Review: Okja

When a movie immediately makes you alter your lifestyle (as long as its a righteous change), then you have something very special on your hands. Now there will be plenty of people who will watch the exact same movie and not be equally affected, but that’s beside the point. I’ve been a meat-eater all of my life – but somehow Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja has genuinely made me become a vegetarian. And what makes my case better is that Okja is just an overall fantastic movie. So there.

We first meet the titular “super pig” – a delightful hippopotamus-like creature – as she plays with her lifelong friend Mija, a young girl who lives deep in the mountains with her grandfather. The two are inseparable, and before you know it you fall in love with sweet Okja, too.

Not only is the storytelling by Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-Ho just as charming and smartly childlike as Okja, but even the animation of the creature is breathtaking. Joon-Ho makes a point to include small details like showing delicate parcels of light running alongside Okja’s gray hide, and even a wonderfully goofy scene of excretion (trust me, it’s funny). All is seemingly well in their quiet life – until someone feels the need to disrupt it.

The arrival of eccentric animal rights activist Dr. Johnny Wilcox – played hilariously by Jake Gyllenhaal — is where things go terribly awry. The beloved creature is taken away, and Mija is forced to travel out of her home to save Okja. She meets up with a decades-old activist group, the Animal Liberation Front, who are determined to rescue the factory-made animals from slaughter.

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Early on, we get many worrying hints of widespread corruption and denial of unethical animal treatment by CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) – all of which are handled effortlessly by Joon-Ho. You laugh, cry, and are often disturbed by the film, but you can’t look away.

One of Okja‘s most surprising achievements is its ability to take a seemingly simple story about a girl and her animal friend, and turn it into something incredibly deep. It comments on corporations, ethics of food consumption, the bias of media coverage, and so much more. And – even more incredibly – it communicates those ideas with with the utmost charm and beauty. It felt like a perfect blend between Spielberg and Miyazaki.

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While the film also has a limited theatrical release, hopefully the heated controversy over its Netflix distribution will at least help it get more curious viewers in the long run. What I do hope, however, is that people do come to their senses and allow the wonderful Okja to be up for awards come Oscar season. Please, Academy. Please.

Rating: 4/4

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Review: Transformers: The Last Knight

No matter what anyone tells you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a dumb summer blockbuster. Nothing at all. There is, however, something wrong with trying to defend movies that reach a new level of stupidity and laziness that I didn’t even know existed. And Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight easily falls into that category.

This film not only marks the fifth entry in the Hasbro franchise, but also Bay’s (supposedly) final time being its overseer. The fourth installment, Age of Extinction, seemed as though Bay would be done after that 165-minute abomination. Sadly, he and Paramount decided to continue on with the same exact formula. As with any franchise, I hoped that Bay would try to reinvent what audiences could expect from a Transformers movie. But instead, Bay made The Last Knight just as bloated, boring and mindless as every entry before it.

What initially intrigued me about The Last Knight – being a huge fan of history – was the Medieval settings teased in the trailers. I, like most, could definitely get into giant robots attacking mighty castles or battling it out on the fields of England. And for a few short minutes, that’s exactly what we get. It’s just that as soon as Bay’s terrible sense of humor, unbalanced tone, and carefree nature concerning anything but creating a “spectacle” kick in, it’s game over for the audience.

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The Last Knight quickly transitions back to modern day (that’s not without adding a cringeworthy cameo by Stanley Tucci), and we meet back up with Mr. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). The aspiring inventor helps save a group of kids who are running from some type of poorly thought-out Homeland Security robot. He teams up with a few annoying, uninteresting characters as they try to (yet again) save the world. We travel across England, learning about the Transformers’ history — as told by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). All of it makes zero sense at face value, and even less when you try to think about it. Bay feels the need to throw a thousand ideas and plot points at once towards the audience, rather than letting a few specific ones sink in. So all that we’re left with is a mindbogglingly incoherent mess.

Considering Bay is five Transformers films in now, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s pretty much just treading water at this point. What does confuse me is that he seems to care deeply for the work he’s doing. He is an auteur director, for better or worse, and yet so many of his films still feel so empty. I would put The Last Knight at the top of that list — particularly since he assembled this 149-minute slog with such lazy, asinine direction. And his editing of story, character and theme (if any) are as equally weak. That dumbfounds me. Well, kind of. While Bay surely has some attachment to the iconic Hasbro franchise, he clearly enjoys getting to play with $200+ million much more.

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What’s most upsetting to me about this latest entry (and don’t worry, there will be at least one a year for the foreseeable future) is that I went in really wanting to like it. I knew most critics would bash it, but I didn’t want to be one of those people. There are moments in the third and fourth installments that showcase Bay’s unique sense of cinematic action and spectacle; I even think the first film is an overall enjoyable blockbuster. I just wonder if halfway through production on The Last Knight, Bay suddenly wished he could be someplace else, doing something completely different. I think it’s fair to say that since I was thinking the exact same thing.

Rating: 1/4

Episode 2: Transformers: The Last Knight and Retro Review – Pacific Rim

To all those who have already downloaded Episode 001: Cars 3 and Rough Night, thank you so much for your support!  But there’s no time to waste.  Looking forward, we hope to bring you an entertaining and informative each and every week.

We will be recording our second podcast episode the afternoon of Tuesday, June 27th. The movies being covered will be Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight and Guillermo Del Toro’s 2013 robot v monster epic, Pacific Rim.  Obviously the latter film is not a new release, but it will be the first of (hopefully) many “retro reviews,” which will be an older release that has some connection to the former.  We hope that introducing this new segment into the show will be an enjoyable and always unpredictable experience for the listeners.

And that’s not all!  Episode 002 will also feature a number of interesting news topics and discussion questions after the main reviews.  We had a lot of fun doing it in the first show, so this will more than likely become a permanent segment.

Look for Episode 002 on iTunes this coming week!  If you happened to miss the first episode, feel free to download and subscribe at the link below!  Thank you!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-film-buds-podcast/id1251074853

Episode 1: Cars 3 and Rough Night

The very first episode of The Film Buds podcast records Monday night, June 19th, 2017. Just in case you’re wanting to get a head start and know what we will be discussing along with the two movies listed above, here’s a brief schedule for the show! We hope you enjoy it!

Intro: Myself (Henry), Will and Paige will introduce ourselves, then discuss ambitions and ideas for the podcast. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long.

Review: Cars 3

Review: Rough Night

Recap: Discuss our favorite and least favorite movies of 2017 so far.

Discussion: Throw around a few fun discussion topics from friends. Sorry, it’s the first show, we don’t have too many fans yet. We will, though.

Other films and television: Talk about other things we’ve watched, the good and the bad.

Outro: Figure out which movie(s) we will review next, as well as any other in-house topics.

Thank you so much for your support, and we hope to be around for the foreseeable future. We love movies, so we’ll stick around until we get tired of them. Which will probably never happen. See you then!

Welcome to The Film Buds Podcast!

Hello, everyone!  The Film Buds Podcast will air its first show this coming week!  We will be revving our engines with Cars 3, and then will get a little crazy with Rough Night.  We will also discuss future ambitions for the podcast, do a quick recap of the summer movie season so far, and maybe cover a little bit of movie news as well!  Tune in soon! Thanks for your support!

Let’s talk movies!