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Overrated/Underrated: Let the Super Bowl ratings fall, and ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ should aim elsewhere

UNDERRATED

Ben Foster: A force of twitchy chaos onscreen since appearing on “Six Feet Under” years ago, Foster won’t be a contender on Oscar night, but the best picture nominee “Hell or High Water” wouldn’t carry the same weight without him. Already having shown a facility with broken or menacing characters in “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Messenger” and “Alpha Dog,” Foster brings a manic unpredictability as the more violent of the two bank-robbing brothers who lead Jeff Bridges’ lawman on a chase across Texas. Though the film does what you would expect, Foster’s damaged mania keeps drawing you in.

Mark Eitzel’s ‘Hey Mr. Ferryman’: An expert singer-songwriter who built a reputation for downcast, wryly barbed songs in his work with the cultish indie band American Music Club, Eitzel is in top form on his recently released tenth solo album. Produced by onetime Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, the album frames Eitzel’s sandy sigh of a voice against strings, vocal choirs and the occasional spike of electric guitar in the service of richly detailed lyrics, including in the jangly album opener “The Last Ten Years,” a song that takes on the end of life with the glib taunt, “I never been to Hell, but they got my number.”

OVERRATED

A dog’s real purpose onscreen: Despite a pet’s mortality being such a heartstring-tugging dramatic shortcut there’s a website devoted to simply revealing their fate in movies (www.doesthedogdie.com), the recent tearjerker “A Dog’s Purpose” ups the ante to a near ridiculous degree through the magic of reincarnation. There’s always going to be a demand for tearjerkers onscreen, but as the world seems more turbulent than ever, surely we can give dog owners a break. Isn’t it about time we had a wayward-alien-befriending-a-suburban-kid movie that we can come together and cry about instead?

The Super Bowl: If there was anything good to come out of the widely reviled 2016, it’s the news that viewership for the NFL has been down this season amid increasingly hard to ignore issues of player safety, greedy owners in search of stadium deals and an undeniable decline in the quality of the games. If the numbers stay down on Sunday, that could spell trouble for the game and its always-overrated pool of big game advertisers, but it’ll be worth it if a bloated business ends up addressing its real troubles — even if it means it’s a lot less easy driving across town after kickoff.

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chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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