revolves around the act of firing cannons at the enemy. But does this enemy even really exist?

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARIES (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers]
Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): Garbagemen left to die in space (one exploded, one left drifting alive with limited oxygen).
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): World’s luckiest and most clueless man kills hundreds, humiliates military.
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): Communism’s inefficiencies fail to protect children from night raids.

QUIRKS: Three different anime stories with three different looks and feels.

VISUALS: Three different styles. Part 1 is in space, and just looks like mostly generic anime. That is to say, better than American animation coming out at the same time. Part 2 is on earth, and has interesting painting-like backgrounds… A concept quite familiar to Samurai Jack fans. Part 3 reminds me a lot of Rene Laloux‘s unique animation style. Everybody is green and a bit inhuman looking. Plus, they used a really interesting English font, where certain letters also look a lot like runes. It’s just different enough to slow you down reading it, but just same enough to still be readable. Nice touch.

MORALS:
Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): Beware of mind tricks.
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): Try not to be as stupid as this guy. Get a clue.
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): Communism sucks.

POLITICS:
Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): None.
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): The military-industrial complex engages in all kinds of idiotic behavior. Created to protect us, they make even more money if they endanger us. We should not trust them to work in our best interest. This is why forces like Wikileaks need to exist.
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): Communism sucks. (Actually, I think every system can be run in a completely inefficient way, and a better political moral would be that authoritarianism sucks. Communism gets lots of bad rap for the fact that its leaders tend to be brutal authoritarians. However, Part 3 is most squarely aimed at communism and not authoritarianism, so this critique is more about anti-communism sentiment than Part 3 itself.) Also: The threat of war is often manufactured to be worse than it is. See also: 1984 and American Foreign Policy (especially 2000-2010).

GOOD STUFF:
Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): Very creepy and suspenseful, until the mind-tricks start. Space garbage collectors, like in Planetes, end up getting into a Ghost Ship level creepiness. Salvaging inside of an EPICly large spaceship combines claustrophobia and agoraphobia into one giant fearfest. But then, it stops being as good by the end.
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): Very funny to watch a military humiliate itself so badly.
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): This part actually isn’t nearly as good. The best thing about it is simultaneously the worst thing about it: Longest canon-launching scene EVER in any movie EVER. But it’s a commentary on communism, so people, especially in Asia, should understand this. The cannon is red; could it be any more obvious?

BAD STUFF:
Part 1 (Magnetic Rose): The ending isn’t nearly as good as the beginning.
Part 2 (Stink Bomb): After all that, the only way he is saved is by [highlight for spoilers] Marines wearing Nasa suits? THAT’S how you win? But wait! It’s the guy! WTF! D-d-dumbass. And he’s STILL clueless?!?! . This guy has to be one of the stupidest people in existence (yes, even fictional existence!) That ending is a bit of a cop-out.
Parts 2 & 3: What did these have to do with memories, anyway?!?!?
Part 3 (Cannon Fodder): Longest and most boring cannon sequence in any movie EVER. And the ending is kind of a cop-out. Much like part 2, it’s a twist one way, and then a twist back to where you think it’s going, to create a sort of “fake twist” cop-out ending. Two twists that cancel each other out. [highlight for spoilers] Oh look! It turns out there’s no enemy! But oh look #2! It turns out there IS actually an enemy! And communism didn’t save its own citizens from it!

CONCLUSIONS: Even though I didn’t like them individually as much as I had hoped, I really liked the offering of several miscellaneous animated treats that were all interesting.

RATINGS:

Part 1 (Magnetic Rose):
Clint: Netflix: 4.4/5 stars. IMDB: 8.4/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4.4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.

Part 2 (Stink Bomb):
Clint: Netflix: 3.2/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.

Part 3 (Cannon Fodder):
Clint: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 6/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 6.6/10 (a low 7).

OVERALL:
Clint: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.

The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 7.6/10, Netflix: 3.6/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.5/5 stars–the exact average of our two ratings, as well as the exact average of the 3 ratings I gave individually. However, I actually scored the movie as a whole at 4/5 stars; greater than the sum of its parts).

RECOMMENDATION: Anime-lovers should definitely check this out, what with Satoshi Kon‘s name being on it.

SIMILAR MOVIES: Part 1 reminded me of Planetes meets Ghost Ship!

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Tripp loved it.
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 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] Unfortunately, we did not watch the director’s cut. And wow. Battle Royale 1 was rated 8.0/10 on IMDB, barely missing the Top 250. Battle Royale 2 is only rated 4.7/10. Big difference in people’s opinions! They are more similar to each other than any other movie, so I don’t see the point of making such a huge discernment between the two.

QUIRKS: Three years after the events of Battle Royale 1, the surviving children have formed a terrorist group that has performed a 9/11 style attack on Japan, downing 7 skyscrapers. (Including 2 of equal height right next to each other, like the World Trade Centers.) In response to this, the government creates Battle Royale 2 — a program to send more students in to kill the first students. And we all know how well government regulation works, right?

This movie is on a grander scale than Battle Royale 1. It’s more of a war than a game.

PEOPLE: Director Kinji Fukasaku died while filming this, his 65th movie. He had terminal cancer. Doctors told him to remain in the hospital. He refused, and directed this instead. But he didn’t make it, so his son took over.

Quentin Tarantino was almost cast as the president of the USA, but instead they didn’t have him at all.

VISUALS: The violence plays out more like war movie violence than the random kinds of violence featured in Battle Royale 1. This is because everyone simply has guns, instead of different, unique weapons. This makes the violence more precise and less personal, and the gore a bit more generic. But boy are there a lot of action scenes! There’s even an homage to Saving Private Ryan and the D-Day Invasion (which my grandfather participated in as part of 1st Infantry); shot on similar film stock even.

The characters were a bit easier to keep track of, due to having more unique visual appearances. Not everyone had generic-Japanese-person hair. Though they did kill off the blonde girl really quickly… Overall, this has a more modern look and feel than Battle Royale 1.

MORALS/POLITICS: The basic moral is one of moral relativity. The kids in this movie are considered terrorists — and have indeed taken many innocent lives in their cause. But I would say the events of Battle Royale 1 justified them making a strike back at the adult world via any means necessary. Frankly, calling your enemy “terrorists” has been one of the greatest political hijackings of critical thought in history; only exacerbated by the real events of 9/11. In this movie, the “bad guys” — the terrorists — are the good guys. Yes, they killed innocent adults. But adults killed innocent children first in the game of Battle Royale 1.

And more importantly, outside of Japan, children all over the world are being killed due to the whims of adults. The movie starts out with a scene of a teacher listing a LONG list of countries. At the end, he explains that these are all the countries USA has bombed. 8 million dead. And you can bet a lot of children died. And why? Does our country even get attacked?

In real life, we lost a whopping 3,000 on 911, and 2,000 at Pearl Harbor. In the movie, we bombed 8 million. If you divide 8,000,000 by 5,000, you get 1,600. Yes, it’s kind of weird to compare real life numbers to hypothetical numbers in a movie, but the ratio of deaths here is 1600. If we are killing 1600 in response for every 1 of ours killed, you can bet we’re the ones killing more children than our enemies. (Plus, Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Centers aren’t exactly places where kids hangout, UNlike the many residential apartments we’ve bombed.) So children striking back at various countries, including the U.S., would be totally justified in a movie like this.

BAD STUFF: I still think they should have used the song Kids Are United (“Kids Are United! We can never be divided!”) by Atari Teenage Riot (originally by Sham 69) at some point! And I’m not sure how long that pipeline was! Kind of unrealistic to be able to [highlight for spoilers] escape from an island via an underground tunnel. But we shall ignore such flaws, rather than dwell on them.

CONCLUSION: A lot of people don’t like this as well as Battle Royale 1. To an extent, I agree that it’s not quite as good. The action was a bit more mindless. However, this made up for that by being more politically relevant than Battle Royale 1. The politics and point of this movie was a bit grander than the movie itself. Moreso than Battle Royale 1.

RATINGS: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10, says Carolyn. I agree.

RECOMMENDATION: If you’ve seen Battle Royale 1, there’s no reason NOT to watch the sequel. While it lacks some elements of what people liked in BR1, it is more of the same on a grander scale. I also liked Saw 2 more than Saw 1 for similar reasons: The “game” has expanded and become more than it originally was.

SIMILAR MOVIES: This actually plays out like a lot of war movies.

MOVIE QUOTE: 1) Shuya Nanahara: We declare war on all adults!

2) Shuya Nanahara: How much blood has been shed? How many tears spilled? All of our friends who fought beside us are dead, killed in the last three years. But even as justice can never be vanquished, we terrorists will never vanish, however evil they deem us. Because we know, that a handful of adults, a handful of ‘nature’ selfishly define the nature of peace as freedom in this world. But our world is so much more complex that. This world has 63 Billion people living their own lives, living 63 billion different ways, 63 billion kinds of peace, 63 billion kinds of concepts of what is “good”, 63 billion kinds of war and evil. No one has achieved peace without fighting for it. … Behind every peace, there’s a river of blood, sweat and tears. But if we avert our eyes from that history and abandon it, then peace might as well be dog shit.

COINCIDENCES: (Infestation, Battle Royale 2) 2 movies within 3 nights where people who were basically going to die anyway started smoking, and coughed a lot because they didn’t know how to smoke.
(Sleep Dealer, Battle Royale 2) 2 movies 2 nights in a row with “good” guys that are “terrorists”.

And here’s the Atari Teenage Riot Sham 69 cover I mentioned earlier, which I wish they’d used at some point:

P.S. This movie takes place on 12/24-26, same time of year as this post! :) (more…)

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

LIMERICK REVIEW: There once were some Japanese schoolchildren
who were punished without committing a sin.
Forced to fight to the death–
until each one’s last breath.
Individual chances of survival were quite thin.

HAIKU REVIEW: Social cliques are death.
Government interference
demands this be true.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): Government policy for allocation of child resources leads to complications.

PEOPLE: Japanese.

QUIRKS: Weapons. A game for survival. Almost like Lord Of The Flies meets Saw, but with a political angle. A class is randomly selected each year, and much fight each other to the death. Who will win?

Based on a book. Members of the Japanese parliament tried to get the novel this was based on banned.

One of the top 10 highest grossing films in Japan.

MORALS: If there can be only 0 or 1 survivors, then you really can’t trust anyone. Not your love interest; Not your classmates… And certainly not the popular girl!

Also: Never underestimate the power of a taser.

POLITICS: Perhaps this isn’t the best way to deal with the political ramifications of an unruly youth that causes condemnation by the older generation. Gee, you think?

BAD STUFF: Actually, this movie is pretty solid throughout. There’s really nothing bad that I can think of. No plot holes. No painful scenes. The game begins, and it goes until it ends.

CONCLUSION: Way better than Lord Of The Flies, which was still good. This was actually a great movie showing what lengths people will go through to survive, and how Japanese highschoolers act when trying to kill each other :) And there are some crazy death scenes. Not so much in terms of violence, but in terms of what is going on in the character’s heads. (Imagine the self-sacrifice of being glad your love interest killed you!)

RATINGS: IMDB: 4/5 stars. Netflix: 8/10.

RECOMMENDATION: Like action? Like a movie where there can be only one survivor? Like Japanese horror/action flicks? Check this out. It’s pretty renowned, even among us Gaijin. Check it out.

I’d definitely like to see the Special Version of this movie.

SIMILAR MOVIES: Lord Of The Flies.

MOVIE QUOTE: Teacher Kitano: Here’s your list of friends in the order they died.

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Ian really liked it. A lot of people really liked it, actually. An 8.0/10 global IMDB rating is quite high — the lowest 50 out of the Top 250 (that is, #200-#250) Highest Movies Ever Rated are also 8.0, so this movie almost made it to the top 200. (more…)

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

PLOT SUMMARY: Three bums find a baby on New Year’s Eve.

HAIKU REVIEW: Holiday caper.
Lighthearted optimism,
Homeless heroics.

This movie actually had about 3 haikus IN the film itself. They were used as comedy; it was cool seeing them used as such.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Crazy bitch, bums, steal baby.

PEOPLE: Satoshi Kon just died recently (as of the writing of this review), and as such, we are trying to watch all his movies.

QUIRKS: An anime Christmas story. Kind of rare, since Japan isn’t Christian at all. But they love celebrations and holidays, so they celebrate Christmas in a secular fashion — like many Americans. We have 3 bums — one of which is a transsexual — finding a baby, and trying to return it to its owner. All kinds of incredibly unlikely coincidences drive the story.

VISUALS: Definitely way more anchored in reality than Satoshi Kon’s other movies that we’ve seen so far. (And not just visually so.)

SOUNDTRACK: Weird hearing Christmas songs in Japanese — I really think so.

MORALS: Don’t steal babies. Oh, and probably some deeper spiritual bullshit that I’m not interested in. Allegory about the Three Wise Men, blah blah Jesus blah blah blah.

GOOD STUFF: Satoshi Kon is a master director and animator, so the movie is done quite well.

BAD STUFF: Some people will complain that the Spanish parts [one scene really] were not subtitled, but this is the director’s intention, so quit your bellyaching.

CONCLUSION: A quirky, upbeat, light-hearted New Year’s Eve adventure/mystery/caper, full of hope and unlikely coincidences. Definitely some humor sandwiched within.

RATINGS:
Clint: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10. She’s more into sentimental movies than I.

The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 7.7/10, Netflix: 3.8/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.4/5 stars. A good guess–it’s the average of our two ratings!).

RECOMMENDATION: People who want good anime — and dislike shitty anime — should check this out.

MOVIE QUOTE: Gin: You can’t get milk from an old queer’s tits, no matter how hard you think.

COINCIDENCES: This movie is full of ’em!

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Some people liked this one. Some liked it even better than Paprika!

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 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

PEOPLE: Directed by Richard Stanley, who’s movie Hardware (1990) has had a cult following for almost 20 yrs.

QUIRKS: African desert locations. Magic/Witchcraft/Supernatural. SLOWNESS. Randomness. Broken necks. Surrealism. Beautiful but pointless imagery.

This was the workprint version that we watched, which is longer, and includes a lot of VHS-quality scenes and scenes with the timecodes still on them. Scenes that were cut due to technical and budget issues. The first cut was 120min, then they did a 95min compromise cut. The first cut was lost — and this was a 115min recreation of it. So there’s 20 minutes of extra stuff that was cut out — most supernatural references, for example. There’s an even shorter cut that Richard Stanley never even saw, titled “Demonica”.

VISUALS: As mentioned before — there is some beautiful and intense imagery, much like that found in Hardware. But it had little point in this movie. I’ll take sci-fi over supernatural fantasy any day.

BAD STUFF: Random, slow scenes. Bad storytelling. Stuff shown to us that we don’t really need to be shown. This is probably what I get for selecting the workprint version. It was hard to even focus and pay attention at time. “What just happened?” “I don’t know, I was thinking about something else.” “Yeah.. I was thinking about health care reform myself. Let’s rewind.” This happened several times.

CONCLUSION: This certainly had noticeable Richard Stanley style, like that of Hardware (1990) … However, it was just slow, kind of random, fell flat, and felt like a waste of time after watching it. Perhaps we will try the non-workprint version at a future date, but I think the results would be more or less the same: Major disappointment when compared to his previous film, Hardware.

I’m still glad I checked this out. Richard Stanley isn’t consistent, I guess. But Hardware is still a masterpiece in my book, and you can’t win them all.

RATINGS: Clint: Netflix: 2/5 stars. IMDB: 5/5 (and that’s charitable). Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 IMDB: 6/10.

RECOMMENDATION: Hardware fans might want to check this out for completism. I would possibly advise against the workprint version, but I don’t know for sure which is better, since I haven’t seen them both.

MOVIE QUOTE: Joe Niemand: The desert knows her name now. He has stolen both her eyes. When she looks into a mirror she will see his spirit, like a shawl, blowing tatters round her shoulders in a haze. And beyond the dim horizon a tapestry unfolding of the avenues of evil. And all of history set ablaze. (more…)

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): People in their 30s pretend to be teenagers hooking up. Molly Shannon becomes a pedophile.

PEOPLE: Directed by David Wain (The State, Stella, Superjail). Written by David Wain & Michael Showalter (The State, Stella). With Janeane Garofalo (24, Reality Bites, etc), David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier, Sideshow Bob’s brother in The Simpsons, Wolf), Michael Showalter, Marguerite Moreau (who I think looks like a cross between Laura San Giacomo and Kristin Kreuk–but Carolyn doesn’t see it), Michael Ian Black (The State, Stella), Paul Rudd (Angel‘s boyfriend), Christopher Miloni (Freakshow from Harold & Kumar 1, and the Green Lantern from Green Lantern: First Flight which we just recently watched), Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live, Talladega Nights, Scary Movie 4, Happiness), Ken Marino (The State, Hoodwinked), Joe Lo Truglio (The State, Fanboys, Superbad), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Envy, Mean Girls, Blades Of Glory, Shrek 3, Horton Hears A Who, Arrested Development), Elizabeth Banks (Zack & Miri Make A Porno, Spider-Man 2 & 3, The 40 Year Old Virgin)… And H. Jon Benjamin (Dr. Katz, Home Movies) as the talking vegetable can that only the Vietnam vet can hear.

WOW. This is one of the best casts ever.

QUIRKS: Summer camp! Hooking up! Stupid kids.

MORALS: Nope. None in there.

BAD STUFF: I felt this movie suffered from having too many subplots and no real “main” characters. Sometimes that formula works, but this time it just felt kind of random, and that randomness made it harder for me to pay attention to and get into. Some people rate this a 5 star comedy, one of the funniest movies they’ve seen… But I just felt it was kind of defocused.

CONCLUSION: A better than average comedy with an *incredible* cast.

RATINGS:
Clint: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.

RECOMMENDATION: This movie must have not been heavily promoted, because I’d never heard of it and at least one person on Facebook commented that “I thought I was the only one in the country to watch this”. It’s actually a good comedy — I would recommend anyone who is a fan of The State or any of the other cast members check this out. It may very well be funnier than I am rating it!

SIMILAR MOVIES: I am definitely reminded of Happy Campers, even if that Pixel chick is the only thing I remember from Happy Campers.

MOVIE QUOTE: Can of Vegetables (H. Jon Benjamin): “If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass – just be honest about it. Look, Gene, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.”

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Carolyn, Ian, & Benj really liked it (4/5). Eric M & Christian D liked it (3/5). (more…)

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