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Posts Tagged ‘Tilda Swinton’

Okra,An Seo Hyun

“OKJA” My rating: C (Now on Netflix)

118 minutes | No MPAA rating

Following up his multi-layered sci-fi extravaganza “Snowpiercer,” Korean auteur Joon-ho Bong delivers the Netflix original movie “Okja.”

Like its predecessor it blends dystopian imagery, social criticism and first-rate special effects, this time to tell the tale of a girl and her best friend, an elephant-sized pig-creature.

Unlike “Snowpiercer,” though, the pieces don’t fit together. Satire, childlike innocence and violence collide in an adventure nearly derailed by jarring tonal shifts.

The film begins with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), the head of the massive agribusiness that bears her family name (it sounds like Monsanto for a reason), announcing to the world that her firm has developed a super pig that will solve all our food needs.  To kick off the project she is sending baby pigs to farmers in 26 countries; over 10 years these porkers will be monitored as they are reared under local animal husbandry conditions.

The piglet Okja is blessed to be sent to the mountains of Korea where she is seen to by young Mija (An Seo Hyun) and her grandfather.  Mirja and the massive Okja lead a life of bucolic bliss.  They are best friends — though Bong is careful not to ascribe to Okja human intellect.

Of course, Mija doesn’t know that her big bud is destined to become superbacon.

“Okra” treads a familiar path when it becomes the tale of a fugitive child and her pet outrunning the evil forces of grown-up life.  But Bong isn’t really all that interested in that plot line, preferring to devote much screen time to a ham-handed (sorry about that) satire of corporate greed, human vanity and nitwit idealism.

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Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch

“DOCTOR STRANGE” My rating: B-

115 minutes |MPAA rating: PG-13

At this stage of the game Marvel movies have fallen into a predictable pattern, especially the third-act city-leveling smackdown (it’s like it’s guaranteed in the Constitution or something).

About two years ago I decided I was over the whole superhero thing. Unless, of course, you can show me something new.

“Dr. Strange” takes me halfway there, giving us a spell-casting protagonist who has more in common with Harry Potter than your usual Spandexed bicep bulger.

It’s got a solid first hour in which our ego-driven hero (see “Iron Man”) recognizes  the errors of his ways and gets his head turned around.

And a second hour in which a lot of shit gets blown up.

The wild card here is Benedict Cumberbatch, PBS’s current Sherlock and an actor of such range and integrity that I’m willing to give a chance to just about any project to which he lends his name.

Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a ground-breaking neurosurgeon. Even among his self-aggrandizing colleagues he’s noted as a self-serving asshole who peers down his aquiline nose at lesser mortals and lives the life of a solitary genius.  In the past he had a fling with surgeon Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), but his most enduring relationships are with his fancy sports car, plush apartment and his own self.

A highway accident leaves Strange with crushed paws. Unable to hold a scalpel, he sees  his life dripping away and goes on an international hunt for some sort of treatment that can reverse his physical infirmities.

Which is how he ends up in Katmandu in an esoteric school run by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, bald and looking like a visiting space alien).  The Ancient One and her lieutenant Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) put our hero through a physical and mental marathon, breaking down his sense of self, opening him up to life on the astral plane, and filling his head — and the screenplay — with enough metaphysical mumbo jumbo to make Scientology seem a viable option.

 

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Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

“A BIGGER SPLASH”  My rating: B 

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Among the many on-screen personas of Ralph Fiennes are terrifying mob boss, casually cruel concentration camp commander, serial killer and silky aristocrat.

But nothing he’s done has quite prepared us for the acting dervish on display in “A Bigger Splash.”

In Luca Guadagnino’s steamy and visually ravishing display of psychological noir, Fiennes plays Harry, a renowned music producer who unexpectedly drops in on his old flame, rock star Marianne (Guadagnino regular Tilda Swinton), and her paramour, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Marianne and Paul are living in glorious isolation in a hilltop villa on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, where they lounge about naked and make furious love in any and all rooms. Their choice of a retreat suggests they just want to be left alone, but neither can turn down Harry, a natural-born glad-handing speed freak who guzzles vino, pees where he likes, and is determined to be the life of the party.

For the music mogul was once Marianne’s lover and the force behind her international career. And as their relationship was winding down, Harry groomed Paul, a documentary filmmaker, to take his place in Marianne’s bed.

So suddenly the couple has as  a houseguest the motormouthed Harry, an interloper who seizes control of Marianne’s record collection, buzzing from one topic to another, erupting in rock ‘n’ roll survival stories and doing an insanely cool and ridiculously sinuous open-shirted dance to the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.”

David Kajganich’s screenplay — an adaptation of the 1968 French film “The Swimming Pool” — centers on the question of just why Harry has shown up at this time.

For Marianne and Paul are extremely vulnerable. She’s had throat surgery to reverse the damage done by her larynx-shredding singing style. There’s no way of knowing if she’ll be able to resume her career; in the meantime she has been ordered not to speak above a whisper.

This prompts the irreverent Harry to ask Paul: “Does she write your name when she comes?”

 

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George Clooney

George Clooney

“HAIL, CAESAR!” My rating: C+ 

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” isn’t much of a movie, but as an affectionate (mostly) valentine to the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking, it’s a generally enjoyable goof.

The threadbare plot devised by Joel and Ethan Coen provides the siblings with multiple opportunities to go behind the scenes at the massive (and fictional) Capitol Movies studio in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

We get to watch as America’s fantasies are brought to life. But as with sausages and laws, sometimes it’s best not to know how they’re made.

Kicking the yarn into motion is the kidnapping of stiffly handsome matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), whose current assignment is to play a Roman centurion in the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar!”

The studio’s production chief, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) gets to work recovering his ransomed movie star.

That’s about it for story.

The pleasures of “Hail, Caesar!” (the Cohen Brothers movie, not the “tale of the Christ” being filmed on the Capitol lot) are to be found in its satire/celebration of iconic Hollywood personalities and situations.

Early on Eddie must convene a meeting of faith leaders who have been asked to comment on the screenplay for “Hail, Caesar!” — it’s the movie’s funniest scene and a wickedly barbed sendup of institutionalized religion.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum

Eddie must contend with the potty-mouthed Esther Williams-type star of aquatic musicals (Scarlett Johansson) whose mermaid outfit now won’t fit because of pregnancy (she’s unmarried).

He drops off the ransom money on a soundstage where a Gene Kelly-ish song and dance man (Channing Tatum) is shooting a big production number about a crew of sailors dismayed at the prospect of eight months at sea without women.  Not only are Tatum’s acrobatic musical comedy skills first rate, but the slyly homoerotic elements of the dance routine suggests that these Navy swabs will find ways to let off steam during their voyage.

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John Hurt, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell in "Snowpiercer"

John Hurt, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell in “Snowpiercer”

“SNOWPIERCER” My rating: B (Opens July 2 at the Tivoli, Screenland Armour and Leawood)

126 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Allegorical sci-fi doesn’t get much more headsmackingly ambitious than “Snowpiercer,” a claustrophobic epic from Korean director Joon-ho Bong.

Joon-ho got a toehold in the American market with “The Host,” a superlative monster movie that mixed genuine thrills with offbeat humor. He followed that up by going in exactly the opposite direction with “Mother,” which follows the trials of an unsophisticated Korean woman whose only son is accused of murder.

“Snowpiercer,” though, is his most ambitious movie to date, one filled with big-name actors (Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris, for instance, take small but pivotal roles) and overflowing with political and social satire. It’s as if “Das Boot” were mated with Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”

In the near future the world’s great powers try to deal with global warming by shooting into the atmosphere rockets filled with some newfangled chemical that’s supposed to lower Earth’s temperature.  It works all too well, plunging the planet into a new Ice Age that kills just about everything.

But 1,000 lucky — or maybe not so lucky — survivors have found shelter in an ultra high-tech, mile-long train that runs on nuclear energy and for the last 18 years has been roaring unceasingly on a non-stop circuit around the Earth.

We’re first introduced to this brave new world at the back end of the train, where the unwashed proletariat squirm in an existence only a dozen feet wide and hundreds of yards long. it’s like the world’s biggest submarine.

These poor bastards survive on gelatinous protein bars passed out by black-armored riot police who several times each day line everyone up for head counts. Now and then these thugs snatch young children and take them to the front of the train for purposes too unpleasant to contemplate.

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