A Dog’s Way Home (2019)

A Dog’s Way Home (2019)

Released: January 11, 2019. Directed by: Charles Martin Smith. Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard (voice), Jonah Hauer-King, Ashley Judd. Runtime: 1h 36 min.

I like movies about animals, but apparently not when they’re based on books by W. Bruce Cameron (A Dog’s Purpose). His latest film, A Dog’s Way Home is a familiar dog film that plays it completely safe and follows Bella (Bryce Dallas Howard), a pup who gets rescued from under a house and is taken in by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and his military veteran mom Terri (Ashley Judd). Lucas heads a cause to save kittens from under a broken-down house across the street because the property owner wants to demolish it.

For some reason, the property owner is adamant that there are no kittens under the house and asks Terri to have her son stay out of his business, or they’ll go to war. Being the vet that she is, Terri asks “What do you know about war?” The dialogue doesn’t get stronger from there. After this feud, events lead to Bella being 400 miles away and trying to find her way back home to Lucas.

The structure isn’t what’s wrong with the movie. The film is just weakest when Lucas and Olivia are out of the picture and it’s only Bella, which is saying a lot because Lucas and Olivia are dull.

Bella’s a cute pit-bull mix – her breed’s important for the film’s conflict – but Bryce Dallas Howard’s voice-over is weak. She acts as the dog’s thought process and thinks through the innocence of a dog – she names all the games like “Go Home” (Bella tries to do this the entire film and is bad at it) and in one of the film’s only chuckle-worthy moments she calls a veteran’s wheelchair a “small car” – but her dialogue is super boring and dull. The thoughts are just obvious, so when it’s just her doing voice-over and the dog is looking super pouty, it’s painful.

A Dog's Way Home article
Shelby the Dog in A Dog’s Way Home. (IMDb)

That’s at fault of the writers, Cathryn Michon and the book’s author and co scriptwriter W. Bruce Cameron, but Dallas Howard offers little effort to make it sound interesting. It’s monotone and the emotions sound basic, and it just doesn’t sound like a dog, either. I think Josh Gad’s voice works for A Dog’s Purpose because he’s hyperactive and sounds like a dog, but Dallas Howard sounds like what it is: An actress recording lines in a studio for the dog. I know that’s what Gad is doing, too, but he sells it.

The repetitive monologues about her having to find Lucas grow tiresome quickly, as they’re usually a lazy transition to get the film back to its main goal. There’s only one moment in the film that feels genuine when she discusses getting back to Lucas. She says it about another dog, saying, “He’s found his Lucas, but I’m still looking for mine.” If there were more heartwarming moments like that, I would have enjoyed this more.

The structure of the film is okay, as Bella meets different characters on her journey home like a bad CGI cougar called Big Kitten. The humans she meets are fine, too – the only notable ones are Gavin (Barry Watson) and Taylor (Motell Gyn Foster), who come into player during a rare scene of action that makes this feel like the family adventure it’s supposed to be.

The film’s conflict doesn’t work well, as the animal control officer villain feels more like a simplistic version of Beethoven than anything. This film is also painfully boring. I read about the dog Shelby that was rescued from a Tennessee animal shelter to portray Bella in this film. Her story sounds intriguing and it sounds like it would have made a much better film than this forgettable doggie picture. And if Shelby does get a movie about her, maybe sitting through this would have been worth it. But probably not.

Score: 38/100

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom
IMDb

Released: June 22, 2018. Directed by: J.A. Bayona. Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall. Runtime: 2h 8 min.

This review contains spoilers.

Picking up three years after 2015’s Jurassic World, the dinosaurs on the island of Isla Nublar are in danger as the island’s volcano is about to explode and the U.S. Senate rules that they aren’t going to intervene with the dinosaur’s deaths.

Meanwhile, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) now leads an organization called the Dinosaur Protection Group and the film’s adventure kicks off when she receives a call from Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) – who works for an old friend of John Hammond – that they plan to relocate the dinosaurs to a different island where they can live peacefully.

Raptor specialist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) also tags along because Blue is still on the island and her survival is his motivation. The first half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom features decent action on the island. But for the most part, the film’s more of the same, as we learn that Mills plans to sell the dinosaurs as weapons at an auction at his boss’s manor.

Spall’s great but his character is one-note and another forgettable human villain of the new trilogy. He’s also like Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) of the first film, who wanted to use the raptors as weapons. Hoskins suggested dinosaurs could replace robots as war’s future, but now they can replace robots and combat nuclear war. But the argument’s basically the same and it’s annoying that they repeat all of this.

