Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Steven Yeun

Mayhem (2017)

The higher-ups just need to know what they’re dealing with.

Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is having a pretty crappy day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the law firm’s building is under quarantine for a mysterious and dangerous virus, in which people start acting out in violent ways and killing one another, but for some reason, no cause for punishment is to be found. So Derek, who now has the virus, begins to act out too, taking down people who have done him wrong and have pissed him off to the high heavens, with the FBI outside, trying their best to contain the violence to this one firm’s building. And along with co-worker Melanie (Samara Weaving), Derek plans on attacking and taking down the executives, once and for all. Issue is, they’re on the top floor and it’s going to take a whole lot of violence to wade through, just to get to one of them, let alone all of them.

Level up. Get ready…

Mayhem is a crazy movie, but it’s also actually grounded enough in reality to where it works better than you might expect. Director Joe Lynch seems to take this idea of absolute and total carnage, but rather than just trying to one-up himself, each and every chance he gets, he actually gives us a story, with characters, and a real sense of tension in the air. It’s not just sick, disgusting, and sometimes disturbing violence, for the sake of shock-value, but sick, disgusting and disturbing violence, with a reason and a cause.

Which is, yes, to disgust us. But it works.

Lynch and co-writer Matias Caruso also do something else smart with Mayhem in that they set all of the carnage and brutality in a world that isn’t too unlike ours. While the mayhem-inducing virus itself, may be a bit silly, the movie uses it as a way to act out all of its craziest, most violent fantasies of taking down the higher-ups within a corporation, who don’t care one bit about the bottom or those below them – instead, they’re just more concerned with more money, more power, and more control, regardless of who they stop on, or kill, when they’re up to the top. In the context of what Mayhem is doing, this is actually taking literally and because of that, the movie feels a lot more honest and realistic than you’d expect.

It’s still over-the-top and crazy, but it is, once again, grounded to give it a sense of time and place. Also, not to mention that the violence is pretty crazy and fun, making Mayhem a nutty movie that has some social-context, but also doesn’t spend too much time preaching, but instead, just chopping all sorts of limbs off. It’s not afraid to get weirder, deeper, and darker, and it’s a brave take on this kind of a movie that we’ve seen many times before, but in this case, doesn’t feel like a drab.

Take. Them. Down.

Not unlike the Belko Experiment, which was already way too depressing for its own good.

It’s also nice to see Steven Yeun get a leading-role like this immediately after his stint on the Walking Dead. As a Korean-American actor working in Hollywood, it will be interesting to see where Yeun’s career goes; he fits perfectly both as a supporting-player, but also, as we see here, a rather rough and tough leading-man who has charm and bravado, sometimes in the same scene. There’s some depth to this character, but Yeun generally seems to be embrace this character’s more sinister-themes lying underneath everything else.

Same goes for Samara Weaving who, from what I’ve seen so far, is becoming more and more of a powerful and likable presence on the screen. She’s absolutely beautiful, but she’s also the kind of beauty that isn’t afraid to dirty herself up, play around with her image, and get down in the mud, to roll around a bit. Here, she has to play something of a stickler that begins to lose her uptightness and just let loose, and it works – she’s lovely, charming, sweet, but also a little scary.

In other words, a dangerous beauty. So look out, people.

Consensus: While it is no doubt a nutty movie, Mayhem also brings in some social-context to go hand-in-hand with all of the violence and over-the-top features.

7 / 10

What happens when you literally mean “unpaid intern.”

Photos Courtesy of: RLJE Films

Advertisements

Okja (2017)

But bacon is so good! Ugh!

With the threat of world hunger looming out there far in the distance, the family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation decides that the best cause of action is to create a series of super pigs who, over the next ten or so years, will continue to grow, get bigger, fatter and more juicier, so that when the time is right to munch down on them, they’ll be as tasty, as succulent, and as beneficial as ever. But in order for these pigs to grow as big as they need to, they need to be fed and kept-up well, which brings us to young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But what Mija doesn’t know is that Okja, as big and as smart as he is, is one of the best super pigs around, meaning that it’s going to be the prime candidate for the killing and eating of. It’s something that Mija can’t understand or fathom, so that when the time comes to Okja getting taken away from her, she follows wherever the pig goes. But obviously, Mija isn’t the only one who has Okja’s best interest at-heart and sooner than later, everyone’s fighting over Okja and trying to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s actually for dinner.

Vanna White?

Movies like Okja make me happy that Netflix is around and doing what it’s doing. Sure, say what you want about how it’s killing movie-theaters and changing up the whole business-aspect of the film-industry, but still, you have to look at it like this: Okja is such an odd, crazy, and wild movie, that only a streaming-service could help get it made and released to a huge audience. Obviously, what happened to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer a few years ago had something to do with it, but still, it deserves to be said that Okja is as crazy, as original, and as fun of a movie as you’ll get the chance to see on the big screen, anywhere, this summer.

