Sentimental but sweet dog adventure has intense, sad scenes.
“A Dog’s Way Home,” like 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” is based on one of author W. Bruce Cameron’s books about dogs. In this case, the central canine is Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard), who embarks on a perilous 400-mile, two-year-plus journey to get back to her human companion after an unexpected separation. Although there’s no dog death or reincarnation, as in “A Dog’s Purpose,” there are several disturbing/potentially upsetting scenes, including (spoiler alert!) the tragic death of a homeless man who had chained Bella to him to keep her close, an avalanche, mention of animals being euthanized, confrontations between Bella and wolves, injuries to animals (including an off-screen gun shot) and sad/upsetting separations, some of which end with Bella saying, “I never saw them again.” That said, dog-loving families who can handle the emotional roller coaster will enjoy the movie’s messages about perseverance, empathy and the incredibly strong bonds between dogs and their humans. Expect a little bit of very mild language (“hell,” “stupid,” “moron”), some background drinking and a bit of affection between both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. (95 minutes)
Charming Hart/Cranston disability dramedy glorifies pot use.
“The Upside” is a dramedy starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston about the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic billionaire and a felon hired to care for him. It’s based on the French film “The Intouchables,” which itself was based on a true story. The characters start out as stereotypes — wealthy older white man grants opportunity to black ex-con — but through their friendship, the story develops empathy for their struggles. Parents may not love that drug use is what initially bonds the main characters: Smoking pot is depicted as fun, funny, bonding, helpful, medicinal and consequence-free. The two characters grow closer by engaging in other dangerous behavior, too: smashing expensive items, speeding in fast cars, being chased by police and parasailing. Regular swearing includes “s---,” “g--d---” and more, but the dialogue is slyer about sexual situations. Adults will understand what’s being implied with the genitalia jokes, but innocent ears probably won’t put it all together (although the word “porno” is used for comic effect, and a woman is briefly shown in a close-up in the throes of passion). The movie’s messages are about normalizing disability and discovering positive, life-changing opportunity amid tragedy; viewers are also exposed to art, opera and poetry. (125 minutes)
Swift dazzles during epic show with lavish production.
“Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour” is a concert movie filmed in Dallas on Oct. 6, 2018, the final U.S. stop on Swift’s months-long tour promoting her “Reputation” album. For more than two hours, accompanied by talented singers, dancers and musicians, Swift connects with a rapt audience of more than 100,000. Her music focuses, as always, on personal growth, relationships and breakups. The lyrics in some of her newer songs have a more adult sensibility. Expect occasional sexual innuendos: “Bought this dress so you could take it off,” “Come here, you can meet me in the back . . . just think of the fun things we could do.” And there are a few references to alcohol: e.g., “Can you make me a drink?” and “drink beer.” In one song, Swift compares her romantic feelings to drugs: “My drug is my baby; I get so high . . . I’ll be using for the rest of my life.” Still, the upbeat, vibrant, danceable music is contagious, and Swift’s warm, gracious presence keeps the huge audience of all ages on its feet, loving every minute. (125 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
Violent sci-fi thriller has chaos, gory deaths, swearing.
“Bird Box” is a violent, suspense-filled, often-gory end-of-the-world movie about a woman (Sandra Bullock) and two children who are trying to survive a presence that causes anyone who looks directly at it to commit suicide in gruesome ways. While the “presence” is never seen, its existence results in many blood-soaked sequences. There are shootings, stabbings, hideous accidents, zombie-like humans in attack mode, fiery explosions and more. Plus, the main characters are in dire peril as they undertake a long, harrowing ride down a river — while blindfolded. You can also expect frequent swearing, including “f---,” “s---,” “a--hole” and more. A nude couple is briefly glimpsed having sex, and a loving couple kisses and embraces. Characters drink, one very much to excess. Based on a novel by Josh Malerman, this thriller/horror film isn’t for kids. (124 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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