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.

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Maleficent

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Funny thing about Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I’ve only seen it twice. The reason I bring this up is because while I do consider myself a big fan of Disney films I don’t find myself thinking very fondly of Sleeping Beauty in comparison to their other classics. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE things to love about it, and I can see why it’s a highly regarded film. But to me most of the characters were a little boring, the story itself didn’t interest me very much, and even the villain underwhelmed me. For a character that’s regarded as one of the great Disney baddies I never found her that memorable. The reason I bring all this up is to clarify that going into “Maleficent”, I had no real attachment to the source material like so many other people have. Having said that, I was still excited for the film thanks to the promising marketing and the mostly positive feedback it seemed to be getting. Some were even declaring it “Better then Frozen!” I was intrigued to say the least. So what did I ultimately think of the movie? Read on to find out.

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Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Where the film falls flat is sadly in an important as far as Disney goes, and that’s the characters. Many of the supporting cast and even some of the leads just come off as a little bland and not very fleshed out. (This seems to be the same problem with one of last month’s films, Godzilla.) I’m usually a fan of Elle Fanning, but here when she plays Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) she is simply not given much to do other then smile and be kid of..well..perfect. The same can be said for Prince Phillip (I even had to look up the cast list to remember this character’s name…that’s a bad sign.) He’s supposed to be Aurora’s love interest somehow he manages to come off as even more bland and boring then she does! it’s not a problem with the acting, the problem lies with the writing. The three little fairies are okay. Basically just dumbed down versions of the characters from the original and not much beyond that. Overall, most of the characters in Maleficent are just kind of forgettable.

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That being said, the movie truly shines when it comes to pretty much everyone else. Maleficent herself (portrayed wonderfully by Angeline Jolie) Hs gone from being a stereotypical villain to a fascinating character. I applaud this movie for not making her a “hero” or a “Villain” but just very human and relatable. She still manages to be intimidating though. Her character has a great balance of tragedy, humor and chills when she’s onscreen, and this makes her a very interesting character to watch. If you see the movie, see it for Maleficent herself. Another character that i found appealing was Diaval, a shapeshifter sidekick to Maleficent. In some ways, he serves as Maleficent’s conscience. He often pushes her to do the right thing and is very loyal to her, while still being a distinct character in his own right. The King, who serves as the film’s villain, is also interesting, although it’s a little disappointing that the film needed a villain at all, as I think it could’ve been much stronger if it was just about these characters and their struggles. but as it stands, these three characters are still the highlight of this film.

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Aside from the characters, another thing that this movie does well is the magical world it creates. One of my favorite things about this movie is the variety in All of the creatures. Most of them have a very Tolkienesque look and feel to them, but still look different enough to be their own unique creatures. I would have to say my favorite ones are the tree army. The film’s creativity really shines during the opening battle between the army and the Kings men. Maleficent’s home is introduced in a beautiful dream-like state, but soon turns nightmarish and threatening, yet still very beautiful when she corrupts it with her magic. I was worried that the film’s visual style would borrow too much from other Disney works such as “Alice in Wonderland” or “Oz the Great and Powerful” but I was pleasantly surprised. Saying anything about this film’s story is probably not a good idea, as there are quite a few twists in the movie (especially near the end, which you may or may not see coming. Depending if you saw “Frozen”) i will say that the pacing is fairly good, and the film has a nice dark tone to it without going overboard. I think this would be a perfect summer family film.

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Maleficent impressed me in some areas, and disappointed me in others. Overall though, it was an enjoyable ride that had a really cool world an a fascinating lead. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Disney’s previous live-action fairy tale,Oz the Great and Powerful, and I don’t think it’s as good as Frozen. But as it stands, Maleficent, while not without it’s flaws, has enough good in it to make it worth seeing on the big screen. Recommended.

