Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (IMDb)
Awe-inspiring animation, as expected, with an amazing attention to detail (petals on noses, fur blowing in the wind), breathtaking landscapes (see the journey montages), a variety of unique shots (see the shadowy discussion in the bottle cave), creative storytelling devices (see the split-screens), and fun flourishes (see the sushi-making). A welcome surprise is the engaging hard-boiled political drama added to Anderson’s typically quirky comedy (the gossiping goofy alpha dog pack is great).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

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Groundhog Day (1993)

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A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. (IMDb)
Starts off as a funny (thanks to Murray’s signature dry wit) but standard comedy as the characters are introduced (Larry is a classic comic sidekick) and the premise is milked for the easy surface-y/hedonistic humour. But as the day continues to repeat itself (the repeated settings alternate nicely) it takes on surprising dramatic weight as Phil moves through different stages of dealing with his (smartly unexplained) predicament (see his climactic interaction with the homeless man).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Stripes (1981)

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Two friends who are dissatisfied with their jobs decide to join the army for a bit of fun. (IMDb)
Thanks largely to its tried and true “ragtag team of misfits” trope (gotta love Candy), this has its moments (see the platoon’s unimpressive obstacle course run, unconventional graduation drill routine, conflict with uptight captain), but leads Ramis and Murray’s cocky slacker schtick is annoying more often than funny, and their tangential exploits are the same (their flirtations–not to mention the unbearable mud wrestling scene–reek of misogyny, and the trip to Czechoslovakia was just silly).
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

Broken Flowers (2005)

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As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers. (IMDb)
On one level, a thoughtful camera with an eye for capturing the beauty in every detail of the mundane mixed with the script’s scattered quirkiness makes accompanying Murray’s melancholy Don on his cyclical journey across America and back to visit various ex-lovers a uniquely cozy experience. On the other hand, the story’s refusal to dig deep, wrap up, or at least piece together even slightly any of the otherwise interesting parallels and “clues” from each visit make it frustrating in the end.
7/10 (Good)

 

The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

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Wallace Ritchie is mistaken for a spy and must stop a plot to assassinate international leaders at a banquet. (IMDb)
The humour is mostly just from that one note of dramatic irony, but Murray’s consistent charm as the oblivious wannabe actor Wallace (“Please don’t call me by my real name, it destroys the reality I’m trying to create”) and a wide variety of escalating situations in which he unknowingly and hilariously vanquishes his enemies (maybe it was just the goofy hat, but I was in tears during the entire banquet scene) keep it fresh and funny all the way til the end. A simple but effective comedy.
7/10 (Good)

 

Lost in Translation (2003)

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A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).
8/10 (Great)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)

Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.

6.7/10