*NEW* ISLE OF DOGS REVIEW *NEW*

Did you hear the rumours? What rumours? That Isle of Dogs is pretty good.

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

Confession time, I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan. BUT I loved his take on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. His quirky whimsical style suiting the children’s book to perfection. I was really excited to see what his next foray into stop-motion animation would offer.

Did it live up to the hype? (Uh . . . You just put it was good).

All barks have been translated into English while humans speak in native tongues or by interpreter/foreign exchange student/electronic device.

I knew what I was getting myself into.

Alexandre Desplat’s grandiose score and Courtney B. Vance’s (American Crime Story) brooding narration helped liven up a crazy prologue titled ‘The Boy Samurai’. A strange fable about a century long vendetta between a renowned Japanese dynasty (The Kobyashi clan) and .  . . Some dogs. Okay then . . .

Flash forward to 20 years in the future and an outbreak of snout fever has spread among canines in the city of Megasaki with a risk of infecting humans. In a hasty measure by Mayor Kobayashi, all dogs are dumped on ‘Trash Island’. Left to their demise.

The animation was fantastic. The detail, the expressions, the set designs. Brilliant. Matching the zany nature of our eccentric director. Come on, even the title spells; I LOVE DOGS.

The dogs really did steal the show. Their Magnificent Seven Western showdown introduction had me in stitches. Piles of litter rolling across like tumbleweed as they fought rival packs for scraps. I loved the cartoony cloud scuffles.

The cast were superb; featuring a mixture of regular Anderson stalwarts and new faces (Well, voices in this case). Edward Norton was a particular highlight as Rex. BUT each dog had their moment to shine from Goldblum’s gossiping to Murray’s meanderings. However, none of them could top Chief.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston delivered that Heisenberg tenacity to the hostile hound. A dog that has never had a “master” and refuses to accept one.

That is until one of those said “masters” crash lands on Trash Island looking for his lost dog.

I loved the endearing relationship that developed between Chief and Atari (Koyu Rankin) as the stubborn stray (initially) refused to help. The lost in translation shtick complimented the film.

I didn’t have an issue with the lack of subtitles as Atari raged in his native tongue. The detail in the eyes said it all. The emotion captured perfectly in a wonderful flashback between him and his beloved dog Spots (Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan).

And luckily when some of the conversations in Megasaki got a little dense, we had the fantastic Frances McDormand and Greta Gerwig for interpretation.

That was the only problem. When the humans were involved, the pace dragged and; if it wasn’t for Gerwig’s hilarious political activist/foreign exchange student Tracy, my interest would have completely waded.

The maniacal Mayor’s canine vendetta and conspiracy to thwart scientists for a cure was dull as dishwater. I just wanted to get back to Trash Island.

“You should see the other dog. I think he was made of stainless steel”.

The crazy canines and their quest to help Atari was full of heart and had all the Anderson quips and humour we’ve come to love.

Even the kanji was translated during a news report with such phrases as: (Sad funeral) and (Tragic disaster).

“Maybe it’s me, I’m not a doctor or maybe it’s the clutch pedal accelerator in the side of his head but . . . ”

Too adult for kids? I think this could leave the little ‘uns fidgeting in their seats.

Don’t get me wrong, the dogs were fantastic and their hilarious convos were comedy gold BUT the student protests in Megasaki and animal rights debates was a tall order even for yours truly.

The journey was entertaining and delivered a few surprises along the way, with a number of eclectic characters popping up from Harvey Keitel’s cannibal crew to Tilda Swinton’s prophetic pug.

BUT this wasn’t perfect by any means. It was tough NOT to make comparisons to Fantastic Mr Fox, which this fell short of.

Scarlett Johansson was wasted as show dog Nutmeg. She had good chemistry with Cranston’s Chief and it teased a little side story that didn’t surmount to anything.

The final showdown was a little flat as Anderson traded robot dogs and quirky humour for haikus and pretentious speeches in a giant conference hall.

I was a little disappointed at how Chief and his band of merry misfits were strangely absent in the chaotic finale. Shame.

It felt like something was missing. I couldn’t fault the charm and heart behind this zany flick and I still smile thinking of certain scenes BUT it wasn’t enough for the talent at hand and the characters that were at their disposal. I was left wanting.

BUT fans of WA and stop-motion animation will not be disappointed.

3/5

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*NEW* THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS REVIEW *NEW*

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A wonderfully acted and beautifully shot drama. One of the better ones.

A lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander) living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from a drifting rowing boat.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines. At the time of release, I can remember describing it as drawn out over hyped drivel that was screaming for an Oscar. When I heard similar comparisons being made from other critics about this latest offering, it didn’t build up high hopes for me.

BUT I was pleasantly surprised and rewarded with a highly engaging and heartfelt affair.

We follow Tom Sherbourne fresh from the turmoil of the First World War as he takes up the light-keeper job on Janus Island. A man desperate to escape to the furthest part of the world. The sound of gun fire and war planes carrying across the wind. The vast ocean offering little refuge.

I felt the character of Sherbourne was a complete change for Fassbender. To see him play a much more vulnerable and reserved role. Delivering another superb turn.

Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography was breathtaking. It was amazing how Janus Island could look barren and desolate in one frame and beautiful and idyllic the next. Wonderful. Alexandre Desplat delivered another brilliant score that complimented the piece.

The slow burning pace allowed us to empathize with this traumatized veteran who already felt his time was up. That was until he met Isabel (The lovely Alicia Vikander).

You couldn’t fault the chemistry between them (Which is probably why they ended up together in real life). We watched their romance blossom as Tom’s stern demeanour was finally cracked by the inquisitive and youthful Isabel.

As much as the running time may have strung the story line, I was heavily invested in the pair. BUT with any drama, there is always tragedy lurking around the corner. We suffered with them as Isabel went through two miscarriages. Endured the merciless storms that riddled the small island.

Vikander was brilliant as Isabel. The darkness taking away her youth and smile as Tom dug another grave.

Until one fateful storm answered the poor girl’s prayer as a dingy washed up on the shore. A dead man with no papers and a healthy baby girl.

The kid actors that played young Lucy were brilliant. You can’t stop a child going off script and they made the scenes and dynamic that much more natural and entertaining. There were certain scenes where you could tell that Fassbender and the cast were having to improvise.

However as time passes, Tom soon discovers that a grieving widow in the village visits the cemetery mourning the husband and daughter that were lost at sea. Throwing him into a crisis of conscience with moral and ethical implications that could destroy the lives of his own family.

Rachel Weisz was superb as the grief-stricken Hannah. You could feel your own loyalties changing. Understanding Isabel’s loss and reasons for keeping the child BUT also feeling empathy for Hannah who has spent all those years believing her child was gone.

And I’m not sure if there is a rule BUT (of course) being set in Australia, we had Bryan Brown playing Hannah’s wealthy father.

As the inevitable drama unfolded, I didn’t know how it would end (Never reading the bestselling novel. A crime in itself). I was on tenterhooks.

I have to commend Derek Cianfrance for adapting and delivering an emotional story. To convey and capture such emotion so effectively. The grief, the trauma, a mother’s loss. Excellent. Of course that could not have been done without the support of a fantastic cast who played their parts to perfection.

I’m not one for romantic period pieces BUT this is one to watch.

3.5/5

GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!