*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* THOR: RAGNAROK REVIEW *NEW*

Just as ridiculous as the film title but bloody good fun all the same.

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (CGI’d Mark Ruffalo), his former ally. Fighting for survival and racing against time, Thor must prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

When I first heard the director’s name (Taika Waititi), my first thoughts were: “What a strange name” and then I actually did some research and couldn’t believe my luck.

Count Viago from What We Do in the Shadows?! (A heavy recommendation if you haven’t seen it already). I should have known what to expect.

One mad rollercoaster ride of hilarity, neon, colour and 80s fusion, of course.

Marvel have really hit their stride (*cough* DC *cough*) and seem to have a winning formula.

To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the first Avengers movie or Captain America (What?! Sorry) BUT I loved Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Thor. The Shakespearean King Lear melodrama between the feuding brothers. Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Portman. Perfect.

Thor: The Dark World was a mixed bag. Failing to deliver the right balance of laughs and drama. I was intrigued to see what tone Thor’s third outing would take. The more comical route did have its flaws BUT I was too busy having fun.

And there were still some touching moments (as well as revelations) to be had between Thor and his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Even if it was a little sillier and the story line a tad predictable, Waititi and co made up for it with memorable characters, stellar turns, humour and heart.

It’s hard not to mention one actor, in particular when praising supporting characters. I’m sure you’ve seen the endless memes, gifs and tweets.

Jeff Goldblum.

You can’t help but smile at the guy. His larger than life bohemian approach fitted the role of the Grandmaster perfectly. My only grumble? He wasn’t in it enough.

Tessa Thompson was fantastic as the embittered Valkyrie. Disillusioned and drinking her sorrows out of a bottle. Her stubborn demeanour worked well off the confused Thor.

Cate Blanchett lapped up the role of Hela with aplomb. Despite being pushed into the background far too much; she still managed to make a stern adversary to the Viking god.

Karl Urban (An underrated actor) was hilarious as Skurge. Just wait until he introduces his accomplices Des and Troy. Brilliant.

I was getting a little fed up of Loki and Thor’s fractious fraternal relationship. But this latest foray forced the pair into an uneasy alliance and somebody must have heard me because there was even a gag in which Thor tells Loki that he’s waiting for the next betrayal. A running gag that delivered in buckets.

It helped that Hiddleston and Hemsworth worked well together yet again.

BUT the main duo I was interested in was . . .

Only kidding. Well, not entirely. Waititi even managed to give himself a little cameo as the bumbling bouldered bad ass that was Korg. He had me in stitches. Stealing every scene he featured in.

Anyway, the real duo that made it for me was Thor and Hulk. I loved the dynamic between them. I haven’t really rated Hulk’s multiple reincarnations (Sorry, Team Bana all day) and was unimpressed with Ruffalo. THAT WAS UNTIL Ragnarok.

He nailed Banner and brought a little character and humanity to the green giant.

The only problem with bringing new characters into the mix was that somebody had to take the hit. The absence of Portman and Dennings was missed and Idris Elba was reduced to measly filler sequences. Don’t get me wrong, he still bossed it BUT a waste of a character and an actor.

I will commend how all the silly little clips, that hardcore Marvel fans have endured begrudgingly through endless credits (thanking everyone from the make up assistant’s make up assistant to the chap who brings the coffee), have finally come into play. Most notably with a caped dimension bender (Probably not the best description).

This installment has certainly kept things fresh and fun and spiced things up for the upcoming projects.

Despite my nitpicking, I wasn’t bored. It was entertaining, if a little silly in places BUT had everything you could expect from a big superhero movie. Mad action, fantastic effects, great characters with the right injection of fun.

3.5/5

*How could I forget to commend the soundtack?! I will amend that error by leaving this classic track that welcomed our favourite Norse God to the mix. Enjoy!

 

MORTDECAI REVIEW

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Mortified! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Johnny Depp does his damndest to make this dreadfully unfunny farce watchable but frankly my dears, it’s just not good enough or funny enough.

If you were a little reluctant about seeing this after viewing the trailers, I’m sorry to say it is just as bad as you think.

I’ve always rated Depp and thought even if the film is a little drab, he can certainly lift it off the ground. Dark Shadows, I’m looking at you.

BUT it doesn’t help that his character is so annoying. On paper, I’m sure he was supposed to come off as Inspector Clousseau as an art dealer BUT boy, oh, boy, the end result . . .

I felt just as rotten as Gwyneth Paltrow did kissing Mortdecai’s moustache.

The plot was nothing more than a silly excuse to go across the world for some silly escapades. The con got a little baffling but it all came to a predictable and unfunny conclusion.

Depp pulling faces and waffling in his posh toff voice just wasn’t enough. Initially I couldn’t stand the bloke but by the end he had just about won me over.

I felt Depp had to overact just to get some sort of titter. For every good one liner (My file was fat and well-handled like a Welsh barmaid), there were dozens that dropped faster than a lead balloon.

Paul Bettany did his best as Mortdecai’s muscle and man servant Jock but he can’t pull off the thug role. He certainly looked the part BUT doing a cockney accent that would make even the big daddy himself Ray Winstone cringe says it all.

Sorry, Jarvis but you came off as a mug.

There was some camaraderie between him and Depp and there were a few moments in which I felt a smile crack behind my cynical demeanour.

I felt that Depp had to rely on former impressions to get a laugh. A scene in which Jock is man-handling a drunk Mortdecai felt like nothing more than Captain Jack Sparrow waffling away. It reeked of desperation.

The action sequences were incredibly lacklustre. The relentless CGI in a simple car chase sequence was very off-putting considering all the other stunt work was done by proper stunt men. Hardly memorable.

I think the only fight sequence that got my attention was when Mortdecai set Jock’s hands alight and he beat up a group of angry henchmen with fists of fire! Ridiculously OTT but impressive.

This might have fared better as a cartoon series on the telly BUT as a high rolling Hollywood crime caper? No, darling.

NOT even Ewan McGregor could get things going.

The brewing rivalry between his character Chief Inspector Martland and Mortdecai had potential BUT it was all too tame and playful to amount to anything good . . . or interesting for that matter.

The odd spot of banter but no real friction.

Martland as the lovesick puppy desperate to hump Paltrow’s leg had the odd giggle BUT again was hardly that entertaining.

The recurring joke about Mortdecai’s moustache was so-so at best.

I think the only time I laughed at this irritating gag was the bedroom scene with his beloved, Johanna (Paltrow).

Paltrow and Depp had some good chemistry and made this scene a little more bearable with some snappy dialogue. Her gag reflex every time she touches his tash was okay the first time.

BUT his sympathetic gag reflex and the constant repetition of said gag. No, no, no!

Bar one unexpected punch line, “You look like you have a vagina on your face!”

I felt that writer Eric Aronson was desperately setting up red herrings just to get Paltrow back into the film. Breaking up the unfunny film with more unfunny subplots that led nowhere.

A scene with the Duke (Michael Byrne) was terrible. If it was meant to be a cheeky pop at the Duke of Edinbrugh, it failed.

Going on about how damned attractive Paltrow was. I usually admire the alluring actress but her character Johanna was so bland and to be honest Paltrow was looking eerily thin.

The 45 minute marker in which Depp reaches America and has his first experience in a hotel actually made me laugh a couple of times.

And things seemed to perk up and gel a bit better but it really couldn’t save itself from the damage of a poor first half.

The recurring gag of Jock sleeping around was lazy but did get the odd chortle.

BUT the hit and miss gag ratio wasn’t helped by the flat supporting cast; Jeff Goldblum had the easiest role going in a highly unmemorable and unnecessary appearance. Olivia Munn may have looked stunning (Zuts Alor!) BUT her character (apart from being an attractive nymphomaniac) was pretty bland.

The legendary Paul Whitehouse made more of an impression in his 2 minute cameo as the maniacal mechanic Spinoza.

There’s the odd titter to be had but with the cast and the potential it promised, it fell dreadfully short as did my patience.

Peter Sellers had a natural flair to the role. He made Clousseau seem real. The trips, the goofs. Depp unfortunately seemed to take lessons from Steve Martin. Ridiculously out of depth, OTT and unfunny.

David Koepp may have penned some of the iconic movies of the last two decades; Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible and Spiderman BUT let’s not forget he also gave us Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and now this . . .

Sorry, Mr Depp. This is a rather horrid stain on an impeccable filmography. Better luck next time, old bean.

2/5