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OK, Fine, I Saw (and Reviewed) ‘Madame Web.’ Happy Now? Here Are Some Better Movies.

Pretty much every movie you can see in Twin Cities theaters this week.

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Dakota Johnson in ‘Madame Web’; Bernadette Peters in ‘Pennies From Heaven’

Let me once again put in a good word for this year's Italian Film Festival, which offers a great lineup at The Main over the next four day. And in the "ongoing" section, you can find short reviews of Wim Wenders's great new film, Perfect Days, and a couple of duds—including, yes, the new bad superhero movie. (Scroll waaay down for that Madame Web review.)

Special Screenings

Thursday, February 29

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Emagine Willow Creek
The student becomes the teacher. $3. 12 p.m. More info here.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Grandview 1&2
As Willie once sang, cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other. $12. 9:15 p.m. Saturday 11:59 p.m. More info here.

Pennies From Heaven (1981)
The Heights
Watch Christopher Walken dance! $12. 7:30 p.m. More info here.

La Chimera (2023)
The Main
The great Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher's latest is about grave robbers. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $20/$30 includes pre-film appetizers and drinks. 7:30 p.m. More info here.

Half Baked (1998)
The Parkway
The stoner flick is preceded by a "tasting experience" offered by Earl Giles and Flying High Beverages, as featured in this month's THC review roundup. $9/$12. 8 p.m. More info here.

Friday, March 1

Madagascar (2005)
Emagine Willow Creek
Is this the "I like to move it move it" movie? All week. $3. 12 p.m. More info here.

La Stranezza (Strangeness) (2022)
The Main
A movie about how Pirandello got his ideas. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 11:30 p.m. More info here.

Nata Per Te (Born for You) (2023)
The Main
A single man fights to adopt a baby. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 6 p.m. More info here.

Adagio (2023)
The Main
A teen in Rome turns to his father's crooked friends for help. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 9 p.m. More info here.

Scream It Off Screen
The Parkway
Once again, you had to act quickly to get tickets to one of the funnest events in town. Sold out. 8 p.m. More info here.

Snow White and the Seven Samurai (2024)
Trylon
Ah, those three magical words: "Starring Eric Roberts." $8. Friday-Saturday & Monday 5 p.m. Sunday & Tuesday-Wednesday 1 p.m. More info here.

Victims of Sin (1951)
Trylon
A new restoration of a Mexican film noir $8. Friday-Saturday 7 & 8:45 p.m. Sunday 3 & 4:45 p.m. More info here.

Saturday, March 2

Happy Gilmore (1996)
Alamo Drafthouse
The bad boy of golf swings again. $10. 5:30 p.m. More info here.

C'eravamo Tanto Amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much) (1974)
The Main
Three decades in the lives of three Italians who become friends as part of the Resistance during WWII. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. 11 a.m. $12/$14. More info here.

Amanda (2022)
The Main
A rich young woman tries to convince a childhood friend that they are still close. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 2 p.m. More info here.

Grazie Ragazzi (Thank You Guys) (2023)
The Main
An unemployed actor accepts a job running a prison theater troupe. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 5 p.m. More info here.

Io Capitano (2023)
The Main
An Oscar nominee about two Senegalese teens who struggle to reach Italy. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 7:45 p.m. More info here.

Leprechaun (1993)
The Main
Midnight Madness celebrates St. Patrick's Day with this authentic depiction of Irish culture. $8/$10. 10 p.m. More info here.

Big (1988)
The Parkway
Elizabeth Perkins falls for a child in the body of an adult man. $5-$10. 1 p.m. More info here.

Kids' Film Fair
Walker Art Center
Seven international animated short films for kids three and up. Free. 10 a.m. More info here.

Sunday, March 3

The Land Before Time (1988)
Emagine Willow Creek
Aw, lil dinosaurs. Also Wednesday. $11. 1:30, 3:40 & 6 p.m. More info here.

8 1/2 (1963)
The Main
Marcello Mastroianni is a very cool filmmaker with very many woman problems. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 11 a.m. More info here.

Mia (2023)
The Main
A young woman falls for a manipulative man. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 2:15 p.m. More info here.

Il Sol dell’avvenire (A Brighter Tomorrow) (2023)
The Main
The latest from the great Italian director Nanni Moretti. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 5:15 p.m. More info here.

Settembre (September) (2022)
The Main
The paths of three very different characters intersect. Part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Italian Film Festival. $12/$14. 7:45 p.m. More info here.

The Piano (1993)
Trylon
Remember when Anna Paquin's thing was being a creepy little kid. $8. 6:45 p.m. Monday-Tuesday 7 & 9:15 p.m. More info here.

Monday, March 4

The Flintstones (1994)
Alamo Drafthouse
Are your children inexplicably big Flintstones fans? Well, you're in luck because this is showing through Thursday for some reason. $5. 12 p.m. More info here.

Michael Clayton (2007)
Alamo Drafthouse
RIP Tom Wilkinson. $10. 6:15 p.m. More info here.

Without Warning (1980)
Emagine Willow Creek
Jack Palance and Martin Landau fight off aliens. $6. 7:30 p.m. More info here.

Misery (1990)
The Parkway
A writer's worst fear: Having to write. $9/$12. Pre-show trivia at 7:30 p.m. Movie at 8 p.m. More info here.

Tuesday, March 5

Chungking Express (1994)
Alamo Drafthouse
You'll never hear "California Dreamin'" the same again. $7. 6:15 p.m. More info here.

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2024
The Parkway
For the 18th year running, here's a selection of films about fly fishing. $16/$25. 7 p.m. More info here.

Tigre Reale (1916)
The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
If you enjoyed the Italian Film Festival at The Main last week, this showcase of the silent screen diva Pina Menichelli, with accompaniment from Italian musicians Stefano Maccagno on piano and Furio Di Castri on double bass, should be a nice little digestivo to cap things off. Free. 8 p.m. More info here.

Wednesday, March 6

Little Women (1994)
Alamo Drafthouse
Face it: You're a Meg. $10. 6:15 p.m. More info here.

Labyrinth (1986)
AMC Rosedale 14/AMC Rosedale 16/Emagine Willow Creek
Bowie had a strange '80s. $16.35. 7 p.m. More info here.

Robot Dreams (2023)
Lagoon Cinema/The Main
In this animated feature, a lonely dog builds a robot friend. $6/$10. 7 p.m. More info here.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Showplace ICON
Will Farrell is a NASCAR champ who must defend American honor against a French upstart. $7. 7 p.m. More info here.

Tape Freaks
Trylon
New month, new freaks. $5. 7 p.m. More info here.

Opening This Week

Follow the links for showtimes.

Chaari 111
An Indian spy comedy.

The Chosen Season 4: Episodes 7-8
It's the TV series about the life of Jesus that everyone (except anyone you know) is watching.

Dune: Part 2
Dune-ier than ever!

Operation Valentine
An Indian action film.

Ongoing in Local Theaters

Follow the links for showtimes.

American Fiction
Jeffrey Wright never misses (his brief turn as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was a highlight of last year's by-the-numbers Bayard Rustin biopic, Rustin), and he's reliably hilarious as an intellectual Black novelist who dumbs down to write a book in "realistic" hood style. Once My Pafology becomes a bestseller and a hit with the literati, Wright's Thelonious "Monk" Ellison has to get in character as its thug author to promote the book. Meanwhile, Monk has to live his real life: dating a neighbor, mourning his sister's death, dealing with his mother's dementia, and clashing with his newly out brother. Phew! The suggestion is that we, like the fans of Monk's Black stereotypes, will only watch a movie about an upper-middle-class Black family if we're hooked by a more sensational story. But for that clever bait-and-switch to work, you need to tell a much more interesting story about an upper-middle-class Black family. B+

Anatomy of a Fall (read the full review here)
Justine Triet’s latest is a kind of austere pulp, its subject matter juicy but its mood somewhat rigorous. After her husband plummets to his death from an upstairs window, an icy novelist is quickly transformed from grieving widow to prime suspect and struggles to recast herself as an acceptable defendant. And the more evidence that we’re given, the less certain we are of everything. Far from an invitation to speculate, however, that ambiguity seems to be the point: actual truth and legal truth are not identical. A showcase for Sandra Hüller, who plays the accused as a woman not just defending herself but defending her fundamental belief in the complexity of human motive, a belief she’s loath to surrender even for the sake of proving her innocence. A-

Anyone But You

Argylle
Doesn't Sam Rockwell have better things to do? Are the visual effects trash because the team got lazy or on purpose, for, like, camp reasons? Why didn't Henry Cavill and John Cena kiss? Doesn't Bryce Dallas Howard have better things to do? These are just a few of the questions with which I distracted myself while waiting for meta-hack Matthew Vaughn's latest manic foray into ridic spyjinks to end, and in fact, I'm still not sure that a part of me isn't still back at the Showplace ICON, where I will remain forever, grimacing through one self-referential post-credits scene after another. Winking so hard you hope he'll sprain his stupid face, Vaughn hustles Howard and Rockwell through a plot that's about as fun to untangle as an extension cord; BDH writes spy novels that are so good real spies want her dead, and it just gets weirder and more hectic from there in that "everything's a joke and nothing's funny" post-MCU way. Wait, did I hear someone say "I hope there's a shitty CGI cat in this!"? How could there not be? C

Barbie (read the full review here)
The best Hollywood director of her generation has plunged into the muck of IP and emerged with her craft, sensibility, and vision unscathed. And I’m not gonna knock a blockbuster Barbie movie with insight into gender roles, even if that insight is that they’re perpetually frustrating, especially when it’s this funny. As Sonic might put it (or, Amy Rose, more likely), there is no objective analysis of gender outside of commodity fetishism under capitalism. (Kinda wordy, I know. That’s why they don’t let me make memes.) Still, the intertwining of sentimentality and brand-awareness here affected my stomach the same way as hearing an NPR acknowledgement that Dow Chemical is sponsoring an upcoming segment on climate change does. B+

The Beekeeper (read the full review here)
The premise of The Beekeeper should be a slam dunk for a brainless action flick: Jason Statham is a (you guessed it) beekeeper who swears vengeance on scam artists that target the elderly—and he’s also a Beekeeper, a member of a secret government org of unstoppable killing machines. In his Carhartt jacket, ball cap, and rusty pickup, The Beekeeper is a working-class hero out to avenge us average poors against the slick elites, with Statham declaiming wonderfully moralistic lines like “Taking from an elderly person is just as bad as stealing from a child—maybe worse” in that iconically garbled deadpan of his as he fucks up evil phishing bros. But for all the heads ingeniously bashed in here, I couldn’t help but feel that a movie this dumb really should be a helluva lot more fun. Bee Minus

The Boy and the Heron (read the full review here)
I’m not the first to call this Miyazaki’s The Tempest, but it’s worth repeating. For this film, Miyazaki famously unretired, and it wasn’t his first time. (Characteristically, the 82-year-old called his decision to return to moviemaking “pathetic.”) His latest imagined world brims with fantastical species—ravenous human-sized parakeets and the shmoo-like warawara, who inflate after eating fish guts and rise up to the other world to become human souls—yet the filmmaker’s stand-in is an ancient wizard of sorts who regrets fashioning a crumbling alternate universe beset by unforeseen calamities. If its 2013 predecessor, The Wind Rises, felt like a finale, this feels like an encore, a coda, a curtain call, a monologue from a great artist assuring us that this time, really, he is leaving the stage for good. His charms are all o’erthrown. For now, at least. A-

The Boys in the Boat

Demon Slayer: To the Hashira Training

Drive-Away Dolls
In Joel Coen’s first effort without his brother, his wife played Lady Macbeth. Ethan Coen responds by writing a trashy little lesbian road trip flick with his wife, Tricia Cooke, that someone talked them out of titling Drive-Away Dykes. Does this contrast offer some insight into the sensibility that each brother brings to the table? Maybe, maybe not. But while the former could be enjoyed apart from the Coens’ collective oeuvre, the latter all but begs for comparison: This is Coens lite, with all the frenetic energy and silly accents but little of the inspired zaniness. Two young Philly lesbians (a bit too broadly Texan Margaret Qualley and a pitch-perfectly uptight Geraldine Viswanathan) agree to drop a car off in Tallahassee. Is there something in the trunk they don’t know about? Oh, there sure is, sister. Are the goons dispatched after these ladies comically inept? Funny you should ask. Does the plot revolve around Matt Damon’s penis? OK, that I didn’t necessarily see coming. Drive-Away Dolls is brisk and harmless, with Coen trading in fatalism for friskiness. But while it’s nice to see him working with younger actors, a little Beanie Feldman goes a long way, and an un-youthful Bill Camp, as a sour car rental clerk, gives the best performance here. B 

The Iron Claw
Good acting, bad hair, not enough wrestling, and just one brother after another dying and the dad saying "You boys gotta get tougher!" B-

The Jungle Bunch: Operation Meltdown

Kiss the Future

Land of Bad

Lisa Frankenstein
Set in 1989, this snarky horror-comedy's heart is in 2009, when writer Diablo Cody’s zippy post-millennial Buffy/Heathers patter still felt fresh, or at least marketable. Kathryn Newton is Lisa Swallows (eh), who cowered in the next room while her mother was killed by an axe murderer during a home invasion. Her father remarries an uptight nurse (Carla Gugino, shoehorned into a nasty stepmom-shrew role), forcing Lisa to switch schools, and now she spends her time in an abandoned cemetery, mooning over the carved head of a boy who died in the late 19th century. (You 21st century goth kids might not be impressed, but in the '80s that was cutting edge moodiness.) A freak electrical storm reanimates the boy's corpse, and he happens to be Cole Sprouse. Bodies start to hit the floor, and Lisa and her zombie suitor find a way to supply his missing parts, stitching them on and zapping him with a short-circuiting tanning bed. Phew! That's a lot, and all that keeps it entertaining rather than totally exhausting is a gamely unhinged performance from Newton, who makes Lisa over from a weepy wallflower to a kind of Madonna Bonham Carter. C+

Madame Web
OK, fine, I saw it. And no matter what you’ve heard, this lackluster mess is no camp classic. In fact, before Dakota Johnson clocks out entirely and starts delivering her lines like she’s reading an eye chart, her aloof frustration is entertaining, albeit in a way I wouldn’t exactly call great acting. And there’s a fun rapport between the three “teens”—uptight Julia (Sydney Sweeney), bratty Mattie (Celeste O'Connor), and brainiac Anya (Isabela Merced)—who Johnson’s Cassie Webb has to protect after she has visions of their death. Still, a mess it is. We’re shown that the three girls will have superpowers—but only in the future. (We’ve had so many origin stories on film, now we’re doing pre-origin stories?) And writer/director S.J. Clarkson, with help from the screenwriting brain trust behind Morbius, decides to keep reminding us that Sony has the rights to all Spider-Man characters except the important one—not only is Ben Parker Cassie’s pal, but we watch Emma Roberts give birth to (an unnamed) Peter Parker. Oops, almost forgot to mention the villain, probably because he’s so forgettable. You can distract yourself from the dull goings-on by spotting weird incongruities (when Cassie returns from a trip to Peru, she’s still driving the cab she stole earlier in the movie?) but if you get more than a few snickers from this, you’re way more desperate for crap than I am. C

Maestro (read the full review here)
There’s a vacuum at the center of Bradley Cooper's Leonard Bernstein biopic, and it's Bradley Cooper—he skirts the line between expert impression and fully realized character. As Bernstein's wife Felicia, Carey Mulligan is given an opportunity to enact noble suffering during a prolonged death from cancer feels cinematically morbid. But the film’s biggest flaw is how it slights Bernstein’s bisexuality. Because Maestro focuses on the Bernsteins’ marriage, Lenny’s affairs with men become mere indiscretions, flings, dalliances with pretty boys. Is that truly all they were? And if so, what did they mean to Lenny? B-

Mean Girls (read the full review here)
The trailer promised that this wouldn't be "your mother’s Mean Girls,” but exactly whose Mean Girls it would be remained unclear. It also did its best to conceal the fact that it’s a musical by not featuring a big musical number, and that sure didn't bode well. Frankly, the very premise—a homeschooled American girl who grew up in Kenya as the daughter of a research zoologist not understanding how everyday U.S. teenage life works—feels misguided in 2024. In the real world, Cady would amass a huge online following after at least one video of a lion went viral, and then she’d get canceled when an old problematic tweet surfaced. Another big misstep is Reneé Rapp as the infamous Regina George. Now, obviously, in 2024, a PG-13 movie isn’t going to feature blatant homophobia or multiple uses of the R-slur, and I’m certainly not saying it should, but this film didn’t replace those examples of meanness with… well, anything. The new Mean Girls isn’t mean enough—and it isn’t good enough either.—Joel Swenson C+

Migration

Bob Marley: One Love
For me, the most forgivable music biopic cliché is the scene in the studio “where it all comes together,” usually after the genius has been struggling to articulate his vision to the band. At least in their clumsy way scenes like this try to understand where great music comes from. And so the best part of this rote retelling of the reggae great’s life, rigorously vetted by his family, comes during the Exodus sessions, where new guitarist Junior Murvin adds a rock tinge to the Wailers’ established sound. As for the rest, well, it’s not all as ridiculous as when Bob and his crew leave a Clash show and stroll blithely through London as riots break out behind them, or the singer’s flashbacks to his youth that occur while he’s performing on stage, but if you know anything about Bob Marley’s life, you’ll learn nothing new here. Lashana Lynch does what she can as Rita Marley, James Norton’s job as Chris Blackwell is to keep saying “I don’t know if that’ll work, Bob,” and Kingsley Ben-Adir has real screen presence but his charisma doesn’t suggest Bob’s own. Optimistically, I’ll take the movie’s success as a good sign that there’s real hunger to know more about one of the great international Black diasporan culture heroes, and I hope the curious don’t stop here. Read Chris Salewicz's Bob Marley: The Untold Story or Timothy White’s Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley or, hell, Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, which fictionalizes Marley’s shooting. Watch any number of YouTube clips, including Marley’s 1977 set at the Rainbow. And definitely listen to the music. If you know Legend, which you probably do even if you’ve never listened to it on purpose, go back to Marley’s start at Island Records—Burnin’Natty Dread, and Catch a Fire. Sample the earlier Studio One recordings. And don’t stop there. C+

Ordinary Angels

2024 Oscar Nominated Short Films—Animation

2024 Oscar Nominated Short Films—Documentary

2024 Oscar Nominated Short Films—Live Action

Past Lives (read the full review here)
A Korean man, a Korean woman, and a white man are sitting at a bar, and, offscreen, two voices guess at the relationship between the three. Are the Koreans a couple? If so, who’s the white guy they’re barely acknowledging? Maybe they’re just coworkers? It’s all ordinary night-out chit chat, nothing too heavy, until the woman turns to face us, and the ambivalence of her expression suggests a deeper mystery than the one under discussion. Past Lives begins with this intriguing moment, which inadvertently gets at the central flaw in Korean-Canadian playwright Celine Song’s celebrated debut film. The relationship between these three people does seem complex and uncertain if you stand back far enough, but the closer you approach them the simpler their story is. Which is the opposite of how you want a movie to work, no? B

