Me and My Nine Iron

February 28, 2011

Academy Awards recap

Filed under: On the 6 o'clock news — BJ @ 12:56 am
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The most prestigious night in film was swept by The King’s Speech, which rolled into the Oscars with momentum and took all of the major categories including Best Picture, Best Actor and surprisingly, Best Director. It also took Best Original Screenplay, further cementing the Academy blackballing Christopher Nolan. It’s almost like the Academy colluded to vote for everything Inception that didn’t have Nolan’s name on it as if to rub it in, as his movie still managed to tie The King’s Speech for most awards for the night (4). It’s okay, he can cry his way to the bank. His $71.5 million earned in 2010 is second only to Steven Spielberg‘s $80 million in all of Hollywood.

My picks went 5 for 9, with three of the losses coming at the hands of The King’s Speech. Here are the categories and final comments for those I was at odds with the Academy.

Writing (Original Screenplay): My condolences to Nolan, who probably deserved this one, but a great story in 73-year-old David Seidler. A childhood stammerer himself, Seidler’s own troubled uncle received help from the real-life Lionel Logue.

I have a copy of the screenplay, and I don’t know at what point the writing gets judged for this distinction, but it’s got to be before production begins. What I have is the 90-page version, before they found copies of Logue’s work and incorporated his training and words into the script. The movie has a running time of 118 minutes. Seidler showed us his humorous side in last Sunday’s L.A. Times article.

Short Film (Animated): We were all blown away by Pixar yet again when we watched Day & Night as a prelude to Toy Story 3, but I felt like it was missing the secret 7X flavor. It runs a short six minutes and despite excellent execution, you’ll always be more satisfied with longer running times, which the winner runs, what I think to be, a perfect length of 15 minutes. I wanted to catch the other three nominees, including The Lost Thing, which looks intriguing, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of them.

Directing: Who would’ve guessed Tom Hooper would’ve swooped over Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher as Kathryn Bigelow‘s successor? I don’t believe Hooper did. After 16 years on the small screen save one project, Hooper’s third movie won him Oscar gold. All three have favorable reviews and at just 38, I look forward to his future on the big screen.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo was the favorite, I know, and she was second in my book. I’ve had friends tell me they truly hated her character, which is always a compliment, and she wasn’t even done being her white trash character, dropping F bombs in her acceptance speech. Is there any other movie in history that had three supporting actor/actress nominations with a sweep of both supporting categories?

Best Picture: Like a player’s stock before the upcoming draft, Black Swan‘s and The Social Network‘s stocks were dropping while The King’s Speech became the projected No. 1 pick after the night’s big directing win. It’s unfortunate that there is such thing as momentum in film voting, as you have a very clear-cut product that ended months ago getting swayed by chatter. As much as I liked The King’s Speech, I can’t even say that it was a top 5 movie for me, and I’m talking strictly in ranking the best of the year.

Just in case you missed it, here are the winners for the 83rd Academy Awards.

Best Picture: The King’s Speech (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin)
Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Directing: The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper)



February 27, 2011

My Oscar picks

It’s always great to mention the Golden Raspberry Awards recognize the year’s worst in film, as the 31st Razzie Awards bestowed top worst honors to The Last Airbender (4.5 IMDb) and Sex and the City 2 (4.0). M. Night Shyamalan took Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actor (Jackson Rathbone), and it’s a far drop-off from when Disney made him the highest-paid screenwriter to write Signs for $5 million in 2002.

Sarah Jessica Parker, who was generously paid $15 million as producer and star of SATC2, took Worst Actress of a Worst Screen Ensemble for the Worst Sequel. Now, onto the actual news.

As I mentioned last year, there’s no competitive need to expand the Best Picture category to ten films. Wouldn’t the field be just as strong with just Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network and True Grit?

