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Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 | This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

This ‘sequel’ to Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s 1975 cult drive-in actioner Death Race 2000 is a hoot and a half – and finally consigns those dire Jason Statham/Luke Goss efforts to the wrecker’s yard.

Malcolm McDowall dials in another performance as the Trump-esque Chairman of the United Corporations of America who gets his bouffant comb-over in a twist when his four-time racing champion Frankenstein wants to retire from the ‘greatest pissing contest of mankind’ (aka the Death Race), which every citizen (now permanently unemployed) vicariously joins in via VR headsets.

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Playing the man of many a spare part (and stepping into John Carradine’s black leathers) is Manu Bennett (TV’s Spartacus), who seems to be channelling Mel Gibson’s Mad Max as he sets off with his proxy Annie Sullivan (Marci Miller, Days of Our Lives) – who is secretly working for a resistance group – from Old New York to Los Angeles. But as they mow down ‘willing’ fans along the way to collect vital points, will trying to avoid some high calibre hospitality, hot on their tailgate is the genetically-modified superstar Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who’ll stop at nothing to beat them to the finish line…

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun that pays loving homage to the original (even down to the retro poster design), while also providing some thigh-slapping political satire by lampooning everything that is wrong with America today – from guns and religion to consumerism and social apathy.

Director GJ Echternkamp and co-writer Matt Yamashita inject loads of black humour into the film and its characters, who are great fun to cheer on or boo as they traverse America’s re-named cities and states like Upper Shitville (Baltimore), New Texxaco (Texas) and MeatPakistan (Kansas).

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Amongst the racers are hip-hop star Minerva (Folake Olowofoyeku), whose latest hit song is ‘Drive… drive… drive… kill… drive…’; Tammy the Terrorist (Anessa Ramsey), a bible-bashing interfaith wack-job who is a ‘magnet for heathens’; and ABE, a KITT-like artificial intelligence who has an existential meltdown when he accidentally impales his sex-mad proxy to the hood of his bonnet.

Turning up the Roid Rage to warp factor 10 is Burt Grinstead as the sexually-ambiguous Perfectus, who reminded me of a closeted version of Gerrit Graham’s glam rocker Beef in 1974’s Phantom of the Paradise, while Yancy Butler (of Lake Placid and Witchblade fame) is the tough as nails Alexis, a former network programmer who now leads the resistance – a bunch of leather clad muscle boys. But for me, it’s Shanna Olsen who steals the show as the Hunger Games-styled news anchor Grace Tickle.

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Among the many funny lines are ‘It’s hard to turn global famine into click bait’ and ‘I’ll drink your tears Frankenstein and lick them off your handsome face’, but the most chilling must be, ‘The world is fucking crazy, a sane person doesn’t stand a chance’. Considering what America is going through now, it might just be true…

The late-great Ib Melchior gets a credit at the end for it was his short story The Racer that inspired Corman’s original Rollerball rip-off in the first place… now, does anyone remember sales people?

Death Race 2050 is out on Blu-ray and Digital Download from Monday 20 March 2017

DID YOU KNOW? You can watch the original cult action film here – in full!

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Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941) | The supernatural Hollywood classic is comic perfection and a must-see on Blu-ray

Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941)

Nominated for seven Oscars (and winning two for its story and screenplay) and the inspiration for a slew of guardian angel pictures, including a 1947 sequel, Down to Earth with Rita Hayworth, and two remakes, as Heaven Can Wait, director Alexander Hall’s delightfully droll 1941 fantasy, Here Comes Mr Jordan, is comic perfection.

Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941)


When working-class boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) dies in a plane crash, he finds himself arriving in heaven 50 years too early owing to a clerical error by an over-zealous chief dispatcher’s messenger (Edward Everett Horton).

On discovering his body has been cremated, his angelic minder, Mr Jordan (Claude Rains) fixes it that so that he can return to Earth using the body of crooked banker Bruce Farnsworth, who’s just been murdered by his adulterous wife (Rita Johnson) and secretary (John Emery).

Falling in love with the daughter of one of his duped investors (Evelyn Keyes), Joe tries to remake Farnsworth’s unworthy life, while also trying to stop a world championship prizefight from being thrown by gamblers…


Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941)

Robert Montgomery makess for a believable and solid everyman hero as the boxer given a second chance, while Claude Rains gives great support, as do James Gleason as Joe’s boxer manager and Evelyn Keyes as the breezy love interest. But it’s Edward Everett Horton who steals the show as the dithering Messenger 7013. Sweet, sophisticated and super smooth – they certainly don’t make them like this any more – and its prime a slice of Hollywood’s golden age that deserves pride of place in any classic film fan’s collection.

Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941)

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features a new 2K digital restoration, which really makes Joseph Walker’s diffused cinematography zing, and includes the following extras…

• Critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker Michael Schlesinger discuss the film and its influence.
• Audio interview from 1991 in which Elizabeth Montgomery (who died in 1995) looks back at her relationship with her staunch Republican actor father Robert Montgomery (1:19min).
• 1942 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation starring Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes and James Gleason.
• Trailer.
• Essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme.
• New artwork by Caitlin Kuhwald.

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Frank (2014) | Music, madness and a giant papier-mâché head collide in the oddball, anarchic comedy drama

Frank (2014)

With the offbeat comedy drama premiering on Film4 today at 10.40pm, here’s my take on Frank…

Don’t stop believing in your dreams
Following a chance encounter with the avant-garde Soronfrfbs rock band and their eccentric front man Frank (Michael Fassbender), who wears a giant papier-mâché head 24/7, wannabe musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) finds himself propelled on an anarchic journey of self-discovery.

Recruited as a replacement keyboard player, Jon struggles to connect with the other band members, especially distrusting Theremin-player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), but ends up using his inheritance to produce the band’s latest concept album. While cooped up in a log cabin on a remote island, the social media savvy Jon posts videos on the internet and ends up scoring the band a big gig at the South by Southwest festival in Texas. When a disastrous warm-up gig causes the band to fall out, Jon manages to convince Frank to take to the stage as a duo. But is he doing it for Frank, or himself?

Frank (2104)

Will it push you to your furthest corners?
It’s not often I come across a film that really connects on a personal level, but comedy drama, Frank, from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson really hit home. Loosely inspired by the cult figure of Frank Sidebottom (aka the late Mancunian singer-comedian Chris Sieves), in whose Oh Blimey Big Band one of the writers, Jon Ronson, played keyboards in the 1980s, the film also adds elements of notorious rock legend Captain Beefheart and schizophrenic Texan singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston, but sets the action in contemporary Ireland.

Michael Fassbender gives a nuanced performance as the titular outsider artist, whose absurd headgear hides a fragile soul which Domhnall Gleeson’s callow fan boy Jon ends up shattering (its their journey that’s at the heart of the film). And Maggie Gyllenhaal is a real standout as Clara. She’s like a female Syd Barrett, whose permanent scowl actually hides a deep love for Frank.

Frank (2104)

The film’s first half is a crazy road-movie-styled delight (the opening titles span a very post-modern 10 minutes btw) and I found myself helplessly drawn into Jon’s bromance with Frank, while his onscreen tweets are #hilarious (but you’ll never make them out if watch the film on a mobile). But when the comedy gives way to more serious matters (and the truth about Frank is revealed), the film’s fun factor comes to a screeching halt. While those introspective scenes put a dampener on the oddball adventure, the home truths that are revealed are food for thought – especially on the nature of the artist versus the cult of celebrity, maximising our online presence, and mental illness vs true genius.

Oddball, yet deep (in sentiment), passionate, yet punk-spirited (about the creative process), there’s a lot going here, just like there’s a lot going on behind Frank’s papier-mâché cartoon face. It’s also got some bonkers brilliant toons.

Frank (2104)

Frank is also available from Curzon Film World on Blu-ray and DVD, which includes audio commentary with Lenny Abrahamson, Domhnall Gleeson and composer Stephen Rennicks; commentary with writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straugaan; behind the scenes featurette, sound promo, deleted scenes and trailer.

Also available from ArtificalEyeFilms on YouTube and BFI Player

The Frank soundtrack is released by Silva Screen, check it out here: http://www.soundtrack.net/album/frank/

Brit indie comedy Sasquatch gets its London premiere screening this weekend

Sasquatch (2016)

Sasquatch is a new comedy adventure from Brit indie outfit Lukewarm Films, and it gets a London premiere screening this coming Saturday at the iconic Prince Charles Cinema at 8.30pm.


This coming-of-age comedy set in the Lake District finds buddies Will (Dominic Crisp) and Harvey (Bernie Paget), who trick a small town into believing that Bigfoot is real. Armed with nothing but their determination and a cheap costume the two set off to scare the locals. Unbeknownst to them their plan works too well and the town employs a hunter to take down the roving beast…


Co-starring Abigail Hardingham (Nina Forever) and John Murtagh (Braveheart, Rob Roy), Sasquatch is directed, produced and co-written by Rob Luke, and co-written and produced by Bernie Paget, and produced by Maxwell Boulton.

Tickets are £20 (£15.99 for Under 25s) and can be purchased following this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sasquatch-the-london-premiere-tickets

Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961) | Jean-Luc Godard’s delightful tribute to the Hollywood musical

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Parisian striptease dancer Angela (Anna Karina) yearns to have a child, but her bookseller husband Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy) is only interested in cycling. Angela then turns her attentions to Emile’s best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who ends up falling in love with her.

This delightful light comedy from 1961 was Jean-Luc Godard’s second feature, but his first to be shot in colour and in a studio. It also earned him and his then wife Anna Karina awards at the Berlin Film Festival.

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Channelling the spirit of American screwball comedies and musicals of the 1930’s, with an affectionate nod to director Ernst Lubitsch (Belmondo’s character is named after the Hollywood legend), this off-centre tribute is dominated by an engaging Karina as the naïve dancer and Belmondo as the gauche, tongue-tied Alfred. A colourful confection indeed.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Une Femme Est Une Femme (Cert PG, 80min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside featuring Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot le fou and Alphaville.

The special features include and introduction by Colin McCabe, an interview with Anna Karina, and galleries of photos and posters.

 

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) | The Beatles movie is still hard to beat 51 years on…

The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (50th anniversary)

Soaring in their first, full-length, hilarious, action-packed film!
OK, so the 50th anniversary restoration release of The Beatles’ classic film came out last year, but I couldn’t help but share these great pics from the film which swept the world between July and October in 1964, and had its Spanish premiere on 14 September.

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The Cat and the Canary (1939) | Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard are a class act in the creaky comedy chiller

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

‘Don’t big empty houses scare you?’ ‘Not me, I used to be in vaudeville!’
A slick mix of wisecracking comedy and spooky thrills, the 1939 classic comedy chiller, The Cat and the Canary, turned Bob Hope into a Hollywood star and won Paulette Goddard a 10-year contract with Paramount.

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

One of the earliest ‘old dark house’ mysteries, first filmed as a silent in 1927 (watch t below), it was tailored to Hope’s characteristic style which he’d go onto hone in his buddy comedies with Bing Crosby, and gave Goddard the chance to shine as the spirited heroine. Together they play a radio actor and an heiress who turn up at a decrepit old mansion in a mist-shrouded Louisiana swamp for the reading of a will. Secret passages, a portrait with eyes that move, a valuable diamond necklace, and an escaped lunatic keep the couple and a cast of eccentric characters on their toes until the final act, in which Goddard’s spunky ‘canary’ is lured into an underground passage by the shadowy ‘Cat’.

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

Stylishly staged and filled with a suitably spooky atmosphere, it boasts wonderfully gloomy performances from George Zucco as a stiff lawyer and Gale Sondergaard as the sinister housekeeper. Following this film. Zucco and Sondergaard went on to play the villainous Moriarty and The Spider Woman in Universal’s big-screen Sherlock Holmes adventures opposite Basil Rathbone.

The success of the film led to Hope and Goddard re-teaming for The Ghost Breakers (1940), while John Willard’s classic story was later remade by erotic arthouse director Radley Metzer in 1979. The film was also the model for the Frankie Howerd comedy The House on Nightmare Park in 1970 (see my review here).

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

THE UK RELEASE
The Cat and the Canary is available on DVD from Fabulous Films in the UK, and includes as extras, a trailer and three galleries.

THE TRAILER

THE 1927 SILENT IN FULL

Here Come The Munsters (1995) | It’s back to Mockingbird Lane for some silly old-school slap-shtick

Here Come the Munsters

Back in 2012, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller tried to resurrect America’s first family of fright and fun, The Munsters, with Mockingbird Lane. But it wasn’t the first time that the cult CBS TV show, which ended its run after two season in 1966, was dusted off and reimagined.

Thanks to syndication, the popularity of the series was such that three members of the original cast – Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis – were reunited for the 1981 made-for TV movie, The Munster’s Revenge, in the hope that a sequel series would be picked up.

But the jokes were old hat by then and nothing came of it, until seven years later when The Munsters Today ended up airing for three seasons, with John Schuck, Lee Meriwether and Howard Morton playing everyone’s favourite monsters: Herman, Lily and Grandpa.

Here Come the Munsters

Then came the TV-movie, Here Come The Munsters, which was first screened in the US on Halloween night in 1995, and starred Edward Hermann (The Gilmore Girls), Veronica Hamel (Hill Street Blues) and future Mad Men actor Robert Morse in the lead roles. Serving as a prequel and a reinvention of the original TV series, it found the family forced to flee their native Transylvania for America, where they settle down in the home of Herman’s comatose sister Elsa (Judy Gold) at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

While Lily tries to win over the neighbours, including the nosey Mrs Dimwitty (Mary Woronov), and Herman finds his perfect job at the local undertakers, it’s down to Grandpa to find an antidote for Marilyn’s dad, Norman Hyde (Deep Space Nine‘s Max Grodénchik), who has accidentally turned himself into a xenophobic Republican, Brent Jeykll (Jeff Trachta).

Here Come the Munsters

Hermann, Hamel and More do a great imitation of the original characters as played by Gwynne, De Carlo and Lewis, who great a neat cameo in a restaurant scene with Pat Priest and Butch Patrick (the original Marilyn and Eddie).

The slap-shtick comedy is lifted straight out the 1960s series, as are many of the puns and visual gags that made the series so memorable. Mind you there are also some new ones like Lily’s creaking stair-climber to bring it up to date (1990s style). The film’s script, from future Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Brady, meanwhile, errs on the side of caution in making fun of Republicans, low-fat diets and anti-immigration laws.

Here Come the Munsters

Playing Marilyn is Ben Stiller’s future wife, Christine Taylor, who is so annoyingly chirpy that she seems to be channeling her Marcia Brady character from the Brady Bunch movies, while cult favourite Mary Woronov is wasted as the Neighborhood Watch busybody and deserves more scream time.

Unfortunately, the Munster Mansion that was used in the TV series (and which ended up being redressed for Desperate Housewives) doesn’t make an appearance here. Making welcome return, however, is the original Munster Koach, designed by George Barris, who also did the Batmobile for TV’s Batman, the show that help sealed The Munsters premature burial back in the 1966s.

The Munster Koach

While Here Come the Munsters can’t beat the original series, or indeed the first screen outing (in colour), 1966’s Munster, Go Home! (also available from Fabulous Films), its old school charm pays a nice homage. Yet another TV movie, The Munsters Scary Little Christmas, was made in 1996, again with a different cast and a different house (it was shot in Australia).

Here Come the Munsters is available on DVD in the UK from Fabulous Films

 

Percy’s Progress (1974) | The British sex comedy rises again – on Blu-ray

Percy's_Progress_Blu-ray_1With a bounty of Bollinger 1969 stored onboard his yacht, Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson) takes to the high seas to escape his notoriety as the well-endowed recipient of the world’s first penis transplant.

But when the entire male population becomes impotent after the US-made PX-123 drug accidentally gets into the water supply, Percy becomes the British Government’s secret weapon in reversing the world’s falling birth rate.

After ‘servicing’ the representatives of several countries in the Miss Conception International contest, Percy decides he’s done his patriotic duty and goes back into hiding – which doesn’t go down well with his advisors or the bevy of beautiful birds who only want a favour most men would be happy to oblige…

Percy's Progress Quad Poster

This 1974 British sex comedy was director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E Box’s sequel to their box-office hit Percy, based on Raymond Hitchcock’s 1969 debut novel, with Leigh Lawson packing into Hywel Bennett’s briefs as the sexed-up anti-hero with the enviable manhood.

Drawing on themes originally exploited in the 1933 sci-fi musical comedy, It’s Great to Be Alive (a remake of the 1924 silent, The Last Man on Earth), and in the 1946 Pat Frank novel, Mr Adam, Percy’s Progress comes off like a poor-man’s Carry On. It should have been a saucy seaside postcard delight, but it’s not. Director Thomas, who was responsible for the ar superior Doctor series of comedy films, and Up Pompeii! writer Sid Colin have merely served up a series of flaccid, vulgar jokes about impotence.

Percy's Progress (1974)

Getting into bed with Lawson (who famously wedded both Hayley Mills and model Twiggy), are some well-known Hammer glamour stars, including Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Julie Edge and Judy Matheson. But it’s the roll call of other famous names that’s the real reason to check this oddity out. Among the embarrassed faces on display in the messy farce are Elke Sommer, Milo O’Shea, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Anthony Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Alan Lake and Anthony Sharp.

stavosAs the Aristotle Onassis-styled tycoon Stavos Mammonian, Vincent Price is confined to a wheelchair (the last time he did that was in 1953’s House of Wax); while Harry H Corbett (who wrote some of the dialogue, along with comedy legend Ian La Frenais) gets in an hilarious Harold Wilson impersonation (albeit with a Yorkshire accent) as the British PM.

Barry Humphries and Judy Geeson in Percy's ProgressFollowing his multiple roles in the crude but entertaining Barry McKenzie movies, Barry Humphries takes on the dual role of scientist Dr Anderson (sporting a great whistling speech pediment) and an ‘Australian TV lady’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to his Moonee Ponds housewife, Edna Everage. Judy Geeson, meanwhile, gets a very odd role as Dr Anderson’s overly cheery assistant who become instrumental in reversing the drug’s sterility factor.

