*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* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

A misfire on all fronts.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him and the film in question.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to. I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the retarded face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

The film focuses on the 2009 Afghan withdrawal with Big Glenn (or the Glennible) tasked as the man to end the war and bring it home.

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish. The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable. The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

“We got what we wanted in the first six months. There’s no street parade waiting for you with this one”.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2.5/5

*NEW* DOCTOR STRANGE REVIEW *NEW*

doctor-strange-poster

Strange is right. Fresh, different, throw in a few crazy visual effects and we’re onto a winner.

A former neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock) embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Ol’ Cucumberbatch nails it as the cynical and quick-witted super doc. Imagine if House had super powers and you pretty much have Steven Strange. Sounds good, right? Oh it is.

The opening sequence left me in awe. The visual and special effects were incredible. Imagine all the dream welding sequences in Inception and crank that up to 11! It really was a feast for the eyes and that was before Strange even got to mess with the dimensions!

The fight sequences were brilliantly choreographed as the masters manipulated time, space and every object possible to gain the upper hand. Twisting and bending skyscrapers to their will. I would heavily recommend seeing this in 3D, 4DX (Definitely a must) or IMAX to really enjoy it.

The film didn’t really mess about. It zipped along. Jumping from one thing to the next. Establishing the egotistical Strange early on and channeling a little bit of Sherlock. Only taking the cases that interest him. Showing off his talented surgical abilities at any opportunity. That was (Of course!) before tragedy struck.

I could feel the pace lagging a little when Strange went through his self-loathing phase before discovering Kamar-Taj; a spiritual Tibetan safe haven that would set our hero on his true calling.

Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) was on scene stealing form as The Ancient One (No seriously, that’s her name). She rocked the Avatar/Morpheus look. Frankly, she wasn’t in it enough. I was a little disappointed after having such a heavy involvement in Strange’s training that she just disappeared into the background. Shame.

Mads Mikkelsen was brilliant as the sinister Kaecilius (Even if his name was a little silly-ous). I don’t think you could have had anybody better than Hannibal Lecter to play the maniacal nutter hell bent on summoning a powerful demon to harvest the energy of the planet. Armed in tow with a cult of warped followers (wearing some crazy eye make up); Strange was up for a challenge.

After watching so many Marvel movies, I was worried that I’d get bored of watching another origin story and enduring another training montage BUT Doctor Strange brought something new to the table. All the portal conjuring and space shifting stuff kept my griping subdued and minimal.

There was one sequence in which Strange was having an out of body punch up with another adversary while a doctor was trying to resuscitate him. It was mental. Exhilarating, funny, riveting. I loved it. All aided by another fantastic movie score from Michael Giacchino (Not quite Up and Inside Out BUT brilliant).

There was the perfect balance of humour between the fight sequences and even when the dimension bending and timey-wimey stuff came into play, I was still engrossed with it all. And that Cloak of Levitation was like Aladdin’s magic carpet. Choosing the stubborn doc as its new host. Coming to his aid at the best time.

Benedict Wong (The Martian) was hilarious as Wong, the sworn guardian of the Ancient One’s library. I loved the awkward banter as Strange attempted numerous times to make the stern faced monk crack a smile.

Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) was tragically reduced to playing the love interest left waiting on Strange’s beck and call. A waste of a very talented actress.

Unfortunately whether it was the 4DX, the visual set pieces did go on a bit. Once you’ve seen Strange pulled into various shapes and sizes through all the multi-coloured shapes and dimensions, I did get a little fidgety.

Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor were a great pairing BUT they didn’t quite get the screen time that I wanted and the 12 Years A Slave actor got a little lost in all the chaos.

However, it was still entertaining, funny and enthralling. Doctor Strange showed enough promise for things to come and is most definitely a welcome addition to the growing Marvel movie-verse.

3.5/5

Now, I don’t want to sound like a school teacher drolling out the same lecture. BUT it’s a Marvel movie; so what do we do when the credits roll?

That’s right. You park your butts on the seat and wait for the teasers. I won’t spoil any details BUT there are TWO! So don’t get up after the first one.

 

*NEW* TRAINWRECK REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it one big train wreck?

I was a little anxious to see this. I couldn’t get into Girls, didn’t mind Bridesmaids but have always found Apatow’s works a little hit and miss.

BUT it’s always good to be proved wrong. Move over, Miss McCarthy. I have a new lady in my life. Well played, Miss Schumer.

Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman (Amy Schumer) may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy (Bill Hader).

