Isle of Dogs

Fantastic Mr. Fox came out in 2009. It was not my first Wes Anderson movie, but it was the first Wes Anderson movie I really, really loved. Not saying I hated everything before it, no. In fact, at that time, I only had seen one of his movies which was The Royal Tenebaums. I maybe saw it too young and was not ready for its quirks, and still haven’t seen it for redemption, but I didn’t love it. The fox though? Yes. Every one of his movies since then? Yes.

But this is something different and special. This is 9 years later, and another goddamn animated stop motion movie. Can he recreate the magic of Fantastic Mr. Fox but with Isle of Dogs? More talking animals?!

At least with his last one, it was based on a previous book. But this is a new idea, based on dogs, a culture that isn’t his, and a sort of throwback to a cinema that he loves. I was certainly excited again, especially given how much shit 2017 gave us for the animated category.

Can I have all of these doggos? Please tell me no doggos actually die.

Set in the fictional future of some world that is similar to our own, we have to go to Megasaki City to find our story. In this city, the new mayor, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), is from a family with a long hatred of dogs. They are cat people and want to get rid of dogs forever! Well, that is great, because these dogs are gaining some sort of dog virus and snout flu, which has the ability to transfer over to humans! He declares that all dogs in the city must be sent over to Trash Island, in order to quarantine them until a cure can be found. Speaking of cures, Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) thinks he is really close to getting a cure and hopes everyone will wait. But mobs be mobbin’, yo. And the dogs start getting sent that very night.

And now, a few months later, the island gets a non furry visitor. Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), a young boy who is ward of the mayor, has crashed a tiny plane in the island, in hopes of finding his old dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) location. Although dogs cannot speak any form of human language, we the viewer are happy to note that the film translates their language into English! Yay!

He finds a group of alpha dogs to help him on his quest. These dogs include Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldbloom).

Can these dogs find the missing dog for this little human boy? Can they also cure the dog flu, and put an end to this corrupt mayor? Well, maybe. I don’t know. Or if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.

Also starring the voices of Courtney B. Vance, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, Ken Watanabe, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, and F. Murray Abraham.

The human has thumbs so he can do some interesting things with them.

I loved, loved, loved Isle of Dogs. A lot, very much so. Before I get into those details, lets talk about the controversy.

You see, there is a lot of talk of white savior complex, cultural appropriation, and more going on with this movie. It is set in a fictional future dystopian-esque Japan, or at least one city in Japan. And coming from a place of white privilege and all of that, I can honestly say I really don’t see it at all. The white savior thing just seems like it would be assumed by people who read a plot outline, not watched the film, because it is no where close to the normal problematic levels. The other issues I just also really can’t see well. I can’t say that they aren’t true, because I certainly don’t speak for Japanese people or their culture, but I can say that I didn’t really get that vibe at any point, and didn’t affect me negatively either for this movie.

Back to the film! Holy shit dogs!

What a totally immersive story. There were little quirks here and there that could remind you of it being a film, especially when it came to the various translation methods, but I just wanted to live there and run around and frolic despite all of the bad things that were going down. The dogs in particular all have their own personality and jokes that surround them, for good quick laughs.

I really enjoyed that I couldn’t understand the entire film. The Japanese characters spoke Japanese, and didn’t always have a reason to be translated or subtitled, and during those times, well, if you knew Japanese you could follow 100%. The audience was required to watch the facial expressions and to hear obvious key words to make sure we could follow. It was great to not get everything super dumbed down.

Isle of Dogs is an interesting adventure, a unique tale, and a story that just seems to have so many tiny perfect details that it would be fun to watch over and over again. Until though, I will just settle for a rewatch of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

4 out of 4.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I try my best to avoid most trailers for films, but I give myself some exceptions. I will watch a real teaser trailer occasionally, as they are the ones who don’t spoil the whole thing. Teaser trailers especially for superhero films or Pixar/Disney stuff, even though some of the teasers are downright terrible.

But sometimes a film comes along with such a unique name, that I just need to know what it is about, right away. I will watch it right away, intrigued, which is what a movie title should do. Unlike every other film I review this week after this movie, because all of their titles are shit, regardless of film quality.

Only some offense meant for the films this week that I won’t name. Back to this title. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri just grabs the viewer by the balls and tells them to get ready for a very fucking specific story.

Even better, despite being an original story, it might have been inspired by a true event. In Minnesota last year, a citizen took out a billboard calling out the sheriff with vulgar language. If you read a news article, it seems like a completely bull shit story, so who cares about that guy. But when I saw it in person I had my wife look it up on her phone (I was driving) because the gossip just had to be too good.

Again, a shit story, but it felt juicy, so I am glad to see this film do something much better with the concept.

And I will only show you one of the billboards in this review, neener neener.

Mildred (Frances McDormand) has a problem. A problem letting go and moving on with her life, after her dad was found dead, burned alive, after being raped. A heinous, terrible crime, and honestly, it makes sense for her to not get over it. Her daughter was still a teenager and they are in such a small town, it is inexcusable and unprecedented for this to have happened.

But what is even worse, in her mind, is that the local police force seems to have given up on finding the killer. She hasn’t heard from them in 8 months and she is rightfully pissed off. So she spends most of her savings on renting out three billboards near her home, ones that have been seemingly forgotten about, to call out the local Sheriff (Woody Harrelson).

This causes quite a stir, more so than the rape/murder. The town likes the sheriff, he is a good guy, and he has goddamn cancer. Mildred doesn’t care, she just wants answers to her questions, even though she knows it will not bring her daughter back. Mildred is going to be burning several bridges to get what she needs, metaphorically and slightly literally (buildings are like bridges, right?). Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Also starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Zeljko Ivanek, Amanda Warren, Malaya Rivera Drew, Peter Dinklage, Sandy Martin, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving, and Clarke Peters.

Two Cops near a billboard outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Three Billboards is a hard movie, with a hard topic, with, you guessed it, hard characters. It earned a hard R rating, when it comes to language, violence, and the occasional gore. No, not on any hardcore graphical porn level, sorry folks, just everything else.

McDormand carries the film on her poor fragile shoulders where the whole thing just feels incredibly realistic. Her grief and anger can only be described as real grief and anger. Harrelson as a supporting character still feels a bit like Harrelson, but from a different angle that I haven’t seen much before. Rockwell does one of the biggest changes, as he puts all of his charismatic roles in the past to play this disgusting, morally terrible individual. He is racist, xenophobic, crass, yet caring in strange ways. Oh, and he doesn’t even dance. Can Sam Rockwell be in a film where he doesn’t dance?

The story is an emotional and moving piece. After all, everyone deals with loss in their own ways, and McDormand’s character comes from the place of a woman who feels like she has nothing left to lose (except her son, which she admittedly forgets somewhat about). But again, it is more than just her story in this small town of individuals. At least four or five other characters get shining moments, even if just a little bit, as parts of their stories fortunately (or unfortunately) intersect with her own.

I would describe only one scene that I did not like at all, and it involved a flashback. The words used were too specific and forced, they instantly drew me out of the movie. Thankfully the strong story and characters were quick to draw me back in.

Living in a small town, like a real small town, will get quite annoying when everyone knows everyone’s business, including the law enforcers. I didn’t grow up in an environment like this personally, but based on what I have seen in other films and stories from others, it definitely seems to grasp that feeling.

Three Billboards is not a film for everyone, which is shame, given how likely it will end up on my end of the year list.

4 out of 4.

Hail, Caesar!

Fuck yes. I am hyped. I am beyond hyped. I am too hyped.

I am hyped because I am excited to see Hail, Caesar!, potentially the first great movie of the year. We are out of January, and things can start to look up, if only for a little bit.

But hold the fucking phone. Two years ago, on the first Friday of February 2014, a different movie came out that I was super hyped for. That was The Monuments Men. I assume everyone knows that The Monuments Men ended up being one of the most disappointing films of that year, given that it had such an excellent cast and potential, but it was entirely squandered.

And George Clooney starred in both of them. Arguably there is more talent behind the scenes this time, but he has let me down before almost two years to the day.

So I am going in a bit timid. Excited, hoping for the best, but weary nonetheless.


In the 1950’s, Hollywood was a rough place. It was chaotic. There was no CGI. The sets were big and the egos were bigger. Heck, people were talking and singing in movies now. In color. Everything is splashy and outlandish.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a man who loves his wife and kids and is a devout Catholic. But he is a hard ass and he knows what needs to be done. He is one of the heads of Capitol studios, the biggest studio in Hollywood, and he is a fixer. He works long hours, looks at the film dailies, and make sure everything goes according to plan. That means makes sure the actors are where they are, finding replacements, protecting the image of everyone working there from a potential disaster. He is a one man wrecking crew, but like, the opposite of wrecking, because he saves everything.

So when Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing from his set of Hail, Caesar!, a giant historic epoch of a Roman general who met Jesus before he was crucified and became a believer, Mannix was on the case.

