New in home entertainment - July 18
Not Rated but would be an R due to language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Netflix
With the success they have seen in television-style shows, Netflix has been pumping money into movies and Okja is one of their very high-profile projects of the year. Written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), and executive produced by Brad Pitt, Okja is a story about a meat processing company who creates a super pig to meet the world’s meat demands and thus creates a worldwide competition for best pig to see which country comes out on top.
In this case, a South Korean girl raises one of these pigs (named Okja) and over 10 years has become best friends with it. When the company tries to take Okja back, the girl, along with an animal liberation group, attempt to steal the pig from the corporation.
This is a wildly creative story which is well-told with impressive CG effects. What I found most fascinating was the terrific cast. While half of the film is in Korean with unfamiliar actors, the English-speaking cast includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins and others. One final note - before you put this on for the kids, please note that this is not for them. Honestly, they could have made an ET-like version of the film with the language and some violence removed, but this project would be considered a strong R if rated. A-
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Based on the novel by Diane Ackerman, which is based on a true Holocaust story, Jessica Chastain is the wife a zookeeper in Warsaw who houses Jews in their zoo after the Nazis exterminate their animals. At its heart it is a remarkable story, but here it is poorly told. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) seems to be phoning it in and the narrative suffers as the film moves through its paces. This should have been a much better, much more emotionally exhausting piece, and instead we just have a better glimpse of an unfamiliar group of heroes. B-
Straw Dogs: The Criterion Collection
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Back in 1971, this Sam Peckinpah film starring Dustin Hoffman as an American mathematician fighting off a group of crazed locals at his British cottage was considered an uber-violent thriller. And while it is still rather gory, by today’s standards it is not unsettling so.
But still, I love its dark demeanor and Hoffman’s understated performance as the meek math geek who is competent and calm as he takes on the bad guys.
That being said, the rape scene is a misogynistic nightmare that could never be filmed in the present and would have improved the original tremendously had it been omitted. With the typical amount of extras Criterion includes here, it is a great title for collectors and film aficionados, but might be out of place for the average audience looking to watch older films. B-
The Lost City of Z
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Based on the non-fiction best-seller by David Grann, The Lost City of Z follows the legacy left by British officer and explorer Percy Fawcett, as he attempts to discover a mythical city off of the unexplored Amazon in the early 20th century. Charlie Hunnam turns in a solid performance as the adventurer, but Sienna Miller as his wife shines in a stellar supporting role. While the film is disjointed and largely unfocused, historically it has value and helps us better understand the lives of those who first explored South America. B
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Inspired by true events, The Promise carries a bad title but an impressive resume, as it tells the story of a sort-of love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an AP journalist (Christian Bale) and a young woman caught in the middle (Charlotte Le Bon), all set against the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century. Written and directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), the film plays like a big saga, but with little chemistry between any of its leads, and a story that lacks the emotional punch it should carry, you end up with an historical epic that is much better at the history part than the actual story-telling. It could have been, and should have been, great. C&
Danny Minton may be reached at email@example.com.