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Crimson Peak Review

Crimson Peak

If you’re looking for spooky, look no further than Crimson Peak.

Guillermo Del Toro is somewhat of an anomaly in the world of Hollywood. He’s regarded, rightfully so, as one of the most creative, inventive and visually engaging directors to ever grace the medium. His masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth, won armfuls of accolades, awards, and forever cemented his imaginative place in the world of cinema. The tricky thing about Mr. Del Toro’s career, however, has been his lack of a box office success. The word “decent” is often used to describe his best box office grosses, while flop is used for the rest. What I find interesting is that in light of his middle-of-the-road financial successes he was able to make a film like Crimson Peak. It’s a haunted house film to rival the eeriest of gothic romance tales ever committed to film or otherwise.

The film starts off with Mia Wasikowsa’s Edith Cushing exclaiming that ghost’s are real. She tells of the death of her Mother when she was very young, and the haunted happenings that followed. Her deathly apparition of a Mother appears to her with a warning: Beware Crimson Peak. With an ominous light cast on this Crimson Peak very early on we then jump forward into Edith’s adulthood. She’s an inspiring writer of spooky fiction and gothic romances. Her works are scoffed at as tacky ghost stories, though she reminds her critics that they aren’t ghost stories, they’re stories with ghosts. That’s an extremely important bit to remember, and a line that played over in my mind as a left the theater. I’ll get to it in a second.

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From there we meet the Sharpe twins, played magnificently by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. For the viewer it’s clear from the get go that something’s just not right about this two strangers clad in black. The characters in the film seem to share the audiences misgivings, with of course Ms. Cushing being the exception. She falls madly in love and moves to the Sharpe estate in England where the bulk of the film takes place. Once there the creepy happenings pick up the pace and continue on until the end. The ghosts are unsettling to behold, and the atmosphere Del Toro places them in only enhances their spooky factor. Spoiler warning for those who care to remain fresh, but the ghosts are ultimately inconsequential to the plot. The evil of Crimson Peak is not of supernatural origin. The twist and finale of the movie can be seen coming from a mile away and unfolds as we’d assume it would. The plot isn’t really why one would see this film, however. The magic lies in the visuals.

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My biggest problem with Crimson Peak was how little impact these truly exciting and terrifying apparitions had on the story. If you took the ghosts out the plot would remain nearly unaffected. The mystery of the Sharpe twins is uncovered largely without the assistance of anything supernatural. The ghosts are not even integral to the climax of the film, even after their connection to the Sharpes is established. That felt like a huge missed opportunity. Like I mentioned earlier Edith Cushing states that her story is not of ghosts, but rather featuring ghosts. It’s curious to me that Del Toro would tell us what kind of film we’re getting, and that the impact of that line wouldn’t hold it’s full weight until after the credits roll. I guess this is one man’s opinion, but I would have liked to have seen the ghosts have a larger effect on the overall plot.

Guillermo Del Toro has a visual eye unlike any filmmaker I’ve ever seen. Nothing looks like a Del Toro picture. He takes every influence he’s ever had and mashes them together into something that feels truly original. Crimson Peak is no different. It’s dripping with his unique aesthetic. It’s a shame his story telling elements never line up with his visuals. Each English language film he’s done is masterful in it’s design. They look phenomenal. The stories and characters always leave something to be desired, however. These troubles aren’t found in his Spanish language movies. The story and visuals match up and make for really great films. Something about the English language holds Guillermo Del Toro back, and I hold my breath for the day he returns to Spanish cinema and delivers another masterpiece.

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At the end of the day I absolutely recommend Crimson Peak. It’s a perfect Halloween film. It’s a perfect film to turn the lights off and behold some spooky happenings. The plot and characters don’t hold up under scrutiny, but if you’re looking for some delicious eye candy, or rather what Del Toro would call eye protein, then watch Crimson Peak. If you like looking at cool stuff then this is the movie for you. Forgive the plot contrivances and weak characters and you’ll have a good time.

The Martian Review

The Martian Review: Ridley Scott and Matt Damon find their movie magic again. On Mars of all places.

Ridley Scott has confused me somewhat over the last few years. His output has been steady to the point of releasing a film at an annual basis. His last handful of movies left me cold and underwhelmed. He seemed to be chasing quantity rather than taking the time to focus on quality. Understandably, I went into The Martian with some trepidation. Was this going to be another critical flop from such a prolific director, or would all the pieces at play come together to give us a fun, entertaining, and thought provoking movie? I won’t leave you sitting in suspense. The Martian is a very good film. Ridley Scott seems to have found some magic left in his bag of tricks and delivers a heck of a good time. This is a movie review, however, so I can’t simply leave it at that. Let’s take a closer look at what The Martian had going for it.

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The movie plops us right into the middle of the action. We’re instantly treated to the wide, dusty red vista’s of mysterious Mars. A team of astronauts are diligently performing their duties gathering soil samples and other scientific duties. It’s not long after (and I do mean not long) that a massive storm derails the mission and they’re forced to evacuate. While on their way back to the escape craft astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and left for dead. That entire sequence makes for an attention hooking, exciting opening, but I do wish that there had been a little more with the team as a whole. Sure, prior to the accident we get tons of witty banter and a clear picture of the camaraderie between them all, but a little more of that would have perhaps given us a larger emotional investment into Watney’s ordeal and his team’s determination to get him back. Nevertheless the crew returns to their ship and heads back to Earth, unaware that Watney is alive.

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The rest of the film details Watney’s survival attempts. Though in a dire situation he’s in good spirits, which helps the audience have fun. Intercut with Watney’s chores are the actions of NASA who must walk the line between risking a mission to save Watney and keeping public approval high while understanding that Watney is in a no win scenario. Jeff Daniels plays the head of NASA, and while he does a fine job he’s a little too unnecessarily villainous at times. It’s hinted at and perhaps mentioned in passing that the future of the entire space program could lie upon what the public, and more importantly, what the Mars crew know of Watney’s situation. Eventually they break down and inform the Mars crew about Watney’s survival and naturally his team wants to rescue him. Using some fancy space maneuvers and a little bit of Chinese intervention the team manages to get back to Mars and perform the daring rescue of this plucky astronaut we’ve grown to love. It’s a suitably happy ending for a film the maintains an optimistic point of view it’s entire run time.

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The Martian is a film with all the necessary pieces for a cinematic classics. By and large everything fires on all cylinders and it’s a rip roaring good time throughout. As mentioned above I felt like Jeff Daniels character needed a better spotlight on his motivations to avoid just being a weak villain, which that character wasn’t. He was a big picture bureaucrat who’s interest centered on the entire space program rather than a single life. Speaking of life there were times the stakes didn’t carry the gravity they should have. Though Watney was in constant danger I never felt like he was ever truly at risk. It was a little too easy to sit back, watch, and know Mark Watney will make it home safe and sound. Spoiler warning: There are zero casualties in this film. Everyone gets to go home to their lives and families no worse for wear. I feel like a zealot calling for blood, but perhaps if one of the more background crew members had perished in the rescue attempt the heavy stakes I was looking for would have been there. The Mar’s crew brought a lot of warmth and character to the film, but I would have liked more of them. Still, all that said, I had a great time watching this movie. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to get some fun, well made entertainment.