With the release of 'A Dog's Purpose' this week, I was reminded about the plethora of canine live action movies out there that have graced our screens since cinema came into being. Crossing all genres from horror, to drama, to action, to comedy to family fare and of course not forgetting the animated features as well, the appeal of dogs in film seems to be as strong as it ever was. Listing some of the more notable live action canine cinematic choices, you may want to check out some of these :
* 'Lassie Come Home' (1943) - starring Roddy McDowall, and spawned a whole batch of Lassie sequels, remakes and reboots over the years. 'Pal' stars as Lassie.
* 'Old Yeller' (1957) - starring Tommy Kirk in this hugely successful Disney classic that has stood the test of time. 'Spike' stars as Old Yeller.
* 'Benji' (1974) - starring Patsy Garrett the film grossed US$45M off a US$500K budget. 'Higgins' stars as Benji.
* 'A Boy and his Dog' (1975) - starring Don Johnson in this post apocalyptic Sci-Fi comedy drama thriller about a boy and his telepathic dog, Blood.
* 'Cujo' (1983) - starring Dee Wallace in this psychological horror thriller based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Cujo is a rabid Saint Bernard.
* 'Turner & Hooch' (1989) - starring Tom Hanks, and Beasley the Dog as Hooch in this detective comedy film Directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
* 'K-9' (1989) starring James Belushi, and various dogs as Jerry Lee the police dog in the detective action comedy film that spawned two direct to video sequels in 1999 and 2002.
* 'Beethoven' (1992) - starring Charles Grodin and an ensemble cast this family comedy film spawned a theatrical sequel in 1993 and direct to video sequels in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2014. Beethoven is a Saint Bernard.
* 'Fluke' (1995) - starring Matthew Modine in this drama film based on the book of the same name by James Herbert, about a workaholic husband and father reincarnated as an Irish Setter dog who returns to his family in canine form. 'Buddy' stars as Fluke.
* '101 Dalmatians' (1996) - starring Jeff Daniels in this Disney live action remake of their beloved 1961 animated classic, the film made US$321M from its US$75M budget outlay, and spawned a sequel in 2000.
* 'My Dog Skip' (2000) - starring Frankie Muniz in this family drama film about a nine year old given a Jack Russell terrier for his birthday, and the changes that ensue in the young lads life as result. Skipper is played by 'Sweetie', 'Ginny' and 'Layla' at various stages of its life.
* 'Best In Show' (2000) - starring Eugene Levy in this highly acclaimed mockumentary comedy offering about five entrants in a renowned dog show following the exploits of the dogs and their owners and handlers in the lead up to, and during, the competition.
* 'Cats & Dogs' (2001) - starring Jeff Goldblum this is a family action comedy offering that pits cats and dogs off against each other in their age old struggle for world domination. The film made US$201M from its US$60M budget and saw a sequel released in 2008.
* 'Marley & Me' (2008) starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston in this comedy drama film about a yellow Labrador Directed by David Frankel and based on the memoir of John Grogan of the same name. It made US$248M from its US$60M budget and saw a direct to video sequel in 2011.
* 'White God' (2014) - this Hungarian drama film took out the Un Certain Regard Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and stars Zsofia Psotta and mixed breed dog Hagan who joins a 250 strong pack of dogs in an uprising against their abusive human owners and handlers. 'Luke' and 'Bodie' star as Hagan.
This week then there are five new cinematic offerings to tease that movie going dollar from out of your wallet. We kick off with a comedy horror offering that satirises the racial divide in the US today underpinned with a creepy story that has received both critical acclaim and commercial success for this first time Director. We then move back to the outbreak of WWII in this true story of a zookeeping couple who provide safe harbour for hundreds of Jews and hundreds of animals in the bombed out remains of the Warsaw Zoo as the Nazi's occupy Poland. Then we move to present day New Zealand and a road trip remake of a classic early '80's offering Directed by the son of the original Director upon which this film is based. We move next to a canine tale spanning many decades, many dogs, many owners but they all have one thing in common as this story comes full circle, before wrapping up with another true telling of one mans quest to either prove or disprove the legitimacy of the Christian faith.
Remember that as always your are warmly invited to leave a short summary of your movie going thoughts, opinions and observations of any of the films Previewed below, or those Reviewed and Previewed in previous Blog entries here, by leaving your relevant, succinct and pertinent views in the Comments section below this or any other Post. We'd love to hear from you, and meanwhile, enjoy your movie in the coming week.
'GET OUT' (Rated MA15+) - made for just US$4.5M this comedy horror film is Written, Co-Produced and Directed by Jordan Peele in his debut in the Directors chair, and has so far grossed US$194M and has received much critical acclaim. Jordan Peele is one half of the Comedy Central sketch series pairing of Key & Peele. His film, seen as a satire on racism in the United States in the present day that points at the underbelly of middle class conservatives interwoven with an effective horror story, stands now as the highest grossing film Directed by a black film maker, and has also claimed the spot previously occupied by 1999's 'The Blair Witch Project' as the highest grossing debut film based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history. Not bad credentials at all!
Here the story surrounds black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) who take a weekend trip out to the country to meet Rose's parents for the first time - Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Christine Keener respectively). At first meeting, Rose's parents are overly accommodating and welcoming which Chris interprets as their nervous reaction to their daughters mixed race relationship which they had hitherto been unaware of. As the weekend wears on however, tensions begin to mount and a number of startling and shocking discoveries lead Chris to a truth that he never could have dreamed possible.
'THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE' (Rated M) - this WWII drama film is Directed by Niki Caro and is based on the 2007 non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman telling the true story of the rescue of Jews in war torn Poland from Nazi invaders. Made for US$20M and so far grossing US$16M the film Premiered in Warsaw in early March and was released in the US at the end of March and in the UK toward the end of April. Set in late 1939 in Warsaw, Poland at the onset of War, Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) are the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo - one of the largest and most prolific zoos in Europe at the time. When Poland is invaded by Germany and the bombs rain down many of the Zoos prized animals are killed. When the Germans take occupation, the Zabinki's are forced to report to Hitler's recently appointed Chief Zoologist Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl). What begins is a plot to covertly work with the Resistance to plan the safety of hundreds of Jewish lives from what was to become the Warsaw Ghetto, and animals too, by secretly housing them in the bombed out ruins of the Zoo.
'PORK PIE' (Rated M) - is a remake of the 1981 New Zealand film 'Goodbye Pork Pie' Directed back then by Geoff Murphy, and which is largely responsible for establishing the New Zealand film industry into what it has become today. That film was overwhelmingly embraced by local audiences. This time around this offering is Directed and Written by Geoff's son, Matt Murphy, and tells the story of three accidental outlaws on the run driving a yellow Mini from one end of New Zealand to the other as they protest about conformity, chase lost love and have the Police and a media circus in hot pursuit behind them. Starring Dean O'Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings and Antonia Prebble.
'A DOG'S PURPOSE' (Rated PG) - Swedish film Director Lasse Hailstorm whose previous credits include the Academy Award nominated 'My Life as a Dog' in 1985, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape', 'The Cider House Rules', 'The Shipping News', 'Chocolat' and more recently 'The Hundred Food Journey' here helms another story about a dog, or more accurately several dogs. Beginning sometime in the 1950's here canine narrator Toby is a feral puppy that is captured, taken away to a pound and promptly put down. Toby however, is reincarnated as a Golden Retriever puppy in 1961 and is rescued from inside a pick-up truck on a hot summer day by young Ethan, and renamed Bailey. As Ethan grows up and progresses through High School, Bailey and Ethan share a special bond. But as every dog has its day, so Bailey has his and passes away comforted by Ethan at the Vet's surgery. Sometime later, Bailey reincarnates into a German Shepherd - a Chicago Police Department dog named Ellie sometime in the late '70's. In the mid-'80's Ellie is reincarnated as a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Tino and he dies of old age at the hand of a loving family in the late '90's. Tino is again reincarnated as a Burnese Mountain Dog and named Waffles by an uncaring couple who abandon him. Waffles goes off wandering in search of a new life and eventually is found by an older Ethan who is leading a solitary life feeling very sorry for himself. Ethan holds on to the dog, needing some companionship in his life and renames the dog Buddy. Buddy eventually convinces Ethan that he is the same dog as his beloved childhood pet all those years earlier. Starring the voice of Josh Gad as Toby, Bailey, Ellie, Tino and Buddy, with Bryce Gheisar, KJ Apa and Dennis Quaid as Ethan at various stages in their life, and Britt Robertson and Peggy Lipton as Hannah - the love interest in Ethan's younger and middle life. The film was made for US$22M and has so far grossed US$185M.
'THE CASE FOR CHRIST' (Rated PG) - Directed by Jon Gunn and based on the 1998 book of the same name by former investigative journalist and atheist Lee Strobel, this Christian drama film was made for US$3M, has so far grossed US$13M. Telling Strobel's attempts to disprove the Christian faith in which he wife has recently become a devout believer, Strobel (here played by Mike Vogel) begins his investigations in 1980 that last two years of exhaustive research and insights at the hands of thirteen evangelical Christian scholars, that eventually lead to his own acceptance of the Christian faith in late 1981. Also starring Erika Christensen as Leslie Strobel, Faye Dunaway and Robert Forster.
With five films this week all offering something completely different ranging from horror comedy with an underlying message from a first time Director, to zoological WWII real life drama, to a remake of a classic New Zealand road trip film of the early '80's, to the tale of a dog as seen through various incarnations and various owners spanning five decades and wrapping up with another true life telling of one mans journey to prove or dispel the existence of Jesus. Remember to share your thoughts with us all here, when you have sat through your film of choice, and in the meantime, I'll see you somewhere sometime in the week ahead at your local Odeon.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-