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Film Reviews: ‘Glass’ goes cerebral, ‘Dog’s Way Home’ goes for the tearducts

Of the week’s newer releases, two are sequels to popular movies, but only sort of.

“Glass,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is the third in a trilogy that began with 2000’s “Unbreakable” and continued with 2016’s “Split,” a film about a cannibalistic serial killer (James McAvoy) with multiple personalities, one of which is a Hulk-like monster. Nobody knew “Split” was a sequel to “Unbreakable” until its head-spinning final scene in which Bruce Willis suddenly appears as David Dodd, the physically indestructible main character in “Unbreakable.”

Following this?

In “Glass,” Willis returns alongside McAvoy, and also Samuel L. Jackson, who first appeared in “Unbreakable” as the comic book-obsessed, would-be evil genius who calls himself “Mr. Glass,” because of his fragile skeletal structure. In the new one, the trio of kind-of superheroes/supervillains are thrown together at a mental hospital where they become the subject/guinea pigs of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), whose primary interest is patients who believe themselves to be real-life comic book characters.

“A Dog’s Journey” isn’t technically a sequel to 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose” (that’s coming up later this year in the form of “A Dog’s Journey”). But it’s based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron, who wrote the books those other two are based on, and it fits within the whole dogs-narrating-their-own-stories universe that Cameron has developed in numerous dog-themed books. This one follows Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard), a sweet and resilient shepherd-mastiff-Staffordshire mix who becomes the target of a prejudiced animal control officer, and embarks on a dangerous cross-country adventure to return to the kind humans (Jonah Hauer-King and Alexandra Shipp) who adopted her as a stray.

One interesting note: the film was directed by Charles Martin Smith, best known for playing Terry the Toad in “American Graffiti,” before moving on to direct such films as “Air Bud” and “A Dolphin Tale.”

Here’s what two of the critics from our pool of young local reviewers have to say about “A Dog’s Way Home” and “Glass.”

A DOG’S WAY HOME (PG)

Anderson Templeton

So, I just saw this ridiculous dog movie, and against all expectations, I actually loved it.

Despite the saccharine-drenched narration, the actors were completely committed to this cheesy storyline, and that totally sold it. It was also refreshing to have more serious topics woven into the story, such as Bella (our canine hero) secretly acting as a therapy dog to traumatized veterans.

But let’s talk about emotions.

The level of tear-jerkery in “A Dog’s Way Home” borders on human cruelty. All throughout the film I could hear people sniffling in the theater. Everyone was crying - happy tears, sad tears, even tears from when our eyes had to endure terrible CGI cougars.

When the lights came up, I could see all these parents frantically wiping their faces and noses, trying to hide the evidence that this painfully earnest children’s movie about a lost dog made them lose control of their fully developed limbic systems.

This one super-masculine dad sitting in my row? Crying.

Two middle-aged moms? Red eyes and hoarse voices.

Little boy next to me? Freaking sobbing.

This little guy was so sad, but like all the rest of us in the theater, he was completely invested in this journey. Maybe a good movie doesn’t always mean it has the best CGI, realistic bad guys or even a unique plot. As long as the story sucks you in and pulls on your heartstrings, maybe that’s all you need to have a meaningful time at the movies.

Tears and all.

GLASS (PG-13)

Alexa Chipman

“Glass” is a cerebral masterpiece of cinematography that is almost painfully artistic.

Dr. Ellie Staple kept me guessing whether her plausible scientific explanations for superpowers were a form of gaslighting or the uncomfortable truth. “Belief in oneself is contagious,” Mr. Glass suggests, with thoughtful intensity.

This is the first time I have been impressed by a “mastermind” character. “Mr. Glass” does not overcomplicate his plan. It is streamlined and effective, leading to an unexpected ending that gave me chills.

James McAvoy as “The Horde” is superb, and the primary reason this film is successful. His entire physicality alters with each personality, from a playful child to the poised Patricia.

“Glass” relies on the virtuosity of its cast, rather than flashy action sequences, for an unusual vision of superheroes. It takes time to build up momentum, but its strength is in that journey.

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