A pet is a part of the family. The unconditional love, their eyes filled with devotion looking up at you; there is nothing better. When I would come through the front door and see that dog tail whipping side to side I would say, “Who wants a doggie massage?” Immediately Baldwin would plop down at my feet, waiting for his rubdown. That is a fond memory I keep close to my heart. Presently the far western suburbs where I teach are being warned not to let their small pets outside alone due to coyote attacks. The idea sends chills through me. Now imagine my confusion when I heard what the story was in this comedy. Struggling screenwriter Marty, played by Colin Farrell (Alexander, Total Recall), had two crazy friends Hans and Billy, played by Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Hairspray) and Sam Rockwell (Moon, Everybody’s Fine), who were dog kidnappers. They would do it for the reward money. Like me, you have to wonder how this could be a funny movie. This was one twisted film filled with great one liners. Christopher Walken was at his crazy best and may get a nomination for his role. When Billy and Hans unknowingly took the Shih Tzau of LA criminal Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson (The Messenger, Zombieland), their lives would not only be put into jeopardy, but they would become fodder for Marty’s new script. As you can imagine this was no ordinary comedy. Think of this wild film more like a fine rich broth, spiced up with a touch of Tarantino and a smidgen of the Coen Brothers; the offbeat dialog was precisely delivered by the incredible actors for maximum affect. Seeing what someone will do to get their beloved pet back will surprise you and amuse you. Scenes with graphic violence and blood.
3 1/4 stars
There are parents that do whatever they can to give their children a better life. Whether they push their kids to work harder at their studies or to give more time to their practices, most parents want the best for their children. Growing up my mother would always tell me that I should become an accountant, because I was good with numbers. I did not know if it was because at the age of 8 years old I started selling my brothers’ comic books and records on the street corner, unbeknownst to them. Or at the age of 13, I got a job with my friends selling household products door to door; I was enterprising but had no desire to grow up and become an accountant. From what I have seen, you just never know how a child will turn out. The family dynamics were fascinating to me, in this touching drama. Recent widower Frank Goode, played by Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Limitless), realized he had to find some way to connect with his children, now that their mother was gone. When the children cancel a planned holiday trip to come in and visit him, Frank decided he would surprise each of them by showing up at their homes unannounced. Some surprises, however, do not turn out as planned. Just because someone says they are fine, doesn’t necessary mean they are okay. In the past few years I felt Robert De Niro was becoming a cartoon character of himself. It was so good to see him take this role and bring out a nuanced, emotional vulnerability; I thought it was one of his better performances. Playing his daughters Amy and Rosie, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld franchise, The Aviator) and Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels, Music and Lyrics) were quite good in this poignant film. I certainly will give more thought before telling someone I am fine, after having seen this movie.
3 stars — DVD