Coming Soon

My apologies for the delay in posting. The site was hacked twice in the last few months. Needless to say, adjusts have been made, and I’m on my way to posting on a more regular schedule.

My next topic… Best MCU Casting decisions. The number one choice may surprise you.

Stay tuned!


Welcome To The Dollhouse

This film is not for the emotionally faint-hearted. If you’re looking for a predictable story that offers hope at the end of the tunnel or even a rainbow after a devastating storm…

…this is not it.

For those of you of the dark and twisty variety, a bit askew of the norm, voyeurs who can empathize and pity the misfit tweenage girl stuck in the ruthless world of junior high cliques and indifferent adults, this movie is priceless.

The bullying aspects alone would prevent this film from being made today.

Todd Solondz brilliantly captures a triple threat of mediocre injustice with a glimpse in the life of Dawn Wiener: a middle class, middle child attending middle school. The ultimate ugly duckling, with little hope of becoming a swan.

Set in an era long before the thought police took over the media, this coming-of-age black comedy offers a raw look inside the world of an unattractive twelve-year-old girl from New Jersey. Complete with an oddly compelling soundtrack that spans across a wide range of genres, (most notably, tracks featuring Daniel Rey’s sultry singing) Welcome to the Dollhouse is an original and honest telling of a bully victim with no support system.

Most viewers cannot identify with Dawn. She is unpopular, unattractive, and unremarkable in nearly every way. She’s the opposite of the epic hero as rather than one or two fatal flaws, she possesses two strengths – terrific hair (hidden in ponytails) and a good singing voice – neither of which play much part in the story.

I’ll spare you the details on how she injures her hand.

Heather Matarazzo offers a perfect portrayal of this awkward, ugly girl. She throws herself into the role, channeling her inner misfit in the way she stands, the way she whines, and most dreadfully, the way she dresses.

Maybe she’d be bearable if she could remember to close her mouth.

And rather than attempt some sort of statement about the dangers of isolation or bullying,  Solondz makes us laugh, creating the type of guilty pleasure that allows us to enjoy this poor girl’s misfortunes, while making it clear that he understands her pain, and helping us to do the same.

Part of what makes this film stand out is its success in creating a protagonist that the audience roots for, yet doesn’t actually like. You feel sorry for her, but in truth, none of us would have befriended Wienerdog in junior high. Anyone who would, either has a heart of gold, or they belong in Dawn’s Special People club.

And if you’re wondering if Ms. Matarazzo ever grew out of her Dawn phase…

I’d say so.

What do you think? Were you able to enjoy the dark humor in this movie? What similar comedies can you recommend? Message me or put it in the comments below.


Black Widow is the Most Impressive Avenger

I’m not here to make the case for a Black Widow movie as many would like. Overexposure can weaken a role. Take my favorite MCU character, Loki, for example. Many have called for his stand alone film. And, as much as I love him, I don’t want that. He’s the strongest villain we’ve had so far and laying out all his cards may steal too much of his mystery, effectively neutering his potency.

See: Darth Vader in the Star Wars Prequels

I’d much prefer Loki in a Marvel One-Shot, which would offer the chance to see him truly win without draining him of his power. 

And, I don’t know that this would happen to Black Widow in her own movie, but a huge part of her character is secrecy.

Having said that, I’d watch that movie in a heartbeat. She’s awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I’ll make the claim that she’s the most impressive of all the Avengers. Sure, Thor and Hulk are powerhouses, Cap’s a super soldier, and Hawkeye’s a hell of a shot. But Natasha brings at least the same value without the aid of enhancements. She’s taken down teams of Hydra agents and Justin Hammer’s crew without the benefit of a vibranium shield or a magic hammer. Her “super”powers, so to speak, lie in her specific set of skills as an assassin, an interrogator and a seductress.

Below are 5 reasons to support my assessment. Many of these factors interlace, but they are separate aspects of her prestige. And before we get started, be warned. There are spoilers from the movies she’s been in, including the recent Captain America film.

  1. Let’s start with an asset that’s truly unique from the rest. She sees things from multiple angles. Being a double agent has equipped her to understand both sides, allowing her to determine motive and anticipate response. In Civil War she read the terrain, prompting her to sign the Sokovia Accords, while keeping one eye on the road. 
  2. She tricked Loki – one of the most intelligent characters in the Marvel universe. Despite the effectiveness of his mind games (she later admitted that he got to her), she extracted what she needed from him while hiding the true damage he’d caused.    
  3. Black Widow receives little of the credit for successful missions. Iron Man in his protective metal suit and the high profile Captain America receive the bulk of the praise and attention. Yet, Natasha does her job in the background without pining for acknowledgements.
  4. She’s braver than the rest. True courage is not being fearless, but overcoming that fear which would cripple some. Black Widow faced the Hulk on her own, shooing others away in the process. She did not run from the Chitauri, nor did she flee Sokovia when the end looked inevitable. Like Hawkeye, she has no superpowers, yet Clint does most of his fighting from a distance while Natasha charges in.

    Which brings me to point 5.
  5. She attacks full force, without hesitation. She is amazing to watch in a fight. No holding back – she just goes for it. When she encounters the Winter Soldier in the 2nd Captain America movie, his deadly force has been established. Steve Rogers is on the scene. Most people would hold off and let him handle it, but not Natasha.  Both in that movie and during the escape scene in the latest film she lunges at him, wrapping him in her lethal legs. 

When you watch Civil War, there’s a scene before this that explains how they got from here: to here:

Can’t say that I blame either one of them…

What do you think? What other reasons make Black Widow more impressive than the other Avengers? If you disagree, tell me why in the comments. Until then, go watch Captain America: Civil War again. It’s the best superhero movie this year.



5 Tips for Polite Movie Watching

My Sin City Cinephile moniker was not fashioned on a whim. I love watching movies, especially on the big screen. But lately, the poor behavior of other patrons has me more selective when heading to the cinema. I’d prefer to enjoy films when they come out without first debating whether they’re worth the potential annoyance of other people’s rudeness. In light of my recent encounters, here are a few simple tips to prevent ruining the movie experience for others.

Show up on time.GiantWatch


I’ll admit this is something I struggle with in most areas of my life. I’m working on it. I am. But showing up fashionably late to a party is far more acceptable than entering a dark theatre during an opening sequence. The people who showed up on time should get to watch that part without you pulling in the light from outside the room or the silhouette of your head popping up in the screen. Even when there’s reserved seating, it’s still upsetting to have someone tripping over themselves as they shuffle by blocking the picture. If seats aren’t assigned, there’s the added aggravation of their phone light as they search for a seat. Which brings me to tip 2.

Turn off your phone.







Period. It pulls people from the movie. Think of it this way, the light from your cellular serves as a beacon to locate the thoughtless culprit. Unless you’re a surgeon, your messages can probably wait for the completion of the film.

If you must eat, do so quietly.

Loud crunching and cellophane completely disrupt the experience. Take care of wrappers before the film starts. When your drink gets low, don’t shake the ice or stir your straw around. And, please, I beg of you, if the scene on screen is quiet, tense, or important in any way, wait to shove another bite into your mouth. Some people prefer to snack during a movie, and I can appreciate that. I do it at home. But, consider those around you who have to hear your feast. Every slurp and crinkle rips through the theatre.

Don’t block the screen.

Large hats and propped up feet block the view of others. I recently watched Marc Abraham’s biopic I Saw The Light about Hank Williams. The only person who needed a cowboy hat on in that theatre was Tom Hiddleston.


Stay quiet.

The occasional laugh cannot be helped, in fact it’s usually encouraged. But keep your witty commentary for private viewings. Last month, I had the misfortune of sitting in the same row with someone who spent the entire film doing the worst job pretending he had not seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens already by “predicting” what happened in each scene. It took all my strength not to force choke the guy. Not only is this distracting, but it spoils the story for first-timers.

Speaking of spoilers, as a quiet time bonus tip, when you leave the theatre, don’t talk about the movie as you pass by those waiting to see it.

“I can’t believe what was in the box!”









Thank you for reading. Hopefully you didn’t need these suggestions, or they served as a helpful reminders.

What bad movie theatre habits bother you? What did I forget? Do you have an experience that backs up any of these tips? I’d love to hear it. Leave a note in the comments.

Pucker up!



As I work on my novel, these sentiments often consume my thoughts. And, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it seems appropriate to focus on a crucial ingredient for a successful courtship.

The kiss.

The most attractive pairing can fall flat to the viewers if there’s no kissing chemistry.

I’m talking to you two beauties.

If done well, a single kiss at the end of a tale can be powerful enough to be the climax in itself. Nothing more needed to satisfy.

It’s for that reason that the superbly rendered 2005 Pride & Prejudice disappointedI felt cheated when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy never had their big moment. They captured the emotions so well, but when it came time for the kiss, I felt a bit like this.

So, in celebration of this important element, I’ve compiled a list of films that stick the landing on the lip lock.

To narrow the field, I excluded television programs, which means no Derek & Meredith, no Ross & Rachel, and no Buffy & Angel. Only full length films are featured in this spoiler-filled report.

First up…

Catwoman & Batman (Batman Returns – Mistletoe Kiss) – How many licks does it take to steal Batman’s heart?

Apparently, just one really good one.

Little known fake fact: Michael Keaton insisted on several retakes. “Let’s go again. I can do better.”

And speaking of batmen…

Dracula & Mina (Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Absinthe Kiss) – It was a great year for kissing. And, okay, I’m cheating a little here since this shot didn’t exactly make it into the movie, but just look at that. They played these roles so well, it didn’t matter how much they veered from the novel.

Vlad: I killed your best friend and arranged an orgy for your fiancé. Mina: Great, now we won’t be interrupted.

Han & Leia (The Empire Strikes Back – Scoundrel Kiss) A kiss so powerful, it rewrote history. The undeniable chemistry between Han and Leia could not be ignored. (It prompted Lucas to soften the scoundrel so he’d be worthy of his princess — ultimately weakening his character arc, but that’s a whole other rant.)

This is when Leia could no longer lie to herself. Leading with a sensual hand massage, Han called her out through their banter, exposing her denial and obvious attraction to him.

Han and Leia Kiss - Empire Strikes Back [1080p HD]
She might like nice men, but she loved Han.






He knew.

Freddie & Hester (The Deep Blue Sea – Pretty much all of them) – I challenge you to find an undeserving kiss between these two. Frankly, Freddie Page may just be the best kisser in cinematic history. It’s obvious why Hester would skydive into this destructive relationship because…


Could you even remember why you were angry after he kissed you like this?

It’s even rumored that Rachel Weisz said she wanted to bite Tom Hiddleston when she licked him. I doubt he would have minded.

Countess Olenska & Arthur Newland (The Age of Innocence Confession Kiss) – I could go on for days discussing the merits of this beautifully tragic story, but I’ll save it for my Hidden Gem review.

Sticking to the topic, Arthur’s sensual kisses when admitting his love for Ellen punctuate his yearning like the decadent buttercream frosting on your last birthday cake. My heart aches for them as she explains the impossibility of a future together.

Yet, they share this tender moment to express their ill-fated love before parting.

He doesn’t go for the obvious indulgence, but instead uses each brush of his lips to worship her.

All of her.

Milton Warden & Karen Holmes (From Here to Eternity – Beach Kiss) – Admittedly, this movie did not live up to its hype for me. But, this kiss?

Which led to this kiss…
Take that, Freddie Page.

Totally worth all the sand she’ll have to clean out of her, um, hair.

Romeo Montague & Juliet Capulet (Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet – Balcony Kiss) – Aye me, what can I say? 

They kiss by the book.

John & Miriam (The Hunger – Shower Kiss) – Nothing says I love you like a post-kill shower kiss. How long could you kiss a man like David Bowie?


Kathryn Merteuil & Cecile Caldwell (Cruel Intentions – Purely Instructional Kiss) – I applaud Kathryn’s dedication to revenge. When she taught the naive Cecile how to French kiss, everyone who watched, sat at attention — gay, straight, or otherwise.

I hear she’s giving lessons at the Y. Any takers?

Noah & Allie (The Notebook – Rain Kiss) No best kissing list would be complete without this. Even if you aren’t satisfied with the adaptation, you can’t deny the effectiveness. The actors, themselves, fell in love. And, really, how could they not? 


The success of this kiss hinged on both the natural chemistry between the actors and the masterful build-up.

Romantic row on the lake. (Check)

Impassioned argument to heat things up. (Check)

Sweeping background score. (Check) Okay, you can’t see it, but trust me, it was there.

Rain. (Check, Check — and then some)

All culminating in one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.

And the scene that follows is…

Muy bueno.

Well, I hope your hearts are all aflutter as we wrap up this topic. Which iconic kisses did I miss? Let me know in the comments. Until then…

Love and kisses.



​The first film I’ll endorse is a recent addition. I owe this gem to another movie on my list, Only Lovers Left Alive. If I hadn’t traveled to another state to watch Jim Jarmusch’s independent masterpiece, I would not have seen the fantastic cinema display showcasing the dresses in Belle. The incredible costumes caught my eye, but the star piqued my interest.

I’ve always been a sucker for Victorian, Edwardian, and in this case Georgian era fashions. Seeing a black woman in the fine gowns worn by the ladies of that generation inspired me to watch the film without the aid of a single trailer. 

The risk paid off as this film feels like one of those movies made just for me. I will not vouch for historical accuracy. In fact, it is my understanding that liberties were most certainly taken. What I can claim is that this film spoke to me. I adore the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Edgar Allan Poe, but let’s face it—the main characters look nothing like me. It’s a stretch to insert myself into the stories, as the dynamic would change tremendously. Belle not only addresses the social issues present for a biracial woman in that society, but also the difference between overlooking race and disregarding it as a factor, accepting someone completely.

Although fiercely romantic, Belle is so much more than a love story. The poignant parallel of the Zong legal case advances the narrative of Dido’s life quite effectively. Incredibly well acted, with almost zero wasted dialogue, the film introduced me to two impressive beauties and a use of the term sister/cousin that does not result in an Alabama joke. The relationships felt real, particularly between the two young women.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sarah Gadon

If I had to voice a complaint, it would be the size of Matthew Goode’s role, although it suits the story. His short, but powerful performance, left me wanting more, though none of the cast disappointed.

This interesting tale, set on breathtaking English landscapes, is well worth your time and attention. As a Hidden Gem, it comes high on my list of recommendations. Much like the argument against slavery, this movie is for more than just a black audience. Everyone I’ve shared it with enjoyed this beautifully acted film, men and women alike, and only one of those people was even partially black. Check your preferred movie source for availability.

If you’ve seen Belle and you think I’ve left out a crucial endorser, or that I’m mistaken, let me know in the comments.

Why I prefer Grease 2 to the original


When relaying a story about sharing Grease 2 with someone only familiar with the first, my brother responded, “There’s a Grease 1?” Apparently the countless hours he spent forced to watch Michelle Pfeiffer’s introductory film on a loop, left him not only less enamored than I, but far more sarcastic.

Clearly he is jealous, having never reached cool rider status.
Clearly he is jealous, having never reached cool rider status.

Focusing on sex, relationships and knowing one’s place in the present society, the basic premise of both movies plays the same. An attractive, seemingly intelligent, foreign exchange student falls for a popular teen in an American high school, only to discover that the customary rules of conduct prevent engaging in such a romance.

I mean no disrespect toward the original Grease. As a fan of musicals, I believe it has earned its place among the classics. For all their similarities, a major difference exists between the two films and for my money, that difference places Grease 2 in front as the more enjoyable storyline.

Unlike its predecessor, where the plot revolves around a pretty girl willing to change who she is to be with a boy,

Not unlike the plot to the Little Mermaid.


Grease 2 revolves around Stephanie Zinone, a strong, beautiful heroine, tired of the status quo of early 1960s chauvinism. Despite much protest from her friends, most notably her ex, she is changing for herself.

The power of Pfeiffer’s charisma had me, a solid tomboy at the time, willing to wear pink, even if only on the inside liner of a reversible leather jacket. Mesmerized by her beauty and spirit, I didn’t just want to watch her; I wanted to be her. I knew every lyric to every song, something I still haven’t accomplished for Grease.


Adding to the appeal, Stephanie Zinone wore a Christmas tree dress for the talent show scene - an added bonus due to the proximity of my birthday to the holiday.
Adding to the appeal, Stephanie Zinone wore a Christmas tree dress for the talent show scene – an added bonus due to the proximity of my birthday to the holiday.

Tired of being “someone’s chick,” Stephanie breaks protocol with her peers, announcing she is “no one’s trophy,” and taking her own path – a difficult task for a teenager with a leading role in a well established clique. Most girls couldn’t walk away from a cutie like Johnny Nogerelli.

Here Adrian Zmed showcases his amazing, yet underappreciated talents.

In Grease 2, it is the male who changes for the pleasure of the female, ultimately wishing to assimilate both personas, rather than completely abandoning his former self for his heart’s desire.

Like Sandy.
Like Sandy.

No, my hero will not be the girl who takes up drinking and smoking to please a boy who would not commit to her for fear of his friends’ razzing. I’ll follow the tough beauty, who lands the brainy badass British biker babe.

I rest my case.
I rest my case.

By the end of the film, Stephanie has decided that if she cannot be true to herself, then she does not need to be a Pink Lady. Her friends will not dictate her life, which ultimately makes her of stronger character than both Danny and Sandy. Zinone makes her choice and is rewarded by the unmasking of her presumed dead, cool rider in the form of one, very much alive, Michael Carrington.

Apparently Pfeiffer has this effect on men.
Apparently Pfeiffer has this effect on men.

So, you can see, as an unconventional little girl, growing up in a sexist world, I had no choice but to fall in love with a story like this. Grease never had a chance in comparison because I could not relate to Sandy’s abandonment of her own personality. No boy is worth that.

Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, that’s a different story. that’s a different story.

What do you think? For what other reasons is Grease 2 more enjoyable than the original? Let me know in the comments.

Thomas Sharpe is Not Victorian Loki

Since the release of Crimson Peak, I’ve heard too often that Sir Thomas Sharpe is just another version of Loki, set in an alternate genre. I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion. They are so distinctly different that if they swapped clothing, one could recognize their true identities by their behavior, mannerisms and vocals. Admittedly, obvious physical similarities exist due to portrayals by the same actor. This does not dismiss the glaring contrasts in the characters.

With any combination of flawed heroes, similar traits can crossover. The trick is finding the nuances and motivations that define them as individuals. To demonstrate the parallels and diversity between these characters, I’ve created a diagram, with corresponding descriptions below. As a control to my comparison,  Jaime Lannister is included. An antihero in his own right, he possesses at least as many similarities to Loki and Thomas as they do to each other.

Loki vs. Jaime Lannister vs. Thomas SharpeLoki vs Jaime vs Thomas


  • Ambitious:  Although he claims he never wanted the throne, eager to prove his worthiness as compared to his brother, Loki developed a taste for power and a longing to rule.
  • Brilliant Mind:  More tactician than brute, Loki’s fierce intelligence and cunning equip him to layer his schemes, weaving webs that he alone can follow.
  • Motivated By Pain:  Raised in the shadow of his favored brother, Loki’s envy peaked when he learned of his true lineage. Betrayed and heartbroken, he lashed out at those he loves and anyone else caught in the crossfire.
  • Ruthless:  Loki places little value on the lives of most others. While at times, not deliberately malicious, if someone gets killed as a means to an end, so be it.
  • Sorcerer:  Taught by his adoptive mother, Frigga, Loki is an expert in Asgardian Magic.
  • Unpredictable:  The most complex of the three men, depending on what there is to gain, or the surrounding circumstances, Loki has played loyal sidekick, formidable villain and courageous hero. You never know for sure which path he’ll choose.

Jaime Lannister

  • Blonde:  With hair as fair as Lannister gold, Jaime is a fine example of the lion clan.
  • Direct:  According to Tyrion, Jaime “never untied a knot when he could slash it in two with his sword.” Unreserved and to the point, the Kingslayer filters little of what he speaks.
  • Knight:  Knighted by the age of 15, Jaime Lannister earned his reputation through valiant battle triumphs and tournament victories.
  • Secure in his Parents’ Affection:  Tywin Lannister made no secret of his preference for Jaime above Cersai and Tyrion. Even after Jaime relinquished his claim to Casterly Rock, his father looked for ways to bestow the honor to him.
  • Self-Accepting:  Jaime remains unconcerned with the approval of others regarding his character. He makes his choices with little consideration for public opinion, and only where it might affect his family.

Thomas Sharpe

  • Abused:  Locked in the attic for most of his childhood, Thomas Sharpe suffered from parental neglect. What attention he did receive came in the form of lashings, from which his sister shielded him.
  • Artisan:  From a young age, Thomas poured his energies into skillfully carving intricate wooden toys for his beloved sister.
  • Inventor:  Brilliant in the ways of mechanics, Thomas designed and crafted the ingenious machine that so tragically came together too late to save the family.
  • Naive:  As if expecting to get away with his repeated marriage and murder scheming was not bad enough, he reached the height of his naiveté with the utterance of the one word that would ultimately be his downf’all’.
  • Seductive:  This brooding, well-tailored gentleman will sweep you off your feet with his golden voice and his fancy footwork.


  • Brunette:  These raven haired beauties are magnificently portrayed by the same blonde actor.
  • Manipulative:  Demonstrated best in the first Thor movie, Loki puppeteered his brother out of Odin’s favor. Once home, Thomas Sharpe continued his manipulation of his new bride by playing on her desire to save him.
  • Scheming:  From funding home improvement to world domination, these men will plot masterfully to achieve their lofty goals.
  • Silver-Tongued:  The Avengers knew to muzzle Loki’s notorious tongue after his defeat. His lies are his greatest weapon. And who wouldn’t fall for Thomas Sharpe’s lines?


  • Arrogant:  There are no men like them. Only them.
  • Regal:  Raised as a prince, Loki’s posture and resplendent majesty prompt one to kneel. According to Jon Snow, Ser Jaime, with his height and beauty is what a king should look like. But, what does he know?
  • Seeks father’s approval:  In the first Thor film, Loki schemed elaborately to prove his value to Odin. Even as the favored firstborn male, Jaime made choices with Tywin’s esteem in mind. 
  • Skilled Warrior:  An expert combatant, even without his magic, Loki is skilled with a variety of weapons, most notably a dagger. As a young knight, Ser Jaime joined the Kingsguard due to his exceptional swordsmanship.
  • Spoiled:  Raised as an Asgardian Prince, only Thor exceeds the privilege afforded Loki. As heir to Tywin Lannister, Jaime was bestowed the advantages of a wealthy Westeros lordling.


  • Complacent:  The women they love delve into much darker territory, yet they do nearly nothing to deter them, despite their conflicted consciences.
  • Motivated by Love:  The choices made by Thomas and Jaime are fueled by affection for the women they love.
  • Regarded as Exceptionally Attractive:  Despite accompanying beauties like Lucille and Edith, Thomas stands out as loveliest in any room. Exceedingly handsome, with his green eyes and golden mane, even foes marvel at Jaime’s comeliness.
  • Victim of Circumstance:   Both are enslaved by responsibility and love. Jaime is trapped by obligation and the rules of the world where he resides. Thomas is bound by loyalty, born from neglect and mistreatment from his parents.


  • Conflicted by sense of honor:  Raised to protect Asgard, Loki sometimes hesitates in his quest for domination. Torn between his sister, his wife, and what he believes is right, Thomas forces his own doom. Jaime must choose between loyalty to family or keeping his Kingsguard vow.
  • Complicated relationship with sibling:  Loki might fight to protect his brother, only to kill Thor himself. Jamie and Thomas perform deadly and despicable acts to protect their sibling relationships.
  • Well Educated:  Sons of Odin receive every advantage in Asgard. A private tutor and boarding school furnished Thomas’ schooling. Tywin forced Jaime to practice reading and writing for hours beyond his regular study.

What traits did I miss? Other than the unfortunate forced placement of the circle labels, a non-negotiable setting in the diagram creator, what observations should have been noted? Email or simply leave your comments below.

Meow, World! BEWARE of my first post, a review of Crimson Peak

Creating this blog has been on my to-do list for months. As a movie nerd, seeing Crimson Peak has inspired me into action, if nothing else to share my take on this delightful film.

Visually striking from the instant the Universal introduction hits the screen, Crimson Peak submerges its viewers in a sea of dynamic hues and spectacular images. In Guillermo del Toro’s dark imaginative fairy tale, you find yourself immersed within a vibrant world of color, passion, pain, and love. Its beauty defies the senses in this Gothic romance that, for me, felt reminiscent of both Jane Eyre and Flowers in the Attic.

