Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: The Lobster

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

“You can be a loner until the day you die. There is no time limit.”

From someone who spends most of their time alone, and has made peace with the fact that they’ll probably be alone forever, this movie is really fucking depressing.

The Lobster (Picturehouse Entertainment)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Written by Efthimis Filippou & Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring Colin FarrellRachel WeiszJessica BardenOlivia ColmanAshley JensenAriane LabedAngeliki PapouliaJohn C. ReillyLéa SeydouxMichael Smiley & Ben Whishaw

This movie made me uncomfortable. The Lobster has a few funny moments. A few laugh out loud, what-the-fuck moments. But mostly it’s just cringe-worthy and violent and unwatchable. I guess you have to get the joke. The whole thing about society requiring that humans pair off. And how being alone gets you ostracized. And I guess that’s the case… I guess. In the Lobster this is way way waaaaaaaaaaay over the top with single people being reassigned to live their lives as the animal of their choice (basically an execution). But as “one of the lonely people” I just took all this nonsensical forced pairing crap and ignored it as less of an allegory on our society and more of a plot point about their absurd fictional one. So once that whole part of the movie is disregarded as not being a distorted reflection of us, but a wholesale fiction, then all that’s left of The Lobster is violence and bad behavior and a lack of empathy bordering on the psychotic. It’s not funny. It’s more disturbing than anything resembling funny and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. Let me explain why this movie is depressing and awkwardly unfunny with many many spoilers.

Verdict: SPOILED

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The Lobster is the story of three locations in a dark parallel universe. This doesn’t represent our future. It’s not our future because nothing is more advanced than what we have. In fact the movie is ultra-low-tech. The City, a place where anyone walking alone is asked to show proof that they are in a relationship or are shipped off to the second location. The Hotel, a disturbing concentration camp where the newly single have 45 days to find “love” or get reassigned as an animal (this is basically execution but I guess the story was violent enough) unless of course they can escape to the third location. The Forest, outside of the city, where escapees from The Hotel live as refugees and also where the singles from The Hotel go to hunt down and kill single people to gain one extra day of existence as an unmarried, single human being imprisoned at a sadistic hotel. This is some dark and annoyingly unfunny, absurdist crap.

The Lobster is outrageously violent (like Logan violent) but the filmmakers take pains to show women being the aggressors towards men and not the other way around. Everyone is thirsty. Thirsty for sex. Thirsty for love. And thirsty for blood. At one point a woman, describe in the film as being heartless (but not particularly any more heartless than the other awful characters), kicks a dog to death in order to prove that her lover has emotional feelings for his pet. It’s disgusting and well over-the-top. At one point a woman who runs the refugee camp in the forest blinds another woman for having the gall to fall in love with a man at her singles enclave. This is pointless and cruel. The Lobster is full of pointless cruelty that is only sometimes funny. Dark violent humor that seems more like misplaced anger toward an ex? (who hurt you, Yorgos?)

Guests at the hotel are subjected to forced sexual arousal but restricted from masturbation. This would have been funny except that the punishment for getting caught masturbating is having your fingers burnt off in a toaster. But The Lobster is not all bad. Rachel Weisz is heartbreaking and brilliant as a hotel escapee. And in the middle of this violent nightmare, there is a touching romance between Colin “Hotel Guest” Farrell and Rachel “Refugee” Weisz. Or “un-touching” romance, because they’re not allowed to touch. It is cute and romantic as they make up their own silent language so as not to get caught having a relationship. But this beautiful part of the movie gets lost in all the bleak, violent stuff surrounding it.

One of the actually funny themes moving through The Lobster is the idea that all relationships are built on some common trait. The two leads share a similar visual malady. Other couples can both sing. Or they both have limps. Or both get nose bleeds. Or absolutely anything else. But it’s never about love. This gets blown further and further out of proportion when the main character decides to blind himself in order to stay with the female lead who was made blind earlier in the film. He loves her already but believes that they can’t be together unless they are both blind. It is absurd. And it’s supposed to be funny. But as he directs the steak knife into his eyeball, it did not make me laugh. It made me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just me but blinding yourself with a steak knife for love is not even a little bit funny.

There are, however, a couple of jokes that hit home. And a couple of themes that resonate. Like when the lonely older woman who is sweet and sexy but depressed because she doesn’t want to die (live as an animal… whatever), throws herself, awkwardly but sweetly at the main character. She’s smart. She’s funny. She tells him all this stuff she’ll do sexually but he ignores her because he instead wants the younger girl who would eventually beat his dog to death. Or the even younger girl with the nose bleeds. This is funny, poignant, and depressingly accurate, as he ignores this possible loving relationship for two horrible… younger women. And there’s this great joke where couples who are having problems are assigned children because that always makes it better. But then the sexy older woman later tries to kill herself and this too would be powerful if she had jumped from a higher floor. But she doesn’t. And she lands on her face and lies there screaming in a pool of her own blood for five minutes of screen time. Wailing and screaming in pain while our hero chats up the future dog murderer. This is also supposed to be funny. This is about as funny as Donald Trump being president.

The Lobster masquerades as a commentary on how our society values people in relationships over those who don’t mind the loneliness of being single. And the movie illustrates this point when guests at the hotel are shown a pantomime of a lonely man dying alone. With no one to give him the Heimlich maneuver, he chokes on his food. Then the guests are shown a situation where a woman walking by herself (in what has been established as an incredibly cruel fictional world) is being sexually harassed and then raped, with no one to come to her aid.

The Lobster isn’t so much making fun of these societal tropes and traditions of the spinster and the hermit and the fear of dying alone as much as it’s reinforcing them. Yet it’s not this heavy-handed loner bashing that’s the biggest problem with the film. It’s the cruelty of every single one of its characters. None of these people are lovable. Not one. The married people suck. The single people suck. Even the animals are complete dicks. Honestly, I was ready for some quality entertainment when in the first scene a woman gets out of her car and shoots a horse in what is obviously a fit of jealous rage based on personal pain inflicted on her by that particular animal. It is an hysterically funny moment and I’m thinking, Great! this is going to be a good movie. No. It just declines from there. It just gets more violent from there. More animals being killed and people being mutilated for masturbating.

The Lobster is a cruel violent movie. Filled with cruel violent characters. Desperately seeking cruel and violent misguided love connections. And even though it can be mildly entertaining sometimes. Most of the time, The Lobster just made me feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortably sad and lonely… and that’s not why we go to the movies.

– Mel

5 Quick Reviews of 5 New Movies on DVD in July (And One Rant)

July was a mixed bag of DVDs. Some great. Some awful. Some comedy, Some drama. Some romance. Some documentary. Some martial arts. Some science fiction. Some good. Some evil. Some Sarah Silverman. Some Russell Crowe.

The Devil's Minions

“Who has left their snow on my bannister?”

And some really good movies and some really bad ones.

Here are five quick reviews and one long rant that I will not be apologizing for.

To the reviews…

A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal Pictures)

a million ways to die in the west posters

Directed by Seth MacFarlane

Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild

Starring Seth MacFarlane, Charlize TheronAmanda SeyfriedNeil Patrick HarrisGiovanni RibisiSarah Silverman & Liam Neeson

“What are you shooting at?” “Uh… Mel Rook and his stupid blog.”

You know how Family Guy hasn’t been good in a while. How the jokes have been increasingly cornball and toilet-based. Or how the writers and performers seem to be phoning it in. You know how Family Guy just plain sucks now? Well… A Million Ways to Die in the West is all of that suckiness but in movie-form.

Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi

“That’s harsh. Even for Mel.”

There are maybe three good jokes (and they are very funny jokes) in the entire movie. All of the surprise jokes are spoiled in the trailer and in the ads. The direction is horrible. The timing is off and Seth MacFarlane is not a leading man, not even in a comedy. He’s a funny writer. He will get better as a director but as the star of the movie he is flat and unlikable.

Seth MacFarlane

“I’ll be with the sheep.”

Everyone else in the movie is brilliant even with the bad jokes. Charlize is great. Sarah Silverman is great. Giovanni and Neil Patrick are sensational and even Liam Neeson gives a pretty good performance as an outlaw, but the movie is awful. Not very funny. I couldn’t help but compare it to Blazing Saddles and…well… copies of A Million Ways to Die in the West don’t even deserve to prop up the floor display for a re-release of Blazing Saddles.

Skip it. (Not funny. Not Blazing Saddles. Go rent Blazing Saddles instead)

Next up… one of my favorite books.

Winter’s Tale (Warner Bros. Picture, Roadshow Entertainment)

Winters-Tale-poster

Written & Directed by Akiva Goldsman  Based on Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Starring Colin FarrellJessica Brown FindlayJennifer ConnellyWilliam HurtEva Marie SaintRussell Crowe & Will Smith

Colin Farrell

“Yes… Me and this horse have the same haircut. What of it?”

Winter’s Tale is a fantastic fantasy novel by Mark Helprin that I read a couple of decades ago and really enjoyed. While Akiva Goldsman captures some of the magic from the book, the movie is flat and lacks cohesion. As usual with directors who direct their own screenplays, Akiva has brought his script to the screen without giving it much of a life.

“It’s Winter’s Tale. Not A Winter’s tale. Not The Winter’s Tale. Just Winter’s Tale. Got it?”

He leaves a couple of my favorite themes from the novel out of the movie all together but I understand that there’s a limited amount of time. (Winter’s Tale would make a great TV series) But he doesn’t fill in the holes. He doesn’t bring the two parts of the story together and in fact makes it feel like they have nothing to do with each other.

Winters-Tale

“We make riding horses in the city look cool. It is not cool. I repeat. It is not cool.”

And while he captures the romance between the two main characters and the supernatural aspects, he leaves out the author’s romance with the city of New York and the winter weather. So without the connection between the first girl and the second and the romance elements of a city buried in snow, much of the magic of the book is left off the screen. And I don’t blame the writing. I blame the direction. (same guy, I know) His script is good. His movie is not.

Jessica Brown Findlay

“Who do I remind you of? No wait don’t tell me. It’s too painful.”

And Winter’s Tale is still a good story even if it is flat on-screen. The cast is superb. Russell and Colin are two of my favorite actors and Jessica (from Downton Abbey) is wonderful. Even Will Smith is fine as Lucifer. The movie just needed a better director. Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard or Francis Ford Coppola. Someone with a better sense of New York and its history, while still being able to bring the fantasy and the romance in spades. I wish it were a better movie. I really do.

Skip it. (Read the book. Read the book. Read the book)

Next… a kind of creepy but very funny movie.

Bad Words (Focus Features)

Bad Words

Directed by Jason Bateman

Written by Andrew Dodge

Starring Jason Bateman, Kathryn HahnRohan ChandBen FalconePhilip Baker Hall & Allison Janney

Jason Bateman

“Your word is NAMBLA.” “Can I hear it in a sentence?” “No.”

Bad Words is a very funny movie about a grown man competing in a spelling bee with 9 and 10 year olds. The man is an angry and despicable human being that the director wants you to like and root for in spite of his behavior. And you do.

Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn

“I don’t know why I find Kathryn Hahn so hot. But I do.” “That’s… sweet… I guess.”

Jason Bateman is the perfect actor for this task because even when he is behaving like an offensive spoiled old man who should not be allowed around children, he is amazingly likable. Though I regret that the subject and the story made me a little uneasy, because he is such an evil man, I still laughed at his grossly inappropriate behavior.

bad-words

Inappropriate relationship with a nine year-old boy… check.

The director, also Jason Bateman, does a really good job of softening the edges of this curmudgeonly cynic. And the ending and the eventual reason for his massive public tantrum is satisfying and like I said, the movie is very funny and very sweet. As the poster explains, The end justifies the mean.

Bad Words

“I’m a good director! I win the internet because I’m a good director. In your face!”

If you can get past a 40-year-old man doing and saying sexually inappropriate things to 9 and 10 year olds, it’s a good movie. Jason Bateman does a good job as star and director and the rest of the cast is enjoyable and hilarious.

Rent it (It is a surprisingly good, sweet and honestly funny movie)

Next up… One of the greatest action movies ever made… seriously.

The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics, Stage 6 Films, Entertainment One)

The Raid 2

Written & Directed by Gareth Evans

Starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka AntaraTio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie EstelleRyuhei MatsudaKenichi Endo & Kazuki Kitamura

Rama

The prison riot scene is freaking brutal.

The Raid 2 is even better than the first Raid. It picks up where the first one left off and It has all the stuff you loved from the first, plus women, a better story and even cooler fights in more cramped places. Hell they go as cramped as you can get without fighting in a closet. The choreography in these two movies is so freaking good I can’t even begin to tell you. All I can say is The Raid 2 is even better than the first one.

Hammer Girl Kicks Ass

Hammer Girl kicks some serious subway ass

But the choreography in this one is like another character. The joy is in watching the evolution of the fight scenes up until that last fight which is so fucking EPIC that it is like a movie all on its own. It has romance and intrigue and politics. There is adventure and laughter and emotion. There is history and mystery and suspense… and I remind you… I’m talking about ONE fight here. Beyond epic. The movie climaxes in a fight for the ages.

The Raid 2 climactic fight

These two are masters of their style and a joy to watch.

The Raid 2 is phenomenal. If you haven’t seen the first one, go watch that one first. It is amazing and in my opinion, the choreography style should be introduced to you before you add this cool story to it. The first movie is amazing but it is just two hours of fight choreography. Some cops enter a building complex and fight their way up to the top. And that is the best introduction to this fighting style and kick-ass choreographer. Because The Raid 2 turns that up a notch. To almost superhero levels. Which can suck in some martial arts movies but not when the choreography is this good.

Raid_2_final_fight_knives

The Raid 2 is exhaustingly action-packed.

The Raid 2 is the perfect follow-up to the first movie. It is the most action-packed and kick-ass martial arts film I have seen in a long long time and I can’t wait for Raid 3. Bring it.

Rent it

Next up… another Scif-fi Romance but this time with computers.

Transcendence (Warner Bros. Pictures, Summit Entertainment)

Transcendence

Directed by Wally Pfister

Written by Jack Paglen

Starring Johnny DeppRebecca HallPaul BettanyKate MaraCillian Murphy & Morgan Freeman

Johnny Depp

“What are you doing Johnny?” “I’m watching Transcendence. It helps me sleep.”

This movie is surprisingly cerebral. Even given the subject. Transcendence is another movie about “The evils of artificial intelligence”  but it’s more of a meditation than a movie. It is slow. So very slow. And it offers more questions than it answers. I can’t say I liked it but I can say that there are some good things about it. It makes you think.

Transcendence

“It’s not that boring if you think about it.” “You’re right. You have to think about it.”

There is an epic romance at the center of transcendence and there is a lot of science (or science fiction) with far-reaching flights of fancy. But the movie is kind of boring… thought provokingly boring. I can’t say I liked it. It was intriguing and I couldn’t look away because of the sci-fi elements. So if you like a good sci-fi romance, I would say… maybe… rent it.

Transcendence-

“Hey, are you up for a sci-fi romance?” “Winter’s Tale or Transcendence?” “You know what. Actually I’m waiting for my boyfriend.”

But if you want something more. There is really nothing more here. The movie takes pains to not pick a side in its own debate. You know how I hate that. There are no good guys and no bad guys. Everyone is just right in the middle. You know how I hate that. And I find that boring. I don’t like movies that take on heady subjects but don’t take them anywhere.

Transcendence Depp

“What’s wrong Johnny?” “I now know what I look like with corn rows.” “Sorry dude.”

Skip it (Unless you’re a stone cold science and science fiction fan. There is some interesting stuff here, but I can’t say I liked it)

Next up… A really good documentary that really fucking pissed me off.

Jodorowsky’s Dune (Sony Pictures Classic)

jodorowsky's dune

Directed by Frank Pavich

Starring Alejandro JodorowskyMichel SeydouxH. R. GigerChris FossNicolas Winding RefnAmanda Lear & Richard Stanley

Dune

You have to picture Pink Floyd music playing in the background… I’m not kidding.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a great movie about a lot of talented people attaching themselves to a fucking idiot. That’s the best way I can put it. I love the story of this creatively insane idea for a movie taken way too seriously because the person in charge has absolutely no talent except for the ability to convince people that he’s a genius. GAH!!!

HR Giger

House Harkonnen by Giger… can I get a hell yeah?

Jodorowsky mentions Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles as actors in this monstrosity and they all agree to join in on this clusterfuck where the casting is more important than the characters. And in all of the interviews they talk about the great things that this humorously awful potential crap has inspired and all I can say is, well… yeah.

Giger's Harkonen Castle

Giger repurposed this design for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus

If you combine Moebius and Giger and Dan O’ Bannon, they will come up with ideas that none of them would want to waste on a movie that had no chance of being made. Jodorowsky is a lovable lunatic and everyone in this film who treats him like some kind of genius is delusional. Hopelessly and helplessly delusional.

Jodorowsky

One of these people is insane. HINT: It’s not the guy in the mask.

And he loses me early on. Jodorowsky had decided to do this grand adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. (An excellent idea… I hope someone actually does it) And in the very next breath admits that he has never read the book. NEVER READ THE BOOK. That he had written his screenplay based on what a friend had told him about the book.

Moebius Dune

He changes themes. He changes the ending and then has the gall to suggest that having no respect for the source material is the best way to make an adaptation of a great work. Readers of my blog will know that this is the precise moment when I got off the “genius” train. You haven’t read the book?! He then convinces talented young people to drop their lives and join him in this outrageously over-reaching attempt at greatness. And Jodorowsky proceeds to create an impossibly ostentatious and absurd Dune-like Frankenstein’s monster and is surprised when no studio will give him a blank check.

dune-smuggler

Later, he admits that if today someone were to try to make his film version of Dune they would have to do an animated version… TODAY. He wanted to do this live-action star-studded special effects driven extravaganza in the early 1970’s. The man was an idiot. A talentless, deluded, narcissistic hack. Jodorowsky’s Dune was a failure of epic proportions. Jodorowsky’s Dune (the documentary) is a really good film about a very bad film idea and a jackass who never even read the book.

Jodorowsky-

“So what if I never read the book. Look at this monstrosity. Look at it.”

Rent it. (If you want to see how one person’s creative ambitions can dwarf reality, finances, common sense and their own talent. Otherwise stay away)

So to recap…

We had two movies where a madman tries to play god; Transcendence and Jodorowsky’s Dune, Both thought provokingly interesting and equally action packed except that one of them is a documentary.

We had two movies where a superhero tries to save himself from an overwhelming force of evil; Winter’s Tale and The Raid 2, One of them romantic and action-packed, the other with action packed on top of action.

And we had two movies where a wise cracking a-hole tries to win a contest of skill with the help of a beautiful woman, directed by its lead; Bad Words and A Million Ways to Die in the West, the first one with a very funny likeable lead character & good director and the second one… without all of that.

Go rent some movies,

– Mel

Winter’s Tale Trailer

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin is one of my favorite books of all time…

Love the casting. Colin Farrell & Russell Crowe & that girl from Downton Abbey Jessica Brown-Findlay. But the Valentine’s Day release and the music (I know it’s just the trailer) make me uneasy.

Also Akiva Goldman is a good writer but an unproven director. This story needs an Epic Director. This story needs Wachowski or Spielberg… but you never know, it could still be watchable. The photography looks gorgeous. New York looks gorgeous. And that’s the most important thing.

I’m happy they’re making a movie but I just hope they do it justice.

– Mel