Is “A Dog’s Purpose” Worth the Watch?

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If you love wonderful scenes of cute dogs doing heroic deeds and playing with boys and girls, you’ll love “A Dog’s Purpose,’ the new film by director Lasse Hallstrom. The film will warm your heart and may even convince you to go out and buy a dog (if you don’t already have one). Yes, the film goes a bit too far with all the sentimentality. And, yes, as a piece of cinematic fare, you can do better. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Let’s start off with the storyline of “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron. It’s the story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who discovers the meaning of its own existence – to make humans happy – after living, dying and then being reincarnated as another canine. And so the cycle continues over the course of five decades. Each time, the dog comes back as a different breed, and sometimes even a new gender. But each time, there is one constant: the dog is just so lovable and cute.

This is where the film starts to veer off course with all kinds of dog clichés. You see, the problem is that we’re given a deliriously stereotypical view of the world, in which dogs do everything they’re supposed to do – they play games with kids, they fetch items for you, and they comfort you when you’re feeling blue. And then, they do all the super-hero feats that have been ascribed to them for centuries – in this film, the dog rescues a child from a raging river and tries to save people from a burning home. It’s completely acceptable for one or two dog clichés to make their way into a film. But when you’re presented story after story, and the clichés just won’t go away, that’s when you literally start to cringe in your movie seat.

At times, it seems like the key goal of the film is to help you dredge up your sentimental childhood memories. The filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrom, knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and that’s why the film can be so difficult to watch at times – you know what’s going to happen next, and yet, you’re powerless to stop it. You feel the tears welling up in your eyes, and you want to hold them back, but you won’t be able to stop. You just want that dog to do the right thing every time.

The main story that will have you crying at the end is that this one dog – Bailey – stays true to the one child (Ethan, played by Bryce Gheisar) who owned him first. Decades later, we meet up with this child and now he’s a man (played by Dennis Quaid). He sees a dog that acts just like his beloved Bailey that he had as a kid. But it can’t be, can it? Oh, but of course, you know the answer to that! It’s been five decades, but the special love between boy and dog has been kept alive in the heart, and now they are reunited in the end. Cue the sappy music.

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In short, the film is not bad filmmaking, it’s just that it’s so emotionally manipulative. But there’s something great and wonderful about the film – and that’s how unabashed it is about showing us life in America as it once was. Back in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, America was picture postcard beautiful. Neighborhoods were family-friendly, everyone owned a pet, and the future seemed bright. It wasn’t yet a tired cliché to talk about a dog as “man’s best friend.” You could take a pet dog with you on a date with a cute girl, and nobody would think twice.

And then reality happened. If you think about American pop culture today, everything has to be dark and twisted or sarcastic and ironic – even the cartoons. There’s no such thing as “baseball and apple pie” America anymore. Kids aren’t eating apple pie –they’re off smoking (legalized) pot, and nobody watches baseball anymore because all the athletes are cheaters who use steroids.

Thus, for all the critics who have unanimously panned “A Dog’s Purpose,” here’s a message: the film is perfectly OK, but the filter has changed. It’s no longer allowed for a critic to love a film that’s essentially G-rated without any irony. There always has to be a “dark and twisted” version of America nostalgia, or some epic plot to save the world. There’s nothing particularly epic here, unless you count the act of being reincarnated over and over again as something that meets the definition of epic.

The other “problem” with the film, according to the critics, is that the humor is just so ridiculously childish. The film uses humor to explain all the unexplained actions of dogs – why they love to eat food in the trash, what they’re really thinking when they stare up at you with their big puppy dog eyes (you’ll cringe when you hear the answer), and why they love to play with humans. Some critics have called the humor “insipid.” Ok, but we can still enjoy some jokes about dogs and bacon, right?

So here’s the final answer to the question if “A Dog’s Purpose” is worth the watch: if you have young kids and want them to have a moment to explore America as it once was, and to enjoy lots of scenes with dogs, then by all means, take them. You don’t get many chances like this. This is pure Americana. The answer is yes – it’s worth a watch but only under these conditions – don’t go on a date with a cute girl to this film and don’t go with your drinking buddies.

So what if the film is sugary, sentimental and clichéd? The film is great as a way for a family to spend some time together. It’s a different type of “escape” – not an escape to intergalactic space empires, but an escape to a time and a place in America that no longer exists. Forget the haters. They probably own cats, anyway. Do yourself a favor – go to a cheap matinee and see “A Dog’s Purpose” with someone very young. It could change your life and it will most certainly change theirs.

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Movie Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split”

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It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for M. Night Shyamalan to return to form, back when he was delighting us with movies like “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.” His new film “Split” is as good as we’ve seen him. He’s eschewed some of the big-budget special effects of some of his more recent films, and instead, focused on writing a taut, suspenseful horror-thriller.

If you don’t already know the basic storyline from the movie trailer, it’s basically this: a deranged man (played by James McAvoy) suffering from multiple personality disorder abducts three teenage girls, and subjects them to various torments as he struggles with his 23 different personalities.

The problem, of course, is that there’s one more personality that has not yet fully surfaced, and when it does, it will seek to dominate all 23 of his other personalities. It’s safe to say that this 24th personality is going to be the most dangerous one, certainly more so than some of the other personalities – an LGBT fashion designer, a deranged church lady, a 9-year-old child and a clean freak.

In many ways, “Split” marks a split from other films – like “Psycho” or “Dressed to Kill” – that used the existence of a hidden personality as a major plot twist. Indeed, from the very outset, we’re told that “Kevin” has 23 different personalities vying for control. On a regular basis, he visits his therapist, Dr. Fletcher (played by Betty Buckley), who has a chance to explain to both Kevin and the audience what the heck is going on here.

Unlike other people suffering from multiple personality disorder, Kevin actually has a rare and dangerous form of it known as dissociative identity disorder, which means that he assumes the specific physical attributes for each personality.

That leads to a star tour de force role for James McAvoy, who is absolutely brilliant in being able to use his body language, his facial expressions and even his accents and dialects to show viewers which personality he’s currently experiencing. (Oh, and don’t forget the tiger-like teeth!) The unique aspect of his disorder is that only one can “come out to play” at a time. Thus, we see McAvoy transforming himself almost effortlessly into a mix of different “alters,” all of them are, presumably, almost an entirely different person with different physical and mental attributes.

Since this is a Shyamalan film, you know there are going to be plot twists and subtle turns in the narrative. And it’s here that the director is a master of mood, pacing and perspective, showing us just enough to hint at what might come next, but keeping enough out of view to keep us grasping for more. We’re like the three teenage girls, held behind a dungeon-like door, and only able to see bits and pieces of all the craziness happening around them at any time.

In many ways, though, Shyamalan may be trying too hard to keep us on the edge of our seats. At times, what happens is just preposterous, and there’s no way to put it any other way. And some of the characterizations from McAvoy are so overwrought and over-the-top that we wonder if Shyamalan is toying with us, letting us know that he knows exactly what we must be thinking about his films.

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While it’s hard to argue with the prodigious artistic output of M. Night Shyamalan – “The Sixth Sense, “Unbreakable,” “Signs, “The Happening,” “The Village,” “Lady in the Lake” – it’s also clear that he’s never going to achieve his enormous promise of a decade ago. Remember when Newsweek anointed him as “the next Spielberg”?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in “Split” that’s derivative of many of the top horror franchises today. “Saw” comes to mind, because that film also features the story of someone who wakes up in an unrecognized chamber of horrors, confronting a villain of unimagined evil. But, to Shyamalan’s credit, his film is literally a PG-13 take on the “R” horror film genre. The film is not especially bloody, gruesome or horrible, even if it is sinister and more than a little creepy. You will be creeped out, but not grossed out. And, certainly, the abuse of children theme is something that maybe we’d rather not see on camera, even if it’s something certain to add a layer of creepiness to the film.

While a lot of credit for the box office success of the film has to go to the name brand recognition of M. Night Shyamalan and the main star, James McAvoy, credit also has to go Betty Buckley, who’s a key part of making sense of the plot, as well as the three girls – Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula – who are abducted by McAvoy’s character.

Of these, Anya Taylor-Joy is deserving of especial notice. Other critics have described her as a “brooding outsider”, and that’s a good description of her. She’s really the key to the three girls making sense of their situation and escaping. As it turns out, though, she’s more than a little bit damaged herself. She’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage, in the form of some childhood traumas that she would rather not relive.

Ultimately, “Split” is a worthy take on the psycho-slasher movie, if only because the “psycho” element is so clearly announced up front (and the title of the film should tell you as much, as well). It is, as Variety has suggested, “an unhinged new mind bender.” We know the plot twists are coming, but we are still largely powerless to predict them (although more than a few “Split” fans have said that it’s possible to piece together a number of clues that prepared them for the film’s final “blow your mind” plot twist.)

Hollywood’s horror-thriller has been in need of a reboot, after the whole “Saw” genre gave it a boost for so long. And so this is what we could be looking forward to – films that focus more on star power and PG-13-level terror.

We won’t be seeing a “Split, Part 2” yet but the film clearly aims to be taken seriously. It was released under the Universal Blumhouse label, which is the same label that gave us “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge.” The film “Split” may have split personalities of its own at times, but it’s certainly a compelling two-hour romp through the mind of a lunatic.

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The 5 Most Anticipated Films of 2017

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It’s shaping up to be a tremendous year for new movies in 2017. Buzz is already starting to build for many new movies – including a few that will be hitting cinema screens as early as March. Based on what fans are saying on the Internet’s top movie sites, these are the 5 most anticipated films of 2017 (listed in the order they will be released).

#1: “Beauty and the Beast”

This film is going to be full-on Disney goodness, with Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Unlike the Disney animated classic, this will be a live-action cinematic drama. So get ready for some gorgeous castle scenes and some really cool special effects for the Beast and his castle.

Even kids will know the basic storyline – Belle is taken prisoner by the Beast in an enchanted castle, but learns to look beyond his external hideousness. This is a romantic dark fantasy filled with all kinds of enchanted special effects – like teacups and clocks that sing and dance. Similar to the 2015 live-action remake of “Cinderella,” this might be the type of movie that even adults will want to see again and again.

Release date: March 17

#2: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2”

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If you worried that “Guardians of the Galaxy” would be a one-hit wonder, no worries now. Marvel Entertainment is releasing “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” at the very start of this summer, and it looks like a real winner. The film, directed by James Gunn, stars Chris Pratt (as Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (as Gamora), Dave Bautista (as Drax) and Kurt Russell (as Peter Quill’s father, Ego). And there are two great actors who will voice the roles of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).

We already know this is going to be an action blockbuster with all kinds of glorious special effects – what remains to be seen are all the unique plot twists that are going to happen. For example, one of the plotline will involve the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. And, based on the trailers already available on YouTube, there might be a romantic angle involving Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana (yes, please!).

Release date: May 5

#3: “Wonder Woman”

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You can never have too many blockbuster superhero movies, especially ones featuring strong, charismatic heroines like Wonder Woman. 2016 may have been an off-year for DC Comics (e.g. “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad”), but 2017 is going to be absolutely wonderful. “Wonder Woman” introduces us to the super stylish and super sexy Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), an Amazon princess who discovers her true powers as Woman Woman.

Based on trailers that are out for “Wonder Woman” (due to hit screens on June 2), we known that Diana has been living on an Amazonian remote paradise before a U.S. air force pilot mistakenly crashes there. What unfolds then is a story set during World War I, in which Wonder Woman must use her superhero abilities to stop the war. This is going to be a delirious mash-up of superhero powers set amidst wartime. Oh, and did we mention that Wonder Woman just looks dreamy divine in her outfit?

Release date: June 2

#4: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

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Mark down July 7 on your calendars. That’s when “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is going to hit the cinematic big screen. It has the potential to be the biggest superhero blockbuster of the year, and that’s really saying something, given the competition from “Wonder Woman” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” Unlike other Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire, this one stars a young Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland), as he begins to learn more about his super powers and his unique destiny.

So it’s really a coming-of-age story as much as a superhero story, and that’s what makes this such an intriguing film. Especially when you add in the supposed love interest of young Spider-Man — the beautiful Michelle, played by Zendaya. And there are plenty of supporting characters who also bring their Hollywood A-game to this movie: Marisa Tomei (as Aunt May) and Spider-Man’s new mentor Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.). Tony Stark, of course, is Iron Man, so you can see all kinds of delicious Marvel Entertainment tie-ins here. The only question, really, is how Spider-Man going to take on the villain Vulture (played by Michael Keaton).

Release date: July 7

#5: “Star Wars: Episode VIII”

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It’s hard to keep track of which “Star Wars” movies are prequels or sequels, and which part belongs to which “Star Wars” trilogy, but here’s all that you have to know: the new “Star Wars” is going to drop in December 2017 and it’s going to be huge. We’ve already seen how big “Rogue One” was during the holiday 2016 season, and there’s no reason not to expect that the “Star Wars” movie won’t be just as big. In fact, the buzz online is that the other major Hollywood films scheduled for release in December 2017 are now scrambling to move around their distribution times, so that they won’t have to compete head-to-head with “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”

This is definitely a “trust me” pick. Because, well, we don’t know that much about the movie. It was originally scheduled for release in May 2017, but was pushed back to December. All that we know is that it will feature Rey (played by Daisey Ridley) and Finn (played by John Boyega) from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Episode VII). (And there might be a romantic sub-plot!)

There haven’t even been any official studio trailers released for the new film – although there are plenty of fan tribute trailers already all over YouTube. We’ll surely have more intergalactic adventures, and learn more about the force and the Jedi code. We might even seen Mark Hamill as an old Luke Skywalker (and Carrie Fisher as well!). Right now, even the uncertainty about the exact casting and plot line hasn’t stopped the buzz from building around the film franchise — “Star Wars: Episode VIII” is now the #1 most anticipated film on Fandango while “Rogue One” is the #1 pre-ordered film on Apple iTunes as well as the #1 film at theaters.

Release date: December 15, 2017

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So, those are the top 5 most anticipated films of the year, but that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of other great films scheduled for release throughout 2017. One film trailer that’s going viral right now is the one promoting the follow-up (“50 Shades Darker”) to the “50 Shades of Grey” film that captivated movie audiences in 2015.

And we’re also going to be treated to new installments in the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Fast and the Furious” and “Transformers” franchises, so that’s good news for movie fans everywhere. And as we get through the summer, we’ll get a better idea of all the films that the major studios are placing their Oscar bets on, so there’s really a lot to look forward to in 2017.

How “New Girl” Keeps Its Charm After 6 Seasons

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New Girl is an American television series which premiered on Fox on September 20, 2011. New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel, is one of most popular shows on television today; it combines drama and comedy all in one.

Everyone is wondering how New Girl has maintained its charm even after six seasons. Most TV series lose their charm in the third season or so, but viewers are still watching New Girl even after 6 seasons! The show is aimed at a general comedy audience, and it is about an offbeat teacher (Jess) who moves to LA and into a loft with three men: Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. All these characters are in their early thirties, and they are struggling to deal with mature relationships and their career choices.

New Girl first got really interesting once Jess and Nick just decided to be in a relationship. Remember: the show was built around the four characters that were brought together by fate, but the connection between Nick and Jess quickly became so real for anyone to ignore. This was so captivating to the viewers because it was like a parody. The show had come from being a regular comedy to incorporating relationships, comedy, and drama all in one. By Jess and Nick getting in a relationship, the show changed its direction and made the relationship the key concept of the show. Nick and Jess are two likable, favorable characters, but the relationship gets even more interesting when conflict arises. The kind of conflict created by the comedy is so fascinating because it did not make either of the two parties look like a villain.

Because of Nick and Jess’ relationship and their conflict, it led to Schmidt moving out of the group’s loft and into a polarizing storyline that led to him dating two women, Cece and Elizabeth, at the same time. It was funny to see one guy legitimately in love with two women at the same time. It was not portrayed as cheating, but it clearly was.

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New Girl’s storyline is a bit complicated, and it has developed over the years according to the feedback of the audience. It started off as a comedy-drama of three guys moving into a loft together with one woman, which led to one of the guys falling in love with the woman. This was interesting enough because their chemistry was too much for anyone to ignore. The show was bound to be successful due to its nature of production and inclusion of the famous Zooey Deschanel. According to its producers, New Girl made some time creating some logistical developments when it tapped Prince to guest star in the comedy. This kind of development is a huge one, and it didn’t make things any easier for the producers. It took three months to complete that episode, and it was so tiring. It was like trying to put an entire show within another show, and it took a lot of energy to put together.

To make things more interesting, the show featured the return of Damon Wayans. He played the coach in the show’s pilot episode, but he was unable to continue on the show once “Happy Endings” was renewed by ABC. Wayans was brought back to New Girl for a one episode guest spot in season three, and eventually became a full time cast member shortly afterward. Nobody anticipated his return, which created excitement for viewers. However, it was challenging for the producers to come up with a good storyline to keep the audience captivated; they had to incorporate a new member back into the loft and come up with a good catch up storyline.

New Girl has received its share of criticism and praise, but all in all, the comedy was named one of the best new comedies of 2011 fall season. The comedy had the highest rated fall debut for a Fox scripted show since 2001. The pilot episode drew approximately 10.28 million viewers in the US, and it received a 4.8 rating from adults 18-49. The show has managed to keep its charm, and it is still interesting even now in season six. Most people thought it was losing its charm in season three where the stories became a bit complicated, and the Nick-Jess relationship became a fallout. However, this changed with the return of Wayans and when they bring the fun back.

This show has been nominated for several awards including five Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. The comedy still maintains its humor in addition to the drama. New Girl is a show that will keep its audience captivated until the very end!

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