It's weird. Beautiful horror, with some bits of sci-fi. It's not for everyone and I can see some people flat out hating the last 20 minutes where shit gets much weirder. I think it's a totally normal set of things to happen. Only issue is some of the pacing is not as tight as it should have been.
I saw two things last weekend, now that my coaching season is on hiatus (although I'm sure I'll find myself at enough AAU games that I might as well be coaching).
Isle of Dogs is the punny title of Wes Anderson's newest flick. It's another animated piece, which excited me because Fantastic Mr. Fox is among my favorites of his. I read some critiques asking why he bothers with animation, when his regular characters pretty much come off as cartoons anyway (which is a silly question considering his two animated bits are about talking animals), but I'd argue that may be why animation works for him. The general plot is a Japanese political movement has exiled all pet dogs to an abandoned island off shore due to an outbreak of a couple of canine related diseases. The President's adopted nephew heads to the island to rescue his guard dog. It plays like most action adventure movies after that with the kid and a band of very talentedly voiced dogs on a search of the island to find Spots the guard dog. The sub plot is about a group of students, led by an American exchange student, uncovering a conspiracy that led to the dog exile. I've also read some criticism about the fact that the white girl saved the day, however I feel like this is yet another example of over sensitivity. The lack of translation of most of the Japanese in the movie is outwardly stated at the beginning. Political speeches may be translated on television broadcasts, as a means of moving the plot, the dogs speak English, but you don't understand the kid very much. The idea is that you're seeing it from the dog's perspective. It's gimmicky, and to me it's just a way to outwork the gimmick to move the plot. I'm not a Japanese guy, so I guess I can't say for sure if it was offensive or not, but it all read more like parody to me.
It looks every bit a Wes Anderson movie. All the square picture frame shots are there. The side scrolling camera is there as much as ever. It might be the most Wes Anderson-y of all the Wes Anderson movies. So if you're into that, it'll work for you. A couple scenes in particular, which are shot perfectly square top down, are portfolio pieces of his work. He does a few different looks here than he did with Fox. He mixes in traditional animation with the stop and go stuff. So if a TV is on, it comes across as drawn animation. Same with background signs and stuff. It's an interesting mix. And the stop and go feels way more computer animated than Fox did.
I'm mostly a traditionalist with his stuff. I like Tannenbaums best. Then probably Fox (I have a soft spot for the animation), and Rushmore. This to me falls in behind those. But my immediate reaction is that I liked it more than Moonrise Kingdom or Darjeeling Limited. But it's mixed in with the other stuff after that. I didn't like it as much as Fox, which is it's obvious closest relative.
I also saw Chappaquidick last weekend, and liked that as well. Although it's got some warts. The good part is that I thought Jason Clark killed it as Ted Kennedy. It was a nice depiction of the character's struggle between doing what he knew was right, doing what was best for him, and the third pressure of doing what was best for his family's legacy. The interesting thing is that what's best for him and what's best for the family are really the same thing, but when it was just what's best for him, he has a hard time convincing himself to do it. It's the added pressure of the family's legacy that seems to push him past his doubts. (There is one particular line from Teddy that comes off as particularly harsh, but I thought it worked for dramatic effect).
It wasn't a great look at the technical aspects of the case, which is something that's always interested me. In fact, they in my opinion dramatically play up Mary Jo's death in a way that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, although I've heard the theory that she could've been saved, I'm not sure I believe it, and this played up that saved idea in a way I found more for show than in any way convincing. The timeline can be a little hard to follow for a minute there, which is more the fault of the film than anything, and it's not a huge deal, just a minor moment or too I felt could've been clearer.
Ed Helms was great as his cousin Joe. A fix it guy, who also served as the voice of conscience. It's one of those spots where it's strange to see a traditionally comedic actor in a serious role, but it really works. Jim Gaffigan also has one of those roles, albeit smaller.
Overall I felt it painted the story about as well it's understood, tragic and irresponsible although probably not with the evil intent it's sometimes depicted, with a touch of post accident evil due to the aspirations of the family. They hint at the notion of womanizing without actually getting to it, which is also probably fair IMO. It also paints the conspiracy angle pretty well as far as I'm concerned too. Technically it's a conspiracy, as a team came in to handle the story. Everything got comically botched. But it doesn't change the intent.
Overall pretty well done. And sort of a good quick way to get familiar with the story if you don't know much about it.
So I saw A Quiet Place this weekend. I liked it a ton. I know it's getting some backlash, as to be expected after it's huge opening weekend. While I would openly discuss some of my finer criticisms, that would be too spoilery, especially when overall I think it was excellent.
Really nice gimmick (the monsters have super hearing), which led to a unique movie, with so little dialogue, and so little sound at all. I like stories like this that just sort of drop you into it. There's little explanation of what led to this, and what there is is mostly picked up through the sets, not exposition (with so little dialogue, there's very little exposition). The world building is excellent.
One of things that I think makes this theater worthy, is the sound design. Because of the near constant character silence, the noise of the environment sticks out, and the theater built sound plays excellently. It also looks gorgeous, in spite of a really limited setting. There's really only three or four sets in the whole movie.
As with most good horror movies, it puts you in that "what would you do" head space. And certainly there's some cliché horror dopiness, but those are things for a different conversation. And I like all the small details, which hint at things, and are good for discussing, once you've seen it.
It's definitely got some influence in it. I thought Signs pretty quickly watching it. I really dug the monster design, but if you've played Until Dawn on PlayStation, which almost no one has, I also got the sense that the writers almost had to have pulled from that too.
It's got some flaws, but like I said, not stuff I'd want to mention here. But I will say that it felt like it was edited down to PG-13 by wiping some of the gore clean.
I loved Quiet Place and think it's very much worth going to see it on the big screen, the sound is such a big part of it, I think you're cheating yourself waiting for video unless you have a serious home theater setup. It's one of those you want to immerse yourself in.
Annihilation was good but didn't live up to Ex Machina for me. My expectations may have been a bit high. Very cool visually and I'm always happy to see a fairly original sci-fi world.