*NEW* OKJA REVIEW *NEW*

A bit more than OK, ja?

Meet Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.

Strange, charming, quirky. What did you expect from the guy who gave us The Host?

I was surprised to see a Bong Joon-ho flick on Netflix. I’m glad the Twitter poll recommended this.

The eclectic opener with Tilda Swinton’s (We Need to Talk About Kevin) brace ridden quirky corporate exec didn’t really give me high hopes.

Swinton doesn’t like to do normal, does she? BUT we wouldn’t have it any other way. The random statistics and animated PowerPoint presentations threw me into a mini-coma.

To cut a long story short, the world is overpopulated and running out of food. Cue the discovery of “super piglet” on a Chilean farm, a litter of little super piglets and a worldwide competition among farmers to grow the biggest pig.

Fast forward 10 years to a beautifully pastoral Korean forest setting. Darius Khondji’s cinematography was breathtaking.

The animation was very good. The detail on Okja was brilliant. A cross between a giant hippo and a elephant with the mannerisms of a dog.

Mija and Okja reminded me of characters from a live action Studio Ghibli animation. I loved the dynamic.

There was an easygoing feel to the piece as we watched the pair hunt and frolic in the woods. Establishing that their bond was more than just a farmer raising her produce.

It wasn’t long before the pair’s safe haven was disrupted by the emergence of the squeaky and highly flamboyant simpleton Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal – Donnie Darko). A fame-seeking animal loving TV host.

God knows what Gyllenhaal was smoking while taking on this role?! He was bloody mental and hilarious. A deluded hypocrite. Scene stealer in every frame.

Of course being “company property”, Okja must return to New York to claim her prize as “best pig” and face her impending fate. Throwing Mija into one mad journey.

Seo-Hyun Ahn was brilliant as the resilient Mija. It takes a lot for a child actor not to infuriate me BUT she played the role perfectly.

The Seoul street chase was a fantastically choreographed and entertaining sequence as Mija ran through alleyways and dived over highway bridges.

Things taking a highly comical turn when a group of animal activists decide to free Okja at the same time. The Animal Liberation Front were a great addition to the mix and featured a surprisingly talented supporting cast.

I couldn’t help but laugh as the gang tried to remain peaceful during Okja’s rescue mission. The friendliest highway robbery I’ve ever seen (“Please co-operate”).

Pointing a gun at the truck driver, demanding he put on his seat belt before ramming him off the road. Swiftly followed by a sincere apology. Desperate not to use violence by any means.

Steven Yuen (Glenn from Walking Dead!) and Paul Dano (Swiss Army Man) were excellent as K and Jay. Dano’s reaction at the speed of the Korean language to English as he asked to be translated was a particular highlight.

Lily Collins (Love, Rosie) did her best to hide those brows from the balaclava BUT I knew it was her before the big reveal.

Devon Bostick has come a long way from his Wimpy Kid days. His character Silver had so much potential BUT didn’t get enough screen time. Refusing to eat in order to leave the smallest carbon footprint.

I felt their characters got lost in the chaos. Shame. And that was kind of the problem; the pace lumbered things drastically (especially during the middle act) that I could feel myself fidgeting.

Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito was wasted in his minute role as Mirando’s underling.

I was happy to see Trainspotting’s Shirley Henderson feature. Moaning Myrtle just doesn’t get a break.

The second half certainly delivered a more rewarding affair BUT I didn’t expect the direction it took. I would have said that this was a kid’s film right up until Okja’s incarceration in a New York lab.

Bong Joon-ho brilliantly encapsulated the GM food crisis perfectly. Showing the brutal treatment of animals. I’m not a vegetarian BUT even I was left feeling queasy. Especially during the “natural non-forced breeding” process.

The gruelling underbelly of corporate control as Swinton’s Mirando tried to turn Mija and Okja’s bond into one big PR stunt to help change her company’s bad image.

I thought Snowpiercer was dreadful. The saving grace (Sorry, Chris Evans) being Tilda Swinton. I was getting disappointed at her lack of screen time. That was until the mad final act. She delivered everything I expected.

The closing minutes left food for thought making this a rewarding and charming little film (If a little long at the tooth) that delivered raw social commentary and mad humour.

A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (Just)

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*NEW* CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR REVIEW *NEW*

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Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr).

The mega Marvel movie franchise have really hit their stride. Gripping, action packed and possibly the best film of the bunch.

Brilliant. It was good to see all that waiting pay off with subplots resolved, loyalties tested and great performances all round.

*HERE IS YOUR WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!* I DON’T THINK THERE ARE ANY BUT I’M WARNING YOU ALL THE SAME!

I’ve admitted numerous times that I had mixed feelings about the Marvel movies. I didn’t rate The Avengers BUT loved Age of Ultron.

Despised the endless Hulk reboots (Even though I enjoyed the Bana version. Whaaattt? I know). Loved the Thor movies. Loved Iron Man 1 and 3. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2, eh? Felt Captain America was rushed to fit in with the first Avengers.

Thank God for Winter Soldier, one of the most underrated and unexpected surprise sequels of the year.

I was relieved to hear the Russo brothers was taking the helm again to bring Cap’s third outing to the fold and boy, oh, boy, what a treat!

It would help to watch the Cap movies to really enjoy the little subplots. My little brother had barely seen any of them BUT was still able to fill in the blanks and enjoy this just as much as I did.

Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made this easily accessible for the less hardcore Marvel fans while not boring the hell out of the rest of us.

We finally got to explore the background of the mysterious Winter Soldier as the opening got straight to business flicking back and forth from the 90s to the present.

It was great to see Sebastian Stan (The Martian) take centre stage as the conflicted Bucky as his story line came to a head with Cap’s loyalty tested to the fore. Forcing him to make a choice between his old wartime pal and his Avenger colleague:

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“Sometimes I want to punch in your perfect teeth”.

RDJ delivered a much more sombre turn as Stark. It made a fresh change as the millionaire faced some of his own personal demons as well as battling it out with his closest friends. His fractious relationship with the Cap reaching boiling point as the Avengers face disbandment after a botched mission. Evans nailed it yet again as the Cap.

You could argue that it was always going to be tough to give such a plethora of characters a chance to stand out BUT it didn’t come far off. I could have grumbled at the list of absentees; *cough* Thor *cough* Hulk *cough* Pepper Potts (again) *cough* BUT there was enough going on to make me almost forget about them. Almost.

I know the die hard comic book fans were ripping the small airport battle sequence with their own list of absentees in the mix BUT the fighting sequences were excellent. Well choreographed, fast, furious and intense. The special effects were decent. One particular highlight involving Hawkeye and Ant Man surfing on an arrowhead.

Everyone had their moment to shine. Even the newest addition Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up) impressed in a top heavy cast. They managed to make his slightly silly costume look badass. BUT there was one character that really took the biscuit.

I enjoyed the Maguire-Spiderman movies (Yes, even the third one. What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?) and liked Garfield’s performance BUT hated the reboot. When I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted again (Confirming my reservations about the Garfield efforts), I was annoyed. Really? Is this doomed to fail like the Hulk movies?

Tom Holland (The Impossible) . . . Well done. He may have had the cameo with the most lines BUT he stole the show and captured Spidey to perfection. I am actually looking forward to Homecoming.

I think the only characters that suffered a little and fell into the background was Jarvis/The Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine. Cheadle never really had a chance and wasn’t strong enough. Terrence Howard was the man for me. It didn’t help THAT Cheadle’s Rhodes was never really brought into the mix in the other movies.

Marvel have really struck a winning formula while DC continue to splutter (So far). It had a bit of everything and nailed the dynamic perfectly.

The humour was perfectly balanced against some of the more serious moments. It tied in a few loose ends that had bugged me and actually made Emily VanCamp’s (Revenge) role necessary after her lacklustre turn in Winter Soldier.

There were revelations and twists along the way. It was tense, engaging, riveting and, despite the odd niggle and the pace testing its 147 minute length, highly enjoyable. Best film of the year? It’s a strong contender.

And of course . . . persevere through the credits. Yeah, I didn’t think I needed to tell you either.

4/5

FANTASTIC FOUR REVIEW

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The Fantastic Four – The College Years, more like.

A mess. A watchable one but a mess all the same.

A pointless rehashing of the same old origin story does nothing for the franchise and somehow manages to make their flawed predecessors look like a masterpiece!

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed the other Fantastic Four films. What? They never took themselves seriously and that was their winning charm. Okay, The Rise of the Silver Surfer really did push it but I liked the cast. And no! Not just because of Jessica Alba. They also stayed true to the source material.

Did Marvel and Sony just reboot it because they suddenly realised that the Human Torch was Captain America?! Because Alba and Ioan Gruffudd were certainly not past it.

A younger cast was certainly ambitious and smart (in theory) if there was to be more of the little money makers. BUT this latest offering from Chronicle director Josh Trank didn’t set things off with a bang, I’m afraid.

A contemporary re-imagining? Well, it certainly changed things about but it didn’t quite impress and no matter how much you changed the package, it was still the same old guff inside.