Mannix will also have to deal with a western actor being forced into serious drama (Alden Ehrenreich), the acclaimed director who cannot stand it (Ralph Fiennes), a singing swimming starlet whom is pregnant but unmarried (Scarlet Johansson), gossip columnists (Tilda Swinton), and maybe leaving this job behind for a similar, better paying, easier job in the tech industry. He doesn’t have to worry about Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) though, he’s perfect.

Also featuring Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Veronica Osorio, and Alison Pill. They all basically have only one scene. But Heather Goldenhersh has a bunch, still minor.

Every good film has a mermaid in it.

Oh you Coen brothers. You sly devils. I originally watched the trailer for Hail, Caesar! assuming it would be a period peace film. I love Ancient Rome things, and I would love it if they decided to put their hats into that ring. But it wasn’t about ancient Rome, it was about Hollywood and many film genres of the 1950’s. They decided to go meta with it, allowing multiple story lines and themes, providing a bit of satire along the way.

Well, I still hope in the future they give me a movie about Ancient Rome with George Clooney in it. I will be wait. Thankfully, Hail, Caesar! was a great movie to watch to help pass the time.

H,C! was hilarious. It really had my funny knee in stitches. I might be getting some of that terminology wrong, but I giggled quite hard many a time. In particular, I loved the religious round table, the scenes between Ehrenreich and Fiennes, and the song and dance numbers. Ehrenreich killed it in this film, despite still being relatively unknown. He has the same sort of vocal twang he had in Beautiful Creatures that made me so happy, so I was glad to hear it again.

Brolin did a nice job of carrying the film, although his character felt like a lot of his previous roles. Clooney and Tatum were also swell.

What can I say? The Coen brothers are a great team. They know how to write together and direct together. They consistently put out high quality entertainment, even though not everything is a guaranteed hit, you know there is a good chance it will at least still be zany.

4 out of 4.

The Good Dinosaur

Pixar! What are you doing? This seems highly unusual!

They had Inside Out come out earlier in the year. The year being 2015. But this is another Pixar movie, The Good Dinosaur, coming out in the same year. Don’t they know that this will mean they are competing against themselves for animated film awards?

Oh well, that is because this Pixar film was supposed to come out in 2013. But delays occurred. Serious delays that pushed it back a year, and then another. The whole story had to be redone from what they initially thought about, as there were apparent serious problems with the script. Not only that, but the entire voice cast, except for Frances McDormand was replaced earlier this year. Some crazy shit went down into getting this film out.

Either way, this is the first time that Pixar has released two films in the same year. The next time they do this is in 2017, with the release of Coco and Cars 3. That year, however, they won’t be competing against themselves since they know that there is no way Cars 3 will win anything.

Oh no, there are 3 T-Rexs here. This just make me think of how bad Cars 3 will be, noo!

What if the asteroid that hit the earth 65 million years ago didn’t happen? Well, then the dinosaurs wouldn’t have been wiped out. And lots of other things would have happened, like we would never have had the rise of mammals, humans probably wouldn’t exist, and no one would be able to make lame Nickelback jokes anymore. But let’s ignore the many things that would change, assume they stay the same, but also dinosaurs still exist.

That way we can meet Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) and Momma (Frances McDormand), some sort of “long neck” dinosaur species (Apatosaurus). They have three eggs and they are about to hatch! We have little Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla, who I assume does the voice the whole time, not just the baby. Shitty IMDB stuff going on), strong Buck (Marcus Scribenr), and Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the runt. Having kids is great, because they work a farm, and now they can expand their corn farm and get even more corn food to survive winters and have a wonderful home!

Let’s just say, eventually, some tragedies occur, due to the very explicit foreshadowing, so next thing we know, Arlo is far from home and on his own! Well, there is also this random human toddler, Spot (Jack Bright). See his name? He is basically a really smart dog.

They have to get back to the farm before it is too late. Before what is too late? Well, basically death. This area has a bit of volcanism, large bugs, scary winged dinosaurs, scary big mouthed dinosaurs, scary cryptic dinosaurs, and giant ass storms that make shit flood and get all sorts of scary. SCARY!

Also featuring the voices of Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, and of course, Sam Elliott.

Sam Elliot plays the whisper of the wind on the grass. Or at least that is how smooth his voice is in my mind.

Cutting to the chase, The Good Dinosaur is a very safe movie from the Pixar perspective. It was just a journey film between two unlikely entities. A buddy road trip movie. Sure they had their differences, but working together, their strengths were doubled and their weaknesses were, lets say cut down a small bit.

