*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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HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 REVIEW

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Are you . . .? Are you . . .? Are you going to be seeing Hunger Games? It’s actually not that bad. For something that is essentially build up.

So here we are. The first part of the final film. A reluctant film gimmick that is starting to overstay its welcome. First Harry Potter, Twilight, the extended Hobbit trilogy and now The Hunger Games. It was only a matter of time.

I never read the books. BUT these films certainly got me wanting to. So I can’t make comparisons or comments on the adaptation BUT friends have told me it’s done a pretty good job . . . SO FAR. My main bugbear with the HG franchise is the slumbering pace. The cast cannot be faltered and if you were looking for a strong female lead, you could look no further than J-Law. The role was made for her. The satire and drama was very good but the two hour or so running time left me fidgeting.

The first half an hour of HG: MJ P1 was a little too slow (again) and disorienting for me. A confused Katniss is given a quick recap after destroying the games. Helpful for those not-so-die hard fans. (I know. Preposterous). I can’t believe it had been a year since Catching Fire was first released. How time flies!. The somewhat sombre opening had to introduce a new set of characters as well as explain what happened to the existing ones. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

A little patience was required. But once the plot was set up, Katniss caught up to speed and introduced to the full chaos and destruction surrounding the impending rebellion, the film hit its stride.

I was quite surprised at how dark this installment was. I always felt with these teen blockbusters that there was that hesitance to push it a little further. I mean, obviously it’s aiming at 12 and up. The desolate landscape of District 12 was subtly done. A harrowing sight with skulls and bodies making up the majority of the pavement. The silence as Katniss can only look in horror. Brilliantly captured.

The Capitol continue to enforce their dictatorship. Publicly shooting protesters in the main district squares and sentencing anyone seen wearing a Mockingjay symbol with treason. Yikes! While poor old Peeta (PEETA! Every time I hear J-Law warble that name, I think Lois from Family Guy) is being used as a PR tool for the Capitol. His condition, both mentally and physically, weakening by the minute.

Julianne Moore delivered a solid performance. President Coin’s stern demeanour made her a little flat and unlikeable to begin with BUT her encounters with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) helped bring out her out of her shell a little bit. It is a shame knowing that this will be one of Hoffman’s last films. He was brilliant as Plutarch. A clever PR tactician. His presence will be sorely missed. The fact he can make a small supporting role so memorable just shows how talented the man was.

The green screen sequence allowed for some clever satire and some humour between him and J-Law. Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch Abernathy. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. Arriving exactly where he’s needed. Dispensing his Yoda-esque wisdom while adjusting to being “dried out”.

It’s great to see Jeffrey Wright getting more big screen appearances after his fantastic turn as Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He plays the wheelchair bound Q or gadget geek Beetee well; providing Katniss with a whole new artillery. Explosive stuff. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Donald Sutherland was deliciously sinister as President Snow. BUT shamefully reduced to video speeches and evil orders. Even in the smallest scene, he is able to bust out that shark toothed grin and deliver his lines with sleaze.

Elizabeth Banks was in scene stealing form as Effie Trinket. Her expressions and one liners brought the odd chuckle. I felt that Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) Finnick Odair didn’t really do much. Merely left to mope and deliver one authoritative speech which was nothing more than a distraction tactic.

The same can be said for Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones). Flailing about with a handheld camera. The camera crew was an interesting angle (What?) as they follow Katniss around to make the perfect PR piece to spur revolution among the districts. The editing and tweaking of certain video clips was an all too familiar trait with the current news affairs, let alone future ones.

Stanley Tucci was tragically reduced to nothing more than a boring BBC journalist role, asking an incarcerated Peeta what he would say to Katniss. No chance to shine or camp it up.

The action set pieces were good. The CGI and special effects were spot on. A scene involving Katniss, an arrow and a jet was awesome.

I was surprised at how good J-Law’s singing was. As if I couldn’t find any more reasons to fall for her. (What?) The girl can sing. The Hanging Tree is a broody, haunting but catchy song. Brilliantly composed by James Newton Howard. Different. A lot of people must have agreed as it managed to crack the UK Top 40 Music chart. To think, J-Law didn’t want to do it and tried to fob it off to Lorde.

The closing 20 minutes took the film up a notch. It was suspenseful, tense and promising. Something I want in a build up (Steady now) with some surprising revelations along the way.

I am a little anxious that the final part may be stretched. Something that let down the finale of Harry Potter for me. A book fan. BUT if this was just the build up, I cannot wait to see how it all ends. The closing minutes were unexpected, tense and irritating. Merely because I wanted it to carry on. Something I always expect from ongoing franchises that churn out endless sequels.

Some people may be left a little disappointed as this really is build up to the big finale.

BUT is Hunger Games worth checking out? In the words of Stan’s Dad from South Park, Hunger Games! YA, YA, YA!

3.5/5

If you’re thinking WHAT? Here is the clip in which it is revealed that Stan’s dad is Lorde!

LOVE, ROSIE REVIEW

Love Rosie Australian Poster

Love the cast. But the film?

The film was actually a lot better than I expected. Certainly better than The Best of Me and that’s down to the chemistry of two very likeable leads in Claflin and Collins.

Yes, yes! I saw a rom com . . . and I liked it. Kind of. It’s the same old schmaltzy guff with the inevitable will-they-won’t-they spiel but at least we had a couple whose dilemmas and choices actually kept my cynicism subdued for a good 90 minutes.

So what’s it all about? Rosie (Lilly Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn’t possibly be right for one another . . . or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies (Awww . . . Yuck).

The film is initially a flashback skimming through the years as we see our couple keep messing up or being pushed away by a spanner thrown in the works (i.e. getting preggers or falling for someone else).

I was originally going to complain about the continuity which is a little bad as the pair are supposed to be in their 30s. By the end, they still look 18. That was until I heard Beyonce’s Crazy in Love and had to Google it to realise that song was released in 2003?! Made me feel old before the film began and crushed my continuity quips. A little.

The whole “boy friend”/”boyfriend” and “girl friend”/”girlfriend” debate is always an interesting dynamic with plenty of meat to sink your teeth into. Now I haven’t read the novel by Cecelia Ahern so I cannot comment on how loyal the film was to the material. But she wrote P.S. I Love You, which wasn’t a bad film either (What’s wrong with me?).

The school melodrama was all too true for me. The little things made me laugh. The students using MSN messenger to speak to each other in IT lessons was spot on. Mad that something like MSN is already a relic.

Director Christian Ditter has a talented British cast at his fingertips. The beautiful (What? I’m in love) Lilly Collins (Mortal Instruments) gives a sterling performance as Rosie.  She certainly carries the film and proves she can take on a leading role. I expect to see more of her (Hope to. Oi! In an acting sense . . . and other – No!).

It’s strange to see Sam Claflin in a normal role after his demented turn in The Riot Club. He plays the part well and has great chemistry with LC. I actually cared what happened to the couple. They weren’t flat and one dimensional. They were rounded and flawed. Normal people for a change.

It was easygoing and quite funny. Dramatic with the odd heart plucking moment for the easy weepers. There were some jokes that bordered a little on The Inbetweeners territory; i.e. a situation involving a condom took me by surprise. But it just managed to pull it off.

BUT then there were some jokes that fell flat on their backside. Where I laughed at Rosie being caught in bed handcuffed with a copper by her young ‘un, I then shook my head as Rosie takes said child to school with a giant bed railing handcuffed to her wrist. Oh dear.

The same can be said for certain characters. Some excelled where others just failed to stand out. Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction) played the cocky chump brilliantly. Jaime Winstone (Made in Dagenham) was not as irritating as I thought and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her as she worked well with Collins and had a good supporting character.

Tamsin Egerton (St. Trinians), on the other hand; (Beautiful though she may be) I didn’t understand why she was playing the American? She did a good job at the accent. But really? They couldn’t get an American actress? And to be honest, her part was quite unnecessary and quite annoying. Her character had the opportunity to cause more tension and conflict but merely delivered a spicy bit of drama and then withered into the background. A shame.

The same can be said for Suki Waterhouse (Pusher) who played the snobby manipulative model as well as she could. But her character was about as wafer thin as her.

The teen pregnancy drama was dealt with quite sensitively and made for some engaging viewing as Rosie make some serious decisions. There were also some endearing moments to be had, especially between Rosie and her father.

This film certainly surprised me. It’s hardly original and won’t top the classic British rom-coms but it managed to deliver some good drama (Sometimes life has other plans), good laughs and a good cast.

Nothing like a bit of C & C.

3/5 for me

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5