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How to Train your Dragon: Visually Captivating for the Child at Heart
Throw on your 3D glasses and allow your imagination to soar with the latest animation film by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, the directing team that also worked side by side on Disney’s Mulan and Lilo & Stitch.
In their latest venture into the 3D animation world, How to Train your Dragon revolves around Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Buruchel), a young and immensely sweet young boy who has the ultimate dream of joining the Viking ranks alongside his father, Stoic the Vast (Butler). In the eyes of the humongous and steaming-attitude Stoic, young and clumsy Hiccup is not good enough to gain the Viking horns, and is better left to wield swords and stay out of Stoic’s way.
Taking place in a Viking village called Berk, the film guides you through Hiccup’s fight against disenchantment, evil and the ironies of life experienced by the 10-year-old boy that can apply to anyone, no matter the age.
The small yet brave Hiccup sets out on a personal journey that takes his quest to become a dragon-fighting Viking down a completely different path. The illuminating discovery that Hiccup stumbles upon not only changes his perspective on the Viking vs. Dragon world but burdens him with the responsibility of enlightening his community, which is bound to never listen.
In the meanwhile, Hiccup’s love for Astrid (Ferrera), a female Viking-in-training, keeps a lighthearted twist on an otherwise tumultuous and heavy journey for little Hiccup.
From Hiccup’s fight against the village’s ignorance to his surprising friendship formed with the Night Fury dragon, who he names Toothless, Hiccup’s journey is bound to enthral you with the young boy’s determination and courage to bring peace between both sides of Hiccup’s new found world.
The cinematography is empowering at times, including the incredible flying scene where Hiccup is mounted on the back of Toothless, flying through beautiful landscapes of a lush valley and bouncy clouds. Intricate details and textures are used throughout the entire film, leaving you reaching out for a feel, from the single strands of hair woven into Astrid’s braids to the wrinkle lines revealing the intensity of Stoic’s life.
While the ending might possibly tug at your emotions, How to Train your Dragon is capable of pulling you into the absolute beauty of a child’s imagination, which is often times squelched. You’re left wanting to be engaged with your childlike self and noticing the creatures around that we often forget about; from the tiniest of bug to the most gargantuan of dragon. Allow yourself to be there and take part in Hiccup’s story that is bound to teach you one thing or another.
There’s a certain draw to the idea of watching George Clooney and his real-life gal-pal Julia Roberts together on-screen. The duo’s fourth movie together, after Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, comes in the form of director Jodie Foster’s fourth-feature-film, Money Monster; an intriguing but seemingly cheesy and off-balance financial thriller which, despite its brief moments of genuine tension and topical subject, feels empty and somewhat even outdated in its storytelling.
The film tells of Lee Gates (Clooney); a flamboyant TV host of a financial show called ‘Money Monster’ where he provides advice to his viewers on how, where and when to invest their money. Gates has earned quite a bit of success in doing what he does, though his long-time producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), is deserving of most of the credit.
Things take a turn, however, when IBIS Global Capital's stock takes a tumbling dive and results in an $800 million loss for its investors - a day after Gates advises viewers to invest. The studio is then taken hostage during a live broadcast by one seemingly irate and explosives-strapped investor, Kyle Budwell (O’Connell), who has lost his entire life savings and blames Gates.
One of the most disappointing things about Money Monster is how predictable it all feels with its socio-political commentary. Attempting to depict the ugly face of Wall Street, the subject is a topical one, yes, but has been covered much more affectively with recent films such as The Big Short and 99 Homes. Adding very little understanding or insight into its subject, Foster keeps things relatively tight in the first half, only to lose focus and complete control in the second when the plot swerves off-course into moments of complete implausibility, as the Julia Roberts’ Patty figures that the only way to diffuse the hostage situation is to go digging into IBIS, to provide an explanation to the hostage taker.
However, Clooney and Roberts share an easy chemistry and seem very much at home with their respective roles, with the former offering just enough charisma as the media pinhead with a heart of gold and Roberts keeping things grounded as his steadfast producer and friend. O’Connell, dubious New York accent aside, is equally convincing, however, the solid performances make little difference. Money Monster is just too contrived, uninvolving and one-dimensional.
The idea of basing a film on a video-game hasn’t always proved successful – Super Mario Bros, Mortal Kombat are great proofs – and with yet another gaming-adaptation upon us, one is naturally a little skeptical about what to expect.
Luckily, first-time feature directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly have managed to keep the story of Angry Birds relatively exciting, inducing the story with just enough colour, character and infectious energy to keep the cynics at bay.
The Angry Birds Movie follows the story of Red (aptly voiced by Sudeikis); a permanently short-tempered resident who, thanks to his enraged disposition, has been forced into anger-management classes taught by Matilda (Rudolph). There he soon meets and befriends fellow students, including Chuck (Gad); a seemingly hyperactive yellow canary, Bomb (McBride); a typically docile blackbird with very little control over his feelings once his fuse blows and Terence (Penn); a behemoth bird who only grunts.
When a boatload of green pigs, led by the dubious-looking Captain Leonard (Hader), sail up onto their land bearing free food and catapults to help them fly, Red is instantly suspicious of their true motives but, of course no one believes him. When his suspicions turn out to be true and the pigs end up taking what is most precious to the them, Red – along with Chuck, Bomb and Terence – takes it upon himself to lead an attack on pigs in order to take back their precious keeps.
While it may stand as one of the most popular freemium game series of all time, The Angry Birds Movie - despite its best intentions - may not resonate as one of the finest video-movie adaptations made to date. But that is not to say it doesn’t have its charms. The colorful visuals are captivating, a couple of sequences – including a pig sing along – are creatively thought-out, while the voice work from the entire cast is spot-on, with both Sudeikis – a great fit for the sarcastically-loving Red - and Frozen’s very own Josh Gad coming out on top.
On the downside, however, the story – can feel a little slow with writer Jon Vitti – from The Simpsons, Alvin and the Chipmunks – taking a while before bringing the story to any kind of development, while the internal logic behind some of the story’s trademark features is a little flimsy.
Even though it may not turn into a must-see classic anytime soon, there is still plenty of whimsy, colour and slapstick comedy present in The Angry Birds Movie to keep the adults relatively entertained and the kiddies – who are more than likely to be the most entertained - giddy with joy.