Pinch Hitter: “The Lobster” Is Not Your Typical Bisque

That awkward moment when you’ll get turned into an animal if you don’t find true love within forty-five days.

There’s a lot of questions I have about the dystopian society showcased in The Lobster. These are questions that theoretically should have been in answered in the movie itself, although I think they thought it would be cute if things were left as vague as possible. Or perhaps it was an act of laziness.

Sometimes it seems like a movie can be quirky or bizarre just for the sake of being quirky or bizarre. I feel like The Lobster falls in that category. While it operates on an alluring premise – you get turned into an animal if you don’t find true love eventually and you are apparently forbidden to be a member of the film’s version of a normal world unless you have a partner – we just don’t get enough background information on this wacky society.

Add in the fact that you can tell almost from the beginning that there’s something terribly wrong, and you can’t help but wonder just what exactly this fictional world is all about. Why does everyone speak in such a stilted manner, almost like the actors are reading from cue cards? Colin Farrell, a wonderful actor who almost managed to singlehandedly save the second season of True Detective through sheer will, looks like he’s a college offensive lineman being forced to take a theater class.

Some might call this comedy; The Lobster has often been coined as a black comedy, after all. I just think it’s stupid. Nothing about the movie makes sense, and although there are a lot of technical aspects to appreciate, I would consider this to be something of an indie art piece that is more coherent than your typical Nicolas Winding Refn film only by default. Not by accomplishment.

The movie is like a rough draft for a potentially amazing film, only everybody decided to say fuck it and make whatever they wanted without any regard for the final product. Some might say this dystopian world’s background is irrelevant because there’s so much symbolism in the movie; the method in which you find your partner is through whether they are compatible with you and that usually entails sharing some kind of unique trait. That could range from something significant like having a limp to being nearsighted, or even something as superficial as liking berries.

Who is the Big Brother of this film? Colin Farrell’s character gets sent to a hotel where he must find true love within forty-five days or he’ll get turned into an animal of his choice (a lobster). He has an okay time, it seems, before he fakes being compatible with a psycho bitch. That doesn’t work out so he runs away and lives in the woods with a bunch of other loners. That’s where he meets Rachel Weisz’s character. They are both nearsighted, and therefore compatible.

This new group of loners is led by Léa Seydoux’s character and Seydoux explicitly forbids any type of relationship outside the boundaries of friendship. The penalties are harsh, as Colin and Rachel both find out, and the movie’s plot holes continue to grow and grow and grow as they struggle to find a way for both of them to be compatible, leading to the film’s climactic and frustrating ending.

Their struggle is the most ludicrous thing I’ve seen in theaters this year. Like I asked before, who is this society’s version of Big Brother? Why are they regulating people in this oddball fashion? And what is the deal with the speculations of how one must be compatible with another? What constitutes a valid shared trait? How technical can we get with this? Colin and Rachel are presumably both humans, which means they share a million things in common. Is that not enough?

Look, I get what The Lobster is trying to say. I really do. It’s a harsh lesson about our own world, a world where Tinder is a viable option to find someone and “Netflix and chill” is actually a thing. Okay, so we suck. And it’s clear our downfall in how we view relationships is similar to how the people in the movie do the same. Colin and Rachel are “compatible” and they do allegedly fall in love, but it’s from what we would consider a really terrible reason. Would you love someone just because they got random nosebleeds like you? Probably not.

It’s social commentary, but the way it’s delivered is truly disappointing. The Lobster shows us a world without reason. In many ways, that’s our world today, where Donald Trump is a serious contender for POTUS and where mass shootings happen around the world every single day. It’s a mad world.

Maybe The Lobster is onto something here. Maybe some things just can’t be explained and trying just doesn’t cut it. Whoa, what a turn of events! Is it possible The Lobster is a brilliant film after all!?

That’s on your hands. Watch it and see for yourself. What I can say for sure is that this is a movie that’s weird, occasionally slow, usually beautiful, and undoubtedly polarizing.

Double Team: Allen Allen and Other Intriguing Hybrid NBA Players (Intro)

What if you could combine any two NBA players from any era?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering ever since I saw a Facebook post asking which of the following duos you would want to merge into one hybrid monster: Bird/Magic, Westbrook/Durant, MJ/Kobe, or Curry/Draymond.

Those are some uninspired suggestions to say the least (MJ + Kobe = plain redundant, for example) so I’ve made some of my own. I also asked around so there will be a few that were created by friends and/or coworkers.

It’s the type of question you can think about for hours and the sky doesn’t even begin to scrape the definition of a limit here. You can literally combine any two NBA athletes you want. Do you want to combine Reggie Miller and Hakeem Olajuwon and create a freak of nature with a historically great post game AND perimeter game?

How the fuck do you stop Reggie Olajuwon? Impossible!

Or what about Popeye Cassell (Popeye Jones + Sam Cassell), infamous for freaking out defenders and fans with his deranged eyes bulging out of his alien-esque head?

See how inherently fun this thought experiment is? Having said that, it’s a lot more fun to think of combinations that actually help each player in the equation. So yeah, it would be great to create Reggie Olajuwon, but that’s almost like cheating. It’s fun to think about, but let’s try to be a little reasonable here, okay guys?

Without further ado, let’s start with the original inspiration for this whole shebang.

ALLEN ALLEN = Allen Iverson + Ray Allen

Iverson’s Pros

The Answer was known for being a tenacious ball handling slasher who consistently penetrated into the paint for difficult layups and floaters which were made even more difficult by his height (officially 6 feet, but more like 5’11”).

He was legendary for breaking ankles and crossing his defender in spectacular fashion. At one point he did the same to MJ himself and in the footage you can hear Phil Jackson call out “Michael” when Iverson gets the ball. Didn’t matter. Although MJ didn’t completely break down, he did technically get crossed and Iverson knocked down the midrange jumper.

Although he’s also known for his infamous rant about practices, he was a fierce competitor who took one of the worst post-merger teams ever all the way to the NBA Finals where he faced a Lakers team featuring Shaq and Kobe at their physical peaks. That Lakers team was undefeated in the playoffs until Iverson took Game 1 pretty much by himself. The 76ers were swept after that point, but it was an impressive feat nonetheless.

As an athlete he was pound-for-pound one of the purest in history. He could have played any sport and succeeded at the professional level. There’s no question.

Iverson’s Cons

He was not a good shooter. His ability to finish in the paint didn’t stretch out to the perimeter and his career field goal percentage was mediocre for a shooting guard playing in the modern era (FG%: 42.5, 3PT%: 31.3, FT%: 78.0).

Despite his success given his small stature, it was ultimately detrimental as his teammates had to cover for his shortness, to be blunt. While he averaged over two steals per game in his prime – almost three during his MVP season – he was a liability on defense in the long run. I mean, he wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t locking people down either. Which is okay.

His over-reliance on his natural ability brought his career to a screeching halt immediately after averaging 26.4 PPG for Denver in the 2008-09 season. While his alleged hatred towards practice was overrated, it’s also true he was infamous for partying like fucking crazy right before a game… and then going out and dropping forty on the opposing team.

Even though he led a terrible team all the way to the NBA Finals, it’s debatable whether you could actually win a championship with him as the best player. A low-efficiency, high-usage, turnover-prone player who wasn’t even six feet tall? Yikes!

Ray Ray’s Pros

Undoubtedly the best shooter in basketball history unless Steph Curry dominates for at least five more years. Although he was never part of the elusive 50-40-90 club, his career percentages are impressive nonetheless (FG%: 45.2, 3PT%: 40.0, FT%: 89.4). Not only was he a historically great shooter, but his stroke was beautiful. It’s probably the most gorgeous jumper ever.

He was incredibly consistent, part of which he attributed to his “mild” OCD. On game days, he would arrive a reported THREE hours early for shooting practice – usually his second of the day, by the way – and it’s well-documented that his consistent training routine is a good portion of what led to his continued efficiency all the way through his last season in 2014 (he’s still a free agent, technically).

In his prime he was no slouch athletically. While he certainly wasn’t on the same level as Iverson, he could dunk with considerably more authority than most of the other shooters we consider historically great.

Finally, he was Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game, an okay Spike Lee flick that featured two noteworthy sequences: Ray Ray in a threesome and his unscripted 1 v 1 game against Denzel Washington, who portrayed Jesus Shuttlesworth’s dad. A number of basketball players have been in movies, from Kareem in Airplane! to a whole bunch in Space Jam, but let the record show Ray Allen was one of the better athlete-actors out there. That counts for something!

Ray Ray’s Cons

Not much, honestly. When the 76ers reached the Finals under Iverson, one of the teams they eliminated were the Bucks. Call this revisionist history or whatever you want to call it, but there’s some rumblings that there was some tomfoolery going on and the Bucks – and Ray Ray – should have been the ones to advance.

Either way, Ray Ray may not have had as flashy of a career as Iverson, but he sure played longer and more efficiently too. He played the right way, really, and although you also couldn’t win a championship with Ray Allen as your best player, you literally could if he was one of your top three guys. Hence, his time in Boston.

He also helped save part of LeBron James’ legacy when he nailed that clutch shot in the NBA Finals a few years ago against the Spurs. It’s the greatest shot in NBA history. It’s his to own, all by himself. And Bosh, because he had the awareness to toss the offensive rebound to Allen, who somehow backpedaled a few feet without looking down until he was simultaneously behind the three-point line AND inbounds and in the same motion caught the pass and fired the ball as Tony Parker charged towards him amidst thousands of hysterical Heat fans.

Just an iconic, legendary, historical moment.

Final Analysis

Aside from instantly creating a marketable name in Allen Allen, this hypothetical player would be unstoppable. This is a relationship that undoubtedly benefits Allen Iverson more, so let’s take it from his perspective. Imagine if AI retained all his original abilities, but was suddenly the greatest shooter ever as well.

Now he can preserve his body that much longer, be significantly more efficient, and help space the floor out. Defensively, things would be mostly unchanged, although if we’re taking physical changes into account as well, it’s worth noting Ray Allen is officially listed as 6’5″.

Add in Ray Ray’s legendary work ethic and suddenly you’ve got a player who actually knows what time management and priorities are and is completely focused on bettering himself as a player.

In my opinion, a combination of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen would yield an NBA superstar whose ceiling is making the Hall of Fame as one of the top twenty players ever, if not higher. It’s the perfect combination. If Allen Allen was the best player on your team, there’s a good chance he’d lead it to a title. Is it guaranteed? Not necessarily. But it’s closer than either player got by himself – and Iverson got pretty damn close.

That was a very detailed breakdown of Allen Allen and why that hybrid works so well, but further installments of this series will feature more duos and get to the point a little more concisely. Consider this a very wordy teaser!

Bloody Hell: “The Conjuring 2” and the Start of a Legitimate Horror Franchise

Don’t be surprised if the Warrens and their personal anecdotes end up being the horror version of Marvel.

Did you know there are going to be five movies in this little series before you can blink and get possessed?

2013: The Conjuring

2014: Annabelle

2016: The Conjuring 2

2017: Annabelle sequel

The fifth is a reported spin-off film featuring the terrifying demon nun seen in The Conjuring 2 which should be released within the next three years – if not sooner – assuming there aren’t any serious delays. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a genuine franchise here.

While it may be an exaggeration to compare it to Marvel, the point is that making good movies is not as easy as one might think, much less making a bunch of them that connect together in some coherent way. And yet, Marvel has a reputation for doing exactly that and it’s becoming exceedingly clear that director James Wan is doing the same for the horror genre.

His greatest feat isn’t making us shit our pants; I would argue it’s the fact that he’s making legitimately good films that also happen to scare us. I remember The Conjuring being a strong piece of art. It was sturdy and a technical masterpiece on how to combine the basic elements of filmmaking into a final creation that ended up being one of the best horror films of the past ten, if not twenty, years.

While the sequel, which ships the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to Great Britain to help a family and simultaneously fight their own struggles with faith and the unholy, doesn’t pack quite the punch as the original, it’s clear James Wan is onto something.

I think he may have found the elusive formula on how to make horror good and not just scary. There’s a distinction, you know. It’s not hard to scare people, especially if it’s a movie and especially if people are sitting in a theater where the screen is bound to be massive and the sound is almost too intense.

Sometimes a movie focuses too much on the technical aspect and doesn’t realize what genre it’s in matters as well. You know, like Goodnight Mommy. Like many things in life, balance is important, and it looks like James Wan has found a way to walk that balancing act between simply scary and simply technically sound.

Even if it’s “easy” scaring people, there’s a number of ways to accomplish that goal. One of the most consistent – and cheapest – methods is the jump scare, which The Conjuring 2 relies on a little too much. However, the first movie and this one really show their quality when suspense is used to dial up the tension, and it certainly helps that Vera Farmiga sells tension really well.

There’s one scene inside their own home, where Lorraine Warren and her daughter are confronted with the jolting appearance of a demon nun standing at the opposite end of a hallway. Warren foolishly pursues the demon into Ed’s study, only to get trapped. From that point on, it’s only a matter of time before you’re scraping crap off your underwear.

I don’t think it’s a surprise there’s a spin-off film in the works for that nun. Although the Great Britain portions of the film aren’t a letdown, it’s honestly a lot of material we’ve seen before in a myriad of previous, if admittedly inferior, horror movies.

In other words, while The Conjuring 2 doesn’t revolutionize the genre, it doesn’t give it a bad name either. I don’t remember if it was Burn Notice or something else I watched, but I remember hearing how torture is often psychological; the waiting can sometimes crack someone before any physical actions are required.

That’s the enduring philosophy behind James Wan’s approach and it works for sure. I’ve never experienced tension in a movie like this, where audience members are audibly squirming and making frantic squeaky sounds as they wait for the inevitable climax of any given scene. It’s a masterful approach, really, and it’s a shame a decision was made to sprinkle more than a handful of jump scares in as well.

Still, the overall experience is worth it. And even though that suspense ends up being a red herring here and there (another solid strategy, if you think about it), inadvertently causing the movie to drag a few times, I would say that drag is a small price to pay for the rare sequel that isn’t a massive drop in quality compared to its predecessor.

Add in the fact that the cinematography is solid, and the soundtrack is appropriately freaky, and you’ve got the beginnings of a horror franchise that is simultaneously financially and critically successful. I can’t wait for the nun movie – can’t say the same about the Annabelle sequel, unfortunately – and I am also hyped to see what James Wan does next with this promising series.

SeeIt4Real: Could “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” Win an Oscar?

Hey, it’s a legitimate question. I swear!

Before you call the Department of Homeland Security to try and get me deported back to Korea, just hear me out.

I’m not talking about any of the truly major categories. I’m talking about Best Original Song or even Best Original Score if it qualifies. If you know anything about The Lonely Island, it should be the fact that they have an uncanny knack for consistently churning out original songs that are both extremely catchy and genuinely hilarious.

Hell, even their SNL Digital Shorts are all incredible and watching them now feels as comedic as it did years ago. Right now, I know of only two other films that have a shot at getting a music nomination at the Oscars in half a year: Zootopia and Sing Street (an exceptional film you should see immediately).

If “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” can get a nomination AND win, I don’t see why at least two of the songs from Popstar couldn’t get nominated at the very least. But then again, “See You Again” from Furious 7 didn’t get nominated last year, so who knows what the fuck is going on with the Academy.

So we get it – Popstar has a solid soundtrack. But what about the movie itself? Is it worth seeing, or should you just hop onto Spotify and forget the trip to the movie theater?

I can emphatically say this is a movie worth watching. As of right now – June 6, 2016 – this is the best comedy of the year. Literally. You could make the case that Deadpool is a better film overall, but that’s a different genre with different priorities.

The Lonely Island kick ass again with this movie and they also manage to create an insightful satire that takes a look at our country’s pop culture as well as the people involved in the collective industry. It should come as no surprise that the jokes come constantly, and more often than not, they connect – it’s an easy industry to make fun of, after all.

And that’s what we should expect anyway, given the trio’s credentials and everything they’ve accomplished up to this point. Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but it’s undeniable that the vast majority of their work has been immensely successful. That is certainly true for Popstar as well.

If you care for these things, you’ll be happy to know there’s an abundance of celebrity cameos. Everyone from Nas (yes, the rapper) to Martin Sheen (yes, the former POTUS) show up and they all bring something to the table. Some, like Emma Stone, portray fictional individuals but they all nail it.

Look, I’m a huge fan of The Lonely Island. I love Andy Samberg and his work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I love Jorma Taccone because he’s usually portraying an awkward dude, which I can relate to. As for Akiva Schaffer, I’ve always felt like he wasn’t as big of a presence compared to the other guys, but he is actually really funny in this movie.

I will say this: that lightheartedness is the movie’s greatest strength and perhaps the movie’s greatest weakness as well. The Lonely Island have never been known for striving to be very deep with their comedy and that is really apparent in this movie. I get it’s a comedy, but they really went out of their way to go for a lot of easy laughs.

Still, at the end of the day, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I was on a boat with Jack Sparrow when I saw Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It was so good I jizzed in my pants even though I just had sex like a boss. Thankfully, I had my dick in a box so I threw it on the ground while I turned up the boombox and started to do the creep while following the golden rule. YOLO!

P.S. I never see the same movie multiple times in theaters, but I may do it for this one. It’s that good.