Monday, 3 July 2017

NETFLIX MOVIE REVIEW: OKJA


10/10

In the near future there's shortage of food on the planet. A solution comes in the form of Okja - a genetically modified pig who is raised in the Korean mountains, far from civilisation. There Okja befriends Mija, a young girl who becomes Okja’s only family. The idyllic life in the mountains abruptly ends when the company men, who own Okja, come back for their trophy. As Okja is kidnapped Mija follows her to Seoul and then to New York. In her quest to bring Okja home, she will stop at nothing, even making a deal with “the devil”.

OKJA was the first Netflix movie that competed for the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year and it’s no wonder that  it had the ambition to do so. With its Disney cutesy-pie premise it does not flinch from showing the dark side of life. This is definitely not a family type movie, with many gory and unsettling moments. In fact OKJA is one of those few movies that does not clearly define its target audience. How very Korean of it!

I have been a champion of Korean cinema for more than a decade now and OKJA is proof that an unusual movie can get a world-wide appreciation. OKJA does not pretend for a second that it is there for more than to entertain, but when the choice comes between another action set piece or dramatic element, it always chooses the latter. The director Bong Joon Ho is a household name in Korea. His monster movie “THE HOST” made a big splash all around the world, allowing him to shoot a blockbuster “THE SNOWPIERCER”, a post apocalyptic thriller with Chris Evans, Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton. His films were always a combinations of genres, allowing for unique storytelling. OKJA is no exception.

The movie boasts some great performances. The focus is on Tilda Swinton as a CEO of a conglomerate corporation who is trying to suppress her psychotic tendencies, but by doing so only making things worse for the world, and Jake Gyllenhaal is unrecognisable as an evil Steve Irwin type of animal lover celebrity. They both are a pleasure to watch.


With its sensitive subject matter the movie never falters, always keeping the balance of scary, dramatic, cute and sad. In the the age of superhero movies, it is refreshing to see a film, where the protagonist is not trying to save the world, but one life instead. OKJA manages to ask big questions without compromising on action, drama and adventure. And this is what makes it a worthy movie experience.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

MOVIE REIVEW: THE MUMMY



7/10

Treasure hunter, Nick Morton, stumbles on a secret tomb that was supposed to imprison an evil princess Ahmanet. When he accidentally releases the monster he unleashes an evil that can take over the world. Nick, who is used to thinking only of himself, has to put his own interests aside and fight for his life and the lives of those around him. Will he be able to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world?


THE MUMMY is an unapologetic summer blockbuster fairy tale that tries to borrow more from Indiana Jones movies than from Universal Studios classic monster tales. Unfortunately none of the set pieces, including the anti-gravity stunt, in a real plane nicknamed "vomit comet”, is a standout.


The movie has good pacing with a fine dosage of humour. Tom Cruise plays the comic version of his "action hero" type but comes up short on charisma at the times of need. Unfortunately, the chemistry between him and his leading lady Annabelle Wallis is non existent, but as protagonists they work well together.


Sofia Boutella as The Mummy is the real stand out here. She manages to inspire enough creepiness and tragedy to make this monster a well fleshed out character, but her motives are not always clear, and the final goal lacks logic. Would she really fight so hard to give the real power to someone else, in particular "a male"? That does not make a first ever female mummy a feminist, which is a real shame!


All in all THE MUMMY is breezy fun that does not shy away from horror when the script requires it. It's a horror film you can take your kids to and have a great time - This is the real value of the new MUMMY.

Monday, 12 June 2017

KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW: THE MERCILESS



8/10

The young criminal Hyun-Soo is a youthful and ambitious prisoner who does not seem to think too much of the consequences of his actions. Jae-Ho is a career criminal and a mobster. He rules the prison with an iron hand.  An unlikely empathy between the two men grows and they decide to take on the world when leaving the prison. But both of them are  hiding dangerous secrets. When all is unveiled the truth is doomed to destroy them both...

THE MERCILESS is a gangster action drama film, a genre South Korea excels in. It is miraculous that after so many movies the gangster theme feels so fresh, and the reason for this is the carefully executed script and characters one can't help, but care for deeply. The strangely meaningful friendship, a borderline love affair between the older gangster and the young rookie has genuine chemistry. The sexual tension is only implied, but the bond the two strike is comparable to the one between lovers.

The movie is carefully structured, with short informative flashbacks, that allows one to look with new eyes at how the story has progressed, each time revealing new information and new accents that change perspective. 

THE MERCILESS is a violent film, but perhaps is less so than many other of the same genre. The best thing about it is how the script avoids cliches, constantly giving some fresh twist, until the rather familiar finale - a traditional Korean climax of heartbreak and devastation.


Boasting fantastic cinematography, likeable performances and an extremely well written script, THE MERCILESS may be the best alternative to the American blockbuster, if you want some soul and thought in your action.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: RAW



8/10

Justine is starting at veterinary school and it's the first time she has been away from her controlling parents, who insist on her being an absolute vegetarian. It's the first week and she has already tasted a piece of raw meat. This creates a constant craving. As the attraction to her roommate grows stronger, and the competition with the older sister becomes too much to bear, how long will she be able to fight the hunger for human flesh?

RAW became infamous when at numerous premiers people walked out, vomited and fainted. This created a reputation of a "must see" film for any horror fan. In fact RAW has only a couple of disturbing moments, and even those are dependant on the circumstances of the scene - the gore is much less disturbing than the predicament the characters find themselves in. 

Horrors aside, RAW is a feministic tale about being different and learning things about oneself in the process, that may not quite please you. It is also a tale of inheritance, and of what it’s like being “a prisoner of birth”. In France, where the class system is stronger than ever, this is a very familiar issue. Once you are a part of a certain circle it is almost impossible to break free.


Plotwise, RAW has a few surprises in store. The script is more complex than it seems at first sight and the final revelation, if not entirely unexpected, is a satisfying one. All in all RAW feels like a very complete piece of moviemaking, deep enough not to be boring; entertaining, but with a clear message and a punch in the gut when you least expect it. It is designed to shock you to make you think. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: BATTLE OF MEMORIES


7/10

In the future a new healthcare procedure is introduced - the unwanted memories of an individual can be erased at a price. Feng, a successful writer, has undergone the procedure, but has to come back for his memories - the only way his wife will divorce him is if he has all the memories of her restored. Things get twisted however when, instead of his memories, Feng is exposed to the memories of a serial killer. The only way to catch him is to remember everything. But as the killer's memories bring out violent behaviour in Feng, it may be not too long before he himself is turned into a monster. 

The best thing about THE BATTLE OF MEMORIES is how fresh the screenplay feels. It is a small budget production that puts up a sophisticated and ambitious thriller with a few interesting sci fi ideas, and a compelling mystery. The story loses momentum somewhere in the middle, but recovers towards the end, nicely wrapping up most of the details that at first seemed unclear or out of place. The red herrings and diversions will confuse even the most seasoned mystery lover. During most of the film you do feel like you are one step ahead of the storytelling, but this proves to be deceptive. Even with only a few suspects you will not know the identity of the killer until the very end.

The film is shot in a dark pallet, with barely any sunshine and all the memory sequences (and there are a lot of them) are all in black in white. The dialogue is minimalistic and there's a feeling it only exists to serve the plot. The futuristic setting is so simple, it seems it is rather serving the budget than the plot, but the camera work is eye candy and redeems the failure of expensive props.

BATTLE OF MEMORIES is a nowhere close to being a competitor to Hollywood blockbusters but is quirky enough to have fun with. The plot is unusual enough to warrant a remake. In this case, with a bigger budget, better acting and brushed-up script, it may be an improvement on the  original.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: GOING IN STYLE


7/10

Willie, Joe and Albert are Brooklyn seniors and down on their luck. Their pensions have been cancelled, the mortgages are in arrears and it's about time to do something about it. How about robbing a bank? Testing their skills on the local supermarket and failing miserably, our trio employs a professional criminal adviser. Will our oldies be able to rob a bank and get away with it?

The world had moved on and it’s enough to see Michael Caine (84), Morgan Freeman (79) and Alan Arkin (83) to realize that the old age is not what it used to be. These "youngsters" are more than capable of robbing a bank, but as we are in the realm of a Hollywood comedy we get a few funny gags, light thrills and a couple of sentimental moments that are enough to makes us feel a little bit better about ourselves and the world in general.

The senior stars milk their charisma and status to the fullest and there is nothing wrong with that. The first time director and a full time comedian Zach Braff knows his audience and, without overdoing it, gives us a focused, funny and a good nostalgic movie. It's easy to watch and the characters are easy to relate to.


This film will never make it to your top ten of the year, however it never disappoints. There are a few missed opportunities and the script never tries to break any new ground, but it all could be to the benefit of the final result. This is the sort of movie that's safe to show to your grandparents, but the little kids will like it too. It may not be a great example of movie making, but a fun piece of entertainment that many other comedies should look up to.