The Lobster (R)

To say that The Lobster sounded weird when I first read the synopsis (it has been out for 8 weeks now) doesn’t even begin to sum up how I felt about this movie. And it looked even stranger during the preview I caught, so I decided to steer clear.  A chunky, unsexy, monotone, slow-moving Colin Farrell playing this dull-sounding man who will be turned into a lobster if he can’t find love?  Wait! What???!!!  So, as I said, I steered clear – until over the weekend I was looking through a blog where reactions to this odd film ranged from stating this was the worst movie ever made to throwing around the word “masterpiece.”  The sentiments ranged from the film being a total failure to the best thing ever, so I had to see it and judge for myself.

To explain further, the last time I had seen such varying opinions and read the words “garbage” and “masterpiece” about the same movie was last year in reference to Mad Max: Fury Road, which I also avoided like the plague.  It was nearly the last of the 2015 nominated movies that I watched before the Academy Awards aired, and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t a masterpiece and then some.  To my delighted surprise, once I got past the initial dread of having to watch it and the movie started, I loved every single frame of it; despite the fact that post-apocalyptic sci‑fi may be one of my least favorite genres ever, and I figured, “How good could it be?  I have seen a Mad Max movie before.  What’s the big “whoop” about?”

Well, here’s the “big whoop,” if you have not seen it.  Mad Max: Fury Road had such a rich plot – touching on sexism, politics, religion (including cultism and religious extremism), the 1% vs. the 99%, mob mentality, government control of resources, media and rules, independent thought, and abuse of power, to name a few points; it was an action-packed adrenaline rush; it was well acted; and flawlessly visually stunning – I wanted to watch it again immediately after it went off, feeling like I would catch things I had missed the first time; it was on my mind for days afterward; and I told nearly everyone I came in contact with for days to watch it because I wanted to know if they would see it as I did.  When I say I loved it, I mean it.  I thought there was no other movie nominated for 2015 that came anywhere close to the artistry of Mad Max: Fury Road.  But alas, Max won six awards out of 10 nominations, but not best picture.  Predictable Academy behavior.

But I digress… I say all this to say, that when I heard the word “masterpiece” again, it was like someone rang a bell, and I felt compelled to check out The Lobster immediately.

Similarly to Mad Max, The Lobster is sort of a mess of a movie at first look.  It’s a tragic comedy, science fiction, anti-love story – which makes it a unique breath of fresh air.   It is unlike any movie I have ever seen before – only a bonus when the movie is done right.  And this movie is done right.

Co-written and directed by some guy named Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster is about people living in a society where they are punished for being single and a subculture of that society where they are punished for finding love – and how, no matter what, love is not a thing that can be forced or faked; and if it is genuine, it is not a thing that can be stopped – and despite its best efforts, society cannot dictate with whom or when love will happen.  The characters try to fit into relationships they have no business in for all sorts of reasons (convenience, circumstances, fear, desperation, neediness, conformity – like people often do), and in the end that inauthenticity catches up with the characters every single time – with dire consequences.

During the first half of the movie David (played by Colin Farrell) attempts to fit in with the main stream. According to societal rules, single people simply cannot be tolerated.  That’s the rule and everyone must follow it.  David is sequestered in “The Hotel” for single citizens who are each tasked with finding a compatible mate and/or love within 45 days; or, upon the failure to do so, be turned into the animal of their choice.

David chooses to become a lobster for a number of compelling and well thought out reasons.  This choice of animal shows that David is not a conformist deep down, as most people don’t give the question much thought.  Most people usually go with what is familiar to them, something that does not offend the sensibilities (certainly not a bug), and something that keeps them closer to humans.  Most choose to become a dog.  But David is an independent thinker who doesn’t follow the herd.  It is an old philosophical question that we’ve all heard before – If you could be any animal, what would you be? – Not pondered in some existential way, but in reality – because this is a thing that could possibly truly happen.

I know!  It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!  Uuuuhhh, and it is.  Kind of.

David tries to fit in and follow the status quo, but fails and winds up eventually escaping the hotel.  He spends the second half of the film living in the forest among the subculture that punishes members for flirting, kissing, sex, love – each transgression punished more severely than the next.  He moves from one society with unreasonable rules, to another where the rules and their consequences may be much worse.

Instead of failing to find love and becoming a lobster, he may find love and lose his life in another way because of it. Who hates love? David does. Love is his nemesis throughout this whole ordeal that is his life – whether society is forcing it on him when he doesn’t want it or can’t find it, or denying him from having it after he does. This movie is about all the ways we attempt to manufacture, contort and control love and just generally fuck it up, quite frankly; collectively as a society and individually.

Each character represents a different type of relationship. Some represent marriage, some true friendship, some artificial friendship, some romance, some acquaintance, some people we see and may know their names but do not care about or for, some people we just don’t like for seemingly no reason at all, some people we just do not “click” with, instant friends and acquaintances you have that we pretend to be friends with because we are in the same place at the same time, friends who we click with right away who stand up for us in times of need.  And relationships are represented in all stages (initial meeting, acceptance or rejection, courtship, early marriage, comfortable stable marriage, declining marriage, etc.).

And all sorts of questions are presented about our relationships throughout this movie.  Who are our friends and why?  Are they friends because of circumstances, things we have in common, convenience?  Who is your spouse?  Do you really know them?  What would they do to save you if they had to?  What would they do to save themselves?  Do they truly love you at all?  What is true love?  Would they sacrifice their well being for yours?  The best answers to these questions are demonstrated in the actions of each and every character throughout the movie.  This shit is deep, man. I mean, really, really deep.

Everything about this movie is so deliberate – sometimes painfully so, including the robotic, monotone speech pattern of the conforming, brainwashed, characters.

The Lobster attempts to explore all aspects of human “love” and questions why, how, when and who we love and why, how, when and who then. It produces questions and provides answers for so many questions about love and relationships – creating more questions to be asked based on those answers.

I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen when this movie ended.  How can you tell someone about something or critique it if you didn’t even understand it? I had to let it marinate for a while before I could even begin to write anything.  This movie is uniquely bazaar and confusing, but also meaningful, funny at times in a very dark way (which I like), and profound.

Although, I must say, everybody is not going to care for this movie. It’s super cerebral, action-packed in that it will keep you engaged (You become so involved in trying to figure out what you are watching, you will forget all about the movie theater you’re in.  Or at least I did.), and the humor is dark, dry and at times, outlandishly hilarious.  Giving credit where credit is due, I would have to say, “Yes.” The Lobster is an artistic “masterpiece.”  I am giving The Lobster 10 straight up bloops.  It is indeed a thoughtful, well executed, delightful, deliberate piece of work.

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 Bloops:

1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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Other Reviews

Good Time
Atomic Blonde
Dunkirk
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me 
It Comes at Night 
The Wedding Plan 
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Raw

Kong: Skull Island
Logan
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness 
Get Out

Hidden Figures
Fences
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Loving
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Elle
Jackie
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro

The Nice Guys (R)

The Nice Guys features Russell Crowe (as Jackson Healy) and Ryan Gossling (as Holland March) as two 1970’s “nice guys” (along with some not-so-nice guys) in a race to find a missing girl.  It is a buddy movie featuring Jackson, Holland and Holland’s teenaged daughter, Holly (played by Angourie Rice) as a trio of sometimes tough, sometimes bumbling, sometimes drunk (not the kid), but consistently funny detectives.

The film is full of action, mystery, suspense, adventure and fun. There is a good blend of comedy and tension to hold your interest.  Those who remember the music, style and “feel” of the 70’s will enjoy this trip down memory lane through the soundtrack, décor and clothing.

I found it entertaining to see the comedic side of a plumped-up Crowe (I had to remind myself, it has been 16 years since he played Maximus in Gladiator) and Gossling.  Gossling, in particular, works for and earns a lot of laughs through physical comedy and a hilarious homage to the late, great Lou Costello.

Shane Black co-wrote and directed. You may not think you know who he is, but let me tell you, you do.  He wrote and/or co-wrote famous buddy films Lethal Weapon (1987), Lethal Weapon 2 (1987), The Last Boy Scout (1991), and The Long Kiss Good Night (1996), etc.  He starred in Predator (1987) as Hawkins, and is charged with writing the highly anticipated fourth installment of the Predator franchise, which is slated for release in 2018.  I’m glad I didn’t know about any of this before seeing the film because my expectations would have been too high to be met.  But I am telling you, because I believe he has struck upon another endearing combination here.

The Nice Guys delivers on mishaps, explosions, inappropriate jokes and action (And boobs. There are a few boobs – as in breasts – shown, so if you don’t care for nudity, this would probably not be the movie for you).  Throughout the movie the audience “oohed” and “aahed” at the stunts, laughed at the jokes, learned about these new characters and became invested in their pursuits.  It’s the type of movie that I think almost anyone would enjoy, but some will enjoy it more than others, based on their personal preferences, of course.

The Nice Guys earns 7 out of 10 “bloops”.  It is a good movie, worth seeing.

Money Monster

Money Monster, starring George Clooney (as Lee Gates), Julia Roberts (as Patty Fenn), Jack O’Connell (as kidnapper, Kyle Budwell) and Dominic West (as Walt Camby) is about a member of the 1% (Camby) screwing over “the little guy,” and one “little guy” (Budwell) getting so mad about it, he’s not going to take it anymore.

Clooney plays a Mad Money’s Jim Cramer-type television host who offers stock market advice to viewers, with a whole lot of razzle-dazzle.  The show is conducted as if Lee doesn’t take money very seriously at all, making Lee somewhat of a caricature of himself.  Lee is a man who feels no connection to the people who watch his show, most of the people he works with; the women he’s been married to; not even to his own child, whose age he cannot correctly recall – so he is terrific at putting on a show, even when he’s not on the air.

Lee does, however, connect (after he’s done being a smart ass and begins to listen to the guy) with Kyle; the man who takes him hostage during a live broadcast.  Kyle is a disgruntled viewer who got a “bad” stock tip from Lee which caused him to lose money.  This loss is “the straw” in a long line of failures for Kyle, which breaks the proverbial camel’s back.  Lee connects with Kyle because Kyle is what some might call “a loser.”  While Lee on the outside appears to have it all together – career, money, fame – he too is really nothing more than a dressed up “loser” and a failure in many areas of his life.

Kyle holds Lee and Walt Camby (the CEO of the company that “lost his money”) responsible for his losses.  Kyle gets the little fish (kidnapping Lee on air) and is determined to get to the big fish (Walt Camby).  This is when the movie really takes off.  Kyle wants a logical explanation for an event that defies logic, and he wants it now: How could a thriving, profitable company lose hundreds of millions of dollars overnight?

Money Monster strikes a good balance between suspense, humor, human tragedy, fiction and reality. It is about the emotions of those who have lost pensions, 401k’s, and life’s savings (during – oh, pick a financial crisis we’ve been through – the stock bubble in 1987, the tech bubble of early 2000, Enron (2001), Worldcom (2002), the real estate bubble in early 2006, another stock bubble into 2007, oil in mid-2008, gold in mid-2011, etc.), who no one ever thinks about again after the dust has settled.  It draws attention to the loopholes and unsavory practices that exist in big business that may be considered immoral, but are not illegal.  It is a cautionary tale about investing all your money in one place.  It is about a “rigged” system which favors the rich.  It is about having to go to extreme measures at times to be heard and seen.  Although the scenario seems a bit far-fetched, the story is quite realistic in many ways and relatable. It is the type of movie many people can identify with.  Anyone who has ever had the feeling of being treated “unfairly” or that life has screwed them over somehow will be able to get into this movie.

The company that loses this great amount of money overnight represents the companies and markets that have failed and affected many, many Americans.

Kyle Budwell represents those left to deal with the aftermath of these “failures”; all those “little people” who lose jobs, homes and security during these crises. There never seems to be any concrete explanation given as to why (Note: Watch The Big Short. If you haven’t seen it, you should. And prepare yourself to be enlightened and angry).  There are usually little-to-no consequences for those who are found to be responsible (if anyone is found to be responsible at all).  And there is little-to-no recourse for those who have suffered the losses – but to accept it, move on and attempt to rebuild their lives.  Kyle Budwell becomes heroic in that he creates his own recourse, gets his explanation, and may or may not have made it possible to hold someone accountable.

Jodie Foster does a good job directing Money Monster. She seems to have a strong understand how a movie is supposed to play out in pacing and timing.  There is decent acting all the way around with appearances from Giancarlo Esposito, Lenny Venito and notable co-star Caitriona Balfe and the plot keeps the audience engaged all the way through.

Overall, Money Monster earned 7 out of 10 bloops. It is a good movie worth seeing.

The Darkness

There are no fewer than 10 horror movies slated for release between now and the end of 2016.  I used to love the genre, but somehow lost my love for it after seeing so many poorly done movies, or movies that have too many similar elements among them.  Somebody is possessed or slowly becoming unraveled before losing it, nobody believes it or the people around them ignore their strange behavior until it becomes extreme; strange things are happening in the house, people ignore or rationalize it somehow until there’s blood on the ceiling and the walls are moving; there’s some ancient curse in effect, or a burial ground, or, Oh! Look!  We’re on the site of a massacre from another century… etc., etc., etc.  Great, even good, horror movies are few and far between.  You have to watch 20 terrible ones to find the one gem in the rock pile, and that gem usually, I find, lies in a vampire, zombie, virus driven movie such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Netflix), 30 Days of Night or World War Z (which I enjoyed, despite the poor reviews).  The supernatural realm is pretty played out and needs to be refreshed.  Maybe in some twisted attempt to recapture my youth, I am revisiting horror movies to see if I can find one I enjoy and would recommend.  I did not find it this week.  But I’m gonna keep hope alive!  I figure at least one out of the upcoming 10 HAS GOT to be a keeper.  I’m an optimist that way.  What can I say?

The Darkness starring Kevin Bacon (as Peter Taylor), Rudha Mitchell (as Bronny Taylor) and David Mazouz (as Michael Taylor) focuses on a family whose autistic son (played by Mazouz) becomes the conduit to the spirit world following a family trip to the Grand Canyon where Michael falls into another dimension, discovers and pockets 5 ancient stones and begins to assist ancient, evil spirits conjure themselves from the spirit world into the “real” world.  The film goes on to show how this family, that was already falling apart and hanging on by a thread, falls further apart and comes back together in an effort to save themselves, and perhaps the world (I really wasn’t sure), from these ancient, dark forces of evil.

The movie explores a school of thought that autistic children have an ability to see and sense things “normal” people do not.  There have been articles written and some studies conducted which attempt to prove that autistic children have higher sensitivity to ghosts and spirits and increased extrasensory abilities – with a correlation between autism and telepathy.  But other than the fact that the conduit to the spirit world is autistic (1 in 68 children in the U.S. are autistic according to the most recently recorded CDC statistics), there is nothing particularly unique about this movie.

The film takes too much time educating the audience on the history and identity of these ancient spirits and muddles what the intentions of the evil spirits are exactly.  At one point the spirits are coming to unleash evil on the world and at another they are coming to get Michael to take him back with them.  I really don’t know why the spirits wanted to take Michael back to their realm, but after all the hell they raised to get back to this dimension they seemed just fine with swapping the kid for his father, so he must not have been all that important to them.

We see snippets of horror movies past; Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, Poltergeist – the list of cliches goes on and on.  Like so many, many horror movies, The Darkness relies too heavily on people doing really stupid things (such as suspecting your house may be haunted, going out to dinner with your wife and leaving the children home alone; or walking through the house confronting the demons and not keeping track of the son who brought them there; or taking your seemingly disturbed son to grandmas so she and her poor cat can be exposed to his issues too) to keep the story going.

