The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) Presents...


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Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.

SI LA TENDANCE SE MAINTIENT (TVMS)  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2001) Michel Cote, Jacques Godin, Guy Nadon, Maude Guerin, Emmanuel Bilodeau.....A phenomenally dumb Quebec provincial politician (Cote) is recruited by the Extreme Middle Ground Party, but his very idiocy is frequently mistaken for genius, and much to the horror of those who recruited him (including Machiavellian back room strategist Godin) he begins a rapid rise through the government...and in the polls. Comedy-drama is basically the Peter Sellers movie "Being There" crossed with the British sitcom, "Yes, Minister" (though not as sharp or clever as the latter). It's an at times vicious, bitter, no holds barred satire of politics, but has trouble settling on a consistent tone -- some humour is sly and subtle, other times it's obvious and heavy handed, while occasionally it tries to suggest a serious heart, particularly in the final episode (even belatedly suggesting the hitherto oblivious Cote is aware of his inadequacies). But lacking a truly sympathetic protagonist (until maybe the final episode, when we are introduced to the more idealistic leader of a rival party) it lacks heart. But still funny and entertaining, and as a satire of familiar, universal Canadian issues, it's refreshing in a country that does too few political-based movies and TV shows. Though it maybe shows a sovereigntist bent when they can do an entire mini-series about Quebec politics...and barely acknowledge there's a Canada! (Conversely, a joke where they label a phrase like "sovereignty-association" as an oxymoronic term will no doubt infuriate separatists). Still, some of the satirical references are to federal images (Cote on a jet ski evoking Stockwell Day's ill-fated try for the prime minister-ship) and the scene about the Lieutenant-Governor position is a hoot. 5 hour long episodes. English title: The Candidate. sc. Martin Forget.

(2004) Alex Campbell, Sarah Gadon, Samantha Weinstein, Andrew Chalmers, Sarah Polley, Martha Burns, Nicholas Campbell, Tom McCamus, Sonja Smits, Shawn Roberts, Paul Soles.....Four siblings contemplate murdering their abusive step parents (Campbell and Smits) -- but when the parents do die (in a sort of accident), they then struggle to cover it up. Black comedy boasts nice performances, some quirky characters, and some genuine chuckles. But it has trouble finding a suitable tone. The step parents are just too cruel and threatening to be funny (the threat of sexual abuse just ain't that amusing). Yeah, black comedies are supposed to test the limits of good taste...but at times this isn't so much a "black" comedy as it is an "awkward, uncomfortable" comedy. And in true Canadian film fashion, even the ostensibly sympathetic characters...often are kind of unlikeable. A bit thin on plot and, though it has its moments, not enough to overcome the flaws (though Weinstein and Chalmers as the youngest kids are funny). Soles has just a bit part, and Alex Campbell is brother of Neve, but no relationship to Nicholas. sc: Jackie May. dir: David Weaver. - violence; sexual content.- 84 min.>

(1994-1996)  * * 1/2  Albert Schultz ("Noah Knelman"), Nadia Capone ("Diane Camilleri"), Joseph Ziegler ("Jim Barkin"), Barbara Eve Harris ("Wanda Gibbs"), Anna Pappas ("Gail Polidis") (1st), Jovanni Sy ("Donald Chen"), Jennifer Dale ("Liz Anderson") (2nd), Elizabeth Sheppard ("Judy Owens"), Janne Mortil ("Michelle Dupont"), with Lawrence Dane ("Tom Stockton"), others.....Medical drama set in Toronto at the Kingsview Family Clinic. Capone played the level-headed chief doctor; Schultz the unctuous, callous doc; Ziegler the crusader; Pappas the resident, killed off at the beginning of the 2nd season; and Sy the good-hearted doc who sometimes had trouble relating to people. Harris played the administrator. Dale was added in the 2nd season as the somewhat manipulative head of the clinic. Sheppard played the experienced receptionist and Mortil the novice. Dane cropped up as the hostile Chief Administrator who worked for the hospital that ran the clinic.

