Review: The Shape of Water

Yesterday was Oscar Nominations Day and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water garnered 13 nominations, more than any other film this year.

Of the nine Best Picture nominees, Alli and I had only seen three up to this point so we took the opportunity last night to trek to our local AMC and check out this movie.

I’m not sure what I expected as my experience with del Toro is fairly limited. I saw the first Pacific Rim, but I’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth or any of his other movies. The opening scene immediately takes you into Elisa Esposito’s life. As we learn about her, we are introduced to her work, where we meet the rest of the story.

A more well-done version of Splash

I’m hesitant to describe much about the story. I went in with very little expectation or knowledge of the story outside of the trailer. However, after the fact, Alli very accurately described the movie as “a more well-done version of Splash.”

This is exceedingly accurate.

The cinematography and set design of this movie are stunning and Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the mute Elisa. Richard Jenkins puts in another amazing performance as Elisa’s artist neighbor. Michael Shannon provides just enough villainy to push the story along and Octavia Spencer plays, well…Octavia Spencer. I don’t mean to discount her performance…it’s fine. But is it Oscar-worthy? Not really.

Should you see this movie?

It really depends. Are you someone that wants to see all the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movies? Well then, yeah. See it. Are you creeped out by someone falling in love with a fish-man? Maybe don’t see this one, then.

Do you like Guillermo del Toro’s more subtle work? This movie isn’t over the top in its effects or monsters. In fact, I’d argue that this “monster” shows more humanity than some of the human counterparts at times.

It’s a unique take on a love story and I really enjoyed it a lot.

After a (not-so) brief hiatus

…two-plus years, specifically….

I’m reviving this site. I’ve wanted to bring back this blog for a long time now, but with balancing photography and either Chipotle or my other work, it’s been a little much.

It’s been a pretty amazing two years. Let’s see if I can summarize quickly:

  • Worked for Chipotle for about a year and a half during one of the most difficult times in the company’s history. Ultimately was a casualty of their business downturn — they call it “restructuring” in corporations — and parted ways a year ago.
  • Leaned into Shane & Alli Photography in a big way. The business is doing really well and continues to be a lot of fun for Alli and me.
  • Spent most of 2017 working for a nonprofit, leading their marketing, community fundraising and annual giving efforts. More “restructuring.”
  • Traveled to some really amazing countries — Iceland, Ireland, Czech Republic. I’ll come back to those in a future post.
  • Adopted two dogs after Dreyfuss passed away. Named them Buzz and Woody.
  • Turned 40.
  • And 41.

So yeah, that’s what’s been going on with me. I still tweet a ton and I post a lot of photos on Instagram.

The blog just became kind of secondary to all the other social media things that were going on. I pointed this domain to my Tumblr for a while because I at least was pushing my Instagram posts there…

Over the holidays, I had this idea to start a movie blog that took a slightly different approach. Then I thought to myself, “I can’t even blog on my own site, what makes me think I could do a movie blog?” So a few days ago, I dusted off the SQL database for this blog, installed a fresh WordPress instance and voila! Here we are.

Let’s see if it sticks.

18 Months and a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.” So that’s going to change.

Pivot - Ross

I love what I do.

I really do. For the past 3 years, I have been doing web things that I am good at for a company I really enjoy working at in an industry that’s fun.

Earlier this year, I got to help launch a project that I’ve been working on for a long time at AMC — a complete redesign of our company’s website.

I hope there are AMC fans out there that have noticed the difference. If you have, you might be wondering, But WHY is he talking about this now? Sorry, but I’ve spent the last couple months exhaling…taking deep breaths and convincing myself that it’s really completed (and squashing bugs).

Coming off of a project that has been pretty much your sole focus for 18 months is a weird thing. I’ve got plenty of other responsibilities at AMC, but none of them was more important to me than improving the user experience to our guests and visitors to

A year ago, we completed a rewrite of our entire architecture, installing a new content management system and creating a whole bunch of new dynamic services to power a site that gets its information from sources across the United States. That was an accomplishment in itself and provided us with a platform to do what we did.

And then we redesigned it

I had the great pleasure to work with Greg Storey’s team at Happy Cog on the UX part of the project and that was a pleasure in and of itself. I’ve long been a fan of the Cog’s work and I’ve now worked with them on two separate projects at two separate companies. In the past, I didn’t get to see the project through to completion. I was determined not to let that happen.

It’s a strange experience when you become a client of a group of professionals whose work you have admired. Getting mired in the processes and the day-to-day can wear some of that internet shine off a little, but ultimately, I am extremely proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together. We provided AMC with a beautifully responsive web platform and design system that can now be built upon and extended. Thanks to the great concepting by Kevin Sharon and the technical execution by the talented Ryan Irelan and Stephen Caver, AMC now has a modern, functional site that can take us into the next several years.

I’m so proud of this work. After an 18-month engagement, it feels good to have something to finally show for it.

And now, a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I’m at the top of my game, a subject-matter-expert. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and I have a good idea about what’s happening on the web and where it’s headed (#humblebrag). This is bad because I’ve pigeonholed myself into being only about one thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.”

So that’s going to change.

As soon as I have the chance to update my email signature and my LinkedIn profile, it will really be official: effective immediately, I will be AMC’s new Loyalty Marketing Manager.

Not sure what a Loyalty Marketing Manager does? I’m glad you asked. Essentially, I’ll be leading one of AMC’s most important programs – AMC Stubs. I’m extremely excited about the next phase of my career. I’m expanding my worldview to include an important aspect of marketing and I get to work on making an already solid program even better. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be transitioning away from my existing responsibilities and getting up to speed on AMC’s loyalty program and all of its many moving parts.

I’m somewhat sad about putting aside my web life, but I’m so happy to start this new phase of my career. It’s going to make me a more well-rounded marketer and I get to take on yet another huge project.

So there it is. What do you think? (Feel free to share your ideas about AMC Stubs in the comments. I’ll be sure to implement ALL* of them.)

* probably not all of them

My 7 Favorite Movies of 2012 (so far)

The holiday season is upon us! This is a busy time at work and in that spirit, I thought I’d present to you my favorite movies of the year so far. Some are still in theatres, but most aren’t. And I still haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but I’ve heard amazing things about it. So many great movies begin coming out around this time of year…here’s the stuff I’ve really liked.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holiday season is upon us! This is a busy time at work and in that spirit, I thought I’d present to you my favorite movies of the year so far. Some are still in theatres, but most aren’t. And I still haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but I’ve heard amazing things about it. So many great movies begin coming out around this time of year…here’s the stuff I’ve really liked (in no particular order):

Ruby Sparks

Zoe Kazan’s wonderful little movie about an author whose writer’s block leads him to manifest a character from his writings into real life. Paul Dano and Kazan (who date in real life, I believe) have terrific chemistry and Chris Messina provides terrific support as Dano’s brother.

Ruby Sparks is out on DVD and Blu-Ray

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph posterI’m a sucker for good animated movies. They’re accessible to all ages and have more flexibility to be creative than most traditional films. Wreck-It Ralph fits that mold completely, telling the story of a “bad guy” from the video game Fix-It Felix, Jr., who decides he doesn’t want to be bad anymore. The adventure leads him to “game jump” trying to prove all of the people of his game wrong. Released by Disney Animation under the tutelage of John Lassiter, who was one of the co-creators of Pixar, this movie has all the things that we love about Pixar movies: originality, comedy and heart. The voice characterization of the main characters by John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) is nothing short of perfect. I loved this movie. And I haven’t talked to a single person yet who hasn’t felt the same way. Bonus points for the short film that precedes it, Paper Man. Just trust me on that one.

Wreck-It Ralph is in theatres now

The Dark Knight Rises

There is no doubt that Christopher Nolan revolutionized not just the Batman franchise, but the approach of comic book movies into the future. Batman Begins was the reboot that all of these other comic book reboots have been based on and The Dark Knight Rises is the wonderful conclusion to his epic trilogy.

The Dark Knight Rises is out on DVD and Blu-Ray December 4


Argo posterBen Affleck has become one of the most talented and sought-after directors in Hollywood. So far, he hasn’t missed a step. Last year’s The Town was one of the best films of the year and should have garnered him his first Academy Award nomination since Good Will Hunting. This year, Affleck tackled a historical film about a CIA mission to get out several embassy workers from Iran in the late 1970’s. Affleck both stars and directs in this taut thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat the whole movie long. He stays very faithful to the era and gets wonderful supporting performances from John Goodman and Alan Arkin.

Argo is in theatres now

Moonrise Kingdom

Most people either love or hate Wes Anderson movies. He has a very specific style that people either like or dislike. There isn’t a lot in between. I actually kind of fall in between though. I’ve never been a huge fan (for example, I think Rushmore is extremely overrated), but he has his moments. This year’s Moonrise Kingdom was, to me, his best work to date. Creative and quirky, Moonrise Kingdom follows two kids who fall in love during a summer on an island off the coast of New England. The kids who play the main characters are perfectly weird and play their roles well and the adults provide a backdrop that shows people don’t stop being screwed up even into their adult years.

Moonrise Kingdom is out on Blu-Ray and DVD

The Perks of Being a Walflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower posterI read this book way back in 2005. When I heard about the movie adaptation, I was nervous. I really loved the book and I thought it might be difficult to translate to screen. I was comforted by the fact that Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the book, was writing the screenplay and directing. I was not disappointed. Telling the story of a confused teenager named Charlie, Chbosky explores some pretty heavy subject material for teenagers, but gets a wonderful assist from his talented cast, led by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. This movie really succeeds in staying true to the challenging nature of the book, but keeping it accessible to many audiences.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still out in some theatres

The Avengers

It’s difficult for me to write a best-of list without the biggest blockbuster of the year, Marvel’s The Avengers. Anchored by the return of everyone’s favorite billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, played by the always terrific Robert Downey, Jr., The Avengers was arguably one of the biggest movies of the year, bringing together the last few years of work that Marvel has done with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk. What results is a really big, fun, entertaining ride that pits good vs. evil for the fate of the planet. When it comes to entertainment, I don’t know if there was another movie this year that could eclipse The Avengers.

The Avengers is out on Blu-Ray and DVD now

There’s still a lot of great stuff yet to come this year. I’m looking forward to seeing Lincoln, Life of Pi, The Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, The Hobbit, The Impossible and Promised Land.

So what have your favorite movies of the year been? And what are you most looking forward to seeing this holiday season?

The 10 Movies I Plan to See This Week

One thing I absolutely love about my job is the free movies. I don’t have to be discriminating in my choices. I don’t have to toil over whether I actually want to see something or not. I just go see it and that’s it.

This week, I’m only working 1 1/2 days because of the holiday and some vacation, so I figured it was as good a time as any to get caught up on some movies. As I started to look at the list of stuff that was in the, “Yeah, I’ll see that…” category, it’s pretty long.

So here’s what I’m going to attempt to see before I come back to work next Monday:

UPDATE: just found out Woody Allen’s latest, To Rome With Love, arrives in KC tomorrow, so we’re adding that one too.

And I also plan to eat a lot. Should be an amazing vacation. It’s a good thing when the company you work for gives you something that you want to do on your vacation. Are there any movies I’m missing?