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.

Go on…The Shape of Water: The Past is the Key to the Future

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.

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

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.

Go on…Lady Bird: Understanding What Makes A Film Good

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


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.

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

A Short Review of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

blade runner 2049

I’m excited to dig into Blade Runner 2049 throughout the entire weekend, notably on the Cinemaholics podcast coming out Sunday. But for now, I’ve written some short, spoiler-free thoughts about the film just a day after seeing it.

In general, I’ve been moving away from the standard film reviews you’ve seen on this site since it launched in 2012, mainly because my long form writing has been dedicated elsewhere. And honestly, I find it just as fun and fulfilling to share my immediate thoughts on a film with all of you on Twitter.

For many of you who don’t use Twitter, however, here’s my take on Blade Runner 2049 and whether or not you should take the time to see it.

Go on…A Short Review of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Soderbergh’s ‘Logan Lucky’ Is A Heartland Heist Worth Watching

logan lucky

Logan Lucky was directed by Steven Soderbergh, the man behind the Ocean’s 11 films and Magic Mike. It features hilarious characters, farfetched schemes, and a leisurely pace that will take some by surprise, but like its band of robbers, it’s a film that’s easy to underestimate.

It’s no secret that Hollywood has shown little interest in bringing stories about the American South to mainstream audiences over the last decade or two, to the point where Pixar’s Cars 3 was their chief cultural representation in Summer 2017 until Logan Lucky came along, a heist film with the trappings of a tentpole that also happens to be based on an original screenplay, albeit by someone who appears to be invented, with the pseudonym “Rebecca Blunt” as their credit.

Put simply, Logan Lucky is indeed another movie about an outlandishly competent crew pulling off an impossible crime from Soderbergh, but it’s also a deconstruction of his own work, to the point where the film actually references the Ocean’s 11 movies by branding this film’s crew as “Ocean’s 7-11.” It’s one of many jokes that hits home in a film that takes aim at subverting your expectations for a fast and clean crime romp.

The big plan is to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a high-profile Nascar race, conveniently where one of the characters recently lost his job and is now looking for a way to improve his sympathetic financial situation. The titular Logan siblings consist of Clyde (played by Adam Driver), an Iraq War vet who lost his arm and is now a bartender, Mellie (played by Riley Keough), a quietly dignified hairdresser, and Jimmy (played by Channing Tatum), a divorced and out-of-work dad sharing custody with his ex-wife and high school sweetheart (Katie Holmes) from when he was the quarterback until a leg injury ruined his chances of going to the NFL.

logan lucky

There are many other interesting and vibrant characters along the way, of course, including a high-energy Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, the demolitions expert the Logans need to break out of jail on the day of the race. For what is at times a pretty slow-paced film, the development of the heist in question is actually a bit rushed, specifically with how this major set piece is placed in the second act of the movie instead of the third. It’s an odd structural decision that does well to make Logan Lucky stand out in a frankly overcrowded genre.

Most importantly, Logan Lucky manages to be about more than hi-jinks and funny moments. There’s a wealth of heart and authenticity in this screenplay and how it treats its location, characters, and subject matter. It’s not condescending, but it’s also not pandering, and best of all, it’s pretty entertaining for a movie where most of what’s happening is impossible to believe. It’s only major flaws are in how some long stretches of the film feel quite a bit too long and meandering, which is sure to make many in the audience wonder why more of the film wasn’t cut for a leaner experience. But what we do get from Logan Lucky is plenty to chew on, regardless.

Grade: B+

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‘Annabelle: Creation’ Is The Horror Prequel We Wanted Years Ago


Annabelle: Creation is the prequel to a prequel of an ongoing franchise of interconnected  paranormal movies. David F. Sandberg, whose directorial debut was the impressive Lights Out, takes what should have been a shameless cash grab and turns it into a horror film worthy of the Conjuring brand.

Go on…‘Annabelle: Creation’ Is The Horror Prequel We Wanted Years Ago

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