The Shape of Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Did it REALLY have to take this long for the darn film to show up in a theater remotely close to me!? While EVERY OTHER film critic in the world got to check this out a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting here on pins and needles; waiting for the studio to begrudgingly bring this film to the wider masses. There have been a few movies that I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit as we were heading into Award Season, and at the top of the list was this freaky looking cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon from one of the best genre filmmakers out there. With only slightly waned excitement due to its slow rollout to general audiences, does this manage to live up to the high expectations set up not only by the wonderful looking trailers but by the ceaseless buzz from every other film critic on the planet BESIDES me, or was this a huge misstep that we’re all gonna look back on with less than favorable feelings once the hype has settled down? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who’s one of many janitors in a SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY that’s somewhere in Baltimore which presumably has REALLY specific NDA agreements as the place has been known to house strange and unusual specimens. The latest of said specimens turns out to be some sort of Freaky Fish Guy (Doug Jones) who was captured and dragged out of the Amazon Forest by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Said Colonel is now head of security in the SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY, at least until the government can figure out what to do with the Freaky Fish Guy, and both Eliza and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are stuck cleaning the room that the creature is housed in. Eliza immediately takes a liking to said creature and the two of them begin an unlikely friendship as Eliza’s mastery of American Sign Language (which she learned due to her being mute) as well as her awesome record collection give the two of them a way to communicate and something to bond over. Colonel Strickland on the other hand is less inclined to get friendly with the Freaky Fish Guy, preferring to use a cattle prod to get the creature in line, and eventually is dead set on dissecting it before it gets any funny ideas. Eliza, along with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to try and save him as does the mysterious Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has his own reasons for wanting the creature to be kept alive. Will Elisa be able to protect the Freaky Fish Guy from having his internal organs removed and put into labeled jars? What is Dr Hoffstetler REALLY up to, and how will Colonel Strickland react once he finds out that his own staff is working against him? Seriously, who can look at that Freaky Fish Guy and NOT immediately fall in love with him!?
Kong: Skull Island and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Truth be told I’ve always been more of a Godzilla fan, and while the recent Shin Godzilla was pretty good (if a bit disjointed and tonally uneven) the American film with Gareth Edwards wasn’t so much. Now Warner Bros is trying to create yet another Expanded Cinematic Universe (because the DCCU is working out SO well for them) and this is in some ways a sequel… or prequel I guess… to the 2014 Godzilla film. Does this manage to make up for the mistakes of that film while setting the groundwork for future monster movies to come, or are we much better off watching that 1962 film where the two of them duked it out and threw rocks at each other? Admittedly that wouldn’t be the WORST thing to do as it’s still pretty freaking awesome, but let’s find out!!
The movie starts by introducing us to Bill Randa (John Goodman) who is the head of Monarch; an organization that is hell bent on proving the existence of monsters. They’ve hit a rough patch, mostly due to them never finding any monsters, but 1973 just might be the year they turn things around! They have some satellite images of a heretofore unknown island which may or may not contain resources that the government can use in their fight against the Russians, and Monarch wants to tag along with another organization already headed there for some basic geological research. Actually, all Bill wants to do is find monsters, but the US government gives them the go ahead to tag along and to also bring a military squadron who JUST SO HAPPEN to be one day away from heading back home from Vietnam. Of course the commander Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) is thrilled at the opportunity as he doesn’t seem too interested in leaving the war, but those under his command which includes Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell) are less so. Still, they follow the orders that are given to them and they are even joined by former British SAS bad ass James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) who’s supposed to be an expert tracker and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who somehow manages to be a part of this expedition as well. The crew packs up, they fly to the mysterious island that is colorfully known as Skull Island, and IMMEDIATLEY get their asses kicked by Kong who mows down all their helicopters; leaving all of the name actors but only a handful of army and scientist extras. Along their travels, they run into even MORE monsters, find a World War 2 fighter pilot who’s been trapped on the island for almost two decades (John C Reilly), and ultimately have to come up with a way to escape the island before their one chance of rescue passes them by. Can the remaining survivors make it off the island before they become monster food, or will some of them refuse to leave until Kong is dead? Just what is Kong fighting on this island when he’s not swatting down humans? Most importantly, WHEN ARE WE GONNA GET A NEW GODZILLA VS KING KONG MOVIE!?
The horror genre of films is interesting because of how aware its fans are of the problems inherit in it, while still celebrating those flaws in ways that many people find incomprehensible. I’m a pretty big horror fan myself, but I understand the frustration that some people have with the overreliance on tropes and that tend to appear in some of the weakest examples of the genre. However, this dichotomy between the quality of the tropes and the love of them that fans have has led to some great examples of genre spoofing and exploration that’s been hard to match in other film genres. Movies like Scream and You’re Next have been able to walk that line between honoring what came before while also subverting and improving in ways that a lot of horror films fail to do. The Cabin in the Woods (written by Joss Whedon and directed by Drew Goddard) is the current reigning champ of these kind of self-aware horror films, and yet or some reason I haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet. Well what better way to fill that gap in my viewing history than to watch it for my MONTH OF HORROR MOVIE REIVEWS!? Can the movie possibly be as good as the hype has promised it is, or is it another overrated horror flick that’s inexplicably beloved by fans of the genre? Only one way to find out and that’s to keep on reading!!