Movie Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

Does Wes Anderson's new animated feature offer more than passing fun for dog lovers?
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"Isle of Dogs" is the newest film from acclaimed director Wes Anderson, and his second stop-motion animation feature after 2009's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". This new outing is rife with the typical Anderson visual peculiarities. Fans of his flat, meticulously detailed shot compositions will not be disappointed. With the control over fine details afforded by the medium of stop-motion animation, Anderson is able to furnish and frame his film with precision-cut orderly arrangements. However, missing this time is Anderson's penchant for memorably quirky characters. There are quirks abound, but it does not add up to anything memorable.

In the near future, the Japanese city of Megasaki is faced with a flu epidemic affecting the local canine population. The cat-loving mayor, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), riles up anti-dog sentiment and decrees that all dogs in the city be banished to an abandoned offshore waste disposal site. Thus we have the titular Isle of Dogs (which is sadly never referred to as such by any of the characters, instead only being referred to as "Trash Island"). A roving gang of dogs, voiced by an all-star cast (Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and more), happen upon a young boy who has crash-landed an airplane onto Trash Island. The boy, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), is the mayor's orphaned nephew and ward, who has come to the island in search of his dog, Spots. The dog pack agrees to aid Atari in his search, although whether or not the dogs can communicate with humans is never clearly established and remains a confusion throughout the film.

Despite constant objections from Chief (Cranston), the only stray dog of the group, the dog gang leads Atari to the residence of two wise-dogs, who they believe may know the whereabouts of Spots. Chief's objections are worth noting, because he constantly refers to how the dogs are better off living without masters on Trash Island. Will he eventually come to find the joys of domestication and the comfort of Atari's company? The script telegraphs this so obviously you would be hard pressed to answer anything but "yes". At the behest of the wise-dogs, Atari and his canine companions head towards the farthest tip of Trash Island to find Spots, all the while being pursued by Mayor Kobayashi's paramilitary rescue teams. On the mainland, foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) begins investigating into Mayor Kobayashi's sinister plans for Trash Island, which could result in the elimination of the island's canine inhabitants. The two parallel plots convene in one of those movie climaxes where someone gives a speech that brings the in-universe listeners to tears but leaves the actual audience in the theater with dry eyes.

The strangest aspect of "Isle of Dogs" is the decision to have all the Japanese characters in the film speak their native tongue. This is not an inherently bad idea, but Anderson continually backpedals on this choice. Most of the plot-relevant Japanese dialogue is translated into English through the clunky injection of an on-site translator, who tells us everything that is being said under the pretense of international broadcasting. The foreign exchange student character only further serves to awkwardly cram in English translations and English dialogue. There are even some portions of the film in which Atari speaks to the dogs without any subtitles. In a live-action film the actor's facial expressions and body language would likely be enough to get the message across regardless of the language barrier, but with a stop-motion puppet the ability to communicate minutiae of expression is far more difficult. The effect is that many of Atari's bonding scenes with the dogs feel alienating and distant when they should be heartwarming. I would have preferred the movie to either use English subtitles for the Japanese dialogue or just have the Japanese characters speak English. Trying to meet somewhere in the middle comes across as waffling, as if the filmmakers (or more likely the higher-ups handling the financial side of things) did not think American audiences would watch a film with extensive subtitles.

Although there are some questionable choices regarding the film's use of multiple languages, "Isle of Dogs" still offers many of the pleasures of Anderson's other work. The design of Trash Island is particularly striking, with endless monochromatic expanses of trash, making something beautiful out of literal garbage. The animation is impressive as well, particularly a brief sequence in which one of Mayor Kobayashi's henchmen prepares sushi. Anderson's trademark flat shot compositions are at peak flatness here, with many of the wide shots in the film bearing a charming picture-book quality, like some sort of post-apocalyptic Richard Scarry illustration. Especially as a follow-up to the excellent "Grand Budapest Hotel", "Isle of Dogs" feels like Anderson resting on his laurels. The expected stylistic panache is there, but the story is predictable and the characters are not as memorable as those of previous Anderson films. "Isle of Dogs" is cute enough if you love dogs, but for a Wes Anderson movie it leaves something to be desired.

Rating: 6/10

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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I Believe In Michael Jackson's Innocence Because The Facts Prove His Accusers Are Lying

After HBO aired the Michael Jackson film, "Leaving Neverland," the reaction made it clear how misinformed many people are over these new allegations.

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When Michael Jackson died in 2009, the world set his scandals aside and mourned his passing. There was a sense of sympathy for Jackson's drug addiction and appreciation for his talent. His legacy appeared to be stronger than ever and people actually seemed to be focusing on his music once more. Now, nearing the tenth anniversary of his death, everything is changing again... and not for the better.

A new film called "Leaving Neverland" has premiered on HBO. The two-part movie recalls the allegations of Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Robson and Safechuck defended Jackson from sexual abuse allegations many times over the years. However, the two men are now accusing Jackson of sexual molestation. The film contains graphic descriptions of the abuse they claim to have been subjected to.

In order to understand these new accusations, it's important to look back at where it began. In 1993, Jackson became the target of child molestation allegations for the first time. The allegations came from a thirteen year old boy named Jordan Chandler. His father, Evan Chandler, filed a lawsuit against Jackson. The father worked as a dentist and was an aspiring screenwriter.

The Chandlers were in a custody battle and Jackson preferred to spend time with Jordan and his mother, June. After Jackson refused to fund Evan's home renovation and $20,000,000 film project, he hired Barry Rothman, an entertainment lawyer. In 1994, it was reported to GQ Magazine that Evan injected Jordan with sodium amytal, a barbiturate that enables false memories. After extracting a tooth from Jordan, Evan reportedly got his son to claim molestation at the hands of Jackson.

Jackson settled the civil case for a reported $20,000,000 in 1994. While many interpret that as a suggestion of guilt, it's important to note that Evan declined to move forward with the criminal case following the settlement. If your child was molested, would you ask for money? Would you settle for money? Would money somehow make what happened to your child okay? Jordan would later file charges against his father for physical abuse and legally emancipated himself.

Ten years later, Jackson was accused of similar crimes. Thirteen year old Gavin Arvizo alleged Jackson had molested him and gave him alcohol. Arvizo was seen in the controversial Martin Bashir documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson." According to the allegations, the abuse didn't start until after the Bashir documentary aired. When Gavin testified, he claimed Jackson told him, "If men don't masturbate, they can get to a level where they might rape a girl." However, records show that Gavin initially claimed that was said by his grandmother.

Gavin's mother Janet Arvizo accused Jackson of holding them hostage at Neverland and didn't allow them to know the time. Jackson's defense team proved this wrong by showing video of the property in court. It is clear from the footage that there are clocks all over the ranch. Jackson's lawyer also provided receipts from Janet's various shopping trips during the time she claimed to be held hostage. Celebrities like Chris Tucker and Jay Leno also testified that they had bad experiences with this family. Tucker felt they were taking advantage of his wealth and generosity. Ultimately, Jackson was found not guilty on all charges.

The reaction to "Leaving Neverland" has cast a dark cloud over Jackson's legacy. After the film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, many took to Twitter to share their disgust. A lot of people were saying this film was "credible" and provided "evidence" that Jackson was guilty of the allegations. Even after the film premiered on HBO, a lot of people remain convinced by the two men's stories. Oprah Winfrey even hosted an interview with Robson, Safechuck, and the director Dan Reed following the television premiere.

The problem with this reaction is that the film doesn't actually include any evidence. If anything, the facts point to Robson and Safechuck to be proven liars. When Robson filed his declaration in 2013, he claimed Jackson began molesting him on the second night he spent with him. This claim was repeated in several amended complaints from 2014 to 2016. However, during his deposition in late 2016, excerpts from a book draft Robson wrote were read. In the draft, Robson wrote the molestation didn't occur the first two nights. Instead, it began later on in the week. This is the version we hear in the film.

Robson also claimed that he could no longer work on entertainment related activities. He claimed these activities reminded him too much of Jackson and sexual abuse. However, there are several social media posts during this period where Robson is working in the dance studio and creating short films. Robson declared himself "healed" from the bad association he had with entertainment activities in September 2017, when his case was heading towards dismissal.

Robson also claimed that Jackson tried to prevent him from seeing women. However, Jackson's niece, Brandi Jackson, revealed she dated Robson for nearly ten years. In fact, she also claimed it was Michael who set the two up, because he heard Robson had a crush on her. This relationship was not mentioned in the documentary. According to leaked emails sent from Robson to his mother, he asked her if a story by a security guard was true. She responded telling him it wasn't true. Yet, he included the same story, almost verbatim, in his amended complaint filed in September 2016.

Safechuck provided dates of the alleged abuse in his lawsuit against the estate. However, certain dates were proven to be inaccurate. Safechuck claimed Jackson molested him during a trip to New York where he was performing at the Grammys in February 1989. The problem is, the Grammys were not in New York in 1989, they were in Los Angeles, and Jackson didn't perform that year. Jackson did perform at the Grammys in New York a year earlier in March 1988. However, Safechuck claimed he was first molested by Jackson during the Paris stop of his world tour in June 1988.

In my opinion, the two men don't appear to be believable in the film at all. Robson doesn't claim repressed memory. He says he always remembered everything Jackson did to him, he just didn't realize it was abuse. Robson testified in Jackson's defense at his trial in 2005. I find it hard to believe that a grown man would testify at a trial which described the same acts as abuse and still not recognize the behavior as such.

Safechuck appeared to be smiling and smirking during his graphic descriptions of the alleged sex acts between him and Jackson. Safechuck's mother also laughed as she described a moment when she put her ear up to the bedroom door trying to hear what Jackson and her son were doing. Why would a mother laugh about such a thing if she now knows her son was being molested?

The film also claims Jackson grooms the parents as well, by bonding with them and spending time in their home. I think that just sounds like a man who was famous since childhood and didn't know what a normal life was like. It makes sense to me why Jackson would want to stay in some family house in suburbia and take out the trash. That was foreign to him and something he probably yearned for.

Another claim thrown around regarding Jackson, is that he often rejects his young friends once they hit puberty. However, there are several young friends Jackson kept well into their adulthood. Macaulay Culkin, Omer Bhatti, Frank Cascio and his brother Eddie are just some examples of children Jackson maintained friendships with as they grew up.

If the film proves anything, it's how easy people are emotionally manipulated in 2019. But why is that the case? I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of people want to do good, but don't have the drive to do the work. So it's easy for them to become keyboard warriors on social media. Punishing and cancelling celebrities makes people feel like they're standing up for the disenfranchised. So if a famous person is accused of sexual assault, keyboard warriors come out in full force.

People are worried that if we don't blindly believe accusers, it will make it difficult for real victims to come forward. If one is neutral towards an allegation of this nature, however, they're not taking a side. There's no reason that stance should dissuade a victim from coming forward. The idea of neutrality seems to be lost on many people. The "believe all victims" mentality goes against the "innocent until proven guilty" principle we have in our justice system.

Healthy skepticism is essential for cases like these. Look at what happened when it was reported that Jussie Smollett was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. A lot of people, including celebrities, wished him well on social media. Then, the Chicago Police Department provided evidence supporting their claim that he fabricated the whole thing. This was harmful toward real victims of hate crimes, including members of the LGBTQ community. Blindly believing all accusers will only cause people to take rape allegations less seriously. The best thing we can do for victims is not to jump to conclusions when there are no facts.

If there were no facts to sway me in either direction, I would have a neutral stance on this case. However, I personally believe in Jackson's innocence. That stance is not due to my being a fan of his music. It's due to the fact that Robson and Safechuck's stories include lies and inconsistencies. I believe money is their motive. They claim they're not out for money and aren't being compensated for the film. However, their lawsuit against Jackson's estate is currently pending an appeal after being thrown out of court.

The fact that anyone can accuse someone and be believed at face value is very dangerous. There are two sides in every sexual assault allegation. Either a person was raped or a person is losing their career and reputation. I find the immediate assumption of Jackson's guilt to be extremely unfair. There are now reports of his statues being removed from public displays and several radio stations banning his music. I don't think any of that is deserved.

A lot of people say things like, "Imagine the 45 year old average Joe down the street. Would you let your child sleep with him in the same bed?" That argument is so tiring, because Michael Jackson wasn't like the average Joe. He didn't look like the average Joe, live like the average Joe, or have the same life story as the average Joe. How could we expect him to abide by common social norms when he was famous and isolated since childhood?

Jackson also had the kind of power that allowed him to surround himself with people who would do things his way. If anyone tried to question his sleeping in bed with children, they could very easily be replaced. This was one of Jackson's flaws, which I believe ultimately led to his downfall. But that doesn't mean Jackson had a sexual interest in children. It just proved he had a stubborn side that very few could challenge.

"Leaving Neverland" is nothing more than a four hour propaganda piece meant to take advantage of the #MeToo era and the moral outrage that comes with it. It doesn't present any of Robson or Safechuck's contradictory statements or proven lies for this very reason. It's goal is to provide public sympathy for two men out for money from Michael Jackson's estate.

Don't get me wrong, Jackson himself was far from perfect. If he was guilty of anything, it was being too kind and trusting. This is why so many people took advantage of him during his lifetime and still do in death. I believe it was a mistake for Jackson to settle with his first accuser in 1993. I believe that led to his trial and these new allegations. It opened the door for so many to make similar claims against him for money.

But that doesn't mean Jackson should be "cancelled." His musical legacy and humanitarian work has left a significant mark on our culture. Allegations from two proven liars shouldn't ruin what he has meant to music history. It's time for people to wake up, do their research, and learn the truth about this man. Let's celebrate the King of Pop. It's time to let this man finally rest in peace.

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10 Character Deaths We Need To See In Season 8 Of 'Game of Thrones'

All men must die.

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The premiere of the final season of "Game of Thrones" is rapidly approaching and resolution is coming, one way or the other. There is some unfinished business between characters that will no doubt end in some gruesome deaths. These are all the deaths I hope we will see in the final season.

1. Cersei Lannister

I thought I'd just get this one out of the way first. We all know it's going to happen. The big question going into this final season is, "Who will end up on the Iron Throne?" Well, right now Cersei is still sitting on it, so for anyone to take control of it, they'll have to kill her first. Honestly, it's taking way too long to kill her if you ask me. I wanted her dead three seasons ago. There is no way she is surviving this season.

The only question that remains: who will kill her?

My bet is on either Arya or Jaime. Cersei is on Arya's list of people to kill and so far Arya has been pretty successful on eliminating everyone on that list. However, as fans of the book know, there is a prophecy Cersei received when she was young saying all her children will die and she will be killed by her brother. Half of that has already come true, so who's to say the rest won't as well?

Either way, it doesn't matter to me as long as she dies. I hope it's awful.

2. Melisandre

She's gotta go. Her allegiances are too shoddy and I don't trust her. She does virtually no good and has been either directly or indirectly involved in some great character's death. I have never really understood her powers or her Lord of Light shenanigans, but I have no time for it. Also, she's on Arya's kill list, so her chances of making it out alive are slim. She's super old anyway, she's lived her life.

3. Euron Greyjoy

Ew. Last we saw him, he was fleeing back to the Iron Islands after he witnessed the wight Jon Snow presented to Cersei. He believes he's safe on the Iron Islands because the army of the dead can't swim. However, I feel as if his time is running short and soon he will meet his comeuppance. At least, I hope so. He's just an awful character and I want him gone.

4. The Hound

This character has definitely grown on me since the beginning of the show. This is probably due to the character developing into a less stone cold killer and more of a killer with some emotion. However, he is on Arya's kill list, so if he has to die to fulfill her wishes, than so be it.

5. The Mountain

Little is known about this character except that he has killed loads of people before he was killed himself. But Cersei then had him brought back from the dead. I swear we never catch a break in this show.

Well, now we need him to die again because he has sworn his allegiance to Cersei, and nothing gets past him. In order to get to Cersei, someone has to kill him first. Also, he's awful, so that's another reason for him to die.

6. Robin Arryn

If you are like me, when you saw this name you probably thought, "This kid is still alive?" Unfortunately, yes, and it has been confirmed he will be in the upcoming season. While he has only appeared in eight episodes total, he managed to leave an awful impression. Even though the last thing we saw him doing was sending his soldiers to defend House Stark in The Battle of the Bastards, his past awfulness will never be forgotten. I hope the only reason he is in the new season is so we can see him die.

7. Jaime Lannister

Now I don't actually hate Jaime. I just don't see a way in which the series ends without him dying.

He is another example of a truly complex character. At the beginning of the show, he was flat-out awful. However, in the time he was held captive with Brienne, he was humbled and became a somewhat likable character. But all this redemption goes straight down the toilet whenever he is with Cersei. His sister brings out the worst in him, and he continues to ignore all the awful things she continues to do.

However, in the last episode of season seven, it seems like Jaime is finally starting to see the wickedness his sister possesses. The only way he can truly redeem himself in this new season is to defect from her or kill her. Now he'll be the King and Queen Slayer. Either way, he'll probably end up dead in the process.

8. Bran Stark

I have no real reason behind this besides the fact that I am so tired of Bran and his storyline. I know there are a lot of theories surrounding his Warging abilities and how he might further complicate the plot, but for the last few seasons, all he has done is sit and brood and I am sick of it. He can see everything apparently, but he has offered no help or guidance to anyone. I am sick and tired of the Three-Eyed Raven. It's time to throw this storyline, Bran included, into the trash.

9. Theon Greyjoy

This character has been on again/off again as far as his morals and allegiances go. At first, we hated him, then we had to watch him endure endless torture, which seemed to sober him up and regret the errors of his past so he might seek to right his wrongs. But then he dipped on his sister when she needed him.

While this seemed like a more cowardly act than a malicious one, it still didn't bode well with him trying to redeem himself. I don't necessarily hate him, but I feel the only way he can truly redeem himself is to die trying to get Yara back.

10. The Night King

Obviously, he has to die. There are a lot of theories surrounding who he is and what his motivations are, but I don't care. There is no possible way this series can end without him dying, or else everyone in Westeros will die. He just another big bad villain that needs to be stopped in order for humanity to continue. The build-up for the big showdown between him and his army and literally everybody else has been building since the very first episode of the show. There is no doubt in my mind that he will die. The only question is: How and by whom?

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