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Film Review: Isle of Dogs

“I Used To Sleep On A Lamb’s Wool Beanbag Next To An Electric Space Heater. That’s My Territory, I’m An “Indoor” Dog…”

Whether you feel the back catalogue of Wes Anderson falls too heavily on the kooky spectrum at times, there is no doubting that the stylish cinematic sensibility which springs to mind whenever you think of the likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel or Moonrise Kingdom is undoubtedly one stamped with a seal which paints the American as a contemporary, modern example of someone willing to expand and explore the vast array of horizons possible on film. Following on from his use of stop-motion animation on 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson once again utilises the format on Isle of Dogs, a surreal, comedy caper set in a dystopian near-future city in Japan, one ruled by the tyrannical Mayor Kobayashi who resorts to signing an executive order which immediately orders the evacuation of the ever-expanding populous of dogs onto “Trash Island” due to an outbreak of “dog fever”. With an extensive and highly impressive voice cast, Isle of Dogs is on the one hand an incredibly successful animated exercise, with the flawless and detailed approach to the creation of the movie plain to see from the outset, but with a one-card trick holding up its’ central narrative, Anderson’s latest is entertaining, but far from utterly captivating.

Whilst accents and language utilised within the confines of successful comedic features isn’t wholly original and has been used many times before, most predominantly in last year’s The Death of Stalin which of course featured Jason Isaacs donning a Yorkshire accent for his depiction of Georgy Zhukov, Anderson’s celebrity shopping list of a voice cast resorts to an entertaining game of “guess who” as the film progresses, with Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Edward Norton (Birdman) and Bill Murray (The Jungle Book) the immediate trio of recognisable dulcet tones as the leading pack of the movie who come across Koyu Rankin’s Atari Kobayashi, the young Mayor’s aid, who travels to Trash Island in order to locate his lost dog, “Spots”. With most of the film laying focus on the superb animation, the movie does unfortunately suffer from a sense of being a joke strung out too long, and whilst the pace of the movie is nicely balanced, with the narrative moving back and forth in both time periods and locations in a Scorsese-esque edited fashion, Isle of Dogs does come the end of it, feel quite flat and all too focused on surface rather than depth, but with a cute, barking-mad feel to it and the fact that nobody can turn down a fluffy haired canine, Anderson’s movie works to a solid, not spectacular, degree.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: The Jungle Book

“I Am Mowgli, And This Is My Home..!”

Of all the Live-Action Disney remakes that have graced our screens over the course of the past few years or so, the latest from Iron Man’s Jon Favreau could easily be regarded as perhaps the best of the lot, with Kenneth Branagh’s take on Cinderella last year arguably being the closest Disney re-imagining that manages to at least rival and in some areas, better, the latest take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a film featuring an impressive foray of CGI inflicted animals, each with their own personalities, aided by a stellar voice cast featuring the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and of course, Idris Elba as the terrifying figure of Shere Kan, an enemy completely parallel to the one featured in the 1967 Disney animated classic, highlighting the darker and scarier direction Favreau’s film has decided to go in. The real question still remains though; does the latest incarnation of Mowgli and Baloo’s story give justice to both Kipling and the 1967 animation? It does indeed, although, perhaps inevitably, probably won’t be as endearing as the latter has been in terms of longevity and legacy.

Of the film’s many successes, the CGI animals throughout the entirety of the film are a sheer wonder to behold, with flawless design and an incredibly voice cast accomplishing the incredible feat of forgetting the animals’ fictionalised reality and entirely believing in them from the outset. A dour joke at the beginning that fell flat on its’ face aside, the CGI through the course of the film is easily the best use of the technology in recent memory, perfectly realising the characters of Kipling, particularly that of the stand-out trio in Bill Murray’s charismatic Baloo, Idris Elba’s sinister Shere Kan and finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie, harbouring a comical updated version of “I Wan’na Be Like You”. Letting the team down rather comprehensively however is Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa, a involvement way too short to have any impact whatsoever. Of course, being the only real-life actor within the film, Neel Sethi’s portrayal of Mowgli is one of depth and interest, a testament to the young acting abilities of Sethi, a previously unheard actor. Not any more I would think. Disney does it again, congratulations, The Jungle Book is a easy-going family treat, one that will please everyone that intends to see it. With a sequel already in the works, it is safe to say the story of Mowgli has a very strong future indeed. Any news on Star Wars now?

Overall Score: 7/10