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post #1 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 08:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Under the Skin (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review



A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in the evening hours in Scotland. Events lead her to begin a process of self-discovery in this dark and compelling film based on the novel by Michel Faber.



The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

86



Details:

Studio and Year: LionsGate - 2013
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 108 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Music by: Mica Levi
Written by: Walter Campbell & Jonathan Glazer
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 15, 2014


"What lies beneath…"


My Take:

A voluptuous woman of unknown origin (Johansson) combs the highways around Scotland in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michel Faber, Under the Skin examines human experience from the perspective of a heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.

I haven’t read the book but wanted to see what this film was all about as I am a fan of the genre and like Scarlett Johansson. Wow, this is an unusual movie that right from the beginning (the opening sequence) leaves you wondering where it’s going. Little is explained about the motives surrounding the heroine’s actions leaving you to surmise her intentions during the early stages of act one. There is almost no dialogue for the first 25 minutes or so which doesn’t help matters. Once you get a sense of what she is doing it helps some although from that point she simply continues racking up victims with each showing just a little more of what goes on beyond her luring them to what appears to be an otherworldly dimension. You finally get to see what happens to them in the dark but to be honest you’re never told why.

I suspect that really isn’t the point as the story really seems to be about the evolution of the alien, her self-discovery and what becomes of her. This is a darkly abstract and conceptually intriguing film that speaks to the “human” condition from the perspective of an outsider. From what I have read it differs in many respects from the novel although from listening to the filmmakers this was primarily intentional. I found it to be a method piece that relied heavily on moody atmosphere, visual complexities and subconscious context. To that end it was somewhat frustrating as I could sense where it was going and why but wanted more. I believe this is exactly what was intended as we the audience almost feel forced to engage with what we are seeing in order to try and make sense of it. The result actually winds up being a compelling film experience.

Scarlett Johansson carries the film delivering a brave/excellent performance, having to work with limited dialogue while conveying the story’s innate message. There is no question that I found Under the skin to be on the bizarre side however as I thought about it my reaction to it changed. It’s not a wholly satisfying film but it creatively succeeds at imposing its sensory experience. To that end it is deserving of deeper consideration and a higher rating than I initially thought. I plan on another viewing to glean more from its intriguing allegory.


Parental Guide:

The rating is for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**



Audio: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA


Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:


Under the skin comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.

By design this film doesn’t boast vibrant colors are eye popping visuals but the encoding appears solid. Colors have a muted level of saturation and limited range which sets the film’s thematic tone. Overall those used are naturally rendered and appear to fall within the visual palate intended. Fleshtones have appreciable complexional distinction but the lighting used can sometimes leave them appearing flat and lacking in texture. Blacks are deep with above average delineation. Shadow detail is quite good which enhances visual perception during the plethora of scenes shot in limited lighting. Resolution is adequate so that varying degrees of detail can be seen in close ups but the video isn’t razor sharp or dimensionally strong. Not being a noticeably bright film it can appear to have a dull finish but overall quality is excellent and consistent with newer release films of its type that come to Blu-ray.

I wouldn’t classify it as an aggressive surround mix but DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack brought out the best in it. Dialogue is centrally focused and lucid with distinguishable intonation and requisite clarity. It should be noted that I had to turn on the subtitles as the actors (other than Johannson) were Scottish I simply couldn’t understand their English do to the heavy brogue. Subtle nuance and low level detail under the audio’s surface was audible and supremely articulated. I loved the airy, aurally expressive yet subtle whisper of Mica Levi’s eclectic music score. Surround activity wasn’t abundant however the entire surround platform was utilized to enrich musicality and render effective directional/spatial effects that enhanced dimension and generated a stable sound field. Dynamic range and low frequency effects appropriately augmented the recording’s elements but rarely attained levels that were substantially palpable.

Bonus Features:
  • (HD) Making of Under the skin ( 9 segments totaling 35 minutes):
    1. Camera
    2. Casting
    3. Editing
    4. Locations
    5. Music
    6. Poster design
    7. Production design
    8. Script
    9. Sound
  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy





Final Thoughts:

Based on the novel of the same by Michel Faber Under the skin is a darkly abstract and conceptually intriguing film that doesn’t prove wholly satisfying but successfully engages from a sensory perspective. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video quality and a decent assortment of supplements that provide insights from the filmmakers. Under the skin is a bizarre film that mainstream audiences may not connect with but I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend it just the same.





Ralph Potts
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post #2 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 09:13 AM
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Think I'll pass on this, even though I have read that this film is Scarlett Johansson first nude appearance and would surmise a huge following of men are going to view it just for that alone. I do like your review and even does peak an interest about the story, but if you say it lacks a lot of dialogue and hard to understand then it is a no show for me.


I have to wonder why she did the movie in the first place, surely can't be money related with all the Marvel stuff she has done. I guess that is Hollywood.
Thanks Ralph.
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post #3 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 09:49 AM
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I saw this in a local cinema during the thetrical run, and Ralph's synopsis is right on. The acting is quite strong and the atmospherics of the film are powerful. It's minimalist in a way that forces you to deal with the allegory, but then leaves so many questions unanswered.

For a more digestible bit of Jonathan Glazer, I suggest Birth (2004).
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post #4 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 10:44 AM
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Is it accurate?

The rating from Mr. Potts is always based upon his perception of what is on the BR. I would hazard a guess that he never actually saw the movie in theatrical release. If what is on the disc in theatrical release mirrors what was on screen, then that's the best that can be done and no more than that should be expected. Comparing it to other BR's then becomes irrelevant.
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post #5 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fookoo_2010 View Post
The rating from Mr. Potts is always based upon his perception of what is on the BR. I would hazard a guess that he never actually saw the movie in theatrical release. If what is on the disc in theatrical release mirrors what was on screen, then that's the best that can be done and no more than that should be expected. Comparing it to other BR's then becomes irrelevant.

Greetings,

Very true fookoo_2010 however the comparison is simply provided in order to offer some basis for what viewers seeing it at home can expect.

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post #6 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCRSS View Post
Think I'll pass on this, even though I have read that this film is Scarlett Johansson first nude appearance and would surmise a huge following of men are going to view it just for that alone. I do like your review and even does peak an interest about the story, but if you say it lacks a lot of dialogue and hard to understand then it is a no show for me.


I have to wonder why she did the movie in the first place, surely can't be money related with all the Marvel stuff she has done. I guess that is Hollywood.
Thanks Ralph.
Greetings,

I agree that those who find Scarlett Johannson appealing will probably have an interest in this as she is featured fully nude. As a fan and someone that finds her to be attractive that was one element of the film that worked...

Regards,
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post #7 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCRSS View Post
Think I'll pass on this, even though I have read that this film is Scarlett Johansson first nude appearance and would surmise a huge following of men are going to view it just for that alone. I do like your review and even does peak an interest about the story, but if you say it lacks a lot of dialogue and hard to understand then it is a no show for me.

I have to wonder why she did the movie in the first place, surely can't be money related with all the Marvel stuff she has done. I guess that is Hollywood.Thanks Ralph.
Curious about that as well. I was hoping to find an interview with her that addresses that point. It seems like most of the interviewers are pre-occupied by the nudity of the interviewee and not much else is talked about.

I've seen the word "bizarre" mentioned in many reviews. I don't mind bizarre as long as there is a reward. Apparently, that is not the case since it appears the film leaves some unanswered questions. Regardless, it might be a rental.
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post #8 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 04:22 PM
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What's going on with all the recent reviews of relatively obscure movies over the last few days? I had heard nothing about the last few movies prior to reading Ralph and Lee's reviews on them.
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post #9 of 28 Old 07-07-2014, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by BNestico View Post
What's going on with all the recent reviews of relatively obscure movies over the last few days? I had heard nothing about the last few movies prior to reading Ralph and Lee's reviews on them.
Greetings,

Purely coincidental fueled by the lull in the Blu-ray release schedule BNestico. Later in the month and on into August you'll see some of the more mainstream releases covered. I enjoy reviewing both as I occasionally comes across great titles that I otherwise would never have heard of...


Regards,
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post #10 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 07:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by properbostonian View Post
Curious about that as well. I was hoping to find an interview with her that addresses that point. It seems like most of the interviewers are pre-occupied by the nudity of the interviewee and not much else is talked about.

I've seen the word "bizarre" mentioned in many reviews. I don't mind bizarre as long as there is a reward. Apparently, that is not the case since it appears the film leaves some unanswered questions. Regardless, it might be a rental.
She addresses that (to some extent) in this interview:


As she puts it, because she's been in a few Marvel films, people think of her as a blockbuster actress. However, her resume is full of films like:
  • Lost in Translation
  • Ghost World
  • Her
  • Chef
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Match Point
  • The Man Who Wasn't There

I'm sure there are other arthouse films, but those are the ones that come to mind. I'd guess/hope he agreed to a film with nudity because she thought the film and the idea was worth it. Based on the critical response (check out Rotten Tomatoes), I'd say she rolled the dice and won.
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post #11 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 10:21 AM
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This is a rental for me, with possibility of buying it if it's interesting enough. I appreciate her taking risks (I first saw her in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), and while I like her in the Marvel world, this also suits her.

As to the BR, I'll rent it online first, then consider buying. Thanks for the review, Ralph - I appreciate the small films as well as the large.
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post #12 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 10:32 AM
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The original film release got very good reviews in the UK. I watched it at the cinema on the basis of these and wasn't disappointed. Was quite a challenging (in a good way) watch - and definitely left you with questions at the end (which I quite like in a movie - I'm not a fan of everything getting neatly resolved)

I enjoyed it.

The film was shot using quite minimal electronic cameras - almost in a CCTV style - at times, so the source material will limit the video quality compared to stuff shot on high quality 35mm film or full-sized D-Cinema cameras.

I'm English - and had no real problem with the accents - but can understand that people from overseas may struggle with some of the stronger examples.
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post #13 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post
The original film release got very good reviews in the UK. I watched it at the cinema on the basis of these and wasn't disappointed. Was quite a challenging (in a good way) watch - and definitely left you with questions at the end (which I quite like in a movie - I'm not a fan of everything getting neatly resolved)

I enjoyed it.

The film was shot using quite minimal electronic cameras - almost in a CCTV style - at times, so the source material will limit the video quality compared to stuff shot on high quality 35mm film or full-sized D-Cinema cameras.

I'm English - and had no real problem with the accents - but can understand that people from overseas may struggle with some of the stronger examples.

Did Scarlett Johansson use an accent? I sort of recall someone ( reviewer) saying she didn't use one, and how disappointed they were about it or something along those lines.

Did you mind it either way?

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post #14 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 12:51 PM
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Did Scarlett Johansson use an accent? I sort of recall someone ( reviewer) saying she didn't use one, and how disappointed they were about it or something along those lines.

Did you mind it either way?

Djoel
I recall her having an accent, though it is mild compared to the other Scottish accents in the movie.

To the guy asking why she did a movie like this - independent film has always been more her forte. For someone as famous as Scarlett Johansson, she really hasn't been a mega successful actress in terms of box office draw. Her first movie to crack $100m domestically was Iron Man 2 (though they tried with The Island, and that was kind of a surprise flop).

She gained most of her cred from Lost in Translation and Girl with the Pearl Earring, both of which have a lot of similarities to Under the Skin.

Under the Skin is not for everybody, I have to say it's a rent it first kind of flick. But it's so unusual, strange and compelling that I think everyone should give it a shot. Just be sure you know that the S. Johansson nudity is counter-balanced with a few naked dudes. The acting is pretty great, she gets a lot of emotion across without so much as saying a word.
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post #15 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 01:16 PM
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I was surprise to see her or didn't realize she was the kid in the Horse Whisper, quite the resume' of films under her belt so far.

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post #16 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 03:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Djoel View Post
Did Scarlett Johansson use an accent? I sort of recall someone ( reviewer) saying she didn't use one, and how disappointed they were about it or something along those lines.

Did you mind it either way?

Djoel
Greetings,

She definitely used an accent. To me it sounded more British than Scottish but it was a far cry from the regional dialect which I found nearly imperceptible.


Regards,
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post #17 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 06:19 PM
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I truly want to see this (I'll buy the Blu); I'm a big Scarlett's fan. Thx for the review sir.
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post #18 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 06:51 PM
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This movie is about as seductive as 6mg of Melatonin. I gather she won as I drifted off in the reflective black abyss.
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post #19 of 28 Old 07-08-2014, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by properbostonian View Post
Curious about that as well. I was hoping to find an interview with her that addresses that point. It seems like most of the interviewers are pre-occupied by the nudity of the interviewee and not much else is talked about.

I've seen the word "bizarre" mentioned in many reviews. I don't mind bizarre as long as there is a reward. Apparently, that is not the case since it appears the film leaves some unanswered questions. Regardless, it might be a rental.
When I first watched this movie in Moscow in Russian it had a message. (the thing with Slavic lingo is that the language forces speakers to always provide a reason(s) or specification(s) for everything, it's like you can't say that you go without saying by what means, where and whether or not you plan on coming back and whether or not you "go" alone or with other people or you can't say you have a car without specifying if you own it or just rent it for the time being etc..)