It’s hardly perfect but I can actually say that I came out of the cinema smiling for the right reasons.

I wasn’t convinced by the opening as we watch a young Amy and Quinn (Brie Larson) being educated by their deadbeat dad (Colin Quinn) after being caught cheating. His analogy using dolls was hilarious.

From that moment, we see the anti-monogamy chants drilled into a young Amy Schumer. 20-odd years down the line and we have our protagonist. Sleeping around, getting drunk, and effing jeffing. I’ve never really found that stuff funny. It got a little repetitive BUT it introduced the selfish and quick witted monster perfectly. Her one liners rolled off a little too fast for me. They didn’t really flow.

HOWEVER, once the film found its tempo, I enjoyed it. Schumer’s improvisation and messing around were generally on the ball. There were patches where she went on just a little bit. There was a moment where Larson and Schumer were looking at pictures of their mother and Amy starts talking about her boobs. It ruined a nice moment and wasn’t that funny.

It’s always a gamble on calling a scene when you’re firing off belters; “Stop walking like the Hulk. I can see that you’re mad”. BUT what helped was that Schumer was assisted by a surprisingly funny supporting cast. John Cena. Words escape me. He was absolutely brilliant. Some of the best acting I’ve seen him do. EVER. Well, since WWE.

He stole every scene from failing at dirty talk in the bedroom to his homo-erotic put downs during an altercation at the cinema. I also loved the short film being played in the cinema scene. The “pretentious” Dog Walker skit featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei got a chuckle. If anything, I wanted to see more of that.

Tilda Swinton as Amy’s boss Dianna was a mixed bag for me. Her put downs and random story telling were bloody mental. BUT I couldn’t get over her raspy Cockney accent. She made the regulars in Eastenders look like Oxford scholars. What was she playing at?

There wasn’t enough of SNL’s Vanessa Bayer for me as Amy’s naive work colleague. LeBron James was very funny. Not all athletes can make the transition to the big screen but he nailed it! From his strop about Downton Abbey to his endless scrimping and bickering over paying the bill. Scrimping? With all those millions? Come on.

It was also good to see Bill Hader playing it straight faced. It was a fresh change and proved the guy can do deadpan and do it well. The crazier moments were certainly left for Miss Schumer. And she most certainly delivered. They had excellent chemistry which really made their inevitable pairing that much more enjoyable.

My main problem with Apatow’s movies is the running length. This is 40 and Funny People were okay films but went on far too long. This film did not need to be two hours long. After the hour marker with the relationship unwittingly taking hold, things did slacken.

It’s all relatable as Amy tries to fight her feelings but it wasn’t very funny. Easygoing enough. I had hoped that the scenes with Brie Larson would have been more entertaining. If it wasn’t for the odd witticism from Schumer, I would have cut them. And things did seem to take a more serious turn.

The subplot involving their dad in a care home never really got going for me. Amy’s character had more than enough flaws to keep things watchable. It felt tacked on and did hamper things. Even if Method Man was his nurse. You read that right.

BUT luckily the film found a second wind as Amy inevitably goes out of her way to complicate matters. The squabbling and tests certainly added an extra depth to the couple. BUT the only problem was that the end result was always going to be the same.

The closing scene was unbelievably corny. I mean it totally fit for all the in-jokes that Schumer and Hader had between each other. BUT at the same time, it didn’t quite fit the overall tone of the film after such a serious middle act with Amy re-evaluating her life. It was all or nothing.

When it’s funny, it’s on fire. When it’s not, it’s a little more testing but certainly watchable. I’ll be more looking forward to Schumer’s next offering.

A trainwreck? Hardly.

3/5

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

grand-budapest-hotel

Grand . . . to look at but beneath it’s eye catching decor, it doesn’t quite match your expectation and leaves a little to be desired. Hardly a film I would revisit but not bad for a weekend break, if you get my drift.

Right enough wordplay. This is really down to how much of a Wes Anderson fan, you are. Obviously, not as much as I thought. Wes Anderson already has an extensive collection attached to his name; The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom to name a few. I personally didn’t mind Tenenbaums and Zissou but felt they were patchy and a little overhyped. Great to look at, with the occasional laugh but missing something. The film that delivered for me was the underrated stop motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was eccentric, rapid, zany and hilarious. From the trailers, I hoped the Grand Budapest would follow a similar vein, but alas darlings, it falls short. It’s not all ghastly, however. I may pick at Anderson but one thing I’ve always loved with his films is his ambition and the ability to tell stories in such a different manner.