Pacific Rim

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I thought this movie was…alright…. It wasn’t amazing,but it certainly wasn’t anything BAD for the genre. I just never got the feeling that there was any inspiration from the filmmakers, who have clearly never seen a Kaiju film before….

Ok,i’m almost tempted to keep this act going,but i can’t. Because everything i just said is bullship. This movie was friggen AMAZING!!!!! And i’m here to explain why.

Pacific Rim delivers exactly what it promises. A very energetic,creative,and fun love letter to the Japanese Godzilla-style monster movies (Kaiju films,if you will.) of the 1950’s and 60’s. The movie doesn’t have the deepest story,or the best written dialogue,but be honest,are you REALLY going to see this movie for the story? Because if you are,then you might be a little disappointed.

The film has a specific tone it sticks with, and that is it doesn’t take itself very seriously. it knows what it’s job is,and it does it’s job with flying colours. Detail is this film’s strongest point. Every scale on the monsters,every gear on the robots,and every little piece of distraction that this movie gives us it just a spectacle to behold. Some people are comparing this movie’s visual style to Transformers,but i think it’s much more comparable to something far grander such as The Lord of The Rings.

The term “Kaiju”,means giant monster in Japanese,and what i LOVE about Japanese monsters (like Godzilla).is their personality. And this movie celebrates that aspect at it’s finest. There is just so much character involved and every monsters has it’s own attitude,unique skills,and even way of thinking and planning a strategy. It gives the movie a great sense of variety,and imagination that you don’t see in a lot of other summer movies lately.

The Robots in the film are just as grand. They call them “jaegers”,and they are some of the coolest robots i have ever seen on film in recent years. While familiar looking(Think Ultraman and the iron giant) they also sport a very unique and very cool set of skills. As well as sharing the same variety of attitudes and personality’s as the Kaiju. For example,one of the robot’s is referred to as the “cowboy.” The cowboy is the leader of the army of machines and gets the most badass scenes in the movie. As well as being the main source of transportation for the main characters.

The movie knows exactly what it wants to be,and it does this very well. Though the actors aren’t really one of the movie’s strengths. The delivery of the dialogue is just so darn silly! But that’s part of the charm of these Kaiju films. The actors are just there to be exposition. And this movie isn’t trying to be too deep or insightful. It’s just tying to be fun,and in my opinion,it succeeds at that.

Pacific Rim is without question my FAVOURITE film of 2013 so far. I might be a little biased, because this is my favourite genre of film,but i think that it’s still the summer movie event of 2013 and that with the right mind-set. You’ll have a great time with it.

Monsters University

 

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Monsters Inc is one of my favourite Pixar films. It’s very funny,and very well animated,but just like all of Pixar’s films,it also has alot of heart. So you can imagine how exited i was to hear that they were re-visiting the world of monsters in 2013’s prequel, Monsters University.

Before the film started,there was a short film entitled “The Blue umbrella.” It was a very cute little short film,but what really impressed me was the animation of the rain,and the environments. It was just gorgeous. Pixar has really perfected the art form.

The original cast is back. Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their roles from the first film as Mike and sully. The two actors chemistry together shines through this film just as clearly as it did back in 2001,and you can tell that they were having alot of fun with their roles this time around too.

Animation wise,well…it”s Pixar! It’s visually stunning and beautiful. They really capture the look and feel of this oozing with creativity world that they’ve created. And in my personal opinion,i liked the way we were shown the monster world in this film better then the way they showed it in the first one.

The music of this movie is also very good. Randy Newman (the composer of the first movie and a number of other pixar movies.) returns after a short break,and gives the movie a very classic Pixar feel that i thought was missing from Brave and cars 2. It was a joy to hear his music.

Monsters University isn’t just a more then a worthy successor to the original,i think that it might actually be slightly better. Everything just falls into place perfectly. The story’s great,the voice cast is great,the animation is great,and it just leaves you with that warm fuzzy feeling you should get after watching a Disney Pixar film. I rate this movie a 9 out of 10.