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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of The Commuter & The Shape of Water

Dearest Blog: A heavy slate of January releases and an unusually chaotic real life (ughhhhh...real life!) have conspired to set me behind at the cinema, so yesterday I burned an afternoon's PTO to head to Marquee Cinemas for a pair of films that didn't particularly excite me: The Commuter and The Shape of Water. If you thought one was markedly better than the other, you would be mistaken.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First up: The Commuter.
Liam Neeson Liam-Neesons his way through the sort of crisis that seems to follow Liam Neeson, this time on a commuter train.
A moviegoer could be forgiven for assuming that The Commuter is merely Taken on a train...or Non-Stop on a train...or Run All Night on a train, but I'm sorry to tell you it's a whole lot worse than that. Sure, the Taken movies are getting samey, but I enjoyed all but the middle one. Non-Stop was pretty good fun, and I actually loved Run All Night. The Commuter's every turn is obvious, every character as easy to figure out as the ending of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The dialogue is pitiful, and the delivery just as bad. The fight scenes are ho-hum, and even the daring train stunts are so poorly executed as to be laughable. Sam Neill and Patrick Wilson, two pretty extraordinary actors, are wasted on small, easy-to-peg roles. If there's any good news, it's that the insufferable Vera Farmiga enjoys similarly little screen time. When I heard Liam Neeson planned to retire from action films, I felt a bit sad, but if this is what he's being offered, it's probably the right decision. 
The Commuter clocks in at 105 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some intense action/violence, and language."
One of The Commuter's early scenes shows a poster for Paddington 2 hanging on a train station wall, almost as if the movie itself were pointing you towards a better use of your time. Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Commuter gets three.
Fangirl points: Shazad Latif! ("Yes I can hear you, Clem Fandango!) Kingsley Ben-Adir!
Next on the docket: awards darling The Shape of Water.
A laboratory cleaning lady forms a relationship with a captive creature.
I did not expect to love The Shape of Water. I did not expect it to be my top pick for Best Picture. I DID expect it to be a great movie that just isn't my cup of tea, but I was mistaken. 
The Shape of Water is extraordinary on several fronts, the first and most obvious being its performances. This movie is an acting master class! Sally Hawkins is breathtaking in the lead role, expressive and sympathetic. Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins, on opposite ends of the likability scale, turn in layered performances. Michael Stuhlbarg is incredible as usual, and I'm delighted he continues to get such high-profile work; however, it's Octavia Spencer who is the film's highlight, sometimes serving as the movie's comic relief, other times as its foot in reality. The Shape of Water also boasts glorious visuals, carrying through the water theme in lovely, unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable ways. It takes itself seriously, but it's also very funny at times. Part love story, part monster movie, The Shape of Water is, at least, a pretty interesting idea.
'Til about the midway point, I was prepared to say I didn't hate The Shape of Water as much as I thought I would. Sadly, it hit a downhill skid that culminated in the most ill-fitting movie scene since the ending of La La Land, and at that point I gave up and called it a total loss. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I make no comment on the scene itself being good or bad, happy or sad, only about how the scene felt IN the movie, which was so far off it took me out of the picture entirely, and I did nothing but check the clock from that point on. The creature doesn't appear much removed from 1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon, which I imagine is meant as a sort-of love letter to old school horror, but--in 2018--it makes taking the film seriously pretty difficult. Unsubtle parallels are drawn between prejudice against the creature and other prejudices that were prevalent just a few decades ago; this is a message movie trying to hide behind a fairy tale and failing miserably.
The Shape of Water runs an interminable 123 minutes and is rated R for "sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, and language."
The Shape of Water is lovely music with nonsensical lyrics, aesthetically pleasing but not good for much else.  Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Shape of Water gets four.
Until next time...

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