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
@pegsatthemovies

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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DAY 2 ~ COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS ~ “BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR”

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Day 2 of the countdown ~ Probably for me at least, the hardest category to judge as it’s just filled to the brim of fantastic performances and I wish they could all win. And remember, this is a category known for going to the most random of choices.
Reminder: I’m giving who I think the winner will be and what would be my pick.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, MoonlightWINNER
While I wasn’t the films biggest fan, if I had to pick a part that I liked, it was the first segment with this guy in it. But I don’t think his character was that developed — I mean, he’s this great guy, and then all of a sudden he just disappears. I missed the grit of his character throughout the rest of the film.

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
While I might not have seen awards coming for this movie, Bridges came through on this performance in a big way. Jeff makes it look easy but, boy, what he does is not easy.

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
If I was going to pick a performance from this film that I truly liked, it was Hedges. Although he was good here played his characters strengths and weaknesses well, it just misses being at the level of great…barely though. Keep an eye on this kid, he will be back in award categories to come.

Dev Patel, Lion
Again, we have a strong contender here. While playing an almost separate character from his child-self, it was quite seamless how he brought it all together at the end.

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal AnimalsMY PICK
Another truly mind-blowing performance by Shannon. Why this man doesn’t already have an Oscar on his shelf is just not comprehendable.

Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read. Let me know your thoughts on if you agree or disagree with my picks. Don’t forget to give this blog a follow or a follow on twitter as well @pegsatthemovies. Cheers!

REVIEW: “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (2016) Post: Q & A ~ Tom Ford

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If you’re looking for a sequel of sorts to  A SINGLE MAN, it won’t be found anywhere in “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS”. Tom Ford’s take on this tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty, terrified me at times, but in all the right ways.
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NOCTURNAL AMINALS is a dark, yet stylish thriller directed by a man who knows a thing or two about style – having previously worked as creative director for both Gucci and YSL and now of course, his own design firm, Tom Ford. So to say his delving into film could have been less than stellar or have gone in all the wrong directions, wouldn’t be absurd. He could have gone style over substance, thankfully, here we get both and Ford’s perfectionism makes this one of the most powerful films I’ve seen all year.

This is really a story within a story with the perspective coming from Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who spends most of her life at home alone, with her often out-of-town husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), pursuing his ‘business’. Randomly, (so we think) Susan gets a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn’t heard from in over 15 years and as curiosity gets the best of her, she starts reading it. Almost immediately she finds herself completely absorbed with the story, so much so, we see it as she herself ‘see’s’ it to have happened. As she continues to read, she has flashbacks to how her own relationship & marriage with Edward broke down as well as perceived thoughts that the way she is ‘seeing’ this violent thriller could maybe some type of veiled threat against her from Edward. nocturnal-animals-3

Edward’s novel provides the film with its dark soul, the story of Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) & daughter India (Elle Bamber), who run into trouble when traveling through some back country Texas roads late at night, you know the type they make movies about how not to ever drive down. It’s pretty heavy stuff to watch it all, and I couldn’t help but clench the seat while watching it all unfold, but it all plays out as essential in making this such powerful watch.
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The rest of the cast features the always scene-stealing, can-we-just-give-him-an-Oscar-already Michael Shannon, as Bobby Andes, a career best performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is truly vile, creepy and just plain terrifying as the Ray Marcus, and Laura Linney’s appearance as Susan’s mother, Anne Sutton, who even in the short space of time we see her, makes an impact.

Gyllenhaal is good here doing dual roles though playing Hastings is seemingly the much harder performance, I just feel like he’s trying these same type of thriller roles out one after another to see which one hits hardest. Amy Adams is quite brilliant and it’s this role that should garner her another Oscar nomination at the least. It seems some don’t like Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance, probably because if anyone knows how to bring the ‘pretty’ to a film, it’s Tom Ford and Johnson along with Hammer and a few others are the ‘pretty’ to be sure. But he also knows how to bring a performance, and for me, I like it when I get surprised by one and Johnson’s did that for me.

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This is one damned good film and I’m thinking it’s going to garner itself a few award nominations.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Screening courtesy of Hammer Museum ~ The Contender Series
NOW SCREENING NATIONWIDE

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Post Q & A with Tom Ford
First off, I can’t say enough on how congenial this man is. He has been quite brilliant as not only a designer, but so far, as a filmmaker also, and yet is more than pleased to answer any and all questions posed and makes you feel as though your friends after only a few minutes conversation.

Mr. Ford acknowledged the fact that he’s been so very lucky in being able to make his films his way so far. After being in the same industry for so long (30 yrs. in design) he says it’s been nothing but a blast for him to be able to do this and he loves it for being so different.
He also notes it’s been great getting the cast he wanted as he really had to find two people who could span a 20 year time frame, and in doing so, both look it and be able to act it out. He felt Amy Adams just resonates so much expression on screen with just looks as she doesn’t speak as she reads the novel, but expresses it.
He noted that while they took some liberties with the film over the actual novel by Austin Wright, it would have been almost impossible to have filmed it exactly as written so deep a story it is. My favourite statement of his was that he wants you to remember this film..not just one day after you see..not just a few weeks later..but still be thinking about a year later and remember how it made you think and feel.
I think he will get his wish on that one. 🙂

REVIEW: “LOVING” (2016) Focus Features

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“LOVING” tells us the long overdue, true story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga).
The story takes us through the years of what their lives were like while going through the some of the process of their plight to just want to be legally married in 1958’s deeply segregated southern state of Virginia. This was a time and place where this wasn’t legal nor could inter-racial couples even date.
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This story is silent, yet strong in its portrayal of the real-life interracial couple at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia. It’s moving at times and loudly states the facts bluntly: love is love is love ~ and that should be enough.

And yes, while it can be quietly brilliant and amazing at times, it does have holes in the story that could have been filled. Mildred is portrayed at the beginning as being a doe-eyed, non-speaking, almost non-existent part of the beginning of this young relationship that in 1958 would have had racial consequences and problems within both communities. None of which is really shown at all until the last 20 minutes of the film when Richard finally finds a brick wrapped in paper on his car seat, mind you not thrown, just lying there. They missed some opportunities to really show us what the racial hardships might have been instead choosing to almost make the legal battle look far too easy with their lawyers Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass) on whom the casting here might have been a bit of mis-step for me (not to mention their clunky and too “cutesy” dialogue).
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What IS so very important about this film, and a big factor that not just everyone, but specifically why young people need to see this so they understand what our country was like back in the day. For gay people who have struggled to love whom they choose, they need to see that their struggle was not unique and needs to be supported. And that the bible was also used against interracial marriages. And yes, that struggle is struggle and unless we want the clock turned back, so we can “make America great again”, we must be ever vigilant.
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The most poignant and beautiful point of the film came for me towards the ending, in scenes that were so quiet, yet so powerful, showing that even though they were faced with obstacles set over and over in their path, they were resolved to show that their love and union was unaffected by those outside forces, and continued to move through everyday duties such as mowing the lawn, their children playing, doing the dishes, on the very day no less, that they receive the phone call that simply changed everything. It simply touches and yet rocks you at the same time.

The performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga while well done, once again, we have in an Edgerton, an Aussie and Negga who is Irish/Ethiopian, trying to pull off down-in-the-back-bayou southern Virigina accents which yes again, can be outrighted spotted in parts. (Side note: Truly, when was the last time we actually heard Edgerton speak in his regular accent? I can’t even remember if I have at this point). And truly, no matter how small the role, I love when Michael Shannon as LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet shows up in anything.
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If you want high dramatics, this is not your movie. I left the theatre feeling overwhelmed by the need to vote for our next U.S. President and make sure it is someone who will appoint progressive and unbiased Supreme Court Justices. I think most will understand that feeling, especially with so many people’s rights hanging precariously in the balance right now as it did then.
If you are looking for a touching, loving story that truly reflects so much on today’s times and the change that was accomplished by this one law that didn’t just change their lives, but the lives of millions of people around the world with whom it still affects today, this is your film and a film for all to see and truly reflect on.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Thursday, October 27, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup
NOW PLAYING IN THEATRES NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “99 HOMES” ~ POST Q & A ~ Michael Shannon

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99 homes
For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, with such believable characters, 99 Homes gives us the story about one man’s struggle with the housing market catastrophe and is the subject of what Ramin Bahrani’s new film is all about. It is at once sad, heart-wrenching and at the same time, somewhat terrifying to watch.

As the movie opens, we see a real estate guy explaining to an Orlando cop how the owner of the house he came to foreclose on, ran inside and shot himself in the head. We then get to know Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker who gets laid off and before we know it, his family home gets foreclosed on, and Nash, along with his young son, Connor (Noah Lomax) and mom, Lynn (Laura Dern) end up moving into a motel. Desperate for money, Dennis turns to the real estate guy who foreclosed on him, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), and actually starts working for him. 99 homes 2
Let me be clear that I am appalled at what happened, that the banks made serious mistakes, and there hasn’t been nearly enough accountability for what caused the second biggest Recession in history. And while this film isn’t fool proof by any means, it does give you the feeling of being at least a somewhat accurate image of how different the concept of “money” is for everyone. Some people are set for life where others are living paycheck to paycheck. This film seems to know and show both sides of that so well.
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99 Homes is a film that’s main topic is eviction and really this should have been dull ride. How this film is able make this topic interesting and thought-provoking is quite impressive. It’s also a complete character study that truly makes you think who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Michael Shannon’s performance is spellbinding and for me Oscar nomination worthy. Garfield is good, but again, it’s Shannon who really controls the screen when he’s on it he holds you in the palm of his hand for the entire time he is on the screen as he plays the villain well making you give thought if he really is just that or just a product of the environment that was created as he shows you both sides of the coin.
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It is also societal story and commentary, and a story of determination all rolled into one. There are literally are 99 reasons to go see this movie.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Deadline Awardsline screening series

POST Q & A with actor Michael Shannon:
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I just adore this man and have for so long now. I call him my go-to guy as I wish he could be in almost every movie. He’s a gem and simply a fantastic actor & I love his touch of sarcasm, witty, ‘no bullshit’ attitude that he even brought to this Q & A. He really went in depth about how he felt his character here was truly a guy you could hate, but yet explained it so well in that he never wanted to take people’s homes as he was a real estate agent and wanted to put people in homes, yet when everything crashed he could either do what he did, or be a victim also. He chose the road he did and Shannon hopes that he was able to give you the portrayal that showed this in his character and he might have actually been relieved at the end. Shannon, through his dry humour & wit, can make you laugh and then next minute be serious. He noted he truly doesn’t like discussing ‘acting’ per se’ and for those of you who loved him in “Boardwalk Empire” he noted while he loved doing it, he would probably never do TV again. My note to all: If you have the chance to see ‘Iceman’ – DO! Shannon’s performance is as good as it gets.

It’s a 3fer for this posting! “The Iceman” “Mud” & “Fast & Furious 6”

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Ok..so while everyone is out seeing the big budget movies, I tend to go Indie when I know they are worth it..and I’ve seen 2 really good ones, and yes even 1 big budget in the past 2 weeks. First, ‘The Iceman’ – wow..I had read some on this story, but never knew the true deal.. Mind boggling what this story is & how his family just didn’t have a clue for years.. Michael Shannon is really going to be my go-to actor this year I just know it. His performance as the hit-man The Iceman is mind boggling.. Grade B+

2nd movie: ‘Mud’ and yes, Michael Shannon has a supporting in this..just can’t get enough of this guy..but Matthew McConaughey is so good and shows that hey..maybe he can really act somewhat as we once thought he could..but the 2 performance by the kids in this movie is what brings it. I will be following both of them Tye Sheriden & Jacob Loftland in his 1st role ever.. to see what they do as they grow up as they should be getting some awards for this movie. It’s such a heart-tugging really messed up love story, but it’s like we’ve all seen it, but not like this.. funny thing is the only person I didn’t like in the movie was Reese Witherspoon..hmm.. Grade B+

Lastly..oh yes.. I saw Fast & Furious 6.. which honestly..was better than 5, but that was so bad not sure how much that says..ha! But entertaining..oh yes..I mean who doesn’t want to see Vin Diesel jump from a car going 100+ mph, catch Michelle Rodriguez in mid-air mind you on like the M5 in London..and land on a car on the opposite side at an impact of again, 100+mph and not even break a fingernail.. either of them..it was hysterical..but I will say this.. showing me Jason Stathom at then end & knowing that sexy as end all be all man will be in FF7.. oh yes.. count ME IN!!! #RIDEORDIE Grade C+ but oh so entertaining.. #peggyatthemovies