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.

What Lisa Marie and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #78: Battledogs (dir by Alexander Yellen)


On Saturday night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the SyFy original movie, Battledogs.  (Also watching was a mentally unstable moron from Buffalo, NY named Michael Conklin.  But more about him later…)

Battledogs

Why Were We Watching It?

Because we’re snarkalecs and that’s what snarkalecs do.

What Was It About?

Donna Voorhees (Ariana Richards) is a nature photographers who visits our friend to the north and gets bitten by a Canadian lycanthrope.  When she returns to New York, she ends up transforming into a werewolf  herself and manages to kill nearly everyone at JFK Airport.  Everyone that she doesn’t kill is infected with the werewolf virus.

Donna and the rest of the infected are captured by the military.  Under the watch of the sinister Lt. Gen. Monning (Dennis Haysbert), the infected are doped up with tranquilizers and left to aimlessly wander around a prison.  With the help of a sympathetic major (Craig Sheffer) and a scientist (Kate Vernon), Donna and the rest of the infected escape the prison and soon New York is overrun by werewolves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. President (Bill Duke) spends a lot of time sitting out in the middle of Central Park and looking depressed…

What Worked?

Battledogs was produced by the Asylum.  As soon as I saw the words “The Asylum Presents…” at the beginning of the opening credits, I knew that Battledogs was going to be a lot of fun.

Battledogs was surprisingly well-cast.  While Craig Sheffer made for a dull hero, Dennis Haysbert was a great villain.  Admittedly, he was one of those villains who spent the whole movie talking about his plans as opposed to actually carrying them out but, fortunately. Haysbert has a great voice.  Haysbert turned Lt. Gen. Monning into a genuinely menacing character.

The scenes in which the tranquilized infected wander about in a daze had a nicely surreal feel to them.  While watching them, I actually compared them to a similar scene from Jean Rollin’s Night of the Hunted.  That’s probably going a bit too far but still, they were handled very well.

On a final note, Bill Duke plays perhaps the most ineffectual president in the history of ineffectual presidents.  Speaking as someone who has little faith in governmental authority, I found Duke’s performance to be the most realistic part of the film.

What Did Not Work?

Oh, I suppose there are things I could complain about.  I could point out that the film may have been set in New York but it was obviously (and I do mean obviously) filmed in Canada.  (Actually, no, it was not!  As Mike Conklin so politely points out in the comments below, Battledogs was filmed in Buffalo and yes, a look at the imdb does confirm that this film — despite seeming very Canadian, was indeed filmed in New York.  I apologize for the careless error. — LMB)   There were also a few plot holes that I could talk about if I felt like being nit-picky.

But you know what?

There is nobody worse than someone who would actually get nit-picky about an Asylum film.  Asylum Films are made for audiences who have a sense of humor and their “flaws” are ultimately a very intentional part of the fun.  The Asylum makes fast-paced, unpretentious films for people who want to be entertained for 90 minutes.  You know what you’re going to get when you see “The Asylum” name and, unlike most major studio films, Asylum films can be counted on to deliver exactly what they promise.  This film promised battle dogs and it delivered.

Therefore, the entire film worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

To be honest, despite featuring not one but two female leads, Battledogs was a pretty masculine film.  The emphasis was definitely on people either shooting guns or beating each other up.  That’s not necessarily a criticism because, if New York was overrun by werewolves, I imagine there was be a certain amount of societal breakdown.  However, the fact of the matter is that I’m scared of guns and the only fights I’ve ever been in have involved a lot of hair-pulling and little else.  As a result, there really weren’t any “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in Battledogs.

That said, Ariana Richards’ character reminded me of my sister, the Dazzling Erin, because they’re both talented photographers.

Lessons Learned

Apparently, the best way to avoid being killed in a nuclear blast is to jump into the Hudson River right when the bomb goes off.  In today’s unpredictable world, that’s a good thing to know.

Scenes I Love: The Shootout from Michael Mann’s “Heat”.


The shootout in Michael Mann’s “Heat” (1995) remains one of the best ever filmed, in my opinion. Mann himself even tried topping it in Miami Vice (which is good in it’s own right), but this scene (which occurs some minutes in) is so loved, Rockstar Games actually developed a mission in Grand Theft Auto 4 to mimic it.

A group of bank robbers, led by Neal McCauley (Robert DeNiro) finally take down their score, only to find that the police squad out to get them has been tipped off. The video starts as the robbery begins. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), along with his team arrive just as the crew is coming out of the bank with the money. The rest is mayhem, with the gunfire sounds echoing all around. Elliot Goldenthal’s score for the piece sets the tone for the robbery, a piece called Force Marker (along with Brian Eno).

What I wouldn’t give to catch this in a theatre somewhere. Enjoy.