*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)

Advertisements

LONE SURVIVOR REVIEW

lone_survivor_xlrg

Marky Mark bosses it with the Fuzzy Bunch in this mixed bag of a military drama.

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in late June 2005. However, they are soon left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

I was a little hesitant when Peter Berg’s name flashed across the screen. At his best; the highly entertaining TV series Friday Night Lights. At his worst, Battleship. Yikes.

However, the film opened with an intense training montage (featuring real archive footage) of SEALS enduring all sorts of intense situations and physical conditions. My attention instantly grabbed.

We were thrown straight into the mix with a bloodied Wahlberg being operated on. His voiceover throwing us back to the build up before the cursed operation. Unfortunately with such a poor choice in film title, you have a gist of what’s going to happen, it’s just the how.

The pace took a hit as we had 30 minutes of cliched exchanges and muscle bound machismo as the team bonded and “hazed the new guy”. Berg had a great cast at his disposal and the leading SEALS played their parts well. The camp shenanigans should have added extra depth to the characters BUT if anything, it made them quite stocky and one dimensional.

The running contest between Hirsch and Kitsch was corny as hell. We even had a wonderful Powerpoint presentation explaining the . . . plot. It was great to see Eric Bana BUT his passive role was a waste of the actor’s talents.

Once the SEALS reached the checkpoint surrounding the Taliban compound; things finally livened up. The tension mounted as Hirsch’s Dietz struggled to maintain signal as the team got closer to their target.

“That’s not a knife, that’s a f*cking duck!”. Where Berg excelled in suspense and action, he struggled in keeping the tone of the film. The aforementioned line was a perfect example. Berg implored humour in all the wrong places in an attempt to lighten the severity of the situation BUT it just came off hammy. I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The accidental ambush by Taliban farmers was nail bitingly tense with the SEALs apprehending them to maintain their cover. Berg tackled the moral and ethical dilemma that soldiers face in such dangerous situations. The brewing argument between Axelson (Ben Foster) and Luttrell spoke volumes as they discussed killing or releasing the civilian farmers.

I was happy to see Foster given a bigger role. I’ve been impressed with his acting since the (incredibly underrated) TV movie, Bang Bang You’re Dead.

The film got better with the action coming thick and fast. The POV sniper shots and slow motion were executed brilliantly. The Taliban, for most of the film, were portrayed as ruthless menaces relentless in their attacks, never giving the SEALS a moment to recover.

However, although exhilarating, it soon dragged on with one sequence, involving the team rolling down a cliff to evade capture, coming off unintentionally comical. I lost count of how many times the SEALS were shot, crushed and battered. And the death toll on the Taliban was bordering Rambo 3 territory. Oh and the roll, my goodness, it was like Homer’s cliff falling scene in The Simpsons. There were actually a few titters in the audience.

Thankfully an unexpected explosive moment brought a passive Wahlberg to the forefront. The first 90 minutes was the story of the unit. The final 30 minutes was Luttrell’s story as he evaded capture and hid with some Afghan farmers who were just as anti-Taliban as the SEALS.

Shah and Tarik, the lead terrorists, were incredibly passive and weak. They really were one dimensional, if not for a discouraging decapitation scene. The real depth was provided by Ali Suliman as Gulab, the sympathetic farmer who did everything to save Marcus at the risk of his and his son’s (Nicholas Patel) lives.

As the film came to its explosive finale, the closing minutes packed a sobering punch with a fitting tribute to the men that lost their lives in that unfortunate operation. Berg highlighted the bureaucracy of the US military and the poor organisation in which the unit were left stranded for so long with poor technical equipment.

Luttrell’s heartfelt gratitude to Gulab really hit home. Unfortunately, Berg had too many faces flying about, that I had to remember who was who, when they showed real footage of the people they had portrayed. It was great to see Marcus and Gulab’s reunion.

All in all, a mixed bag. The tone of the film, like the ambush, was all over the place but what can be commended was what these men went through.

An engaging affair that could have been cut by a good half hour and been better for it. Great acting and good action set pieces save a muddled biopic riddled with unintentional jokes and mixed messages.

3/5