Tag Archives: Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak (2015) Review

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Crimson Peak

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing
Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe
Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe
Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael
Jim Beaver as Carter Cushing
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Edith (Mia Wasikowska) ignores her father’s warning and marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). When she arrives at the Sharpe mansion, she learns about her husband’s secrets and realises that the place is teeming with ghosts.

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Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak got quite a mixed reception upon its release, mostly because of expectations. I was one of group of people who really liked it, and I liked it even more when I watched it again. On a writing, acting and especially directing level, I thought it was great and I was invested throughout.

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First of all, Crimson Peak is not really a horror movie, horror is really the secondary genre for this movie. Don’t look at the trailers because they are misleading, and don’t really accurately represent the movie. It’s also not a straight up ghost story, there are plenty of grotesque ghosts but they serve more as a backdrop to the real plot, in a similar way as another ghost story from Guillermo del Toro named The Devil’s Backbone. Whereas that movie was a drama mystery containing horror elements, Crimson Peak is a gothic and period piece romance film that has horror elements. The story is a gothic fairy tale, and a masterfully crafted Victorian era murder story. The atmosphere is great, and there are some well placed twists. The movie is somewhat over the top and cheesy at times, but it’s intended to be that way. It is unapologetically soap opera and embraces that at points. At the same time, it is very dark and haunting, with a good amount of tension and suspense throughout. It’s not for everyone, you get the feeling that it was really made for a niche audience. I’d say that within the first 30 minutes, you’ll be able to figure out if this movie is your thing or not.

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The acting is all great, but there are mainly 3 performances who stand out the most. Mia Wasikowska plays her lead character with such humanity. Tom Hiddleston is effectively charming yet conflicted, and fits his role well. However, Jessica Chastain was the actor that stood out the most for me in the cast. As her character she’s unnerving, campy, evil and unhinged, and she played her role fantastically. Other actors in the supporting cast including Charlie Hunnam also play their parts well in their screentime.

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Guillermo del Toro’s direction is great as to be expected, especially on a visual level. The cinematography adds another layer to the whole picture, with its well staged shots and gorgeous aesthetics (especially the use of red). The lighting is perfect while the use of colours is fabulous, while the camera movements, angles and transitions are smoothly carried out. It really makes you feel like you’re in a different world. The set and costume designs are also incredibly detailed, the main haunted house is particularly fantastic. There’s also some creepy imagery that’s quite memorable when its present. The ghosts provide the most scares, particularly wit the jump scares. While people don’t really like jump scares, it did add some horror atmosphere and does spice up things for the audience from the slow and deliberate story. The moments of violence also stand out and punctuates the otherwise gothic fantasy feeling of the movie. The poetic score from Fernando Velazquez also fits the movie perfectly.

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Crimson Peak is great, it’s dark, visually gorgeous, and well put together and acted. Again, it’s not for everyone. But if you are interested in watching it, go in expecting a gothic romance with horror elements, not a full on horror movie. I might be in the minority of this, but I think it’s in the stronger half of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography, and by far his most underrated film.

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

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Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket
Idris Elba as Marshal Stacker Pentecost
Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori
Charlie Day as Dr. Newton ‘Newt’ Geiszler
Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau
Robert Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen
Max Martini as Hercules “Herc” Hansen
Clifton Collins Jr. as Tendo Choi
Burn Gorman as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb
Director: Guillermo del Toro

The government assumes the Jaegers, robotic war machines battling the Kaijus, to be ineffective. However, Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba) team believes that only the Jaegers can save the world from destruction.

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It had been a while since I watched Pacific Rim, I remembered liking it when I watched it previously. Having re-watched many of del Toro’s movies more recently however, I decided to revisit it. It is quite a different movie from Del Toro, a large scale blockbuster, even larger than the Hellboy movies. Pacific Rim isn’t great, but it is far better than it had any right to be, with it being quite entertaining and well made generally.

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The story itself is pretty predictable and by the numbers for this genre, and a lot of the characters are typical and I wasn’t really invested with them. I will say that to the movie’s credit, there was character development and depth and at least they made an effort with them (although not enough to make the characters great). Also while the story isn’t anything special, the story is not overly complicated and is straight forward enough, while also having subplots which fit into the rest of the story quite well. When watching Pacific Rim, live-action anime was what really came to mind, and from what I can tell they really pulled it off. It really is a solid harmony between sci-fi and monster movies. The movie is undoubtedly silly, but it fully embraces its silliness. The movie is self aware, and some of the dialogue is cheesy yet awesome at times (Idris Elba’s “We are cancelling the apocalypse” comes to mind). Del Toro knew exactly what movie he was making and that really works to its benefit. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a cash-grab or lazy blockbuster, it’s clear that a lot of love and effort was put into making this movie.