Of course you see this on the big screen which, yes, if you can, you probably should. It’s one of those rare movies that will probably on be seen on small-screens like laptops, iPads and, gasp, iPhones, but more than definitely deserves to be seen on the biggest, loudest, and most epic screen possible. If it isn’t, though, don’t worry – Okja is still a fun movie, no matter how, or where you see it. In a way, it’s the kind of movie that makes me happy not just for Netflix, but for visionaries like Bong Joon-ho and the fact that, despite their movies probably not making Transformers money, still get enough of a chance to make whatever they want and show it to the rest of the world.

Sure, that’s what every film-maker does, but for Bong Joon-ho, I don’t know, it’s something more special.

See, for Joon-ho, it’s all about the constant juggling act of tones and genres, and most of the time, he succeeds at pulling off a solid, satisfying transition. Okja is an odd mix between a comedy, a drama, a satire, an action flick, a monster movie, and yeah, a political-piece, but it does come together so well that it barely ever seems like it’s switing itself up – the bits and pieces of comedy/satire don’t always work and more than often seem way too over-the-top (more on that later) – but yeah, for the most part, Joon-ho knows what he’s doing and what he’s playing around with, and it’s just so much fun to watch. It’s almost as if you can forget about the obvious humanitarian message at the center of it all that’s basically saying, yeah, meat is murder.

End of story. Thanks, Morrissey.

And yeah, it’s preachy, sure, but it’s also handled in such a smart way that it doesn’t really attack those who decide to eat meat, either. Mostly, those who profit off of the meat-market and continue to do so, for all lack of general well-being and decency, are shown in the negative spotlight and made to apologize for themselves, even if they actually don’t. Sure, Joon-ho may not even be making a point and instead, just wanted to make a silly, fun, and rather sweet movie about a girl and her giant pig, but yeah, sometimes the themes are too obvious.

But in this case, they’re fine. They don’t take away from the fun, the excitment, and the enjoyment of the movie. If anything, it strengthens it by making it seem like more than just your typical monster movie; it has a heart, it has a soul, and yes, it has a little something to say. It’s the kind of monster movie that Joon-ho’s the Host seemed to want to be, but backed away from, slowly but surely.

Steve Irwin?

This time around, though, Joon-ho nails it and it’s just so much fun to watch.

Well, everything except for the satire. See, Okja clearly takes on a cast of colorful and nutty characters that, on paper, sound like a lot of fun, but when put together, in a movie which, despite having a lighter-tone than expected, is still serious enough to not be taken as a joke. And that’s a bit of a problem when you have the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal showing up and acting as if they’re deleted-scenes from the latest season of Twin Peaks; Gyllenhaal is especially grating in a terribly annoying performance that doesn’t know if it wants to be sad, mean, funny, or just out-of-this-world. Either way, it’s hard to watch and just downright disappointing coming from an actor who seemed like he could do it all.

Then again, though, everyone else here who is downplaying, still does a fine enough job in keeping everything together. Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick, and Daniel Henshall all play animal rights activists here who may or may not be just as sinister and as harsh as the corporations they’re out against, but all play it small enough to where it’s interesting and they don’t take over every scene. Same goes for the young, brash and exciting Ahn Seo-hyun, who has a great presence for someone so young, and in something so big and ambitious. It would have been very easy for her to get lost in all of the crazy supporting characters and CGI, but nope, Seo-hyun holds it altogether and ends up being this movie’s glue it so desperately needed.

But once again, thank you Netflix. More of these, please.

Consensus: While the constantly switching in-and-out of tones doesn’t always work, Okja is still a smart, exciting and entertaining piece of popcorn fun that has more on its mind than meets the eye.

8 / 10

Just the sweet love between a girl and her huge pig? Aw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I Origins (2014)

Should have been re-titled Eye See You. Already taken, you say? Damn.

Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is a man that feels slightly alone, as well as he should. He’s a scientist who takes up most of his day, not by hangin’ out, listening to rad music, sippin’ on brews and chillin’ with his boys, but instead, by testing to see if he can create a real life, fully-functioning eye, therefore, disproving God and all of the wonders of the world. Also, he takes pictures of eyes as a hobby. Does it sound like much fun? Nope, which is why when he has a chance encounter with a random spectator at a Halloween dress-up with a mysterious gal named Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), he can’t help but feel like it’s his one chance at love and therefore, his opportunity to make something more out of his life than just eyes. Eventually, the two start a relationship, but their conflicting-views on what life is really all about, get in the way and cause friction. Not to mention that it makes Gray want to find out more and more about his studying. And then, tragedy strikes.

Clearly there’s more to this premise than what I just laid-out, but let me just put it like this: You won’t want to hear what else I’ve got to say. Because, one of the key aspects about I Origins is in not knowing what to expect next. Which, of course, seems like something you look for in any movie, but there’s something much more interesting at work here. See, not only does writer/director Mike Cahill frame this story without us having any idea of what to expect from the studying of eyes, but he also gives us just enough to keep us satisfied on all fronts.

Does it really need to be said that you shouldn't listen to those ads?

Does it really need to be said that you shouldn’t listen to those ads?

For instance, the movie never limits itself to one genre in particular. One part is a romance about two strangers who meet, hook up, connect and eventually fall in love; another part is a sci-fi drama about figuring out the mystery behind these eyes; another is a deep, dark and twisty psychological thriller that doesn’t always clue us in on what to expect next; and lastly, we have a discussion about whether or not we can fully trust science to determine the rest of our society. All of it put together is very interesting to watch, but it’s also quite messy and you can tell exactly when the film sort of stumbles over itself.

Which isn’t to say that this is a deeply-flawed film, it’s just that it takes so many falls here and there, that you wonder how much ground Cahill was wondering of covering, and how much of it actually made it into the final-product. Sure, he gets the romance right in that, despite them being the quintessential couple that first met and, seven minutes later, were already banging in a dirty bathroom, but the sci-fi stuff itself? Well, not so much.

And that doesn’t mean I have to be a science-major of any sorts to get what it is that they’re talking about here; in fact, nobody has to be. Cahill does a well enough job at laying down all that we need to know about the science of this movie, its meaning and why it is that it’s so important to the characters (they’re scientists, duh!). That’s done well, but when he starts to do a little bit of preaching, it ends up being something more than just a romance-tale centered around a whole bunch of science-y stuff – it ends up being a movie that’s used just so that the director can present problems he feels is current in today’s society. Which is fine, however, he never really follows through on them.

And though directors like PT Anderson, Martin Scorsese and even David Lynch to an extant, have all presented ideas and never really followed through perfectly on them, they’re at least skilled enough to get by. Cahill, on the other hand, feels like he has a little way to go before he’s fully blowing our mind with whatever gibber-gabber he has to present to everyday America. We get that it’s all supposed to be deeper than the surface it’s presented on, but what is there to this whole idea that really allows us to give our attentions for the next two-hours? Well, not much. All there is, really, is just a bunch of characters talking about science and explaining that eyes are what helps one peer into another person’s soul.

Wow. Truly something mind-boggling right there, people.

Yes, I am being a bit snarky here, but that’s only because most of the movie seems so up its own rump, that it made me annoyed and want to get up out of my seat, only to firmly take its head, or hand, out of their rear-end. It was getting quite annoying and also, not to mention the fact that the later-half of the movie can get a bit ridiculous. It’s still interesting and relatively unpredictable, but when you have a movie that’s willing to throw everything and anything at you to confuse you of what’s next, regardless of it works for the movie as a whole or not, then it’s kind of disappointing. Makes you wish everything was more thought-out and not in need of such a rush job.

Gettin' her with the old "let me see your soul"-move. Oldest trick, man.

Gettin’ her with the old “let me see your soul”-move. Oldest trick, man.

But where Cahill really gets this movie right is in the cast he’s assembled here, especially Michael Pitt in a leading-role that shows us all what he’s capable of: Being quiet, yet, always interesting. Pitt doesn’t really use his boy-ish good-looks to get by on a role that’s basically made for a nerd, but he does allow us to sympathize with a guy who has a nerdy occupation, a nerdy hobby, nerdy ideas about everything he sees, and yet, is still able to pull in ladies like he does so here. It’s a bit unbelievable, considering how much of a no-nonsense deuche he can sometimes be, but I guess because he’s Michael Pitt, it doesn’t matter if he’s a scientist, a firefighter, or a trained serial-killer; he’s cute, dammit!

Anyway, he’s great and even though his love-interest’s English may be a bit rusty, Astrid Berges-Frisbey is still charming enough to make you see why they’d be such a lovely couple together and are right for each other in the end. Brit Marling’s also here as the “new” scientist Gray gets stuck with, and although it’s clear she isn’t used much at first, later on, without saying much, she becomes a central part to this story and still makes you wish there was more of her to go around. “The more Brit Marling, the merrier”, nobody said.

Except for me. Just right there.

Consensus: Boasting an interesting premise that runs down many different roads, I Origins definitely is a bold piece of fiction, yet ultimately becomes something that’s less important and deep than it thinks it is.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Just blink already!

Just blink already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz