The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos – 2015) A

There is good news and bad news if you do not find a person to marry within 45 days in this world. The bad news is that you will be transformed into an animal. The good news? Well, you can choose what animal you want to be. See it’s very important to belong and find a mate in Lanthimos’ weird, brutal and sometimes funny film. It’s also important to find someone with whom you have something in common like being short-sighted or that both you and your prospective mate get occasional nose bleeds. If that sounds too bizarre, it is and we have just scratched the surface! It’s also like no other movie with its tone and plot. The film gets darker as the story of David (Colin Farrell) and his search for a partner at the “hotel” progresses. It’s not a film that will work for everyone but it is a unique vision. It’s very well-realized, deliberately and confidently directed and the actors all do a very good job. It lacks love and compassion in most of its run time so when we actually see glimpses of those emotions they are a welcome relief until reality sets in and the film gets to its inevitable bleak conclusion.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi – 2015) A-

When Ricky shows up at his latest in a series of foster families in the wilderness of New Zealand I was not sure what to expect from this film. The family is made up of just a couple, probably a bit older than you’d expect. The man is dour and sullen and played perfectly by Sam Niell and his partner is jovial, hard-working and seems to care for Ricky. Before we know it though Ricky is forced to go on the run with his dour foster uncle into the woods. They are being chased by the government and CPS! It proceeds to be a charming, exciting, sweet and really funny film. Really high marks go to the young actor who plays Ricky as well.

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra – 2015) B+

A unique film set in the Amazon jungle of Colombia in two time periods, early and mid 20th century. It’s a film someone like Werner Herzog might make and that is high praise. Through the journey of a shaman in both timelines, as a young man and a wiser older one, whose tribe is going extinct the film shines a light at cultures few have ever heard of. It’s a tragedy that so many of those have existed and got decimated -by progress, disease, rubber barons or Christianity- without anyone noticing. Filmed in black and white the film really looks and feels timeless. It could have been filmed in the 30’s or 60’s instead of the 21st century.

The Witch (Robert Eggers – 2016) A-

This is an unconventional creepy horror film that is genuinely scary at times. It is not out for the jump scares and over-the-top violence (both of which I do not like much). Instead it immerses us in a world of religion, witchcraft and just the type of moody horror that makes your skin crawl because it is not fully understood or explained. It is so well shot and even better performed by the small cast. It is set in the 1600s and has a cast of 2 adults and their 4 children living alone in the woods of New England. They were more like banished to the woods by their community because the father believes he is more pure and more God-fearing than his neighbors. It goes downhill in the woods and slowly the family starts losing members literally and maybe figuratively. We start getting the sense of dread, chaos and evil. We are really not sure of what we are witnessing as the pious father tries to keep his family together. We know this will not end well even before we see it happen. This all works incredibly well with amazing performances by those kids and period-specific olde English dialogue.

Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen – 1991) B-

Black and white and foggy. Set in what seems like the 1920s maybe. It’s like a cross between a Jack the Ripper story, a travelling circus and whatever character Allen is supposed to be…well as usual he is playing himself. Doesn’t matter I guess. I enjoyed it as a minor Woody Allen film that is entertaining and has some cool style and a few well-executed shots.

Deadpool (Tim Miller – 2016) B

If we are tired of super hero films that take themselves far too seriously then Deadpool is the cure for that. It’s violent,  profane, pretty funny and really knows it’s just a movie. Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, who narrates and breaks that 4th wall frequently, is not in it to save the world.  He just wants to get his messed up face fixed up again so he can get back to making love to his fiance. Oh yeah it’s a love story too I guess.

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum – 2014) B

Good film focusing on Alan Turing’s war time accomplishments and breaking the Nazi Enigma machine code. It does not much delve into his personal life beyond the known high level facts. It is in the end a sad story with him basically murdered by the British government in his 40s because he was gay. It’s even more sad knowing that he might’ve accomplished so much more had he lived another 30 or 40 years.