We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy
Burn After Reading
Bong Joon Ho’s latest is perhaps most similar to his 2006 picture The Host: it’s a genre-bending, CGI-heavy creature feature. But the similarities end there. In an attempt to rejuvenate her shady multinational agribusiness’ moribund image, CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) launches a heavily stage-managed contest in which 10 enormous “superpigs” are distributed to local farmers across the globe. Ten years later, South Korean entrant Okja is the clear winner – but Mijo (An Seo Hyun), the granddaughter of the local farmer in charge of the pig, isn’t willing to let her go just yet.
The script veers from pastoral contentedness to slapstick to full-tilt effects-heavy action, but at heart this is a grand social satire in the tradition of Network, Dr. Strangelove or The Bonfire of the Vanities. Bong tries to get a few jabs in at the animal activists led by Jay (Paul Dano), and asshole celebrities get a punching bag in the figure of Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), but the largest target by far is the Mirando Corporation and its attempts to gussy up its cold-blooded greed via the sundry tools of modern PR. The comedy is broad and occasionally falls flat: some scenes feel like failed improv. And the social satire isn’t the most ingenious ever put on screen. But the action is first-rate, and – crucially – the creature is exceptionally well executed; so much so that the scenes between Mijo and Okja are completely believable, and form the healthy emotional heart of a wide-ranging, ambitious, and risk-taking film.
An action-musical-romance this time instead of an action-comedy, Edgar Wright’s first solo writing credit is a fun, hyperactive pastiche that falls down in the romancy bits but excels almost everywhere else. Music-obsessed driving savant Baby (Angel Elgort) lends his virtuoso wheelman talents to a series of increasingly dangerous heists planned by Doc (Kevin Spacey), to whom he owes money. After Baby meets Debora (Lily James), the proverbial waitress with the heart of gold, he wants to get out – but crime keeps pulling him back in.
The plot sounds a little weak, and it is. But that’s not the draw here. Rather, Wright brings his montage game to new heights. The car chase scenes have bullet-fast editing timed perfectly to the music, and the music selections are all tight and form a soundtrack even greater than its parts. It’s the non-moving parts that need an upgrade. The macho criminal posturing dialogue is kept more or less entertaining by a deep selection of supporting cast, including Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx and of course Spacey. But the boy-meets-girl stuff is not up to code. The movie takes itself increasingly seriously as it goes on (common with most Edgar Wright films), and the dullness of the romance is an increasing drag that the action bits struggle to carry. (Indeed, the film is weak on female roles in general.) However, the driving scenes and the soundtrack are powerful enough to make this film worth seeing – even if it seems like it is doomed to be the B picture to Drive when the inevitable double bills of “Soundtrack-Heavy Driving Movies Featuring a Brooding Near-Mute Hunk” start showing up.
The best movies of 2017 so far, ranked
Good list (thanks, y)
From the writer-director of The Loved Ones, Sean Byrne, The Devil’s Candy is a lean, nimble and nasty take on the haunted house genre.
Hip metalhead couple Jesse and Astrid (Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby) and their metalhead teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) get a nice house for cheap – because the previous owners met a violent, metalhead end. Jesse is an artist, and the new house gives him lots of studio space to become ensorcelled by Satan and paint inverted crosses and horrific beast faces and suffering children – including his own daughter.
If you think you know where this plot is going, you probably don’t. The Devil’s Candy is much less beholden to stale conventions than the typical entry in this genre. Even better, the characters are real, non-generic people, brought to life by a talented cast, and the craft – including the direction but also notably the sound design – is top-notch. A must-watch for those with the stomach for it, and if you have to ask if you do, you probably don’t.
I tried to describe this film to a friend. “It’s set in the 70s, about a arms deal gone wrong. A bunch of crooks are in a shootout in a big warehouse for basically the entire movie. Hey, I’m making it sound pretty great.” It’s the latest film from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise). It’s a decent film best understood as a black comedy in the Tarantino vein, and it does manage some deliciously dark laughs, but it falls short of the significance of most Tony Scott films, let alone QT. (Tony Scott directing a reboot of The Hateful Eight might be the closest analogue.)
The film’s biggest flaw is that it moves into action mode a good 15 minutes too early, not having had enough time to fill out any of the largish number of characters, which wastes a capable cast (Brie Larson, Cilian Murphy, Armie Hammer). One finds oneself not caring which ones lived or died, which one could describe as suboptimal from a dramatic perspective. It’s definitely watchable with some great, funny moments, but life’s too short.
Story titles, invented by neural network
I’m going through the Lewis and Quark archives because this shit makes me cry with laughter. Here’s a good one, that had me fantasizing about making trailers for:
- Pirates: A Fight Dance Story
- Cannibal Spy II
- American Midnight: Swear Dragon
- Swords and Batman: Summer Party ?
- Indiscreet Maidman
This Is Spinal Tap’s $400 Million Lawsuit
They’re not the first to go after Hollywood accounting, but they could be the loudest.
‘Fargo’: A Guide to the Show’s Coen Brothers’ References
From White Russian drink specials to “Friendo” namedropping – a complete guide (so far) to ‘Fargo’ TV series’ Coen brother movie references.
How the Story of “Moana” and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths
Rogue One’s best visual effects happened while the camera was rolling
Some really interesting techniques here
Streaming service for horror films, curated by Colin Geddes, who used to do Midnight Madness at TIFF. $5/mo; not sure how much of the archive is available outside of the US, but the collection looks really great. I mean, they have Manborg. Gonna give it a shot at some point.
Ridley Scott Is Planning 6 More Alien Movies
An Alien in New York, Chestburster: The Musical, Alien vs. My Little Pony, Gladialien… go ahead, run with those, Ridley
“There is an Incentivized Path to Mediocrity”
Re: problems with the Canadian film industry
These movies will help you through the Donald Trump years | Toronto Star
Definitely Children of Men. I would add Killing Them Softly and Hell or High Water
Logan review: not just the bloodiest X-Men movie, but also the saddest
The weight of graphic, grotesque violence hangs over the entire movie. But the daring emotional violence lingers longer, well after the lights go down on the final shot.