Comic-style Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is a Wes Anderson movie and Wes Anderson has a unique style that makes his productions quirky. My best example is The Grand Budapest Hotel (

Photo: Press/Fox Searchlight

Wes Anderson tropes in Isle of Dogs are:

  • The creation of a separate world. In this stop-motion animation the world is ‘Trash Island’ off the coast of Japan. It’s a place where all the unwanted stuff goes – trash (obviously) and, in this case, dogs. Also, several of the characters speak Japanese and are not always translated into English. One of these is the cat-loving dog-hating Mayor Kobayashi who banishes dogs to Trash Island in the first place. There is a theatricality about being aware of this separate world and I did feel like I was watching a Japanese comic book production.
  • Children act like adults – in this case 12-year-old Atari who endangers his life in a mission to find his beloved dog Spots. Atari actually flies an aeroplane to the island, crash lands and spends the rest of the time hobbling around with a bad leg and a black eye. Another child on the mainland (an unfortunate choice I felt of an American exchange student Tracy Walker) uncovers the sinister plot behind the whole story and the two children heroically bring about change.
  • Speech patterns – The dogs – although not children – speak in distinctive adult tones and most of the lines are delivered deadpan which definitely adds to the comical nature of the film. It is this trope, mostly, that keeps Isle of Dogs from being a purely children’s animated film.

I enjoyed the ‘comic-book’ feel of the film. But I don’t think it’s a film many will enjoy. The fact that it was released in South Africa through Cinema Nouveau is perhaps an indication that it isn’t aimed at the majority of viewers. Alissa Wilkinson ( felt that the downfall of Isle of Dogs was its lack of an important message. I disagree somewhat. I think the separate island for storing the unwanted is a modern theme that resonates in our global, trash-overflowing society.

Isle of Dogs is currently showing at cinemas in South Africa.



Superb acting in Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name is the beautifully acted story of a love affair that develops between a teenage boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and his father’s student research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). The story is one of emerging identity – hence the title. Set as it is in the 1980s, identifying oneself as gay then would not have been easy, and any ‘victories’ in this regard are swallowed up by societal norms. The setting is in Italy at Elio’s parents’ villa, a home the family occupies away from the USA during the summer. A mix of languages (English, French, Italian and German) and a background of academia in the form of literature and archaeology are layered onto the mellow Italian lifestyle setting. The mixture makes for an attractive exoticness. But it’s not enough to give Call Me By Your Name enough depth. The developing relationship is foregrounded and is dealt with sensitivity, yes. But at two-and-a-half hours in length the light treatment of the social and intellectual landscape leaves Call Me By Your Name lacking in oomph. The excellent acting – especially by Timothée Chalamet – is certainly a redeeming factor.

Call Me By Your Name opens at cinemas in South Africa on 23 February 2018. It carries an age restriction of 16 for DLNS.

Two upcoming titles I like the look of:

Romeo & Juliet – Ballet in cinema – exclusively at Cinema Nouveau theatres from 3 March 2018. Watch a snippet of the magic here: WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER OF BOLSHOI BALLET IN CINEMA – SEASON 2017-18 SEASON HERE

Game Night – an action comedy – in Ster Kinekor theatres from 2 March. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star in New Line Cinema’s action comedy about a board games night with six highly competitive gamers. The evening becomes mysterious and rather ‘real’…

Feast of Movies this Weekend

I’ve been enjoying the My French Film Festival from the comfort of my own laptop this week. The fully online festival, which started on 19 January, runs until the 29th so you still have a few days left to watch. It’s free in Africa – hooray! Tip: logging in via Facebook is an easy login option. Check out the MyFFF  at There are a number of shorts (12 minutes, 25 minutes long) as well as feature films.

A Wedding is one of the MyFFF feature films I can really recommend. It’s the story of 18-year-old Zahira who lives with her Pakistani family in Belgium. Zahira is embedded in her Western lifestyle yet loves her traditional family. The film addresses a number of sensitive issues and how the two cultures merge and clash. The issues are: abortion; arranged marriage versus the freedom to choose a partner; religion/culture in a secular society; patriarchy; and the violence that stems from defending family honour.

Coming out on circuit today is The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I definitely want to see that one!


  • The film Dunkirk received eight nominations for Warner Bros on 24 January from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. I saw this film in 2017 on IMAX – the experience, the tension, the filming were fantastic. #TimesMediaFilms
  • A South African Western ?!. That’s right folks Five Fingers for Marseilles – a modern-day South African Western – is coming to South African cinemas in April 2018.
  • Since Cinema Nouveau at Gateway in Durban combined premises with the classic Ster Kinekor theatres, nouveau movies have not always been clearly demarcated. Just so you know for this weekend, the top 10 Nouveau movies at the moment are: Murder on the Orient Express; Wonder; Beatriz at Dinner; Thank you for your Service; Molly’s Game; Brad’s Status; Victoria and Abdul; Wonder Wheel; Marshall; Battle of the Sexes. #cinemanouvea

André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is a Real Must

André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is a real must for classical music lovers. Make sure you see this uplifting concert this weekend at Cinema Nouveau in SA. It’s full of songs you’ll recognise and sing along to. The setting in Maastricht, Holland, is lovely to see, orchestra members show some character outside of their instruments, and footage of the audience is suitably romantic and happy. The three hours (which includes a 15-minute interval) of CinemaLive’s presentation will simply fly. I loved it.



maastricht-1André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is on at Cinema Nouveau countrywide on 15 October at 7.45pm and 16 October at 2.30pm.

To view the trailer, click here:

For booking information visit Or contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).


Amy: my opinion about her has changed

Amy is the opening feature of the European Film Festival which will be screened at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa from 6 to 15 May. The first screening is tonight at 08.30pm.

2007 MTV Movie Awards - Show

Amy Winehouse performs “Rehab” during 2007 MTV Movie Awards – Show at Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The documentary uses what looks like amateur footage painstakingly put together to present a sympathetic portrait of the singer. Scenes shown stretch from that of a little dark-haired girl, to a happy, chubby-cheeked teenager, through to the final sad image of a small, lifeless body being stretchered into an ambulance.

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The Big Short tackles a sad reality

Review by Brenda Daniels

Already on circuit in South Africa, this 2008 financial crisis film was seen by myself only this week. Many viewers will of course be familiar with the story of the housing bubble that caused markets to crash eight years ago causing a fallout that spread around the world. This film continues that theme, though from a slightly different angle.

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There’s More to the Dressmaker than Meets the Eye

Plot synopses of The Dressmaker describe this film as one in which a haute couture designer returns to her rural Australian town. Here she transforms the women of the town with her stylish creations, all the while wreaking revenge on those who, in the past, have wronged her, say the blurbs. Do not be fooled. This is no simple “revenge” story. It’s a fairly complex film about a woman, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who searches for clarity in her past, and for love and acceptance in the present. And it’s about the unchanging, selfish cruelty of humans, particularly when those people work in a group.

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Judy Davis as Molly Dunnage in The Dressmaker. Photo: Ster Kinekor

The Dressmaker is also very funny. Characters come across as “stock” theatre ones, complete with an evil teacher, an OCD recluse, a simpleton (who speaks the truth), a snob, a cross-dressing policeman, and an impossibly good looking, good-natured lover (Teddy McSwiney – played perfectly by Liam Hemsworth). Even the setting looks like a stage, with Tilly and her mother’s house perched at the top of the hill, overlooking the one-street town below. The transformation of the women into (ridiculously) stylish fashionistas is amusing. Molly (a brilliant Judy Davis), Tilly’s mother, is a hilariously grumpy, whiskey-swigging, unsentimental old bat. And the competition that arises between Tilly and rival dressmaker, Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler), kept me giggling in my seat. But once again, do not be fooled. The humour turns black as evil truths about the people begin to emerge.

Basically, the storyline goes as follows: as a child, Tilly was accused of killing a young boy and was sent away. Molly’s mother remains in the town as an outcast. Her father is unknown. Tilly returns to fill in the blanks of her memory and in the process the real motives of the townspeople are revealed. I cannot say more than that for fear of giving spoilers. Suffice to say that this is a very interesting, very entertaining film and very worth watching.

PS: If I was an actress and got to choose my role I would have acted as Molly!

The Dressmaker is showing at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa. The film opened on 5 February 2016.

The Lady in the Van is sweet, but a little unrealistic

lady in the van

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd and Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett. Photo: Cinema Nouveau.

An elderly woman, Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), turns up in a suburb of London and parks her old van in the neighbourhood street. Obviously a tramp, and obviously on the run for a crime, Miss Shepherd lives in her van and becomes the talking point among the neighbours. She forms a fairly close attachment to one Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and eventually moves her van into his driveway. Alan is a writer and appears in the film as two persons: one who lives his life and the other who writes about his life. Whilst the kindest towards Miss Shepherd of all his neighbours, Alan nevertheless has his limits and his two selves argue about how to handle the old lady.

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EUFF’s Concrete Night is well-made but uncomfortable to watch

A review by Brenda Daniels 

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The film poster with its original film title. This 2013 film shows in cinemas in South Africa as part of the European Film Festival. Photo: creative commons

The 2015 European Film Festival celebrates women through the theme A Woman’s World. In Concrete Night, it is director Pirjo Honkasalo who is celebrated.

The film centres around a teenaged-boy named Simo who lives with his single mother and an older brother in a miserable-looking apartment block in Helsinki, Finland. Inner city shots, night filming, graffiti and grime, and relentless rain add to the depressing atmosphere of the story. It certainly belies the film’s given description which contains the words “beautiful Helsinki”. In fact, I caught myself thinking I wouldn’t live in Helsinki if I was paid to. But I think this is what Honkasalo intended: to create a setting that echoed the characters’ hopelessness.

The story takes place over the course of only one night and serves as a journey of sorts – Simo’s passage into adulthood. According to his brother, adulthood or future is one in which humans don’t matter, and one that is better lived without hope. Taken too literally by immature Simo, this advice has devastating consequences for the young man, and proves excruciatingly untrue for his brother.

Concrete Night is not an enjoyable film. It is strange and confrontational, and I found myself glancing at my watch hoping it would end. But the ending did bring the difficult elements of the story into sharp focus. I was left feeling depressed but with an appreciation that Concrete Night is a well-made film.

Concrete Night screens at Cinema Nouveau (in Durban) on Friday 15th May at 5.30pm.

A Woman’s World to open soon at the European Film Festival in Durban


For its second edition, the European Film Festival (EUFF) (#EuroFilmFestSA) celebrates women through the theme A Woman’s World, with a selection of films that feature female directors, strong female characters or women-related stories.

This year’s EUFF features 12 internationally-acclaimed films from 8 to 17 May, representing the best of European cinema and never before screened to South African audiences.

In Durban, the festival will take place on Friday 8 to Sunday 10 May and Friday 15 to Sunday 17 May at Cinema Nouveau – Gateway (Gateway Theatre of shopping (Expo/Explore Floor), 1 Palm Blvd, Umhlanga Rocks).

For more information about the EUFF 2015 FILM SELECTION, visit:


The 12 internationally-acclaimed films lined up for EUFF 2015 – A Woman’s World – include:

  • Ida: Pawel Pawlikowski’s film is the first Polish feature to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (2015) amidst rave reviews from around the world
  • Two Days, One Night: the latest project taken on by the multi-award winning Dardenne brothers features French actress Marion Cotillard, nominated for the 2015 Best Actress Oscar
  • A Second Chance: directed by Academy Award-winning Susanne Bier, the film features Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones); San Sebastian Festival 2014
  • 3 Hearts: a French romantic drama starring film legend Catherine Deneuve; Venice International Film Festival 2014
  • Amour Fou: an Austrian tragi-comedy, inspired by the life and death of the historic poet Heinrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel); Cannes Film Festival 2014
  • Concrete Night: Finnish female director Pirjo Honkasalo’s film is a dream-like odyssey through beautiful Helsinki over the course of one night; Toronto International Film Festival 2014
  • Beloved Sisters: German Romanticism at its most expressively romantic, a cinematic tour de force from director Dominik Graf; Berlin International Film Festival 2014
  • Human Capital: Valeria Golina and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, two of Italy’s leading actresses, in a film that San twists love, class and ambition; Tribeca Film Festival 2014
  • Frailer: with great humour and sincerity, Dutch female director Mijke de Jong draws an intimate portrait to capture the way we face death; Toronto International Film Festival 2014
  • Blood of my Blood: from Portugal, this film focuses on unconditional love – and the lengths two women are prepared to go to protect those they love; San Sebastian Festival 2011
  • Blancanieves: from Spanish director, Pablo Berger, Snow White is recast as a talented bullfighter in an eerie and erotic silent film treat; Toronto International Film Festival 2012
  • My Brother the Devil: a masterful debut from female director Sally El Hosaini, one of the brightest new talents of the UK cinema; Berlin International Film Festival 2012