Local cinemas this week

Isle of Dogs

Absurdly, Wes Anderson has been charged with “cultural appropriation”  over his charming stop-motion feature, Isle of Dogs. That’s because he’s set the dystopian fable in Japan and he’s not Japanese himself. Also his fantasy has a “white saviour” character (voiced by Greta Gerwig), and to make matters worse, features serial offender Scarlett Johansson. She was convicted of being a white person in Ghost in the Shell by social media’s super-vigilant PC watch dogs. But perhaps this time they’ll leave her alone. She is after all, a dog herself called Nutmeg, and all the other canine characters want to do to her is sniff her bum, and maybe, if they get lucky, mount her behind a pile of garbage.

Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Liev Schrieber are among the all-star cast whose voices you’ll instantly recognise as the outcast mutts, sentenced to live on “Trash Island” by the corrupt, dog-hating Mayor of Megasaki. Characteristically they all turn straight to the camera when delivering lines like “I’m a stray. But aren’t we all, in the last analysis?” Well yes, and that’s typical of the dry as desiccated dog kibble-humour that will delight fans of Anderson’s (The Fantastic Mr Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel) distinctive style of wry and whimsical deadpan. They’ll simply love it, maybe even cat-lovers will.

Though there’s some signs that Isle of Dogs distributors are not sure what to make of it… Its PG of course, and animated, so it must be for kids, right? Hmmm… At the “bring your whole family” media preview I attended, the sly droll jokes sailed right over his head of the 5-year-old I had along, and he was a bit worried “that the dogs might get hurt.” They don’t, but his 8-year-old sister was similarly non-plussed. “Now that was a different kind of movie!” She got that right – it sure is. And for adults, a damn good one. Check the trailer here. At Dendy Newtown, Palace Norton St, Palace Central, and Rhodes from April 12. ★★★★

The Party

We’re somewhere in trendy North London, but the people invited to Sally Potter’s The Party would be instantly recognisable in the inner west  – Balmain, Annandale and Newtown anyway. Their get-together is to celebrate Janet’s (Kirsten Scott Thomas) promotion to shadow minister in a (not stated but clearly Labour) opposition. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall, last seen as the genial “wacky-baccy” smoker of Finding Your Feet) seems morosely bored and already drunk. Janet’s best friend April (Patricia Clarkson), a former political activist who has matured into an acid-tongued cynic turns up first, and she’s brought partner Gotfried (Bruno Ganz), former hippie now aromatherapist. Then comes professional lesbian Martha (Cherry Jones) in tow with her pregnant wife Jinny (a skittish Emily Mortimer) before finally – Tom (Cillian Murphy), a fashionably dressed banker turns up with the coke. You get the picture, this really is the inner west!

But Tom also has a gun, one we’ve already seen in the opening scene being pulled on the final guest – who turns up at the door right at the end, after the whole thing has turned to shit. All these people have a shared past together and some surprising secrets and revelations come tumbling out in a blistering fast series of lacerating exchanges. The whole thing is over in brisk, hilariously witty 75 minutes. Nobody gets to eat at this party – the only sustenance on offer is watching these bickering member of our elite class tear each other to shreds. And that’s a very satisfying meal indeed! MA15+ at Palace Norton St, Palace Central and Dendy Newtown from April 12. ★★★★

Also opening this week

If it wasn’t for its rating, my 5 year-old Isle of Dogs companion would probably have been far happier with the very silly Rampage  – an unashamedly entertaining piece of popcorn junk. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a muscular giant genetically modified gorilla (yes you can tell them apart) called George. The angry albino ape along with an even larger wolf (who can fly) and a monstrous croc the size of a container ship descend on an unsuspecting Chicago and obliterate most of its downtown. In one of the laugh-out-loud moments Dwayne and the damsel-in-distress (Naomi Harris) he was rescuing from the top of the Sears Tower as it crashes full 9/11-style to the ground emerge from the Ground Zero rubble totally unscathed with her exclaiming, “I can’t believe we escaped that alive!” Just as well director Brad Peyton didn’t choose NY for his climax. They tend not to laugh at jokes like that there. M at Palace Central, Burwood, Rhodes from April 12. ★★ 1/2

Truth Or Dare from Kick Ass 2 director Jeff Wadlow stars a collection of young people you won’t recognise (unless you’re a casting agent for toothpaste commercials), and its the latest horror rip-off to kill the kids off one by one after an It Follows-like STD contagion grabs hold. This lot caught it on Spring Break in Mexico – a schoolies-like bacchanalia where ugly first world students descend on third-world resorts to get wasted, tongue kiss strangers and break things. One of them breaks a jar which releases a “demon,” which forces deadly truth-or-dare challenges (like “break your best friend’s hand with a hammer!”) on the group until they’re all messily despatched – usually at their own hands. They can only escape if one of them can pass the curse on to another social group, somehow… It’s silly, nasty and unbelievably misanthropic, but moves along at such a cracking pace and with such insouciant verve you may not care. Its ending almost makes the ticket price worthwhile. Now if that doesn’t get the kids deleting their Facebook accounts, nothing will. M at Palace Central, Broadway, Burwood, Rhodes from April 12. ★★

Reviews – Russell Edwards