Rock Dog

⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: PG, action and language.


Director Ash Brannon brings Pixar and Sony bona fides (he codirected “Toy Story 2” and directed “Surf’s Up”) to this adaptation of rocker Zheng Jun’s graphic novel “Tibetan Rock Dog,” which mixes Tibetan culture with contemporary Brit-rock, and adds a splash of mob movies for kicks.

We start in a village on Snow Mountain, where a young mastiff, Bodi (Luke Wilson), and his dad, Khampa (J.K. Simmons), are tasked with guarding a bunch of ditsy, addled sheep from a pack of hungry wolves. An opening sequence, rendered in a hand-drawn style, nods to traditional Chinese art and music, and is folksily narrated by Fleetwood Yak, voiced by Sam Elliott.

Bodi discovers rock music on a radio dropped from a biplane and is soon obsessed with the tunes of Angus Scattergood. After a rift with his father, Bodi heads for “the city” and connects with super-cool rocker Angus (Eddie Izzard).

While a mix of “Zootopia” and “Sing!” with hints of “Kung Fu Panda” seems like a great idea, the result doesn’t jell, and lacks the kind of visual kinetics and energy we’ve come to expect from films of this ilk.

KATIE WALSH, Tribune News Service

Bitter Harvest

⋆ out of four stars

Rated: R for violence and disturbing images

Theaters: Brooklyn Center, Oakdale.


The Holodomor — a 1930s famine in which millions of people in Ukraine are said to have died when their foodstuffs were confiscated by the central Soviet government under Josef Stalin — could have made for a tale of great, stirring tragedy. But this is not that movie. Maudlin, heavy-handed and histrionic, the below-made-for-TV-caliber drama about the historical event is a cartoonish and unengaging telling of an undeniable tragedy.

Stalin (Gary Oliver) is depicted as a villain straight out of a black-and-white serial from 100 years ago, with his evil henchman, the commissar Sergei (Tamer Hassan), played as a brutish caricature of heartlessness. The movie centers on Yuri (Max Irons), a young painter who becomes radicalized when his village is enslaved by Sergei, who forces the people into a program of what was known as agricultural “collectivization” in which their harvest was collected and carted off to feed Russians.

There ought to be no lack of firepower in telling this shameful tale. Too often, however, it is guilty of overkill.

Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post