Without further ado, my select Oscar picks for 2010’s year in film:

Writing (Original Screenplay) – Christopher Nolan, Inception (In my Writing decisions, I’m going strictly off of the movie’s story as I’m not going to waste my time reading every nominated screenplay. The categorization between an original and an adapted screenplay is nebulous. Isn’t anything based on a true story unoriginal? Then, why are The Fighter and The King’s Speech considered original while 127 Hours isn’t? And is a sequel truly unoriginal (Toy Story 3)? They say developing the characters is the hardest part, which you already have laid out for you in a sequel, but then every true story has this luxury as well. Nolan will get snubbed in every major category–he didn’t even get nominated for Best Director–but he definitely deserves to be rewarded for this 10-year idea for his first Oscar win and second Oscar writing nomination (Memento).)

Have not watched: Another Year

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network (To continue with my previous debate, this movie was “adapted” from a book that hadn’t even been written yet. There were only 14 pages of notes for Sorkin to look at of what would become a 260-page book. Technicalities aside, I actually read Sorkin’s screenplay, a fast-paced, 163-page piece of work that is nothing short of impressive. A lot of screenplays are butchered with the addition and deletion of a large number of scenes once shooting begins (e.g. The Hangover), but I couldn’t even catch one word that wasn’t shot to a t. In a spec screenplay however, if you write over 120 pages, no one will even read it, no matter how good it is. And the amount of shot directions Sorkin notes is almost annoying, not to mention not allowed in specs but of course, you get away with things when you’re big time.)

Directing – Darren AronofskyBlack Swan (I wavered on going with David Fincher, who made the best movie out of his story, but I have what some doctors might consider a mild heart attack while watching the last half hour of Black Swan, and that credit belongs entirely to the director, not the movie.)

Animated Feature Film – Toy Story 3 (Funny how this category only gets three nominees, including a French animation over an American film like Tangled. But this category, unlike last year, is a pretty weak and obvious one, as TS3 is just the third animated film and second in a row to be nominated for Best Picture. It’s your absolutely rare sequel where the latter is just as good if not better than an already amazing movie. I call it the Pixar exception, and I expect a lot from Cars 2 coming out in June.)

Actress in a Supporting Role – Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (Everyone loved the two actresses from The Fighter, but I wasn’t sold on their performance being spectacular–not to be confused with them giving a spectacular performance–let alone, Oscar-worthy. But maybe, I’m as mixed up as a recent L.A. Times article claims – that the awards should really say Most, not Best, as in this case, Most On-Screen. I thought Steinfeld was the main character, but if she’s not, she’s definitely the driving force of the movie, and the 14-year-old blew me away in her first real movie, unlike the others.)

Have not watched: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Actress in a Leading Role – Natalie Portman, Black Swan (Anyone who says Annette Bening has a shot against Portman should be just that – shot. It’s hard for me to think of a time where a comedy actor can beat a drama actor, and this easily isn’t one of them. The amount of training Portman put in to becoming her character is unmatchable.)

Have not watched: Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

Actor in a Supporting Role – Christian Bale, The Fighter (I really liked Jeremy Renner in The Town, but this category goes to the English actor and first-time nominee. From his massive weight loss to his spot-on mannerisms of a drug addict, he steals the show from Mark Wahlberg in the movie.)

Actor in a Leading Role – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech (This was one of the tougher categories to choose from, as I liked all the nominees, but it looks like a male sweep for the English. This is Firth’s second year in a row being nominated for Best Actor after coming up short with A Single Man. For a non-stammerer to have all the mannerisms of a stammerer was impressive.)

Have not watched: Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Best Picture – The Social Network (To me, this came down to a struggle between Black Swan and TSN, and what I was looking for in a Best Picture was more than just a great story and a great movie. I’m looking for an iconic movie, a movie for our ages, and that’s probably the only thing that gave TSN the upper edge here. Is it a coincidence that the best movie also had the best script? Nope.)


February 25, 2011

Academy Awards preview

Filed under: On the 6 o'clock news — BJ @ 2:55 pm
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Unlike the recent Grammy Awards, where a ridiculous 95 Grammy Awards are given out, the film equivalent boasts just 24 adequate categories to be given awards for. As you know, and everyone who has to drive through Hollywood Boulevard everyday this week, the 83rd Academy Awards are this Sunday.

To refresh your memory, here are the nominees (and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award winners) for the top four categories.

Best Picture: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right (Best Picture – Comedy – Golden Globe), The King’s Speech (Best Cast – SAG), 127 Hours, The Social Network (Best Picture – Drama – Golden Globe), Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
Actor in a Leading Role: Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth (Best Actor – Drama – Golden Globe, Best Actor – SAG), James Franco
Actress in a Leading Role: Annette Bening (Best Actress – Comedy – Golden Globe), Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman (Best Actress – Drama – Golden Globe, Best Actress – SAG), Michelle Williams
Directing: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, The Social Network (Best Director – Golden Globe), True Grit

The total number of awards won from the first two events for the top 10 pictures of the year: Black Swan (1 Golden Globe, 1 SAG Award), The Fighter (2 Golden Globes, 2 SAG Awards), The Kids Are All Right (2 Golden Globes), The King’s Speech (1 Golden Globe, 2 SAG Awards), The Social Network (4 Golden Globes), Toy Story 3 (1 Golden Globe).

The total number of Oscar nominations for the top 10 pictures of the year: Black Swan (5), The Fighter (7), Inception (8), The Kids Are All Right (4), The King’s Speech (12), 127 Hours (6), The Social Network (8), Toy Story 3 (5), True Grit (10), The Winter’s Bone (4).

In the hours leading up to the big event, I’ll post my picks on who I think should win each of the awards.


February 23, 2011

Unknown review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 2:54 pm

It’s been over five weeks since I watched a movie in the theater, but I’m back on the horse.

Before I went to go see this, I wavered on whether it would be good. It seemed like the same ass-kicking role Liam Neeson played in Taken, an awesome movie, but fans don’t want to see an actor take on the same role so soon after. Got that, Denzel? But I was convinced this story, based on a 2003 French novel, was better than the now-trite story of a vengeful man out to kill everyone involved in his loved one’s death.

It’s a thriller about what happens when a man wakes up and finds his wife feigning that she doesn’t know him and another man having all the documents to prove that he’s you. It’s truly horrifying to know that it can possibly be done in real life if someone really wanted to.

As you can expect, there’s a great twist at the end, and it’s really another excellent performance by Neeson of a desperate man searching for proof of his identity and then his sanity while stuck on foreign soil. Better than Taken, the type of movie where everything falls into your lap; the reason I don’t think so highly of How to Train Your Dragon. You’ll see Neeson next as the tattoo man in The Hangover Part II in May, a role that Mel Gibson was rumored to have.

Also starring the native Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) as the innocent taxi driver caught up in the mix and the beautiful January Jones (Mad Men) as his wife.

I agree with Richard Roeper‘s review: a B+, reflecting “At times, Unknown stretches plausibility to the near breaking point, but it’s so well paced and the performances are so strong and most of the questions are ultimately answered. This is a very solid thriller.”

Rating: 5 stars out of 5


February 16, 2011

The problem with Christianity

Filed under: For your pleasure — BJ @ 3:00 pm


Me and my mom are in different aisles of the personal care section when a WOMAN walks up to my mom.

Do you go to church?

Before my mom can answer…

I started going to church, and I feel so great.

Who goes up to someone in the street and says that?!

The woman runs away, nowhere to be found for my mom to point her out to me.

Update: Taken from a friend’s Facebook post today.

right when I sat down at ktown plaza a person was trying evangelize to me. he sure didn’t think I went to church. after trying to do some q&a with me, his final response was, “wow you have a strong faith with jesus christ. god bless.”

My friend’s Christian, but that’s besides the point. I don’t go up to random people and tell them that I’m a big sports fan. And upon finding out that they’re not, I don’t try to make them into a sports fanatic. Who does that? Why can’t Christians be like every other religion and keep it to themselves? That’s the only reason why Atheists hate Christians and not any other religion. It’s annoying, and they deserve every bit of the ire my mom spit at that woman from everyone they try to proselytize. They’re just like telemarketers but worse because they’ll go around in person, and no one likes telemarketers. Just stop it.


February 14, 2011

Box office review

Filed under: For your pleasure — BJ @ 5:43 pm

The $754 million January box office was a 20-year low for the month, setting a different record after January 2010’s record-high $1.06 billion gross. Ticket sales were estimated at 94 million, the first sub-100 million January since 1995. While part of it was the direct result from fewer new releases–there were only nine new movies in the month compared to an average of 14 the previous 15 years–I’d like to think it had something to do with the movies just being plain awful. Although, it took two big movie stars and a bona fide hottie competing against a 16-year-old’s documentary to kickstart the box office. More on that later.

This post happened because there were a slew of comedies I wanted to see but was just shocked to find out how bad they were on IMDb (How Do You Know, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet, The Dilemma, No Strings Attached and Just Go With It); just about every major comedy that came out in the past couple of months. That and obviously bad movies taking the top spots just because it’s a new release. I’ve noticed every week for the past month that the box office Top 10 was plain sick with regards to IMDb ratings, and big name movies floundered as a result of poor reviews. Here’s a list of box office flops in just the past month:

Movie IMDb Rating Budget (in millions) Gross Revenue (in millions) Weeks in Top 10
How Do You Know 5.3 100 30 1
The Dilemma 4.9 70 60 4
The Rite 6.2 37 29 2
Sanctum 5.6 30 21 2?

That’s a lot of money dished out for little return: James L. Brooks ($10 million), Reese Witherspoon ($15 million), Jack Nicholson ($12 million), Owen Wilson ($10 million), Paul Rudd ($3 million), Ron Howard (can command $10 million), Vince Vaughn (can command $20 million), Kevin James and Anthony Hopkins (can command $20 million). Well, some of them didn’t get all of the money they were hoping for, as Brooks, Vaughn and James Cameron produced their respective movies. But, who cares about the latter, right?

Let’s take a look at the Top 8 from this past weekend:

Movie IMDb Rating
Just Go With It 5.8
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 1.2
Gnomeo and Juliet 5.3
The Eagle 6.4
The Roommate 4.3
The King’s Speech 8.5
No Strings Attached 6.2
Sanctum 5.6

I guess I shouldn’t have expected otherwise from a Sandler movie, as his movies never get positive reviews, but it looked solid in the trailer. As for Justin Bieber, you really have to be doing something horribly wrong to have a worse rating than Tyler Perry movies.

With my new policy of not watching a movie under 6.0 without a friend recommendation, that makes five of the eight unwatchable, including what would be the worst movie of all-time, beating out Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004, 1.4), two barely watchable and one salvaging what could be one of the worst Top 8’s ever from top to bottom, only through its amazing shelf life of 12 weeks and running. Seriously, save The King’s Speech and one or two of the comedies, go down that list again, and you’ll find a piss poor selection of movies out right now. Let’s hope that studios don’t realize not having a sequel or a remake among the list has something to do with it, although besides the two comedies, I believe the other six are all adapted from previous work. Who would’ve thought, right?

I checked the homeland, and it’s not any better with South Korea. In fact, their box office the weekend before of American movies was the exact inverse of its IMDb rating.

Movie IMDb Rating Gross (in thousands) Place Weeks in Top 10
Gulliver’s Travels 4.7 4795 2 2
The Green Hornet 6.5 473 6 2
Megamind 7.3 372 7 4
The Town 7.7 156 8 2
Tangled 8.0 109 9 3

I guess the Koreans like their dose of Jack Black, I don’t know. I played The Town for my parents. My mom hated it, and my dad walked out after the Blake Lively sex scene. I guess the poor taste in movies isn’t just limited to Americans.

Maybe, Jeffrey Katzenberg is right. The CEO of Dreamworks was featured in an L.A. Times article yesterday marking the 20-year anniversary of when his 28-page in-house memo naming names was printed publicly. Then as Disney’s head of production, Katzenberg claimed that big name actors suck up way too much of the studio’s money and offers little reward to the studio because of this, even if the movie becomes a hit.

While you can make an exception to the select few who can touch anything and turn it into gold–Ben Stiller (Little Fockers, 5.3, $304 million) and Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland, 6.6, $1.02 billion)–maybe, it is best to not get caught up with big name actors and have a great story. After all, as the article mentions, you won’t find a famous voice in a Pixar movie, and look at their success. Or how little-known Julia Roberts had Pretty Woman make $463 million. Or more recently, how no famous comedian was in The Hangover, which set a domestic record for highest-grossing R-rated comedy at $467 million.

What was lambasted 20 years ago by the acting community, as you can imagine, is now hailed “prophetic” by studios. I mean, take a look at all the big names attached to every single comedy I wanted to see in the list above. And you would’ve thought this was some novel idea.


February 10, 2011

Best and worst movies of 2010

Filed under: For your pleasure — BJ @ 5:15 pm

In my first full year, I’ve seen 49 films that were released in 2010 and will continue to make some changes as I catch up on last year’s movies. Without further ado, my top 20 and my bottom 5. Post up if you have a top 10 movie that isn’t on my list, as I consider them my 5-star movies of the year. Let the verbal sparring begin!

Must watch

  1. True Grit (Best Picture, Best Remake)
  2. The Social Network (Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay, Best Adaptation from a True Story)
  3. Black Swan (Best Thriller)
  4. Toy Story 3 (Best Animated Feature, Best Sequel)
  5. Blades of Blood (Best Foreign Language Film)
  6. Kick-Ass
  7. TRON: Legacy (Best Score)
  8. The Town
  9. Going the Distance (Best Comedy)
  10. Inception (Best Original Screenplay)
  11. Shutter Island
  12. Faster
  13. Knight and Day
  14. The Fighter
  15. Let Me In
  16. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  17. Youth in Revolt
  18. 127 Hours
  19. The Crazies
  20. Case 39 (Best Horror)

Must avoid

  1. Cop Out (Worst Comedy)
  2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Worst Story, Worst Adaptation)
  3. Shrek Forever After (Worst Sequel, Worst Animated Feature)
  4. The Last Exorcism (Worst Horror)
  5. Paranormal Activity 2


February 9, 2011

Celebrity breakups

They say celebrities die in threes. Well, three relationships just publicly died in the past two days.

Olivia Wilde

The 26-year-old actress best known as a mid-series regular on House M.D. and turned heads in the recent TRON: Legacy split after eight years of marriage with an Italian Prince. I should’ve seen this coming from a mile away (if I knew she had married at the age of 18). Just like Mila Kunis, Wilde’s stock is at an all-time high with a career year. This summer and fall, Wilde is starring in at least three wide releases in four months, and she’s just too big now to not be dating a fellow thespian, even if that means cutting ties with a Prince.

Ashlee Simpson-Wentz

After less than three years of marriage, the 26-year-old filed for divorce today from Fall Out Boy member and primary songwriter Pete Wentz. Here’s to hoping Wentz, who broke the band up a year ago this month, calls up his bandmates and tells them it’s back on, especially after what he finds in her filing: primary physical custody of their 2-year-old son, spousal and child support from Wentz and terminate the court’s ability to award spousal support to Wentz.

Sienna Miller

Despite recent rumors of an imminent second engagement, Miller broke up with Jude Law again. Perhaps, this time it was that Law was so excited about his birthday on December 29 that he forgot all about her birthday on December 28. That’s a deal breaker, right?

Maybe, the three guys can get together and play this song about their exes and their future Jude Laws. And they can all switch the nationalities in the chorus because they’re all from different countries.


February 4, 2011

February movie preview

Filed under: For your pleasure — BJ @ 3:23 pm
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As the month’s first weekend of new releases comes out today, I want to spotlight a few particular movies coming out this month.

