Directed by: Pete Travis
Category: Badass Cinema
It seriously does. Dredd is one of the best Hard R action films I've seen in many, many years to actually hit the theaters. By now I'm sure you've read that that's probably why it isn't making much money at the box office, because we all know PG 13 means more butts in the seats, but I just couldn't imagine a softened version of this insanely badass film. I just couldn't. It wouldn't work, because that's not the world Judge Dredd lives in. And that's not the kind of world we in the filmgeek community want to see him in either.
Dredd starts off with a bang and does not let up until the film is over 95 minutes later. It's dark, gritty, violent, bloody and visually impressive from start to finish. No cop-out shaky cam or quick editing here. Director Pete Travis takes his time and gives the film an impressive visual panache, but most importantly, he keeps the camera still. I mean, honestly, that's a big deal for me because that rarely happens anymore. But we've also got a great script from 28 Days Later scribe Alex Garland, who keeps the story simple, yet effective. Essentially, Dredd is stuck training a rookie (Judge Anderson) for a day, who ultimately get stuck in a building run by drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) while responding to a couple of dead bodies who seem to have fallen from several stories up. Except for an excellent chase sequence at the beginning of the film, the majority of Dredd takes place inside this building where Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and their suspect must try to make their way out alive. That's me putting it simply. There's more to it than that, but that's the gist of it and all you really need to know going in. You don't want me to spell "everything" out for you, do you?
Let me just say, Karl Urban nails it. Tough as nails, but more subdued than Stallone's 1995 interpretation and with kind of a Clint Eastwood rasp, Urban embodies everything we have come to love about the Judge Dredd character and succeeds in breathing life into a character that's still not very well known to the average moviegoer. You want to know the best thing? Dredd never once takes off his helmet in the entire film. Who cares what he looks like under there? Who cares where he came from or how he came to be one of the toughest Judges in Mega City One? These were all things that the filmmakers felt a need to explain in detail in director Danny Cannon's original 1995 Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, currently holding the #1 spot as my most viewed review here on robotGEEK's Cult Cinema for quite some time. I love that deeply flawed original film, but for different reasons altogether. In this new version, the events take place through the course of one single day, and it's about survival. When it's all over and done with, it was just another day on the job for one of Mega City One's toughest Judges and it's back to work the next day. You see here, he's not yet the city's most feared Judge. Some know who he is, but he's just another hard working Judge doing what he does best, not having had that one case that brings him notoriety yet, unlike Stallone's version where he's considered almost a myth and feared by all.
You may have noticed I titled this Dredd and not Dredd 3D. That's because I chose to watch this in 2D rather than 3D. I know, I know. I hear this is one of the rare occasions where 3D worked really well for the film but I figured when it hits DVD and Blu ray, it's "not" going to be in 3D anyway, so why bother? Plus it saved me a few bucks. I'm just not a fan of 3D. I don't like how muted everything looks and I don't like how it's a post conversion job, as it ends up being most of the time. Hell, Guillermo del Toro's new film Pacific Rim is now going to be converted post into 3D. He, one of the last traditionalist filmmakers out there, has finally given in and frankly, I'm still trying to understand why.
I still enjoyed Dredd in 2D immensely and the now famous "Slow-Mo" sequences were still jaw dropping in there execution. 2D and all. Your senses just can't prepare you for the insane carnage you'll find in here. It's bloody awesome, reminding me a lot of the trio of Paul Verhoeven films that made him a household name with films like Robocop, Totoal Recall and Starship Troopers in terms of over the top violence. My buddy Renning made a striking comment on Facebook right after he saw this. He basically said that he hadn't liked a movie like this since the original Robocop. I have to agree.
While I wrap this up I'd like to touch on something that seems more evident with this film than any other of recent memory. Dredd opened to a weak 6 million at the box office, when I was almost certain it would have opened at number one, blowing away the competition. I'm still shocked at that. I'm shocked that a lame teen horror film and a Clint Eastwood baseball drama beat out Dredd. I just can't understand why, or how that can be. In this haze I stumbled upon a fascinating article by Paul Shirey over at JoBlo.com titled "C'mon Hollywood: What does the failure of Dredd tell us?". Such a good article and goes into detail as to why he thinks Dredd tanked at the box office it's opening weekend while other mediocre films went on to almost tie for the number one spot and where the general movie-going audience's state of mind is these days. Great article and it makes a lot of sense.
The general consensus for Dredd so far is very positive, receiving a 7.8 rating on IMDB and certified "fresh" with a 76 % rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this posting. Very good ratings for a film these days. But go see it for yourself and make up your own mind.
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Sometimes a horror movie comes along and just kicks my ass. It is indeed a rare occurance, but it does happen and it just happened recently when I sat down to finally watch The Cabin in the Woods from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Man oh man, what a blast! Let me just say, the trailers or even the positive buzz doesn't even begin to hint at the brilliance and vibe of this film.
I had every intention of checking this out in the theater, but as with most films I want to see at the theater, it just didn't happen. Recently hitting DVD and Blu-ray here in the states, I was strongly persuaded to see it by a huge fan, someone who shares almost the exact same taste in films as I and well, just simply based on her enthusiasm, I just had to. I was not only thoroughly entertained from beginning to end, but I was constantly surprised and while I knew what the big secret was before going in (some spoiler heavy reviewers just can't keep their mouth shut!), it still didn't prepare me for the insane amount of shit going on in here. While knowing what the secret was going in, of which the viewer is pretty much told right at the beginning, this still went in so many other directions that I hadn't anticipated that it was just so fucking refreshing and such a blast to watch. I only wish I had been able to see this with someone else and not by myself, but even then, I loved it because it was just awesome.
That being said, I won't get into the story................at all! No spoilers here because the less you know, the better. But what I will say, besides being such a blast, is that it's a very well made film from all angles, the production, the script, the actors, the effects and the genres, of which it tends to blend hardcore 80's horror with elements of sci-fi, classic horror while playing homage to a "lot" of our favorite horror films of the past with a wink, of which only hardcore filmgeeks will get most of the time. Written by Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Firefly, well you know who he is) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield and big time television producer and writer), they seem to have set out to turn the horror genre on it's ear and to give it a new spin, something that the genre has been sorely missing for many, many years in the wake of all these lame ass remakes and shitty sub par horror films. They succeed ten fold. While praising these two guys I also have to give props to Goddard for doing a bang-up job on directing duties. I can't believe he's never directed a film before or since, because technically this was actually made in 2009. The full on horror elements are intense, and the gore aplenty, but never over the top to where it delves into the ridiculous. Ok, maybe towards the end, but even then it was just aaaaaaaawesome. Aaaahhh! I can't say enough about this film. Just go see it!
Directed by: Rob Zombie
You know, sometimes I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that Rob Zombie is a big time Hollywood filmmaker. It just blows my mind. I might not like everything he's done, but I have tremendous respect for the guy. He's done something not a lot of people have ever done by transitioning from music to filmmaking successfully. But he still does music and tours to this day, which blows my mind even more.
Zombie is a love him or hate him kinda filmmaker. He definitely possesses a specific type of look and feel for his films, kind of a late 70's to early 80's style of filmmaking, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I dug his first feature quite a bit with House of a 1,000 Corpses, which felt like more of a homage to 70's horror films than anything. But I only saw it that one time and never felt the need to revisit it. I'm not even going to discuss the Halloween films. I had and have no desire to see those. I wish I could give an explanation as to why, but I can't. They just don't seem very good to me. I mean, why mess with the original when it was so great to begin with?
So for some reason this one passed me buy. I didn't actively avoid it or anything, but I never made an effort to take it in. Now I'm kicking myself because as I'm sure most of you will agree, this is definitely his most accomplished film to date. A great violent, bloody and dirty film about a family of killers with no remorse on the run from the law led by family matriarch Captain Spalding (Sid Haig). One of the things most will notice almost immediately is Zombie's gift for casting. Here it's about as good as it could possibly get. Besides the three principle players of Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and Sheri Moon Zombie, you have greats like William Forsythe as a crazy cop on their trail, Ken Foree, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes and none other than Danny Trejo. Great, great cast all around that only lend this film's awesome vibe.
Another aspect I liked was how Zombie tried to push the envelope with this one in terms of shock value. A sex scene early on is a good example, as is a torture sequence in a hotel room. Zombie's gritty style does wonders for the story in general, but the violence and makeup effects work is nicely done as well. A fun, gritty, violent and bloody tale as told the way only Rob Zombie could tell it. Definitely the best he's done so far, but I am hearing really good things about his soon to be released film The Lords of Salem. So we might just have another contender.
Directed by: Geoff Murphy
Category: Badass Cinema
Somebody please slap me. Can you believe that I've never seen this film before until now? I honestly have no reasonable excuse as to why, but it's true. Maybe I didn't like the poster? Maybe I didn't like the idea that it was a sequel? I don't know. But for some strange reason I never gave this a shot and boy am I kicking myself for it right now. Why? Because this was really great. Another prime example of Seagal's "Golden Age" and the kind of films they just don't make anymore.
Here he plays Casey Ryback, the chef from the first film only this time at the wrong place at the wrong time. He's on a train with his niece, who doesn't seem to like him when the train they are riding on is hijacked and it's up to Ryback to save the day.
So yea, though I was a big Seagal fan back in the day, even during this era, this one passed me by but here I am. Finally giving it a shot so here we go. So this was about the time when his star started to fade. Maybe it was because of the atrocity he committed in the form of On Deadly Ground, maybe because he was getting bigger or older or slower or harder to understand? Maybe it was all of these things? The fact of the matter is that "message" film On Deadly Ground severely changed everything and things were never the same again. So I suppose after a disaster like that he thought the best thing to do would be to revisit probably the biggest film of his career up until that point, the box office smash Under Siege. I probably would have.
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is a great good ol' fashioned 90's action film. It's got a great look, a great vibe and a great cast. I love how Seagal is a very specific and atypical kind of action star. His fights are never flashy and he's not doing flips or roundhouses or anything like that. In his case it's more about getting in close and bringing him down with the least amount of moves possible, which isn't very big on spectacle, but very effective. He also has a nice supporting cast to round out the film. Eric Bogosian as the nerdy tech mastermind was great. I know he's well known for his one man shows, but I have only ever seen him as the captain on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which he's great in. But to see him play a little whacko was also great and refreshing. Of course Seagal has a sidekick in this one in the form of a baggage handler, which also provides a lot of the laughs which was also nice. The who's who of character actors that make up the small army of bad guys was awesome. Much like my experience watching Brain Smasher, A Love Story recently, it was fun pointing every single one of them out and pinpointing which films I remember them from, where they also played bad guys. Great stuff and great fun.
It was about this time where I started to lose interest in him as an action star. Personally, my favorites are all his early films up until this point. Only sporadically would I enjoy one in the years after this, but there were a few like The Glimmer Man and Exit Wounds that I do in fact enjoy. Buuuuut hey, we have some really great late 80's to mid 90's action films from this guy that have stood the test of time.
Special thanks to Jack over at Collected Cinema for his enthusiastic review of this one recently, which got me to finally get off my ass and seek it out.
As well as squeezing in reviews from time to time and working a full time job, I also dabble in art and photography as well as run an online site where I make and sell handmade items with a Geek flair. Messenger bags, web belts, wrist cuffs, you name it.
All of the items in my shop are made, packaged and shipped by me personally. Being a nerd myself, you can see that every design has a Geek vibe to it, whether it's related to pop culture, films, music and everything in between. These are items that I could never find when looking for a cool book bag or cuff or web belt, so I decided to just make them myself. I also love to do custom work, so if there is an image you'd like printed onto a bag or belt buckle, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com for any questions or requests.
From time to time I will spotlight an item I feel would be of interest to the Geek community and hopefully drum up a few more sales, as they have been seriously lagging these past few months. Anyway! Take a gander and hope you like what you see!
Television Test Pattern Medium Messenger Bag - $23
• 100% cotton canvas
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Click the link to view shipping details as well as any other important information.
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Directed by: Craig Moss
Category: Badass Cinema
First thing's first. Yes, Bad Ass is indeed very Badass!
So that's out of the way and you can calm your fears and be rest assured that in the end, when it's all over you will have the comfort of knowing that this film kicks ass for 2 reasons, writer/director Craig Moss's self assured and even handed direction and Danny Trejo just simply owning this fucking movie. Danny Trejo rules. End of discussion.
This was a really fun flick. Danny Trejo delivers the goods. I mean, you just know he will but even I was kinda blown away by how awesome he was in here. I just love that guy! I have to tell you, I am just so happy that Trejo has been given the opportunity to show the world that he can do more than play the scary looking prisoner in the background. Here he shows more range than I've ever seen before, even crying in one sequence. And though he has a reputation for dispersing justice through his fists, he's one helluva nice guy. Very sweet, caring and charming. But you get in his face, or try holding up a liquor store or start rough housing your wife, you're gonna be sorry. He still comes out in an insane amount of DTV flicks as a supporting character, but at least we get gems like this and the Machete films from time to time.
In Bad Ass, Trejo plays a war vet who's down on his luck, barely able to make ends meet and who just wants to be left alone. When two skinheads start bothering an elderly man on the bus, he steps in and literally wipes the floor with them. Filmed by someone's cellphone camera he becomes an instant internet sensation and folk hero. Soon, trouble and trouble makers seem to follow him wherever he goes and his life will never be the same.
Sooooooo I don't feel like I can be completely honest if I didn't mention the one thing that bothered me about this movie. So the movie's rolling along nicely. It's made very well, has a lot of fights, a lot of heart and a lot of laughs. Bad Ass aka Frank Vega (Danny Trejo) finds the guy who's responsible for ordering the hit on his life long friend Klondike and next thing you know, they're on a full on bus chase knocking cars out of the road at the end of the film, destroying a water fountain in the process and crashing through a building when I realize I'm seeing a shot for shot sequence from the bus chase at the end of Walter Hill's excellent Red Heat.
Is it a ripoff? A homage? I don't know, but I go with it. It's ridiculous and feels completely out of place, but you know, it's a fun movie and this is a fun sequence. But being the die hard fan of Red Heat that I am it was bothering me. It looked almost exactly the same except for some intersplicing of Trejo and the bad guy pretending to drive a bus against a green screen and with a few digital effects thrown in for good measure. Then the sequence is over after the game of chicken they are playing and the bad guy's bus crashes into an oncoming train and yea, again shot for shot, even the way Trejo breaks out of his bus after he crashes it. Just like in Red Heat. But anyway, we move onto another location and another fight scene and the film wraps up nicely. But I can't get that whole bus chase sequence out of my head and so I do a little digging and find out that the director "did" use that sequence from Red Heat, only slightly altering it digitally and adding Trejo and the bad guy. Ok, so I have no idea why they took a whole complete sequence out of one of one of the best action movies to come out of the 80's and decided to put it in a small scale film 24 years later, but I digress. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but it does.
This is supposedly based on a true story, but from what I understand they changed a lot of the details. But whatever, it's fun. And I'll be honest, I wasn't really sure about this one. I love Danny Trejo, but I'd never heard of writer/director Craig Moss and you know how that goes. Sometimes these new young filmmakers just deliver shit. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Bad Ass retains a nice professional look and quality throughout and throw in an nice eclectic supporting cast that includes Charles S. Dutton and Ron Pearlman and you have one Bad Ass film.
Directed by: Scott Spiegel
Hhhmmm, well, you have to expect that since this is the first in the series to not hit theaters, it's going to have a difference in substance and quality and that's exactly what we get here.
It's not a bad or crappy movie by any means.......it just feels so tame compared to the first two because in all honesty, there is not a lot of violence or even shock value. Yes, a few scenes here and there, but not what you'd come to expect from a Hostel film.
Typical story, except this time it's set in Las Vegas. The cast was fine, nothing really to complain about in that department, and the effects (when there were some) were pretty good. But really, the biggest problem with this film is that there just wasn't enough of it. Not enough kills, not enough violence and not enough "Oh Shit!" moments. Because that's really what you want from these kinds of torture porn films, plenty of "Oh Shit!" moments and I can vaguely remember maybe 1 scene like that.
I admire Scott Spiegel as a director. His inventive camera work in Intruder is what really made that film what it was, besides the awesome amount of gore (Unrated Director's Cut Edition). You can tell he got a lot of inspiration and know how from his good friend Sam Raimi. His imprint is felt all around that movie. But with this film, it's very tame compared to his other films, which really surprised me because if ever there was a film that a filmmaker can go bugnuts insane with the inventive camera work and violence, you'd think it would be a Hostel film. But not in this case. While his style is very nice to look at and professional in Hostel III, it was a bit of a surprise to see Spiegel not go all out as he has in the past.
All in all, not a bad horror film. Well made with a professional look, not something you can say often these days with DTV horror films. It just needed more of everything to make it awesome. Noble effort though......
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Category: Cult Classics
Ya know, for some reason, much like Fright Night Part 2, this is a very rare and hard to find film on DVD, and because so, it goes for insane amounts of money. Not really justifiable in my opinion, but that's the way the collectors market goes when dealing with OOP DVD's.
But anyway, Brain Smasher. I've always heard about this one. I'm a big Albert Pyun fan and he has a few titles in his long and vast filmography that are just really hard to come by these days. Sometimes I get lucky, like when I scored my Nemesis Widescreen Laserdisc, but a lot of his 80's and 90's stuff is very rare or just not even available on DVD altogether. And if it is, more often than not it's not available in it's proper aspect ratio and you get a bad full frame presentation. Another film of his I have yet to get my hands on that doesn't seem to available is Knights. But that's another story.
You gotta love Andrew Dice Clay. He's just great. He can be tough, charismatic and a much better actor than people give him credit for. I can only assume it has to do with a few of his missteps related to his brand of comedy, like the whole ridiculous MTV thing. But that was the 90's, if that had happened today or if he was telling those same jokes today, it wouldn't even be an issue. I honestly thought that after the awesome Adventures of Ford Fairlane hit theaters, his star would rise. Obviously that wasn't the case. But we did get a few good films out of him, though none as great as Ford Fairlane.
Here he plays a bouncer known as Brain Smasher, because apparently he's just really good at smashing brains while beating you to a pulp. He unwittingly gets caught up in a scheme where Sam Cain's (Teri Hatcher) sister tries to get her to smuggle a rare flower into the U.S. Soon a band of coolly dressed monks (not ninjas!) arrive in search of this rare flower and its up to Brain Smasher (Andrew Dice Clay) to protect Sam and save the day.
This was a fun movie. It's very simple and very understated, which only adds to it's charm. Clay was great as the bouncer with a big heart, and Teri Hatcher didn't get on my nerves. Oh, and most importantly, she's actually hot in this. I have to say it was around the late 90's where she got too skinny for my taste, but here she's got a healthy dose of curves and there is one 2 second long scene in particular where they show here in a bathing suit during a photo shoot (she's a model) that almost makes your jaw drop to the floor. You think, "Wow, she was actually hot once!".
Really, it's just an endless array of fight scenes where Brain Smasher kicks the living shit out of these ninjas (oops! Sorry, they hate to be called ninjas!) with only his bare fists over and over. You'd think they'd learn their lesson, but they don't and they keep coming back for more only to be shown again and again that a roundhouse is no match for Brain Smasher's fists. Despite the action, it's also funny. Clay doesn't throw around the jokes and ad lib like he did in Fairlane, but he has enough funny lines that work well and his chemistry with Hatcher is pretty good. This just seemed like such a good fit for him. Too bad he didn't get enough roles worthy of his kind of style.
Albert Pyun. I have to say this one made me happy. Here he used the same style he used in a lot of my favorite Pyun flicks. Stylish, yet a little free flowing with the steadicam shots, but never looking half-assed. It all looks good. I can't say the same for some of his later films, but this was a good example of the Albert Pyun style of filmmaking that I like so much.
The supporting cast I must admit is also really, really fun here. In very small roles you have Brion James and Tim fucking Thomerson. But you've also got a plethora of who's who in the action and B Movie world of the 80's and 90's and it's fun to sit there and point out where you remember them from. Like Peter Kwong for instance. He was "Rain" from Big Trouble in Little China and Stargrove's friend in one of my all time fav's, Never Too Young To Die. But dude, there's a lot of people in this film and it's a blast.
