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Posts Tagged ‘Guillermo Del Toro’

With all the talk of the race for the best picture, the more interesting Best Director category has been slightly overshadowed.  One thing that is certain, whoever wins it will be there first Oscar.  Three of them have previous nominations, only one, Paul Thomas Anderson for directing. 

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk.  He is also nominated for Best Picture for Dunkirk.  His previous nominations are; Best Original Screenplay for Memento (2000) and Best Picture for Inception (2010). Christopher Nolan

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird – Nominated for her solo directorial début, Lady Bird (she co-directed Nights and Weekends (2008) with Joe Swanberg), Gerwig is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay but not for Best Picture (Lady Bird is nominated for Best Picture but Gerwig is not one of the named producers).Greta Gerwig

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water – Amazingly, del Toro has never won an Oscar! His only previous nomination was for Original Screenplay for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).  He is also nominated for The Shape of Water in the Best Picture and Original Screenplay categories.Guillermo del Toro

Jordan Peele – Get Out – Get out is Peele’s début as director, he is nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.  They are his first nominations.Jordan Peele

Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread – The veteran of the group, he is nominated for Phantom Thread in the Best Picture category as well as for best director.  His previous nominations are: Best Adapted Screenplay for Inherent Vice (2014), Best Picture, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay for There Will Be Blood (2007), Best Original Screenplay for Magnolia (1999) and Boogie Nights (1997).Paul Thomas Anderson

Who will win?  My choice would be Guillermo del Toro but I would be happy to see any of them win, they deserve to for different reasons. 

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I first came across Guillermo del Toro in 1997 when I rented Mimic on Video (I didn’t see Cronos until some years later on TV). I have since seen every one of his movies in the cinema on their original release. Mimic is an enjoyable genre movie.   It doesn’t do anything outstanding but it does it with a style that made del Toro a director to look out for.  Four years later came the stunning ghost story The Devil’s Backbone.  This was closely followed in 2002 by Blade II.  A big fan of the original Blade, I was curious what a sequel would be like.  With a bigger scope and a more in-depth story it is better than the first film.  This is where I first saw a lot of the themes that have become the mainstay for del Toro stories; themes that were explored further in Hellboy and (2004) and his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).  My favourite film of the year and possibly the decade.  While I have enjoyed all his films that have followed, none have quite hit the highs of Pan’s Labyrinth until now! Pans labyrinth

Its traditional to start a review, if that is what this is, with a brief synopsis.  Rather than agonising over how much plot to give away in a carefully worded description, I have lifted this from IMDB “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.”  This is as much as you want to know going in, I would certainly avoid any trailers as they give the whole story away. The Shape of Water PosterThe key to the brilliance of the movie is the central performance by Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito.  The part is largely without speech, but she expresses so much without words.  This isn’t achieved with a silent movie style over exaggerated performance; this is naturalistic, subtle and beautiful.  Without this central performance, the romance that is at the heart of the story would not be believable, but more importantly, we as audiences would not care about it. The Shape of Water

The brilliance of the film goes far beyond the central plot and the main characters: Richard Jenkins plays a neighbour and friend who has his own story, with his own triumphs and failures as well as being key to the central plot.  We get a glimpse of the home life of co-worker Zelda (Ocatavia Spencer).  Then we have Michael Shannon’s character he is essentially the films villain, but he truly believes he is a patriot and the hero.   All these things hold a mirror up to society, how we live and what we believe, not the society of its early 60’s setting, this is a movie for today, a movie for today.  A time of Brexit Britain, Trumps America and tensions between the two Korean states. The-Shape-of-Water-Michael-Shannon-Strickland

The film looks amazing.  Many of the visual effects are real, in camera and not digital.  The production design is stunning, not exactly German Expressionism, but certainly a couple of degrees of real world.  There is so much going on and there are some truly tense scenes, but the film drifts along telling its story with pace and a truly gentle touch.  The themes and metaphors are clear to see but not rammed down our throats.  Del Toro trusts that his audiences with enough intelligence to make their own mind up about what they are seeing as he did with The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.  This all helps make the film totally engrossing, the time absolutely flies by; I was amazed to learn it was just over two hours long, when the credits rolled I would have guessed closer to 90 minutes. Octavia_Spencer_in_The_Shape_of_Water

Nominated for a well-deserved 13 Oscars.  It’s hard to say how many it will win; given the other films nominated, I would probably only give it three or four: Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Sally Hawkins, and Best Achievement in Production Design.  It is credited as a 2017 film, had it been released last year it would have topped my list of favourite films for the year. 

