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Non-Review Review: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a beautiful emerald fairy tale, told from the fringes.

Set in the early sixties, against the backdrop of “the last days of a fair prince’s reign”, The Shape of Water promises to regale audience members with the story of “the princess without a voice” and “the monster who tried to end it all.” However the most striking aspect of The Shape of Water is in how it chooses to focus its magical story. The Shape of Water is a story largely about those who are silenced on the margins, right down to its decision to cast Sally Hawkins as protagonist Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner working in a secret government lab.

He’s in a glass case of emotion.

The Shape of Water is very much an exploration of the concept of “the other”, of the lives of those who exist outside the confines of “normal” society. The film’s central antagonist is a happily married white American man, who finds himself set against a collection of misfits and outcasts; a mute orphan, a black cleaning lady, a gay designer, an immigrant scientist, and a monstrosity pulled from the depths of the Amazon river. Coasting from the conservative fifties, Colonel Richard Strickland faces the threat that everything he accepts as granted might be washed away.

The Shape of Water suffers from some minor pacing problems in its romantic adventure, but these are minor issues in a haunting and enchanting piece of work.

The Creature from the Black Ops Department.

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Non-Review Review: Pacific Rim

The generic way of describing Pacific Rim seems to be Transformers vs. Godzilla, which really says more about how hard it is to sell an original blockbuster these days than it does about the quality of the film itself. There are obvious and superficial similarities between Pacific Rim and the two film series cited – giant robots and monsters from the ocean – but that cynical synopsis doesn’t do justice to director Guillermo Del Toro’s bold vision.

Pacific Rim is a punchy old-school summer blockbuster, one which remembers that characters are the foundation of drama, and which imbues its flesh-and-blood cast with as much personality as the flesh-and-blood spectacle unfolding overhead.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

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Watch! Mama Trailer…

Universal just set over the new trailer for Mama, the new supernatural thriller produced by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toror is producing, and writer-director Andres Muschietti is making his theatrical début, having worked on a number of short films before this (including one called Mamá). It stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jessica Chastain and follows the mysterious recovery of two missing girls years after their initial disappearance. It looks nice and atmospheric, and del Toro’s name is enough to make the film worth a look to me.

Give the trailer a watch and let me know what you think.

John Carter is Marred: Thoughts on Big-Budget Schadenfreude & Film Media Hypocrisy…

Everybody is talking about Disney’s John Carter. And not in a good way. It seems that everybody is talking about the project’s huge budget and poor marketing, with many news outlets taking an obscene amount of pleasure in declaring Andrew Stanton’s live action project dead on arrival. Some have even started making comparisons to Waterworld, another science-fiction epic with a huge budget that failed to find an audience. In the interest of honesty, I haven’t seen the film yet; I am cautiously optimistic, but I can’t help but worry about the film. Still, I can’t help but feel like this is an example of an hypocritical “damned if do, damned if you don’t” logic from film writers and journalists all over the web, who seem to be salivating at the prospect of a huge studio being humbled by a blockbuster that might mess up the landing. The irony being that these are probably the same people who frequently deride the “safe” and “obvious” choices for blockbuster films, bemoaning the fact that directors like Guillermo Del Toro aren’t given the budget to make the films they want to make.

Does anybody "get" Carter?

Does anybody "get" Carter?

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Non-Review Review: The Warrior’s Way

I don’t think that pulpy nostalgia lends itself particularly well to cinematic reimagining. We’ve seen a variety of high-concept mish-mashes on the big screen in the past decade or so. There was a time when Freddie vs. Jason was confined to the bargain basement of your local DVD store, but we’ve seen major theatrical releases like Cowboys & Aliens or Aliens vs. Predators in the past number of years – all based around the idea that you can pit a cool concept against another cool concept and the resulting movie will be “super-cool.” Essentially an opportunity to answer the age-old question of “who would win in a fight between cowboys and ninjas”, The Warrior’s Way has a few really enjoyable and gleefully silly moments, but they tend to get lost in the midst of an overly-stylised and too-heavily-green-screen-ed moments, with a skilled cast unable to inject life into a range of characters who are struggling to reach the second dimension.

Give it a stab?

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Only Ourselves to Blame: The Sad Truth about the Mountains of Madness…

The internet seems to be in mourning. There’s none of the angry fist-waving fury that we saw over the announcement of the planned sequels and prequels to Blade Runner, just a solemn sense of reflection. After it seemed that good news was on the way, word came down the wire that Guillermo Del Toro’s planned adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness would not be happening. Apparently Universal Studios have decided that instead of spending $150m on a genuinely respected classic horror story, they’d rather blow $175m on another shot at Doom. The two decisions probably aren’t directly related (in that I doubt it was an “either or” situation), but it’s fairly damning. However, I honestly don’t think we should blame the studio for any of this. And, that, my friends, is the sad madness-inspiring truth of it all: we have only ourselves to blame.

Del Toro's dream project met an icy reception...

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Non-Review Review: Agnosia

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

There were a lot of reasons to get excited about Agnosia, one of the anticipated highlights of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. The movie was written by Antonis Trashorras, the writer of The Devil’s Backbone, perhaps the film that put director Guillermo del Toro on the map. In fact, this film comes with an endorsement from del Toro himself, which has quite a large amount of weight among the film community. However, Agnosia lacks the magic or elegance of del Toro’s work, with director Eugenio Mira (whose last work was in 2004) able to craft a stylish visual design for the film – but never quite able to create a sense of magic or engagement.

99 Schwarz ballons...

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Why Del Toro Departing The Hobbit is a Good Thing…

The Hobbit is dead. Long live The Hobbit. Look, we all know it’s going to happen. Like the next James Bond film, the economics of the situation dictate that it must happen – a spin-off from The Lord of the Rings is too lucrative an opportunity to pass up, it’s an excuse to print money. Think of all the simple/theatrical/standard/deluxe/super/extended versions of the films have been released on video/DVD/HD DVD/Blu Ray. Now double that. So now you know why The Hobbit is going to happen, eventually. Unfortunately, I think we all know it’s not going to happen soon. And I’m here to tell you why Del Toro departing the film is actually a good thing.

Down the hobbit hole...

Note: This is part of a two-part article. Andrew over at the always wonderful Andrew at the Cinema is offering this article a jolly good rebuttal. Pop over and give it a read. Just make sure to spend a few minutes appreciating my flim-flam arguments before he pretty much destroys them with his advanced reasoning.

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