Dog’s Movie House: What To Watch This Week!

Let’s go with the film that’s been out the longest. “1917” is Sam Mendes first film since his last foray into the world of James Bond and boy is it a doozy. It tells the tale of Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George Mackay), two soldiers who are charged with making a perilous journey across No-Man’s land during World War I. Their mission is to inform a Colonel (Benedict Cumberbatch) that his men are heading into a trap by the Germans and that the English force is not to attack lest they lose up to 1600 men. For Blake the mission is more personal as his brother is in the regiment they’re trying to save.

That’s the story, but on the framework of that simple tale is a stunning example of terrific cinematography (by Mendes regular and living legend Roger Deakins) that makes the film look like it was shot in one single take. The camera continually follows the two young men, never leaving their sides for even a moment. The feel of the film is one of terrifying immediacy and, at times, unrelenting suspense.

The performances are great across the board, but it’s Chapman, and particularly MacKay who steal the show. They are in every frame and handle the heavy lifting with aplomb. Supporting appearances by such British stalwarts as Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong only serve to bolster the story.

“1917” with it’s brilliant visuals and surprisingly personal story is one of the best films of the new year (for mainstream audiences, at least: the film garnered limited release at the end of last year to qualify for the Oscars) and needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. 5 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!

Next we have “Bad Boys For Life” featuring the returning Will Smith and Martine Lawrence as the wisecracking Miami detectives Mike and Marcus. Only now twenty-five years have past and Marcus is seriously considering retirement, while Mike continues to live his bachelor lifestyle to the best of his ability. Things change when the past catches up to Mike and it’s up to his best friend and partner to hat up and ride with Mike for one last time.

Yes, that synopsis sounds kind of, well, lame on the surface, but directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (taking over for Michael Bay, thank God for small favors) and a group of writers including the uber-talented Joe Carnahan, have added unexpected layers to this film, making Mike and Marcus seem like real people for the first time in three films. Even the mother/son villain team gets a decent backstory that serves them well and makes the finale more than your usual orgy of explosions and gun violence.

As for the actors, Smith and Lawrence have never been better and their banter is actually, you know, funny. There’s a sense of shared experience that really makes their partnership click, a facet that I did not find in the previous “Bad Boys” films. Other kudos go to Joe Pantoliano as their long suffering captain, Paolo Nunez as Rita, the leader of a special unit and former flame of Mike’s, and Jacob Scipio as Armando, one of the most dangerous individuals the Bad Boys have ever faced.

Now don’t get me wrong: “Bad Boys For Life” has all the requisite profanity, frenetic gunplay and all the explosions you want. Fans of the first two films will not be disappointed. But this film manages to put it all together in way in which you actually care about the characters and in a film of this kind, that, my friend, is a rarity. 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!

Finally we have the film you should definitely not see! Robert Downey Jr. stars in “Dolittle” as the beloved doctor who can talk with the animals. Set in Victorian England, John Dolittle has placed himself in exile for the past seven years after his beloved wife went missing on a seafaring adventure. He is coaxed out of retirement when the young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) falls ill and it is determined that she has been poisoned. Dolittle finds out that the only antidote is the fruit of the Eden Tree, which just happens to be located on the very island his late wife was searching for when she disappeared. So taking his menagerie of animals as well as a young boy who wants to be his apprentice, he sails the globe in search of this mysterious cure.

Sounds like an intriguing concept for a decent adventure movie, doesn’t it? The fact that it turns out to be such a mess makes the experience of watching it in the theater all the more frustrating. Despite being set in the Victorian era, all of the animals speak like modern Americans, including slang and, yes, text speak. It’s jarring as hell and does a disservice to a sterling voice cast including Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, and others. Every animal seems to be suffering from some sort of modern psychological ailment to which Dolittle seems to be the only qualified man to help them. The polar bear hates the cold, the gorilla is a coward, etc. And instead of delving into these characters, their problems are used for alleged laughs.

As for Downey, he does the best he can with the material, gnawing on an odd Welsh accent that sometimes makes him sound like an extra on “Game Of Thrones.” His part is written to thinly for him to do much however as his character vacillates between serious and goofy as the movie demands it. Let’s just say pulling a set of bagpipes out of a dragon’s ass is not going to be the first thing listed on his latest resume.

On the plus side, the effects are terrific as the animals have a real sense of weight to them. The music is appropriately bombastic and at just over ninety minutes, the film won’t wear out its welcome with the kiddies. The adults, however, will be looking at their watches within the first half-an-hour and wonder how in the hell they can get that portion of their lives back. A terrible misfire! 1 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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