Killing Gunther Review

The Plot

An assassin assembles a madcap team of killers with the purpose of taking out the world’s most elusive and notorious hitman ‘Gunther’, allowing him to take his place as the world’s best killer and settle a personal score in the process. In order to ensure they have proof of their accomplishment the team force a documentary crew to follow them at all times. But things don’t quite go to plan as the cameras keep rolling.

The Good

Killing Gunther follows the well-established mockumentary template, following a team of delusional and inept killers on an increasingly disastrous series of misadventures. While much of what happens is equally predicable and silly, there’s certainly no lack of screwball enthusiasm from the cast.

Writer, director and leading man Taram Killam clearly has passion for the project. His performance as chain smoking hitman Blake lurches violently between cool guy swagger and pathetic, with fairly amusing consequence. The film is populated by a fairly familiar host of villainous assassins with an eager cast doing their best to work frequent laughs out of their murderous misfortunes.

If you enjoyed John Cusack and Dan Aykroyd’s 90’s hitman caper Grosse Pointe Blank then it’s a fairly good indicator that you’ll enjoy the silly macabre tone of Killing Gunther. It’s easy to see how Killam’s emotionally fragile smartly dressed hitman, pining over his ex-girlfriend while doing battle with rival killers may well have been directly inspired by Cusack’s memorable performance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the kind of iconic big screen star that can elevate any film instantly into something far more entertaining and fun than it really has any right to be. While his recent work has veered in more serious and subtle directions since his return to acting, fans will welcome seeing him cut loose in a bonkers comedy role for a change. Whether he’s butchering country and western music or shamelessly parading famous one liners and silly outfits,  he’s clearly having plenty of fun. Even if it is mostly at his own expense.

The Bad

Arnold Schwarzenegger fans may feel disappointed that while the action megastar does play the titular ‘Gunther’, his actual presence on screen is limited to such an extent that it almost amounts to just an ‘extended cameo’. In addition to being noticeably brief it’s also arguably one of Schwarzenegger’s most unashamedly silly performances, quite a feat in a career that has included playing a pregnant man. While some will enjoy this performance as self-aware comedy gold others might make the case it’s just authentically awful. Either way it’s certainly not the triumphant action hero return many fans are forlornly yearning for.

Aside from Schwarzenegger’s odd turn the film goes through the motions of a fairly generic mockumentary. By now audiences may be a little overly familiar with the predictable punchlines and the film never rises to the high standards of memorable cult classics like Spinal Tap or Drop Dead Gorgeous. The film lacks the quotable genius and quirky originality of those films, even if it does have more splashes of action mayhem.

The Ugly Truth

Killing Gunther should appeal to fans of screwball black comedy and dedicated Arnie addicts. Schwarzenegger’s unashamedly self-deprecating turn and healthy bursts of black comedy keep this cinematic oddity watchable. An undeniably acquired taste with an evidently modest budget, Killing Gunther is the epitome of quirky cult filmmaking.

Review by Russell Nelson

BAFTA Games Awards 2018 Nominations

BAFTA has today announced the nominations for the British Academy Games Awards in 2018. A total of 45 games have been recognised, showcasing the very best games of the past 12 months and highlighting an outstanding level of creative excellence from a broad range of UK and international development teams.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice leads the way with nine nominations across Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, Best Game, British Game, Game Beyond Entertainment, Game Innovation, Music, Narrative and Performer.
Horizon Zero Dawn receives nominations in eight categories: Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, Best Game, Game Design, Music, Narrative, Original Property and Performer.
What Remains of Edith Finch receives seven nominations in Best Game, Game Design, Game Innovation, Music, Narrative, Original Property and Performer.
Two games receive five nominations apiece: Gorogoa in Artistic Achievement, Debut Game, Game Innovation, Mobile and Original Property; and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in Artistic Achievement, Best Game, Game Design, Game Innovation and Music.
Cuphead, Night in the Woods and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy receive four nominations. Assassin’s Creed Origins, Monument Valley 2, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Super Mario Odyssey receive three nominations each.
Receiving two nominations each are Snipperclips, Fortnite, NieR: Automata, The Sexy Brutale and Bury Me, My Love.
Nominated in the Performer category are Abubakar Salim (Bayek) in Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ashly Burch (Aloy) in Horizon Zero Dawn, Melina Juergens (Senua) in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Valerie Rose Lohman (Edith Finch) in What Remains of Edith Finch and Claudia Black (Chloe Frazer) and Laura Bailey (Nadine Ross) in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
The new Game Beyond Entertainment category, introduced to recognise games that deliver a transformational experience beyond pure entertainment, explores a range of social issues. Nominees include the prequel to the BAFTA-winning Life is Strange, Life is Strange: Beyond the Storm, which elegantly tackles issues rarely touched on in ‘traditional’ games; exploring themes of love, friendship, bullying, and everyday dilemmas.  Night in the Woods, which explores issues surrounding depression and the class system in small-town America. Bury Me, My Love, the mobile game telling the tale of a couple separated by the Syrian conflict. Last Day of June, which deals with issues of loss when a couple suffer a tragedy. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which explores the titular character’s struggle with mental health issues and Sea Hero Quest VR, a game that contributes to research on dementia through gameplay.
Other nominated games are Call of Duty: World War II, Clash Royale, Destiny 2, Divinity Original Sin 2, Final Fantasy XV, Gang Beasts, Get Even, Golf Clash, Hollow Knight, Just Dance 2018, KAMI 2, LEGO Worlds, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Overwatch, Reigns: Her Majesty, Slime Rancher, Sniper Elite 4, Splatoon 2, Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Stranger Things: The Game, Tacoma, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Total War: Warhammer II and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
The ceremony, hosted by Dara O’Briain, takes place on Thursday 12 April at Troxy, London and live streamed on all major social, online and gaming platforms: www.bafta.org/games/howtowatch
The awards will be preceded by a Champagne Taittinger reception and followed by a seated dinner and after-party for guests. Guests attending BAFTA’s awards ceremonies support the organisation’s charitable work and initiatives that identify, support and nurture new talent in this thriving sector. Tickets are now available at www.bafta.org/games/awards/tickets.
The Awards are supported by industry partners Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, GAME, SEGA Europe Ltd., PlayFusion, Tencent, Ubisoft Entertainment with ME London Hotel the official hotel partner.
The British Academy Games Awards is part of the London Games Festival. The London Games Festival runs from 5 April to 15 April covering 40 events across the city. London Games Festival is delivered by Games London, a project jointly run by Film London and Ukie, funded by the Mayor of London via the London Enterprise Action Panel. More information at www.games.london
The Awards, including the nominations, are voted for by BAFTA’s global membership, comprising experienced games industry practitioners from a range of backgrounds in game development and production. To become a BAFTA member, visit membership.bafta.org.
BAFTA curates a year-round global programme of events and initiatives that support the games industry. This includes developer talks, showcases, debates, scholarships and networking, as well as the flagship Games Lecture by an inspirational practitioner. BAFTA Young Game Designers (YGD) gives young people and educators insights into the industry and access to the brightest creative minds in games. Applications for YGD and BAFTA Crew Games, the professional network and masterclass programme, are now open.
THE NOMINATIONS
ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT
CUPHEAD Development Team – StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc./StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
GOROGOA Development Team – Jason Roberts, Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Development Team – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
UNCHARTED: THE LOST LEGACY Development Team – Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
AUDIO ACHIEVEMENT
CALL OF DUTY: WORLD WAR II Development Team – Sledgehammer Games/Activision
DESTINY 2 Development Team – Bungie/Activision
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE David Garcia Diaz – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II Development Team – DICE/Electronic Arts
UNCHARTED: THE LOST LEGACY Development Team – Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
BEST GAME
ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS Development Team – Ubisoft Montreal/ Ubisoft
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Development Team – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Development Team – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
BRITISH GAME
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Development Team – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
MONUMENT VALLEY 2 Development Team – ustwo games/ustwo games
REIGNS: HER MAJESTY Leigh Alexander, François Alliot, Arnaud De Bock – Nerial Ltd/ Devolver Digital
THE SEXY BRUTALE Charles Griffiths, James Griffiths, Tom Lansdale – Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works/ Tequila Works
SNIPER ELITE 4 Development Team – Rebellion/ Rebellion
TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II Development Team – Creative Assembly/ SEGA
DEBUT GAME
CUPHEAD Development Team – StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc./StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
GOROGOA Development Team – Jason Roberts, Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive
HOLLOW KNIGHT Development Team – Team Cherry/Team Cherry
NIGHT IN THE WOODS Scott Benson, Alec Holowka, Bethany Hockenberry – InfiniteFall/Finji
THE SEXY BRUTALE Charles Griffiths, James Griffiths, Tom Lansdale – Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works/Tequila Works
SLIME RANCHER Development Team – Monomi Park/Monomi Park
EVOLVING GAME
CLASH ROYALE Development Team – Supercell/ Supercell
FINAL FANTASY XV Hajime Tabata – Square Enix/ Square Enix
FORTNITE Development Team – Epic Games/ Epic Games
OVERWATCH Development Team – Blizzard Entertainment/ Blizzard Entertainment
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Development Team – PUBG Corp/ Bluehole, Inc.
TOM CLANCY’S RAINBOW SIX SIEGE Development Team – Ubisoft Montreal/ Ubisoft
FAMILY
JUST DANCE 2018 Development Team – Ubisoft Paris/ Ubisoft
LEGO WORLDS Development Team – TT Games/ WB Games
MARIO + RABBIDS KINGDOM BATTLE Development Team – Ubisoft/ Ubisoft
MONUMENT VALLEY 2 Development Team – ustwo games/ustwo games
SNIPPERCLIPS Development Team – SFB Games/ Nintendo
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
GAME BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT
BURY ME, MY LOVE Development Team – The Pixel Hunt & Fig/ ARTE & Playdius
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Development Team – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
LAST DAY OF JUNE Massimo Guarini, Elia Randon, Andrew Thompson – Ovosonico/505 Games
LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM Development Team – Deck Nine Games, Square Enix/Square Enix
NIGHT IN THE WOODS Scott Benson, Alec Holowka, Bethany Hockenberry – InfiniteFall/ Finji
SEA HERO QUEST VR Matthew Hyde, Max Scott-Slade, Hugo Scott-Slade – Glitchers/ Glitchers
GAME DESIGN
ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS Development Team – Ubisoft Montreal/ Ubisoft
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
NIER AUTOMATA Development Team – Platinum Games; Square Enix/ Square Enix
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Development Team – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
GAME INNOVATION
GOROGOA Development Team – Jason Roberts, Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Development Team – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
NIER AUTOMATA Development Team – Platinum Games; Square Enix/Square Enix
SNIPPERCLIPS Development Team – SFB Games/Nintendo
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Development Team – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
MOBILE GAME
BURY ME, MY LOVE Development Team – The Pixel Hunt & Fig/ ARTE & Playdius
GOLF CLASH Paul Gouge, Alex Rigby, Gareth Jones – Playdemic/Playdemic
GOROGOA Development Team – Jason Roberts, Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive
KAMI 2 Development Team – State of Play/State of Play
MONUMENT VALLEY 2 Development Team – ustwo games/ustwo games
STRANGER THINGS: THE GAME Development Team – BonusXP, Inc./BonusXP, Inc.
MULTIPLAYER
DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN 2 Development Team – Larian Studios/ Larian Studios Games
FORTNITE Development Team – Epic Games/ Epic Games
GANG BEASTS Development Team – Boneloaf/ Double Fine Productions
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Development Team – PUBG Corp/ Bluehole, Inc.
SPLATOON 2 Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
STAR TREK BRIDGE CREW Development Team – Red Storm Entertainment/ Ubisoft
MUSIC
CUPHEAD Development Team – StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc./StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
GET EVEN Development Team – The Farm 51/ Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE David Garcia Diaz, Andy LaPlegua – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD Development Team – Nintendo EPD/Nintendo
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Jeff Russo – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
NARRATIVE
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE Tameem Antoniades – Ninja Theory Ltd/ Ninja Theory Ltd
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
NIGHT IN THE WOODS Scott Benson, Alec Holowka, Bethany Hockenberry – InfiniteFall/ Finji
TACOMA Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimonja – Fullbright/ Fullbright
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Development Team – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS Jens Matthies, Tommy Tordsson Björk, Tom Keegan – Machine Games/ Bethesda
ORIGINAL PROPERTY
CUPHEAD Chad Moldenhauer, Jared Moldenhauer – StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc./StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
GOROGOA Development Team – Jason Roberts, Buried Signal/Annapurna Interactive
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Development Team – Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
NIGHT IN THE WOODS Scott Benson, Alec Holowka, Bethany Hockenberry – InfiniteFall/ Finji
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Development Team – PUBG Corp/ Bluehole, Inc.
WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH Development Team – Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive
PERFORMER
ABUBAKAR SALIM as Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins
ASHLY BURCH as Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn
CLAUDIA BLACK as Chloe Frazer in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
LAURA BAILEY as Nadine Ross in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
MELINA JUERGENS as Senua in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
VALERIE ROSE LOHMAN as Edith Finch in What Remains of Edith Finch

Peter Rabbit Review

The Plot

Peter Rabbit and his family of mischievous bunnies are determined to reclaim their vegetable patch from the evil McGregor family. But just when their daring tricks seem to have finally won their land back for good, a new McGregor arrives to spoil their fun.

The Good

Beatrix Potter’s animal creations are timeless childhood favourites that have spanned generations. Despite utilising the latest CGI effects this big screen adventure perfectly captures all of the whimsical beauty of Potter’s ironically illustrated tales. Perfectly clad in tiny jackets, pinafore aprons and dresses the animal inhabitants of Potter’s tales have retained every inch of their famous charm. The film’s bucolic English countryside setting likewise provides a perfect backdrop for a world quintessentially British and timeless.

James Corden continues his unstoppable meteoric rise by providing a sensationally well matched performance as titular hero Peter Rabbit. The actor turned talk show host manages to imbue Peter with just the right mix of naughty recklessness and genuine heart. Surrounding his star turn is a simply amazing supporting cast, with each familiar beloved character brought to life with note perfect vocal performances.

Special praise in particular goes to the all-star trio of Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley as the bickering bunny siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail. It’s hard to imagine anything more relentlessly amusing and charming than this winning combination. Margot Robbie deserves special praise for doubling up with narrator duties in a flawless English accent. Daisy Ridley also goes a long way to proving her comic timing and establishing a character range wider than ‘too perfect’ Jedi heroes.

The film’s ‘human’ stars Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne are both on magnificent form as the occasionally mean spirited Thomas McGregor and the Bunny family’s faithful friend Bea. Gleeson does a great job of adapting the high strung Mr McGregor into a nasty villain and a romantic hero as the story requires. Rose Byrne likewise effortlessly bubbles throughout with the kind of sweet natured charisma only truly found in the very best children’s stores.

As is seemingly standard for modern revivals of beloved children’s characters, this new version of Peter Rabbit incorporates a soundtrack of instantly familiar pop songs. While this might initially seem like a potentially jarring juxtaposition with Potter’s well defined world, in truth it actually works out wonderfully. Each song used is thankfully well chosen and integrated into the film in surprisingly effective ways.

Director and co-writer Will Gluck combines each well-chosen element of his cast, soundtrack and animation with a script that captures the true spirit of Peter Rabbit. The film manages to fuse every aspect of Potter’s iconic heroes with an irrepressibly funny and sincere script. Packed with genuinely amusing slapstick comedy, memorable one liners and gentle moral lessons this is a rare gift of a film.

The Bad

Judged within the context of a children’s film there is simply no flaw worth mentioning. This adaptation of Peter Rabbit simply could not be any better.

The Ugly Truth

A truly magnificent combination of modern animation, brilliant voice acting and joyously fun writing breathe new life into Beatrix Potter’s utterly beloved characters. Peter Rabbit is a perfect piece of cinema magic that will leave children and adults alike equally delighted.

Review by Russell Nelson

Good Girl Review Trafalgar Studios

The Plot

Titular hero GG aka ‘Good Girl’ narrates her own life story from early childhood, through painfully awkward adolescence and into even more uncertain adulthood.

The Good

Set against an expertly chosen backdrop of 1990s pop culture references and catchy pop tunes this sensational one woman show deservedly graduates to the West End, having emphatically dazzled audiences at Edinburgh Fringe and the Vault festivals.

Writer and star Naomi Sheldon breathes captivating life into every moment of a brisk 60 minute run time. Lurching expertly from joyous explorations to painful disappointments she makes GG the kind of sincere nuanced heroine that is so tragically rare on stage or screen. Sheldon’s performance is overflowing with an abundance of comedic charm. In particular her flare for instantly transforming herself physically and vocally into a wide range of characters, allows this one woman show to explore a rich expansive world.

Sheldon convincingly portrays both GG and her loyal gang of fellow Sheffield schoolgirls in a journey that spans decades and the entire emotional spectrum. Her unflinchingly candid observations and instantly recognisable caricatures connect instantly and powerfully with audiences. Her vividly descriptive narration and richly imaginative performance combines to leave audiences in frequent fits of laughter. This rich reservoir of bold comedic charm allows Sheldon to succeed in handling complex issues of identity, gender and sexuality with an effortless grace and precision.