Overall I give The Darkness 5 out of 10 bloops – meaning, it’s worth a look if you don’t have to pay for it.  Wait for it to hit cable.  And I’m being generous.  Good acting wasted on a lazy movie that could have been good, but wasn’t.

Note/Upcoming:  I wanted to see the Danish horror flick What We Become, but it literally was in the theater for about 4 days before it got yanked.  I don’t know what happened there.  Maybe it is for the best.  But we will try again with The Bye Bye Man (June 3).  This movie’s premise is similar to Candy Man.  But I’m willing to give it a try.  You never know…

Upcoming:  Check back with me during the week.  I will be reviewing Money Monster, Keanu (which I am going to tell you right now, go see it if you do not have an aversion to “The “N” word” and you love cute cats), and whatever else the mood strikes me to check out.

Finally:  I never made it to Purple Rain and can’t say when I will, as it seems to be getting the “cult classic” treatment, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with midnight showings and such – so it looks like it will be playing for some time.

Have a great week!

Dough

Dough is about Nat (played by Jonathan Pryce who is now on HBO’s Game of Thrones as High Sparrow), an old Jewish baker whose life and business are on the decline in London’s East End, hiring, getting to know and eventually befriending Ayyash (played by Jerome Holder), a young Muslim refugee from Darfur.  The kid accidentally drops weed into the baker’s dough one day and the story is set into motion from there.

The movie provides a lesson in not judging people based on stereotypes but by the content of their individual character and realizing that as humans the things we have in common can outweigh our differences – if we only let them.  The plot of this film reminds young and old that it is never too late to learn about people who do not look or speak or pray or dress or talk like you, and the best way to learn about those who are different from ourselves and our usual, comfortable, convenient “circle” is through good, old fashioned, human-to-human interactions with one another.

Each character couldn’t be more different physically, a white, Jewish, widowed, grandpa who learned his father’s baking skills and inherited his shop, and a young, African, Muslim, fatherless, transient, refugee.  The old man represents stability, but also our comfort with routine and things remaining the way they have always been – particularly as we age.  The young man represents instability, but also passion, fun, flexibility and working toward changing the things that dissatisfy him in life; even though he doesn’t always go about it the smartest way.  (Ah, the folly of youth.)

Initially, both Nat and Ayyash are distrustful of one another; not because of anything they know first hand about one other, but because of the unknown and the stereotypes that have been engrained into their psyches and cultures through generations of ethnic and religious elitism, prejudice and ignorance.  Sound familiar?  But through their interactions these two characters learn they are not so very different and eventually forge a meaningful friendship with ups and downs, and even a bit of adventure.  The old man teaches the young man a trade that traditionally he would have taught his own son (had his son been remotely interested in baking) and the young man resuscitates the old man’s enthusiasm for living.

Throughout the film the importance of the differences between the two characters diminishes so significantly you forget they are “opposites” at all.  By the end of this film I had forgotten about Jewish or Muslim, old or young, black or white – just as Nat and Ayyash had.

Dough is neither too “preachy” with its message, sprinkled with enough comedy to make it light; nor so comedic that the message is lost in some sort of a joke.  It is a well-balanced movie with a sweet message and solid acting.

I’m rating it with 8 strong “bloops” out of 10 and recommend you see it.  It would make a great family movie for an older child (there are maybe three cuss words throughout the entire movie and the message would be lost on little ones), even suitable for an adult with an older or elderly parent.  It would make a good Mother’s Day film.  I think you will enjoy it.

Dough is a drama/comedy directed by John Goldschmidt, with a script co-written by Jez Freedman and Jonathan Benson. 

Nest Week:  I would be remiss if I did not publish a review of Purple Rain.  It has been thirty two years since I saw it on the big screen and I’ve seen it countless (literally, more than 100 times on video and television – literally), but it’s coming up soon … Gotta pay homage to The Man.

Also, the Danish horror movie What We Become and the sci-fi thriller Highrise will be reviewed.

Final Note:  I saw Captain America: Civil War and just as I stated in my “Welcome” message, I will not review it.  If it’s your thing, do what you wanna do.  You’re going to anyhow.  Enjoy.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

The Man Who Knew Infinity stars Dev Patel as Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, and Jeremy Irons as G.H. Hardy, mathematicians who worked together in England.

Ramanujan was a self-taught mathematician, blessed with a divine mastery of mathematics despite never having received much formal education in the subject.  His mind operated in a way where it was not necessary for him to show how he arrived at his theories, or as they say in math class, “show his work.”  The theories simply worked.  He tirelessly sought to have his mathematical theories recognized in the hopes of one day having them published.  Until he reached outside of India to Cambridge University’s G.H. Hardy, no one took him seriously or gave his work proper consideration.  Ramanujan was to become Hardy’s protégé, with Hardy teaching Ramanujan how to proof or prove his theories, but in many ways Ramanujan’s skills surpassed Hardy’s, and Hardy winds up learning equally valuable life-lessons from his student.

If I were to go into the plot of this movie in-depth, you might find it utterly boring.  Another movie about someone with a brilliant mind, blah, blah, blah.  But this movie was different in the sense that the main character came from humble beginnings in India, was a self-taught genius who was frowned upon and discounted because of his lack of formal education, and believed not only greatly in science, but also and perhaps equally greatly in God.  It is centered around math and uses much mathematical language, which is about as exciting to me as watching paint dry.  You may feel differently.  The beauty of the movie can be found in the subtext, which is what made the movie interesting and worth seeing.

A large part of this film is about the concrete world where we can see, feel and provide proof of in life’s occurrences; science, math, logic, etc. – vs. “spiritual” occurrences, which defy logic and must be accepted on the basis of simply being so; such as God, blessings, gifts and miracles.  There are many who emphatically believe we have to choose to believe wholly in one or the other.  This film challenges the idea that these two schools of thought need not be mutually exclusive; meaning, there can be a point where the concrete and the spiritual intersect and coexist.

We live in a society where everyone wants to know what makes one qualified to speak in a certain way on a certain subject and requires research supported statistics, man-made degrees, certifications and/or other accolades to feel as though one even knows what they are talking about.  I found this movie especially timely and a necessary reminder that not all greatness or mastery is learned in a school or taught by man.  Natural, some would say God-given, talents do exist; their origins beyond our understanding.  But just because we do not understand them, does not make them any less real or true.

The other important theme of this movie involves change and includes many types of change (personal, interpersonal, societal, institutional, national, etc.), and the range of human responses to change.

When change is occurring or, as some might say, when destiny knocks, one can either dig in their heels and be dragged through it kicking and screaming in protest or one can accept it.  One can actively plot to derail change, but it will not work.  Because if things are “meant to be” there is nothing to be done about it.  Eventually the change that is meant to happen will come about.  Sometimes it takes numerous, tireless attempts to attain the change you seek and sometimes the change seeks you and it seems to happen instantly.  Every single character in this movie went through changes and how each character dealt with those changes is what made this movie dynamic.

Despite its formulaic set up (I mean, how else can you set up a biopic about an unknown? – Introduction, younger life, hit the highlights of life events and relationships, the big shift, the breakthrough, the decline and/or the end), this movie is worth seeing.  Dev Patel gives a solid performance as usual and Jeremy Irons is simply an effortless veteran at this point in his career.

As with any biographical picture about an “unknown” the importance of how closely the actor resembles the subject and captures another person’s mannerisms becomes irrelevant.  The burden of an audience to recognize the character physically and spiritually is removed; leaving room for a great performance to take place with no expectations.  This is what can happen when we dig deeper into history to find interestingly uncommon, rarely told, not widely-known stories and subjects.  It was refreshing to go to a movie and learn something new about someone I had no idea existed.

My blog is still quite new, so I have yet to find a suitable rating system, so I will say this.  I give this movie 8 out of 10 bloops, (whatever they will be or look like is still to be determined, but I am working on it), as it is a movie that made me think, I would watch it again, I wanted to learn more about Ramanujan, it was well thought out and it contained the two strong themes mentioned above.  In other words, I think you would enjoy it, if this type of movie is your “cup of tea.”