FILMS: The Shape of Water and Molly’s Game

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- with my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Today I am back with two more film reviews for you- this season gave us so many top-notch films I wanted to tell you about.

‘The Shape of Water’ won Golden Globe awards for Guillermo del Toro for Best Director and Alexandre Desplat for Best Original Score- as well as nominations for Best Drama and for Sally Hawkins for Best Actress.

 l to r: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer. Image: vox

del Toro, the highly acclaimed, visionary director of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ sets ‘The Shape of Water’ in Baltimore during the Cold War era of the early 1960’s. Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer play a cleaning crew working in a top secret U.S. government lab where a sea creature is brought in after being captured by Michael Shannon, playing a cruel government agent (does he ever play a good guy?).

 Michael Shannon. Image: vox

Sally’s character is mute but finds she is able to communicate with the creature and a bond forms between them. A serious bond. When Shannon convinces an army general they need to kill the creature- and Sally learns of those plans- she enlists her friends, Spencer and her neighbor, Richard Jenkins- and plots a rescue to set him free.

del Toro’s visual style captures the Cold War era beautifully, with his deep, dark hues rendering the creature as the brightest object on the screen. Imagine the Creature from the Black Lagoon in color, and with remarkably expressive fish eyes; he is quite a sight.

Though the film, as might be expected, goes down a violent path at the end, it still manages to score a victory for beauty and I give ‘The Shape of Water’ 4 stars out of 5.

And I have another fine film for you!

 Image: AssignmentX

Aaron Sorkin is a major creative force in Hollywood. Though he and I were at Syracuse University at the same time, regrettably, I didn’t know him. But I sure know his work: In addition to TV shows like ‘West Wing,’ ‘Sports Night’ and ‘Newsroom,’ he’s written many excellent screenplays: ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Moneyball,’ ‘A Few Good Men’ and others.

Add ‘Molly’s Game’ to that list. It’s based on the true story of former U.S. Olympic athlete Molly Bloom- wonderfully acted by Jessica Chastain. Molly sustains a life-changing ski injury and Sorkin chronicles Bloom’s descent into drugs while running high stakes poker games… and running into trouble with the law.

 Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba. Image: theverge

Sorkin makes his directing debut here, handling the story-telling in a direct manner and, as anyone familiar with his work knows, he keeps the pace brisk.

Kevin Costner plays Molly’s tough-to-please father, but he has his own demons he is battling, too. Idris Elba does a wonderful job playing Molly’s lawyer Charlie who, rather reluctantly, takes on her case. Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Justin Kirk and Chris O’Dowd are among the high stakes poker players- and each has their own unique, but off-kilter, personality.

 Kevin Costner, Jessica Chastain. Image: fandango

The story is engaging, the cast is terrific and it’s a smart, true tale told well. I give ‘Molly’s Game’ 4 stars out of 5.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com- where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking movies for WICC 600!”