A.X.L.


A dog and his boy.

(2018) Young Adult Sci-Fi (Global RoadAlex Neustaedter, Becky G, Alex MacNicoll, Dominic Rains, Thomas Jane, Lou Taylor Pucci, Patricia De Leon, Niko Guardado, Marie-Francoise Theodore, Ted McGinley, Madeline Bertani, Andrew Ortenberg, Hassie Harrison, Magdalene Vick, Sam Upton, Eric Etebari, Jonathan Camp, Donnie Smith, Dan Callahan, Ashley Gibson. Directed by Oliver Daly

I have a gripe about teen-oriented movies/TV shows in which teens do unbelievably dumb things against the advice of any reasonable adult and end up saving the day because “they’re true to themselves.” Sometimes the trope works but more often than not it gives young people the attitude that anything they do is okay because they’re being “true to themselves.”

Miles (Neustaedter) is an up-and-coming motocross rider with tons of natural talent. He lives in a small central California town with his widowed dad (Jane) who wants his kid to go to college, but Miles ain’t buying it. He doesn’t think he’s smart enough for college and later events prove him right. But I’m being mean, gentle reader so disregard the snark. Even if it is true.

He has a rivalry with Sam (MacNicoll) whose dad (McGinley) is wealthy and bankrolling his son’s attempt at motocross fame. Sam is jealous of Miles’ talent and sets out to humiliate him at every turn. He ends up stranding Miles in the middle of nowhere, where Miles stumbles on a robotic dog the size of a small pony. The robot is actually a weapon developed by an unscrupulous researcher (Rains) meant to be used in war. The dog, known as A.X.L. (Attack, Explore, Logistics) has run away from its cruel designer and is cowering alone in the desert. Miles’ kindness strikes a chord in the mechanical canine and the two become fast friends. However, the evil weapon developer wants A.X.L. back and sends some ruthless mercenaries to fetch. Sam is out to put a beating down on Miles after Sara (G), the daughter of Sam’s maid, gets sweet on Miles instead of Sam. What’s a robotic mutt to do?

Get a better agent, maybe. This is meant to be the first film in a franchise but no franchise has ever started out with bland, cardboard characters, a plot thin enough to see through and credibility stretching that would make Willy Wonka jealous. There are some fairly well-known adults in the cast (Lou Taylor Pucci, for example, plays a sniveling lab assistant) but for the most part the film rests on the shoulders of the young cast who simply aren’t up to the task.

While some of the digital effects are okay, really there isn’t enough to recommend this movie other than morbid curiosity. It isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever see but it is far from the best.

REASONS TO SEE: Some of the digital effects are ok.
REASONS TO AVOID: Stiff acting and a cliché-ridden script. Has all the negative qualities of an Afterschool special or an ABC Family Channel drama.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of mild profanity, some sci-fi action, teen peril and adult thematic material.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: During the first race, Miles wears a pink breast cancer ribbon. While this may imply his mother had (or even passed away as a result of) the disease, it is not specifically stated in the film that she was afflicted with it. Miles only comments that she died, never elaborating what of.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/7/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 27% positive reviews: Metacritic: 74/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Short Circuit
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT:
The ballad of Buster Scruggs

New Releases for the Week of August 19, 2016


Ben-HurBEN-HUR

(MGM/Paramount) Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbæk, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Moises Arias. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Union general Lew Wallace is best known today for his epic novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ from which a silent film classic starring Ramon Navarro was adapted in 1925, and one of the most venerated films in history starring Charlton Heston was released in 1959. Now, 57 years later comes a new version of the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a noble among Jews at the time of Jesus Christ who is betrayed by his childhood friend Messala and falsely accused of attempting an assassination of the Roman governor. Sentenced to be a galley slave for what is expected to be a short life, he manages to escape and seeks revenge against his one-time friend, but an encounter with Jesus Christ changes all that.

See the trailer, interviews, featurettes, a clip and premiere footage here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Swords and Sandals
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and disturbing images)

Breaking a Monster

(Abramorama) Malcolm Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins, Alec Atkins, Alan Sacks. Three young African-American boys fall in love with heavy metal and put together a band. Calling themselves Unlocking the Truth, they dream of making it big as arena rockers. After practicing at home, they decide to venture out into Times Square and their impromptu concerts draw attention, but not as much as their YouTube videos. They become the subject of major label attention and a 70-year-old industry veteran signs on to manage their careers. However, boys will be boys and as these young guys try to navigate the treacherous waters of the music industry, it is uncertain whether they’ll just get their feet wet or drown in the sorrow of unfulfilled potential.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard (one performance only, Monday 8/22 at 9:30pm)
Genre: Musical Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Hell or High Water

(CBS) Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Katy Mixon. Two West Texas brothers – one a divorced father trying to support his son as best he can, the other a violent ex-con – come together to rob branch after branch of a bank that is attempting to foreclose on their family land. Essentially fighting a battle to take down an amoral corporate financial institution, they are being chased by a surly Texas Ranger who is nipping at their heels. With one last job to pull before their plan is complete, the forces of law and justice will collide in the dry wasteland of high summer in the Lone Star state.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, premiere footage and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality)

Imperium

(Lionsgate) Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Sam Trammell. An idealistic young analyst working for the FBI is given an assignment outside of his comfort zone – to infiltrate a violent neo-Nazi group that may have ideas of domestic terrorism on their minds. Protesting that he is woefully unprepared for this type of work, he nonetheless takes on the assignment and does his best to make headway in the dangerous underground white supremacist movement which will lead him to question everything he believes. This is inspired by an actual incident.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: AMC Loews Universal Cineplex

Rating: R (for language, some sexual references and brief nudity)

Kubo and the Two Strings

(Focus/LAIKA) Starring the voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson. A young boy, eking out a living telling stories in a seaside town in a mythological Japan, unintentionally summons a demonic force with an axe to grind on Earth. Fleeing for his life, he will have to save his family, solve the mystery of the fall of his father who happens to be the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known with only a magical musical instrument to battle Gods, monsters and demons.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril)

Our Little Sister

(Sony Classics) Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose. Three beautiful sisters, living in a Japanese city, are called back to their rural home when their philandering father who abandoned them 15 years earlier passes away. There they meet Suzu, a half-sister they never knew they had. When they discover that her mother has also passed away, they invite her to live with him and begin a new life as a quartet of women in modern Japan.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG (for thematic elements and brief language)

War Dogs

(Warner Brothers) Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas. Based on a true story, this film follows two twenty-something entrepreneurs who get in way over their heads when they exploit a little-known loophole involving small business for government contracts and land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan government. This allows them to make deals with people that the U.S. Government can’t negotiate with – which turns out to be an incredibly dangerous proposition.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references)

Wiener-Dog

(IFC/Amazon) Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy. A single dog touches many lives in this comedy by indie icon Todd Solondz. The dog goes on a bit of a road trip, garnering multiple masters all in need of something that perhaps may be too much for one soulful dog to supply. This dark comedy is an honest look at the longings and experiences of America circa 2016 with an all-star cast to bring it all into focus.

See the trailer, a clip and a link to viewing the full movie on Amazon here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: R (for language and some disturbing content)