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Spike Lee takes on the KKK, McQueen reveals a fashion rebel and Summer 1993 offers a rare look at childhood

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DOG DAYS: That’s August alright, certainly this year, and it may just be the opportunity that was  envisioned by the producers of this bland comedy. They don’t need much more to draw you into an air conditioned movie theatre. (Ah, hold it a second. If you’re a dog lover, and there are many of you, you might think this is turning too negative. You could easily love this film; the dogs are adorable, there are many types and they act on cue. It’d say the real creative stars are not the director Ken Marino, the two writers and the many recognizable human faces, but the five dog trainers. They’ve got these animals giving remarkable performances). It’s the stories they and the humans are telling that are lacking.

 

There are five them, somewhat interlinked and then conveniently connected at the end. Vanessa  Hudgens, as a barista, volunteers at an animal shelter, where she’s hot for a hunky doctor not the nice-guy played by Jon Bass. A rock musician has to care for his sister’s dog while she’s off giving birth. A widower has lost his dog and the pizza delivery boy who helped cause the loss offers to search for him. That dog is now with a little girl recently adopted by a nice couple (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry) and is helping her come out of her shell. An uptight TV personality (Nina Dobrev) is forced to work with a co-host (Tone Bell). It’s uncomfortable but they share a love of dogs and that helps. All of them come together at a fund raiser and the good vibes are laid on thick. It feels artificial though. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

THE CRESCENT: Here’s what can happen if you make a horror film like an art film. You might have difficulty grabbing the viewer who, instead of feeling chills, may be asking: what is going on here? Something like that happened to me. There’s an over-long sequence of brightly colored paint creations (paper marbling, it’s called) opening the film and then a long section where you’re not entirely sure what the story is. It delays your getting into it but eventually you understand that a woman who lost her husband in some unspecified way takes her two-year-old son to a seaside house in Nova Scotia to get over her grief. Unexplained things happen: noises at night, a nosy man visiting, people standing silently on the beach, a young woman gathering debris who says somebody is watching them and that the area used to be prone to shipwrecks.

 

Creepy scenes at night follow (and eventually a surprisingly bloody incident). But what’s going on? There’s an answer eventually, but it’s hardly worth waiting for. It’s been telegraphed all along. There are chills and the look of the film is stylish but there’s also a mood-breaking problem. Mom lets her boy out of her sight repeatedly, one time for an extended period. It breaks the spell but it does give the boy time to do some wonderful screen acting; amazing for a kid that young. But then Woodrow Graves is the son of the director, Seth A. Smith and his producer wife. They’d have the patience to work with him and get a good performance. Danika Vandersteen who plays the mother, is also good. They’re just trapped in a film of dream-like moods and not enough communication. (Park Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5   

Also now playing …

THE MEG: The giant shark movie for this year. Jason Statham as a diver and naval captain can’t convince anyone that five years earlier he encountered a type of giant shark believed to be extinct. Well how surprising, he encounters another. I couldn’t get to the preview but have been reading unenthusiastic comments like “a brainless shark flick” and the less-than-promising observation that it doesn’t stir up much tension. That’s not what Steven Spielberg launched with Jaws. This one cost $150 million to make (much of it Chinese money) and is predicted to make a less than whopping $20 million this weekend.

SLENDER MAN: The back story is what’s interesting here. This is an urban legend that started as an internet game, has led to dozens of films already (most of them shorts) and now this full-length feature which has been delayed, argued over and sued about in court. The legend, of a man who steals children, has led to a real life murder attempt by two teens. They were trying to please him and the father of one of those would-be killers is calling it “extremely distasteful” that the movie has been made. I haven’t seen it. Sony didn’t preview it around here. Why? The usual suspicions apply. It’s playing in eight theatres around here.

More in New Movies

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders

Opening and closing VIFF films announced along with a high profile line-up

Both The Hummingbird Project and The Front Runner have Canadian connections
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