Friday, 16 February 2018

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, 2017

Pros: brilliant acting, interesting story, great creature effects


“At a top secret research facility in the 1950s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.” (IMDb)

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, the mute janitor, who’s able to hear but cannot speak. The actress does a brilliant job with a difficult role. I thought it was cool that sometimes her signing was subtitled and others it was verbally translated by friends. In one scene she forces the person she’s talking to to repeat her words back in order to force him to listen to what she’s saying. I was also impressed by how much information she transmitted via gestures and facial expressions.

I loved Giles, her flatmate artist who’s also lonely, and feeling his age. In fact, the entire supporting cast did great jobs. Michale Shannon as Strickland, the antagonist, was quite menacing. Octavia Spencer as a fellow janitor, and often translator, was a real joy to watch.

The creature effects were wonderful. It looks very realistic.

I’m not sure I believe the two could fall in love so quickly given the communication - and situational - difficulties of their meeting. I did appreciate that they took time to develop a relationship and trust.

The story had more varied threads than I was expecting, elevating it from a regular creature feature to a kind of spy thriller/romance.

My husband pointed out that Esposito’s bathroom was surprisingly watertight in order to handle the pressure during one scene. I expected more water to leak out around the door, if nothing else.

There is some nudity and sexual content. There’s also some violence and a few scenes that made me cringe.

It’s a brilliant film, a real modern fairy-tale.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Shout-Out: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray by E. Latimer

Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn't so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances.

When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she's inherited from her missing father. Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it's spreading fast.

With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Video: Perfect-Timing Villain

This is a great video by Chris & Jack about how villains have such impeccable timing when the hero shows up.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Book Review: WANT by Cindy Pon

Pros: great setting, real people, great extrapolation

Cons: slow at times

Jason Zhou has been living on the streets of Taipei since his mother died when he was thirteen.The haves (yous) and have nots (meis) are at odds in the city, a situation exacerbated by the terrible pollution covering the city in perpetual smog and acid rain, pollution the yous never experience, all but living in suits fitted with filtered oxygen and temperature controls. Zhou’s closest friends have come up with a plan to stop the creator of the suits, a man who’s also bribing and threatening - even murdering - politicians to prevent any environmental clean-up. That plan begins with him kidnapping a you girl for ransom. Because bringing down the man is an expensive business.

I loved that the book was set in Taipei. It’s cool inhabiting another city, even if it’s one in an unpleasant extrapolated future. Given the way global warming is being treated, I have no problem believing that the future will be covered in smog and that life expectancy will drop because of it. I also have no problem believing that the rich will isolate themselves from the problems of the world so long as those problems aren’t seen as directly impacting them.

Zhou and his friends all have different strengths, making them fascinating to watch as they work on their plan. I loved that they complemented each other’s skills and that though they didn’t always agree, they worked things out. Daiyu was also great, a mixture of determined, smart, courageous, and feminine. The characters all felt like fully fleshed out people. 

The story was interesting, though I found it was slow at times. I never really worried characters wouldn’t pull through, even though there were some tense moments.

This is a great book.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Movie Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

Directed by Calm McCarthy, 2016 

Pros: unique zombies, good acting, tense

Cons: not much character growth

When their military base is overrun by hungries (humans infected with a parasite that turns them into zombies), several soldiers, a scientist, a teacher, and their unorthodox charge - a brilliant young girl, head towards safety through inhospitable terrain.

The book is based on the novel of the same name by Mike Carey, who also wrote the screenplay. The basics of the story remain the same though there are numerous differences between the book and the movie, most of which deal with shortening the time frame in which events occur. Characters also don’t look as described in the book: Melanie is black instead of white with blonde hair and blue eyes, Miss Justineau is white, instead of black, Gallagher is black instead of white with red hair, and Sgt Parks is missing the ugly scar across his face. On the whole I was ok with their casting choices. 

While shortening the time frame is necessary to fit everything into a film, it has the disadvantage of removing a lot of the character development, which also removes a fair amount of the natural conflicts of interests that created tension in the book. Helen Justineau is less hostile towards Sgt Parks (and less feisty altogether, which was unfortunate), Gallagher’s background is never touched on, Melanie doesn’t keep the same physical distance and constant sense of self-awareness of the danger she poses to the others. Sgt Parks felt like the only character who showed growth, as his attitude towards Melanie changes.

There’s a good amount of tension in the film due to the hungries and trying to avoid triggering them. 

Sennia Nanua does a remarkable job as Melanie. It’s a difficult role and she’s amazing in it. The character starts off a little irritating (being the only one in the class to answer questions correctly and the first to volunteer responses), but grows on you quickly as the film progresses. She’s alternately terrifying (when feeding) and sympathetic (learning the truth about the world).

The film does good things with its zombies. They’re just different enough from the norm to be interesting, and how they came about is downright terrifying. The ending has changed a bit, but still has an emotional gut punch.

The future it shows is bleak and there’s a definite I Am Legend feel to it. If you like post-apocalyptic or zombie films, it’s a good one.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Shout-Out: The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Inception meets True Detective in this science fiction thriller of spellbinding tension and staggering scope that follows a special agent into a savage murder case with grave implications for the fate of mankind...
Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL's family--and to locate his vanished teenage daughter. Though she can't share the information with conventional law enforcement, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Libra--a ship assumed lost to the currents of Deep Time. Moss knows first-hand the mental trauma of time-travel and believes the SEAL's experience with the future has triggered this violence.
Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence to crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it's not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work, for what she witnesses rising over time's horizon and hurtling toward the present is the Terminus: the terrifying and cataclysmic end of humanity itself.
Luminous and unsettling, The Gone World bristles with world-shattering ideas yet remains at its heart an intensely human story.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Video: The 809 Objects Left on the Moon

Half as Interesting has posted a video about all of the objects humanity has left behind on the moon. Spoiler alert: it's mostly trash.