ArtsAt Z Movies

Dog Love, Actually

Pampered Pug: Star-Studded Scene Stealing.

By Kelly MacConomy

It’s the Dog Days of summer at last. Named for the period following the heliacal rising of the dog star Sirius, the dog days in Roman and Greek astrology represented times of oppressive heat and humidity, drought, unstable weather, mad dogs and bad omens. In modern times, dog days convey the surrender of those sweet summer moments to the most grueling temperatures of the season, typically July 23- August 23.

With the days now getting shorter and hotter, and the kids ever the more restless, the challenge becomes what to do, what to do? Perfect excuse to spend a dog day afternoon at the movies. Hollywood to the rescue: Dog Days opens in theaters August 10.

Dog Days is a smile out loud family comedy directed by Ken Marino with a witty screenplay by Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama, starring Eva Longoria, Vanessa Hudgens and a supporting ensemble cast of newcomer talent including, ironically, Finn Wolfhard. Dogs and their people interact as lives intersect in 2018 Los Angeles. Like Love Actually but instead of Colin there’s Collie Firth.

This is one movie that has absolutely, divertingly gone to the dogs with a cast of cuteness that would melt even the Grinch’s erstwhile malformed heart. The old Hollywood caveat, W.C. Fields’ trope, “never work with children and animals” is dispelled as the multiple storylines are woven betwixt and between, the more humane canines navigating the subtle inhumanities of everyday human existence, leaving the audience in “Awwwwww!” Meant to entertain more than message, the movie plays as a veritable rom-com. Falling in love again and again never felt so good.


So the dogs upstage the actors. After all, we are there for the puppy love. Much like the cast of Love, Actually and Valentine’s Day there’s something for everyone to tug at the heartstrings. The pooch parade proves to be predictably, incessantly adorable: Big dogs, little dogs. Happy dogs, sad dogs. Even dogs in therapy. Shaggy dogs, not so much Rodeo Drive-ready coiffed dogs. Dogs in need of hairapy. Mutts to Westminster wanna-be’s and Pug-faced puppa donnas. Co-star Nina Dobrev’s own dog, billed as Maverick Dobrev, makes a canineo walkies-on.

Four dogs. Twelve people. One story. I won’t spoil the plot twists and tail chasings. The film doesn’t pretend to be Sidney Lumet’s epic Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino in one of his most gripping, plaintive performances. Nonetheless it’s a cool cure for the summertime blues. You will laugh. Maybe even out loud. Just what the veterinarian ordered. Go dogs! Go!!!

Dog Days is rated PG for some language and suggestive content, playing at AMC Hoffman 22 and area theaters this week.

For home and on-the-road entertainment during the dog days of summer, 2018 has offered some fine canine flick picks. Show Dogs, released in May, stars veteran character actors Stanley

Tucci and Alan Cummings. Max, the macho Rottweiler police dog, is assigned to an undercover operation as a show dog at a national competition in order to infiltrate a criminal situation, avert disaster and save the day. Best in Show meets Miss Congenially. Rated PG.

Isle of Dogs is one of the best pictures of the year. Wes Anderson’s anime homage to man’s best friend — kicking it in an urgent, eco-apocalyptic, wake-up howl-at-the-moon nod toward the climate change controversy. Rated PG-13 for mature themes and somewhat graphic animated violence. Look for it cleaning up come awards season.

Opening August 17, visually stunning in IMAX is Alpha, telling the story of a young man coming of age in the last Ice Age, injured in the wild, estranged from his family and tribe, who is befriended by a lone wolf pup abandoned by his pack. Their struggle to survive begins the multi-millennium partnership between man and his wolf descendent the dog, becoming best friends forever. Rated PG-13 for intense imperiled scenes of man and wolf against nature.

For mature audiences only there is always revisiting the masterpiece Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino rocks the screen in the Oscar-nominated performance from 1975 about the real-life bank robber John Wojtowicz. If you have never seen it you are in the doghouse. Attica! Attica!!!!

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