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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.
Considering its controversial and much talked-about source material, Fifty Shades of Grey – Sam-Taylor Johnson’s adaptation of E.L James’ best-seller – is surprisingly safe, shockingly uninvolved and tediously uninventive for a movie that was supposed to deliver – and show – so, so much more.
The story is centred on a young literature student Anastasia Steele (Johnson) who agrees to step in for her sick roommate, Kate (Mumford), and do the interview with handsome and the mysterious twenty-seven year old billionaire, Christian Grey (Dornan).
The two are quick to connect and it’s pretty clear that both of them are immediately taken by one another; she likes his good-looks and raw aura of masculine intensity and he is intrigued by her innocent beauty and clumsy ways. After being stalked and rescued from a drunken night out Anastasia realises that there is no escape from his peculiar – and intrusive – charms and soon gives into the idea of being seduced by the handsome young tycoon.
Dakota Johnson – the beautiful offspring of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson – is definitely the only success of the entire production. Gutsy, beautiful and surprisingly funny and her innocent-like ways – not to mention her gorgeous baby-blues – and she carries her side of the story relatively well. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the handsome Irishman and ex-Calvin Klein underwear model, James Dornan. Physically, he is the perfect casting choice, but his monotonic, almost robotic, delivery is unconvincing and what on paper should be a complex character is never really explored. It’s something that maintains a certain air of mystery, yes, but leaving such little room to explore his motivations isolates the character in a way that doesn’t allow auciences to truly ingest his relationship with Anastasia.
In its adaptation from book to screen, Fifty Shades of Grey never really knows what it wants to be and its lack of drive, focus and identity. Lying somewhere between a romantic comedy and soft porn, the script is as hollow and instead of grabbing the story by its horns and allowing it to dip a little further towards the darkness, it ends up taking a more safer-route, ultimately, boring us all in the process.
In its adaptation from book to screen, Fifty Shades of Grey loses the drive and identity that made the book one of the most divisive best-sellers of the decade. Lying somewhere between a romantic comedy and soft porn, the script fails to embody the book. Granted, said book shocks much more than it incites reflection, but the film even fails on that.
It was just a question of time before E.L James’ fictional smash-hit found its way to the big-screen; few books have stirred as much controversy in recent times. It’s rare that a film adaptation has the potential to better than the book on which it is based – this was the case here and, while it can be argued that it is indeed better, it’s still a less than satisfying viewing experience.
Surprisingly straightforward and refreshingly old-fashioned, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella – the delightful live-action remake of one of the most popular and beloved Disney’s animated classics – gets it right and proves that there is still room, time and love in our hearts for classic fairytales and the forever enchanting happily-ever-afters.
The skeleton of the story story is as you will remember it. Following her mother’s untimely death, the beautiful and kind-hearted Ella (James) is raised by her loving father (Chaplin) who has singlehandedly brought up his daughter to believe that kindness and generosity is the key to happiness.
After years of loneliness, though, Ella’s father decides that it’s time to remarry, leaving his daughter with no choice but to share her happy-home with an icy and unforgiving stepmother, widow Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and a couple of equally nasty and spoiled stepsisters, Anastasia (Granger) and Drizella (McShera).
Welcoming her new family into her home is not easy and when Ella’s father dies, things get even more difficult as she is now left completely alone and in Tremaine’s care. Dismissing half of the household staff, Tremaine forces Ella to take over the house chores and to wait on her and her ungrateful daughters hand and foot. Despite the hardships, Ella – who is quickly renamed Cinderella – doesn’t want to leave her home and tries to make the best of things without knowing that her life is about to take on a whole new meaning when she and falls in love with none other than the Kingdom’s prince, Kit Charming (Madden).
Taking on a more straightforward and undemanding approach, Branagh keeps things grounded and simple, but vibrant enough to appeal to the modern audience. Thoroughly enchanting from beginning to end – although there are a couple of subplots which could have gotten a little less attention – Cinderella is sweet, but not syrupy and, unlike other recently released Disney remakes – Maleficent, Into the Woods – there are very little touch-ups, story twists and overall changes done to the original narrative.
The lead performances are equally strong and James – from T.V’s Downton Abbey – is absolutely delightful and her onscreen romance with the similarly charming Richard Madden –Game of Throne’s Robb Stark himself– is believable and truly endearing to watch develop. However, it’s Helena Bonhem Carter as Cinderella’s wacky fairy godmother and Blanchett as her evil stepmother, who truly elevate the film, delivering outstanding performances.
All in all, Cinderella – a story which has been written over three hundred years ago and adapted to the screen about a hundred times since then – is definitely worth the time and attention. Capturing the magic and heart of the 1950’s classic, it proves to be an endearing and truly engaging watch for all ages.