Now for the kicker.
Right now, this is actually available on Netflix Instant. Yes, you read that right. For how long? I don't know. But currently you don't need to shell out insane figures to watch this, just hit up Netflix's streaming service and you can watch it this very second.
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Category: Badass Cinema
I know I'm really late jumping on the bandwagon with this one. The problem is that it only now hit DVD where I live and the one week it was showing in our theaters, I was unable to attend. So here we are.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet.
The Raid is hands down one of the best action and martial arts films I've seen in the last 20 years. It's fucking brutal in it's depiction of violence, which often seems endless, and it's stunningly shot and choreographed by director Gareth Evans and up and coming star Iko Uwais (Merantau) that I hope it becomes an inspiration for other filmmakers, to show you that you don't have to revert to shaky cam quick edit bullshit to make a film like this. You can use good ol' fashioned filmmaking and still achieve the same results.
What really works for this film is that the premise is pretty simple and straightforward. An elite special forces team is assigned to storm a building run by a drug lord. When the team enters the building, they become trapped and sabotaged by the drug lord and his small army and must fight there way through the many stories just to make it out alive.
It's simple, yet very effective because while there are a few surprises in store when it comes to the story, it's really all about the bone crunching fight scenes and the insane amount of blood and violence on display, and oh how beautiful it is. The action and fight scenes come fast and furious (no slow mo in here) and amazingly choreographed. Some of the stuff on display in here, I've never seen put on film before and it literally blew me away.
This guy Iko Uwais, he's gonna be huge. Such a natural talent in front of the camera, and one hell of a martial artist. He helped choreograph the fights in here as well, and if this is just the beginning of his career, I can only imagine what he has in store for us in the near future. I was already blown away with him in Merantau, and this just solidifies his "Badass" stature in the world of Badass Cinema.
See it! Just do it. Don't think, just do it.
Directed by: Eli Craig
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has a LOT of things going for it. For one, it's insanely clever. It's also authentically funny and very well made. In the confines of a spoof, this things still looks and feels like a really good horror film, reminiscent of the output of slasher flicks from the 80's.
This one really surprised me. I already had a preconceived notion about what I thought it was going to be like just based on the title alone, but I was wrong. It ended up going in a completely different direction than where I thought it was going and it was just one of many surprises this had in store for me.
Basically, it's a spoof on 80's slasher flicks, only I don't think spoof is the right term because it's not stupid or sill, but it's very clever, and never goes the Scary Movie route. Instead they decide to tell a straight story about a bunch of obnoxious teenagers who head out to the lake in the backwoods and encounter Tucker & Dale, two best friends and hillbillies who just like to keep to themselves and fish. Only circumstances won't have that and with one ridiculously hilarious situation after another they are injected into these horrible situations where they always come out looking like bloodthirsty killers out to kill the entire group of teenagers. Only that's not the case at all.
Alan Tudyk is always a pleasure to watch. He seems to excel in comedy, but I've seen him in a lot of different roles and genres and the guy can certainly handle himself in any type of film. But here as the one half of the duo he's just hilarious. Tyler Labine, who plays the other half of this duo is also great. I also need to give props to the casting of the overly annoying and stereotypical teenagers. They were annoying and they were pure stereotype.
What surprised me the most was that Tucker & Dale vs. Evil doesn't play for cheap laughs just to make you laugh. The laughs are genuine and they never pull any pop culture references or try to imitate a scene from the current big horror film to make it interesting. It's a full on horror film, and then it's not when you realize what's really happening, which makes it pretty fuckin' hilarious. This was such a breathe of fresh air and one of the better times I've had watching a movie recently. I was surprised to discover that this is writer/director Eli Craig's only feature film and hasn't really done much other than an episode of Brothers & Sisters, which really surprising because he seems to have genuine talent behind the camera. This film looks more authentic and professional than half the shit that comes out in the theaters these days. So I really hope he hasn't abandoned his directing aspirations. Just with his work here, you can tell he's capable of something really amazing given the right budget and project. Definitely do yourself a favor and check this one out. You'll be glad you did.