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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Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Based on Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

My Opinion:

Well! This movie was certainly… interesting? I love Amy Adams but sci-fi is my type of thing so Arrival is the only one I’d planned on going to see (it’s EXCELLENT, by the way – I’m posting my review tomorrow). Hubby saw Nocturnal Animals then was weirdly insistent on me seeing it too while being cryptic as to if it would actually be worth my time. Now I understand: This is one of those movies you want other people to see so you can talk about it & discuss your theories on the meaning of the symbolism and the different characters’ actions & intentions and, umm……. Okay – This is one of those movies you want other people to see so they can maybe tell you what the f*^k is going on. šŸ˜‰

Was Nocturnal Animals worth my time? Yes. It’s easily in my top ten 2016 movie releases now & I’d be surprised if it’s not still there by December 31st. But it’s a difficult watch and I can’t exactly say I had a “fun time” watching it. I highly doubt I’ll ever watch it again and, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. It’s intensely disturbing and I was kind of glad when it finished. Am I selling this one to you yet?! Ha! I’m pretty sure I’ll never be asked to contribute a quote for a movie’s poster.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from seeing this. In fact, I very highly recommend it. However, I’d only recommend it to a small selection of people who I think would appreciate it, like several of my fellow movie bloggers who may be reading this. You just need to be warned of what you’re getting into if you watch Nocturnal Animals: I guarantee you’ll either love this or you’ll think it’s the most pretentiously boring piece of shit you’ve seen in a long time. There’s my movie poster quote for this!

I always say this but I turn to movies for escapism, which is probably why I go for sci-fi & fantasy and never for gritty realism. I don’t like the ugliness in this world so I don’t enjoy things like true crime dramas, serial killer movies, etc. I say that because this movie is partly “gritty crime drama”. Well, it is yet it isn’t… Just be warned that these parts of the film contain violence more extreme than I’d been expecting (hubby – you could’ve warned me, dude!). The gritty parts are necessary, though, as you start to realize the full meaning behind them so I managed to muddle through despite finding these scenes very uncomfortable.

I’ll try to stay as spoiler-free as possible with this review but I think it’s safe to say that this movie is a story within a story (the book written by the ex-husband of Amy Adams, which she reads throughout the movie). So we go back and forth between Adams & the story in the book which, on the surface, is nothing more than a standard pulpy crime drama. But it IS something much more than that & only Adams and her ex-husband (and hopefully the film’s audience) will be aware of that.

I often don’t go for the “story within a story” thing (er, unless it’s The Princess Bride… Best. Movie. Ever.) but I was completely engrossed every time the movie went back to the book’s crime drama story. Yes, the story feels like formulaic “pulp” (probably why the ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently never made it big as an author) yet it’s so intense & so brilliantly acted that you’re drawn into this story far more than the real-life story of Adams and her superficial art gallery world. But that’s the whole point: Unlike Adams’ real-life extravagant lifestyle, the book’s “fictional” world feels far more real & is full of a raw emotion that I’ve rarely seen captured so well on screen. Honestly, I found these scenes so profoundly & disturbingly moving that credit must be given to everyone involved in their making whether you like the movie or not. Though extremely upsetting, I found this film to be one of the most immersive movie experiences I’ve had since seeing Room, although the emotional effect was the exact opposite (Room filled me with pure joy).

As always, Adams is very good with an understated performance but it’s Gyllenhaal who really shines in what is actually the far more important role. I’ve never been a big fan of his and, though I’ve seen him in plenty of highly regarded roles, I think this is the film that has finally made me appreciate him as an actor. I also loved Michael Shannon in quite a small role as the sheriff in the book’s story. Again, he’s someone highly regarded yet I’ve paid him little attention so, for any of his fans reading this, this movie is worth you checking out just for his role. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the actual movie but he’s fantastic.

I know this is only fashion designer Tom Ford’s second film and I’ve not seen A Single Man but I definitely want to see more from him after this. I think there’s some true brilliance in this film that will unfortunately be too casually regarded as pretentious. I can totally understand why it would be labelled as such, though, as it initially appears that way with beautifully artistic shots & with rich art world snobs moaning about their superficial problems. But the movie itself is the same as book’s story within the film: On the surface it’s superficial & formulaic but deep down it’s an allegorical tale. Wait… The movie is an allegory of itself! No. Um… The book in the movie is an allegory of the real life story in the movie while the movie itself is an allegory of… Something! Maybe. I just like throwing the word “allegory” around. Trust me, there’s some crazy allegorical shit going on here. I’m sure of it!

Is the film itself as deep as its story within a story? I don’t know. My mind is still working on that but I like that I’m still thinking about this movie days after watching it. That’s what I consider true art and only a handful of movies play on my mind for days afterwards. Nocturnal Animals is definitely not for everyone but, if you’re someone who wants something more than just pure entertainment, you may be the type to find this movie an intensely rewarding experience. Or you may just be pretentious. šŸ˜‰

My Rating: 8/10

**To all the pretentious snobs like me who’ve seen this movie, feel free to discuss it with me in the comments! Full-on spoilers allowed, so avoid reading the comments if you’ve not yet seen this – I think it’s not yet out in America? I want to talk about this one. I want to discuss the parallels in the movie’s story & movie book’s story. The meaning of some of the imagery. The overall meaning of the movie: is it deep like the film’s book or superficial like the film’s real-world. What was with all the naked butts?!? The real life book this is based on (as opposed to the book within the movie) – has anyone read it? Should I dye my hair the same color as Amy Adams in the hope that I’ll look exactly like her? Discuss! šŸ™‚

Midnight Special (2016) Review

Midnight Special (2016)

Directed & Written by Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

My Opinion:

***I’ll remain spoiler-free. This is a good one to see without knowing much about it.

Once again, like when I reviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’m reviewing this sooner than I’d like to as I normally like to wait a couple of days. But I only finished watching this a few hours ago so bear with me for another one of my rambling reviews while I try to sort out my initial thoughts on Midnight Special.

I couldn’t wait to see this one – it was one of my most-anticipated for the whole year. It’s my favorite sort of genre & sounded like the exact sort of thing that I love. And it’s good! It really is. Luckily, it’s far better than 10 Cloverfield Lane (for which I still haven’t fully sorted out my feelings – I either really liked it or I really did not… I’ve never felt quite so confused over my feelings for a movie!). Anyway, I think I just hype certain movies up in my mind too much as so many are so disappointing that when one my sort of thing comes along, I expect too much. I liked this a lot. I expected to love it. I think I loved parts of it but, overall, I’m not sure it will be an all-time favorite such as the brilliant films it’s reminiscent of (such as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind).

Don’t worry – I won’t say a thing at all about the plot. I think it’s widely known that there’s a sci-fi element to this film anyway but my comparison to those two Spielberg films are more because of Midnight Special’s tone & feel as well as its focus on the characters and their relationships. That’s what I care most about in a film. Yes, I love a great story (especially anything the slightest bit sci-fi) but I never really love a film unless it has strong characters that I care about. While I didn’t fully connect with the characters in Midnight Special as much as I was hoping, I do think the movie did a really good job with those who mattered the most in the film. The father/son relationship is the strongest and, luckily, is what works best as it’s the main focus of the film. I certainly can’t fault Shannon’s performance as a father who will do anything to protect his child. I guess I was just hoping for more of an emotional attachment, like I got with something like E.T. but, hell, to even have your movie bring Spielberg classics to mind is a pretty huge compliment to Jeff Nichols. Yes, this movie very much feels like something Spielberg would have made in his Close Encounters sort of days. That’s a very good thing. In fact, I wonder what he thinks of this movie! Hmm… I would imagine he loves it.

Jeff Nichols is certainly a writer/director I’ll be paying more attention to after this film. I did review both Take Shelter & Mud and it was interesting re-reading those to see what I thought of them. Seriously, though – don’t read my Take Shelter review as I’d only had this blog for two weeks at that point & didn’t even know why I’d started a blog. Basically, I was clearly paying very little attention to the movie as it was on in the background while I decorated the Christmas tree (I’m a parent – you’ll find you half-watch a lot of things when you get some rare “alone time”). šŸ˜‰ Maybe I’ll give it another try someday but it was one of those films I think I appreciated more than actively liked. Shannon was good, though, as was the film’s theme plus I remember thinking the ending was very good. Mud was an improvement overall in that the film was a more enjoyable & entertaining watch but, now that I think about it more, I think Take Shelter had the far stronger story. I guess it depends on what you prefer from a movie but, if you liked both of those films, you’ll definitely like Midnight Special as it feels like Nichols got a better balance this time between making a good story as well as an entertaining film. Plus, I gotta say the ending is great. It can often go so wrong at the end with this type of thing but I was happy with this film’s finale.

I’m going to wrap this up before I ramble on too much or start spoiling things. Besides, I have a massive migraine & need to go to bed. Damn migraines! When it’s gone, I’ll hopefully be able to catch up on some of your Midnight Special reviews as I wanted to avoid them all until I’d seen it but I really am curious what you all thought of it. Plus, I keep wanting to call this Midnight Express… Anyone seen that? I’ve always wanted to see that but never have. Now I’m off topic. I can’t think when I have a headache.

Midnight Special is very good. I liked it a lot but only time will tell if I feel the same way about it as I do about some of Spielberg’s sci-fi classics that have a similar feel. I’ll say that, partially because of the Dunst connection, I was also reminded somewhat of Melancholia (which I liked quite a bit). I suppose Jeff Nichols is somewhere in the middle – not as weird as Lars von Trier but not as mainstream as Steven Spielberg. It’s a cool combination but I’m not sure if it’ll work for everyone. It worked for me and I’d like to see Nichols do more of this same genre.

My Rating: 8/10

Mud (2012) Review

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Mud (2012)

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Tye Sheridan
Sam Shepard
Michael Shannon
Joe Don Baker
Ray McKinnon
Sarah Paulson
Paul Sparks
Jacob Lofland
Reese Witherspoon

Running time: 130 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Two young boys find a man who calls himself Mud hiding out on a small island on the Mississippi River. They later learn he is a fugitive and question him about it. Mud claims he killed a man who was abusing the woman he loves and he plans to repair a damaged boat that’s on the island then reunite with the woman and escape. The boys agree to help Mud with his mission.

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This was quite an odd movie and I think it’ll be a hard one to review. I decided to watch it as it made quite a few end of year Top Ten movie lists done by fellow bloggers.

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I think I remember one blogger comparing Mud to Stand By Me which got my interest as that’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Mud isn’t up there with that one but the comparison makes sense in that this is a coming-of-age drama about two boys (of 14, I think). The story focuses mainly on the boy named Ellis, whose parents are divorcing. He also thinks he’s in love with a girl from school so he’s a big ‘ol bag of mixed teenage hormonal emotions. His friend, with the kick ass name of Neckbone, isn’t so much the focus of the film but I really liked him as he reminded me a lot of River Phoenix in Stand By Me, especially with his haircut. Both boys were great and I hope they go on to do more films after this one. They’re what made the movie.

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Matthew McConaughey has never really been to my taste (or to many people’s, I think). I did like him in this, though, and I like that he’s been doing more serious roles and seems to be becoming a more highly respected actor lately (Mud is the only one I’ve seen of his more serious roles but I have to admit I liked him in Dazed And Confused as I’m from a small town and I knew a guy EXACTLY like his pervy loser). He’s a mysterious character and you never really know if the boys should fully trust him.

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This movie has a slow pace and is more about the characters than about Mud’s story. It won’t be for everyone and I’d only recommend it to those who think they may like it based on what I’ve said so far. McConaughey and especially the two boys give very good performances and you’ll find that you just want a happy ending for them all. The plot itself is quite unique compared to other films and I liked that – it felt like a “fresh” idea even though there wasn’t a lot to it. This movie has the feel of the early 80’s way of life (which I’d totally go back to if I had a time machine) and I actually wondered for a while if this was set in the 80s or if that’s just how things still are these days in Arkansas. I don’t mean that in a bad way – it’s just a very different lifestyle and one that someone living somewhere like London might not be able to relate to but, being from small-town Midwest, it made me a little homesick. Overall, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and the only weak thing, unfortunately, was Reese Witherspoon who didn’t seem right for her role. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything bad to say about Mud.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Man Of Steel (2013) Review

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Man Of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

Produced by
Christopher Nolan
Charles Roven
Emma Thomas
Deborah Snyder

Starring
Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Michael Shannon
Diane Lane
Kevin Costner
Laurence Fishburne
Antje Traue
Ayelet Zurer
Russell Crowe

Music by Hans Zimmer

Plot Synopsis:

Honestly, I can’t be bothered. Lol! It’s Superman. You know the general plot.

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My Opinion (no spoilers):

My reviews have gotten way too wordy. This movie will have already been reviewed a lot (I’m looking forward to catching up on all your great reviews here now that I’ve seen this). So I’m going to try to keep this short & sweet by doing my “good” and “not so good” thing.

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The Good:

– The casting. It was excellent. So many people in this were the exact right choices for their roles. I thought the very best were actually Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Michael Shannon. Now, Crowe and Costner are NOT actors I like all that much. But they were bloody PERFECT in these roles. And, luckily, Crowe doesn’t sing in this one. Lol. As for Superman himself, Henry Cavill, he seemed the right choice. I’ve only just seen this so still thinking about it. He certainly has the perfect look to play Superman (as I picture Superman which, to my mind because of my age, is mostly Christopher Reeve). I know nothing of the comics (give me a break – I’m a girl). :-p But his look seems just right. And Amy Adams is my favorite actress so I’ll say nothing bad about her. She’s sweet and has an adorable little nose. But she’s the one my hubby didn’t think fit the part. I dunno. I’ll let others decide on that – I just like her as an actress.

– The beginning. It was a little hard to get into at first as it’s very different from the 1978 Superman I grew up with and have an affection for even though I know it’s far from perfect. But thinking about it now, I really liked how Man Of Steel started. It was great seeing so much of his world and getting to know more of his backstory than I previously knew (I have very little Superman knowledge).

– Superman’s families. On his home world and on Earth. As I said, it was great seeing more of his home world and his mother & father. Crowe was perfect as his father. Ayelet Zurer, his mother, seemed a good choice as well from what we see of her. And as I said, Kevin Costner & Diane Lane were absolutely perfect. My favorite bits of the whole movie were probably the ones with Superman & both these families. Very good character development as far as all the parents & their relationships with Superman were concerned.

– Shirtless Superman. Very nice. Overall, he’s not my type. The face is too chiseled and I like my dark-haired guys to have chocolate brown eyes and I like them to have more of a “boy next door” look. He’s too handsome. Nice bare chest, though! And a bit of hair on his chest – not one of these hairless girly boys. Think I preferred him with the beard, too – hides that crazy “man of steel” jaw. Am I going on too much? I’ll shut up now. (Thor is hotter) šŸ˜‰

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The Not So Good:

– Too much action & too much CGI. Yes, there CAN be too much action sometimes and there was too much in this, especially at the end. And too much CGI ALWAYS annoys me. I’m old school that way.

– Some of the character development. It wasn’t too bad at first but I really was expecting more than we got and am a little disappointed by that. Lois Lane was probably the most underdeveloped. Oh, and those she works with – we were suddenly meant to care about them at the end when we’d seen so little of them. And Superman himself could have done with a bit more development. They did try with him, however. But it didn’t QUITE work for me. I didn’t feel his “internal struggle superhero thang” as much as I’d have liked – I think they almost achieved this then messed it up at the end by going so overboard on the action. I’m not entirely sure if this was the fault of the actor, or the script, or what. Perhaps he wasn’t exactly right for the role? I’ve still not decided. And I didn’t fully buy into his relationship with Lois Lane. That felt a bit weak. Thank god for Superman’s parents – without the scenes with them, I think I’d have felt nothing at all for his character. He just really lacks a personality in this. However, we get a little glimpse of personality at the end that I’m really REALLY hoping we get to see more of in a sequel. Give him a personality! And more shirtless scenes.

The flashbacks. This is a minor thing but I didn’t like them showing his childhood & teen years in flashback. I felt the movie kind of lost something doing it this way. I really would have liked to see him grow up on Earth in chronological order. I just didn’t like the “back and forth” at that point in the movie. Plus I’d have liked to see much more of his younger years to better understand his character, especially as the second half of the movie ended up so disappointing compared to the first half.

The finale. It was too much. It was too long. It was WAY over the top. The more I think about it, the more I really did NOT like the last 45 minutes or so of this film. Or however long it was – it FELT very long indeed. Very disappointing after such a strong beginning & middle.

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Summary:

A promising reboot with a good beginning & middle that is, unfortunately, almost completely destroyed by a very disappointing and ridiculously over-the-top finale. Some excellent casting, particularly both sets of Superman’s parents, is what saves this film and gives it the depth and character development needed to make the audience care in the slightest about these characters & what happens to them. Without Crowe, Costner, Lane & Zurer (the parents), I have to be honest and say that this film would have been a complete and utter disaster. The final scene, however, gave me a glimmer of hope for the sequel. Overall, the movie IS “promising” in that I think there’s the promise of a brilliant sequel in Superman’s future if they do things right next time and make it far more like the first half than the second half of Man Of Steel. Unfortunately, we’re only given the hope of a great movie in the future instead of a great one this time. Disappointing.

My Rating: 6/10

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So where does Man Of Steel rank in my recent list of My Top Ten Superhero Movies? Have a look HERE. šŸ™‚

And here for all the movies I’ve seen in 2013.

*preparing for the angry comments… Lol!* *Especially now that I’ve edited this & lowered the rating…*

Take Shelter

Been wanting to watch this for a while. I’m obsessed with movies that are at ALL apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic in any way. These days it’s zombie movies that I especially love. Maybe there’s something wrong with me or I just really hate humanity – I think it actually started with that (admittedly awful) Night of the Comet movie I watched in 1984. Or possibly a bit earlier as I loved the original Twilight Zones from a VERY young age and a couple of my favorites were The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and the one where the neighbors all fight over the bomb shelter when they think the world is ending. So, anyway – Take Shelter was close enough to those things I love for me to check it out even though I KNEW it was actually a story about mental illness. But, dammit – some more actual storms would have been good!! šŸ˜‰

Decent enough performances from all involved but nothing too stunning. I did like the parallels of mental illness/approaching storm. The pacing was a bit too slow at times (I found my mind wandering several times but that’s getting to be more of a problem in my old age plus I have a lot on my mind at the moment AND I was watching it while decorating the damn Xmas tree). šŸ™‚ And I like the ending but I always love a good ambiguous ending that you KNOW people are going to fight about on websites like imdb. Seriously – I think I just like to see movie geeks get all worked up insisting that THEIR interpretation of a movie is the only correct one. šŸ˜‰ What I love about those endings is that you can take them any way YOU choose to.

So, overall, Take Shelter was a decent enough movie exploring mental illness in a slightly more interesting way by using the symbolism of the storm and the shelter and blah blah blah. But I felt it was missing something. I don’t know what exactly but I was a little bored throughout it. The feel & pacing & exploration of the characters kept reminding me of the movie Another Earth, which I enjoyed much more and I felt did a better job of getting its point across (exploring human emotion as opposed to mental illness and the effects it has on the sufferer & those close to them). And a similar sort of ambiguous ending! Hey ho. šŸ™‚

My Rating: 6.5/10

(And since I mentioned it, I’d probably give Another Earth a 7.5/10)

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