Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DVD Review: "Lady and the Tramp" is back!

Lady and the Tramp, with the voices of Peggy Lee and Stan Freberg (Walt Disney Pictures, Rated G, 2018, 76 minutes, originally shown in 1955)

Now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital! (With Bonus Snippets*)
It’s here! Digital and Movies Anywhere on 20 February and Blu-Ray on 27 February. A canine love story for the Valentine’s Day month in this Year of the Dog so you and your family can fall in love again. Scroll down on the Disney  website to find games and pages to print and color.

A Lovely Little Lady and a Scamp of a Tramp
When is the last time you even thought of Lady and the Tramp? Recently, if you have kids or ‘grands’: more distantly if you don’t, but maybe, just maybe, the 1955 movie made an indelible impression on you like it did on those of us at DogEvals! After all, cocker spaniels were the most popular dog breed in the 1950s so Lady and the Tramp was sure to please.

When we got to the part the Siamese cats sang their song, the adults actually knew all the words! “We are Siamese if you please, We are Siamese if you don’t please. . . . “

Facts of Life
No, we are not talking about ‘having the talk with your pre-teen or teenager’ but about some difficult subjects families experience or at least know about, including children.

“There’s no Place Like Home,” bark the dogs in the dog pound (today called a shelter) and a very quick depiction of the long walk through the one-way door – so quick that you can skip over the discussion and hope your child missed it or misinterpreted it.

The Names
Names can be shared with parents and children: JimDear, Darling, Gorki the Russian Wolfhound philosopher, Miss Park Avenue, and everyone’s favorite – Rosita Chiquita Juanita Chihuahua!

Some of the pound dogs are recognizable breeds – chi’s, bulldogs, a bloodhound (Trusty) who loves to talk about his grandfather Ol’ Reliable, a Scotty (Jock)

The Life Lessons
Proud and Shy Lady with Her New Collar and License
And what would a movie or book for children be without life lessons to bring the whole family into the discussion. Lady has it all: loyalty, forgiveness, misunderstandings, the best of intentions gone wrong, being banished to the backyard, sacrifice, euthanasia, animal shelters, jealousy, and the meaning of a pup getting a collar at six months of age means he or she really belongs to a family.

Don’t Forget the Puppies!

In the beginning we have Lady as a pup, trying to climb the stairs to sleep with her people ‘just for one night.’ At the end, we have the puppies of Lady and the Tramp with the Lady pups looking like their mom and acting like her while the Tramp pup is ‘just like a boy’!

The Colors!
Adults will ooh and aah over the gorgeous Victorian Christmas scenes and all the blues of the nights.

Available Now! Make Lady and the Tramp yours today.

*Some of the bonuses:
Walt & His Dogs
How to Make a Meatball (and more)
Stories from Walt’s Office
Lady and the Tramp – in a dog show (by mistake)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Movie Review: Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine (boy, bikes, adventure, dog)

Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine (directed by Boaz Yakin, PG, 2015, 110 minutes)

Max is a movie about a boy becoming a man, being a hero. Max is about a dog, a Marine. Max is about gorgeous Texas scenery and the Fourth of July (two versions) and scenes reminiscent of Deliverance and even ET. Max is about being lost and becoming found. Max is about a dog healing a family after the older brother leaves (and is killed in Afghanistan).  Max is about the healing powers of children who teach their parents about life. Max is everything, including adventure.

And the Story is –

A dog’s handler is killed in Afghanistan and the dog cannot work with another handler so he goes to live with his handler’s family but seems to be too high-strung to survive in that life. The family is dysfunctional, the other son (the protagonist) is a rebel and beginning to get into trouble. Scenes of crime, and dog fights, and weapons fired, and a kidnapping and animal control and betrayal and resurection. . . . The dog is removed and returns to the family to bring the family back together – full of adventure, night bike rides, budding romance (to keep young girls’ attentions).

What is a Hero? Who is a Hero?

