9 posts categorized "Children's Cinema"

April 10, 2018

ISLE OF DOGS

SpotsSince peaking with the infectiously goofy “Fantastic Mr. Fox” back in 2009, Wes Anderson has worn out his welcome to all but those in tune with his repetitive and redundant stylistic method of reducing drama to a steady faucet leak of warm but strange-tasting liquid.

Gone is the polish of Anderson’s dry but doting wit that gave “Fantastic Mr. Fox” its juice. I suppose "Moonrise Kingdom" is equal to "Mr. Fox" but "The Grand Budapest Hotel" borders on the unwatchable.   

For “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson adopts a Japanese style and setting that gives his post-apocalyptic story, about an island of abandoned (virus riddled) canines, its transposed (read obfuscated) political and ideological agenda. “Isle of Dogs” is no “Team America when it comes to targeting its satire. For a movie with so many dogs, this movie has no discernible teeth. Everything feels sterile, especially the human aspect of the story.  

Isle-of-dogs

Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin) is the 12-year-old orphaned ward to Kobayashi, Megasaki City’s corrupt mayor. A viral dog flu causes Kobayashi to banish all dogs to Trash Island, and that plan includes Atari’s own dog “Spots” (voiced by Live Schreiber). Naturally, Atari is a skilled pilot able to crash-land on the squalid isle to track down and rescue his beloved dog.  

Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), an American foreign exchange student (read radical leftist) activist, investigates a cure for the rampant dog flu epidemic. Some audiences have accused Anderson of taking low-hanging-fruit by reusing the old “white savior” trope, but the bigger issue is the film’s lack of cinematic zing and emotional connection with its audience. “Isle of Dogs” is a cinematic amuse bouche that is not all that amusing. Dog lovers might go for it, but I liked Anderson’s foxes a whole lot better.

Rated PG-13 101 mins. (C) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

October 23, 2017

WONDERSTRUCK — NYFF 55

WonderstruckAs I watched Todd Haynes’s latest film I kept asking myself, who is this movie for? It is not a children’s movie even though the story is split between the journeys of two preteens 50 years apart. The nostalgic tale doesn’t seem to tilted toward adult audiences unlikely to recognized themselves in the bi-polar storyline. Everything about this film is a disappointment. It is, by far, Todd Haynes’s weakest effort to date.

The movie is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by author and illustrator Brian Selznick, who also authored the film’s screenplay.

Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is a 12-year-old deaf runaway on the mean streets of New York City circa 1927. Still Rose’s expression never wavers from that of a satisfied Cheshire cat. She seems emotionally and intellectually vapid. Rose wants to meet her silver screen idol Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), who she watches in a silent film entitled “Daughter of the Storm.” Haynes sets Rose’s half of the film as a black-and-white silent movie in contrast to that of Ben (Oakes Fegley), a boy in search of his missing father. As it turns out, even Ben’s mother Elaine (Michelle Williams) is gone from his life. All Ben has to show for his familial history is a bookmark from “Kincaid Books,” a New York City bookstore. On the back of the bookmark is written, “Elaine, I’ll wait for you. Love, Danny.”

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So, what seems to be a not-so romantic mystery dissolves into a puddle of unearned sentimentality. The film’s overwrought production design is fussy to distraction. There isn’t enough narrative substance to withstand the overwrought time periods on display. It’s easy to blame the bland source material for this film’s complete and utter failure, but a burning question remains about why the filmmaker behind such instant classic works as “Far From Heaven” and “I’m Not There” would go down such an obvious rabbit hole.

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Rated PG. 117 mins. (C-) (One star — out of five / no halves)     


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June 16, 2017

WONDER WOMAN

WonderWomanPosterAs boring and flavorless as a three-day-old grilled cheese sandwich that’s been left out in the sun, “Wonder Woman” is yet another reminder that the superhero genre is a lost cause. How much longer can Hollywood pursue this thematically bankrupt and soulless children’s movie genre is anyone’s guess. There needs to be a 10-year moratorium on CGI. I'm not kidding. Lars Von Trier could make films for the rest of his career based on this one's budget, and they'd all be 100 times better.

The filmmakers here (director Patty Jenkins — “Monster”) set modern feminism back a hundred years in more ways than one. The narrative backdrop is World War I. Cough. It took the screenwriters putting the story back 100 years so they could have good guys and bad guys completley removed from the complex problems of the modern world. "Innocent women and children are dying." Uh-huh. Got it.

Characters speak with laughably wandering accents that point to poor preparation on the part of actors and filmmakers alike. Newbie screenwriter Allan Heinberg crafts dialogue that puts fish to sleep. The pacing and editing is so slack that any chance of dramatic suspense is out the window long before the film’s excruciating 141 minutes gratefully ends. Here’s a movie that not even Hollywood’s best editor could find something resembling mediocrity could extract. The best thing the movie has to offer is Lindy Hemming’s inventive costumes design for Gal Gadot’s heroine of (ostensibly) lesbian descent.

Wonder-woman

Rated PG-13. 141 mins. (F) (Zero stars — out of five / no halves)


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