Bro-Reviews: Tomb Raider

More like Time Raider.

The video game movie appears to be a genre of film that Hollywood can’t seem to get right. A majority of them rank as bad and don’t rise above guilty pleasure status (*Doom, Mortal Kombat), and still represents a challenge for Hollywood to conquer. Despite it being a critical failure, the most successful and highest grossing video game adaptation of all time remains Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which featured an iconic turn from starlet Angelina Jolie as the popular character. 15 years after its unsuccessful sequel, Lara Croft Tom Raider: The Cradle of Life, Hollywood has decided to give the character another try, but this time in a more realistic fashion much like the successful 2013 video game reboot in 2018’s Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) struggling to make ends meet despite being the heiress to her father’s, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), estate. She struggles with this decision due to her belief her father is still alive despite his disappearance on an expedition looking for Himiko, the Queen of Yamatai whose legend proclaims she was buried alive by her generals due to her ability to kill anyone she touched. In a video recorded message Lara finds at her former home, her father proclaims a group called Trinity, led by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), intends to uncover Himoko’s tomb and use her powers for a global genocide, and must be stopped. Lara sets off for an adventure with the help of Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a ship captain, to find the island where Himiko is buried and stop Trinity before the genocide ensues.

In regards to its likeness to the recently rebooted 2013 video game and its 2015 sequel, Tomb Raider definitely nails the look. Alicia Vikander looks the part of the re-imagined Croft, and her physicality is put on full display in a fashion in which you fear for her safety and feel all the bruising punishment she endures throughout the film. This makes for some impressive action sequences, as the dangers of the jungle and the tomb she explores present various challenges but bear a striking resemblance to the games, making it a true adaptation.

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider.

Unfortunately, it takes way too long to get to this point, as the movie spends an inexcusable amount of time being boring in its attempt to set-up Lara’s back story Batman Begins-style instead of actually delivering what we came to see: Lara Croft raiding tombs. Instead, we get to see Croft participate in trivial bike races for money to help clear her debt (*because that was everyone’s favorite part of the “Tomb Raider” games) and her pout over being the heiress to a company and her daddy-dependent issues. To make matters worse, its not until the last 30 minutes of this overlong slog that we get to seeing any action in a tomb, a surprising development for a movie titled TOMB RAIDER based on the video game of the same name.

While Vikander nails the new look of the character, she doesn’t have the same screen presence as Angelina Jolie, and isn’t quite an action star in the making. Dominic West looks like he was dragged into being in the film, and is straining to appear happy to be there. Kristin Scott Thomas is thoroughly wasted in the film, that is until a preposterous Marvel-esque stinger/ reveal towards the end. The only two who manage to get anything out of their roles are Goggins and Wu, because a bored Goggins is still somewhat compelling and Wu is woefully underused despite his laid-back charisma.

Tomb Raider cannot break the curse of the video-game movie. Its an overlong slog and a sorry excuse for an action movie attempting to capitalize on the recent resurgence of the women’s empowerment movement. Sure, the film resembles the game in regards to its environments and look of its starlet, but it seems as if the filmmakers chose to focus solely on the aesthetics of the game instead of the actual game play, which will leave fans of the game wishing they stayed home and turned on their Playstation instead. In short, Tomb Raider doesn’t spend much time doing what its title suggests it should, and should be regarded as a “Time Raider” instead.

Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars, skip it.

Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Derek Jacobi, and Kristin Scott Thomas. It is in theaters March 16th.



The 2nd Annual Bro-cademy Awards: The 10 Best Films of 2017

Welcome to the 2nd annual Bro-cademy Awards, the 10 best films 2017 had to offer.

There was a plethora of average, poor, or complete garbage films released in 2017, and good movies were seemingly hard to come by. That’s why when audiences were blessed with actual competent and well made films, they went and saw them again and again. While actual Oscar caliber films didn’t get wide releases until January (*hence why some of those critically acclaimed awards season films have been excluded in this list*), it’s time to count down the best films 2017 had to offer by honoring them in the 2nd annual bro-tastic film awards ceremony, the Bro-cademy Awards.


10. Baby Driver


Sure, it’s the hipster incarnation of The Transporter, but Baby Driver is a thrilling new spin on the action genre that features tremendous action, witty and funny dialogue, great performances, and a killer soundtrack.


9. Ingrid Goes West


Ingrid Goes West is one of those “oh you didn’t hear about it?” films that slips under the cracks and goes somewhat unfairly unnoticed. Not here, as Ingrid Goes West‘s dark humor in relation to our society’s obsession with social media and surface level connections in place of personal ones makes it perhaps the most #topical films of 2017.


8. Lady Bird


A quirky coming of age story for young women and a close examination of mother-daughter relationships, Lady Bird is a delight. Its terrific performance from up-and-comer Saoirse Ronan showcases she’s a force to be reckoned with, and is a perfect film in a time of #metoo and Time’s Up.


7. I, Tonya


If you think you know the story of American villain Tonya Harding, I, Tonya begs to differ. Featuring powerhouse performances from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, I, Tonya uses interviews and fourth wall breaking on its biographical subject matter to do the impossible: making you have sympathy for Harding, the devil herself. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the best films of 2017, then what does?


6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi


While divisive amongst Star Wars “aficionados”, Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes everything you’ve come to know about the series and turns it upside down. While some results fare much better than others, it’s a triumphant new direction for the series and shows it still has life and is rife with new ideas.


5. Get Out


No ones directorial debut should be this creative, masterful, and timely. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is all of those and more, standing alone as one of the most original and thought provoking pieces of cinema 2017 had to offer.


4. Phantom Thread


Adept direction, beautiful scenery, and a powerhouse performance from Daniel Day-Lewis makes Phantom Thread the best film out of those actually nominated for “Best Picture”. Not only is it another winning entry in the underrated Paul Thomas Anderson’s career, but marks a triumphant farewell for Daniel Day-Lewis should it be his swan song performance.


3. Logan


Logan isn’t just a comic book movie, it’s a western with dramatic heft that makes it a game changer for the genre. Not only does it provide the R-rated thrills we’ve craved from a Wolverine film, but also marks a triumphant end for a character Hugh Jackman has made legendary and his own for nearly two decades.


2. Blade Runner 2049


A sequel to a cult classic like Blade Runner seems like a disaster on paper, but Blade Runner 2049 advances its thought provoking sci-fi ideas with ease. It’s not only a rare sequel that improves upon its predecessor, but also proves you can make a thinking man’s movie while still providing action thrills and breathtaking visuals on a blockbuster scale.


1. War For the Planet of the Apes


Perhaps the most overlooked movie of the year, War for the Planet of the Apes is a triumph on multiple levels. Its breathtaking CGI, emotional depth, and blockbuster thrills are unprecedented for a tent pole summer film, and resonates as one of the most powerful films not only in its historic franchise, but also of 2017, making it the best 2017 had to offer in film.

The 90th Academy Awards: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

With the Academy Awards just hours away, who will win the gold statues, and who should win the gold statues?


Best Director nominees:


Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Who will win: Guillermo Del Toro

Who should win: Jordan Peele

Guillermo Del Toro will finally get his due when he walks away with “Best Director” honors Sunday night, and he is a worthy winner for his visionary work in The Shape of Water. There is a case to be made, however, for Jordan Peele’s work in his feature film directorial debut. Get Out might be one of the most culturally relevant films to be released in quite some time, making Peele more than worthy of the honor.

Best Supporting Actress nominees:


Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Who will win: Allison Janney

Who should win: Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, or Lesley Manville

Allison Janney is a force as Tonya Harding’s abusive mother in I, Tonya, and will walk away with Oscar gold. While very deserving of such recognition, one must also note Laurie Metcalf’s terrific turn in Lady Bird and the under the radar performance given by Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread. Should either of them walk away with the award come Sunday, it’ll be much deserved.

Best Supporting Actor nominees:


Christopher Plummer, All The Money in the World

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Who will win: Sam Rockwell

Who should win: Woody Harrelson

Sam Rockwell is one of the best things about Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, and as a veteran character actor he is due for some well deserved recognition. But considering the current political climate, maybe it isn’t the best idea to recognize a performance that rests upon corrupt, racist ideals. Woody Harrelson gives a much more quiet performance in the film, but his impact on it is more powerful, and recognizing a long stalwart of Hollywood would be one of the best directions to go in.

Best Actress nominees:


Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Meryl Streep, The Post

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Who will win: Frances McDormand

Who should win: Saoirse Ronan

In the time of “#metoo” and “Time’s Up”, it seems fitting a performance that focuses on a strong female character fighting the justice system in regards to her daughter’s rape and murder wins “Best Actress.” Frances McDormand’s performance, while good, is one of the most overrated, overblown performances in recent memory. It’s time to acknowledge the young talents of Saoirse Ronan, whose coming of age performance in Lady Bird more than fits in well with “#metoo” and “Time’s Up.”

Best Actor nominees:


Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Who will win: Gary Oldman

Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Gary Oldman will finally get his due when he walks away with his first and long-awaited little gold man for his outstanding work in Darkest Hour as Winston Churchill. However, should this be the final performance of his acting career, the Academy needs to honor perhaps the greatest actor to ever live, Daniel Day-Lewis, one final time for his gripping, tour de force performance in Phantom Thread.

Best Picture nominees:


Call Me by Your Name

Darkest Hour


Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Who will win: The Shape of Water

Who should win: Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water seems destined for Oscar glory as being recognized as one of the most bizarre films to ever win “Best Picture”, and its visionary take on the romance genre definitely makes it a worthy winner. Call it pretentious, but the nuances and tremendous performances in Phantom Thread make it the best film of the bunch, and would finally give director Paul Thomas Anderson the credit he deserves as one of the best filmmakers in the industry.



Bro-Reviews: Death Wish

Die Hard on ZzzQuil.

We would be very irresponsible if we did not take the current temperature of the room in relation to gun violence in America and say tensions are running high in light of the recent Parkland, Florida high school shooting. One of the most common arguments against gun control from NRA propagandists and gun lovers alike is these shootings are preventable by enabling “law-abiding” citizens to carry concealed weapons on them, this way they can fight fire with fire. One of the visions these delusional psychopaths have is to emulate Bruce Willis’s John McClane from the Die Hard film series and save the day in such situations. If that seems a bit out of touch, maybe Willis’s latest action vehicle, Death Wish, will suffice their deranged fantasies.

Death Wish sees emergency room surgeon Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) living a successful, peaceful life with his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) in the crime ridden city of Chicago. One night while Dr. Kersey is at work, Lucy and Jordan fall victim to a house robbery, leaving Lucy dead and Jordan badly injured. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the police’s investigation on the matter, Dr. Kersey takes it upon himself by becoming a vigilante crime fighter to find the men who committed the crime while also taking on the most dangerous criminals the city of Chicago has to offer.

There’s no doubt Death Wish suffers from spectacularly terrible timing, as its release comes a mere 16 days after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting tragedy. A film about a vigilante seeking justice may please the gun worshiping crowd and fulfill their bloodthirsty fantasies of protecting those they love or going after “gangbangers” with an arsenal that rivals that of a member of the military, but to everyone else the film comes across as blatantly tone-deaf. Even witnessing Willis’s character evolution from being a “Mr. Nice Guy” into a tough guardian comes across as a Batman origin story mixed with Fox News ideologies, a laughable and silly transformation at best. It doesn’t help the film will draw comparisons to the original 1974 version starring Charles Bronson, whereas that film had gripping conviction, this re-make resonates as offensive and rote, a surprising result coming from director and current master of gore Eli Roth.

Bruce Willis in Death Wish.

The film’s titular star doesn’t exactly bring much life to the film, as Bruce Willis, who has recently become the king of direct-to-video action trash, sleep walks his way through the film. Willis has done films like Death Wish to death throughout his career, but even Willis at his laziest is still somewhat charming. The rest of the cast fills in somewhat nicely, with veteran actors Vincent D’Onofrio as Willis’s brother and Dean Norris as a detective on the case standing out the most.

While Eli Roth’s direction doesn’t rise above anything other than ordinary, he is able to get a couple of thrilling action sequences out of the film. Seeing Willis back in the foray as an action star delivering killer blows, while tone deaf at this time, is still fun to watch. Willis is an action icon, and even him sleep walking through a role like this one while still managing to deliver some hard-hitting action is somewhat of a welcome return, especially in a theatrically released setting.

Death Wish doesn’t add anything new to the revenge/ vigilante action sub-genre and is the current epitome of a gun-toting lunatic’s dream scenario. Its impeccably bad timing does not do itself any favors, but it delivers just enough action and Bruce Willis for the least demanding of action enthusiasts to warrant a look. It may be Die Hard on Zzzquil, but at least we get Bruce Willis back on the silver screen before he cashes another check on a direct-to-DVD release he merely rolls out of bed for.

Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars. Rent it.

Death Wish stars Bruce Willis, Vincent D’onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps, Camila Morrone, and Beau Knapp. It is in theaters March 2nd.


Bro-Reviews: Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman’s finest hour.

Back in September of 2017, buzz began swirling around a film making its rounds in the film festival circuit, which is typically a common occurrence. What made this buzz different for this film, however, was the rumor of it featuring an awards worthy performance from a tremendous actor who has been long overdue for such accolades. That film was the World War II set Darkest Hour, and the actor was Hollywood veteran Gary Oldman. With Oldman racking up the awards for his performance, including the Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama”, Darkest Hour has finally received a wider release in the hopes of proving Oldman’s performance lives up to the hype.

Darkest Hour begins in May of 1940, where British Parliament has grown uneasy due to the lack of action by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). Chamberlain is replaced by General Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), a seemingly past his prime politician whose reputation as a drunkard and a militant makes him unpopular in the government. Churchill finds himself and his country under fire, as Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany are imposing their force and taking down Europe country by country. Churchill must overcome his reputation and the seemingly unstoppable Nazis before Great Britain is invaded and is no more.

The biggest compliment I can give the film is all the hype surrounding Oldman’s performance is warranted. Oldman has the reputation of being a great actor despite appearing in critically maligned films from time to time, and has never gotten his due via an Oscar win. His performance in Darkest Hour should change that, as his alcoholic dialogue slurring, cigar smoking, and motivational speaking all highlight an actor at his apex, and is the clear favorite to walk away with Oscar gold this March.

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Two other noteworthy performances come from veteran actress Kristen Scott Thomas, who plays Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and Ben Mendelsohn, who plays King George VI. Scott Thomas adds more humanity to the film by representing the balance to Churchill’s life, and it’s a shame her solid performance didn’t garner any awards attention. Ben Mendelsohn also delivers a solid performance as King George VI, and the development of the relationship between George VI and Churchill is one of the more intriguing aspects of the film.

The rest of the film, unfortunately, can’t match the quality of the lead and aforementioned performances. Even at a running time of just over 2 hours, the film poorly paced war film from director Joe Wright plays like a history lecture you’d be tempted to fall asleep during. The grey color palette doesn’t help accentuate the setting either, and the film rarely flashes to battles during World War II to wake the audience up. Young starlet Lily James, who left a huge impression on most with her performance in Baby Driver earlier in 2017, hardly resonates in the film as an assistant of Churchill’s, a waste of a young, talented performer.

Darkest Hour benefits greatly from a surely Oscar worthy performance from its lead actor and a couple of other solid supporting performances. The rest of the film, however, can’t quite match the quality its lead performer has. Gary Oldman deserves to take a bow for his finest hour as an actor and walk away with a little golden man, but Darkest Hour is nowhere near deserving of its “Best Picture” Oscar nomination, making it the weakest of the Academy Award’s “Best Picture” bunch.

Rating: 2/4 stars. Rent it.

Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn. It is in theaters now.


Bro-Reviews: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Fargo 2.

Every year, the month of January not only bestows upon us mostly awful films studios have no confidence in, but also awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their releases after weeks of playing in limited theaters. Such an example of awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their release is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has become a critical darling this awards season, having already won Golden Globes for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama” and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Actress” and “Best Picture.” Considering the hype machine surrounding the film and it’s timely subject matter, the film should be one that not only stands-out as one of the best films of 2017, but one that will stand the tests of time, right?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sees Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) dismayed by the lack of resolution from the town of Ebbing, Missouri’s police department regarding the case of the murder and rape of her daughter. In order to get the police’s and the town’s attention, she rents out three billboards on a road nearby the town that read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. Mildred then faces backlash from the town and its police department, particularly from alcoholic racist police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the pancreatic cancer stricken police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), all in the name of seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and death.

Much of the hype surrounding the film is due to Frances McDormand’s performance as a “Rosie the Riveter” dressed, older white woman not afraid to speak her mind. This of course also includes her cursing up a storm and being unapologetic for who she is and for what she is doing. McDormand has always been a terrific performer, but because she’s not a sex symbol in any way shape or from, she is somewhat forgotten in Hollywood circles. Her performance in Three Billboards serves as a reminder she’s still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is definitely worthy of the awards buzz she has received this awards season that she hasn’t received since winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in Fargo.

Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The film also boasts strong supporting performances as well, most notably from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson has always been an underappreciated actor in Hollywood, having seamlessly transitioned from his T.V. stardom in Cheers to being a leading man and character actor. Harrelson is able to sink his teeth into his role as an under fire police chief suffering from his own health issues, and churns out a performance worthy of his Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actor.” The man who steals the spotlight from him, however, is Sam Rockwell, another character actor who seems to have never gotten his due. His portrayal of a dim-witted, racist cop who eventually finds redemption is one of the best supporting character performances this year, and he is clearly the favorite to walk away with the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” come the night of March 4th.

