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Tag: movies

A Dog’s Purpose: Book comes back as movie

If you can’t handle the dog dying in a movie, you might want to avoid A Dog’s Purpose.

Because one does, repeatedly. Then again, he comes back, repeatedly.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose is the story of one canine soul who, when his time is up, passes into a new canine body, bonding with new owners and learning, along with them, what life is all about.

If you don’t look too closely at the premise (that dogs upon dying are reincarnated as other dogs), if you can handle watching more than one dog leave this earthly existence, and if you have the Kleenex handy, you might enjoy it.

It is told from the dog’s perspective, with Josh Gad providing the voice of Bailey, who goes through several bodies and owners before ending up — or so it seems — back with the child (all grown up now and looking a lot like Dennis Quaid) that he started out with.

Small world, huh?

(Speaking of coming back, the film features Peggy Lipton, who nearly 50 years ago, became my first true TV love as Julie on “The Mod Squad.” That program also featured Clarence Williams III as Linc, which isn’t relevant to this story, but I wanted to link to Linc. OK? Solid.)

Directed by Lasse Hallström, A Dog’s Purpose is scheduled for release in January of 2017.

You might not love “The Dog Lover”

What if, in the interest of fair play, ads for movies were required to present an equal number of negative snippets to go along with all the positive ones they highlight?

It would go something like this:

“Stilted … clunky … manipulative” … The Hollywood Reporter

“Heavy handed… spottier than a kennel full of caged Dalmatians” …The Los Angeles Times

“Wow, why was this made and for whom and what the hell?” … RogerEbert.com

All of those disparaging comments — and very few superlatives — have been directed at the new movie “The Dog Lover.”

It’s a tricky little movie that starts out appearing as if it is going to be an expose of the unsavory practices of dog breeders.

What it actually is is a defense of breeders, financed by Forrest Lucas, oil tycoon and founder of Protect the Harvest — a pro-hunter organization and a staunch opponent of animal protection groups.

In other words, it is pretty close to propaganda — or maybe out and out propaganda — and, judging from the reviews, it’s not particularly artistic or creative propaganda.

Lucas is president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. He campaigned against Missouri’s Proposition B, which was aimed at preventing cruelty to dogs in puppy mills.

And he makes no bones about what he thinks of some animal protection groups.

Lucas says he produced the movie to discourage people from supporting and donating to large animal rights organizations.

“They’re collecting money in the name of dog welfare, but there’s no welfare about them at all. They’re out there to make money,” Lucas said.

That, remember, comes from the CEO of a big oil company. (And if you can’t trust big oil companies, who can you trust?)

Of the movie, Lucas said, “I guarantee you everyone will have a tear. But they’ll walk out of here feeling good, saying ‘I get it now.'”

In the movie, idealistic college student Sara Gold (played by Allison Paige), becomes an undercover operative of the United Animal Protection Society, a fictional PETA-like organization.

Her assignment is to work undercover at a rural dog breeding operation run by the Holloway family, consisting of the handsome but gruff father Daniel (James Remar); true blue wife Liz (Lea Thompson); and hunky son Will (Jayson Blair), who, of course, becomes Sara’s romantic interest.

Sara starts off suspicious of the operation. What, for instance, is going on in that locked shed she’s not allowed to enter?

With her cell phone camera, she begins documenting what’s transpiring at the breeding operation — including the killing of a vicious dog that wandered onto the property and threatened Holloway’s daughter.

When Sara’s video footage of that event is passed on to the animal welfare agency, they manipulate it, and broadcast it, and all hell breaks loose.

The operation is shut down, charges are filed, and a trial is held — but as it all unfolds Sara realizes the family is doing nothing wrong; that they are gentle, and loving and treat their animals well.

The ruthless ones, it turns out, are those with the animal welfare agency, who will go to any means to achieve their goal.

Sara, as a result, finds herself turning against the overzealous animal protection group she works for and trying to prove the family’s innocence.

At the movie’s premier in downtown Springfield, Missouri — a state long considered a haven for puppy mills — there were some protesters, according to KSPR.

Of particular concern was the fact that, as part of the movie’s publicity campaign, an Australian shepherd puppy was being auctioned.

“The fact that we’re auctioning off this puppy, there’s nothing bad about that at all,” Lucas said. “So if that’s the best they can find, then we’re in pretty good shape.”

Clearly, he hasn’t read the reviews.

Tongue-dropping: Carrie Fisher (and her dog Gary) wake up Good Morning America

This may be the most entertaining bit of morning “news” show television I’ve seen in a long time.

I’d like to give all the credit to Gary, Carrie Fisher’s French bulldog, whose droopy-tongued, deadpan facade nearly steals the show.

But Fisher, on the show last week to promote the new Star Wars film, deserves some, too.

She’s absolutely hilarious.

Even easy-on-the-eyes Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach (sorry, but it’s a relevant point in this case) is tolerable, taking it in stride as Fisher chides her for being so young, thin and beautiful.

As Gary sat in a chair next to Fisher and watched — his tongue hanging out for the entire interview — the actress explained she leaped at the chance to recreate Princess Leia (now General Leia) in the new Star Wars film (The Force Awakens).

Then again, she added, actresses of her generation generally do jump when a role with some substance comes along.

“I’m a female in Hollywood over the age of let’s say 40 … or then we could also say 50 … You don’t have to be asked if you want to work at that age,” she told Robach. “You’ll see someday.”

“I’m over the age of 40,” Robach responded. “I hear ya.” Robach (and don’t we all want some of what she’s drinking?) is 42.

After viewing a snippet from her screen test with Harrison Ford for the original film, Fisher admitted she doesn’t like watching herself on the screen so much these days — but said that she has no problem viewing younger versions of herself.

“No, that’s ok, I’m 19, why wouldn’t I like that? You like it less as you roll along. I can’t say that to you, but people who are normal, who have other genes, they don’t like it as much … Not that you have an advantage with the DNA jackpot or anything.”

It wasn’t your typical star on TV promoting a new movie — but then again, just as Gary isn’t just a dog, Fisher’s not just a movie star.

She’s an author and screenwriter, and has been outspoken about her past drug problems and her mental health issues. In fact, she is pretty outspoken about everything. “I think in my mouth, so I don’t lie,” she told Robach.

Fisher joked that she brought Gary along because his tongue matched her sweater, and because he had screened the movie.

“The tongue wasn’t out of his mouth before he saw the movie … It will happen to everyone,” she said. “It’s worth it though. That’s how good it is. You won’t care that your tongue is out of your mouth like that.”

Gary, in addition to being her beloved pet, is actually a therapy dog who helps Fisher cope with her bipolar disorder.

You can keep up with him on Fisher’s Twitter page.

Uggie, star of “The Artist,” dies at 13

uggieUggie, the dog who captured hearts in his starring role in the 2011 Oscar-winning film “The Artist,” has died at 13.

The Jack Russell terrier was put down Aug. 7 in Los Angeles after battling prostate cancer.

Uggie, who also appeared in “Water for Elephants,” was best known for his role in “The Artist,” which won five Academy Awards in 2012.

According to his IMDb biography, Uggie was saved from being sent to the pound by animal trainer Omar Von Muller.

Uggie received a Palm Dog award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for “The Artist,” and his performance in that movie led to a campaign (unsuccessful) to establish an Oscar category for pets. Uggie was the first dog to leave his paw prints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The Jack Russell terrier was a California native, and in his youth he was apparently a handful. His owners were on the verge of surrendering him due to his troublesome behavior when Von Mueller — seeing some raw talent in the pooch — took him in.

“One of the most important thing is that he was not afraid of things,” Von Mueller said in a 2012 interview. “That is what makes or breaks a dog in the movies, whether they are afraid of lights, and noises and being on sets. He gets rewards, like sausages, to encourage him to perform, but that is only a part of it. He works hard.”

Uggie first appeared in TV commercials. His big break came when he was cast in “Water for Elephants” in 2011.

After “The Artist,” Uggie appeared on numerous talk shows, was hired as a Nintendo spokesdog and appeared in an adoption spot for PETA.

Uggie’s “autobiography” was published after he achieved movie fame, and the book was dedicated to Reese Witherspoon, his co-star in “Water for Elephants.”

“For Reese, my love, my light,” the book’s opening dedication reads.

His death was first reported by TMZ, which managed to relay the news without its trademark snarkiness — even though Uggie once nipped at host Harvey Levin during a visit to the the show’s studio.

“I have worked with many celebrities, but people were literally queueing around the block to see this tiny furry star,” said Wendy Holden, who ghost wrote the book. “There was something about him that changed people. Women especially adored him. People approached him far more readily than a human star.”

(Photo: FilmMagic)

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

Pooparazzi: Anne Hathaway’s revenge

Anne Hathaway

Anne HathawayActress Anne Hathaway and her chocolate lab, Esmerelda, teamed up to leave a gift on the windshield of a photographer that was dogging the duo as they tried to enjoy an afternoon walk.

The Huffington Post reported that the “Les Misérables” star was walking her dog on the day after Christmas and found herself being followed by a man with a camera.

When Esmerelda pooped, Hathaway dutifully scooped it up in a yellow plastic bag, and knotted the top.

Then, the website reports, she placed the bag on the windshield of the unidentified photographer’s car and walked away.

Movie animator charged with beating dog

 A 40-year-old DreamWorks animator — one who worked on animal-themed children’s movies such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar 2” —  has been arrested on an animal cruelty charge after a surveillance camera videotaped him beating a neighbor’s muzzled dog with a hammer.

Young Song pleaded not guilty in court yesterday and faces a preliminary hearing next month. He allegedly climbed a fence into a neighbor’s yard in Pasadena. Surveillance camera video shows the 16-month-old dog being beaten but does not reveal what Song did with the dog.

Authorities say the dog is missing and presumed dead.

Song was being held on $40,500 bail, according to authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“When our officers first viewed the videotape, one of our officers had tears in his eyes. He’d never seen anything like this before,” said Steve McNall, who heads the Pasadena Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “In my 31 years at this animal shelter I’ve never seen anything like this.”

McNall’s agency, which is licensed to investigate crimes involving animals, is conducting the probe. It made the arrest in conjunction with Pasadena police.

According to authorities, the suspect shot the dog with a pellet gun, then returned with a hammer and began chasing and striking the animal.

The Times reported that Young works as a “surfacer,” an artisan who creates the look and surface qualities for animated characters, props and environments. Young’s credits on animal-themed films also include “Shark Tale” and “Bee Movie.”

The motive for the attack is not clear. “It might have originated as a barking issue, a noise issue, and then escalated into something else,” McNall said.

If convicted, Song could face more than four years in prison, the district attorney’s office said.