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Offering a pair of Blu-Ray premieres and format reprisals of three ’80s classics, Paramount’s five-disc Blu-Ray anthology JOHN HUGHES: 5-MOVIE COLLECTION gives viewers convenient access to Hughes’ complete cinematic output at the studio, offering some of his finest work both as a director and writer/producer.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF Blu-Ray (102 mins., PG-13, 1986) kicks off the set and is presented in its original Paramount Blu-Ray release. That disc was initially released in 2009 and, as such, could benefit from a new 4K remaster (there have long been rumors about a Criterion edition that has yet to materialize), but it still holds up fairly well.

The film itself requires little introduction: Hughes’ seminal 1986 comedy offers Matthew Broderick in one of his quintessential roles as a high schooler who decides to take a day to enjoy the sights and sounds of Chicago, pair up with girlfriend Mia Sara, help his best friend (Alan Ruck) fight his disconnected parents, all the while avoiding his school principal (the marvelous Jeffrey Jones) and obnoxious sister (Jennifer Grey), each in hot pursuit. Hughes’ film has endlessly quotable lines, hilarious moments, and sensational sequences from start ‘til end.

Paramount’s original DVD contained a sporadic commentary from Hughes (which was excised from subsequent releases across both DVD and Blu-Ray), but nothing in the way of Making Of material. The Blu-Ray rectified that by adding four excellent, 2009-produced featurettes which essentially comprise an hour-long documentary: “Getting the Class Together,” “The Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Who Is Ferris Bueller?” and “The World According To Ben Stein” offer interviews with Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Ben Stein, producer Tom Jacobson, co-star Edie McClurg and other supporting players, with vintage interviews of John Hughes and Mia Sara interspersed throughout.

These featurettes offer a delightful retrospective on the production of the movie and the often improvisational nature of Hughes’ style. Consequently, it’s refreshing (and deservedly so) to see as much attention here given to the “bit parts” that made “Ferris Bueller” a classic, from McClurg and Ben Stein to Richard Edson and Kristy Swanson, as opposed to stars like Broderick, Ruck and Jones. Everyone discusses how quickly the film went into production, how fast Hughes worked on the script, and how willing the director was to let his cast take chances — all of which paid off splendidly with a movie that remains a viewer favorite, now some 35 years after its initial release (was I just out of 5th grade that long ago? Yikes!).

The Blu-Ray also offers “The Lost Tapes,” a series of videotaped 1986 interviews with the stars mostly in-character, in addition to taped footage of the dining room sequence — noteworthy here because it contains dialogue which didn’t make it into the final cut. A photo gallery rounds out the disc, which sports a superb 1080p transfer in the film’s original Super 35 (2.35) aspect ratio, as well as an active Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.

“Ferris Bueller” is one of a handful of fine John Hughes films that remain as current today as they were when initially released. Isn’t it a shame that we seldom see movies about adolescents made with not just the humor but the sincerity and energy that Hughes brought to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

As a director, Hughes followed “Ferris” with PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES (93 mins., 1987, R), which is in dire need of remastering as this 2011 Blu-Ray transfer is merely mediocre at best, boasting AVC encoding but far too much noise reduction by modern standards.

One of Hughes’ best films (and arguably his finest feature as a director), this teaming of John Candy and Steve Martin (both tremendous) was just a modest box-office performer back in December ’87, when it was out-grossed by the saccharine, cuddly “Three Men and a Baby.” Decades later, “Planes, Trains” is the movie audiences keep coming back to – a spirited holiday travel comedy with a heartwarming ending. It’s a shame Hughes subsequently abandoned making movies for audiences outside of the 13-and-under crowd, since this picture (one of his few R-rated efforts – albeit only for one well-remembered, profanity-laced Martin tirade directed at Edie McClurg) remains a perennial favorite.

Paramount’s Blu-Ray certainly could be improved with a reduction in DNR and, hopefully, one day will surface as a 4K remaster. The DTS MA 5.1 soundtrack is more impressive, featuring an eclectic mix of songs and Ira Newborn score, nearly all of which was tossed aside by Hughes in post-production.

