Cats are evil bastards — the criminal geniuses of the animal kingdom. They toy with their prey, leave mouse brains in places you are likely to step, and on at least two occasions in the last year, one has taken a dump on my pillow to prove a point. Cats also sleep 22 hours a day and look at you like they want to slit your throat with their filthy litterbox claws when they wake up. If you collapsed in your home and died on the floor, your cat would stick around long enough to eat your corpse and shit out your life's possessions. Then it would leave.
A dog, on the other hand, would either do its best to keep you alive or would rush out to get help. If no help came, your dog would lay down and die by your side. Plus, it's always a dog that alerts us when Timmy has fallen down a well.
Movie history is full of stories where dogs have saved the day. From Hooch in Turner and Hooch to Jerry Lee the drug dog in K9 to Paul Walker's sled dogs in Eight Below, dogs are time-honoured loyal and loving cinematic companions. (Not counting Cujo, of course, or that dog in Devil Dog: Hound of Hell.)
And a dog love story is front and centre this week at the Whistler Village 8 with Meagan Leavey, the story of a disenfranchised young woman who joins the marines in the mid-2000s and ends up in the Iraq War teamed up with a bomb-sniffing pooch named Rex. Based on a true story, this one is about shared trust, companionship and never giving up on someone who doesn't fit the mold.
Positioned as a crossbreed of Marley & Me and The Hurt Locker, Megan Leavey is a love story, not a war movie. The Iraq War is played simply as a backdrop to the woman-dog relationship, and the film offers no real insight or commentary on the thousands of people who died in that conflict or the duplicitous circumstances under which it was initiated (the effects of which we are still dealing with today).
This doesn't mean it's total shite. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite is skilled at portraying the human-animal bond (she even did it in documentary format for her last film Blackfish) and Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, House of Cards) keeps it all from stepping in a fresh pile of sentimentality. There is heart in this one, and heroes, but once the story leaves the battlefield, Meagan Leavey loses a lot of its bite. The civilian end of the story gets a bit jangled and heavy handed. The Deer Hunter, this is not.
Speaking of hunting, ancient Egyptians kept dogs as hunting companions, and while man's best friend never quite achieved the same reverence as cats (who were often entombed with their royal owners), the Egyptian god of the Underworld is the dog-headed Anubis. I can't say whether Anubis plays a role in The Mummy, the latest "Classic monster update" from Universal Pictures opening this week, because there were no pre-screeners. We do know, however, that Tom Cruise is in it and he runs a lot and probably saves the world.
Cruise seems to be some kind of military archeologist or something who is cursed after he dicks around with the sarcophagus of an ancient Egyptian princess who is supremely pissed off that she never got to rule the world. Dr. Jekyll even calls her the essence of evil. Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe, is the head of something called "Prodigium," a super-secret task force that fights monsters with science and really seems to exist here just to set up a larger Dr. Jekyll film set in this revamped Universal Monster universe/quasi-franchise. Director Alex Kurtzman is unproven (one hit, many follies) and with no pre-screeners (and no dogs in the trailers) this one looks a bit risky.
Wonder Woman is still playing and it blew the box office away last weekend, pulling in over $100 million and proving that female-centric stories are not as financially risky as Hollywood seems to think. Audiences were particularly moved by the action scenes and the way Wonder Woman/Diana fights with such fearless dignity and grace. Journalist Laura Hudson summed it up best with a tweet: "Meanwhile women are so starved for powerful images of women not filtered through a boner lens that they're watching Wonder Woman and bursting into tears."
Will Hollywood finally realize that making movies for the other 50 per cent of the population is a tree worth barking up? Time will tell.