Water = Sharks 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - water works Sally Hawkins plays a custodian who falls in love with a fish-man creature in the acclaimed film The Shape of Water.
  • photo submitted
  • water works Sally Hawkins plays a custodian who falls in love with a fish-man creature in the acclaimed film The Shape of Water.

It was French film legend Jean-Luc Godard who said, "all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun," but that was back in the 1960s. Times change, contemporary audiences are more savvy (or is it less?) so these days you need a girl and a shark.

It's been over 40 years since Jaws thrust the fear of what lurks beneath into popular culture, and that fear (albeit totally exaggerated) still plays pretty well for a vast amount of people. Ridiculous gimmicks like Sharknado and Sharktopus aside, (sure they're awesome in their own right, but don't truly belong to the shark-fear cadre) the giant teethy fish have still got it.

Last year audiences turned out for Blake Lively vs The Shark (a.k.a.: The Shallows) because it was a good idea for just about the perfect time — 83 minutes (Blake Lively in a swimsuit likely didn't hurt). So why mess with success? Sharks vs Mandy Moore (and her sister) is now streaming on Netflix. It's 85 minutes, has two characters (barely developed), a perfect amount of sharks (not falling from the sky) and one solid, high-tension idea — what would happen if one of those tourist shark cage tours went awry and the cable snapped just as they were chumming for great whites?

Trapped in the rusty cage, Mandy Moore (and her sister) plummet to the ocean floor which is, 47 Meters Down (also the film's actual title). This one is no masterpiece, but the sharks are utilized properly and the lurking threat of nitrous oxide bubbles in the protagonists' brains makes for a good double-punch of tense. I liked it (even the tagged on second ending couldn't spoil this one) and at 86-minutes the pace is spot on.

Speaking of epic shark movies and pushing lowbrow ideas as far as one can, there's an entire plot point in Megalodon built around the world's most cunningly linguistic pick-up line. This one is not for kids, but even adults need to stay on point: there are a lot of shark movies with the word "megalodon" in the title. You want Megalodon not Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, which is a totally different movie that lacks...bite.

Sticking with an underwater theme the Whistler Village 8 is opening multiple-Oscar contender The Shape of Water this week. Directed by visionary style master Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy), this one is a loving fairy tale set in a top-secret, '60s-era, Cold War government facility in Baltimore. British actress Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) plays Eliza, a mute custodian with only two friends, her neighbour, a gay artist played by Richard Jenkins (Burn After Reading), and a smart-talking co-worker played by Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures). But once a super angry and sadistic army dude (Michael Shannon) arrives with a fish-man creature dredged from some remote (and likely black) lagoon in the Amazon everything changes. Cue the creepy, barbaric torture scenes, all in the name of national security, of course, until Eliza rescues the creature (played by Doug Jones, who dusts off his old Fishman acting skills from Hellboy) and they fall in love, have sex, and live happily ever after. Kind of, there's a bunch of conflict and pain and loss and struggle and magic, and incredible visuals in there as well. As well as some masturbation and a Russian spy.

Del Toro's movies are known for their child-like imagination, but with this one he claims to be going after more adult themes like, love, sex, otherness, loneliness, trust and acceptance. It works. Some will complain that it's all painted with too wide a brush, that no love, especially one between a fishman and a woman can be so unnuanced or without fear. Valid points I suppose, but it's a fairy tale, not a documentary. And with 13 Oscar nominations, this has to be the most-critically acclaimed flick to ever hang a premise on beastiality since Beauty and the Beast. You gotta see it.

Winchester also opens this week, without pre-screeners, which is usually a bad call, but also kind of a good idea for a horror flick about "the most haunted house in the world." Apparently, based on true events (typical of the horror genre these days), Winchester stars Helen Mirren, a legend, but from the trailer it kinda looks like she just wanted to try something different, but not necessarily good. It's unlikely Winchester will blow you away.

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