Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for June, 2021

The Paper Tigers * Engaging! Impeccable Stunts, Feisty Characters, Attention Grabbing Plot Twists

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

As teenagers, Kung Fu disciples Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) were inseparable. Fast forward 25 years, and each has grown into a washed-up middle-aged man seemingly one kick away from pulling a hamstring—and not at all preoccupied with thoughts of martial arts or childhood best friends. But when their old master is murdered, the trio reunites, soon learning that avenging their sifu will require conquering old grudges (and a dangerous hit man still armed with ample knee cartilage) if they are to honorably defend his legacy. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Maica N. comments, “The Paper Tigers is such an engaging film with impeccable stunts, feisty characters and plot twists that grab your attention. You’ll feel like you’ve just witnessed these events happening in real life.” See her full review and interview link below.

The Paper Tigers
Maica N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

The Paper Tigers is such an engaging film with impeccable stunts, feisty characters and plot twists that grab your attention. You’ll feel like you’ve just witnessed these events happening in real life.

The Paper Tigers is about three childhood friends named Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) who, as adults, reunite after their sifu (teacher) dies. As kids, they shared the love of Kung Fu, but after all these years they have moved on to not such bigger or better things. When they hear speculation from an old enemy that their sifu was actually murdered, they try to find the culprit to avenge him.  

The Paper Tigers is a movie centered on the martial art of Kung Fu, which means the stunts need to be executed just right for the action scenes to be believable. I found the stunts top notch; the stunt coordinators made the characters look like they are actually fighting. In fact, the entire crew working on this movie clearly put a lot of effort into making it realistic.

In the film, Danny, Hing and Jim run into their old nemesis, Carter, and end up making a bet and getting into a brawl to get information about sifu. The guys are not in the best shape and haven’t fought a match in years so naturally, they have a tough time defending themselves. When they get hit, you can see blood coming from their faces, which looks scarily real. Kudos to the make-up team for creating such realism. Something else that makes The Paper Tigers unique is its comedic relief. Although the film has a very serious plot and the majority of the scenes are full of tension, the screenwriters added scenes where you can laugh, despite the violence. One of my favorite moments is when the three young disciple impersonators come to sifu’s funeral acting foolish. Being embarrassed, Hing says, “Let’s take these K-Pop rejects.” This sense of humor definitely makes Hing a more likeable character and lightens the mood.

The message of The Paper Tigers is that when you give someone your word, you need to honor it. Even though Danny, Hing and Jim left their master and got separated from each other, when it came down to it, they kept their promise. They gathered the courage to get justice for sifu and be true disciples. Parents should be aware that this film has some adult language and some martial arts violence.

I give The Paper Tigers 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to18 plus adults. Anyone that loves Kung Fu and action will enjoy this film. The Paper Tigers is available in theatres and on digital now, and on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 22, 2021. Make sure you check it out!

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Luca * This New Disney-Pixar Film Has The Potential Of Being One Of Your Favorites

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Giana N. comments, “Luca is an entertaining animated film filled with fun, lots of scooter rides and unforgettable moments.  It has great messages and shows you that you can have a good time if you just “Silencio Bruno.” This new Disney-Pixar film has the potential of being one of your favorites.” Heather S. adds, “Pack your bags for a trip to the Italian Riviera! Luca is the feel-good flick to get audiences into the summer spirit. With its comedy, lovable characters, and unique animation, this movie is another Disney pictures hit.” See their full reviews and talent interviews below.

Luca
Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

Luca is an entertaining animated film filled with fun, lots of scooter rides and unforgettable moments.  It has great messages and shows you that you can have a good time if you just “Silencio Bruno.” This new Disney-Pixar film has the potential of being one of your favorites. 

The storyline is about a boy named Luca (Jacob Tremblay), who is a bit different from the rest. He is what people call a sea monster and so is his new friend Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). Luca lives underwater as a sea monster, but he can’t resist going up to the shore to explore the world as a human boy with Alberto, even though his parents tell him not to. When Luca’s parents find out, they tell him he now has to live in the deepest part of the water with his uncle. Luca and Alberto run away to a seaside town on the Italian Riviera, where they meet a girl named Giulia (Emma Berman), who quickly becomes their friend. However, the town is full of fishermen who are trying to catch sea monsters. Luca and Alberto keep running into situations where they almost turn back into sea monsters, so they must work hard to keep their secret or something bad might happen to them.

I like the relationships that are developed throughout the film, such as Giulia and Luca’s friendship. They teach each other new things, which really help them bond. The ending of the movie is a bit sad because the friends are separated, but that just goes to show how great the writers developed the relationships in this movie. The storyline is fun and exciting and shows the adventures of the characters. My favorite character is Alberto because he is daring and funny. He tries things that he never tried before, even when they are a bit risky and that makes him a fun character.

The message of Luca is that sometimes you just need to “Silencio Bruno” which means you need to tell that little voice in your head that prevents you from doing fun things to just be quiet. There is nothing to look out for in this film. It’s completely family-friendly.

I give Luca 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 14, plus adults. You can watch Luca beginning June 18, 2021 exclusively on Disney+. Be sure to check it out!

Luca
By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

Pack your bags for a trip to the Italian Riviera! Luca is the feel-good flick to get audiences into the summer spirit. With its comedy, lovable characters, and unique animation, this movie is another Disney pictures hit.

Luca follows two sea creatures, Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) as they wander amongst humans in the small town of Portorosso. The secret of their identity hangs in the balance as the entire town fears sea creatures, and some residents even hunt them. The two boys then befriend Giulia (Emma Berman), and the three of them go on an adventure of a lifetime.

This film is the perfect movie for families. The friendship between Luca and Alberto, Giulia’s rebel side, and the love of parent and child stand out. Alberto helps Luca to let loose, mentoring him in all things human. Their friendship blooms and the two of them tackle their issues together. The two boys steal the show and are set to become fan favorites. The movie also shows viewers the beauty of what most of us take for granted. Luca falls in love with the stars and moon which he has never seen. He gazes at them curiously. He reads books and uses a telescope to watch the blazing balls of fire. He also dreams of going to school and learning, something he was never able to do underwater. One of the most notable differences in this Pixar film is its animation. Its artistic style is noticeably different from other Pixar classics. The characters are 3D with long arms and legs, with wide hands, feet and heads. The vibrant colors and settings show the beauty of an Italian summer. The bright sun, clothes and houses fall brilliantly into step with one another. The attention to cultural detail is immaculate. The characters switch from Italian to English. The town is picture perfect, with old houses and tight, winding streets laid with cobblestones. It is clear that the filmmakers put a lot of time and effort into this film, recreating visuals that are classic Italy.


The moral of the film is the importance of friendship and family. Luca, Alberto and Giulia all fight together and for one another against all odds. Giulia defends the boys and helps hide their secret, instead of being afraid of them like the rest of the town. Luca and Alberto face the world head on, and make sacrifices, putting the others’ needs ahead of their own.

I give Luca 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 plus adults. It starts streaming on Disney+ June 18, 2021.

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Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It * Stunning In-Depth Look at One Of Hollywood’s Most Trailblazing Actors

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Over a 70+ year career, Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become a celebrated and beloved actor, one of the rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award Winners of our time. Born into poverty on a Puerto Rican farm, Moreno and her seamstress mother immigrated to New York City when Moreno was five years old. After studying dance and performing on Broadway, Moreno was cast as any ethnic minority the Hollywood studios needed filled, be it Polynesian, Native American or Egyptian. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” (1961), the studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It illuminates the humor and the grace of Moreno, as well as lesser-known struggles faced on her path to stardom, including pernicious Hollywood sexism and abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and serious depression a year before she emerged an Oscar winner. Moreno’s talent and resilience triumphed over adversity, as she broke barriers, fought for representation and forged the path for new generations of artists.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S. comments, “Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is the ultimate in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors. This film is the absolute tear-jerking, hysterical, educational experience of the year.” Ashleigh C. adds, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is a trailblazing documentary that will inspire girls across the world who have a dream! Rita Moreno’s life story is a testament to her perseverance and others like her who had a dream and decided to go for it.” See their full reviews and Ashleigh’s interview with director Mariem Perez below.

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It
By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Rita Moreno in Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For it, Photo credit, Roadside Attractions

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is the ultimate in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors. This film is the absolute tear-jerking, hysterical, educational experience of the year. By the movie’s end, you just want to go for it too.

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It recounts the life story of critically acclaimed actress Rita Moreno. Rita, who is best known for her roles of Anita in West Side Story and Carmela in The Electric Company, stars in the documentary, along with stars like Whoopie Goldberg, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria and more. The film features clips from a large variety of Rita’s films throughout her career as well as from award shows, and photographs and footage from her personal life, including interviews with her friends and family.

Rita Moreno behind the scenes, West Side Story, Courtesy of MGM Media Licensing

This film shines a light on how incredible Rita is, and how human as she leads the way for Puerto Ricans and all Hispanics in the 1960s, stands up for women’s rights and fights to be able to choose which roles she plays. She deals with being type-cast as an island or Hispanic character, and decides and turns down roles that would shove her into a tiny box. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Rita’s life, not just grazing at the surface.

It shows how Rita struggled with hating her Hispanic roots, because it limited her as an actress. She tells how she was sexually abused, was forced into an abortion by her then-boyfriend Marlon Brando, and tried to commit suicide. The film shows exactly why Rita is such a beloved actress and person. Despite all she’s been through, she never gives up and learned to value the woman she is. Rita grows into her own person throughout the movie, telling how everything that put her down at the time just made her stronger.

Rita Moreno, Tony Awards 1975, Photo credit: American Theater Wing, Courtesy of Tony Awards Productions

The moral of the film is to stay strong and keep fighting. Rita is not eighty-nine years old and one of 15 EGOT winners (acronym for the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards), just because she gave up. Being a Puerto Rican actress in New York and trying to find your way in the world wasn’t as easy as Moreno makes it look. She has maintained her humbleness and blossomed into a modern woman who fights for human rights and looks great while doing it.

I give Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters June 18, 2021.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It 
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 17 

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is a trailblazing documentary that will inspire girls across the world who have a dream! Rita Moreno’s life story is a testament to her perseverance and others like her who had a dream and decided to go for it. 

Mariem Perez Riera, Photo: Elaine Torres, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

This documentary profiles Rita Moreno (West Side Story, One Day at a Time), following her life from its beginnings as a poor Puerto Rican girl to becoming an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) award-winning actress. We see her struggles and trials throughout her life and how she confronts and handles them. 

Latina Mariem Perez Riera directs this documentary and brings a great deal of passion to it, making the film very personal and authentic. The film employs stop motion animation, film excerpts to show Moreno’s life as a young woman to a legendary entertainment icon and political activist. Not only are the scenes diverse, so are its features. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Morgan Freeman, Lin- Manuel Miranda and Hector Elizondo. My favorite parts of this documentary are actually the sad parts. So many people in the limelight tend to sugar coat the truth about their troubles, which makes them seem perfect. This film is raw to the point that, even though her life has a Hollywood spin to it, it actually tells a story that many young girls can relate to today.

The message of this documentary is in the title – be a girl (or boy) that goes for your dream. Rita Moreno came from less than many, yet lived a life bigger than most. You can do it! You won’t know unless you try. This film does contain a description of sexual violence and some profanity.

I give Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It 5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. You can watch it only in theatres starting June 18, 2021.  

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In the Heights * Wonderful Feel Good Summer Movie with Great Music, Dancing and Storyline

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

In the Heights centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.” See her full review below.  

In the Heights
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13


Caption: Behind the scenes on Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.

In the Heights is about Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner, and his disappearing neighborhood in New York City, specifically Washington Heights. Small businesses are moving away; people are leaving; and Usnavi is going back to his home in the Dominican Republic to help his family. What will happen when Usnavi leaves?