This TV series premiered at the same time the U.S. unleashed two big-budget, critically acclaimed medical series, "Chicago Hope" and "E.R." Ironically, CBC's earlier hit Street Legal (which featured some of the same producers) aired the same year as "L.A. Law". Side Effects, though, faired less well in the comparison. The stories were often flaccid, having trouble stirring up the emotion needed, with largely tepid characters. The cast was O.K., with the actors growing into their parts, but none of them were (quite) strong enough, or charismatic enough, to electrify things...even an ensemble drama needs one or two interesting actors to anchor things. Still it evolved into a watchable, if unriveting, series. Created by Brenda Greenberg and Guy Mullally. Two seasons of hour long episodes on the CBC. 



(1975-1979)  * * 1/2  Sean McCann ("Woodward") (1st), Stephen Markle ("Dias") (1st), Donnelly Rhodes ("Raitt") (2nd-4th), Jonathan Welsh ("Olsen") (2nd-4th), others.....Relevant drama about two Toronto cops. 

The first season (about eight episodes) of this TV series were gritty, hard-edged dramas in the Wojeck mold, with McCann and Markle convincing as the protagonists who often supported the story. Then it tried for a more American look, bringing in the prettier but less effective Rhodes and Welsh as replacements and trying to focus more on the leads as stars...and the seams began to show. It lost some of its initial edge and never managed to be slick enough to make up for it. Best bets: the 1st season one about the elderly bank robbers. 35 hour long episodes originally on the CBC. 


SIEGE  * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1982) Doug Lennox, Tom Nardini, Brenda Bazinet, Darel Haeny, Terry-David Despres, Jack Blum, Jeff Pustil, Keith Knight, Fred Wadden, Dennis O'Connor.....During a Halifax police strike, some people are laid siege in their apartment by a gang of fascist vigilantes...and they have to fight back. Low-budget thriller, though uneven and with varying performances, works reasonably well thanks, in part, to the fact that the protagonists don't spend the whole film as victims (though requiring the bizarre plot twist that one of them seems to have an arsenal in his closet). A socio-political subtext also gives it added strength. sc: Paul Donovan (story Marc Vamont). dir: Paul Donovan, Maura O'Connell. - violence.- 79 min.

(1997) Emmanuel Bilodeau, Lucille Fluet, Remy Girard, Ronald Houle, Luc Durand, Carl Bechard, Benoit Briere.....In the 19th Century, the discovery of an Egyptian mummy, still with a heartbeat, leads various characters to become obsessed with the notion of immortality and the transference of souls. Satirical comedy-drama is decently acted and has some clever ideas, but the whole thing is presented so whimsically, and so surrealistically, that it doesn't involve the viewer, while not really being all that funny, either. Stranger, when you get to the end, you realize the basic plot elements make more sense than they first seem...yet the execution, and the portrayal of characters and their motivation, seems more like a dream. Fans of surrealism might want to take a look, others be warned. English title: The Seat of the Soul. sc./dir: Olivier Asselin. 100 min.

THE SIGN OF FOUR  * * *  setting: other
(2001) (/U.S.) Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh, Sophie Lorain, Marcel Jeannin, Michel Perron, Edward Yankie, Kevind Woodhouse, Daniel Brochu.....Victorian English detectives, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Frewer and Welsh) investigate a mystery involving an Indian treasure and murder in London. Boisterous all-Canadian made-for-TV Sherlock Holmes adaptation is tackled with a twinkle in the eye that stops just short of sliding into camp. The result is a sprightly and fun adventure. Frewer's admittedly over-the-top interpretation grows on you as the movie progresses, and is nicely anchored by Welsh's more restrained, and somewhat heroic take on Watson. Reasonably faithful to the source novel, while taking liberties here and there, and the decision to throw in the flashback at the beginning, rather than the end, may mute some of the mystery. Filmed in Montreal, Canada, with some of the "English" characters struggling to hide French-Canadian accents. Still, fun and enjoyable. One of a series of un-authorized Holmes movies (see Sherlock Holmes) starring Frewer and Welsh. sc: Joe Wiesenfeld (from the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). dir: Rodney Gibbons. 87 min.

(1997) Lorraine Bracco, Margot Kidder, Jason Gedrick, John Heard, R.H. Thompson, Shaun Johnston, Babz Chula.....Reporter (Bracco) is falsely told she lost her baby during childbirth by a crooked doctor, but when exploring the possibility of adopting, stumbles upon the doctor's black market baby ring. Suspense drama is slick, decently budgeted, with a respectable cast -- though Bracco is a bit uneven, and some recognizable actors (like Johnston as Kidder's cop partner) have just bit parts. Like a previous movie by writer Schultz and producer Harvey, this isn't a bad movie at all...but it never quite generates the necessary tension. The film admirably spends a lot of time exploring the main character, without necessarily making her interesting enough to hold up to such exploration. Again, not a bad movie at all...but a little tepid. Bracco, Gedrick and Heard are all American actors...though, interestingly, the movie doesn't say it isn't set in Canada (while never saying it is, either). sc: David Schultz (story Pablo Dammicco, Emanuela Miani and Bruce Harvey). dir; Paul Ziller. - violence.- 97 min.

SILENT HILL  * * *  setting: USA
(2006) (/France/U.S./Japan) Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen.....To try and understand her young, adopted daughter's sleep walking and nightmares, a woman (Mitchell) travels with her to the deserted ghost town of Silent Hill...only to find it a nightmarish place full of horrifying monsters and weird happenings. Movies based on video games usually inspire pretty low expectations, so in that sense, this is better than you might expect. Boasting a solid, better-than-usual cast (with Krige coming across best as the leader of a fanatical cult...though strangely Mitchell sometimes seems uninspired) and a big budget that goes to creating lavish (and creepy) sets and a genuinely palpable, genuinely spooky atmosphere. Indeed, it actually does re-create some of the feel of such video games (as characters wander dark, twisty corridors, unsure what lies around the next corner) -- but in a good way (as opposed to something where it just feels like you're watching someone else play a video game). At the same time -- character and motivation is definitely secondary, as the characters will see something horribly monstrous one scene...then act nonchalant in the next. Though maybe that's because they are trying to evoke a nightmare atmosphere, and a kind of dream logic, as opposed to realism. So if you like a creepy atmosphere (and some disturbing and gory scenes) and are willing to check your brain at the door...worth a look. sc: Roger Avary. dir: Christophe Gans. -extreme violence.-125 min.

SILENT LOVE  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q./other
(2004) Vanessa Bauche, Noel Burton, Susana Salazar, Maka Kotto, Regina Orozco, Jorge Zarate, Carmen Salinas.....Story of a Montreal professor and a Mexican woman who marry through an on-line dating service, but when they relocate to Montreal, and she brings her mother to visit, things tend not to work out the way any of them expected. Low-key comedy-drama has some decent performances, particularly Mexican actress Bauche, but is a touch slow and lags periodically...then picks up, then lags, then picks up, but becoming more interesting as it goes. In a mixture of English and Spanish (with sub-titles). sc: Federico Hidalgo, Paulina Robles. dir: Federico Hidalgo. 100 min.

SILENT NIGHT  * * *  setting: other
(2002) (/U.S.) Linda Hamilton, Romano Orzari, Al Goulem, Martin Neufeld, Mark Anthony Krupa, Matthew Harbour, Michael Sinelnikoff.....Inspired by a true story of a German woman and her young son (Hamilton and Harbour), hiding out from the war on Christmas Eve in 1944, who finds her solitude interrupted by a trio of American G.I.s and a trio of German soldiers -- both separated from their main units -- and she persuades them to accept an uneasy, tenuous truce for Christmas. Made-for-TV drama-suspenser is pretty good, benefiting from the atmosphere induced by the very minimalism of the setting, and a decent enough cast (with Orzari particularly memorable as Pvt. Rossi). Gritty enough to avoid being too schmaltzy...but schmaltzy enough to make for an off-beat Christmas fable. Hamilton is American, everyone else is Canadian. sc: Roger Aylward. dir. Rodney Gibbons. - violence.- 89 min.

SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT a.k.a. Black Christmas

THE SILENT PARTNER  * * *  setting: Ont.
(1978) Elliot Gould, Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, Celine Lomez, Michael Kirby, Ken Pogue, John Candy, Gail Dahms, Michael Donaghue, Sean Sullivan.....Bank teller (Gould) uses a robbery to cover his own stealing of bank funds, but the psychotic thief (Plummer) figures it out and demands a cut. Clever cat-and-mouse premise, as each tries to outwit the other, well-paced with a chilling performance from Plummer. Marred by plot holes, misogyny, unsettling violence, and the fact that the only remotely sympathetic character gets killed before the end. Thoughtful undercurrents are mishandled. Stephen Young co-produced (and has a bit part). Music by Oscar Peterson. Won six Etrogs including Best Picture and Actress (Lomez). sc: Curtis Hanson (from the novel Think of a Number by Anders Bodelsen). dir: Daryl Duke. - female nudity, violence.- 105 min.

SILENT WITNESS: What a Child Saw  * *  setting: USA.
(1993) Mia Korf, Clark Johnson, Amir Williams, Richard Chevolleau, Bill Nunn, Richard Yearwood, Ron White, Ndehru Roberts, Timothy D. Stickney, Taborah Johnson.....Asian-American D.A. (Korf), with the help of a black social worker (Johnson), investigates a shooting of some Asians by blacks, and gets caught between the prejudice of both communities, unaware of a witness (Williams) who's the little brother of one of the killers. So-so drama never quite makes a story out of its plot, with repetitious scenes and characters that never gell. Nice performances from the younger actors and gang members. Clark and Taborah are siblings. sc: Paris Qualles (story Charles Rosin). dir: Bruce Pittman. - violence.- 85 min.

(1991) Tracy Scoggins, Brion James, Marc Singer, Mark Baur, Marc Bennett, Suzy Joachim.....While investigating a prostitute's murder by a secret organization, a lawyer (American Scoggins) becomes infatuated with life's seadier side. Low-budget thriller is little more than a collection of music video sequences -- occasionally sexy, mainly just silly -- and the plot itself is nonsensical (as if whole scenes have been cut out). Import James is (atypically) good as a baddie, but the others vary from unfocused to really bad. a.k.a. Beyond the Silhouette and Ultimate Desires. sc: Ted Hubert. dir: Lloyd A. Simandl. - explicit sexual content, partial female nudity, violence.- 92 min.

SILVER MAN  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2000) Paul Popowich, Audrey Lupke, Derek Hamilton, Joe Pantoliano, Eugene Levy, Daniel Baldwin, Louise Fletcher, Kenny Robinson, Les Carlson.....A triangle forms between a good hearted but troubled young woman (Lupke), her low-life, in-debt-to-the-mob boyfriend (Hamilton), and an enigmatic street busker (Popowich) who moves in next door, and who suffers from a peculiar skin discolouration. Modestly budgeted noirish drama is maybe better in the conception than the execution, and with characters that remain a bit at arms length. But it works enough to remain moderately interesting, benefiting from the notion of its "high concept" titular character (when too many Canadian movies shy away from anything flamboyant). Levy and Robinson play "quirky" mobsters -- that is, supposed to be comic relief and menacing, and many of the "name actors" have just small parts, particularly American actress Fletcher. But old pro Carlson delivers a particularly effective performance, in a small but crucial part, as Mule. sc: Gerald Sanford. dir: Peter Foldy. - sexual content; partial male and female nudity; violence.- 96 min.

SILVER WOLF * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1999) Michael Biehn, Shane Meier, Kimberley Warnat, Roy Scheider, Shaun Johnston, Jade Pawluk, Lynda Boyd.....American teen (Meier) comes to live with his park ranger uncle (Biehn) and befriends a wounded timber wolf who he then enters in a cross country human-dog race...over the objections of a local rancher (Scheider) who doesn't like wolves. Slick, good looking family drama isn't bad, but isn't anything particularly new, and seems to be sufficiently aware that it's mining cliches that it doesn't bother to flesh out some of the stock elements (local bully, etc.). It suffers from a certain split-personality, trying to be both a "sports" movie, with scenes of the hero snowboarding and the penultimate climax of the race, and a boy-befriends-an-animal movie. Still, well acted and moderately interesting, particularly for younger viewers. sc: Michael Amo. dir: Peter Svatek. 97 min.

