Category Archives: Movie reviews

How to train your dragon 2 Review

As they loom through the cloud torn sky, the wind wreathes around their heads and wings, sending with it’s mighty roar a peace and excitement.  Then, shattering the tranquility, the dragon’s rider falls to one side, plummeting through the air, gravity giving immaculate haste to his descent.  But this one is prepared.  A wing suit flashes out at the last second, sending him soaring with the birds and fluttering wings of dragons, albeit at a lower altitude than he had been.

Released four years ago, the first How To Train Your Dragon was met with rave reviews by critics and was simply loved by children.  But this isn’t that film.  This is the sequel, and as we all know, sequels always try to go bigger, but not often do they try to get better.  This film attempts both, which as you’ll see is both a good and bad thing.

Let me start out with simple sensory subjects.  Technically, this HTTYD2-Footage-3movie was audacious.  Landscapes seemed to pile one on top of another at first, with some shots approaching (if not reaching) the beauty of a Pixar film. Particularly, one scene with a fortress that has been blasted by icy breath as a backdrop is fairly spectacular looking.

Not only did the shots of landscapes look great, but the dragons did too.  Hundreds of them often fit into a single scene, with the gargantuan Alphas towering over them all.  But as always, there’s a downside; part of the fun of the first was learning about specific dragon types during Hiccup’s training, and with so many dragons, that level of storytelling detail is lost.

And here is where it gets interesting.  The voice acting was just as spot on as last time,  but much of the fun dialogue, however has been replaced with darker and more brooding material.  Laugh out loud character moments have been replaced with action and melodrama.  Not that the action’s not cool.  Any film that can pull of having two mega-dragons duel, while two warriors duel, while thousands of men attack hundreds of dragons is going to be kind of awesome.  But is it worth it?

Actually, yes.  The film continually focuses on moving the story forward, while paying enough homage to the past that you never feel like you’re lost in the strange, new lands Hiccup is constantly exploring.

And now, before we go any further:

SPOILERS WARNING!!!

How to train your dragon

 

Well, the fact that Hiccup’s mother is in the film shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s seen the trailer.  For the most part, her reentry into Hiccup’s life was handled pretty well, with some legitimate emotion thrown in for good taste.  But it didn’t go far enough.  For someone who never knew his mother to have her jump out of the blue at you and know more about dragons than anyone else is a little strange, making Hiccup’s attitude of taking-it-all-in-stride rather distracting.

Regardless, the best part of the film is the moment when Stoick, Hiccup’s father, is reunited with his long lost wife.  That was touching.  Then, when they danced together for the first time in twenty years, my friends with me were crying like children.

Which makes it all that more painful when STOICK IS KILLED BY TOOTHLESS!!! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?!?!

Looking back, I can see exactly why they decided to turn the story down that darker path, in keeping with the ‘gotta be bigger’ deal with sequels.  For me though, it cast a dark cloud over the rest of the movie, and now when I conjure up this movie in my head, all I can think about is Stoick dying.

It ruined the only good love story in the film, it gave unnecessary menace to one of your favorite characters, and it ruined the climax, because after that it seemed like everything went downhill. Except for one moment.

Toothless’s redemption.  Well done DreamWorks, well done.

And that’s how this movie resembles the skydiving and wing suit I mentioned earlier.  It starts off great, takes a risk for more excitement, falls down, but at the last minutes it flies, soaring lower than the first.

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Review

Let me start out by clarifying my stance towards the Star Wars franchise.  It’s fun.  Diehard, I am not.  Avid enthusiast , I am not.  But I enjoy the movies, (the original trilogy more than the prequels) and some of the video games such as Knights of the old Republic.

That being said, I was reasonably clear-headed when I heard that a new Star Wars movie was coming out nearly six years ago.  And it was going to be a cartoon?!  The idiots.

Years passed, during which my family somehow acquired Netflix, allowing us to watch movies and TV shows online.  (Seriously though, if you don’t know what Netflix is, what are you doing reading online blogs?)  And just this last March, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, movie, TV show and all, became available for instant streaming via Netflix.

Once again, it may have passed unnoticed by myself if I hadn’t have had my wisdom teeth removed last week.  However, because of the surgery I had ample time to writhe in pain, gnash my remaining teeth and watch TV.  For some odd reason, I ended up watching The Clone Wars.

Clone_Troopers_kaminoAt first, I was kind of entertained, but unimpressed.  It was fun at times, with episodes such as “Rookies” or “Lair of Grievous” being very enjoyable, but it also had too many moments of “Ugh!”.  The animation was good looking, as long as it kept to droids and action sequences (these always being small, pitting an army of ten battle droids versus a “huge” battalion of five clones).  However, facial animation was rotten, the dialogue was worse, and the voice acting was noticeably less than par, albeit with a few exceptions.

Then I moved on to season two.  And it got better.  Then I moved on to season three.  And it started to get good.  Then in season four, it was good.  By season five, I pretty impressed by what the creators of this show were able to accomplish onscreen.

Sparkling animation that would look beautiful on any big screen, story lines that involved, surprised and delighted anyone with a hint of Star Wars geek in them, and direction that made 20 minute episodes fly by in a few seconds.  Battles became larger, lightsaber duels cooler, and small steps that added up to overwhelming detail abounded in most environments.  This season also includes the coolest looking explosion in Star Wars history, bar none.

Any of the major lightsaber battles of the last two seasons are much, much more entertaining than the ones in the original Star Wars movies.

Perhaps that is why I liked this show, even more than any other reason.  With each season, the creators attempted to do better in every respect, and they succeeded.   By the time I reached the end of the series, it was hard to believe that I was not watching animated cinema, but a TV show created for kids.

But then again, it never tried to be a kids TV show, except maybe some in the first season.  And while that decision brought about overwhelming excellence, it came at a price.

Clone Trooper Season 4

There is a dark side to everything Star Wars, (except maybe Jar Jar Binks) and it does not hesitate to show itself here.  Stomach clenching moments in the later seasons abound, not lessened by the fact it’s animated, but the opposite.  Face it, (pun) you don’t expect to see disembodied heads rolling around on a cartoon show.

Season 4 is especially noteworthy.  People are blown into blood clouds underwater, heads are ripped off, men are squashed, shot, decapitated, dismembered, electrocuted, blasted apart, eaten, incinerated, and killed in ways innumerable.  More than a few battle sequences would be easily rated PG-13 if in a live action movie, and at least one even if it was in an animated film.  Season 5 and 6 do attempt to down the darkness, but it is still present.

Overall, it is immensely enjoyable for any age that doesn’t dislike Star Wars or cartoons, or feel that the combination is faulty in and of itself.  And if you choose to watch it, do so in order.  Not only do most episodes run in story arcs, but I do not doubt at all that the later season seem so excellent largely because of how low it started.

Why the Differences?

Let me start out by saying that I am both an avid reader of books, and a movie watcher ofbooks[1] great enthusiasm.  Strengths are individualistic to both, and both are good forms of entertainment and instruction.

Furthermore, I sincerely enjoy watching movies based on books.  The Lord of the Rings is my favorite film trilogy of all time, just as The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book.

My only question is why do the Hollywood film makers feel that they need to differentiate movies from the books they’re based on?  So many unnecessary changes that benefit no one.  Seriously?

First off, what are some book adaptions that were successful, and why were they so well received? Instantly, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter film series and the Hunger Games spring to mind.

Obviously, on those series in particular, the production budget wasn’t exactly sparing, a critical factor in adapting large scale stories to the big screen.  But also an adherence that bordered on fascination to the exact wording of the books they were based on.  Praise and critical acclaim were lauded upon them not for creating original material, but for bringing the inspired books they were based on accurately to the silver screen.

However, some changes were made.  With the possible exception of Harry Potter, practically all of the unnecessary major changes to the books weren’t given a single, positive reason for their existence.  Instead they were disliked, and well nigh declared against by avid fans of the series and new comers alike.409702_1270102481369_full

Who enjoys watching the darkened character of Faramir, or the petty, weak-minded Denethor of Jackson’s films?  The Elves at Helm’s Deep are simply too cool to complain against, but what about Gandalf appearing weak and being defeated by the Witch-King of Angmar?  Frankly, I always skip the part in RotK when Gollum convinces Frodo to send Sam away.  That particular change sickens me.

Regardless as to how much each of the changes were in and of themselves disliked, the films above were for the most part quite true to the text and spirit of the books.  What about those films that deviated much further?

An interesting study on the subject comes from the film series The Chronicles of Narnia.  Look no further than the movie review Rotten Tomatoes site for a prime example of what deviations can cost the film companies.

chronicles-of-narnia-desktop-wallpaper-free-10The first movie, deviating very little scored a 76% approval rating, a high number from time tested critics.  Prince Caspian, deviating a little more, scored a lower rating of 69%.  And the one that deviated most, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, just happens to be the one with a “rotten” rating of 49%.  Coincidence? I think not!

The more the movies deviate, the less they are enjoyed, because no matter how creative the filmmakers are, they can’t equal the brilliance of such authors as Lewis and Tolkien.

Which leads me to my last topic.  You all saw it coming.  The Hobbit trilogy.  WHY GOD, WHY?!!!

I love the book it’s based on, and I was no less than ecstatic when I heard they were making a film of it, and better yet they were going to flesh out what happened in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings during the time period of The Hobbit.

Is that what they did?!  Did they stay true to the book?!  Did they even attempt it?!  Did they even try?! HBT2-fs-140204.DNG

NO!!  They deviated like crazy and what did it accomplish?  A second-rate trilogy, lacking in character, realism, depth and greatness.  They made up entire plot lines, flung the appendices to the wind, gave Saruman a side of the ridiculous, and reduced the dwarves to a ramble of wandering clowns.  Worst of all they added in…a love story between dwarf and elf!!  AAUUGGHH!!!

And what did these changes accomplish?  A better film that could, due solely to the director’s vision, take its place alongside masterpieces such as LotR?  Not hardly.  Instead they made a pretty little film that had moviegoers nodding and smiling dumbly, “Yeah, that was alright, I guess.”

When will filmmakers learn?  Certain changes may be necessary in any type of adaption, but be warned! The further you deviate, the lower the quality of the film.

Book Review: Harry Potter

Way back when, before the all powerful book 7 had been released, a problem faced Christian families throughout America and even the world.  This problem was so severe that women locked themselves in their homes, while children fled in terror.  Nukes were nearly launched, the national guard was called out, and America was in such a state of stupidity, due to panic, it elected Obama.

The problem I’m talking about is the dilemma of whether or not parents would allow their children to read Harry Potter.  Some didn’t, and found themselves regretting it at the moment (“Why can’t I, everybody else does!)  Others did and found themselves regretting it later.  It may not be as pressing of question right now, since all the books are already out, but it should still be asked.

Basically, the problem most people faced was whether or not Harry Potter glorified witchcraft.  The series had been nigh shunned in the Christian community for it blatant naming of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  So parents naturally asked, should their sweet innocent children be exposed to such wickedness?

Let me set your mind at ease about that point.  “Witchcraft” in the series is treated squarely as magic you might find in any other fantasy setting, albeit with many more rules. Potion brewing is treated more like high end cooking classes, the mixtures produced simply having magical qualities.

Undoubtedly, there are the share of violent spells.  Wizards battle it out with myriads of strange magics, while thousands are said to be killed throughout the series.  Still, the violence when it comes is not so hard hitting as you might have been led to believe.

So far, so good right?

Unfortunately, witchcraft and violence aren’t the problems you should be worried about in this series.  Language may range on the American scale from mild to bad, but on the British scale it’s indubitably worse.

Not quite as prevalent in he first three books as the last four is the inclusion of practically all teenage dream lovey stuff.  For some odd reason, it’s considered perfectly normal for fifteen or sixteen year-old’s to be lounging about and “snogging” with alarming frequency.  Students seem to be constantly egging each other on to “do it” with the opposite sex.  For all of us upright (and somewhat lonely) bloggers let me say, “Ugh!”

But frankly, that’s not the worst of it.  The worst part is Harry Potter himself.

Putting in simply, Harry Potter is a brat.  He breaks rules without caring, makes fun of others without though to their feelings, and basically goes about doing whatever he likes with the admiration of his peers and the blessings of his mentors.  And he’s considered the nice guy.  True, he does have some redeeming qualities, but not half enough to make up for the near worship of his faults.

