In the not-too-distant future Japan, an epidemic of dog flu causes a quarantine of all and any canine throughout Megasaki City, exiling them to Trash Island. One boy, Atari Kobayashi, will stop at nothing to return his best friend Spots back home.
Of course I enjoyed this. It’s Wes Anderson and stop motion animation. About dogs. That’s three of my favorite things right there. And the title’s a pun, that’s awesome. Not to mention, all of the little subtleties within the narrative that speaks volumes about the various themes of the
But first, the bad stuff.
Upon a simple googling, the topic of cultural appropriation and stereotyping popped up quite a bit, so I’m going to explain my views on this, the best that a white-cis-straight-middle-class-American can.
It is true that even though it’s set in Japan and many characters speak Japanese, the main cast is predominantly white, thusly advancing the plot the most.
This effectively “others” the Japanese cast, resulting in villainous Japanese and white heroes, that is, if you count the dogs as white.
My immediate response is that dogs don’t have a race other than dogs, so on the voice-acting part, I don’t think that main cast makes a difference: they speak common. The whole movie deals with themes of miscommunication and finding understanding. The language barrier isn’t treated as a joke or anything of that nature. (If anything, it’s hilarious to have puppies sound like babies.) The real trouble is the only American character, Tracy Walker.
Tracy acts as a leader for the rebels against the pro-cat regime. Unfortunately because she is white, she stumbles into the “white savior” role. It could be argued that she is a characterization of the idea that folks of different cultures can learn from/help one another through understanding, but that is a very rough sell.
I honestly believe that those parts of the plot could have been re-written so it were less dialogue-based. Even though I don’t speak Japanese, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was happening on the villains’ end, so there’s no reason why our little scientific revolutionary couldn’t have been Japanese.
Another argument is that Japan serves as just a backdrop for this film: not having any weight to the plot, but at least feature old-timey Japanese staples (samurai, sumo and taiko drums). Albeit, these staples still hold influence today – and it’s not like there aren’t historical fables in western films (and it can be argued that Isle of Dogs is like a reverse Hachikō).
Additionally, I have seem some folks mention that the use of mushroom clouds is in bad taste, but I don’t believe this was intentional – I think it was just a large boom for the sake of comedy, and there many ways it could have been much worse. Personally, I think this film is only offensive if you’re looking to be offended.
Now that I’m done with that heaviness, this movie really is delightful. Amazingly, no animal gets killed – that’s a Wes Anderson first. It’s a story of a boy and his dog as well as understanding and change, and it is wonderful.
I took my sweet time getting to the theatre on this one, especially after each spoiler-free headline I caught was incredibly divisive – I mean, to think that the prequels could be considered canon over Last Jedi? It’s like everyone’s taking crazy pills. In lieu of the screaming, I thought I would talk out the good and bad of the latest in the franchise. If you don’t want spoilers, I’ll just tell you that I liked it – other than that, read no further.
The Thing That Made Me Literally Say “What the f*ck?” Out Loud
Yes, I am talking about Leia revealing her Force powers. I don’t believe that there was any doubt that she had some sort of Force ability (considering her bloodline) but some sort of hint within the film series would have been nice. Sure she didn’t have any Jedi training, but we could have seen her meditate or something like that.
Otherwise, having her Superman to safety so dramatically was utterly ridiculous. And personally, I think it would have been more appropriate if she had died then and there – hear me out:
Much of Kylo Ren’s character development is hindering on his internal conflict (okay, so he’s the embodiment of internal conflict) – I personally loved that moment of hesitation which lead to someone shooting Leia before him. If she had died, the audience would know that he would have had to live with the fact that he did not kill her in the end, furthering his self-doubt.
Now that I think about it, Kylo probably doesn’t know that she survived, so better yet, he still knows that he hesitated. There will always be doubt, but more on him later.
Finn’s Storyline / The Rebels
For the most part, Finn’s plot felt like busywork. Arguably the disastrous chain of events could be blamed on Laura Dern’s character, Admiral Holdo. Though I do believe that she was mostly a foil to Poe Dameron, to prove that there is benefit to strategy over impulse, it would have been most beneficial for her to maybe, I don’t know, explain this plan to him? Maybe it was just hubris on her part, like she had something to prove?
However, because the true Rebels made their own plans, we got to see a different side of the war, which I appreciated. Being that the main plot is so caught up in light v. dark, it was nice to see neutral parties, as well as how other parts/people of the galaxy is affected – and thanks to Finn and Rose, a new generation of rebels are inspired.
Unfortunately, a lot of this is lost in an overdrawn chase sequence. Additionally I dug Rose as a character, but the romance angle near the end seemed like too much too fast (not a fan).
The Death of Luke
Many folks took umbrage to how Luke met his end. After all, this was the greatest Jedi in the galaxy, and he Force-projected himself to death. Thematically, I thought this worked. The showdown with Kylo was incredibly satisfying, and Kylo knows that he could not best Luke in the end. Furthermore, Kylo has no idea that Luke actually died, so he lives on in legend.
I actually enjoyed everything with Luke – the angst, the bitterness, and ultimately the redemption. Many also hated the fact that he tried to kill young Ben Solo – but it was a subconscious fleeing doubt and nothing more – a misunderstanding that he had to own up to. I also almost cried with happiness when puppet Yoda came back to teach Luke a final lesson. So with his demise, I have to agree with Rey: he was finally at peace, and knew that everything was going to be alright.
I have mixed feelings about him. As a character, it’s great to have such a conflicted villain. On the other hand, his denial and outbursts are just childish and annoying. I want to see him use his failure to empower his rage – to own his mistakes to do better, to indeed let the rage flow through him – some confidence, goddammit. What do we have instead? Doubt and brooding. Lots of brooding.
Sure, he’s following Vader in letting his fear turn to anger, but if I recall, we didn’t really like Vader’s transition that much – it was better when we just knew him as a mysteriously powerful, unstoppable force. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tragic villain, but they have to be a rare combination of well-written and well performed to gain a sympathetic audience.
Obvious marketing ploy is obvious. However, the porgs weren’t nearly as annoying as I expected them to be, and their origin is actually quite charming. The crystal foxes didn’t really bother me either – I took more offense at a salt-coated planet, but that’s just me.
Final Thoughts: Legends Among Us
I think there’s something wonderful about the common theme of inspiring legends as well as belief. I really like that no matter what, Kylo will always be wrong: even after utter destruction, the stories will always endure, and so will hope. Even though the film ends on the note of “out-with-the-old,” the legends will remain at the core.
After a lifetime of neglect and abuse, Drew Glass (Niko Nicotera) returns home to wreak havoc upon his druglord father (Mark Boone Junior). But ol’ Larry catches wind of his boy’s scheme and calls in a hit (Marilyn Manson).
Let Me Make You A Martyr offers a mixed narrative on backwoods retribution and spiritual redemption. I guess?
What wants to be another No Country for Old Men turned out to be a poorly-paced thriller with very little payoff. Though Drew’s vigilante path had a promising premise, the execution felt too loose and frankly too convenient.
Nicotera and Boone are formidable in their roles, but that’s about it. Manson’s character, Pope, seems intriguing because he prowls like the shark in Jaws. It could also be argued that Pope’s a literal stand-in for Death: he’s starkly pale, dressed in black, and the only way to find him is by crossing a river after bargaining at the gate. If only his performance was as alluring. Additionally, the supporting cast leaves much to be desired.
It’s just not that good.
A small synopsis for anyone who somehow missed the 1990 miniseries or had never read the book: After the disappearance of his little brother Georgie, teenage Bill Denbrough and his group of misfit buddies (“The Loser Club”) unravel the evil lurking within the small town of Derry, Maine. This evil literally feeds on fear, thusly preying upon children at their most vulnerable, all while personified as a friendly clown named Pennywise.
Having been raised with the original, and have taken a retrospective look at it plenty of times, I can confidently say that I prefer this remake despite the iconicity of Tim Curry’s performance. (Or is it a reboot? I feel like I used to know the difference, but now I think they’re one and the same.)
Additionally I read the book years and years ago, so though I couldn’t make an accurate comparison, I am thrilled to bits that this film did NOT include one of the most pointlessly disturbing scenes in Stephen King lore.
A key difference is this story is based in the 1980s – the time in American history when every high school/college was rampant with homicidal bullies. This is a welcomed change, as modernizing provides different options for altering the fears just enough, making them more general to any audience. For instance, not every kid grew up fearing the Mummy, but I’m pretty sure every kid has seen a picture that genuinely shook them to the point of averting their eyes in the event of reoccurring glances.
Generalizing like this creates a sense of timelessness, altering how the Losers face their fears: The original relies on superstition and denial, i.e. silver and “battery acid” (aptly childish), whereas the remake has more bravery and determination, i.e. standing up and beating the ever-loving crap out of him (violent, but ultimately satisfying).
And as the Losers conquer their fears, the heaviness and permanence of the world topples with it, creating a coming-of-age/innocence lost experience with a startling degree of depth and humor, not unlike Stand By Me.
As far as scares go, It ultimately creates an atmosphere that amplifies the children’s’ fears without pandering to an adult audience. Each trauma is genuinely scary, and I appreciate that. I found Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise to be absolutely enthralling: his movements and demeanor flip from playful to utterly disturbing without missing a beat.
The physical design of the character has a more literal sense of mentioned timelessness, implying that this creature has been around for centuries, but knows to lure children all you need is a goofy outfit and a big smile. Or clowns have always been creepy no matter what the era. Especially if they drool on you.
It is a great start for this Halloween season. With any luck, I’ll be seeing mother! next.
Remember that amazing “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence from Shaun of the Dead?
If it’s been a while, here’s a refresher:
Now if you take that and mix it with this Mint Royale video, then stretch it out for about two hours, you get Baby Driver in a nutshell.
To break it down, after a run-in with a kingpin called Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a reluctant driver for a small crime syndicate. Alas, as soon as things start going a little too well for Baby, a new player named Bats (Jamie Foxx) joins the crew, and it all descends into a high-octane venture of guts and gunplay.
From start to finish, I was completely entertained and intrigued: Baby Driver is a visual salad consisting of coordination and references (worth re-watching for), complete with a killer soundtrack to oomph every beat.
I immediately bought the soundtrack after seeing this movie, and plan on keeping it in my car for a very long time. This movie was made with such precision and love for music and tempo – I’d be amazed if this isn’t up for an Oscar for editing alone. Edgar Wright is no stranger to clever beats, but to have the characters move in time with the soundtrack – it’s just so cool.
However, there is something that bothers me a lot. Not just that Baby had both the best and worst luck at any given moment (how did Buddy not die the first time!?), nor that Debora was a casual manic-pixie-dreamgirl.
It’s just, how in the world, considering Doc’s shrewd meticulousness, would he EVER want to work with Bats again? Additionally, why wouldn’t Doc mention that they were meeting with crooked cops? Would it have been such a risk to inform them beforehand? Also, considering Baby’s literal life of crime and socio-economic status, I think it goes without saying that he got off way too easily in the end.
Albeit, this is the world of action movies, and sometimes you have to remember that some things just happen because the plot says so. Nit-picks and plot-holes aside, Baby Driver is still an incredibly entertaining, original film with its own merits.
Usually I put a synopsis first, but I’ll put a trailer here instead – as it captures the intensity and atmosphere of this film much better than I could:
From beginning to end, this movie keeps you hooked. Jordan Peele uses a racist lens to focus on social discomfort and biases, in order to imbue a terrible, persistent dread over the viewer, which I believe is a new kind of horror experience.
The trailer actually captures a lot of the movie – just go see it, then read this. Here there be spoilers.
Rather than being about straight-up racism, it seems to be more about correlation, if not “accidental racism,” which are due to the effects of social standards overtime, which is the much more unfortunate elephant in the room. Except for that cop. And the brother. And half of those old people…
It would seem that this film, while focusing on bigotry, highlights the “whitification” of African Americans in a near comically uncomfortable manner. But as the twist is revealed, it can also be argued that Get Out is more of a cheeky stab at cultural appropriation – all these rich white folks are practically dying for a chance at being black.
Either way, Peele captures the annoyingly contradictive nature of white America: “either be more white or let us be more black.”
Something I am unsure of though: Was the film implying that white people think black people are easy to manipulate? Or, that it’s the privileged white man’s responsibility to use the black man (going off of Dean’s spiel about Chris’s “purpose”)? Furthermore, are both parties expected to partake in this kind of relationship due to institutionalized racism? I dunno, but it’s food for thought.
After building on all of these implications and inferences, I felt that the most terrifying scene was when the flashing lights approach our bloodied protagonist. The cop angle would have been the absolute nail-in-the-coffin as far as this film’s social commentary goes. Fortunately, the actual ending is much better.
Get Out is a refreshing take on horror-comedy, chocked full of tension, intrigue, and most importantly, creative criticism.
Literally working oneself to death is far from a new concept – in fact, Japan even has a word for it: karōshi. With the ever-daunting stress of the working world, it’s no wonder that those privileged enough would seek whatever means necessary to find a sense of ease, namely in the form of “wellness retreats.”
When the CEO of a million-dollar-bigwig-somethingorother, finds himself lost in the wiles of the Volmer Institute, the company sends their youngest board member, Lockhart (Dan DeHaan) to fetch him back.
Tucked away in the Swiss Alps, the Volmer Institute is a private establishment that prides itself in the finest in quality care, taking advantage of all the environment has to offer – namely the water source.
Once Lockhart finds getting his boss out is more difficult than imagined, it becomes far more clear that these doctors are up to a much more sinister agenda.
As much as I hate to say it, I think there’s such a thing as atmospheric over-saturation. If you want a movie that looks like a beautiful screensaver, you got it. Well, if you like eels, that is.
Initially, I was intrigued. The trailer did it’s job. That and I’m a sucker for institutional psychological thrillers. As the story progressed, I was drawn in even more. However, there was a noticeable drag. In fact, there’s really no reason for this film to be 2.5hrs long – we could have easily lost an accumulative hour of atmospheric shots and Mia Goth being ogled.
Admittedly, it was the story that kept me interested, as opposed to actual character development – which is to say there was none. The protagonist remains static, the obviously evil doctor is evil, and the doe-eyed damsel is the personification of the virgin-whore complex.
Hannah’s character is innocent while curiously alluring – locked in an ivory tower like a depressive pixie dream girl, wistfully humming and wandering barefoot.
And on the note of women in this film, I’m pretty sure Gore Verbinski doesn’t know how periods work. (I’m just saying, there was a concerning amount of blood…but I guess it is a horror movie…)
Snark aside, A Cure for Wellness is a gorgeous movie. It does its best to channel new-Hollywood atmospheric horror while playing up visceral scares for maximum discomfort (albeit, the CGI was not good). Though it has the makings of a successful horror story, the results leave this story rather underwhelming.
As a Mighty Boosh fan, this was running through my head throughout the film – enjoy.
I recognize I’m terribly late on this write-up, but near the end of this season I was terribly distracted by Channel Zero, Westworld, The OA, and most recently, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. But considering the news dropping for Season 7, better late than never, right?
Season six of Ryan Murphy’s on-going horror escapade was easily the most divisive: Between the show-within-a-show framing and found footage over-saturation, this is probably the most unique season to date. But does that make it good?
Usually I’d start with the opening theme, but controversially, there wasn’t one for Season 6. Fortunately I found this fan-video, which might be better than the actual season itself:
Let’s get down to it
When approaching this season, there’s a lot to wrap one’s head around – namely the meta-quality of “My Roanoke Nightmare.” Initially I was against this method of story-telling, because as much as I love cheesy ghost story shows, it is common knowledge that reenacting is seldom relied upon. So for “Roanoke Nightmare” to not only consist of 90% reenactment, but to have such a crazy fandom after the fact, that’s fairly hard to believe. All you can really do is accept that this branch of television is widely accepted in this universe (the “Murphyverse,” if you will).
Once it’s understood that there are many-a-layers, it’s easy to roll with the punches on this one. That doesn’t mean there still aren’t any inconsistencies. (I still don’t know what the teeth are all about.) But, it does hit on all of the previous AHS tropes: Mommy Issues, Monster, and Something Incredibly Uncomfortable (my vote goes to the Polks, followed by first-person immolation). Not to mention, this is the first season to reference all of the previous seasons (well, the Hotel one was kinda loose, but I’ll let it slide).
My favorite part of this season was when we as viewers finally saw the ghosts as they were meant to be seen – and they are hella spooky. Initially, it is a cheap trick to rely so much on the popularity of found-footage, but to use this technique to alter the viewing experience as such was a fantastic exploit of the medium.
My second-favorite part, what I like to call the redemption of Kathy Bates. Her character, Agnes Mary Winstead, was genuinely uncomfortable to witness. I felt like her contribution to this season was a way to show younger, or unfamiliar, viewers her prowess.
Speaking of younger viewers, when Dominic Banks goes on his soliloquy about being a reality villain, is Real World still relevant? Does anyone under 20 know who Puck is? Either way, the second act is my favorite part of this season, hands down.
Where it drops the ball
Personally, I really didn’t care for the third act. As glad as I was to see Lana Banana again, I wasn’t terribly interested in Lee Harris’ fate.
The trouble is, I’m not sure where the show would have gone afterwards.
Perhaps the larger issue is that the more interesting part of this season wasn’t so much the main characters, but the ghosts themselves – like if Murder House didn’t have Jessica Lange to ground it.
In all, AHS: Roanoke was a great deviation from the rest of the series, albeit a tad half-baked.