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Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Spoilers might surface.

The Shape Of Water

(Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Guillermo del Toro is a master storyteller. You don’t need me to tell you that. If there is any doubt, you can just watch his latest movie, The Shape of Water. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a wonderful, enchanting and well crafted film with a solid storyline. There’s a sense of fairy-tale wonder set in the classic monster genre.

You might want to debate that there is no such thing as a monster genre, but Guillermo del Toro already proved that argument wrong back in 2006 with Pan’s Labyrinth. I know a lot of reviews have made comparisons to Hellboy but this seems a lot closer to the atmosphere from Pan.

The Shape of Water

(Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The movie starts with a bit of narration. Now, don’t panic. There is close to zero exposition in the words. Actually there’s hardly any exposition in the movie. It’s the 60’s and Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a lonely woman who cleans a secret laboratory and is a mute. Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is her workmate and friend, an African-American woman in a time where racism is still rampant. Giles (Richard Jenkins) is Elisa’s neighbor, an artist trying to make it in advertising with a crush on a pie shop owner.

We are never told any of these things. We are shown them. When new boss Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) talks to Zelda, he never employs an explicit racist epithet. Yet, when he says “you people” the racist overtones will make you cringe. Giles is very much in love with a pie shop owner, but we are never told he’s a homosexual. We learn that by watching him.

The same goes with the amphibian man that is brought in. The creature is never analyzed or explained fully. We don’t get someone explaining his stats or his physiology. Every other movie I’ve seen in the past decade would feel the need to stop and explain everything. Guillermo del Toro simply shows what we need to know. Any other made-up science stuff is inconsequential.

The Shape Of Water

(Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The 60s are very much alive in this film. Even the machinery in the lab looks the part. The amphibian man, played by Doug Jones (also the fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth), does have a resemblance to Abe Sapien from Hellboy. He does also feel like a completely different character.

Extremely recommended. The story is similar to a lot of other beauty-and-the-beast movies but it’s well crafted with solid performances by the entire cast. The attention to detail all the way from music to clothes, cars and attitudes is excellent. Well worth the ticket, but if you’re looking for action or gore you should probably try something else.

That will do for now.


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Movie Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

This is not going to end like you think.

Ok, so obviously there’s a lot of SPOILERS coming your way, however… If you are looking for the entire movie narration, this is not the review you’re looking for. This is only going to make some sense if you’ve seen the movie. Although I won’t come out and say the outcome out right, I will discuss the consequence and that is enough for most SW fans to deduce the storyline. Stop reading, go see the film, come back.


(Source: Lucasfilm)

Since I’ve already told you to go see the film, you can probably guess that I believe this is a film that’s worth seeing in a theatre. Yes, damn right it is. It is not perfect and some things work better than others but there are so many nods both little and huge that will be brain candy to the fandom that you’d be denying yourself an experience. That’s not to say that the overall plot is not worth your time – it is. That being said, you do need to leave the jaded critic behind. Not to say that a critic won’t enjoy it, but there’s so much pluses of seeing this as a fan.

That’s enough of being vague. Let’s get to some concrete stuff. There’s been a process of transition since The Force Awakens as classic characters pass the mantle to new ones. This continues here, although I have to say the way it’s done is both expected and new. There’s a bit of an insolence in the film for the grandiose gestures of old. Luke throwing the lightsaber. The tree that gets hits by lightning. The Snoke confrontation. For classic fans, it feels disrespectful at first. Some of these are even played out as humorous. The ways of old sometimes must be challenged by the new.

Not everything lands. The plot device this time is literally survival. The Resistance is being hunted towards extinction. There’s some sort of a plan that challenges the status quo, and gets stopped in the freaking middle when it goes awry to never complete. The Rebellion literally seems conflicted because they don’t talk/trust each other. Newcomer Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) doesn’t trust Commander/Captain Poe Dameron therefore she tells him nothing. Poe doesn’t trust Admiral Holdo therefore he acts on his own. Holdo and Dameron could have talked to each other openly and avoided unnecessary (and costly) conflict. The First Order side doesn’t do better.

And perhaps that’s what my calculating cold heart cringed at the most. The tactical decisions in this movie seem to be desperate on the Resistance side and relying on pure brute force on the First Order. Don’t expect any Thrawn-level strategies. Even Vader was more calculating by the time that he was in command of the Executor than any of the villains in this one. That being said, Luke does make a huge gamble that pays off. The Jedi Master does have some badass moments in this one that will have you cheering.

Jedi wise, everything you think about the Jedi order is challenged. Sometimes that comes from Rey, sometimes from Kylo/Ben and even sometimes from Luke himself. Not to mention someone else that I honestly did NOT expected to appear. It’s a good thing, though. The Jedi were not infallible, and even the best intentions do not result in the best outcomes.

Carrie Fisher’s last appearance as General Leia Organa is a rather dignified one. She’s the force behind the Resistance, its very spark. But even the former Princess of Alderaan has moments in which she yields to the new generation.

Mark Hamill reprises his role of Luke Skywalker with some amazing moments, including one that seems to bring his role and his story arc full circle. The most tender moment is his encounter with Leia. There’s a lot of Mark and Carrie in that moment, which you know will be their last onscreen time together.

Okey, so does it work? Yes. It’s a good movie. No, it’s not the second coming and it’s not going to replace any of the classic trilogy films. Is it a Star Wars sequel? Well, it’s a new Star Wars sequel. Actually, it feels very much like a conclusion. Director Rian Johnson even feels like adding a semblance of hope at the very end that has the feeling of a sendoff. I would highly recommend it to both old and new fans, not as a perfect film but as a good sequel to watch.

Highs, Lows and Porgs:

  • Let’s discuss the Porg in the room. Yes, the porgs are in it. No, they’re not instant superheroes or anything like that. They just show up, make eyes at you and scamper on their merry way.
  • Is Kylo Ren better at being a villain this time around? He seems to be on his way to becoming a bigger threat, but he’s no Sith yet. There’s the hidden significance of him destroying his helmet. Somehow that makes him less of a Vader fanboy but I’m also more inclined to call him Kylo than Ben.
  • On the other hand, Rey is a better Jedi in this one. There is still darkness here, but rather than elude it, Rey goes right to it. The whole mystery of her background seems to be downplayed in this one to the point of being inconsequential. However, since it’s Kylo telling her this, it could be tainted information.
  • The fundamentals of the Jedi doctrine are challenged. Luke himself realizes he still has things to unlearn, which becomes even more obvious the moment he sees… I can’t say it. You have to see that moment in the movie with your own eyes.
  • Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher steal the movie a lot. They’ve got some of the best lines as well. I won’t give them away, but they’re really making me consider a second viewing.
  • Okey one example without fully giving it away. Luke tells R2-D2 that there’s nothing they could say that would make him go back. What R2-D2 does next made me cry on the very spot. Luke’s reaction to it: “That was a low blow.”
  • I did love the character of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Benicio del Toro’s character is almost a cameo. Plus, I would’ve loved them to actually pick on the Expanded Universe lingo. A codebreaker might be an easy to figure out term for a hacker, but the proper term is a splicer. Sorry, I know why codebreaker was just easier – plus this whole side plot never matures.
  • One of the most obvious things in this movie is how the plot doesn’t resemble any specific film. On the other hand, there’s some side quests that feel unnecessary.
  • In the end it feels like certain things that showed promise ended up disappointingly short (Phasma, Snoke). There was so much more character development for Rey, Poe and Kylo while Finn got a side story that didn’t seem to go anywhere. On the other hand, there was so many crazy good moments with Luke, Leia and Luke with Leia that you’re willing to forgive it all.
  • There’s a sense of where do we go from here at the end, as we get this short scene with a kid that seems to almost be a sendoff for the entire series (or one of the zillion SW ads out there). It has been quite a long, long movie but somehow I didn’t feel the 152 minutes of runtime. Hardly perfect but very, very watchable, this one is one I would recommend catching in the theatre with a crowd of both new and old fans.

That will do for now.

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Movie Review: Kingsman – The Golden Circle

Spoilers will be served shaken, not stirred.

There are some movies where you’re supposed to turn off your brain and just have a good time. This classification of flicks sometimes becomes the hiding spot of really bad movies with disastrous plots. That is not the case of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, however.


Director Matthew Vaughn might be working with a paper-thin plot, but the casting is superb. There’s a plot by evil forces to destroy the world and Kingsman all but gets wiped out leaving the world in peril. It’s up to Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) to find help in the most unlikeliest of places (Kentucky) and thwart the nefarious plans of evil mastermind Poppy (Julianne Moore). There’s a ton of people involved, but meeting them is more than half the fun. Yes, Colin Firth returns.

One of the best things about this movie is that it rewards you for putting up with the over-the-top save-the-world storyline and gives you something awesome, albeit ridiculous and silly, to watch. It also subverts a zillion stupid ideas from a certain British secret agent and shows them for what they are: laughable. Therefore, it turns them into jokes for us to enjoy the campy developments.

In an attempt to revindicate that last final gag from the first movie, this sequel also subverts that most Bond of plots: Princess Tilde was not a throwaway character but a returning, third-dimensional person in a committed relationship with Eggsy. Of course, upon another over-the-top gag where he’s supposed to make intimate contact with person of interest Clara, the movie decides to answer one question that never worried the original 007. What if the spy needs to be intimate to plant a device on a woman but he’s fully committed to a relationship?

Recommended. The movie wants you to turn off your brain, but it mostly succeeds in making some awesome moments and ridiculous scenes happen. There’s a probably plot holes galore, and you kinda miss some characters from the previous film but it remains a solid vehicle for laughs and gags. Grab the popcorn, bring your friends and turn off your brain. You’ll be glad you did.

That will do for now.

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