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The Shape of WaterWhat’s it all about?

At a top-secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

Why did I want to see it?

I have been an admirer of Guillermo del Toro since seeing Cronos in the early 1990s, and I am a sucker for a grown-up fairy-tale with horror overtones so this was a no-brainer.

What did I think about it?

I loved this film so hard, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Images pop into my head without warning and I am very keen to see it again (hoping that a Film Club outing can be arranged but I’ve already flagged the DVD release just in case). I think the reason it works so well is how fully rounded all of the characters are, from Eliza’s morning routine which shows her as a woman with needs and desires to Strickland and his anger and extreme views. One of the triumphs of the film, I think, is how Strickland as the villain is given a background and a personality that explains but doesn’t excuse his behaviour; his fear and hatred of the other in the shape of the Amphibian Man.

Sally Hawkins is amazing as Eliza, defiant and open-hearted and compassionate, and Octavia Spencer is a delight as Zelda, with her awful husband and her chattering away and her handling of the racism she has to face every day.

The setting of the film is also beautiful, otherworldly images of the apartments above the cinema where Eliza and Giles live underpinned by a colour palette that evokes the underwater. And water is absolutely everywhere; it always seems to be raining.

Others have mentioned the resemblance of the Amphibian man to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and I suppose you could see this as a kind of “what happens next”, and others have mentioned Beauty and the Beast, though I don’t really see that myself . It should be mentioned that Doug Jones does a wonderful job (as he always does) in bringing the creature to life.

I was very glad that it won best picture and best director. It’s about time that del Toro was recognised and although Pan’s Labyrinth is still his masterpiece in my opinion, the Shape of Water certainly ranks alongside it.

If you haven’t seen this please do seek it out!

Dazzling details: directed by Guillermo del Toro, this is 123 mins long and rated 15 for strong violence, language, sex, nudity



MV5BMjA3MjAzOTQxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTc5OTY1OTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall of China against a horde go monstrous creatures.

Why did I want to see it?

Monsters. In China. Say no more.

What did I think of it?

I really, really liked The Great Wall, much more than I anticipated. For all sorts of reasons this was absolutely the right film at the right time. Less focussed on the western characters than the marketing would have you believe. Tian Jing is my new girl crush as the Chinese commander, very cool and will pop up again in another context soon. It’s also a beautiful film in the way that only the Chinese can manage, with choreographed set pieces, gloriously coloured costumes and the obligatory break for some music. And the monsters are very very cool.

I learned several things:

  • Matt Damon (bless him) cannot sustain an Irish accent for more than 2 minutes at a time
  • do not trust Willem Defoe under any circumstances
  • bungee jumping in exotic blue armour while holding a spear is the only way to fight.

I will re-watch this at the first opportunity. Loved it.


IMG_0437What’s it all about?

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Why did I want to see it?

I wouldn’t have missed this under any circumstances, but I was determined to shoe this movie some love after the drubbing it was getting online before anyone had even seen it. I was excited to see a sci-fi/fantasy film where all of the main characters were women. It brought out my 1970s feminist side. Yes, I am that old.

What did I think about it?

I genuinely liked this, it was huge fun. Yes, it was slight in some respects, and yes, the structure was a bit wobbly but the cast was uniformly excellent and I just loved seeing four women getting on with each other (mostly, and let’s face it, that’s what real life is like, nobody gets on with each other all of the time), making their own decisions and saving the world without a romantic lead in sight.

I may have fallen in love with Kate McKinnon. Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Wiig were relatively known quantities and McCarthy in particular was just lovely. And I thought that Leslie Jones was great, and had a lot of the best lines. I was already in love with Hemsworth Major but it was cool to see him make fun of himself, and he looked like he was really enjoying it. The use of cameos was nicely judged. I nearly missed the post-credit sequence, but a Facebook message from a friend (I was outside of the screening at the time before I’m accused of breaking the Wittertainment Code of Conduct) had me diving back in for the nice reveal.

And most importantly of all, I laughed throughout the whole film. On my to buy list. I would happily watch this one and over again.

MV5BNjExODg3MDUzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjExMjE3NzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_This is the last of my catch-up reviews. It’s entirely possible that I have saved the “best” for last…….

Watched: 19 June 2016

What’s it all about?

Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the merciless god of darkness, who has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict.

Why did I want to see it?

Like Dragon Blade, this was one of those mad-sounding films that my husband cannot allow himself to ignore, and I promised, despite anything that might transpire, that I would go with him. This was before the film disappeared from its original release date in the early spring. I should have known then…..

What did I think of it?

I started off by thinking that I had no words, but would have to find some otherwise this would be the shortest review I’ve ever written.

I think my initial reaction (shared on Twitter) was along the lines of “Oh. Dear. God.” Because this was bad, and I don’t mean the bad in a good way type of bad, but genuinely bad. And let’s remember that I have seen 10,000 BC where they used mammoths to build the pyramids. Anyway…..

On paper it must have sounded brilliant; let’s get Jaime Lannister to fight King Leonidas for control of a version of Ancient Egypt that must have been dreamed up while the writers were on drugs of some kind (surely that must be the reason?). They also clearly like gold, for there are lots and lots of shiny gold. And the Egyptian Gods are taller than the humans they are ruling, but exactly how tall is a bit of a mystery because their height does seem to change – full disclosure – someone (probably Mark Kermode) said that before I saw the film so perhaps I was hyper-aware, but it’s true – and possibly alien rather than actual gods though to be honest that is a minor point. Everyone speaks the same way except Gerard Butler, bless him, who sounds exactly like he grew up on the same council estate in Paisley that I did, and is clearly playing no-one other than Gerard Butler all the way through. There is a sappy human romance between a drippy girl and a charisma-free hero who delivers his lines like he’s in a pantomime (and I thought Brenton Thwaites was pretty good in Oculus, so this was disappointing) and should have an ‘r’ inserted strategically in his name.

And then Rufus Sewell turned up. I love Rufus Sewell but what on earth was he doing in this, apart from most of the acting and smouldering as per usual. Perhaps he needed to pay for school fees or a loft extension or something. Ditto Geoffrey Rush. And Chadwick Boseman, whom I simply loved as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, was camp in the extreme.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they criminally wasted a (poorly designed) Sphinx.

The female characters had nice frocks though.

This was fabulously stupid. Really. And this from a person who loved both Jupiter Ascending and John Carter in defiance of almost everyone else, so I know whereof I speak.

No redeeming features whatsoever. Totally charmless. Ugh.

d3e98c53b8c7071ae6aabe5d6f6b4fd0I’m catching up on reviews from films seen over the past couple of months, so these may be a little shorter than normal. When I get back into the habit of reviewing within a couple of days of watching then normal service will have been resumed. For now, it’s basically just about what I can remember!

Watched: 30th May 2016

What’s it all about?

Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to help the Mad Hatter.

Why did I want to see it?

I actually enjoyed the first one quite a bit (and was in the minority for doing so I seem to remember). I was still willing to accept whatever Mr Depp would throw at us and it had a great supporting cast, so although I was a bit surprised that there was a sequel after such a gap I was very keen to see where the story would go next.

What did I think of it?

I liked it. Specifically:

  • Mia Wasikowska, for whom I have real soft spot given Crimson Peak and Stoker and she is a real proper heroic role model for girls in this one
  • Helena Bonham-Carter of course, though there wasn’t enough of her in this
  • Sacha Baron Cohen, a real surprise as I normally find him totally irritating but he made a good sort of villain
  • the visuals – just stunning (to the point of distraction on occasion)

But (and of course there’s a but)

  • lack of a proper villain; both HB-C and SBC’s characters were softened during the course of the film
  • they missed out most of the talking flowers in the garden from the book (I particularly liked the tiger lily); my favourite bit
  • Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. What are we to do with you? The same old schtick.

So on balance pretty good. And anyone who suggests that I might have filled up a tiny wee bit at the tribute to Alan Rickman in the credits would be completely right.

MV5BMTcwNzc0ODc5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDI1MTY4NA@@._V1_SY317_CR104,0,214,317_AL_What’s it all about?

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is

an adventure set in the early part of the 20th century and focused on a popular novelist and her dealings with would-be suitors, the cops, monsters, and other distractions.

Well, that’s close I suppose.

Adele is a travel writer and journalist who starts the film off in Egypt seeking the remains of Ramses II’s physician whom she wants bring home to Paris in an attempt to bring her comatose sister back to full health. To assist her in this she intends to work with Professor Esperandieu who will use some form of telepathic contact to tap into the mummy’s knowledge. Unfortunately while he’s testing his theories out he accidentally causes a pterodactyl egg to hatch, causing death and destruction, getting the police involved and apparently scuppering Adele’s plans.

Why did I want to watch it?

The Book God is a fan of the graphic novels on which the film is based and was very keen to see it. I love this sort of thing so was happy to watch it. Also it was described in Empire’s review as “Amelie meets Indiana Jones” and who could resist that?

What did I think of it?

This is huge fun. Adele herself is a wonderful character, entirely in control and kowtowing to no-one, she’s determined and inventive as well as being beautiful and fashionable. Everything she does is driven by her need to fix what’s happened to her sister, for which she feels responsible even though (when we finally find out what actually happened) it was clearly the result of a freak accident.

It’s a very stylish film, as you would expect from Besson, peppered with some incredibly grotesque characters (Matthieu Almaric is unrecognisable as a rival adventurer for example) and with the glory of Paris as background it’s just wonderful to look at.

But the best thing for me are the mummies. Without going too much into the plot in terms of why it happens, in addition to la momie Patmosis (the one Adele brought back from Egypt) a whole host of mummies, led by Ramses himself, end up parading round Paris. Patmosis is possibly my favourite character in the whole film, he is such a delight.

And I think that’s a good word to describe the whole thing. Entertaining, enjoyable and above all fun. I really enjoyed it.

panslabyrinth20068988_fThis post originally appeared on my Bride’s Film page over on my other blog. I’m re-posting here with some added commentary (where appropriate) so that my film reviews are all in the same place.

Date watched: 26 July 2008 (umpteenth viewing; really, I’ve seen this film so many times I’ve lost count)

What IMDb says:

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

What I said:

I’ve had this film for ages but wanted to save it for when I could really concentrate on it, and a wet Bank Holiday seemed absolutely right. I really love Guillermo del Toro; I was an early adopter of Cronos and have, I think, watched everything he has directed since then, including Mimic which I may very well be one of the few people to enjoy. 

So of course I was really looking forward to seeing Pan’s Labyrinth, especially as both Jonathan Ross and Mark Kermode had raved about it in their reviews. I can’t say whether it should have won the Oscar for foreign language film because I haven’t yet seen The Lives of Others, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The film is set in 1944 in Fascist Spain, where Ofelia and her mother, who is heavily pregnant, go to join her brutal stepfather at his military outpost. She finds a labyrinth behind the camp and when she reaches the centre she meets the Faun, who claims that she is a princess out of place and in order to get to return she has to carry out three tasks.

Things I liked about this movie = the art design and special effects are truly spectacular and otherwordly; Ofelia herself is excellent; the character of Mercedes; the growing sense of doom; the bravery of the doctor; the inevitability of the ending

Things I didn’t like = I thought this was perfect, but some people might find the violence too much; I squirmed on a couple of occasions and almost had to make use of the Safety Cushion; the insects crawling over Ofelia during one of her tasks were a bit yucky too

If you like dark fantasy you will love this, and it does illuminate some of the things which happened in Spain after the Civil War was over; a good companion to The Devil’s Backbone.

I am so looking forward to Hellboy 2!


There isn’t much more to say about Pan’s Labyrinth, but Hellboy 2 was definitely worth waiting for 😀

6S1cQk9SxBkw8CRcppw03PWPVnwWhat’s it all about?

Really? OK, so:

An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Like you didn’t know that already.

Why did I want to watch it?

There have been many, many versions of A Christmas Carol – the Jim Carrey animated one (which I have seen and reviewed here), the Bill Murray modernised version (which is one of my favourites and which I reviewed here), the Muppets one with Michael Caine (which I haven’t seen in ages), the Jean-Luc Picard Patrick Stewart one (which is very well done), and my least favourite, the Albert Finney musical one. I am sure there are loads more, but the point is the Alistair Sim 1951 version is the classic and absolute best. And it was Christmas Eve after all.

What did I think of it?

I have seen this so, so many times since I was a small girl and it is such a favourite that it’s really difficult to be objective about something that is so much-loved. Sim is a great and under-appreciated actor and manages to convey both the miserly and horrible aspects of Scrooge as well as the wonderful transformation he undergoes after the spirits have visited. The supporting cast is great, including a number of stalwart British actors, some of whom were very young at the time (like Michael Hordern as Marley).

If you have never seen this then do please seek it out as a great post-war British film with a wonderful central performance, but if you do please please make sure you see the back & white original and not the later colourised version (I can’t find the words to describe how appalling it is). A Christmas treat.

MV5BODAzMDgxMDc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTI0OTAzMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_What’s it all about?

There may be spoilers in this discussions so if you don’t know the story in a book published 77 years ago then you might not want to read any further though I’m going to be circumspect if I can (and certainly will try to avoid the changes made from book to film), but like I say, it was published in 1937 and there is the whole Lord of the Rings thing which gives some of it away (Bilbo survives. With the ring).

Anyway, IMDb thinks The Hobbit: TBotFA is about this:

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.

Well, that’s not quite how I remember it. I mean, everything in that paragraph is true; there is Bilbo, there is the Company, there is a war with (what a surprise) five armies involved, and there is indeed Smaug. But it doesn’t quite happen in that order and I seem to recall that (a) Smaug already has the treasure and (b) he kind of targets Laketown which is by no stretch of the imagination all of Middle Earth.

Oh dear, not even got past the synopsis and I’m already getting waspish. But that’s my usual gripe with IMDb and not really about the film. Probably.

Why did I want to see it?

It’s Tolkien. I’ve seen and loved all three LoTR films in their standard and extended versions, several times. I have seen and enjoyed the first two Hobbit films (see here for An Unexpected Journey and here for The Desolation of Smaug) to varying degrees (it’s interesting how relatively little I had to say about the second one though…), so I wanted to see how Bilbo’s story would conclude given the sudden ending of DoS and the feeling that these are increasingly films for hardcore Tolkien fans rather than the general audience.

What did I think of it?

Well, the first thing to say is that I did enjoy TBotFA even though I had to watch it in 3D (change of plan, totally out of my control, I do not like 3D at all) and that although it is a long film it didn’t feel like a long film as there was so much going on. Perhaps too much.

The things that worked for me:

  • Richard Armitage as Thorin was absolutely magnificent and the best thing in the whole film especially in the later stages when the Inevitable Thing happens. I cried for a good 10 minutes or so at that point. He totally captured the tragedy of Thorin, just brilliant
  • Thranduil’s battle elk
  • Bard the Bowman
  • Kili and Fili
  • Smaug’s attack on Laketown (over all to quickly and I still think that should have been at the end of the second film)
  • (Surprisingly) the romance between Tauriel and Kili which I don’t seem to have liked very much in the second film but which I found very affecting here, for obvious reasons and not to be gone into in detail

The things that didn’t work for me:

  • there just wasn’t enough Bilbo
  • there was too much Legolas; I know he’s a fan favourite and I do enjoy his character but there was just too much of him and I thought it got a bit silly and the Legolas foreshadowing of LoTR jarred
  • insufficient Smaug (see my comments above)
  • insufficient Necromancer (all that build-up and that’s what we got)
  • the battle scenes were very CGI heavy and although impressive I thought they lacked something – emotional engagement perhaps?

I am dithering about this, I know. It feels churlish to be picking holes in what, if you take all six films together, is a huge achievement but I still think splitting The Hobbit into three films doesn’t entirely work, at least not for me. I’ve said elsewhere that I think these are three good films hiding a really great one.

What’s interesting is that the Book God thought it was the best of the three (which surprised me, though he does enjoy a good battle scene). My friend Silvery Dude however was underwhelmed; we had an exchange of e-mails about the film, and he agreed that there were things to like but for him

I wanted to love it.  So sad it’s over.  But I expected more
So, divided opinion. I think this is one to let settle and perhaps watch properly as a trilogy when I might appreciate it more. And like I said, I did enjoy it, I’m just not sure that I loved it. YMMV.

Big-fish-movie-posterWhat does IMDb say about this film?

A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.

Why Silvery Dude thought I should watch this?

Parents…love ’em, find them infuriating, no matter, this captures it.

What did I think of it? Big Fish was a film I had always intended to watch. I missed it in the cinema for reasons I can’t quite remember but whatever happened I didn’t try hard enough to see it, which is surprising because it has a lot of features which are way up on my list of Things That Normally Attract Me To A Film, namely

  • Tim Burton directed
  • Danny Elfman did the music
  • Helena Bonham-Carter is in it *fangirl squee*

Plus of course added Obi-Wan I mean Ewan McGregor. And I bought the DVD as soon as it came out (I actually think it may have been a Christmas gift way back in, wow, was it really that long ago?) And then it sat on the shelf until now, because I think I got a bit nervous about watching it in case I was disappointed. Which, of course, I wasn’t. At all. So Ed Bloom is a man who has told stories about his past as far back as his son Will can remember, and it has caused real estrangement between them as all the important events in Will’s life seem to have been overshadowed by everyone hanging on his father’s every word. But Ed is dying and Will has come home to support his mother of course, but also to try to get the truth from his father. Which of course he fails to do, or at least not directly, but as we see the stories come (very entertainingly) to life Will dissevers that they aren’t the total pack of lies that he had thought. I am so glad that I finally watched this, it’s a lovely film, really heartwarming but with a nicely odd and whimsical and slightly Gothic sensibility, showing what Burton can do when he uses the grotesque to illuminate the details of the story rather than overwhelm it (I may love Burton but I’m not blind to his faults; I’ve never been able to watch his Planet of the Apes film for a start). It’s beautifully cast and well-acted and gets to the truth of how maddening our parents can be but how little we really know about them and how much we will miss them when they’re gone. I spent the last 20 minutes in tears, but that’s a good thing, honestly. And it’s visually stunning. Loved it and glad that another film is not only knocked off the list but I can look the Silvery One in the eye and rate this as a success.

This is my seventh film in my Films to Watch because personal challenge. FTWBI51