The dictionary defines hero as a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character – a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal. Justin’s older brother is a hero who died in Afghanistan. Justin’s father is a hero, twice-over, Justin becomes a hero and Max is also a hero and a member of the family – can there ever be too many heroes?

Why is it that adults in movies and books have to be saved by the kids? Why are the adults so oblivious and one-dimensional? Why don’t kids trust adults (maybe because if they did, there would be no story?)

Unlikely Friendships - Once a Marine, Always a Marine

Kids alone out in the woods (on their bikes) at night, even if accompanied by a former military dog, is a bit scary in a movie to be watching at night (and I’m an adult!). Knives and guns and dogfights (well-shot scenes, however) and betrayal between friends - DogEvals questions the PG rating for all of this and also due to Justin’s opening acts of earning spending money.

Chihuahua City

Every serious movie also needs a spot of delight: Max provides it in Justin’s friend’s Chuy’s house, home to a gazillion Chihuahuas! (Chuy and his family are Hispanic, after all!)

Hmmmmm. . . .

The father seems a bit old for his wife (by a couple of decades even though in real life, the actors are separated by only seven years) and to be Justin’s father and, even though the movie has a major to advise, when Tyler first fires his 9 mm, his stance is not what this Afghanistan veteran would employ.

If You Are a Dog Trainer, . . . .

Dog trainers and serious dog people will go just a little bit batty about Max. Even though Max is rewarded and with a KONG, he is asked to Sit by being pushed down. And the word, command, rather than cue. . . . On the other hand, the two dog fights are quite unusual and exceedingly well-choreographed. Fortunately, most of the gory action happens off-stage even though the final survival scene of Max the dog is one that I would film more believably.

After a Dog Movie, One in a Million

Generally, after a dog movie, the breed becomes a popular item. Just look at 101 Dalmatians* or Lady and the Tramp**. However, Max in the movie and book is a Malinois and this reviewer does not think Mal’s will become the next number one breed, although they are handsome (think short-haired well-constructed German Shepherd Dogs) due to the behaviors portrayed in Max – a bit much behaviorally for any family to harbor. Max is one in a million.

The book is very good and a quick read which convinced us to get the DVD. Usually we prefer the book if we read the book before watching the movie (and vice-versa) but, in this case, the movie explains things better. Both are highly worth getting.

*Review here and in the following few posts, as well as here
**to be reviewed

Read and Watch: more about military working dogs
War Dogs (book) – highly recommended
Dogs of War (book)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine (kids, dog, adventure, family growth)

Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine, by Jennifer Schotz (Harper, 2015, 253 pages, $6.99 (PB), grades 3-7, ages 8-12)
Love the Book Cover!


Books for kids (junior high school age), starring kids, portray kids as powerful yet still young enough to be identified with. They outshine their parents who are one-dimensional. The kids themselves think adult thoughts, do adult actions, and become the heroes rather than seek assistance from the police or an adult. And that is fine in books: that is how kids learn – they need to be the stars in their epics, they need to be able to identify with the characters.

Max, The Book

Max is an adventure about a 14-year-old boy, Justin, (and his first girl friend) and a family he does not fit in to very well (something kids can identify with). His older brother, a military hero like his father, comes home from Afghanistan in a casket – he had been a dog handler and part of a successful team of two. Justin, his father, and his mother have a hard time losing the big brother hero, a theme that continues throughout the book.


Justin, the kid, is the odd one out in his family. A rebel, a nonconformist, perhaps a hippie at heart (but too late to be a real hippie) is incredibly brave in talking back to his dad and in saving . . .  but that is to be read to be believed.

Max, The Dog

Enter Max, the deceased hero-brother’s canine partner who mourns Kyle so deeply he cannot adjust to another handler and will be put down if the family doesn’t take him, so, of course they do. But Max has been trained to be a Military Working Dog (MWD) and that doesn’t always fit in with being a pet. Consequently, he lives in the backyard (Texas) and later, after doing ‘bad’ things, lives in a cage (crate) in the backyard.

