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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Stulbarg’

Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones

“THE SHAPE OF WATER” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Dec. 15)

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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and Liam Helmsworth

Teresa Palmer and Liam Helmsworth

“CUT BANK”  My rating: C+ 

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Cut Bank” is a slice of country noir that despite an interesting cast and an array of eccentric characters still feels like a slice of warmed-over Tarantino.

Parts of it clicks. But the overall chemistry — that delicate blend of darkness and laugh-out-loud weird — lies just outside TV director Matt Shakman’s grasp.

In tiny Cut Bank, Montana — notorious as the coldest place in the continental U.S. — grease jockey Dwayne (a blah Liam Hemsworth) is out in a field of flowering canola videotaping

John Malkovich

John Malkovich

his high school girlfriend Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) when his camera records something unexpected in the background.

About 100 yards off a mail truck has stopped on the roadside.  The driver (Bruce Dern) gets out and walks toward a man approaching on foot. The man raises his hand, a shot is fired and the mail carrier falls.

The young lovers flee, then show the video to her sour-dispositioned father (Billy Bob Thornton) and the local sheriff (John Malkovich). The latter is so upset (it’s the town’s first homicide ever) that he immediately heads for the bathroom to throw up. Turns out this will be his ritual every time he encounters a corpse.

But when the lawman visits the crime scene there’s no mail truck and no body.

(more…)

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