The main point is these dinosaurs are deadly and can turn on you at any point. That’s something Owen understands. He’s badass and the videos of him raising Blue are heartwarming. His development isn’t expanded on other than that. Claire’s development keeps growing as someone who loves the dinosaurs, an interesting change from when she only cared about her career and thought of the dinosaurs as numbers on a spreadsheet. Pratt and Dallas Howard still have a good chemistry.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom lil blue
Chris Pratt and Blue in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. (IMDb)

The film has such a focus on its plot that it doesn’t develop Owen and Claire further than that and focuses on the new characters. This includes Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), a nerdy programmer who brings humour, and dinosaur veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), who is super likable and has more purpose than Franklin.

Also new is Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Eli Mills’ boss, who is retconned into the universe as someone who helped John Hammond develop cloning technology. I was confused because I couldn’t remember if we ever saw him in previous films – Claire is very excited to meet him and we do not feel this excitement – but he’s just a new character.

His granddaughter Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) is our eyes and ears at the manor for the first half of the film as she listens in on Spall’s conversations – like when he yells at her because he’s on a very important phone call – as the heroes are still on the island. She’s fine and has a nice chemistry with Owen and Claire, but her character does have silly moments.

The film’s mostly non-stop action but it does have some nice, emotional moments. This includes a shot of a dinosaur that closes a chapter on the island. It’s well directed by J.A. Bayona and the cinematography by Oscar Faura – who’s shot Bayona’s four feature films – elicits such emotion in this scene.

Bayona capably directs the scenes on the island and finds his stride when the film’s tone evolves and turns into what you’d imagine a Jurassic Park-themed haunted house would be like. He delves into fears of monsters coming in through your window in one tense scene. Michael Giacchino’s score matches these scenes perfectly, and Oscar Faura’s cinematography is my favourite aspect.

It’s a nice change of pace from the first half of the film where characters run from dinosaurs on a giant island. Now, they’re running from a new creation in a gigantic mansion. The tone changes believably with the story and it has a decent flow – even if everything’s not interesting. Much of the film’s tone is dire – which makes sense, since it is a fallen kingdom.

Score: 65/100

Spider-Man 3 — A film review by Daniel Prinn – Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm.

Spider-Man 3

Release Date: May 4, 2007

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?

Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm; and apparently Parker’s charm just had to flee, too.

Peter Parker is still your always friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well… kind of. When a mysterious black entity bonds with Peter, he must deal with relationships, numerous villains, temptations, a huge ego and revenge.

Some of the film is entertaining, but this is forgettable. It sucks that they made the worst (it isn’t retched, or anything, though) of the trilogy the longest. It’s the darkest of the series, but it doesn’t work well.

The numerous antagonists, and some subplots of revenge, make the film very crowded. There’s Harry, the New Goblin, who’s still bent on avenging his father’s death; there’s Flint Marko, Sandman, who is actually an unknown part of Peter’s past which starts yet another subplot of revenge; there’s Eddie Brock (Venom), a photographer who starts a feud with Parker at the Daily Bugle, and who eventually swears revenge on Parker (I don’t know why, but I’m just getting this odd vibe [maybe my spidey senses are tingling] that revenge plays a huge role in this film); and there’s also the usual relationship problems between Peter and M.J., and Gwen Stacy now seems to be  throwing some moves in on Spidey. [Phew!]

Peter, Peter, Peter, where in the world did your charisma go? All of the charisma of this film went to the freaking maître d’ (a cameo from Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy); I know the film isn’t supposed to be very charismatic, it’s supposed to be dark, which it is, but some of it doesn’t work. The unbearable part of the film where Parker is taken completely over by the dark entity is just so annoying, it taints my view of the overall movie. I’m not usually one for cockiness or a huge ego in the first place, and Parker isn’t even good at being cocky. Whenever, or if ever, I re-watch this, I’m going to use the fast forward button with pleasure through those scenes.

The positives are fairly limited. The film has entertaining sequences, and many solid performances. Whilst the sub-plots crowd the movie, they are, admittedly, interesting. Venom is the best villain of the series, but Grace doesn’t give the best villain performance of the franchise. (Who could beat Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin?) Venom is my favourite Spider-Man villain, and while I usually enjoy Topher Grace as an actor, he doesn’t work in this dark role. The villain does add some entertainment value to the movie.

Overall, it’s an entertaining ride with a crowded script. It’s a film that isn’t all bad, and the bad and good aspects balance out. It’s an average film, that is by no means horrid. Check it out if you like super hero films. 

60/100