His behavior is so encouraged that it literally will begin to affect the reader, especially if the reader happens to be a ten through sixteen year-old boy.  This isn’t an exaggeration, but what actually happened in several families I know, including my own.

As a consolation, let me say that if you choose not to read the popular series, you’re actually not missing all that much.   J. R. Rowling is a horrible writer.  Some of her ideas may be fresh, and occasionally her dialogue is pretty fun, but beyond that it”s very low quality.

And now the consolation prize goes to…the Geek community!

Also, if you feel the desperate urge to get involved in Harry Potter in spite of this life changing review, I heartily recommend the movie series instead.  Swearing is dumbed down, as well as the majority of innuendos (movie six being the exception should best be viewed as a comedy soap opera) while the violence is upped.  Awesome!index

Additionally, the character of Harry seems o have been given an upgrade.  The glorifying of his shortcomings seems to have disappeared mostly, while a distinctly noble side is added on.  Besides, they are very well made films (always a plus). For a full rundown of most of the movies, visit PluggedIn, and no, I am not getting paid for saying that.  I wish I was, but let’s not go there.

My final word of advice.  When it comes to reading the harry Potter books: don’t…it’s a waste of time.  When it comes to watching the movies: do, but viewer maturity should be taken into account.  And if America goes into crisis once more, and people start screaming bloody murder, well then, that’s just proof that more people need to read this blog!

Frozen Thaws the Cold-Hearted Reviewer

It seems that every major movie last year had some problem that kept it from being completely enjoyable. Star Trek Into Darkness: too dark. Iron Man 3: Too goofy and bad visuals. Man of Steel: no plot. Monsters University: too lighthearted…The list goes on. (Don’t get me started about The Desolation of Smaug!)frozen-scene

But one movie stands out as a film that does not disappoint, instead raising you up so that you instantly get the urge to dash back to the theater to see it again. I’m (obviously, if you read the title) talking about Disney’s Frozen.

So much praise has been heaped on this that, frankly I don’t have much to add to that. Voice acting spot was spot on, although at first I had something of a problem with the rustier voice of the Snow Queen, Elsa. However, once Idina Menzel starts singing, nothing bad could possibly be said.

Which quickly brings us to the songs. Needless to say, those that were fans of the grand sweeping scores of the Disney’s Golden Age films have been severely disappointed with the breezy, easily forgettable tunes that have appeared in Walt Disney Animation Studio’s film since then. Even Tangled, the self-flaunted 50th film from the studio, was less than one could’ve hoped for.

Two words. That…ends…here. Many of the songs still have the pop beat, (the Academy Award nominated “Let it Go” a prime example), but each and every song is instantly memorable, with those ‘epic’ moments popping up often enough that not even Beethoven could complain.

An excellent idea that someone genius had was to put practically all of the songs in the first half, leaving the second half for comedy and a spectacular ending. Even so, you didn’t images7UYAT79Qfeel at any time that you were missing something, the editing and screenplay being seemingly perfect.

Just below the music on the exalted staff of excellence are the characters. All three of the leads are lovable, understandable and noble in their own way, with each of their motivations clear. However, one tops them all. Olaf, the snowman just happens to be the king of comedy in this film.  WARNING: prepare to laugh out loud.

The animation is like nothing I’ve ever scene from this studio. Indeed, one shot of the FROZENhigh seas during a storm would put Pixar to shame. The beautiful, stunning imagery involving ice in every conceivable shape and form was nothing short of spectacular.

The story seems to be the only point contested among critics. Let me assure you, while not perhaps up to the near perfection of literally everything else, it is still engaging, well reasoned, and includes a tear jerking ending.

Honestly, all I can say about this film is GO! Even if you only go to see one movie a year, make this that one! This is the film that reminded me for the first time in three years of the reasons I love movies and go to see them in theatres. All ages will enjoy and be moved, from kids, to obstinate teenagers, to even the far too busy businessman with hardly a moment to spare for enjoyment. Frozen is truly the best film of 2013.

5 Things I Want to See in Star Wars Ep. 7

I know what you’re thinking…”You’re blogging about Ep. 7 already? What kind of a geek untitledare you?!”

But seriously (kind of) aren’t you looking forward to this event as well. I mean, this is STAR WARS we’re talking about. It hasn’t hit the big screen for nearly ten years, and for a long time it looked like it never would again.

But then the all-powerful Disney had to come in and purchase Lucas Arts. (I hear that they’re re-releasing the first six films as musicals. Click here to see the trailer!) And so once again we will be treated to this saga that so much potential, and I will finally be able to see one in theatres!

Enough talk. Here are some things that I would dearly love to see in the upcoming Star Wars Ep. 7!

untitled1. A Jedi throw a lightsaber and use the Force to bring it back.

It’s in practically every video game, the rotating lightsaber slashing off the heads of foes and then whirling back into the Jedi’s hand. But we’ve never seen it in a movie!

2. Han Solo.untitled

Okay, seriously, how could I not include him. I realize Harrison Ford isn’t quite as lively as he used to be, but a mere cameo appearance would suit me just fine.

untitled3. A Wookie tear the arm off of something.

This may sound a little violent, but the sheer power of Wookies is always taken pretty lightly, except during the attack on Kashyyyk. Honestly, I think it could be pretty awesome.

4. Qui-Gon Jin’s Force Ghost.

Qui-Gon Jin is easily my favorite character that Liam Neeson has played and the fact that he wasn’t able to make such a cameo appearance in Ep. 3 should as least put this rather bizarre request into at least the realm of possibility.

But most of all, I want to see…untitled

5. A Spectacular Movie!

A film worthy to raise its head among the greats. Visuals beautiful and terrifying, characters that are rich, lovable (and despicable), plots well enough written to put the prequel trilogy to shame, and that goofy charisma that made the original trilogy so much fun! I know I’m asking for a lot, but I think they can do it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, basically all I want is the greatest Star Wars movie yet!

Films Based on TV Shows: 4 That Worked, 4 That Didn’t

Seriously, would someone…hey you, yes you! Would you please tell those Hollywood idiots to stop trying to cash in on franchises. Let those old, worn out sleeping dogs lie (and lie, and lie, and occasionally tell the truth.) Besides actual films and books, probably the majority of movies that are not original fare are based off of television shows. Most of these adaptions are decidedly B-films, but of the others, check out which ones work, and which ones don’t!

Those that WORKED:

1: Mission Impossible-Smart, action packed and one of the world’s highest grossing franchises, turning this television success into a blockbuster franchise was a wise decision, benefitting both the viewers of film producers. Ghost Protocol is easily the best.

2: Get Smart!-I wouldn’t have thought that the crass jokes and outrageous gags that Get martcharacterize Steve Carell would fit into Maxwell’s character, this film kept me laughing from practically start to finish. Parents with small children might be wise to avoid it, (as we all know, that type of parents can be extremely sensitive), but for everyone else, it’s a blast! (Small children, don’t tell you’re over-sensitive parents I said that.)

3: The Muppets(2011)- The world, nay the universe, constantly dances on the line between ridiculous and brilliant, something these fun filled misfits seem to do with ease. For anyone  ready to lay down their troubles (which they constantly seem to be complaining to me about) for a while, this film is the one to do it with.

untitled4: Star Trek(2009)-Wow! For being based off easily one of the cheesiest TV shows of all time, this one turned out pretty well. Except for one unnecessary and gratuitous scene involving Kirk’s lady-killer side, this one is not to miss. Full of some the most exciting action I’ve ever seen, it is one of the few films that as soon as it was over, I wanted to go back to the beginning and watch it again. Post-post thought; I love a good CGI creature, and although this film didn’t need it, it seemed to throw two of them in there just for fun. That’s a good movie!

Those that DIDN’T:

1: The A-team-This film disappointed me to no end. the characters were off, the acting was lazy, the script was poor, the action ridiculous…I could go on, but who wants me to. Let me conclude that I loved the original series and hated this.

2: Transformers 2&3-UGH! Probably the biggest budgeted bilgewater to hit the big transformersscreen. some shots may be cool, but the characters are hair thin, the acting stinks, Megan Fox literally just irritates, and the plots are some of the worst ever commissioned. ‘Nuf said.

3: Alvin and the Chipmunks-While perhaps not as awful as its peers in this post, the semi-original idea of having cheesy animated figures alongside live action actors seemed in retrospect doomed from the start. Not that it failed (in my book) for those reasons. A word to the wise; mousy voices are only fun for about three minutes.imagesS3KB57PI

4: The Last Airbender-Awful, simply awful. Let me say that the trailers and tv spots looked pretty cool, having practically no story elements in them, choosing to focus on some cool visual effect shots (the only cool ones, as I found out later). Don’t watch it. It’s a waste of your time.

Movie Review: The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug

smaug-eye-feature

*Spoilers*

Of all the movies of 2013, this was the one to see! Spiders, bears, elves, barrels, bowmen, and even a dragon!

If you’re anything like me, you’re something of a nut.  Likewise, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been obsessed with Tolkien since you read the Lord of the Rings at age eight.  One of the biggest regrets of your life was missing the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy in theatres, and now with their chronological predecessors, there’s a chance to make it up to yourself.

The first film was excellent in regards it’s faithfulness to the original book (with the exception of Azog, of course.) However, what it lacked was pizzazz, taking slowly and sluggishly what should have been exciting, not that it didn’t have its moments.  Having enjoyed the first movie in it’s own right, I was fully prepared to enjoy the reportedly much faster paced DoS, thinking that it would be the opposite of “An Unexpected Journey.”

And it was.  A sluggish start was replaced with a frenzied attempt to get Beorn, the giant skinchanger, on and off the screen as quick as possible.  Well thought through dialogue was replaced with choppy action sequences, which although fun to watch, were hardly inspired, with the exception of one scene.  Worst of all, a sloppy love triangle, ill-devised and frankly just ill, was introduced.  Not that I have a problem with love triangles (well yeah, I kind of do) but it did not in the least fit into the story.

For a film blessed with truly stupendous actors, for whatever reason, their acting didn’t seem to impress me.  Forced to deal with very cheesy lines, the gravity and weight each brought to their role was diminished greatly.  For example, Bilbo, exceptionally played by Martin Freeman, had hardly any character development, and seemed only there because Peter Jackson and his team couldn’t think of a way to write him out of the script.  Probably because he was the title character.

To round off the rant, patches of truly awful CGI kept popping up, distracting from the story (which may have been a good thing) and weakening the film’s action sequences (which was definitely not.)  Bolg was poorly rendered, resembling the cartoonish giants from Jack the Giant Slayer to a startling degree.  And every time a building was smashed or destroyed, the lover of good visuals called out within me, “WHY?!”.

Now for what was good about the film.  Believe it or not, quite a bit.

The barrel sequence, while dragging on longer than it’s welcome, was hilarious, the action being so cheesy that all one could do is sit back and laugh.  Bombur, the fat dwarf, is now one of my heroes.

Bard the ‘Bargeman’ seemed to be the only character that was taken seriously by the filmmakers, beside being stupendously acted.  You felt his anger, his despair as he helplessly felt the wrath of the dragon being poured out inside the mountain.

Which brings us to the main event…the dragon! Thousands of years old, full of malice and guile, seething with lust for wealth, Smaug was nothing short of stupendous! Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice resonated throughout the theater as Smaug riddled with Bilbo and made the ground shake during the great chase climax.  Smaug’s design was creative, his CGI magnificent, his defects impotent, save for one.

I am a big fan of Theonering.net, but as hard as I searched, nothing could be found about the issue I am about to bring up.  Therefore I must assume that what was in my mind one of the film’s biggest detractors was solely in my mind.  Two words; SMAUG’S LIPS MOVED!!!

This aggravated me to no end. For one thing, it was distracting from the glory of Smaug, for another, there’s no way that a dragon’s lips would form words, even if they were particularly ambidextrous. If anything, a dragon might manipulate the sound waves further back in his throat, but that’s another topic for another day.

Overall the film was enjoyable, the dark cliffhanger leading nicely into the third film.  But that was it.  Just enjoyable. Another action flick to be viewed with popcorn, on a level only slightly higher then those critically acclaimed masterpieces G.I.Joe: Rise of Cobra, Hot Rod, and The Last Airbender. From the prequel to “The Lord of the Rings,” that’s severely disappointing.