So what is this one about? Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

So no cosmic rays?! Crazy. The alternate dimension was a promising set up and had potential but it never really went anywhere. Merely a backdrop for their origin and for smash em up action. Nothing more.

The opening chugged along as we watch a young Reed Richards try and wow his uninterested school mates with inter dimensional travel and teleportation. Corny but watchable. He soon befriends a classmate whose family own the local scrap yard. That friend is Ben Grimm.

And that the rest is . . . A mess. I respect that the filmmakers tried to focus on aspects that the other films didn’t. Establishing Reed and Ben’s childhood friendship was a nice touch but it took up too much of the screen time. PLUS one of Marvel’s characters completely changing occupation? Astronaut to scrap nut? Really?

After some tame high school tomfoolery with a bitter Dan Castellaneta (Yes, Homer Simpson!), the film started heading in the right direction. Or so I thought. I kept saying to myself, “This is definitely just going to be build up”. BUT I didn’t care if the finale delivered.

The casting selections were a mixed bag. Miles Teller fared better as Reed Richards than I thought. When he was delivering quick witted sarcasm, I feared that he was just doing his usual spiel. BUT by the end, he made the role his own.

I didn’t have an issue with the “controversy” surrounding Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. If anything, I had full confidence after seeing his impressive filmography. He was more than up to the task but he was just wasn’t given enough one liners or memorable dialogue. His Fast and Furious introduction got him into the mix well but his character was nowhere as charming or as entertaining as Chris Evans’ counterpart.

Kate Mara wasn’t that bad as Susan Storm BUT she was just too passive. Happy to let the guys get on with it. Alba was very active (Careful now) in the other movies. Plus how Mara’s Susan got her powers was a little silly. Seriously, an energy slap? You’ll know what I mean when you see it. The force field stuff was pretty cool, though.

Toby Kebbell was pretty good as Victor Von Doom. A much more troubled and demented villain. I always felt that Julian McMahon was too smug and smarmy for Dr Doom. An easily beatable Bond villain. BUT they rushed Kebbell’s transformation way too quickly and wasted a promising opportunity.

My biggest qualm with casting was The Thing. A Hulk-esque powerhouse. Chiklis was perfect for the role. So surely someone of his build and gravitas would be considered, right?

Jamie Bell.

facepalm

Billy Flippin’ Elliott?! Tough guy? What? Surely not because he’s Northern? Behave. The muscle? What muscle? He’s a lanky git. Does The Thing dance in the comic books? Anyway . . .

The special effects weren’t bad on The Thing. If you don’t mind him looking like a rocky Cheeto. But the voice work? He didn’t even sound like Bell. So why choose him?

Reg E. Cathey was excellent as Dr Franklin Storm. The man that would unite them all. His voice. Move over, Morgan Freeman. He should have been a baddie with those gravelly tones. It was a shame that his character got pushed further into the background as the film continued.

Tim Blake Nelson played the creepy corporate drone well. The meddling middle man more concerned with money than welfare. BUT it was all too predictable. How could the young “geniuses” not know that he had a hidden agenda?

The action set pieces and CGI were like the superhero flick. Hit and miss. Impressive in one second and disorienting and cartoony the next. The force field tricks and Reed’s face changing were decent BUT by the finale, it was all too frantic. There was too much going on that the effects became one big blur.

It didn’t help that the tone was all over the place. It tried to be too serious which worked for the first hour but it also took away a lot of the fun. Dr. Doom’s introduction via a lab massacre was deliciously violent for its 12A rating. Promising.

BUT with its darker tone, Reed’s elastical talents didn’t fit. If anything, every time he threw an outstretched punch or kick, it was hilarious. It just didn’t tie in with the other’s abilities.

The plot was shoddy. We spent an hour waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for the gang to get their powers. Hardly spoilers but then . . . POSSIBLE SPOILERS! It flashes forward a year. All that build up and we don’t get to see the guys adjust to their abilities? Granted we had two films of that before but for all the build up and time invested, why the hell not?

Just a quick two minute summary? Really? What made me laugh was that for all it’s re-imagining; we still had Ben and Reed fight. Ben bitter over Reed breaking his promise to make him human again and the same old love triangle between Doom, Reed and Susan.

Credit where it’s due. The love triangle was merely suggested but you just know where it’s heading. The only thing that I did find interesting was how The Thing became an army weapon but we only got little video clips. Johnny uses a suit to switch on his abilities to “FLAME ON”. He never needed that before. If he takes it off, is he just fire? Hmmm . . . Didn’t really explain that.

The finale was rushed. Were they afraid to break the two hour marker or something? Doom was finally brought in. Things getting tasty. At last. Nope. They dispose of him in a matter of minutes. It didn’t help that it was done in such a dreadfully corny and deflating way. A chance to improve from the originals and somehow managing to make the same mistakes even worse.

The closing scenes promised the laughs and charm with the team finally gelling. A hint of more fun and cheesiness. But hang on, I thought that was why the other two were panned? I understand a young cast was an investment for more movies. BUT you kinda need to make people want to see more of them?

It just wasn’t good enough. It killed 100 minutes, I guess. There could be promise in the next installment but it should make you want to watch the next one. NOT consider it.

Pretty poor from the four.

2.5 (Just)/5

*I did laugh when I waited with a packed screen of eager Marvel fans through the endless credits. I’ll save you the time. There wasn’t any! No Stan Lee cameos (Well, he was in the other two, I guess). Nothing. Just a nice thank you for all the people who are keeping their jobs. I think some of them will be missing them after this flop.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

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Did the second instalment do what the first couldn’t?

Was I left fuming yet again? Or did I have to swallow my words?

They’re back. Bigger, badder but better? There’s only one way to find out.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron (James Spader), things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans

I will admit straight off the bat. I really didn’t like the first Avengers. I know? SACRILEGE! It just didn’t do it for me. Overlong, mind numbing and overhyped. If not for Tom Hiddleston’s superb turn as Loki and a thrilling 30 minute closing crescendo, I would have given up on the franchise.

I was furious at how rushed the endless superhero entries were. Just to get to the Avengers release date. Okay, the Thor films were fantastic. Hawkeye and The Black Widow didn’t even get an origin story. Iron Man 1 and 3 were good. Don’t get me started on 2.

The numerous Hulk origin attempts with Bana and Norton misfired (I actually liked the Ang Lee blockbuster. What?). Captain America was rushed. I was happy to see more of the superhero fighting in the past. BUT the Winter Soldier sequel did restore my faith a little.

Inevitably after the crazy money that the first Avengers film took, we had another. And after much deliberation and note taking, I can firmly say . . .

Well done, Mr. Whedon. You have won me over.

The opening was racy, fast paced and straight to business. The team finally gelled together and in the zone. The special effects were fast and furious. The overuse of CGI did make things a little too cartoony in parts. But how else are they going to create a nine foot Hulk?!

There were numerous SHIELD references that went over my head in the opening. I knew it had something to do with Marvel Agents of SHIELD but I’m not that big a fan. It might help to recap on Thor or the first Avengers as a certain sceptre is used quite heavily again.

Whedon’s witty one liners zinging left, right and centre like the endless cannon fodder. The banter between the team was top notch. The old fashioned Cap (Chris Evans) telling Stark off for using foul language being an ongoing joke was a particular highlight.

The team dynamic really worked for me and made for great viewing. I mean even the scene in which the gang were trying to lift Thor’s hammer as a drunken party trick shouldn’t have worked but was so funny.

Ultron was a perfect maniacal menace. Spader (Ol’ Red from The Blacklist) applying his gravelly gravitas with aplomb. The animation and detail was excellent.

I liked the brewing romance between Banner/Hulk and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The lullaby that they use to calm the Hulk was a nice touch even if it reminded me of Shrek and Fiona. But I honestly thought there was always something between The Widow and The Cap? Oh, that cheeky minx. Anyway . . .

Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a more convincing couple as the Maximoff twins than they ever did in Godzilla. My only quibble with Taylor-Johnson was that his character Quicksilver was very much like a character in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Evan Peters played him. He ran really fast. What was he called? Oh yeah. Quicksilver. Hmmm . . . Interesting that. Copyright issues were there?

Olsen was always my Kryptonite even if she has been in some terrible movies. But she did the role of the Scarlet Witch justice as did Kickass.

I wasn’t really bored. It just got on with it and zipped along. Dipping only in a few parts to allow some much needed character development on some neglected heroes. *Cough* Hawkeye *Cough* Black Widow.

Renner had taken to the role well. But he was so one-dimensional. I mean, come on Whedon. Surely you’ve seen Arrow? But without spoiling anything, Whedon finally ventured into his background and gave him more depth. He was able to stand out among the ever-expanding roster of superheroes.

The trippy dream sequences that the Witch uses to play on her opponents’ minds was interesting as we got a little peak into The Black Widow’s past; most notably her training.

It was funny, intense, action packed. Great acting (Check), top banter (Check), cheeky Stan Lee cameo (BIG CHECK!). There were a few surprises to be had. BUT I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many characters from the Marvel-verse being introduced. Paul Bettany’s The Vision was an addition that felt like a mish-mesh of everybody else and didn’t really make as much of an impression as I expected.

And considering the huge ensemble, there were a few faces not to make an appearance. Merely mentioned in a passing comment. I’m looking at you, ladies. Ms Portman and Paltrow.

Inevitably it is all left wide open for more. SPOILERS! Behave. BUT this time round, I cannot wait for the next installment. I’m actually a little excited.

Well done.

3.5/5 With grounds to change to a 4

NOTE: Obviously stay behind and endure the relentless credits for a cheeky ten second teaser.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER REVIEW

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‘Murica! Not bad at all, not bad at all. I salute you. An enjoyable action packed romp. Now I felt the first installment of Captain America had a lot of potential and a good set of characters to milk a few more sequels set in the war backdrop. However, it was rushed. And rightly so, as it seemed to get the set up sorted for the impending Avengers release. To be honest, I love the Marvel universe but I felt some of the entries have been mixed from the rehashed Hulk origin stories (I actually preferred the Ang Lee version with Bana Banner) to the brilliantly executed Thor films. Avengers Assemble for me was (don’t hate me) over-hyped, overlong and OTT for me, redeemed by an action packed half hour. However, this inevitable sequel in a number of relentless comic book movies manages to stand on its own and be a worthy addition and improvement on the Captain America franchise.

Gutted how swift Captain Steve Rogers was pushed from WW2 to the present, this film manages to focus on Roger’s transition which makes for some unexpected surprises and develops his character a little more. The Cap was always more relate-able. An ordinary guy wanting to beat the odds and become extraordinary (‘Murica!). Luckily, Rogers has surpassed his adjustment stage, which was worked well in Avengers Assemble. He’s starting to catch up with the times. A joke regarding his check out list on the internet (so helpful) was nicely done. However, a new war is brewing under the clean streets of Washington, one that compromises the very organisation of SHIELD, leading to an action packed, octane thrill ride (that is a little long at 136 minutes) that questions the Cap’s very ethics and honour. With a new war comes a whole new set of rules and lines he does not want to cross.

The action set pieces are great to watch. The fight scenes are intense and brilliantly choreographed. The 3D element left much to be desired apart from the explosive finale. Not a necessity in your viewing experience to be honest. Chris Evans is fantastic. He is Captain America. His presence, his build (The dude is hench!) and his performance are spot on. There’s great chemistry between him and the alluring Black Widow, Ms Scarlett Johansson. Did anyone else sense a brewing superhero romance? The introduction of another Marvel addition worked quite well with the talented Anthony Mackie (who has been showing up in a lot of recent projects, Runner Runner and Pain and Gain) as the Falcon. The directing duo The Russo brothers incorporated and revamped him quite well. Not enough of him. The partnership between him and Evans was decent. More of that please, which inevitably there will be.

Samuel L (the L stands for Mother – you get the idea) Jackson unleashes the Fury (ah ha) at last. Finally being brought into the action and given more screen time. There were some surprising turns as well with a number of characters reappearing. It helps to have watched earlier efforts, that’s a given as it will fill in the little bits. The film does try and recap for those who haven’t or have forgotten. The Winter Solider is a worthy foe. His mystery and violent manner creates some decent fight sequences. However, his big reveal is hardly a twist or a shock. A bit too much build up and emphasis. Great to see Robert Redford and he plays the inevitably shifty senator/congressman to perfection. He does unfortunately dither into the background by the end but the guy is nearly 80 so give him a break.

The supporting cast was impressive, if maybe wasted a little. Cudos to Maximiliano Hernandez for his turn as Jasper Sitwell (Marvel Agents of SHIELD TV fans will know. I remember him for his performance in the Americans. Another good show). Jenny Agutter (Call the Midwife/An American Werewolf in London) and Alan Dale (Jim from Neighbours/Lost) play the typically shady powers that be. Frank Grillo is menacing as always. However, I can’t help but feel that the guy is being typecast here. The beautiful Emily Van Camp (Revenge/Brothers and Sisters), talented though she is, is given a relatively minor and passive role. To be frank, anyone could have played her. If not for a little twist, well if you can call it that, her character would have been pointless.

However, the action is good. The lines are funny, with some decent banter. An actual story line that fleshes out Rogers’ character and makes him less of a caricature. There may be plot holes and the questionable length but it has incorporated another line of movies that most likely there will be. But this time around, I will be looking forward to 3.5/5 for me. Of course, stay for the credits for a mid-credit reveal. Don’t say to the very end, the little clip is very pointless. Might as well have had Stan Lee pop up and say you still sitting there? Ha ha!

Currently ranks #38 out of 157!