The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Hewlett
Seen on: 15.2.2018
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Plot:
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning lady in a big research facility. That facility has recently become the home, or rather prison, of a mysterious sea creature (Doug Jones) that the scientists want to study and exploit. Elisa discovers the creature by chance, but she quickly becomes friends with him, teaching him sign language. But the facility, and above all Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) have plans for the creature – and they are not necessarily humane.

I liked The Shape of Water in many things, but I found its treatment of disability absolutely problematic – and that soured things considerably for me. I still ended up finding it mostly sweet, but it should have been better about that.

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The Night Eternal (Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan)

The Night Eternal is the third novel in The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
Finished on: 22.1.2017
[Here are my reviews of the other two books.]

Plot [with SPOILERS for the previous books]:
It’s been two years since the Master’s plan was made reality and the earth has sunken into nuclear winter. Now there are only a few hours every day where the sunlight is strong enough to keep vampires from venturing outside; and most of humanity is enslaved. Nevertheless, there are still pockets of human resistance. Ephraim Goodweather is keeping his distance from the rest of his group, though, consumed by his alcoholism and the search for his son Zach who was adopted by the Master. Meanwhile, Vasiliy Fet and Nora Martinez are trying to decipher the Occido Lumen, an old book that may hold the key to their salvation.

The Strain was a strong start to the trilogy, The Fall a disappointing middle and now The Night Eternal is the really bad conclusion. Any charm that still carried over from The Strain to The Fall was lost for me in The Night Eternal.

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Le complexe de Frankenstein [Creature Designers – The Frankenstein Complex] (2015)

Le complexe de Frankenstein
Director: Gilles PensoAlexandre Poncet
Writer: Gilles Penso, Alexandre Poncet
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2016

“Plot”:
The documentary traces the development of creature special effects in film by interviewing various experts like Rick BakerJoe DanteGuillermo del ToroMick GarrisAlec GillisSteve JohnsonJohn LandisGreg NicoteroKevin SmithPhil TippettChris WalasMatt Winston and Tom Woodruff Jr.

Le complexe de Frankenstein is an interesting documentary that gives a lot of background information on a part of filmmaking that is usually only noticed when it’s badly done, giving spotlight to the many enthusiastic people working on those effects.

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The Fall (Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan)

The Fall is the second novel in The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
Finished on: 1.9.2016
[Here’s my review of The Strain.]

Plot [with SPOILERS for the The Strain]:
The vampires have effectively taken over the world and the Master doesn’t need much more to achieve his goals, supported by billionaire Eldritch Palmer who is still hoping for immortality. In New York, there are only a few pockets of resistance left. One of them is the group surrounding Ephraim and his son Zach, who are both still reeling after Zach’s mother and Ephraim’s ex-wife Kelly was turned into a vampire. Their group further consists of Abraham Setrakian who has been fighting vampires all his life, Nora Martinez, Ephraim’s former colleague at the CDC and Vasily Fet, an exterminator who sees vampires as yet another pest. On their own, they will stand no chance against the vampire threat. But they still have to try.

The Fall couldn’t quite keep up with The Strain, taking a few turns that I didn’t like that much and leaving a couple of things unclear. I still want to know how everything will end, but my enthusiasm has notably cooled.

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Crimson Peak (2015)

Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, Doug Jones
Seen on: 18.10.2015

Plot:
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) dreams of publishing a book but until that happens, she’s quite happy at home with her father Carter (Jim Beaver). But then Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) come from England to her father with a business proposal and Edith finds herself falling for Thomas. Her father makes inquiries about the Sharpes and is not convinced that Thomas would be a suitable match. But then Carter dies surprisingly and Edith follows the Sharpes to England. But there are ghosts that follow all of them. Literally.

Crimson Peak is the quintessential gothic horror story. It is so much the distillation fo the genre that nothing in it will surprise you, but if you like the genre, you’ll love the beautiful love letter to it that del Toro has crafted with this film.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, and other books of his
Sequel to: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Prequel to: The Lord of the Rings
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam BrownOrlando BloomEvangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Sylvester McCoy, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mikael Persbrandt, Hugo WeavingChristopher LeeBilly Connolly

Plot:
The dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) have roused Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Smaug is on his way to lay waste to Laketown. But Bard (Luke Evans) manages to save the town from that fate by killing Smaug. Now the Lonely Mountain can be claimed by Thorin (Richard Armitage), who immediately starts looking for one particular gem – the Arkenstone – and slowly succumbs to dragon sickness. In the meantime various armies start to gather outside the Lonely Mountain, all with a different claim on the treasure and/or the people within.

I thought that the last installment of the movie really was quite disappointing. I mean, neither of the three can live up to The Lord of the Rings anyway, but at least Desolation of Smaug was entertaining. Battle of the Five Armies was too much battle, too little coherence and way too much Alfrid.

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The Strain (Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan)

The Strain is the first novel in The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

Plot:
A plane lands in New York City and goes dark immediately. When it’s finally opened up, it becomes clear that everybody on board is dead. The CDC in the form of Ephraim Goodweather and his colleagues is called in to find out what could kill an entire plane full of people. But what Eph slowly finds out is that this is no normal infectious disease but something rather more sinister – and whatever it is, is spreading fast and quickly threatens the entire city.

While The Strain isn’t the greatest book ever written, there is much to love about it. From the concept of hard sci-fi vampires, to their take on vampirism in general and its compelling readability.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, and other books of his
Sequel to: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Prequel to: The Lord of the Rings
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam BrownOrlando BloomEvangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Sylvester McCoy, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mikael Persbrandt

Plot:
The dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) have come quite a way under the leadership of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin (Richard Armitage), but they still have a long way ahead of them until they will reach the dragon. As they reach Mirkwood, Gandalf has to leave them and the group soon finds itself in the clutches of the wood elves and King Thranduill (Lee Pace).

I already enjoyed the last Hobbit movie but this was one was even better. The pacing works more smoothly (even if it could have been a little shorter), the characters are awesome as usual and it has brilliant moments (and moments of none-brilliance).

thehobbitdesolationofsmaug

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Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Travis Beacham
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn GormanMax MartiniRobert Kazinsky, Ron Perlman, Diego Klattenhoff

Plot:
In the future huge monsters – kaijus – have started to rise from the sea. To defend themselves humanity has developed huge robots – jaegers – that have to be piloted by two people at the same time, for which they need a certain neurological compatibility. One of these pilots is Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), who lost his co-pilot and brother and has since retired. But he gets re-recruited by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) who plans a last ditch effort to keep the monsters at bay before the jaeger program is disbanded.

I was disappointed by Pacific Rim. With all the positive reviews and buzz the movie gathered (and Guillermo del Toro at the helm), I’m afraid that my expectations were just way too high.

pacific-rim

[Slight SPOILERS]

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, and other books of his
Prequel to: The Lord of the Rings
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Bret McKenzie, Benedict Cumberbatch

Plot:
Many, many years ago, there were dwarves living in Erebor, amassing huge riches until they were attacked by the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). They lost their mountains, their gold and were scattered in many directions. Now Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) last descendant of Erebor’s king, is ready to get it all back. So he put together a group of loyal dwarves, but asks the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to find a 14th member for their party. Gandalf recruits the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Bilbo is reluctant – as a hobbit, he generally doesn’t think much of adventures or leaving home at all – but he is finally convinces and so all of them set off for a great adventure. An adventure that proves more dangerous and connected to more things than initially assumed.

For practically anybody of about my age (and of a nerdy/geeky persuasion), the Lord of the Rings films were more than just movies – they were events that opened me and my friends up to many things, but especially to the intricacies of internet fandom and all that entails. It seems clear that 10 years later the Hobbit can’t quite reach that status anymore. But An Unexpected Journey is a film that I enjoyed for the most part.

The_Hobbit _An_Unexpected_Journey

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