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John’s Horror Corner: Hatching (2022; aka Pahanhautoja), an emotionally rough Finnish horror that feels as much like a dark contemporary fantasy.

September 28, 2022

MY CALL:  A lovely, twisted fairy tale for lovers of dark fantasy, emotionally challenging content, and gross transformation.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Hatching: Another likewise bizarre film comes to mind as a perfect double-feature option… Vivarium (2019). Maybe even Men (2022) as well. For more “family therapy” horror, go for The Twin (2022), Relic (2020), The Dark and the Wicked (2020), The Lodge (2019), Hereditary (2018), Pyewacket (2017), The Witch (2016), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Babadook (2014), The Uninvited (2009), The Good Son (1993), Pet Sematary (1989) and The Stepfather (1987).

Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is overly concerned with pleasing her mother (Sophia Heikkilä; Dual), and her mother seems overly concerned with Tinja’s gymnastics competition, her lifestyle video blog, and appearances. Montages from her mother’s blog are suggestive of a very image-concerned way of life. And more than just being a bit superficial, her mother is also having an affair and manipulating her children, placing some of her own moral burden on Tinja.

After putting an injured bird out of its misery, Tinja recovers an orphaned egg in its nest and brings it home to care for it. Tinja’s egg unexpectedly is growing. As her relationship with her mother becomes more strained, the egg grows larger and becomes her source of comfort.

When the egg hatches it’s somewhat gruesome as a glazed demonic claw frees a gangly bird-like humanoid from its massive shell. Like an evil mutant Muppet, the creature looks great! The monstrosity is asymmetrically disfigured, oddly a bit cute, and has glimmers of human-like mutations (e.g., molar teeth embedded in stacks in the rear beak). It clearly needs, even desires, to be mothered and loved.

There’s something fantastical about the egg’s existence, and how we the audience are to submit that the parents manage not to notice an eventually 3-foot egg on Tinja’s bed. Even with clueless parents, one would expect the plumage or the obvious smell or animal feeding evidence to eventually spark a conversation—but no such threat of discovery seems to exist.  All the while, the creature is transforming ever more human—like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (1986), but in reverse. The process is macabre, but oddly soulful, even if viewed through a twisted looking glass.

Tinja bathes the beast, and even feeds it in the very manner as a mother bird would feed a hatchling. The creature receives the kind of care Tinja likely wishes she received, and the creature acts violently in Tinja’s best interest. It’s a sick love, but it’s one we can instantly understand. Essentially, all of the relationships in this movie are strained. And the most kind relationships are those that shouldn’t be. The film paints kindness as something that never seems to hit its most deserving target.

Very cool visual effects, by the way. Gross, oozy depictions of drool, bodily functions and flaps of flesh are just frequent enough to remind you this is as much horror as dark contemporary fantasy. Most horror attacks you with violence and gore and cruelty, whereas this movie is an assault on your emotions and sense of kindness. The whole experience is weirdly satisfying, yet generally uncomfortable. I realize that may not make sense to you readers… but when you watch it, you’ll get it. It may not pack the emotional gut punch of many A24 releases (e.g., Midsommar, The Lodge, Hereditary, Men), but this is emotional brutality in the neatly folded visage of a Stepford Wives fantasy Youtube Channel.

Can I just say, for her first feature film director and story writer Hanna Bergholm has done an outstanding job! This is a gorgeously made film in all dimensions both behind and before the camera, and both by cast and crew. Strongly recommended, especially to those enjoy truly bizarre dark fantasy with elements of science fiction or horror.

John’s Horror Corner: Black Magic 2 (1976; aka Gou hun jiang tou), an Indonesian Shaw Brothers movie black magic and sultry lady zombies.

September 27, 2022

MY CALL: If you love Asian shock cinema, then this movie is like an art history lecture—it’s not exciting, but you can appreciate it anyway. The content itself is more illustrative of lines drawn in the sand that would later be honed, bested and perfected by more provocatively gory successors. This movie likely won’t shock you. But you’ll see where those that did found some of their inspiration. MORE MOVIES LIKE Black Magic 2:  For yet more bonkers Asian horror, consider Mystics in Bali (1981; aka Leák), The Boxer’s Omen (1983; aka Mo, Black Magic 4), Seeding of a Ghost (1983; aka Zhong gui), The Devil’s Sword (1984), Evil Dead Trap (1988; aka Shiryô no wana), Lady Terminator (1989) and, perhaps, Black Magic (1975).

So, is this your first Shaw Brothers cult classic? Not 60 seconds deep into this Shaw Brothers release and we are treated to a skinny-dipping crocodile attack scene leading into a crocodile hunting and gory gutting scene. Yup, boobs, blood and guts for all. Especially boobs, there’s a lot of that.

Drs. Chi Chung Peng (Lung Ti; The Warrior’s Way, Black Magic, The Legend of Drunken Master) and Shi Chen-Sheng (Wei-Tu Lin; Black Magic, Corpse Mania, The Flying Guillotine) have discovered a pulsating incurable infection which, after much doubt, they can only attribute to black magic.

The malady is the work of the evil magician Kang Cong (Lieh Lo; Black Magic, Super Cop), who raises the dead to serve as his zombie slaves. Kang is a classic cat-stroking villain, literally. Unaware of his evil intentions, our doctor protagonists seek his help and, in turn, Kang sends beautiful zombie ladies to do his bidding. Yeah, it’s as shallow as it sounds… hence the abundant boobs. Did I mention that this ancient black magician remains ever youthful by consuming breast milk? Yeah, it’s like that.

Other than seeing Kang revivify corpses by nailing spikes into their heads, there is some brief disturbing imagery of a monstrous childbirth, a lot of voodoo doll-based death, festering wounds, time lapse decaying corpse shots, and infections with wriggling worms. Needless to say, director Meng-Hua Ho (The Oily Maniac, Black Magic, The Flying Guillotine) was doing his very best to entertain fans of bizarre horror.

Despite all the supernatural jazz, the scoring, tone, direction and style give this movie more the feel of a 70s cop movie, like a crime investigation thriller… but with lots of nudity, bewitched women, some horror gore, and some sultry lady zombies.

I’m not sure what I expected here. I guess I was hoping to find the inspiration for The Boxer’s Omen (1983), or something in that vein. I’ll bet this movie felt a lot more wild in the 70s. But… not today, it doesn’t. So for me this was just okay. I guess it was kind of a fun ride to see an early influencer for Asian black magic cult cinema. But oh so tame compared to shock cinema spawned from the 80s.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 451 – The Scenes Where A Character Jumps in Slow Motion to Catch Something/Someone Draft

September 27, 2022

You can download or stream the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome.

Mark and Nicholas Rehak (@TheRehak on Twitter) draft their favorite moments that feature a character jumping in slow motion to catch someone or something. In this episode, they talk about the slow motion jumping scenes in Encino Man, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Army of Darkness, Cliffhanger, Guardians of the Galaxy and more! Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!You can download the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou (1987), a very Nightmare on Elm Street-ish makeover for the classic slasher source material.

September 25, 2022

MY CALL:  So much more exciting than its 1980 predecessor, and more fun, gory and campy like a Freddy Krueger sequel. This was a blast!  MORE MOVIES LIKE Prom Night II: First off, I’d skip the remake Prom Night (2008) and even the original Prom Night (1980). I’d avoid even associating this with the slasher subgenre, lest we deviate to the supernatural demon slasher Freddy Krueger… in which case I’d recommend the Krueger sequels A Nightmare on Elm Street parts 2-5 (1985-87; podcast discussions).

From the time we meet her in a 1957 Catholic confession booth, we learn right away that high school prom queen Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage; Food of the Gods II) is no angel. In fact, quite the opposite, and proud of it! When a vengeful prank from scorned boyfriend Bill accidently leads to Mary Lou horribly burning to death, her vile spirit is trapped in the high school basement and her killer eventually grows up and becomes the principal of their high school.

So 30 years later, Principal Bill Nordham’s (Michael Ironside; Still/Born, Extraterrestrial, Scanners, Turbo Kid) son Craig (Louis Ferreira; Dawn of the Dead, Sav IV) is taking Vicki (Wendy Lyon; The Shape of Water, Kaw) to the prom. And when Vicki accidentally opens an old trunk entrapping Mary Lou’s essence, she and Mary Lou become connected.

Director Bruce Pittman (Maniac Mansion) does not come from an impressive horror pedigree. However, from the opening scenes and effects during Mary Lou’s fiery death, I’m inclined to call this superior to the original Prom Night (1980) in overall entertainment value. Despite some expected, classic 80s death scene hokiness, the subsequent kills remain at a superior level to the low bar set in 1980.

With chalk boards turning into gravity-defiant pools of death with drowning arms reaching out, murderous animated bedsheets, a demonic rocking horse with an inappropriate tongue, and what appears to be the Upside Down evil version Vicki’s high school… the nightmarish daydream sequences and evil imagery harken a very strong influence from A Nightmare on Elm Street parts 1-3 (1984-87). The same similarity can be recognized for the death scenes themselves. So whereas Prom Night part I was very much a typical mysterious 80s slasher, part II felt rather clearly like a Freddy Kruegerless Elm Street sequel. Let’s not forget that our vengeful evil spirit was burned to death by the father of our protagonist’s boyfriend, not unlike John Saxon’s relationship with Fred Krueger.

Once fully possessed by Mary Lou, Vicki’s body becomes a vessel of revenge on those who wronged her decades ago as well as a vessel of sultry desire. But this film focuses more on classic Freddy-like shenanigans rather than devolving into a cheap sexy succubus killer movie. My favorite death scene was probably the simplest: the gym locker crush, complete with gooey pink sludge oozing out of the vent! Delicious.

For 80s horror, the pacing is really solid. There’s a lot of good horror action, diversity of effects, and not even the innocent are safe from Mary Lou’s wrath. And yet somehow this movie just keeps getting yet better! The finale has a gore-slathered Mary Lou literally ripping her way out from inside Vicki’s body. So wonderfully gross, it feels like Carrie (1976) meets Demons (1985).

This is the rare sequel that is completely unlike its predecessor and also vastly superior in most every possible way. I really enjoyed this!

Dinner in America (2020) – Review by Jonny Numb

September 24, 2022

DINNER IN AMERICA (2020)

By Jonny Numb – Make sure to listen to the Feel Good series that he’s recorded with us. The episodes include Elle, Only God Forgives, Dragged Across Concrete, Super Dark Times, Bad Lieutenant, and more!

Grade – (A- per the MFF criteria)

When we’re young, we do stupid stuff. We bob up and down in an ocean of peer pressure and raise our hands for a life preserver of belonging. We don’t wanna be conformists (because conformists are squares), but we strive for acceptance all the same. There’s a lot we don’t understand when we’re muddling through forced public education and dodging bullish jock in gym class. 

I remember the time I pinched a beer from a friend’s father’s mini-fridge and promptly threw up from drinking it too fast. The time I pinched myself with a nail clipper, leaving a permanent scar on my left hand. Or the time, post-high school, when a group of friends decided to pass around a taser and administer shocks, just to see what it felt like.

Adam Rehmeier’s Dinner in America hypothesizes that we get no closer to understanding the stupidity of the actions that govern our youth when we’re adults. And when the youth inevitably become adults – with their mortgages and notions of propriety and “family time” – it turns out they’re just as clueless (if not more so). Some philosophers have posited that with age comes wisdom…but that seems like an overly optimistic assessment. 

And besides…in the grand cosmic joke of human existence, what is the point of wisdom if we’re too old and physiologically deteriorated to apply it to our lives? That’s the rub.

There are shades of SLC Punk in Dinner in America, with its sensibility toward coming of age as a jaded outcast in a desolate and deadly dull hellscape. That said, an existential darkness also worms its way into the acerbic proceedings. There’s a bit of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, too – a virulent strain of diseased “Americana” that the current gatekeepers of “propriety” have tried so hard to normalize.

Dinner in America is similarly caustic, preoccupied with the abrasion of family life in modern America, with parents who range from the permissive to the grossly intolerant. In an early moment that sets the tone for what’s to come, a sexually repressed housewife (Lea Thompson) pounces on the sneering bad-boy charm of Simon (Kyle Gallner), an arsonist and punk rocker on the lam from the cops. In this vision of suburbia, the slightest hint of excitement or danger is met with eager carnal desire.

While on the run, Simon encounters Patty (Emily Skeggs), an oblivious yet empathetic community-college dropout. He ingratiates himself into her family and, through an awkward dinner where he pretends to be a missionary from Tanzania, finds a place to hole up while the heat dies down. Crusty yet suave, callous but caring, Simon makes for an unlikely foil to Patty, whose naivete renders her a paragon of purity.

And, through the layers of his tough, no-f**ks-given persona, Simon is a kindred spirit, albeit on the opposite end of the social spectrum. He flings off-the-cuff opinions at anyone within earshot, indifferent to his targets’ reactions (he’s a bit like David Thewlis’ character in Naked). The difference between him and an unlikable-for-unlikable’s sake indie-film protagonist is the kernels of often disagreeable truth within his observations that glisten like corn in sh*t.

During a meeting with his bandmates, Simon gets into a heated argument about a gig with a popular band. The bandmates see it as an opportunity to make some money to retrieve their masters from a label head and get some exposure in the process. Simon sees it as a sellout move, antithetical to his punk ethos. The idealistic 20-year old in me cheered his fortitude, while the grounded 41-year old couldn’t help but wonder if his more Melvin bandmates had a point. 

Simons and Pattys are standard-issue characters in more straightforward teen comedies – the rebel and the outcast who are both outcasts – but seldom do they seem as keyed-in to the withering dream of suburbia in the age of COVID (even though the film’s Sundance premiere predated the pandemic). 

Rehmeier is an unconventional filmmaker – his previous efforts explored themes from dehumanization (The Bunny Game) to unsettling religious fervor (Jonas). For as colorful and contemporary as Dinner in America feels, its sense of exaggeration in the sterile living rooms and kitchens of expensive modern homes carries the feeling of Gen-X parents trying their damnedest to reconcile their moral compass against a world that’s evolved far past their understanding.

In that regard, Patty’s shell-shocked, uptight dad (Pat Healy) and mom (Mary Lynn Rajskub) are just as lost in the world as Simon and Patty, unaware that adult life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. That Rehmeier makes us understand different generational perspectives – not to mention dealing with adoption in a way that gives a supporting character a neat arc – speaks to the thoughtfulness of Dinner in America overall. 

Such paradoxes permeate the film: looking through a lens of who you were and who you are, and the growth gap between the two. I could easily see this becoming a cult favorite in the vein of Ghost World, where bits and pieces of ourselves manifest in different characters as time moves on. One of the great things about cinema is how the profundity of truly great movies manifests in different ways over the course of decades. Dinner in America is incendiary and timeless, an indicator of where we’ve been and where we might be going.

Bio: Jonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) is a contributor at Crash Palace Productions and co-host of The Last Knock horror podcast. His writing also occasionally appears at The Screening Space. And, despite his skepticism toward the merits of Deep Blue Sea, has somehow appeared on numerous episodes of the MFF podcast. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd @JonnyNumb.


