A Dog’s Way Home (2019) Review

A Dog’s Way Home (2019)

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

Based on A Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron

Starring: Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Alexandra Shipp, Wes Studi, Edward James Olmos, Bryce Dallas Howard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A female dog travels four hundred miles in search of her owner throughout a Colorado wilderness.

My Opinion:

I can’t decide if this was pukey or lovely. Okay – all family films involving cute pets are pukey. But it’s kind of hard to not like them and feel all smooshy inside when you watch them. A cute puppy is a cute puppy! Who doesn’t love a cute puppy?! This film is sweet but it could’ve been better. It’s from the same guy who wrote A Dog’s Purpose, which overall was a much better film with a far more original idea. I’m not gonna lie – I really liked A Dog’s Purpose. My cold, black soul is capable of at least liking cute animals. A Dog’s Way Home is still fun, though, and certainly worth a family movie night at home on your couch.

Oh my god – I have nothing else whatsoever to say about this movie. I’m off to a great start with this blogging thing in 2019! I think I’m just bored. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen anything really good or, at the very least, interesting. I need to see something that can jumpstart my love of film again. Something epic like Arrival. Or something weird as shit like Mandy.

Okay – A Dog’s Way Home is sweet and you’ll enjoy it if you like dogs and have a young kid and like nice, innocent, pure, inoffensive, safe entertainment. Some slightly dodgy CGI ruins it a little and the story isn’t as strong as in A Dog’s Purpose (we’ve seen an animal’s “long journey home” SO many times in movies!). But it was an enjoyable if somewhat forgettable afternoon at the cinema. It was better than Glass, at least. I guess.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Divergent (2014) Review

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Divergent (2014)

Directed by Neil Burger

Based on Divergent by Veronica Roth

Starring:
Shailene Woodley
Theo James
Ashley Judd
Jai Courtney
Ray Stevenson
Zoë Kravitz
Miles Teller
Tony Goldwyn
Maggie Q
Kate Winslet

Running time: 139 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions and soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in her seemingly perfect society.

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My Opinion:

See that up there in the plot synopsis? “Dystopian post-apocalyptic“! I freaking love dystopian. And post-apocalyptic. And especially the two together – dystopian post-apocalyptic!!! And in my usual anal list-making ways, I already did a list of My Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Movies HERE. I also love current YA fiction so Divergent is right up my alley, which is probably why I enjoyed it more than it may have deserved.

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First of all: I’ve not read the books. I used to read a lot more and I always try to read a book before seeing the movie if it’s the type of book that interests me. But I just don’t have the time to read anymore (I’ve been reading Doctor Sleep since December. I’m finally almost finished – should be done by June!). I LOVED The Hunger Games books (and the movies have been very good adaptations, especially Catching Fire, review HERE). But as good as they are, I never quite fully enjoy the movies as much when I’ve read the books since the books are better 90% of the time. So, with Divergent, I thought “screw it!”. It might be nice to just sit back & enjoy a movie series without having to overanalyze and constantly compare it to the books and to not know how it’ll all end. So I quite enjoyed this story even though it’s a not-as-good Hunger Games with a story that doesn’t come together as well and characters that aren’t as well-developed or acted. I know it’s YA fiction but it feels more “shallow” than The Hunger Games, which does make you think a bit. I don’t know if maybe it works a bit better in the books but the story was at least entertaining enough that I do want to see the rest of the movies to see where they go with it.

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I liked Shailene Woodley but don’t think she’s as strong of a lead actress as Jennifer Lawrence is in The Hunger Games (sorry – it’s VERY hard to not compare the two). The hubby especially didn’t seem to like her for some reason so… I don’t know. I think she may be one that female viewers like more than male viewers do whereas both sexes seem to love J-Law. I would think Divergent will have far fewer male fans than The Hunger Games does, which seems to appeal to everyone. Divergent FEELS more like young adult fiction aimed mostly at girls than The Hunger Games does. Well, I don’t care what the hubby says – I’ve liked Shailene Woodley so far in what I’ve seen her in & she at least seems like a “real world” teenage girl. I think she also has very lovely, expressive eyes & I’m looking forward to seeing how she does in The Fault In Our Stars (another YA book I loved. Review HERE). I think that type of thing may suit her more than something like this, which has a lot of action and far more violence than I was expecting. (It’s actually very violent, for any parents who may be reading this & wondering. The content is as violent as The Hunger Games and there’s a lot more hand to hand combat, almost making it feel even more violent than The Hunger Games).

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As for all the other characters, I found them a little weak & underdeveloped compared to Woodley’s. Ashley Judd as Woodley’s mother was one of the better characters but we don’t get to see as much of the two of them together as I’d have liked. Her brother & especially father may as well not even be IN the movie for as little as we learn about them. And, I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I can but… One character has a secret yet has a tattoo that gives away that important secret?! Whaaat? That seemed stupid. And Kate Winslet was fine but a total cookie cutter character. Zoë Kravitz wasn’t too bad and she’s pretty cute (it helps to have really attractive parents, I suppose). I just really felt no connection to anyone beyond Woodley – hopefully we get better character development in the sequels so I don’t have to read the books.

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Summary:

I enjoyed this movie but it definitely has its faults. The story is a bit of a mess and doesn’t come together all that well (I was a little confused at times). I’m hoping the sequels will be better and that the characters will be further developed. Basically, it’s just not as good as The Hunger Games and feels more “YA”. But I do like the overall concept and the amount of good YA fiction these days with strong female characters is a great thing to see.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Heat (1995) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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For today’s IMDB Top 250 guest review, we have the Scottish (Scottish accents are the BEST!) Mark of the brilliant Marked Movies site. Mark has awesome hair (although he apparently no longer has that hairdo in his pic here) and has boat drinks (I still have no idea what that means) and writes wonderful movie reviews. He also has GREAT taste in movies (as in, we seem to like a lot of the same types of films and I have really cool taste). Well, he likes Raging Bull a hell of a lot more than I did… Anyway – he’s a popular blogger that everyone wants to have a drink with so check out his site if, for some odd reason, you haven’t already.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now onto Mark for his thoughts on the movie Heat, IMDB rank 119 out of 250…

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Director: Michael Mann.
Screenplay: Michael Mann.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Kevin Gage, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Martin Ferrero, Bud Cort.

When this was released in 1995, most people believed it to be an original idea. It wasn’t. It was actually a more fleshed out and elborate version of Michael Mann’s 80′s TV movie “L.A. Takedown“. He obviously didn’t have the budget or the actors, to realise his vision at this time, so with a second chance, Mann grabs it with both hands and both of the best actors in the business.

Professional and precise thief Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) lives by a strict code and doesn’t take chances. He has a tight-knit crew that takedown big jobs for big money but he ends up drawing the attention of determined and obsessive robbery/homicide cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino). The two of them have more in common than one might think and as their worlds draw closer, they are led to an inevitable confrontation.

At it’s core, “Heat” can be viewed as an old fashioned cops-and-robbers tale but it’s done with such vastness and great attention to detail that it rises above most, if not all, of the genre. It not only focuses on the the lives of the two main characters – at opposite ends of the moral scale – but it pays attention to the city and environment in which they operate. What almost overshadowed the storyline, was the anticipation of seeing DeNiro and Pacino share the screen for the first time (They were both in “The Godfather part II” but never had any scenes together). Comparisons between their acting styles will obviously be made and without focusing too much on their different approaches, I found DeNiro’s more subtle, calculating delivery far more convincing than Pacino’s tendency to overact with random, explosive outbursts, bellowing at everyone he meets. There, I said it. However, the film is far more than just these two great actors. It’s a multi-layered character study and the supporting roles, particularly Sizemore and Kilmer (in a role originally intended for Keanu Reeves) are given a substantial amount of work and the female parts of Venora, Brenneman and Judd play a massive part in shaping the leads also. We are given a glimpse into their home lives and the struggle they all face in maintaining a ‘normal’ life – when it goes against their nature. The actors are all given roles to work with, allowing us to identify and care about them. It’s because of this, that when the action is delivered, it’s edge of your seat stuff. There are three great ‘Getaway’ scenes from movies that I found particularly powerful; Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” had Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze (on foot) running through suburban houses and backyards; The opening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” had Ryan Gosling (in a car) careening and speeding through a darkened urban jungle and this… the major characters (with weapons) shooting it out through a busy congested Los Angeles street. As much as this isn’t just about the two leads, it’s not just about the action either. It’s more about the city itself and it’s inhabitants. The refined dialogue allows these inhabitants to come alive and Mann’s meticulous, hypnotic direction and ethereal choice of music breathes life into the city as well.

An exciting and methodical piece of work from a highly accomplished cast and director. A near masterpiece of modern cinema.

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Mark Walker

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