The Shape Of Water (2017)

Don’t watch this film! I mean it, do not watch this film. It’s one of those films that’s actually impossible to sit down and watch. You do not watch this, you absorb it. You sit back and let it take over every single ounce of your being. You sit there and marvel at the beauty you see before you, this is cinema as art, and is one of the most awe-inspiring things you’ll see all year. Guillermo Del Toro should now be given free reign to make whatever film he wants. Actually, I’d love to see him do an episode of Doctor Who or Black Mirror. Every shot looks like a watercolour painting, full of the majesty of colours and wonder. The music too is superb, you won’t leave the cinema humming the melodies or anything, but it enhances every single scene it’s in, it really compliments the images to the point where it almost seems like the scenes were made to match up with the music, as opposed to the scene coming first and music being decided later.

It’s not just behind the scenes though, the people in front of camera help make this brilliant. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones deserve every accolade thrown their way. They’re mute characters who have to lead the film, that’s not easy. It could be argued that it’s slightly easier for Sally Hawkins as she at least gets sign language to utilise, but that’s like saying it’s easier to run a marathon with one leg than no legs. It still takes remarkable skill from her. Ordinarily this would be the best performance I see all year, but unfortunately for her, Three Billboards also exists. It’s a shame that both existed in the same year as it meant one had to lose out on deserved awards. Doug Jones is also pretty darn great in this, doing sooooo much with body language that you kind of don’t realise he’s not speaking, he doesn’t need to.

The supporting cast also pulls their weight, obviously since Richard Jenkins got nominated for best supporting actor. Michael Shannon also deserves praise. His character is utterly reprehensible, partly due to the writing, but also due to how he plays it. He completely loses himself in the character, holding absolutely nothing back.

My main issue with this film? It’s really hard to criticise. It’s all so beautiful, everyone is so great, and the story is so heart-warming and emotional, it ties all the loose ends up but also leaves room for different interpretations and questions about the characters. That’s why this review has been so hard to write, it’s difficult to make “this film is amazing!” into a compelling piece of writing. That’s my opinion though, others think differently. Not many others though, mainly Rex Reed from the New York Observer. Who wrote (and I won’t link to it, I don’t want to increase his views):

“This horror film masquerading as a fairy tale is about a mute woman who cleans toilets, scrubs floors and falls in love with a monster from beneath the sea. The pathetic girl is played by the wonderful British actress Sally Hawkins, who specializes in defective creatures herself.”

A few points: 1) it’s not a horror film. At all, it’s a fantasy film. It may use a few horror tropes and conventions, but it’s still at its heart a fantasy film, albeit one aimed at adults.

2) “pathetic girl”. Fuck you. Fuck you in the ear. She’s not pathetic, and if you think that then I worry for you.

3) “defective creatures”. Ok, this is just a horribly offensive comment. Just because someone is mute does not make them a defective creature you ableist asswipe.

The review only goes downhill from there, referring to Get Out as “overrated piece of junk” and getting the director’s name wrong. Look, I know Benicio Del Toro is a good actor, but he’s not a director. Yes, they have similar names, but you can’t call yourself a film reviewer if you can’t distinguish between the two. It would be like getting Billie Joe Armstrong and Billie Jean King confused. I find negative reviews fascinating when they’ve clearly not actually watched the film. The best example of this was Toy Story 3 where the reviewer seemed to only watch the opening 5 minutes, getting the villain wrong, the story wrong, and his final mark wrong. Don’t be like that guy, don’t be wrong. Buy a ticket to Shape Of Water and revel in its greatness, you’ll thank me.

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Recasting….The Saga Of Darren Shan (a.k.a: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant)

Vampires_assistantWelcome, welcome, welcome. We’ve been doing this for a while now and thought we’d try a new series: Recasting. In this we’ll both be looking at established franchises and casting our ideal movie versions. Throughout the series we’ll be looking at franchises such as Batman, Justice League, Artemis Fowl etc. But we’ll start with The Saga Of Darren Shan, a literary franchise which isn’t well known, but is well regarded. Now, this has already had a film adaptation (to stretch the definition): Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. But our casting for this will probably be different. In fact, I’ll be surprised if we had any cast members at all from the film. So, let’s begin.

NOTE: We will be using pictures from the Darren Shan manga (yes there is one, and it’s awesome) for comparisons, as its a WAY better adaption of the books.

