REVIEW: “THE SHAPE OF WATER” (2017) Fox Searchlight ~ Q & A: Guillermo del Toro & Cast

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“THE SHAPE OF WATER” is truly the definition of ‘fish out of water’ unique love story. I mean if someone told me I would get emotional at a film where a mute woman falls in love with a fish-man, I probably would have laughed in their faces. As it was, I did.

This film has absolutely so much going for it – it’s beautifully filmed, with a magnificent score and a stunning performance from Sally Hawkins. It allows the audience to discover this intimate and fascinating world of “broken” people searching for a moment of meaning. Add in a smidgen of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with a touch of ‘E.T.’, and you have a concept that captivates you from the start with it’s emotional investment into all the characters. And boy what characters they are. Assembling a first-rate cast, every single actor sparkles as it shows that every character has been developed with great care. From the mute-but-hearing Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who works as a cleaner at a secret government facility, where she becomes drawn to the new specimen: a mysterious marine fish-like man creature (Doug Jones).

While Eliza begins to fall in love with the amphibian creature, the facility head Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), steps up to stop it all as his only desire is to take the creature apart for experimental advantage against the Russians. Eliza’s bond with the creature soon begins to affect those around her including her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), and work colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Not only are they the only two who decipher what Eliza ‘speaks’, but are enlisted to help her save her ‘Amphibian Man’. Add to the mix spy/scientist Robert Hoffsteder (Michael Stuhbarg), whom believes so much more can be learned with the creature alive, and you’ve got yourself one of the most imaginative stories that exudes humanity and strength, suspense and love, all put together to provide a great balance and one of the best original stories I’ve seen.

Beautiful from start to finish, like some sort of fantasy, romantic, heartbreaking, emotional lovestory all wrapped up in one, and while not without a few little flaws here and there, “The Shape of Water” was completely beautiful to me. And while other studios are recycling stories or offering up sequels, Fox Searchlight has stepped it up at the end of 2017 here to put out two of the best and most original films I’ve seen in some time. I not only applaud them for this, but hope this trend continues.

Grade: A
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Film Independent
‘SHAPE OF WATER’ IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE – WORLDWIDE RELEASE TO BEGIN IN JAN/FEB 2018


POST Q & A WITH: Moderator/Curator: Elvis Micthcell; Dir/Prod: Guillermo del Toro; Actors: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg; Producer: J. Miles Dale & Composer: Alexandre Desplat

First and foremost – Your Q & A is sometimes highly dependent on your moderator and of all the Q & A’s I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of, he is by far one of the best moderators and truly nice guys out there. His knowledge and deep appreciation for film is felt, along with a great sense of humour. That being said, del Toro is also one of the most amusing, fun guys for anyone to have a chat with. His ease of making jokes, and he makes many, makes it even more fun to be able to get a chance to listen to him, speak and ask fun questions.

Del Toro said that he had the idea for the film and went to a party which he was invited to by none other than Alejandro Iñárritu where he had said to come over and get drunk..about 20 shots later and they all agreed ‘make the movie!’. Then Hawkins launched into how they came about to doing this project together. Upon meeting Hawkins at a Golden Globes party, Del Toro told her: “I’m writing a movie for you where you fall in love with a fishman.” Hawkins replied: “Great!” And with Doug Jones & Richard Jenkins – he pitched it to them while at a sushi dinner!!!
Jenkins laughed that he got his role—of Hawkins’ character Elisa’s lonely, verbose neighbor Giles—when “Ian McKellan called in sick.” For the role of marine scientist/Soviet double-agent Hoffstetler, Stuhlbarg lamented that the script called for him to deliver his character’s most significant scene sans pants.

If the sets looked familiar to any of you – they might, as a lot of them were used from del Toro’s TV show “The Strand” which made it so much easier to keep the budget on a tight leash. When noted
“When I walked on the set I had never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. It was like a painting,” said Jenkins, saying of Del Toro: “This guys speaks in film language.”

The film’s production is even more impressive given its relatively paltry—for an effects-heavy fantasy film—$19.5 million final budget. “We were counting the number of lobsters that we could have on-screen,” said Del Toro. He also teased producer Dale over the removal of one elaborate (and expensive) sequence set at a bus stop. But the filmmakers’ fastidious paid off. Remarkably, the production came in $100,000 under budget.

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REVIEW: “CRIMSON PEAK” (2015) Universal

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Crimson Peak sets us in early 1900’s Buffalo, New York, where we meet Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) an ahead of her time writer who works for her father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), a powerful businessman who’s willing to hear a proposition from the desperate, in-need of quick financing, Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). The Sharpe estate in England, Allerdale Hall, sits on top of a valuable red clay mine, and Thomas is in need of funding to build a machine he has invented that will reach the minerals underneath. crimson peak 1Being tall, dark, and handsome, Thomas is able to win Edith’s heart as a means to the money, but he does seem to have genuine affection for her, much to the displeasure of his intimidating sister Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). It’s plainly obvious to everyone but Edith that Thomas & Lucille are up to no good from moment one. However, when she moves with Thomas and Lucille to Allerdale Hall, Edith discovers that it holds dark secrets and phantoms, and that the warning she received as a girl from her mother’s ghost to “Beware of Crimson Peak,” has started to come true. crimson peak 2

This may not be a ghost story, but ghosts are here, and they don’t really serve the story well. The mystery behind Allerdale Hall gets to be a bit tedious with oddly unnecessary stabbings up until the end when del Toro finally shows us what he’s seemingly been going for all along. And even though I’m quite good at predicting plot twists, the reveal showed itself early on, though it did work for me in it’s own way and is finally where the film somewhat clicked for me albeit a little late in the game.
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Crimson Peak never reaches the heights of some of del Toro’s earlier work, as I loved “Pans Labyrinth” and thought it was simply fantastic. The “Hellboy” franchise has it’s own sense of campy-ness fun and “The Hobbit” films aren’t 5-star, but they are watchable. In terms of the characters or plot, it at least surpasses the rock-em’ sock-em’ robots of “Pacific Rim” in that regards.
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There are three performances here that felt stand out some with the rest being almost what you’d expect again with exceptions. Chastain, who pulls out all the stops and makes her character wonderfully creepy. Jim Beaver, even though in a small supporting role, stands out and lastly and a bit surprising as his role is a bit bigger and juicier than I would have thought, is Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael. Mia Wasikowska doesn’t really do herself any favours here and is almost blissfully bland. Hiddleston is fair enough and really just stays stuck in middle ground.
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Though this old-fashioned ghost story is decidedly short on scares
Crimson Peak wonderfully crafted set & costume design is truly sublime and always pleasing to the eye, though its story and scare factor is often far less compelling.

Grade: C+
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Screening: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures