Okja Review

Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is cinematic storytelling at its finest. Funny, smart, heartbreaking; Bong has created a film with so much soul, it simply has to be seen by all.

In Okja, the ominous Mirando Corporation, led by Tilda Swinton’s Lucy, unveils superpigs, claiming these animals were ‘discovered’ and not created in a lab. One pig, Okja, is raised in the South Korean mountains by a young girl named Mija and together, over ten years, they form an unbreakable bond. When it becomes clear that Okja was reared to be used as live stock, the Animal Liberation Front, helmed by Paul Dano’s Jay, join forces with Mija to bring down Mirando and save Okja from a cruel fate.

Bong’s film is obvious in its messaging and vocal in its views on the meat trade – some viewers won’t like that. Those who can look beyond the imbedded message of anti-meat and see the many other themes the flick involves will relish in the total joy and, at times, utter sadness this sentimental story brings to its viewers. Okja isn’t just a discussion on the treatment of animals reared for food, it’s an exploration of unusual friendships and the want to make a positive impact on the world in which we live.

The film boasts an enviable ensemble that unites fresh new talent with established actors, all putting in memorable performances. Dano is superb as Jay, impassioned and quietly emotional, while Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal have a riot in eccentric roles that are both unforgettable and terrifying. It’s Ahn Seo-hyun who steals the film, though. And, of course, her best friend Okja. Bong brings the best out of his actors as he directs them through a journey that is unashamedly bonkers.

Ahn Seo-hyun in Okja

As with Bong’s previous entries into the world of film, Okja won’t be for everyone. The director has oddball tendencies and blends these with truly dark themes, a combination that won’t sit so well for some viewers. What this is though, is a genuine success for Netflix and a bold leap too. The film is half in Korean and half in English, and it combines a cast of South Korean actors with American talent – this combination of East and West works and does something in terms of bringing audiences closer to seeking out world cinema.

For some, watching Okja will lead to a change in lifestyle. For others, it will be a nonsensical action-adventure. And for most, a riotous ride that’s a great piece of cinema. Bong’s film will stir many different reactions and this reflects its total brilliance. Rather wonderfully, Okja is unlike any film before it. Bong Joon-ho has masterfully crafted a one-of-a-kind picture that is, yes, completely unusual, but brilliantly so. It’s an adventure of epic proportions that’s thematically brave and brimming with heart.

The Walking Dead: Season Six – The Series So Far

The Walking Dead came racing back onto our screens three Sunday’s ago and with a new series came three things: Hoards of the undead, bloody mayhem and brutal kills. The idea to up the anti on the graphic violence is an interesting choice considering the strength of seasons four and five based on the character driven narratives and exploration of humanity they both encompassed. Having said that, season six has thus far presented fans with a visually-impacting thrill ride that has thrown a lot at its audience very, very quickly.

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steven yeun as glenn in the walking dead

Who really are these Wolf madmen? Where did Ron appear from all of a sudden? What has happened to Morgan in the time since he last saw Rick? And, most importantly; Has the latter gone completely bat-shit crazy? There are a lot of questions to be answered and thirteen more episodes in which to do so – hurrah. While the series started in a buzz of hectic Walker-sitting and machete-wielding murderers on the loose in Alexandria there was still time for a bit of character development via the always popular background stories. We’ve been able to get to grips with why Enid is so solemn (if the whole Zombie thing wasn’t enough) and had an introduction to one or two new faces. These include Denise, a new doctor in the community, and Heath, an Alexandria resident who is getting to grips with the authority of Rick and Co’ having been out on a run since they arrived.

The most intriguing element so far, thematically speaking, is the idea that Rick is slowly becoming some kind of antagonist to the residents of Alexandria, and even to those he has been with for some time. As Andrew Lincoln steps up as an actor of immense talent, we see a dark side to the lead character who (if we really think about it) lost his mind somewhere in season four. The underlying sub-plot of this has been brewing for some time, as has Carol‘s lack of compassion. The pair have become a kind of terrifying duo that, as an audience, we aren’t sure whether to still root for, or wish people to run from.

Lincoln still predominately leads the show with Steven Yeun as Glenn supporting him in a role that had everyone’s heart in tatters this week. The arrival of new characters always brings an extra dimension to the series and forces new on-screen friendships and shows of camaraderie that – if acted and scripted well – are genuinely moving. Episode one, First Time Again, didn’t match up to the level of intensity and sheer shocks of season five’s No Sanctuary which blew the lid off of previous openers (and apparently this year’s premiere couldn’t quite compete). JSS and Thank You have more than made up for the slow burner of the first inauguration and if writers choose to keep this pace – and maintain the aesthetically impressive action sequences – The Walking Dead’s sixth season could easily be its best yet.

Note: My reviews are based solely on the television series as a viewer with no knowledge of events taking place in the graphic novels.

The Walking Dead, review

Them, this weeks episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead is possibly one of the worst of the entire fifth season. It seems I was alone in thinking last weeks was pretty genius, with the general consensus that the dream-like aesthetic was out of place and for a premiere of part two of the series, it lacked spark. If you weren’t a fan of What Happened and What’s Going On you won’t love Them either. Come on Kirkman and co’, don’t let us down now.

While part of the zombie genre is inherently known for gratuitous gore and non-stop action, The Walking Dead hasn’t always stuck to that formula. Some of the best episodes have been conversation driven, with past reminiscing and analyses of the rapid decline of a civilized world always present. Coupled with Walker battles, this is when WD shines. This weeks episode offered little in the way of either. And to think, they want to make another six seasons. One of the biggest problems is the familiarity of the locale – a change up is needed, and the promise of Washington DC is something to look forward to. If you read my weekly updates, you’ll be aware that I am true fan – whatever I’m reviewing, I always try and tackle from a positive perspective (no one likes a naysayer), and while there were one or two positives to last nights episode, I was definitely left somewhat disappointed.

Narrative-wise a lot of walking, a lot of unhappy faces, and some bad weather were all thrown in for good measure. Norman Reedus, in a silent yet poignant scene, encapsulated the loss that all of the group feel after the death of Beth and Tyreese, and his role as Daryl continues to be one of the best of the ensemble cast. The final moments set the tone for the next episode, introducing a new character who claims to be a ‘friend’. This is just one bad episode in a collection of ultimately great ones. Let’s have faith that The Walking Dead won’t lose its way.

The Walking Dead, mid-season finale – review

Today’s final episode of The Walking Dead (until its return in the new year) was two things. One: Understated. Two: Phenomenal. Forget zombie horror cliches and the floors in television drama; Coda, the seasons eighth episode moved beyond the genre of survival horror and the living dead, and became something which represents well the dark side of people. To say that this weeks offering was a ‘shock’ would most probably be the understatement of the century (exaggeration is in need, trust me), and if you have been waiting for an episode to quite literally blow your socks off, you now have it.

Visceral, violent, horrific and packing an emotional punch Coda sits comfortably as the best mid-season finale we have seen since this overly-long wait for new episodes began. Plot-wise, not much needs to be discussed. For, in the forty minute running time not a whole lot really happens – until those last pivotal five minutes. There is Walker action, of course. Conversations about past lives, something which is always to be expected now. And, the group are all brought back together (just not on the terms you may of initially thought that they would be). The power in episode eight of season five lay with those five minutes, and those five minutes alone. You will cry, you will hold your face and shout at the screen, and you will be baffled at how the makers of this show, without warning, throw it at you with such a force.

the cast of the walking dead

the cast of the walking dead

Lauren Cohan as Maggie, in the brief moments she has screen time in this years finale, is exceptionally good and reminds us all why her character has become such a favourite. Her relationship with Glenn (fan-girl’s favourite played by Steven Yeun) and sense of leadership she often portrays firmly places her up there with Danai Gurira’s Michonne who oozes sass and bad-assness (not a word, right?). What is also rather wonderful, yet tragic, is how unafraid Robert Kirkman and crew are of killing off two or three of the audiences most beloved characters. Whether you saw the happenings of Coda coming, or like me, were quite baffled, its irrelevant – the close filming of the loss of one cast member will leave you reeling.

