Screening Room: ‘Isle of Dogs’

Featuring all the usual suspects (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton) plus Bryan Cranston, a lot of dry canine humor, and truckloads of Japanese cultural references from taiko drumming to Akira Kurosawa flicks, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is, well, the sum total of all those parts.

Isle of Dogs is playing now. My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

Looking at Wes Anderson’s career arc is like flipping through the passport of one of your better-traveled friends. There are his stories of neurotically creative New York (The Royal Tenenbaums) and emotionally stunted New England (Moonrise Kingdom). Then you have his further flung locations ranging from the tripped-out sun-stroked Mediterranean (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) to a romantic postcard India (The Darjeeling Limited) and the imagined semi-historical locales of wartime Mitteleuropa (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and storybook British Isles (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Now, with his densely-layered but somewhat stillborn quasi-apocalyptic canine adventure fantasy Isle of Dogs, Anderson has finally crossed the Pacific to Japan. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to Australia. His kangaroos will most likely be highly droll…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘After the Storm’

The newest movie from Hirokazu Kore-eda, After the Storm, opened this week in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

When is success or hunting for it a trap? Is it better to have dreamed of great things and fallen short or to have never had ambitions at all? Those are a couple of the questions that Hirokazu Kore-eda’s TV-like melodrama about wayward fathers and disappointed women After the Storm tangles with. Fortunately for the viewer, Kore-eda leaves those questions mostly hanging in the air and not verbalized, leaving the screen to a group of characters who are less like a family than a house of cards just waiting to be blown down by the typhoon everybody is waiting for to strike…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Silence’

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A spiritual epic of the kind he hasn’t tried since Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese’s Silence is playing now in limited release and should be expanding nationwide soon. My review is at PopMatters:

…with his long-gestating adaptation of Shūsaku Endō‘s 1966 novel Silence, Scorsese returns to a scenario where souls are lost and seeking answers. Set in 17th-century Japan, a world distant from his usual contemporary American settings, the movie presents characters who willingly undertake punishments as brutal as anything experienced by the great martyrs of his early work, from Jake LaMotta to Jesus Christ…

Here’s the trailer.

Now Playing: ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’

Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' (Amplify)
Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ (Amplify)

Do you like Fargo? Chances are, even if so, you don’t know it as well as the titular anti-heroine of the Zellner brothers’ chilly odyssey of quirk, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. It might be one of the first great films of 2015.

kumiko-posterKumiko, the Treasure Hunter is playing now here and there. My review is at PopMatters:

She’s alone and obsessive, and her particular object of obsession is the Coen brothers’ film Fargo. Sitting night after night in her dingy apartment with only her adorable rabbit Bunzo for company, she pores over a worn-out VHS tape with Talmudic fervency, keeping a notebook full of scribbled clues that only make sense to her. Because of Fargo‘s famous opening epigraph—“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987”—she takes it as a faithful transcribing of reality. That’s why she keeps re-watching the scene where Carl (Steve Buscemi) buries the suitcase of cash by a fence in a snowy field. In Kumiko’s mind, she just needs to get to Minnesota…

Here’s the trailer:

Trailer Park: ‘Library Wars’

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There’s a series of Japanese novels by Hiro Arikawa (already turned into manga and animated series and film) about a dystopian future where the Japanese military has been instructed to remove all “objectionable” printed material from libraries. In response, a group called the Library Force is formed to battle said censorship with full Wolverines-style mayhem, if necessary. The live-action film version is called, you got it, Library Wars! Much bookish awesomeness is guaranteed.

Library Wars is being released in Japan later this spring. Who knows if this will ever make it to the States … but one can hope.

Trailer is here: