Arts + Scene » Screens

To the Dogs

Johnson's clunkers and Anderson's animation




RAMPAGE. Dear Mr. Johnson (née The Rock): Your fans are small but we are many. You are one but you are great, and you carry on your crafted shoulders our hopes and dreams. We love you and we are worried about you. Many of the movies you are making are borderline nonsense. We understand you've gotta be on your hustle — movies, TV, hours in the gym and on social media. It's superhuman. It's part of why we love you and why you are a role model for us. But do you have to choose stupid movies? The ratio of bad to good is slipping and there are troubling rumors you might not be in the next Fast and the Furious. Vin and Tyrese do seem like primadonnas, but really?

Anywhoozle, we will watch you in whatever you make. We just hope you can look into scripts that aren't based on old video games or reboots. Something that might be as good as you are in it.

Love ya, big guy.

Like the anonymous authors of the entreaty above [Editor's note: This was definitely written by John Bennett], I am conflicted about the sweeping, ostensibly successful career of Dwayne Johnson. Gigantic, quick, unrelentingly charismatic, he's made himself over as an all-caps MOVIE STAR and the new hardest working man in show business. He's deeply involved throughout the creative process on both sides of the camera, fostering properties from their inception through to completion. There's a lot to like but he consistently does unlikable projects. He turns them into hits but he wears away a little more of his credibility each time.

The latest example of this disturbing trend, Rampage, finds him again collaborating with director Brad Peyton, who shares the blame for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) and San Andreas (2015), which, with the passage of time, seem ever-more alarming signposts on Mr. Johnson's career path to The Suck.

Based on a limited-scope video game I have never played, Rampage centers on an ex-special forces primatologist named Davis Okoye (Johnson), who prefers animals to people. When his friend George, an albino gorilla he rescued, is afflicted by pathogen-bearing space debris (remnants of the Energyne corporation's failed extraterrestrial laboratory), Davis takes it personally. There isn't much he can do at first because George grows exponentially, with an attendant uptick in violent rage. (Ditto a wolf and alligator separately exposed, who for some reason also acquire some recessive traits like wings and spikes all over their bodies). Eventually, he finds allies in Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a disgraced geneticist run afoul of Energyne's sibling chief executives, and Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a slow-talkin', gun-totin', scenery-chewin' good ol' boy Fed. They band together to stop the angry animals and a trigger-happy Army general from destroying Chicago.

That's it. It's pointless and the effects aren't even that good. A tremendous cast is wasted on a nonstarter idea that sucks the fun out of something that should have had fun as its only selling point. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

ISLE OF DOGS. Wes Anderson's Bottlerocket (1996) marked the undeniable arrival of a distinctive voice. Since then, Anderson has proven himself one of the most consistent auteurs of the modern era; if you like a Wes Anderson movie, you like Wes Anderson movies. Of all his work, though, his first foray into animation was, to me, the least satisfying. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), adapted from a Roald Dahl story I love, while funny, clever and technically impressive, left me lukewarm. So I was a little skeptical about Isle of Dogs, which uses an evolved version of the same Rankin/Bass-inspired stop-motion animation. But it's technically stunning and tells a compelling story, and I enjoyed Isle even more than I thought I might.

In an imagined near-future Japan, the nation's despotic, cat-loving ruling clan has ghettoized dogs (most of whom are afflicted with a mysterious chronic ailment) on Trash Island, with a sinister long-term eugenics agenda. The dogs, voiced by a delightful host of Anderson's regular troop, have separated into uneasy factions, fighting over scraps for survival. Into their midst crash lands 12-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin), in search of his faithful companion Spots. Aided by a ragtag collection of formerly prominent canines, he sets out on a hero's journey across the variegated wastes of Trash Island as an escalating drama of political intrigue unfolds back in Megasaki City.

Isle of Dogs is, of course, a noteworthy technical achievement, the longest stop-motion feature of all time. But it also showcases Anderson at his storytelling best: detailed beyond belief, visually stunning, brimming with equally delicate humor and sadness. It's also a clever homage to and send-up of Japanese cinema, both reverent and cannily self-aware. PG13. 101m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

—John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards› Goat Miniplex 630-5000.


I FEEL PRETTY. Amy Shumer stars in a comedy about a woman who bumps her head and loses all her body insecurities. PG13. 110m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

SUPER TROOPERS 2. The sequel to the cult comedy finds the team on patrol in a Canadian town recently found to be on U.S. soil. R. 100m. BROADWAY, MINOR.

WAYNE'S WORLD (1992). Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and mullet wigs. PG. 116m. BROADWAY. PG13. 94m.


BLOCKERS. John Cena and Leslie Mann play parents struggling with the looming adulthood/sexual activity of their kids in a raunchy slapstick comedy that can't quite pull off the balance. R. 102m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

CHAPPAQUIDDICK. Jason Clarke and Kate Mara star in drama about Ted Kennedy's 1969 car crash and the death of Mary Joe Kopechne for everyone who's nostalgic for Democratic scandals. PG13. 101m. BROADWAY.

LEANING INTO THE WIND: ANDY GOLDSWORTHY. Thomas Riedelsheimer's documentary about the filmmaker and artist. PG. 93m. MINIPLEX.

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING. Co-writer/director Steven S. DeKnight's sequel is still fun, despite a flimsy premise and an overwrought plot. With John Boyega, Cailee Spaeny and Scott Eastwood in the battle bots. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY.

A QUIET PLACE. This effective horror about a family surviving amid creatures that hunt by sound goes beyond scares for emotional authenticity about trauma and the distance between people. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

READY PLAYER ONE. Steven Spielberg's immersive, impressive, self-referential adventure about revolution via virtual gaming goes too long, frying the audience's eyes and wearing out its patience. PG13. 140m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

SGT. STUBBY. Animated biopic about a stray that became a highly decorated World War I army dog. Starring Helena Bonham Carter PG. 85m. BROADWAY.

TRUTH OR DARE. It's all fun and games until cursed students start hallucinating and dying grisly deaths. Starring Lucy Hale and Tyler Posy. PG13. 100m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

A WRINKLE IN TIME. Ava DuVernay's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy novel is visually stunning but lacks the narrative coherency and consistency of character needed to appeal to those not already devotees. PG. 92m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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