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Isle of Dogs

Dogs are always our best friends, even when we’re not theirs 

© Fox Searchlight Pictures An outbreak of canine flu in Japan leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A boy (voice of Koyu Rankin) journeys there to rescue his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), and gets help from a pack of misfit canines who have also been exiled. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a government conspiracy.
        When an epidemic of canine flu threatens the population of a Japanese town, the mayor (voiced by Kunichi Nomura: The Grand Budapest Hotel) decrees that all dogs be banished to the town’s offshore landfill, Trash Island. 
     People are upset. Scientists are ignored despite their claim to have cured the flu. Is there a conspiracy led by a cat-loving crime family? 
     The dogs, for their part, want to go home to their masters.
     The mayor’s ward (Koyu Rankin: Juken) hijacks a small plane and crash-lands on the island to look for his faithful bodyguard and best friend Spots (Liev Schreiber: Ray Donovan). Instead, the boy finds Chief (Bryan Cranston: Electric Dreams), a stray who hates the concept of masters, and his pack of former house pets. Chief wants nothing to do with the boy, but the pack out-votes him, deciding to help on his quest.
      Eventually, Chief wonders if there might not be some good in masters.
     Meticulously styled, emotionally resonate and utterly fetching, Isle of Dogs will have dog-lovers wagging. It is steeped in director Wes Anderson’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel) typical style. Each frame is filled with copious candy-colored details, with cuteness offset by a rather morbid sense of humor. This vaguely 1960s-mashed-with-fairy-tale style can take some getting used to. But in animated form, it’s easier to go with.
     Though Anderson has only done one other animated film, his aesthetic blends beautifully with the medium.
     Flaws are few and fall to humans. The storyline involving people is less interesting than anything the dogs do. A know-it-all exchange student (Greta Gerwig: 20th Century Women) adds irritation rather than heroism as an annoying foreigner.
      Anderson has not always treated pets well; their deaths are frequently the punchline in his films. But here he nails the emotional bond between human and dog. 
Good Animation • PG-13 • 101 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
 
Finding Your Feet
      When Sandra (Imelda Staunton) leaves her cheating husband, she is forced to move in with her sister Bif (Celia Imrie). Sandra thinks Bif is the black sheep of the family, while Bif finds Sandra insufferably stuffy.
      The sisters find common ground when Sandra joins Bif at her community dance class. Sandra opens up as she meets members of the class and rediscovers the joys of embracing life.
     This film is no groundbreaker. It’s a group of insanely talented British theater and film stars having fun in a silly romantic comedy. If you enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, buy a ticket. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 111 mins.
 
The Miracle Season
     A volleyball team mourning its star player is inspired by a tough-talking coach (Helen Hunt) to dedicate their season to their lost teammate. Soon, the ladies are unstoppable, playing their way to championship.
      A feel-good sports movie based on a true story, The Miracle Season follows Hoosiers, Rudy and Miracle in winning audiences with underdog sports stories. This one adds an all-female team. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 101 mins. 
 
Rampage 
        Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is a primatologist known for raising a silverback gorilla from birth. The gorilla, George, communicates via sign language. Their bond is tested when an experimental chemical finds its way into George’s cage. The gorilla is mutated into a giant ape with a rage problem. 
       It’s a good thing the government uncovers some other mutated animals for George to fight. 
       Sound silly? Of course it is.
       Based on a popular video game featuring giant mutant animals fighting each other, Rampage isn’t so much a movie as a loud distraction. Fans of Johnson and his wry performances should enjoy this mindless popcorn flick. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 107 mins. 
 
Truth or Dare
       Olivia (Lucy Hale) and her vacationing friends play a game of truth or dare with strangers. The game turns deadly.
        It could be fun for fans of mindless horror staged on stupid premises. I’m holding out for a horror version of Beer Pong. 
Prospects: Dare you to see it • PG-13 • 100 mins.