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Non-Review Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain places a prestige veneer on the weirdness of the recent “man’s best friend” tear-jerker subgenre.

A Dog’s Journey and A Dog’s Purpose were a rough-and-ready example of the genre, films exploring the complicated world of human beings through the simple mind of a dog. There was an almost endearing clumsiness to how ruthlessly those films targeted the audience’s emotional vulnerability; A Dog’s Purpose used the gimmick of reincarnation as a narrative “get out of jail free” card, making a point to kill off its canine protagonist no fewer than three times, understanding this as a shortcut to the audience’s tear ducts.

“It’s about the good walk,
And the hard walk…
… It’s a beautiful ride.”

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a more prestigious product, executed with greater craft. That doesn’t mean that The Art of Racing in the Rain is any less surreal or eccentric than other entries in the subgenre, nor should it imply that The Art of Racing in the Rain has pushed that subgenre beyond the underlying assumptions that the bodily functions of a dog are hilarious. Instead, the polished exterior of The Art of Racing in the Rain is all about execution as opposed to content. The film makes the same points in the same ways, but shifts its tone to approximate sophistication.

The results are no less uncanny for that attempt at sophistication. If anything, The Art of Racing in the Rain feels all the weirder for how it juxtaposes the sillier and goofier “talking animal movie” tropes with the sensibilities of more earnest fare. The Art of Racing in the Rain is aggressive and merciless in its attempt to conjure up an emotional response to its over-extended central metaphor, but the film’s surreality lingers much longer.

Thinks are looking pup.

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Non-Review Review: A Dog’s Journey

A Dog’s Journey is incredibly earnest.

To be fair, it kind of goes with the territory. A sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, the film fits comfortably in the same “narrating baby or animal observes the adult world” subgenre as the Look Who’s Talking films. The basic premise of the film finds a beloved family pet reincarnating over and over again in order to serve as a spiritual companion to a family across three generations. Voiced by Josh Gad across a wealth of breeds, genders and personas, this “boss dog” finds themselves drawn towards a family struggling to hold itself together amid incredible internal tension.

Hardly a crowning accomplishment.

The premise and execution are admittedly very hokey. The characterisation is threadbare. The actors vary wildly in terms of skill. The jokes are often hackneyed and overly familiar. The script is full of strange narrative cul de sacs and tangents that occasionally stall the forward momentum of the film. A Dog’s Journey is an exceptionally tightly (or even well-) constructed film. However, the almost aching levels of sincerity almost hold it together despite these sheering forces.

At the heart of A Dog’s Journey is an incredibly simple-yet-heartfelt idea of the relationship that exists between a dog an it’s owner. Late in the film, one character concedes to another, “It must be nice to have something that loves you unconditionally.” For all the film’s flaws, it never doubts the idea that the love of a dog for its owner (and perhaps vice versa) is truly unconditional and uncompromising, no matter how complicated the world around that relationship might become.

Fields of gold.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – A Night in Sickbay (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

A Night in Sickbay may be the most divisive episode of Star Trek: Enterprise ever broadcast.

On the one had, it seems like fans hated the episode with an incredibly passion. The Agony Booth described A Night in Sickbay as “the worst episode of one of the most cringe-worthy shows of the last ten years.” The episode is frequently included in those very popular “worst episodes ever!” polls that the internet loves so much. The only episode that seems more certain to provoke fan vitriol is These Are the Voyages…, the series finalé which has little to say about the actual series.

"I am THIS sorry..."

“I am THIS sorry…”

However, the hatred for A Night in Sickbay is not universal. It was one of two Enterprise episodes to make the shortlist for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in the “short form” category. More than that, A Night in Sickbay actually polled ahead of the other nominated episode of Enterprise, Carbon Creek. Even in commercial terms, A Night in Sickbay was a success, earning the highest ratings (and share) of the show’s second season.

It seems that A Night in Sickbay exists in a rather strange grey area. It enjoys the support and appreciation of members of the cast and even those outside Star Trek fandom, while it provokes nothing but hatred from hardcore fans. This immediately makes A Night in Sickbay a fascinating watch; any show that can provoke such a polarising response must have some interesting aspects.

Smile!

Smile!

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Whatever Happened to Ron Underwood? One-Shots, Wash-Ups & Never-Has-Beens…

I think it’s happened to all of us. We’re flicking through the television channels, and we hit on an old movie we like. In my case, it was the superb 1990 B-movie Tremors. As we’re watching it, and remembering how much we loved it, our mind gets to wondering, “Whatever happened to that guy?” It could be an actor, an actress, a director or a writer. It’s somebody who showed a decent amount of talent (or, in the most frustrating circumstances, a phenomenal amount of talent), but who seemed to fade from view, and who we never heard from again. In this case, it was the director of the film, Ron Underwood. Whatever happened to that guy? Are they still alive? Are they still working? Why haven’t I heard from them since this one really good film I’m watching?

One shot at fame and fortune?

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