Darkest Hour – Joe Wright

Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ben Mendelsohn.
Photo Credit: Jack English/Focus Features

It’s a movie that was made for the Oscars; you have a brilliant performance of a historical figure, impressive makeup and costume to go with the times, the inclusion of a powerful wartime speech, and artistic camera work. Darkest Hour is not the best movie to come out in 2017, not by a long shot, but no one can argue it’s a quality film and quite enjoyable. You get a glimpse into Winston Churchill’s battle to gain the trust of the Cabinet when he takes over as British Prime Minister for Neville Chamberlain in the early days of World War II.

It actually fits in really well with another film that was featured in the same Best Picture category at the Oscars – Dunkirk. They take place at the same time and it would benefit moviegoers to watch them both for historical purposes. It’s a time in history that not everyone is familiar with and it’s very interesting to see things happen from the soldiers’ perspectives as well as the political perspective. The two films couldn’t be more different but they stay true to their perspectives: the soldier’s point of view is action-based while a politician’s point of view is all about words.

Most people can agree that Gary Oldman deserved an Oscar a long time ago. He finally took one home at the 90th Academy Awards in early March for his portrayal of Churchill. It wasn’t even a question that he would win. He disappears into the character and brings a lot of spunk to a man most people have only read about in history classes. But of course his performance wouldn’t have been as effective without the makeup team, so the three of them also brought home Oscar for their efforts in Darkest Hour. The supporting cast of Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Ben Mendelsohn is good, but be under no false illusion that Darkest Hour is anything but the ‘Gary Oldman Show’. It’s a mere snapshot in time after all, when Churchill was facing his biggest decisions as Prime Minister, so most other characters are just filler.

In addition to Best Actor in a Leading Role (won), Best Picture, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (won), Darkest Hour was also nominated for Best Cinematography. It’s one of those things that is actually hard to ignore in this film. If it’s something you don’t usually notice, you likely will notice it here.

Darkest Hour takes place at a time in history where things could have gone very differently for Britain, and the rest of the world. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller but you definitely feel the sense of urgency. Knowing the outcome, the movie is done in such a way that makes you want to slap some sense into the opposition. During Churchill’s speeches you may even find yourself thinking, “Damn straight! You tell ‘em Winston!”. It’s as close to a universally enjoyable movie as you can get without being animated and released by Pixar. At just over 2 hours it’s a fairly standard run-time for a film of this nature. There is also no content in it that would be any cause for concern while watching with family, young or old. It’ll make you giggle, make you cheer (internally), and you might even learn a few things! If you’re a historian, as long as you forgive the filmmakers for taking dramatic license to tell the story, you won’t regret watching Churchill navigate through Britain’s “darkest hour”.

Watch the official trailer here:

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Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
Photo credit: Merie Wallace and A24

Creating a film that so many people can identify with is not an easy task. The sheer amount of people who have responded to the film and title character in such a positive way leads one to believe that Greta Gerwig has succeeded with Lady Bird. Many people, young and old, who have seen Lady Bird have responded by saying, “That character is/was me!” or, “That is exactly how I felt about my parents/school/hometown/friends growing up!” and that is a true sign of success for a writer/director – aside from the movie being nominated for five Oscars. This is Gerwig’s directorial debut.

Lady Bird could take place in any decade and in any town but it happens to be Sacramento in 2002. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) is in her senior year at a pretty normal Catholic high school and trying to figure out what she wants to do for college. On one hand it’s a fairly standard coming-of-age story where nothing exciting or out of the ordinary happens, but on the other hand it is completely unique. Lady Bird – an odd name, but soon it’s the last thing on your mind – has a strained relationship with her hard-working mother (Laurie Metcalf) and is yearning for independence and adventure. She is trying to fit in but at the same time is trying to break free. What you get is a very funny and very touching story of a seventeen-year-old navigating through one of the most important times of her life.

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) has been one to watch since she broke out in 2007 with Atonement. Her role in Lady Bird has earned her a third acting nomination in ten years, which is very well deserved, especially for a twenty-three year old. The interactions between Lady Bird and her parents are timeless, and that is probably thanks to the brilliant Oscar-nominated script. It’s so good and so real that you probably won’t even notice it, which is the sign of an amazing screenplay. Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) is also nominated for her supporting role as an overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated mother of two. Special mention goes to Beanie Feldstein who plays the extremely likeable best friend.