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If you take a look at the top ten grossing movies of the year so far there are seven sequels (Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, Oz The Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness) and a reboot (Man of Steel). World War Z (based on a book) will probably be knocked out of the top ten by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smug leaving Gravity as the only original property to bother the top ten. Do audiences only go in large numbers to see sequels of franchise movies or do studios only commit large amounts of money to existing properties that a ready made audience? The $825million taken by Christopher Nolan’s Inception proved that a totally original movie could make money, however it would probably never been given the green light if not for the $1billion The Dark Knight took. As cinema prices creep up and audiences become ever more selective, studios become more cautious making it a self fulfilling prophesy relegating most original ideas to smaller films. With this in mind, here are my top five original movies of the year. Original movies, not a sequel, prequel, remake, re-imagining or reboot. Also, not based on a book, comic book or true story.

Stoker: In the year that the remake of Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece Oldboy limped onto cinema screens Stoker proved to be Park’s best film since Oldboy. The original screenplay was written by actor Wentworth Miller. A weird, beautiful and sublime blend of melodrama, psychological thriller and coming of age drama. Budget: $12,000,000 (estimated)stoker

Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón’s space adventure about a pair of astronauts trying to find a way home after a collision in space is a truly stunning film and the first film that should be seen in 3D preferably IMAX 3D. Budget: $100,000,000 (estimated)GRAVITY

Prisoners: Great acting from ensemble cast and stunning photography from Roger Deakins combine with taught direction French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve making his English-language debut elevate this from a genre movie with an overt subtext to a really good film. Budget: $46,000,000 (estimated)Prisoners

The East: An original story of the murky world of private intelligence firms and an environmental anarchist collective. Written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling. It is notable for great acting and its dark melancholic tone. Budget: $6,500,000 (estimated)The East

Pacific Rim: To call Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs. robot movie original would be a stretch as it appears to be based on every other monster movie/comic book to have gone before it, however it isn’t directly based on any other previously produced work. It makes the list ads it is just great fun, pure and simple. Budget: $190,000,000 (estimated)PACIFIC RIM

Mud – the continuing renascence of Matthew McConaughey.
The Counsellor – Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay is far better than has been reported
About Time – Charming and funny time travel comedy from Richard Curtis.
Blue Jasmine – Cate Blanchett, deserves an Oscar.
Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s Sci-Fi action drama lacks subtlety but is still good

Check back at the end of the month to see how many of these movies make my top ten of the year.

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The contenders for movie of the month are:

The East: Brit Marling plays a former FBI agent now working for a private intelligence firm, she is sent undercover to infiltrate the East, an anarchist collective. A suspense filled thriller with a fantastic performance from Marling. The East

The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola’s film based on the fame-obsessed teenagers who robbed the Hollywood homes of a string of celebrities. Emma Watson is great and the film has the dream like quality you would expect from Coppola, but it is ultimately dull and repetitive.The Bling Ring

Chasing Mavericks: The true story of legendry surfer Jay Moriarity and the seminal summer when he trained to ride Mavericks. The film isn’t great but the surf scenes are really well shot.Chasing Mavericks

Pacific Rim: Giant robots fight alien monsters in a movie written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, what more do you need to know.PACIFIC RIM

The Frozen Ground: An Alaska State Trooper (Nicolas Cage) is on the hunt for a serial killer (John Cusack). Well acted but a bit dour and low key. Vanessa Hudgens gives a grat performance in a supporting role.The Frozen Ground

