Tag Archives: adaptation

“We Need To Talk About Kevin”: a film review

This movie is scary and unforgettable. Top 10 of 2011. A rare instance where the film is more haunting and affecting than the novel (by Lionel Shriver).

Gripping, heavy, sad, anxious, horrifying film. Incredibly well-planned and executed. Not entertaining to watch — psychologically brutal involving a f***ed up kid and a school shooting — but a prodigy of making film into true, devestating art. The pacing, the soundtrack, the flashback tool, the imagery and metaphors, the layers slowly peeled away, what is shown and what is not shown. Amazing.

Again, I’m not saying I liked this film’s content, and will probably never watch it again, but it does what film does very, very well, and it will be with me for a long, long time. I hated the first few minutes, then understood something about it, and was trapped in the film for almost two hours. You could talk about this film or book with a friend or a group for hours.

I can say no more. If you want a deeply unsettling story with masterfully crafted writing and photography and flow, watch this now. You’ve never seen anything like this: a family and social drama that is almost part of the horror genre.

Freaking Disturbing.



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“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card: a book review

Gavin Hood, the director of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, began filming an adaptation of the sci-fi classic “Ender’s Game” in February 2012. The film is slated to release November 1st, 2013, when I turn 28. It’s sure to be a better movie than book. This is my review:


The first issue is the nature of science fiction: it has everything to do with other-worldly visuals and spectacles and deals with humanity and controversial ideas. All good science fiction films have these two elements. One of them – the ideas – comes across the best in the books. The other, by the very nature of our biological anatomy – the visual world of the story – will almost always be better realized in the film adaptations, no matter the descriptive powers of the book’s author. (Yes, being in a character’s head is always more achievable in books, not movies.) Even the weakest of set designers and directors of photography can plan out a visually comparable and interesting world with a mediocre director at the helm.

Furthermore, the reason why “Ender’s Game” will specifically translate better as a story on the big screen is because the book is slightly meandering in the middle and some of the vocabulary used in dialogue simply hasn’t aged well. Both of these elements will be improved by a modern, 21st Century, high-glossed special effects, Hollywood treatment. Why it’s taken decades to be made into a movie, I’ll never know, but I’m sure there’s some political or legal yarn worthy of its own 10-minute documentary when “Ender’s Game” surely comes to BluRay in 2014.


So, the actual book. Why did it not blow me away? Maybe because I am 26. If I was 16, I’d probably orgasm over this, but the truth is, it does read a bit like a Z-flick, quarter-dollar comic from the fifties, or a barely polished radio serial. I think perhaps in telling such a simple story, it was overwritten, and ended up having long stretches of very cardboard dialogue. I know the point of these six-year old kids talking the way they did was to show how smart they were, but I still never bought they were six and seven and ten years old talking this way. Something struck unauthentic with me. Maybe too much time has passed since the late seventies when this came out. “Last One there bottles their own farts” to paraphrase. Yeah, that was in there.

Poo poo on you fart-mouth Magoo. I made that one up.

This book felt like this: soldier training, practice simulations, metaphors, naked little boys sleeping or showering.

And then: more Training, game simulations, blunt ideas, naked little boys again.

Then it got good after 300 pages. Then a simulation wasn’t a simulation, but was really Ender Battle Commanding, and poof, he killed the bad guys.

The middle of this book carried very little conflict and was exhausting, and I really disagreed with the choice to weigh the chapters how they were: less than 100 pages for the first seven chapters, and the following seven chapters were 200 pages. Could you have broken it up, Orson? Cut back on some dialogue? Made the training and jargon and repetition of the saggy middle more lively?

I do understand and appreciate the themes and societal/governmental statements proposed by “Ender’s Game” and Mr. Card, the author. I get it. Military is bad. War is terrible. Government shouldn’t control kids and monitor us from the womb. Liberty and blah blah. Kids play combat games like today’s “Call of Duty” franchise, don’t understand how serious war really is, and then you can put them at the controls, and they’ll probably do pretty good since their desensitized or indoctrinated. We make children fight our wars, in so many words. It speaks of innocence, the desire to be loved, compassion, friendship, honor , and asks if the ends justify the means to keep the human race alive.

Okay. But, just because the last five pages of chapter 14 were excellent in the conversation between Graff and Ender where all the shit is finally expose and Ender realized what really happened, doesn’t make the book a exceptionally well written. Graff’s speech is good though. Ideas = good. Flow = bad.

It does everything you’d expect in a basic sci-fi to do, and maybe “Ender’s Game” was once great for pioneering these ideas or doing it for a young adult audience first or perhaps it was really the best in its time, but over the past thirty years, it’s time to move over.

This is a book to respect but not love. One to read but not own. One that the obsessed fans of the genre will always praise however outdone it become by superior work.

This has never been a 5/5 novel.

Anything you tell me I missed, trust me, I didn’t. I liked the book, and I suppose it’s a classic, but so what? Graff’s ultimate deception and manipulation of Ender. Got it. The relationship between Ender and his siblings. Got it. What Ender ultimately wants to be and what he cannot be because of what other’s have made him into. Got it.

I didn’t get that awe-inspired impact from it, though the ending made up for the middle, and I like that Ender takes on the responsibility of attempting to right his wrongs and escape his demons by trying to find a suitable homeworld for the final Queen. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, read the freaking book.

But I’ll tell ya what I’m not doing: reading the other 8-plus books in this series. There are too many better books out there right now. No one should commit to this series in this modern time we live in, a time of literary abundance.

I tip my hat to Orson Scott Card, but in the end I say: “Have a good day, sir. My farts need bottling.”



go here for info on the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

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Kazuo Ishiguro: a Review of “Nocturnes” and Other Work

Overall: 3/5

Here are five uninspired stories very loosely connected via music. In each a young, unsophisticated and unmarried man who either plays music or enjoys music, becomes either involved with an older couple or an older woman and thus observes the vicissitudes of marriage. It’s a slightly jaded book by an aging author who is losing that “zang.” After the third story my interest waned significantly. The title story, “Nocturne”, about two plastic surgery patients recuperating on a secluded floor in a fancy hotel I found to be totally vacuous. It’s long and it is not needed. Endless dialogue. Ishiguro likely wrote this peice first, and realizing it’s lack of “novel potential” built four other stories around it. I promise you that’s what happened.

An outstanding novelist does not a great short story writer make.

This should be a “2.5” because the stories are of such flawed, annoying characters who never self-affirm their lives, but the fact is that the writing is clear and extradordinary and all have to do with how people place music in their lives. The first story says a lot about love and ambition, arguably the strongest story here. The beginning of “Malvern Hills” also struck a chord within me (pun intended) as I agree with the opening sentiments of the young singer-songwriter trying to make it around other egotistical musicians. Been there, my friend, been there. But why all the relationship fluff and marriage issues? Wasn’t a big opportunity missed here to really show how lots of different music affects lots of different people? Where’s the variety?

There’s a unity in “Nocturnes”, but the them are only so-so, layed out through beautiful writing — as always. If you happen to be in a library and want to read award-winning writing, sit down for twenty minutes and read either “Crooner” or “Malvern Hills” in this short story collection by Kazuo Ishiguro. If you’d like to read something amazing by him though, read “The Remains of the Day” or “Never Let me Go”, both (4/5) at least. As a side note, I recently finished his first novel, the very short “A Pale View of Hills”, and while atmoshperic and haunting, it raises way too many questions and is his weakest work. (2/5).

F.Y.I. — I’ve read “Never Let Me Go” twice and I’ve seen the movie adaptation with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan.  It’s well done, (4/5), but not as fulfilling as the book. If you’re not a big reader, check out the movie first and I hope it fires up your interest!

I’m beginning to read another Ishiguro novel right now, “When We Were Orphans“. More on that, I’m sure, later.


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The Descendants: a Novel Review

The Descendants is wonderfully touching, simple, but also complex in a very human way. Themes explored include love, revenge, trust, people’s impressions of others, and of course family; specifically, how we allow our family blood-line to affect our present day life and choices (those before us, those to come after us).

I’ve been meaning to see the movie with George Clooney that has just hit theaters (Holiday 2011), but when I heard it was a book, and I knew vaguely what it was about, I realized that I should read the book first. I made this decision for very specific reasons. Not all movies would I hold off from seeing just because I discovered they were first novels. I decided to read The Descendants before the movie because, frankly, it reminded me of three other movies about life, love, death, and family, which I watched only but never read. These books were Water For Elephants, The Help, and Up In the Air. Regarding all three of these movies: they are nomination worthy if nothing else, and two of the three books my wife had read and said they were even better. She’s an English teacher so her word is pretty solid. Plus, (and, not to brag) I’ve made her into something of a film buff. Without really forcing her, she’s broadened and strengthened her tastes and understands what to look for and how good story lines should grow and flow.

