*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

Advertisements

*NEW* SPOTLIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

spotlight-poster

A slow burning, well-crafted and brilliantly acted little drama.

Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. One that would shake the entire Catholic Church to its core.

An intriguing opening sequence piqued my curiousity as we witnessed a priest being released from the police station. No questions asked. A shrug from the police and two priests riding off into the darkness.

BUT after that promising opener, the first twenty minutes was a little too slow for my liking. I could feel myself slumping into the seat as we waited for the stellar news team to find their story. Once Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan) was brought to the fold and Spotlight’s sights were set on a priest, that was a repeat offender, I was hooked to the very end.

Schreiber was very good as the mysterious Miami media man. Taking on the Boston Globe and determined to use Spotlight’s abilities to their fullest. I wanted to see more of his performance. BUT it wasn’t his story. The Spotlight cast couldn’t be faltered. It’s great to see Micheal Keaton’s resurgence after Birdman. He played Walter ‘Robby Robinson’ with aplomb.

I felt every one had their moment to shine. I wasn’t sure why Ruffalo in particular was considered for an Oscar nomination BUT it was still a sterling turn from the Avenger. His anger coming to boiling point at the scale of this horrific cover up in a fantastic rant.

“Mitchell Garabedian. He’s a character”. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Stanley Tucci (Hunger Games) to take on the paranoid skeptic. A lawyer intent on getting justice for his clients. Treading carefully. Afraid that the Church are watching his every move. Not enough of him.

The lies, the cover ups. Afraid to mess with the Church. A “holy” institution that took advantage of so many. The statements from witnesses was harrowing stuff alone. Confused children sleeping with priests because they were afraid to “refuse” God.

Just when I couldn’t be more surprised at the stories and the statistics, the team would discover another revelation. One that was too close for comfort for one member of the team. Discovering that a treatment centre for “reformed priests” was located right around the corner from his home.

Rachel McAdams’ (True Detective) crazy confrontation with said “reformed” priest was baffling. Openly admitting to everything. John Slattery did his best BUT he will always be Roger Sterling from Mad Men. The office attire and quick witted one liners didn’t help his case.

The closing act, aided by more harrowing facts, really hit home. I couldn’t believe that the original news story was “buried” years before. And the scale. So many stories. The States being only the tip of the iceberg.

The pace may have tested in parts. BUT that didn’t spoil what was a harrowing and insightful drama. One that I never expected to be so engrossed in. All aided with a superb cast makes this one to watch.

4/5

*NEW* THE 5TH WAVE REVIEW *NEW*

The-Fifth-Wave-War-Poster

Corny, dull, laughable. Another Hunger Games inspired mess floods the silver screen.

Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother (Zackary Arthur).

The premise seemed a little hokey BUT with Hit Girl at the helm, I thought this could be watchable. Oh how wrong I was. The first half hour wasn’t too bad and zipped along and after a strong and tense opener, my hopes were still quite high. BUT it just went downhill from there.

The quick cliched set up through flashbacks did the job. The inevitable high school guff was a little dull BUT was quickly skimmed through. Thankfully. Watching Chloe loving life, soccer and boys. Awww. Yuck. That was until the end of the world.

The four waves of attack were quite frantic and pacey. The CGI wasn’t too bad either as tsunamis consumed cities and the aliens made their tacky Independence Day introduction. The virus outbreak through strains of bird flu was an interesting prospect that was breezed over. Things looked to pick up when the aliens began to control the remaining survivors. Looked being the primary word.

Moretz did the best with her role BUT the cliched high school girl spiel can only be done so many times. She may have got away with it in If I Stay BUT it didn’t work this time around. Her droll diary entries put me into a mild coma.

Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) were wasted as Chloe’s parents. They did their best BUT anyone could have played them. It didn’t help after all the promise of alien attacks, we were subjected to a mindless romance subplot that went nowhere.

Alex Roe played the charismatic stranger Evan Walker well. BUT the inevitable blossoming romance was nauseating. I was bored. I wasn’t interested. It might have worked better if it wasn’t so corny or laughable. The endless staring and cheesy exchanges was too much. A scene in which Evan is cleansing himself in the lake with his shirt off was hysterical. Come on.

I was more intrigued with the idea of kids being recruited as soldiers to fight off the enemy. A daunting prospect with children being the only ones able to detect who are being controlled by the aliens. It wasn’t explored enough or used to its full potential.

A shame considering Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) were the leading authorities. Bello made a more memorable impression as the sinister sergeant than Schreiber. He was reduced to standing in a command centre and looking menacing. The guy can act. Let him. Dreadful.

Instead we had another dull subplot with Chloe’s high school flame Ben or Zombie (Nick Robinson – Jurassic World) endure military training. Robinson was a likeable lead BUT the cliched military montages and his clashes with Maika Monroe’s (It Follows) bratty army reject just slowed this piece down to a snail’s pace.

The twists, if you could call them that, were terrible. You could see them coming a mile off. This felt like another regurgitation of Hunger Games and Divergent with much weaker results. I couldn’t understand why this received a 15 rating. It wasn’t that violent or dark enough.

We know that Moretz can play a strong female lead. So why did we have a whiny, pining teenage girl? She only really got to step up in the final 20 minutes as she attempted to rescue her brother. A case of too little, too late for me. Rushing for a frantic finale that left everything open.

For those familiar with Rick Yancey’s novel, you already know that there’s more to come. BUT if the next offering is going to be anything like this feeble effort, then the plans for a franchise might be end quicker than the aliens’ plans for Earth.

And I thought The Host was a chore. An adaptation that earned no sequels. The endless teen bestseller adaptations is getting silly. Retreading and replicating the same old spiel. Give us something different. Original if possible.

Weak characters, a laughable story and a cliched premise makes this one to forget.

2/5

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS REVIEW

20140416-201634.jpg

The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. The next contender for worst film of 2014 and we’re only into April. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better. It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle. They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up. If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it’s only featuring at my cinema for five days says it all.

The premise (if you can it that) is basically; with hours before disembarking back home, a group of astronaut explorers succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force while collecting specimens on Mars.

Liev Schreiber (X Men Origins: Wolverine, The Manchurian Candidate) – a highly underrated actor – grunts and grimaces through the dreadful script, desperately attempting to bring something to his wooden character, only to come off with a panto performance. His face pretty much shows the distaste. He looks like he knew how bad this movie was. Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense and soon to feature in the Swarnie macho movie Sabotage) is the most realistic and interesting character. Only because of the fact she was the only one who had common sense. Scientists trained to endure the conditions of space and creating ecological systems but can’t run away when their mutated colleague is trying to bash them with a hammer.

The opening starts off slow and I expected a tense build up brewing into a crazy finale but no! Every possible scene where a little tension could be created. They crush it. Skimming across or revealing the dark shadow before any suspense. All the clichéd one liners (We’ll be home soon!, You’re not going to die! And so on). The acting varied from bland to OTT. I mean *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* at one point the crew are screaming about their colleague falling down an apparent precipice and declaring him dead. No one checked how deep it was or if he was dead or alive by simply calling out his name. Nope let’s go straight to flimsy scuffs and yelling at each other. Terrific.

Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut, Let Me In) was wasted. Anyone could have played him. Romola Garai (BBC’s The Hour and Legacy) was nice to look at but incredibly dull, which was a shame as there was some chemistry between her and Schreiber. Johnny Harris (The Fades, This is England ’86) was disappointing. Typically shady and dark. An unexpected twist made a momentary shock before realising that it had no point and was completely stupid. Schreiber attempting to fight off the alien zombie things was laughable. “Fucking hell, stay down”. The make up on the aliens were awful. They looked more like those slave zombies from the Mummy movies. The special effects with the space ships and the stations was actually very good and great to look at.

Also *WARNING AGAIN* Schreiber’s character – for those who have had the displeasure of viewing this. The endless flashing back and forth wondering why he freaked out in dark spaces, only to find out something happened on the space station years before and he got locked in a pod. Bearing in mind, he was crammed in a tight space fixing parts and those buggies weren’t spacious. Absolutely stupid and ridiculous.

The last ten minutes brought the violence and a little bit of gore but only kept you intrigued for a minor moment before it’s let down by hammy acting, naff visuals and an inevitable and tragically shit ending. Shoddy acting, naff characters, no tension, throw in some recycled plot lines off naff B movies. The only thing it had going for it was the visual design but no matter how good it looked, it was still dire. AVOID. Even Mission to Mars was miles better than this. If you want to invest in a sci-fi movie involving Mars THEN GET TO THE INTERNET and watch Total Recall. Hell even the remake. Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right. 1/5

Currently ranks #163 out of 163!