SIMON AND THE DREAM HUNTERS see Simon les nuages

(1990) Hugolin Chevrette-Landesque, Patrick St. Pierre, Jessica Barker, Anais Goulet-Robitaille, Naad Joseph, Benoit Robitaille, Isabelle Lapointe, Charles-Andre Therrien.....Story of a boy who leads a group of friends on a quest for a mythical land near where they live. Engaging children's story, marred by some excessive unpleasantness. English title: Simon and the Dream Hunters. sc./dir: Roger Cantin. 75 min.

A SIMPLE CURVE  * *  setting: B.C.
(2004) Kris Lemche, Michael Hogan, Matt Craven, Pascale Hutton, Sarah Lind, Kett Turton.....Story of a young man (Lemche) growing frustrated with his small town life and trying to be the realist business manager of his hippy-esque artisan father's (Hogan) fine woodcrafts store. Frustrating comedy-drama has good performances and some amusing, quirky scenes...but its plot barely exists, being more a "character study", and is extremely slow moving. Between the frequent montages of, admittedly beautiful, B.C. scenery, and scenes that are extended past their "point" (the actors milk their lines with pregnant pauses and the like), practically every scene could've been trimmed or tightened. And even as a character study, the character comes across less as a frustrated George Bailey, and more as just a whiner. The result is a movie that has too many good things to actively dislike it, but too many weaknesses to quite work. Too bad. sc./dir: Aubrey Nealon. 92 min.

The Sin Sniper, a novel by Hugh Garner, was turned into the movie Stone Cold Dead.

SINCERELY, VIOLET (1987) Simon MacCorkindale, Patricia Phillips. See Shades of Love.

(1998) Patrick Bergin, Jayne Heitmeyer, Julian Casey, David Nerman, Michael Sinelnikoff, Gregoriane Minot Payeur.....Professor Challenger (Bergin) leads an expedition to Mongolia in 1934 in search of a lost world of prehistoric dinosaurs. Dreadful (and surprisingly gory) loose, low-budget adaptation of Doyle's famous novel (borrowing liberally from other, similar stories: "King Kong", "The Land That Time Forgot", etc.). It's pretty dour...not to mention poorly written, directed, and even acted. The computer graphic dinos don't really show up much until the climax. Canadians did a much better version of this story five years earlier -- it was also low budget, and hokey, but there was a jaunty, engaging charm to it. Hot on its heels, yet another version was made for TV...also with Canadian participation. sc: Leopold St. Pierre, Jean Lafleur (from the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). dir: Bob Keen. - extreme violence.- 93 min.

(1999) (/Australia/U.S.) Peter McCauley, Rachel Blakely, William de Vry, William Snow, Jennifer O'Dell, Michael Sinelnikoff.....Story of an expedition in 1919, headed by Professor Challenger (McCauley), that becomes lost on a South American plateau peopled by primitive tribes and prehistoric dinosaurs in the third version of this story filmed with Canadian participation in less than ten years. Somewhat lackluster, and clearly low-budget in some respects, it has some cool computer graphic dinos...that hardly appear at all! The story unfolds in fits and starts, rarely generating true excitement, or wonder, with erratic characterization. The performances are O.K., though uneven. The movie seems as much inspired by previous Canadian adaptations as it is by the original novel: Sinelnikoff is cast as Prof. Summerlee -- the same part he played in the 1998 version, even though this film has no connection to that earlier one! -- and plot elements including a wealthy heiress financing the expedition and meeting a beautiful jungle girl evoke the 1993 version. This was the pilot for the better weekly TV series. Filmed in Australia. sc: Jim Henshaw, Peter Mohan (from the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). dir: Richard Franklin.
(1999-2002) (/Australia/U.S.)  * * 1/2  Peter McCauley ("Prof. Edward Challenger"), Rachel Blakely ("Marguerite Krux"), William Snow ("Lord John Roxton"), Jennifer O'Dell ("Veronica"), David Orth ("Ned Malone"), Michael Sinelnikoff ("Prof. Summerlee") (1st), Lara Cox ("Finn") (3rd)..... Adventure/fantasy based on Doyle's classic 1914 novel about an expedition trapped on a South American plateau of prehistoric dinosaurs and lost civilizations (O.K., the lost civilizations weren't in Doyle's original). McCauley plays the "visionary" leader; Blakely a mercenary heiress with few scruples; Snow a big game hunter; O'Dell a jungle woman raised in the Lost World who's parents, previous explorers, have been missing for years; Orth a journalist (played by William de Vry in the pilot); and Sinelnikoff the avuncular biologist who was killed off at the end of the first season. Cox was added in the final season as a girl from the future. In real life, McCauley, Blakely, Snow (and Cox) are Australians, O'Dell American and Orth and Sinelnikoff Canadians (meaning there was only one Canadian by season two).