Even if I read …Elephants, The Help, and Up In the Air, they will not hit me the same way because I am not a “virgin” to their stories. I will have actors and actresses faces in my head; I will constantly compare the versions. What’s been cut out, added, and changed. So, it was with this mindset I decided if I get wind of a particularly enticing tale via movie trailer preview, or if I hear of a movie in the works with a lot of buzz about it being based on a book, I’m reading it first from now on.

Full discolsure: I did have Clooney’s face in my head for the whole book, but that’s the extent of what had been “ruined” for me, if you want to call it that. The book is dry, sad, and real. One of the most B.S.-proof books I’ve read in a while. And I can’t freakin’ believe it is the author’s first novel (K. H. Hemmings), a Hawaiian native. She rocks. Period. This book is visual, sexy, smart, and understated in a beautiful way. Characters actions carry real weight, and while she could dive into any of their heads at any time, which is the easy way out, she mastfully and carefully doles out moments she wants us in Matt King’s head (the main chracter and father of the two daughters). Speaking of them, if you ever saw and enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, parts of this book, while mostly serious, will guarenteed have you laughing out loud. There are some shocking “wow” moments as well, and this is a read for 15-year-olds, as much as 35-year-olds, as much as 70-year-olds. The ten- and eighteen-year olds are charming and three dimensional, and the characters actually change, though some a bit more than others. It’s great to watch Matt King — a father who has never really been there to raise his two daughter — being force to do so now that his wife is in a coma. The twist is that she had a secret lover, and Matt now feels he has to take his kids on a trip through friends, islands, old haunts, and relatives to find out what to do now, including a face to face talk with his wife’s lover — once he find him, of course. Great stuff.

It’s a book that young male adults should not brush off as female-oriented, because it is really not. It’s not about being a particular sex and reading this. It’s about being a person and empathizing. Although this is a drama story at heart, 9/10 people are going to laugh, choke up, and recommend this book to others (like I did with the gem of a film Stupid Crazy Love which got nowhere near the praise it deserved when it came out). I bet The Descendants as a film will also have 9/10 people raving, and I encourage you lazy people who don’t want to read the book or hate reading to really try to see the film. I heard great justice was done by the director who offered great fidelity up to the source material.

One of the top ten books I’ve read in twelve months (Jan 2011 – Jan 2012).

If you see this book in a book store, read the first few pages which are littered with snippets of praise from a dozen magazines and newspapers and know that every one of them is 100% true.



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Harry Potter: the books, the films (part 1)


Worldwide – It was November of 2001 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone began a decade long shockwave in planetary pop culture. Though the first three books had been out since 1999 and before, the 2 hour and 22 minute film was everything a generation of kids had been waiting for; imagination, fantasy, and being a kid. A hero.

On Harry Potter’s eleventh birthday, Hagrid takes Harry to the opening gates of an adventure that no one expected and would last until he became a young adult. Once on Platform nine-and-three-quarters, through Diagon alley, Gringott’s bank, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and the Hogwarts express we go. Striking the near perfect blend of a family film while eventually taking a serious turn in the series, the books and the films set themselves up perfectly for rising conflicts within the story as well as rising profits in this commercially viable phenomenon. It had heart, it had friendship, it had a school for witchcraft and wizardry, and it had merchandising. Not to be cynical (and it was NOT all about money) but big stories and profits like these come around but once or twice per generation, arguable only three have been so memorable: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter series. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant, Muggle. HP is here to stay.

The first and second book of the series is where we will begin our journey. Both film adaptations were written by Steve Kloves and directed by Chris Columbus; titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (in the UK) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets respectively. By and large this series began innocently enough and that was understandable. The topics and themes available to the characters and the story this early one would have felt out of place to have been too heavy and too serious (as the series later became and was more than welcome.) What we are given in the beginning is the introduction of the characters and the jargon of the world. Masterfully did J.K. Rowling paint the reader a detailed world of magic, magic, and more magic. Everything from the names of people, to the incantations, to the robes and the common household items had a name unlike our own to give the world extraordinary depth and wonder. The first two books, while establishing a larger plot conflict to come later, mostly focused on learning how these characters operate within their world and with each other. Harry Potter; the boy who lived, somehow spared by “You-Know-You”. But why? How? Hermione Granger; the smarty pants over-achiever who saved the boys more times than she cares to remember. Brilliant girl. Ron Weasley; the awkward, red-headed goof who many can relate to and, surprisingly, at least once the films came out, became the idol of many teen girl’s affection.

Together, these three characters plus an equally dimensional and realized cast (including many wonderful and sometimes shady professors, Luna Lovegood, Lucius Malfoy, and Neville Longbottom, etc.) make these two books necessart for the true appreciation of what is to come. Especially in the third book.

But for me, now that I am in my mid-twenties, these books do feel young to me, as do the films, and will always have a place in my heart—however I will be returning to them rarely. I know the basics already, and that’s what these books and movies represent. They are the starting gate. The movies and books I will surely return to first if given the choice are the stories which come after this. If you are gripped in anyway by these first two tales, you are going to be falling in love with J.K.’s series with the tales to come. Get ready. (Harry Potter Series continues in an upcoming blog with even more depth and analysis…)


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83rd Annual Academy Award Predictions

I love a good story. I love a good movie. And more movies than you may think are based off of novels. See how uninspired Hollywood grabs the good through another medium?

There are a few reasons for this: for one thing, the story is already written in a novel and usually is overflowing with content. With what is basically a huge “treatment,” a production company will then get a screenwriter (or team of them) to adapt the work for the screen. Characters can be lost, dialogue changed, and whole scenes deleted or added, but, one would hope, with such substantial source material a sweet screenplay would be written up with all the good stuff from the book, right? Not always.

To prove my point, simply look at the Harry Potter Series, Jurassic Park, No Country For Old men, and Never Let Me Go.  I use these examples because they are all different and aI have read these novels. Jurassic Park is way, way different. Whether these are good or bad adaptations will change depending on whose opinion you listen to. The point is that things change from the book, and that’s because it is in a different medium and a new way to tell the story is necessary while simultaneously making you feel what you felt while reading it. Not freakin’ easy. There is now sound to your story, a written score of music, cadence of lines delivered from actors, and cinematography which needs to convey an ambiance.

This year for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, set for Sunday, February 27th at (8pm East/5pm pacific), several movies (like every year) are adaptations. Most of the best films often are. 127 Hours, The Social Network, and True Grit are this years films which were written by others first then optioned for a film. As you may know, not only is True Grit an adaptation from a book, but it is also a remake from the 1969 version with John Wayne.

The best part, for me anyway, is comparing the two mediums for myself: book vs. film. Everyone has different expectations, and what I think is a flop, you might think is a home-run. And that’s the best part for me–that conversation and comparison. It’s fun!

Below are all the categories and all the nominees. I have “boldened” my predictions for each category. I really believe nearly all of these films deserve their recognition. Great year, 2010! Who are you rooting for? (Comment at the bottom.)

Best Picture

    * “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
    * “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
    * “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
    * “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
    * “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
    * “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
    * “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
    * “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
    * “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

   * Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
    * Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
    * Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
    * Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
    * James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

   * Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
    * John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
    * Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

    * Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
    * Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
    * Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

    * Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
    * Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
    * Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
    * Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
    * Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
    * “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
    * “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

    * “Alice in Wonderland”
      Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
      Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
    * “Inception”
      Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
    * “The King’s Speech”
      Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
    * “True Grit”
      Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography (tough one! I’m picking two!)

    * “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
    * “Inception” Wally Pfister
    * “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
    * “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
    * “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
    * “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
    * “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
    * “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
    * “True Grit” Mary Zophres


    * “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
    * “The Fighter” David O. Russell
    * “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
    * “The Social Network” David Fincher
    * “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

    * “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
    * “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
    * “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
    * “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
    * “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
    * “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
    * “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
    * “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
    * “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

    * “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
    * “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
    * “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
    * “127 Hours” Jon Harris
    * “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

    * “Biutiful” Mexico
    * “Dogtooth” Greece
    * “In a Better World” Denmark
    * “Incendies” Canada
    * “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria


    * “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
    * “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
    * “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
    * “Inception” Hans Zimmer
    * “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
    * “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
    * “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

    * “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
    * “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
    * “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
    * “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)

    * “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
    * “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
    * “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
    * “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
    * “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “The Confession” Tanel Toom
    * “The Crush” Michael Creagh
    * “God of Love” Luke Matheny
    * “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
    * “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

    * “Inception” Richard King
    * “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
    * “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
    * “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

    * “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
    * “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
    * “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
    * “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
    * “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
    * “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
    * “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

    * “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
    * “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
    * “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
    * “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
    * “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay) (Can’t pick one!)
    * “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
    * “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
      Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
    * “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
    * “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

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