Author Archives: Jackrabbit Slim

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

Review: The Incredibles 2

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The Incredibles, from 2004, is considered one of Pixar’s finest films (I rate it behind Toy Story 2, but reasonable people can disagree). Fourteen years later, we get a sequel, again written and directed by Brad Bird, who has won two Oscars for Best Animated Film, and just might win another for The Incredibles 2.

This is not to say that the sequel is as good as the original. At many points the film feels like it’s trying too hard. The action scenes are so fast that I felt a little numbed by them. And the plot seemed recycled from other superhero films, including the original: what is the place for superheroes in our world?

The film picks up right from the end of the last one. Superheroes are illegal, and when Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) attempt to stop a bank robbery, they are admonished for wreaking destruction, and told the money is insured. Their funding is cut, and they are living in a motel. They seem resigned to getting regular jobs until a billionaire who loves superheroes wants to get the law changed. He needs just one hero to prove his point–Elastigirl.

So the film bifurcates. Elastigirl has adventures involving stopping a runaway train, saving an ambassador from a helicopter attack, and unmasking the Screenslaver, a villain who hypnotizes his victims through a screen. Elastigirl thinks it’s been too easy, and savvy viewers will agree and have this figured out beforehand.

The other half of the film is the family’s domestic life. Mr. Incredible has been reduced to taking care of the kids, and he discovers that the baby, Jack-Jack, has superpowers. Many superpowers. He can shoot lasers out of his eyes, erupt into flames, travel through different dimensions, and multiply into several Jack-Jacks. Much of this is shown off in an amusing fight with a raccoon.

The baby stuff is very funny, and I enjoyed hearing the little kids giggle at it around me. The action scenes, as I said, seemed old hat, though the animation is breathtaking. A whole new bunch of superheroes are introduced–my favorite is Reflux, who has such severe heartburn that he can vomit lava.

If there is an Incredibles 3, I hope they veer off in a different direction where the debate about the legality of superheroes is resolved.

One more thing: I haven’t heard too much about this, but Elastigirl, in her costumes, has the kind of body that women have spent decades complaining about. She has a figure more ridiculous than Barbie, with possibly 44-18-44 measurements. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane did write about dads possibly feeling a little awkward getting turned on at a kid’s animated movie. Of course, she is elastic, so maybe that’s just the dimensions she wants to be.

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Review: Hereditary

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A recent article in The New York Times talks about a renaissance in horror films–never have their been so many character driven, adult-oriented horror films. Get Out, The Quiet Place, and now Hereditary are all getting adults into the theaters for horror, which was once the province of teenagers.

I’ve read more than one article by someone who states that Hereditary is the scariest movie they’ve ever seen. I can’t go that far (I think I still have to go with The Exorcist) but it is one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, and two days later it’s still sticking with me. The ending, which everyone will be talking about (go see it before it’s spoiled) is borderline silly, but director Ari Aster turns what could have caused giggles into gasps.

As with these recent sophisticated horror films, Hereditary has grander themes. You could call it Ordinary People with ghosts. A well-to-do family that lives somewhere in the mountains consists of mother Toni Collette, father Gabriel Byrne, older brother Alex Wolff, and little sister Milly Shapiro. Collette’s mother has just died, and she has mixed feelings. They were estranged until mom moved into her daughter’s house with dementia. At the funeral, Collette reads a eulogy that talks of her mother’s “private rituals and private friends.” And how.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a gruesome accident that further unstrings Collette, She runs into someone at a grief group that shows her how to conduct seances. Pawing around in her mother’s things she finds books on spiritualism and the occult. One page that’s focused on is about King Paimon, one the kings of Hell. I think he’ll become quite popular this summer.

The first half of Hereditary is somewhat slow, but not boring. Collette is an artist who makes miniatures, much like dollhouses. A sly edit in the opening credits suggests that the family lives in a dollhouse, which is open to all sorts of interpretations. The film also does not sentimentalize family attachments. Collette awakes from a dream where she tells Wolff that she never wanted him, and tried to have a miscarriage. Shapiro is an odd child that makes things out of cast-off objects. She finds a dead bird and calmly cuts its head off with scissors. That’s only one of many decapitations, be warned.

