Tag Archives: Steven Yeun

Burning (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Burning Review,

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writers: Jungmi Oh (screenplay by) (as Jung-mi Oh), Chang-dong Lee
Starring Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo

In addition to one of its plot developments, the film’s title could also refer to the deliberate pace at which it unfolds…as in slow burning. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a moody thriller that methodically builds tension by taking its sweet time. But for a film where we’re pretty sure how everything will unfold with over an hour left to go, Burning might be too much of a good thing.

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) is an introverted college graduate who aspires to write a novel, but mostly struggles to find a job. He bumps into childhood neighbor Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), and after a brief sexual encounter, he agrees to feed her cat while she’s on vacation. Jong-su becomes creepily infatuated with her, as his frequent visits to her apartment demonstrate. Hae-mi later returns with new friend Ben (Steven Yeun), who’s charismatic, carefree and wealthy…everything Jong-su isn’t. But he’s also quite mysterious; neither Jong-su or Hae-mi know much about him or what he does for a living.

Despite Jong-su’s apparent misgivings, the three spend an increasing amount of time together, the most crucial moment being a pot-fueled evening at Jong-su’s childhood home, an old farmhouse he’s charged with caretaking after his father goes to jail. This is where Jong-su – and the audience – learn that neither Hae-mi or Ben are quite what they seem. When Hae-mi disappears afterwards, Jong-su becomes obsessed with finding her and suspects Ben knows more than he’s leading on.

The film made a lot of best-of lists last year and I can see why. Burning is impeccably acted by its three leads, whose characters are almost the entire focus of the film. Through numerous scenes of almost mundane conversation, we learn a lot about them, though Ben’s ambiguous background makes him the most intriguing character. Additionally, director Lee Chang-dong establishes a tone that borders on surreal and suggests – just beneath the surface – there’s something not-quite-right with these people.

However, the film is sometimes maddeningly meandering. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Burning is way too long. Unless your film is some kind of character study – which, admittedly, could be part of Chang-dong’s agenda – 90 minutes shouldn’t go by before anything resembling an actual plot begins to present itself. Some narrative developments are obviously created to bait or mislead the viewer, which is initially understandable. But since we’re pretty certain of the film’s ultimate outcome by now, the main purpose they serve is to keep the viewer expecting a revelatory twist ending. 

I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does render the inevitability of the climax rather underwhelming. Still, Burning is mostly worthwhile. The film is sometimes quite fascinating, mostly due to the performances and subtle tension created in key scenes. I just wish it would have gotten to the point a little sooner than it actually does.

Sorry To Bother You (2018) Blu-ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Sorry to Bother You

Director: Boots Riley
Writer: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Flower, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer and the voices of David Cross, Lily James, Patton Oswalt, Forest Whitaker & Rosario Dawson.

Sorry to Bother You is full of surprises, never once unfolding like we expect it to. That alone make it at-least interesting, whether you end up liking the film or not (I suspect many viewers definitely won’t). That it’s also wickedly funny, completely original and features a charming, relatable protagonist makes it one of the best films of the year.

I know from personal experience that telemarketing is a shitty way to make a living, so I empathised with Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) almost immediately. Living in his uncle’s garage and desperate for cash, he lands a job at RegalView, a telemarketing company that pretty-much hires anybody who walks in the door. And why not? Telemarketers aren’t paid unless they make make sales. Despite rallying staff pep-talks by overly enthusiastic managers – “Stick to the script!” – telemarketing appears to be yet-another job he sucks at.

All that changes when co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) shows him how to use his “white voice.” In almost no time, he’s the star of the office and promoted to be one of the company’s Power Callers, who make huge deals with mega-corporations. I knew guys like this during my brief tenure as a telemarketer. They were usually the most overbearing assholes in the room. Cassius’ sudden success soon alienates those close to him, including co-workers Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) and Squeeze (Steven Yeun), who lead a strike against RegalView over unliveable wages.

Meanwhile, people everywhere are protesting WorryFree, a corporation that provides slave labor – working for basic necessities, but no wages – to other companies. When Cassius crosses the RegalView picket line, he becomes a national punchline when struck by a soda can. Still, he’s aggressively courted by obnoxious WorryFree founder Steve Lift to come work for him. It’s when Cassius learns how Lift wants to use him that Sorry to Bother You takes one of the most unexpected narrative turns I’ve ever seen, resulting in a final act that’s completely bonkers…in the best way possible.

