ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Da-Dn)
Daddy Day Care
Dancer in the Dark
Dangerous Lives of Altar...
Daredevil
Dark Blue
Darkness Falls
Death to Smoochy
Deep End, the
Deliver Us From Eva
Detroit Rock City
Deuce Bigalow
Dick
Die Another Day
Dinner Game, the
Dinosaur
Dish, the
Disney's The Kid
Divine Ryans, the
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya

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Archived Video Reviews (Da - Dn)
 

DADDY DAY CARE - C
Starring:
Eddie Murphy, Steve Zahn, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Garlin, Regina King, Lacey Chabert, Laura Kightlinger, Kevin Nealon
Directed by: Steve Carr
Comedy, 92 min (PG) (Columbia, 2003)


In recent years, Eddie Murphy's family movie career has been more consistent than his adult-fare (think Shrek versus I Spy, Dr. Dolittle 2 versus Showtime), but Daddy Day Care is a quick kick in the shins to that streak. Taking a cue from 1983's Mr. Mom, Daddy Day Care casts Murphy as an advertising executive who, after getting the pink slip, turns his home into an affordable childcare alternative to the strict Chapman Academy (overlooked by Anjelica Huston in full Witches-style viciousness). As in too many recent Murphy flicks, the former Saturday Night Live star is the straight man here, almost sleepwalking through a role that could have easily benefited from a dose of enthusiasm. There are some amusing bits courtesy of Jeff Garlin (TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Murphy's partner and a Star Trek-loving mail clerk-turned-nanny played by Steve Zahn (who voiced the bear in Dr. Dolittle 2), but far too much of the humour here is supposed to be drawn from the gaggle of "cute" child actors. Too bad there's only so much comedy that can be drawn from temper tantrums, sugar highs, separation anxiety, cutesy faces, toilet training, loud wailing and crying fits before they become about as irritating as diaper rash. (top) (back)

DANCER IN THE DARK - B-
Starring:
Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Joel Grey, Zeljko Ivanic, Jean-Marc Barr
Directed by:
Lars von Trier
Drama, 141 min (14A)
(Fine Line, 2000)

The thought of remaking 1996's haunting Breaking the Waves as a musical seems like a bizarre proposition, but that's essentially what Waves director Lars von Trier attempted to do with Dancer in the Dark, an overtly sentimental film marked by an overwhelming sadness and thrilling musical numbers. Icelandic singer Bjork (who also wrote the film's music) gives a stunning, natural performance as Selma, a Czech immigrant factory worker with a degenerative eye problem that is making her go blind. Working all hours, Selma is trying to raise money for an operation so that her son won't suffer from the same fate. Her only escape is through the musicals that play in her head and, even when the singing and dancing numbers jar away from the rest of the drama, von Trier captures the Bob Fosse moments with invention and spirit. Overlong, with a lead character that comes across as too much of a martyr, Dancer in the Dark is flawed, but it is also unlike anything else out there, both for better and for worse. (top) (back)

THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS - B-
Starring:
Emile Hirsh, Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, Jodie Foster, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tyler Long, Jake Richardson
Directed by: Peter Care
Drama, 105 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2002)


Coming of age films aren't often associated with innovation, so The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys at least deserves props for throwing superhero animated sequences to the mix, each one realized by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane as a gripping extension of the characters' fantasies and emotional states. Based on a 1991 novel by the late Chris Fuhrman and based around a private Catholic school, Altar Boys stars newcomer Emil Hirsh as Francis, a teenage budding comic book artist with a blossoming romance with a girl with a secret (Jena Malone) and a best friend (Kieran Culkin) who, bored with his damaged home life, is fond of life-threatening stunts. Jodie Foster and Vincent D'Onofrio are also on hand as a strict one-legged nun and non-helpful priest, respectively, but they wisely don't distract from the compelling performances of their younger costars, particularly the expressive and tender Malone (who had similar roles in Life As a House and Donnie Darko). Because of this, one can't help but to cut Altar Boys a little slack, even if Peter Care's direction is a tad on the heavy-handed side, all too often going for blunt emotional cues and failing to convince the audience why or how, exactly, the cougar plays into it all. (top) (back)

DAREDEVIL - C
Starring:
Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jennifer Garner, Colin Ferrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith, Kevin Smith
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Action, 103 min (14A) (Fox, 2003)


In Daredevil, Ben Affleck plays a blind superhero, but the one here that seems to have vision impairment is writer-director Steven Johnson (1998's Simon Birch). How else can one explain his blindness to the programmed detachment of his action scenes, the silliness of his story and the complete miscasting of his leading man? Affleck, a party-boy actor without a glimmer of darkness in his star persona, looks awkward and unconvincing here as Matt Murdoch, a blind lawyer who, at night, transforms himself into Daredevil, a vengeance-minded superhero relying on his heightened remaining senses to serve justice to anyone who didn't get it in the courtroom. Johnson got a couple of elements of Daredevil right - Alias' Jennifer Garner is well-cast as martial artist Elektra (Daredevil's foe/love interest) and Colin Ferrell has wily fun as the assassin Bullseye - but the supposedly dark aspects of the story recall warmed-over Batman, the Spider-Man-style leaps from sky-scrapers lack enthusiasm and Affleck's Catwoman-inspired outfit is unintentionally comical. Perhaps even more problematic is the storyline, a hodgepodge of paper-thin action, stiff dialogue and a head villain (Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin) about as memorable as a brick. (top) (back)

DARK BLUE - B-
Starring:
Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Lolita Davidovich, Kurupt, Master P
Directed by: Ron Shelton
Action, 118 min (14A) (MGM, 2003)


Having already tackled cinematic meditations on boxing (2000's Play It to the Bone), golf (1996's Tin Cup), baseball (1994's Cobb and 1988's Bull Durham) and basketball (1992's White Men Can't Jump), director Ron Shelton steps out of the playing field with Dark Blue and into a world where the lines between one team and the next are fuzzier than a tennis ball. It's the world of 1992 Los Angeles, in the moments just before the Rodney King verdict drove sections of the city into a fireball of violence, and a newbie detective (Felicity's Scott Speedman) is being exposed to the darker side of law enforcement courtesy of his hard-living, justice-seeking partner (Kurt Russell). Aside from the historical backdrop, Dark Blue bares a strong resemblance to Narc and Training Day (screenwriter David Ayer wrote both Day and Blue), but the weakness here isn't so much over-familiarity as it is Shelton's melodramatic take on the story's crime-doesn't-pay storyline. Because of this, Dark Blue's pacing suffers - the film moves forward in jumps and stalls - and the film doesn't have the emotional impact it aspires to, something of a crime considering the intense and rock-solid work by the often-underrated Russell. (top) (back)

DARKNESS FALLS - D+
Starring:
Emma Caulfield, Chaney Kley, Andrew Bayly, Emily Browning, Joshua Anderson, Lee Cormic, Peter Curtin, Daniel Daperis
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Horror, 86 min (14A) (Columbia, 2003)


The Tooth Fairy has been given a bad rap recently. First, her title was used as a nickname for Ralph Fiennes' psychopath in Red Dragon and now the fantastical woman of dentistry is being envisioned as a child-murdering demon in Darkness Falls, a thuddingly routine and stunted horror movie that plays like moldy Stephen King cheese. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman with the misguided notion that poor lighting is all you need for scares, Darkness Falls tells the tale of a kindly old woman who cursed the villagers of the title town after they mistakenly burned her as a witch 150 years earlier. Since then, the "Tooth Fairy" has been responsible for many unsolved deaths, killing children and others when she descends to nab young ones' last baby teeth. One survivor of her attack - played by the blank Chaney Kley - has spend 12 years hiding in the light and now he has returned home to help protect the younger brother of his childhood sweetheart (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Emma Caulfield) from a same fate. Caulfield has her charms, but they are all for naught here - buried well below the awful cinematography, toothache-painful screenplay, monotonous acting and dull villain. What's next: Attack of the Easter Bunny? (top) (back)

DEATH TO SMOOCHY - C-
Starring:
Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart, Vincent Schiavelli, Michael Rispoli
Directed by:
Danny DeVito
Comedy, 108 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)


Much of the success of a satire rests on timing and the laborious Death to Smoochy - a riff on children's entertainment - arrives at least four years after the collected desire to mutilate Barney the Dinosaur hit its apex. Even if its satire were timelier, however, it is doubtful that Death to Smoochy would have been any less DOA. Robin Williams, adding an evil spin to his usual manic side that isn't believable for a second, plays "Rainbow" Randolf Smiley, a happy-clown host of a popular kid's program whose practice of accepting bribes from parents gets him arrested and replaced on-air by Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton), a squeaky-clean do-gooder who favours stuffing himself into a purple rhino suit and going by the name Smoochy. Director-costar Danny DeVito has made his share of successful black comedies (The War of the Roses, Throw Momma From the Train), but here he too often substitutes obnoxiousness for wit, repeating the same moldy gags over and over again and leaving most of his actors to either play exhausted stereotypes (Catherine Keener as an opportunistic executive) or question marks with about all of the depth of The Telebtubbies (Norton's Sheldon remains vague and hollow throughout). It's deadly. (top) (back)

THE DEEP END -
B+
Starring:
Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Raymond J. Barry, Josh Lucas, Peter Donat, Tamara Hope, Holmes Osborne
Directed by:
David Siegel, Scott McGehee
Suspense, 99 min (14A) (Fox Searchlight, 2001)

Tilda Swinton gives a stellar, fierce and zestful performance in The Deep End and this absorbing thriller, as slightly far-fetched as it may be, takes its cues from the actress, developing ideas and emotions with a subtle, swimming-just-beneath-the-surface tension. Cowritten and directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee, The Deep End casts Swinton as Margaret Hall, the earnest Lake Tahoe mother of three children whose husband, a naval officer, spends most of his time at sea. When the dead body of her son's gay lover shows up along the beach, Margaret fears that her offspring (The Virgin Suicides' Jonathan Tucker) was involved and she tries to hide the body, but this only leads to more trouble, namely a charismatic extortionist (sizzling Goran Visnjic, from TV's ER) who shows up trying to blackmail her for $50,000. Throughout the twisty story, Swinton is never less than stunning - marked by an escalating desperation to save her son, keep secrets and find someone with whom she can share an overload of emotions - and Siegel and McGehee's muted tone (complemented by some exemplary watery cinematography) works marvelously in illustrating just how motivating, calculated and all-consuming the maternal will can be. (top) (back)


DELIVER US FROM EVA - C-
Starring:
Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J, Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, Meagan Good, Dartanyan Edmonds, Mel Jackson, Duane Martin
Directed by: Gary Hardwick
Comedy, 106 min (PG) (Universal, 2003)


Gabrielle Union last partnered with writer-director Gary Hardwick in 2001's The Brothers and, despite the familiarity of the material, the film provided the sunny Union with an opportunity to sparkle. Unfortunately, any goodwill the duo developed with The Brothers is thrown out the window with Deliver Us From Eva, a cruel and stereotypical reworking of The Taming of the Shrew. Union gives a strained and sour performance here as Eva, a strict health inspector with incredible control over the lives of her three sisters, often sabotaging their relationships to the disappointment and frustration of the men in their lives. Enter rapper LL Cool J (here billed as James Todd Smith) as a smooth-talking, well-buffed ladies man hired by Eva's brother-in-laws and wannabe brother-in-law to bring Eva under control. Since LL Cool J and Union have an easy chemistry, Deliver Us From Eva turns out to be one of those few films that would have actually been superior had it followed traditional romantic comedy blueprints. Instead, there's the unwieldy backdrop of deception and blackmail that only gets more irritating and mean-spirited as the film moves forward. For a better Shrew adaptation, stick to 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You. (top) (back)

DETROIT ROCK CITY -
C-
Starring:
Edward Furlong, Giuseppe Andrews, Sam Huntington, James De Bello, Lin Shaye, Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, Shannon Tweed
Directed by:
Adam Rifkin
Comedy, 95 min (18A) (New Line, 1999)

Die-hard KISS fans who still believe that the band's loud and crude rock 'n' roll tunes are heaven on Earth are bound to enjoy Detroit Rock City. Everyone else is advised to proceed with caution because Detroit Rock City is essentially a KISS promotional tool posing as a movie and, by about the mid-way mark, even the film's minor pleasures have gone the way of the 1970s. Telling the story of four Midwestern high school kids (led by American History X's Edward Furlong) who have formed their own KISS cover band and whose lifelong dream is to attend a KISS concert, Detroit Rock City earns points for its rockin' soundtrack, early scenes of rock 'n' roll spirit and non-nostalgic look at the '70s, but the film wears out its welcome about as quickly as the latest teeny-bopper boy band thanks to predictable scenes too innumerable to count and lazy screenwriting that shamelessly cribs from pictures like Porky's and American Pie and aims for extremely obvious targets like disco music and religious fanatics. (top) (back)


DEUCE BIGALOW: MALE GIGOLO - C
Starring:
Rob Schneider, William Forsythe, Eddie Griffin, Oded Fehr, Arija Bareikis, Gail O'Grady, Richard Riehle, Chi Chi La Rue
Directed by:
Mike Mitchell
Comedy, 88 min
(14A) (Touchstone, 1999)

Ex-Saturday Night Live copy guy Rob Schneider makes a surprisingly appealing hero in this unsurprisingly stupid comedy. Executive produced by none other than Schneider's buddy Adam Sandler (how's that for credentials!), the film casts Schneider as the title character, a lowly Los Angeles fish tank cleaner who winds up becoming a "man-whore" to all sorts of bizarre "she-johns" (a giant whose head doesn't fit on the screen, a manly fatso, a woman with Tourette's syndrome…) in order to pay for a demolished apartment. Amateurishly directed by Mike Mitchell, this lowbrow extravaganza is too tame to really offend, but the screenplay (co-written by Schneider) consists of characters that were drawn with crayons and a woefully contrived climax that reeks of Big Daddy at its worst. This likely won't matter to Schneider and Sandler's intended audience. What will matter is a joke-to-laugh ratio far too low for a film this dumb. (top) (back)

DICK - B-
Starring:
Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Will Ferrell, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Teri Garr, Harry Shearer, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by:
Andrew Fleming
Comedy, 94 min
(14A) (Columbia Tristar, 1999)

All the President's Men (1976) may have you thinking otherwise, but this inspired comedy reveals the truth about the Watergate scandal: Behind the work of Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein were the efforts of two endearingly dim teenagers (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who stumbled upon the scandal and leaked details of the conspiracy without realizing - for the most part - what was going on. Needless to say, Dick's greatest pleasures lie in its tweaking of all we know about the Watergate players and, though the film is not as witty as it would like to be (there are too many sophomoric gags for that), the cast is an absolute delight, particularly Dunst, Williams, Clueless' Dan Hedaya as Nixon and Will Farrell and Bruce McCulloch as Woodward and Bernstein. (top) (back)

DIE ANOTHER DAY - B-
Starring:
Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Samantha Bond, Michael Madsen, Rick Yune
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Action, 132 min (14A) (MGM, 2002)


The last couple of 007 films - 1999's The World is Not Enough and 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies - were commandeered by directors who weren't all that comfortable with winking action. Die Another Day's Lee Tamahori, however, is clearly willing to have fun with a franchise and make clever nods to Bond's past (if anything, the Once Were Warriors and Along Came a Spider director has too much fun). In Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan once again proves that he was born to seduce and smirk as James Bond and the film does a fairly good job of humanizing its hero, opening with a secret agent failure that leaves him as a victim of torture in North Korea. It isn't too long, though, before it is back to the basics - fast cars, fast women, cool gadgets, cheesy sexual innuendo - as Bond is stripped of his license and jets around the world in pursuit of a diamond billionaire (Toby Stephens) intent on building a really big laser in space. Oscar-winner Halle Berry is too self-conscious as Bond girl Jinx and the story unfortunately turns into a goofy cartoon in the third act, but it is comforting to see a long-running series - unlike, say, Star Trek - that still understands the importance of simply providing a good time, logic be damned. (top) (back)

DINNER GAME, THE - B
Starring:
Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Foot, Francis Huster
Directed by:
Frances Veber
Comedy, 81 min
(14A) (Lions Gate Films, 1999)

If you think the French farce is a thing of the past, take a bite out of this amusing comedy and remind yourself just how entertaining the genre can be. Written and directed by Frances Veber, The Dinner Game chronicles one disastrous evening in the life of a smug book editor (Thierry Lhermitte) who invites a blundering dolt (Jacques Villeret) over for dinner as part of a joke. Alas, the joke backfires on the joker, leaving almost every aspect of his life to be destroyed by his guest. A French cousin of Dumb and Dumber, The Dinner Game never really breaks free of its stage origins (Veber first wrote it for the theatre under its French title Le diner de cons) and some of the stunts are too dim to connect with the funny bone. That said, hit-and-miss jokes are practically a staple of this genre and Veber maintains a satisfying laugh-to-cringe ratio. Just as importantly, he couples the film's humour with a warm and sincere heart, drawing a dopey but sincere performance from Villeret. (top) (back)

DINOSAUR - B
Starring:
D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Julianna Margulies, Joan Plowright, Della Reese, Max Casella, Samuel E. Wright
Directed by:
Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag
Animated, 82 min
(PG) (Walt Disney, 2000)

With Dinosaur, Disney has taken computer animation to dizzying new heights. Breathlessly incorporating computer-made but completely lifelike dinosaurs into real-life backgrounds, the film gets off to an awesome start, wordlessly following a dinosaur egg as it is removed from its nest, stolen by a hungry predator, grabbed by a pterodactyl, and accidentally dropped in the trees. And then, well, then the prehistoric creatures open their mouths and a little bit of the magic is lost. Five years and a reported $140 million US in the making, Dinosaur is packed with marvelous visuals, but it is also saddled with routine dialogue and a generic, Tarzan-meets-The Land Before Time storyline about a lost iguanodon (D.B. Sweeney) who is adopted by a family of lemurs and then goes on a mission to find a new nesting ground when their island is destroyed by meteors. Dinosaur is an enjoyable picture and worth seeing, but given the revolutionary visuals, one can't help but wish it had been more. (top) (back)

THE DISH -
B
Starring: Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton, Billie Brown, Roy Billing, Taylor Kane, Genevieve Mooy, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long
Directed by: Rob Sitch
Comedy, 101 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)


Neil Armstrong's monumental moon-walk is often considered to be an all-American moment in history but, as this gentle and warmly nostalgic film points out, nobody on Earth would have been able to witness the live lunar steps were it not for a group of small-town Aussies manning a radio-telescope dish in the middle of a sheep field. Based on the real-life events that led up to July 20, 1969, this light comic tale focuses on the group of men - led by a Mr. Rogers-esque Sam Neill and an American NASA geek (Seinfeld's Patrick Warburton) - in charge of the massive dish that, at the time, was the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Dish director Rob Sitch last brought us the exceedingly wacky The Castle and, because of this, it wouldn't have been surprising if he had taken a similarly campy approach to this story. Thankfully, however, the daftness is kept to a suitable level and is primarily limited to supporting characters like the dim security guard and excitable mayor (Roy Billing), with the bulk of the wackiness well tempered with affecting performances and a likeable "no worries, mate" attitude. The Dish does come up a little empty in terms of gripping drama, but its heart and undeniable Australian charm are in the right places. (top) (back)

DISNEY'S THE KID - B
Starring:
Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Jean Smart, Chi McBride, Daniel Von Bargen
Directed by:
Jon Turteltaub
Family, 101 min (G) (Walt Disney, 2000)

Beyond the awkward title and away from the blunt direction of Jon Turteltaub, Disney's The Kid is actually a thoughtful and mature little picture. The film casts Bruce Willis as Russ, an emotionally emancipated image consultant who has spent the greater part of his life trying to forget his roots. He can't forget them any longer, however, when the child he once was, a chubby 8-year-old named Rusty (Spencer Breslin), suddenly appears out of nowhere. The film is based on a fantasy premise more than a little reminiscent of Big, but the actors and screenwriter Audrey Wells clearly understand what is necessary for a family film to actually appeal to the whole family. Not only does Disney's The Kid have enough laughs to entertain young ones, but it is marked with honest truths about who we were, who we thought we'd be and who we are, all of it brought to life by Willis' charmingly light performance and the unaffected work of young Breslin. (top) (back)

THE DIVINE RYANS - B-
Starring:
Pete Postlethwaite, Jordan Harvey, Robert Joy, Wendel Meldrum, Mary Walsh, Richard Boland, Marguerite McNeil
Directed by:
Stephen Reynolds
Drama, 95 min (14A) (Red Sky , 1999)

Everything that is so charming and wonderfully eccentric about Newfoundland is proudly on display in this charming and wonderfully eccentric Canadian film. Adapted from Wayne Johnston's 1990 novel by the author himself, the film tells the story of Draper Doyle Ryan (Jordan Harvey), a geeky nine-year-old living in St. John's in 1966 who desperately wants to be a goalie for the Montreal Canadians but is still trying to cope with the death of his father (Robert Joy), the rules of his disapproving aunt (Mary Walsh) and the ever-so-quirky uncle who lives upstairs (In the Name of the Father's Pete Postlethwaite). In his feature debut, director Stephen Reynolds establishes a sweet and gentle mood, allowing the film's many over-the-top and stereotypical characters to be partially masked by a smooth sense of storytelling. The best scenes in the film are between Draper Doyle and his outcast uncle, both of whom share a disdain for those around them and help ensure The Divine Ryans has a clear, beating heart. (top) (back)

DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD - C-
Starring:
Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen
Directed by: Callie Khouri
Drama, 116 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)


Deep fried in Southern eccentricity and melodrama to the point that it nearly causes indigestion, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood illustrates just what happens when an influential screenwriter gets overwhelmed by her directorial debut, namely performances and story points that are all across the board (in this case, the victim is Callie Khouri, who scripted 1991's Thelma and Louise). Based on a 1996 best-seller by Rebecca Wells and often resembling little more than a hodgepodge of How to Make An American Quilt, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Joy Luck Club, Steel Magnolias, Now & Then, Riding in Cars With Boys and so on, this comedy-drama focuses on the complex relationship between Sidda (Sandra Bullock), a Manhattan playwright, and her moody mother Vivi (Ellen Burstyn). Sick of the fighting, Vivi's lifelong friends (Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan and Shirley Knight) kidnap Sidda and take her home to Louisiana to help her get a clearer picture of her mother's past. Unfortunately, Khouri is unable to sift any real emotion out of the muddled performances, with an overwrought Ashley Judd milking her scenes as a young Vivi and the obvious performances by the older actresses almost approaching camp. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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