Trailer for Netflix Documentary Icarus 

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Netflix has released the first trailer for Icarus a documentary about the doping scandal that Russia was involved in during the Rio games. The film debuted at Sundance earlier this year to very strong reviews.

The first half of the doc shows the filmmaker, Bryan Fogel as he himself participates in doping under supervision of course. Fogel then discovers the huge Russian scandal that was going on during 2016.

Icarus will be streaming on Netflix beginning August 4th.

Review of Okja


Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja got off to a bad start at Cannes earlier this year. Netflix is breathing down the necks of the other major movie studios and they are not happy.  Okja was booed in Cannes at the start of the film when the Netflix logo played. Then after about 20 minutes in, there was a technical problem that required the film to be started from the beginning. Booing and technical problems are not a great way to start your Oscar campaign. 

Okja, starts with the Mirando Corporation’s new CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) make a promise to a room of investors. She has bold vision for the company by creating more ethical foods that will improve their image after years of animal abuse.  Farms all over the world will raise “Super Pigs” that are genetic hybrids, made for their delicious meat and the best of all of them will be cloned and put into production. After 10 years, the farmer who raises the biggest “pig” will “win”. Unbeknownst to the farmers, they win a trip to New York and to the slaughterhouse. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. 

Mija played by first time actress Ahn Seo-Hyuns and her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong) live in their mountain home and wonder what’s to come when they find out that they have the biggest pig named Okja.  Okja is the best of all the super pigs, a strange mix of a hippopotamus, a pig’s physical portions and a dogs ears. Mija and Okja are best friends. They play, sleep together and dare I say frolic. Okja is gentle and lovable. Of course Okja has to go back to the big city to become Super Pig jerky and the like. 

It’s not clear on what this movie is trying to be. The CG “Super Pig” and little girl relationship could make this a children’s film except for the occasional F-word, forced breeding and slaughterhouse scenes. A leftist political group is thrown in to try and save Okja from her demise. 

It is an ambitious film. A chase through Seoul involving the animal rights group, Mirando and the police in an underground mall is an impressive use of CG. With a bit of slapstick thrown in. Tilda Swinton does her usual wacky character with funny teeth and overplays it a bit. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Johnny Wilcox a TV host and the face of the super pig competition. This is one of the strangest performances I have ever seen. By strange, I mean the worst I have ever seen. He is way over the top and pretty much ruins what could be a much better film.

With a little more direction and less schtick, this would be a better film. It’s never boring and not as predictable as expected. The shots of South Korea along with a very believable looking CG super pig are beautiful. It’s worth a look. 
Okja is now playing on Netflix. 

GRADE: B-
 

Oscar Watch – Mudbound

Mudbound had a lot of great buzz coming out of Sundance this year. Directed by Dee Rees and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige. It deals with two men returning home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.” 

This is right up The Academy’s alley. Except for the fact that it is being distributed by Netflix. The film premiered to a standing ovation at Sundance and Netflix spent $12.5 million to get the rights. Making it the largest deal to come out of Sundance this year. 

Movie studios don’t like streaming services getting too much attention, but Netflix and Amazon are willing to take the risks that the majors won’t. Although Amazon made it in last year with Manchester by the Sea. It’s probably only a matter of time before Netflix is accepted. 

The film premiered to a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. But the movie’s substantial budget (north of $10 million) made a sale close slowly, after a bidding war failed to materialize. Even so, Netflix spend $12.5 million on the film, making it the largest deal to come out of Sundance 2017.

No release date yet and trailer coming soon. 

Ava DuVernay’s The 13th Opens New York Film Festival

the-13th

Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th is the Opening Night selection of the 54th annual New York Film Festival. The festival take place September 30 – October 16 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The 13th is the first documentary to open the NYFF. It will then debut on Netflix and open in a limited theatrical run on October 7th.

Chronicling the history of racial inequality in the United States, The 13th examines how our country has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of those imprisoned being African-American. The title of DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing film refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States . . . ” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass incarceration and the prison industry in the U.S. is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity.