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

Birdman (2014)

birdman 2
Image rights belong to Stephen Mirrione Production companies, Regency Enterprises, New Regency Productions, M Productions, Le Grisbi Productions, TSG Entertainment, Worldview Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Birdman – Film Review 

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Director:  Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a former Hollywood actor seeks to re-establish his stagnating career in the form of a Broadway play, all sorts of things start to go wrong as he battles with family, career troubles and snobby critics…

Review: When hearing of the title of this film, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another Hollywood film about superheroes to go along with the domination of Marvel and DC films that we have witnessed in recent years . Yet you would be mistaken (sort of.) This is not an action movie based on a man with extraordinary powers. Instead this story finds itself depicting former Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) the once legendary star of the Birdman superhero franchise, who’s seeking to re-establish himself in the entertainment business via a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

He used to be all about the big bucks and the superhero genre, but not anymore. Yet his efforts are encountering road block after road block, with things going spectacularly wrong. The film has so much to say about superhero movies, actors, critics, life and modern technology among many other things.  Through a wonderful screenplay by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, the messages on the plethora of topics talked about in the film are rammed home in a way that really gets the audience thinking long and hard about who they are and where they stand in society.

Sniping at real life Hollywood events such as Robert Downey Jr in the Iron Man franchise, Ryan Gosling and Jeremy Renner. He sneers vehemently at the former, or rather his somewhat wacky alter ego does, “that clown doesn’t have half your talent” snarls the Birdman with such strong disdain. The contempt for the state of the modern movie industry he has is raw and although many modern superhero films are fantastic pieces of cinema loved by audiences the world over, the audience almost always connects with our lead man and his wing wearing alter ego. It delves deep into art, and what is art, how good an actor are you if you make over-the-top superhero movies? Or are you a better actor if you choose those smaller, not-so-big budget roles?

Michael Keaton, once the wearer of the great cape and cowl of the Batman, is on top form in a role that finally landed him his first Oscar nomination. His performance is invigorating and refreshing, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of what was once a stagnating career. Edward Norton, likewise is equally fascinating to watch. A method actor who really gets into the part he plays, in more ways than one. His back and forth with Keaton is some of the most enthralling dialogue that emerged from cinema in 2014. With two excellent male performances, one Emma Stone fights the ladies corner, and she definitely more than holds her own against these two accomplished actors, giving the performance of her career. The other key cast were all equally excellent in their roles, including a remarkably more laid back turn from Hangover funny man Zach Galifianakis. Keaton, Norton and Stone were well deserving of their nominations, with Stone arguably the most unlucky to lose out.

Visually, the film is extremely engaging and in many ways, revolutionary as it is made to look as if it is one single shot. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is magnificent, following on from his magnificent work on the Oscar winning Gravity. Lubezki is again on form here, delivering another visual sensation, and deservedly added another Oscar on top of the one he bagged for Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama. Evocative and incredible imagery are packed throughout the two hour run time. There are more than a few scenes that will get your mind racing and leave you breathless with the incredible technical skill that is on show.

The theatre setting would make the audience believe that the film is taking a stance on the theatre industry, but the messages are without a doubt about the film industry. Birdman is a must see for any fans of film, as it is smart, intelligent, original and humorous. The script packs lots of punches and provides audiences with a film going experience like nothing else we have ever seen before, and may never see again.

Funny, original, emotional, visually mesmerising, acted and directed to perfection, Birdman takes flight and soars into cinematic history, and a significant amount of well deserved awards. 

a