For extras, the BD boasts a couple of excellent supplements devoted to Hughes’ career. Presented in HD, “John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation” and “Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes” examine his creative process and lasting legacy in an enlightening pair of half-hour programs (included among the interviewees are Hughes collaborators Lauren Shuler Donner, Howard Deutch and Marilyn Vance, plus film alumni Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jon Cryer and Lea Thompson). A trio of older featurettes (in SD) are mainly comprised of material from the picture’s EPK, along with a three-minute deleted scene (in HD) that was restored to syndicated TV broadcasts of the film (one wishes we’ll eventually see the hours of excised material editor Paul Hirsch discusses in his autobiography, material that Steve Martin has long said contained John Candy’s strongest work).

Hughes wrote and produced the 1986 Molly Ringwald hit PRETTY IN PINK (96 mins., PG-13; Paramount), which remains a bona-fide teen classic of its kind. Ringwald is at her finest as an artsy “poor” girl caught in a triangle between her friend (Jon Cryer) and a good, rich kid from another social universe (Andrew McCarthy). James Spader, meanwhile, memorably essays McCarthy’s would-be best friend, with “adult” support from Harry Dean Stanton as Ringwald’s father and a rockin’ soundtrack sprinkled with original score by Michael Gore.

“Pretty In Pink”’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) hails from just a year ago and is part of the new “Paramount Presents” line of 4K catalog remasters. An isolated score track of Michael Gore’s contributions (which director Howard Deutsch wanted more of; Hughes preferred more songs) debuts here along with a short interview with Deutsch. The trailer is also included, though only a fraction of the 2006 Making Of documentary is included, related to the movie’s original ending. Note that this infamous, original ending isn’t screened intact, but rather discussed at length and backed with videotaped set footage of its filming — something that may disappoint “Pretty in Pink” fans hoping to finally see Cryer get the girl (he gets Kristy Swanson instead, which as it turns out wasn’t a bad consolation prize!).

Hughes followed up the success of “Pink” by offering SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (94 mins., 1987, PG-13) to Ringwald, which she declined and thus ended the duo’s profitable, three-film collaboration that originated with Hughes’ first features at Universal (“Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club”). The resulting movie was something of a pre-production mess as well, with Martha Coolidge ultimately dropping out as director (apparently after shooting had already started) along with Kim Delaney and Kyle MacLachlan, who were cast alongside Eric Stoltz in the Hughes written-and-produced vehicle. According to reports, “Pink”’s Howard Deutch promptly took over and re-cast Lea Thompson in the Delaney role and Craig Sheffer in MacLachlan’s part, and had Hughes’ original script reworked.

The finished product bears no evidence of the troubles, however – “Some Kind of Wonderful” does recycle elements from previous Hughes pictures (notably the romantic triangle of “Pretty In Pink”), but works because of the conviction of the performances. Stoltz and Thompson are both excellent (keep in mind this was a “Back to the Future” reunion for the duo, since Stoltz originally had Michael J. Fox’s role before being dumped), but it’s Mary Stuart Masterson – as the cute tomboy musician in love with Stoltz – who makes the drama work. Masterson is simply terrific and John Ashton (as Stoltz’s father) and Elias Koteas (as a crazed high school classmate) lend additional support in the ensemble cast.

Paramount’s box-set offers the debut of “Some Kind…” on Blu-Ray in a healthy, good-looking 1080p (1.85) transfer with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound. The disc offers a new interview with Deutsch plus an archival commentary with him and Thompson (who married after making the film) plus some (not all) of a 2006 multi-part Making Of featurette that only skims the surface of the movie’s turbulent pre-production, focusing instead on its shooting and final release. Deutch, Masterson, Stoltz, and Thompson are all on-hand to give their recollections. There’s also a vintage “John Hughes Time Capsule” wherein Kevin Bacon interviews Hughes about his work on the film, shot in 1986 during the production of “She’s Having A Baby.”

Speaking of that, the other film making its overdue Blu-Ray debut here is, in fact, SHE’S HAVING A BABY (105 mins., 1988, PG-13). I remember seeing the trailer for this movie for not just months but what felt like years before Paramount eventually released it to mediocre box-office in February of 1988. When the film finally surfaced, it proved to be a very uneven and often contrived picture about the trials and tribulations of a young ’80s couple (Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern), from their marriage to parenthood and assorted suburban Yuppie adventures inbetween.

Hughes’ script offers some effective moments, fantastical comic passages, and moments of dramatic tension, especially late – but it’s also choppy and never finds a comfortable rhythm. While the picture certainly doesn’t coalesce into a substantive package, it’s not an entirely unlikeable film, and is worthwhile to check out as part of Hughes’ overall filmography, particularly since it’s his last stab at a film with “adult” subject matter.

Like “Some Kind of Wonderful,” this is a newer 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded Blu-Ray presentation with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio and a top bit-rate. Though obviously not derived from a 4K restoration given the source, the transfer is still naturally delivered with extras including the trailer (albeit not the dialogue-less one I saw for months on end; that one can be seen here) and another archival, roughly half-hour interview segment between Bacon and Hughes.

Paramount’s five-disc set is capped by the inclusion of Digital HD copies – a highly recommended package for Hughes fans as it collects some of his strongest cinematic output in one convenient, affordable release. Highly recommended!

Also New From Paramount

Making its Blu-Ray debut, the Billie Holiday biopic LADY SINGS THE BLUES (143 mins., 1972, R) is less of an accurate historical rendering of the legendary jazz songstress’ troubled life than it is a starring vehicle for Diana Ross.

Then fresh off her work with The Supremes and looking to break into acting, Ross committed to this production from Motown’s Berry Gordy that apparently takes more than a few liberties with Holiday’s life, showing her struggles to make it in NYC and improbably becoming a nightclub sensation. Terence McCloy, Chris Clark and Suzanne De Passe’s screenplay is episodic in nature and spends a lot of time on a romance between Holiday and Louis McKay (a suave Billy Dee Williams whom Ross shared an off-screen chemistry with), who became Holiday’s husband, along with the expected song sequences where Ross gets a chance to shine.

There’s a superficial nature to the movie’s structure – it comes off like too many “movie biopics” – and certain elements involving Holiday’s addiction feel sensationalized. Sidney J. Furie captures the drama in full widescreen, but one feels an opportunity was missed with “Lady Sings the Blues” to create something special, especially given its subject matter. Nevertheless, Ross carries the film with a believably understated performance, and her vocal performances are interesting – she doesn’t so much attempt to imitate Holiday’s unique style but bring her own “personality” to it.

Paramount’s Blu-Ray boasts both a detailed, attractive 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Extras have been ported over from the 2005 DVD, including deleted scenes, a commentary from Gordy, Furie and Shelly Berger, and a retrospective featurette sporting Ross’ involvement.

SHE’S THE MAN Blu-Ray (105 mins., 2006, PG-13; Paramount): Diverting teen comedy co-written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (of “10 Things I Hate About You”) offers a variation on “Twelfth Night,” of all things. Naturally, this vehicle for its then-popular young star Amanda Bynes isn’t a straightforward interpretation of The Bard, but rather a contemporary piece with Bynes as a high school girl who dresses up as her twin brother at a boys academy, plays soccer, and falls for the team’s star forward (Channing Tatum) in the process…with numerous predicaments and mistaken identities to follow. Everything about “She’s The Man” falls into place for the genre piece that it is: the performances, generally on-target writing, and direction of Andy Fickman are all uniformly fine, with both the comedy and romantic elements mixing together fairly well. (Sadly, the film’s ending and climactic soccer match leave a bit to be desired). Paramount’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) debuts the film in high-def and repackages its previous Dreamworks DVD release in terms of special features, including commentary with Bynes, Fickman and others; deleted scenes; a gag reel; photo album; music video; and a Digital HD copy. “She’s The Man” isn’t as satisfying overall as “10 Things…” but this is still a pleasant comic confection that has aged fairly well.

