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Movie reviews: The Lobster, Crimson Peak, Pan, Hotel Transylvania


Bleak satire: John C Reilly, Colin Farrell and Ben Whishaw in The Lobster.

Bleak satire: John C Reilly, Colin Farrell and Ben Whishaw in The Lobster.

Bleak satire: John C Reilly, Colin Farrell and Ben Whishaw in The Lobster.

Paul Whiting reviews this week's other big releases: The Lobster, Crimson Peak, Pan, and Hotel Transylvania

In films like Kinetta, Attenberg and Dogtooth, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has advanced the thesis that human civilisation is the thinnest of veneers, and that once separated from society's artificial constraints, we all descend to the level of beasts in jig time. He's at it again in The Lobster(4*, 15A, 119mins), a delightfully bleak satire set in a dystopian present.

Colin Farrell is David, a gloomy architect who's just been dumped by his wife. In this blandly cruel society, those unable to sustain a relationship must report to a rural institution called 'The Hotel', where they're given 45 days to find a mate or risk being turned into an animal of their choosing. When he's checking in, David opts for a lobster: they can live to be 70, and he likes the sea.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that he might end up in a boiling pot, and as the days drift by he remains partner-less and seems doomed until an encounter in the woods changes his life forever.

The Lobster's opening 50 minutes or so are surreal and hilarious, as Lanthimos brilliantly breathes life into his lopsided universe, and time and again throws cold water on the concept of selfless love. Dead-eyed and deadpan, Colin Farrell enters into the spirit of things with courage and conviction, ably supported by Rachel Weisz and Léa Seydoux. But once David escapes from the hotel, the film runs out of ideas, and flounders a little until the final scenes, which are unforgettable.

Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak (3*, 15A, 119mins) is so extravagantly gothic it ought to have fangs and a cape. A kind of mash-up of Edgar Allan Poe and the Brontë novels with a dash of Hammer horror thrown in, it stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing, the dreamy daughter of an American industrialist.

After being wooed by visiting English nobleman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), Edith is whisked off to a crumbling estate in the wilds of Cumberland, where a family secret is slowly unearthed. Crimson Peak is a lot of fun for the most part, knowingly camp and nicely photographed, but the CGI effects become too dominant late on, as Mr del Toro lashes on the guignol.

I'm a big fan of Joe Wright: he's one of the few mainstream directors committed to imaginative visual storytelling. However he may now be regretting his involvement in Pan (2*, PG, 111mins), a nonsensical prequel to JM Barrie's Peter Pan stories. Left on the doorstep of a London orphanage, Peter (Levi Miller) grows up during the Blitz in the care of shrewish nuns.

But as the Luftwaffe bombs rain down one night, Peter is captured by a band of brigands in a floating ship, and transported to the magical island kingdom of Neverland, where he becomes a slave of the ruthless pirate, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). He is at war with the island's natives, and doesn't realise that Peter is a fairy prince of legend who will soon become his biggest enemy.

Frenetic, muddled and hopelessly encumbered with meaningless special effects, Pan is chaotic, a bit of a mess. Which is a pity, because in the middle of it all is a lovely, nuanced performance from Hugh Jackman, who plays Blackbeard as a charming bi-polar lunatic who's picking daisies one minute, out for blood the next.

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And finally a word about Hotel Transylvania 2, (2, PG, 89mins), a lazy and derivative sequel to the modestly successful 2012 children's animation. Californian slacker Johnny (voiced by Andy Samberg) and Dracula's daughter Mavis (Selina Gomez) have married, and produced a baby boy who may or may not be a vampire. And things get ugly when the Count (Adam Sandler) tries to force the issue. There's one lovely gag involving a car satnav that screams and shouts like Peter Lorre, but for the most part, jokes and ideas are thin on the ground.

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