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»Touchy Feely« and »The East« debut at Sundance / Ellen returns as Kitty Pryde in »X-Men: Days of Future Past«

The original plan at this point was to have an on-site report from the Sundance Film Festival and the movie premieres of »Touchy Feely« and »The East«. I assume that Marci is still busy with putting everything together while working around her own Sundance schedule and enjoying the time spent there. However, you can expect to get an article as well as some exclusive photos and even video footage from the premiere screenings in the course of the coming weeks. This also means it was once again up to me to write something that does justice to two movies I haven't seen yet, and sum up a weekend full of events that I haven't experienced myself. I hope that I have succeeded in doing so.

But first things first: After arriving in Park City and having a dinner with her »Touchy Feely« co-stars and director Lynn Shelton at the Samsung Galaxy Lounge on Friday, Ellen had her first busy day including several press appointments and photo shoots. In the afternoon, she headed for the Eccles Center Theatre where the movie's premiere took place. She then joined Allison Janney, Rosemarie DeWitt, Josh Pais, Ron Livingston and Tomo Nakayama at the subsequent press junkets; concluding her promotional work for Shelton's recent project. on Sunday, Ellen went through almost the same process - this time for her other upcoming film »The East«. The day started with additional photo sessions at Getty Images' and Wireimage's portrait studios at Village at the Lift, and ended with the world premiere of the eco-thriller at the aforementioned theatre followed by a dinner party at the Grey Goose Blue Door Lounge on Main Street. Together with Alexander Skarsgård, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, Ellen also stopped by at the Variety Studio as well as the Sundance Channel HQ studio and gave interviews to HitFix, Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter before returning to her adopted home of Los Angeles on Monday. One can say that it was a rather quick yet abundant weekend.

With »Touchy Feely«, Seattle filmmaker and Sundance alum Lynn Shelton returned to the festival with her fifth feature and second competition film. Trading her improv-based filmmaking style for a more traditional screenplay-grounded model, she delivers an uneven mix of half-formed conflicts, resulting in a comedy-drama that ultimately sticks to her core themes: the bonds of family and the desire for connection. Set in the director's own hometown, the film focuses on two siblings: Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a massage therapist, and Paul (Josh Pais), a straitlaced dentist who isn’t even aware that his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) has long grown tired of working as his dental assistant. Inexplicably, this sister and brother suddenly both go through profound physiological changes. Abby finds herself repulsed by human bodies, while Paul begins to develop a healing touch to cure any patient’s long-term physical pains out of the blue. This magical zero-sum scenario resonates with the film's interest in the energy-balancing beliefs of Reiki, the Japanese relaxation technique. Abby's close friend Bronwyn (Allison Janney) is a practitioner, reading people's energy and making herbal potions. She ends up being the mentor to both siblings guiding them through their healing professions.

One reviewer stated that »Touchy Feely« is like a massage: Too much pushing, and things get uncomfortable. Listlessly paced, it is a muted and a low-energy film. While there's a lot of admirable breathing space for moments of introverted thought and self-reflection, often arriving in close-ups of the face, these scenes never quite resonate as much as they should. Shelton touches upon many would-be fascinating ideas of the comfort (or discomfort) of living within ones own skin, universal connectedness, spirituality, intimacy and more. But the final result fails to coalesce the themes in a meaningful way. One point of criticism is also that the film never gets to a point of truly evoking sympathy for its characters. Not having likeable characters does not doom a film, but having unsympathetic protagonists whose lives have essentially stopped moving forward doesn’t leave much hope for good audience reactions either. A reason for this misery could be the script, which was written in only two months in preparation for a spring 2012 shoot. Shelton's past Sundance entries, »Humpday« and »Your Sister’s Sister«, worked best because she let the actors improvise their characters' dialogue and behavior -- as together they found their own way through. This time, she forces this top-notch cast through situations that sound better on paper than as realized on screen. Lead actress Rosemarie DeWitt, who was a last-minute replacement for Rachel Weisz, admitted, "I didn't really understand the character when I read the script," during the Q&A session after the first screening. Speaking about the project, Ellen added she was blown away by »Your Sister's Sister«. But the improvisation was a little nerve-wracking for her because it’s not something she is familiar with. She told herself, "okay, improvise. Be chill, be cool, be cool." Yet, while doing it, it was like "Oh, I can’t improvise as Ellen."

As you might expect, »Touchy Feely« receives very mixed reviews so far which also applies to the actors involved. While one film critic thinks Ellen is heartbreaking in her gentle and unrequited love for a man who doesn’t love her and has one of the strongest scenes in the film, another argues she has fallen into the trap of taking on precocious roles similar to the one she had in her career-making »Juno«, but without the same flair and energy. Overall, »Touchy Feely« is an absorbing exploration of identity, family dynamics and the mysterious psychic push-and-pull balance of the universe. But it can’t seem to find its footing, wandering lost between two story lines that feature difficult-to-care-about protagonists with little to add to the conversation. Unfortunately this film produces a disappointing and uneven experience. In my view the scene in the clip posted below looks very similar to »Smart People« - a movie that is quite entertaining and well-played, but also instantly forgettable and rather pointless at the end. It also fits into the picture that it has not been picked up by a distributor for a release yet. Word has it the producers have received the first offers though.

» Touchy Feely - Webclip 1 (01/21/2013) «

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(Format: AVI | Codec: XviD | Duration: 1:40 min | Resolution: 640x360 | Size: 13,4 MB)

Here is a brief summary of all available reviews to date:

Shelton's latest is warm but less endearing than its predecessors — John DeFore, Los Angeles Times

The film is more intricately plotted than Shelton's last films [...] You never know what's going to happen in a Shelton film, as she focuses a digital camera on each actor for long repeated takes --anything can happen. — Anne Thompson, Indiewire

There is no question that Shelton aims in this movie to create a crowd-pleasing statement about embracing those around us and appreciating what we have. Her attempts can come off a bit programmatic at times, but her cast’s complete confidence with the material helps sell the occasionally saccharine sermonising. Touchy Feely, certainly, but not oppressively so. — Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

Great ensemble cast makes Lynn Shelton's 'Touchy Feely' a gentle generous new age charmer. If I have a complaint, it is that this feels far less focused than the last two films from Shelton. — Drew McWeeny, HitFix

Touchy Feely drew a mixed reaction at its inaugural screening from the distributors — the New Age premise and the Abby character came in for some criticism. But for all the grousing, Shelton still manages to get intimate human moments right, tipping a scene just enough toward comedy before tipping it back to how real people think and talk. — Steven Zeitchik, LA Times

Trading her improv-based filmmaking style for a more traditional screenplay-grounded model, Lynn Shelton delivers an uneven mix of half-formed conflicts in Touchy Feely. — Peter Debruge, Variety

There's a great movie somewhere inside "Touchy Feely" desperately trying to swim to the surface, but its obscurity also comes with an inarticulateness that robs it of its potential. Shelton's latest is an absorbing exploration of identity, family dynamics and the mysterious psychic push-and-pull balance of the universe, but its chakras aren't completely in order, unfortunately leaving for a disappointing and uneven experience. [B-] — Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Touchy Feely left me a little confused and frustrated. With a talented cast and some genuinely funny material, it seemed set up for success. The issue I had with it was that the story is largely about identity crisis, yet the personalities aren’t very well developed – it was difficult to pinpoint and accept their motivations. The characters also aren’t centrally involved with each others’ journeys, leaving their bonds tenuous when they should have been integral and deliberate. — Christie Ko, ScreenCrave

Maudlin, uneven of tone and blighted by a transparent piece of artifice, Touchy Feely marks Lynn Shelton's directorial nadir. In essence, Touchy Feely is a maudlin piece with little by way of comic relief. DeWitt is appealing in her happier moments and does a solid job, as do all the cast; although Pais's Paul by far the best thing about the movie. Shelton's migration towards more clear-cut drama is hampered by uneven tone and, most damning of all, dullness. — Jeremy Kay, The Guardian

There’s a few excellent moments in the movie, and some brilliant, beautiful displays of cinematography, but overall, the film is far too slow and drags horribly from the midpoint on. It’s a huge misstep for director Lynn Shelton, who usually displays such skill and attention to detail in her work, as in the lovely Your Sister’s Sister. And while I’m all for genre and convention-busting, Touchy Feely can’t seem to find its footing, wandering lost between two story lines that feature difficult-to-care-about protagonists with little to add to the conversation. [C+] — Amanda Mae Meyncke, Film.com

The music in the film is like entering a massage parlor, creating an aura of energy that the characters are struggling to maintain. Which in turn sets a soft tone for the audience from the beginning but unfortunately the movie is like lying on the massage table listening to the music and feeling relaxed but never actually getting the massage. — John Giansiracusa, Bangitout.com

This time around we get Touchy Feely, a slightly more ambitious, far less successful, project from Shelton. [...] The ambition gets lost somewhere amongst this large and talented cast, Shelton retreating to some worn plot contrivances in the third act. [...] It’s an aggravating misstep for such a promising filmmaker. There’s an engaging character study somewhere inside Touchy Feely. It’s a shame we never get a chance to see it. — Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

It’s not clear what exactly is missing in Touchy Feely, but the film never gets to a point of truly evoking sympathy for its characters. [B-] — Abe Fried-Tanzer, Shockya

Although other features such as »The Way, Way Back« or »The Spectular Now« aroused more attention at the end, it's still safe to say »The East« is one of the top runners’ of this year's Sundance Film Festival. The eco-thriller from director Zal Batmanglij and writer/actress Brit Marling centers on Sarah Moss, an ambitious former FBI agent who now works for a private firm that does elite damage control for large corporations. Much to her excitement, she is assigned to a high-profile case: infiltrating an underground corporate terrorist organisation called The East which tries to takedown the CEO’s of big companies producing harmful products consumed by the general public. Dyeing her hair and hanging out with banjo players gets her in with the freegan anarchists fairly quickly. At first the collective led with quiet authority by Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) seems like a weirdo cult. This perception soon fades and the inevitable question becomes whether her sympathies will begin to sway to their side despite the serious consequences of their actions, or if she will remain a good corporate spy.

Judging from the reviews published so far, there's not much you can criticize about »The East«. A couple of reviewers didn't like that the movie shares some basic ideas with Batmanglij's low budget sci-fi thriller »Sound of My Voice«, following someone who goes undercover to infiltrate a cult-like organization. Others are missing the explanation of why Sarah is eventually seduced by the group's ideals. And they find it hard to believe that an accomplished professional in a field much like Sarah would allow the romantic attentions of one highly inscrutable man to jeopardize her personal or professional security to the extent that she does. It also seems to be a contradiction that the group tries to live a minimalist life-style far away from civilization, but eventually uses state-of-the-art satellite technology and multiple computer systems in the basement to prepare and plan the next jams. Furthermore, the important and provocative question whether breaking the law and doing harm to the leaders of powerful, rich conglomerates that are poisoning the environment and endangering lives with relative impunity is the ultimate solution remains largely unanswered. At this point, it should be said that Marling and Zal Batmanglij pointed out more than once in several interviews that it was never intended to deliver an answer since they don't have one to such complex moral questions themselves. The thriller has been designed to make the audience think about what is happening around the world.

Besides, »The East« scores with its fantastic ensemble cast. From Alexander Skarsgård and Toby Kebbell to Shiloh Fernandez and Patricia Clarkson, the actors are all great, and the characters they play are different from anything you've seen them in before; Especially Ellen. As cold and calculating as Izzy seems, Ellen is totally kick-ass and turns in her best performance in years, according to Michael Dunaway from Paste Magazine. The direction in particular is astounding. Zal Batmanglij certainly knows what he's doing with all these talented and passionate actors. But he also succeeds in navigating the story with every twist and turn and plot point and yet keep the momentum going. This comes as no surprise considering he and Brit Marling got the best possible preparation for this project. The pair spent a summer as "freegans" traveling in a fashion similar to the movie's group to see if they could live for that long without spending money. They lived in abandoned spaces in sleeping bags, reused discarded goods and ate food found in trash bins. When they returned to their regular lives, they began writing what they conceived of as a eco-thriller set in that world off the grid, with anarchists seeking revenge on corporations that the collective deemed harmful to society. Inspired by an era when "the Internet has put power back in the hands of individuals", it sources a host of movements, from Freegans and the Occupy movement to more radical groups like Anonymous and the Weather Underground, and raises questions that are now more topical than ever before. There is no doubt that »The East« will find a solid limited-release audience since the filmmakers have managed to produce one of the most smartly written and thought-provoking undercover thrillers in recent years. The exact release date hasn't been announced yet, but Fox Searchlight Pictures already stated that it will be "not far behind" »Stoker« which hits threatres on March 1, 2013.

» The East - US Trailer (01/21/2013) «

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(Format: AVI | Codec: XviD | Duration: 1:12 min | Resolution: 640x272 | Size: 10,4 MB)
© Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved.

An overview of reviews can be found after the jump.

This clever, involving spy drama builds to a terrific level of intrigue before losing some steam in its second half. Still, the appreciable growth in filmmaking confidence here should translate into a fine return on Fox Searchlight's investment, and generate good word-of-mouth buzz among smart thrill-seekers. — Justin Chang, Variety

The East is a terrific companion piece for anyone who enjoyed Sound Of My Voice. It isn't difficult to draw parallels between the two films with recurring motifs like cults, initiation rituals, blindfolds, sign language and more all brimming to the surface. At nearly two hours, the film is just slightly overlong and can be deeply silly at times, but nonetheless thoroughly entertaining. [...] The East is definitely a movie that's going to divide people but it'll be a conversation worth having. [B-] — Cory Everett, The Playlist

Environmental-justice themes are put to smart use in Zal Batmanglij's corporate espionage film [...] The actors bringing this band of anarchists to life project enough wounded, uncertain self-righteousness to distance them from the generic zealots more often seen in this kind of tale, and Marling, working behind a couple of layers of role-playing, keeps audiences guessing about what Sarah actually believes. Batmanglij balances emotional tension with practical danger nicely, a must in a story whose activist protagonists can make no distinction between the personal and the political. — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

Batmanglij’s direction is first-rate. Unlike his aforementioned previous film, The East is a very slick-looking thriller and moves at a very fluid pace (save a bit of second-act dragging). The music is also mesmerizing, most notably a frenetic, haunting piano solo by Kebbell in this, a thoroughly engrossing mash-up of Martha Marcy May Marlene and Serpico. But the film is, first and foremost, a wonderful showcase for Marling’s considerable talents. — Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast

A solid but disappointingly traditional thriller. [...] My main beef with the film is the somewhat facile attitude toward big fat corporations. [...] That said, I offer genuine huzzahs to the film’s conclusion. Without giving away final twists or action beats, this is a movie that proposes a genuine, intelligent solution, both for the main character and for us. It comes at you kinda quickly (and economically, in about three wordless shots), but it hit me like a bag of dumpster-dived apples to the gut. [B+] — Jordan Hoffman, Film.com

The East is a clean-running machine that keeps one engaged. There’s a slickness to the proceedings that can temporarily distract from the script issues, and Batmanglij shows growth as a creator of suspense sequences. But whether it’s the East’s dangerous covert missions or Sarah’s personal transformation from loyal employee to budding anarchist, The East feels more like an idea for a high-concept thriller than a thoughtful, compelling film. — Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

The East is absorbing and exciting for most of its length, with a aesthetic (the photography is by Roman Vasyanov) that believably shifts from the grungy life of The East to the well-heeled environs of their victims and Sarah’s employer. The cast is very fine, with the shifting dynamics between Skarsgard and Marling particularly notable. — Mitch Salem, Showbuzz Daily

The East is an AWESOME thriller! It draws you in with its high stakes situations and the intense moral quandary facing the main character, played by Brit Marling, keeping you on the edge of your seat for almost two hours. The tight script [...] contains a bunch of memorable lines that I have been quoting non-stop since the screening. — Georg, Geekscape

Provocative and sharply crafted to the end, successfully bridging its star and director's indie roots with their multiplex potential, The East maintains its intelligence, but arguably flexes it a little too eagerly. That's a luxurious quibble to have with any comparatively mainstream thriller, or indeed any female-driven entertainment, these days, particularly one ripe with sequel opportunities. — Guy Lodge, HitFix

The East is a Decent Studio Pic with No Indie Spark. [...] There's no doubt that talented filmmakers like Batmanglij and Marling have a bright future in Hollywood. Their world is rich, characters interesting, and writing/acting/directing skills show plenty of promise. Unfortunately, The East just seems to suffer from some growing pains. There are some cool ideas here and it's pretty damned entertaining for a studio action-thriller, however, it's definitely no Sound of My Voice. — Ryland Aldrich, Twitch, Twitch

A refreshing concept, persuasive acting, and effective pacing make Brit Marling's latest, The East, one of the most captivating films of Sundance 2013. — Emily Estep, WeGotThisCovered

If I have any complaint, its that in a quest to keep their missions personal The East encounters a job which turns into a scene I would expect more from a big Hollywood movie than a smart indie. Its nothing too groan-worthy, it just feels a bit out of place compared to the rest of the film. [...] While The East skews more conventional and mainstream than most Sundance films, its rare that we get a tense thriller that provides some deeper interesting topical discussion. [8 out of 10] — Peter Sciretta, /film

The East is the thoughtful spy thriller Hollywood has forgotten how to make [...] A bigger and more conventional film than Sound of My Voice, with genre elements that wouldn't be out of place in a Bourne film, The East is also spectacular, the kind of gripping thriller that precious few mainstream Hollywood directors even attempt these days. Taking the time to dig deep into its characters and constantly blurring the line between right and wrong, The East is provocative and thoughtful-- but also far more entertaining that you'd ever think it had a right to be. — Katey Rich, CinemaBlend

The East tackles a little-covered activist milieu that's rarely treated in films and will likely alienate red-state audiences when Fox Searchlight releases it nationwide this year. But it's also a commercial thriller, where the politics are in service of the action, and the insurgent activism in metropolitan and college areas may help this timely work find a solid limited-release audience. [B] — Logan Hill, Indiewire

Through his skillful direction and thoughtful script, Batmanglij has reminded audiences what the undercover thriller can accomplish if the filmmakers understand that inner-conflict should extend past the protagonist. However, his commitment to playing by the genre’s rules keeps him contained to the conventions, which in turns adds some predictability to moments that were clearly meant to land as a surprise. But The East never sets out to redefine the genre. It simply attempts to carry the undercover thriller to its full potential. Jam accomplished. [B+] — Matt Goldberg, Collider

I really feel like The East has huge crossover potential- way beyond the art-house film crowd. It's the type of thriller that should hit 2000 screens and play to a huge audience. Hopefully people will embrace it- but whatever the case, it can't be denied Batmanglij and Marling have made a big move into the same kind of smart, ambitious, yet broadly entertaining type of film that people like George Clooney and Ben Affleck do so well. [9 out of 10] — Chris Bumbray, JoBlo

Like Sound of my Voice, The East is smooth and calculating in its delivery, but goes a little haywire in the mad dash for an exciting conclusion. Marling and Batmanglij have established a rhythm that may feel a little too familiar, but it's nonetheless smart and evocative. The film was produced by the late Tony Scott, and his name features prominently in the closing credits. I think this is a film he would have been proud to be associated with. [4 out of 5] — Travis Hopson, Examiner

I thought the movie was great, and it was one of the few films I've seen at the festival that got an ovation at the end. I liked the intensity of the story, which was well crafted. The movie is kind of predictable though, I pretty much knew what was around every corner, but it was still executed extremely well, so it didn't really bother me that I knew what was coming. It was one of those things where I was just looking forward to seeing how those scenes would play out. — Joey Paur, GeekTyrant

Once again, Batmanglij and Marling prove to be quite the talented writing duo. After penning Batmanglij’s directorial debut, the intelligent team of two tackle pressing environmental issues (i.e. lucrative companies creating unsafe products for the sake of profit) without devolving into didacticism. Aside from the film’s candid cultural commentary, The East presents a morally and emotionally conflicted protagonist that forces the viewer to contemplate how they’d respond in her sticky situation. [B-] — Sam Fragoso, The Film Stage

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting to like this much at first, but was ecstatic to discover a fantastic thriller that I'm looking forward to revisiting. As only the second film by Zal Batmanglij, it's an impressive step up. [8 out of 10] — Alex Billington, FirstShowing

With no concrete heroes and villains, the tension of the film builds to a final scene that's as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. While lacking some of the nuance that made Sound of My Voice so distinct, Marling and Batmanglij have managed to produce one of the most smartly written undercover thrillers in recent years. The East doesn't redefine the genre, but a strong cast, polished direction, and absorbing story make it an impressive effort nonetheless. — Zeba Blay, Slant Magazine

The East Is Directionless [...] Walking out of it, it’s the film that has disappointed me most completely. The East isn’t just a disappointment, it’s actually pretty bad, and is fatally naive. [...] The East is a poorly written, thoroughly silly environmental movie for people who want to believe that tut-tutting over stories in Mother Jones is the same thing as making a difference. — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

Marling is wonderful as always, Alexander Skarsgaard is appropriately mysterious as the leader of the group, and Ellen Page turns in her best performance in years. — Michael Dunaway, Paste Magazine

The East is one of those films that feels as if its being released at the perfect time [...] Ellen Page is the other real standout of the above mentioned cast members. Just like most of her previous roles, Page showcases a really strong character with a lot of conviction. [...] I must admit that The East was one of my favorite films that I saw at Sundance 2013. I loved the acting, the story, the pacing, and just the overall message and subject matter that the film addressed. While this may not be a film for everyone, it is definitely a film that addresses some really important things about our society. [9 out of 10] — MovieManMenzel, We Live Film

The East is going to be an easily accessible thriller for mainstream audiences, with all the subtlety and specific insight that made Marling’s indie films such standouts for those who discovered them. [8,5 out of 10] — Fred Topel, CraveOnline

Ellen Page - Kitty Pryde
Since the announcement of the »X-Men: First Class« sequel »X-Men: Days of Future Past«, the cast has continued to grow as actors from both the original X-Men and »X-Men: First Class« films are set to appear in the upcoming adaptation. What we do know is that Hugh Jackman is already confirmed to reprise his part as Wolverine. Additionally, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are back as the older versions of Professor X and Magneto, respectively, while »X-Men: First Class« stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender will return as the younger versions of the powerful mutants. Expected to join them are fellow First Class-mates Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy / Beast) and possibly others. Last Saturday, Director Bryan Singer tweeted his roughly 25,000 followers the news that Anna Paquin, Ellen Page and Shawn Ashmore have joined the production as well.

"Very excited to welcome #annapaquin, @ellenpage & @shawnrashmore to #XMen #DaysofFuturePast - thank you @BrettRatner for letting them live!"
@BryanSinger - 9:22 PM - 26 Jan 13

X-Men: Days of Future Past
»X-Men: Days of Future Past« features a script by Simon Kinberg and is said to be inspired by Chris Claremont and John Byrne's comic book storyline that ran in "Uncanny X-Men" #141 and 142 back in 1981. »Days of Future Past« introduced the idea of an alternate future for Marvel's mutants that grew out of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants killing senator Robert Kelly, leading to a future where all mutants are hunted by Sentinels. The most exciting fact in this regard is that Ellen's character Kitty Pryde plays one of the most important roles in the storyline and therefore will likely (and hopefully) have plenty of screen time in the film adaption.

For those who aren't familiar with the comic the sequel is based from, here's the synopsis:

"The storyline alternates between present day, in which the X-Men fight Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and a future timeline caused by the X-Men's failure to prevent the Brotherhood from assassinating Senator Robert Kelly. In this future universe, Sentinels rule the United States, and mutants live in internment camps. The present-day X-Men are forewarned of the possible future by a future version of their teammate Kitty Pryde, whose mind traveled back in time and possessed her younger self to warn the X-Men. She succeeds in her mission and returns to the future, but despite her success, the future timeline still exists as an alternative timeline rather than as the actual future."

Obviously some details will be changed, but as producer Matthew Vaughn said previously, "It's X-Men meets The Terminator. You've got robots, you've got time travel, you've got superheroes - it's got everything in one film." I'm sure Ellen will enjoy working on an action packed contemporary sci-fi film for a change after doing four low-budget projects in a row. While filming is due to start in April, »X-Men: Days of Future Past« will be released in US theaters through 20th Century Fox on July 18, 2014.

Date: 01/27/2013 - 23:19:09 Posted by Dominik
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Ellen Page attached to post-apocalyptic adaptation »Into the Forest« / EPO reporting first-hand from Sundance 2013

At the moment Ellen is probably preparing for one of the biggest events in this still-young year of 2013 with both »Touchy Feely« and »The East« debuting at the Sundance Film Festival next weekend. Meanwhile, another interesting project has surfaced on the horizon. Variety’s Jeff Sneider tweeted last Thursday that she is attached to an upcoming adaptation of Jean Hegland's post-apocalyptic novel »Into the Forest«. The story centers on two teenage sisters, Nell and Eva, living alone in a remote Northern California forest when society begins to decay and collapse around them. Reports of a distant conflict are followed by a loss of power that leaves the pair struggling to survive in their altered circumstances. Here's the full synopsis taken from the back cover of the latest paperback release (Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, published in September 2005):
Into the Forest Paperback
Eva, eighteen, and Nell, seventeen, are sisters, adolescents on the threshold of womanhood — and for them anything should be possible. But suddenly their lives are turned upside down, their dreams pushed into the shadows, as sickness and anarchy rage across a country on the brink of collapse. In a time of suspicion and superstition, of anger, hunger, and fear, Eva and Nell are left to forage through the forest, and their past, for the keys to survival. They must blaze a new path into the future as pioneers and pilgrims — not only creatures of the new world, but creators of it. Gripping and unforgettable, Into the Forest is a passionate and poignant tale of stirring sensuality and profound inspiration—a novel that will move you and surprise you and touch you to the core.

Unfortunately, that’s basically all we know about the project right now. There is no mention of a possible director, screenwriter or actress playing the other sister. As for the latter, here's a brief roundup of promising talents who could be considered for this part: Abigail Breslin, AnnaSophia Robb, Brittany Robertson, Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Emily Browning, Emma Watson, Evan Rachel Wood, Hayley McFarland, Imogen Poots, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Juno Temple, Liana Liberato, Lily Collins, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Thirlby, Saoirse Ronan, Seychelle Gabriel, Shailene Woodley, Sophie Lowe, Teresa Palmer and Willa Holland. Who should star opposite Ellen in your opinion? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

On the occasion of the two aforementioned movie premieres, I have an exciting announcement to make today. For the first time in this website's history, EPO will be covering an important festival first-hand. During the next couple of days Marci, the most recent member of the team and Sundance fan, will be taking as many photos as possible and bringing us the latest information straight from the very first screenings in Park City. You can also expect to get comprehensive reviews of both films as well as videos of the cast introductions and Q&A sessions in the following weeks. I believe I speak on behalf of Marci when I say that we will do our best to ensure an unique and enriching experience for all of us. At the same time, any form of help, input and support is more than welcome. No matter if you are going to attend the festival yourself and take some photos and videos you would like to eventually share with other fans or you just stumble across interesting and related articles, reviews, pictures or clips on the net, please send your stuff to "sundance [at] ellen-page.net" and make sure to include your name or the original source so we can give credit where credit is due!

I'm looking forward to some great days ahead and hope you will enjoy the updates posted here as well as on EPO's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ellenpageonline), the Facebook fan page for The East (www.facebook.com/theeastmovie) and Twitter (twitter.com/ellenpagenet)!
» Sundance 2013 - Meet The Artists - Lynn Shelton (01/09/2013) «

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Date: 01/12/2013 - 21:09:29 Posted by Dominik
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»The East« and »Touchy Feely« to premiere at Sundance 2013 / Ellen supports »Defend Our Coast« / Best of Halifax

Sundance 2013 LogoWe have been eagerly waiting for some information about Ellen's latest projects »The East« and »Touchy Feely«, and today I finally have exciting news to pass along. The Sundance Institute announced that both movies are premiering at the Sundance Film Festival next year. While Lynn Shelton's »Touchy Feely« has been selected for the U.S. Dramatic competition, »The East« will play out of competition in the Premieres section. The latter is no surprise considering there already have been test screenings in Pasadena, California earlier this year and the 11-day festival in Utah has proven to be a good circuit for director Zal Batmanglij and his colleagues. With the premiere dates set, it's probably only a matter of days or weeks until we get to see more stills and the first trailers.

The East / U.S.A. (Director: Zal Batmanglij, Screenwriters: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling, Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson, Runtime: 116 minutes) — Someone is attacking big corporate CEOs and forcing them to consume harmful products they manufacture. An elite private intelligence firm is called into action and contracts ex-FBI agent, Sarah Moss to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective, The East, suspected to be responsible. Skilled, focused, and bent on success, Sarah goes undercover and dedicates herself to taking down the organization. She soon finds, however, that the closer she gets to the action, the more she sympathizes with the group’s charismatic leaders.

Sundance 2013 - The East Sundance 2013 - The East

Touchy Feely / U.S.A. (Director: Lynn Shelton, Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton, Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais, Runtime: 90 minutes) — What happens when a family’s delicate psychic balance suddenly unravels? Abby is a free-spirited massage therapist. Her brother, Paul, an emotional zombie, owns a flagging dental practice, where he enlists the assistance of his equally emotionally stunted daughter, Jenny. Suddenly, transformation touches everyone. Abby develops an uncontrollable aversion to bodily contact, which seriously hinders her chosen profession and the passionate love life she once shared with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, rumors of Paul’s “healing touch” begin to miraculously invigorate his practice. As Abby navigates through an identity crisis, her brother discovers a whole new side of himself.

The 2013 edition of the Sundance Film Festival runs January 17-27, 2013 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance Resort in Utah. It will screen 115 feature-length films representing 32 countries. The haul includes projects from 51 first-time filmmakers, including 27 films that are in competition. These projects were selected from 12,146 submissions, 429 more than last year. To purchase tickets, or for more information on the festival and its line-up of films, please visit www.sundance.org.

Update - 12/15/2012

The festival schedule has been released on the official website. Check the listing below for details on »The East« and »Touchy Feely« screenings. If you can't make it to Park City, the films will also be shown in a selected city on January 31st as part of the Sundance USA program. There will be a special screening for »Touchy Feely« at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois and another one for »The East« at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

January 1912:00 PMEccles Theatre, Park City, UTTouchy Feely
January 1909:30 PMRose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City, UTTouchy Feely
January 2003:30 PMEccles Theatre, Park City, UTThe East
January 2006:00 PMSundance Screening Room, Sundance, UTTouchy Feely
January 2108:30 AMLibrary Center Theatre, Park City, UTThe East
January 2109:00 AMEgyptian Theatre, Park City, UTTouchy Feely
January 2305:30 PMThe MARC, Park City, UTTouchy Feely
January 2408:45 PMLibrary Center Theatre, Park City, UTTouchy Feely
January 2506:00 PMSalt Lake City Main Library, Salt Lake City, UTThe East
January 2603:30 PMPeery's Egyptian Theater, Ogden, UTThe East
January 2710:00 AMSundance Screening Room, Sundance, UTThe East
January 3107:30 PMMusic Box Theatre, Chicago, ILTouchy Feely
January 3108:00 PMMichigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MIThe East
Defend Our Coast LogoIn mid-late October Ellen was among a string of celebrities and entertainers from Canada and the United States who added their names to a growing number of supporters of the »Defend Our Coast« rally and sit-in on October 22 to oppose pipelines from Alberta's tar sands to the B.C. coast. Organizers, however, made clear from the beginning the actors, actresses, singers and musicians would not be attending the event in Victoria, but instead were offering their written support in advance. The protest was against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and the proposed new Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, both of which would bring tar sands oil to the coast where it would be loaded onto oil tankers. Over 400 oil tankers would then be plying the sensitive and spectacular coastal waters of British Columbia. The Enbridge pipeline would travel through the Great Bear Rainforest and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would travel through the city of Vancouver. Aside from the danger of accidents involving the tankers, there is real concern about pipeline breaks and leaks doing serious harm to fragile eco-systems on the pipeline routes. This initiative was not just about pipelines however, but about the Canadian government’s efforts to rapidly expand the tar sands while eliminating many environmental protections implemented over many years, thus putting at risk the land, air and particularly the water on which local people have survived for generations. All this is set against the backdrop of the Canadian government’s abysmal record on climate change and the fact that the tar sands companies are aggressively lobbying for the expansion of the tar sands while fighting any action on climate change.

"We stand in solidarity with our northern neighbours who are gathering in Victoria to defend the coast and wisely oppose the equally toxic and destructive threat that is the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline," said actress and longtime environmental activist Daryl Hannah in a statement issued by Greenpeace Canada, which helped to organize the movement. Actor Mark Ruffalo added that "real energy independence would be moving ourselves to wind, water and sun and get rid of the toxic, outdated and antiquated fossil fuel paradigm that continues to trample First Nation and land owner rights and destroy fresh water, fresh air and farm land."

Was the venture a success? One of the goals with »Defend Our Coast« was to empower local community leaders to take the message home where they lived, showing the unbroken wall of opposition across the whole province. Organizers were indeed wildly successful at getting actions into newspapers across the province from Terrace to Abbotsford and Prince Rupert to Prince George. With more than 5,000 people (3,500 according to the police) showing up on a Monday at the provincial legislature in Victoria to voice their concerns, more than 3,500 people having signed an online pledge and hundreds of people participating in more than 70 actions in different communities shows that the people of BC are committed to doing whatever it takes to stop these pipelines. Eventually, it's a small success in a big fight, which will not be over until Canada's provincial and federal governments start working toward a green energy future that respects First Nations right to free, prior and informed consent and promotes and protects the health of the environment and local communities!

Defend Our CoastDefend Our CoastDefend Our Coast
Defend Our CoastDefend Our CoastDefend Our Coast
Defend Our CoastDefend Our CoastDefend Our Coast

On a side note, although she has made herself scarce in the past months, Ellen remains the most popular export in her hometown of Halifax. She was voted "Best Halifamous Person" for the fifth time in a row by the readers of the local weekly newspaper "The Coast". Congratulations!

Sundance 2013 - The East The Coast - 1st November-7th November 2012

Date: 12/04/2012 - 23:12:28 Posted by Dominik
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7 minutes of »Beyond« gameplay from the Gamescom 2012 / Update on »Freeheld« / »Nocturnal Emotions« podcast

Gamescom 2012Some fans of »Beyond: Two Souls« visiting this year's Gamescom in Cologne, Germany were likely a bit disappointed. Although Sony and Quantic Dream had a stand at the trade fair, most of the new stuff was revealed during several special demonstrations behind closed doors. David Cage attended these press-only events, recapped the behind-the-scenes video shown at the Comic-Con in July, and presented brand new gameplay footage. Luckily, journalists were allowed to make recordings, so we can have a look as well.

» Beyond: Two Souls - Gamescom 2012 - Sandbox Walkthrough (08/16/2012) «

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» Beyond: Two Souls - Gamescom 2012 - Presentation (08/26/2012) «

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In the new sandbox walkthrough clip we see Jodie Holmes being cornered by a group of SWAT officers and how Aiden is helping her get away. At the same time we learn what it is like to control the ghostly figure of Aiden and what his abilities are. As a ghost-like being he isn't affected by physical laws and can freely move around the area as well as through solid material. There is, however, one restriction in this context since Aiden always has to keep a certain distance from his human companion. Objects and living things he can interact with will be highlighted with a glowing aura of light around them. This, in turn, means the player has no real freedom of action - at least in this demo - and only can choose between the predefined options given by the game itself. Put another way, it likely won't be possible to use the same car as a weapon twice or influence the crash site of the helicopter. For these reasons the optically spectacular rescue operation appears to be rather static and less challenging, although it should be said that the choices made (or not made) will have an impact on the general outcome of a sequence. All in all, the developer team will hopefully do some further fine-tuning on this and add a time limit as well as wider possibilities of interaction to make the whole thing more dynamic and innovative.

On the fringes of the event and in talks with various online and print media Quantic Dream's CEO admitted that he wrote the entire 2000 page long script himself, with hundreds of pages specifically written for Ellen and her character of Jodie Holmes, and had nothing but praise for his leading actress. "What I really appreciate about Ellen is that she is absolutely sincere. She didn't give the minimum, thinking it was 'just a game'. She worked very hard, learning hundreds of pages by heart. She did her best on-stage, ending long days physically and emotionally exhausted. She didn't cheat: she truly gave everything she had for her character, the same way she would have worked on a film." In the September 2012 issue of Edge he pointed out that the female main protagonist should not be considered a sex object: "A lot of games take place in a teenager's fantasy world where the player has a gun and big muscles to save the world, where the bad guy will lose in the end and where women are sexual objects. They have big breasts and wear provocative clothes, but most of the time they never correspond in explicit sexual activity. [...] I wanted to write about this female character who is not a Barbie doll, but a human being - someone who has feelings, doubts and fears. Sexuality is a part of her life, like everyone else, but it is not her reason to live. [...] But I think that Ellen Page is someone incredibly charming, clever, complex, surprising, full of life - much more appealing than a doll with big breasts."

Despite the fact that »Beyond« will be a cinematic interactive movie game, David Cage stated that he isn't a fan of extensive cutscenes. "I'm really not into having 30-minute cutscenes in a game and you're just showing films. If you played Heavy Rain, there are very few cutscenes and very few moments where you don't have control. I'm interested in being able to tell the story through interactivity and how you can be an actor in the experience." Moreover, the story will have a strong focus on growing and relationships, especially the one between Jodie and Aiden. "I liked the idea that Aiden wouldn't be a pet or an obedient entity, but rather a wild beast that could be protective of Jodie, or jealous, possessive and violent. Aiden doesn't have any clue about human rules. He has a different understanding of life and death - he thinks that Jodie is his thing." While the game is going to have a multi-faceted ending, Cage believes that experiencing every possible outcome would dilute the actual experience. "It's the same approach as for Heavy Rain: Play it once and then don’t replay it. You can if you want, but I think the best way to experience the game is really to make choices and then never know what would have happened if you’d made a different choice. Because life is like this, and Beyond is the life of Jodie Holmes. For me, it’s more interesting to have players defining the life of Jodie – this is your version of the life of Jodie. And you can talk to other people and see their versions, and compare what you did, what you missed, what you saw, but never know what would have happened if… I think that’s the beauty of the thing." I can definitely see the point he is trying to make, but I doubt that the casual gamer is willing to pay 60-70 U.S. dollars for a PS3 game just to play it once. Even if the second or third run will be full of "let's see what happens" or "go to the right instead of the left" moments, I think it is still interesting to learn the alternative ways certain scenarios play out. Overall, we will know whether all the hype surrounding »Beyond« was justified, when the game is released in early 2013.

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

According to I'm Not Obsessed, Ellen has been cast alongside Daniel Radcliffe, Jonah Hill, Emma Stone and Liam Hemsworth in »Look Who’s Coming to Dinner«, to be produced by comedian/actor Ben Stiller. The horror-meets-musical comedy will start production in the fall of 2013 or early 2014 and centers on two business men (Jonah Hill and Donta Storey) who seek out a wealthy banker (Daniel Radcliffe) for financial assistance. After being denied a loan, the banker’s assistant (Ellen Page) invites them to dinner… one that they’ll never forget! However, since only one single website reported about this project and there is no official word from either Paramount Pictures or any other source yet, take everything with a grain of salt at the moment.

FreeheldOn August 22 Deadline brought us a new update on the feature film adaptation of Cynthia Wade's Oscar-winning documentary »Freeheld« that has been planned for a while. Incognito Pictures, a new production company led by Ex-PayPal executive / financier Jack Selby and producer Scott Stone, has come through with the money needed to produce the film. Only a few days later screenwriter Ron Nyswaner then revealed on his official website that Peter Sollett (»Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist«) will be the new director, replacing the formerly attached Catherine Hardwicke. Although the status on the project has already been changed to "pre-production" on IMDb, it is unlikely that shooting will begin soon due to a lack of other cast members such as the second leading actress playing Stacie Andree’s older partner Laurel Hester.

Nocturnal EmotionsIn the middle of last week Har Mar Superstar released the second episode of his »Nocturnal Emotions« podcast entitled "O Canada" featuring a tiny actress from The True North. Ellen joins him to share her love of »Degrassi«, get really real about her first movie role in »Pit Pony«, and drops a little Halifax history lesson. She also tells us about her recent embarrassing moment on Chelsea Lately and plays a game of Let Me Ruin Your Favorite Song. You can download and listen to the 50 minutes long podcast on earwolf.com and iTunes.

