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Movie Review: “The Light Between Oceans”

Starring
Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown
Director
Derek Cianfrance

In the summer of 2011, I had a brief gig with a gigantic movie database, tagging films with certain key words. Under the ‘Plot’ category was my favorite tag: “Hide the Body!” It brings to mind movies like “Very Bad Things,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Shallow Grave,” films where someone dies under gruesome or mysterious circumstances and the remaining characters keep the death a secret because it benefits them somehow. “The Light Between Oceans,” a period piece set off the western coast of Australia, is a Hide the Body movie. Gotta say, didn’t see that coming.

This aspect of the plot wreaks havoc on the rest of the story, too. Try as they might to make a tasteful art film about love and betrayal – and for a few stretches, they succeed – the thriller angle of the story disrupts the tone once it comes to the forefront. There is clearly a lot going on between the ears of the main characters (grief has many layers), but very little of it is translated on screen for the viewer.

After serving his country in the Great War, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) enlists to man a lighthouse on an island off the western Australian coast. Before he leaves for the island, he meets cute with Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander). When Tom receives an extended contract to stay on the island, he asks Isabel to marry him, so she can be with him on the island. The two try to start a family, but Isabel’s first two pregnancies end in miscarriage. Days after the second miscarriage, a dinghy washes ashore and inside it is a dead man and a live newborn baby. Isabel convinces Tom not to report the encounter, and then they bury the dead man and claim the newfound baby as their own.

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Movie Review: “The Lobster”

Starring
Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed
Director
Yorgos Lanthimos

There was a time when married people used to be envious of their single friends, but dating in the 21st century has become such a weird and awkward process (dominated by superficial dating platforms like Match.com and Tinder) that being single isn’t as attractive as it once was. Director Yorgos Lanthimos explores that strangeness along with the social pressures of marriage with his English-language debut “The Lobster.” Bizarre, refreshingly original and darkly comical at times, the movie is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but while it starts out as a sharp satire on the horrors of dating, “The Lobster” stretches so far into absurdity that its various eccentricities overshadow the point it’s trying to make.

Set in a dystopian future where it’s illegal to be single, the film follows a recently divorced introvert named David (Colin Farrell) as he checks into a mysterious seaside hotel and is given 45 days to find a new mate or be turned into an animal of his choosing. His brother Bob has already been through the hotel and now accompanies him as a Border Collie, a constant reminder of the threat of failure, and David has prepared himself for a similar fate by electing to live out his final days as a lobster due to their long lifespans and his affinity for the ocean.

Though he quickly makes friends with some fellow bachelors (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw), David has no luck finding a female companion, and with his deadline fast approaching, he decides to take his chances outside the hotel with a rebellious group of singles in the woods. Led by a cold anarchist (Léa Seydoux) who’s trying to bring down the whole oppressive system, the so-called Loners live by their own set of strict rules and punish anyone who so much as flirts with another person. But when David meets his perfect match in Rachel Weisz’s Short-Sighted Woman (none of the characters are given names apart from David), the two risk everything in order to be together.

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