Movie A Day!: Disconnected End Of The Violent Years

Here it is, the last post of 2017. All the films I watched since the last post. It’s a big one. It’s fitting though since I’ve decided to end the blog. My goal was to keep this going for the full year, and I did that. Anyone reading this can tell it’s pretty much been coasting, and that’s my fault. Better to end it than continue. I’m still going to be tracking my movie watching, that can be found on my Letterbox profile found here:

https://letterboxd.com/Ruz_El/

I’m going to attempt to pull back a bit online in 2018, and part of that will be not posting blogs where I can get personal. Anyone who read this blog, thank you from taking time out of your day to spend it here. Hopefully you found something of value or a new favourite.

I wish you all the best.

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479 12/17 Disconnected (1984) 3/5   I think this is the first feature by the team behind PSYCHOS IN LOVE, and I enjoyed it more. It’s technically a slasher, but it doesn’t play like one which helps to make it stand out. Worth checking out since it’s such an oddity.

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480 12/17 Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special (2017) 4/5   As far as I know Burnett was the only woman to solo host/have a variety show in the late 60’s that ran for 11 years. It was deadly funny, shot live with limited to no retakes and seemed to be as much a contest on which performer could crack the others up first. Amazing to watch the clips now with performers making eye contact and performing their guts out, in comparison with the SNL card reading extravaganza that passes for sketch comedy now. The clips are short, but this one makes it up with lots of remembrances from Burnett herself, who at 84 looks like she’s ready to jump back into the game.

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481 12/17 Twenty Questions (1988) 3/5   Documentary from Gorman Bechard shot in the 80’s but not released until now is a neat idea. Get twenty different people to answer the same twenty question cards and see the results. It goes on a little long at 60 minutes, but still, a good idea with a simple set-up.

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482 12/22 Liquid Sky (1982) 4/5   One of the more odd 80’s films. A day-glo look at the hip, underground fashion scene with drugs and assault being high on peoples list. And a UFO with an alien that gets high by fatally ingesting orgasms. It’s the type of gorgeous film that you want to just let envelope you, and more dark  than it appears when you think about it. Worth checking out.


483 12/22 The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Season 1 (2017) 2/5   This history channel series piqued my interest since I’m obsessed with true crime and the Zodiac case is so bonkers. It ended up being goofy as hell, so ridiculous in presentation that even the cracking of part of one of the ciphers was underwhelming. Never mind the stupid super computer taught to think like the zodiac that they kept representing with a matrix-face for the extra stupid to comprehend. They basically ignore all the police work done in the past 50 years to go on wild goose chases that end up with nothing, and the final ep is a massive prick-tease for a season 2 that I’m sure I’ll hate-watch if it comes to fruition.

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484 12/22 Let’s Talk Sex (1983) 3/5   Pretty typical porn for the era, this one visualizing the phone sex fantasies of some mopes calling into a goofy phone sex lines. It’s no classic, and has a horrible dubbed soundtrack, but ends up being better than the usual.

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485 12/23 Festival (1967) 4/5   Before the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock the times they were a changing at the Newport folk Festival. This documentary follows highlights from the 1963-1966 line-ups featuring clips from everyone from Bob Dylan to Mississippi John Hurt. The only complaint is that it’s not 10 hours long with full performances.


86 12/24 Trouble No More (2017) 3/5   A film showcasing live concert footage of Bob Dylan from his Christian years. It’s cut with clips of actor Michael Shannon delivering sermons and frankly none of it works. The live footage is great, but completely without any history or context. A better and more proper documentary of this period should have been made. It’s ridiculous that there’s still no decent concert films of Bob Dylan commercially available.

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487 12/24 Farmer’s Daughters (1976) 3.5/5   Notorious porn roughie noted for starring acclaimed raconteur Spalding Gray, this one lives up to its hype. A trio of daughters assault a farm hand, only to end up on the receiving end of abuse from three escaped convicts. It’s ugly, but compelling at the same time with some editing tricks that defy it’s incompetence.

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488 12/25 Wonder Woman (2017) 4/5   In a world where all the superhero films seem to blur together, and it’s generally regarded that the DC universe post-Christopher Nolan Batman are basically terrible. So it’s nice that this one is so damn good. Gadot is fantastic as in the lead, both genuine and powerful in her depiction, the rest of the cast rises to the occasion with Chris Pine finally being appealing in a role. It’s never dips into cheesecake and I found myself getting teary eyed since it’s so rare to see women in action movies depicted like this. It’s great, I hope the director gets to do more.

