2018 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Oct/180

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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A boy falls downward
Among abandoned canines
They will soon fight back

Wes Anderson wrote the screenplay for and directs Isle of Dogs, which stars Bryan Cranston and Koyu Rankin.

Wes Anderson's niche of whimsy by way of dry dialogue and meticulous visuals already found a successful animated venture in The Fantastic Mister Fox.  After Isle of Dogs, I would be content if Anderson never made another live-action film.  Isle of Dogs is - without question - his most brutal film and a surprise considering his humor lends more to melancholy than violent reality.

Anderson's appreciation for world cinema has never been more thoroughly integrated into the substance of his film. There's an extensive list of Akira Kursoawa references throughout Isle of Dogs, but Anderson is not content to rest on the laurels of one Japanese master. In Anderson's unblinking look at violence I thought most often of Masaki Kobayashi, whose samurai films and humanist epics rivaled Kurosawa in length, style, and the depths humans must go through to adhere to their moral codes.  The moments of quiet recall Yasujirō Ozu alongside a quiet running gag of cats appearing in the corners were Ozu's red teapot might have. Anderson goes beyond Japan, calling on The Plague Dogs (the British-American animated follow-up to the childhood-wrecking Watership Down), 101 Dalmatians, and the food preparation of Korean cinema à la Oldboy.

20Sep/180

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (just Echoes moving forward) is almost as traditional and conservative as turn-based RPGs can be.  Any gamer familiar with the series will slide in comfortably to Echoes' skill system, patient battles, and spiritual story. There's no pretense to buzzword-heavy originality, only skilled hands who have made a consistent product for decades returning to the series for a single-player game for the first time in nine years.

Even with that familiarity, I was shocked at the number of times Echoes moved me to tears.  This is a humbling game that reminds me how unnecessarily bombastic and leaden turn-based RPGs have been the last few years (even Persona 5 could have used a touch of subtlety at times).  Echoes asks us to lay still with the faith of its characters, to sit in quiet contemplation of their decisions as time moves on without them, and explore a beautifully lived-in world.

17Sep/180

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

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Morgan Neville directs Won't You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about the life and work of Fred Rogers.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? could have embraced Fred Rogers' teachings in its presentation.  The stillness and beauty he inspired is too often interrupted by talking heads on or off-screen.  This disrupts Mr. Rogers' serenity and, in its worst moments, director Morgan Neville and editors Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden craft montage that comes across as insincere instead of heartfelt.  Worse still, there are aspects of Mr. Rogers that are brought up only to be lightly brushed aside to keep up his aspirational image.

Still, this is a documentary about Mr. Rogers and you'd be hard-pressed to find another film this year that provides a comparable amount of sincerity, catharsis, and vulnerability.  The near wall-to-wall keys plunked down in the music by Jonathan Kirkscey along with choice selections from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood find an easy home with the older and more recent footage.  There are insights, some I had a sneaking suspicion about and others I was not prepared for, that keep intrigue up even when treading well-known territory.

6Sep/180

Octopath Traveler (2018)

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Octopath Traveler confuses redundancy for depth.  Its eight characters, each with their own prologue and four chapters of adventuring, are a collection of differing accents occupying what seem to be unique spaces until you progress just a bit into its far-too-long narrative.  Then the similarities become too apparent and I started to wonder why developers Square Enix (SE) and Acquire focused so heavily on stretching out the concept instead of delivering a smaller choice of tight stories.

They did a fine job crafting Octopath Traveler as I felt compelled to stop then take in the often gorgeous soundtrack and meticulously constructed environments (dubbed HD-2D as diorama is apparently too old-fashioned a word). But the total is akin to a finely fluffed pastry puff around a hollowed and dusty center.  Yet this is all by design, the absurdly named HD-2D gives the travelers a stage show feel though one offered through a dusty looking-glass.  Its aesthetic feeds into the distance, compounded by inter-party conversation where these travelers occupy separate spotlights and talk to one another over a wide gulf.

30Aug/180

Hereditary (2018)

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The Grahams know no peace. After Annie's mother dies, she fills the vacuum of conflict and emotional pain by sniping at her husband Steve, son Peter, and daughter Charlie.  As Annie's wounds fester in the handcrafted details of her miniature art she begins the cycle of trauma once more for the next generation.  Ari Aster wrote the screenplay for and directs Hereditary, which stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, and Ann Dowd.

Toni Collette, and - to a lesser extent - Gabriel Byrne, sensed a tremendous horror film inside Hereditary.  Both function as stars and Executive Producers working in front of and behind the camera of writer / director Ari Aster's debut film.  That's a mighty twosome, and when Hereditary centers specifically on Annie (Collette) it conjures an unpredictable edge that rivals similar traumatized home horror film The Babadook.

The rest of Hereditary could use some of the unpredictable energy Collette brings to her role.  It's rigorously composed with the steady sway of the camera attempting to lure the audience hypnotically into the Graham family's tense and empty home.  Hereditary always looks excellent, but the aesthetic served to keep me at a distance from the open nerve of trauma.  Right up until the end, the traumatized Grahams function mostly as gruesome puppets in a sterile home with the artifice of the former unfortunately highlighted by the cautious framing in the latter with the threads of horror's past wafting into view.