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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.
Expanding from his 2006 short film, Oculus: Chapter 3- The Man with a Plan, director Mike Flanagan – along with help from writer Jeff Howard – approaches the subject of the supernatural with a considerable amount of imagination and manages to deliver some scares in the relatively unnerving ghostly thriller, Oculus.
The story follows the troubled lives of Tim (Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (Gillan); a pair of siblings who witnessed the brutal death of their parents over a decade ago. Tim is convicted of the murders and is sent into protective custody and a psychiatric hospital, while Kaylie remains in a pit of despair without her family.
Years later, Tim is released on his twenty-first birthday and is now looking to rebuild his life and move away from his turbulent past. However, Kaylie has become convinced her brother was innocent and that something unnatural is at play.
Kaylie, who works at an auction house, has recently come across the very same oversized, 400 year-old mirror that she believes is responsible for their parents’ deaths. Moving back to their old house and installing surveillance equipment, Kaylie and Tim hope to record evidence of the supernatural being.
A Blumhouse Productions creation – the same people who brought you Paranormal Activity – Oculus, as luck would have it, steers clear of the increasingly overdone found-footage approach, despite what its trailer might suggest. Instead, director Mike Flanagan seems inspired by the horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, like recent flicks, The Conjuring and Sinister, and paints the mood of the film with a slow-burning tone of dread and an ominous fear of the unknown. The film transitions between the past and present wonderfully, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Gillan, the Scottish-born actress known for her role in TV’s Doctor Who, proves to be a relatively solid lead and manages to paint Kaylie with an equal blend of self-determination and fear, while Thwaites’ doe-eyed qualities comes across as a little too sappy.
Sadly, Oculus is not without faults. The film is never fully realised as a story and although it provides its share of scare, it’s all really rather forgettable.
The follow up to Carlos Saldanha’s vibrant animated feature, Rio – a film that grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office - finds the Brazilian-born filmmaker returning to the pulsating streets of Rio Di Janeiro, before setting off into the wilderness of the Amazon.
Picking up some time after the end of the first film, Rio 2 finds the Blue Macaws, Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), happily married and living a carefree life while raising their three hatchlings, Carla (Crow), Bia (Stenberg) and Tiago (Gagnon), at the Blue Bird Sanctuary.
However, their children’s overly-domesticated habits begin to worry Jewel, who is fearful that her children are slowly losing touch with nature and what it means to be a bird. So, when she hears that there may be a flock of Blue Macaws living in the Amazon rainforest, the family decides to fly across for a vacation and a bit of an investigation.
Once there, not only does the family discover that there is more of their kind in the world, but that the flock is led by none other than Jewel’s long-lost father, Eduardo (Garcia). Jewel soon finds herself toying with the prospect of moving her family there for good, while Blu – who now must prove himself to Jewel’s apathetic and unconvinced father – isn’t too sure whether he’s ready to give up his life in Rio. Meanwhile, Blu’s lifelong nemesis, Nigel the Cockatoo (Clement), who is no longer able to fly, follows the family to the rainforest in search of revenge.
Eisenberg and Hathaway return to reprise their roles as the lovable Blu and Jewel and, although their shared chemistry can still be felt throughout, it seems that their second outing is not as charming as their first. Clement is hilarious as the grouchy Nigel, while all of the supporting characters, excluding Chenoweth’s hysterical performance as Gabi – a poisonous frog hopelessly in love with Nigel – aren’t given much of the spotlight, apart from indulging in a few impromptu sing-offs, including yet another cringe worthy rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.
Just like the original, Rio 2 dazzles with its vibrant and bubbly tone; the opening scenes of the New Year’s Eve celebration on the bustling streets of Rio Di Janeiro are breathtaking and Saldanha, succeeds in adapting the alluring and captivating magic of Brazil.
The story, unfortunately, is not as engaging the second time around and Saldanha seems to have sent the story on a downward spiral the minute he decided to step out of Rio and move his flock of birds into the back woods of the Amazon rainforest.
There are still plenty of thrills and spills, but had it not been for the infectious Brazilian music and a handful of interesting characters, this would have been a complete washout.