The Shape Of Water (2017) Review

The Shape Of Water (2017)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid-amphibian creature.

My Opinion:

It felt like the longest wait EVER to finally see The Shape Of Water in the UK. It came out on Valentine’s Day with that Fifty Shades Shit. Give me the fish man over that crap any day! I was really excited as this is my type of thing & I think Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. I probably hyped this one up too much in my mind after months of anticipation. I did really like it but Pan’s Labyrinth is still by far del Toro’s best. This is my second favorite he’s directed that I’ve seen, though.

Where do I start?! It’s pretty bad when you can believe in a love story involving a fish man more than one in some sappy romcom bullshit starring Kate Hudson (or whoever has replaced her nowadays – I’m not a big romcom chick). Doug Jones does well giving life to… Umm… Fish Man! Do I have to keep calling him that??? Okay – he’s officially credited as Amphibian Man / The Asset. The whole point of most of del Toro’s work seems to be that the true monsters are those who appear normal on the outside and, as expected, that’s the theme here. You’ll feel for Amphibian Man and understand why the character played by Sally Hawkins wants to protect him. You may not want to have sex with him, though. Who knows. Maybe you will! That’s just not for me, but I’m sure I’d have a lovely platonic friendship with Amphibian Man.

The overall story was more predictable & straightforward than I was expecting. Michael Shannon made for a good baddie as usual but his performance also felt a bit phoned in. That’s probably because he does this type of role so often. He’s quite a one-dimensional baddie, which was a little disappointing. But I do love to truly hate the bad guy in a movie and he certainly manages to achieve that here.

Besides Amphibian Man, we have four main human characters who help him out. Sally Hawkins is of course the cleaner who falls in love with him, Octavia Spencer is her friend & co-worker, Richard Jenkins is her friend & neighbor, and Michael Stuhlbarg is a scientist who doesn’t approve of the treatment of Amphibian Man. Hawkins, Spencer & Jenkins are all up for acting Oscars and I’m happy with that. I loved that Hawkins was mute, making her connection with Amphibian Man even stronger. Hawkins & Jones do a great job expressing their emotions without words. I especially liked Jenkins as her neighbor and Spencer was once again a very likeable friend of our main character, though it would be nice to see her as more than just the friendly sidekick (I’ve not yet seen Hidden Figures).

The characters are what make this movie and I really enjoyed them. The story is simple as are its themes but I still like its theme of love & acceptance, which is still relevant today. Set in 1962, all our characters have to deal with intolerance (the mute Hawkins as well as Jenkins & Spencer due to sexual orientation and race). While I despise anything too overtly political in movies, The Shape Of Water remains subtle and this group of people and the parallels with the treatment of Amphibian Man work really well. There are some beautiful scenes & cinematography as well as a lovely score (it’s also nominated for cinematography, production design & score).

I hope The Shape Of Water does well at the Oscars but I keep flipping back & forth on if I prefer this or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This one is more “me” but I think Three Billboards may be slightly ahead for me. I’d be interested to see if my opinion changes in a year. The Shape Of Water feels more timeless & cinematic and may be the more highly acclaimed film in the future. Oh, and as one last thing, I have to add that I love where Hawkins lived in this film. Guillermo del Toro knows how to please cinephiles!

My Rating: 8/10

**By the way – Sally Hawkins is a serial masturbator in this. I may have to add to My Top Five Movie Scenes Of Self-Pleasure

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Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2013) Review

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Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2013)

Directed by Erik Sharkey

Starring: Drew Struzan, Dylan Struzan, Harrison Ford, Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas, Michael J. Fox, Thomas Jane

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Drew: The Man Behind The Poster is a 2013 documentary film directed by Erik Sharkey about the career of American film poster artist Drew Struzan.

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My Opinion:

I watched this documentary last year and kept meaning to review it. I don’t know how to review documentaries (or books! man I’m behind on book reviews). As a documentary, I suppose it was pretty good. I don’t watch too many of them unless I’m really really interested in the subject, though, and this one was right up my alley. I love movies (obviously) & movie poster art and Drew Struzan has designed some of the greatest & most well known movie posters. So I’ll warn you right now that I may end up talking more about his art than about the actual documentary.

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Personal Life:

What I liked about this documentary, as with any documentary, was finding out more about Struzan’s personal life as well as his work. They talked to him and to his wife a lot and they seemed to have a lovely, very close relationship (I love a good husband & wife team). I’d say Struzan came across as a bit bitter and angry over certain things (he got very screwed over by someone in his career so I can understand that anger). He was the very definition of a “starving artist” in his early days and his wife was always by his side. I think this documentary got the balance right in talking about his personal life as well as his art. I can’t find any photos of his wife (Dylan) in the documentary, which is odd as she’s a very important part of it. But I found the above photo here, on the website of an artist who met Drew. It’s an interesting article if you want to have a look at the link & get an actual artist’s perspective on things (I can’t draw anything other than stick figures. I can’t even paint a wall properly!).

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It’s interesting how artistic types can sometimes be difficult but I liked how Struzan seems to have said “screw it” and lives for his wife & his art now. I’m difficult too but I have zero artistic talent of any sort so I don’t know what my excuse is… 😉 I’m not saying he came across as unlikeable – just that he does what he wants to do now & too bad if others don’t like it. I think more people should be like that, actually. He was far less grumpy than Paul Williams was in the Paul Williams Still Alive documentary that I watched at the same time. I suppose I should do a mini-review of that sometime too… Here’s my review: Paul Williams is a grumpy fart! Lol. Seriously, though, Struzan came across as a private person who’s very passionate about the things he loves and I have a lot of respect for people who are like that.

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Artwork:

First of all, I’ll say they did a good job getting some famous people to talk about Struzan and the work that he did for/with them (I especially loved Michael J. Fox’s enthusiasm for Struzan’s work – you could tell just how much he loved being a part of the Back To The Future posters). Speaking of grumpy famous people, they even got Harrison Ford to talk about Struzan! How cool is that? He must be the actor Struzan has painted more than any other… We also heard from Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas, and Thomas Jane.

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I’m really glad they spoke to Thomas Jane about his part as a movie poster artist in Frank Darabont’s The Mist. For anyone not familiar with the movie, Struzan’s artwork was used in the beginning and Jane’s character is shown painting Struzan’s art for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (which Struzan painted specifically to be used in The Mist). Three things I love all together: Stephen King, Drew Struzan & Frank Darabont! Wait… Four! Thomas Jane is a hottie. Anyway, Struzan showed Jane how to make it look like he was really an artist doing a painting then, being the perfectionist that he is, later told Jane that he did it completely wrong in the movie. I loved Jane’s re-telling of the story – he had a great sense of humor about it.

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Frank Darabont is clearly a big fan of Struzan’s as he’s had him do art for a lot of his work (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Walking Dead, and of course artwork for & in The Mist). George Lucas is also a huge fan and Struzan has done loads of Star Wars art for books, anniversary editions, etc. There are so many different Struzan Star Wars pieces that it’s hard to choose a favorite. I think it’s between Revenge Of The Jedi & this one, which was a collaboration with artist Charles White III:

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Struzan did the poster art for Hellboy but he also did an amazing piece for Pan’s Labyrinth, which the studio rejected (much to Guillermo del Toro’s anger). But del Toro is very proud to have this hanging in his home – I’d love to have this!:

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I hate how studios so often feel the need to have horrible, boring movie posters just featuring photos of the film’s stars these days. I understand that seeing the stars so prominently displayed convinces some people to watch a movie (I guess?) but it doesn’t work on me. I’m more interested in a film if it has a really interesting, artistic poster (I’m the same way with books. I’m drawn to books with good covers). Struzan paints the film’s stars anyway so I don’t know why anyone would ever choose some crappy photoshopped photo over a painting for a movie poster. I’d much rather see something like this:

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Summary:

I’ve decided to stop here for a couple of reasons. First of all, I sometimes feel ridiculous “reviewing” movies when I know as little about filmmaking as I do about writing. When it comes to art, I have even less experience or knowledge. I just know what I LIKE and I have a passion for film, music, books, and art & love discussing it with all of you in the same way that someone like Struzan has a passion for actually creating that art. Believe me, I’d far rather be creating it but I just don’t have that ability.

Second of all, if I continue I know I’ll just ramble on & on about all my favorite Struzan pieces. So, in the middle of this, I decided to do a separate list of My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces, which I’ll post tomorrow. I’ve actually not even mentioned a lot of my favorites, including the one that is my favorite Struzan poster, hands down. I’ll just mention this as I decided that my list tomorrow should focus on only his movie art: When watching this documentary, I had NO idea that Struzan had done album covers and that he did one of my all-time favorites for Black Sabbath. How on Earth had I not known that?! The Alice Cooper one is amazing as well:

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Love those! Like I said, I know what I like and I know that seeing Drew Struzan movie art makes me happy. As for this documentary, I really enjoyed it as I find the subject matter fascinating and it was great getting to know a little bit about this private and talented artist.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Book Of Life (2014) Review

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The Book Of Life (2014)

Directed by Jorge Gutierrez

Produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro, Carina Schulze

Starring:
Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Ron Perlman
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Kate del Castillo

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

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My Opinion:

Hmm. I liked this movie and did think it was lovely to look at (but was probably a bit “too much” visually – they could have toned it down). As an adult, it’s not always fun sitting through kids movies but I enjoyed the story well enough in this and didn’t just want to sleep through the whole thing like I pretty much did during the horrible Boxtrolls movie. The problem with this one, though, is that I think adults may almost enjoy it a bit more than really young kids as I think the story is too confusing for those under maybe 8 or so. There’s no reason that younger kids can’t go to it – I just think they won’t like this one as much as it’s very fast paced, the story is too complex, and it’s just very “busy” – you’re constantly bombarded with the visuals, the story, the songs… I found it hard to keep up myself so I doubt a five-year-old really could.

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As I said, I did quite like the story. It’s actually told as a story that’s being told to a group of kids at a museum and I wasn’t sure that would really work at first but it wasn’t too bad – it just made it a bit harder to get into the characters who are in the “story within a story”. I put the very simple plot synopsis at the top but here it is from Wikipedia in much more detail to show you exactly what the central story is about (although, as I said, it’s more complex than this):

The spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, appear at the San Angel’s Day of the Dead festival where they set up a wager after seeing two boys, Manolo and Joaquín, competing over a free-spirited girl named María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry María, while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba can no longer interfere in mortal affairs, but if Xibalba wins, he and La Muerte would switch lands.

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The girl in this is pretty good – she’s feisty and when the boys are fighting over her says something like “I belong to no one!” so I was all for that as too many female characters in kids movies are horrible role models to young girls. Her pet pig was pretty adorable and there weren’t any annoying or unlikable characters.

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The jokes in this are actually somewhat funny, even for the adults (well, one joke was SO dirty that the hubby & I looked at each other in disbelief! Don’t worry, though – your kids would NOT pick up on it. Just don’t laugh at it if you can help yourself. I couldn’t help myself…). There’s also a lot of music in this film which was sometimes fun as they did some popular stuff. Although I wasn’t sure if I should think it’s cool or if I should be pissed off at them doing Radiohead’s Creep… But, hey – it’s the first time I’ve heard Biz Markie’s Just A Friend since 1989!

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Summary:

The Book Of Life is a decent enough film that adults probably won’t mind sitting through as well. I do think it’s too complex for the very young but, aside from one dirty joke they won’t get anyway, I wouldn’t say there’s really anything inappropriate for kids (other than maybe the issue of “death” being discussed but you get that in most Disney movies anyway). Obviously, it’s not Pixar or Disney so it’s still just a kids film to me & I never rate those as highly as I’d rather watch a grown-up movie. I liked this okay, though, and think most kids of at least 7 or 8 probably will too.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s some Radiohead for Cara. 😉

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cameron of Cameron’s Pit Of Terror. Thanks for being a part of this IMDB project, Cameron! Now let’s see what he has to say about Pan’s Labyrinth, IMDB rank 106 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Pan’s Labyrinth is quite simply a fairytale for adults. Without being afraid to feature faeries and other mystical creatures, it provides a frank and often unpleasant insight into aspects of human nature; precisely what Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and so on originally intended their stories to be before the rose-tinted lens of Hollywood made them fluffy children’s stories. Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, we follow young Ofelia through her traumatic experiences in both real and fantasy worlds. The episodes in these worlds alternate constantly throughout the film as the plot threads slowly become more intermingled with each other, images begin to repeat themselves between the worlds and common aims become more and more apparent, blurring the lines between fairytale and reality in Ofelia’s eyes (and our own) while the majority of the characters around her are set in dismissing her stories, much in the way they are stubbornly set in their beliefs in the wider world; a flaw that costs a number of them greatly.

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“Whoops, wrong one”

Vidal is a male transposition of the fantasy trope, the evil stepmother, who is shown to be a less-than-pleasant character from the offset through very subtle nuances rather than blatant exposition. The feeling that he’s “a bit of an arse”, are soon compounded to sheer hatred by the quick and effective introductions of various deplorable sides to his character. More than just being the ‘evil stepfather’ by being nasty to Ofeila, he is a brutal, dictator-esque military general whose disgraceful acts and traits are mirrored in many of the creatures Ofelia encounters. Despite this, slight weaknesses are shown in him preventing him from being two-dimensional but not going as far as to make him at all sympathetic. Every character is portrayed as three-dimensional, “human”, with weaknesses and strengths rather than a cookie-cutter frame-filler. This applies from the leads whose traits are explored in some depth, down to characters that feature only for a minute; their nature is exposed through the smallest actions such as hesitating briefly before killing a fallen enemy; stopping to compose themselves before a horrific medical procedure; the list goes on.

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“BOO! HISS!”

Visually the film is at least as stunning as has become the accepted standard for a Guillermo Del Toro film, probably in fact setting the precedent for this expectation. Colour palettes, shapes and presence of natural life separate the real and fantasy worlds, but it would be possible to pause the film at any point, set in either realm, and be presented with a beautifully imagined and composed image. Everything is shot with a calm steadiness; the incredible, unique creatures aren’t given sensational coverage, making them seem more real and paradoxically more sensational, while the occasional brutal violence is framed like any other scene, and shown in single, mundane takes, enhancing the horror and emotional impact of the actions rather than giving them any sense of spectacle or, conversely, detachment.

This is a film that doesn’t so much attempt to balance the fantasy with the horror and despair of the real-world setting; the beautiful, mystical imagery with the brutal, unpleasant window into human nature. It blends them together into one continuous fable and one utterly believable universe. While being almost consistently dark and moody, it is an enthralling film that even after multiple viewings I find myself returning to for the noxious, bittersweet charm that is still unlike that of any other film I have seen.

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

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Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring:
Charlie Hunnam
Idris Elba
Rinko Kikuchi
Charlie Day
Robert Kazinsky
Max Martini
Ron Perlman
Burn Gorman
Clifton Collins Jr

Running time: 132 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):

The film is set in the 2020s, when Earth is under attack by Kaiju, colossal monsters which have emerged from a portal on the ocean floor. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge.

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My Opinion:

THIS is what I expect of a summer blockbuster. There are cool monsters (they even GLOW!), big funky robots, lots & lots of action, characters who are cliché as hell including generically attractive leads, and a story that’s totally predictable every step of the way. Turn off your brain, munch your popcorn, and just have fun. I really enjoyed this film as I got exactly what I was expecting.

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This movie is all about the action so I’m not going to go into any of that. All of that is really good and thoroughly entertaining. Instead, I’ll discuss the characters in the film a little bit.

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There aren’t going to be any Oscars handed out to anyone in this. But who cares? The main guy, Charlie Hunnam, really can’t get any more generically attractive. The good news is that he takes his shirt off a couple of times. The bad news is that those couple of shirtless moments are fairly brief and he’s otherwise always fully clothed. His storyline starts out OH SO PREDICTABLE and ends that way as well. As does the storyline of, well, absolutely everyone in this. Again, though – who cares? We’re all going to this to see monsters & robots! 🙂

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The other characters of note are:

– Idris Elba as the dude in charge of the Jaegers & their pilots. He was just right for the role and probably put in the most effort acting-wise.

– Rinko Kikuchi as “the girl”. Another very predictable storyline here but it was a decent enough story. And we see her as a little girl too and she’s adorable.

– The scientists (Charlie Day & Burn Gorman). You’ll probably love these guys or you’ll hate them. Predictably quirky & nerdy – they’re always competing with each other in trying to figure out the best way to save the world from the Kaiju. They’re the “comic relief” but you’ll probably be rolling your eyes at some of their antics.

– The other Jaeger pilots. There are a few other “teams” but the one focused on the most is a father & son (the son is the generically attractive “prick” these types of blockbusters call for). Again – their storyline is predictable but I liked it fine.

– Ron Perlman as the “lunatic”. I think his role is meant to be a bit of a surprise so I won’t say exactly who he is but he’ll be a favorite character, I would think, for anyone who is a Ron Perlman fan. He’s also in it to provide a bit of comic relief but I really couldn’t decide if I liked his character or not. It felt a bit too silly to me.

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Summary:

I know I’ve not said much about this film but there’s really no point. You won’t exactly increase your IQ by watching it but you WILL enjoy yourself. This movie does exactly what it sets out to do: keeps you entertained without requiring you to put much effort into “thinking”. And that’s fine when you’re expecting it – I have no issue with the braindead action in this whereas in something like Man Of Steel it annoyed me as I expected a film like that to be a little “smarter” and not have SUCH excessive action for such a large chunk of the film. And while I didn’t expect anything other than the cliché characters and predictable storylines, it does keep Pacific Rim from becoming something MORE than just “this year’s” big summer blockbuster. Plenty of other past summer blockbusters are now what I’d consider all-time favorites and, unfortunately, I don’t think Pacific Rim quite manages to make itself an all-time classic in this category. But I do recommend it, especially on a nice big cinema screen.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Scene after credits?: Yes, there is a scene partway through the credits that you’ll probably want to stay for. There’s not a scene after the credits but there is a dedication to Ray Harryhausen & Ishiro Honda and the sound of a Kaiju roar.

Also, there has been talk of a Pacific Rim sequel! SPOILER if you haven’t yet seen the film:

The sequel, Pacific Rim 2: Electric Boogaloo, will focus on the Kaiju and the dance show they organize in an attempt to raise enough money for a new portal.