On DVD: The Saban Films release REDEMPTION DAY (99 mins., 2021, R; Paramount) finds U.S. Marine Gary Dourdan having no sooner settled back in from a tour of duty overseas than his wife (Serinda Swan) is kidnapped by Morroccan terrorists. Typical action ensues in this formula vehicle co-starring Martin Donovan, Ernie Hudson and Andy Garcia. Paramount’s DVD includes a featurette and Digital copy…INSIDE AMY SCHUMER The Complete Series DVD (641 mins., 2013-16; Paramount): Amy Schumer’s acclaimed and award-winning TV sketch comedy series – whose comedy is as varied as its star’s often overly raunchy humor – returns to DVD in a Complete Series set from Paramount. All four seasons of the series have been included along with an array of extras, including unaired sketches, outtakes, “Amy Goes Deep” interviews, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.

 

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Also New & Noteworthy

When it premiered as a one-shot NBC special on September 9th, 1967, ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN (Time Life) broke new ground on television. Viewers had scarcely seen such a rapid-fire comic anthology on TV before, and the hour-long program was the right show at the right time in the turbulent late ‘60s. “Laugh-In” was timely, motivated by generation-gap/culture-clash jokes, the hippie movement, and provided the right tonic for audiences looking to laugh while the country was embroiled in numerous struggles socially, politically and militarily. Ratings for the initial special were strong, leading to a weekly series that aired on Mondays at 8pm starting in January of ‘68 – a time slot the series would occupy until it signed off, finally, in May of 1973.

Along the way, the series introduced a series of comedians to the public who quickly became stars, most notably Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley, and Richard Dawson among others – the majority of them embodying characters whose lines became synonymous with the time. “Sock it to me” was even uttered by then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon in an oft-referenced clip that became one of the series’ signature moments in 1968, while guest stars seemed to encompass every major celebrity of the time: where else could you see John Wayne, Cher, Bob Newhart, Jack Lemmon, Bob Hope, Michael Landon, Don Rickles, Liberace, The Monkees, Jonathan Winters, James Garner and Diana Ross together, along with then-unknowns like Tiny Tim who became, however fleeting, stars overnight through their appearances on the program.

Though a little bit before my time, I recall seeing reruns of “Laugh-In” during the early ‘80s, in what I imagine were edited-down, half-hour versions in syndication. Even with its “mod-specific” jokes and references, there’s ample entertainment to be found in these programs, which remain indelible broadcasts of their era, through their comic timing and amazing roster of talent.

Time-Life’s slimmed-down DVD box-set – now available for the first time in less bulky packaging than its previous, website-exclusive release – spotlights the entire series in one, 140-episode collection (including the seldom-screened pilot episode). It’s a deluxe packaged, beautifully presented set in line with Time-Life’s recent Complete Series retrospectives, complimented by interviews with Dick Martin, stars Ruth Buzzi and Gary Owens (the only two cast members, besides Rowan & Martin, to appear throughout all six seasons of the show), featurettes, and interviews with Lily Tomlin and George Schlatter that are available only in this set.

With 89 of these episodes never having been released before this box, and the videotaped transfers having been assembled from the original broadcast elements, this “Laugh-In” box offers a treasure trove of entertainment for fans. Kudos to Time Life and Proven Entertainment for a marvelous release that presents vintage TV at its finest on DVD.

THE CROODS: A NEW AGE 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (96 mins., 2020, PG; Universal): Box-office hits have been few and far between during Covidpandemia, but despite its mild domestic grosses, kids and even a few adults are likely to warm to this colorful, goofy sequel to “The Croods” – Dreamworks’ animation hit about a prehistoric family who, while moving, run into “The Bettermans,” a family that’s started their own Shangri-La inside a walled-in enclosure. Laughs, family drama, a dash of romance and some action are all a part of director Joel Crawford’s breezy, energetic follow-up, which manages to sustain itself at a high level for its genre throughout. Universal’s now-available 4K UHD looks dynamite with both Dolby Atmos/HDR10 capability that brings out all the vivid color in the production (and there are decidedly “psychedelic” moments that take full advantage of the format) plus boisterous Dolby Atmos audio. Two all-new exclusive shorts are included plus deleted scenes and assorted extras; the Blu-Ray; and a Digital HD copy.

HORIZON LINE Blu-Ray (92 mins., 2020, PG-13; Universal): Silly thriller pairs together Allison Williams and Alexander Dreymon as a former couple who fight for survival after the pilot of their single-engine airplane dies – leaving them to take a crash course in a real-life Flight Simulator in order to stay alive. This STX Films production may have targeted a theatrical bow but it feels more at home on the small screen anyway, where its ridiculous plotting and unbelievable situations are likely easier to overlook. For a time-killer “Horizon Line” is barely passable, but the bickering, squabbling nature of the duo’s relationship puts a damper on the fun overall. Universal’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, Digital HD copy and deleted scenes.


Quick Takes

RICK AND MORTY: The Complete Seasons 1-4 Blu-Ray (Warner): The popular cult series from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim finds Rick Sanchez (voiced by Justin Roiland) living with his daughter’s family and causing all kinds of trouble across the universe. This off-the-wall show returns to Blu-Ray in an anthology coupling its first four seasons – all 41 episodes – with 1080p HD transfers and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks. Extensive special features include Animatics; deleted animatic sketches; a featurette; and episode commentaries from the series’ creators. Not for every taste, but fans should eat it up…New on DVD from Cartoon Network and Warner is VICTOR AND VALENTINO: FOLK ART FOES (217 mins., 2019), where fun-loving brothers Vicvtor and Valentino take on mythical monsters, ghosts and other forms of folklore in their Monte Macabre home. Warner’s DVD includes over 200 minutes of animated fun with 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks.

SCOOBY-DOO: THE SWORD AND THE SCOOB DVD (76 mins., 2021; Warner): Scooby, Shaggy and the gang take a trip back in time to King Arthur’s court after an evil sorceress attempts to seize power in Camelot, leading the Knights of the Round Table and their stalwart leader to recruit the Mystery Inc. gang to save the day. This is a slender animated fantasy best recommended for Scooby Doo fans – younger viewers especially – with a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.

RUNNING TIME Blu-Ray (70 mins., 1997, Not Rated; Synapse Films): Josh Becker wrote, produced and directed this indie drama starring Bruce Campbell as a man out to steal mob cash from the prison he was just released from. A series of bad circumstances curtail his plan, leading him to make a pivotal choice in a real time, single-take picture that’s interesting to watch with its stylized B&W cinematography (1.37), here preserved in a new 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative by Synapse. There’s also the restoration of the movie’s original stereo audio in a DTS MA track (previous home video releases were mono), a commentary with Becker and Campbell, a new featurette with Bruce, Q&A footage from the “Freaky Film Festival” premiere, and the trailer. (Available March 16th)

Well Go USA New Release: International action star Tak Sakaguchi headlines CRAZY SAMURAI: 400 VS. 1 (92 mins., 2020), a Japanese genre exercise that sports “the world’s first 77-minute, one-take action film sequence” wherein Sakaguchi’s Miyamoto Musashi fends off hundreds of would-be assassins. Well Go debuts the film on March 2nd on Blu-Ray (1.85) with 5.1 DTS MA sound (Japanese with English subtitles). Worth a look for martial arts fans!

THE VERY EXCELLENT MR. DUNDEE DVD (88 mins., 2020, PG-13; Lionsgate): A few years back, Danny McBride made a faux “Crocodile Dundee” sequel in the form of a Super Bowl commercial for Australian tourism. The joke was fairly effective, with some expressing disappointment the ad was phony and not an actual trailer for a real sequel.

That two-minute ad was, in fact, much funnier than “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” which is Paul Hogan’s failed new “meta” comedy with the star playing himself – offered a knighthood by the Queen of England but threatened by an array of mostly unfunny and/or tedious encounters with assorted cameo players en route to the big day. Olivia Newton-John, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Wayne Knight and Reginald VelJohnson provide fleeting appearances in this limp affair directed and co-written by Dean Murphy. Lionsgate’s DVD (2.39) boasts 5.1 sound and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Also New From LionsgateMichael Ealy plays a high-profile sports agent in FATALE (106 mins., 2021, R) who falls hard for a woman (Hilary Swank) who turns out to be a detective ensnaring him in her latest investigation. Deon Taylor’s contemporary noir has a good cast but far too many cliches to work. This Lionsgate release debuts on Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) with an alternate ending, commentary and a featurette on the supplemental side. The DVD and a Digital Copy are also included…Charlotte Vega takes a WRONG TURN (110 mins., 2021, R), an Alan McElroy-scripted follow-up/reboot of the long-running horror series starring Charlotte Vega as one of a number of hikers who take a…get ready…wrong turn down the Appalachian Trail and come across “The Foundation,” a group of mountain dwellers who will do anything to protect their rural way of life. Matthew Modine chips in a cameo in this decently mounted but formulaic effort, probably still worth it for fans of the series. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) offers deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, commentary with director Mike P. Nelson, and a Digital HD copy…Lifetime fans will want to check out the five-film DVD anthology CHEER! RALLY! KILL!, which includes the cable films “The Secret Lives of Cheerleader” with Denise Richards; Maiara Walsh in “Identity Theft of a Cheerleader”; David Meza and Cristine Prosperi in “The Wrong Cheerleader”; Alexandra Beaton in “The Cheerleader Escort”; and Kayla Wallace in “Undercover Cheerleader.” All movies in the multi-disc DVD release include 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks…Jackie Chan’s latest,  VANGUARD (107/104 mins., 2021, PG-13), doesn’t offer anything Chan fans haven’t seen before. In this contemporary Stanley Tong-helmed vehicle, Jackie plays a security company CEO trying to keep a businessman alive from mercenaries trying to take him down. Globe-trotting locations so crop up but this is strictly formula stuff, unexcitingly delivered and more unintentionally funny than humorous. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39) includes both the 107-minute Mandarin (English subtitled) cut as well as a 104-minute English dubbed version, both in 5.1 DTS MA. A Making Of and Digital HD copy are also included.

Film Movement New Releases: A fascinating, troubling look at the application of Sharia Law is dramatized in Massoud Bakhshi’s YALDA: A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS ( 89 mins., 2020), presented in Persian with English subtitles and Fahad Delaram’s short “Tattoo” (also in Persian with English subs) included as an extra feature on DVD…Also new from Film Movement on DVD is MAFIA INC (135 mins., 2020), a look at a Montreal mafia boss trying to go straight but finding, as always, things don’t go as planned. Sylvain Guy scripted and “Podz” (Daniel Grou) directed this fact-based look at the Sicilian mob north of the border, set in the 1990s and well worth a look for genre fans.  Film Movement’s DVD (16:9) offers 5.1 audio and a 16:9 transfer.

THE LAST VERMEER DVD (118 mins., 2020, R; Sony): Ridley Scott was one of the producers on this WWII drama starring Claes Bang as a Dutch Jew, fighting for the Resistance, who becomes an investigator assigned to identify and then redistribute stolen art. Guy Pearce is the art collector accused of the crime whom Bang ultimately defends in what becomes a life or death struggle in Dan Friedkin’s film. Sony’s DVD (1.85, 5.1 Dolby Digital) is now available.

NEXT TIME: Kevin Kline bombs out in the 1989 high-profile MGM dud THE JANUARY MAN — a Special “Flops of Winters Past” column! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

 

 

 
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