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 (https://wp.me/p4c1s1-5M).

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 (https://bit.ly/2GkLNYv) 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.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier reminicent and too violent

A review by Brenda Daniels

Captain America faces many foes in this Marvel production of the superhero which is due for release in South Africa this week. The enemies come in several guises and our hero has a hard time telling friend from foe.

Played by handsome Chris Evans, Steve Rogers is, however, able to trust Natasha (a slim, red-headed Scarlett Johansson) and an out-of-shape Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Together they fight the mysterious Winter Soldier, the brains behind this super soldier, and ultimately the threat to freedom itself.

An exciting car chase featuring a battle-scarred Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury is good to watch. Some giant machines designed for world-domination, lots of fight scenes and a good versus evil plot make for entertaining viewing – particularly in IMAX 3D.

But the fighting seemed over the top to me and too violent, even for a superhero. And the Captain’s bemoaning of the good old days at the beginning of the film got a bit tiresome. For our hero the “good old days” meant the freedom that America espoused. It was this that he felt ultimately called to defend; a good bit of “democracy” propaganda I liked least of all.

The film concludes satisfyingly open ended so fans can look forward to a sequel.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens at Ster Kinekor Theatres in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX on Friday 28 March. It carries an age restriction of PG13.

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

 

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

HER – will not appeal to everyone

A review by Brenda Daniels

Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johanson, is a Cinema Nouveau film which opens on Valentine’s Day. Billed as a romance, Her is the story of how writer, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), recovers from the loss of a previous relationship by meeting someone else. The someone else turns out to be Samantha (Johanson), a, wait for it, OS (computer operating system).

Theodore’s OS is an intelligent programme that learns as she goes along and forms a close relationship with Theodore, talking to him through an earpiece, initiating calls and even performing some heavy breathing during intimate moments.

Theodore’s few friends don’t find it strange that he’s dating an OS – partly because many of them are too. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, people are seen walking the streets and corridors with microphones in their ears talking animatedly with disembodied “people”, not unlike they do today. And this is where I think director, Spike Jonze, means us to see the absurdity of their (and our) disconnected lives. Lives in which we seem to bond more over devices than we do face to face. Lives in which a computer, not a person, is able to meet our need for friendship and worth and help us in turn to negotiate the world.

Although Her’s premise is an interesting one, the action drags. I found the characters’ constant self-absorption and the lack of humour in this two-hour movie tiresome after a while. An interesting idea, but boring in parts, Her will not appeal to everyone.

Her releases at Cinema Nouveau Theatres on 14 February.

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl (source: Creative Commons)