A Dog’s Journey – new films coming to Portsmouth cinemas

Dennis Quaid as Ethan Montgomery in A Dog's Journey.
Dennis Quaid as Ethan Montgomery in A Dog's Journey.
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Grab the popcorn for these new releases. 

In 2017, there was barely a dry paw when Lasse Hallstrom's emotionally manipulative family drama A Dog's Purpose bounded into multiplexes.

Based on the novel by W Bruce Cameron, the film chronicled the multiple lives of a dog called Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), who is magically reborn as different breeds and finds his way back to doting owner Ethan Montgomery (Dennis Quaid).

Scripted by a litter of four writers, A Dog's Journey gnaws on a lot of the same bones as its well-trained predecessor, dividing Bailey's allegiances this time between Ethan and his granddaughter, who is being raised by a neglectful mother.

Key members of cast reprise their roles from the first film and Frozen star Gad – the irrepressible voice of Olaf the snowman – continues to lap up gentle laughs as the sardonic inner stream of consciousness of the four-legged hero.

It's sweet, inoffensive entertainment for all ages, which dodges scenes of animal cruelty that made the first film a tough watch.

When we meet Bailey, the wise-cracking pooch is happily settled with Ethan and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) on their farm.

The couple are helping their daughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin) to raise a child, CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is their sole connection to their dead son.

Unfortunately, Gloria is more interested in furthering a music career than selflessly raising a daughter.

When Hannah and Ethan intervene, Gloria storms out of the farm with teary-eyed CJ in tow. A short while after the family fractures, Bailey comes to the end of his momentous journey with Ethan. As the four-legged companion slips serenely from this world, Ethan whispers a plea for Bailey to return and protect CJ.

Consequently, the pet is reborn as Toby, Molly and Max, whose fates intersect with CJ (now played by Kathryn Prescott) as she searches for her place alongside dutiful best friend Trent (Henry Lau).

A Dog's Journey is too gushingly sentimental and structurally similar to the original film to win best in show but Mancuso's picture wags its tail with boundless energy. Director Prescott bears the heaviest emotional burden as her character overcomes the deep scars left by a mother's so-called love.

Released May 3. 

Tolkien (12A)

In the first volume of The Lord Of The Rings, author JRR Tolkien crafts a moving exchange between hobbit Merry Brandybuck and good friend Frodo Baggins about the unbreakable bond between members of the fellowship.

"You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end," begins Merry.

"You can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo."

The unspoken love between brothers in arms underpins Finnish director Dome Karukoski's handsomely mounted biopic of the writer of The Hobbit in the tumultuous years before the mist cleared over Middle-earth.

Moving from the sun-dappled serenity of Sarehole Mill in Birmingham to the blood-stained pandemonium of the Somme, Tolkien employs a fractured chronology to piece together pivotal moments, which inspired a fantastical realm of wizards and elves.

Digitally-rendered dragons rampage through the mind's eye as screenwriters David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford draw heavy-handed parallels between Tolkien's experiences in the trenches and the prosaic devastation wrought on the pages of his novels.

John Ronald (Harry Gilby) and his younger brother Hilary (Guilermo Bedward) are orphaned at a young age.

The boys' guardian, Father Francis Morgan (Colm Meaney), secures the children lodgings with kindly benefactor Mrs Faulkner (Pam Ferris).

John Ronald becomes smitten with another resident, Edith Bratt (Mimi Keene), who is Mrs Faulkner's companion.

Father Morgan sermonises against the relationship. "She's not even Catholic!" he blusters.

Nearby, in the corridors of King Edward's School, John Ronald forms a secret society with classmates Geoffrey Bache Smith (Adam Bregman), Christopher Wiseman (Ty Tennant) and Robert Q. Gilson (Albie Marber).

They trade youthful idealism about the power of art to reshape the world over cups of steaming tea at Barrow's Stores.

As boys become men, John Ronald (now played by Nicholas Hoult) and Geoffrey (Anthony Boyle) languish beneath the dreaming spires of Oxford while Christopher (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Robert (Patrick Gibson) become proud Cambridge boys.

Their studies are interrupted by the ghoulish spectre of war and John Ronald bids farewell to Edith (Lily Collins) to serve in the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Disavowed by the author's estate, Tolkien is a conventional period drama that treads lightly on protagonists' shattered dreams as they endure tectonic shifts in the global political landscape.

Hoult and Collins are an attractive pairing and they catalyse a smouldering screen chemistry.

The script drip-feeds us aching loss and there are some haunting interludes including one poignant confessional between John Ronald and Geoffrey about the necessity of anguished, unrequited infatuation.

Oh to feel so deliciously, helplessly giddy about Karukoski's picture.

Released May 3. 

Long Shot (15)

A childhood crush blossoms into seemingly impossible romance in director Jonathan Levine's crowd-pleasing comedy of burning political ambitions and shameless media intrusion.

Penned by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, Long Shot slinks through corridors of power in Washington DC in the company of an odd couple - a glamorous political heavyweight and a slovenly journalist - whose undeniable sexual chemistry threatens to derail a bid for the White House.

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen are impeccably cast, generating sparks with every lingering glance and zinging one-liner.

They turn up the on-screen heat from a gentle simmer to boiling point over the course of two entertaining hours, which slickly revives Roxette's booming power ballad It Must Have Been Love as a perfect soundtrack to fluttering hearts.

The script promotes a manifesto of satirical sideswipes and heartfelt emotion, aiming barbs at Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Justin Trudeau in between eye-catching set-pieces including a modern update of the hair gel scene from There's Something About Mary.

Gargantuan suspensions of disbelief are required, especially when Theron's dishevelled stateswoman oversees a fraught hostage negotiation under the influence of ecstasy.

Considering the soap operas currently unfolding in Westminster and on Capitol Hill, perhaps Sterling and Hannah's breathless romp isn't so outlandish.

When he was 13, journalist Fred Flarsky (Rogen) fell hopelessly under the spell of his 16-year-old babysitter.

Decades later, the girl of his hormone-addled dreams, Charlotte Field (Theron), is Secretary of State for the United States, who has just been endorsed by President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) as his successor.

If Charlotte wasn't unattainable before, she is now, embroiled in a gruelling campaign with key staff Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel).

While Charlotte juggles diplomatic hot potatoes with effortless grace, Fred quits his job rather than churn out articles for odious media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis).

Fred drowns his sorrows with best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr) at a party in honour of the World Wildlife Fund, where he is unexpectedly reunited with Charlotte.

She needs an idealist to add verbal firepower to her speeches and asks Fred to join her on the long and winding road to the White House.

Any dreams Fred might harbour of wooing Charlotte are snuffed out by polling data, which suggests the first female president's perfect paramour would be Canadian Prime Minister James Steward (Alexander Skarsgard).

"The public will never accept the two of you together," staffer Maggie coldly informs Fred, "so neither will she."

Long Shot hits the sweet spot.

Theron and Rogen are a delightful double-act, oozing charm as they navigate the more preposterous aspects of their characters' emotional growth.

Political correctness, gender parity and climate change are easy targets for the scriptwriters and they land punchlines with forcible precision.

Levine's film gets my vote.

Released May 3.