Putting a dog in crisis might seem like an easy way to create a great story, but in a family film, featuring a helpless canine in constant peril plays as emotionally manipulative and, frankly, slightly traumatizing. A Dog’s Way Home is a joyless jaunt that offers an adorable canine star and not much else.
For what it’s worth, The Upside is exactly what you think it is: the latest Hollywood effort that aims to show that a black man and a white man with seemingly nothing in common can see past their differences and develop a mutual friendship. It’s just as pat and basic as it looks and sounds.
Homelessness among military veterans is a noble subject for a filmmaker to take on. So it deserves a better vehicle than Sgt. Will Gardner, writer-director Max Martini’s clumsy and sometimes downright laughable portrayal of an injured Iraq war vet.
Danluck (“North of South, West of East”) gets us halfway there, with a solid cast and crew, an apt depiction of emotional exhaustion, and a heroine we want to root for in a strange setting we’re ready to embrace. But she floats too ineffectually between dream and nightmare, never settling on one or committing to the other.
As DeBlois engineers this tale towards an expectedly exciting and poignant conclusion, one realizes how well that cleverly misdirecting title How to Train Your Dragon has morphed from literal to figurative, from being about command and obeisance to handling the turmoil within.
It’s hard to say whether Branagh is concerned about getting things wrong, or of being disrespectful. But he never finds the freedom he’s unlocked so often in Shakespeare’s own works. His ambition is honorable, but without substance, it becomes merely the shadow of a dream.
Despite the film’s needlessly fractured structure and a relentlessly grim story, Kidman and Kusama seem to be speaking the same language, in quieter moments illuminating not just the faults of the protagonist but also the faults of every tragic hard-boiled detective in cinematic history.
Where is the joke here, aside from Bale acting as though he’s in a serious, dramatic movie in which he goes Method by adding on pounds and grunting his way through a half-baked performance? This is neither funny nor insightful.
This was, undeniably, a risky proposition; no one wants to airbrush history. But by thoughtfully employing cutting-edge technology, Jackson has instead created an essential portal connecting audiences of the present to his subjects in the past.
The Mule may not always stand with his most resonant work, at times betraying the awkwardness of someone set in his grizzled ways. But Eastwood’s tilled enough filmmaking soil over the years to know that the same ground can produce daylilies or contraband and that the most involving movies at least try to harvest both.