Canadian producers seem to have gone Lost World crazy these days, with this being the third interpretation co-produced by Canadians in less than a decade. Not a great TV series, but there's a kind of old-fashioned, cheesy charm to the thing if you're in the right mood and try a few episodes. Purists might balk, but it grows on you. Though, viewed critically, there's something rather slapped together about this international co-production is. All those executives, vetting scripts, choosing actors, and this is the best they could do?

The actors grow on you (particularly the three main Aussies), though no actor quite emerges as the charismatic "star" peformer who the audience hopes will be featured more often. Well, except maybe O'Dell, but that has less to do with talent/charisma, and more to do with her, ah, wardrobe. Though the series had always used elements of fantasy and SF, including magic and time travel, this seemed to increase in the second season, but in a kind of undisciplined, illogical way that hurt the series' already problematic stories.

Each episode usually throws in one scene of a (computer graphic) dinosaur...but usually only one. Despite Sinelnikof's presence, playing Prof. Summerlee yet, this has no connection to the 1998 version with Patrick Bergin. And other plot elements seem slightly reminiscent of the 1993 version with John Rhys-Davies. Well, except that in the 1993 version, they took the character of the British journalist Ned Malone and made him Canadian -- here, they've made him American! A slightly racier version is shown in Europe (though the more explicit scenes do not, apparently, involve the regulars). By the series' third season the Canadian co-producers may've dropped out, meaning it may not qualify as Canadian Content for its final season. Like a lot of series, it ended its seasons on cliffhangers -- which meant, cancelled unexpectedly, the season three cliff hanger was never resolved (though rumours persisted for a few years that a fourth season, or a TV movie wrap-up, might happen...nothing ever came of them)! 66 hour long episodes in syndication. Apparently, when this first aired in the States, it was shown as a Pay-Per View series -- the audience was expected to pay for each and every episode.


SIRENS (TV Series)

(1994)  * * 1/2  Adrienne-Joi Johnson ("Lynn Stanten"), Jayne Heitmeyer ("Jessie Jaworski"), Liza Snyder ("Molly Whelan"), Joel Wyner ("Lyle Springer"), Tim Thomerson ("James 'Buddy' Under"), Ellen Cohen ("Amy Shapiro"), D. Christopher Judge ("Richie Styles"), Claude Genest ("Dan Kelley"), with Don Jordon ("Lieut. Gonzalez").....Crime-drama about a Pittsburgh police department, focusing, ostensibly, on three female rookies (Johnson, Heitmeyer, and Snyder). "Name" import Thomerson played the desk Sgt. (gone before the end of the season) and Wyner an Internal Affairs detective (so, naturally, he was sleazy) who was then turned into their not-so-sleazy boss. The rest played uniformed cops.

Unsurprising series started out a bit clunky, with many of the actors needing to grow into their parts, but became better, and more effective, as it went along. Snyder was particularly notable. Still, nothing more than a run-of-the-mill "gritty" cop show, although a little more human and not as big on the stone-faced machismo from either the male or female actors as similar shows, which was a plus -- though, that might be what the audience for those shows want to see. Spun-off from a U.S. series (with American Johnson in the cast) that was short-lived but, supposedly, popular in an ill-defined sort of way. After all, it would be insane to put all this time and money into an already failed American series, right? Right??? Filmed in Montreal, pretending it was the U.S. Created by Ann Lewis Hamilton. One season of hour-long episodes (including a two-part opener) shown in syndication, then aired nationally on Showcase in 1996.

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