Film Reviews

Film Review: Isle of Dogs


The story unfolds in Japan, sometime in the future. We meet a 12-year-old orphan boy named Atari Kobayashi who lives with his bodyguard dog named Spot and his uncle, the mayor of Megasaki City, a cat lover. We’re in the midst of  an ongoing war on dogs, and the leader of this pack is none other than Mayor Kobayashi.

A mysterious epidemic known as canine flu and snout fever has plagued all dogs in the city. The mayor makes an announcement declaring all canines a nuisance to society, and passes a law that immediately exiles all dogs to an island that’s used as a garbage dump—Trash Island. The story takes a painful bite when Mayor Kobayashi exiles the first dog to the island. It’s Spot!

The island is soon filled with dogs roaming in packs and fighting for garbage scraps. Chief, Rex, King, Boss, and Duke are all alpha dogs and their pack discovers Atari when he crashes his small plane on the island. Atari, who speaks Japanese, immediately bonds with the dogs, who are more than eager to help and please this small human. Chief, the leader of the pack is skeptical at first, being a street dog, but soon begins to realize his place and his need for human companionship.

Isle of Dogs is your typical Wes Anderson film, and if you are a fan then you know “typical” for this director means quirky, eccentric, and most of all original in his storytelling style. This is Anderson’s second stop-motion animated film with an all-star cast lending their voices to bring this affectionate dog story to life. It’s an adventure. A journey that leads each character to discover something special about themselves. Classic Wes Anderson storytelling.

One of the most unusual stylistic devices Anderson uses is silence between dialogue. The expressions without words speak volumes in the development of the story and the characters. The other unique element is that the dogs are the only ones that speak English, as well as Tracy Walker the foreign exchange student, and the leader of the “Pro Dog” group. Yet the story moves effortlessly without the viewer having to understand Japanese or English. The film is well-structured, and the expressions on each dog and human envelope the viewer, drawing you further and further in.

Isle of Dogs is a heartwarming story filled with friendship, loyalty, and unconditional love, and it ranks as one of Wes Anderson’s best films. Dog lover or not, it will appeal to you from an emotional standpoint, as you watch a group of alpha dogs follow a boy in search of his beloved.

4 of 5 stars

Film Reviews

Film Review: Ready Player One


If you love 80s pop culture references, then buckle up for Ready Player One, an adventure through not only iconic video games, but through films and music that made Generation X. It’s a trip back to the mall arcade, even though a sock full of quarters isn’t required for this virtual realiTye adventure. So sit back, relax and enjoy Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of Ready Player One based on Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel of the same name.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is our hero, and you get to experience the virtual realiTye trip through his eyes. You become Wade Watts, you are Player One in his journey. He is you. An average teenager in search of adventure, treasures, but most of all acceptance.

In the not so distance future, 2045 to be exact, Wade’s realiTye is far from perfect and being a teenager is hard enough; but living with your aunt and her boyfriend in the slums of Ohio takes realiTye to level zero in any game. How do you escape, when you can’t power up and you’re playing on your last life with the only quarter you have? Simple. You reach in and grab your virtual realiTye goggles and head to The Oasis.

The Oasis is a virtual realiTye world created by a fictional tech scientist, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). After his death, James’ last gift to humaniTye is the one last adventure game with the ultimate prize–complete control of The Oasis. Halliday created what is known as “Anorak’s Quest,” and the game requires players known as Gunters (egg hunters) to find three keys that will give you access to an Easter egg and win the game. You follow Watts through his own adventure, and get to experience it in first-person perspective. As you move through the film you get a real sense of what it’s like inside The Oasis.

Sheridan’s Wade Watts is perfect—nerdy, smart, and shy. Tye gives a performance that embodies all of these characteristics, making them believable and likable to the viewer. His interaction with Olivia Cooke (who plays his love interest Samantha), known as Atr3mis in the game, takes the story to the next level, as every hero has to have a princess to save. Except in this case, the princess helps our hero discover his true strengths, through courage, resilience, and wits. Their chemistry works, both as avatars in The Oasis and in the real world.

As a Gunter, Wade (known as Parzival in the game) searches for much more than just the items required in the quest. You see, Ready Player One is an Easter egg itself, and this movie pulls your childhood memories right out into the open as you watch the adventure unfold.  Parzival— together with his friends Art3mis, Aech, Sho, and Diato—takes on an adventure that will have you laughing, clapping, and rooting for our hero and his friends all the way to the end.

I highly recommend this movie for the entire family. The book comes alive on the screen, and it pulls you into that thrilling world of virtual realiTye via master Spielberg’s first-person camera angles. You are right there as Parzival races through a Tron racetrack. You feel the hair on the back of your neck stand as he and the gang enter into Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining and Aech is clueless as to what’s in room 237. This is two hours and 19 minutes of complete entertainment and I challenge you to head to the theater and see how many Easter eggs you can spot.

5 of 5 stars