Top 10 Guillermo del Toro Flicks!
Good gravy, is there a bigger name in movies these days than Guillermo del Toro?! Pretty crazy right, especially when you consider the dude has only directed 7 feature films over the last 20 years, with PACIFIC RIM, crash landing on Earth today, marking number 8. Mark it an 8 dude! That said, del Toro has become a brand name unto himself, using his Hollywood clout to assist others, mostly younger international filmmakers, in a producorial capacity. Dude's like the Mexican Santa, jolly and generous, though his material seems to favor Satan instead...go figure. Finally though, we finally get a new del Toro movie this week after a 6 year hiatus, one he actually directed himself. And of course that got us to pondering, what are the Top 10 best del Toro projects so far, either directed or produced? Well friends, forge ahead to find out!
Jessica Chastain's f*cked up bowl-cut aside, her turn in the del Toro endorsed MAMA was strong enough to slightly elevate the flick above pure mediocrity. In fact, her performance likely made del Toro want to cast Chastain in his next flick, CRIMSON PEAK, though she was on quite a roll even before that. Still, del Toro went hard on selling this sucker, even casting a "presented by" banner atop most of if not all the press material. Just one of many examples of how Guillermo shepherds younger filmmakers who would otherwise have limited opportunities in Hollywood. Dude's a G like that!
MIMIC marked Guillermo's first foray into Hollywood filmmaking, done so 4 years after his feature debut out of Mexico. A bit on the silly side at times, MIMIC is basically a grand-scale genetic monster-movie, or as I like to think of it, THE FLY on steroids. Honestly, I often get it mixed up with slightly inferior THE RELIC, released the same year. Still, MMIC showed all the signs of a gifted young filmmaker, namely the ability to blend compelling characters with an FX laden story. Extra props for casting Mira Sorvino and a pre-Renaissanced Josh Brolin.
The criminally under-seen CHRONICLES - no, not the found-footage superhero flick of a similar title - is a Spanish language serial killer flick starring John Leguizamo, written and directed by Sebastian Cordero (EUROPA REPORT). And you know what, it's a movie worth seeing. And obviously a script worth producing for del Toro, who would go on to produce Cordero's follow up flick RAGE as well. That latter film is a bit more of the genre variety, but to me, CHRONICLES is a more satisfying watch all around. Find that shite and scope it ASAP!
As far as the most underrated goes under del Toro's producorial resume, I nominate the 2010 flick JULIA'S EYES, co-written and directed by Guillem Morales. Belen Rueda of THE ORPHANAGE stars as a woman who tries to solve the unexpected death of her sister as she slowly goes blind in the process. It's a pretty trippy, psychologically affecting flick with a solid lead performance, one that deserves to be seen by more peeps. Just don't mistake it for my girl Julia Ann in JULIA'S ASS!
Sinking his teeth into vampiric lore, del Toro lifted the BLADE franchise and cut a huge gash in it, more or less exposing fresh blood from the welcome wound. Is BLADE II better than the original? Perhaps not, but is it head and shoulders below it? No f*ckin' way! I personally prefer the visual flare del Toro brought to the character and his underworld over what Stephen Norrington did in the first BLADE flick. I also dig the whole vampire cannibalism angle the sequel fostered, tearing at the fabric of morality between good and evil.
For a big-budget, mainstream PG-13 flick, HELLBOY is a lot of fun...thanks in large part to the demonic title character and the gruff manner Ron Perlman plays him with. As for the story, it's not a far cry from what del Toro has done earlier on, yet here instead of the Spanish inquisition or the Spanish civil war, it's Nazi fascism that backdrops the menacing forces Hellboy must defeat and conquer. It's in this film that we get a sense of the size and scope del Toro seems comfortable mining...a trend that would only increase with each passing project.
The thought of achieving eternal life has never been more terrifying than in CRONOS, del Toro's 1993 film debut. The evil that men do in search for such a quest cruxes the script Guillermo wrote himself, and given its effectiveness, it's no surprise dude went on to have an A-list movie career. As per usual, the production design here is aces, with the gold Chronos device (that grants eternal life) lasting as memorable as any sci-fi prop I can think of. Oh, and Guillermo's longtime pal Ron Perlman pops up, which always adds instant bonus points. It's the law of Perlman.
Whether directing or producing, Guillermo fully understands how important the emotional core of a film is to the success of its sum total. Case in point is the marvelous 2007 flick THE ORPHANAGE, which del Toro produced and tapped J.A. Bayona to helm. As poignant as anything under del Toro's resume, the emotional resolution in THE ORPHANAGE is as memorable as any of the visual wonders the film boasts. How else do you explain the 10 minute standing ovation the film received when it premiered at Cannes? It certainly wasn't for del Toro's doctoral cameo, was it?!
12 years later, it's no stretch to say that THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE is easily one of del Toro's best films. It's a moving ghost story, one that really bucks the conventions of the over-trampled genre. Instead of only a malefic specter wreaking havoc, we identify with a gentle-spirited ghost-boy who the main character befriends and helps to make sense out of a haunted orphanage he's sent to after his father dies in battle. As per usual, the visual design is spectacular, but never overshadows the heart of the story.
The whole of PAN'S LABYRINTH is nothing short of cinematic alchemy. The touching story, the groundbreaking visual imagination, the superb FX work, and in terms of critical and financial popularity...a bona fide international smash. I can see why del Toro has only directed one film (now two) since...you simply can't achieve much more than what the LABYRINTH scared up. It's mainstream horror-fantastique done at the highest level, culminating a decade-long thread of visual cues, story themes and one of a kind filmmaking del Toro initiated with CRONOS back in 1993. A true masterwork!