Love or hate the story, you cannot deny the eye candy, and I don’t just mean the actors. Each detail del Toro presents, from the sweeping landscapes and elaborate buildings to the spinning camera work, appears to be meticulously crafted to solicit profound emotions. An amazing palette of color and atmosphere construct a hauntingly beautiful background for the narrative. What a shame that the execution will be lost on the color blind, a point not missed by the visionary director. An entire world has been created in which you can feel the warmth and cold of the climates along with the heat and chill from the characters. Above all, the cinematography and costumes stand out as being particularly Oscar worthy, as they are absolutely stunning.

I cannot stress enough how gorgeous and moving this film is.

Before covering the three main actors, I must mention two other notable performances. Though his role is supportive, Jim Beaver plays a strong character, both likeable and respected. When on screen, he conveyed his distinct presence while aiding the main characters, rather than drawing focus from them. Doug Jones, not unlike Andy Serkis, deserves his own category with the academy for his specific and unique talents. A veteran to the del Toro portfolio, he contributed much to the cinematic experience with only his fluid movements for expression. While managing to spook, he was not the scariest creature in this film, nor nearly as terrifying as the pale man.

In case you need inspiration for your next nightmare.

As a writer, I can understand how easily Edith could be manipulated through the praise of her manuscript. We want so much to believe our work has merit, even when we know it needs improvement. Mia Wasikowska’s wide-eyed, hopeful portrayal of the unnaturally independent Edith Cushing initially pushes the boundaries of the archetypal heroine. Although she does temporarily fall victim to the common mistakes emblematic of a damsel in distress, her inner strength eventually takes control. Wasikowska is radiant in this role, her youth and grace amplified by her lovely wardrobe, most notably during her dance scene with her handsome suitor.

It feels cliche to say Tom Hiddleston performed superbly as Sir Thomas Sharpe. If he continues to meet such high expectations on screen, how will viewers recognize when he pushes himself?  As harsh as it sounds, it almost seems for the best that Cumberbatch, a fantastic actor in his own right, dropped out to be replaced with the mesmerizing Hiddleston. While surely Cumberbatch could play the role well, his physical appeal is more of an acquired taste, while Hiddleston is everyone’s type. (See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C) No stretch of the imagination is required to understand why Edith would run off with this man or stay with him under such dismal conditions. He was so credible in his portrayal, one of my movie mates confided she would never trust anything the man said in real life as he is just too good at playing convincing liars. He was the perfect choice for Thomas, drawing you in with his enchanting charms and mysterious history, then holding you captive with nothing more than a look. The mere flick of an eyebrow expressed a range of emotions without his speaking a word. Rather than praise the actor for his numerous talents, I give credit to the director for casting the part so well.

Most impressive was Jessica Chastain’s calm as a bomb performance as Lucille Sharpe. She played this character with a chilling truthfulness more apparent upon the second viewing. Ornamented in the finest gowns (an unquestionably magnificent wardrobe), Chastain commands the audience’s attention and respect from the moment of her introduction. Of the three mains, Lucille’s motivations for the path she takes, and her past actions for that matter, are clearest to me.

Hell, I might make her choices for this dress, let alone the true incentives her character harbors.

This is by far my favorite performance from Jessica Chastain, proving her range beyond a doubt. With the toughest role, she plays the character possessing the greatest strength and the most vulnerability, which makes more sense when you consider the period. And did I mention her gowns are to die for? My hope is that more directors will start utilizing her amazing spectrum of talent, especially after watching the last twenty minutes of this film.

As for the feature itself, for all its hype, it was neither as scary as I’d been led to believe, nor as kinky as I expected. (or hoped, to be candid) And yet I still loved it. Romantic, yet not wholesome, and much more humorous than anticipated. I’ve seen it three times and would easily go again if my schedule allowed. I’d love to comment further on topics like the tragedy of the machine’s fate with relation to the story, how lost one of the main characters remained at the end (however well intentioned), the various clever touches (the breed of dog, the color themes in wardrobe, residence and supernatural representations), and, of course, the classic del Toro bug fetish. Unfortunately, delving into those specifics would ruin the film for those who’ve yet to see it, certainly a murderable offense.

I highly recommend watching this movie now while it remains in the theatres. If you’re adventurous, dress in period costume like I did. You will likely see that the cinema employees fall right in line, catering to the desires of the noble attendees, enhancing your movie experience.

If you’ve seen it and would like to discuss, send me a note or leave a comment.