Okja (2017)

Okja
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Writer: Joon-ho Bong, Jon Ronson
Cast: Seo-Hyun AhnHee-Bong ByunTilda SwintonGiancarlo EspositoJake GyllenhaalShirley HendersonSteven YeunPaul DanoLily CollinsJeong-eun Lee
Seen on: 12.7.2017
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Plot:
Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) lives with her grandfather Hee Bong (Hee-Bong Byun) and with Okja. Okja is a genetically modified breed of superpigs. To see how the animals fare, twelve of them have been placed in various situations worldwide to see what environment suits them best. It turns out that Okja is the winner. That means that they find themselves confronted with nature filmer Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has been sent by the corporation Okja actually belongs to to publicize the result of the contest. But even though Wilcox is not the most charming individual, he quickly becomes the least of Mija’s problems as she has to fight for Okja and their life together.

Okja is sweet and it has a great cast. It has a political message that it puts front and center, but unfortunately that message is muddled at the best of times and incomprehensible at other times. When you make a film that so obviously has something to say, when that something remains that unclear, the entire experience is frustrating and nothing else.

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Money Monster (2016)

Money Monster
Director: Jodie Foster
Writer: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham, Lenny Venito
Seen on: 29.5.2016

Plot:
Lee (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) have a very successful TV show in which he discusses the developments on Wall Street. As part of his show, Lee gives recommendations on what stocks to buy and what to sell. And recently he recommended the stocks of Walt’s (Dominic West) company – that shortly thereafter went bust in a pretty spectacular fashion. Janitor Kyle (Jack O’Connell) followed Lee’s advice – and lost everything. Now Kyle has found his way into the studio and takes Lee hostage, hoping to get to the truth – and to justice.

Money Monster is a very watchable film with good performances. It’s solid, but it never really manages to go beyond that.

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The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Marks
Based on: Rudyard Kipling‘s books
Remake of: The Jungle Book
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling
Seen on: 27.4.2016

Plot:
A few years ago, the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) found a human baby and decided he couldn’t just let it die. So he brought it to the wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) who raised him as their own. Now the baby – Mowgli (Neel Sethi) – has grown into a child who feels perfectly at home in the jungle. But the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) will not suffer a human in the jungle. With the threat of murder in the air, Bagheera decides that the safest option is to bring Mowgli back to the humans.

The Jungle Book is a weird film. On the one hand, it stays extremely close to the animated Disney version, on the other hand it often enters grimdark territory. That makes for a very weird mix that made me scratch my head more than once.

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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Director: Wes Ball
Writer: T.S. Nowlin
Based on: James Dashner’s novel
Sequel to: The Maze Runner
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya ScodelarioDexter DardenAlexander Flores, Jacob LoflandRosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, Alan Tudyk
Seen on: 9.10.2015

Plot [with spoilers for the first film]:
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) made it out of the labyrinth and are now under the care of the resistance against WICKED, led by Janson (Aidan Gillen). But there is something fishy going on there as well and soon, Thomas and his friends find themselves on the run through a desolate world they barely understand.

Although I didn’t like the first book or film, I decided to give The Scorch Trials a try, fully expecting a bad, but entertaining film. What I got, though, was a bad and painfully boring film that is so stupid it becomes incomprehensible.

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Re-Watch: Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places
Director: John Landis
Writer: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Cast: Dan AykroydEddie MurphyJamie Lee Curtis, Ralph BellamyDon Ameche, Denholm Elliott, Giancarlo Esposito, Frank Oz, Bo Diddley, James Belushi, Al Franken, Tom Davis

Plot:
Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) was born on the sunny side of life and has proven to be a quite successful trader for the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche). Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) on the other hand barely scrapes by with crooked schemes. When the Duke brothers bet on whether or not it’s the circumstances or nature that make a man what he is, Louis and Billy Ray quickly find themselves in each other’s shoes. Louis’ reputation is completely destroyed when he is found with a sex worker Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) hired to set him up, loses his fiancée, his home and his job – the latter to Billy Ray. In the end, Louis has nobody but Ophelia and – surprisingly – Billy Ray to make things right again.

I used to watch this film as a kid as well, though certainly not as often as Scrooged, probably because I am not so much of an Eddie Murphy fan and never was. But since the cinema showed the two films as a double feature, I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately even with the nostalgia bonus, Trading Places barely worked for me at all.

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