Since Lady Bird doesn’t follow the traditional flow if a film with an introduction, climax, and conclusion, it feels more like you are just observing a girl’s senior year unfold and not watching a movie at all. You feel like you just popped in to observe a piece of Lady Bird’s life; you know a lot happened before you got there and you feel that the characters are still living their lives after the credits roll. What’s a shame is that in the absence of action or a plot twist, a few people will mistake Lady Bird for boring and mundane. What they won’t get is that that is the whole point – high school is generally unexciting, but at the time, losing a best friend, falling in love, figuring out your future, and trying new things is the be-all-end-all of your life!

Lady Bird was shown at many international film festivals and received a wider release later in 2017. It was a difficult film for many people to see in theatres, which is a shame. But following the 90th Academy Awards in March, it will surely be in high demand. Lady Bird has been nominated for five Oscars at the upcoming 90th Academy Awards:
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Best Achievement in Directing
Best Original Screenplay

Watch the official trailer here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNi_HC839Wo

The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro

The Shape of Water starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) loves to make movies and it’s obvious that actors and members of the production teams love to make movies with him. Those who have worked on The Shape of Water have called it “magical” and “beautiful” and during del Toro’s Best Director award speech at the Golden Globes, he moved his two leading ladies to tears. The love and the respect people seem to have for del Toro certainly translated to the screen and their performances in The Shape of Water. This film was so well received, it has been nominated for thirteen Oscars (just one shy of the record), including the big ones (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay) and a number of the technical ones (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing).

Sally Hawkins (Maudie, Blue Jasmine) turns in a performance of a lifetime as Elisa, a mute cleaner at a highly classified government facility who meets and eventually falls in love with an amphibian creature being held captive at the facility. She doesn’t say a word, but through her facial expressions, use of sign language, and that sly smile, you know exactly what she’s feeling. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help) is equally impressive as Zelda, Elisa’s cleaning colleague. She’s funny, doesn’t stop talking, and never really requires a response from Elisa in order to know how she feels about something. It must be difficult to play a part when your lines are like one big rant but it never really shows. The rest of the supporting cast couldn’t be any better – Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Michael Shannon is an over-the-top villain named Strickland who you despise in every single scene. He never lets up and it’s perfection.

The film is set in the 1960’s when everyone was afraid of Russians spies. When a creature from the Amazon is brought into a secret research facility its apparent that the views on how to treat it are opposing. One man wants to learn from it, the other man wants to torture and destroy it before enemies can get their hands on it. In the middle is Elisa, who somehow finds companionship with the strange, misunderstood creature. It’s a weird story that brings together elements from familiar movies like Splash, King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, and Creature from the Black Lagoon – and some may say the narrative has been done before, so why bother? If this type of thing troubles you, if you were angry that Avatar got so much hype even though it was basically Pocahontas, stay at home because this type of fantasy film probably isn’t for you. It’s what a director does with a familiar story – either visually or with beloved characters – that can make all the difference. What James Cameron did to revitalize the popular story with a huge budget, del Toro does with and a small budget and pure passion.

This movie is too different to be universally likeable. The magical/unbelievable element will throw off some moviegoers– but if you go into it prepared and with an open mind, it’s really hard not to love every minute of it. Guillermo del Toro has said that on a few occasions, his fairy tales have saved his life – The Shape of Water being one of them – and that is evident in how personal the film feels. It explores the loneliness in being different, the dream of being loved and understood, and the harsh cruel realities of the world all at once. The score (Oscar-nominated Alexandre Desplat), the almost-excessive romanticism, and overly adorable characters will either make you smile with delight for two hours or have you rolling your eyes, wishing for it to be over. Like everything, it’s a matter of perspective and what you’re in the mood for.

The Shape of Water has grossed over $95M worldwide; with less than a $20M budget that is quite the success. The Shape of Water has been nominated for thirteen Oscars at the upcoming 90th Academy Awards:
Best Achievement in Directing
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Best Achievement in Film Editing
Best Achievement in Production Design

Watch the official trailer from FOX Searchlight here:

Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve

Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford, and Robin Wright.
Photo Credit: Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros Pictures

When the executive producer of a movie openly admits the movie is too long, and that executive producer is also a director notorious for making movies with 150 min runtimes, you have to believe him when he says it. Blade Runner 2049 is many things: visually stunning, intriguing, artistic, and, as Ridley Scott so delicately put it, “f***ing way too long“. Even if it takes more than one sitting, even if you need a couple bathroom breaks in the 2hrs and 44mins; if you’re a fan of quality sci-fi drama (think Arrival), Blade Runner 2049 is a must-see.

Just like the original Blade Runner (directed by Ridley Scott 35 years ago), it’s not for everyone. If you have no patience for slow films and for scenes that are easily 2 minutes longer than they have to be, avoid this sequel like the plague. If you are the DC/Marvel type who needs humour and constant action, avoid this movie like the plague. If you are the other type of movie watcher, sit back and get completely sucked into a new (or not so new) world.

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners, Sicario) took a 35-year-old movie and made it fresh and relevant. A very serious Ryan Gosling plays “K”, a young “blade runner” for the L.A. Police Department. Blade runners are tasked with hunting down and retiring old Replicant models, a type of bioengineered android that looks identical to a human. Apparently older Replicants rose up against humans at some point, but that’s not really important. The important thing to know is that Replicants look and act like humans; older models are not wanted and are hunted and killed; and there is a giant, powerful corporation that is experimenting with new models and new features that make it even more difficult to tell the difference. During a routine stop, K stumbles on something strange that requires further investigation. His boss (Robin Wright) tasks him with getting to the bottom of the strange events surrounding the death of an old model, all while trying to stay ahead of the CEO of the corporation (Jared Leto), who wants answers for a very different reason. The story is fairly complex, and although it doesn’t require one to see the original, it probably helps one understand the world a little better.

Lucky for fans of the original film, K’s investigation leads him to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). It’s been 30 years and he’s a little older, but there’s still a lot of fight (and heartache) left in his character, not to mention Mr. Ford himself (see video ‘Ryan Gosling Nearly Knocked Out by Harrison Ford‘).

The main features of the movie are the cinematography, production design, and the music/sound – all things that Blade Runner 2049 has been nominated for. The dusty, dirty, futuristic dystopia is breathtaking in almost every scene. If camera work and set design are not things you typically notice in a film, you will surely notice them in this one. They make the ugly future strangely beautiful. The score is eerily similar to Arrival, so much so that it is hard to believe that Jóhann Jóhannsson had no part in it; in fact, he was replaced by Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception) and Benjamin Wallfisch (IT) shortly into filming. For a film with fairly limited dialogue, the music is quite noticeable and gives the sweeping landscapes more “oomph”.

To sum up, although Blade Runner 2049 is an acquired taste just like the original, it will surely satisfy those who enjoy a science fiction drama with spectacular visuals. Denis Villeneuve brings his typical darker style to the film as well as his talent for perfect endings.

Blade Runner 2049 brought in just under $260M worldwide and has been nominated for five Oscars at the upcoming 90th Academy Awards, including:
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Best Achievement in Production Design

Watch the official Warner Bros. trailer here:

Arrival – Denis Villeneuve

Arrival starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.
Photo Credit: Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Incendies) has done something extraordinary. Arrival is what had been missing from the 2016 movie year and exactly what was needed, a truly unique and enormously entertaining film. Much more than the average science fiction film, Arrival takes alien encounters very seriously. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner play the roles of acclaimed linguist Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly, who are called upon by the U.S. Army to provide input on the alien visitors and their gravity-defying ship. They are tasked to find out why they came and what they want. As expected, it can be very difficult to communicate with a being that doesn’t speak or think in terms humans can understand, so they have a long and complicated road ahead if them. It’s both intriguing and entertaining to watch the story unfold.

From the get-go, Arrival is unsettling, mostly due to Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s haunting score (listen here). A generally somber mood is crafted right at the beginning with a cryptic monologue by Adams and a series of flashbacks. Most of the movie is dark and shadowy with some exceptional cinematography and sleek production design, both of which Arrival received Oscar nominations for. The acting is superb, with a striking performance by Adams, which was sadly ignored by the Academy.