Not that the film wasn’t already a little strange up to that point. Taking place in what can be described as an alternate universe, Sorry to Bother You presents a slightly dystopian society where labourers are commodities who are easily placated by mundane rewards and idiotic entertainment. The film itself is quirky and occasionally surreal, with a sense of humour that sometimes reminded me of  Idiocracy filtered through Wes Anderson. Along the way, writer/director Boots Riley aims satiric daggers at a variety of targets. And most of the time, he hits bullseyes. 

But all the self-assured cleverness in the world would mean nothing without engaging characters. As Cassius, Lakeith Stanfield is note-perfect, displaying a vulnerable likability, perplexed by his circumstances while simultaneously going with the flow…for awhile, anyway. Tessa Thompson is also effective as Detroit, his activist girlfriend who serves as his moral compass. Most of the secondary characters and antagonists are painted in broader strokes, but amusing nevertheless (Armie Hammer is an absolute riot). Certain characters’ “white voices” are hilariously rendered by a variety of well-known actors and comedians.

Despite RegalView’s company mantra, Sorry to Bother You definitely does not “stick to the script.” The result is a unique, offbeat satire that’s destined to polarise audiences for years to come. Those not on-board with its concept and ideas will want to get off this train before the first Equisapien even shows up. Everyone else will want to revisit the film again and again. This is an outstanding great directorial debut and I look forward to Boots Riley’s next.

The Star (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

THE STAR

Director: Timothy Reckart
Writers: Carlos Kotkin (screenplay by), Simon Moore (story by)
Stars: Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant

Well it’s the season to be jolly, just in case you missed that fact, and being the living embodiment of the walking contradiction phrase. I decided to give Sony pictures, Christian animated film ‘The Star’ a viewing this week. I previously said in a podcast that I wouldn’t be watching this but what can I say, I’m a sucker for feel good Christmas films clearly.

This film has taken quite a pounding by critics following its frankly surprising release in theatres. A Christian centric animated film about the ‘holy’ origins of everyone’s favourite annual holiday seems like a straight to dvd affair. Timothy Reckart isn’t exactly a household name in the directing world either, having only really been involved in short films until this point. I have to say though, whilst it’s not going to be challenging Coco for best animation at the Oscars, I didn’t think it was excruciatingly bad. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed it in parts. There was most definitely a few forced comedic moments that fell flat, but in fairness I suspect I’m probably out of the target demographic of this film by a few (25) years.

Plot wise, it doesn’t get any simpler really. It pretty much follows the classic nativity story of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, King Herod and the three wise men. I hear what you’re probably saying, that’s a story that’s been done to death. You’re absolutely right. This one hasn’t though because it’s from the perspective of a lionhearted, little mill donkey. Said donkey, later christened Bo (Steven Yuen), has delusions of grandeur, seeking to join the royal caravan, whilst toiling away in a wheel house. He seeks a greater purpose in life and believes it has came when he sees the Star of Bethlehem. He tries and fails to escape at first but eventually succeeds many months later after a humorous chase scene up buildings, through chicken pens and markets.

He’s soon taken in by Mary (Gina Rodriguez), named and given a home much to the chagrin of a stressed Joseph (Zachary Levi), still trying to come to terms with his wife’s ‘immaculate conception’. Where Reckart and this film spices up the well trodden source material is with the introduction of two idiot hounds Rufus (Gabriel Iglesias) and Thaddeus (Ving Rhames), who accompany their towering master. A man tasked with killing Mary by King Herod. This gives our animal protagonists a purpose distinctly separate to their owners and propels the story all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem in unique fashion.

There were three main performances that stood out for me. Firstly, Steven Yeun as Bo was by far the standout; he imbued the character with well meaning sincerity, youthful energy and a real soul. Secondly, Keegan-Michael Key played the dumb as a brush, white dove called Dave and brought most of the laughs in the film. Finally, Aidy Bryan as Ruth the lamb/sheep rounded out the main animal trio with an impressive showing too. Outside those three, there was actually a very decent ensemble performance from a decently put together cast. Rodriguez as Mary, Levi as Joseph were decent too and Oprah was even in there.

Ultimately, I think the combination of a lack of interest from non-Christians, better competition, little to no promotion and lack of a real stellar cast has probably hurt this film a little. It’s very clearly aimed at the younger end of the age spectrum too, as it should be, certainly in regards to the comedy. But in the modern day and age of corporatism, it does reintroduce the holy meaning of Christmas to a new generation via a fun and light hearted adventure.

I’ve seen better and most definitely worse.

Rating: 3/5