The Dog Days of winter cinema 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JAMES DITTIGER COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT - good boy A Dog's Way Home is just one of the movies to be released during the "dog days" of cinema this year.
  • PHoto by James Dittiger courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • good boy A Dog's Way Home is just one of the movies to be released during the "dog days" of cinema this year.

The peak of summer brings "dog days" because Sirius, the dog star, peeks over the horizon at just before dawn after being hidden for most of the year.

In winter, a.k.a. right now, the meaning of the phrase is a bit different. It refers to the movies released prior to the Academy Awards in late February—because most of those movies are dog shit.

Or at the very least, they're about dogs. Like, A Dog's Way Home, which opens this week at the Village 8. There were no pre-screeners for this one but the trailer is lengthy and very thorough. A dude gets a puppy, they have fun. The puppy grows up, the fun continues. A goddamn squirrel ruins everything, luring the now-grown-but-lacking-in-judgment dog all the way to New Mexico (fear not, some idiot humans play a role, too).

Then there's a really shitty CGI mountain lion (a.k.a. a cougar), but wait! In a surprise twist (revealed in the trailer) the cougar befriends the dog and, check this, helps it get home all the way back to Colorado via a lines-on-a-map montage and one of those random moments where, instead of going home, it runs into its loving owner on the street somewhere. Moral of the story: maybe put a collar tag on your dog if you love it so much.

The good(ish) news for A Dog's Way Home is that director Charles Martin Smith has lots of animal movie experience—he made Air Bud, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Besides the fact that it tells you the whole movie, the trailer for this one also features an incredibly cloying dog-narration voice.

If the whole movie is narrated in such a fashion, I'd suggest skipping this one at all costs. Or driving rusty, four-inch spikes into each ear right after you get your popcorn—this movie looks better when you're deaf.

Also opening, and looking at least slightly higher quality (it's still the dog days though so don't get too excited), The Upside stars Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Central Intelligence) as an on-the-ropes-but-proud dude who ends up with a job as a totally unqualified caretaker for a super wealthy quadriplegic played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Isle of Dogs).

While it looks like an updated version of Disorderlies only not as funny and instead of the Fat Boys you get the comedian who had to quit as host of this year's Oscars because he didn't know how to apologize for some old tweets that a bunch of people hated (is there any other kind of tweet?), this one is actually a remake of a based-on-true 2011 French film called The Intouchables.

Written by Paul Feig, (Spy, the Ghostbusters remake) and directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergent) this version has good talent abound—even freakin' Nicole Kidman is in it— and word on the street is that Hart and Cranston do everything they can to make the odd couple/bromance/buddy comedy bits work, pulling some real chuckles and even a few "ah shucks" moments out of the material.

But Burger overcooks the sentiment and, of course, there are some of black/white, rich/poor, able/disabled dynamics that won't sit right with everyone (a homophobia joke too, just in case). It's better than the dog movie though, so that's something.

The Stream of the Week is Adam McKay's 2008 classic, Step Brothers. Starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as spoiled adult imbeciles thrust together when their single parents marry.

It's a ridiculous premise (or is it­—with today's house prices and a generation of helicopter parents?) and the humour is juvenile at best (cue the prosthetic nutsack), but the entire cast buys in and throws down, including Adam Scott, absolutely slaying it as Ferrell's more successful (and douchier) older brother Derek.

Back in the day, many critics refused to take McKay and Ferrell's brand of dumb comedy (which included Anchorman and Talladega Nights) seriously even as audiences loved it, but a decade later, this stuff holds up. And let's not forget that writer/director Adam McKay went on to write the Ant-Man script for Marvel then win a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Big Short. His latest, Vice, is another award contender. It's not playing up here yet but watch for it.

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