The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 450: Breakdown (1997), Kurt Russell, and Powdered Sugar Doughnuts

September 22, 2022

You can download or stream the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome.

Mark and John Leavengood (@MFFHorrorCorner on Twitter) discuss the 1997 thriller Breakdown. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, and starring Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, and some powdered sugar doughnuts, the movie focuses on what happens when a group of maniacs attempt to mess with Kurt Russell. In this episode, they also talk about terrible trips, 1997 cinema, and J.T. Walsh. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: Prom Night (1980), an early 80s slasher starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

September 19, 2022

 

MY CALL:  Extremely weak kills and basically nothing happens on screen. Really, there’s no reason see it except for early 80s Jamie Lee Curtis nostalgia. Sorry.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Prom Night: First off, I’d skip the remake Prom Night (2008). There are many early 80s slashers of much better quality. I’d recommend Maniac (1980), The Prowler (1981), Madman (1981), Pieces (1982) and maaaaaybe even The Slumber Party Massacre (1982).

IMDB summary–“At a high school senior prom, a masked killer stalks four teenagers who were responsible for the accidental death of a classmate six years previously.”

Hot on the coattails of Halloween (1978), director Paul Lynch (Humongous) calls on the early 80s scream queen to play Kimberly Hammond (Jamie Lee Curtis; Halloween, Halloween H20, Virus), our main protagonist and daughter to her high school’s principal Mr. Hammond (Leslie Nielsen; Creepshow, Dracula: Dead and Loving It).

With prom around the corner, our high school senior perps start getting strange phone calls and calling cards from our whispery killer, who stalks them closely. Red herrings abound. High school groundskeeper Mr. Sykes (Robert A. Silverman; The Brood, Scanners, Jason X) feels like the inspiration of the similar character in Pieces (1982), as are many other aspects of this film echoed in the 1982 classic.

Focused on her debut as prom queen, Kim pays less attention than she probably should to her (and their) obvious stalker. From Kim’s perspective, her greatest threat is her arch-frenemy Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin; The Boogens, Halloween II).

While not at all unusual for the era, there is no satisfying action in the first hour—not even a respectable opening death scene. Just a lot of bickering teen angst and man-sealing prom drama. And once the action does finally start, it’s really pretty soft on the horror (in terms of effects and on-screen violence). The first prom murder is an off-screen throat slit with the bloody results seen only after the fact, followed by off-screen stabbing (also bloodily revealed after the fact), and then off-screen ax attack (yup… bloody after the fact). There’s only one on-screen kill worth mentioning: a proper beheading, right before the “meh” reveal of the killer’s identity.

The only real reason to watch this movie is for the Jamie Lee Curtis nostalgia. Truly, there are many early 80s slashers of much better quality.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 449: The Green Knight, Dev Patel, and A24

September 18, 2022

You can download or stream the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome.

Mark and Lisa (@FoolishMinion20 on Twitter) discuss the 2021 fantasy film The Green Knight. Directed by David Lowery, and starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, and a cheeky Green Knight, the movie is an adaptation of the 14th-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In this episode, they also talk about beheadings, giants, and literary adaptations. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker.

John’s Horror Corner: Mystics in Bali (1981; aka Leák), a wild Indonesian horror movie about the occult, black magic and a flying disembodied head dangling its guts in tow.

September 16, 2022

MY CALL: If you’re in the market for green-screened guts, black magic curses, boobed pig monsters, and birth-robbing crotch-vampirism, then look no further! The very premise of this film is the product of unfettered screenwriting lunacy and, thankfully, subsequent filmmakers stood on the shoulders of the minds behind Bali to get even weirder. MORE MOVIES LIKE Mystics in Bali:  For yet more bonkers Asian horror, consider Seeding of a Ghost (1983; aka Zhong gui), The Devil’s Sword (1984), Evil Dead Trap (1988; aka Shiryô no wana), Lady Terminator (1989), The Boxer’s Omen (1983; aka Mo, Black Magic 4) and, of course, Black Magic (1975). Though not Asian, I’d also recommend the Demon Seed (1977), The Manitou (1978), Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Bride of Re-Animator (1990) for some wild horror that packs some awkward insanity laughs and out there concepts.

Boasting a movie poster labeling this “the Holy Grail of Asian Cult Cinema,” Mystics in Bali has always been something I wanted to see. For decades I’ve seen images and posters in Fangoria magazine and websites and horror convention artists’ booths, building to the eventual day that I finally just bought the movie! And having just recently enjoyed another Asian cult movie (The Boxer’s Omen) also featuring a flying disembodied head dangling its guts below, today just felt like the day to watch it!

Based on the novel Leák Ngakak, the story follows American occult researcher Cathy (Ilona Agathe Bastian) who is interested in learning the practices of Leák black magic solely for the purpose of writing a book about it. So her friend Mahendra (Yos Santo; The Devil’s Sword) arranges for her to meet a monstrously disfigured evil witch (Sofia W.D.; The Queen of Black Magic) known as the greatest master of the Leák, who agrees to teach her. What could possibly go wrong?

The dialogue with the elderly witch has the maturity and exposition of a child’s fairy tale, and Cathy’s first lessons in black magic are visually just as silly. The animal transformation scenes are… well… they tried. But the major special effect of this movie is when Cathy’s head flies away from its body with her bodily organs and guts in tow. The effects are done by some pretty poor rotoscoping, and lack the grossout appeal for which we’re accustomed in newer movies. However, in concept, the movie remains an oddity in that Cathy has become a sort of floating head vampire which feeds on unborn children still inside their mother during childbirth. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yup, I’m reminded of that scene from Re-Animator (1985) as well!

Unfortunately, we only witness this gag three times, and only once with any “feeding” action. So it’s mostly just a head flying around with its lungs and intestines dangling about, often on a hokey zipline cord when not green-screened. Personally, I’d prefer more birth-robbing crotch-vampirism. But that’s just me.

How crazy one considers this movie will be inversely affected by the number of crazy Asian movies they’ve seen prior. If you’ve seen few such insane oddities, then this will be a ridiculous delight. If you’ve seen many, then it will seem less provocative; even tame for its wacky subgenre. So all told, (for me) this movie isn’t super exciting at all. However, it clearly paved the way for subsequent, and even more nutty movies. So for his service to wild cult cinema, we owe director H. Tjut Djalil (Dangerous Seductress, Lady Terminator) a great debt. And speaking of wild cult cinema, the final fight would lead me to suggest The Manitou (1978)—which is also an amazing piece of completely unfettered cinema lunacy. This final fight in Bali is extremely clunky with wooden acting and yet more rigid action choreography. The “laser fighting” is laughably stupid, the “boobed” pig monster was ridiculous, and when the battle ends… so does the movie! Huh? Just roll the credits? Alright, I guess.

I’ve seen a lot of wild Asian horror, and this one is very patient and thorough in its storytelling and exposition. In fact, the story actually makes more sense than most of these zany Asian movies. Given the far slower pacing of Mystics in Bali, I’m inclined to consider The Boxer’s Omen (1983) the far more bonkers and vastly superior of the two films. But credit must be given that Mystics clearly influenced Omen. This film is… special.

The Movies, Films and Flix Podcast – Episode 448 – Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of Malignant

September 12, 2022

You can download or stream the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome.

Mark and David Cross (@ItsMeDavidCross on Twitter) celebrate the one year anniversary of the beautiful horror film Malignant. Directed by James Wan, and starring Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, and an awesome villain named Gabriel. In this episode, they talk about chair throws, horror weapons, and the brilliance of James Wan. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast, make sure to send in some random listener questions (we love random questions). We thank you for listening, and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple Podcasts, Tune In, Podbean, or Spreaker.

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