Much like Villeneuve’s other films, every scene and conversation has a purpose; no screen time is wasted on cheap science fiction thrills like scary aliens or battle sequences. Arrival is as sophisticated as it is unique. There is some action and some intense moments, but overall it would almost classify as a science fiction drama. If you are in the mood for something light à la Independence Day: Resurgence , you will be very disappointed. The characters are in a race against time to solve a puzzle – in this case an alien language – where the consequences of getting it wrong could mean war.

Just shy of 120 minutes, Arrival is a great length and does not take an hour to end once things ramp up (looking at you, Return of the King). It takes you on a complex journey and holds back some key information for a big reveal that will leave you breathless and perhaps even choking back some tears. Some will even think that the movie is over too soon, that there could have been more – more explanations or more conclusions – but in the end, Arrival is as close to perfect as a film can get. Nothing is as it seems, and you’ll probably re-watch it as soon as you can to fully appreciate Villeneuve’s mastery.

The film was released in November 2016 and grossed just short of $200M worldwide.

Arrival was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It ended up walking away with one win for sound editing.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Accountant – Gavin O’Connor

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons.
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

Director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t have very much to boast about in terms of past films, only 2011’s Warrior can give any sort of indication that he knows what he’s doing – and not many people saw that one – so despite the last minute marketing effort, the expectations for The Accountant were set pretty low. It could go either way, the movie could either be heavily character driven and not nearly as exciting as the previews indicated (like O’Connor’s Pride and Glory), or it could be a standard action-thriller with all the right moves. As it turns out, The Accountant was neither. The action sequences are fast-paced, satisfying, and deadly and the character development is intriguing, dramatic, and tasteful. The successful fusion of both of these genres is what makes the movie interesting and widely appealing.

Ben Affleck stars as the main character Christian Wolff, known to the U.S. Treasury Department as “the accountant”, among other aliases. He is a mathematics savant with autistic tendencies who has used his exceptional skills to provide accounting services to the criminal underworld for years, while managing to stay alive between jobs. As expected, he has his unique quirks and his ability to understand social cues is virtually non-existent, but his neurodevelopment disorder is never ridiculed or used as the brunt of the joke in The Accountant. Some scenes and exchanges are amusing, but the general “handling” of the condition (as well as its diagnosis) is in no way offensive. Christian’s other impressive skill, explained in a series of childhood flashbacks, is that he is a killing machine; of course, he only puts this to good use when the situation calls for it and when it appeals to his moral code.

When Christian takes on what is thought to be a low-key job investigating some missing money at a robotics company, things start to unravel. Both he and a fellow accountant Dana (Anna Kendrick) find themselves in a situation that calls for him to mostly use his secondary set of skills. Anna Kendrick is delightfully awkward as always and manages to compliment the mostly stoic Affleck. The plot (or plots) is a bit of a mess at times, but the conclusion mostly makes up for any mistakes along the 128-minute pathway.

The supporting cast is quite good, with John Lithgow (Interstellar) as the head of the robotics firm, J.K Simmons (Whiplash) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as the treasury agents hot on Christian’s trail, Jon Bernthal (Sicario) as deadly hitman, and finally Jeffrey Tambor in a small role as a fellow inmate.

Critics haven’t been very impressed with The Accountant since its release on October 14, 2016, but audiences have generally found it entertaining and worth watching. It’s not your everyday garden variety action film, nor is it a boring piece solely focused on character development. While it won’t win any awards or be remembered for years to come, it takes the good parts from each genre and manages to win you over in the end.

The Accountant was a solid #1 hit in its opening weekend, bringing in over $24M domestically (U.S.A).

Watch the official trailer here:

Snowden – Oliver Stone

Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.

Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa Leo. Photo Credit: Jürgen Olczyk/Open Road Films

While some may believe Oliver Stone‘s Edward Snowden biopic was made a decade too early (the events in the film occur between 2009 and 2013), there is something to be said for presenting the story to the public while it is still relevant and while things aren’t yet resolved. The details leading up to, and the events surrounding Edward Snowden’s exposure of the U.S Government’s secretive surveillance programs was something Oliver Stone was born to direct (and write), given his penchant for politically controversial topics (the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam war, for example). The Oscar-winning  writer-director of Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon, to name a few, took on the challenge of capturing the story and also the essence of the man who leaked extremely classified NSA documents to journalists from The Guardian in 2013.

Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, and a number of other accomplished actors as colleagues, friends, and contacts. Familiar faces such as Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, and Rhys Ifans are featured throughout the film in various roles. Unlike most other Oliver Stone films, Snowden will appeal to a much larger audience; it’s not as slow-moving or as long as some of his more famous films (which can range anywhere from 2 hrs to a whopping 3 hrs and 12 mins).  The topics presented in the film may be complex, but they are explained clearly and certainly spark a sense of alarm and disbelief as the far-reach of the government is presented before your eyes. As one can expect from a movie like this, the world of coding and hacking is displayed in a stylish manner – all flashing lights and visual effects – which generally appeals to everyone aside from computer nerds who tend to know better.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt became Edward Snowden in this film. His mannerisms, his speech, even his look is completely captured almost to the point where it becomes creepy. It takes a moment to adjust to the new voice and to stop thinking of it just as an actor’s “really good impression”, but rather a performance – a full embodiment of the character Edward Snowden. It’s a complex thing to try to show the internal struggle of a man torn between being patriotic and doing (what he perceived as) the right thing for his fellow man. The other actors do a great job in their supporting roles, but the focus stays on the subject at hand – Snowden. Even though you know how it ends, the film remains captivating and does not drag on (which tends to happen when a movie pushes past a 2 hr runtime).

It can be argued that the film only shows one side of the story and doesn’t take into account the potentially dangerous implications of Snowden’s actions, but it’s the side that needed telling just the same. A striking number of people don’t know the story, or even that it happened in the first place (which is even more shocking); so aside from the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, this is the next best thing to get to know the man behind one of the biggest security breaches in United States intelligence.

Snowden was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September 2016 and its wide theatrical release was September 16, 2016. The official runtime is 134 minutes.

Watch the official trailer here:

Irrational Man – Woody Allen

Irrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, and Parker Posey.

While not quite up to par in terms of his recent works (Magic in the Moonlight, the Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine, and Midnight in Paris) Woody Allen‘s Irrational Man still manages to be moderately amusing and light in a way that only fans of the Director/Writer will appreciate. This movie in particular will not likely appeal to as many people as Woody Allen’s other films of the last decade. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as Abe Lucas, the disillusioned alcoholic and mopey philosophy professor, and Emma Stone as Jill, the philosophy student inexplicably drawn to him, Irrational Man follows their friendship and Abe’s odd journey to finding a reason to keep living.

Prior to discovering his purpose in life, Abe was living a drunken existence without meaning (or sex). He was once an accomplished writer, philosopher, and philanthropist but lost his way when he realized he would never be able to bring real change to the world.  When he starts to focus on changing the world for one person, his outlook immediately changes and he begins an elaborate plan to execute the good deed. While he sees his tasks as completely rational, from the outside world it is completely the opposite, hence the name of the film. The concepts in Irrational Man are both light and dark, which is typical of a Woody Allen film

The film is just over an hour and a half, which makes it a quick watch by today’s standards. It didn’t “drag on” and while the ending may leave you a bit stunned (but not entirely disappointed), Irrational Man doesn’t leave you with any lingering feelings towards it, good or bad. It’s not likely to be a film you will watch again, but it’s also not something that will make you angry for wasting your precious time.

Irrational Man originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 and saw a wider release in August 2015. The majority of the box office totals ($27M) came from the foreign market

Watch the official trailer here:

 

 

The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz
Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

In the eyes of movie critics, The Lobster is a marvel, it’s both hilarious and thought-provoking; to the average movie-goer who is unacquainted with the strangeness of film festival movies, The Lobster can be summed up with one word: weird. Depending on your preference when it comes to movies, this can be either good or bad. In a dystopian state, Colin Farrell plays David, a man trying to find a mate within 45 days lest he be turned into the animal of his choosing – in this case, a lobster. The movie is just as strange as it sounds and the only saving grace is that the premise and the characters are so odd and so serious, that you can’t help but laugh at the peculiarity of it all. The Lobster is both a drama and a dark comedy. All lines are delivered dead-pan (there is no such thing as a smirk or a smile) and the supporting cast of John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw help to propel the film toward its even stranger second-half.

While it didn’t win the Palme D’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (the highest prize awarded at the festival), it did win the third-most prestigious prize, the Jury Prize. Unfortunately, this puts The Lobster in the company of films the average person has never even heard of. Historically, only a small number of films that do well at prestigious film festivals such as the ones in Cannes and Toronto  become Oscar contenders with wide theatre audiences and big box office numbers. The Lobster isn’t likely to be one of those given a wide release, but it may get some love come awards season, given the interesting performance by Colin Farrell. Forty pounds heavier and sporting a thick moustache and generic haircut, Colin Farrell is impressive as the defeated, droopy, un-charismatic David.

A movie like The Lobster can only really be recommended to those who appreciate two hours of really dark humour, artistic camerawork, and a uniquely strange plot.  The style is not unlike Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom), but in this case it is even less mainstream and the comedy in The Lobster isn’t exactly “obvious”. Those who truly “get it” will likely find it to be a brilliant, witty, and unconventional satire unlike any other.

Whether The Lobster is just a quirky film with quirky characters or a deeper, social commentary on the pressures of being single and the ludicrousness of applying rules and systems where they do not belong, is entirely up to the viewer. One thing is for certain, though, you’ve never seen anything like it.

The Lobster can now be rented or purchased through Apple.

Watch the official trailer here:

Independence Day: Resurgence – Roland Emmerich

Independence Day: Resurgence starring Jeff Goldblum. Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Jessie Usher, and William Fichtner. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Independence Day: Resurgence starring Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, William Fichtner, and Sela Ward.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Alien invasions shouldn’t be complicated. The premise of 1996’s Independence Day starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum couldn’t have been any simpler: aliens found us, they want to destroy us. Period. The effects in the movie were cutting edge but it mostly relied on the characters. No one can deny it was ridiculous and far too long, but at least it had substance. Twenty years later, squeals of delight were unmistakable when the trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence was revealed. Everyone (well, almost) was coming back! Time for America to kick some more alien ass on behalf of the planet! It had so much promise. Unfortunately, twenty years of technology and overthinking by original director/writer Roland Emmerich took over and the movie turned into some overblown, overloaded, CG-dominated, hollow train wreck. The fact that it (somehow) took five writers to develop the script is nothing short of baffling.

Newcomers to the Independence Day sequel include Liam Hemsworth, Jesse T. Usher, and Maika Monroe. They’re the young ones to draw in the new crowd, but they don’t really get the opportunity to offer up much more than their pretty faces. The old cast is there for pure nostalgia and to make the movie a true sequel. Jeff Goldblum is always a delight, and twenty years hasn’t made him any less funny as David Levinson, the guy who always finds a way to beat the aliens. David’s very Jewish father (Judd Hirsch) also makes an appearance, Yiddish slang and all. At first it actually seems quite remarkable how many original characters make a comeback, but less impressive when you think of how many blockbuster opportunities they would have had in the past twenty years (psst, the answer is “not many”). The result still has its fun moments, but is only mildly entertaining.

To say the story line is complex and convoluted is an understatement; there’s so much going on that you generally stop caring past a certain point. If the whole point was to make it “bigger” than the original, then they definitely succeeded. But “bigger” doesn’t always mean better. Independence Day: Resurgence explores the reasons why the aliens come back; it turns out it’s for the Earth’s core and – big surprise – to destroy the planet! What you get in the end is a flurry of fighter jet chases, a display of way too much alien-derived earth (and moon) technology, entire cities picked up and slammed back down, tsunamis (à la San Andreas), destroyed landmarks, and a clumsy attempt at a deeper plot involving a giant alien queen  and a mystical white sphere. The only saving grace is that this film is 2 hrs instead of 2 and a half, but somehow it still feels just as long.

Unfortunately what made Independence Day great in 1996 is exactly what Independence Day: Resurgence lacks. Some audiences may still be able to derive some escapism pleasure from it all, but most will wish they left the original to stand on its own. All of a sudden Will Smith seems like the smart one here for not taking part in this mess.  Then again, he can afford to turn down a summer blockbuster role from time to time.

Independence Day: Resurgence was released in theatres on June 24, 2016 and has since taken home more than $300M worldwide.

Watch the official trailer here: