“Okja” is a scathing commentary of the food industry and an outrageous, cartoonish thrill ride full of hyper kinetic action and colorful social satire.

Okja PosterSatire, not drama, has been the primary way to provoke change and discussion in the 21st Century. So if you want to get a huge population to think twice about where their food comes from and maybe even think about going vegan, don’t show them a depressing torture reel; show them a farce. To paraphrase of Tilda Swinton in the opening scenes of “Okja,” Bong Joon Ho’s film isn’t just monstrous, disturbing, eye opening and surreal. “Most importantly, it needs to taste fucking good!”

“Okja” scathingly critiques the food industry and the perils of a corporate culture that exploits food consumption. But it does so in the guise of an outrageous, cartoonish thrill ride full of hyper kinetic action and colorful social satire. The premise is absurdly fascinating, the characters are extreme caricatures, and the film moves at a blistering pace. Continue reading “Okja”

Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film is dripping with style, wisdom and wry, ironic humor.

Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is as much about vampires as “Night on Earth” is about taxi drivers or “Coffee and Cigarettes” is about either of those things. And if characters in Jarmusch films need a better excuse to be layabouts and wear sunglasses indoors, actually being a vampire is about as good of an excuse as any.

Jarmusch’s films exude coolness, and in a time when vampires are particularly in vogue, Jarmusch has found a unique vessel for his stories of mismatched relationships, affinities for the retro and ironic romance. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is dripping with style. It’s a vampire movie full of intrigue but remains mostly plotless without action or special effects. That the entire thing is absolutely magnetic despite it all is part of Jarmusch’s magic.

Jarmusch splits the time between urban Tangiers and an apartment on a notably empty street in Detroit. The film is so chic, so distinctly colored in every moment, it could belong to any time or place, and yet it is remarkably modern. Living abroad is Eve (Tilda Swinton), whose luxurious, golden, flowing robes are centuries old, and yet she still communicates fluently with an iPhone. Her only real companion is another vampire, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who confirms for us that he did in fact give his plays to Shakespeare. It’s one of Jarmusch’s wry jokes playing vampires allows him to make, with characters taking credit for Schubert’s symphonies and spending time with Mary Shelley.

Her lover for several centuries is Adam (Tom Hiddleston), living alone in Detroit and making droning, melancholy, underground rock and only leaving the house to bribe a hospital worker for blood. He’s assisted by a helpful and adoring human named Ian (Anton Yelchin), clueless to Adam’s real nature but more than willing to get him rare, vintage guitars and bullets made of a fine wood. Only in a Jim Jarmusch film can the characters have conversations about types of wood and the mechanics of a guitar. It’s odd, tedious conversation, as all of Jarmusch’s films concern, and yet it’s dryly eloquent humor no one does better. Continue reading “Only Lovers Left Alive”


Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” is a challenging, polarizing and disturbing action sci-fi with big real world parables

To paraphrase Jon Stewart, the end of humanity won’t come because of an asteroid or the apocalypse but because of the moment when a brilliant scientist declares, “It works!”

In the dystopian, sci-fi action movie “Snowpiercer,” humanity has agreed to release an experimental gas into the air to scale back the effects of global warming. The process works too well, and the world is plunged into an ice age unfit for life on Earth. 17 years later, the only remaining humans on Earth live on a perpetually moving train, one that circles the Earth each year.

Given these conditions, how quickly would you imagine humanity would slip back to its basest nature? How soon would the world start devouring itself? When would martial law be declared? When would society deteriorate?

“Snowpiercer” is a bleak, violent and surreal look at the broad, caricature of the human condition. Director Joon-ho Bong’s film makes a bold and blunt allegory about the way the world works, and amid the beautifully photographed action sequences and garish, even humorous depictions of the human class system, he finds little worth liking. Continue reading “Snowpiercer”

Moonrise Kingdom

As “Moonrise Kingdom” begins, a boy is listening to a record of Benjamin Britton classical music compositions intended for children. A high-pitched, nonthreatening kid’s voice interrupts the song to explain the intricate layers of Britton’s piece, and the boy appreciates it all the more.

Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film is much like this record: an art house picture pieced together and slowly revealed to us like an elaborate opera. It has characters, themes and a silly tone that a child could embrace, and yet its presentation has complexity and maturity that may be beyond most adults. In this way, “Moonrise Kingdom” is one of the wackiest, most inventive, and most notably, the most heartfelt film Anderson ever made. Here then is a movie about growing up, independence, living above your age and loving the beauty of the more challenging and sophisticated pleasures of the world.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is the romance fairytale of Sam and Suzy (newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), two preteens who escape their parental care to elope on a hidden cove on their small island home of New Penzance. Sam is a nerdy orphan, the most unpopular boy amongst his summer camp Khaki Scouts (by a significant margin), and yet a skilled mountaineer and adventurer. Suzy is the oldest child in a dysfunctional family, and she’s at an age where her needs cannot be met by her two unhappy parents. The couple is tracked by the lone island cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Sam’s camp counselor, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), and Suzy’s two parents, Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Continue reading “Moonrise Kingdom”

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tilda Swinton said in an interview with Roger Ebert that just about every mother at one point has a twisted nightmare that her child will turn out badly. The child will do something horrible someday, and the fear is that she may be responsible.

Does this sound like a horror story? It kind of is, but “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is more than an art house retread of “The Omen.” It’s a psychological examination of a woman whose life has been changed by motherhood and is now alone with her twisted thoughts. Continue reading “We Need to Talk About Kevin”