What Movie Have You Seen Today?


I’ve read shape of water described as The Creature From The Black Lagoon meets Splash. That’s a difficult line to walk, fantasy-horror and rom-com.

But Genre tightrope walks are del toros gift; at his best combining horror, fantasy and action.

Some horror movies contain fantasy elements with some action (Phantasm and Evil dead) and pull it off with aplomb. Del toro goes a step further with Hellboy and Blade 2 (my favourite toro movie), out and out action flicks that are also full on horror-fantasy. I find that a very pleasing combo that almost no one else has really conquered since the 80s; The man is up there with John Carpenter and in my little world that’s the highest praise.

Then there’s Pans laberynth, a horror fantasy art movie with subtexts that elevate it into Oscar territory. Del toros recognition is as much an astonishing achievement as Bond winning oscars for best script/movie. He’d be a unique filmmaker if not for the existence of Peter Jackson, who has a very similar skill set.

A shame if he didn’t quite pull it off with shape of water, but looking forward to dipping my toes in.


Interesting that you compare him with John Carpenter whom I consider one of the greatest undervalued directors. I must say, however, that I am no fan of del Toro at all; the art direction in his movies is always wonderful, yes, but the story - for my taste - always feels reheated to me, not original at all.

Carpenter also pays homage to lots of tropes and clichés - but he always manages to put his own peculiar spin on it. AND he always does it unfussily, with no self-indulgence at all, resulting in films that are always engaging because they never overstay their welcome. Where Carpenter films are tightly edited and come straight to the point in their short running time, del Toro lingers (CRIMSON PEAK) or overpacks and therefore shortchanges (THE SHAPE OF WATER). For some reason del Toro is a critics´ pet, while Carpenter has been beat up by reviewers again and again.

But for me, Carpenter is the real artist. Del Toro is the show-off.


I’m in total agreement. And you’re right, comparing del toro to carpenter was doing a diservice to carpenter.

Some of toros films are indeed over indulgent and miss the mark for me. I fell asleep during the borefest Crimson Peak and I never do that - I stayed awake throughout Titanic for heavens sake and that really is torturous.

However, it’s the more carpenter-esque toro films that I love. The ones that aren’t embarrassed to wear their Genre proudly and have a swagger in their pulp characters and the telling of the pulp narrative. They take this sensational fun seriously, never patranising, or talking down to the audience. In these instances Genre is an art form, rather than a product.

Hellboy 1 & 2 are fine examples, but Blade 2 is imho a perfect movie. The first thing I said to the folk I saw it with at the cinema when the credits rolled was “That’s the best John Carpenter movie I’ve seen since In the Mouth of Madness”.

Blade 2 shows an absolute grip on how to make a cool moment in which the hero is briefly a Demigod. Toro knows how to employ all of the tools of narrative, pacing, image and score to present one of those ‘I wanna be that guy’ moments.

This is something Bond must always nail at least once in every movie - even in the grittiest of Craig movies we need those ‘demigod moments’, such as in SF when bond defies bullets to rip the roof off of a train, jump in and adjust his cuffs before proceeding; like Brossa stealing a jet carrying nukes while HQ watch on, helpless; like Moore plunging toward his death for what seems like an eternity before opening a Union Jack parachute.
And the appalling tsunami surfing in DAD just goes to show that creating such moments isn’t simply a recipe that producers can have a hack follow. It exists solely within the gift of the auteur filmmaker - an alchemy that only they can stir up.

I get the feeling that both Toro and Carpenter would know exactly when and how to create those memorable Bond moments. Such as in Carpenter’s Assult on Priecinct 13 when Nepoleon yanks his prison chain to knock the mean fat warden onto his ass and then responds to the guards shock with the line “He don’t stand up as good as he used to”. To get the full wit of that retort you need to have seen the exchange that precedes this, but it’s a perfect demigod moment that leaves us rooting 100% for Napoleon throughout the movie just by virtue of his sheer damn coolness in this moment - he gets a free pass whatever he says or does.

Carpenter is the absolute master at this, as well as almost every other aspect of filmmaking. I can watch his movies over and over and always feel like I’ve learnt something new thereafter.

He’s without doubt, along with Leone and Kubrick, my favourite filmmaker. I couldn’t separate those 3 which probably seems daft to the film conisuer who may see Leone and certainly Kubrick as in a different league to Carpenter. But for me all 3 are equally gifted masters at telling a cinematic tail in their own way.

There’s also Lynch whom I love equally but couldn’t possibly compare to any other filmmaker. And I’ll meantion my love for Michael Mann’s films, because Toro’s apparently currently in Post on a Michael Mann documentary which he’s directed! Really looking forward to that.


Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins
dir. Roar Uthaug

In 2013, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix rebooted the once-legendary Tomb Raider videogame franchise to astounding success. They took the franchise in a mostly realistic direction, casting actress Camilla Luddington to lend her likeness and voice to the rebooted Lara Croft. The result was a terrific game which was followed-up with a very solid sequel. Of course, with Hollywood being Hollywood, a film reboot was put into production.

Videogame movies have had their share of problems over the years, with flop after flop emerging from Hollywood’s conveyor belt that it almost seems pointless to hold out any hope for a decent videogame-inspired film to be released. Tomb Raider is ALMOST that movie to come along and end that streak. At times it is great, but it’s bogged down by some curious creative decisions that keep it from being the resounding success that it should have, and could have, been.

First and foremost, the film’s main asset is its star, Alicia Vikander. While many, including myself, were initially disappointed that the studio didn’t cast Camilla Luddington to reprise her role from the game series, that disappointment fades very quickly once the film starts. For my money, Vikander is the definitive Lara Croft. Period. She grabs the role by the throat from the opening and owns it throughout the film.

Tomb Raider is, of course, an origin story, so we have go through the 2 hours to find out how Lara Croft became Lara Croft, but unlike a lot of origin films, the origin stuff here is a strength for the film. One of the more fun set pieces in the film is a “fox chase” through the streets of London, where Croft, in an effort to win some much needed money, is chased by scores of bicyclists through the streets. It’s a clever spin on the tried-and-true car chase that these types of films would normally go for. Needless to say, it’s a fun scene, which is something the latter half of the film was in desperate need of.

Tomb Raider drops a lot of names from the games Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, even borrowing some major plot points from the first film, yet there manages to be something different about each and every thing that the film is adapting. The second half of the film finds Lara marooned on a cursed island called Yamatai, just like in the games, but aside from a quick set piece involving Lara hanging precariously from a rusted-out airplane and then parachuting through the trees, we’re not treading much of the same ground from the game.

Normally, this would be a good thing, but ultimately the story told in the videogame is a more interesting and entertaining one, so it becomes a problem here. In the game, Lara is truly alone for most of the story, forcing her to break out of her fairly reserved shell to become the “Tomb Raider” we all know and love. In the film, she rarely has to face challenges on the island alone, and when they do reach the tomb towards the end of the film, it’s a decent-sized group that goes down into the tomb with her. This takes the focus away from Vikander to an almost insulting degree. She should be front and center of every scene she’s in, not playing support to a feud between Dominic West and Walton Goggin’s characters down the home stretch.

Tomb Raider was profitable at the box office, but not enough to make a sequel a slam-dunk prospect. Rumors have circled that Vikander might not return if the studio does greenlight a sequel. I, for one, hope that she does. She needs a better creative team around here, that is for certain, but on her talents alone, Tomb Raider could become the next great action/adventure franchise. She just needs some help around her.


Luddigton, alas, was pregnant at the time of filming so wouldn’t have been option anyway, but it’s good to hear Vikander is good in the role.


She might get her chance at some point. Doesn’t sound like Vikander is returning for a sequel, if it gets greenlit at all. They could potentially scale back the budget on a second film and have Luddington step in. She’s surely less expensive than Vikander.

It’s a shame, though. Vikander was excellent. Maybe she can land her own original action/adventure franchise.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Right up my alley, I must say. A perfect film about the destructive power of anger which leaves no one unharmed and starts a cycle of violence which one can almost not escape.

Frances McDormand deservedly got the Oscar. Sam Rockwell as well. The script should have been the winner, too. And as for Best Picture - it is exactly what THE SHAPE OF WATER is not: full of substance, speaking to our times, developing its story with no filler material, just raising the tension in every scene, and still allowing for black humor.

A great movie.


I echo that!

Particularly that it should’ve won the best screenplay oscar. I really enjoyed Get Out and relished a genre flick getting the nod. That was until i saw Three Billboards. My sympathies are with McDonagh as imo too he edged it his this script.

I’m looking forward to finally seeing Shape of Water sometime, but anticipate it not measuring up to Three Billboards.

Not that i really want to discuss it because it’s spoiler territory, but i’ll just say that my partner and i completely disagreed about where the ending leaves the characters (mine was the darker take on it).


Oh, yes - the ending.

That’s one of the many wonderful things this film manages to achieve: one thinks it goes into one direction and then it opens up a completely different possibility.

I would want to interpret the ending as hopeful - but I could imagine the characters giving in to their need for revenge.


Exactly what she said - I’m outvoted, darn it :slightly_smiling_face:


MARVEL’S Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Seasons 4 & 5 (again!)

I had posted about seasons 2, 3 and 5 earlier, and was gonna post again as soon as I finished Season 4. But dammit, it was so good that I launched into a re-watch of Season 5 and it was totally fulfilling now that I had all the references and seen the full character arcs. The Netflix shows get most of the praise and the Cinematic Universe all of the money, but I daresay that AoS improves some of the weaker aspects of the MCU and even one-ups its big brother at Marvel Studios a few times, especially with regard to its villains, romance, representation and music. The show is also a bit more violent than the movies and definitely explores its subject matter more deeply.

Season 4 is broken into three pods–Ghost Rider, L.M.D., and Agents of Hydra. Gabriel Luna stars as the Robbie Reyes iteration of the Spirit of Vengeance, and there’s a nice hand off from presumably Johnny Blaze for those obsessing with continuity from the forgettable Nicolas Cage movies. The first pod has thematic tie-ins to Marvel’s Mystic Universe mirrored in that year’s release of Doctor Strange. The special effects of the Rider and his tricked out '69 Dodge Charger are movie quality. Reyes motivation is vengeance for his disabled brother, but the show continues the theme Coulson learned in Season 3 when the little brother says to Robbie, “That’s you. Don’t put that on me.” This gives the Season 4 an anti-hero more than a hero or villain. The MacGuffin introduced is the Darkhold, a book of soul corrupting magic that enables some mind bending and blowing technology. Set in East L.A., it’s a shame Ghost Rider did not become another Marvel TV Series as Gabriel Luna does a great job with the character (he’s now cast in Terminator 6), and it would have made a marvelous backdrop for a universe that often visits SF and NY.

L.M.D. stands for Life Model Decoy. The show runners held off on addressing this aspect of Marvel comics until after Age of Ultron, and they’ve crafted a far better villain in AIDA perfectly played by Mallory Jansen. Her arc goes from android, to ally, to crazy unhinged ex-girfriend Inhuman human that makes her one of the best baddies in the entire MCU. The shows takes on A.I. skin job robots differs from the usual tropes of the movies agent Mack often quotes (“Has no one seen Terminator? Robots always go bad!”) But it’s not that simple as these are designed by Dr. Holden Radcliffe, affably played by John Hannah, to protect humans by being an actual decoy for them like a bodyguard. The technology is made possible via the Darkhold book, but not all of them are bad, or programmed to be that way. Indeed, it’s the Melinda May L.M.D. who saves the day at the end of the second pod by truly modeling Agent May’s actual feelings, even more so than the human Melinda does.

The third pod, Agents of Hydra, sees most of the gang go into an alternate reality, but as before has a new twist to this Matrix style setting. Whereas LMD’s are artificial life forms in a real world, the Framework lets human beings live “forever” in an artificial world. This vision of eternal heaven from Dr. Radcliffe is again made possible by the Darkhold book at the hands of AIDA. Each entrant gets to erase a regret from their life, and it’s Melinda May’s Bahrain incident where she regrets having to kill an Inhuman girl that flips the Framework’s world upside down, once again installing Hydra as the reigning society. The shows social commentary in these episodes is relevant and on-point. The characters retain the memories of their actions and explores what-ifs, one of which shows the different arcs of Agent Fitz and Agent Ward to be heavily influenced by their father figures. So yes, Grant Ward is brought back again but is given a redemptive arc even better than Loki’s. And Fitz’ alter-ego of The Doctor becomes the big bad. Other characters develop traits that pay off in the next season, particularly Mac and Yo-Yo. Each pod has threads that tie them together, and Ghost Rider’s return brings the whole thing back full circle. Just when the last problem is solved, the season ends on a cliff hanger propelling us into the fifth season.

Season 5 is set in space. Mac’s movie quotes are now “Aliens? Haven’t any of you seen the
Alien movies. Aliens are always bad!” The first ten episodes take their time to set up, compared to the speed of Season 4, but the story is sharp. Alien villains Kasius and femme fatale Sinara would be worthy MCU movie villains, but they’re not quite as multi-dimensional as Ghost Rider, Ward, Aida, and Fitz’ The Doctor, as Leo Fitz appears to have developed a Jekyll and Hyde problem. Whereas earlier seasons centered on themes of fate and revenge, this one explores choice and utilitarian philosophical debates of ends justifying means. The needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few, but can the few be sacrificed for the good of the many?

Fun episodes here are “Rewind” where Agent Hunter makes a welcome return, and the 100th episode “The Real Deal”, loaded with Easter eggs from past seasons for die hard fans. The finale ties in with Infinity War but also evolves a known character into the villain Graviton, perhaps one who could have defeated Thanos were it not for the gravitonium driving him insane. The resolution also dovetails with one of the main themes. Whereas the Avengers failed to defeat Thanos this time (and presumably need time travel to do it the next), the Agents of SHIELD succeed in their time loop conundrum. The last episode delivers a far happier ending, though not without its costs. It’s so dense and layered, I watched the last 20 minutes three times each time I view this episode, and it delivers an emotional wallop every single time.

Season 6 starts filming next week, but won’t air until after Avengers 4. Story wise this makes sense as it’d be difficult to pack 13 episodes into the hours elapsed between the third and fourth Avengers movies. While it’s exciting to see if Agents of SHIELD can once again up the ante, they’d be hard pressed to pull off another finale as good as season 5’s. It was planned as a series ending, but there’s just enough loose ends to pursue in another season, especially if some agents get “dusted” in the season premiere.