Isle of Dogs

I like Wes Anderson best when he doesn’t have doesn’t have actual actors being so quirky. It’s better, and less cloying, when puppets are put into these situations, and saying these lines.

Even if the lines are in Japanese. Would I have liked this film as much if there were no Japan connection? I’m not certain. And I’m also not sure about the racist charges that the film seems to be attracting. Again, maybe because I know that Japan is… like this?

At any rate, first-rate eye candy, as usual. Superb attention to detail. I liked it.

Rats

O.M.G. I’ve never been afraid of mice or rats, but this brings a whole new level of gross to the table. The diseases that they carry, and can transmit to humans so easily, make them a huge menace, whether or not you ever see them… When we destroy the planet, cockroaches and rats are going to rule…

Tracks

Mia Wasikowska playing another weirdo.

There is no question that in real life, this was a helluva feat. Why then is the film so flat? The landscape is obviously stark, barren. But so too is Wasikowska, playing Robyn Davidson. I get it – a simple task, one foot in front of the other, with the goal of solitude. Certainly nothing glamorous to see here. But what about some glimpse into her psyche? The flashbacks to her father and childhood dog begin to take us there, but are not enough…

And the dog. What a companion… and so you just know that something will happen to her… this was the most emotionally charged part of the entire movie.

And of course the best quote:

“It seems to me that the good lord in his infinate wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable- hope, jokes, and dogs. But the greatest of these was dogs.”

The Wolfman

It’s kind of cringe-inducing to watch actors of the caliber of Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro turn into werewolves. While this is not a god-awful mess – the filmmaking is competent – it’s probably only interesting to viewers who haven’t seen the original. And even if you have, you’ll have to put up with plenty of cliche and cardboard characters – those that aren’t CGI, anyway. But as it was Halloween, and I’d already watched vampires last week, what was I to do?

I will however give it props for its nod to the original, Lon Chaney wolfman.

Living with Wolves

This documentary was equal parts fascinating and suspect.

Suspect not in the sense of things being made up, or untrue, but rather in being dramatized or rehearsed. In particular, the scenes where Jim and Jamie Dutcher – the couple who devoted 6 years of their lives to the study of wolves in Idaho by living among them – were interviewed seemed very scripted and stilted.

Also, these were wolves that the couple had raised to several months old before releasing them into the “wild,” which in fact was a kind of very large preserve, inside which they were fenced. Yes, I understand that that was the only way for humans to live in such close contact with an animal that normally ranges for miles. But certainly much of the activity they observed was a result of the special circumstances that they themselves created.

Still, fascinating to watch, and with obvious reference points to other wolf-like animals that humans may live in close contact with.

 

Blackfish

I am now happy to be able to say that I have never been to Sea World, and have never seen an orca in captivity. Free Willy!

Quill

This had all the sappy soft edges one would expect from a story about a dog in a Japanese movie. Particularly one in which the dog wins over the gruff old curmudgeon. Most of the characters fade into the background, their only purpose being to spotlight the dog, with his winning personality and talents.

It’s not really that well done – it checks off the requisite boxes, from the birth of the dog to his predictable death – and there’s nothing new or original here. But still… the dog!

One Lucky Elephant

Lots of people, after realizing their puppy has grown into more than they can handle, dump it off at the pound. But what do you do with an elephant that needs to be re-homed?

Try and try again, apparently. This is the story of circus producer David Balding and his 18-year-old elephant Flora. Undergirded by the issues of making animals perform for human entertainment – specifically for the circus, in this case – and more generally of keeping wild animals, the movie in the end is about the bond that can develop between humans and other animals.

I came to think that David was an okay guy, genuinely trying to do what was best for his friend. All pet owners should be as diligent and thoughtful…

War Horse

Schmaltz. Steven Spielberg Schmaltz, through and through. I don’t know what I was expecting… I suppose I thought it would be worth seeing, as it was nominated for so many Oscars, including Best Picture.

Overwrought, overacted, overrated.

7 Psychopaths

The premise for this movie would lead one to expect a fail. Could a story with this title, starring this group of guys, be anything more than a silly pastiche? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, it can. I mean it was pretty silly, but it was coherent and it worked, and I liked the story within a story which kind of winked at the viewer.

My only regret is that Christopher Walken did not dance.