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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.
Most actors and directors will tell you that tackling a biopic is no easy task. The portrayal of any iconic figure – loved or hated – comes with pitfalls and any filmmaker faces an uphill struggle before the first scene is even filmed.
Such is the case with Diana; a biopic detailing the most tumultuous times of the late Princess Diana that ultimately fails to match the splendour and majesty of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
Based on Kate Snell’s book, Diana: Her Last Love, the story opens on that ill-fated night in Paris in 1997 with Princess Diana (Watts) walking down a hallway towards a waiting elevator – recorded by the hotel’s CCTV cameras – before heading out and climbing into a waiting car.
The events then rewind back to two years before the tragic death, with Princess Di finding herself drowning in bad publicity, following her separation from Prince Charles. The once media-darling struggles to keep her private life away from the public eye and bloodthirsty paparazzi.
She soon finds comfort in British born- Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Andrews), whom she meets during a hospital visit. Diana is instantly besotted and she quickly begins pursuing the sweet-talking doctor who is, naturally, flabbergasted by her interest in him.
Their relationship is soon splashed all over the media and the immense pressure of it all becomes a too difficult for Hasnat to handle. Trying to balance his now highly-publicised love affair with one of the most influential women on the planet and the disapproval of his family in Pakistan soon drives Diana away and into the arms of one Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) as more drama ensues.
Two-time academy-award nominated actress, Naomi Watts, tries her best to bring authenticity to the monumentally tricky role and, to her credit, succeeds in some parts. That aura of vulnerability, that soft-spoken voice and the all too famous shy gaze beneath those long lashes is captured wonderfully; however, anything else that may have been buried deep beyond the façade is never fully explored.
Meanwhile, Andrews – of Lost fame – looks like he may have bitten more than he can chew; aimless and ineffectual pretty much the whole way through, he manages to overstate his every move and that spark of chemistry – which initially brought these two lovebirds together – is never really felt on screen.
Directed by Oliver Hirchbiegel, this could have been a heart-rending tale of one of the most beloved figures of our time. Instead, it fails to really utilise the endless well of inspiration that is impossible love.
Diana never truly grabs your attention; it’s ultimately uninteresting, unexciting and a little too inclined to the haziness of a soap opera.
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.