Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Lobster and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

                      “I should have been a pair of ragged claws
          Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
                                                    T. S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)
                                         Review by Ken Burke
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                      The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
In some odd, alternate society adults are not allowed to be single because, if they are, they have only 45 days to find a mate or they’ll be turned into an animal of their choice; newly-divorced David attempts to play by these strange rules but finds that he’d rather be among the Loners in the woods although when he joins them he sees they have rules just as demanding.
What Happens: In the strange, 1984-ish world that David (a surprisingly-chunky Colin Farrell, temporarily-beefed-up for this role) inhabits, singlehood is social anathema, so much so that adults are forbidden to not be coupled-up lest they be turned into animals (no, not through prison’s solitary-confinement but literally via some mysterious process that completely alters their species-existence).  Unfortunately for David, his wife of about 11 years (he stretches it to 12) has left him so he’s sent off to the Hotel (nicely-appointed, not-overly-luxurious) where he has 45 days to find a mate or he’ll be transformed, as was his brother, now a dog, who accompanies him on this journey (if this must occur, he chooses to be a lobster because of their longevity, ongoing-sexual-potency, “aristocratic” blue blood, and he’s always liked the ocean).  House rules are as odd as the overall social demands in that new “guests” must spend the 1st 24 hours with 1 arm handcuffed behind their back; no masturbation is allowed (a friend of David’s, Lisping Man [John C. Reilly]—only David gets an actual name in this cast list—violates this rule so he’s punished by a public display of having his right-hand-fingers pushed into a hot toaster) yet each day the Maid (Ariane Labed) comes to rub her butt on the men’s genitals (not sure what services are provided for the women but we see later that they’ve learned the butt-rub-procedure) in order to help them quicken their erection time when sex finally comes their way; strange group demonstrations note how being part of a couple comes in handy when you need a Heimlich-maneuver or avoidance of rape, while another daily activity is that all of the aspiring-couplers are bussed into the woods where, armed with tranquilizer rifles, they try to capture Hotel escapees who’ve gone to join the rebellious Loner colony, with the prize for each capture being a 1-day-extra-delay toward their rendezvous with the animal kingdom (the champ at this is the harsh Heartless Woman [Angeliki Papoulia] who seems uninterested in a relationship so she just keeps buying dozens of days with her great “kill” skills).

 David has a mild attraction to Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) but she’s soon scooped up by Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) who doesn’t have a natural nosebleed but is willing to bang his head on furniture to stimulate the flow, as we learn that all of these desperate singles have been encouraged to find someone most like themselves in order to enhance their chances for continuance.  (Simply finding a partner isn’t enough, you have to make the relationship last so you share 2 weeks in a double-bed-room with your newly-chosen, then another 2 weeks on a yacht in the nearby lake to force you into whatever problems such intimacy may bring—although to “help” with such difficulties you may also be assigned children, seemingly to push along your “natural” inclinations for marriage and family, a social position rejected by the Loners, not only because they fear the animal transformation but also because many of them rebel at the idea of coupling, enforced or not.)  David spurns the advances from the Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen)—she loves to eat what we Americans call cookies—so she commits suicide by jumping from an upper floor of the Hotel before her time’s up; David shows little interest with his fake-nonchalance toward the misery of others in a last-ditch-attempt to mate up with Heartless Woman (he joins her in a hot tub where she seems to be choking on a martini olive, also with no response from him, which convinces her [after the “choking” ploy] that he’d be an acceptable match).  They move into a double-room where she demonstrates her knowledge of butt-rub-foreplay but during a bout of rear-entry-sex she begins to show some humanity by asking that they do it facing each other, then asking that he keep the lights on so she can see him better.  David’s ruse soon fails, though, when he can’t control his emotions after she casually kills his dog/brother; she attempts to turn him in to the Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) but, with the help of the Maid, he tranquilizers her, then drags her off into the Transformation Room before escaping into the woods.  (We never learn how he performs the procedure nor what animal she becomes—only that it’s one never willingly chosen.)

 Once with the Loners, David finds their society’s rules are just as rigid because the Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux) makes it clear that there’s to be no flirting, touching, or romance of any kind among this group’s members, subject to harsh punishment for transgressions (they only listen to electronic music on individual disc players so as avoid sensuality), although he can’t help but be attracted to the rabbit-eating Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz), partially because he’s near-sighted as well.  They secretly accept their mutual attraction, which gets an opportunity to manifest itself when they accompany the Leader into the City to visit her parents (Roland Ferrandi, Imelda Nagle Ryan) so that they pretend to be a loving, married couple (Leader also brings along another guy under the pretense of being her husband but there’s no affection shared between them).  Later, the Loners (aided by their secret helper, the Maid—disgusted with the dentist she’s pretendingly-paired-up-with) attack the Hotel, not to kill anyone but to disrupt the relationships there; David goes to the yacht where the “nosebleed couple” are to reveal the man’s lying tactics to the woman while Leader and her cronies subdue the Manager and her husband (Garry Mountaine), convincing him to kill her (they say one must die) because he’d be more capable of surviving on his own, although the gun’s not loaded so the intruders simply leave the shell(less)-shocked-couple to deal with their troubled situation.  Leader’s not through with her atrocities, though, as she figures out Short Sighted Woman’s actual attraction to David so she brings her follower into the City, supposedly for a curative eye operation but actually to leave her blinded.  Short Sighted attempts to stab Leader in retaliation but the Maid's pushed into the knife instead (Leader could equally be called Heartless).  

 When David learns of all this he attacks Leader, leaves her tied up in his open grave (Loners are required to dig their own final resting place in preparation for any form of sudden death, as no one in their tribe will do it for them) for wild dogs to ravage, then escapes with Short Sighted to what seems to a highway-roadside-restaurant on their way to the City.  In sympathy with her situation, he gets a steak knife and heads to the restroom where he tries to summon the courage to brutally blind himself.  We never know if he succeeds as the film ends on a long, motionless take of Short Sided Woman sitting alone in a booth (somewhat paralleling the long opening scene of a driven-woman driving through the rain to shoot a donkey in a field, clearly someone she once knew as a human).

So What? Assuming you haven’t yet seen The Lobster (and may not care to do so by the time I get through exploring it), the 1st thing you might be asking yourself is: “What the hell is going on in this film?’’  You might get some brief insights on that inquiry from director Lanthimos and others involved with this project by watching their press-conference-interviews (paired to the 3rd item in the Related Links for this film far below) but you’re not going to get specific answers, especially to questions such as these:  Is this socially-enforced-couplehood a worldwide phenomenon or is it confined to whatever country we’re observing?  (This was all shot in Ireland but there’s no specific indication that we’re to make that connection here.)  Whatever the reach of this no-singles-policy, is this Hotel the only one of its kind or are there other enforced-mingling-locations throughout this nation?  At what age must you start conforming to the coupling-mandate (There are no adolescents at the Hotel so maybe you’re safe through your school years?) and is there a cut-off-age at which you can just go quietly alone to your final demise (None of the Hotel's “guests” seem all that old either or maybe I just didn’t scan the crowd scenes that carefully.)?  Maybe most importantly, depending on your priorities, where do those children come from that may be assigned to your potential-mating in order to help you through it?  (My inquisitive wife, Nina, came up with that, but I’d also say “What makes this society so different that adding children to the strains of a relationship is a positive force rather than a further crazy-making-one?”) 

 But, if you come to The Lobster expecting the kind of answers that you get in futuristic-sci-fi-movies where everything that led to the current state of dystopia is explained then you’re going to be severely-disappointed because all that you get here just presents the functioning situations, not their cause nor their possible remedy.  (If change even exists in this “strange new world” because the coupling-policy is firmly entrenched—police in the city approach suspicious-looking-singles unaccompanied by a mate, demanding to see their certificates [marriage licenses or whatever]—while the Loners’ anti-mating-demands would soon depopulate this society out of existence.)

