Isle of Dogs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Koyu Rankin.

WRITTEN BY RHYS JONES

Wes Anderson’s 9th directorial venture, and his 2nd stop-motion feature, ticks all the boxes of what you’ve come to expect from the extremely unique Texan. You have your perfectly symmetrical shots, you have your whip pans, you have your lateral tracking shots, you have your borderline pretentious dialogue, and you have a cast to end all casts. The cast list above isn’t even half of the voices you hear in ‘Isle of Dogs’, and every character, in true Anderson style, leaves an impression in one way or another.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is set in a dystopian future Japan in which canine flu has infected every dog in the city and threaten to cross the species barrier and infect humans. As such, the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island, including his ward Atari’s (Rankin) dog, Spots (Schreiber), and Atari takes it upon himself to fly to Trash Island to find and rescue Spots. On the island, he meets a ragtag group of dogs, lead by Bryan Cranston’s Chief, who offer to help Atari find Spots.

Immediately, the film’s stop-motion animation impresses you. In a superb opening credits sequence to the sound of Taiko drumming, as scored by recent Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, you see 3 drummers and the camera whip panning around them, and you realise that every single drum beat was stop-motion. Every time the drumsticks hit the drum, you know a human placed them there. The film is filled to the brim of astonishing animation that borders on arrogance, but stays just the right side of it to be impressive. There is a 2-minute sequence of sushi being sliced and diced, just because they can. Honestly, Isle of Dogs is an amazing feat of animation.

Adding to the stellar animation, the voice cast doesn’t disappoint. Cranston’s voice is impressive in any environment, but his gravitas adds to Chief’s highly defensive nature and proves to be a brilliant leading dog. In his group, Edward Norton’s Rex is the democratic voice of reason, Bill Murray’s Boss is the childlike, enthusiastic dog who at one point fully breaks the fourth wall in a moment of amazement, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke is the dog who, for the ‘Game of Thrones’ fans, is this film’s version of Varys as no rumour or bit of news escapes him, and finally Bob Balaban’s King follows orders as he is told, and is a fervent supporter of Rex, but sadly Balaban is relegated to a bit-part player as he simply doesn’t stand out against the vocal stylings of Cranston, Norton, Murray, and Goldblum.

This main group is the heart of the film, each of them has honestly tragic backstories of where they came from back in Japan, several of them missing the home comforts of dog soap and eating anything other than leftover trash dumped on the island. Anderson and company do a fantastic job on the island of merely showing you how things work without explicitly telling you what you need to know. There is a hierarchy in place – there are areas of the island dedicated to certain clans of dogs, there are rumours of cannibalism on the island, and so on. ‘Isle of Dogs’ does a brilliant job of fleshing out the canine world having been relegated to living in squalor.

It is a shame, though, that the other parts of the film, following Greta Gerwig’s Tracy Walker, a foreign exchange student fighting to bring the dogs back from Trash Island as she attempts to convince the city of a possible cure, aren’t so endearing or interesting. The impressive animation remains, but there is an over-reliance on narration and telling us exactly what’s happening. At the beginning of the film, we are told that the dogs’ barks have been translated into English and the Japanese characters all speak in their native language, crucially without subtitles, and the only translation into English comes through an in-film translator, voiced by Frances McDormand. I noticed this the most in the first third of the film; there is so much information to be given to us before we can get to the main story that it becomes overwhelming. McDormand delivers her tremendously long monologues reliably brilliantly as she translates speeches, but this becomes tiresome as the film progresses. There are sequences of the film where there isn’t any translation and we have to interpret what’s being said through visuals and body language. These scenes are superb as they manage to convey all the key information we need as an audience without explicitly telling us, and it forces us to engage with the film, it’s just a shame these weren’t more common.

‘Isle of Dogs’, by and large, is very good. It’s constantly impressive with its animation and its impeccable set design, and there are sections of the film that rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, mainly when the dogs are on screen. As the film progresses, the film focuses more on Chief and Atari’s building relationship and unfortunately forgets about Rex, King, Duke, and Boss which does remove my favourite part of the film which was the relationship and banter among the dogs.

‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t
diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of ‘Dogs is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.

RHYS’ RATING: 7.8/10
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Last Flag Flying

Year: 2017 (UK: 2018)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, 

Written by Jessica Peña

We can always count on Richard Linklater to project the sincerity of human conversation onto the big screen for the world to marvel at. His unrested love for his characters is truly moving, and he manages to do it again in his latest film, ‘Last Flag Flying.’ Set in 2003, the film follows three aging Vietnam-era Navy vets as they embark on a sentimental roadtrip across states accompanying one to bury his son after being killed overseas. Supplemented with ideas from Darryl Ponicsan’s novel and Hal Ashby’s 1973 film, ‘The Last Detail,’ Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Ponicsan to craft a story that brings us the same kind of originality as its spiritual predecessor film.

Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) decides to reunite with his two old marine friends, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston), and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), in hopes they will accompany him to his son’s funeral. It’s not until Larry and Sal have dinner at Richard’s home that he informs them of the reason for his visits. We find out that Larry’s wife passed away just earlier that year due to breast cancer. He also tells them that his son, Larry Jr., joined the Marine Corps a year ago, and was recently informed that his son had been killed in combat during the Iraq War.

I would hate to review a Linklater film and not give deep thought to his characters; they tell you the story! While we are not given a justifiable arc in this film, Carrell, Cranston, and Fishbourne drive these personalities and hold the film solid. The story is as much of a comedy as it is a drama. We see old war buddies yank each other’s leg about aging, old habits, and good times from the past. The film has the background of tragedy tied to its comedic forefront. It offers sensitive attention to Larry’s hardships, as well as lighthearted fun.

Cranston nails it as the foul-mouthed and boozy tough guy who just aches to kick it like he did in his younger years. His performance as Sal is as impeccable as Jack Nicholson’s Billy “Badass” Buddusky in ‘The Last Detail.’ Carell gives a somber energy to Larry that eventually becomes more lively as his pals don’t let the travesties engulf him. Larry is dealt an unfortunate hand in life, but is given a chance to comfortably deal with his loss while finding little joys to ease his pain. Fishbourne is hilarious in his own right and offers up a great performance as a former marine who used to overindulge his time with women as well as booze. His recent years brought him to seek God and it takes a determined Sal to bring ole’ “Mueller the Mauler” back out. The trio of actors command the screen and even in enclosed spaces like cars, hotel rooms, and train stations, they live up to the dialogue of Linklater; an honest and intimate human reflection.

In a group Q&A at the New York Film Festival premiere, Cranston spoke on dealing with grief and how the comedic relief plays in the film. In ‘Last Flag Flying,’ Larry found a way to naturally laugh and relish in the beautiful memory of his fallen son. Truth and honesty are demanded in parts of the film where true heroism was in question. The politics of war are slightly examined in this adult dramedy. It’s a film that explores the real things we fight for and the way a war can define a person’s character. It’s a pleasant little road trip that brings us along with these old friends.

Linklater’s devotion to humanist ideas and thoughtful dialogues in film never rests. It helps sustain ‘Last Flag Flying’ in a way that is both heartfelt and honest. He continues to soar as a big time director with such grace put into his films. He is keen on making time itself a character in his films. Time has the ability to change people and Linklater plays it to the advantage of the loose narrative here. He uses this property to tap into characters’ lives from their memories and bring them forward to tell their stories. ‘Last Flag Flying’ lets us breathe and indulge in the feel-good moments that remind us that everything will be okay.

Jessica’s Rating: 7.0/10

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First Trailer For Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ Drops!

“‘Isle of Dogs’ tells the story of Atari Konayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.”

Directed By: Wes Anderson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Lieve Schreiber, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Billy Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig
Release Date: 30th March 2018

 

Witness The Birth Of ‘The Room’ In The First Trailer For ‘The Disaster Artist’

“Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”). THE DISASTER ARTIST, starring James Franco, Dave Franco, and Seth Rogen. In Theaters December 1.”

Directed By: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Adam Scott, Kristen Bell, Kate Upton, Alison Brie
Release Date: December 1st 2017

‘Power Rangers’ Sequel In Doubt After Disappointing Opening In China

According to Forbes, the chances of ‘Power Rangers’ receiving a sequel is becoming less and less likely due to it seriously under-performing at the box office, most recently it’s disappointing opening in China over the weekend. 

At the time of writing, BoxOfficeMojo estimates that Dean Israelite’s ‘Power Rangers’ has grossed just under $135.5 million since it’s release at the end of March. Apparently all eyes were on it’s cinematic run in China to see how it performed, but after opening yesterday to a measly $1.2 million, many reports suggest Lionsgate may re-think their plans, which they obviously hinted at during the post-credit scene of the film.

Of course, this isn’t set in stone! Lionsgate may well go ahead with a sequel in the hope it out-performs it’s predecessor. Who knows, if the film performs well in DVD/Blu Ray/Digital sales, they may be more inclined to take a show with a sequel. 

What did you think of ‘Power Rangers’? Where do you think they may have slipped up? Does it deserve a sequel?

