Posts Tagged ‘Guillermo del Toro’


83 minutes | No MPAA rating 

Combining the grittiness of Luis Bunuel’s 1950 landmark “Los Olivdados” with the psychological fantasy pioneered in recent years by Guillermo del Toro, “Tigers Are Not Afraid” plunges into the life-and-death struggles of orphaned children  on the mean streets of a contemporary Mexican metropolis.

The young actors starring in Issa Lopez’ brooding and violent drama were never shown a script. The film was shot in sequence, so that the players didn’t know what was coming next; their reactions are more-or-less genuine.

The resulting film is equal parts documentary realism and  nightmarish fairy tale.

Estrella (Paola Lara) and Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez) are at the heart of a “family” of children who do what it takes to survive. They sleep in makeshift tents, or in abandoned buildings, on rooftops and in alleys.

As we see in flashbacks, most of these kids once had normal lives: parents, school, a permanent address.

But now they are on their own, their mothers and/or fathers murdered or “disappeared” in the roiling drug war  that has claimed 160,000 Mexican lives over the last two decades. They spend a good part of each day outsmarting members of the Huascas gang, local drug lords who would shanghai the the boys as runners and soldiers and pimp out the girls.

It’s a grim life, and as a survival mechanism young Estrella — through whose eyes the story is told — imagines herself allied with fantastic creatures.  Traumatized by her mother’s sudden disappearance, she’s convinced that a fierce tiger graffiti-sprayed on a wall comes to life to protect her. At other times she imagines that a flowing trickle of blood follows her, climbing stairs and zig-zagging across walls and ceilings.

She also hears eerie whisperings — ghosts giving her warnings.


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Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones

“THE SHAPE OF WATER” My rating: B+

122 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Blend the whimsey of “Amelie” with the sci-fi fantasy of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” wrap it all up in Cold War paranoia, and you’ve got Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” an interspecies love story that will leave you swooning.

Horror and beauty are never far apart in del Toro’s cinema; what’s noteworthy about this picture is that the horror is generated not by the fantastic creature at its heart but by human fear and loathing. This time around we’re the monsters.

Set in early ’60s Baltimore, where it’s always raining and everything is tinted bottom-of-the-sea green, “The Shape of Water” opens with Elisa ( Sally Hawkins) awakening from a watery dream and getting ready for work. Elisa is mute and communicates through sign language (we get subtitles); she works the night shift mopping floors at a top-secret government research station that looks and feels like a giant concrete mausoleum.

Michael Shannon

The scientific staff is all agog over their new acquisition, an amphibious creature captured in a river in South American, where the natives worshipped him as a god. The current condition of this beautiful/disquieting creation (that’s frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones under the spectacular prosthetics developed by Legacy Effects) is anything but god-like; he’s in chains and is the subject of the sadistic cattle-prod attentions of Strickland (Michael Shannon), a malevolent CIA type who can’t wait to vivisect this new species.

Using her passkey to gain entrance to the creature’s prison, the empathetic Elisa brings hard-boiled eggs and a portable phonograph player with a collection of jazz LPs. This frog/man may not be able to speak, but he digs eggs and music.

Elisa soon discovers that the captive is not a mindless beast; before long they’re conversing in sign language. And and as her affections for this scaly  newcomer deepen, Elisa hatches a plan to spirit the amphibian man out of the lab before he can be vivisected. He can live in her claw-footed bathtub.

She is abetted in this quest by her co-worker, the mop-swinging Zelda (Octavia Spencer),  by her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), a mild-mannered commercial artist, and by one of the scientific eggheads, Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who wants to preserve this great discovery at any cost. (more…)

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“78 / 52”  My rating: B+

91 minutes | No MPAA rating

The shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” required 78 camera setups and 52 individual cuts.

The upshot: The most famous movie sequence ever, equalling and ultimately surpassing the “Odessa steps” montage in the silent classic “Battleship Potemkin.”

Now we have “78 / 52,” a nerdgasm posing as a feature-length documentary about that four-minute shower scene. It’s like a master class in geek cinema obsessiveness.

It’s also pretty great.

Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, “78 / 52” brings together dozens of film types — directors (Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdonovich), composers (Danny Elfman) writers (Stephen Rubello, Bret Easton Ellis), film editors, sound artists (Walter Murch), actors (Elijah Wood, Jamie Lee Curtis) — and other “Pyscho” fanatics who analyze Hitchcock’s creepy masterpiece from every artistic, commercial, historic and social angle imaginable.

Philippe even tracked down Marli Refro, the 21-year-old model who spent days nude in the shower as star Janet Leigh’s body double. (more…)

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