 Clearly, this is the sort of story that demands a lot of let's-go-along-for-the-ride-acceptance of its premises and outcomes, a film that’s likely difficult to get made (its small €4 million budget took the compliance of 6 separate production companies to finance) or seen (it’s been out in several European countries and a few other places since autumn 2015 but so far pulling in only about $6.4 million internationally; after a month of domestic [U.S.-Canada] release its intended-audience-reach has climbed to only 562 theaters with its paltry-upper-North-American-gross coming to about $4.4 million [according to The Numbers; Box Office Mojo shows a bit less income domestically]).  Occasionally, we get after-the-fact-narration from Short Sighted Woman (a different-connotation-term in the U.S. from its British-Irish-intentions but telling, nevertheless, as she might be considered strategically-short-sighted in risking her Loner future with David, but if so she’s no more “short sighted” than anyone else in this crazy society where your only choices have evolved into either rationalized-couplehood, nomadic-singlehood, or suddenly becoming an animal) so somehow she must have survived beyond the story we see so that she could tell us about it, although we don’t know how she’s now functioning in an unknown environment without sight nor do we know whatever became of David, blinded or not.  That uncertainly adds to the faux-morbid-tone of the film, with its formal Hotel, gloomy forest, and soulless City environments, often accompanied by overbearing soundtrack violins which underscore the stilted-character of most of the dialogue (except the secret musings of David and his lover) and the frequent use of slo-mo-imagery which further deadens the humanity, actions, and decisions of these miserably-constrained-people.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: I began the last section of this review with questions you might be asking yourself after being exposed to the strange narrative of The Lobster; I’ll begin this section with a hard question directed to myself: Am I intrigued by this unusual film, further encouraged by the creativity of what I saw from the beginning of its unfoldings to give it a highly-positive-rating, or am I being seduced by its strangeness so I think it must be worthy of my admiration (or at least consistent intrigue) just because it’s so singular that I can barely compare it to much of anything else I’ve ever seen?  In watching The Lobster the only other film that’s so far come to mind as being on a par with its most strange and befuddling elements is The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin, 2004), which led Nina for the only time in her life to walk out of a movie theater while the film was still on to go shopping while I sat—grotesquely fascinated—to the end. She admits that part of what repelled her was seeing Isabella Rossellini’s character with her legs amputated, replaced by a pair of glass ones filled with beer; that should give you some idea of what this equally-weird-experience is like if you care to pursue that one further—Nina’s brother offered her the opportunity to do just that by sending her a DVD of … Saddest Music … as a typical example of their endearing-sibling-bond (and his sense of humor)—which she’s pledged to herself to watch again at some point to see more clearly what troubles her about this film, but that hasn’t happened yet; I’m sure the distraction of the NBA finals and her devotion to our local Golden State Warriors is primarily responsible for that, but if you hear any plaintive screams coming from the U.S. Pacific Coast in the next few weeks I’ve giving you warning now of the probable-seismic-source.  

 Still, even if this over-filled-dish of The Lobster sounds like a dose of food-poisoning for you, at least be aware that others besides me have found value in it, specifically whoever was on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 (they gave it their Jury Prize) and the various critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes (90% positive reviews) and Metacritic (82%, a very high score for these snobs; more details on both in the Related Links to this film far below), but that still doesn’t get me off the hook in trying to explain why it appeals to me, so here goes my attempted-insightful-justification.

 As a film viewer who’s often found fascination with what many others consider to be cinematic situations of repulsion (including The Saddest Music … but especially many of the harsh, soul-torturing works of Lars Van Trier—especially Dancer in the Dark [2000], Dogville [2003], and the gut-wrenching duo of Nymphomaniac: Volume I and II [2013; reviews of these last 2 films in our March 20, 2014 and April 3, 2014 postings])—I probably surprise no one in being drawn to the sterile, almost-emotionless narrative of The Lobster, off-putting as it may be to more “normal” folks (my sympathies go out to you).  There’s lot of marvelous satirical humor here (especially concerning the loveless “celebrations” of essentially-shotgun-weddings at the Hotel countered by the “freedom” from love of any kind among the Loners whose lives are as drab as the rain-slickers they all wear over their other clothing [useful when sleeping on the ground in the forest, though, although their graves might be more comfortable beds unless someone mistakenly decides a sleeper is already dead, then scoops the surrounding dirt into place]), some quiet-melancholy-sensibility toward the true tragedy of loneliness being mocked by the rules of both the Hotel and the Loner enforcers, a constant sense of surprise as to where this oddball plot may meander next, along with terrific acting that brings plausibility to these exaggerated characters getting by as best they can in an above-ground-Alice in Wonderland-setting where they’re “all mad here,” or soon will be.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not attracted to the idea that enforced relationships are necessary to keep a society healthy nor do I think that those who prefer their own company to the whirlwind-antics of others are miscreants who should be shot (with tranquilizer darts or otherwise), but I do find this presentation of these social critiques to be funny, thought-provoking, and delightfully-deviant from standard filmic farea pleasure just to watch something so nicely-perverse (without having to tune in to a newscast of a Donald Trump speech).  I doubt that a diverse audience would be widely-pleased with this obnoxious narrative but for those who’re willing to taste octopus instead of the usual trout, you might find The Lobster to be quite a conceptual-palate-cleanser.

 Regular readers of my reviews at this Two Guys site know that I cap off each one with a Musical Metaphor that somehow speaks to what’s most intrigued me about the film in question.  Where The Lobster’s concerned, though, I kept coming back to 3 that I think appropriately address specific aspects of this highly-unpredictable-cinematic-experience, but rather than forcing myself to offer you just 1 of them I decided to go with all 3 because put together they do a much better job of coverage about this allegorical encounter (at least, from a figurative standpoint, if not from a functionally-clarifying one).  The 1st of our songs, then, is “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis (from her cleverly-titled 1963 album, Skeeter Davis Sings The End of the World [despite how much that might sound like a low-budget-version of Titanic {1997} that would give nightmares to both James Cameron and Celine Dion]) at com/watch?v=hWkkTtir7Pk (a likely-lip-synched-TV-performance from those days, with a hairdo that practically every girl in my high school was still wearing by the time I graduated in 1966 [the ozone depletion from the hair spray needed to maintain that puffiness was likely the beginning of the end for our Earth’s environment; nevertheless, this is reputed to be the only song to ever make Billboard’s Top 10 on the Hot 100, Country, Easy Listening, and Rhythm and Blues charts]); the reason for this choice is simply that, for the single people facing their 45-day-countdown before the inevitable-forest-relocation, a breakup (not even something as definitive as divorce or death) would be enough to produce an end to their world as they know it, with no clarity in this consistently-mysterious-story as to whether their consciousness survives into their new animal bodies or whether they'll just think (if that’s even the correct word) as dogs, Shetland ponies, lobsters, owls (check the 1st of this film’s Related Links far below to see what this last animal’s about), etc.

 But, The Lobster requires more than just 1 dismal song (not the “saddest in the world” by any means, although Skeeter’s doing her best to convince us otherwise) to probe its murky-concepts so I think you should also invest yourself in a clip directly from the film, as Hotel Manager and her consort "entertain" the Hotel residents with “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” at com/watch?v=uj1dOi YGkdo.  Given that the goal for all of these worried people (at least those who don’t want to "animalized" or plot to rush off into the woods with the Loners) is to pair up with someone else in that very ballroom, you’d think that all of the Hotel's enticements would contribute to setting the most romantic mood possible (although how that’s supposed to work with everyone dressed from the same extremely-limited-wardrobe's a bit of a mystery [Is that to help each desperate-would-be-partner cut to the essentials of someone they might be able to connect with rather than being distracted by the superficial appearance of specific outfits?]), yet the delivery of this seemingly-uplifting-song—based on its couple-encouraging-lyrics—arrives like a wet mop on a dirty floor as presented by this pompous-pair-in-charge (whose own fates may include a trip to the animal lab after the mutual-discomfort generated by Loner intrusion later on), hardly giving anyone on the dance floor reason to swoon about their perspective partners, an indication of how hollow this social engineering is, as people come up with any linkage-rationale they can find in order to continue being humans, so that marriages may emerge from these “close encounters” but the involved may still function as “aliens” to each other, as they attempt to evoke some substance into their manufactured “sincerity” (rejected both by the Heartless Woman when she realizes that David does have feelings for others and by David himself when he exposes Limping Man as not a true nosebleeder).  Only slightly less romantic than the song itself is listening to the Nosebleed Woman explain to David her many strategies for washing her blood off his shirt.

 Finally, what else could put all of this film’s craziness and animal-focus into a cluster of ending thoughts for us but The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” (from the 1967 Magical Mystery Tour album) at https:// watch?v=lM5VF5U1DBE, with this video segment from the Magical Mystery Tour film (directed by The Fab Four and [uncredited] Bernard Knowles, 1967), proof that no matter how talented you are you can make horrible creative mistakes—which may actually be hailed later as genius if enough time passes (reminding me of the evil Noah Cross’ [John Huston] famous, sarcastically-true line from the marvelous [5-star-worthy] Chinatown [Roman Polanski, 1974]: “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”)  Even if you can’t stand The Lobster now maybe that Chinatown truism holds up for weird films as well, but we’ll just have to see how long Lanthimos' odd-offering will continue to flow with the tide rather than sink to the cultural-bottom.  (I think with a little butter [continued exposure and appreciation] it’ll stay afloat for years to come.  Of course, you could counter with the reality that seaweed does the same, but let’s not start a metaphor war, shall we?  We’ll leave that to the musicians in our next movie.)
Short(er) Takes

                Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping 
                (Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone)
In this parody of the modern music industry, a successful hip-hop trio breaks up when just 1 of them gets enough media attention so that he strikes out on his own (alienating a long-time friend) only to really strike out big-time when his new album’s a bomb so he tries various strategies to better promote himself only to have them all flop spectacularly, leaving him at a crossroads.

What Happens: 3 kids in Sacramento, CA have a long-time friendship leading to success as a Beastie Boys/Justin Bieber-sort of hip-hop-group, the Style Boyz: Conner Friel (Andy Samberg), Owen Bouchard (Jorma Taccone), Lawrence Dunn (Akiva Schaffer).  Hopefully, you’ll see in about 10 seconds of reading here or watching the trailer (2nd item in this movie’s Related Links far below) that this is a total send-up of current trends in hit music (just as This Is Spinal Tap [Rob Reiner, 1984] did so marvelously with the excesses of heavy-metal), so however absurd the rest of this plot summary sounds you’ll understand that it’s all intentional.  As is the case with many celebrity-musicians, tensions lead to a band-break-up (Lawrence doesn’t get writer’s credit for the Poppy [Grammy]-winning-single, “Turn Up the Beef” [embraced because it’s overflowing with catch-phrases, as a wide range of actual-music-based-stars give brief testimonials to the impact and talent of the Style Boyz], Connor embraces himself as the new hot trend due to the success of his solo album, Thriller Also [although Owen sticks around as his DJ but all that amounts to is pushing 1 button on an iPod]).  Conner’s now Conner4Real, his 2nd album, Connquest, is about to drop when suddenly everything changes because it’s an over-produced flop, with all songs poorly written by Conner (such as “Equal Rights,” supposedly in support of homosexuals but with the constant reminder that Conner’s “not gay’; take a listen if you like [audio only, featuring Pink]).  In desperate attempts to keep public interest up for Conner’s tour, his manager, Harry (Tim Meadows), and publicist, Paula Klein (Sarah Silverman), convince him to take on a sponsor—Aquaspin home appliances that play Conner’s music whenever you open a refrigerator door, turn on a toaster, etc. (leading to power blackouts and negative nationwide response)—add maniacal rapper (on stage, surprisingly-mellow otherwise) Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd) to the tour—who becomes the more-embraced-attraction—propose on live TV to vacuous girlfriend Ashley Wednesday (Imogen Poots)—an event with Seal singing that overexcites the wolves she so adores resulting in maulings all around (and her attentions turned to Seal)—along with an in-concert-costume-fiasco (planned by Hunter)—where Conner ends up naked, seemingly with no penis because he’s tucked it back into his body (?) to avoid painful-rehearsal-problems with the intended-quick-change-gimmicks.

 None of this helps album sales, the rest of the tour is cancelled (although audiences have been rather pumped-up for Conner in the scenes we see), Aquaspin drops their sponsorship, Harry and the rest of Conner’s entourage take up with career-climbing-Hunter, Owen sets out on his own, and Conner’s beloved pet turtle dies (from Soggy Bone Syndrome).  Sulking back home in Sacramento, drunkenly trying to sell childlike-horse-drawings on the Internet, Conner is encouraged by Paula to see Owen’s show which he finds to be quite impressive technologically (although he’s got a terrible singing voice, needs Conner), leading to a reconciliation, then a visit to Lawrence’s Colorado pot farm where the hatchet is finally buried, new plans are made.  To wrap all of this up, Conner’s given a chance to perform at the Poppies (time freed up because Taylor Swift’s been arrested for murder) where he intends to do a solo number, then regroup with the Style Boyz; there’s one last conflict, though, as the show’s running short so he has to choose which song he’ll sing, a sentimental decision as he goes for the reunited-group-performance, aided by Michael Bolton (we’ve known all along that the audience-at-large wants the Boyz back together, emphasized by a mid-plot-Conner-appearance on The Tonight Show where Jimmy Fallon suddenly calls out Owen, then joins them for their famous “Donkey Roll” dance).  So as to not get too cheesy at the end, though, just as Conner’s talking to the camera about his new-found-maturity and replacement turtle he’s attacked by a wolf.  During the credits, we cut to the CMZ (rather than TMZ) celebrity-gossip-website-TV-channel-offices where the snarky reporters (led by Will Arnett) start to have introspection about their own shallow lives before perking up again about catching James Franco eating at Denny’s.  (Other recognizable talent in cameo roles includes Bill Hader as a Conner roadie, Joan Cusack as his cocaine-snorting-Mom, Justin Timberlake as his chef, and many others including Maya Rudolph, Martin Sheen, Snoop Dogg, and Will Forte.)

So What? Popstar … is the 2nd movie under the total-creative-control of The Lonely Island comedy production trio of Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone (their not-so-successful 1st venture, 
Hot Rod [2007], was co-written by them and Pam Brady; it was directed by Schaffer, featuring a starring role by Samberg with Taccone as a co-star) but it’s already done much better critically than that earlier attempt (Rotten Tomatoes—77% positive reviews for Popstar …, 40% for the earlier one; Metacritic—69% for the current, 43% for the other; more critics' details on this new movie in the links farther below) and maybe will do better financially as well (Popstar …’s taken in about $4.7 million domestically in its 1st weekend while Hot Rod made only $14 million against a $25 million budget during its entire run so the present offering’s not that hot yet but at least has potential as an incrementally-growing-cult favorite, although that may depend on how long the income continues to flow [about $35.3 million on opening weekend] for the new [critically-lambasted: RT 36%, MC 40%] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows [Dave Green]—with even that box-office-response seen as a failure [while another animal-based-movie, Zootopia {Byron Howard, Rich Moore} demonstrates a success-formula by passing the $1 billion worldwide mark, now #26 on that All-Time list, to go along with Disney’s other 10 of that group’s Top 25]—or how long it takes under-18-year-olds to get someone else to buy them a ticket for The Lonely Island’s dissection of the current music biz).  These guys met at Berkeley CA’s Willard Junior High School in the early 1990s, then after college formed their comedy collective which finally hit pay dirt when they were hired as writers (Samberg as a performer) for NBC’s Saturday Night Live in 2005, which led to their semi-autonomous SNL Digital Shorts show segment which at times produced massively-viral-videos (you can get lots of details at their Lonely Island website, where you can view their immense body of work including the famous SNL debuts of "Lazy Sunday" [Dec. 17, 2005] and "Dick in a Box" [Dec. 16, 2006]).

