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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.
The lingering effect of Sicario’s unrelenting and pitiless sense of anxiety will stay with its viewers long after it leaves the screen. Directed by Denis Villeneuve – see Prisoners – and astutely written by the T.V actor and first-time scripter Taylor Sheridan, this is one beautifully shot and tension-ridden action thriller that captures the reality – and cruelty – of the forever-ongoing war on drugs along the Southern US borders.
The story is centered on Kate Macer (Blunt); a skillful FBI agent who has been working on the agency’s kidnap response task force for the past three years. After successfully tracking leads in a kidnapping case, Kate and her team soon make the shocking discovery of a house full of dead bodies sealed within the house’s walls, leaving Kate and partner, Reggie (Kaluuya) wanting to seek justice for the crime.
The atrocious offence seem to be directly linked to a Mexican drug cartel organization, which Kate is soon tasked to track down and investigate in a covert operation across the border, with Department of Defense head, Matt Graves (Brolin). Unaware of what she’s getting herself into, Kate’s idealistic views on justice are soon challenged when she’s paired with a mysterious – and super silent – special-forces soldier named Alejandro (Del Toro) whose motives in the takedown of the Mexican kingpin Fausto (Cedillo) is unclear.
Boasting striking cinematography – courtesy of the twelve-time Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins – Sicario is one seemingly dark and poetic piece of cinema which has the power to entertain and horrify at the same time. Its far-reaching, bird-view shots of the vast and eerily empty Arizona desert - as well as the precarious and fraudulent streets of Juarez, Mexico – is captivating and demanding of attention; peeling your eyes away from the screen is not so easy to do.
Keeping its intentions well-hidden, the script is complex, twisted and action-heavy; the scene of vehicles whizzing through the streets of Juarez is nerve-racking and intimidating to watch unfold, with Villeneuve using the silence as the base for the startling and sudden bursts of action.
Anchoring the film with an intense and fiercely committed performance is The Devil Wears Prada’s very own Emily Blunt, who is absolutely superb as the idealistic FBI agent whose somewhat naïve and unrealistic views come crushing down right before our very eyes. Watching her unravel beneath all of the cruelty and injustice involved with the underground drug-war, is satisfying and often heartbreaking to watch while her co-stars, including Brolin as the super cocky head of mission and Del Toro as the mysterious war dog, both did their parts with a fittingly unswerving and dedicated attitude.
Exceptionally silent and disturbing, Sicario – which translates to ‘assassin’ – is an outstanding piece of art and an intriguing action-thriller that questions human decency, morality and ethics when faced with a life-or-death situation. It’s a must, must-see of the year.
Engaging but not particularly remarkable, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 2 is, unfortunately, not much of an improvement from its equally mediocre 2012 predecessor. Light on intelligent humour, heavy on the slapstick, the result is once again a mixed bag; an animated effort which will please the young viewers, but not anyone older than maybe 10.
Taking place in and around the titular hotel, the story is once again centered on Dracula (voiced by Sandler); the human-hating owner of the hotel who - in the previous film - has tried so hard to destroy the romance between his daughter, Mavis (Gomes) and her goofy human-backpacker beau, Jonathan (Samberg) but ultimately, failed to get very far with his plan.
Now, five years later after his daughter’s wedding, Dracula has to deal with yet another troubling obstacle; his half-human, half-vampire grandson, Dennis (Blinkoff) who is refusing to give in to his vampire side. Desperate for an heir, grandpa Dracula – who has opened his doors to the ‘normal’ people ever since his daughter’s wedding – decides to send the happy couple to California so that Mavis can meet her in-laws whilst, he can hang back and show his grandson the ropes of being a monster.
Working from the script written by Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler, Hotel Transylvania 2 is not a total miss. Told through a series of colorful and highly-spirited dynamics, the story is designed to appeal to a much younger audience and for those kids who found the first movie likeable and engaging, won’t have a problem connecting it to it the second time around. However, it is once again having problems in reaching out to the older crowd and even though, the writers have decided on a slightly different approach to the humor – fewer fart and bathroom jokes this time – the overall effect is still pretty underwhelming.
Sandler - in his first-ever animated sequel - is surprisingly pleasing as the desperate father and grandfather who will do anything to pass on his wisdom – and vampire customs – to his grandson. Meanwhile, as his one-hundred-and-eighteen year-old daughter, who too is being thrown into her own world of anxieties, Gomes has once again managed to come across as a relatively likable young woman, while Samberg’s over-enthusiastic ways tend to be a little infuriating.
On the whole, Hotel Transylvania is an entertaining animated diversion and a passable effort from the folks over at Sony; colorful, dynamic but a tad chaotic towards the end, it definitely has its flaws but, still plenty of fun for the under-ten-year-olds in the crowd.