*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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MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT REVIEW

magic-in-the-moonlight-poster

There’s a little bit of magic in the cast BUT apart from that the moonlight just revealed all the flaws with this dated affair, old sport.

Not my best summary.

Despite the age gap, Colin Firth and Emma Stone have good chemistry and make this easy going and predictable 20s flick more than watchable.

So what is it about? An illusionist (Firth) is brought in to help unmask a possible swindle with a young “spiritualist” (Stone). To make matters worse, he might be falling for her.

I will admit that I’m not the biggest Woody Allen fan. I really feel that his work is overrated.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some of his films. I actually didn’t mind Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona. But did Woody Allen use my love for ScarJo against me?

Colin Firth was superb as the deluded egotist and illusionist Stanley.

His quick quips and sarcastic commentary certainly made him a monster cut from the same cloth as Blue Jasmine (Another Allen flick I enjoyed).

Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji capture the look and feel of the 20s perfectly. Magic In the Moonlight is rich with that nostalgia for the classics.

It’s good to see Simon McBurney getting more screen time. I’ve been a fan of him for some time. His performance as the Arch Deacon in Rev being a particular highlight.

He sweeps into the scene with his sly grin and slithery charm in the form of an old university colleague, Howard Burkan.

Setting Stanley on his journey with a wager. A wager to try and expose Sophie the spiritualist as a fraud.

It’s all rather tame, easy going and delivers the odd chuckle as Stanley goes out of his way to upset the fools that celebrate this so-called spiritualist.

Hamish Linklater played the love struck and incredibly gullible Brice Catledge brilliantly.

Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist/Flubber) was a little flat. She has proven in the past that she can play a strong supporting role and play it well but her mother figure was highly unmemorable.

Eileen Atkins (Doc Martin) was very good as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa. Providing a little more depth and understanding to her heavily armoured nephew.

BUT it’s all so predictable which makes it all a little drab.

The beautiful sunshine and the picturesque French coastline is still a sight to behold. Instantly making me want to go on holiday and distracting me from scribbling on my critical clipboard.

Firth delivers enough charisma to carry the film. Until he meets Sophie.

The spiritual sessions are entertaining enough as you sit there with Stanley trying to work out if it is a con or real.

The effects aren’t that bad either but this is essentially a theatrical piece.

The whole philosophical debates about the afterlife was interesting enough for twenty minutes and made for some fiery exchanges between the two leads.

BUT after a while, that’s all they do. Talk and bicker about life, death, love and beliefs.

I can see what Allen was trying to do but it just got a little irritating, long winded and a bit pretentious for me.

At first glance, I thought that only a friendship was going to blossom between the pair because of the steep age gap.

I don’t think it helped that Stone’s outfits made her look a little too young. I’m not sure whether that was Allen’s intention.

The change in tone as their relationship transforms to possibly something more came off a little uneven.

Stone and Firth did enough to make it believable. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t necessary and it made the final outcome so predictable and cheesy.

Stone is in very high demand and for the majority of her performance, I could see why. There were moments where her little spiritual tricks went on a bit and she did begin to get on my nerves.

She can’t dance. Well, jive anyway. Her improvised moves in a jazz club had me cringing.

The ending was very much like the classics. And that was the problem. The dated and corny moments we laugh at now with the oldies only added to their charm.

However, when you try and rekindle that in a modern reworking, it just doesn’t come off quite as well as you hope.

The final moments were very hammy. That charm coming off a little tacky. I tutted and shook my head. A guilty smile sneaking across my face for the attempt.

An easy going, charming little time filler with two stellar performances. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5