Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: ‘Isle’

Friday, April 27, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Wes Anderson is a very idiosyncratic film-maker.

Consider the titles of feature movies Anderson has directed.

From his first feature, “Bottle Rocket” (1996), to “Rushmore” (1998), “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004), “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009), “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012), and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), Anderson has created worlds of personalities, locations and emotions that defy description.

Anderson’s films’are sometimes more to be admired than enjoyed, and don’t always live up to the lure of their titles. Even so, his place in the annals of cinema cannot be denied.

His technique is so precise that his approach tends toward the aloof. His films can seem cooly calculated and the characters in them can be flat and emotionless. This droll directorial approach is perhaps intentional. Nevertheless, the result can be a distancing from the material for the viewer. With “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson returns to the stop-motion puppet animation he utilized in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Among the best-known such films in the genre is Rankin-Bass Productions, Inc. (1960-1987) “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964), the perennial children’s film shown on TV during the Christmas holiday season.

Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” is far from a children’s stop-motion puppet animation feature film. It’s more of a stop-motion puppet animation film for adults.

Along for the ride are many from Anderson’s film acting company, and others, including the voice talents of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood and Yoko Ono.

The storyline in “Isle of Dogs,” produced, directed and written by Anderson, takes place in the future when dogs are banished to Trash Island off the coast of Japan because of an illness among the dogs. A boy, Atari, orphaned nephew of the mayor of Megasaki City, flies to the island to search for Spots, his lost dog.

There, he encounters and befriends a gang of mangy mutts, who assist him in trying to locate his pet dog. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Professor Watanabe is thwarted by the government in his research to perfect an antidote to the illness affecting the dogs.

“Isle of Dogs” has astounding visuals. The puppet dogs have amazing detail, including their fur, eyes and ears. The human characters are less-detailed, with mouths that move in the manner of the “Clutch Cargo” cartoons (1959-1960), whereby a system called Syncro-Vox was used to voice the words on the faces of the characters.

The backgrounds in “Isle of Dogs” are simple, almost like two-dimentional cardboard cutouts. Many of the scenes are framed straight-on, with a symmetry that Anderson is noted for in his films.

The viewer is “treated” to a depiction of food waste garbage, replete with wiggling maggots. There’s also a scene showing kidney transplant surgery.

The voices of the characters are especially good, notably those of Edward Norton and Bill Murray, who each voice two of the dogs.

The films of Wes Anderson are an aquired taste. Many require repeated viewings to really “get” them.

The “Isle of Dogs” should delight fans of Anderson and stop-motion animation. It’s so unusual that it shoud be seen and admired, if not totally enjoyed.

“Isle of Dogs,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for thematic elements and some violent images; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Drama; Run time: 1 hr., 41 mins.; Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The “Isle of Dogs” score is by Alexandre Desplat (“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The soundtrack includes Japanese drumming, effectively utilized to heighten the drama.

Box Office, April 27: “A Quiet Place,” starring Emily Blunt and her husband, John Krasinski, who directed, reclaimed No. 1 with $22 million, $132.3 million, three weeks, dethroning Freedom High School, Bethlehem, graduate Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Rampage” from its one week perch, with $21 million, $66.6 million, two weeks, giving Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” a not so pretty opening at No. 3 with $16.2 million, one week, and keeping “Super Troopers 2” debut at No. 4, with $14.7 million.

5. “Truth Or Dare” slipped two places, $7.9 million, $30.3 million, two weeks. 6. “Ready Player One” clicked down two places, $7.5 million, $126.1 million, four weeks. 7. “Blockers” again dropped two spots, $6.9 million, $48.2 million, three weeks. 8. “Black Panther” again lost two spots, $4.6 million, $681 million, 10 weeks. 9. “Traffik,” $3.8 million, opening. 10. “Isle Of Dogs” ran down three places, $3.4 million, $24.3 million, five weeks.

Unreel, April 27:

“Avengers: Infinity War,” PG-13: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo direct Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, and Chadwick Boseman in the Action Fantasy Science-Fiction film. The Avengers unit to fight Thanos who wants to put an end to the universe.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes