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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little BrotherLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always treated books much the same way I treat movies; the more popular it is, the less inclined I am to check it out. A couple of years ago, when Little Brother was still a new book, the hype was quite prominent, and I avoided reading it. Recently, I saw this nice hardbound copy at my local Goodwill, and figured it might be worth dropping $2 to check it out. I already had a free digital copy sitting on my e-reader taking up space until some unknown later date, but I thought a bound copy might be nice. Having the physical book in hand, I cracked it open to read a few paragraphs. Then I burned through the book, quickly (at least for me).

One of the blurbs on the dust jacket calls it an “important” book, and I’m inclined to agree. Somewhat familiar with Doctorow through sites like boingboing, I knew he was a tech savvy guy, but I was thoroughly impressed with his ability to readily break down some pretty complex technology into layman’s terms. His descriptions of how surveillance can be misused and applied as an invasion of privacy under the guise of protection was both frightening and all too familiar in a world that has trouble drawing the line between terror and freedom.

I’m recommending this book to everyone I know, not so much for it’s mostly believable plot, not for it’s fun and identifiable characters, or even for it’s great use of suspense. No, I’m recommending it because it’s a great reminder to remain vigilant when privacy and personal information is concerned.

I found the ending to be a bit rushed, and the characters to be a bit naive from time to time, but then I have to remember this is a YA novel and I might not totally identify with the protagonist on too many levels, being in my mid-30’s.

Any flaws in the book were really quite marginal, at best, and I heartily recommend everyone read this book–if just for the concepts presented within.

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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in better living, review

 

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Review: Caravan to Xanadu

Caravan to XanaduCaravan to Xanadu by Edison Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this exciting look into the life of one of history’s most famous adventurer merchants. I realized, as I read this book, that I don’t really know much about his life, despite the fame of the name Marco Polo. The story begins with a young Marco Polo living in Venice, and awaiting word from his traveling father whom he’s never met. When his father returns with news of his visit to the great Kublai Khan, Marco’s adventure begins as do his plans to return to Xanadu with his unloving, cunning, and cruel father.

If even one third of the events described in this book are actually true, Marco Polo’s youth was an amazing experience. Marshall does a great job of describing the decadence and splendor of the Khan’s empire and his description of the romantic interludes between Marco and an enchanting slave girl are nothing short of touching and captivating.

Marshall does a great job of making you think this is written in the first person by Marco himself, almost inhabiting the thoughts and impressions of a young man seeing the world for the first time. This book is definitely one of the best $1 purchases I ever made on a whim, and it will find a permanent place on my shelves.

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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in review

 

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Movie Challenge: #81-100 Conclusion


Before I begin this final installment of my 200 Movie Challenge, I’d like to talk a bit about the challenge itself. When I conceived of the idea, my original estimate was that I would be be able to comfortably squeeze in 100 movies in a year. TWGW suggested that 200 should be more of a challenge. Not one to back down easily, I decided she was right, and thus the 200 Movie Challenge was born.

As you may, or may not recall, my original reviews consisted of lengthy disscussions of the movies I had recently watched. In those long reviews, I included still shots from the films–which, most of you probably know, included a fair amount of digital editing to include some sort of relevant easter egg. That took scads of time, and I was reluctant to watch another movie until I had finished a review. This slowed me down considerably. Add to that the fact that I acquired high-speed internet at home for the first time ever, and got a copy of God of War 2 for the PS2, and it was a recipe for procrastination. A third of the way into the year, and I had only watched around 20 movies. I clearly was not on track to meet my goal of 200 by year’s end.

Then I switched to my super-short reviews, using the number scale you’ve grown to love and/or hate. Things really picked up then, and I started knocking out reviews quickly. It looked like I might just make it after all. This Summer, however, life had different plans for me. Work was such a demand, that I barely had the energy to watch movies with any kind of critical eye, but I perservered, and still made a respectable pass at staying on track. (A note on my number-scale: some have suggested that my scores are over-inflated as I tend to rate everything near a 10. Well, this means one of two things, either I don’t waste my time watching movies I won’t like and have refined my skills at picking a worthwile [to me] film–or, as is more likely the case, I’m able to find merit in almost any movie I endeavor to watch. Either way, I like movies of all sorts, and I stand behind my ratings. Your mileage may vary.)

Then came Netflix. Oh how I love Netflix.

For a movie lover, having Netflix is like a heroin addict having a live-in dope dealer. Movies delivered to my doorstep, and more importantly, movies on tap via the streaming feature. Who could ask for more? The problem came in when I discovered that I could stream not just movies, but television shows as well! I started soaking up shows that I haven’t seen in 20 years, shows I’ve only caught glimpses of when visiting family who had cable, and shows I’ve only recently discovered. Since getting Netflix, I’ve watched nearly 4 complete seasons of Futurama, 1 1/2 seasons of Miami Ink, the complete 4 seasons of Good Neighbors (aka The Good Life) series, all 8 seasons of Red Dwarf, the better part of a season of A-team, about 1/3 of a season of Babylon 5, and a good chunk of the Fawlty Towers series.

In short, I’ve watched a pantsload of Netflix. If you add up all those hours, it’s probably the equivalent of 100 movies. I loved every minute of it, and I’m not sorry for missing my goal of 200 movies. This challenge was about enjoying myself, and being entertained. Well, mission accomplished, as far as I’m concerned.

81. Batman: Under the Red Hood
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Batman Mask of the Phantasm
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want to put on tights and run around Gotham after dark with it”) 10

82. Murder on the Orient Express
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):2
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of: And Then There Were None, House on Haunted Hill
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would help it hide a dead body”) 10

83. Paprika
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):6
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of: Memento, Tekkonenkrete, What Dreams May Come
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would share my dreams with it”) 8

84. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes–in fact, you should make your kids watch it.
Reminds me of: It stands alone, really. Maybe similar-ish to To Kill a Mockingbird
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would endorse it’s run for Senate”) 10

85. An Affair to Remember
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):5
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes–but some the themes will go over kid’s heads
Reminds me of:Don’t Eat the Daisies
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want book a cruise with it”) 10

86. Man, Woman and the Wall
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):3
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of: Sliver
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would spy on it regularly”) 8

87. The Fantastic Voyage
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes
Reminds me of:Westworld, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d put my life in danger to save its life”) 10

88. King of Kong
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):2
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes, but not “kid friendly”
Reminds me of:A Mighty Wind, Dogtown & Z-Boys
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would let it beat me at pac-man”) 10

89. Casablanca
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No, mature themes
Reminds me of:Ninotchka
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would take the fall so it could escape the Nazis”) 10

90. After The Thin Man
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):8
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No, excessive alcohol use
Reminds me of:Clue, Thin Man
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want to team up with it and solve crimes”) 10

91. The Knack and How to Get It
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):8
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Not Really
Reminds me of:Lickerish Quartet
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want to ride a bed around the city with it”)8

92. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):4
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):10
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Mostly–some mild swearing
Reminds me of:National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want to book a month on the beach with it”) 10

93. The Colour of Magic
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):9
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Not really–scary moments and swearing
Reminds me of:Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Xena, Hercules the Legendary Journeys
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would gift it with magic luggage”) 10 <The books are definitely better, though>

94. Sex Drive
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):4
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):10
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Absolutely not
Reminds me of:American Pie, Road Trip
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would turn Amish for it”) A very surprising 10

95. Moog
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):2
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes
Reminds me of:King of Kong
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would hire it to play at my wedding”) 8

96. Park
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):8
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of:Twenty Bucks, SLC Punk
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would stop it from committing suicide”) 10

97. It’s A Very Muppet Christmas Movie
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):1
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):10
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes
Reminds me of:It’s a Wonderful Life
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would slap a Cusack on its behalf”) 4
Watch this instead:

98. Beowulf & Grendel
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of:Beowulf (The Chris Lambert version), 13th Warrior
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I would fight demons to the death for it”) 8

99. White Christmas
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):8
Kid safe? (Yes or No)Yes
Reminds me of:Holiday Inn, Guys and Dolls
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d put on a special benefit show to remind it of how much it’s loved”) 10

100. The Ωmega Man
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):1
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of:The Last Man on Earth, I Am Legend, Soylent Green
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want to repopulate earth with it”) 8

Watch this instead, it’s much better:

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in better living, Movie Challenge, review

 

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Movie Challenge Update #71-80

71. The Age of Innocence
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 1
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Valmont, Dangerous Liasons
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d invite it to dinner despite the scandal”) 8

72. Harvey
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 10
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: This movie stands alone.
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d take it out for drinks and maybe to visit with ol’ Judge Johnson”) 12

73. After the Fox
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 10
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Probably not
Reminds me of: Oceans 11, Pink Panther, Woody Allen’s Casino Royale
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d help it escape prison”) 8

74. Superman Doomsday
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 2
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Not Really
Reminds me of: Batman Begins, Superman III
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d keep its secret identity to myself”) 9

75. As You Like It
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 9
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: The Black Scorpion, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”Alas! I shall go and write sonnets to it every day, shouting my love from the mountaintops most high!”) 10

76. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 4
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No (Swearing)
Reminds me of: X-men 3, Justice League New Frontier
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d even help Lex Luthor on behalf of this movie”) 7

77. The Wolf Man (1941)
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 9
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 1
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: Hulk, Frankenstein, Mary Reilly
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d take it for a moonlight stroll”) 10

78. An American Werewolf in London
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 9
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 6
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d trek through Europe with it”) 9

79. The Longest Yard (1974)
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 6
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 7
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: The Replacements, Cool Hand Luke, The Great Escape
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d play left tackle for it”) 10
I couldn’t find a trailer for this on Youtube–tragic.

80. The Shop Around the Corner
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 8
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No (Some mature themes)
Reminds me of: Sleepless in Seattle
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d promote it to salesman”) 10

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in Movie Challenge, review

 

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Movie Challenge Update #61-70

61. Rosencrantz And Guildenstern are Dead
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 8
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Not Really
Reminds me of: Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Clerks, Stranger than Fiction, Adaptation
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”Wither thou goest, so do I”) 10

62.The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 4
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 10
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Naked Gun, Blazing Saddles
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”Gadzooks! What an astounding film!”) 8

63. Pinup Girl
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 10
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: Some Like it Hot, Anchors Aweigh
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”VaVaVoom!”) 9

64. Into the Woods
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 8
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: Noises Off, Every Fairy Tale you’ve ever heard
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”Happily Ever After”) 10 (Bernadette Peters can do no wrong.)

65. Being John Malkovich
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 4
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Stranger than Fiction, Switch
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want wear its skin like a suit”) 8

66. Tea for Two
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 7
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Westpoint Story
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”Let’s build a house together”) 9

67. Bottle Rocket
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 7
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Oceans 11, The Perfect Score, M*A*S*H*
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d willingly drive its get-away car”) 10

68. I Love You, Alice B. Toklas
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 9
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: The Darjeeling Limited, Almost Famous, Pajama Party
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I baked it some brownies”) 9

69. Four Jills in a Jeep
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 4
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 8
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes
Reminds me of: Pinup Girl, The Westpoint Story, Holiday Inn
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d follow it into battle”) 10

70. The Libertine (1969)
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 10
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 6
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Absolutely not.
Reminds me of: The Lickerish Quartet, The Taming of the Shrew
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I’d give it a piggy back ride any day”) 9
Trailer not available

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Movie Challenge, review

 

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Review: Devil May Care

Devil May CareDevil May Care by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was skeptical when I read the tag line "written in the style of Ian Fleming", but I needn’t have been. Faulks did a masterful job of aping the Bond creator’s style. It was interesting watching Bond cope with the changing times and the political upheaval that confronted him in an era closely following the earliest of Fleming’s spy novels. Having grown frustrated with cinema’s portrayal of Bond, it was refreshing to see him return to his flawed, human self, not to mention his own era. This book was gritty in all the right ways, and a little predictable–also in all the right ways.

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Posted by on August 29, 2010 in review

 

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Movie Challenge Update #41-51

#41 Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):1
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):6
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Mostly. Some scenes are quite intense.
Reminds me of: The Harry Potter Series, Star Wars
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#42 Wanted
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”):1
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy):4
Kid safe? (Yes or No)No
Reminds me of: Boiler Room, Antitrust, The Professional
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#43 Shock
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 8
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 1
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Probably not, no swearing, but it’s intense.
Reminds me of: Rear Window
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 7

You can watch the whole movie at Archive.org

#44 Vanity Fair
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 4
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 3
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Gosford Park, War & Peace, Marie Antoinette
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#45 Bangkok Dangerous
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 3
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 2
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No, it’s about a hitman
Reminds me of: The Professional, Karate Kid
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#46 Rear Window
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 3
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Kid safe, but not kid friendly–has heavy themes.
Reminds me of: Body Double
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 10

#47 Vertigo
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 3
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Kid safe, but not kid friendly–heavy themes
Reminds me of: Memento, The Game
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 10

#48 Marie Antoinette
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 2
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 4
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No
Reminds me of: Elizabeth, Vanity Fair
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#49 The Legend of the Drunken Master (AKA Drunken Master II)
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 7
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 8
Kid safe? (Yes or No) No–Language,violence
Reminds me of: Once Upon a Time in China, Rumble in the Bronx
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 8

#50 Killers from Space
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 9
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 2
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes but not kid friendly
Reminds me of: Plan 9 from Outer Space
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 7

Watch the full movie here.
Here it is with the Mystery Science Theatre Guys doing a voiceover.

#51 The Greatest Show on Earth
Audience (1=Mainstream 10=”Cult”): 5
Tone(1=Drama 10=Comedy): 5
Kid safe? (Yes or No) Yes, but it has intense scenes
Reminds me of: 10 Commandments, Canonball Run, The King & I
Did I like it? (0=”Not at all” 10=”I want it to have my children”) 10

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2010 in Movie Challenge, review

 

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