This movie is based on the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and musical, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda – both titled with the same name. The music is phenomenal and very memorable because it makes you want to get up and dance. While writing this review, I still have all the songs stuck in my head.  Lin-Manuel Miranda also plays the Piragua Guy. Along with the music, the choreography is outstanding, particularly the group choreography – a mix of hip-hop and Latinx styles. Everyone is in sync and energetic. The scenes are very detailed, artistic and beautiful, with so much color.

Choreographer CHRISTOPHER SCOTT (center) “IN THE HEIGHTS,” Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The acting is beyond amazing and every character is so believable and loveable. Anthony Ramos, as Usnavi, stands out and seems very genuine. Melissa Barrera, as Vanessa, shows so much perseverance for her dreams. Leslie Grace’s Nina is passionate as she deals with her character’s conflicts. My favorite character is Abuela Claudia because she is so loving to all, and she reminds us to have paciencia y fe (patience and faith). The characters speak Spanish at times during the film, so it helps if you have some knowledge of the Spanish language, but it’s not essential to enjoying the movie.

The main message is that sueñitos (little dreams) aren’t always easy; you have to work for them. In the Heights addresses some serious topics like attending college and dealing with racial bias as a minority. This movie has some profanity and suggestive references.

(Center l-r) DASCHA POLANCO as Cuca, DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA as Daniela and STEPHANIE BEATRIZ as Carla in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I give In the Heights 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters or on HBO Max June 11, 2021

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12 Mighty Orphans * Moving Script, Deep Characters, Strikes A Chord With Multi-Generations

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

During the Great Depression, Rusty Russell gives up a privileged position to coach football at an orphanage in Fort Worth, Texas. Whipping his young players into shape, they soon become an inspiration to their city, state and an entire nation.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “With a moving script, deep characters, and incredible production quality, 12 Mighty Orphans is a film you should not miss! A throwback to the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the aftermath of the First World War, the film will strike a chord with all generations, and it’s an especially great watch for sports fans and Texans.”

Ayden P. adds, “The film really excels at the character arcs; we watch most of the main characters experience growth as a result of their interactions with Coach Russell and with each other. The film features some well-known actors, like Academy Award-winners Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen, who both excel in their ability to bring characters to life.” Ethan P. wraps it up with, “The moral of this film is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; as long as you do things with love and passion, you will succeed in life. Teamwork plays a big role in this film, because the orphans come together as a family to succeed at football.” See their full reviews below and Ethan’s interview with Ty Roberts, the director.

12 Mighty Orphans
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

With a moving script, deep characters, and incredible production quality, 12 Mighty Orphans is a film you should not miss! A throwback to the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the aftermath of the First World War, the film will strike a chord with all generations, and it’s an especially great watch for sports fans and Texans.

The film tells the true story of one of the greatest football coaches in American history – Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson). Russell gives up his position coaching and teaching in Temple, Texas, to move to the Masonic Home, a decrepit orphanage in Fort Worth, where he teaches math and science, and more importantly, coaches the young orphan boys in football. Russell struggles to whip his team of emotionally damaged novice players into shape.12 Mighty Orphans shows the journey of the relationship between player and coach and how Russell turns the orphanage into a source of inspiration for the entire nation.

The production quality of this Sony Classics movie is superb; from the start, the Texas drawl of the intermittent narration, the slightly browned footage, and even the car that Rusty Russell drives, a 1930s Ford, all contribute to making the viewer feel that they truly are in post-World War I Texas. The dialogue is both clear and realistic, and it helps add to the depth of each character. The three characters who are the most expounded upon are Rusty Russell, Snoggs (Jacob Lofland), a thin, good-hearted orphan, Doc Hall (Martin Sheen), the medic of the orphanage and Hardy Brown (Jake Austin Walker), the troubled yet talented football star. Each of these characters has a detailed backstory and the actors that play them emote beautifully throughout the film, always staying true to their character in a way that never feels forced. I especially love Jake Austin Walker’s performance as Hardy Brown and Martin Sheen as Doc Hall; the intense emotion of Hardy’s role and the layered personality of Doc really bring the story to life. And of course, the fatherly Rusty Russell is the star of the show!

12 Mighty Orphans promotes messages of unity, community, perseverance and faith. For the young orphan boys, getting over the tragedies of their past is the only thing holding them back from greatness; Russell shows them (and viewers) that moving on, though difficult, is the key to putting your best foot forward and succeeding in the future.

I give 12 Mighty Orphans 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18; adults will enjoy this film as well. 12 Mighty Orphans will be available in limited-release form on June 11, 2021 and in theatres on June 18, 2021.

12 Mighty Orphans
By Ayden P., KIDS FIRST!  Film Critic, age 12

12 Mighty Orphans is a great film and very family friendly.  I like that it focuses on events that brought about a sense of pride to a community when the world was not in a good place. 

The film is based on a true story about a group of orphans, Hardy Brown (Jake Austin Walker), Snoggs (Jacob Lofland) and Fairbanks (Levi Dylan) and Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson) who leaves his position at a prestigious school to come to the orphanage to coach these boys. These boys have never played football before. With the support of Coach Russell, his wife Juanita (Vinessa Shaw), Doc Hall (Martin Sheen) and a former orphan, Mason Hawk (Robert Duvall), the boys learn to believe in themselves and become a true team. They beat the odds and discover their individual and collective strengths on the way to becoming a really good football team. The Mighty Mites, a name given to them by Mason Hawk, end up getting the support of their community because they symbolize hope and resilience of the human spirit.

The film really excels at the character arcs; we watch most of the main characters experience growth as a result of their interactions with Coach Russell and with each other. The film features some well-known actors, like Academy Award-winners Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen, who both excel in their ability to bring characters to life. Another plus is that the film focuses on something positive that the community rallies behind and it temporarily takes their minds off of the Great Depression. My favorite character is Coach Russell. As an orphan himself, he beat the odds and became a successful coach and family man, but he doesn’t forget where he came from and goes back to help other orphans. Coach Russell shows the kids that it is possible for them all to do much more than they or the world expects.

The message of this film is that, no matter how dark times get, you should never give up on yourself or the world.  Even those that the world has forgotten about can have a beacon of hope.

12 Mighty Orphans gets 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. 12 Mighty Orphans releases in theaters June 11, 2021.

12 Mighty Orphans
Ethan P., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 12


I like 12 Mighty Orphans because it is based on a real life event. It has an incredible cast and each one portrays their character so well. This story is a big eye opener.

The story follows a group of 150 children at an orphanage in Texas in 1940. A football coach and teacher named Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), who is an orphan himself, recruits 12 teenage orphans to play football. These young boys go from playing without shoes, not knowing how to play football and not even having a real football to play with to winning the Texas state championship. Mr. Russell and the orphanage’s doctor, Doc Hall (Martin Sheen), train the team. They teach them discipline, respect, love for the sport and, the most important thing, self-love and self-respect.


12 Mighty Orphans is directed by Ty Roberts who manages to transmit onto the big screen the story of these orphans – sadness, frustration, suffering, passion and joy. The cast includes some A-list actors such as Robert Duval, Wayne Knight and Treat Williams. The locations and landscape are colorful and beautiful. The wardrobe features outfits from the 40s, including football gear made of leather pads and leather helmets. My favorite part is when the team comes together and starts to realize that being an orphan is not as bad as they think it is.



The moral of this film is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; as long as you do things with love and passion, you will succeed in life. Teamwork plays a big role in this film, because the orphans come together as a family to succeed at football. Be forewarned that the film contains some profanity, some explicit dialogue, and bloody real life events.

I give 12 Mighty Orphans 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults.  Minors can watch this magnificent and possibly award-winning movie, with the supervision of an adult. 12 Mighty Orphans has advanced screenings at Texas theaters starting June 11 and opens nationwide June 18, 2021. 

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