Date: 09/24/2012 - 20:06:36 Posted by Dominik
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»Beyond: Two Souls« panel at the Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego / New behind-the-scenes featurette

Comic-Con 2012On Thursday last week, a panel discussion for »Beyond: Two Souls« took place at the Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego. Indigo Prophecy / Heavy Rain creator David Cage was present at the event alongside the star of the video game, Ellen Page, and newly revealed co-star Kadeem Hardison (»A Different World«). He will be playing a character named Cole Freeman, a U.S. government official who investigates paranormal activity and eventually ends up raising Ellen's character Jodie Holmes. While the rumour concerning actor Willem Dafoe's involvement was finally disproved, a new behind-the-scenes clip showed Page with another actor, Eric Winter, both in full performance-capture suits and in a range of scenarios, from conversing around a dinner table to maneuvering in what appeared to be an earthquake. The identity of Winter's character has not been disclosed, but judging from the video footage he could be a close friend or even a love interest for Jodie.

» GameSpot - Beyond: Two Souls - Comic-Con Panel (07/12/2012) «

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» Beyond: Two Souls - Comic-Con Panel Highlights (07/12/2012) «

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Although the panel was pretty restrictive with in-depth details regarding content of the game itself (except the fact that Jodie will pilot a submarine at some point), the three participants onstage took the opportunity to talk about the process of weaving together an emotional gameplay experience that has a deep narrative and even shared some private stuff like their video game experience. David Cage revealed that Hardison outed himself as a serious video game fan while talking for 45 minutes about his experience playing Heavy Rain during their first meeting. Ellen in turn admitted that, outside of playing around with the original Playstation console, she is a lapsed gamer. "Other than a very intense relationship with the Sega Genesis when I was a kid, video games ended for me when I was 16. That was a product of school, work, life," the Canadian actress said in response to a fan question about her interest in taking on a video game acting role. "When it came along, my brain didn't even know how to process this opportunity," she added with respect to the wonderful chance of being a part of this unique project. "At first it was perplexing, just what it meant and what David was doing. But I was fascinated." In fact, she couldn't have envisioned two years prior to her work on »Beyond« what she would even been doing: Acting on a virtual set in Paris, surrounded by 70 cameras and covered in body-tight performance capture gear. But after reading the script, the filming turned out to be an incredible experience, "it completely exceeded my expectations and was completely fulfilling as an actor. [...] I was so blown away and so moved, truly moved, by what they have created and the world they had created, the scope of the technology and the beauty of the game." At the same time, she thinks that what Cage has written is so powerful and so beautiful.

» Beyond: Two Souls - Behind The Scenes Footage (07/12/2012) «

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Speaking of that story, David let loose that he spent a full year simply writing the 2000-page script of the game, and that it required 160 actors over the course of ten months to film in its entirety. From the outset, he pictured Ellen’s disturbed character of Sherry from »Mouth to Mouth« as inspiration. By the time he was done writing, Cage once again confirmed he could not see anyone else playing the part. During the Q&A session, a fan inquired about the inspiration behind Cage's story for »Beyond«. Whereas Heavy Rain's narrative was inspired by his experiences as a new father, he said that the upcoming game was partly inspired by the death of a family member. "I lost someone in my family that I was really close to. It was a shock. This was the first person I lost that way. People who have lost someone close will know what I'm talking about. I've never been a religious guy, don't really believe in god, but I guess I needed to find some meaning to this experience. For me, writing this story was a way to do that." Overall, he wants to write games that are more personal and have more meaning than the regular video games out there. While Heavy Rain's theme was, “How far would you go to protect the one you love?,” »Beyond: Two Souls« goes a little deeper and will answer the question "What’s beyond?".

The gameplay is described as "fully interactive," and not something to idly watch. You will switch back and forth between Jodie Holmes and Aiden, the entity from beyond that has possessed her from the time of her childhood, over the course of 15 years of Jodie’s life. Aiden will be able to walk through walls, possess people, and interact with the environment. Gamers will not only participate in this experience, but also direct it with in-game decisions having an impact on the course of the game. Furthermore, there will be lots of dialogue between characters to flesh them out and make them more real to the player. In this way, David Cage and his development team at Quantic Dream hope to create a truly unique and emotional experience for all gamers combining the latest in performance capture technology and amazing acting talent.

Later that day, Ellen and David Cage met with journalists including IGN's Greg Miller and X-Play’s Blair Herter to chat about »Beyond«, which is currently slated for release in early 2013 exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Check out the videos below to learn about overwhelming challenges of bringing the world and characters of this ambitious, next-gen ghost story to life.

» IGN - Ellen Page & David Cage Comic-Con Interview (07/12/2012) «

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» G4tv - Ellen Page & David Cage Comic-Con Interview (07/12/2012) «

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Due to the lack of new in-game scenes during the Comic-Con presentation, I also strongly recommend taking a look at the following video provided by Vorzocker. It features 16 minutes of gameplay and some sequences which weren't part of the other 23 minutes long video leaked in June. [ Video removed at the request of Sony ]

» Vorzocker - Beyond: Two Souls 16min Gameplay (07/02/2012) «

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© Vorzocker / Sony Pictures Film und Fernseh Produktions GmbH. All rights reserved.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's HopeIn line with the current Comic-Con festival, I would like to draw your attention to Morgan Spurlock's »Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope«. While the documentary explores the amazing cultural phenomenon by following the lives of five attendees as they descend upon the ultimate geek mecca at San Diego Comic-Con 2010 in the first place, there are also extended interviews with some of the folks seen in the professional interview portions of the film – and even some that were actually cut out of the final version. Running a few minutes each, the subjects include Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Felicia Day, Kevin Smith, Ellen Page, and many more, some talking specifically about Comic-Con, some more about geek culture and their connection to it in general. Check the reviews on The Blu-ray Blog and IGN for more information!

Date: 07/15/2012 - 21:44:42 Posted by Dominik
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