HTF REVIEW: "Spider-Man" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Oct 23, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Studio: Columbia Pictures
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 121 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    With great power comes great responsibility.
    One of the best things to happen to film over the
    past decades is comic books. It took the studios
    long enough to reach out to the thousands upon
    thousands of comic book fans who wanted their super
    heroes brought to the screen. With huge box-office
    successes such as Superman, Batman and
    X-Men, the playing field has opened wide
    for new super immortals to be brought to the screen.
    The next logical step, of course, was Spider-Man,
    a character created for Marvel Comics by comic book
    writer, Stan Lee and original artist Steve Ditko in
    1962. Spider-Man has appeared in more than 500
    newspapers worldwide, and has been seen as an
    animated television series in 1967 and a live
    action series 10 years later. Ever since comic
    book characters spawned onto the silver screen,
    fans have been pressing for a Spider-Man movie.
    This year, Columbia Pictures brought the webbed
    action hero to the screen and managed to shatter box
    office records. To date, Spider-Man has
    grossed over $403 million worldwide. It also sits
    in the #5 spot as the all-time box office champ.
    No doubt, it was a film whose success does not
    depend on the awesome popularity of its source
    material--as the comic book heyday was decades ago.
    It seems like audiences actually liked what they saw.
    Since comic book adaptations can be a difficult and
    struggling process in finding a middle ground between
    what's possible in a live action film standpoint and
    keeping the comic’s established world intact, you
    would expect some of the fans were not thrilled by
    what they saw. There were many complaints about the
    film's cheesy dialogue, one-sided characters and
    overall slow pacing. There were many, like myself,
    who felt the film was nothing more than empty,
    patriotic escapism....and don't get me started on
    that awful Goblin costume that looks like it came
    out of Power Rangers. Still, there's no denying
    from this reviewer that the film is an enjoyable
    two hours of fun.
    Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) is your seemingly average
    high-school geek. He chases the bus to school every
    morning, gets beat up in class, and is just a tad
    too overly polite. He lives at home with his Uncle
    Ben (Cliff Robertson) and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris),
    who are two of the sweetest elderly people you could
    ever meet. Sure, you kind of feel sorry for
    this teenager until you look out the window in his
    upstairs bedroom and see the view of hot redhead Mary
    Jane (Kirsten Dunst). Peter has been in love with
    Mary Jane ever since he was 4 years old, even though
    she hardly knows he exists.
    A school field trip to a science exhibit forever
    changes Peter's life. The exhibit is about spiders,
    and there are dozens of different live species on
    display, including that of some genetically-charged
    breeds. When Mary Jane notices one of these
    high-breed spiders is missing, the incident is quickly
    shrugged off. As Peter Parker finds an excuse to take
    some cleavage-posed pictures of Mary Jane, Peter is
    bitten on the hand guessed it...the missing spider.
    Life suddenly changes for Peter Parker. He finds that
    he is much quicker, more agile, and his senses are
    greatly enhanced. He can sniff out danger moments
    before it happens. He doesn't quite understand what
    is happening to him at first until a fight with the
    school's bully. Peter Parker discovers he has new
    powers. He can jump very high and climb walls with
    little effort. The only thing he has to master is
    how to effectively shoot a synthetic web from his
    Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Norman
    Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is working on a human
    enhancer product for the military. The product has
    failed initial testing, but Osborn must get it
    right or face his company being shut down. When
    Osborn offers himself to become a guinea pig to
    the experiment, he is strapped on a table and
    inserted in a chamber filled with the enhancer
    product. But things go terribly wrong in the lab.
    Osborn suddenly becomes victim to the product's
    horrible side-effects that make him violent and
    Ultimately, Peter Parker and Norman Osborn choose
    their own paths. Peter becomes Spider-Man,
    using his super powers for goodness. Osborn, now
    totally insane, becomes The Green Goblin.
    How is the transfer?
    I think I have been spoiled by the new breed of
    transfers that are so ultra sharp, they almost look
    3-dimensional. The transfer of Spider-Man
    falls a little short of being just that, and perhaps
    the reason may be that a lower bitrate was used in
    order to accommodate all the extra material.
    Don't get me wrong....the film looks pretty damn
    good, and the folks at Columbia should be proud of
    this because when we visited them over a month ago,
    they admitted that the transfer from film concerned
    them greatly.
    The transfer is clean and detailed throughout. It
    stops very short of being as sharp as I had hoped.
    Fortunately, many of the film's night scenes (such
    as the Queensboro Bridge Tram) remain nicely detailed.
    While colors are as beautifully vivid as a comic
    book (you must see the Times Square sequence), they
    do tend to run a little too hot. This causes flesh
    tones to look a little more red than they should.
    While film grain really isn't a problem here, you
    do notice it occasionally. There's a scene inside
    the Oscorp lab during Norman Osborn's transformation
    that shows a little too much grain for my taste.
    Another disappointment is the lack of surround
    support, or more precisely, the lack of sound
    direction. The film is awfully noisy across the
    front channels, and though my sound system is
    properly calibrated, this caused the surrounds to be
    washed out. In fact, it really didn't sound like
    the surrounds were on for most of the film. The
    only time I really noticed them was a scene on a
    rooftop where groggy Spider-Man awakens to the
    echo sounds of the Green Goblin.
    Fortunately, there's a lot of LFE activity in
    this film that produced floor-shaking response from
    my subwoofer. Surprisingly, most of that response
    didn't come from the film's action scenes, but rather
    emphasized passages on Danny Elfman's score.
    I want to stop here and clear up any sort of
    misconceptions about what I have just said. I am
    not saying that the Spider-Man transfer is
    lackluster. On a whole, it looks and sounds pretty
    darn good. What I am saying is that I have seen
    better transfers and heard far better sound mixes.
    Special Features
    I have to say up front before taking you through
    these two discs that I wasn't overly impressed
    by what has been included here. Though there's
    so much material to go through, the material seems
    to be very generic in nature. It's as if very little
    thought was put into the overall content -- especially
    when you compare it to discs like Attack Of The
    and Lord Of The Rings. Another
    problem is that since Columbia has issued both
    widescreen and full-frame editions, they saved
    a wad of cash and included all the supplements in
    full-frame only.
    As you pop in Disc One you are treated
    to a spectacular menu sequence that features a
    hand, a spider bite, lots of DNA structuring and
    finally a Main Menu that features a window of
    flying Spider-Man film clips. Be aware that the
    menu overlay contains tiny little buttons that
    are hard to navigate through.
    Let's take a look at Disc One...
    You can opt to watch Spider-Man with
    your choice of two full-length commentaries.
    The first, Filmmakers and Cast, features
    director Sam Raimi, co-producers Laura Ziskin and
    Grant Curtis as well as actress Kirsten Dunst. The
    second is Visual Effects Designer and Crew
    which features John Dykstra and his effects team.
    Before you set up this option, you may find an
    Easter Egg (click on the left photo of James
    Franco) to see a really cool segment featuring
    CGI bloopers. Some of this stuff is quite funny.
    Now, back to the commentary...
    You know, I wasn't overly impressed by the
    Filmmaker and Cast commentary, mostly
    because it was sort of dull, low-key, and without
    any sort of energy from its contributors. I must
    say that Raimi must be one of the nicest guys you
    would want to meet, but he sounds overly wishy-
    washy here. I actually listened to this track
    while putting together the screenshots, and was
    able to pick up on a few interesting stories. There
    is a slip-up where it is brought out that Tobi
    had a suit double. An interesting story is told
    about the time Raimi brought a handful of spiders
    to the set much to the dismay of the cast members.
    We learn what shots were actually filmed in New York,
    Los Angeles or on the Sony sound stages. Next time
    you look at Peter Parker in his bedroom, look
    at designs of the background wallpaper. The commentary
    will tell you exactly what those patterns are. It
    was sort of sad to hear how there were paparazzi
    problems in NYC during the filming -- but Maguire
    had a cool way of dealing with them. I also had no
    idea as to how many cameos were in this film, and
    you'll find out most of them as you listen to this
    group. Overall, this commentary was a little too
    deadpan for me to enjoy, and perhaps some of you
    may opt to listen to the SFX commentary. I wish I
    had the time.
    By enabling Spider Sense before watching
    the film, you'll find the occasional addition of
    a small Spider-Man icon. By clicking on that icon,
    you are branched out to web-i-sodes that give more
    insight into the filmmaking process. The segments
    interview various people who worked in the production
    of the film. Among the 5 or 6 icons I noticed
    were segments on model making and production design.
    The problem with these little 3-minute episodes is
    that they generally have nothing to do with the
    segments you are watching, and they are filmed in
    full-frame, thus pulling you out of your anamorphic
    Weaving the Web pop-up factoids is very cool.
    During the film's playback a cool little transparent
    Spider-Man appears in the corner of the screen with
    a little cartoon box that gives you an encyclopedia
    worth of facts from comic book background, film
    locales, costumes, effects tricks as well as how
    the actors auditioned for their parts.
    Character Files is a very nicely layed
    out cast filmography. Essentially, the faces of
    the actors appear on the front page of the Daily
    newspaper, and by clicking on each
    actor, you access their film resumes.
    Marketing Campaign is an entire section
    devoted to the marketing of the film.....
    First there's the film's original theatrical
    trailer followed by trailers for Mr. Deeds,
    XXX, Men in Black 2
    and Stuart Little 2.
    There are two Music Videos to be found here.
    The first is Hero by Chad Kroeger. The
    second is What we're all about by Sum 41.
    Finally, there are no less than eleven TV Spots
    to browse through.
    DVD-ROM content on this disc
    Disc Two begins with an interesting menu
    overlay that breaks down the supplements into two
    main sections: Web of Spider-Man: The comic
    and Goblin's Lair: The movie. The menu design
    may be unique, but it doesn't mean it's good. I was
    a bit put off by the controls which are extremely
    Let's begin with The Web of Spider-Man which
    is devoted to the origins of our friendly neighborhood
    super hero.
    The Evolution of Spider-Man is an entire area
    unto itself. Let's take a look at what is offered
    Spider-Man: The mythology of the 21st century
    is a brand new featurette that begins with the
    talent behind the character. Co-creator Stan Lee
    describes getting into comics by accident. He was
    only looking for a temporary job at a publishing
    company that specialized in comics. He never
    predicted that he would be doing writing and
    editing nor that his creation of Spider-Man would
    become a modern-day phenomenon. Nobody was more
    surprised about the success of super heroes than
    artist John Romita, who thought that the era of
    such immortals were dead long ago. Artists Todd
    McFarlane and John Byrne give much credit to
    Romita's artwork and the fact that the popularity
    of the cartoon rested on the beauty of what he drew.
    It was so good in fact, that the artwork really
    never needed to be updated decades later. It's
    sort of neat to see how old school meets new
    standards as the themes and characters of the
    modern-day Spider-Man comic have somewhat changed.
    For example, the character of Peter Parker has
    been greatly updated from his 60s persona into a
    more brooding persona. It was that changed that
    totally revitalized the comic character. This
    is a fascinating look at not just an evolution of
    a comic strip, but the evolution of a flawed
    character that readers were able to easily connect
    (length: approx. 25 minutes)
    Spider-Man archives is a real gem for anyone
    that has collected the Spider-Man comic books over
    the past decades. It actually breaks down Spider-Man
    comics through the decades starting with the 1960s
    on through to the 21st century.
    As you click on each decade, a new menu breaks
    appears, breaking down that decade by individual
    years. Click on a year and it further breaks down
    to magazine covers from individual months. Each
    comic cover is accompanied by a complete description
    of writer, editor, artist and featured story line.
    An Artist's Gallery breaks down further
    into Peter Parker's darkroom where we find
    what appears to be hundreds of still artist
    renderings of Environments, Spider-Man and
    Green Goblin. There's also an entire
    section dedicated to the comic book artists,
    called Comic Book artist gallery. It is
    here we see some nice renderings from Kevin Maguire,
    Mike Allred, J.G. Jones and Terry Dodson (to name
    a few).
    Rogue's Gallery takes on a more serious
    and evil tone as we meet the villains of the
    Spider-Man comics including Dr. Octopus,
    Chameleon, Hobgoblin, Mysterio
    and yes, The
    Green Goblin
    . There seems to be dozens of
    villains to choose from here.
    As you select each villain, you get a little
    piece of history pertaining to that character as
    well as their source of power and the weapons
    that they use. There's even some nice 3D
    computer renderings you can look at here.
    The Loves of Peter Parker gives us a
    nice history of Parker's love interests. There's
    Betty Brandt, Gwen Stacey, The Black Cat and
    Mary Jane Watson.
    As you click on each selection you get a beautiful
    artist's rendering and short description of her
    character. Included are some comic book moments
    that define the character relationships.
    DVD-ROM content on both discs 1 & 2 includes
    a visit to Marvel dot.comics where you can
    do some in-depth browsing through classic comic book
    material. A Spider-Man visualizer contains
    screen savers as well as skins for your RealAudio
    and WinAmp players. There's also an Activision
    Game Demo
    that I didn't look at, mainly because
    of the amount of software installation required and
    the fact that I would only have to uninstall it
    after this review. Still, it looks to be a great
    little game based in its content size. There
    are also weblinks to Spider-Man internet
    material as well as an option where you can Record
    your own commentary
    It is also in this area that I sort of accidently
    found a Spider-Man Easter Egg that features
    artist Todd Mcfarlane describing how complex it
    became to design Spider-Man's web.
    To activate the egg, just click the UP
    arrow on your remote while in disc two's DVD-ROM
    description area.
    Activision Game: Hints and Tips has three
    hints for the Spider-Man game. Of course, this is
    probably only useful to those of you that actually
    own the game.
    Now let's venture over to Goblin's Lair: The
    First up is the HBO Making of Spider-Man
    which is the usual promotional fare we are all
    used to seeing on these discs. Still, it provides
    some nice interviews with cast members Toby
    Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Willem Dafoe as well
    as Director Sam Raimi who talk about the strengths
    of Spider-Man. The featurette briefly looks at
    the origins of the comic book via an interview
    with co-creator Stan Lee, and then goes on to
    examine each of the individual film characters
    with commentary from the actors who portray them.
    We also get to know a little about director Sam
    Raimi, his love for the comic, and his skill in
    bringing that comic character to the screen.
    There's even a terrific look at the set designs
    and optical effects work that went into the film.
    Intertwined with all these elements are some cool
    behind-the-scenes footage. Overall, a much better
    fluff piece than I imagined it would be.
    (length: approx. 25 minutes)
    Next up is the E! Entertainment special,
    Spider-Mania which a more souped-up
    promotional vehicle for the film. Right off
    the bat, stars Maguire and Dunst admit to never
    having read the comic book -- but director Sam
    Raimi did! His love for the comics greatly
    helped him bring all its elements over to the
    big screen. It was surprising to hear Stan Lee
    talk about his original pitch for the comic
    book character -- nobody wanted a super hero who
    was not only a teenager, but a teenager with
    problems. But in 1962, the public caught eye
    of the web wonder in a Final Fantasy issue and
    the history! So what's there
    to say about this film? How about the struggles
    of bringing Spider-Man to the screen.
    Producer Avi Arad tells us that such a film could
    not have been made with 90s technology. Director
    Sam Raimi was most worried about turning the
    animated legend into a live-breathing character.
    What I found most fascinating here was that the
    part of The Green Goblin was being considered for
    heavyweights Nicholas Cage and John Malkovich.
    It was Willem Dafoe who lobbied for the part,
    getting his hands on the script as early as he
    could, and sending an audition tape to the director.
    (length: approx. 40 minutes)
    Director Profile: Sam Raimi is a glossy
    piece that features cast and fellow filmmakers
    paying homage to the director. Raimi admits that
    comics greatly influenced his directing career
    as those books laid out the proper format of
    telling a story. Stan Lee talks about almost
    working with the director on a comic book to
    screen adaption of Thor, and is just
    thrilled that they finally got to work together
    on this film.
    (length: approx. 7 minutes)
    Composer Profile: Danny Elfman examines
    the man who put soul into the Peter Parker character
    via the film's musical score. Elfman talks about
    creating a soundtrack as if it were a big puzzle --
    having to put the big pieces (his themes) in place
    before he can concentrate on the smaller ones.
    (length: approx. 7 minutes)
    Moving right along, we come to a group of Screen
    Tests. The first two tests are for actors
    Tobey Maguire and J.K. Simmone. I
    was surprised to see that the screen test for Toby
    was complete with added sound effects (and the
    omission of some rough language). A CGI
    gives us less than 20 seconds of
    animated footage to look at. Finally, Makeup
    and Costumes
    takes us through the various
    stages of progression from a nerdy Peter Parker
    to a fully costumed Spider-Man. There are also
    tests here for Kirsten Dunst as well as Willem
    Dafoe, Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.
    I remained pretty straight-faced through the
    Gag/Outtake Reel which is mostly highlighted
    with Willem Dafoe's grimaces.
    (length: approx. 3 minutes)
    Final Thoughts
    I have been way too spoiled by far better Special
    Editions that contain more in-depth supplements
    and better overall design to really appreciate this
    Spider-Man Special Edition. The mere fact
    the studio chose to release a full-frame edition
    only shows that it was trying to dumb this set down
    for a generic audience.
    Still, there's little doubt that anyone is going
    to pass up on this set. Columbia could have
    released this bare-boned and sales would still
    go through the roof. Fortunately, a more bare-boned
    release would have given us a slightly better
    transfer than what is here.
    What are you waiting for? Close your browser
    and go out and buy this!
    Release Date: November 1, 2002
  2. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Thanks Ron for your wonderful review. I've been looking forward to the dvd release since I first saw this movie in the movie theaters. Kind of dissappointed about reading about the sound and picture through. I already ordered the movie, and can't wait to get it and watch it, one of my all time movie faves.
  3. Thomas H G

    Thomas H G Screenwriter

    Aug 10, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Sad to hear about the a/v transfer for this. I thought it would be top notch.

    Isn't there a super duper gift set for this and does it also have the same transfer/sound options that the regular set you just reviewed?

    Thanks for your hard work Ron.
  4. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

    Feb 11, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Great review Ron. This is the last dvd I'm buying before my November-December blackout goes into effect (family members complain that I buy everything that I want myself), and I'm really looking forward to it. I've decided to spring for the bigger boxed set.
  5. TheBat

    TheBat Producer

    Aug 2, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Thanks Ron for the review.. well worth the wait.

  6. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

    Nov 1, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Lou Sytsma
    Like you said Ron - the bar has been raised by releases like AOTC and LOTR. When something a little more pedestrian comes along it leaves one wanting more.

    Hopefully, Columbia will notice the products being released by other studios and take appropriate action with the next release.

    As for Spidey - it is indeed a fun movie and one of the few superhero movies where one ends up liking the hero much more than the villian. A nice change of pace.

    Great review - again, this is becoming redundant - Ron.

  7. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
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  8. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

    Jun 17, 2000
    Likes Received:
    An excellent and thorough review, Ron!
    Despite the flaws I'm getting this one the day it is released(and maybe even earlier if I can![​IMG]).
  9. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

    Jun 4, 2001
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    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Jeff Lam
    Anyone know if we can expect a superbit for this title, maybe that would clean up the Audio and Video to what we would expect from a film like this.
  10. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Good review Ron, even so it seems everyone doesn't like the dvd for some reason (DVD File and Digital Bits were both negative). By the way, sometimes you got to watch the images load, as it took thirty minutes to read this review, as the images kept breaking on me.
  11. Jeff Wilson

    Jeff Wilson Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 17, 2001
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    They spelled Gwen Stacy's name wrong on the menu for the Loves of Peter Parker extra! Sheesh...
  12. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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  13. Gregory E

    Gregory E Second Unit

    Feb 19, 2002
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    Nice review Ron. Although I would have liked to see a screen cap of that "special" Kirsten Dunst shot. [​IMG] I'm also a little concerned about buying this version and having a better special, limited, superbit, deluxe version coming out later...possibly with better audio and video.
  14. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I have to wonder if the source material is what made the video transfer look not so awesome. IIRC, the theatrical video presentation didn't really have a super-crispness to it, like many current films, so that could have contributed to the video on the DVD after it got compressed from its Hi-def master tape. Also, remember, the CGI of Spidey in motion didn't quite look real smooth either, too much vibra-blurring to denote the swinging speeds of Spidey via CGI, which did stand out in some scenes.
  15. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    I'm kind of surprised myself that Panic Room Warranted a Superbit release and a film that grossed so much gets overlooked in the bit rate department to cram as much stuff onto it as possible. This should have been a 3 Disk release right from the Start. Disk One a Superbit release, Disk 2-3 the extras. Now that might mean sacrificing the Commentary, but from Ron's review that does'nt sound like much of a sacrifice to get better video and Audio performance.
  16. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

    May 5, 2002
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    Good indepth reviews. In a week, I will be able to see what all the fuss was about.
  17. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

    Jun 13, 2002
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    Great review, Ron.

    I'm one of those Spidey freaks that have been following every bit of news on this film since the late nineties. I was happy with the results, but I'm still pondering this purchase. The audio and video don't sound as good as expected and the features (save for maybe the comic stuff) sound pretty disappointing, especially since the guys at Sony have been promising us a ground-breaking DVD for about a year now.

    I'll get this if I can find it cheap. If I can't then I'll wait and see if they come out with a better edition. It seems highly likely as before this, Sony's highest grossing film was MIB, and just look at how many versions have been released of that!
  18. Joshua Moran

    Joshua Moran Supporting Actor

    Apr 11, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Looks like I will be buying the Superbit version as well oh well. It's not always bad to have 2 copies of the same movie in your collection is it? November is looking to be a bad month for me.[​IMG]
  19. RyanChristoffel

    Oct 21, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Great review! I was worried about this dvd after reading the DVD File review but you've gotten me really excited about it. I can't wait! [​IMG]
  20. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

    Jan 8, 1999
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    As I expected really... I was never overwhelmed by the plans for the DVDs content and was upset by the fact Columbia didn't decide to put out a Superbit release (which they are blatantly going to do) on the same day as this versions release.
    Chump that I am, I will be getting this version, but for the cheapest I can get it, as it is something I would like to buy as a superbit eventually. Those outside of the US importing the Region 1 disc should be aware that the Spider-Man DVD is RCE encoded. Just FYI on that....

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