Parasite

Honestly, are you at all reluctant to see movies with subtitles? I have to be in the right mood. They require a certain amount of mental work and you can’t look down at your popcorn for even a few seconds for fear of missing something.
Our viewing of Parasite was at noon on a Saturday, since our very un-art-house Regal 16 apparently felt that two hours of precious screen time early in the day was all that could be spared for a film that doesn’t have star power, explosions or talking animals. And if Parasite had not been nominated for Best Picture it’s unlikely we would have been given any chance to see it at all.
Metaphors abound, or are at least proclaimed to be in abundance by numerous characters in the opening scenes of Parasite. One particular “Scholar’s Rock” continues to make appearances like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is a gift to the Kim family from Min, a friend of son “Kevin” who asks for a favor that sets the entire plot of the movie in motion. Min is about to study abroad, but has a crush on the daughter of the wealthy, very westernized Park family. He needs Kevin to fake credentials in order to become her English tutor, essentially keeping an eye on her in Min’s absence. Sister “Jessica” has graphic design skills that allow her to pose as an art teacher and therapist for the Park’s spoiled and energetic young son.
We meet Kevin’s family in a tiny, squalid basement apartment in Seoul, stealing WiFi from nearby sources, dependent on their cell phones and attempting to eek out a living by assembling large quantities of pizza boxes for an area business. They live at the end of an alley where drunks urinate outside their window, a window they leave open to benefit from free fumigation for stinkbugs. If we feel pity for the family of four, that’s about to change. They have a plan.
What evolves is a web of deception involving each member of the family in a complicated scheme to prey on the gullible wealthy occupants of a former architect’s mansion. The home has a secret of its own, shielding another breed of parasites that eventually emerge to battle for survival. But the Kim’s apartment imbues them with a lingering stench that betrays their true status, a station in life that comes back to haunt them, and from which there is ultimately no escape, only another plan. But as it is stated in the film, “The only plan that cannot fail is no plan at all.”
In an IMDb interview writer/director Bong Joon-Ho reveals that the idea for Parasite was just “in my brain” kind of like a parasite. The interviewer struggles to extract answers to basic question from him and two main cast members. Is this a language problem, or does he rely entirely on a deep talent for stitching together visually engaging scenes with a script that pulls the best from his actors. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s accomplished this. In 2013’s Snowpiercer, based on the French science fiction graphic novel of the same name, the few survivors of a second ice age Earth travel around the globe in a train for seventeen years. Here too, class plays an important role, elevating or oppressing characters as they struggle within the confines of the vehicle, almost like a play.
Parasite is gathering almost universally high marks from critics and audiences. It has the feel of a Guillermo del Toro production, minus the monsters, unless monstrous human actions are tallied. Its improvisational approach takes you to the edge of your seat with anxiety as a house of cards begins to crumble and characters mount a frantic attempt to cover up their antics ala Risky Business. It is an unusual mix of light comedy, crime and drama that will leave you thinking about deeper meaning long after viewing. Greed, wealth, poverty and desperation form a toxic stew conducive to parasites in this South Korean film. See it before someone spoils it for you.
Parasite (2020) runs 2 hours, 12 minutes and is rated R.
Should I see this movie?


Dolittle

If Robert Downey Jr. was concerned about being typecast as Tony Stark following eleven appearances in various Ironman and Avengers roles for Marvel Studios, this film serves as a much needed break, putting a fresh new face on a role Eddie Murphy and Rex Harrison played in 1998 and 1967 respectively.
In fact, Downey was Executive Producer for this production, which may speak to his desire for a different creative challenge. It is the most un-Ironman acting imaginable. The star’s Team Downey production company produced this very expensive film.
Take equal parts of Willy Wonka, Captain Nemo and Captain Jack Sparrow, and you have the look and feel of Doctor John Dolittle as he is very reluctantly pried from his animal sanctuary in search of the “Eden Tree” to cure the ailing Victoria, queen of England. Heartbreak over the death of his beloved wife and partner in adventure has forced him into a life of solitude with only his animal associates to converse with, in true Doctor Dolittle style. No humans allowed, at least not until young Tommy Stubbins breaches the fortified barrier to his compound with the aid of a talking parrot, voiced by Emma Thompson.
There are lots of celebrity voices at work in Dolittle. Downey’s own gruff, half-whispering British accent is complimented by Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Kumail Nanjiani, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez, each as an animal ranging from Ostrich to Elephant.
At first, Downey’s hooting and barking was somewhat embarrassing. Here we have the great Sherlock Holmes (2009) rolling on the floor and beating his chest in a chess game with a timid gorilla. But soon the animals acquire human voices and the audience is brought into the act.
There are quite a few funny scenes, pratfalls and jokes, some of which will go over the kiddies’ heads the way they did in old Rocky & Bullwinkle episodes. There are also several fairly intense encounters with a fire breathing dragon, attacking bats and a caged tiger that could be a bit much for really young children. At least three villainous scoundrels work hard to prevent Dolittle from succeeding in his quest.
But overall, the fairytale feel to the film, with enough high quality computer generated action to do Disney proud, kept the row of small children in front of us engaged and excitedly laughing at all the right parts.
Make sure you stay for a minute beyond the closing credits for a brief extra scene.

Dolittle (2020) runs 1 hour, 41 minutes and is rated PG.
Should I see this movie?  

No Time to Die

We saw the long-awaited James Bond film recently. And not surprisingly, I began this review with the wrong title, not that it matters. The f...