Isle of Dogs – Review 2

by Thomas Harris

Turns out that there can be too much of a good thing. Wes Anderson, crown prince of first year art students and A-Level film grads litters Isle of Dogs with his trademark pastel colours, his symmetry, those droll readings of lines that reduce actors to mere flesh puppets. At his best, Anderson is a deeply emotional, personal director – Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums his finest and clearly emotionally engaging pictures – and at his worst, a director of little more than façade.

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Isle of Dogs falls into the latter camp. Like The Darjeeling Limited, his misjudged boys-on-tour road trip, there’s a certain piggybacking on culture, barely scratching the surface and using – Japan in this instance – for little more than aesthetic purposes. Anderson clearly has love for the culture, Kurosawa in particular, but he tries all too little. Impressively animated shots of sumo wrestling and the intricate beauty of sushi making scream tourist.

It maybe has most in common with Anderson’s bastardised father/son tale The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, a feature length advert for red beanies and limited edition Adidas trainers. There’s an attempt at building on relationships, but Anderson is distracted by stop-motion fish and playing around on a big boat.

Koyu Rankin is Atari, an orphaned 12-year old boy living under the steel fist of his “distant uncle” Mayor Kobayashi, a dog hating megalomaniac. His hate for all things pup leads to all dogs, supposedly infected with dog flu and snout fever, being banished to Trash Island. Atari ups and leaves in search of his dog “Spots.” Upon landing, he meets Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and their stray leader Chief (Bryan Cranston) who agree to help find Spots and bring about a dog revolution.

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For a film built around the relationship between dogs and their owners, it’s all too unemotional. Atari’s rescue mission means little when Anderson gives us little to show the relationship before his disappearance. Be it for a flashback showing Atari and Spots meeting for the first time, we are aware of little between the two. It’s a similar situation between Chief and the gang. Only Norton and Cranston are given enough lines for the audience to become attached. The absence of Goldblum, Balaban, and Murray begs the question as to whether Anderson could bring them all into the same room.

There’s further emotional detachment when around the dogs. Their personalities are entirely interchangeable and the Anderson-ism of drolly reading lines only blurs the line between them.

It’s an issue with the aesthetic. The majority of the dogs are all too similar looking with only the female dogs, all slender and made up, made to stand out in the crowd.

Human characters suffer from literal lost in translation. For reasoning beyond me, Anderson allows the dogs to speak English whilst humans speak Japanese without subtitles. Frances McDormand appears sporadically as a translator but this exists as simply lazy storytelling. The majority of humans are Japanese, and reducing them to little more than anonymous figures without context is isolating and uncomfortable.

The plotting too is sporadically incoherent, with the world – although stunning to look at – defined by a set of rules far too loose. Humans don’t understand dogs until they have to, dogs don’t understand humans until the plot demands them too and character motivations, in particular Mayor Kobayashi, are jumbled and peculiarly poorly set out.

Isle of Dogs finds Anderson at his most vacuous. At 100 minutes it drags desperately and at times feels more like we’re intruding on Anderson playing with his toys. It feels more pastiche, a feature length attempt at recreating Anderson’s imagination in the most unremarkable, forgettable way.

Isle of Dogs is out in cinemas now! 

Cargo – Brand New Trailer & Clips

There are some short films that stay with you. 2013 horror-drama Cargo, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, was one of them. The story of a father who uses his last moments before turning into a zombie was a heart-breaking one. It’s only natural that this creative and intense drama would evolve into a feature length film.

With Martin Freeman in the lead, the film follows the same narrative, and is set in the same location Australia as Freeman’s character traipses through the outback looking for a cure and the save his infant daughter.

This looks to be a great development from the short with one of our greatest actors at the forefront. What do you think?

Cargo is out on Netflix 18th May! 

Kodachrome – Brand New Trailer!

Here at We Make Movies On Weekends, we love Jason Sudeikis. So the more movies we can cram into our eyeballs of his, the happier we are. So we’re excited for Kodachrome! 

The film revolves around struggling executive Matt who finds himself on an unexpected journey after his estranged father’s nurse shows up, asking him to take his dying Dad on one last journey.

With Ed Harris, and Elizabeth Olsen, this definitely looks like a tender and sweet film with occasional funny moments. What do you think?

Kodachrome is out later this year 

Daphne & Velma – Brand New Trailer!

Some things are just completely unnecessary. Such as this: a film that denotes the rise of two popular characters in a cheesy high-school romp and direct to DVD franchise movie. It’s called Daphne and Velma and  I know you are groaning already.

The film revolves around the epitomes heroes from the Scooby Doo franchise meeting in high-school and trying to solve the mystery of why their fellow students are turning into zombies

I appreciate that Ashley Tisdale is pushing out projects but it would’ve been better it were completely

Daphne and Velma hits DVD  & Blu-Ray later this year. 

Human Flow – Review

Much has been said about the power of film, of how effective the audio-visual format is to the art of storytelling. With Human Flow, renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei cleverly harnesses this power to bring to our screens an astounding portrait of one of the biggest crises of our times. Interspersed with newspaper headlines, cold hard facts and evocative verse, the film casts a wide net (too wide, some may argue) in its examination of the migrant crisis; causes of which include not only war and unstable regimes but also increasingly, climate change.

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Weiwei spent a year across twenty-three countries, closely charting the lives of several people at varying points in their journey, all united in their hope for a peaceful future. He succeeds in putting forth a human voice to the crisis, one which often gets lost in policymakers’ roundtables. This is especially witnessed in the little moments of the film such as when a young Afghani boy playfully pesters his mum with his balloon animals, his innocence unbeknownst to the fact that the Greek-Macedonian border closure has thrown a further spanner in the works.

The narrative oscillates from the larger, macro problems to the micro narratives of the refugees in different contexts, often lingering uncomfortably longer with the latter. This approach works only too well, helping the narrative achieve its raison d’être. Weiwei’s provocative method is apparent in one scene in particular, when he engages in somewhat flippant banter with a young man in one of the camps. Talk of exchanging passports and the artist’s Berlin studio for the young man’s tent appears to be a cleverly-crafted attempt at pricking the bubble of privilege most of us inhabit in the western world. With Brexit, Trump and the growing clout of the far-right, Human Flow comes at a topical time to reiterate that the right to move to secure a brighter future is an inherently basic human right. That its helmed by Weiwei, a dissident artist and migrant himself, unwelcome in his native China, gives the film further poignancy, especially when he appears on screen, whether to share a cup of chai with a Syrian man or to console a woman, overwhelmed with despair.

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In stressing on the specifics of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the film does not just seek to remind the EU of its original aims but also urges us to develop a bold, humane response to what Weiwei has called a ‘human crisis’. Not since the second world war have we seen as many as 65 million people across the world displaced from their homes. Through a meandering sequence of visuals and facts, Human Flow defies conventional narrative structures to emerge an essential watch.

Human Flow is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!