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Movie Review: Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice (2016)

 BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Batman-v-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice-Logo

Superman Evolves and Batman Involves

Firstly, let’s deal with the weirdness that happened before the actual movie was released. When Ben Affleck was cast as Batman (instead of Christian Bale) the internet(s) lost its bat-mind. Not Affleck! Not Daredevil! And yet, this same pattern has repeated itself time and time again. Heath Ledger went from Brokeback Mountain to the joker, Hugh Jackman was all parts wrong for Wolverine and Ryan Reynolds was a ‘bad” Green Lantern and a bad Deadpool the first time around in X-Men Origins and the right Deadpool in, um Deadpool (2016).   I was 100% against the switch too- and I’m saying if you have the recipe right, don’t go changing the ingredients. Now that I’ve seen the movie, it all makes sense.

This is the EVOLUTION of both characters. And that’s the difference. If you can remember with me- The Silence of the lambs franchise (I know, we’re reaching) Agent Starling was recast after Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore. Moore played an evolved Agent Starling that was tougher and far removed from where we left Clarice. Jarring. So Ben Affleck plays an EVOLVED Bruce Wayne/Batman. Clark Kent is no longer the clumsy goof that pines for Lois and does whatever he’s told. He’s got the girl now. He stands up to Perry (Laurence Fishburne) and he is certainly his own (super)man and grappling with his choices. Wayne has been doing this a while now- 20 years by the movies admission. So who should he be, twenty years LATER? Same guy womanizing and stopping bank robberies in Gotham? Batman needs to bump up from fighting skilled-human thugs to dealing with gods, monsters and well….superheroes (meta-humans as the movie calls them). Clark should be doing what? – hiding behind Lois and saving kittens from trees?

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Understand their fundamental differences. Batman stops crime. Superman saves lives. I’ll repeat this because many people seem to be lost on who these two characters actually are and how they were made. Batman was created by witnessing a crime, which robbed (pun intended) him of his parents. And so, he is obsessed with stopping crime. That’s his motivation. Superman is an orphan from an entire planet/race that died. His own father (Kevin Costner in Man of Steel) is portrayed as a life he couldn’t/didn’t save. He is obsessed with saving lives. Should these two get along? Maybe, not really. Batman V Superman is really serving as a bridge to the future where we go from solo adventures and personal quests to epic clashes where more than just cities are at stake. Basically, where Marvel’s Avengers are right now.

Director Zack Snyder takes the task of combining two beloved franchises and giving birth to a third and maybe even fourth (Wonder Woman, anyone?). It takes all of 2 + 1/2 hours to cram all this in and do …justice (ahem) to each caped crusader and their back stories. The story is supplied by Chris Terrio [Argo (2012)] and David S Goyer [Batman Begins(2005) The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Man of Steel (2013) which explains why the tone was rightly dark and felt like the next chapter in each heroes timeline. So what do we get?

 

We get a sequel, prequel, sequel… prequel. Before there can be a Justice League (a grouping of DC’s greatest heroes) they have to come together and find a reason to do so. Superman has to more than stand a symbol for the sanctity of life. He has to accept that there are consequences and new responsibilities and yep, his hands are gonna get dirty. Batman has to let go parts of his personal vendetta(s) and stand for more than vengeance. They both need to stand for JUSTICE. So it’s not the ‘Dawn of the Justice League’. It’s the dawn of justice as an idea or concept for the assembled characters to rally around. We have, basically, two movies in one. Yes, Batman VERSE Superman does go down, but we also have the awakening to a new world, a great cameo by Wonder Woman and an interesting future blueprint. Should it really have been split in to two movies? Probably. Most ‘fixes’ by unhappy moviegoers tend to involve adding more, which suggests future movies or side adventures in some other medium.

Batman-V-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice

So why all the bad reviews? I have no idea. The movie audience clapped at the end so I’m wondering where all the early hate came from. I hear a lot of nitpicking which can be done with any movie- so I’m not understanding how warranted all negative feedback is. – After all, it’s based on characters from comic books so historical-documentary-like treatment isn’t required. Yes, expect common comic-tropes and clichés. Flimsy reasons for the two good guys to battle, perfect coincidences and quick resolutions that make everything pretty okay by the end. Yeah, that’s a movie.

Face it, as children we were raised on brightly colored super heroes who used punches and kicks to defeat bad guys in face masks. They were born from a world at war and our heroes inhabit a much darker universe. We are at war right now. We don’t even think about that fact. We are not sure what to believe. Who are we fighting? How truthful is our government? A Batman can’t save us- nor can a Superman. But something in the middle would be rather fitting and that’s where justice is found. This movie is much more like Man of Steel II: Batman comes to Metropolis than anything else. If you expect that walking in, you’ll be fine.

 

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Movie Review James Bond: Spectre (2015)

November 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Spectre and the arrival of SPECTRE James Bond movie review

See the Octopus....ring?

See the Octopus….ring?

Bond is back in a finely formed film, unfortunately, the familiar formula frequently fails to fully fulfill.

So the trailer teases that Bond has a secret from his past and someone very close to Bond is the head of a dangerous organization. Long-time fans and those familiar with the franchise know S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) as the shadowy backbone of so many criminal masterminds Bond has taken down. In the previous Daniel Craig Bond films, there has been a slowly evolving sub-plot involving SPECTRE growing as a threat and now it seems James is going to find out what SPECTRE is and more importantly who is at the helm. The James Bond formula is set firmly in place as we have the gadgets, the girls, the going places, the gentlemanly games and getaways. What’s missing is the level of engagement.

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Bond started off in Casino Royale (2006) as the blunt instrument advanced to 00 status with a license to kill. He wasn’t quite getting the girl yet and was more likely to off the baddie than trade barbs until the movies climatic confrontation. He appeared to find himself by films end and that early betrayal set up the Bond never trust anyone mentality. Quantum of Solace (2008) sees a compromised Bond on a revenge trail and culminates with his ultimate maturity and true fit in to the Bond character we expected. Skyfall (2012) takes Bond home and explores demons of the past (for both Bond and M) and debts are paid in blood. The Daniel Craig James Bond stretch was hinted at being near its end as agent 007 was possibly being pushed off toward retirement.

Once again, in Spectre, Bond is on his own and MI6 is in jeopardy of being closed down. James is rogue (again) and a one-man army out to save the world. I did find this aspect a little troublesome as Bond has never been properly supported as an agent in any newer movie. This guy has saved the world, how many times, and their department is still in crisis every movie. Ralph Fiennes (as M) is the cliché police chief screaming at the detectives to follow the rules all the while they bring back results at the expense of a huge mess. We get the huge mess as exciting action-work involving aerial stunts, great car chases and even a plane verse truck. Dave Bautista (World Wrestling Entertainment star Batista) plays Mr. Hinx and comes pretty close to the reappearing foils in past films like Oddjob and Jaws. He gets some worthy exposure as has some well-timed pop ups to keep the action going. Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, Brotherhood of the Wolf and Shoot ‘Em Up) doesn’t quite get as much screen time, but serves well as the first serving of sultry. Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann is stunning as the primary female lead and their relationship utilizes the Bond formula, where there’s dislike, desperation and finally desire. And the formula seems to be the problem in this outing.

Shadowy and In the Shadows.

Shadowy and In the Shadows.

Casino Royale felt like it was written by an intense Bond aficionado where homage was paid, but also new starts were created. Bond WINS the Aston Martin and sets that theme up for future movies. Here, the iconic Bond-wheels are dropped in and you already know where the story is going. Bond travelled to exotic locations and every mission seemed to start as a vacation. In Spectre, they basically place Bond in a scene and splash the name of the place as a caption, on the screen and yeah, well, Bond is suddenly there now. Spectre has all the right moments, I’m just not quite connecting with them as I thought I would. What works, is that this movie sits in a series, where each installment builds upon its predecessor. The new reboot plays out like episodes that take place moments after the last adventure ended. In that case, Spectre could be setting up Bond’s next adventure and if that is the case, it makes for a fine introduction and a somewhat return to normalcy – assuming Bond isn’t about to be retired or fired in the next movie. Spectre will fit nicely in my Bond collection although it doesn’t add anything new or groundbreaking to the franchise. Hopefully future movies will have a smaller scope and the most interesting characters (and their original actors) will reappear. I’m looking at you, Mr Hinx, M, Moneypenny and Mr. Bloefeld. I like the direction of Sam Mendes and hope he helms another Bond film.

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Movie Review Jurassic World (2015)

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Jurassic World (2015) Movie Review

More dinos, more screaming and running and yeah, more of the same…

It's the same but different

It’s the same but different

Wasn’t that bad. I expected the worst by the reviews from most of my friends. I was only on board for the dinosaurs and basically the one shot of the marine-o-saur coming out of the water and eating the great white shark on the crane. Yes, I was planning on sitting through an entire movie for that one moment. I figured I could get past the silly humans doing silly things among the terribly dangerous beasts and roll my eyes when the ole ‘man should not mess with mother nature‘ speech occurred. I also saw that the raptors were going to be the good guys this time around. Interesting twist, I might survive this trip.

Jaws meets jaws...

Jaws meets jaws…

Jurassic World is directed by Colin Trevorrow (I didn’t see any other relevant movie credits to compare) and has writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa (both involved with the writings of Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Own and Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator Salvation and Spider-Man 3) as Claire are the adults in the film. He is the ‘smart-survival-man’ and she is the ‘corporate-puppet-love-interest’. The two screaming kids are played by Ty Simpkins (eyes full of wonder) and Nick Robinson (too cool for life).

Tension and tense times

Tension and tense times

The big hook, this time around, is a new, genetically engineered, dinosaur called Indominus Rex. Claire, who plays a J.W. Operations VIP explains the reason for tinkering as people got used to regular dinosaurs and to maintain interest, a new more…everything attraction was needed. And, of course, it gets loose and all hell breaks…loose. It’s funny that this sentiment was included as it says so much about this movie. We need more as movie-goers too. More gore, greater peril, bigger effects and a nastier beastie that can (presumably) beat whatever we were running from last time around. There are head-nods to the previous movies and characters and familiar scenes repeated. We are still running with corporate greed, the love of dinosaurs and scientists willing to sacrifice all in the quest for knowledge. It also seems like we haven’t learned a thing from all the previous disasters and well, big monster movies.

some thrilling moments for sure...

some thrilling moments for sure…

As much as I see the repeated themes here, I am actually wondering why the ‘run from the dinosaurs’ theme hasn’t been given the standard Hollywood treatment. Why haven’t they just gone wild and full-on Transformers and Avengers and show a city-scale rampage and the cliché, if it breeds, we all gonna die end-game. You can see it clearly, skyscrapers crumbling as citizens run to and fro. We can wait 30 minutes into the carnage and still see people getting out of cars and frantically running into the…absolute… center… of danger- needing to be directed and saved by our heroes. Giant military vehicles flying low enough for raptors to leap onto them as humvees and tanks are crushed by the BIG DINO. Oh dear, I think I just gave them the idea for the next movie. Jurassic World Forever starring Dwayne Johnson and Meagan Fox. Directed by Josh Whedon and Michael Bay. And there’s a sequel already planned so standby.

There’s a lot to nit-pick, but really, the movie is about running from dinosaurs. Why worry every-time you want to say come-on! who does that? How is that possible, yeah right! The only thing I will say that’s missing is any fear factor. I just never felt like anyone was in real danger of dying. It was dead obvious who was going to die, when and how. So what we have are exciting action sequences and not much in the suspense department. The dinosaurs come to life on the big screen, but the execution is a rental.

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Star Wars Trailer review and Speculation

October 20, 2015 Leave a comment

The trailers for Force Awakens leaves a trail….

1st round of trailers and what A New Hope I have for this movie.

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Dunno why I’m doing this. First time ever for a “trailer review”. Saw some other sites/videos doing it and if a fan howling and showing amazement is enough, then I guess this is overkill.

            Firstly, it looks like J.J. Abrams is going to repeat his Star Trek system (as Marvel does to a degree) of some for the old and some for the new. New viewers get the new story and new characters and long-time fans will see shadows and head-nods to the classic trio. Dirt-poor girl from a dusty planet sets off on an adventure that changes the whole galaxy. She even has a similar garb to Luke and seems just as enthralled when hearing stories about the good ole days. In Star Wars [A New Hope] Obi-wan was explaining the force and Han was skeptical, now we see the grizzled Solo doing the ‘oh yeah, the force is really real, kids’. It’s makes for a nice twist and hints at more repeated motifs throughout.

Han hands over the story

Han hands over the story

Secondly, I say be careful with these hints and spoilers. Abrams and company [writers, Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back), Michael Arndt (Oblivion)] love red herrings. That is, misdirection, you think the story is going one way and boom- big surprise. For those that saw the trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) it hinted at being based on an original series episode Where No Man Has Gone Before. Trekkers saw the similarities and even that damn bob haircut on Elizabeth/Carol Marcus and just knew they had an inside track or trek. Wrong. It’s Khan and also a complete change of who does what in this alternate timeline. And although I see a similar fake-out here, I do expect the story to mirror the first three movies released. so far….

Carol...I mean...Elizabeth...

Carol…I mean…Elizabeth…

Had me fooled...even with the screaming for psychic powers.

Had me fooled…even with the screaming for psychic powers.

The Millennium Falcon being chased through another ship (Return of the Jedi)

fastest by parsecs..

fastest by parsecs..

Luke’s landspeeder, Anakin’s Swoop Bike and Rey’s rusty red Norelco razor.

Finn’s first dark side encounter before he is ready.

Awakens with a nightmare...

Awakens with a nightmare…

Death Star, Starkiller and planetary weapon. I think you get the idea(s)

What I Hope to see…..A New

1) I thought the hand that touches R2-D2 might belong to Mace Windu and not Luke Skywalker since he had a better hand in ROTJ. Why would he go back for the Terminator metal-work?

Dyson wants his hand back

Dyson wants his hand back

2) All the “my sister has it…” and references to force-sensitivity is probably also misdirection. Leia will probably not be shown as trained in any Jedi arts and will at most fire a blaster or two. And that is probably Rey being handed a lightsaber.

Far right alien head...

Far right alien head…

Hand off...hands off.

Hand off…hands off.

3) I’m still not sure if Finn is the Jedi and Rey won’t be. So far, she’s got the staff which hasn’t been shown to do anything yet and a funky looking speederbike that is rather bland. It is my hope that the bike opens to become the droid that follows them into the building in trailer 3. It would also explain how can she salvage anything (heavy enough or big enough to be worth anything) by herself.

I think that's meant to charge something else.

I think that’s meant to charge something else.

Almost an ABC robot.

Almost an ABC robot.

4) Rey is shown crying over a fallen comrade. I’m seeing the furry edge and the bandoleer so I’m really hoping that is not Chewbacca. I’m never a big fan of killing off major characters. I say… just… don’t…do…it. Unless there is some tribble-blood-mind-meld-force-resurrection by the end.

Don't chew Chewie

Don’t chew Chewie

5) I hope they explain where all the Clone troopers went and I do mean where the thousands of Jango Fett soldiers disappeared to.

Where did all the stray dogs in Greece go before the Olympics?

Where did all the stray dogs in Greece go before the Olympics?

6) Luke is not in the trailers, only his voice as narrator and I believe that’s a sample from another movie- at that. I hope he is a Jedi master, incredibly powerful, but not a deus ex machina.

7) As I said about Finn looking late in the movie and not ‘very forceful’. I’m also worried that whole sequence could be a force-induced dream like Luke had in Empire Strikes Back. Wouldn’t be surprised since Finn seems to always be caught sitting up, sweaty like he just had a nightmare.

Trailer #2 is my favorite for the combination of sequences and music. Now it’s time to sit back and wait for all the TV spots. Some people are torn over Abram’s work on Star Trek. I accept it and am glad a new generation gets a Star Trek that is not embarrassing and self-indulgent. The movies really began to feel like episodes and Star Wars was on the edge of falling off.

Still menaced by a phantom

Every property gets to a point where the creator no longer owns it. You’ve fleshed out the characters and worlds so fully, that there are known rules in place. We, as an audience and hard-core fans know what X-character would do. We know how things usually work and understand the motifs at play. That leads to higher expectations and the hope that we, as moviegoers, see what we came to see. Phantom Menace was a disappointment because too many rules were broken. We understood the force. Now you say it’s all in the blood. You’ve shown us epic battles in space, on a snow planet, on a jungle world and now a race that lives underwater….and the final battle takes place on a baseball field. Hint: The final battle should have been underwater.

You spent a lot of time establishing pod-racing and showing THAT as the supreme talent of the promised one. Okay, we end in space and the enemy ship is CIRCULAR like a racetrack and no…no relevancy to anything there.

Round-about the roundabout

Round-about the roundabout

Instead he does everything accidentally and clowns the entire way. Why couldn’t we see Naboo pilots trying to navigate the turns and twists and CRASH or not travel fast enough down the narrow corridors before the main generator’s internal shield closed. In this same movie, Obi-Wan raced down the hallway to assist Qui-Gon in his battle with Maul- and the shield bays closed up and he was separated. We would have gotten the point and as it is on the planet, so too in space. And, and then have Anakin step up and purposely take off to save the day. It’s as if Lucas is saying “no, no, it’s still all mine and I will show you stuff you’re gonna hate, nyah, nyah“. Abrams seems to get it- and more importantly respects the license and the big WHY we all go crazy over these franchises. There’s a reason why every cylindrical item looks like a light saber handle. Why every remote control is a phaser and every chair a captain’s chair. “Yours is superior.” I’ve got my fingers crossed that JJ Abrams can capture that old Star Wars magic and bring back the kind of movie experience we’ve all been waiting for. So far, it looks good. Can’t wait!

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

The Martian (2015)

The Martian movie poster

Survive until….

There is Gravity on Mars, no really, it’s exactly that.

Well okay, I’ve always had that problem with my imagination, where I mix movies together when I see actors…er…acting the same way in multiple roles. So when I see The Bourne Legacy [2012] (starring Jeremy Renner as a skilled super agent) and then Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation [2015] (starring Jeremy Renner as a skilled super agent) I can’t help but think ‘that’s the same guy’.

And so, for Matt Damon, my first thought was Interstellar (where he plays Dr. Mann) ….yeah, that’s the back-story to what he experienced being stranded on an alien planet and figuring out how to survive. Swap the red rocks and sand for blue and you have the same planet….sorta. At any rate, there is the feel of Gravity [2013] where it is one mishap and near miss after another. There is the singular (mostly) focus on one character and their thoughts being our true guide through the story.

Matt Damon The Martian

What do you think? Is this too similar?

Matt Damon, Matt Damon. Man, we wanted to bring him home in Saving Private Ryan. We wanted him to find us a new home in Interstellar and now as the poster commits…

The Martian movie poster

Saving private…Watney

Story wise, we are seeing the book written Andy Weir translated by screenwriter Drew Goddard (World War Z, Cloverfield) and directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Black Hawk Down). The visuals and vistas are top notch as are all the effects. Matt Damon is engaging as astronaut/biologist Mark Watney who is mistakenly presumed dead and left behind when his team must abort their Mars mission due to a severe storm. From there, it’s a race to extend his supplies until help arrives.

There aren’t too many surprises as NASA is cast as a life-loving organization and spares no effort in getting their man home. The world population is cast as a caring mass-entity that actually cares about a single US astronaut. There are lots of live broadcasts and streaming (worldwide) moments that NASA would NEVER let happen, but hey…   There’s China (I think) that comes to the rescue which also gives us a happy world where politics is forgotten for the sake of this one man’s life. Interstellar showed us a very dark side of humanity and space exploration as a desperate option. The Martian has an optimistic angle, where space travel and colonization is dangerous, but worth doing when human life retains its value. Watch the trailer. You’ll get exactly what you expect.

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Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

July 28, 2014 1 comment

Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

Lucy Poster

Luc’s Lucy is a lucid Limitless that’s a little limited

A Limitless Matrix where Yakuza are the Agents (Smiths)

 

Director/Writer Luc Besson (Leon The Professional, The Fifth Element) retells a Matrix coming-of-powerful tale with a female lead (Scarlett Johansson) and more international flavor. We lose the Kung-fu (none here), but keep the prophetic black man as Morgan Freeman steps in as a professor Morpheus/Norman. If you think about it, this story could have been the Trinity awakening story that occurred before NEO took that pill.

 

The trailer shows us a woman forced to carry an experimental drug in her stomach that is slowly leaking into her bloodstream. The dosage unlocks the greater potential of the human brain and she begins to acquire extraordinary powers. Well yeah, it’s like where Neo asks about dodging bullets and Morpheus says ‘…You won’t have to’. So we wait for the big moment that The Black Widow becomes a better Avenger and does more than shoot guns. Unfortunately, the big pay off isn’t as big as it should be. Neo flew away from that phone booth at the end of the Matrix and we kinda scratched our heads. Lucy unlocks our ultimate potential and doesn’t do a whole lot.

Lucy movie image

Yeah, more Matrix talk. See, the Agents were built up over the entire movie as being total bad-ass so when Neo is able to stand up to them, it was a thrilling turning of the tables. The generic Yakuza in Lucy are killers, for sure, but never really more than gangsters with guns. If you ignore the fact that twenty-five plus Japanese men in dark suits and glasses, running around Europe, are basically invisible to all authority, then yes Lucy is in plenty of danger. Are you scared for her? No, not really. You pretty much think she’s fine ten minutes into the movie and that spoils the final confrontation(s).

 

Now I don’t mean to sound totally down on Luc’s Lucy. There are some brilliant cut scenes and references to nature and origins and cave- . Suffice to say, it’s a fun ride with a few familiar set ups, scenes and scenarios. Scarlett is fierce and sexy and is the perfect seasoning to keep this movie fresh past the expiration date. If you don’t expect too much more than the trailer, you’ll enjoy Lucy. I’m not a movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie.

 

Want more Johansson? See my review for Under the Skin.

 

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Movie Review: Under the Skin (2013)

Movie Review: Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin movie poster

Once you get under, what do you do with it?

The alien serial killer you root against and then for and then against and then…

 

Under the Skin is a tough one. How do you review it? Most reviewers are either confirming the big reveal ending or basically telling you everything that happens in the movie. Maybe we should stick to what you should be looking for going in, what you actually get and what you feel coming out.

 

Writers Walter Campbell and novelist Michel Faber (whose book Under the Skin is based on) give us an abstract piece that leaves us groping for meaning and understanding. We become foreigners (aliens?) watching events play out and hope that at some point we figure out the Why. Through repeated scenes we get the motif of a femme fatale luring men to their doom. Every time we see this scenario happen, we are given more details to work from and more pieces to assemble the puzzle’s point. Director Jonathan Glazer shows us some incredible moments where humanity is in mortal peril. There are tight special effects and many scenes without special effects that will make you wonder how he filmed them. The atmosphere locks into place, supported by an eerie soundtrack and a stoic performance from Johansson. She plays it fake and real and there’s claims that cameras were hidden throughout the movie and all her pick-up scenes were non-actors actually being seduced by Scarlett.

 

Going in? Strange movie, you can’t be too sure what to expect. Inside; an interesting bit of movie-art. And fortunately there is a proper ending that allows us to rethink what we’ve just scene and put all of the puzzle parts in place. Under the Skin is a solid entry and departure. I believe the more cerebral sci-fi fans among us should enjoy it.

 

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