 If their brand of purposely-idiotic, current-pop-culture-oriented, frequently-obscene humor appeals to you, then this movie should be well worth your time (a concise 86 min. with each of the scenes functioning well in rapid-fire-fashion) or you might want to save a little cash and just indulge with the silliness available to you free of charge at their website.  The more you know about hip-hop music and the social-media-avalanche that accompanies it the better you can appreciate the many in-jokes and celebrity cameos here (Mariah Carey, Simon Cowell, and Ringo Starr are among the ones that most easily rang my memory-bell but I’m sure there are many others that many of you would more quickly relate to) but the craziness of the approach carries itself well even if this is an aspect of media-culture that eludes you completely in its specific references and celebrity cameos.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: Sometimes it’s a fine line between what’s being attempted with satire—where the purpose underlying the crazy surface is to make a stealth-attack on such significant topics as political practices (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [Stanley Kubrick, 1964]), social attitudes (Blazing Saddles [Mel Brooks, 1974]), or expectations of relationships (The Lobster)—and parody—where the sole purpose is to provide laughs through exaggeration of something familiar (Airplane! [David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker; 1980] skewering 1970s’ Disaster Movies or the work of the Wayans brothers [Keenen Ivory, Shawn, Marlon], taking cheap shots at everything they can such as in the Scary Movie [2000] franchise and the considerably-less-well-received-recent Fifty Shades of Black [Michael Tiddes]—although even parodies can have a more purposeful-undercurrent, such as with Young Frankenstein [Brooks, 1974] where the silly-twists on classic monster movies also make sympathetic commentary on social ostracization, the need for romance to be based in true attraction rather than superficial-assumptions, and evoke the ribald history of ancient comedy, often dismissed by contemporary critics as “impolite” or “distasteful”).  With the case of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping you might say that its structure blends both of these comic traditions in that much of what happens here is intended to just be embraceable-stupidity (as with the “Mona Lisa” song where the painting’s female subject is called “the original basic bitch” and “an overrated piece of shit” [sorry if I’m allowing R-rating-language into the review but as you can hear in the “sanitized” trailer cited in the Related Links below, both of these words now seem acceptable for mainstream discourse]) but there’s also an undercurrent of criticism about how quick we as consumers are to embrace lyrics that keep searching for new levels of personal outrage, celebrities whose input to the larger social fabric are simply shimmering threads that require no introspection, and public stories of private despair and reconciliation focused more on monetary than emotional motives.  These Lonely Island guys are jabbing viciously (but quickly so as to not let more options for humor slip away) at the music world but in such a way that it can be laughed off as just harmless fun.

 While Popstar …’s likely too topical to survive as a comedy staple in years to come (although it might be used as some sort of Rosetta Stone to help future generations interpret why certain manifestations of rap music and lifestyle—particularly those which are associated with performers such as Justin Bieber) it is very funny for audiences today (even those like me who’re not so familiar with the songs and singers that are being parodied), but at least it provides me with easy options for a Musical Metaphor taken directly from its soundtrack; however, because I allowed The Lobster so much as in the way of Metaphoricality (a word that should be in a Popstar … song) I should be equally generous with this movie so I’ll start you off with an audio-only (but lyrics included on screen so you can fully “appreciate” the depth of insight offered) version of “Incredible Thoughts” at (the finale where the Lonely Island trio are joined by Bolton), then move on to what amounts to a well-placed, high-profile promo for the movie with Samberg and Adam Levine singing “I’m So Humble” at (from the May 10, 2016 broadcast of NBC TV’s “The Voice” but in a production number resembling what you’d see on the big screen), capped off by a 5-video cluster at https:// bRTmNAC&shuffle=349 which includes audio-only-versions of “I’m So Humble” and “Mona Lisa,” but the show-stopper is the fully-audiovisual “Finest Girl” (better known as “Fuck Bin Laden,” with a woman imploring the singer to ravage her in a manner akin to how the U.S. ended the career of the former Al-Qaeda head: “Invade my cave With your special unit”).  If you choose to immerse yourself in all of this Metaphorical mess you’ll then likely feel either a need to see the whole thing in context at a theater or save the 10 bucks for something with a bit more substance.  Your move, amigos.
Final Note: Continuing thanks to my worldwide readers; according to Google’s latest tally I’ve recently hit 5 continents (not Africa, unfortunately; didn’t have much hope for Antarctica), with France in the lead, more than double my U.S. readership, for reasons I can't even speculate on.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.  Other overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

Here’s more information about The Lobster: (you don’t get a lot of information about the film at its official site but you do get to take a quiz to see what animal you’d choose to be if you fail to mate up as a human; 
ended up as an owl [they're wise and inquisitive; like to stretch, preen, and get good views of things; have an amazing 270 degree range of head rotation; and are monogamous {but do get divorced}—all of which sounds much like me already, although I’m still working on expanding the range of my head rotation]) (6:13 interview with actor Colin Farrell about this film and its unique explorations of loneliness ; if that one piques your interest you might want to move on to this one—[47:21] an interview from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival with director Yorgos Lanthimos along with actors Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydou, Colin Farrell , Ariane Labed, Ben Whishaw, Angeliki Papoulia, and producers Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday [although the questions largely are asked of the director and a few of the actors])

Here’s more information about Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: (this is a Red Band trailer with some of the movie’s R-rated language; if you’d rather watch a more-sanitized-version [although “shit” and “bitch” seem to now be acceptable for a PG audience] here’s one at (32:40 interview with the Lonely Island guys Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, which begins with the 2nd trailer above)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Thought The Lobster could have been so much more with just a little more effort on the part of the writers (or their editors). Seemed to be an allegory about the emotional impact after a devastating end of a relationship with some depressed, some hardened, some rebounding too quickly to avert the pain and some suicidal. The Loners in the forest bit was poorly executed and the "must have similar faults" plot device was poor. Obviously the fade to black ending was a direct ripoff of the Sopranos closing; is he blind (is Tony dead) or not. It did create discussions among strangers after my screening; so perhaps it achieved it's goal in this regard. Still it could have been more in the right hands. As is it will probably surprise a few people who accidentally watch it on Netflix or HBO in a few months.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for your comments. Sorry that you didn't enjoy The Lobster nearly as much as I did but, then, you're not nearly as cold-blooded as I am. Ken

  3. I would not go as far as saying I did not like it. I usually prefer well written low budget films (actually any budget with good writers), but this one was low budget, questionable writing and perhaps saved by decent acting. Given the dearth of good films these days, I would have given it a three star rating. Just think it could have been a little more like Ex Machina (April 2015) with it's clever writing and sharp production values.

  4. Hi again, No argument from me that that Ex Machina is a great one but I'm still happy with The Lobster as well. Time constrains will likely lead me to only 1 new screening before the next posting so I imagine I'll be heading into deep waters again with Finding Dory while hoping that my Golden State Warriors can once again find their ability to throw a ball into a basket. Ken