Saturday, October 27, 2018

DVD Review: Hotel for Dogs (70 dogs. . . . )

DVD Review:  Hotel For Dogs with Emma Roberts and Don Cheadle (Paramount Studio, 2009/2017, 1 hour and 39 minutes, PG) See the trailer here

It’s Time to Revisit the Canine Classics

It’s that time of year again when the family stays home on a chilly Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening to watch a movie - together with the dogs, a pizza delivered and some popcorn – maybe even a neighbor kid or two.

So, let’s revisit some canine classics like Hotel for Dogs (2009) with Julia Roberts’ niece Emma (who is also known for her Nancy Drew) and Don Cheadle, the Academy Award nominee for Hotel Rwanda.

A Dog’s Eye View of New York City

It all starts with Friday, the whitest cutest dog in all of New York City, and a young human Bruce (11 years old) and his sister Andi (16) – a duo in crime with Bruce, a budding young Rube Goldberg*, and Andi, a consummate liar when necessary.

The cast includes “foster parents from hell” (questionable rock stars [one being Lisa Kudrow!] who lock the food up), and perfect social worker Bernie.

Oh, and nearly 70 dogs, the predictable ‘car chase’ in reverse and a predictable ending that everyone will love!!

How the Hotel Francis Duke became the Hotel for Dogs

Thinly disguised New York City or Chicago is the setting for this underrated family flick about a brother-sister duo in foster care and the pet dog they have to take care of, sneakily, since the fosters dislike them and dogs.

The kids and dog stumble onto and into an abandoned hotel, the Hotel Francis Duke, and somehow start collecting stray dogs along with three good friends in crime (including a love interest) but also have to run from the police and Animal Control.

How they manage to do all this and find a new family makes for inspiring family fare.

Because it’s about family and all about family.


The pet food store van has paws and a tail and two of the canines also begin a relationship – Chinese Crested Romeo and white poodle Juliet.

A Dog’s Nose, Up Close and Personal

See New York (Central City) from the point of view of a dog - a pug, a lemon beagle, a St. Bernard, a lab, a Boston, a Mastiff, a Shar Pei, a Golden – Georgia and Henry and Lenny and Chelsea and Cooper, but most of the dogs are all-Americans and each shelter dog was adopted at the end of the movie!

First, A Book

Lois Duncan wrote Hotel for Dogs in 1971 and rewrote it in advance of the movie coming out, with movie details, slightly changed from the original. Duncan appears in the movie and then published two sequels: News for Dogs in 2009

followed by Movie for Dogs (2010).

And, did you know Duncan also wrote a slew of other books, including I Know What You Did Last Summer?

*The contraptions young Bruce comes up with are worth the price of admission: automatic feeding machines that pour kibble from Pedigree dog food cans into bowls at precisely 5 pm, fountains that dogs pee in and exit from by stepping on a platform that causes the fountain to spray water in a self-cleaning manner, ‘toilets’ that collect and bag the poop then put them on an assembly line to toss outside, mechanical ball fetching (throwing) machines, simulated car rides complete with changing scenery and wind, mechanical sheep on bumper cars for border collie Shep to herd, an automatic car wash for dogs – you get the picture. Now, get the movie!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Book Review: Just a Dog (boy, family, big dog, funniness)

Just a Dog by Michael Bauer (Scholastic, 2012, 135 pages, $9.99 PB, ages 10 and up, especially for the 8-12 bunch)

Can DogEvals pick the Book of the Year for 2018 so early? Can we even pick the Book of the Year for 2018 if it was published in 2012?

If so, Just a Dog is it!

It’s not just a book, just as it’s not just a dog.

The Story

Our hero Corey grows up in about a year, his tenth, though he remembers when he was three, before his two sisters arrived in the family. And you too will remember what you thought at that age – and it just may help with your own 10-year-old.

Or is he the hero? Some might say the big clumsy oaf of a dog (part Great Dane, part Dalmatian) is the hero, the glue that keeps the family together, the family member that everyone talks to – in confidence.

Mister Mosely was a small puppy who grew up to be a very large dog – white except for a black tear dripping down his face and a heart-shaped splotch on his chest. It seems his heart was too big to fit it all inside so part of it stayed on the outside to remind people to be good. Mister Mosely seems to know just what everyone needs in this life and beyond. His stories live on in everyone’s memory.

Everyone Wants a Mister Mosely

Even though Just a Dog was written by Aussie Michael Bauer and takes place ‘down under,’ there are very few clues to that effect  - so few that a young reader may not even notice them.

But young readers will certainly notice Mister Mosely the dog and how he got his name and how he got his home and how he learned to wait - and the one trick he learned that he ended up teaching everyone in the family in the end.

Just a Dog is a book for your second grader to read, one short chapter at a time – to you. It will last a month (29 chapters) so you can discuss the facts of life and death, so you can laugh with your child at the hilarious memories that live on in every unfunny family like the one in the book - and like yours. Each chapter relates to one or two before it and a few to come (very well-written) and each story will tickle your fancy.

Read it First or Read it With

Author Bauer has penned a magical story that may have been based on his own childhood (or yours, to reminisce). There are, however, some adult themes that may be grounds for discussion – unemployment, jealousy, a car accident, cancer – but a mature 10-year-old will gloss over them and just remember Mister Mosely being afraid of thunder and Mister Mosely mysteriously disappearing for two weeks (in the manner of Agatha Christie) and Mister Mosely always being there for everyone and protective, too. And knowing that Mom was going to have a baby before even Mom knew it!

 Caveat: This book was purchased for review because the cover dog looked like a dog we know named Pirate!

Friday, October 19, 2018

DVD Review: Kit Kittredge, American Girl (dog, Depression, mystery)

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, with Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack and Julia Ormond, produced by Julia Roberts (New Line Home Video, 2008, 101 minutes, $7.39, rated G)

You love the American Girl book series, you have your favorite girl and era, maybe even a doll or two. Now watch the movie, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.

Hobo signs, hobo jungle, hobo stew and a hobo friend or two – yes, back in those years, a girl could go exploring on her own – downtown to ask for a job at the newspaper or even to the local hobo camp.

Yes, of course, our American girl has a dog: Grace. The given-away-to-anyone Bassett is adorable. How Grace came to belong to Kit’s family is quite a story in itself, not to be forgotten because it serves as the background to the times, the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Kit Kittredge, budding reporter at 10 years old in Cincinnati, Ohio, is also adorable and wise beyond her years – lucky, too. This plucky girl manages to solve a robbery, unmask a criminal and get her story published in the local town paper bringing in needed money for her family.

The year was 1934. Mothers wore gloves and little girls wore dresses and men wore hats. Kittredge Motors is taken over (foreclosed) by the bank so the family grows vegetables, sells eggs, takes in borders: a librarian who can drive the bookmobile but can’t seem to find the brakes, a magician, a dance teacher. (Is one of these the criminal?)

And fathers go off to Chicago and New York City, looking for work. Kit’s father writes to our budding reporter, who writes back often. Will her father find a job? Will he return to Ohio?

What will happen in the treehouse club and who is the boy who turns out to be a girl?

Watch the first American Girl theatrical movie and find out. Even Baltimore has a role to play!