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The cast I’d say are probably decent at best but most of the problems goes to the characters, for the most part there isn’t quite enough material for the actors to be great. Charles Hunnam is a decent actor and he’s okay in the leading role here, albeit quite bland. However his character doesn’t have much to him, the only thing I remembered about him is that he was played by Charlie Hunnam and his brother dies early in the movie. The two performances that stood out the most in the movie for me were Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play over the top eccentric scientists, and Ron Perlman is also entertaining in his few scenes. The rest of the cast I don’t really remember, they don’t really leave much of an impression.

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Guillermo del Toro is the reason why Pacific Rim was as good as it was, it would’ve been a lot weaker without his direction. It is visually stunning, with some beautiful cinematography, great use of colour, as well as detailed production design. The spectacular visual effects have held up quite well even over 7 years later, with the CGI being near perfect. The action sequences are among the parts that stand out the most, and those scenes are really great. The action is very large and does well at showing off the scale and designs of the two opposing forces. It would’ve been so easy for these moments to look like a mess, but with Pacific Rim, you can really get a good look at everything that’s happening on screen. The battles during the night-time are particularly look great. There’s a battle that takes place at night time around halfway through and that’s where it really where the movie took a step up for me. The monsters were greatly designed and detailed (as you can expect from del Toro).

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Pacific Rim is definitely a silly action movie, however it is nonetheless an entertaining blockbuster that knows what it is. Even with the dumb moments and less than stellar characters, it’s directed quite well and generally keeps you watching for the visuals alone. It’s definitely in the lower section of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography but his work here is still impressive. I think it’s worth a watch at the very least, if you haven’t seen it already.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008) Review

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Hellboy 2 The Golden Army

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Fantasy Violence
Cast:
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
John Alexander and James Dodd as Johann Krauss
Seth MacFarlane as Johann Krauss (voice)
Luke Goss as Prince Nuada Silverlance
Anna Walton as Princess Nuala
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Director: Guillermo del Toro

The evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is hell-bent on bringing the Golden Army to life, which will help him to conquer the world. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team join forces to defeat the callous ruler.

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The first Hellboy movie released back in 2004 was quite good, it was a unique and weirder comic book movie for the time, was really entertaining, and worked really well, largely working because of Guillermo del Toro’s direction and of course Ron Perlman as the titular character. It’s hard to imagine it but Hellboy 2 manages to be on another level over the first movie. It improves in just about every level from the characters, the story, the direction, everything.

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (aka Hellboy 2)

Ⓒ Universal

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army much like the first movie is another large scale epic world ending story, however you really notice some stark differences. First of all, whereas the first movie was supernatural and gothic, The Golden Army leans into being more fantasy. Additionally, as much as I liked the first Hellboy, there were parts of it that felt like del Toro was a little constrained, despite some of the unique aspects that he added. An example is the human character of Myers (played by Ruper Evans), who was positioned as the main character, central protagonist, and audience surrogate for the movie. He really did feel like a studio-mandated addition rather than anything anyone in the film cared about, and pretty much everyone agrees that film could’ve done without him. It seems that del Toro is one of those people who agreed, since Myers written out of the sequel, with a couple of lines explaining about how he was moved to Antarctica. With this moment, you can really tell that del Toro is having a lot more freedom with this movie, and was really making a pure del Toro movie rather than a movie that’s just mostly del Toro. The first Hellboy felt quite dense and expositional with its story, even if I enjoyed watching it. The sequel however has a far more free moving story that feels attached to the compelling plot and is well structured, but manages to effortlessly add themes as well as intimate and character moments in between it all that. The movie has a thematical and emotional core and you actually feel for the human sides of these characters. Hellboy 2 also has way more personality and charm than its predecessor. It takes itself a lot more seriously than the first Hellboy, but also has its fair share of jokes and humour, especially with sharp and witty dialogue. Hellboy 1 had humour but it’s more noticeable here and in a good way, it’s actually partly key to the film’s success. It’s often times character-based humour and makes them more endearing, rather than just going for an easy laugh. With an astounding balance of tone and an engaging story, Hellboy 2 just gets it all right.

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The cast and characters are all great. Ron Perlman is once again perfect as Hellboy, his work in the first film was already solid but he really makes the character his own in The Golden Army. His character is more interesting, whereas he could’ve disappeared under all the prosthetics and makeup, his performance here feels even more honest and confident. The rest of the cast and characters are where you notice the greatest improvements however. With the supporting characters, the first movie didn’t give them much room to grow (and was also saddled with an incredibly generic and forgettable audience surrogate). They changed that here and allowed their characters to be explored a little more. Selma Blair as Liz Sherman was decent in the first movie but felt rather underdeveloped, and it felt like they didn’t really know what to do with her character. Here she’s a lot more well realised and was great. One of the best characters in the first Hellboy was Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, unfortunately he’s not in that movie much and didn’t have that much involvement with the story, not beyond the first half anyways. Here, he’s one of the main characters, that was definitely welcome, and the script really gave Doug Jones a lot to do. Interestingly in the first movie, Jones only performed the physical part, while David Hyde Pierce provided the voice. In Hellboy 2 though, Jones gets to play vocal duties as well and gives such a great performance, among his best work. Jones also played a couple of other characters that had prosthetics, and as to be expected, he plays those roles very well too. The new additions of actors and characters were good too. The character Johann Krauss was a surprisingly solid and unique addition to the cast. He’s an interesting character, whose values and overall personality directly challenge and differ with Hellboy’s, leading to a lot of conflict between the two. Krauss overall is also quite a unique character for both the Hellboy movies and other comic book movies, I particularly like the moments when the film takes advantage of his powers. Seth MacFarlane voiced Krauss and I think this is actually his best work to date. Despite playing him with a hammy German accent, he plays the role surprisingly straight faced (or rather straight voiced) and was more reserved than you’d expect from him. One of the weakest parts of the first Hellboy was the villains, specifically the lead villain Rasputin. This time in Hellboy 2, Luke Goss plays the villain, and he’s a much more interesting villain this time around, he was actually somewhat memorable and fitted the story quite well.

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Guillermo del Toro directed Hellboy 2, and you really notice a step up 4 years between the two movies. He was key to the success of the first movie, without him, audiences would not have gotten such an original and iconic on this character. Don’t forget that del Toro got more freedom and a higher budget this time round, and he thankfully took great advantage of this. The film boasts some gorgeous cinematography and production designs. The Golden Army is definitely a more fantastical story instead of a fantastical one, and the aesthetic really benefits from that too. There’s also some amazing digital and practical effects, that mostly hold up quite well today. The designs of characters, monsters and creatures are also fantastic. Right after making Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro went all in with the creative designs of creatures and monsters. From the design of the elves to the Golden Army themselves, to even some of the slightly altered designs of Hellboy and Abe, they look incredible. There’s particularly a segment that takes place in a Troll Market, which mixes digital and practical effects and feels like a showcase of all the amazing effects that it had to offer. The action is fast paced, well filmed and very entertaining. The score by Danny Elfman was quite good as well, and fits the rest movie well.

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Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is an incredibly entertaining and well-made comic book movie, taking what made the first Hellboy so good and improving on both its strong and weaker points. It has an entertaining fantastical story, a greater grasp of the characters, as well as Guillermo Del Toro’s direction with noticeably more freedom. They all come together to form one of del Toro’s strongest works. One of the biggest cinematic disappointments is that del Toro never got to make Hellboy 3, he clearly had such a great handle on the characters and would’ve been wonderful to have seen that happen.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Review

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Pan's Labyrinth

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence, offensive language & horror
Cast:
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia/Princess Moanna
Sergi López as Captain Vidal
Maribel Verdú as Mercedes
Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man
Ariadna Gil as Carmen
Álex Angulo as Doctor Ferreiro
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) moves with her mother to her stepfather’s house. At night, a fairy leads her to a faun who informs her that she is a princess and she needs to participate in three tasks to prove her royalty.

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Pan’s Labyrinth has often been hailed as director Guillermo del Toro’s best film and for good reason. It’s an incredibly directed and intelligently written dark fantasy film, with outstanding visual effects and some great performances. Even over a decade later it holds up very well, and remains a classic for sure.

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Pan’s Labyrinth is essentially a fairy tale for adults. The premise about a child entering a fantasy world in order to make sense and escape from their troubled and difficult reality is pretty much textbook fantasy. And yet, del Toro handles this so well and still makes this movie feel completely original. First of all, this is no family friendly or sanitised fairy tale. It’s not just some of the creatures that the main character encounters on her journey, but also the grimness and bleakness of the reality she’s living in. Pan’s Labyrinth is very much a spiritual successor to del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone. The script is very nuanced, and the fantasy is juxtaposed against the Spanish Civil War and the realities of fascism, with effective parallels between the two. The true villains of the story are actual fascists, not the fantasy monsters in the fantasy world. The movie also doesn’t feel overly fantasised or overly realistic, a decent balance is struck between the two. A clear theme of the movie is growing up and losing innocence, which isn’t particularly special especially with films with similar premises, but nonetheless that was handled very well in this movie. Del Toro creates a world where both the real and fiction can coexist. It’s very well paced across its 2 hour runtime. The plot isn’t exactly unpredictable, but it still keeps you invested in everything that is happening, and the ending hits very hard.

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The cast were all great across the board. Ivana Baquero plays the main character of Ofelia and she was fantastic. Baquero is a child actress who was tasked to carry a lot by herself. Even with how great the rest of the movie was, Pan’s Labyrinth wouldn’t have quite as well if she wasn’t up to the task. However she doesn’t falter and delivers a nuanced and believable performance which makes her journey over the course of the movie much more affecting. Sergi Lopez plays the ruthless Captain Vidal, who also happens to be Ofelia’s stepfather. He’s quite a threatening presence throughout the film. The Pale Man in his scene may be terrifying, but Vidal is the true bogeyman of this story. Maribel Verdu was also very good as a conflicted housekeeper. Doug Jones plays both The Faun and The Pale Man, and even through all the prosthetics gave such great and memorable performances. The rest of the cast also deliver on their parts.

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Guillermo del Toro’s direction is nothing short of outstanding. The cinematography by Guillermo Navarro is great, with cool blues and warm golds. It balances out both the grittiness and gloominess of its bleak setting in reality, as well as the fantastical setting. There is some gorgeous set design throughout, and there was clearly a lot of care and precision into the creation of this world. Much of the film feels very real. Even 14 years later, most of the visual effects still hold up quite well. What helps is that most of the effects were prosthetics and animatronics, and the CGI was used sparingly. The makeup and effects particularly on the Faun and The Pale Man are beautiful and mystical. The few moments of CGI don’t quite hold up, there’s particularly a scene involving a toad, which did look quite fake. On the whole though, the effects are great. The score by Javier Navarrete is really good too, mesmerising and very haunting.

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There’s not much more I can say about Pan’s Labyrinth that hasn’t been said before. This dark fantasy movie intended for adults is beautifully made, haunting, and incredibly well made. Definitely Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date. Watch it if you haven’t seen it before, the acclaim is 100% deserved.

Hellboy (2004) Review

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Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Rupert Evans as John “Johnny” Myers
Karel Roden as Grigori Rasputin
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Towards the end of WWII, the Nazis resort to black magic and conjure a demonic-looking being called Hellboy (Ron Perlman). But the Allies capture him and he grows up to fight against evil rather than for it.

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I’ve been meaning to go back and watch the Hellboy movies from Guillermo del Toro again, especially after the more recent and underwhelming reboot. I remembered liking them quite a bit, and as it turns out they actually hold up quite well today. Despite some of its script faults, 2004’s Hellboy is a very fun fantasy comic book movie.

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Hellboy opens quite well and for the most works consistently well across its 2 hour runtime. It’s very entertaining, and creative, and the source material is perfect for del Toro to take on. The script is witty with some good lines and humour, the story is well paced, and it has a lot of fantasy and even noir aspects to it. It’s also heartfelt and genuine and establishes itself as a unique and larger than life comic book movie with a great atmosphere. Also keep in mind that this is back in 2004, so you can imagine how much of an impact and hit it would’ve been back then. Hellboy also does well as establishing its universe, though I feel like they could’ve done that without a human stand in character. It’s not all great though. The story isn’t really anything special, it’s a typical fantasy world ending plot that’s a bit predictable. It really doesn’t reach its fullest potential. Not all the characters are greatly handled. Hellboy of course is fantastic, but the human characters are particularly thinly developed and are quite bland, more on that later. Also maybe a slight nitpick, but it did feel like it ended a little abruptly, like there needed to be an extra scene right before it ended, but that’s a small gripe.

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The cast do a good job in their parts, even though some of them were restricted by the writing of their respective characters. Of course the big standout is Ron Perlman as Hellboy and he absolutely owns this role. His performance is larger than life, funny, likable, and well realised, and you can tell that Perlman is enjoying every second of it. It’s just hard seeing anyone else in the role. Selma Blair’s performance is good too, though her character does suffer from some confusion with the writing and characterisation, and not enough time spent with her. The love story between her character and Hellboy does actually work quite well though, and the actors share convincing chemistry. Doug Jones (along with the voice of David Hyde Pierce) plays Abe Sapien, an amphibious humanoid (and unsurprisingly plays him with a lot of makeup and visual effects). His character is the most memorable in the movie after Hellboy by far, and he really stands out in the scenes. Unfortunately his character doesn’t show up much in the movie, at least compared to the sequel. As I said earlier, the human characters were rather unremarkable. The biggest example is Rupert Evans as Myers, the lead human character. This character was bland, uninteresting, and very much felt like he was only there to be the audience’s insight into this world. However it’s easy to connect with Hellboy that we didn’t need that. It’s no surprise that when it came to the sequel, there was no stand in human character like that. John Hurt is in here as Hellboy’s father figure. The character himself doesn’t have a lot to him, but John Hurt as you’d expect does a lot with very little and elevates it. The villain side of the characters was rather forgettable. Karel Roden is okay as Rasputin (the main villain) but the character never really felt much of a threat, some of the side villains and monsters posed much more of a threat and were memorable than him. There’s a henchman who’s a Nazi and has a gas mask with blades, and he had far more presence as a threat than Rasputin.

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Guillermo del Toro directs this, and he was a great pick to helm a live action adaptation of the Hellboy comics. He directed this with such style and there was such attention to details, nothing here felt lazy. There are some solid cinematography and production design, with HP Lovecraft meets steampunk aesthetics. There are some excellent visual and practical effects here, and the best part is how del Toro blend the two. The creatures were particularly well handled, as if the movie was a full on creature feature. There are parts that don’t look so great, but considering that it was made back in 2004, it has held up quite well. The action scenes are riveting too, and are very entertaining to watch. The makeup is great, particularly with Hellboy and Abe Sapien. The score from Marco Beltrami was quite good, and added a lot to the movie.

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Hellboy is an entertaining and creative fantasy action movie, greatly directed by Guillermo del Toro, and features a perfect performance from Ron Perlman as Hellboy. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the best comic book movies, but it’s pretty good when looking at most of the comic books released in the 2000s, in fact it was ahead of its time. If you haven’t watched Hellboy yet, I strongly recommend doing so.

Blade 2 (2002) Review

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Blade 2

Time: 117 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks/Blade
Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler
Ron Perlman as Dieter Reinhardt
Leonor Varela as Nyssa Damaskinos
Norman Reedus as Scud
Thomas Kretschmann as Eli Damaskino
Luke Goss as Jared Nomak
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Blade (Wesley Snipes), who is part-vampire and part-mortal, becomes a vampire hunter to protect human beings. He prevents vampires from taking control over the human race.

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Blade was a hit back in 1998 but it’s been somewhat forgotten in recent years among all the numerous amounts of comic book movies released the past decade. It was the first R rated comic book movie, the first comic book movie to have an African American lead, and also led the way for some of the other comic book movies to follow like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. It also helped make audiences to take comic book movies more seriously after some other comic book movies like Batman and Robin did make them out to be a bit of a joke. Rewatching Blade now, it surprisingly mostly holds up and is a lot of fun.

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Blade is 2 hours long and from beginning to end I was entertained immensely. The opening in an underground vampire nightclub was the perfect beginning for this movie as it really set the tone for the rest of the movie. Blade does somewhat take things seriously, and there is a dark atmosphere, and at the same time it’s also got a very cheesy tone, with silly dialogue and multiple dumb moments which were also fun in their own rights. It blends the two elements effectively. It is also an action horror hybrid and delivers on both sides of that. The worldbuilding was very strong, establishing many concepts, groups and characters without giving annoying info dumps. The story is decent enough but does get a little convoluted with a number of subplots happening at the same time. Blade’s story also doesn’t have many surprises, and in the second half it does have a typical world ending plot. There are some cliches for sure, especially when it comes to both fantasy and comic book stories. As it approaches the third act it’s particularly a very typical climax, but I was still entertained watching it.

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Most of the cast are good in their parts. Wesley Snipes is pitch perfect in the role of Blade. He’s got a great screen presence and vibe around him, really selling the lines (including the really cheesy one liners), and even the way he moves and poses is great. He definitely knows what kind of movie he’s in, and he owns it from start to finish. Kris Kristofferson and N’Bushe Wright both work playing allies to Blade. The weakest link is Stephen Doriff, who is rather weak as the villain Deacon Frost. He’s not bad by any means and he definitely plays up the role, but it’s just hard to take him seriously as a threat.

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Blade is directed by Stephen Norrington, who did quite a good job. The movie is full of style, which really helped the movie work as well as it did. The visuals are slick for a late 90s flick. A big standout part of the movie are the martial arts fight scenes which still hold up today. The choreography is great, and almost Hong Kong inspired. Much of the action are captured in wide shots, so we can see all the fighting on screen, without any annoying zoom ins or close ups. We get to see how great the stunts are. As previously mentioned, this movie is R rated, and there’s a lot of blood (as there should be in a Blade movie). The movie really benefited from this rating, and it allowed the filmmakers a lot more freedom without any restrictions. There may be a Blade movie in development by the MCU, but I don’t see how it’s possible to do a non R rated version of it as a movie. A lot of the effects are a little dated to say the least (especially in the climax), but you can look past it. The music accompanying the movie is well fitting, with a lot of breakbeats and techno riffs that goes well with the face paced vibe of the action scenes. It is definitely a very 90s movie, with the lead character in all black leather and sunglasses, the exaggerated fighting sound effects, the visual effects and soundtrack, but I guess that’s part of its charm.

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Blade is a really fun action and horror hybrid comic book movie that mostly holds up. Stephen Norrington’s direction makes the movie really entertaining, the script is gloriously cheesy and entertaining, and Wesley Snipes is outstanding as Blade. About that new Blade movie in the MCU, I love the idea of Mahershala Ali as Blade. However I’m not sure if a Blade movie in the MCU would reach its fullest potential. Nonetheless, I’m still excited for it. If you haven’t seen the 1998 Blade yet, I highly recommend checking it out, it really was ahead of its time.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001) Review

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The Devil's Backbone

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Fernando Tielve as Carlos
Íñigo Garcés as Jaime
Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto
Marisa Paredes as Carmen
Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares
Director: Guillermo del Toro

After losing his father, 10-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the Santa Lucia School, which shelters orphans of the Republican militia and politicians, and is taken in by the steely headmistress, Carmen (Marisa Paredes), and the kindly professor, Casares (Federico Luppi). Soon after his arrival, Carlos has a run-in with the violent caretaker, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega). Gradually, Carlos uncovers the secrets of the school, including the youthful ghost that wanders the grounds.

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I was interested in The Devil’s Backbone simply because Guillermo Del Toro was directing it, outside of that I really didn’t know what to expect from the movie aside from it being a horror movie. It turned out to be a great and surprising ghost story, and actually one of Del Toro’s best movies.

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The Devil’s Backbone does fall under being a horror movie, however I’d say that it’s more of a ghost story, it was more unsettling than actually scary. The backdrop and setting are great, with the story being set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. This helped in creating a creeping and menacing atmosphere. There’s a lot of thematic elements at play here too with the effect of war. It’s a very dark and haunting story, and the climax is particularly brutal. It is similar in tone to Del Toro’s later films like Pan’s Labyrinth, and like those movies, the real monsters aren’t ghosts or supernatural elements, but humans. In fact, this is much less fantastical and more grounded than Pan’s Labyrinth, the characters feel very much human. The pacing was good and really keeps you invested in what was happening while not feeling too rushed, the runtime at about an hour and 50 minutes was just right for the movie overall. The story itself while arguably predictable (especially as the movie moves along), is interesting, well written, and surprisingly moving. There’s a lot happening in this movie despite the initial simple premise, with swirling plotlines and multiple themes, and Del Toro balances it out. It’s definitely one of his most intelligently written films.

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The acting is great from everyone. The child actors do well on their parts, especially the leads in Fernando Tielve and Inigo Garces, and their dynamic was great and very believable. The adult cast including Federico Luppi, Eduardo Noriega and Marisa Paredes are also very good in their roles, the children stand out the most but the adults aren’t far behind.

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This is Guillermo del Toro’s third movie and he’s definitely progressed as a filmmaker when considering his past movies with Cronos and Mimic, while those were quite good, The Devil’s Backbone is very much a step up. Although it’s at a lower budget (at around US $6.5 million), it’s fantastic on a technical level. The cinematography is great, beautiful and it encapsulates the whole movie with a ghostly vibe, which is helped particularly by the camerawork, lighting and colour tones. The aesthetic is definitely gothic, and that definitely fit the tone of the story perfectly. The setting at the orphanage is well captured here, with a lot of attention to detail particularly with the production design. The horror is subtle, and you don’t get too many scares (again more of a ghost story than a horror film), and you really feel the sense of isolation throughout the movie. The score from Javier Navarrete added a lot to the movie too.

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The Devil’s Backbone is a greatly directed, written and acted movie, a grounded and haunting ghost story. It is on the higher end of Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography yet has been somewhat overlooked, definitely worth watching.

Mimic: Director’s Cut (1997) Review

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Mimic

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mira Sorvino as Dr. Susan Tyler
Jeremy Northam as Dr. Peter Mann
Josh Brolin as Josh Maslow
Charles S. Dutton as Officer Leonard Norton
Giancarlo Giannini as Manny Gavoila
F. Murray Abraham as Dr. Gates
Director: Guillermo del Toro

A disease carried by common cockroaches is killing Manhattan children. In an effort to stop the epidemic, an entomologist, Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), creates a mutant breed of insect that secrets a fluid to kill the roaches. This mutant breed was engineered to die after one generation, but three years later Susan finds out that the species has survived and evolved into a large, gruesome monster that can mimic human form.

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I was watching Mimic to complete Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography, which from what I had heard prior to seeing it, it’s been generally known as his worst movie, mostly because of studio interference from the Weinsteins. With that said, I heard that the director’s cut was a pretty good movie, and having seen it now, I agree with this (at least with that version). It is definitely a step below most of Del Toro’s other movies, but as a 90s B movie monster flick, with his direction, and some of the acting, it was quite a lot of fun.

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I watched the director’s cut of Mimic, and if you are going to watch this movie, this is the version that you should watch. The script isn’t anything special, it’s not exactly unpredictable, and is pretty by the numbers and typical of a monster horror movie with giant bugs. At its core, Mimic feels like a studio film, more so than a Guillermo Del Toro film (despite it being a horror movie with creatures and monsters). However, the movie moves at a fast enough pace, and works at its length of over an hour and 45 minutes long. It was entertaining and thrilling for its runtime, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit.

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The cast do work reasonably well in their roles, even if those characters aren’t particularly well written or developed. Mira Sorvino is in the lead role and she’s pretty great on her part. Other actors in the movie including Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini, F. Murray Abraham and even a younger Josh Brolin in one of his earlier film appearances also give some good performances.

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This being his second feature film (after Cronos), Guillermo Del Toro does pretty well for his first English language movie. Again, this is in the director’s cut and no doubt it is much different in the theatrical cut. In the version I saw however, it was directed quite well, and in fact that added a lot to the film. I love the dark and grimy look that it has throughout, it’s got such an effective and creepy atmosphere, and the production designs and locations are great for the film. The biggest problem with the direction is that there are some pretty cheap and basic jumpscares, and I’m willing to bet that a large amount of the forced scares were because of the Weinsteins. The bug creatures are pretty effective and threatening, mainly with their designs and how they act. With this movie being over 2 decades old, some of the effects don’t really hold up so well, but for a movie from the late 90s, it is serviceable for its time.

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Mimic is an entertaining creature feature, that’s not particularly original or great, and it had its issues, but it was actually pretty decent, and was particularly elevated by the direction by Guillermo Del Toro. This is by far Del Toro’s worst movie, but that says quite a lot for the quality of his filmography, given that I thought that the director’s cut was pretty good. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Cronos (1993) Review

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Cronos

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris
Ron Perlman as Angel de la Guardia
Claudio Brook as Dieter de la Guardia
Margarita Isabel as Mercedes Gris
Tamara Shanath as Aurora Gris
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Antique dealer Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) stumbles across Cronos, a 400-year-old scarab that, when it latches onto him, grants him youth and eternal life — but also a thirst for blood. As Jesus enjoys his newfound vitality, he’s unaware that a dying old man, Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), has sent his nephew, Angel (Ron Perlman), to find the scarab and bring it back to him. But Jesus will not give immortality up easily, even risking the life of his orphan granddaughter (Tamara Shanath).

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I’m only aware and watched Cronos because it was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and I wanted to check out all of his movies. This is actually his first film of his directing career, and for a debut movie, it was quite good. It does have its issues and lacks the same touch that most of Del Toro’s later films has, but there’s a lot of good parts here at the same time.

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Cronos is definitely an interesting take on a vampire story. It is slowly paced and can be a bit sluggish at times, even though the movie is an hour and a half long. The film lacks some depth and doesn’t go all the way with its ideas (at least not as much as I’d like at least), but I was reasonably interested throughout. Some plotting and dialogue isn’t exactly the best, it’s a bit rough around the edges and wasn’t quite polished. However those are to be expected from a first movie. The plot is simplistic but it at least manages to avoid overcomplicating everything. In terms of other issues, it’s a small thing, but while most of the movie is in Spanish, there are some conversations where one person is speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Those moments are pretty distracting and takes you out of the experience, it probably should’ve just been fully in Spanish (again though it’s only a minor distraction). The writing was solid enough overall.

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Federico Luppi gives a fantastic performance as main character Jesus Gris, an older man who finds himself with this particular device which helps him cheat death. He’s great and really portrays the character and everything he goes through really well, he really was a standout in this movie. Tamara Shanath also gives a solid performance as Jesus’s granddaughter, the relationship between the two feels genuine, and she really gets chances to shine towards the end of the movie. Ron Perlman is also in this and acts very well. He can be over the top and hammy at points (and his character’s motivations were a bit all over the place by the end), but I thought he was enjoyable to watch. The rest of the acting can be a bit mixed.

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Guillermo Del Toro directed this movie very well, especially considering that this was his first movie. It is lower budget at around $2 million, but he seemed to have put it to good use. It’s quite a good looking movie, it’s well shot, the use of colour was great, and I really liked the moments where Del Toro played with some gothic elements. You can really tell even just from this one movie that he’s a director who really has an eye for detail. The sets are full of detail and were well made, the makeup and practical effects are effectively creepy and well designed, the gore effects were greatly gruesome too. There’s quite an eerie atmosphere throughout too, which was helped by the score by Javier Alvarez, which was quite effective.

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Cronos isn’t one of Guillermo Del Toro’s strongest movies, but it is still solid. It doesn’t quite reach its potential despite its interesting take on the familiar vampire tale, and it is rough around the edges for sure. With that said, many of the flaws of the movie can be looked over considering that it was his first movie. On the whole it is directed very well, the acting from Luppi, Shanath and Perlman is great and it was interesting enough to watch. Definitely worth checking out.

The Shape of Water (2017) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito
Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland
Richard Jenkins as Giles
Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller
Doug Jones as Amphibian Man
Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature (Doug Jones) from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent (Michael Shannon) and a marine biologist (Michael Stuhlbarg).

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I’ve been hearing a lot about The Shape of Water for a while in the lead up to awards season. I really like Guillermo del Toro, I’ve seen most of his movies and really liked them, even those which aren’t that wholly well received like Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water looked like it would be one of his best yet and having finally seen it, I have to say that this actually just might be Guillermo del Toro’s best film yet, which is saying a lot considering many of the films he’s made. The Shape of Water is absolutely magnificent and already a guaranteed classic.

I loved the story of The Shape of Water, it’s beautiful, it’s dark, it’s absorbing, it dabbles in multiple genres and it all works perfectly. All the major characters are given a lot of depth and their own arcs. Fortunately, the marketing department seemed to learn their lesson from Crimson Peak and knew this time to not market The Shape of Water as a full on horror movie, because it’s definitely not that. Sure, it’s dark at many points, it doesn’t hold back, it’s R rating is well earned and serves the story appropriately. But this isn’t a horror movie. It also feels very grounded in real life, the only difference is that this creature actually exists in the world. The Shape of Water has a very fairy tale-like vibe to it and it actually works well in the film. Del Toro also does well showing why Elisa would fall in love with this creature. As weird as the concept sounds on paper, you completely buy it because del Toro conveys it so well. In fact there are a lot of ‘weird’ elements to the movie and at least for me, I never questioned any of it, as I said, Guillermo del Toro makes it all work. The Shape of Water is around 2 hours long and it is the perfect length. I was consistently absorbed in the story from start to finish and really don’t have any qualms with any of it. I’m not going to go into much more depth in regards to the story, it’s something you really need to experience for yourself.

Everyone is great in this movie. Sally Hawkins is incredible here, she doesn’t speak and has to express her emotions through her facial and body language and she is absolutely wonderful here. While I haven’t seen much from Hawkins, it might be one of her best performances, it’s at the very least one of the best performances of the year. Doug Jones also deserves praise for playing the Amphibian create that Sally’s Elisa falls in love with. He doesn’t say a single word either and can convey so much, unsurprisingly considering how great he is in these kind of roles, he’s pretty much the Andy Serkis of practical effects. He really does give the creature life. Both Hawkins and Jones have so much great chemistry without speaking at all. Michael Shannon as usual is a scene stealer as the antagonist of the film, he does so well at coming across more like a monster than the actual amphibian creature. The other supporting actors are also great and do well to leave an impression, like Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Guillermo del Toro did such a fantastic job at directing this movie, you can definitely tell that it’s his direction. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen was great, the colours particularly were used perfectly, creating some beautiful sequences. There was a sequence in the last act of the movie which was very surprising and comes right out of left field, and yet del Toro somehow made it work. When you watch the movie, you’ll know exactly what moment I’m referring to. Del Toro also does well to fully convey it’s time and setting with the production design, music etc, making it feel authentic to real life. The actual amphibian creature (which is practical) was designed very well and is very believable. The music by Alexandre Desplat was also very effective, very enchanting. Overall I think The Shape of Water is a perfectly directed movie.

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is incredible, it was even better than I thought it would be, and I thought it was going to be great. The story was great, the performances were all amazing and del Toro’s direction was perfect. The Shape of Water is one of my favourite movies of 2017, Guillermo del Toro really has crafted a beautiful film that deserves to be seen by many. I can already tell that this is going to be a future classic.