The Shape of Water: The Past is the Key to the Future

the shape of water

Watching The Shape of Water, I expected a wholly original story based on a simple premise. A woman falls in love with a merman. Instead, Guillermo del Toro’s film has a surprisingly familiar set of themes and ideas. Its originality lies in how it blends three core messages for the viewer to internalize.

The first message: the past is the key to the future. This scaly, unpredictable creature found in the Amazon is implied to be an ancient force of nature far removed from the technological advances of 60s Baltimore. Yet every character wants to use this creature as a device for unlocking the future. A competitive future. A future of scientific discoveries. Even a future of artistic expression.

The second message: the people who will unlock the future are the silent. The unseen. The meek will indeed inherit the earth. Finally, the third message: love is the purest way to unlock the future, bringing about our greatest talents. Love is our purpose.

Continue reading The Shape of Water: The Past is the Key to the Future

Advertisements

Cinemaholics: Winter Movie Preview 2017-2018

winter movie preview

On the show this week, I sit with Will Ashton and Maveryke Hines to discuss our most anticipated films of the Winter season. We each picked three specific films to highlight, listed out a few honorable mentions, and agreed to “share” our excitement for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which we’ll be able to review in full next week.

We also got a chance to briefly discuss some movies we’ve seen over the last week, though we didn’t have enough time for Mini Reviews. I brought up what’s become one of my favorite films of the entire year, Bad Genius, which is available for rental on VOD. I heartily recommend it, along with The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s new film hitting a wider release this month.

Continue reading Cinemaholics: Winter Movie Preview 2017-2018

Last Flag Flying: When Loving Country is as Easy as Hating It

last flag flying

We’re dependent on the government. We’re dependent on the military. We’re dependent on our soldiers. So when you put your faith and trust into the very entities that hold the key to your survival, it stings all the more when you experience the ugly side of America and war. Especially if you’re a soldier.

Richard Linklater has directed some of my favorite films of all time, so I didn’t hesitate to catch a viewing of his new film Last Flag Flying. It’s a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail, in that it tells a simple road trip story about three aging Vietnam War veterans in 2003.

One of those veterans (“Doc,” played by Steve Carrell) has recently lost his son to the horrors of the Iraq War. His fellow former marines (Sal, played by Bryan Cranston and Mueller, played by Laurence Fishburne) embark on a quest to help Doc bury his son at home in New Hampshire instead of at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.

“I’m not going to bury a marine,” Doc says. “I’m just going to bury my son.” If that sounds unpatriotic to you, then Last Flag Flying has you on its allegorical mind.

Continue reading Last Flag Flying: When Loving Country is as Easy as Hating It

Cinemaholics Review: The Disaster Artist

disaster artist

On this week’s podcast, I’m joined by Will Ashton and Maveryke Hines to review The Disaster Artist, along with a lot of other new releases we saw this week like Marvel’s Runaways and The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Starring James Franco and his brother Dave Franco, The Disaster Artist (which Franco also directed) is a new film from A24 about the making of The Room, known to many as perhaps the “best worst” movie ever made. The film is getting a ton of love from audiences and critics alike, so naturally, we had a great discussion on what we think of the Oscar contender.

The rest of the show is devoted to a slew of Mini Reviews, from a new documentary about Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman on Netflix to the Nightcrawler writer/director’s follow up film starring Denzel Washington. Plus a few more surprises.

Continue reading Cinemaholics Review: The Disaster Artist

Lady Bird: Understanding What Makes A Film Good

Lady Bird

Our lives are a string of incidental situations, or events. Some of these events are caused by other events. Many events are indistinguishable from coincidence. They appear chaotic and might as well be.

I found myself thinking a lot about structured chaos while watching Lady Bird. It was only after the credits rolled that I clicked with director/writer Greta Gerwig’s “point,” so to speak. That she desired to bring about meaningful change in Lady Bird’s life through both choice and conflict. Not much else.

There’s a reason why critics adore this movie. And I also suspect there will be some general audiences who disagree with the praise. This is because there are some among even the most fervent filmgoers who measure the quality of a film by its trappings. The dialogue. The cinematography. The performances. These are all important, of course, but they don’t amount to much removed from what the events onscreen  mean. Understanding this is the first step to “getting” objective film criticism as a whole. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.

Continue reading Lady Bird: Understanding What Makes A Film Good

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: A Film Better Than Its Title

Three

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is the actual name of a prestige film in 2017. Naming movies is hard, no?

On the one hand, this title reminds me of the suggestive power found in names of short stories. A lot of contemporary short stories have this stylistic flair, like a recent one I enjoyed called The Shape of the Darkness As It Overtakes Us by Dimas Ilaw. For whatever reason, short stories lend themselves nicely to intriguing “sentence titles,” while novels and movies typically go for the short punch. Just as look at Disney and Pixar: TangledFrozenUpCoco.

In a strange way, Three Billboards is like a short story. It’s a dark comedy you’ll hear heavy praise about in the coming awards season due to its perfected dialogue written by director Martin McDonagh and how much of a thrill it is to watch Frances McDormand process anger in a movie about flawed people desperate for justice. But like a short story, Three Billboards feels intended to pass you by without offering resolution. It’s niche. It’s focused. And it’s not concerned with what you think about it.

Continue reading Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: A Film Better Than Its Title

Cinemaholics Review: Pixar’s Coco

Coco

Coco is yet another major success for Pixar both critically and financially, and over Thanksgiving break we took some time on the podcast to review the film with special guest Matt Donato. We started the show with some discussion over the recent John Lasseter scandal and how that might affect (or have affected) the production of Toy Story 4. And we did find time to get into some spoilers for Coco with proper warning, of course.

In our packed Mini Review segment, Will Ashton and Matt Donato spoke at length about The Disaster Artist, the new A24 film starring James Franco, Dave Franco, and Seth Rogen. Will had a chance to finally share his thoughts on Darkest Hour, which is set to secure Gary Oldman an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. I managed to sneak in my thoughts on Star Wars Battlefront II, pointing out how some plot details in the campaign may pave the way for details in the upcoming movies. Lastly, Donato discussed his spontaneous thoughts on I Love You Daddy, the Louis C.K. film that has been dropped by the distributor, as well as The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film being both praised and ostracized for its polarizing material.

Continue reading Cinemaholics Review: Pixar’s Coco