With no half measures prepare the tissues, set your calender for the February 8th return and enjoy.

The Walking Dead – Self Help review

Scrolling through Facebook today (yes, that social convention that takes up a fair amount of time) I came across a status which read “The best part of Monday is hearing ‘Previously on AMC’s The Walking Dead.'”, and I believe its fair to say that you would be hard-pressed to come across a fan who would disagree. Five seasons in, WD could potentially find itself between a rock and a hard place; its far enough in to of cemented itself as a great show, but also at the stage that the final season, and the question of when that will come is a hovering thought. Currently, The Walking Dead is still as thrilling, and exciting, as it was in season one (perhaps even more so), and although the narrative has generally been continuous throughout, the curve-balls thrown in have been enough to keep us all coming back for more. Today’s episode, Self Help, leads one to ask, where next? For the first time. The shock of Eugene (a character we know little about, played by Josh McDermitt) professing that his whole story of the chance for a return back to the life they all once knew, and a cure to the virus that has turned humans into Walkers, was all a lie, left a gap for the thought – where now? Where will the story go next, and where can this whole show now go? If you read the graphic novels, then you’ll have that answer. But for us in the dark, its certainly a thought that makes for a fair amount of day-dreaming, and mental script-writing.

michael cudlitz as abraham in the wlaking dead

michael cudlitz as abraham in the wlaking dead

A formation that WD has perfected over the past two seasons is that of swapping between characters, and their stories. This week it was all about Abraham’s (and those who left with him) journey to DC, last week we followed Beth, and before that Rick and the crew. This way of storytelling from the makers, means every week there is a fresh narrative in which audiences can sink their teeth into (excuse the pun). Gaining insight this week (however slight it was) into Cudlitz’s Abraham made for new and definitely interesting fare, and discovering that he at one point nearly took his own life added a softer element to a character with a hard exterior. More than this however, the aesthetic of what must be nearly a thousand walkers (I may be exaggerating) was one of the best images WD has given us yet, and almost places you there in the scene. Trust me, its up there with the park Walker of season one (and who can forget that?!). While Self Help didn’t present itself as the best episode season five has given us, it still remains a fantastic offering for the zombie genre. This weeks episode also reminds us that The Walking Dead is an adult show, and one that explores relationships of all types, in a refreshing and human way.

Not an episode of epic proportions, or overwhelming discoveries, but an episode of humble modesty, exemplifying The Walking Dead‘s ability to shine no matter what the subject matter.

The Walking Dead season 5, episode 2

This weeks episode of The Walking Dead, Strangers, was a sort of food for thought episode. A new character was introduced (for how long, we never kn0w), and as a man of the Lord there were definite questions to be raised concerning Beth’s disappearance in the back of a Church car. For now, the group are taking sanctuary in the Reverend’s Church, but what secrets is he keeping, and are they safe? As is usually the answer in WD, probably not. In the final moments of this weeks installment Bob was seen in a precarious situation, and the biggest shock was left until then to spark your enthusiasm to watch again next week (not that there should be any doubt in your mind, anyway). Even more disturbing was the presence of the Terminus lot who we all assumed had died along with their base, and it seems they are out for blood, literally.

rick and darryl from amc's the walking dead

rick and darryl from amc’s the walking dead

The great thing about WD, and what makes it so consistently good is its ability to make you feel. We are being allowed the pleasure of following a group who have been through a hell of a lot, and we’ve been there with them experiencing it all. The violence of the  Walker scenes never take over from the importance of what is at the center of this programme; the characters (it is after all a study of people, and their reactions to a world gone wrong). A lot of people gave up with WD after season two, the series which focused mainly on Rick, Hershel and the others while they had time to come to terms with everything that had happened to them while being in the safe vicinity of the farm. Some of the best moments, like the growth of Darryl and Carol‘s relationship, and Hershel‘s previous life as an alcoholic were all on display, and really rather wonderfully. Season five seems to be finely balancing similar junctures like this, with the horror of the Walkers and the Terminus crew.

Four Walls and a Roof, next weeks offering, is eagerly anticipated. And its only Monday.