Film Review: A Dog’s Way Home (dir by Charles Martin Smith)


I’ll admit it right now.  I’ve never really been a dog person.

That’s the way it’s been my entire life.  According to my sisters, I was bitten by a dog when I was two years old.  Needless to say, I don’t remember that happening but that still might explain why, when I was growing up, I was scared to death of dogs.  Seriously, if I was outside and I heard a dog barking or if I saw a dog running around loose (or even on a leash), I would immediately start shaking.  It didn’t help that, for some reason, I always seemed to run into the big dogs that wanted to jump and slobber all over me.  (“Don’t be scared,” one dog owner shouted at 10 year-old me, “that’ll just make him more wild,” as if it was somehow my responsibility to keep his dog under control.)

As I grew up, I become less scared of dogs but they still definitely make me nervous.  I still cringe when listening to the barking and I still reflexively step back whenever I see a big dog anywhere near me.  Now that I know more about dogs, I have to admit that I feel a little bit guilty about not liking them more.  Knowing that dogs actually blame themselves for me not liking them is kind of heart-breaking and I have been making more of an effort to be, if nothing else, at least polite to the canines who lives in the neighborhood.  That said, I’m a cat person and I’ll always be cat person.  Cats don’t care if you like them or not nor do they blame themselves if you’re in a bad mood, which is lot less of an emotional responsibility to deal with.

With all that in mind, I have to say that I still enjoyed A Dog’s Way Home.  It’s a family film that was released last January, dealing with an adorable dog named Bella.  Bella (whose thoughts are heard courtesy of a Bryce Dallas Howard voice-over) is raised underneath an abandoned building by a cat.  (“Mother cat!” Bella shouts as the audiences goes, “Awwwwwww!”)  When the building is demolished by an unscrupulous businessman, Bella is adopted by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King).  Lucas works at the VA and Bella is soon a hit with everyone from the patients to Lucas’s mom (Ashley Judd).  In fact, the only people who don’t love Bella are the corrupt animal control people.  They not only declare Bella to be a pit bull but they also say that it’s illegal for her to live in Denver.

In order to keep the city of Denver from putting Bella down, Lucas and his mom make plans to move to a suburb.  However, until they can move, they arrange for Bella to stay at friend’s house, 400 miles away.  Bella doesn’t understand what’s happening.  She just wants to get back home to Lucas.  And, when she hears someone utter the words “go home,” this leads to Bella attempting to do just that.  Escaping from her temporary home, Bella spends the next two years making her way to her real home.

Along the way, of course, Bella has adventures.  For instance, she discovers that humans really suck sometimes.  When a cougar is killed by hunters, Bella adopts and raises the cougar’s child.  (Bella calls her “Little Kitten” and then, after a few months pass, “Big Kitten.”)  She also discovers that sometimes, humans can be okay, like when she’s temporarily adopted by a couple who love her but who just aren’t Lucas.  And, when she’s temporarily the property of a homeless man, Bella learns about the comfort that a pet can bring to someone in need….

There’s nothing surprising about the film but it’s well-done and, like Bella itself, blessed with a genuinely sweet nature.  (I started crying about five minutes into the film and I teared up several times afterwards.)  Though the corrupt animal control officers seem like they stepped out of a bad Disney film from the 60s, the rest of the cast does a pretty good job of bringing some needed sincerity to even the most sentimental of scenes and it’s impossible not to be touched by Bella’s determination to return to Lucas.  It’s a sweet movie, one that can be enjoyed even by someone who isn’t much of a dog person.

2015 in Review: The Best of SyFy


Well, here we are!  It’s the first week of January, 2016 and that means that it is time for me to start listing my favorite movies, books, songs, and TV shows of the previous year!  Let’s start things off by taking a look at the best that the SyFy network had to offer in 2015!

Below, you will find my nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of the previous year.  The winners are starred and in bold.  As you’ll quickly notice, it was a good year for films about sharks.  Especially films about zombie sharks!

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Best Picture
Lavalantula, produced by Anthony Frankhauser
Night of the Wild, produced by David Michael Latt
Ominous, produced by Peter Sullivan
Sharknado 3produced by David Michael Latt.
They Found Hellproduced by Anthony Frankhauser
*Zombie Sharkproduced by Sam Claitor and Eric Davies.*

Best Director
Nick Lyon for They Found Hell
Mike Mendez for Lavalantula
Eric Red for Night of the Wild
*Misty Talley for Zombie Shark*

STEVE-Guttenberg-2

Best Actor
*Steve Guttenberg in Lavalantula*
Jason London in Zombie Shark
Barry Watson in Ominous
Ian Ziering in Sharknado 3

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Best Actress
Illeana Douglas in Mega Shark vs. Kolossus
Sarah Dugdale in The Hollow
Alexis Peterman in Roboshark
*Cassie Steele in Zombie Shark*

Syfy-movie-Lake-Placid-vs-Anaconda-Robert-Englund

Best Supporting Actor
Tony Almont in Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf
*Robert Englund in Lake Placid vs. Anaconda*
David Hasselhoff in Sharknado 3
Roger J. Timber in Zombie Shark

catherine oxenberg rubber glove

Best Supporting Actress
Becky Andrews in Zombie Shark
Laura Cayouette in Zombie Shark
*Catherine Oxenberg in Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf*
Annabel Wright in Lake Placid vs. Anaconda

Best Screenplay
*Lavalantula, written by Mike Mendez, Neil Elman and Ashley O’Neil*
Robosharkwritten by Jeffrey Lando and Phillip Roth
Sharknado 3written by Thunder Levin
Zombie Shark, written by Greg Mitchell

Best Cinematography
Lavalantula, Richard J. Vialet.
OminousStuart Brereton.
They Found HellRichard J. Vialet.
*Zombie SharkMatt S. Bell.*

tfh

Best Costume Design
Mega Shark vs. Kolossus
OminousDarragh Marmorstein.
*They Found Hell, Irina Kotcheva*
Zombie Shark, Kellye Bond

Best Editing
Lavalantula, Robert Dias and Mike Mendez.
Sharknado 3, Christopher Roth.
They Found HellDon Money.
*Zombie SharkMisty Talley.*

Best Makeup
The HollowJoanne Kinchella
*Lake Placid vs. AnacondaDesislava AlexievaRalitsa Roth, Atanas Temnilov*
Ominous
They Found Hell

Roboshark-SyFy

Best Score
LavalantulaChris Ridenhour.
Mega Shark vs. KolossusChris Cano and Chris Ridenhour.
*Roboshark, Claude Foisy*
Sharknado 3, Chris Ridenhour and Chris Cano.

Best Production Design
Lake Placid vs. AnacondaBorislav Michailovski
*Mega Shark vs. Kolossus, Fernando Valdes*
OminousStephen Hass.
They Found Hell

sharknado 3 sharks in space

Best Sound
The Hollow
Night of the Wild
*Sharknado 3*
Zombie Shark

Best Visual Effects
Lavalantula
Roboshark
*Sharknado 3*
Zombie Shark

Congratulations to all the winners!  Thank you for keeping us entertained in 2015!

Check out last year’s winners by clicking here!  And 2013’s winners by clicking here!

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the best from Lifetime!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Ominous (dir by Peter Sullivan)


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After I finished writing my review of Lavalantula, it was time to bitch about my sprained foot to anyone who would listen.  After that, it was time to have dinner and then it was time to lay on the couch and try to get some rest and finally, after all that, I got back to the task of cleaning out my DVR.  The film that I ended up watching was Ominous, a SyFy film which was originally broadcast on October 10th.

Ominous opens with recovering alcoholic Michael Young (played by Barry Watson) putting his car into reverse and promptly running over his six year-old son, Jacob (Gavin Lewis).  Michael and his wife, Rachel (Esme Bianco), rush Jacob to the hospital but it’s too late.  Jacob dies.  Later, as they’re driving back from the funeral, Rachel demands to know if Michael was drunk when he ran over Jacob.  Michael says that he wasn’t drinking and that it was just an accident and then, as if to prove that he really is the worst driver in the world, Michael promptly runs over a dog.

When they arrive home, a man is waiting for them.  Known only as The Stranger (and played, in properly sinister style, by Mark Lindsay Chapman), the man says that he can bring Jacob back to life.  All Michael and Rachel have to do is dig up their son and bring his body back to the house.  And then, to prove his point, the Stranger brings the dog back to life.

So, of course, Michael and Rachel go out to the cemetery and dig up Jacob.  They bring him back to the house.  The next morning, Jacob is suddenly alive.  Yay!  Of course, Jacob promptly re-kills the dog, which is our first clue that Jacob is not quite himself.

We then jump forward a few months.  The Youngs have moved to a new town and appear to be living as normal a life as you can when your six year-old son is demon-possessed hellspawn. (Actually, he’s the Antichrist and don’t even pretend like that was a spoiler.)  Michael fears his son, especially after Jacob has a seizure in church and causes a priest to burst into flames.  Rachel continues to make excuses for her son, even when he does stuff like summon a sudden dust storm that manages to kill everyone on a playground.

There’s a scene early on in the film in which Jacob asks his mother if they can get a cat.

“I don’t think so,” Rachel replies, “Daddy’s allergic.”

“What about when Daddy’s dead?” Jacob cheerfully  asks.

That scene pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Ominous.  This is an unapologetically over-the-top demon child film, one that doesn’t make much sense but which is never boring.  It’s easy to recognize which films are being ripped off — The Omen, The Visitor, The Birds — but the film is so shameless in its thievery that it’s easy to be forgiving.  Is Ominous a rip-off or an homage?  How about both?

Barry Watson actually does a pretty good job as a recovering alcoholic and his performance is reminiscent of some of Patrick Muldoon’s better work.  Mark Lindsay Chapman is properly intimidating as the Stranger.  Full of gore, melodrama, metaphysical posturing, and children with creepy demon eyes, Ominous is more entertaining than you might expect.

Val’s Movie Roundup #7: Hallmark Edition


Sorry, but there’s going to be a few of these in a row because I have a backlog of Hallmark movies on my DVR that really need to be cleared out. In other words, prepare for death by a thousand greeting cards.

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Three Weeks, Three Kids (2011) – Anyone my age remembers Anna Chlumsky from My Girl (1991). It’s nice to see her as an adult. This movie introduces us to Chlumsky’s character Jennifer who we are supposed to believe is a wee bit irresponsible, or at least hasn’t really grown up. Well, no fear because her sister is going to go on vacation and needs a babysitter quickly for her three kids. Of course the experience is going to give her a kick in the butt. It also gets her off the boyfriend that isn’t right for her and moves her onto the one that is. Oh, lord! This is a Hallmark movie. I know there was incest in For Better Or For Worse, but I didn’t intend that pun. Well, the movie isn’t all about her. Her sister just can’t relax on the vacation and the movie is about getting her to calm down and enjoy her life and marriage more too. There is a little corny twist at the end, but I’ll leave that for those who want to see this. The movie is decent.

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Your Love Never Fails (2011) – However, I can’t say they same for this one. This is just propaganda. Honestly, the pastor in this says almost word for word a speech given in a very blatant piece of propaganda called Every Young Woman’s Battle. When you boil off the attempt to couch it, the movie is about a woman who has a successful job in the city, but is dragged back to rural Texas by her husband and is legally coerced into spending time with him. The pastor gives a speech that says that no relationship is perfect, but that’s human nature. Just let God into your heart and that will fix the issue. Yeah, in other words, once you’re married, if the relationship isn’t working, then that just means you’re not a good Christian. He even talks to her and says she clearly still has feelings for him because she is choosing to stay even though we know she is required to stay because the court said so. There is no reason to watch this. It’s no wonder that Hallmark aired this last month under the title of A Valentine’s Date rather than the original title that is still displayed onscreen. If I want propaganda of this sort then I will watch Deception Of A Generation thank you very much. At least that’s hilarious rather than uncomfortable. They say Smurfs are homosexual zombies in that video.

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Kiss At Pine Lake (2012) – This one is much better. The only issue I picked up is a minor one. Mia Kirshner has put on a little weight. It’s only noticeable because she used to be particularly petite. This works to her advantage because it helps to make her character more believable as having aged from the younger version of herself in the movie. Also, the girl who plays her younger self bears a resemble to Kirshner. Barry Watson on the other hand doesn’t seem to change. I swear, he looks the same as he did in the first episode of 7th Heaven. It also doesn’t help that we are familiar with the way he looked on that show. On top of that, the guy who plays him as a kid doesn’t look like him at all. Luckily, the flashback scenes are short and there are very few of them so it doesn’t really harm the movie at all. As for the story, it’s about a boy and girl who liked each other at summer camp as kids, but never followed through. Their lives bring them back around to each other at the same camp many years later, but this time things work. Nice and simple. Of the four here, this is the one to watch.

Real-Murders

Real Murders: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (2015) – TV Movies should not have complex plots. Commercials ruin them. I wish I could describe the plot to you, but I quickly lost track of the investigation. Didn’t help that it seems to move at a breakneck pace. It actually starts off feeling like it’s going to parody these types of murder mysteries. The murder is committed, but even the person being killed doesn’t seem to care. Then the characters act in humorous ways once the murder is discovered. Teagarden (Candace Cameron Bure) dives in and moves very fast. She also talks about historical murders like you’re talking to Quentin Tarantino about movies. Quick and with a great deal of knowledge. If you are able to follow the plot better than I did, maybe catch it without commercials, then you will probably enjoy it more. Still, I just can’t recommend this one at this point. I wonder if the other Aurora Teagarden movie is better.

6 More Wonderful Trailers


Here’s the latest installment of my series on some of my favorite grindhouse and exploitation trailers.

1) Death Has Blue Eyes This is actually a really, really bad Greek movie, a movie that is not only generally incoherent but deadly dull as well.  Of course, some of my reaction has to do with the fact that I’ve only seen a scratchy, fuzzy version of it on an imported VHS tape.  This film is also known as The Para-Psychics but I think Death Has Blue Eyes sounds so much better, don’t you?

2) Massacre Mafia Style — I haven’t seen this movie and, unlike Death Has Blue Eyes, coming across the trailer didn’t fill me with any real desire to track it down.  I really don’t even care much for the trailer but I’m including it here because its just so over-the-top and violent.  How many people get killed over the course of this trailer?  I lost count.

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3) The Boogeyman (1980) — This is actually a pretty good and atmospheric little horror film.  Not to be confused with the terrible Barry Watson movie that came out a couple of years ago.

4) The Pack — This trailer once again establishes that I am right to be scared of dogs.  According to my paternal grandmother, Joe Don Baker is somehow related to me but I’ve never been sure how.   I’ve always been more interested in just how exactly grandma became a Joe Don Baker fan.

5) Switchblade Sisters — One of the ultimate “girl gang” films and a perfect example of how a movie can both be grindhouse and feminist at the same time.  I love this movie.

6) Strange Behavior — Finally, let’s wrap up this installment with the trailer for one of the greatest film’s ever made, 1981’s Strange Behavior (a.k.a. Dead Kids).