It’s impossible to ignore just how timely and urgently relevant this show feels, set against a backdrop of seemingly unstoppable social self-examination and recriminations. Perhaps the biggest compliment possible is that Good Girl transcends the current white noise of increasingly hysterical tabloid headlines to speak directly to women and men with equal passion and grace. This show has a urgent and sincere voice of its own, rather than just being an angry kneejerk reaction to current Hollywood drama.

Sheldon and her semi-autobiographical heroine GG are brave and fragile in the most utterly compelling ways. Standing alone on a small circular stage with no props beside raw imagination and sensational comic timing, Sheldon is simultaneously commanding and exposed. Similarly the distinctive twang of northern accents of the various characters she inhabits lends both gentle and harsh qualities to some of the plays most crucial moments.

Naomi Sheldon is clearly destined for great things and deserves every success that will assuredly come her way in due time. For now it’s essential not to miss the chance to spend an hour inside the warm welcoming wit of her intimate adventure.

The Bad

The only minor flaw in Naomi Sheldon’s otherwise perfect piece of stage magic is that it may at times be too daringly honest and perceptive for more emotionally repressed audiences.

The Ugly Truth

Good Girl is a truly essential piece of live theatre magic that perfectly captures the poignant pleasures and pains of adolescence. Naomi Sheldon is an astonishingly adept new voice as both a writer and performer. You MUST watch this while you can. Do not miss the chance to experience this vivid storytelling masterclass in a fittingly intimate space.

Review by Russell Nelson

The Shape Of Water Review

The Plot

During a time when cold war paranoia and thinly veiled prejudices grip American society, an unlikely relationship develops between a mute cleaning lady and a mysterious creature being held at the secret government facility she works at.

The Good

Guillermo Del Toro is a rarely gifted storyteller with an unashamed passion for the transformative magic of fantasy storytelling. His much acclaimed previous work on Cronos, Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth are masterclasses in the clever use of practical effects to bring a fascinating array of creatures and strange worlds to life on screen. In The Shape Of Water Del Toro uses all of that considerable technical skill and absurdly imaginative vision to craft a powerfully sincere romantic fantasy.

Actor Doug Jones has long been Guillermo Del Toro’s secret weapon. The statuesque performer has collaborated with the acclaimed director countless times as a creature performer, proving himself to be uniquely capable of working with complex prosthetic makeup and visual effects wizardry. In this film Doug Jones gives one of his finest performances as a truly original leading man. His muted performance as the film’s muted amphibious ‘creature’ is the perfect counterpoint for Sally Hawkins equally mute leading lady.

Del Toro’s exquisite visual style gives the film its beauty, but it is the expertly nuanced performances from a fantastic ensemble cast that gives the film its heart. Sally Hawkins is simply glorious as a mute leading lady who is by turns meek and inspiringly bold.  Likewise Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and a villainous Michael Shannon each bring considerable depth to supporting performances that help the film paint a complex picture of the struggle between unlikely love and ugly evil. Michael Shannon in particular deserves praise for delivering yet another performance that bristles with menacing intensity from his first moments on screen till the very last.

An achingly romantic soundtrack helps provide the film with extra dimensions of nostalgic charm and sincere yearning. The film’s more uplifting and beautiful moments largely counterbalance its occasional flashes of ugly violence and menacing subtext.

The Bad

Like much of Del Toro’s unique work The Shape Of Water lurches between moments of indescribable beauty and ugly violent horror. While this is a very deliberate element of Del Toro’s dark fantasy it will prove at times jarring and potentially deeply unsettling for more squeamish audiences. At times when the film strays into more graphic body horror it risks alienating audiences lured by a marketing campaign mostly based around the film’s more softly romantic undertones. Del Toro’s trademark lush visual style and Alexandre Desplat’s emotionally warm soundtrack can’t entirely shield audiences from the film’s more unsettling moments.

The Ugly Truth

Guillermo Del Toro offers audiences a beautiful and visceral fable that echoes much of his acclaimed past efforts and pays tribute once again to the most iconic elements of fantasy storytelling. Accomplished visual effects and a stellar ensemble cast bring a truly unique if sometimes challenging love story to life. While not always an easy watch for squeamish audiences, overall The Shape Of Water is unforgettable movie magic.

Review by Russell Nelson