A short trip through the new releases, the old classics and the horrendous tripe that I subject myself to on a weekly basis.
This week a mute woman makes love to a fish-man, Stephen King goes from hillbilly to plant and George Clooney is a fantastic fox.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
This one’s a bit unfair because I had already seen it numerous times but I watched it again this week and want anyone that hasn’t seen this brilliant adaptation to see it.
Roald Dahl must be second only to Stephen King as an author with a backlog of books which have had film adaptations: the two Charlie and the Chocolate Factory films probably being the most famous followed by Danny De Vito’s excellent version of Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach and The BFG lag somewhere behind. This stop-motion version of Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is directed by Wes Anderson, an enigmatic director most known for The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel and follows the story of the titular fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he navigates a plan to steal from three evil local farmers – a story you may be familiar with if you have read the book, in school or otherwise.
It’s a film that has a lot going for it – great source material, an excellent voice cast that includes the afore mentioned Clooney along with Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Michael Gambon, and even a song and appearance from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, which is always a plus point. What is truly brilliant about this film is just how good it looks throughout, and although the stop-motion animation may seem unusual at first it quickly becomes natural to watch. It’s not a film that has laugh out loud animated slapstick, such as a film like Despicable Me, but it’s quietly amusing throughout and enjoyable for all ages.
Verdict – One of the best animated films of the 21st century.
It might not look very good, but it is.
My rating for this film was simple because Creepshow consists of 5 short horror stories compiled into a 2 hour movie – and I enjoyed only 2 of the 5 shorts.
Directed by George A. Romero, most famous for the Night of the Living Dead series of zombie films, and written by Stephen King (IT, The Shining, Pet Semetary) who is of course one of the greatest horror writers of all time, Creepshow winds up being a disappointing collection of some good ideas and a lot of jump scares. The third and fourth sections, entitled “Something to Tide you over” and “The Crate”, are the highlights: Leslie Nielsen (Airplane) stars as a psychopathic ex-husband who takes revenge on his ex-wife and her lover by burying them alive at his beach and recording them as the tide draws closer to them in the third short, which is by far the best section. The following section, “The Crate”, features some slightly disappointing creature effects but an enjoyable story about a creature released from a crate who goes on a murderous rampage, which is memorable due to two superb central performances from Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau, with Barbeau excelling in particular.
The other three shorts were much less enjoyable unfortunately. The second section is an embarrassingly poor and desperately unfunny short with Stephen King himself playing a horribly stereotyped hillbilly who meets his end courtesy of a meteor which turns him into a plant slowly. The last section features some creepy insect features, but otherwise was a bland and drawn out end to the piece.
Verdict – A muddled mess of a horror anthology which is only essential viewing for fans of Stephen King.
“I told you not to call me Shirley.”
The Shape of Water
It’s very difficult to go into a film with an open mind when that film has only days previously picked up the Academy Award for Best Picture and going into the cinema the words of the hundreds of positive reviews echoed in my memory, along with one humourously negative review: James Dyer from Empire Magazine referred to it as “Free Willy but if the boy had fucked the whale at the end”.
Fish love aside, The Shape of Water is a visually remarkable film with two of the most interesting central characters for a number of years, and Michael Shannon plays one of the best villains committed to the screen in the 21st Century. The Shape of Water follows the story of mute cleaner Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins, who is excellent and unlucky to have come up against Frances McDormand for the Best Actress Oscar) who, as previously mentioned, falls in love with a monster (or “asset”, as he is continuously referred to) and tries to help him escape from the high security government lab in which she works, while Shannon’s villain Strickland fights to have the monster killed. At heart it’s a love story, but it’s severely dark at times and there are some wince-inducing moments of gore also.
Digging further than the plot and into the main characters backgrounds allows you to really understand the central themes of Guillermo Del Toro’s story – the three leading roles, played by Hawkins (mute), Octavia Spencer (African-American) and Richard Jenkins (gay), are minorities in an era when such people were outcasts of society. This is exemplified in one scene in which a black couple are asked to leave a diner, along with Jenkin’s character Giles who has made a pass at the young man working at the diner. These three band together to try to release the ostracised and tortured monster back into the wild.
The Shape of Water will prove in time to be a controversial Oscar winner – the first science-fiction film to pick up the Best Picture award, and already a film that has polarised audiences and critics. I personally thought it was a thought-provoking and thrilling story, that also happened to feature a woman having sex with a fish-man. Having seen 8 of the 9 Best Picture nominees now, I must say that Three Billboards would have been my winner.
Verdict – Visually stunning, always interesting and superbly acted – especially by Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon. Come for the fish-man sex scenes, stay for the story.
Don’t let this man look after your pets.
Film of the Week – Fantastic Mr. Fox