Early in the film was a bit dull, and I was worried it would finish with an average rating. Then we started to meet a few characters. The triceratops scene and the bad fruit scene were basically back to back and had me in stitches. Then we had the scary flying things (I don’t know if they were pterodactyls, so I won’t call them that). They were cool. But the T-Rex’s were just cowboys and a bit boring at that. Elliot voice be damned.

The Good Dinosaur had a few touching moments, but only made me barely cry just once. I was never able to connect to it emotionally like I could Inside Out. And hey, there was a death scene, and it was intense as fuck. About the same level of intensity as when Mufasa kicked the bucket in that one movie.

I was weary of the animation style, with cartoony dinosaurs/people and hyper realistic backgrounds, but it was amazing to watch it on the screen.

Again, The Good Dinosaur has some amazingly funny parts. The animation was great, but the story overall was very plain, not very original. Given their production problems, it is clear they just really wanted to do some dinosaur film. Through all the rewrites the film probably gradually became simpler and simpler, until we got the mostly unoriginal story line. It’s a shame, but at least we have Inside Out.

2 out of 4.

Promised Land

Promised Land, on first glance, looks like your typical Oscar Bait movie at the end of the year. After all, it had a super limited release on December 28, but didn’t get widespread release until January. In addition to that, you can tell right off the back it has a high chance of being a super liberal movie with a clear message. We’re talking George Clooney amounts of liberal here. Oh well, maybe it will be subtle about the whole thing?


Steve Butler (Maaaatt Damonnnn) is a closer for a natural gas company. Along with his partner, Sue (Frances McDormand), his job is to go into a community and buy the mining rights on property from the farm owners. They get a set price per acre, and a fraction of the profit they gain, while getting to keep their land for farming. Pretty sweet deal.

Heck, Steve came from a farming community himself in Iowa (what what). But once a local plant went under, the community died, their town crumbled and all was lost. He is providing these communities a safety net, and he is good at it too. But what happens when shit start to hit the fan?

A lot of negative talk about fracking in the news, and now everyone has google, so it is hard to tell who is telling the truth about the risks and why. Steve accidentally lets the community hold a vote on fracking, thanks to a persistent science teacher (Hal Holbrook). Because of that opening, all of the sudden there is an environmental group in town, trying to persuade voters just the same (John Krasinski).

Will Steve lose his mind trying to help the small town? Can he get the girl (Rosemarie DeWitt)? Why does Rob (Titus Welliver, aka The Man In Black from Lost) sell Guns, Groceries, and Guitars?

Do you really not know how this thing will end?

For a movie about fracking, this film took the strange route of not really ever talking about fracking. Heck, Damon’s character is a self claimed not expert on the science, he just buys property and answers questions. They made his character not perfect, not the best speaker if he is nervous (or hungover) to give it a nice realism, but also to make it a crutch. I guess they wanted to make him look like a puppet to the man in the grand scheme of things.

The anti-fracking side doesn’t do much in the use of actual science to defer the town either, both sides using specific tactics to get people trust them. Does that mean this is a fair and balanced movie on the subject? Heck no, and you shouldn’t expect it either. There was a big surprise near the end, but not the ending itself. Everything I expected to happen, did happen. But the surprise I both loved and hated. It was an interesting way to take the movie as a drama, but I hated it because it felt like a cop out and a grossly inaccurate portrayal of real life, which was great up to that point.

I am almost certain this movie won’t go anywhere in terms of awards, was just a meh movie by the end of it. Come on Matt, I expected better of you!

2 out of 4.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Ooh whats that, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted? I legitamately didn’t think I would go see that movie. “But you see all the movies!” Yes I know. But this one required word. I hadn’t seen Madagascar 1 or 2, so going straight to three would be silly right? Right! That is why I have a brief rundown of the other movies.

So just like I had to do with Spy Kids 4…I watched the first two over a few days, just so I could see the third in theater. I actually didn’t like the first one either, but thought the second one was much better, despite the dumb title. (They leave Madagascar and Escape to Africa…Because Madagascar totally isn’t a part of Africa).

Yes, this scene in the trailer is the real and only reason I wanted to see this movie.

For those not familiar, we have Alex (Ben Stiller) a lion, Marty (Chris Rock) a zebra, Melman (David Schwimmer) a hypochondriac giraffe, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) a hippo. They escaped from the NYC zoo, thanks to Marty running away, found themselves in Madagascar. They want to go back though. So thanks to the team of penguins, lead by Skipper (Tom McGrath) they made plane back for NYC!

But landed in Africa, to start movie 2. They also brought Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), king of the lemurs and his cohorts. They get to experience true freedom and wild, but don’t like it. The hippo and giraffe get married. The lion meets his parents, and saves the day. And an annoying subplot with an old lady.

But they finally get to leave for NYC! Or Monte Carlo, in Europe, the third movie, because that is where the penguins went with a vast fortune to gamble and party. Their simple plan of get the penguins/monkeys and fly a plane doesn’t work. As animal control gets involved, one Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), who really really wants to kill a lion, makes it her goal to capture the animals and kill the lion. Fuck. But thankfully they escape on a train, for Rome, posing as circus animals.

There they meet Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) a russian tiger who jumps through hoops, Gia (Jessica Chastain) a female leopard who wants to trapeze, and Stefano (Martin Short) an italian seal who wants to be blasted out of a cannon. Yep. So their new plan is to travel with this failing circus, hopefully sign a deal to tour america, and return to their NYC Zoo to live out the rest of their days in happiness. Err..

And here is why I will probably not watch this ever again.

This movie is pretty polarizing for me. Liked a lot, hated about the same amount. Gah. The lemur? He was generally funny. Always seemed drunk and singing, but his relationship with bear wasn’t as funny. They used a plot point where they eventually are found out to be zoo animals, not circus animals, causing the entire circus to turn on them and not care. Despite the fact that they just helped plan and pull off the most kick ass circus thing ever. “You lied to us, you guys suck now, despite your clear talents that we just enjoyed!”

Similarly, the message is kind of weird. Err, so animals belong in shitty zoos, with like zero space? Most zoos aren’t like that now. But to have that be the overarching goal, leave the wild, leave the circus, and go to a ZOO. Yeah. Especially weird that their two options come down to zoo or circus, clearly both the best place for animals. Hmm.

I didn’t like the seal, or the animal control lady. She had a team rocket feel to her, blasting off, and coming back. And even though returning the lion home, still trying to kill him. What in the fuck? If she is fine killing a zoo animal, she could do that at home, and I don’t understand the obsession.

But the jokes were pretty good, a lot of pop culture references, a lot of Katy Perry and great visuals for the animals doing circus thing. I am disappointed that this movie also felt the need to throw in “I Like To Move It”. Come on, there is man more obscure 90s songs that need love too.

2 out of 4.

Moonrise Kingdom

I saw probably two trailers for Moonrise Kingdom, with neither of them answering really anything at all. I did know that it was a Wes Anderson movie, of which I have only liked one. But to be fair, I have only seen two…

I am sure someone is reading this review because they heard I disliked Bill Murray and heard I only like him in cameos. Well. I won’t let any perceived actor hatred from giving this movie its full attention and chance to wow me. No fear good sirs.

Uh oh, famous people alert.

Honestly, I have a hard time trying to explain just what this movie is about. The easiest way is to just explain some of the characters and location.

The setting is in 1965 at a fictional New England island of New Penzance. Pretty small. Nearby is a few other islands too. But small, has a ferry system, and no paved roads.

The first family introduced is the Bishops, Walt (Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand). They have three young boys, and an older daughter at twelve named Suzy (Kara Hayward). She may be dysfunctional, and likes binoculars.

There is only one police officer for the whole island, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and not the smartest man out there. There is a local camp set up for some Khaki Scouts, lead by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), who is a math teacher normally. He runs his camp with authority, and makes sure not too many shenanigans occur. But when it is found out that Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphan kid who no one likes has retired from the Scouts, run away and stolen a canoe, it drives the Island into panic!

Mostly indifference, but still, he can’t have gone that far.

This leads to a grand adventure of love, and longing. Where adults act childish, and children act like adults. Where books are read, and where coves are named. Jason Schwartzman also appears as “Cousin Ben” and Harvey Keitel as Commander Pierce, head of the Khaki Scouts and working on the local Hullabaloo.

Still don’t know what this movie is about? Bitch, she’s a raven!

Fucking Wes Anderson! How dare he do an amazing movie like this.

Everything felt top notch about this movie. Everything was so weird and I love weird. The music? It was both in your face, and felt appropriate. But the real level of amazing would be the camera work here. Lot of longer scenes where the camera would just move from left to right as people walked, and things happened in the background, and the movie carried on. The color schemes between the scenes, they were noticeable and overpowering, but yet it also added so much to the island of New Penzance.

I can’t even tell if the acting was that good? The main kid performances was full of “awwww”, and I love movies that give me stuff like that. You know, like Flipped.

The movie is really hard to explain, but I really loved it. Was on the edge of my seat for a while. I did find it odd that I was pretty much the only one laughing in my theater of 12-15~ people for most of the jokes. But those guys are just jerks I guess.

4 out of 4.