Despite the tremendous performances from the main actors involved, it feels like there’s something missing from the film. The film feels like it is building towards sending a message throughout, but it ultimately leaves audiences hanging. This lack of pay-off is extremely disappointing, and the ending will leave one with a sour taste in their mouth. In the wake of the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements currently taking the industry by storm, Three Billboards had the chance to make an impactful statement, but ultimately has nothing to say. Due to the lack of resolution, Three Billboards is easily the weakest film in the career of director Martin McDonagh, whose black comedies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are much better watches than this “made for awards season” fluff.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri definitely has its strengths. It’s once again clear Martin McDonagh is an actor’s director, as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give very good and awards worthy performances. However, even with its timely subject matter in the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the film industry, the film ultimately doesn’t have a message to convey. Sure, it’s a showcase in acting, but Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri had a chance to be more, and ultimately settles for awards season pandering instead of making a statement.

Rating: 2 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Clarke Peters.



Bro-Reviews: The Shape of Water

A bizarre, touching monster tale.

Director Guillermo del Toro has made a career off of his biggest obsession: monsters. From comic book films such as the Hellboy series and Blade II, to daring fantasy films like Pan’s Labyrinth, all the way down to blockbuster spectacle Pacific Rim, Del Toro has made a career off this once staple of Hollywood and has turned it into his specialty. While Pan’s Labyrinth received critical acclaim an numerous Academy Award nominations, it was shut out of major categories such as “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and in the acting categories due to its status as a foreign film. Guillermo del Toro decided he wanted another crack at awards contention, and his latest monster flick, The Shape of Water, has been racking up all kinds of awards attention, including a Golden Globe win for “Best Director” for del Toro and 13 Oscar nominations. Does the film live up to it’s monstrous hype?

The Shape of Water sees Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a woman rendered mute due to an accident experienced during her infancy who communicates through sign language, as a janitor working for a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland during the Cold War.  One day, the facility obtains a fish-like creature (Doug Jones) from a South American river, and it is kept there for observation and torture. Inexplicably, Elisa begins to bond with the creature, and must find a way to help the creature escape captivity with the help from her janitor friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her homosexual struggling advertising illustrator neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), and Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) before being caught by the power hungry Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).

This isn’t your typical romance film as the synopsis above alludes to. If it weren’t for director Guillermo del Toro’s legendary status as a niche filmmmaker, this premise would’ve been laughed out of the building under any other circumstances. It literally features a woman, who communicates only through sign language, falling in love with a creature akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But therein lies the beauty of The Shape of Water, it’s so gleefully bizarre and goes from broke, and somehow manages to communicate a common message in its own unique way. That message being we as a society only look at people at face value, and do not value a person farther than that, and those people (*or creatures for that matter) are largely ignored as it pertains to love. For a film with non-typical characters and an insane central focus, The Shape of Water is unique and succeeds as an anti-quintessential romance film.

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in “The Shape of Water.”

It helps the film features terrific performances to make it believable. Sally Hawkins is very deserving of her Oscar nomination for “Best Actress”, as she gives one of the most poignant performances of the year despite barely speaking a word. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer have made careers off of character roles such as the ones they have here, and they too deliver and are equally deserving of their “Best Supporting Actor/ Actress” nominations. One questionable omission from the Academy’s nominations list is Michael Shannon, whose performance as a barely human colonel ranks as the best of his career. Combine these performances with the skilled and artistic direction of del Toro, and you’ve got an art-house monster romance film that stands alone in its uniqueness.

Unfortunately for the film, it does suffer from narratives that don’t quite mesh together. While the Cold War setting allows for unique locations such as the lab, the city of Baltimore, and a movie theater playing classic films such a Cleopatra (*that allows for del Toro to showcase his adoration for old movies), del Toro doesn’t quite implement the setting to its fullest potential. As a matter of fact, it’s sometimes clunky. A plot involving Russians wanting information regarding the South American river creature could’ve been left on the cutting room floor entirely, and the film wouldn’t have missed a beat. Also, while its admirable del Toro wanted to incorporate themes of racism and homosexuality, those themes add nearly nothing to the film, and come across as forced rather than seamlessly implemented as aspects indicative of the film’s setting.

Overall, The Shape of Water is a welcome breath of fresh air to the awards season circuit. While it’s setting isn’t necessarily taken full advantage of, it makes up for this shortcoming with its terrific performances, artful direction, and heartwarming main narrative. The Shape of Water ranks as one of the better films to have been released in 2017, and its daring nature to stand on its own as an unorthodox love story is nothing short of admirable and inventive of the monster film genre.

Rating 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. It is in theaters now.