You can always count on filmmaker Guillermo del Toro to deliver visually arresting and atmospheric cinema. “The Shape of Water” is no exception. This adult sci-fi fantasy is really an oddball love story featuring an aquatic humanoid creature and a cleaning woman in 1960s Cold War America. Sally Hawkins leads a terrific cast as an emotionally damaged mute who works at a top secret US government research facility. She befriends and eventually becomes romantically involved with a captured monster that resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The top-notch supporting cast includes Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer. “The Shape of Water” is ravishing to behold and works in spite of, or perhaps because of, its stubbornly eccentric sensibilities.
Late in Woody Allen’s latest movie, a character played by Kate Winslet yells, “Enough with the bad drama.” My thoughts, exactly. “Wonder Wheel” is set in New York’s Coney Island amusement park during the 1950s. Winslet plays an unhappy waitress married to a boorish, boozy carousel operator played by Jim Belushi. She carries on an affair with a lifeguard and wannabe playwright, played by Justin Timberlake. Trouble is, Justin is attracted to her comely stepdaughter, played by Juno Temple. The dialogue is unusually stilted for a Woody Allen movie, and it plays like “Tennessee Williams Lite.” The talented cast imbues his screenplay more heft than it deserves, especially Winslet who gives an inspired performance. Too bad it’s wasted in this dramatic misfire.
Also opening this week, “Ferdinand” is an animated offering about the gentle bull with a big heart. It features the voice talent of John Cena. “Kaleidoscope” is a British psychological thriller starring Toby Jones. Oh, and also, there’s a little indie offering called “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” popping up in theaters. I’ll have my review next week.