A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley



THE CALL OF THE WILD” Rated PG There have not been many family friendly films released since the beginning of the year. Let’s agree that kids don’t .want to sit through the Oscar winner “Parasite” to read the subtitles for a mature subject matter.

In any event, “Sonic the Hedgehog” helped fill the void and now along come “The Call of the Wild,” based on a veritable and enduring example of classic American literature that was a short novel written by Jack London more than a century ago.Hewing to the basic Jack London storyline, the film belongs to the big-hearted dog, Buck, who is kidnapped from his spoiled easygoing life at his California home and transported to the exotic wilds of the Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.

On a jarring note after being snatched from a comfy life, Buck is terrorized and brutally beaten into submission by what is called the “law of the club” before being sold off as a sled dog.At least Buck ends up with cheerful French-Canadian mail courier Perrault (Omar Sy) and his wife Francoise (Cara Gee) and becomes a valuable member of the sled team delivering mail far and wide to prospectors in the Klondike.

Unfortunately, circumstances lead to Buck being acquired by siblings Hal (Dan Stevens) and Mercedes (Karen Gillan) who are driven by greed in search of fortune and end up having our canine hero lead a sled team on a foolish journey across a frozen river that is beginning to thaw. This is where the wandering adventurer John Thornton (Harrison Ford) steps in to rescue Buck, setting in motion the vow by the villainous Hal to track both of them down in his vicious desire for vengeance.

For all his good intentions, Thornton has his faults, namely having too much affinity for drowning his sorrows in booze, which results from his grief over the loss of his son and the sadness of breaking up with his wife.Becoming more than a companion with Thornton in a trek to the great remote wilderness of uncharted territory, Buck’s gentle soul shows itself not just trying to nudge his kindly master away from alcohol, he also bonds with a pack of wild wolves by saving one of them.

The Call of the Wild” has plenty of adventure, from Buck rescuing animals from raging rivers and other dangers to saving Francoise from beneath a frozen lake and later dodging an avalanche that threatens to obliterate the entire team.Don’t spoil it for kids by letting them know the animals are realized by the magic of motion-capture and that Cirque de Soleil performer Terry Notary created all the movements and mannerisms of Buck. This film was made for family to enjoy the adventure.




HBO wasted little time jumping into its winter programming with two series that premiered within less than two weeks after the start of the New Year. Hugh Laurie makes a welcome return to TV as Captain Ryan Clark of a luxury space cruise ship in “Avenue 5,” a comedy series set 40 years in the future with the space tourism excursion tossed into turbulence. Captain Clark and his crew, which includes eccentric owner Herman Judd (Josh Gad) and head of customer relations Zach Woods (Matt Spencer), have to deal with disgruntled passengers who find out a malfunction will delay a return to Earth by three years.

The Outsider,” based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, begins its ten-episode season by following a straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy until an insidious supernatural force edges its way into the case.Police detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) sets outs to investigate what seems to be an ironclad case. However, contradictory evidence places his suspect, Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), in a different city at the time of the murder.


The circumstances surrounding the horrifying crime leads Ralph to join forces with unorthodox private investigator Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), and soon they question everything they believe in. Upending the arc of history is nothing new. The Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle” created an alternate American history with a parallel universe where the Axis powers emerged victorious in World War II.The same principle is at work in the upcoming series “The Plot Against America,” which creates another version of historical events where now the danger lies from within.

Based on the novel by Philip Roth, “The Plot Against America” turns aviator hero Charles Lindbergh, an avowed isolationist, into a xenophobic populist denying President Franklin D. Roosevelt a third term in office. In real life, Lindbergh displayed a fascination with Nazi Germany and publicly criticized Roosevelt in speeches to the point that his isolationism caused him to be denounced as an anti-Semite and traitor. This six-episode series is viewed by the eyes of a working-class Jewish family seeking upward mobility while being horrified that a President Lindbergh has charted a course towards fascism.

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