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 Film Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Image rights belong to American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Babelsberg Studio, Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Film Review 

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum

Director:  Wes Anderson

Synopsis: An elderly gentlemen tells the story to a young writer of how he came to be the owner of the titular hotel

Review: Throughout life, you will probably compare many things and see how much two different things may be alike in a number of ways. This is certainly applicable when it comes to the world of film. Many people compare this film to that film through various criteria, and while some films do share similarities,  when it comes to the filmography of one Wes Anderson, it is almost clutching at straws to compare his works to any other film that graces our screens every year, because there really isn’t anything quite like them, and with his latest picture, that trend continues in glorious fashion.

Set in the fictional land of the Republic of Zubrowka in between the First and Second World Wars, it brings us the tale of the titular hotel, and how it fell into the hands of one elderly gentleman (F. Murray Abraham). We then travel to the past to see a younger version of said gentleman, back when he was a lobby boy (Tony Revelori) along side the hotel’s main concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and the tale of their friendship. His affection for elderly resident Madame D turns sour due to her possession of an invaluable painting which is left to him in her will. Triggering a wild goose chase between her rather peeved family and our lead actors, through museums and ski slopes. With the influx of superhero movies and reboots of popular franchises that were littered throughout 2014, it is refreshing to see that extremely original films like this are still being made, and that they can be uproariously entertaining and just as exciting just like a big budget blockbuster adventure. The sets are full of colour and character, with the costumes also of excellent quality, and it is no surprise that the film bagged Oscars for both Costume and Production design

With a rather large cast in this film, it would seem difficult to stand out, Ralph Fiennes certainly does giving a truly exceptional performance as Gustave H. Prone to outbursts of rather posh sounding expletives aimed at policeman and anyone who dares to be rude to his lobby boy companion, his performance is an undeniable highlight of this picture and was arguably unlucky to miss out on a Best Actor nomination. It is always rather satisfying to hear someone swear in such an elegant manner and through his upper class accent and elegance, he provided some of the most entertaining dialogue of 2014. Newcomer Tony Revelori bursts onto the scene in a terrific debut performance as the lobby boy Zero. The chemistry between the two provides some compelling and extremely entertaining viewing as they go on their adventures of trying to ensure the valuable painting does not fall into the wrong hands. Willem Dafoe is no stranger to the role of a villain, but here he’s not so much Green Goblin, instead channeling a Bond like sort of villain, and here he is again in spectacular form.

Through all the quirkiness and comedy, the film does have some thoughtful and touching moments. The mixture of comedy and touching moments can be a very fine line to walk on, but like a true pro, through Anderson’s masterful direction, the combination of comedy and sadness hits all the right notes, along with the Oscar winning score by Alexandre Desplat. The Grand Budapest Hotel delivers the best service possible, so much so that you will find yourself wanting to book another stay many more times.

Quirky, hilarious, stylish and tremendously acted by the large cast, the latest addition to Wes Anderson’s filmography surely ranks as one of his best