From visionary South Korean director Bong Joon Ho comes a film that defies categorization. “Okja” has elements of family entertainment, sci fi fantasy, cultural satire and more all wrapped up in a cautionary tale about genetically modified meat. It’s a big, handsome and entertaining adventure that not so subtly poises questions about the relationship between corporations and where are food comes from.
In its opening minutes the story of a girl and her super-pig feels almost like a Disney movie. 14-year-old Mija (An Seo Hyun) and Okja, a gigantic genetically engineered swine bred to become a food source, live a quiet life in the far-flung mountains of South Korea. They romp and play, bonded by ten years together and the animal’s gentle, protective nature. They are a human-porcine Milo and Otis, inseparable until Mirando Corporation CEO Lucy (Tilda Swinton) recalls Okja is back to the United States.
Created by in an agrichemical laboratory in New Jersey, the adorable Ojka was created to “consume less feed, produce less excretions” and to make people fall in love with an animal they are going to end up eating. “Soon supermarkets will be filled with their flesh and their organs.” Transported to New York, the animal is slated to become the kind face of Lucy’s plan to end world hunger while increasing her company’s bottom line. Working with Mirando but wrestling with the ethics of the situation is celebrity zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (an unhinged Jake Gyllenhaal).
Concerned with appearances Lucy tries to exploit the Mija’s and Okja’s relationship for PR purposes but Mija has other ideas. Working to make sure Okja doesn’t end up on a giant BBQ, Mija comes to the rescue, aided by the Animal Liberation Front, a crafty and idealistic group led by Jay (Paul Dano) and Red (Lily Collins).
“Okja” features strong work from Swinton—in a double role, playing Lucy and her even more cutthroat sister Nancy—and a wild performance from Gyllenhaal but it really is all about the bond between the girl and her super-pig. An Seo Hyun’s moon face conveys her pure and sincere love for Okja but it is the beast itself who brings heart to the movie. A combo of CGI and puppetry Okja is a strange animal but a tender one. He rescues Mija from danger and later, when she returns the favour, the bond between them is palpable.
That relationship smooths the way for the rest of this uneven but entertaining movie. The way “Okja” veers between action and comedy, horror and social commentary could lead to whiplash but it is never less than audacious.
Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
Long before he made “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” Wright conjured up the idea for the wild ride while he listening to the John Spencer Explosion track “Bellbottoms” on repeat. He visualized a car chase to the song’s choppy beat and the idea of a young getaway driver on a doomed caper was born. Question is, does Wright keep the pedal to the metal or is “Baby Driver” out of gas?
“The Fault in Our Stars” star Ansel Elgort is the title character, an orphaned get-a-way driver with tinnitus who owes gang boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) a favour. Baby wants out of the life of crime and into the arms of diner waitress Debora (Lily James). Before they can run off to the happily-ever-after, however, he must square his debt with the older gangster.
The gangster uses different crews for every robbery, but Baby is always the driver because he’s “Mozart in a Go Cart. “He had an accident when he was a kid,” says Doc. “Still has a hum in the drum. Plays music to drown it out. And that’s what makes him the best.”
With his debt cleared after a wild and woolly robbery, Doc makes Baby an offer he can’t refuse, a gig doing another get-a-way job. It’s a job he can’t turn down. “What’s it going to be?” Doc asks, “behind the wheel or in a wheelchair?”
“One more job and we’re straight,” says Doc. “Now I don’t think I need to give you the speech about what would happen if you say no, how I could break your legs and kill everyone you love because you already know that, don’t you?”
Teaming up with an unhinged band of baddies, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and loose cannon Bats (Jamie Foxx), Baby soon discovers this heist is not like any that came before. Perhaps it’s because he now has Deborah on his mind, or perhaps it’s because his partners-in-crime are a few spark plugs short of an engine block.
Even when there are no cars on screen (which isn’t very often) “Baby Driver” is in motion. Working with Sia choreographer Ryan Heffington, Wright has created a stylized dance between his camera and actors. It’s frenetic, melodic and just a dance step or two away from being the world’s first car chase musical.
Elgort is the engine that drives the movie. With dark Ray Bans and tousled hair he recalls Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” His character has suffered great loss and copes by thrill chasing set to a soundtrack provided by stolen iPods. Baby doesn’t say much—“You know why they call him Baby, right?” says Buddy. “Still waiting on his first words.”—but the character takes a journey, physical and metaphysical. He has a wide arc summed up by the old cliché action speak louder than words.
Spacey is more verbose. He plays Doc as a gangster who talks like a character out of a Raymond Chandler movie. Instead of “get rid of the car,” Doc instructs Baby to “sunset that car.” It’s a small but important role that adds flair and some laughs to the film.
James is all sweetness and light as Debora, a woman whose life is changed in the space of just a few days. Hamm, Foxx and González, meanwhile, bring various levels of badassery to contrast Baby’s ever-developing sense of morality. The movie’s tone is light, but this isn’t an outright comedy like Wright’s other films. Hamm and Foxx toss off the odd funny line but both bring the fire when necessary, bringing a kinetic undertone of danger to every scene they’re in.
“Baby Driver” succumbs to cliché near the end but for most of its running time is an exhilarating ride, fuelled by a tank full of adrenaline.
A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the eye scorching visuals of “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the weekend’s big releases including the heavy metal thunder of “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption, the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down” and the documentary “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography.”
Audiences complain that Hollywood has no new ideas, that everything is a rebrand, reboot or remake. “They don’t make ‘em like they used to!” they say.
The “Transformers” franchise should encapsulate everything that is wrong with summer blockbusters. It’s a story based on a line of toys, it values spectacle over story and the paper thin characters feel more like place holders for the action than real people and yet, here we are on episode five, with (according to director Michael Bay) fourteen more in the pipeline.
In fact, they do make ‘em like they used to. You could be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu while watching “Transformers: The Last Knight.” The “Transformers” movies are remarkably consistent. They are heavy metal filmmaking, all bluster and retina roasting visuals and people eat them up.
People go see “Transformers” for the robots—their transformation scenes remain the coolest thing about the series—and the new movie doesn’t disappoint, creating a new backstory for its mechanical stars. According to the new movie the Transformers were friendly with King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable and fought the Nazis during World War II.
A decade into Bay’s franchise good guy leader of the Autobots Optimus Prime has high tailed it back to his home planet Cybertron. Humans are at war with the Transformers—“Two species at war, one flesh, one metal.”—and the future of the world is at stake. As a short prologue with King Arthur suggests, the key to Earth’s survival lies in the secret history of the Transformers and a 1600-year-old secret artefact. To unlock this mystery enter Autobot ally, inventor and single father Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Transformers historian and English lord Sir Edmund Exposition (Anthony Hopkins)—he’s got some mansplainin’ to do!—Oxford University Professor of English Literature (and descendant of the most famous wizard of all time other than Harry Potter) Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) and Autobot Bumblebee (voice of Erik Aadahi).
Director Michael Bay has finally taken the Transformers where they always should’ve been, to the Realm of the Ridiculous. Any movie based on a line of toys is bound to be silly but this may be one of the silliest films ever made. From a prologue set in the Middle Ages and robots hanging out on Cuban beaches to a wisecracking Merlin the Magician and a 700-year-old opera singing robot, this is wacky stuff.
Is it good stuff, you may ask? It doesn’t take itself as seriously as some of the other entries in the series, so that’s good but like the other “Transformers” movies, it’s too long and gets lost in an orgy of action and gravity defying stunts.
Hopkins seems to be having fun cavorting with his sassy C-3PO wannabe Cogman (Jim Carter) but it’s a thankless job. He’s there mostly to provide the convoluted backstory. As a member of the secret society to protect the history of Transformers, which also includes suck luminaries as Harriet Tubman and Stephen Hawking among others, he’s the keeper of the info and boy, does he over share. He scrolls through hundreds of years of nonsensical Transformers history but at least he does says thing like, “It was alien power or as they knew it in those days, magic,” in his distinctive Hannibal Lecter voice.
It’s all a bit much. With a story this convoluted why bother with the story at all? Those who want to see the Transformers battle will not be disappointed. The chunks of metal are cooler and than ever before and when Hopkins isn’t explaining what’s going on the robots are going at it.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is Bay’s farewell to the franchise as director (he’ll stay on as a producer) and he has not held back. It’s heavy metal filmmaking, loud and proud, like a drum solo that goes on for just a hair too long.
Sam Elliott, he of the easy drawl, smoky voice and horseshoe moustache, has made almost fifty films but has rarely ever been the above-the-title star. In “The Hero” he plays Lee Hayden, an aging Western film star, diagnosed with cancer. He’s in almost every frame, bringing an easy charm that solidifies his leading man status while smoothing over the film’s rough patches.
“The Hero” is a story of a man who can see the end of the road. Well known but underemployed and living off residual cheques from his heyday, the one time movie star now does voice overs for commercials to pay the bills. When he isn’t shilling for Lone Star BBQ Sauce—“The perfect pard’ner for your ribs.”—he’s smoking dope with his friend, former “Cattle Drive” co-star and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman). Through Jeremy the seventy-one-year-old meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a stand-up comic more than half his age.
As a new life of sorts is beginning with Charlotte a cancer diagnoses—“One of the worst you could hope for,” he says.—prompts him to look for a “chance to write another chapter” with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) and possibly find some career defining work to leave behind as a legacy.
Writer/director Brett Haley knows how to make the most of Elliott’s weary but stately presence. The pair worked together on Haley’s last film, “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” another look at aging and legacy. Both films rely on clichés to forward their stories, but both films are saved by strong central performances from their stars—Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” Elliott in “the Hero”—who bring warmth and believability, not to mention high powered and often untapped star power, to their roles.
When the film falls into the romantic / comeback template already established by films like “Tender Mercies” and “The Wrestler,” Elliott’s quest for redemption keeps it from becoming a maudlin look at Hayden’s twilight years.
In the opening moments of “47 Metres Down” a strawberry margarita is spilled in a swimming pool, leaving a blood red crimson cloud in the water. It’s a not-so-subtle bit of foreshadowing of what’s to come in a movie where two American sisters become chum for some hungry sharks. Appropriately the movie hits theatres during Shark Week and the 42 anniversary of the release of “Jaws.”
Set during a fun-and-sun vacation in Mexico, sisters Lisa (the lovesick, uptight one) and Kate (the fun loving one), played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, are on a quick get-a-way to heal Lisa’s broken heart. Her fiancé has dumped her and she hopes to make him jealous with social media pics of her whooping it up on a resort. One night in, the sisters hit the clubs, meet two handsome locals (Santiago Segura and Yani Gellman) who convince them to go diving with sharks the next day.
Despite Lisa’s misgivings they go ahead with the dive, which essentially sees them dumped into the ocean protected only by an old rusty enclosure. “It’s like you’re going to the zoo only you’re in the cage.” At first everything is fine. “It’s so cool,” says Kate in another obvious bit of foreshadowing. “I could stay down here forever.” The winch snaps sending them plummeting 47 metres to the ocean floor. Panic and bad decisions ensue, leaving them with just minutes to find a way to navigate through the sharks (and red herrings) to the surface.
Described as “Gravity, but underwater,” it’s a race against time as must escape before their oxygen runs out.
The amount of times people say, “Relax you’re going to have fun,” to Lisa is directly proportional to the amount of trouble she encounters. That is to say, she’s in a heap of trouble and we’re down there with her. Director Johannes Roberts submerges the camera about twenty-five minutes in and keeps the action waterlogged for the remainder of the tight eighty-nine minute running time. As an anxiety-inducing soundtrack grates in the background he plays on primal fears, the dark, the unrelenting power of the ocean and women against nature.
It’s fairly intense although I couldn’t help but think that it might have worked better as a silent movie. Moore and Holt spend much of the film grunting, yelling and making sounds of distress but, to paraphrase another movie tagline, deep underwater no one can hear you scream. Imagine the deafening silence and the horror of not being able to communicate in such dire circumstances.
“47 Metres Down” is an underwater exploitation b-movie that plays up on the archetype of the shy character who finds hidden reserves of courage. But, and there will be no spoilers here, it makes just enough unexpected choices along the way to keep things interesting.