*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 he featured.

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)

*NEW* THE GOOD DINOSAUR REVIEW *NEW*

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Not good enough, I’m afraid.

An epic journey (Well . . . ) into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely human friend.

The thought of having two Pixar movies in a year should have been a treat BUT this latest offering failed to hit the same highs as any of its predecessors.

I tried my best NOT to draw comparisons BUT it was hard not to when the story was so flat and predictable. Don’t get me wrong. It was watchable and there were some nice moments that still cracked the embittered cynic in me but memorable?

The opening with the infamous asteroid avoiding the Earth 65 million years ago teased a “What if dinosaurs weren’t wiped off the face of the planet scenario” BUT Pixar’s only answer to that was farming, apparently.

Really? It was easygoing enough but a little tame as Arlo and his family tended to their crops. Seeing Arlo as the runt of the pack and battling his fear of everything had been done to death. What didn’t help was that Ochoa’s voice really grated against me throughout the whole film and when Arlo howled with Spot (Far too many times), I prayed for them to stop!

Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace) played the role of Poppa well. Sharing his words of wisdom and desperately trying to get Arlo to conquer his fears and make his mark (Well, footprint) on the family wall (And the world, most likely). Awww. Yuck. While poor Frances McDormand (Fargo) was completely wasted in her role as Momma.

What baffled me was the Southern accents? It felt like a Western take on Ice Age. On paper, it had potential BUT it’s a shame that it didn’t really amount to much.That’s NOT to say it was all bad.

Pixar still delivered with their fantastic visual effects. The panning shots as Arlo rode down the river made you feel like you were there with him and there was a beautiful sequence in which Arlo and Poppa run through a field of glistening glow flies (Lame. Hey, it was great). I think that was the only moment where I wished I had invested in 3D. Otherwise, I don’t think the experience would have been enhanced in any way.

Despite its flaws, Disney and Pixar still have a way of dispatching tragedy that can break even the most cynical of critics. A spiritual send off may have been predictable BUT it still tugged a little at the heart strings.

The role reversal of the cavemen being more primitive than their prehistoric predators was a nice touch BUT had the gang NOT heard of a film called Ice Age? The introduction of Spot (Jack Bright) helped set up a nice pairing after a heated scrap. One that gets them lost and far away from home. The relationship helped keep the formulaic journey watchable and delivered the little chuckles as the pair put their differences aside to get back home.

Steve Zahn’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) pterodactyl Thunder Clap was probably the only other memorable character. He delivered the laughs but soon overstayed his welcome once he began to repeat the same gag, a mispronounced expression. One that was hardly a “relevation”. Yup, that bad. Things did take a slightly better turn when Thunder Clap decides to put Spot on the menu.

The stalking and chase sequences were racy and picked up the pace. The fins surfing through the skies like something out of Jaws was brilliant. What annoyed me was that Pixar were always able to bring a different take on something we’ve seen before. Inside Out was essentially a different take on Osmosis Jones.

The dinosaur angle wasn’t used enough in this. The idea of T-Rexes being ‘cattle handlers’ was cute BUT entertaining? Not for me. Sam Elliot did what he does best. Grumbling in an inaudible style and sharing his words of wisdom BUT it was far too corny for my liking. It took me until the credits to realise Anna Paquin (X-Men) was voicing one of the other T-Rexes.

Maybe Pixar’s charm is wearing off on me. For the wonderful animation and nicey nicey moments, it was rather disappointing. This ranked en par with the Plane movies. Watchable for the little ‘uns BUT it didn’t soar high enough for me.

2.5/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH

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And the duds just keep on coming. I need to escape from the cinema for a while. Enough to keep the little ‘uns quiet for 80 odd minutes but parents might want to take in their Kindles (or a physical book if you’re old school).

Astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry). However, when the brothers receive an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet (Earth. What? Spoilers? Come on guys), Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission leading to his capture. Inevitably, it’s up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing.

Brendan Fraser (The Mummy franchise/George of the Jungle) what happened? Oh how the mighty have fallen. In all fairness, his movie list of late is hardly legendary. He does his best to bring the laughs as chughead Scorch in his strangely Buzz Lightyear-esque attire.

It’s a shame with how much talent was attached to this. I know, it’s a kid’s film but Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks (most of the time) have delivered timeless classics with great stories, great characters and enough to entertain everybody. Unfortunately this one just doesn’t make the cut.

It’s not all bad. It has enough OTT slapstick gags to keep the little ‘uns giggling and the animation is brilliant. Visually colourful and detailed. 3D hardly a must but there were a couple of clever gimmicky moments in there. Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) plays the pathetic protagonist quite well.

Ricky Gervais once again pops up in a rather dull and fed up voice over as the computer system, BING, James Bing. Oh dear. Now I’m one for the puns and silly one liners but even that one got me cringing. Jessica Alba surprisingly goes against character type and plays the baddie for a change.

William Shatner provides his Trekky gravitas to the sinister General Shanker with aplomb. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) plays a rather irritating and bland character that really doesn’t have a point or contribution to the film (Bit like Modern Family. Ouch. Stop it). Sarah Jessica Parker does her best with the lines, “Not bad for a mom who’s had two kids”.

As does Jane Lynch (Glee) as the one eyed creature and appropriately named Io, “First time I laid eye on you”. Does that line sound familiar? Hmmm I thought so too (*Cough* Monsters Inc *Cough*)

The characters that stood out for me were George Lopez (Rio/Rio 2) as the slimy slug hybrid Thurman. The ever talented Craig Robinson (This is the End) manages to make a memorable performance as the eccentric fast talking Doc. Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) hippies it up as alien enthusiast Hawk. His first encounter with Corddry’s character was quite funny but it soon goes on too long and gets very annoying.

This isn’t the worst animation film I’ve seen this year. That honour goes to the turkey Free Birds (What?) but it’s pretty close. Interestingly enough for those who have seen Free Birds; was Escape from Planet Earth an unintentional spin off? The facility and more importantly, the quarantined Monsters Inc rip off suit guys look just like them.

Regardless, they steal the show in one tut worthy guilty pleasure of a scene in which they manage to parody a number of movies in a food fight. The Artist was a nice touch.

There is a cheeky pop at satire with the government propaganda video segment, “Do you believe in Communism? Then you are an alien”. Unexpected but not bad. The Beatle-esque aliens got a guilty laugh. The twist *POSSIBLE SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY* that humans have been capturing aliens and stealing their technology and claiming it for their own was a nice touch. Doc venting his frustration at the money he should be earning for Facebook was quite funny.

However, it gets all too corny and cheesy. For every good joke, there’s a dozen naff ones. I mean an encounter with a wacky waving inflatable tubed man brought the odd chuckle. But just doesn’t work as a recurring joke. Mainly because it wasn’t that funny the first time round.

If you’re looking for a quick distraction for the kids, then give it a go. Otherwise invest in How To Train Your Dragon 2 or something.