THE LOBSTER. David (Colin Farrell), a man living either in the near future or an alternate reality, has recently been left by his wife of 11 years. But being single is against the law in this world, so David heads to a mysterious resort hotel in which all the guests are given 45 days to find a partner among their fellows. Should they fail, their only recourse is to be turned into the animal of their choice. David expresses his desire to the hoteliers to be turned into a lobster ("they live for a hundred years and they're blue-blooded, like rich people").
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has earned a reputation in recent years for crafting films out of the mainstream that have more to them than first meets the eye, most notably in 2007's excellent Dogtooth. In this, his first English-language feature (which scored the Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival), Lanthimos has crafted a harrowing, singularly dreamlike film.
As The Lobster unfolds, it's clear there is more to the story beyond the premise of humans being turned to animals. No one in the film other than David has a name; the hotel's "guests" are known by their characteristics and habits: Limping Man, Lisping Man or Biscuit Woman. The partner-seeking denizens are a rather sad lot, and all seem to have a robotic, Asperger-like misunderstanding of human interactions. They're guided to a series of drab, almost laughably strange dances, mixers and outdoor activities, and forced to attend live-action propaganda from the hotel's staff extolling the virtues of being in a settled relationship.
As David attempts a match, things take a darker turn and we meet the Loners, people who live in the woods surrounding the hotel and are just as dedicated to the idea of unattachment as civilized society is with companionship, right down to making it law. The leader of the Loners (Lea Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color) allows David to settle in with them, provided that he not fall in love or even flirt with any of them, which becomes dangerous when an attraction develops between him and one of the Loners (Rachel Weisz).
Lanthimos clearly means to explore the idea that looking for love in the modern world can lead to foolish choices — people at the hotel, for example, are merely seeking out the similarly afflicted, someone with the same limp, the same near-sightedness or the same degree of heartlessness (a sly satirical jab at online dating services offering a perfect match with a stranger). Profoundly unsettling and dreamlike, The Lobster works much more often than not (and more so in its first half than second), sharply commenting on how society pressures us to forge relationships, and some of the self-deception and delusion that can result. R. 118m. BROADWAY.
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING. Lonely Island's famed digital shorts were more than just a component, though a very funny one, of Saturday Night Live. Andy Samberg and company's hysterical concoctions forged a new short-form genre of comedy somewhere between music videos and viral video. Popstar has a leg up over the decades of mixed bag SNL-to-cinema efforts. Since Samberg, with cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, are importing a snarky sensibility, rather than just a character from five-minute live sketches that have already worn out their welcome, they have more room to get loose. And by wisely making Popstar a mockumentary, a format with roots in musical mockery stretching back to This is Spinal Tap (1984), the Lonely Island lads made a deft move.
Now, mentioning it in the same sentence as the iconic Spinal Tap is a bold statement, so I'll dial it back and say Popstar clocks in at very amusing, at times hilarious, but people will not be reciting lines from it three decades from now. But the Islanders choose a subject ripe for skewering, with Samberg playing the Justin Bieber-esqe Connor, himself a former member of the Style Boyz before band mate Lawrence (Schaffer) angrily spilt, with DJ Own (Taccone) staying behind to be part of the Connor entourage. There is much establishing of Connor's vain, hyper-tweeting, surrounded-by-yes-men persona, interspersed with clips of Lawrence's new life as an embittered rural farmer. Meanwhile, sales of Connor's newest album are lagging badly, not helped by a disastrous rollout involving a nationwide power outage (it would take too much explaining how, but trust me that it's funny).
The cameos come fast and furious, and there's something pretty damn amusing about watching interviews with such hip-hop luminaries as Usher, Nas and Questlove speaking earnestly about Connor's music and fame. Sarah Silverman is underutilized as Connor's publicist ("Connor's stardom is a fact of life, just like oxygen, gravity or clinical depression") but fellow SNL alum Tim Meadows fares better as Connor's exasperated manager, and a running gag parodying TMZ's obnoxiousness through the end credits is priceless. The best elements of the movie are of course Samberg/Connor's videos and songs, which are deployed just enough to keep Popstar moving at a brisk pace. R. 86m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
— David Jervis
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
THE CONJURING 2. Director James Wan brings back Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as grim ghost busters, this time in the UK where a single mother of four (already scary) is beset by spirits. R. 133m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
NOW YOU SEE ME 2. The merry band of magicians (Mark Ruffalo, Jessie Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan) returns only to be strong-armed into a job by a Muggle tech villain (Daniel Radcliffe). PG13. 115m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
WARCRAFT. Can the sound of orcs roaring in the big-screen incarnation of the massive multiplayer online role-playing game draw devotees from their computers? Or will they heat up another Hot Pocket and stream it? PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Strong actors in a gaudy, hot mess of CGI indulgence that abandons Lewis Carroll's story and pits Alice (Mia Wasikowska) against Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). With Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. PG. 113m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE. From your iPhone to the big screen, grumpy animated fowl hurl themselves at interloping pigs. Voiced by Jason Sudeikis and Maya Rudolph. PG. 97m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE JUNGLE BOOK. The Kipling story returns to inspire real childhood wonder with seamless CGI, believable animal characters and grand adventure. PG. 106m. BROADWAY.
ME BEFORE YOU. Carpe diem love story about a caregiver and a suicidal quadriplegic man. Starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. PG. 110m. BROADWAY.
THE NICE GUYS. A grimy-cool 1970s L.A. detective comedy with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe finding chemistry and humanity in their hangdog characters. R. 116m. BROADWAY.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Megan Fox and Will Arnett in the franchise that launched a thousand lunch boxes. PG-13. 112m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
X-MEN APOCALYPSE. Team Xavier battles the OG mutant (Oscar Isaacs) during the Cold War in spectacular sequences that entertain but break little ground. With Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. PG-13. 144m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill