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The Shape of Water (2017)
Wow, what a mess!
Take E.T., mash it up with the aesthetic sentiments of Amelie, throw in a dash of The Artist, top it all off with some amazingly open-minded attitudes toward bestiality and you have The shape of Water.
Elisa Esposito is a cleaner at a government facility where top secret projects are kept. Her life is pretty hum-drum until one day she meets a creature from the deep at work and gives him an egg. She instantly falls in love with the beastie and talks her bestie Giles, an aging artist with relationship problems of his own, into helping her mount a rescue. Along the way she receives initially reluctant assistance from her workmate, Zelda, as well as the help of a kind-hearted Soviet spy named Dimitri.
Visually, the movie is quite nice, the soundtrack was also very well chosen, but as a story the film seemed not to be able to make up its mind exactly what it wanted to be. The romance was rushed and never really felt believable, the best friend neighbor was only likeable sometimes, it seemed to want to make some sort of a social statement about male culture in the 50s, but this was only given, at best a superficial treatment; it kept toying with the idea of becoming a musical right up until it sort of did in a number that seemed as out-of-place, awkward and forced as the romance between Esposito and the creature from the deep.
All in all I'd say that this would be one of those films to watch with friends some night for a laugh, but don't expect much more than unintended comedy, as it's otherwise an utter mess.
Star Trek: Discovery (2017)
Great so far, but..
I'm a huge star trek fan. I've liked every incarnation, including some of the less popular ones like 'Enterprise'. I've just finished the fifth episode of 'Discovery', and I have to say that the series is just great, the story line is engaging and the characters show a lot of promise.
There are lots of people who've complained about the series being excessively PC or something, I don't know about that; I've personally never seen a diverse cast as anything other than positive but I don't see the series as being preachy for featuring two or three characters from groups traditionally underrepresented on screen.
That all being said, I do have a few small issues. I'm still getting used to the Klingons. It seems that in addition to aesthetic differences, they've made some cultural changes as well. I'm waiting to see how these play out. They've never been my favourite species. I've always found all the honour, fighting, blood and stuff to be immensely boring and have never understood why they're so popular. In re-watching other series, I normally skip the Klingon episodes because when you hear an episode is Klingon centered, you already have a pretty good idea of what the episode will be like-- blood, honour, war-- this stuff is just not my favourite trek.
In making this series so Klingon centered, therefore, I'm afraid we're going to have to sacrifice the exploration, philosophical dilemmas and optimistic, humanistic, utopian/socialist view of the future of humanity-- things that are my favourite trek-- for space battles, blood and honour. This would be a shame. I mean, a few skirmishes, some political intrigue and action here and there can liven things up, but I do hope it's not all the series has to offer going forward.
Either way, at least for now, I'm keen to keep watching and find out how things end up!
Kiss of the Damned (2012)
An excessively low IMDb rating.
At the time that I am writing this review, this movie has an abysmal rating on IMDb (less than five stars).
If IMDb were a room full of people with exceptional taste, I guess I would understand why. The movie is thoroughly derivative; it tries a little too hard. I get the feeling that it's supposed to be a 'Hunger' for the modern era, moody and atmospheric-- they've even traded the classical and operatic soundtrack for haze-scene and low key beats looped with synth harpsichord melodies -- and yes, sometimes it falls a bit short and comes off amateurish.
But IMDb is not a room full of people with taste, so I don't get it. There so many movies on this site with absolutely no redeeming value that have ridiculously high ratings. This movie, while not art, did try; it never came off heavy handed, overall it was approachable, and entertaining. I keep asking myself what about it is causing people to react so negatively; the only thing I can figure is that perhaps the vampire crowd are portrayed as too cultured or something, I don't know.
Ultimately I guess I'm writing this review for people like me, those who put a lot (perhaps too much) stock in IMDb ratings. As a fan of films like The Hunger and the whole 'artsy, excessively classy but tortured immortal' cliché I can honestly tell you that I didn't think this film was an utter waste of time (at least no more so than many other movies). It was a perfectly fine hour and a half spent on a rainy afternoon.
I find its current rating a bit unfair.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Just not funny.
This movie isn't clever or witty; it tries way too hard. Brooks comes at you a gag a second with farts, silly puns and racial slurs, I mean we're really talking bottom barrel "humor" here-- I just couldn't believe that this was the great classic comedy I'd heard about. I respect the guy, I've seen other things of his that I found at least somewhat amusing, just not this one. Perhaps there's just something of this movie that's been lost to time. I tried watching it with the mindset that it would be dated and I freely admit that a lot contemporary humor isn't much better, but normally I can make it through those films, even the bad ones, this one I stopped watching at about 3/4 of the way through. I just couldn't take it anymore. It's not so shocking or offensive that you won't be able to handle it or anything like that, that would at least be something. No, it's just really dumb and boring; it's an utter waste of time. I can honestly think of nothing redeeming about it. The fact it is so universally cherished really makes me scared for the future of my species.
Les enfants terribles (1950)
Technically stunning but lacking a key element
This film, technically and aesthetically stunning, is certainly successful in establishing a mood that is pervasive throughout the entire work. I imagine that Melville must have been pleased with the finished product but I do wonder how Cocteau felt about it.
My curiosity stems from the fact that the images of the written work were always successfully employed by the imagination to increasingly sinister effect. The siblings were basically two parts of the same being and their histrionics as well as their torture of each other felt as natural and unremarkable as a self-deprecatory comment made to oneself about some minor mistake. This histrionic nonchalance was missing from the movie. Watching the characters harass and chase each other around was a two dimensional representation of a dynamic that would, i think, have been far more successfully established by relying less upon running and screaming. Their games had an emotionally taxing impact upon those in their presence and this wasn't established too well either. Ultimately, I guess that most of these observations can be attributed to actor/observer effect, the difference between being a part of a story, as in a well written book, and watching a scene. I just found the characters to be somewhat laughable at times in the film and I imagine that had I've not read the book, the ending may have seemed excessive and self-indulgent.
I genuinely think that the creative realization of this work paid too much attention to the aesthetics/mood of place and not nearly enough to aesthetics/mood of dynamic. What results is a well-acted, aesthetically pleasing, character study of a few individuals that never really feel real. Melville is often guilty of this but for his subject matter, which is typically more plot driven, it works. The hustlers and lowlifes of the pulp era noir flicks aren't supposed to be accessible. Those films unfold like clockwork scenes performed by little tin wind-up thugs-- and its perfect, don't get me wrong. But the power of the 'two sides of the same coin', co-dependent siblings fable is the pervasive sense of dread that one feels as the dynamic starts to unravel; this is absent from this film. Nonetheless, I give this film seven stars for being a provocative work by two artists for whom I have a great deal of respect.
'Dead Ringers' is an example of the same fable that I thought was remarkably well realized. Of course it's nowhere near as good a movie from a technical standpoint.