Heck, after I'd watched the movie in the language of original I racked and chafed my brain for about a week in search of the buried-deep-down meaning. I'd given the movie a couple of rewatchings and still I'd come up empty-handed which led me to believe that this movie had no message at all and to the fact that the movie itself was, as our Irish counterparts would say, :" ve'y mooch fooked up"


Well, the massage in literary language the Russian version carried was clear as a bell at the end (at least for me for most Russians are not exactly well-versed in literary "Slavic (all Slavic languages share the same literary language which is about the only thing, vocabulary-wise, that they have in common) "), but for some reason I can't even find words in English language to try and relay the said message, now. In Russian all throughout the movie and especially in the final dialogue between the ranger and our mystery of the heroine the specifiers used seemed to indicate that the ranger had a great deal of "humanity or forethought and care for the sake's of care and forethought per se" in him and, of course had the translator opted to use the "specifiers" of indifference or curiosity the message would've been different. The message the translator had to put in (otherwise Russian language wouldn't work) was something like this: "If your шкура* looks human (as in having sympathy and empathy for your fellow man) it doesn't necessarily make you human(but of course, it is way more subtle in Russian and it is sent in the tacit form through the usage of the specific, partly outdated, unbelievably sophisticated "specifiers")"


The movie has no message whatsoever in Englisgh only because English language lets it not have any message. I mean in Russian you can always infer the reason behind a convo from the words, endings prefixes, suffixes etc.. used because one has to use one of them to convey information whereas in English there are no such specifiers (of reason, attitude).


*шкура is impossible to translate into English and preserve the integrity of it that's why I will leave this part untranslated, however it may be very roughly translated as skin)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post
Greetings,

She definitely used an accent. To me it sounded more British than Scottish but it was a far cry from the regional dialect which I found nearly imperceptible.


Regards,
I wouldn't say it was nearly imperceptible, per se. Never-the-less it made me concentrate real hard in order to correctly register spoken language. The only part where I had real trouble "registering" things was the part with the disfigured guy.


I guess if you are unfamiliar with Scottish dialects this movies ain't no cake walk
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post #21 of 28 Old 07-09-2014, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Woobieizer View Post
This movie is about as seductive as 6mg of Melatonin. I gather she won as I drifted off in the reflective black abyss.
If you didn't watch till the end, you missed all the excitement! (really)
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post #22 of 28 Old 07-09-2014, 05:59 AM
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopefulFred View Post
If you didn't watch till the end, you missed all the excitement! (really)
I miss your point. You missed mine. But it's ok (really)

Exciting Ending

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post #23 of 28 Old 07-09-2014, 07:37 PM
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Not the first flick with that style of closing credits. ...Some of the very best obscure films, documentaries, ,,, are like that.
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post #24 of 28 Old 07-11-2014, 10:40 AM
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I wanted to like it, but ultimately I just didn't have any investment into any of the characters. Apparently I value that over style.
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post #25 of 28 Old 07-11-2014, 10:51 AM
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Worst movie of the year!! Boggles my mind how someone can actually like this movie.

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post #26 of 28 Old 07-11-2014, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doctorwizz View Post
Worst movie of the year!! Boggles my mind how someone can actually like this movie.
I can get not liking it, but even then naked Scarlett Johansson alone makes it better than I, Frankenstein and Legend of Hercules.

It's a movie with a lot of substance but an overly abstract conclusion. I can see being bored by it if it doesn't grab your attention immediately though. It was more interesting while

the whole thing was mysterious, it lost a bit of its luster when it changed to "knowing what it is to be human." mode

but I still enjoyed it.
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Last edited by Seihaku; 07-11-2014 at 11:35 AM.
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post #27 of 28 Old Yesterday, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doctorwizz View Post
Worst movie of the year!! Boggles my mind how someone can actually like this movie.
I agree, it was a horrible movie. Even a full frontal naked shot of a chubby Scarlett could not save this movie. One of the worst movies I have ever seen.
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post #28 of 28 Old Yesterday, 12:18 PM
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This is an exceptional movie, once you start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. You have to do a bit of work, but the payoff is well worth it.

As I watched this movie, there were many WTF?! moments.

Then, we would have extended takes of Scar J driving, walking around beautiful Scotland. During these scenes, my mind was usually racing trying to figure out what had just happened. The beach scene was disturbing. Some claim that these extended takes were boring, but that is because they do not understand what was actually happening: Scar Jo's alien was processing in her mind what it was like to be a human. She developed empathy, as evidenced by her freeing of the disfigured man.

The beginning was the formation of her earthly form (eyes specifically) and her language capabilities (ba, ba, ba).

The scene where we witnessed what was happening to her victims is burned into my consciousness and it is not a nice image. I had to do a bit of research, in the book it is established that this harvesting was because human "meat" is a delicacy on her home world. The soaking for a couple of days in the mystery liquid prepped the victims for having their skin removed and the body harvested for alien consumption.
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