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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
It's the tenth season of The Simpsons and the laughs keep on coming with classic episodes such as "Mayored to the Mob", "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace", "Bart the Mother", "Homer to the Max", and the epic ninth installment of the "Treehouse of Horror" series! This landmark season also includes "Simpsons Bible Stories", in which each member of the dysfunctional family puts their own spin on a classic religious tale, and "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", where Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa and Maggie travel to Japan! This four disc set includes all 23 episodes from The Complete Tenth Season of The Simpsons!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Stereo 2.0
French Stereo 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 524 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 8/7/2007

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Introduction from Matt Groening
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Lard of the Dance”
Disc Two
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Special Language Feature
Disc Three
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Five Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Homer to the Max”
Disc Four
• Audio Commentary for All Five Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for All Five Episodes
• Commercials
• “The Crank Calls”
• “A Glimpse Inside” Featurette
• Original Sketches
• “A Sneak Peek from The Simpsons Movie DVD”


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 20, 2007)

Adventures in curious DVD release timing: since The Simpsons Movie hit screens on July 27, 2007, wouldn’t it have made sense for Fox to put out some TV episodes before the flick’s appearance? But that didn’t happen. Instead, The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season made it to shelves a full 11 days after the movie’s premiere.

Maybe some marketing suits figured this would be best so the movie doesn’t compete with the DVDs. Anyway, they don’t pay me to figure out that stuff – they pay me to review DVDs! (Actually, “they” don’t pay me anything, but that’s a different matter.) As always, I’ll look at the shows in their original broadcast order, which is how they show up in the set. I’ll examine them each on their own to document the specifics. The plot capsules come straight from the DVD’s booklet.

DVD ONE:

Lard of the Dance (aired 8/23/1998): “Lisa befriends a girl who tries to get the kids at Springfield Elementary to act older. Meanwhile, Homer attempts to start a business selling excess grease.”

By coincidence, just yesterday I chatted with a friend about how we rarely let kids be kids anymore. This connected more to pressures like excessive homework and academic topics, but the point fits into “Lard”. That makes the show continue to connect, even though some parts of the episode haven’t aged well; it’s not so remarkable to see a kid with a cell phone now, for instance.

“Lard” has its moments, but it does feel like it too often rehashes prior shows. Lisa tries to fit in with the other kids? Homer has a wacky scheme? Granted, after 10 years, we can’t expect every program to demonstrate originality, but this one is a bit of a letdown to start the year. It’s good but not particularly memorable.

The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace (aired 9/20/1998): “Homer is inspired to become an inventor by the example of Thomas Edison. Although he is not successful, a trip to the Edison Museum makes him feel that he is not a failure after all.”

How depressing is it for me to realize I’m now older than Homer? Blech ! Though “Wizard” borders on “Homer’s wacky scheme” territory, his attempts to come up with something significant offer amusement. At no point does “Wizard” threaten to become a particularly strong episode, but it entertains to a reasonable degree. I do like the “Everything’s Okay Alarm” and the makeup gun, though.

Bart the Mother (aired 9/27/1998): “When Bart accidentally kills a mother bird, he feels so guilty that he raises her eggs as his own. But when the eggs hatch, a shock awaits him.”

“Mother” reminds me a little too much of the Christmas episode in which Bart shoplifts, as Marge’s attitude toward Bart prompts a lot of the show’s action. We also get a hint of Horton Hatches a Who as well. Despite that sense of déjà vu, the show generates decent heart as it shows Bart’s attempts to make up for his misbehavior. The show becomes reasonably enjoyable if not especially memorable.

Treehouse of Horror IX (aired 10/25/1998): “In ‘Hell Toupee’, the hairpiece of a condemned man wreaks havoc in Springfield. Bart and Lisa enter an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon in ‘The Terror of Tiny Toon’. And the Simpsons learn the shocking truth about who fathered Maggie in ‘Starship Poopers’.”

The series usually rises to the occasion of its Halloween episodes, and “IX” doesn’t disappoint. Each of the three stories satisfies, as they offer a lot of clever, amusing moments. “Toupee” is probably the best, though, as it’s the most creative of the bunch. While funny, the other two can be a bit predictable.

When You Dish Upon a Star (aired 11/8/1998): “A parasailing mishap leads Homer to become the personal assistant to a celebrity couple. But when they don’t live up to his dreams, he turns on them.”

“Star” qualifies as Season 10’s first borderline excellent episode. The first three disappointed, and while I liked “Treehouse”, I couldn’t call it great. “Star” reminds us just how darned funny The Simpsons can be, as it skewers celebrities as well as those who worship them. Add to that fine guest work from Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin and especially Ron Howard and this develops into a really fun show. It is a little weird to see “happy couple” Kim and Alec given all of their subsequent drama, though.

D’oh-in’ In the Wind (aired 11/15/1998): “Homer learns his middle name and then befriends a pair of counter-culture entrepreneurs. Homer’s interference in their juice business leads them to ruin.”

The Sixties have been lampooned many, many times over the years, but “Wind” presents one of the better spoofs. Homer buys into his hippie side with such moronic abandon that the show becomes a delight. I like the subtle way that it mocks the ways aging hippies didn’t live up to their youthful ideas, and it brings out tons of good laughs along the way. After a slow start, Season 10 is starting to kick into gear.

DVD TWO:

Lisa Gets an “A” (aired 11/22/1998): “When she is unable to study properly for a test, Lisa buys an exam from Nelson Muntz. The tainted grade she gets qualifies Springfield Elementary for extra funding, so the school bands together to cover up her misdeed.”

As someone who works for a school system, I take great delight in the way this episode skewers the skewed priorities of the educational establishment. Lisa acts like her usual prissy self, but that factor acts to allow the show to succeed. It connects to real emotions pretty well and offers some funny moments.

Homer Simpson In: “Kidney Trouble” (aired 12/6/1998): “After a long car trip to a recreated Western town, Grampa Simpson needs a new kidney. But before he will donate his kidney to his father, Homer flees and winds up on a ship of lost souls.”

After a few straight strong episodes, we hit a snag. “Kidney” offers all the components that should make it good, but it never quite achieves a level higher than average. Despite a few funny moments, this one largely leaves me cold.

Mayored to the Mob (aired December 20, 1998): “The family attends the Springfield Bi-Monthly Science Fiction Convention (Bi-Mon Sci-Fi Con). After Homer saves Mark Hamill from unruly fans, he decides to become a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby - whose life is now being threatened by Fat Tony.”

The convention allows plenty of allusions to the Star Wars movies along with other science-fiction icons. The show mined similar territory with comic book conventions, but that’s only a minor aspect of the episode, as it focuses primarily on Homer’s adventures. The show doesn’t quite become inspired, but it offers some decent entertainment.

Viva Ned Flanders (aired 1/10/1999): “Homer and Ned enjoy a bender in Las Vegas. When they awake, they are shocked to find they have two extra wives.”

Season Ten rebounds a bit with the quality “Viva”. Sure, the concept that Flanders is 60 seems absurd, but the show musters plenty of fine laughs. Homer’s escapades create fun situations, even as over the top as they may be. The Vegas scenes add to the amusement in this good show. It also produces one of my favorite lines via “now it’s Marge’s time to shine!” I don’t know why I love that bit so much, but I do.

Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken (aired 1/17/1999): “When Homer and his friends trash the town after a baseball team wins a championship, Springfield’s children are blamed for the damage. The angry kids start a secret radio broadcast that reveals the adults’ secrets to the world.”

While the episode’s adults vs. kids theme doesn’t seem particularly inventive, the show goes off onto enough tangents to make it succeed. The different elements generate many funny moments, especially when the kids develop their revenge. This ends up as another positive program.

Sunday, Cruddy Sunday (aired January 31, 1999): “Homer and Bart lead a group of Springfielders to the Super Bowl. But when they get there they find their tickets are no good and they must sneak in.”

Like most guest star-ridden episodes, this one gets a bit gimmicky to fit in all the cameos. The self-referential ending fails to become clever and instead just seems silly. Still, it includes a few goods bits, especially the phone call in which Homer convinces Lenny to go to the game. And any episode in which Rupert Murdoch refers to himself as a “billionaire tyrant” is okay in my book.

DVD THREE:

Homer to the Max (aired 2/7/1999): “A popular TV character named Homer Simpson forces our Homer to change his name. He becomes popular with hip Springfielders, who lead him to run afoul of the law.”

The Simpsons spoofs the entertainment business better than anyone else, and those elements spice up “Max”. I also like the idiocy that Homer gets popular – and then mocked – just because of the name connection. This turns into one of the season’s better shows, especially when Ed Begley pokes fun at himself.

I’m With Cupid (aired 2/14/1999): “The wives of Springfield are jealous of the attention Apu lavishes on his wife Manjula. To win Marge back, Homer attempts to enlist the help of a skywriter, with painful consequences.”

Didn’t we already see that Flanders makes everyone else look like a jerk on Valentine’s Day? Doesn’t that theme mean that “Cupid” is somewhat redundant? Not that the show lacks any spark, as it throws out a reasonable number of laughs. Still, it seems a little stale and not one of the year’s better programs.

Marge Simpson In: “Screaming Yellow Honkers” (aired 2/21/1999): “Marge gets a huge new SUV, the Canyonero. She discovers the meaning of road rage, then must sacrifice the car to save her family.”

The series likes to make Marge act out of character, which in an odd way means that she’s perfectly in character when she goes nuts here. We’ve seen Marge’s usually suppressed anger explode in the past, but unlike Homer’s wacky schemes, the show doesn’t overdo these programs. It becomes amusing to see her serious case of road rage.

Make Room for Lisa (aired 2/28/1999): “When Homer agrees to let a telephone company put a transmitter in Lisa’s room, she becomes Bart’s unwanted roommate. The stress leads Lisa to a sensory deprivation tank, where she learns to appreciate her father more.”

The main plot feels a bit stale, as we’ve gotten a lot of episodes related to Lisa’s negative thoughts toward Homer. This one doesn’t do much to expand that theme. At least the B-story proves more interesting, as Marge’s fascination with intercepted cell phone calls amuses. Still, this adds up to a pretty average show.

Maximum Homerdrive (aired 3/28/1999): “After entering an eating contest, Homer becomes a truck driver and discovers the other truckers’ shocking secret. Meanwhile, Marge and Lisa’s attempts to buy a doorbell introduce them to the heroic Senor Ding-Dong.”

If nothing else, “Homerdrive” takes unanticipated paths. The eating contest leads to a long truck drives leads to that “shocking secret”. All of this means the show manages to become pretty unpredictable. Does that make it funny? Sporadically, but “Homerdrive” doesn’t ever excel in that department – at least not in terms of the trucker story. I like the B-plot more, though, if just for its absurdity, even if it brings back the increasingly overused Gil.

Simpsons Bible Stories (aired 4/4/1999): “In the first of the Simpsons’ non-Halloween-themed trilogies, Homer and Marge are Adam and Eve, the Springfield Elementary students must slave away for Pharaoh Skinner, and Bart and Nelson are David and Goliath.”

The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes pull of the trilogy thing well, but this Easter special proves less successful. I just think the brevity required by the inclusion of three separate tales better suits the world of horror spoofs than it does these Bible pieces, as they try to pack an awful lot into very little time. Some good moments result anyway, but I don’t find a lot of entertainment here.

DVD FOUR:

Mom and Pop Art (aired 4/11/1999): “Homer becomes a found artist, turning a failed barbecue pit into a pricey objet d’art. When his public turns on him, he floods the town to make a statement.”

Another day, another pretty average show. At this point in the series’ run, it started to offer more than a few elements that echo bits from earlier years. Geez, they’re trying to milk Ray Jay Johnson for laughs again. It worked in the past, but now it just falls flat. This isn’t a bad program, but it lacks much inspiration.

The Old Man and the “C” Student (aired 4/25/1999): “As punishment for losing the Olympics for Springfield, Bart must help the city’s senior citizens. Meanwhile, Homer attempts to sell springs, one of which winds up in Lenny’s eye.”

I gotta admit I like Springy, the Olympic mascot, and the spring-related aspects of the show entertain. Bart’s experiences with Grampa and the other oldies also offer more than a few good moments. Though the episode never quite excels, it’s pretty solid.

Monty Can’t Buy Me Love (aired 5/2/1999): “Mr. Burns realizes that he is not as beloved as a Richard Branson-type billionaire. To get the public back on his side, Burns, with Homer’s help, finds and captures the Loch Ness Monster.”

We’ve not heard much from Burns this year, so it’s good to get a program devoted to him. “Love” doesn’t do a lot to expand the character, but it manages a reasonable number of yuks. A fun Howard Stern-esque character done by Michael McKean helps make this a nice show.

They Saved Lisa’s Brain (aired 5/9/1999): “Lisa bands together with Springfield’s other Mensa members to try to turn the town into a utopia. But they discover that genius doesn’t always know what it’s doing.”

If nothing else, I like the fact that “Brain” pokes some fun at Mensa, one of the more smug, self-congratulatory groups to be found. The show manages a few good laughs as it goes after various pretensions. Unfortunately, the show peters out after a while, so it never becomes particularly memorable.

Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo (aired 5/16/1999): “The Simpsons learn to cut corners, enabling them to afford a trip to Japan. In Japan, they lose their savings and must become contestants on a humiliating game show to earn their way back home.”

Season Ten concludes on a mediocre note with “Tokyo”. Though the concept of going to Japan should open up lots of interesting possibilities, the show doesn’t explore them particularly well. It’s not a bad show, but it fails to live up to its potential.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Perhaps someday we’ll get “A”-level visuals ala Futurama - which debuted during Season Ten of The Simpsons - but this year looked a lot like its predecessors.

Sharpness was consistently adequate to good. Sometimes I noticed a bit of softness in wider shots, but those examples remained insignificant for the most part. Usually the shows seemed acceptably concise and accurate. Minor examples of shimmering and jaggies occurred, but edge enhancement appeared to be absent. In terms of source defects, I witnessed the occasional speck, but the shows were clean the vast majority of the time.

For the most part, colors seemed good. At times the tones could appear slightly lackluster, but usually the hues came across as reasonably lively and concise. Blacks were pretty deep, while shadows demonstrated fair clarity. At no point did the visuals look great, but they were perfectly acceptable.

In a similar vein, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of The Simpsons was good but unexceptional. The soundfields stayed focused on the forward spectrum and didn’t add a ton to the shows. They did kick into slightly higher gear at times, though. Explosions and thunder broadened the spectrum in a decent manner, and the shows offered good environmental information. Elements meshed together well and moved smoothly. The surrounds didn’t bring out much, but they worked fine given the series’ general lack of ambition. A smidgen of split-surround information appeared as well, such as when Nelson’s go-kart zoomed to one of the back speakers.

As usual, audio quality was pretty positive. Though some speech sounded a bit edgy, the lines usually appeared natural and concise. Music showed nice range and delineation, while effects followed suit. Those elements boasted decent low-end, especially during louder moments like explosions. As in the past, the audio was perfectly acceptable but not much more than that.

Some feared that the overwhelming specter of The Simpsons Movie might mean fewer supplements for Season 10. Happily, that’s not the case, as we get the usual roster of goodies. As always, all 23 episodes provide audio commentaries. These tracks present an ever-changing roster of participants. Due to the pressures of The Simpsons Movie, writer and creator Matt Groening appears on fewer than usual. He misses “Lard of the Dance”, “When You Dish Upon a Star”, “Homer to the Max”, “I’m With Cupid”, “Marge Simpson in: ‘Screaming Yellow Honkers’”, “Make Room for Lisa”, “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love”, and “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”. Executive producer/show runner Mike Scully pops up for all 23 commentaries – good for him!

As for the other personnel, the tracks feature writers Jane O’Brien (1), Dan Greaney (2), David Cohen (3, 4), Rich Appel (5, 13, 22), Ian Maxtone-Graham (7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21), Larry Doyle (11, 18), Tom Martin (11, 12, 18), Al Jean (19), Mark Wilmore (22), directors Dominic Polcino (1), Pete Michaels (1, 13), Neil Affleck (10), Nancy Kruse (18), and Jim Reardon (23), producers Ron Hauge (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23) and Julie Thacker-Scully (2, 10, 20), co-executive producer George Meyer (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23), animation directors Steve Moore (3, 4, 12, 19), Pete Michaels (1, 5, 22), Mike Anderson (7, 8, 15, 16, 17), Swinton Scott (17), and Mark Kirkland (20), supervising producer Donick Cary (4, 6, 23), co-producer Matt Selman (5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23), and actors Yeardley Smith (7), Nancy Cartwright (20), Dan Castellaneta (9) and Mark Hamill (9). Note that some of the participants serve multiple roles on the series, so they make perform different jobs for specific episodes; it’s just easier to list them in only one manner. Also, some of them chat about episodes on which they didn’t work, which made the job titles tougher. Live with it!

If you expect anything different from prior seasons’ commentaries… you won’t find it here, as we get more of the same old, same old. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We learn about story origins and basics, references to other elements, working with guest cast members, various production issues and other “fun facts” along the way.

Early on, we’re reminded that these commentaries were recorded as work for The Simpsons Movie hit its peak as well as during production for the series’ 19th season. Because of that, the commentaries seem a little logier than most. They remain reasonably chatty; even though some dead air occurs, that was an issue in the past as well, so I can’t blame it on the movie. There’s just a bit less energy on display, and the participants often seem preoccupied with other matters. That’s literal at times, such as when Jean gets yanked from the recording studio after a few minutes because he has to get back to work on the movie!

And yeah, we still get a lot of laughing at jokes and praise for the product. But you know what? As a fan, these commentaries continue to entertain and inform me. There’s more than enough good content through the tracks to make them worthwhile. I can’t objectively call them great, but I like them.

A mix of other supplements spread across all four DVDs. 18 of this release’s episodes include Deleted Scenes. Only these five programs lack these cut bits: “Lard of the Dance”, “Treehouse of Horror IX”, “Lisa Gets an ‘A’”, “Mayored to the Mob”, and “Marge Simpson In: ‘Screaming Yellow Honkers’”. You can check these out via two methods. You can watch them as parts of the appropriate shows or in a separate compilation on DVD Four.

The DVD Four compilation puts all 38 scenes - which last a total of 15 minutes and 47 seconds - in one place. In a nice touch, we get the portion of the show that precedes the cut scene right before it to remind us where the snippet would have appeared. Those bits are black and white while the new material appears in color; that helps us tell which parts were deleted.

This means that virtually all of the new bits are quite brief. They do tend to be pretty funny, though. Not a single major excision appears, as all the cut bits are short and fairly superficial. We see alternate endings to “Viva Ned Flanders”, “Homer to the Max” and “Make Room for Lisa”, though, as well as some other changed dialogue for existing scenes. Since most of the new pieces are amusing, they’re good to get.

If you check out the deleted scenes via the big package on DVD Four, you also can listen to optional commentary from Mike Scully; Al Jean pops up to discuss “Mom and Pop Art”. We get some nice insights into the reasons for the deletions and other issues related to the clips. The commentary’s worth a listen.

For two episodes, we get an Animation Showcase. This allows us to use the “angle” feature to check out some scenes at different levels of completion. We can flip between storyboards and animatics for “Lard of the Dance” and “Homer to the Max”. The other option appears in a small box down in the lower right corner. This remains a fun way to inspect the different stages of animation.

Since every other DVD set includes an intro, this one doesn’t dare to be different A Line from Matt Groening runs three minutes, 17 seconds as the series’ creator gives us an overview of what we’ll see. I’ve never understood why these all sound like ads – we already bought the package, Matt! – but they’re inoffensive.

Within the Special Language Feature on DVD Two, we get the same kind of multi-language clip we’ve found on prior sets. We can watch all of “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” in Czech, Japanese, Portuguese or Ukrainian. It’s a cute option but not terribly useful. (You can also access the various languages while you watch the episode proper; just cycle through the audio options.)

Everything else ends up on DVD Four. Commercials give us examples of three promotions: “CC’s Chips Australia” (four ads, 48 seconds), “Butterfinger” (5, 1:55) and “Intel” (1, 0:32). All are a lot of fun to see.

Next we find a compilation reel called The Crank Calls. This takes 13 of Bart’s phone calls to Moe and runs them one after the other. The whole package lasts five minutes, 42 seconds, and it’s cool to get these all in one place.

Two elements pop up under “Art and Animation”. A featurette called A Glimpse Inside goes for seven minutes, 55 seconds and offers narration from character layout artist Dane Romney and layout artist Drew McPhail. Romney shows us how they create the menus for these DVDs, while McPhail demonstrates scene blocking. Both allow us to learn about the processes in this nice little piece.

Also under “A&A”, Original Sketches presents a mere five drawings created for a few shows. None of them are especially compelling.

For something unusual, we get A Sneak Peek at The Simpsons Movie DVD. That’s right – it doesn’t preview the film, it previews the DVD! The 55-second clip shows a musical performance in the form of a story reel. It’ll be useless when the DVD comes out, but it’s a fun teaser right now.

Some Easter eggs pop up across the four discs. To find them, go to the menus for the individual episodes, click “up” and press “enter”. This allows us to see additional deleted scenes for “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” (0:13), “Make Room for Lisa” (two scenes, 0:50), “Maximum Homerdrive” (0:17) and “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” (0:20). While these are interesting to see, I don’t like the fact they’re hidden. Why not toss them in with the other deleted scenes?

As with all the prior sets, this one comes with a booklet. It features an intro from Groening along with details about all 23 episodes. These present credits as well as info about each show’s special features. A few cartoon images fill out the booklet and make it a nice addition. It takes the theme of a “studio tour” and offers fun as well as DVD details.

Most fans agree that The Simpsons sags in quality as it progresses. While Season 10 doesn’t represent the series’ nadir, it moves us in a somewhat negative direction. We get some pretty good episodes along with more than a few average ones. I wouldn’t call it a bad year, but it’s not particularly memorable, and it certainly doesn’t approach the hilarity of the better seasons.

As for the DVD, it strongly resembles past releases. We get picture and audio very much like the last few seasons, and extras remain on a par with prior packages. This one will continue to appeal to serious Simpsons fans, but those less strongly enamored of the series will likely be more satisfied with some of the earlier, superior seasons.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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