It's Not The Size That CountsInterestingly, author Raymond Hitchcock ended up publishing a novel based on Sid Colin’s screenplay, while the film’s theme tune ‘God Knows I Miss You’ was co-written by The Seekers’ Keith Potger and Tony Macaulay, who had a string of hits for the likes of Long John Baldry and The Hollies.

EMI Films originally released the film in the UK in August 1974, but it took another two years before a US distribution was announced. Retitled, It’s Not the Size That Counts, trimmed by 90-minutes, and with additional scenes of a penis transplant and a dwarf (played by one-time Ewok, Luis De Jesus) tacked on, the film was eventually released Stateside in November 1978. You can watch a US TV trailer below.

Percy's Progress (1974)

THE UK HD RELEASE
Released as part of Network’s British Film collection, Percy’s Progress gets a brand-new high definition transfer from the original film elements, in its original aspect ratio, and in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The special features include original theatrical trailers, image gallery and promotional material (pdf).

CATCH A BLU-RAY CLIP FROM NETWORK

WATCH THE US TV TRAILER

What We Do In the Shadows (2014) | Best vampire comedy by far! Here’s seven reasons why…

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

What happens when four ancient vampires decide to lodge together in modern-day Wellington? Well that’s what a documentary film crew, armed with crucifixes, want to find out in this laugh-about Kiwi mockumentary, directed by and starring Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).

Pedantic 18th-century dandy Viago (Taika Waititi), 183-year-old bad boy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and 862-year-old ladies man Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) are three bloodsuckers leading a pretty normal life in Wellington, New Zealand, coping with housework and finding unsuspecting victims in the city’s local nightclubs, assisted by Deacon’s familiar, Jackie (Jackie van Beek).

When their 8000 year-old basement-dwelling housemate Petyr (Ben Fransham) turns Jackie’s ex Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire, the guys suddenly find themselves learning more about modern life from a surprising source – Nick’s human best mate Stu (Stuart Rutherford).

SEVEN OF THE BEST
Like ‘The Young Ones with extra bite’, this is the best vampire comedy to come along in a very long time, and here are seven side-splitting reasons why…

1. VIAGO AND THE KITCHEN TOWEL
From his old-school style coffin rising to playing ‘ghost cups’ in the mirror, Viago is hilarious anytime he’s on screen, but when the burst artery of one his victims sprays blood everywhere, that newspaper he’s carefully put down becomes totally useless.

2. VLADISLAV’S HYPNOTIC POWERS
The one-time lothario has lost his mojo over the centuries due to a fall-out with his ex-lover,  The Beast. But watching him try out his lame hypnotic powers on an old guy watching telly is pathetically sad. He’s also not very good at fighting while transformed into a bat (prone to setting  off car alarms). At least he has a unique fashion sense, which he calls ‘dead but delicious’.

3. DEACON’S BISGHETTI SCENE
Deacon thinks he’s the coolest vampire in the house, but he’s actually a bit of a drip – as witnessed by his naff snake dancing. But he really shows himself up when he tries to convince Nick that he’s eating worms instead of spaghetti – which he pronounces as bisghetti.

4. JACKIE THE JEX-ORCIST
Deacon’s familiar is fed up with having spent four years ironing the boys’ frills as she waits her turn to become immortal. She might be a dag, but Jackie’s certainly having the last laugh on her old school enemies as they are now being drained by Deacon and his pals.

5) NICK’S VAMPIRE FACE
Like Viago, Nick turns every scene he’s in, into a laugh riot – his one-to-one’s with Petyr over not killing Stu because ‘vampire mates don’t eat human mates’ is a hoot. But it’s the look on a smart arse shop assistant’s face when he shows his vampire face that had me cackling.

6) STU’S COMPUTER LESSON
Everyone loves Stu, Nick’s geeky human mate, especially when he shows the guys the wonders of the internet, from looking at pictures of ‘virgins’ to helping Viago skype his 90-year-old former assistant back in Germany. He’s the quite achiever in this gang.

7) WE’RE WEREWOLVES NOT SWEAR-WOLVES
The wereguys preparing for their monthly transformation is the film’s funniest moment, especially when alpha wolf Anton (Rhys Darby) chastises a pack member for wearing jeans instead of tracksuit bottoms. But also is this scene when the vamps and werewolves clash.

THE UK RELEASE
What We Do In The Shadows is released on DVD in the UK through Metrodome. The special extras include deleted scenes, interviews, a Behind The Shadows featurette, bonus video extras and promos.

TRAILER

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