Darren Shan

Played in the film by: Chris Massoglia

Asa Butterfield as Darren Shan

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Darren

Though at this point 18, with his timid and youthful look he could easily pass for around 13-15 (as young as he’s played before). That is still older than the 11 year old Darren at the start of the series, but this is Hollywood so having him start a bit older I think is fine, as long as they don’t make him seventeen or something (¬_¬ looking at you thoa who shall not be named). Having already led films like Hugo (amazing), Enders Game (decent), and X+Y (pretty good), he’s already proved himself as a capable leading man with a talent for heart and action. And his natural timid deminer I think would suit Darren, who’s always been shyer and would give him room to grow into the badass he becomes later in the series.

c977213066ca47b4191dd9c41aee4108This was actually the hardest one for me. I had to find a young enough actor who would age well with the series. One who could have both the youthful naivety of the first few books, with the fight of the last few. So in the end I decided to go with: Nicholas Hoult. When you watch About A Boy you just see the look of innocence on his face. Someone who still has hope and joy, then you watch Mad Max: Fury Road years later and you realise he will cut a bitch

 

Larten Crepsley

Played in the film by: John C Reilly

Peter Capaldi as Larten Crepsley

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Because who fucking else. If his run as the Doctor has proven anything, it’s that he can be dark and brooding when he needs, but also light, funny, and heartfelt. He has the look, he has the presents, he is Larten Crepsley. And no one else could possibly do better.

Going to keep this short, and keep it simple. As this is the one where I feel we may have chosen the same actor. Peter Capaldi, from The Thick Of It, Neverwhere, and a small indie low budget show called Doctor Who. It’s got to the point now where I don’t even have to think a bout it, if I read Crepsley, I read it in Capaldi’s voice. It just works so well, not only in dialogue but in the clothes and actions too.

 

Steve Leonard

Played in the film by: Josh Hutcherson

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Logan Lerman as Steve Leonard

Though typically known for his more timid troubled characters, like in Perks of being a wallflower (best film of 2012) and Fury (damn good flick), it’s that same bitter darkness I believe could lend well to Steve’s chasteveracter, as he is so messed up and troubled. He also has a much broader physical presents than Asa Butterfield, and his ability to come across sweet and caring as well as intense as fuck (again Perks of being a wallflower) I can definitely see him in a strong opposition to Butterfield.

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Ok, this was hard, I needed someone who could appear friendly but also have an undercurrent of psychopathic killer. As such I settled on Iwan Rheon, better known from Misfits. He played a nice character in that, but I feel he could pull off angry psychopath quite well. 

 

 

Mr. Tiny

Played in the film by: Michael Cerveris

Jim Broadbent as Mr. Tiny

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Again I have to agree with my writing colleague; Jim Broadbent has that perfect mix of charmingly harmless but with this clear dark undercurrent to him that would lend perfectly to Mr Tiny. Because Mr Tiny needs to have an off charm and humour to him, he can entertain you while also being able to make you shit yourself. And that’s Jim Broadbent in a nut-shell.

6bbd588d2b6338484eab45604d594f641382363851_fullThis was actually quite difficult as well. As he has to be someone who has all the capabilities of being charming and lovely, but also just pure evil at the same time. As such, in the end I went with Jim Broadbent, Horace Slughorn from Harry Potter, and Slater from Only Fools And Horses. This is an actor who looks like everybody’s favourite uncle, albeit an uncle you’re fairly certain keeps dead bodies in his basement. Actually, now I think of it, he’d pretty much just be bringing back his performance from Hot Fuzz.

Others

Gary Oldman as Mr. Tall

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An odd choice, but a good one. Mr Tall has 78422always been an ambiguous character, the leader of Cirque du freak and possibly so much more, he needs to loom confidantes with a tinge of menace, but also be a kind soul who can sympathies with his many freak comrades. So of cause Mr Oldman not only has the acting range to pull off all of the above, but he has the stoic look and presents to match.

Some of the others I felt would work:

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Kurda Smahlt: Chris Addison. Also from The Thick Of It. I feel he could pull off the huhnervous and manipulative nature nature of the character quite well.

 

 

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Vancha March: Ryan Reynolds. Specifically: Bearded Ryan Reynolds. A slightly sarcastic loudmouth vampire fighter. I feel he’d do well.hu

A Nightmare A Day: Day 6 (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare)

Director: Rachel Talalay (hey, female director, nice. Well played studioheads. Oh, also directed Tank Girl, and two episodes of Doctor Who, with another two later on in the year).

Budget: $11million

US Box Office: $34.8million

  • Hey, it starts with a quote. I’ve missed these. “Do you know the terror of he who falls asleep? To the very toes he is terrified, because the ground gives way under him, and the dream begins” – Friedrich Nietzsche. And to answer the question, no, I do not know the terror of he who falls asleep. But allow me to ask a question to you, mr dead German nihilist: do you know the muffin man?
  • Oh, another quote. “Welcome to Prime Time, bitch” – Freddy Krueger. I prefer that one.
  • Odd choice for opening soundtrack: The Goo Goo Dolls
  • “Springwood, Ohio, ten years from now”. 1) so in 2025? I hate when films do this, just put the actual year you mean. Unless you’re going for a “in a distant future when technology is changed” then you automatically date the film. 2) This looks like an Atari game, and not a good one.
  • So somehow Freddy has killed a lot of teenagers and adults since the last film, we don’t get told how or shown them, because of course we don’t.
  • Damn kids are creepy.
  • “I really need to change seats” If the plane crashes you’re going to die anyway.
  • “Don’t be a pussy”. Rude.
  • This music reminds me of the Wizard Of Oz.
  • His house is somehow flying and crashing to the ground. If it lands on a witch I’m tapping out.
  • Freddy appears outside the window on a broomstick saying “I’ll get you, my pretty, and you’re little soul too”. 1) #MovieReference 2) Oh so it’s okay when Freddy says it, but when I say that to people I get told to leave Asda?
  • Wait, Brian May did the music for this? THE Brian May? Poodle-haired Queen guitarist Brian May? No way. Oh, turns out, no way, it’s a different musician called Brian May. Well that’s disappointing.
  • This guy falls down a hill. For 40 seconds. Seriously, I timed it. 40 seconds.
  • He’s a bus station and the guy selling tickets is sat behind a bloodstained window, still nicer than Wycombe station.
  • He gets hit by a bus, and is kind of stuck to the front of it. The bus stops and he goes through some kind of portal (I think) and ends up in daylight. I’m guessing he got run over into reality, as often happens.
  • He hit his head, so he now has amnesia. Because that’s totally how that works. Honestly, when will films stop using amnesia as a plot device? What kind of idiotic person would write something so cliche?
  • Hey, it’s Spencer, played by “whatshisface” from Road Trip, and absolutely nothing else.
  • “all he wants me to do is grow up and be him” and maybe stop setting cars on fire?
  • “I don’t feel like playing football and date-raping co-eds.” Well, then don’t go to school in America then.
  • This kid had a pipebomb in his room. Apparently it’s not the first one. Are we supposed to think this is typical teenage rebellion? Because it’s not, it’s terrorism. Oh wait, he’s white, it’s just “youthful hijinks”
  • “you’ll be boxing champion on the world” not with all those kicks. Silly Tracy.
  • So got a deaf guy (Carlos). And in a kind of cool scene he just removes his hearing aid and we just get silence for a few seconds. I like it.
  • Turns out he’s deaf through some kind of physical abuse from father. You know, the kind of thing people say “if we could this kids would be better behaved”. Find it strange when people say “I was hit as a child and I turned out fine” Really, dude? Because you have a strange pre-occupation with punching babies, that’s not normal.
  • Amnesia guy wakes up in a seemingly abandoned house. Good use of shadow in this scene, award yourself +5 Directing points Mrs Talalay.
  • Ok, you lost all those points through woeful CGI of him climbing invisible stairs.
  • “I’ve dealt with amnesiacs before”. Is that the word? It seems clunky.
  • A sign saying “welcome to Springwood” and the exact population of the town. How often do they have to change those things? Or is it a “throw a baby out the town as soon as it’s born” kind of deal? If I had a town I’d put a sign up saying “Full of lots of lovely people, and Dave”
  • Pretty much the entire cast (I haven’t quite figured out who the main character is supposed to be) pull into the worst looking carnival I’ve ever seen. It’s so bad you wouldn’t feel annoyed at being there, just super depressed and lonely. Or as I call it: a typical Thursday.
  • No kids, apparently this is creepy and not some kind of wonderful dream world.
  • Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr make a cameo just before a Twin Peaks reference. Placing this film exactly in the early 90’s.
  • “I can relax you with these two fingers” oh? “I’ll puncture your heart” oh 😦
  • Carlos tries to unfold a map and all he says is “the map says we’re fucked”. Which it did, literally, someone had scrawled “you’re fucked” on it in blood. They showed this before he made the comment though, which kind of messes up the humour somewhat.
  • A teacher is teaching the history of Freddy in an abandoned classroom. Not a bad scene but it could have been so much better. The character is kind of a joke at this point so going more meta wouldn’t have harmed it.
  • “I will get some sleep then I’ll get us out of here in the morning”. He’s going to die.
  • Almost on cue: Freddy appears in his dream and cleans out his deaf ear. He then cuts it off, leading to another scene of silence. This is the last time they can pull this trick off really.
  • Slight audio now but it’s very muted, like watching the film whilst you’ve got your head in a bucket of water.
  • It may have seemed like I was insulting it earlier, but the use of silence and near-silence is REALLY effective in this. Great showcase of how less can be more. We’re so used to audio cues to tell us how to feel that genuine silence unsettles us as an audience.
  • Freddy throws his ear back to him, he puts it on and all audio is magnified to him, to the point where a dripping tap causes pain.
  • Freddy drops a pin from above but Carlos managed to catch it before it hits the ground. Freddy then threatens to drop a handful of them, Carlos shouts out “you wouldn’t do this would you?”, appealing to a child killers sense of kindness. Which I can’t imagine not working. Pretty genius, this kids going to live forever.
  • Time of death: 36 minutes. Well I’m shocked that plan didn’t work. Instead he’s killed via nails down chalkboard, which is the same way….ah, I can’t be bothered to finish that joke, it’s like the third time I’ve done it in this blog, just finish that sentence with whatever celebrity you feel would die like that (I recommend 1947 Academy Award winner Loretta Young)
  • Hey it’s Johnny Depp cracking eggs on tv in one of my favourite scenes so far. He’s doing one of those “this is your brain on drugs” PSA that were popular in the 90’s. Freddy reacts in the only way someone would, and hits him with a frying pan before saying “what are you on? Looks like a frying pan and some eggs to me”. Classic Krueger.
  • We then get the classical hymn, In The Garden Of Eden by I.Ron Butterfly
  • Time of death: 45 minutes. Spencer gets sucked into a video game and killed there. Mr.Forgetful and Tracy attempt to get into the dreams to stop it. Tracy through meditation, Mr. Forgetful through being hit in the head. Disappointing lack of video game references here. At least to specific games, there is a logical reference to the ill-fated power glove which I’d have been disappointed if they didn’t make. They don’t even seem to be doing much about the loss of control. Okay, there’s a few moments where he’s obviously being controlled by Freddy, but we don’t see them from his point of view so we don’t get to feel his helplessness. I mean, the idea of being controlled by someone else and being led to your death is genuinely terrifying but this film doesn’t really do much. The scene where the tv fills with blood is quite good though.
  • Time of death: 50 Minutes The amnesiac asshole dies. Basically dropped from a great height onto spikes after finding out he’s not Freddy’s son, and is somehow disappointed with that news. The death isn’t on youtube so instead enjoy dancing from the second film that I forgot to put in the blog.
  • So one of the characters from this is Freddy’s daughter. In one of the most asinine explanations ever he’s able to kill people on any street named Elm Street.
  • A really creepy father/daughter sexual assault scene. Ends the way that things like that should end, with her beating him with a kettle.
  • The secret weapon they’re going to use to defeat Freddy: 3D glasses. Seriously, the old green and red ones. 3D Glasses, the enemy of dream demons and fashion.
  • That’s the trouble with 3D films. No matter how impressive they’d look in 3D, you have to account for the fact that a lot of people will be watching them in 2D. That’s why Coraline works so well I think, and everything Pixar does. 3D works best when it makes the film better when you watch it, not by making it worse in 2D. Too many 3D films now just feature people falling down things going “wooaaaaaaah”.
  • Freddy is being taunted by his school peers in flashback of his life. Ordinarily this is where the film is like “see, the true evils of bullying”, but he just killed a classroom pet with a hammer, so the lesson seems to be “don’t bully sociopaths, kill them instead”.
  • We see Freddy again, this time being beaten by his stepdad. Again, horrible, but….he did kill something with a hammer. His stepdad is Alice Cooper by the way.
  • Freddy strangles his wife. Just to reiterate: actual body count: 3. Flashback body count: 2, and a pet.
  • Freddy gets offered the chance to be, well, Freddy, by some kind of weird floating tadpole things which you know were made entirely to look impressive in 3D.
  • Freddy dies again. His daughter stabs him with his own glove (the only glove based death in the film) then shoves a pibebomb in his chest. Thus we get the worst bit of 3D in the film as he explodes but his head flies towards the screen, then his head comes out of his mouth and flies towards the screen again.
  • We get a montage of the much better films that predated this.

Definitely the worst one so far. Some wonderfully directed bits so can’t really fault that, I feel part of it is down to the nonsensical 3D. It’s a shame as there were at least four ways it came close to being a lot better:

  1. The original script by Peter Jackson (in retrospect not using his must have cost them loads) involved Freddy being severely weakened and the kids of elm street beating the shit out of him every night. I feel that’s a unique start and could have revitalised the franchise.
  2. The carnival. Nobody died at the carnival. All that creepiness for nothing.
  3. The idea of Freddy having a kid who’s worried about taking on his legacy could have been really interesting and said a lot about whether evil is genetic or not.
  4. The idea that the town has no children in and all the parents desperately want kids but can’t in case Freddy comes back. FANTASTIC idea for a film. Terrible idea for a nightmare on elm street film, but fantastic idea.