Four new April reviews by Steve Pulaski for Influx Magazine

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TRUTH OR DARE

Faithful readers of my reviews will know, at least once a year, I’m good for defending a schlocky, low-rent horror film for which both film critics and the populous do not bother cutting any slack. I felt like I was the lone defender for The Bye Bye ManThe Gallows, and Wish Upon over the past several years and still feel those films, operating on their respective scales, effectively do what they intended in a successful manner. Unfortunately, with that in mind, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare will have to find someone else to deem its lackluster and occasionally pitiful attempts at teen-targeted horror successful.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is an impressively even-handed account of World War I through the eyes of an Army doughboy and a stray terrier who eventually became his and his squad’s most valuable companion. The titular pup wandered into boot-camp and gravitated towards soldier Robert Conroy, and effectively had both his life and those of many others changed when he was accepted as a “mascot” of the 102nd Infantry Regiment. Stubby enjoyed multiple roles in combat, including, but not limited to, warning American soldiers of the whereabouts of German forces, safeguarding wounded troops, and alerting infantries of mustard gas attacks.

THE MIRACLE SEASON

The death of West High School senior Caroline Found in 2011 left a gaping hole in the community and an even greater one in her school volleyball team, as she was the team captain. Through time-tested leadership and motivation, “Line,” as she was affectionately known, helped lead her team to a championship win the previous year. Her enormous impact left her teammates distraught and incapable of playing the first few games of the season in her absence. But with the fire ignited by team coach Kathy Bresnahan and the new captain, Kelley Fliehler, one of Line’s best friends, the West High Trojans overcame a winless skid to advance to the championship once more. They defeated the crosstown-rival, Iowa City High School, to take home the glory two consecutive years in a row.

ISLE OF DOGS

This decade, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel caught the auteur, unrivaled in his ability to make live-action dioramas and populate them with stylized characters, on a great wave of success. Not only met with substantial box office earnings, both of his more recent efforts found a workable way to employ the colorful aesthetics he’s known for but also create resonant stories as well — something his early films had a difficult time doing. This tremendous run, marked only by two films, suggested Anderson’s craft was maturing in a manner that would make him more broadly successful while still remaining true to the stylistic sensibilities that have made him such a renowned figure.

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