Hereditary got a D+ from CinemaScore, which may mean it’s too much for average audiences. But for those who pay attention and understand cinema, Hereditary should rank among the best horror films ever made. Collette deserves an Oscar nomination, and Alex Wolff is terrific. Shapiro is a very unusual looking child–I’m sure Aster probably saw a lot of children for the role and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her.

Opening in Las Vegas, June 9, 2018

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The big opening this weekend is Ocean’s 8 (61), the distaff version of the Steven Soderbergh heist movies. I must admit I didn’t think this film would do well, but it opened to 41 million, proving that with the right circumstances, a female driven action film can succeed. I don’t have much interest in it, though, and will wait for home video.

The real sleeper this week may be Hereditary (87), which is getting great reviews and, after Get Out’s success last year, may be in the running for best ten lists and Oscars. I may see this tomorrow, but I usually like to watch horror films at home alone, it’s scarier that way.

Hotel Artemis (57) looks intriguing, but is not getting great reviews. Starring Jodie Foster (playing an old lady–where did the years go?) as a nurse tending to a hospital for criminals. I’ll see this on DVD.

In limited release is First Reformed (87), with Ethan Hawke as a minister at a small church. Directed by the venerable screenwriter Paul Schrader, who has a checkered career as a director. I’d like to see this if time permits.

 

Review: Solo

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Much to my disappointment, Solo is not the story of American soccer goalie Hope Solo, but instead another Star Wars spin-off. I was going to type stand-alone, but at the end of the film it’s clear that they intend a sequel (given the soft box office, we’ll see).

And much to my surprise, I enjoyed Solo, which shows us the early days of Star Wars character Han Solo, now played by Alden Ehrenreich, who manages to capture Harrison Ford’s smirk and cocky attitude. A lot of the movie is sop to Star Wars fanatics–how did he get his name, how did me meet Chewbacca, how did he get the Millennium Falcon, etc., but at the base is a solid adventure movie, one that reaches back to the serials that inspired George Lucas in the first place.

Han lives on Correlia, a planet that is full of dark alleys. He and his girlfriend (Emilia Clarke) salvage for the local crime boss (a large caterpillar called Lady Proxima). He longs to get away and be a pilot. He manages to escape, but Clarke does not.

Three years later he’s in the Imperial Navy and runs across a band of crooks, led by Woody Harrelson. Reluctantly they take him and Chewbacca on (I won’t spoil how they meet) and spend most of the move trying to get a shipment of coaxium, or hyperspace fuel. Harrelson works for a creepy guy with scars played by Paul Bettany, and there’s a lot of twists, as you can’t be sure who is gaming who.

“Trust no one,” Harrelson says to Han, and if that line is familiar, it’s the basis for the film. Director Ron Howard, who took over late in the game, directs with an obvious touch–he’s no auteur–but at least he doesn’t get in his own way. Some of the action scenes are too murky–I’m thinking of one where Han guides the Falcon through a maelstrom and they are almost consumed by a giant octopus, but for the most part the film is engaging, if not a little too long.

Most of all, Solo is fun. There are some pirates that dress like Oakland Raider fans, a wisecracking, four-armed pilot, the immensely talented Donald Glover as a young Landro Calrissian, and most of all a new robot, L3, who has the voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is always in a bad mood. In a wonderful sequence, she tells Clarke that Lando is in love with her, but she doesn’t feel the same way about her.

There’s also a cameo by a character long thought dead. I imagine it will be spoiled before too long.

I also think Harrelson is the glue that holds the film together. He’s really a terrific actor, something I wouldn’t have thought while he was playing dumb Woody Boyd on Cheers. Lately he’s done great dramatic work, in Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but he’s also latched on to several franchises, such as The Hunger Games, The Planet of the Apes, and now Star Wars. A role in a Marvel film surely awaits him. Clarke, for her part (she looks pretty fetching), is now in two of the pillars of nerddom: Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Her future signing at comic book conventions is secure for the rest of her life.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 25, 2018

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The 800-pound gorilla in the room this weekend is Solo (63), directed by Ron Howard. It’s a Star Wars prequel, the adventures of a young Han Solo. It’s getting okay reviews, despite Howard’s participation. His output since A Beautiful Mind is suspect. Does anyone else confuse Alden Ehrenreich and Ansel Elgort?

The only other film debuting here this weekend is a documentary about the pontiff: Pope Francis, A Man of His Word (63). Francis is the nonbeliever’s favorite pope, but I doubt I’ll ever seen this. Ninety or so minutes about a pope, no matter how forward thinking, is too much for me.

Review: Deadpool 2

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“You’re dark. Are you sure you aren’t part of the DC universe?” Deadpool asks Cable, the villain in this installation of what should be a long-running franchise. This meta stuff is what fuels most of Deadpool 2, it’s kind of as if the writers just did their own Mad Magazine parody.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the foul-mouthed, quipping anti-hero (the level of profanity approaches David Mamet level). Since we last saw him, he’s been acting as a mercenary. In the grand tradition of Marvel’s Uncle Ben, he lets a criminal escape, which comes back to haunt him. He tries to kill himself, but since he can’t die he’s taken in by the X-Men, who make him a trainee (again, the only X-Men available are Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. In a funny shot the other X-Men are seen hiding).

Then the main plot kicks in, which is borrowed gleefully from the Terminator films (Deadpool even calls Cable John Conner at one point). A teenage mutant who can shoot fire with his hands will grow up to be a mass murderer, and Cable has come from the future to kill him. Deadpool, showing heretofore unknown paternal instincts, wants to save him.

The plot is secondary in Deadpool 2–it’s all about the gags. Some of them are very funny, as when Deadpool calls Cable Thanos (they are both played by Josh Brolin) or when Cable tells Deadpool he’s not a hero, he’s a clown dressed as a sex toy. In the mid-credit scene, Deadpool will shoot Ryan Reynolds before he can make the lamented Green Lantern film. A surprise cameo will show a famous actor playing a character called The Vanisher.

But all of this stuff doesn’t add up to anything significant. There’s a lot of yuks, but we really don’t care about the characters. When Deadpool has a long death scene (he says he hopes the Academy is watching) we know he’s not going to die–Deadpool 3 is certainly already in the works. How can you worry about a character who can’t die? The only really interesting character is Domino, a chick who is extremely lucky. She calls it a superpower, though Deadpool doesn’t. She’s played by Zazie Beetz, expect to see her in the next film.

I enjoyed Deadpool 2, but compared to other Marvel films it’s a sugary snack. Those can be refreshing, but you don’t want to make a diet of them.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 19, 2018

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The big opening this weekend is Deadpool 2 (66). The film is critic-proof, but some are pointing out that it is more of the same from the first film, and the meta-stuff is getting tedious. Of course I’ll see it.

Counter-programming this weekend, Book Club (53) is for the ladies. Four women read Fifty Shades of Grey, hilarity ensues. I suppose we should be grateful that this demographic is being considered, even if it is a mediocre movie.

For the kids there’s Show Dogs (35), and even though Alan Cumming stars I won’t get anywhere near this. One reviewer probably puts it best: “Show Dogs is really bad, even for a talking-dog movie.”

In limited release is Disobedience (74), a drama about the love that dare not speak its name, at least in an Orthodox Jewish community. Offers the tantalizing prospect of a love scenes between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Directed by Sebastien Leilo, who just won an Oscar for directing A Fantastic Woman.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 11, 2018

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Not much this weekend, as the Avengers will again rule the weekend. Next week Deadpool will take over. But until then:

I think Melissa McCarthy is very talented. But her movies seem to be all of a kind–slapstick comedies that don’t appeal to me at all. I haven’t seen any of them, and I’m not going to start with Life of the Party (45), which seems like a female version of the Rodney Dangerfield film, Back to School (which was terrific).

The only other major release this weekend is Breaking In (42), starring Gabrielle Union as a women trying to rescue her children. Directed by James McTeigue, who made the underrated V for Vendetta. Pass.

Opening here in Vegas in limited released (one theater) is RBG (72), about Supreme Court Justice and folk hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The movie is getting fairly good reviews, but they point out that the movie is not exactly even-handed, and leans toward hagiography, so this one is not for the Fox News crowd. I’d like to see it.

Review: Tully

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Tully has three acts that are all like different films. The first act is effective birth control, as it shows the horrors and drudgery of a pregnant woman (Charlize Theron) who already has two kids. One of them is a kindergartner who is repeatedly referred to as “quirky.” (The words autism or Asperger’s are never mentioned, but that would seem to be the case). The film opens with Theron brushing him to calm him down.

This continues after she gives birth, when she has post-partum depression (she had pre-partum depression, too). Her husband (Ron Livingston) is a nice guy but useless, as his routine, Theron says, is to come home from work, kill zombies, and pass out.

During this act we meet Theron’s rich brother (Mark Duplass), who suggests she get a night nanny–a person who will watch the kids while the parents sleep. Theron’s middle class world is contrasted with that of her brother’s, which is perfect and well-managed. A daughter’s talent for the talent show is pilates, for example. That his wife is Asian seems to be pushing it into stereotype.

Theron finally gets the night nanny, the title character, (Mackenzie Davis), and we’re into act two, which might be described as new-age Mary Poppins. Davis is young and thin and a free spirit who knows facts about all sorts of things and presents philosophical questions, such as since all our cells die and are replaced, are we the same person as we once were? She cleans the house spic-and-span and makes cupcakes and one can imagine that she did float in with an umbrella.

During this act, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it does, it thumps very loudly. The two women, who have bonded, go out for a night on the town. We get a twist ending that I didn’t see coming–if you want to see this film, do it before it’s spoiled for you, because it will make you reevaluate everything you’ve seen before. There’s some controversy about it, and reasonable people can disagree whether it works–you either buy it or you don’t. I did, because without it things don’t make sense. It does introduce plot holes, but it’s only a movie.

Tully was written by Diablo Cody, who has popped out three kids since she struck gold with Juno over ten years ago. It was directed by Jason Reitman. Both of them have curbed some of the preciousness of their previous work, and Tully is gritty and painful at times.

The best thing about it is the performance of Theron, who deglams and convinced me that she was a working class mom and not an internationally famous model/actress. A scene in which she removes a stained top, revealing her stomach after giving birth, prompting her daughter to ask, “Mom, what’s wrong with your body?” is sure to get recognition laughs from any women who have given birth. Theron reportedly put on fifty pounds for the role (plus effective prosthetics) but more than her physical transformation, it’s the deadness in her eyes, the casual refusal to hold her baby in the hospital, the anger at a nurse waiting for her to pee, that crystallize the difficulties that go along with childbirth.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 4, 2018

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I guess the most prestigious film opening this weekend is Tully (77), the third team-up of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (following Juno and Young Adult). It’s getting solid reviews and Charlize Theron may be a candidate for an Oscar nomination. The trailer makes it seem like an updated version of Mary Poppins, but I’ll probably see this.

The new film likely to get the highest box office this weekend (still well below Avengers: Infinity War) is Overboard (45), a remake of an old Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell film. I didn’t see that and I won’t see this. What’s next, a remake of Captain Ron or Wildcats?

Bad Samaritan (45) is about a burglar getting involved with a serial killer. Probably will never see this.

Review: Avengers: Infinity War

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If you take a look at the poster for Avengers: Infinity War, there’s almost too many characters to fit. All of the main heroes from the first 18 MCU films are there (except for Hawkeye and Ant-Man) and I wondered how the directors, the Russo brothers, would possibly give them all enough time. But I tip my hat, because they do. Some get more time than others (Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange seem to get the most screen time) but everybody gets their moment.

I read an article in which the author complained that there was no character development. That’s true–there isn’t time. And all of these characters got plenty of development in other films. The only character getting development is the villain, a huge purple guy with a big chin called Thanos (Josh Brolin). He’s obviously studied the Malthusian theory, because he wants to wipe out half of the universe’s population in order for more resources to be available. Of course he’s technically right, but our heroes aren’t about to let anyone kill trillions of beings.

In order to fully appreciate the film, you have to have seen most of the others. I watched Thor: Ragnarok the night before and I’m glad I did, because Avengers: Infinity War picks up right after that one ends.Thanos is after six “Infinity Stones” to gain absolute power, and Loki has one. Bruce Banner is aboard the ship, but gets zapped to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum and fills him in on the threat. Strange notifies Iron Man, and pretty soon the ball is rolling.

The film works like a comic book, and I watched it with a smile on my face, as it made me feel 13 years old again. The heroes are grouped in bunches–Iron Man, Strange, and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) get aboard Thanos’ ship; Thor takes Rocket Raccoon and Groot to a planet where his hammer was forged (the forger is Peter Dinklage, as big as a house); and Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) go to Wakanda to meet up with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). The Vision has an Infinity Stone in his head, and he needs it to live, so the Wakandans try to take it out without killing him.Meanwhile, Thanos’ henchmen arrive to attack.

The rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bauttista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) try to prevent Thanos from getting a stone from The Collector (Benicio Del Toro). Thanos, who has killed thousands, has a soft spot for Gamora, whom he adopted. Later they will be joined by his other daughter, Nebula (Karen Gillan).

The film cuts between these groups skillfully, just like a comic book. There’s arguments and humor (Downey remarks that Strange’s cloak, which can act independently, is “an incredibly loyal piece of outerwear,” and Cumberbatch calls Downey a “douchebag.”) Also, because contracts are up and actors have decided to move on, there is the possibility of irrevocal death. A huge body count at the end will certainly be fixed in part two, coming next May. But some who die have films coming up. A guy I knew writing for Marvel told me, “In the Marvel Universe, no one stays dead except for Uncle Ben.”

I had a great time at the movie. There’s plenty of action to go with the humor, which is always a big part of Marvel’s success. The heroes also are humanistic, willing to sacrifice for the greater good, and despite their arguments, they always have each other’s backs, so this makes one feel good. (When told the Avengers have broken up, Banner, who was gone for two years, says, “Broken up? Like a band? Like the Beatles?”)

Try to watch this with an audience. When characters show up, they are cheered (I didn’t recognize Captain America at first–he hardly wears a costume anymore). When the end of the film comes, and people realize they’ve just seen two and a half hours of a film that is only half over, there were groans. But I think everyone will be back in a year’s time.

Retro Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Fifty years ago this month one of the most written about films ever made was released. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a film unlike any other, and I don’t think there’s been one like it since then. I’ve seen it at least three times, but I still don’t understand all of it, and I don’t think anyone is supposed to.

The film is basically told in four parts, as if it were movements of a symphony. The first, “The Dawn of Man,” features hominids on the African savanna. They eat only vegetation. One day a strange black monolith, looking like a giant candy bar, appears, with a sound like a choir. The hominids are first afraid, and then embrace it. Presumably this gives one such early man the idea to use a bone to kill something. Next thing you know they are eating meat, and eventually use it to kill one another.

We can assume that the monolith was planted by an advanced civilization that is furthering human evolution. The next time it shows up it is buried under the lunar surface, so it is clearly in place for when man is advanced enough to find it. This section is the weakest of the film, with stilted dialogue and boilerplate sci-fi stuff. It also has a scientist using a videophone to call his daughter for his birthday. Even Kubrick and his collaborator, Arthur C. Clarke, didn’t anticipate cell phones.

The third portion is the one most people know and is straightforward, as well as being suspenseful and even a bit funny. Two astronauts, along with three others in sleep pods, are on their way to Jupiter. They don’t know it, but they are headed to the third monolith, adrift in space. Their ship is run by a computer, HAL 9000, who is more human than they are. When he starts to take over things get a bit dicey. “Open the pod bay door, HAL,” is a memorable quote. When Keir Dullea gets back in the ship to shut him down, HAL, voiced wonderfully by Douglas Rain, says things like, “I can see you’re upset about this, Dave.”

The fourth movement is anybody’s guess. Dullea takes a space pod into some sort of gate, where there are psychedelic colors that probably were pretty groovy in 1968. He sees himself as an old man, and then becomes a fetus the size of a planet, aka the “Star Child.” I read that at one point the script had the Star Child exploding all the nuclear bombs on Earth, but Kubrick blew up the world in his previous film, Dr. Strangelove, and didn’t want to do it again.

Today the film is recognized as one of the greatest ever made but it took a while. Pauline Kael oddly thought it was “unoriginal,” while I think Penelope Gilliat hit it on the head when she said it was “somewhere between hypnotic and boring.” True, parts of it are boring. There is almost a fetishistic lingering on spaceships gliding through the ethos and men pushing buttons and doors opening. It takes maybe fifteen minutes for Dr. Floyd to get from Earth to the Moon in a spaceship, as we see the flight attendants serving dinner. I suppose the special effects were cutting edge and maybe Kubrick was showing off (he designed the special effects, and he won an Oscar for it, the only Oscar he ever won).

But, as Gilliat said, the tedium can be hypnotic. There are a lot of shots of ships, and one of the most famous cuts in movie history has the bone tossed by the hominid turning into a spaceship, a leap of four million years of human evolution in one edit.

I suppose I admire 2001 more than I love it, The HAL sequence on its own is a terrific short film, as is the Dawn of Man. A friend of mine mentioned that it couldn’t be made today, and that’s probably true, at least not how Kubrick made it. However, it was the highest grossing film of that year. It made Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra known to everyone, and it inspired one of my favorite Mad Magazine parody titles: 201 Minutes of a Space Idiocy.

Review: Isle of Dogs

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To watch a Wes Anderson film is to enter his own peculiar world. Even though Isle of Dogs is set in Japan (for which he has taken some criticism), it is really his version of Japan. I suppose he chose that country because of its rigid cultural rules, although I’m only guessing.

In this version of Japan, in the future, there is a dog flu going around. The cat-loving mayor of Megasaki decrees that all dogs be exiled to a trash island off the coast. The first dog to go is Spots, who is the guard dog and companion the mayor’s ward, Atari. Soon all dogs are on the island, scrounging for scraps.

Atari, 12 years old, gets an airplane (I wasn’t quite sure how he did) and flies to the island, in search of Spots. He is aided by a pack of five alpha dogs, ostensibly led by Chief, who was a life-long stray. He is the most resistant to helping Atari, but the other dogs, who were pets, decide to help.

Those who know Anderson will recognize certain things–formal, stilted dialogue, labels (helpfully, he tells us the beginnings and ends of flashbacks) and bizarre, off-the-wall choices. For instance, Spots is able to shoot exploding teeth out of his mouth, and the trash island is mapped as completely as any real place.

This all makes for a pleasurable experience at the movies, but it’s not up to his last couple of films, Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. Dog lovers will appreciate it more (and cat lovers may be angry), as the film rests on the notion that dogs are our best friends, mainly because they are loyal.

As for the cultural appropriation claims, I suppose Shakespeare shouldn’t have written Romeo and Juliet because it was set in Italy. There can be no boundaries to the artistic imagination. That being said, I think he erred in making the leader of the revolt against the mayor an American transfer student with blonde hair and freckles. It is another in a long line of the “white savior” cliche.

Many Anderson regulars are on hand as voice actors: Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Goldblum. Brian Cranston is great as Chief, and despite her being white, Greta Gerwig is wonderful as Tracy, the savior. Also in the cast is Yoko Ono, playing a scientist named Yoko Ono.

Review: A Quiet Place

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A Quiet Place is getting great reviews, as it should–it’s a taut, well-constructed, intelligent horror film. But let’s not get carried away. Those who consider this some kind of landmark or instant classic may be reacting to the fact that the horror genre has been so poorly served in recent years. For those who love the genre, A Quiet Place should scratch an itch, but it does not transcend the genre.

Directed by John Krasinski, who also stars,  A Quiet Place thankfully spares us reams of exposition. A title card says “Day 59,” but we don’t know what that means. Presumably it is 59 days from the arrival of creatures with spindly legs and murderous intention. When we see Krasinski’s basement, a variety of newspaper headlines fill us in some more–the creatures are blind, but have superior hearing, so the way to avoid being eaten is, to quote Elmer Fudd, “be vewy, vewy quiet.”

A prologue shows us what happens when that rule is breached, as the family (wife Emily Blunt, daughter Millicent Simmonds, and son Noah Jupe) lose a family member. They live on a farm, and we have to wonder how Krasinski has built such an elaborate defense system without making a lot of noise. Blunt becomes pregnant, which means the couple made love without making a sound.

The tension exists around Blunt’s impending due date–how will she give birth without making a sound, and a nail in her foot is thrown in? How will they deal with a crying baby? Do the creatures have a weakness? (Yes, and it may remind some viewers of the Martians’ weakness in Mars Attacks!)

As mentioned, there are lots of questions, but these aren’t necessarily plot holes. We know, from the newspapers, this is a world-wide menace, but we don’t know if this little family are the last people alive. Krasinski tries to raise someone on his short-wave radio without success. Also, given the set-up the farm has, one has to wonder if the family were survivalists to begin with.

The acting is good. I’m starting to let go Krasinski has Jim Halpert from The Office, and Blunt is effective as showing pain without screaming. The star of the show, though, is Simmonds, who is actually deaf and playing a deaf girl (the reason why the family knows American Sign Language, which comes in handy). She was terrific in Wonderstruck. One can only hope there are enough roles for deaf people to keep her busy.

A Quiet Place is an effective thriller, but it’s insubstantial. It was out of my system by the time I got to my car.