Perfect Days
In Wim Wenders’s latest, Koji Yakusho is Hirayama, an elderly man who cleans public toilets in Tokyo with dutiful care. (Every American will leave this film envious of a city with such well-maintained public restrooms.) In his work and his free time, Hirayama hews to a routine so strict that every slight deviation over the course of the film feels seismic, to him and to us. He doesn’t exactly shrink from human contact—he bonds with his irritating young co-worker’s would-be girlfriend while listening to Patti Smith’s “Redondo Beach” and plays shadow tag with a dying man. But his existence is largely self-contained, and this is one of the rare films to show that a life lived alone is not necessarily lonely and certainly isn’t meaningless, though like any life it comes with its own regrets. Hirayama is open to beauty in every moment—during his breaks he photographs the way the sunlight hits the leaves—and so is Wenders. In fact, I would say that Perfect Days captures the unbearable joy of being alive if it didn’t make me sound like a pretentious sap. Fortunately, the closing sequence, as we watch an array of emotions flickering across Yakusho’s face, makes that point for me without using any words. A

Poor Things (read the full review here)
Yorgos Lanthimos is such a cheekily off-putting director it never occurred to me what his idea of crowd-pleaser might look like. But with Poor Things, he doesn’t just want to be admired; he wants to be loved. And in its own creepy, garish, oversexed, male-gazey way, Lanthimos’s arch fairy tale does have heart. An Eve who can’t wait to get the fuck outta Eden, Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter becomes Frankenstein’s monster as Candide in the world at large, indomitable because she has no shame. Bella’s sex-positivity is indubitably a man’s ideal of what it means to be a free woman, addressing fewer contradictions of femininity than Barbie does, but Stone inhabits her character so completely that you might even say she liberates Bella from her creator. A-

Stopmotion

The Taste of Things
Trần Anh Hùng’s sumptuous tale of love in a rural French kitchen is a good old-fashioned movie—by which I mean, it could’ve been released by Miramax during the first Clinton Administration. And while I might have found it a bore back when similar dinosaurs ruled the Earth, now it’s nearly as charming as a baby triceratops. Benoît Magimel is late 19th century gourmet Dodin Bouffant and Juliette Binoche is Eugénie, his cook of 20 years (and lover when she’s in the mood); he repeatedly courts her, while she remains aloof. But the love story feels like an excuse to linger in the presence of these gourmets and, more to the point, the lavish meals they prepare. The deliberate, patient efficiency with which Eugénie works just highlights how thoroughly TV has conditioned us to think of cooking as a hectic, nervous affair—here even gutting a fish becomes an elegant task. Cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg shoots Binoche’s wonderful ass as lovingly as he does the dishes she cooks, and he goes for the gold in every scene. While Dodin may hold forth on the notion of balance in a meal, this film hardly shares his aesthetic—it’s suffused with the summer light that Eugénie cherishes. Bougie as hell, mais oui, but any class warriors who don’t salivate over the fare on offer here don’t deserve a share in the spoils of the revolution. B+

The Teacher's Lounge
Not all is as it seems at a German middle school in director İlker Çatak’s darkly comic drama. Leonie Benesch plays a teacher who, offended by the racial profiling of an Arab student, goes poking into a series of unsolved thefts in the school. She runs afoul of a coworker, which embroils her in a clash of wills with that woman’s son, and soon all order crumbles around her. The Teachers’ Lounge does eventually teeter on the edge of the absurd, but Benesch grounds the story as a woman whose good intentions torpedo her goals, and it’s not like Çatak is exactly aiming for documentary realism here. B+

Tenet

Wonka
Even more unnecessary than most prequels, and I couldn't hum any of the tunes if you promised me a lifetime supply of chocolate as a reward. But the Dickens by way of Rowling characterizations and settings are distracting enough for a couple hours, and your kids have made you sit through worse. B

The Zone of Interest (read the full review here)
Jonathan Glazer's latest embeds itself in the quotidian routine of a Nazi family that lives on a gorgeous estate that just so happens to share a wall with a death camp. Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) have five children, including two younger kids who squabble and a perpetually wailing baby—they’re the exact sort of family Goebbels would want an Aryan Norman Rockwell to paint. Yet what do we accomplish by spending two hours in the company of these drab Nazis? After The Zone of Interest I knew what I was supposed to think about Herr and Frau Höss—Glazer’s forcedly aestheticized didacticism saw to that. But what was I supposed to feel, aside from horror at the systematic extermination of Jews, which, I hope, anyone going into this film already experiences? B-

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