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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.
Failing to develop its concept, writer-director James DeMonaco’s final chapter in the horror series, The Purge, the franchise has reached its final destination with a damp squib.
Set in year 2025, it’s once again time for the annual Purge; a government-sanctioned twelve hour period where anything, including murder, is allowed. Designed on the theory of keeping crime down for the rest of the year by letting people let loose, the New Founding Fathers of America - led by Caleb Warrens (Barry) - are big supporters of the occasion and look forward to it every year. However, Senator Charlene ‘Charlie’ Roan (Mitchell) is not exactly on board with the idea and having lost her entire family to the Purge eighteen years before, she’s determined to shut it down and eliminate the practice for good once she is elected President.
Naturally, Roan’s objections to the annual ‘cleansing’ doesn’t sit all too well with the Founding Fathers and order the assassination of the Senator during the upcoming Purge. Protected by Detective Barnes (Grillo), Roan’s security system is soon breached, forcing her and Barnes to flee and head to the streets where the annual violence has already begun.
Playing off of the same concept as the previous two films - except this time there seems to be very little creative direction from DeMonaco - there is an obvious lack of danger present in the mix, with the writing defiantly refusing to explore its premise beyond the aggression masked killers and bloody street violence. What was once a seemingly interesting idea that had theory behind it, now relies on a shock value that has simmered over the trilogy.
Offering a not-so-subtle political viewpoint, subjects such as racism, sexism and religion are integrated into the storyline, but are never really explored in the context of the film’s concept.
Adding to the story’s demise are performances from a cast who fail to evoke any emotion throughout the entire movie, let alone establish a connection with the audience. As the fearlessly-protective cop, Grillo is stiff and ends up taking the material given a little too seriously, while Mitchell is surprisingly hollow as the idealistic politician.
The rules of the game are unclear and the gaps in logic in DeMonaco’s flimsy screenplay are aplenty. Bloody, violent and ridiculously adrift, The Purge: Election Year has failed to cash in on its potential and has settled on a meandering ending to the series, reminding us all that it was probably never really that good to begin with.
With many Americans still picking Thanksgiving turkey out of their teeth and others already embarking on Christmas shopping, Jimmy Hayward’s Thanksgiving-themed, animated comedy, Free Birds, is the first of what will almost certainly be a production line of hastily put-together films capitalising on the festive season.
Meet Reggie (Wilson); a nonconformist turkey who has always been viewed as an outsider for his ‘radical’ thinking. The idea of having himself – and the rest of his fellow-turkeys – fattened up for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, is a notion that doesn’t sit too well with Reggie. He continuously tries to warn everyone of their imminent slaughter, but his warnings go unheeded. That is until they realise the stark reality of their situation and throw Reggie under the bus to save their own necks.
However, much to his surprise, Reggie ends up being the White House’s ‘pardoned turkey’ and is soon sent off to Camp David to live the good life; lots of TV and a great deal of junk food.
One night, he’s approached by Jake (Harrelson); a cheeky and rebellious turkey who informs him that there’s a way of travelling back in time to the very first Thanksgiving, where they can take Turkey off the menu for good.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility, the duo soon find themselves jumping into the secret government machine, named S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Takei), and travelling back to 1621. They quickly learn, however, that becoming ‘free birds’ is going to take some serious work.
While the idea behind Free Birds might sound solid on paper, the final result is not. Essentially, this is not a film that holds the wide appeal of the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Kids will love it, though adults will probably find the cutesy humour and inattentive storyline difficult to engage with. Moreover, the endless-parade of product placements and tiresome references to other, unquestionably better, films only serves to undermine it.
The film’s only redeeming feature lies with its two leads. Owen, in his usual carefree and offhand style, injects the character of Reggie with enough likeability, while Harrelson approaches his character with conspicuous willingness and excitement. The rest of the cast is equally deserving of praise, especially Poehler – voicing Reggie’s love interest – who brings zesty and feisty personality to her role.
Despite Free Birds’ good intentions, this underdog story – or in this case an underturkey, if you will – would have been a lot better if it spent a little bit more time in the oven.