Starting Out, Not a Hero

As the book opens, Justin pirates Internet games and sells them to some bad older boys who re-sell them: Justin gets in trouble. He then meets Carmen who has a way with dogs and shows him the good in Max. Justin needs to save Max from being returned to the military and then put down but things are spiraling out of control with the sheriff and stolen military weapons and middle of the night adventures and . . . . In other words, the adventures may be a bit much for some kids to read.

A Book for Boys, And Tomboys, Too

With 20 chapters, each ending with a cliffhanger, Max is the perfect book to read in bed at night, before turning off the light but many kids and their adults will stay up too late to read one chapter after another.

Dear Author, . . . .

This reviewer happens to be a dog trainer and a veteran, so, if there are revisions, I would suggest some conversations with someone like me to make the vocabulary more up-to-date and to correct some minor errors (mixing up some terms and realities).

Max, The Movie

Max the movie came out in 2015 also (before this book, we think, so the book should mirror the movie pretty closely). Come back to DogEvals soon for the movie review. Right now, after watching the trailer here, we are expecting a more realistic viewing experience that brings back memories of a deployment to Afghanistan to override the plot, as the book’s plot overrides minor dog training and military points.

In advance of watching the movie, we looked at the one-star critical comments on Amazon and believe they were written by adults while the kids seem to love Max the movie and especially Max the dog. Of course! Adults are more sophisticated in their reading and viewing preferences and demand less predictability in plots.


DogEvals does question the movie rating of PG – the book depicts some crime and violence. We suggest parents watch the movie first or with their kids and then discuss it. There is also plenty of family relationship issues to discuss, as well.


When the book begins with a kid on the wrong side of behavior then goes on to show a dysfunctional family with the kid who rebels and a father who doesn't listen but lays down the law, we feel a bit uncomfortable: however, we become engrossed in the plot and come to experience more comfort. The movie, on the other hand (spoiler) (read the following review), starts more normally (serenely without foreboding) with only small undercurrents of discomfort and Tyler seems almost like a good movie guy.

Max, The Name

We love the utter simplicity of the logo - Max' name with his silhouette in the A. This is a work of art.

Next: Max the Movie

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: (OT) The Girl Who Escaped ISIS (ISIS, girls, Yazidis, Mt. Sinjar)

The Girl Who Escaped ISIS: This is my story, by Farida Khalaf and Andrea Hoffmann (Atria Books [Simon and Schuster], 2016, 241 pages, $15.68)

City of Thorns, the story of refugees in a refugee camp for decades in Africa, is a book that remains in your heart and mind. The Girl Who Escaped ISIS is another memoir that will also make an indelible mark on your soul not soon to be erased.


We all remember that group of people somewhere in the Middle East whose villages, overrun by the bad guys, were forced to flee up a mountain, then were surrounded, many to eventually starve and die of thirst on that barren hilltop.

The Facts

Those people were the faithful Yazidi of northern Iraq. The ‘bad guys’ were ISIS. The mountain was Mt. Sinjar near Kurdistan. A plethora of black flags flew everywhere and women were fully veiled black bundles moving silently in the streets.

“After Murder, Life Goes On”

Executions were the norm, reminiscent of the Nazis in WWII – even mass executions like Lidice (Poland), and Vinnitsa and Babi Yar (Ukraine). And ISIS Muslims had to believe the Yazidis were sub-human in order to treat them like animals - so harshly - while the Yazidis kept their faith and honor strong until their end. On the other hand, ISIS could believe that only they were the true Muslims and all other humans were theirs to do with what they wanted.

Farida, our young author (18), was sold into slavery at a sex market in Raqqa, then sold and re-sold again to various soldiers and other men from Middle Eastern countries to "have fun with" (and beat): Farida finally managed to escape and miraculously was reunited with some of her family and friends (but not all). She is now well on the road to becoming a math teacher, her dream and final message to her captors. Hers is a story of courage whose details will remind you of Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell.

The Girl may be hard to read but draws an unforgettable picture of life before and during ISIS. After reading this book, you will remember the Yazidis, ISIS, and Mt. Sinjar.