The Worlds End: Five school friends reunite to finish the epic pub crawl that defeated them 20 years earlier. The night is interrupted by an alien invasion. A fitting conclusion to the “Cornetto Trilogy”, it loses its way from time to time and not all the jokes work but on the whole it is fun and funny.The Worlds End

The Wolverine: A second solo outing for Wolverine is a massive improvement on the first film. Hugh Jackman is on great form in the title role and there is some great action, unfortunately there is also some bad CGI. Just enough of a taster to get me excited for Days of Future Past next year.The Wolverine

Frances Ha: Co written by star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach. There isn’t much in her way of plot, instead relying on some amusing scenarios and the charm of Gerwig. Directed with a soft touch that has been compared to Jean-Luc Godard than Woody Allen.Frances Ha

I am really tempted to pick The East or Frances Ha, but Pacific Rim was just too much fun and gets the July movie of the month award.pacific-rim-poster-banner

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As 2012 got underway I was looking forward to some well publicised movies like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Hunger Games. I had heard good reports from across the Atlantic about The Artist, Young Adult and The Descendents. But, I had never heard of what turned out to be some of the best movies of the year: Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Haywire, Rust and Bone, Café de Flore, End of Watch and Killer Joe. Hopefully there will be some pleasant surprises this year too, if not there is still a lot to look forward to:

Django Unchained
When Quentin Tarantino decides to make a western, he doesn’t just make a Weston, he makes a Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western. The cast includes Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as a cameo from the original Django, Franco Nero. And did I mention Quentin Tarantino.Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty
I saw Near Dark when I was about 13, I have seen every other Kathryn Bigelow since (yes I am the person who saw The Weight of Water ) and would now watch anything she makes . It also stars Jessica Chastain who I had never heard of before The Tree of Life but is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses.Zero Dark Thirty

The Counselor
A Ridley Scott crime thriller based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy starring: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz. Any one of these would be a reason to watch it.The Counselor

The Wolf Of Wall Street
Its Martin Scorsese what more do I need to say.The Wolf Of Wall Street

Cloud Atlas
Most readers probably know more about this than me as it was released three months ago in some countries. The story looks bonkers but Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski’s were responsible for two of my favourite movies of all time (Run Lola Run and The Matrix).Cloud Atlas

Star Trek Into Darkness
There have been a couple of great Star Trek movies, but the franchise had really run out of steam until the J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot that was far better than I ever expected it to be. Lets hope he can do it again.Star Trek Into Darkness

The Great Gatsby
As proved by previous adaptations The Great Gatsby (like all F. Scott Fitzgerald stories) is better on the page than the screen, however I am intrigued by what Baz Luhrmann will do with it.The Great Gatsby

The Last Voyage of Demeter
The Demeter was the Russian ship that carried Dracula from Transylvania to England in Bram Stoker’s novel. By the time it reached Whitby all the crew had disappeared presumed dead. Neil Marshall’s movie tells their story. One thing you can guarantee about Neil Marshall movies is that they are fun. (they don’t appear to have started shooting yet so I  Neil Marshall

Stoker
Chan-wook Park, the director of my favourite movie of the 00’s (Oldboy) finally makes an English language movie. It looks bonkers; and that’s a good think if you were wondering!Stoker

Pacific Rim
Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots v alien invaders movie. Enough said.Pacific Rim

And the next ten:
World War Z
Snowpiercer
A Field In England
The Paperboy
Machete Kills
Kick-Ass 2
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Wolverine

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Following last weeks thoughts on where the Batman franchise may go from here, I thought I would take a look how we got to where we are now. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t just happen, a comic book movie this big and epic but also this dark could not have been made in the 80’s or 90’s. Is the world in a darker place making such filmmaking a product of its time? Probably, but there is more to it than that. The billion dollar gross of The Dark Knight (2008) ensured that there would be a third film but things were very different before that. Batman Begins (2005) had a reasonable but unspectacular profit (it grossed around two and half times its budget). A few years before that would a big budget comic book movie have been made especially after Batman & Robin (1997).

When I started getting into movies as a kid the only comic book or super hero movies that had any credibility were Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981). Batman was best remembered for the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show from the 60’s that although it has gained a cult status now it something of a joke for a long time. Then things changed in with Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Although it is a long way from Christopher Nolan’s (very dark) Dark Knight version of Batman it was a million miles from the camp TV show. Gotham City became stylized Art Deco world that didn’t know if it belong to the future or the past. Futuristic gadgets existed alongside old cars and villains carrying Tommy guns. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is a gloriously awkward character, only just the right side of sanity and probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark than Christian Bale’s Batman. The big name and star turn is Jack Nicholson as the Joker who has been unfairly forgotten in the shadow of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Batman Returns (1992) offered more of the same, it didn’t expand on the first film or offer anything new or different the way The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins but did boast an unforgettable Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But then it all went wrong when Joel Schumacher took over.

Before all of that Frank Miller wrote two seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). As well as introducing characters and storylines that their way into Nolan’s films, both books had a dark tone and themes of rebirth and redemption that we have come to associate with Batman. It also popularised the name “The Dark Knight”.

Then in a true comic book way, an unlikely hero came forward to save the genre, Blade (1998). After years of the rights to Marvel comics being sold off for TV shows and rubbish films (often with a tiny budget) Marvel studios first film was a co production with New Line Cinema. Not risking one of their big name comic books their first film and in some ways their most important was Blade. The character originated in the 1970’s as a supporting character in The Tomb of Dracula comic book. He went on to star in his own comic book as well as making appearances in various other Marvel Titles. Released in 1998 written by David S. Goyer (who also has writing credits on all three Nolan, Batman films), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes is perfect in the lead role giving the right blend of stone faced killer, brooding hero and a little deadpan humour. The production had a relatively modest budget of around $45million and produced worldwide Gross revenue of $131million. This does not appear to be much when compared to the near $600million Iron Man took or the or the $2.5billion the three Spider-Man movies have made however without the relative success of Blade these films and the X-Men may never have been made. The sequel directed by visionary geniuses Guillermo Del Toro is even better and also introduced comic book audiences to a darker more melancholic view. Like many of his movies, there is an underlying question of who the monsters really are, and more importantly who are the real monsters.

So these are the films that created the environment that made The Dark Knight trilogy possible but what about its director. Christopher Nolan’s first feature Following (1998) is a low budget, low key affair that is well worth a look. He really made his name with the innovative and brilliant Memento (2000) before making Insomnia (2002) a remake of a Norwegian. Both films made a decent profit received critical praise. Between the first two Batman movies Nolan made The Prestige (2006), another financial success that received largely positive reviews. After the success of The Dark Knight he embarked on what appeared to be an expensive vanity project, Inception (2010), but that too was a runaway success taking over $800million and appearing at the top of many people top ten movies of 2010 (including mine). The net result of each of these movies is the same, they prove Nolan to be a bankable director that studios what to work with.

This leads to the part Warner Bros. played in the production of Nolan‘s Batman trillogy. Ultimately they hired him to make A Batman film. Prior to that, there was always going to be a Batman film but which Batman film? Early ideas involved a fifth film in the existing series and a return for director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher preferred the idea of a reboot bases on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One he was reported to have said: “[I] owe the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight.” This is the first suggestion I have heard of for both a reboot and a darker movie. Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched an idea to Warner called Batman: DarKnight. It involved the character Man-Bat as well a plot centred around Dr. Jonathan Crane and his experiments into fear (sound familiar). This idea didn’t get off the ground, the studio instead deciding to hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct and adaptation of Batman: Year One. He quickly brought Frank Miller in on the project as a co-writer and approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. This idea fell by the wayside along with Clint Eastwood’s The Dark Knight Returns and a Wolfgang Petersen directed Batman vs. Superman.

I’m not necessarily saying all of these movies or events had a direct influence on Nolan and his trilogy but they are all the building blocks that made the movies possible.

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