As soon as the film begins, all the Anderson traits are there (Watch out! It’s going to be a bit film academic-y here); the handmade aesthetic, signature curios and saturated colours. The hotel really is grand, bold, with it’s lavish decor and endless Shining-esque hallways. A feast for the eyes, bright, colourful. Every frame rammed with concierge, people and if not that, crazy props. It’s a little mad to start, but sets up what to expect from an Anderson film. From the get go, we’re presented with a complex narrative within a narrative within a narrative, as we follow several different people (A strange girl in a cemetery, to a renowned author (Tom Wilkinson), to a 20 year flashback of said author in the form of Jude Law in a rendez-vu with a recluse and owner of a failing hotel, named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham – Homeland) in the middle of nowhere)

The gist, and more importantly, the main story flashes back to the 1930s, focusing on the adventures of the legendary GBH concierge, Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and his loyal lobby boy, a young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as they must deal with the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, as well as battle for an enormous family fortune, all against the backdrop of a dramatically changing Continent impacted by war.

The talented ensemble that Anderson has at his disposal makes for some surprising roles, and expected ones. The main man that stands out is the eccentric, charismatic and flamboyant Monsieur Gustave played with aplomb by ol’ Voldy himself, Ralph Fiennes. His delivery and witticisms are fantastic. There is great chemistry and camaraderie between him and Revolori, who makes an impressive debut performance. They are a great duo to watch. It all starts off quite light, easygoing with Zero being mentored by Gustave, which with the material and extensive cast, Anderson is allowed to wonder off at random tangents. However, it does have the tendency to drag and some parts come off a little hit and miss. As well as there being a checklist for Anderson traits, there has got to be one for the number of regulars he manages to grab to appear in this.

The film kicks off when Gustave is accused of killing the frail Madame D (Tilda Swinton) for her fortune. Kudos to the make up team for turning Swinton into the overanxious, love smitten pensioner. Once the chase is on and backstabbing begins, it all makes for a mad old ride. Anderson excels in his set pieces, which makes up for the more comical moments; most notably in the unintended hotel shoot out, the ski slope chase (which is in a similar vein to that of Mr. Fox). The elongated sequence in which Gustave must meet up with a secret contact in a monastery was a particular highlight and was almost Pythonesque. The elongated sequence with the numerous referrals to numerous concierge members just to get faces in, not so much.

The tone of the film is a little messy. It goes from whimsical, slapstick to dark and macabre. A bizarre and rather intimidating encounter between Madame D’s scorned son, (played superbly by Adrien Broody. If anyone can play a creep, it would be him), his relentlessly grim knuckle dust wearing henchman (gruesomely played to perfection by Willem Dafoe) and the oblivious lawyer (Jeff Goldblum) veers off from darkly comical to a suspenseful cat and mouse sequence with a feeble escape attempt that wasn’t very handy, shall I say? Anderson delicately attempts to balance the tone but at times, it’s unexpected and for a minute, you think, “Am I watching the same film?”. The prison sequence is brilliantly executed and funny to boot, if a little dark with a surprise cameo role. It’s a bit all over the place. Fiennes’ finesse and comic delivery is the much needed carrier and catalyst of this movie. When it’s funny, it brings out the odd chuckle, most notably with a funeral punch up and mad race across the Continent from a crazy collection of coppers under the leadership of the always talented Edward Norton.

I didn’t expect the darker elements, which made up for a meandering pace. However, it felt a little Midsummer Murder-ish to me. A bit OTT. But then this is Anderson. If you can accept that for some of the film’s more crazier and stranger elements and are an avid lover of his previous works, this one will go straight into your collection but if you’re still on the fence, this one might not help in pushing you for or against him. I felt the romance between Revolori and Saoirse Ronan got pushed back to the fold, which questioned its existence to begin with, which is a shame because the pair had good chemistry. There are so many faces and characters that others you want to see more of, disappear or don’t get enough of the screen, while others you can’t help but wonder why they’re there in the first place. The little things are what make it for me with Anderson. I really wanted a live animation of Mr Fox, with its eccentric fast paced zippy chaotic madness. Although I got that at parts, it just fell short for me and what was the point of the opening with the first narrator? It’s Anderson. Somehow not a good enough answer for me.

For the Anderson addicts, right up your street. For everybody else . . . well, it’s different. 3/5.

 Currently ranks #52 out of 152!