The Roommate (2/4)

Co-produced by Roy Lee, a Korean-American who co-owns a production company called Vertigo Entertainment, you’d think you were watching a CW mash-up. It stars Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and also includes Alyson Michalka (Hellcats), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Katerina Graham (The Vampire Diaries) and Matt Lanter (90210). Five actors on CW’s current lineup, I would’ve guessed the casting director only had one working channel on their TV like I do. If you can’t buy 30-year-old Minka Kelly being a college student, you probably want to stay away from 90210. Lanter, who is Liam on the show, is 27, Navid is really 30 and Teddy 32, all playing high school students.

Drive Angry 3D (2/25)

Nicolas Cage, coming off of two straight fantasy movies that somehow were able to make money, takes the turn as vengeful father who’s going to raise hell on everyone involved. He stars alongside Amber Heard (Pineapple Express, The Stepfather), who last month revealed that she’s a lesbian. It was quickly overshadowed by Mila Kunis‘ breakup but not forgotten. It was as sad as finding out that Taylor Momsen had been suspended from Gossip Girl. It’s okay, though. Momsen’s band, The Pretty Reckless, is headlining next Friday at the El Rey Theatre. No word on why a standard-looking action movie had to be shot in 3D.

Hall Pass (2/25)

From the trailer, it almost looks like another movie made out of an SNL skit, an interesting marketing scheme which first gave the impression that it was more a spoof than a serious comedy. There is an actual SNL regular in Jason Sudeikis, who once again plays the lead’s best friend on the big screen (Going the Distance) and probably would’ve been a perfect fit as Ashton Kutcher‘s sidekick in No Strings Attached. It looks funnier the more I see the commercials, and you could never count out the A-list comedy writer/director/producers, the Farrelly brothers, who are back on the big screen for their first movie since The Heartbreak Kid (2007).

As an addendum to my IMDb post, don’t bother watching a movie under 6.0. Two of the worst comedies I’ve ever seen held true to their ratings: Couples Retreat (5.5) and Cop Out (5.7). Sadly, the two combined made well over $200 million.

Don’t get sucked into watching particular actors if the movie’s bad! That’s why I’m skipping How Do You Know (5.2) and Little Fockers (5.3), two movies just released at my local dollar theater. Sadly, the latter made $289 million at the box office just because it’s a star-studded sequel. Hope you’re all happy!

Movies in the mid-6’s can be gems so if you want to watch them, watch them. Examples of two movies last year are Going the Distance, which was my favorite comedy of the year, and Knight and Day, both of which received a 6.4.

The most overrated movie that I know of in the system is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (7.8) so make that overrated mockery an exception.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be keeping a close eye this weekend on how much James Cameron‘s name alone can sell a movie. Sanctum has no famous actors and currently has a 5.7 rating. A true test to the most marketable name in film history!


February 2, 2011

New (and dead) music

Filed under: For your pleasure — BJ @ 5:35 pm
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The White Stripes officially split up today. I never followed them, but they were one of the bands on KROQ I didn’t change the station on when their song came on – like Red Hot Chili Peppers. They had a handful of recognizable songs, positive reviews on all six of their albums, an interesting history and a successful career. In the spirit of music videos (and arguably, my favorite White Stripes song), here’s the most winning MTV VMA song of theirs, for which they received three VMAs for in 2002.

Two singles were officially released yesterday in anticipation of next month’s album releases.

Dr. Dre released his second single from Detox, which is to come out on 3/1. It’s known that Dre doesn’t write his own lyrics. Now, he puts songs on his album where he has one verse to Eminem’s two? This is an “Eminem featuring Dr. Dre” song. So disappointing. I almost want to boycott Dre’s albums, it’s unacceptable. In rap, you write your own shit. If you can’t do that, then stick to producing.

Panic! at the Disco is also releasing their third album on 3/29. It’ll be interesting to note that three members have left the band since their last album release three years ago, including their primary songwriter. Listening to their first single however, assures me that their ingenious lyrics haven’t taken a hit yet and that this two-man band, like The White Stripes, will be fine with the sweetness of Brendon Urie’s voice.


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