Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs – Film Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber

Director: Wes Anderson

Synopsis: In a near future Japan, after all dogs are banished to a solitary island following an outbreak of a deadly virus, one young boy goes in search of his dog.

Review: “Man’s best friend,” a title that has a long association with dogs and the special relationship that humanity as a species has with our four legged friends. This concept however is completely turned on its head in the latest film to emerge from the brain of quirky director Wes Anderson, also marking his second foray in stop-motion animation film-making following 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Set around twenty years in the future, in the wake of a virus that tears through a Japanese city, a decree is issued that declares that all dogs be sentenced to a nearby trash island, firmly away from any human contact. When one young boy makes a daring venture to said island in search of his pet dog, the burden falls to a select group of pooches, namely Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), King (Balaban), Boss (Murray) and Duke (Goldblum) to help him in his quest to find his beloved hound Spots (Schreiber).

Mutts on a mission…

It certainly is a given that with any feature length film, that a lot of care and attention goes into the production of the film, but never does that feel more appropriate than for this sort of stop motion animation. With each new character that is introduced (there are a fair few of them), it is evident that a great deal of work has gone into this film, and it pays dividends. The animation is stellar and by consequence, the film has a really unique look to it. Our main gang of lovable mutts are all very well fleshed out characters, which isn’t that much of a surprise given the considerable talents of the actors lending their voices to them. The stand-out is Bryan Cranston’s Chief who has some trust issues when it comes to humans, and as such he finds himself at odds with the rest of the pack, mainly Norton’s Rex.

As well as having a unique look about it, Anderson’s screenplay goes in very intriguing directions. Though it does use elements of Japanese culture that are very commonplace, it never feels like it is cultural appropriation. Indeed, it’s more like cultural appreciation as the country’s culture is front and centre, with instances where dialogue is sometimes not even translated. And of course, there is that quirky style of humour that only comes with a Wes Anderson movie stamped all over the film. He manages to fuse that humour so effortlessly into this heart-warming tale about the relationship between man and mutt, and how far one boy will go to save his four legged friend.

With such a stacked voice cast filled with so many talented actors, it was almost inevitable that some would get lost in the mix. Aside from Cranston, it’s Norton’s Rex and The Goldblum’s Duke that make the most impact, in addition to Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  There are meaningful contributions from the likes of Harvey Keitel, Greta Gerwig and F Murray Abraham, but sadly they don’t get nearly enough the screen time that the actors of their talent deserve.

However, in spite of that, the dedication to the story and the warmth that the film-makers have not only to the culture of Japan but of pooches themselves mean that anyone who has a favourable disposition towards dogs will almost assuredly appreciate this film, likewise for anyone who is less enamoured by dogs will undoubtedly appreciate it. Who knows, perhaps even the most ardent cat lover won’t have a bone to pick with this film, but that might be a bit too far fetched.

Charming and very entertaining with beautiful detailed animation and a superb voice cast, there really isn’t anyone in Hollywood who makes movies like Wes Anderson does.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla (2014)

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All image rights belong to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros

Godzilla – Film Review 

Cast:  Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanbe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Straitharn, Juliete Binoche

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the world’s most famous monster. As an accident at a Japanese power plant leads to the discovery that mankind has been hiding some rather large secrets that represent a huge threat to humanity.

Review: When looking at the various incarnations of huge monsters that are ingrained in popular culture, Godzilla is for many people, one of the biggest and best that has ever been brought to the big screen. Ever since the original 1954 creature stomped into existence, we have seen cities get destroyed by large monsters right throught cinematic history. Godzilla has gone through several incarnations since and with the disappointment of the 1998 version, director Gareth Edwards would have probably felt the pressure to deliver the Godzilla movie that the fans want to see.

In this respect, the director of Monsters has hit the mark as we have a new version of the iconic monster that seems like it is hoping to be a throwback to the 1954 film, and bring a very realistic take on the King of the Monsters. A version that should atone from the horrors of the 1998 incarnation of the legendary character.  At the same time, the focus of the film is largely on the humans. The focus is what would be the consequences if a giant monster rose out of the ocean and threatened our very existence. It is a battle to stop these monsters from destroying everything the human race has ever known.

As the film’s focus is on the human struggle, we have our lead characters Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson)with his wife Elle (Olsen)   and Ford’s father Joe (Cranston). The latter of which is convinced that humanity is holding some gargantuan secrets. Although he is not in the film a lot, when he is on screen, the Breaking Bad star is on superb form. He is a scene stealer, in particular with one of the very first scenes in the film, his emotion really shines through. While, his son Ford was almost emotionless and stoic at times. While the Ford family look for the answers to their past. In another corner,  we have an alliance of scientists and military, led by Ken Watanbe and David Straitharn, working together in order to try and understand the rather large problem and the best way to deal with it. Overall the human cast, without doubt, a talented group of actors, do a great job in portraying the horrific problem that has arisen.

With the focus being on the humans, Godzilla does not have a large amount of screen time in the film, and in that respect, some may walk away disappointed. However when he is on the screen, it is fantastic to watch. Edwards and his team certainly intended to create their  version one that honoured the original. The battle scenes with Godzilla are enthralling to watch and on several occasions there is the iconic Godzilla roar. These titanic duels are going down and buildings are being reduced to rubble. This new incarnation of the legendary Toho monster, truly is something to behold. There are plenty of other enthralling action scenes to get the heart pumping. That being said, with some scenes, it is set to show a clash of monsters that we paid to see. Instead it montages through the action, which may leave the audience somewhat disappointed. It would not be unreasonable to see lots of scenes with Godzilla battling and seeing cities get torn apart, but these are rare in number.

Despite the lack of screen time that Godzilla has, Gareth Edwards made a solid film that does give the iconic character the film that it deserves. The camera work  and directing, are both excellent. Equally as epic, is the score by Alexandre Desplat. The visual look of Godzilla is also superb and while the fight scenes you really wanted to see are few and far between, it is a strong, realistic take on what would happen from the perspective of mankind, if monsters suddenly rose out of the ocean and began to destroy humanity.

While there’s not as much Godzilla screen time as you might expect, with strong human characters and some fantastic action scenes, there is enough in this take on the King of the Monsters that should leave viewers roaring with delight.

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