How to Train your Dragon 2 3D

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In 2010, How to Train Your Dragon delighted the cinema-going public with its first class animation, exciting narrative, snappy dialogue and loveable characters. It impressed audiences and critics alike as a thoroughly enjoyable family adventure all wrapped up in some really quite adult concepts . Therefore, it didn’t take much arm twisting to drag me along to the sequel this weekend, and I was even willing to give 3D another chance, as, you know, dragons and fire flying at your face, well it sounded pretty cool…

It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave, that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe in while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.

It was always going to be a difficult task to sustain the brilliance of the first How to Train Your Dragon. The plot, whilst exciting and thrilling, was actually a rather simple premise that centred on the unexpected bond between Hiccup and Toothless and came to a natural conclusion with a fittingly furious final battle sequence. In How to Train Your Dragon 2 everything has been cranked up exponentially. There is so much action and on such a big scale that at times it was reminiscent of the final battle scenes in Lord of the Rings. In contrast to this, there were times when the pace swung dramatically in the opposite direction, to almost a standstill, as the relationships in Hiccup’s family were explored and developed. The result was a film that felt very ‘BANG BANG BANG; whisper whisper; BANG BANG BANG’, which didn’t always work for me. In making How to Train Your Dragon 2 bigger, louder and showier, it has lost a lot of its original charm.  All that said, despite these problems, a lot of the components that made the original film great are still there; the undeniably clever and endearing characterisation of the dragons; the core relationship between Hiccup and Toothless; adult themes, about family, death and war that don’t patronise; and a vein of comedy running through the whole film.

Overall How to Train Your Dragon 2  is a commendable and respectable sequel that hasn’t been afraid to tackle big ideas and emotions. The original is by far the superior film but there is still a lot to enjoy here. Having said that the 10 year old boy I watched it with loved all the action and categorically confirmed it was ‘awesome’ and was ‘just as good as the first’. So what do I know?

(Oh before I forget, save yourself some money and don’t bother with the 3D. There is light loss, problems with picture clarity and not once did I say oooooooo at any speeding dragons or fire. Rubbish.)

 

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ParaNorman

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ParaNorman, the brainchild of Chris Butler, who has previously worked as a Storyboard Supervisor on Coraline and The Corpse Bride, is a 2012 stop-motion animation about Norman Babcock, an unassuming boy from Massachusetts, who can speak with the dead. ParaNorman breaks ground all over the place, not least because it is the first ever stop-motion animation to utilize full-colour 3-D printers, but because it successfully blends horror, comedy and a fun, family adventure all into one masterfully-crafted end product.

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The 3-D Printers in action

As is the key with most lasting animations, the title character often determines how successful or resonating the movie will ultimately be with its audience. Here Norman is the perfect hero- he is an ideal blend of the relatable, with an element of the extraordinary, making him likeable and sweet, which cements our desire for him to succeed. Arguably, Norman is the life force of the film, however, the supporting characters are equally as tangible and rounded. Neil, Norman’s best friend, is the perfect antidote to Norman’s understandably pessimistic view of the world, and Casey Affleck, as Neil’s brother Mitch, and Anna Kendrick, as Norman’s vapid sister Courtney, both bounce charismatically off each other brilliantly. Together they bring a lot of the film’s lighter moments, of which there many, within the knife sharp script, with its cutting and insightful wit and gleefully dark undercurrent.

Written with a clear love of animation and a respect for the audience, ParaNorman plays on the edge of ‘child appropriate’ with some genuinely scary and ominous moments. Mortality, persecution, acceptance and forgiveness are all major themes here, which Butler navigates with the expertise and quality of a seasoned story teller. The message never feels forced or trite and even the end showed a pathos and maturity that is often missing from films for adults.  This maturity is built in, none more so than in the aesthetics themselves.

Visually this film is popping candy for the eyes. The stop-motion is incredible, echoes of The Corpse Bride and Coraline are clear to see, however this film is anything but lazy or unoriginal. Direction from Butler and Sam Fell means the animation is woven in with the CGI gracefully and intelligently,and the attention to detail is stunning. They have created a world we recognise that is admirably void of the, sometimes distancing, gloss of most animations. This world is real, dirty, dark and scary and is the perfect back-drop to a wonderful story.

ParaNorman is a breath of fresh air within an orgy of superheroes sequels and a deluge of rehashed ideas. It’s funny, well made, heartfelt and bloody fantastic. If you like film, you’ll love this.

Movie 43

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I got back from Barcelona on Tuesday. I had a fantastic time, met some great people, but also had 24 hours ruined by a pickpocket stealing my iPhone; cue police stations, a lack of Catalan-speaking skills and sweltering heat. What possessed me, when I got back home, to rent Movie 43 I will never know – maybe it was a form of self-harm – however, I had to see what the fuss was about….and boy, was I not expecting the extent of what I actually saw.

Movie 43 is the most misjudged, confusing, insulting and boring movie I have ever seen. Period. Even the name, Movie 43, stinks of mediocrity. What was sold as THE BIGGEST CAST EVER ASSEMBLED was actually a half-arsed anthology film that delivered fecal jokes, farts, boobs, dicks and balls, racism, sexism, leprechaunism, and zero intelligent humour. Honestly, throughout the hellishly arduous runtime I found myself questioning how on Earth someone greenlit this screenplay beyond a first draft. The wrap-around story in the UK version – teenagers looking for the banned film Movie 43 ‘it will make you rip your dick off!’ – was like watching amateur ad-lib, and the stellar cast (all facetiousness aside) involved with each segment of shit jokes and ‘laughs’ – one section was actually child abuse – weren’t much better (bar a pretty convincing-cum-WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING performance from Emma Stone).

This film is just an orgy of awful. Outrageous comedy doesn’t have to poke fun an minorities or make jokes about ‘gross’ periods. How long will it be until the skeletons of Hollywood realise that shit isn’t funny? Well, not in your face shit, because subtle shit can sometimes be hilarious. But everything in Movie 43, including its shit, is turned up to children’s TV presenter levels of obnoxious self-loathing. There is only so long you can watch a cartoon cat masturbate over pictures of Josh Duhamel in swimming trunks. Or watch the respected Broadway actor/Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, complete with balls hanging off his neck (this is played completely straight), take the Oscar winning actress, Kate Winslet, on a date. Those are spoilers, however there honestly is nothing to spoil.

I think the main problem with this movie is that, much like Disaster Movie, it’s going to build up a reputation for being so bad it is good. It is not. Movie 43, despite having one of the biggest ensemble casts of actors, comedy stars and Johnny Knoxville, should be locked up in a steel tub and sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.