Written by Tom Sheffield

 

Bryan Cranston Drops Everything And Retreats To His Attic In This Wakefield Trailer

With a lean number of films in her directorial repertoire, Robin Swicord may not be a name with which you are familiar. This said you would sure as heck be au fait with her writing; namely ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ screen story and that Danny DeVito classic ‘Matilda’.

Robin Swicord writes and directs ‘Wakefield’. A curious story of Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), a New York city lawyer who following a nervous breakdown decides to withdraw from his family by hiding in his attic, whilst rationalising his new found reclusive lifestyle choice as not a complete abandonment of his family. – ‘I never left my family, I left myself.’

Wakefield certainly seems to be an inquisitive what if sort of film. I find myself most intrigued to see Jennifer Garner’s performance as Diana, Howard Wakefield’s wife, as she battles with unanswered questions whilst living in hope of her husband’s return.  

Opening at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival last September, reviews and opinions have been varied with many praising Cranston’s excuseless performance and Swicord’s brave directorial decisions, although one cutting piece by The Guardian argues that “two hours with Bryan Cranston in an attic is less fun than it sounds”

As always I am going to reserve judgement until I see it and I urge you to do the same. Not long to wait as ‘Wakefield’ is set to release on 19th May; if you need me I’ll be in the loft until then.

Written by Mark Putley

 

 

Oscars 2016: The Nominees

The second biggest awards show in the film calendar (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards, of course) is feeling a hell of a lot closer now, after the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced this week. 

Not surprisingly, ‘The Revenant’, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s critically-acclaimed follow-up to his Best Picture win of last year (Birdman), leads the way with 12 nominations. The Academy also pleased film fans everywhere with a surprising 10 nominations for everyone’s favourite action film, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

As usual, there’s plenty of controversy and public outcry, with scripts from Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) and Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) snubbed, and an apparent lack of diversity still plaguing the awards show. 

Will Leo finally win the Oscar? Can Iñárritu win back-to-back director gongs? Or will George Miller and his brainchild ‘Mad Max’ steal the show? Here’s all the nominees, plus a few predictions as to who might win on the night (although, if my earlier predictions of the Best Picture nominees are anything to go by, I wouldn’t pay much attention to my guesses).


BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant (our winner)
Room
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (our winner)
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room (our winner)
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (our winner)
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol (our winner)
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

DIRECTING
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road (our winner)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Anomalisa (our winner)
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

COSTUME DESIGN
Carol (our winner)
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Body Team
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

ORIGINAL SONG
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

ANIMATED SHORT
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow (our winner)

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)
The Martian
The Revenant

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant (our winner)
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul (our winner)
Theeb
A War

ORIGINAL SCORE
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario (our winner)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian (our winner)
The Revenant

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian (our winner)
Room

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina (our winner)
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario (our winner)

Golden Globes 2016 Nominees Announced

The Oscars may be the biggest awards event of the year (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards of course), but The Golden Globes are pretty big too, and can often be used as an indicator of what films might be successful with The Academy. Earlier this week, the nominations for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards were announced, with Todd Haynes’ ‘Carol’ leading the way. You can see all the nominations here, and my attempts to predict the winners.

Best Motion Picture (drama): Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Prediction: Carol

Best Motion Picture (comedy/musical): The Big Short, Joy, The Martian, Spy, Trainwreck
Prediction: The Martian

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (drama): Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Prediction: Brie Larson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (drama): Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Will Smith (Concussion)
Prediction: Leonardo DiCapro

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Amy Schumer (Trainwreck), Maggie Smith (Lady In The Van), Lily Tomlin (Grandma)
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Christian Bale (The Big Short), Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Matt Damon (The Martian), Al Pacino (Danny Collins)
Prediction: Matt Damon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Jane Fonda (Youth), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Prediction: Alicia Vikander

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Prediction: Michael Shannon

Best Director: Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Ridley Scott (The Martian), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Prediction: Todd Haynes

Best Screenplay: Emma Donoghue (Room), Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer (Spotlight), Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs), Charles Randolph/Adam McKay (The Big Short), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
Prediction: Aaron Sorkin

Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Anomalisa, Shaun The Sheep Movie, The Peanuts Movie
Prediction: Anomalisa

Best Foreign Language Film: The Club, The Fencer, Mustang, The Brand New Testament, Son Of Saul
Prediction: Son Of Saul

Best Original Score: Carol, The Revenant, Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight
Prediction: The Revenant

What are your thoughts on the nominations and my predictions? Let us know who you think the big winners will be at The Golden Globes in 2016. You don’t have to wait long to find out where the awards end up, with the ceremony taking place on January 10th 2016.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes