Moana

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I’m so happy that Disney’s been on top of the world this decade. It feels like the 90s all over again, when the studio would release success after success. While I  don’t think any of their recent “Revival Era” films have quite reached the heights of classics like “The Lion King”  or “Aladdin”, they’ve still proven to be fantastic and highly entertaining films that are worthy of the Disney name, and Moana is no different.

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Moana treads familiar ground during its first act. As the film is from the same creative team behind “The Little Mermaid”, parallels can be easily made between the two films. A feisty teenager longs to explore the world beyond her home and venture out into the open seas, but her stern father initially says “Nuh.” Eventually Discoveries are made, an adventure begins and memorable characters are introduced. There’s a bit more to it than that, but If you think that sounds straightforward, that’s because it kinda is. Moana doesn’t break new ground in terms of storytelling, but it does get a lot of mileage out of its terrific main characters characters. Where do I begin? First thing’s first; The demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) pleasantly surprised me. The trailers made the character look like little more than the comic relief, but there’s more to him then that. His backstory is interesting, he’s irresistibly charming throughout, and his back-and-fourth Dialogue with Moana results in some of the funniest comedy that Disney’s written.

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Speaking of Moana, she’s a solid lead. Her drive for wanting to explore the world beyond her island doesn’t come across as selfish or rash, but instead feels rather genuine and even heartfelt. (Teehee, those of you who’ve seen the movie will hopefully get it.) Even the Ocean is a character! There are several points in the film where the ocean assists Moana and Maui on their adventure, and while it’s mostly played up for comedy, it does carry a significant weight to the story that pays off nicely towards the end. There’s some fun comic relief to be had in the form of a dopey wall-eyed chicken that tags along for the ride, as well as a monstrous Crab who sings a catchy “flight of the Conchords” style song, but the real standouts are Maui and Moana, particularly when they share screentime. The animation is, of course, crisp and beautiful. Disney’s stepped it up yet again with endless shimmering oceans and  luscious green islands that make you wish you could leap into the screen to take it all in. There’s even some nice little bits of Traditional animation to be found, most notably mini-Maui (Maui’s living tattoo that serves as his conscience throughout the film, and also helps provide some of the biggest laughs.)

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Moana’s really good, but is it great? It doesn’t quite make it there, but almost. The biggest problem I had with with the film was it’s tendency to rush some of the character development. There’s A LOT that happens in the film, and because of this, some of the character development feels a tad light. I won’t spoil them here, but there’s a few turnarounds near the end of the film that feel a bit too quick and easy, causing them to feel less impactful. While the film is a lot of fun to watch, it doesn’t truly come alive until Moana and Maui meet eachother. The first act is fine, but it plays out a little too closely to your typical Disney Princess story, which was especially noticeable after films like Tangled and Frozen have really shaken up the genre. There’s also a reveal of the film’s antagonist a little too early on, leaving it’s grand entrance during the climax feeling a tad underwhelming. On a more positive note, the music in the film is very well done, with songs like “You’re welcome” and “Shiny” still stuck in my head as I write this review. The soundtrack itself is culturally unique and fresh, helping this film stand out amongst other Disney animated musicals.

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Moana may not be as surprising or inventive as Disney’s earlier 2016 film “Zootopia”, but it’s still a fun and enjoyable ride that easily fits in nice and snuggly with the rest of the “Revival Era” films. It’s actually nice to have two vastly Disney films in one year, with Zootopia being the more “out there and unique” one, and Moana being a very comforting classical Disney story. 2016, for the most part, has been a really weak year for film, but Moana will be fondly remembered as one of the good ones.

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The Good Dinosaur

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For the first time in the studio’s history, Pixar has decided to release two feature films in one year. The first of which being last June’s Inside Out, and the second of which being  November’s The Good Dinosaur. While Inside Out was met with universal acclaim, the reaction to The Good Dinosaur seems to be more mixed, and so far the film has not met Disney’s expectations on the Box Office front. I had been keeping an eye on this for years, and followed it through all it’s production troubles, director changes, and I started to worry that the film would never end up being made. Now that the film has finally been released, I can safely say that The Good Dinosaur is a good, if simple, movie.

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While Pixar is often praised for it’s original takes on stories we’ve heard before, The Good Dinosaur chooses to instead make things more simplistic when it comes to it’s story. The story of the Good Dinosaur is nothing new; Arlo, A young Apatosaurus, gets separated from his family and has to find a way back home. Along the way he meets a human caveboy named Spot, and the two of them encounter several other colourful characters and dangerous obstacles on their adventure. Now although there is more to the story then I’m giving away here, the film overall feels much more simplistic then your average Pixar film, but what makes the film work is it’s characters and it’s setting. The Good Dinosaur is one of Pixar’s most visually beautiful films to date, and a lot of that has to do with the surroundings that the main characters find themselves in. The photo-realistic environments may clash with the cartoony character designs at times, but for the most part contrast works to the film’s advantage. I actually grew to like the character designs, because while it is goofy and cartoony, it’s also incredibly expressive,which helps make all the major characters memorable, even if some don’t get as much screen time as others.

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The film sort of plays out like Alice In Wonderland, where our two main characters, Arlo and Spot, come across lots of these characters on their journey, but only for brief moments. The pacing can at times feel a little clunky and awkwardly chopped together,and that’s most likely due to all the production troubles, but as I said earlier in the review, the film’s story isn’t the highlight here, it’s the characters themselves (plus, the pacing improves as the film goes on.) My favourite characters, As I hinted above, were the T-Rex family. What’s neat about them is that they’re more or less cowboys. Even the way they run is animated in such a way that it looks like they’re horseback riding (it makes sense when you see it in the film) Their presence in the film gives it a real Western feel and tone, which is certainly not a bad thing. (especially since the two other animated westerns I can think of, Fievel Goes West and Rango, have been stellar.) The movie also has a lot of heart, and this shines through during the more tender scenes, such as the ones that involve Arlo and his father interacting, and the ones that showcase Arlo and Spot’s companionship. Pixar has been known for creating characters and worlds that you enjoy and want to re-visit, and the Good Dinosaur is no exception.

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The Good Dinosaur never quite reaches the heights of some of Pixar’s more complex and innovative efforts, but it’s still a good family film and one of the better animated films to be released in 2015. When comparing it to Inside Out…. it’s a little complicated. From a technical standpoint, Inside out is the superior film, hands down, but from a personal stand-point, The Good Dinosaur is my favourite of the two. (this film certainly has the better soundtrack though. The main theme of the movie is great.)   I just found myself enjoying this one a bit more. Maybe I found it a bit more relatable, or maybe it’s just because I’m  such a big fan of Dinosaurs. Either way, The Good Dinosaur is an enjoyable film, and worth checking out in theatres if you’re an avid animation/Pixar fan or a Dino lover.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

MV5BMTQ2OTUwOTY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjAxOTE4NTE@._V1__SX1320_SY564_The idea of a silent film done entirely in stop-motion just makes me feel giddy. As a huge fan of animation, I have a few favourite studios. One of which being Aardman. I’ve watched Aardman’s productions for almost as long as I can remember. Wether it be Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run, or even some of their more recent efforts like The Pirates: Band of Misfits, I’ve always been able to count on the studio’s stellar work. When I heard that their next film was going to rely on purely visual storytelling and humour, I got pretty excited. The film in question is Shaun the Sheep, based off the tv show of the same name. The series is actually a spinoff of Wallace and Gromit, but the character of Shaun has become immensely popular in the UK, so a feature film seemed like a natural progression for the character. Is it another hit for the studio? Let’s find out.

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The best way to describe Shaun the Sheep is “charmingly simple.” (Which is Ironic, considering that the film took 6 years to make.) I’ve only seen a few episodes of the television series that the film was based on, but from what I can tell, the film is practically just an episode stretched out to a feature length, Much like the Mystery science Theatre 3000 movie. Some may be turned off by the film’s almost overly simplistic story, but I found it refreshing. Animated movies geared at children often feel the need to keep their target audiences attention by being loud and obnoxious, but with Shaun the Sheep, it’s much more quiet and subdued, as well as incredibly subtle with it’s humour. I can imagine the film would be more rewarding upon multiple viewings, since there’s so many background and foreground jokes going on the screen at once, that’s near impossible to catch everything in one viewing. Not every joke works, but more often than not the film succeeds with it’s humour. The animation itself is some of Aardman’s best work. It doesn’t take that any risks and it’s not quite as filled with variety as their previous film (The Pirates) but it’s still remarkably well crafted and executed, which is to be expected from the studio that has mastered the stop-motion game for decades.

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What makes the animation even more impressive is the fact that there is no dialogue. At all. Aside from the film’s soundtrack and a few little sound effects from the sheep and humans. The feel of the film is very reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin-esc classic from the 1930’s or 40’s. The recent Minions film was touted for relying on visual storytelling, but that film still had characters who spoke lines of dialogue. Shaun the Sheep however, is the real deal. The only downside with the animation, for me at east, is that the environments (in the city) all seem a little generic and not as imaginative as the locations seen in some of the studio’s other work, like  The Pirates or Wallace and Gromit. This doesn’t bring the film down, but it does make it feel less memorable in comparison to other Aardman products. For fans of the show however, the film does succeed by keeping the style and tone of the series while also expanding the world a bit by bringing the characters to the big city rather than keeping them on the farm.

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Shaun the Sheep is charming and heartwarming, yet I don’t think it’s quite good enough to be considered Aardman’s absolute best work. I dunno, maybe if I was more of an avid watcher of the TV show I would get more of a kick out of it. Even so, while I didn’t think the film was spectacular, it’s still very good, and absolutely worth a watch if your a fan of animation and silent movies. This is a simple, quant and endearing way to end the summer movie season, Despite the fact that the UK got this film back in February…..Lucky punks.

Big Hero 6

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After last year’s smash hit “Frozen”, I applaud Disney for trying something different for their latest film. They could’ve taken the safe route and done another fairytale musical that would’ve guaranteed them a box office success, but instead, they went for a superhero action movie that feels more like a Marvel film than a Disney film. This makes sense, because Big Hero 6 is in fact based off a very obscure Marvel comic of the same name. This also marks the first time that Disney has made an in-house movie based off of one of Marvel’s properties since the companies merged. Did the gamble pay off? Read on to find out.

Big-Hero-6-15 The heart of Big Hero 6 lies with it’s two main characters, namely Hiro, a young boy genius (no, not that one) and his big squishy robot Baymax. The two of them share a friendship that really carries this movie, and I’d go as far to say that it’s one of the best relationships in Disney’s history. The rest of the superhero team (GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred) don’t get as much screen time as I feel they should, and feel more like supporting characters rather than part of the film’s main cast. When they do appear on screen, they’re completely memorable and loveable, as you’d hoped they would be (Fred in particular reminds me a bit of myself.) The main focus is really on Hiro and Baymax for the most part. Speaking of Baymax, he completely steals the show. When he’s onscreen, he’s either offering the biggest laughs, or the most emotional moments. I want to call him one of Disney’s best comic relief characters, but he’s more than that. Baymax is one of the most irresistible and loveable Disney characters in general.

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Once all six members team up and start working together, the movie becomes very action oriented, but sadly, none of the action scenes really struck me as being all that great. It doesn’t help that the identity of the film’s masked villain isn’t as shocking as it should be. As a matter of fact, the entire third act of the film is pretty weak in comparison to the first two acts. It just feels rushed and clunky whereas the beginning and middle of the film felt well paced. What saves the action (and the third act) from being completely dull, however, is the animation. As per the norm for Disney, the animation is some of the best you’ll see all year, and that alone makes this movie worth seeing on the big screen. One of my favorite things about the movie was the use of the microbots. The way they’re animated is incredible, and the way the characters in the film used them was often creative and unexpected. I especially love the scene where Hiro is presenting them for the first time, and his monologue sounds like Walt Disney himself wrote it. Walt was always fascinated by technology, and I have a feeling he would find a lot to enjoy about this movie.

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Mild spoiler warning ahead: One of the things Big Hero 6 excels at however, is its core theme of losing a loved one. This may seem like a scary thing to throw into a movie aimed at kids but the fact is that it’s something that everyone goes through and can relate to at some point in their lives. Seeing Disney delicately handle the concept with this film’s plot is surprising, but I was impressed by how well they handled it. I mentioned that the film’s climax wasn’t too great, but the ending (everything after the big battle) is brilliant and may even make you shed a few tears. I know I certainly did. This not only makes this one of the most mature Disney films out there, but also one of the most heartfelt. On top of that, the movie is also very funny. The humor ranges from smartly written dialogue to slapstick, and nearly all the jokes work. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a Disney film since 2000’s “The Emperors New Groove”. The film’s terrific balance of humor and heart alone makes this a must see this holiday season.

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In some ways, Big Hero 6 is the Incredibles meets the Iron Giant (with a little bit of The Avengers thrown in) yet it still manages to stand on it’s own as not only a great Disney film or a great Marvel film, but just a great film in general. I do wish the third act was stronger, and I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it more than Frozen. Dispite it’s flaws, the beautiful animation, loveable characters and mature story make this a very strong entry in this new era of Disney classics.

And don’t forget to stay after the credits!

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks

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Last summer’s “Equestria Girls” received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. The general condenses seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the show, but it wasn’t the train wreck that some were expecting either. I myself was pleasantly surprised by it, and thought it captured the magic (pun intended) and charm that the show had to offer while still being it’s own thing. Despite the better-than-expected reception, there was certainly no outcry or demand for a sequel, at least not anywhere I could see. So when Hasbro and DHX announced Rainbow Rocks, fans were worried all over again. How does it hold up?  Not only do I think it’s a highly entertaining film in it’s own right, I think it exceeds it’s predecessor in nearly every way.

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So what makes Rainbow Rocks the better film? I think the most important and obvious aspect is it’s story. The first movie told a fairly simplistic narrative focusing on Twilight and her friends retrieving her crown. In Rainbow Rocks however, we are given a much more layered storyline that gives each of the characters their own sub-arc. In some cases this might make the story seem a little crowded, but it all flows together nicely. Sunset Shimmer’s story arc (I’m hesitant to call it a subplot, because Sunset really does feel like the main character in this one) Is absolutely brilliant. Friendship is Magic has reformed villains before, but it’s never come off quite as believable or effective as it does here. The events that took place in the first film come back to haunt her, and it’s clear that a majority of the school has not forgiven her actions. Its wonderfully done, and makes Sunset Shimmer the most interesting character in the movie. The story also has a darker tone, thanks to the stakes being raised and the conflicts the main cast has with one another Overall The film’s story is sharply written (save for some of the dialogue) and is a marked improvement over the first film.

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The antagonists (Adagio, Aria and Sonata) are good, if a little on the obvious side. There is nothing subtle about them, it’s it’s clear that they are evil just for the sake of being evil right from the start. What saves them from being generic is their backstory that ties into Equestrian lore, as well as their Fantastic vocal performances and entertaining personalities (for example, Sonata is the cutest and most adorable thing ever and I totally want one.) This movie features a lot of fan service, which consists of an endless supply of background character cameos (as well as the speaking debut of a fan favourite.) Some of the references may fly over newcomers heads, but the hardcore fans will have a field day spotting all the cameos and references in this movie. This may be the most reference filled film I’ve seen since the Lego Movie.

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It probably sounds like I loved this movie, and I did. But it’s not without it’s flaws either, with Some being more major than others. Two of my biggest problems are the writing and the screen time for Spike. Let’s cover the writing first, shall we? The film was written by Meghan McCarthy. The current head of the show and the writer for many episodes (Including  Party of One, Lesson Zero, A Canterlot Wedding, The Crystal Empire and more). I think that Megan is great at coming up with concepts and stories, but her dialogue writing could use a little more work. Another issue I had with the film is the lack of Screentime For Spike. As a fan of the character, I was disappointed to find that he was barely in the movie, Despite the fact that he played a prominent role in the first film. Also, Flash sentry (Sunset Shimmer’s ex-boyfriend and Twilight’s love interest.) once again has little to no impact on the plot, and if you were to remove his character entirely, hardly anything would change.

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Two aspects that I need to cover is the animation and the score. The animation is, in a word, BEAUTIFUL. This is  the best animation the show has seen in a while, and a major step up from the last movie. Everything from the lighting to the facial expressions shows a great attention to detail and the show has never looked better. The soundtrack is also a joy to listen to, featuring some very catchy tunes that stand alongside some of Daniel Ingram’s best work. A perfect example of how good the songs AND the animation are is the climax, which is a truly epic merge of sight and sound.

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Rainbow Rocks is a highly entertaining film for all ages.  Nearly Everything from the first film has been improved. It’s More engaging, darker, the animation’s better, the songs are fantastic and it has heart. Fans of the show owe it to themselves to give this one a watch, and while newcomers might not get the full experience without some knowledge of the source material, I think it will still  prove to be an entertaining and enjoyable ride for them. Oh, and remember to stay after the credits! Not only is there some wickedly cool concept art, but also a extra scene that leads into the next movie. Marvel Studios Style.

My Top Five Most Anticipated Films Of Fall 2014

Beautiful-Fall-Wallpapers-autumn-15496207-1600-1200I think we can safely say that the summer movie season has come and gone. While it was an impressive season, we are far from done looking at some of 2014’s biggest releases. We still have both this fall and winter to look forward to. With that said, here’s my top five most anticipated films of 2014 that are being released in my favorite season, fall. (Warning: there will be puns)

Number 5:

Ghostbusters (30th anniversary re-release)35z0e2pmnmz7zmpI may be cheating on this one. Seeing as how the film’s a re-release and technically comes out at the end of august. but who cares? It’s Ghostbusters! It just so happens that this year is the 30th anniversary of the classic comedy, and what better way to celebrate that then seeing it on the big screen? I couldn’t think of a better way to set the tone for the rest of the season.

Ghostbusters will haunt theaters on August 29th for one week only.(Expect a review for this flick to be released shortly after I see it again on the big screen)

Number 4:

The Box Trolls

the-boxtrolls-24676-1280x800Laika (the creative team behind Coraline and ParaNorman) will hit the scene yet again with an adaptation of the novel “Here Be Monsters!” As to be expected from the studio, the stop-motion looks spectacular, and the designs of the trolls themselves are unique and somewhat adorable. While I was a little underwhelmed by their last film, ParaNorman, I look forward to seeing what they have in store with this one.

The Box Trolls will invade theaters on September 26th.

Number 3:

Monsters: Dark Continent

_13772011762010’s “Monsters” was an independent creature feature that focused more on the human angle rather than the Monsters. The result was a Monster movie unlike any other, and one that I happened to really like. That being said, I was surprised when a sequel was announced. I wasn’t too thrilled about the concept when I heard that the original director, Gareth Edwards (who also directed the latest Godzilla film) wasn’t going to be in the directors chair, but upon revisiting the trailer a few more times, My anticipation for the film has increased significantly, and I think we could have another gem with this one if it’s done right.

Monsters: Dark Continent: Will smash it’s way into theaters on September 25th (UPDATE: The release date has been recently changed to November 28th.)

Number 2:

Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks

Twilight_holding_a_microphone_EG2Possibly my most bias choice. I was one of the few people who really enjoyed 2013’s Equestria Girls, as I found it captured the spirit of the show as well as being an entertaining and sweet film in it’s own right. Much like Dark Continent however, I wasn’t expecting a sequel, yet here we are. The music themed followup promises to deliver 12 new songs by Daniel Ingram (the song writer for the show) as well as an interesting new trio of villains that could very well be Sirens in disguise. And hey, anything involving ancient Equestria lore is enough to get me excited.

Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks shreds it’s way into theaters on September 27th for a limited time.

Number 1:

The Book of Life

60Audiences and Critics alike often crave for something that’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen. If The Book of Life’s trailer in any indication, it looks like we’ll be getting just that. The story looks original (although there are a few echos of the corps Bride here and there) But what REALLY has me excited about this movie is it’s visual style. It looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I love that. Everything from the environments, to the character design looks absolutely gorgeous and creative. The film hasn’t even been released yet, and I’m already in love with the world it’s created. And that’s why it’s my most anticipated film of this fall.

 The Book of Life arrives in theaters on October 17th

And that’s my list. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and that you have an equally awesome rest of the year!. This is Ipaidforthat, signing off!

How to Train your Dragon 2

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There’s an unfortunate stereotype that sequels are never any good. There are some bad sequels out there for sure, but do people just forget about phenomenal movies like The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather part 2, Spider-man 2 or Toy Story 2? I may be on the minority, but sometimes I find myself enjoying a good sequel more then the original because it feels like a reunion with a world and characters that have grown overtime. (Heck, even my favourite pirates of the Caribbean film is Dead man’s Chest) Dreamworks has mastered the art of making more then worthy successors to their original films. Shrek 2, Madagascar 2 and Kung fu Panda 2 have all been fantastic instant classics. Now, they have released a sequel to one of their most beloved and recent films, known as How to Train your Dragon 2. Does this sequel fall in line with the previous gems mentioned? Oh boy, you have NO idea…

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To start things off, I’d like to mention that the original How to Train your Dragon to me is a very strong film with a lot of creativity, fun action and alot of heart. The only aspect that underwhelms me about it is the story. It feels fairly basic at times, and it doesn’t feel as original to me as some of their other efforts like Kung fu Panda or MegaMind. The sequel however, brings the story to a whole new level. This film’s story is emotional, dark and occasionally heartbreaking, yet it never feels TOO dark. Dreamworks seems to have found a perfect balance that’s very reminiscent of some of Pixar’s finer efforts. It effortlessly bounces back and forth from being a brightly coloured and well thought out family film to being a Lord of the Rings territory epic. It’s so sophisticatedly handled and it’s clear that a lot of passion went into the writing, making this one of the most captivating stories of the year thus far. I’m not going to give away any details about the story itself, even the ones that some of you may have seen in the trailer, because the film is really meant to be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible.

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The characters are all wonderful. The ones from the original have all grown up and remained as likeable as ever. Hiccup is still the likeable and slightly awkward hero. His story arc in this film is very engaging, and his relationship with Toothless and his friends truly gets tested this time around. Speaking of his friends, they are still the comic relief of the movie, but also get just as involved in the adventure as everyone else and provide some great laughs (Especially Gobber) Hiccups father also makes a welcomed return,and provides the movie with it’s emotional center. Toothless is just as adorable and fascinating this time around, and some of the films highlight sequences is right at the beginning, where we see just how much him and Hiccup have bonded over time, and how strong their friendship has become. The villain, Drago Bloodfist, is one of the best villains Dreamworks has ever conceived. He’s a ruthless maniac that has an entire army of dragons that do his bidding. He’s very menacing, and is definitely one of my favourite villains of 2014 so far. There are many more new characters that are memorable and interesting But for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into detail about them. without giving too much away, it’s anything revolving around Hiccup’s family that truly makes this film shine.

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As far as animation goes, How to Train your Dragon 2 exceeds expectations. The attention to detail is just mind blowing, from the unique designs of the dragons, to the grand sense of scale of the locations, everything looks absolutely perfect. there are quite honestly NO flaws I can find with the animation here. The expressions are great, the lighting is flawless and as i said before, The dragons steal the show. Most notably toothless, who’s clearly gotten a few upgrades since we last saw him in 2010’s film. There are SO many dragons in this movie, that I couldn’t even count them all. I’d have to say my favourite were the two alphas. They look like two Kaiju straight out of a Godzilla film. there’s really nothing else I can say. the folks at Dreamworks animation have outdone themselves yet again. It’s perfect. The film’s score is also very good, with a fantastic new opening song by Jonsi that sets the tone wonderfully.

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Dreamworks has yet again gone above and beyond with their latest masterpiece. How to Train your Dragon 2 is an instant classic that should be viewed by anyone that loved the original and any fan of animation or dragons/vikings. I highly recommend you see this movie at the cinema, so that you can truly appreciate the rich and vibrant world that this film creates. Then buy it on dvd or Blu-ray. Then cherish it. Then watch it again and again. This not a film to be missed by anyone.