A Dog’s Journey (2019)

A Dog’s Journey (2019)

Directed by: Gail Mancuso. Starring: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Kathryn Prescott. Runtime: 1h, 49 min. Released: May 17, 2019.

Of the dog films adapted from novels by W. Bruce Cameron, and with screenplay credits for him on each of the films, A Dog’s Journey is easily the strongest. 2019’s February release, A Dog’s Way Home, was a dull and annoying adventure and this film’s predecessor, 2016’s A Dog’s Purpose, was just okay, but it spent too much of the film with other owners other than Ethan (Dennis Quaid in both Purpose and Journey) as Bailey (Josh Gad in both films) learned his purpose is Ethan. Not to mention the trailers spoiled the ending.

That’s also a reason I prioritized avoiding the trailer for A Dog’s Journey. Okay, I probably saw the trailer once or twice in April 2019 but that’s the nice thing about waiting a year to watch this – I forgot about the trailers entirely, so this is mostly unspoiled territory. Anyway, this once again concerns the excitable Boss Dog/Bailey/Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey as Ethan and Hannah (recast with Marg Helgenberger) essentially raise their granddaughter, C.J., while her mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin) is off being irresponsible.

Hannah’s son, Henry, is the father but he passed away in a car accident before C.J. was born, and I’m pretty sure Henry is retconned into this film because I do not recall a Henry in A Dog’s Purpose. Gloria is an aspiring musician who thinks the world is out to get her, so in the first 20 minutes she takes her baby daughter away from her grandparents and leaves, because she assumes they want Henry’s settlement money.

With C.J. out of their lives, Ethan asks Bailey to come back in his next life and take care of C.J. like Bailey took care of Ethan. This follows Bailey’s journey as he helps C.J. (first played by Abby Ryder Fortson at age 10; and played by Kathryn Prescott at every other age when she ages many years in a decent guitar strumming transition).

I think this film has a leg up over its predecessor for one strong reason and that’s because, for the most part, the film has a focus that A Dog’s Purpose just did not have. In that film, Bailey died too many times and spent too much time with pet owners that weren’t interesting. Here, Bailey, now reincarnated as a dog named Molly, for the most part spends all her time with C.J. helping her through life. These scenes are sweet and sentimental, especially in the younger scenes when C.J.’s mom is off being a bad person, and in the teenage and young adult scenes when C.J. wants to be a singer-songwriter but is scared to put herself out there. No one believes in her besides best friend Trent (Henry Lau).

A Dog's Journey featured
Kathryn Prescott and Henry Lau in A Dog’s Journey. (IMDb)

We get several characters that want to bring her down a peg and that’s when the clichés in the film start to get lathered on and it becomes relentless. The most prominent is the irresponsible mother routine put on by Gloria – Betty Gilpin plays both halves of her character well – and this leads to a like mother-like-daughter thesis as Gloria continuously gets into bad relationships, and C.J. picks one bad guy named Shane (Jake Manley) who is here for the most annoying conflict in the film.

These side characters are where the film feels at its most emotionally manipulative where Bailey tells us with Gad’s inner monologues that he doesn’t like these characters. They’re mostly annoying boyfriends – another called Barry (Kevin Claydon) is only there to be condescending to C.J. – and other characters here to waste running time. If there’s one main fault in this film, it’s the clichés and poor writing in its conflict caused by secondary characters.

This is a smart film to spend most of the film with the central character of C.J., as Prescott delivers a fine performance and is a likable character. The film takes a brief detour as Bailey/Molly spends time with a different owner as a dog named Big Dog to learn that in the next life he has to be Molly’s dog before any other human can claim him. This is the only time that the film loses focus and feels like it could end up on the editing room floor as it’s a five-minute stretch where the scene feels like it’s Big Dog saying, “No Molly? Guess I’ll die now lol.” I swear, I don’t really think that’s exaggerating what happens there. The Big Dog transition is mostly to advance us to another stage in C.J.’s life., but using Big Dog’s chapter and how Molly’s chapter ends to skip forward in C.J.’s life totally felt weak.

Voicing the dog, Josh Gad is good here and he made me chuckle a lot. His voice-work captures the excitability of a dog, and I generally never found his dog observations to be too obvious or stupid, as they got most of the dumb dog observations out of the way in the other W. Bruce Cameron doggie universe films. Gad helps make this entertaining.

I’m being critical of A Dog’s Journey, but I think this is a good film. It has a strong heart and humour, something A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home especially have lacked. It still packs on the sentimentality but I was honestly interested in watching C.J. navigate through her relationships – well, the only one that matters – and see if she’ll get on the stage and share her songs. The redemption for certain characters is also heartwarming and Dennis Quaid’s strong in a supporting role (though, heavy old person make-up on him and Marg Helgenberger distracts big time at one point).

Most importantly, I don’t think feels that emotionally manipulative, where A Dog’s Purpose felt like it because of how many times the dog dies. Here, it hits the emotional beats well because it takes its time creating a strong central relationship (“When are you guys going to lick each other already?” asks Bailey/Molly/Max) and when there are tears because of A Dog’s Journey, they feel earned because it’s for the human characters and moments, not just because of the pups.

Score: 63/100

Anniversary Review: Legion (2010)

Anniversary Review: Legion (2010)
Legion
IMDb

Legion. Directed by: Scott Stewart. Starring: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black. Runtime: 1h 40 min. Released: January 22, 2010.

Since this is a 10th Anniversary Review, I’ll be discussing some spoilers, but I’ll still include a spoiler warning when I really spoil the plot.  

Frustrated that humans are just generally terrible people, God sends his angels to Earth to bring on the apocalypse. We see the apocalypse start at a roadside dinner in the middle of nowhere. The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) eventually helps this group of people because the waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), is pregnant with humanity’s last hope.

Legion is just a missed opportunity that doesn’t feel like it has its own identity. At times it’s a serious actioner toeing the horror line, and other times it’s tongue-in-cheek, silly and hilarious all in one. The film’s highlight is a possessed granny, Gladys Foster (Jeanette Miller), who cusses everyone out, goes totally bonkers and starts crawling on the ceiling. I feel like on the film’s 10th Anniversary (well, it was released January 22, 2010, so close enough), this crazy granny is the only thing people remember about this film.

It’s a genuinely freaky moment that is also just hilarious. The whole scene is decent and when Gladys gets killed, the film’s peak dies with her. The cast is an impressive little ensemble even if not everyone has great performances. Dennis Quaid phones it in as the owner of the diner, Bob Hanson, and Lucas Black (of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift fame) is a weak spot here as his son, Jeep Hanson.

Tyrese Gibson is fine, too, but honestly I watched this a week ago and completely forgot he was in this. That’s because the characters just aren’t that memorable, and the only characterization I remember is Jeep wanting to take care of Charlie, even before the apocalypse hits.  The other character work isn’t notable, as the only others of note are a family passing through including Sandra (Kate Walsh), her husband Howard (Jon Tenney) and their daughter Audrey (Willa Holland).

Audrey’s the only one who has anything to do, and Sandra’s just there to be a terrible, terrible character and a nuisance to the story as she blames her daughter for the situation because they stop at this diner because Audrey’s promiscuous and they were moving here (Nevada, I think) because of her. Newsflash, lady, the apocalypse is going on everywhere in the world. But to be fair this apocalypse is so concentrated here because of the baby inside of Charlie. I like Kate Walsh but her character is terribly written and she just brings so many unnecessary moments.

Paul Bettany makes a fine Michael, by the way, but it’s awkward that he never explicitly tells the group that he’s the famous archangel Michael. He’s just a Terminator type sent to help them and everyone takes that at face value because they don’t have a choice. Some of the action scenes of them warding off demons are fine, but they’re often unintentionally hilarious, especially when we meet small child with the deepest voice you’ll ever hear. There are some funny delights – like Doug Jones as the Ice Cream Man whose limbs extend and jaw widens and he starts charging the group. It’s one of the creepier visual moments.

Legion article
Doug Jones as the Ice Cream Man in Legion. (IMDb)

The film tries to say a lot about fate and explores a lot of its religious themes in dull ways, largely in conversations between Michael and his brother Gabriel (Kevin Durand). The brotherly rivalry is made boring and is the most disappointing thing about this film. If you haven’t seen this and want to, I’ll pretty much only be talking spoilers from now on as I discuss most of the end of the film.

It’s disappointing to me when you have the potential of a big fight and a fight between two archangels is so pedestrian. Gabriel’s weapon is cool but it’s a boring fight scene. The third act feels like a weak re-shoot. The part that makes me think that is after Michael and Gabriel’s fight when Bob blurts out an action movie one-liner (I can’t remember the line but this film is so cheesy there’s a decent chance it’s “your wings are cooked”) before he blows the diner. Gabriel starts to fly away like he’s about to be blown to smithereens. The concentration on his face is the look of a man that is trying to escape imminent death.