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489 12/26 War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017) 4/5   Back in the 80’s, I had a ratty VHS tape in which I had the films “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Apocalypse Now” and I watched it to death. Sometimes once a week. Never would I imagine that the Apes series would distill these two films into one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Emotional, amazing action and never once did I suspect that the apes weren’t real. It’s a remarkable achievement in a series that has been way better than it had any reason to be.

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490 12/27 Donnie Darko (theatrical cut) 4/5   Second time watching this version and it finally clicked for me. Lots has been written, I have nothing to add. It’s good.

491 12/27 Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (2016) 3.5/5   A very well done making of documentary, mainly due to dealing with the people in the production as opposed to the actors.

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492 12/27 Hail, Caesar! (2016) 3.5/5   The Coen brothers take a look at the golden age of Hollywood. It’s a little bit of a mess, with kidnapping communists and what not, but I loved it. I have a soft spot for old Hollywood and this one really nails the period.

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493 12/28 The Climber (1975) 2.5/5   “Little Joe” Dallesandro stars in this Italian crime film about an American in Naples trying to find his way in the organized crime scene. It works, but adds up to nothing all that special since it pretty much stiks to genre conventions. Everything in this will be done better in dePalma’s SCARFACE.

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494 12/29 Gimme Danger (2016) 4/5   As perfect a documentary on Iggy & The Stooges you could hope for. As far as I can tell, every frame of film of the band in its prime is in here, though sadly none with sync-sound. At any rate, the only better telling of this story is the book Total Chaos. A must see, go buy the records.

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495 12/29 Baltimore Rising (2017) 3/5   Documentary on the resistance movement in Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray killing. Spends a little too much time with certain people as opposed to telling the whole story, so it’s a little hit a miss. Lays the ground for a better “Black Lives Matter” type documentary in the future.

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496 12/31 Star Trek Season 3 (1969) 4/5   After literally years, I finally knuckled down and finished watching the original series. Generally considered a step down due to budget cuts, it’s still a damn fine season and I find the cheapness adds to the surreal, alien planets. Some good ideas are explored, and one of my favourite episodes – “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”. Next year I may dive into the animated series.

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497 12/31 The Violent Years (1956) 4/5   Of all the films to watch to send off the year I had to watch this one. As far as juvenile delinquent scare films go, you can do better. This one is known due to the Ed Wood Jr. script connection, but I have to admit, it’s a lot of fun. A good girl is running a girl gang, knocking off gas stations, raping guys, and getting tricked by communists?!?!? It’s goofy, but I’ve always enjoyed it since stumbling upon it in the VHS days. The new Blu-ray scan from AGFA is great and worth your time.

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Movie A Day!: The Red, Mad, Mad World

I’m a day late posting this thing this week. Sorry film fans, it’s a long weekend up here in the Great White North and it ends up that there is a never ending amount of plants and crap that need to be dug up, dug in, and replaced. I like the sun and outdoors, I’m not great at bending over so this weekend has been more chore than joy.  Here’s all the movies I watched up to this very moment since I finished the last one this morning.


145 05/15 The Red House (1947) 3.5/5   Edward G. Robinson stars in this one as the patriarch of an out of the way farm who absolutely does not want you mucking about in his woods and going near the Red House. The whole film is about what terrors may lie in those woods, and aside from some pacing issues it manages to be pretty tense stuff that fills you with a sense of doom and dread. Part country noir, part horror film, it’s certainly worth a look.


146 05/16 The Night Porter (1974) 3/5   I’ve been hearing a lot about this one for ages so it was nice to finally give it a look. Dirk Bogarde is The Night Porter, working in a hotel when he recognizes customer Charlotte Rampling as the women from the concentration camp he was abusing while working there during the war. It’s interesting and well done, but at the end of the day it’s really just an arty, serious take on “Love Camp 7” and all the other Naziploitation that was out at the time, just elevated with some fine direction from Liliana Cavani and the performances. It’s well done if not a little slow.


147 05/18 Monkey Kingdom (2015) 4/5   Disneynature hits it out of the park again with this one following a pack of macaque monkeys, centring on “Mya” and her journey from the lower class life. I knew monkeys had Alpha Males that ran the pack, but I had no idea it was a proper class system that dictated who could eat what. It was pretty bonkers and made the film even more interesting than it would of been since Monkeys are hilarious. Oh, and Tina Fey does a great job with the narration too.


148 05/19 O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) 4.5/5   The Coen brothers take on Homer’s Odyssey and it couldn’t be better. Setting it during the great depression and filling it with folk music is a stroke of genius. George Clooney is perfect in the lead, the comedy rings true and the film flies by. I love this movie and it’s soundtrack. Highly recommended.


149 05/20 Walk The Line (2005) 4/5   Bio-pic on the life of Johnny Cash tracks his story from childhood to his success with the “Live At Folsom Prison” album, but it’s really the love story of Johnny and June Carter falling in love. Joaquin Phoenix does as great job as Cash, and Reese Witherspoon is a whirlwind as June. They also sing the songs and are flat out great despite nobody being able to truly mimic Cash’s voice. Get past that and this one is a real winner.


150 05/20 Pussycat Ranch (1971) 2.5/5   Star power can’t elevate this one above being pretty standard adult fare for the era. Billy the Kid needs a hideout and Mama needs cash for the ranch so they team up and turn it into a brothel. It’s played for laughs, and it mostly works, it’s just not that interesting.

151 05/21 Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) 3.5/5   I’ve been avoiding this one. The poster art and pictures of Audrey Hepburn and that stupid long cigarette holder bugged me, and I knew Mickey Rooney portrayed a horrible Asian stereotype. Ends up that this one was a pretty enjoyable romantic comedy. Hepburn and George Peppard are enjoyable as the leads and the only issue I had is it felt a little long. That said, there is no possible excuse for Rooney. That this kind of portrayal of a Japanese man was once considered even remotely acceptable is horrendous.


152 05/21 Here Comes The Bride (1978) 2/5   The second feature on the Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama disc is also by John Christopher and is even more unexceptional than Pussycat Ranch. This one finds a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary and the wife remembering all the guys she was with while pretending to be a virgin to her husband. It’s draggy and if not for legendary star Samantha Fox it wouldn’t have gotten even 2 stars.


153 05/22 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Extended Edition) (1963) 4/5   First time watching the roadshow version and I enjoyed the film even more. Most of the footage that was cut from the Roadshow to the general release is lost, so the fact that they were able to restore it to this level is remarkable. That said, it is a bit of a mess with photo’s and subtitles subbing in for some of the lost footage. I didn’t find it as distracting as I expected to find it and on a whole it’s really improved the flow of the movie. It’s truly “kitchen sink” film, completely jam packed with jokes and cameos, it’s well worth checking out regardless of the version you can get your hands on.

 

There it is.

Movie A Day!: Valley of the Sabrina

It’s that time of year! Spring has sprung, the air is warm, the sun is out, and I want to burn my life down and walk the earth! Is it just me getting this way every damned year? It makes no sense. The struggle never ends.

It did lead to one of the strongest weeks of films I’ve had in a while.


121 04/30 Valley of the Dolls (1967) 3/5   This one is considered a camp classic but it’s not all that campy and plays it pretty straight as a melodrama. I think it’s rep comes from the Russ Meyer follow up that has nothing to do with this picture. A trio of women, a singer, an actress and a secretary that ends up a model get a taste of fame and fortune, and all the pitfalls that come with it. The book was considered pretty scandalous, the movie is pretty chaste. My main interest was this was the other big picture aside from The Fearless Vampire Killers that Sharon Tate was in, and she is pretty great as the actress that never does break it big. The real star though is Patty Duke as the merciless pill’d up singer. She steals every scene that she’s in, balancing being adorable and miserable at the same time. All in all, it’s not a terrible affair if you can sit through a soapy melodrama.


122 04/30 Beneath the Valley of the Dolls (1970) 4/5   Nudie cutie maverick Russ Meyer signs on for this one, his first major studio picture. Meyer’s ditches everything to do with the original film, it starts with a warning that it is not a sequel, and turns it into the story of an all girl rock band trio seeking fame and fortune. The sex and drugs are cranked up to turn this one into an exploitation classic. Everyone in the picture is overacting, the plot (written with Roger Ebert!) is bonkers, the music is great, the editing is hyper, the pace is lightning, it’s all a glorious assault on the senses and makes you wish Meyer’s always had a big budget for his big titty films. Recommended.


123 05/01 Primary (1960) 3/5   An interesting documentary on the primary race between Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy, shot in the cinema verite style. It’s weird to watch now, Humphrey doing the old school stumping, walking the streets, handing out cards, giving speeches to small rooms while JFK only appears in large halls, packed tight with crowds, being swarmed as he leaves to his car. You can see the old world dying and being left to a media fuelled future..


124 05/01 Six Men Getting Sick (1966) 3.5/5
125 05/01 The Alphabet (1968) 4/5
126 05/01 The Grandmother (1970) 3/5
127 05/02 The Amputee (1974) 3.5/5
128 05/02 The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988) 3.5/5
A series of short films from David Lynch. I wont get into specifics, they are all pretty good with The Alphabet hinting at nightmares to come and The Cowboy and the Frenchman (featuring both Harry Dean Stanton and Jack Nance!)being one of the funnier things Lynch has done. They’re all worth checking out, ranging in length from 1 to 30 minutes.


129 05/03 Adventures On The New Frontier (1960) 3.5/5   A follow up to the documentary Primary spends a day with JFK in the oval office. It’s another fly on the wall affair with little comment on the action and it’s actually fascinating to watch. Part of that is due to modern times and trying to imagine current President Trump in oval office, doing what JFK is. Another interesting fact about these is both D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers worked on these films and it really shows the form that Pennebaker would use on his definitive documentary on Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back.


130 05/03 Eraserhead (1977) 5/5   David Lynch’s debut feature still holds all of it’s power. A true masterpiece, I find it impossible to watch without feeling like a hand is on my heart, slowly squeezing it. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a must own with the film looking gorgeous, all the extras from the DVD ported over, and featuring most of the short films I watched earlier this week.


131 05/04 Crisis (1963) 4/5
132 05/04 Faces of November (1964) 3/5
The first of the final two documentaries in the Drew Associates set on JFK finds Jack and Robert Kennedy dealing with a crisis. The crisis is that Alabama Governor George Wallace is going to physically black the doors on campus so that the first two black students will be unable to register. It’s pretty incredible to witness this today. That this was ever a thing is simply gross, but too see just how badly wrong on the side of history Wallace was, and how convinced he was that it was his moral obligation to both blacks and whites to keep them separate is fascinating and infuriating since it’s still a thing 60 fucking years later.

Faces of November is a silent montage of the mourners visiting JFK at rest after the assassination. It’s sombre to say the least.

It’s impossible to watch this set and not realize just how completely fallen into the shit we are as far as politics goes. I’m not just talking about the United States. I give the set a 4.5/5, it’s pretty near a must see.


133 05/04 Eraserhead Stories (2001) 4/5   This is a feature length doc on the making of the film that is little more than David Lynch telling stories into a microphone with some clips and pictures being shown as appropriate. It has no right being as entertaining as it is, and it’s all due to Lynch himself. The man is just so excited and in love with movies, he’s irresistible to watch. I wish I was as full of wonder about mundane things like inky lights and pie as this man.


134 05/05 Blood Simple (1984) 4/5   The Coen brothers debut with a classic neo noir about Texas infidelity. It’s remarkably accomplished and manages to balance tension and be hilarious at the same time since everyone in the picture comes off as incredibly stupid as opposed to criminal masterminds playing each other. Francis McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh are both fantastic in this and the final shots always make me laugh out loud. Recommended.


135 05/06 Sabrina (1954) 4/5   Audrey Hepburn stars in this one as a chauffeur’s daughter who’s torn between wealthy brothers William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn is fantastic and adorable in the lead but the real winner here is Billy Wilder’s clever script and direction that holds a lot of truths that remain relevant today.

See? Not a bad week at all, eh?

This is a gentle reminder that I continue to update the Letterboxd site with my horrid past. Just finished my 2008 Scary Movie Challenge list which can be found here.  If anyone reads this has also set up a letterboxd, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I will be sure to follow. Not to be self serving and I know it’s hard to tell, but I actually spend a bit of time on this. Any sharing and whatnot is appreciated, but not expected.

That’s it, remember to love yourselves.

Movie A day! 186-193 – “I’m On A Vacation!”

Right, so my staycation ended with me feeling under threat of a summer cold. I still feel like I’m on the verge of coming down with something, where the snot-hole in the back of your head feels iffy but you don’t have any actual symptoms of fever and runny nose and grossness. It’s horrible feeling like you might get sick with a cold when it’s 30C outside and it’s been going on for 3 days. So far I’m holding it off with pills. Keep thumbs held!

Due to potential oncoming sickness, I WATCHED MORE MOVIES! So you get two posts this week, you lucky lovelies! Here’s the start of August. AUGUST! Already August, what a crazy world we live in where months roll by so fast. Maybe it’s just me.

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186 08-01 The Rolling Stones: Sweet Summer Sun – Hyde Park London (2013) 4/5
This one is a concert film featuring the last show of their fiftieth anniversary tour. Features mostly concert footage with some narration, it’s surprisingly solid considering the near mummified state of the band. The set list is pretty much all hits by this point, I can’t imagine any fans of the Stones being let down by this release. As old as they are, there really is no sense in them stopping if they don’t wish too, they continue to deliver the goods. I’d argue that they are performing better now than they did in the late 70’s, early 80’s, only with the added thrill of wondering if their emaciated, petrified like limbs might break off mid-song.

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187 08-02 A Serious Man (2009) 2.5/5
This is another Coen brothers film, and the only one of theirs that managed to sneak by me when it came out. This one is basically about the life of a Jewish teacher in 1967 working on getting tenure or whatever they call it, and all the troubles that follow him. It’s a comedy, and it just isn’t all that interesting. You get a sense that it might be a bit biographical seeing as the Coens are Jewish and from the midwest, but it doesn’t really play that way either. It’s a bit of a broken thumb, following the also less than stellar BURN AFTER READING. Thankfully they’ll return more to form with their next picture, TRUE GRIT.

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188 08-03 Game of Thrones Season 4 (2014) 3.5/5
It took 4 years, but the show finally got good! Not much to say since it’s still has way too convoluted a plot. It’s made up for it by balancing all the talking and intrigue with some action. So I’ll stick it out and go for season 5.

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189 08-03 A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) 1.5/5
I heard that this one wasn’t very good, but really, how bad could it be? It’s DIE HARD! C’mon, fuckin’ John McClane ripping shit up in Russia! Ends up it’s pretty terrible. Willis couldn’t be less interested to be McClane one more time, with 80% of his dialogue being variations of “I’m on VACATION!” There is a plot, but it’s doesn’t matter when nearly the entire first third of the film is a car chase that makes no sense and is actually as boring as it is stupid. The look of the picture has such a digital polish that it doesn’t even look good. Even the poster sucks. Hopefully this picture kills the series. You can all make your own Die Hard jokes.

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190 08-04 The Manchu Boxer (1974) 2/5
This one is a pretty typical Raymond Chow Kung-Fu production. The title character gets kicked out of his house when he accidentally kills a guy in a fight due to his training where he punches hot gravel. He then gets mixed up in a big brouhaha of a martial arts contest which he doesn’t want to be a part of in case he kills someone again. It’s a bit plodding, and none of the fights are all that memorable. Sammo Hung pops up an extra in a couple of fights, but it’s not worth watching just for him. Actually, the most fun thing in the movie is recognizing stolen music cues, unless Pink Floyd did license material to this.

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191 08-04 The Big Parade (1925) 4/5
This one is King Vidor’s silent epic based on WW1. Seeing as it’s the anniversary of WW1 today, and I’m trying not to get sick with a flu that seems to be insisting on making me sick, I figured it was the perfect day to lay around and watch it. It’s widely considered to be one of the best silent films, and the first hour might have you wondering why. The basic plot is, WW1 is breaking out for America and a privileged do nothing signs up after being pressured by friends and his fiance. the first hour or so largely details his life in France, where not much happens as him and his two army buddies kick about waiting for orders. Once those orders come through, the whole picture shifts into battle mode and the horrors of WW1 trench style warfare start to knock the wind from you. A hell of a movie, with an incredibly natural performance by John Gilbert in the lead. Gilbert is mostly remembered now as the actor who lost his career when sound ended the silent era, and it’s a shame since he’s really good, including the odd performance I’ve seen of his in speaking parts.

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192 08-04 Marty (1953) 4/5
This is the original, live on TV broadcast version starring Rod Steiger. He plays a 37 year old butcher who’s henpecked by pretty much everyone in Queens to get married. The ending is a bit of a let down, but the journey there is amazing. Steiger is all wounded emotion, and puts in an absolutely incredible performance. It’s amazing that this was broadcast live once, and then the tape stuck away in a vault until the late seventies. It’s kind of a shame that TV doesn’t do this type of live drama stuff more often.

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193 The Skyhawk (1974) 2.5/5
This is on the same disc as MANCHU BOXER, and is a better movie. The Skyhawk is an older master of Shaolin Kung-Fu, or some such horseshit where he flips around a bunch when he fights, and his disciples (one of them Sammo Hung, again playing a character called “Fatso” in the crummy English dub) get mixed up in some crime intrigue while Skyhawk is visiting a relative in Thailand. It’s not the greatest chop-socky you will watch, but the fights are pretty decent and the film worked better than MANCHU BOXER did.

That’s probably it for this week. Time to take more pills and try to keep this cold away.

The End