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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Schwartzman’

“ISLE OF DOGS” My rating: B

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

So much is going on in Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around it.

Perhaps it’s best to let our eyes do all the work, for this is one astoundingly beautiful animated film.

Shot with the same stop-motion techniques as Anderson’s earlier effort, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” this new entry employs the filmmaker’s usual deadpan humor with gorgeous Japanense-inspired designs and a yarn about human/canine relations.

It’s part sci-fi, part “Old Yeller.”

In an introductory segment designed to look like Japanense screens and woodcuts and propelled by throbbing Japanese drumming, an unseen narrator (Courtney B.  Vance) relates how, after an outbreak of “dog flu” and “snout fever,” all canines in the city were banished by the cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi, head of the ruling Kobayashi clan.

The dogs were transported to an island of trash off the coast where they learned to dig through the refuse for sustenance.

But not all humans are anti-dog.  A few still long for the days of “man’s best friend”; a pro-pup scientist is even developing a cure for dog flu.

The plot proper (the screenplay is by Anderson, who developed the story with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura) kicks in with the arrival of Atari, the ward of the Mayor who has stolen a plane and crash landed on the Isle of Dogs in search of Spots, his beloved guard dog, who was torn from him by the canine exodus.

The boy immediately teams up with a quartet of puzzled pooches (voiced by Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum) and the suspicious Chief (Bryan Cranston), who understandably nurses a bad case of anti-human sentiment. (more…)

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Jason Schwartsman, Olympia Dukakis

Jason Schwartsman, Olympia Dukakis

“7 Chinese Brothers” My rating: C+ 

76 minutes | No MPAA rating

When we first meet Larry, the main character (one is loathe to call him a protagonist) of “7 Chinese Brothers,” he’s being fired from his bottom-scraping job in the kitchen of a trendy Austin restaurant for stealing from the tip jar and siphoning off liquor from the bar.

Caught red handed, his response is basically a shrug and a wise-guy remark.  Out in the parking lot he keys the car of his chief accuser.

Larry is, not to put too fine a point on it, a slacker asshole. A jerk. he should be intolerable.

Except that Larry is portrayed by Jason Schwartzman, one of those actors who manages to bring to every role a modicum of empathy and insight.

In Bob Byington’s shambling comedy Schwartzman walks a fine line between creepy and compelling.

This is one of those movies that goes nowhere fast. There’s not a whole lot of plot.

(more…)

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Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

“SAVING MR. BANKS” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on Dec. 20)

125 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Saving Mr. Banks” — a serio-comic look at Walt Disney’s tireless courtship of “Mary Poppins” author C. L. Travers — can be viewed either as a charming explanation of how one of the best family films of all time came to be made, or as an infuriating example of corporate self aggrandizement.

While cognizant of the latter, I’ll go with the former.

The latest  from director John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie,” “The Blind Side”) is set during Travers’ two-week visit to L.A.  in the early 1960s, arranged so that Disney — who more than two decades before had sworn to his wife and daughters that he would bring their favorite heroine of children’s literature to the screen — could coax, canjole and charm the dubious author into signing over the movie rights to her books.

Disney was nothing if not determined. Without authorization he had been working for years on the a screenplay and his in-house tunesmiths — brothers Robert and Richard Sherman —  already had written the songs for what would be one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time.

(more…)

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