Instead, he catches up with the fleeing Charlie, Jeep and Audrey a minute later completely unscathed. That makes me think they tacked on the escape scene after test screenings because no way Gabriel’s trying to get out of that explosion so quickly if he knew he’d be totally fine.

Eventually, Michael comes back from Heaven, an archangel again with his wings and everything, and then I think “Oh wow, now we’re going to get the memorable archangel fight!” I thought maybe it was trying to make up for the mediocrity of the first fight, but I gave Legion too much credit in that moment. Gabriel just gets angry at Michael – his inferiority complex has been building up too long – and charges at Michael and Michael just slices right through Gabriel.

Gabriel plops on the ground and that’s the end of the fight. It’s kind-of an uneventful smack in the face and the editing here (by Steven Kemper) is just ugly when Michael slices through Gabriel. You barely see it and it’s literally like five quick edits in one second. The non-fight just has the sense of an editor trying to put the finishing touches on a weak film and says, “Sure, that looks fine, I want to go home.” Truthfully, that’s what a lot of Legion feels like.

Score: 30/100

Jaws 3-D (1983)

Jaws 3-D (1983)
Jaws 3-D
IMDb

Released: July 22, 1983. Directed by: Joe Alves. Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale. Runtime: 1h 39 min.

“Jaws 3-D”, a film so bad that it’s not really even canon in the franchise because of the events of “Jaws: The Revenge,” follows a grown-up Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) as he’s working at SeaWorld in Florida. The amusement park is about to open an attraction called the Undersea Kingdom, a series of glass tunnels about 40 feet underwater. Interfering with the grand opening is a 35-foot Great White shark that manages to get into the park.

The IMDb synopsis says “the sons of police chief Brody must protect customers” at the park, but that’s only the last 40 minutes and Sean Brody (John Putch) doesn’t help much. He’s just kind-of there to visit as he’s taking a break from schooling in Colorado. He shares his father’s fear of water but goes in because his love interest Kelly (Lea Thompson in her first film), a water-skier at the park, likes the water. The Sean character has always been afterthought to Michael, and it’s no different here.

The characters in the film are just flat. Michael works at SeaWorld as the engineer of the Undersea Kingdom and lives with his girlfriend Kay (Bess Armstrong), SeaWorld’s senior biologist. Their main thing is that Mike might go to Venezuela for work, but he also might not. That’s the deep development we get.

There’s also Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr.), the park’s manager who makes a lot of stupid decisions because he’s the boss and doesn’t want to ask anyone before doing something. A photographer named Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale) also shows up to help hunt the shark. His characterization’s basically “must get footage, must get footage” and that’s it.

It seems like there was an interesting idea in Richard Matheson and Carl Gotlieb’s script – about a shark getting loose in a water park – but the result’s bad and the attacks suck because we can barely see them. We spend a scene on a pair of random thieves trying to steal coral from SeaWorld’s lagoon, and it’s worthless because we can barely see the attack.

Jaws 3-D in review
The film’s cutting edge visuals.

Usually when I hate a film, a redeeming quality is that’s in focus. That’s not the case for Jaws 3-D as the cinematography (by James A. Contner) is consistently bad. Everything looks terrible, and the underwater scenes don’t look good this time. Unfortunately, much of the film takes place underwater because of the Undersea Kingdom, including the finale. The exterior of the Kingdom’s glass tunnels look like the fakest thing, as does the scuba vehicle the characters use.

The use of 3-D is gimmicky – where things like a fake-looking severed arm come at the screen, and a harpoon also gets shot at us – and the visuals are god-awful. The film just has bad production design, terrible cinematography and worse visuals. It all renders it unwatchable. There’s a part where the shark literally looks like a cardboard cut-out coming at the camera. It looks more rubber often, but when it does look real, it’s just stock footage.

At one point, after Mike and Kay get out of the water after the first interaction with the shark, Mike asks, “What was that?” After encountering sharks so much as a kid, you’d think he would know what a shark is. But the beast just looks so fake, I can’t fault him for not realizing it’s a shark.

Score: 12/100

Movie 43 (2013)

Movie 43Movie 43

Release Date: January 25, 2013

Directors: Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly (and 10 others)

Stars: Liev Schreiber, Emma, Stone, Richard Gere

Runtime: 94 min

I just watched a version online, and I believe it was the version released in the U.K.; it’s an alternate plot to the U.S. version that doesn’t have Dennis Quaid pitching crazy ideas to a studio. I was not going to spend money on this.

Movie 43 is a haphazardly edited sketch comedy that stars as many A-list actors (including Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Justin Long, Kristen Bell, and Elizabeth Banks, to name a few) as the filmmakers could convince that this movie would be lots of fun to make. Charles Wessler achieves his vision: A satire that brings up common issues in the most offensive of ways, and it is the most outrageous comedy ever made.

But it is also one awful movie. If only his passion project (an idea that he’s had for over a decade) wasn’t so silly. Saturday Night Live has okay sketches, good sketches and those rare great sketches. This, however, has awful sketches, bad sketches, and just tolerable, but kind-of funny sketches. Even if you do laugh at some points, it doesn’t stop this from being one bad, bad film. This is still sort-of imaginative and quite original, and unlike anything you’ve seen at the movie theatre before. It’s one of those times where too many cooks in the kitchen (13 directors, a huge cast, 30 writers) really spoils the broth. Apparently, it takes thirteen directors, 102 credited cast members and thirty writers to make a really bad film.

The plot follows three adolescent boys who are searching the depths of the internet for Movie 43, the world’s most banned feature. The two older teens who tell a younger brother, the incredibly irritating Baxter who looks like he’s really ten years old, about Movie 43 are really just making it up because they want some April Fool’s revenge. Little do they know is that the video could very well end the world, somehow.

That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, nor is it explained. It’s completely random and idiotic. This backstory manages to be worse than some of the comedy sketches, to a point where you might actually want to see another bad sketch. This is because the actors in the background story have little to no charisma, and they’re increasingly annoying and bland.

While the idea of sketch comedies in movies is fairly new, this is still trash. The plot is almost as disorganized as every spoof movie out there. If this is compared to Scary Movie 5, this might as well be an Oscar contender. This is definitely not for the easily offended. The humour is thoroughly crude, offensive, absurd, violent, vulgar, inane, insane, sophomoric and rarely funny; but it’s ironic that I’ve seen a lot more nudity in less offensive films. So… Humour that will offend almost the entire world is okay, but extreme nudity is off the table? Hmm.

Out of the movie’s thirteen comedy sketches, there are thirteen stupid and fairly offensive ones. The one with Terrence Howard is hardly funny at all. The sketch showing that people get much too angry with machines and it upsets the kids inside the machines is incredibly stupid, but it’s creative. There are arguably five tolerable ones, but there are none that provide consistent laughs. The ‘Super Hero Dating’ segment with Jason Sudeikis and Justin Long has a few solid jokes, and it’s an imaginative look into the culture of super hero impersonators. It’s the movie’s strongest segment (even if it’s hardly great). The ‘Happy Birthday’ segment with Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville also has some good laughs (albeit forgettable), but it is one of the movie’s more violent and vulgar segments. The ‘Truth or Dare’ segment starring Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry is funny in the beginning, but it progressively gets worse until it falls on its face. Suffice to say, the ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Super Hero Dating’ sketches are my favourite, and they are somewhat entertaining.

SPOILERS FOLLOW IN THIS FUNNY PARAGRAPH, I briefly describe the film’s worst three sketches. It seems as if the movie is designed to have the worst three sketches at the beginning of the film. The first sketch has Hugh Jackman sporting a pair of testicles under his chin and it is unfunny and unwatchable. It’s a one-joke sketch where it seems as if Kate Winslet’s character is the only one to notice the prominent nuts. Though, it does show that society cannot help but judge someone for the way they look. The second sketch features Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts homeschooling their child and mercilessly bullying him to a point where he will definitely need to be institutionalized. The third sketch features Anna Farris requesting Chris Pratt to poop on her (you read that right) because it’s apparently a big step in a relationship. Apparently, it’s okay to poop on women, but it’s frowned upon to sh*t on them. Because if you shit on a gal, it’s deemed very offensive. (Read the next part very sarcastically.) Wow. This is the world of my dreams. I’ve always wanted to live in a world where the norm is to poop on women and have a pair of testicles dangling under my chin. Oh, someone, take me there! I can’t take this society where women bitch about me even farting in their general direction! END OF SPOILERS.

Alas, this movie is awful. (But, I am able to use the word ‘alas’ in one of my reviews.) I’ve seen much worse, but it’s really, really, really, stupid. The laughs are forgettable; but it’s the disturbing sketches that are unforgettable. Much to my dismay, this stuff kind-of just sticks with you… Forever.

30/100