The Lobster – 7.5/10

Standard

Just an incredibly traumatising cinematic experience…

lobster2-xlarge.jpg

Anyone familiar with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ most famous work Dogtooth will know not to expect a barrel of laughs from his latest effort The Lobster. If you were thinking Lanthimos’ first experience with an English speaking feature film and an all star cast might result in a more conventional film then you would be bang wrong. Oh boy would you be wrong. The Lobster is unsettling, jarring, genuinely hard to watch at times, but somehow still occasionally funny.

An ensemble cast featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and bizarrely Keith from The Office, throw themselves into a film that not only has a outlandish concept but also odd, robotic dialogue.

The film explores how society views relationships using the metaphor that anyone not partnered up, will be persecuted and eventually turned into an animal if they don’t find someone suitable within a given time frame. This unsettling dystopian setting brings to mind a much darker version of Don’t Let Me Go (also excellent). The combination of the story and the setting leaves The Lobster gruellingly bleak and hopeless. It also feels like an allegory for depression what with the cold, empty characters and repetitive, colourless scenery.

the-lobster-movie-trailer-images-stills-colin-farrell-john-c-reilly-ben-whishaw.png

I am a fan of Colin Farrell but this role calls for a lot of work between the dialogue and he failed to fully convince me at times. His supporting cast do a better job particularly Rachel Weisz, but Farrell’s disappointingly bland turn perhaps does the film and concept a bit of an injustice.

Farrell’s performance is a minor distraction in what is an overwhelmingly intelligent and arty film. Whilst accusations of pretentiousness will always follow a film so bravely written, it is churlish to suggest that The Lobster is anything other than a creative, original and frankly astonishing piece of art.

Short Film Sunday – Duck Amuck

Standard

Title: Duck Amuck

Director: Chuck Jones

Released: 1953

Length: 8 mins

One of the best loved and most influential animated shorts ever made. You might not think you have seen Duck Amuck but I guarantee you have. Not content with being inducted into the United States Library of Congress and being chosen for the national film registry, Duck Amuck was also voted 2nd in the 50 greatest cartoons of all time as voted by members of the animation field. This is not just a cartoon, it is an animated juggernaut, a cultural milestone.

More important than any accolade however, is the fact that Duck Amuck is genuinely laugh out loud funny as well as being inventive, surreal and ground breaking. Having Daffy Duck continually break the fourth wall as he becomes increasingly angry makes for great entertainment and the big reveal at the end just caps it all off perfectly.

If you have ever laughed at a cartoon or marvelled at the sheer imagination that animation can showcase, then doff your cap to Duck Amuck because it can all be traced back to that.

The Gift – 7/10

Standard

What it lacks in Katie Holmes’ breasts, The Gift makes up for in tense thrills…

3.jpg

The Gift contains a typically fine performance from Rebecca Hall but it is the cat and mouse game between Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton that rightly takes first billing. Edgerton wrote and directed The Gift as well as starring and he gives an excellent performance in what is obviously a passion project for him. If you watch Edgerton’s confident turn in another 2015 success Black Mass compared to his more socially awkward character here, you will see the amount of range that he possesses and the flexibility of his acting skill.

The stalker tale is a typical horror trope but The Gift isn’t out to break new ground, only to tell a good story and tell it well. The performances in general are far superior to that of the average horror flick, with Fargo‘s Allison Tolman rounding off a talented cast.

The Gift is not really a horror film in reality. It is more a tense thriller and whilst Jason Bateman is an odd choice for such a straight character, he takes his opportunity to play against type here. Bateman made me change my mind about who was the protagonist and who was the antagonist numerous times throughout The Gift which is also a testament to Edgerton’s writing.

clairestbearestreviews_filmreview_thegift_creep.jpg

Joel Edgerton or Murray from Flight of the Conchords?

Indeed this is Joel Edgerton’s movie. Aside from the gripping script and the focused direction, Egerton puts in a sympathetic but offbeat turn as Gordo in a role unrecognisable compared to his recent fare.

The Gift is in many ways old fashioned in it’s story and style but it is a modern twist on a familiar fable that will appeal to a mass audience. Caps off Joel Edgerton.

Short Film Sunday – The Gunfighter

Standard

Title: The Gunfighter

Director: Eric Kissak

Released: 2014

Length: 9 mins

 

The concept behind The Gunfighter is an ingenious as it is lacking in longevity which makes it perfect for a short film. A lone gun slinger wanders into a saloon and the dulcet tones of Nick Offerman’s narration begin. The kicker is that all the characters can hear the narration too, so when Offerman starts delivering some home truths, all hell breaks loose.

At just under 9 minutes there is no time for the joke to wear thin and I laughed more during The Gunfighter then I have during most feature length comedies. Offerman is the perfect fit to deliver the scandalous news to patrons of a saloon in the old west. His dry style is just the right side of knowing to pull off a smart and hilarious script.

After watching a lot of short films with lofty ideas recently it is refreshing to see what is basically just an extended comedy sketch in The Gunfighter. Take nothing away from it though, Eric Kissack’s 2014 short is a clever idea with a witty script, acted and executed perfectly.

Black Mass – 7/10

Standard

Johnny Depp – Tim Burton = Good Movies

1998.jpg

Johnny Depp’s career has never recovered from the humongous disaster that was The Tourist. Not many actors have made such poor choices as consistently as Depp with his constant collaborations with Tim Burton particularly galling. With Black Mass. Depp has returned to the a genre that has served him well in the past.

Donnie Brasco is arguably the actors finest hour and Blow is also a fan favourite. Black Mass seemed a pretty safe bet for Depp to get back on track and it doesn’t disappoint. A brilliant ensemble cast featuring Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon and David Harbour ensure that Depp’s Whitey Bulger is almost a supporting player in his own story.

BM-CPC-2_2040.0.jpg

The real life story of Chicago mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is so outlandish that when combined with such a star studded cast, director Scott Cooper was always likely to have a winner on his hands. Having said that Depp had a lot to do to transform himself to Bulger, particularly physically, and he makes for an imposing and dangerous crime king pin.

There is a scene in Donnie Brasco where the undercover cop Brasco (played by Depp) is asked to remove his shoes in a oriental restaurant. Brasco has a microphone in his shoe and has to find a solution while suspicion and tension builds. It is one of my all time favourite scenes. You will normally encounter a similar scene in most gangster movies and Black Mass is no different. A particularly tense scene at the dinner table finds Depp at his most sinister but there are many films in this genre that have done the same thing first and more convincingly, not least The Departed which saw Jack Nicholson portray a character also based on Bulger, and do it better than Depp ever could.

Black Mass is not the film to save Johnny Depp’s career or even to reignite it but it is definitely a stop in the right direction.

Room – 8.5/10

Standard

Take a fucking bow Brie Larson…

room-film-sept15.jpg

Hollywood is blessed right now with two spectacular actresses in Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence. Brie Larson impressed in The Spectacular Now, dazzled in Short Term 12 and with Room she has taken acting to a level that even Olsen and Lawrence are yet to reach. Before you accuse me of hyperbole, Larson has yet to prove she can carry a franchise or show the sheer range that Jennifer Lawrence has or the ability to star in a blockbuster like Olsen but in terms of a singular performance, Brie Larson in Room is right up there with any dramatic turn from anyone. She really is that fucking good.

Take nothing away from child actor Jacob Tremblay though, who gives the most memorable performance from an actor his age since Haley Joel Osmont in The Sixth Sense. It is a heartbreaking and visceral turn from one so young but make no mistake this is Larson’s film. Determined yet vulnerable, strong willed but falling apart, it is the realism that Larson brings that makes the performance so memorable. There is a girl next door quality to the young actress that makes her incredibly believable whilst also exuding film star charisma and grace. It is another quite simply phenomenal show of acting.

64176.jpg

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s last film was wacky and hilarious Frank. It is difficult to think of one director making two more disparate films back to back which only makes Room even more of an achievement. As well as some beautiful dialogue either lifted straight from the book or written especially for the screen by author Emma Donoghue, the sparse soundtrack and beautiful cinematography help to keep Room exciting despite taking place within the same four walls.

Room is a dark film. A film where any shred of hope is guarded and mired with danger. It is also a concept that could have fallen flat on its face had it not been undertaken by such a talented director and a fucking ridiculously gifted actress. They might as well just hand her the Oscar now.

Short Film Sunday – Dust

Standard

Title: Dust

Directors: Ben Ockrent, Jake Russell

Released: 2013

Length: 8 mins

 

Dust is an odd and twisted take on the legend of the tooth fairy. Alan Rickman is his usual mesmerizing self in a film in which he doesn’t have a single line. Perhaps better known for playing villains, Rickman is just as much at home playing warm, sympathetic characters and he has to use both sides of the coin in this sinister fable.

Alongside Rickman is Jodie Whittaker, who has little to do but still acts as a fresh faced counterweight to Rickman’s more grizzled, dishevelled appearance. It is undoubtedly Rickman who steals the show however, and Dust is a reminder of how compelling Alan Rickman was. The London actor always picked interesting roles and looked so at home on the big screen despite not landing his first major role until he was 46. Obviously it is sad we will no longer see Alan Rickman in films, but he has had such a varied and fascinating career that there are plenty of films to choose from. It is in his work that Rickman leaves his legacy, from Die Hard to Dogma, from Harry Potter to Love Actually, he was a beloved and talented actor that will be missed all across the world of film.

Dust is not his best film of course but it is an interesting work that sums up a great actor in 8 minutes. Villain, hero, gentlemen, comedian, no matter which hat Alan Rickman was wearing he always had the same twinkle in his eye.

RIP Alan Rickman.