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VIFF 2015 Review: The Lobster

XColin Farrell, right, has bizarre experiences with being single, mating and being in love in The Lobster.

Colin Farrell, right, has bizarre experiences with being single, mating and being in love in The Lobster.

Once you see The Lobster, I’m sure it will make you think twice about going to one of those matchmaker hotels. Okay, maybe not but the whole scenario of matchmaking and the single life depicted in the film is downright bizarre.

The film is set in a dystopian future where single people are brought to a hotel in accordance to the rules of The City. The hotel gives people forty-five days to find a match. If they succeed, the couple is given a month to develop their relationship in a special section of the facility. After which, they are freed. If anyone fails in any which way, they are killed and reincarnated as an animal of their choice and sent into The Woods. People can extend their stay with The Hunt: people from The Hotel shoot tranquilizer darts at any of the ‘loners.’ One ‘loner’ capture gives one an extra day.

A man named David arrives at The Hotel. He brings with him a dog whom we learn to be his brother as he too was subject to The Hotel and failed to find a match in due time. David tries to get used to the hotel and its methods. He chooses to be a lobster if he does not succeed in finding a new woman. He even participates in The Hunt. He learns of the other leisurely activities at The Hotel. One awkward rule is masturbation is banned by painful punishment but stimulation from the maid is a requirement.

David first makes friends with The Limping Man and The Lisping Man. The Lisping Man would have to stick his hand in a toaster for masturbating one night. The Limping Man hopes to find a woman with a limp like him. Instead he’s attracted to a woman who has frequent nosebleeds. He fakes nosebleeds to win the love of The Nosebleed Woman.

David is inspired by this and first attempts to win the love of a woman whom everyone knows to have no heart. He’s impressed by her hunting skills and he’s attracted to her as she’s choking to death. He attempts to start a relationship with her but it turns out to be a disaster even to the point she kills the dog: David’s brother. He’s able to tranquilize her and bring her to the transformation room so she’ll be an animal forever.

It then gets to the point David can’t handle it anymore and escapes. He finds himself with the ‘loners:’ they live a wild life catching rabbits and hiding from the hunt. The rules are not as hard but they don’t permit any flirting or entanglement as they will punish it badly. David wins the affection of a short-sighted woman. This helps since he is short-sighted too. The loners give the two missions to go to The City and pose as a couple but it causes them to become more affectionate.

The loners go on a rampage where they try and split up the couples in The Hotel. David even goes as far as trying to split up The Limping Man and The Nosebleed Woman and others going as far as pulling a stunt with the Hotel Manager. Meanwhile the leader of the loners learns that David and the Shortsighted Woman are in love and blinds the woman. They attempt an escape. This leads to an ending as bizarre and unpredictable as the whole story.

It’s hard to see if this film was trying to make a point about dating life, being single and marrying. This is a very bizarre scenario from start to finish. Plus I would find it hard that such a situation would be for single people with our current human rights. Keep in mind this is set in the future. Hey, depictions of the future like that in The Hunger Games don’t paint a pretty picture. It’s interesting how the army of loners raid the Hotel. Makes you wonder if their mutiny is a form of rebellion or of personal anger.

I will have to say this is the most bizarre romantic movie I’ve seen since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. That movie was what you’d call the ‘romance of the absurd.’ I do feel it is about love and surrounding human emotions magnified 100 times. The time limit put on those at the hotel to find love could be seen as the personal time limits one puts on one’s self to find love. The case of the leader of the loners trying to split all the couples up could be a case of one’s unhappiness and how one could try to impose it on others. Even those that end up in the hotel like the limping man, lisping man, heartless woman, nosebleed woman and the short-sighted woman may reflect on people’s insecurities. Meanwhile David is in the centre of it all. He starts out as possibly the most normal of the bunch but it isn’t until the end that he resorts to eccentric extremes of his own for the sake of love.

This is the brainchild of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. He has accomplished a lot in his directing career. His film Dogtooth was nominated for an Oscar five years ago. This is his first English-language film. In directing and co-writing the story with Efthimis Filippou, he creates a set of worlds that could easily look ridiculous on screen but worked with careful writing and careful directing. I see many cases with the hunt, the transformation room, the mutiny and even the character of the Heartless Woman that could have easily come across as dumb but was done right and was sensibly done.

Colin Farrell did a good job of playing this bizarrely comedic role well that’s completely different from any of his blockbuster roles of the past. He had to portray a man who treats this bizarre situation as something sane and normal. Even going from the sanest person in the film to committing an insane act for love at the right moment. He does it very well and gives the comedy the right tone. Although Farrell owned the film, Rachel Weisz as the Shortsighted Woman and Lea Seydoux as the Loner Leader were the strongest supporting performers. Some of the other minor characters were also very good such as Ben Whitshaw as the Limping Man, Angeliki Papoulia as the Heartless Woman and Jessica Barden as the Nosebleed Woman.

The Lobster is a film collaboration of five nations:  UK, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands and France. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was a nominee for the Palme d’Or. It has also won top film awards at the Rotterdam and Ghent Film Festivals.

The Lobster is both bizarre and amusing in its depiction of a futuristic world and its ways of dealing with dating. It’s both bizarre and charming at the same time.

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Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It-Ralph

I am bad

And that’s good.

I will never be good

And that’s not bad.

There is no one

I’d rather be

Than me.

I saw Wreck-It Ralph many weeks after its original release. I know it’s late but I finally had the chance to see it. I’ve always wanted to but I waiting too long. Now that I’ve finally seen it, here’s what I think of it.

Wreck-It Ralph is a video game villain in the early 80’s game Fix It Felix Jr. He wrecks the apartment that Felix fixes. Every time Felix completes the fixing, the tenants celebrate by throwing Ralph off the top of the building. It’s been like that for the thirty years Fix It Felix Jr.has been in Litwak’s Family Fun Centre and Arcade. When the arcade closes, all the arcade characters stop what they’re doing and lead normal lives even to travel between game to game. In Fix It Felix Jr., the tenants go to sleep and Ralph sleeps in a pile of bricks. Thirty years of this is very overbearing for Ralph as he tells his story at a ‘Bad-Anon’ meeting for video game bad guys like House Of The Dead’s Cyril, Street Fighter’s Zangief and the ghost of Pac-Man. The Bad Anon group try to reassure Ralph that his villain status is good like theirs but it doesn’t help much especially since Felix and the tenants are celebrating their 30th Anniversary at Litwak’s and leave Ralph completely out of the picture.

So what does Ralph do? He tries to find a video game to make himself a hero. He pursues it in Hero’s Duty, an army game where soldiers shoot cyber bugs in pursuit of a medal of honor. Ralph does a clumsy job but receives the medal. Finally a hero. Only problem is Ralph accidentally hatched a Cybug during that time. This also leaves Fix It Felix’s game malfunctioning and in the danger of being taken out for good. This would leave Felix and the apartment tenants homeless. Any video game taken out of Litwak’s leaves the characters homeless. Just ask Q-Bert.

Ralph continues on amongst video games where he finds himself in a candy-themed kart-racing game called Sugar Rush. Here he meets a bratty girl named Vannelope who likes teasing Ralph and dreams of racing. She even steals his medal in order to race in the game. Problem is she’s not allowed to race according to King Candy, the King of the game. Ralph wants her to race in order to win his medal back. In the meantime, one of the Cybugs is in danger of multiplying inside Sugar Rush and both Fix It Felix and Sargent Calhoun, the female sergeant in Hero’s Duty, are searching for Ralph: Felix to get him back to the game for it to function and Calhoun to stop the Cybug from multiplying and destroying the Sugar Rush game.

Ralph soon learns Vannelope lives in Diet Cola mountain shunned away by the racers. He helps build a car for Vannelope and teaches her how to race for the win. In the meantime troubles mount. Sargent notices the Cybugs have multiplied and could wreck the Sugar Rush scenery. Felix searches for Ralph and falls in love with Calhoun only to remind her of a previous relationship. King Candy offers to give Ralph back his medal to prevent Vannelope from racing as she is a ‘glitch’. He smashes it up right in front of Vannelope. And the tenants of Fix It Felix’s apartment pack their bags anticipating the worst. Looks like Ralph wrecked more than what he bargained for.

Things change when Ralph notices on the Sugar Rush game unit’s side–noticeable because Fix-It Felix’s screen faces Sugar Rush– that Vannelope was intended to be in the game in the first place. Ralph then proceeds to do the right things. He breaks Felix out of the prison King Candy put him in and gets him to fix Vannelope’s car. He then gets Vannelope out of the dungeon and gets her racing. Soon Ralph, Felix and Calhoun have to fight the Cybugs while Vannelope attempts to chase down King Candy while he leads the race. Soon it’s revealed that King Candy is the incarnation of Turbo: a racing character from an early 80’s racing game that went on to sabotage other video games upon his declining popularity. The race and the battle with the bugs lead to a somewhat predictable ending that does manage to both thrill, entertain and will leave the audience happy with the ending.

This is one example of how a fun movie like this can have excellent and creative writing. It was great to see how it was able to create ‘lives’ for these video game characters and even help given them focuses from their point of view. Mind you it had to do such in order to make such a storyline like this work. It also had to take in consideration of the cyber world of not only living in a video game but going from game to game to even being one of the games unplugged for good. The sign on a ‘homeless’ Q-Bert was also a good example of creating ‘lives’ for characters of video games past. Interesting universe of Litwak’s arcade. Makes it fun and entertaining to watch. What’s also great about this is that the story is like a maze of stories and plots coming together and making for a story that’s not too confusing and fun to watch. It all comes together in the end.

This is one of three animated features released by Disney this year. The first was Brave which was done by the Pixar studios. The second was Frankenweenie done by Tim Burton Productions and this was done by Walt Disney Studios. No doubt this has been Disney’s year in this genre. The film is co-written by Pixar writer Jim Reardon and directed by Rich Moore: writer for episodes of Futurama and The Critic. The film features vocal talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Ed O’Neil. The film features a music score by Henry Jackman and songs from Skrillex, Owl City and AKB48. Ironically the film’s theme song Wreck-It Wreck-It Ralph! is performed by Buckner & Garcia, the duo responsible for the 1982 novelty hit PacMan Fever.

For me I consider this movie a salute to video games from its early heydays of the 1980s to the present. I’ve often said the 80’s is to video games what the 50’s is to rock and roll. It was a fun romp into the world of video games while having an excellent story to go with it. Another thing too. As you may have noticed, video game movies have had a history of being lousy. Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and its sequel: all lousy and forgettable even if a hit. Now we finally have a video game movie that’s as well-written and well-acted as it is entertaining. And to think it’s mostly featuring characters of fictional video games. It took a while but glad one finally came along.

Wreck-It Ralph is one of the best animated movies of the year. A creative take on video games past and present, real and fictional. It gives audiences young and old entertainment enjoyment. Also it’s a reminder that video game villains have feelings too. Never forget that.