FlixChatter Review – How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How To Train Your Dragon has officially become one of my favorite movie trilogies ever… and perhaps even rival Toy Story as my fave animated trilogies. When the first movie first came out, it kind of took me by surprise just how much I adore it. In fact, it’s one of those rare times that I give a full 5 out of 5 score to a film. I loved the second movie too, but it wasn’t as good as the first but still earned a stellar 4.5 out of 5. So naturally, I was excited to see the final conclusion of Hiccup and Toothless journey in their land called Berk.

This time, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now a young man and since the death of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler in perhaps his best role ever), he’s now the chief of his land. Since the event of the last movie, Berk has become a dragon utopia where dragons of all sizes live in harmony with the Vikings community. The movie opens with an action sequence where Hiccup & his team of goons (except for the extremely capable Astrid) are in a rescue mission to release captured dragons from warlords. As they bring some of those creatures home, it’s clear that Berk has became way too chaotic for the two species to co-exist as the dragons’ and humans’ population continue to grow.

I like that Stoick hasn’t disappeared in the movie as he shows up in Hiccup’s flashbacks/memory flash. The late Berk chief has always been obsessed with the Hidden World, what Berk described as a safe haven for dragons, and now it’s become Hiccup’s mission to find that place. Meanwhile, Hiccup’s friendship with Toothless face the biggest test of all as the Night Fury became enamored by a beautiful stranger, a white-skinned dragon they end up calling The Light Fury.

As you might’ve seen in the trailers and various promos, the ‘dragons in love’ have been featured heavily. I’ve always been fond of Toothless, it’s simply an adorable creature with its cat-like eyes and movement. Light Fury is just as mesmerizing, I’d even call alluring in the way it bewitched Toothless. The moment Hiccup actually ‘coached’ his besotted friend and Toothless making an absolute fool of itself trying to impress its new lady friend is pretty hilarious.

One of the movie’s genuine emotional moments is when Hiccup realize he just might lose Toothless forever… and yet the good guy that he is, he learns to accept it. He even goes so far as rebuilding Toothless’ automatic tail so it could fly higher to be with Light Fury. But an enemy is never far behind… we’re introduced to a new villain, the dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly who apparently has killed every living Night Furies except for Toothless. Voiced by F. Murray Abraham (in a kind of Transylvanian accent??), I kept thinking the way the character’s drawn reminds me of Terrence Stamp.

Unlike the first movie where the pacing is smooth and there’s a nice flow in how everything unfolds, this one feels a bit haphazard and chaotic at times. There are a lot going on—we’ve got the entire Berk community moving to a new place, Toothless & Light Fury romantic interlude, Grimmel’s fiery attacks, Vikings vs Warlords battle, etc. that it was dragging at times. Furthermore, Grimmel isn’t that memorable a villain and some of the humors from Hiccup’s eccentric group of friends also feel a bit repetitive.

Thankfully there are still a lot to love, and in the end, the relationship between Hiccup & Toothless is the one that tugs your heartstrings. In fact, the last 20 minutes is where the movie soars the highest and I’m glad I packed tissues!

Character-wise, I think Hiccup is perhaps one of the most well-written animated characters (heck even movie characters in general). It’s a well-rounded coming-of-age story and Hiccup is a character whose whose journey is worth following. His relationship with his dad Stoick is revisited in a heartwarming way that make up for the lack of mother/son relationship with his mother (Cate Blanchett). I also appreciate writer/director Dean DeBlois in that he writes a formidable female character Astrid (America Ferrera) beyond just a love interest, but a wise and empathetic counsel to the often-overwhelmed Hiccup. One of the blond twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) is quite the comic relief, especially in her scenes with Grimmel.

Visually, the film once again looks positively glorious! I actually regret not seeing the original on the big screen, but I did see the second one in the cinema and it’s a must just for the flying sequences alone. The Hidden World itself is quite a spectacle, and seeing Toothless become more than the cute & loyal dragon pet but a leader for his species is pretty epic. It’s an intriguing parallel to Hiccup’s journey from boy to man. John Powell’s majestic score is one of my favorite movie music of all time (as I’ve highlighted here) I still absolutely love it here, it’s rousing and uplifting in the action scenes and perfectly touching in the quiet, dramatic moments.

I highly recommend this one, but I think it’d be more enjoyable if you’ve seen at least the first movie. Some people may think animation is mostly for kids, but this trilogy offers plenty for adults. The way it deals with mature themes, such as learning to let go, is emotionally resonant without giving up its playful nature. What a bittersweet goodbye to such wonderful characters we first saw nearly a decade ago. It’s definitely one of the most fun and most satisfying animated fantasy adventure with a stirring message of friendship, family and loyalty.


So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 3? Do you like this more or less than the original?

Thursday Movie Picks #49: Animated Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Every last Thursday for the first nine months of 2015 I’m running the All in the Family Edition and today the theme is… 

Animated Movies

I grew up watching so many Disney animated movies [mostly those Princess movies] and in the 90s, starting with Pixar’s first movie Toy Story, I quickly became a huge fan of their work as well. But Disney and Pixar films are massively popular so for the purpose of this list, I’m selecting three animated films I love that are made outside of those two studios. There are quite a few out there that are worth exploring, and I’m always astonished at the huge amount of work that go into making animated features.

So here are three that left a big impression to me and worth watching over and over:

Chicken Run (2000)

When a bird “flies” into a chicken farm, the fellow chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.

ChickenRun

I saw this Aardman animated feature years ago but I still remember it fondly. It’s such a bonkers idea to sort of remake The Great Escape but with chickens, yet it works brilliantly. Peter Lord and Nick Park’s claymation style is so unique and fun to look at, in fact the shape of the chickens alone are hysterical. I giggle just looking at them! I adore the characters, especially Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) who’s the smartest of the bunch. She and Rocky the circus Rooster (Mel Gibson) didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but they end up becoming close and believe it or not, their chemistry is so endearing. It’s such a hilarious and action-packed adventure that’s fun to watch over and over. It’s also got some of the funniest lines… “I don’t want to be a pie! I don’t like gravy.” Ha!

….

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

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I have to admit the idea of this Dreamworks Animation didn’t immediately appeal to me, so I was so surprised how much I absolutely LOVED it! Of course by the time I saw it on Blu-ray, I kicked myself for not having seen this on the big screen! The flying sequence alone would make the admission price worthwhile. I did see the sequel on the big screen but I still have a fondness for the first movie when Hiccup and Toothless first met.

It’s one of the most memorable depiction of unlikely friendship that’s funny and heartwarming. Visually it’s breathtaking, as I mentioned the flying sequence is a marvel to behold. The music by John Powell has also become my personal favorite amongst a bazillion soundtracks I hear year after year. I re-watched it just before the sequel came out and I still enjoyed it immensely. Who knew a movie about dragons could have so much heart? [read my full review]

Song of the Sea (2014)

Saoirse, a little girl who can turn into a seal, goes on an adventure with her brother to save the spirit world and other magical beings like her.

SongOftheSea

Having just seen this recently, it’s still fresh in my mind [review coming next week]. Made by Cartoon Saloon, an Irish-based animation studio, this is Tomm Moore’s second directorial effort. I immediately wanted to see it after watching The Secret of Kells. Just from the visual standpoint, it’s an amazing work of art, gorgeous and ethereal, and the movie itself has such a mythical quality. The story based on an Irish mythology certainly has a deeper meaning than the typical kids entertainment. In fact, this one might appeal to adults as much as kids.


What do you think of my picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

Music Break: Five Favorite JOHN POWELL Scores

John Powell is one of the most versatile composers working today. Just looking at his filmography, his work spans multiple genres: animation, romantic dramas, action/adventure, thrillers, etc.

johnpowell

I’ve been a fan of his work for some time, but for some reason I don’t always recognize that it’s him behind the great music I enjoy. So for that reason, and because I’m such a fan of his work, he’s the perfect subject for my Music Break! According to this Spitfire Q&A, early in his career Powell worked with Hans Zimmer at Media Ventures. His music influence also came from his dad, a tuba player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 50s and 60s, who performed on a lot of film scores.

Powell has been nominated for various major awards, including one Academy Award nomination (for How To Train Your Dragon) and three BAFTAs. I’ve said it before that composers are instrumental (pardon the pun) in the filmmaking process. A great score adds so much to the experience as a whole, and at times it could be the best thing about the movie itself.

So for this music break, here are my five favorites  from the talented British composer:

Bourne Ultimatum

Powell did all the Bourne films’ soundtrack except Bourne Legacy, and this one from Bourne Ultimatum is my favorite. He also worked with Moby on the Extreme Ways track that I’ve featured here.


P.S. I Love You

It’s interesting how he could go from an action theme like Bourne to something tender and sweet like this one. But I LOVE this music, I actually have the soundtrack in my car and I always replay this last theme on the CD.


Face/Off

One of my fave soundtracks from the 90s and it’s still awesome to listen to today. I love both the slower theme as well as the action-packed version. This is Powell’s big film project and at times it sounds a bit like something Hans Zimmer would’ve done. Of course over the years Powell’s created his own unique style in his music.


How To Train Your Dragon

This score won a bunch of awards, including an Oscar nomination. It’s perhaps one of my favorite scores of all time! The entire soundtrack is excellent but my all time favorite is this one that I’ve highlighted in this post. It literally makes my heart soar!


The Italian Job

Some of Powell’s music has that tribal sounding and this is one of them. Yet it sounds very cool, modern and exciting. I like this boat chase one a bit more than the mini cooper chase through the tunnel. Fun stuff overall.


Hope you enjoy today’s music break, folks.
So which John Powell’s score is YOUR favorite?

FlixChatter Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

HTTYD2Poster

I caught on to How To Train Your Dragon (2010) a bit late in that I waited until the Blu-ray to see it. Once I saw the exhilarating flying sequence, I wish I hadn’t missed the theatrical release. So I’m definitely glad I finally got to see the sequel on the big screen and what a treat it was!

This movie takes place five years after the first one so we see the protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now all grown up. The island of Berk where he lives looks quite different from the first time we saw it, thanks to Hiccup and his dragon BFF Toothless, dragons and the Vikings community are now in perfect harmony. In fact there’s now a Dragon Race that looks like Harry Potter’s Quidditch with dragons as their broomsticks. At its heart, the story still belongs to Hiccup and his friendship with Toothless. They’re as playful as ever and Hiccup’s engineering genius would rival that of Bruce Wayne. He could even fly on his own with self-made dragon wings!

HTTYD2Flying

I really could watch these two play for hours! Toothless is especially adorable, it’s akin to watching those cat videos, you just can’t get enough! The filmmakers really did an amazing job with the design of the dragon creatures, but most especially Toothless with his big goggly eyes and cat-like mannerism. Even with a slew of new dragon species being introduced here, Toothless is still the cutest one of them all.

But a cute dragon and fun flying sequence alone does not make a film. Fortunately writer/director Dean DeBlois (who also co-wrote/directed the first one) crafted yet another fun adventure that’s as rousing as it is full of heart. A mysterious old enemy of Hiccup’s dad Stoick (Gerard Butler) threatens to steal all the dragons for his dragon-army. But whilst Stoick is hellbent on war (he is voiced by Leonidas after all), Hiccup reasons that perhaps diplomacy is still an option. On his way to find Drago (Djimon Honsou), Hiccup encounter a dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harrington) and Cate Blanchett’s character Valka who lives amongst a whole bunch of dragons. I feel that the less said about her character the better as it’s pretty integral to the plot.

HTTYD2_HiccupToothless

What I love about this one is that even though there’s quite a lot going on and there are more action scenes than the first one, the focus is still on the Hiccup/Toothless relationship. There is a strong familial storyline here that makes it even more perfect for parents to see with their kids, but also the friendship theme that builds on loyalty and love. The battle of survival for Berk citizens puts Hiccup/Toothless’ friendship to the test, and there are some emotional scenes that really tug on my heart strings. It touches on a slightly darker theme here that is fitting with Hiccup growing up into adulthood.

The voice cast are truly wonderful. Baruchel is downright perfect as Hiccup and this could be one of Butler‘s best work in recent memory. Nice to see Cate Blanchett here and she embodies her character Valka very well. Stoick has a bit more screen time here that shows a different side of him. Kristen Wiig‘s Ruffnut had me laughing the way she is crushing on Eret. The way the camera keep zooming in on his muscled biceps is a hoot! There are genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout, so it’s not just Craig Ferguson‘s Gobber as the only comic relief.

HTTYD2_Stills

I have to mention how beautiful this movie is. The meticulous detail on the scenery and each and every single dragon is astounding. Animation technology has come along way even four years ago when the first movie came out but now the effects is even smoother. The flying sequence looks positively dazzling, it’s really meant to be seen on a large screen and I have to admit the 3D looks pretty darn good as well. Of course the music is a big part of the whole experience and John Powell did it again with his amazing score!

That said, I wouldn’t say this movie is perfect. I actually gave the first movie a full 5/5 rating, as I really couldn’t change a thing about it. But the sequel isn’t exactly flawless as I think the villain isn’t terribly interesting nor all that menacing. He also happens to be the only dark-skinned Viking and he happens to be the bad guy? Hmmm. It’s a small quibble however as overall it’s a pretty solid feature that builds on a lot of the great quality of the original. If Dreamworks could keep the quality of the third movie as good as the first two, it could rival Toy Story as the best animated feature trilogy ever.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 2? Do you like this more or less than the original?

A-Z Favorite Movie Titles Blogathon

FaveMovieTitleBlogathon

I’m a little late to this but I promised Brittani @ Rambling Film I’d do this when I get back from holiday. I can’t possibly missed not participating in her debut blogathon! Here are the rules:

1) Going through the alphabet, list your favorite movie title beginning with each letter.

2) You don’t have to necessarily like the movie to use it’s title.

3) Use the banner at the top of this post in yours.

4) Please have submissions in by Friday, May 30th*.

Now, even though Brittani said I don’t have to like the movie to use its title, my list consist of movies I love, not always a favorite but those I don’t mind seeing more than once. Of course there are a couple of guilty pleasures thrown in. For the purpose of narrowing things down, I’m only including movies from 90s and up. So here goes:

10 Things I Hate About You

Amazing Grace

Belle

Casino Royale

A-ZBlogathon_DieHard

Elizabeth

Four Weddings and A Funeral

Gladiator

How to Train Your Dragon

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Jurassic Park

The King's Speech

Licence To Kill

The Man In The Iron Mask

Nowhere Boy

One Fine Day

Pacific Rim

The Queen

The Rocketeer

Sense & Sensibility

Toy Story

V For Vendetta

A Walk In the Clouds

X-Men 2000

The Young Victoria

A-ZMovies_Unbreakable

A-ZMovies_ZeroDarkThirty


Check out what my fellow bloggers pick for their Favorite Movie Titles here.


So that’s that folks. Are any of your favorites on my list?

Music Break: ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ Themes by John Powell

HTTYDbanner

It’s been way too long since my last Music Break post and this is one I’ve been wanting to feature for a long time. Well tonight I’m going to How To Train Your Dragon 2 screening and it’s definitely a perfect time to feature this. I LOVE LOVE the first movie, which has become one of my all time favorite animated feature ever! In fact, I’ve watched my Blu-ray several times and I’ve always enjoyed it!

One of the best thing about the movie is the music! The soundtrack by John Powell is absolutely wonderful, it’s got that majestic feel to it whilst still retains its playfulness. What’s more, it’s actually a very moving score, I actually tear up sometimes when I listen to it. He collaborated with Icelandic musician Jónsi for this album. This Flying theme is my absolute favorite, I could imagine Hiccup and Toothless soaring to the sky as I’m listening to it.

Well, I’m thrilled that Mr. Powell is back doing the soundtrack for the second film! Well, it sounds just as great, it still retains some of the sounds from the first one. I love how lush this music is, I especially love this one called Beyond the Clouds, which I’m thinking is the flying sequence as well.

HTTYD2_FlyingScene

I missed the theatrical release of the first movie, so I can’t wait to see this one, especially the flying sequence in its big screen glory!


What do you think of this soundtrack? Are you also anticipating the How To Train Your Dragon 2?

Weekend Viewing Roundup and World War Z review

Hello all, hope you have a great weekend. Today is the Autumnal Equinox, that is the first day of Fall! I’m sooo lovin’ the crisp, cool air of Autumn! 😀 So did you hit the theaters this weekend? Perhaps you went to see PRISONERS, billed as the first adult drama of the Fall season. If you’ve read Ted’s review from Friday, sounds like it’s worth a watch despite the long running time of more than 2.5 hours! As for me, I’d rather rent that film later on because of that running time.

Gravity_ThumbnailI did see Gravity last week and this is my quick thought on that film:

It’s perhaps THE best 3D film I saw all year and it’s one of those films that’s best to experience on the big screen or even IMAX. I can’t review it until its US release date of October 4 but let me just say it lives up to the hype. Always nice when that happens!

HTTYD_ThumbnailI also rewatched How to Train Your Dragon, which was as much fun as the first time I saw it. This is the fourth time we watched our Blu-ray, so the re-playability value is great. It always made us regret that we didn’t get to see this on the big screen! So when the sequel comes out next year, we’ll make sure to catch it on IMAX. The flying sequences with the Night Fury a.k.a. Toothless is spectacular!

Now here’s my review of…

WORLD WAR Z

WWZ_banner On Friday night, we managed to watch the unrated version of World War Z. I had been curious about this movie for some time and I heard complaints from people the fact that the film has a PG-13 rating. Now, having seen the unrated version which shows some of the really brutal scenes, including a hand getting chopped off with blood spluttering all over, I’d think that the film would probably make less of an impact in its toned-down version. Ted has posted his full review a few months ago so I’m not going to rehash the plot again. Besides, all you need to know is that a virus has somehow turned a large population of the world into the undead and it’s quickly spreading as every person who got bitten immediately turns into a flesh-eating zombie! Now, as a non-fan of the Zombie sub-genre, I wasn’t too keen on this film initially. But the more I read about it, including the numerous production issues and multiple rewrites, I’m curious how this film would turn out. Well, I actually quite like this one. I think the scale of just how catastrophic the zombie attacks are, devouring major cities in a matter of minutes, is pretty well-done. The personal story of Brad Pitt‘s character and his family isn’t as compelling as I had thought, and I agree with Ted that Mireille Enos‘ role who seemed intriguing at first ended up being nothing more than just the worried wife as her husband is out saving the world. WWZ_stills The film also has a pretty strong third act at a W.H.O. facility, which gives us a nice break from the herd of zombies as a small band of human survivors try to outsmart remaining zombies in a deserting wing of the UN building. Interesting to see Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as “W.H.O. Doctor.” As you know, a couple of months after the film’s release, the BBC announced he would be portraying the title role in Doctor Who. Pretty uncanny, huh? [SPOILER ALERT – highlight text below to read] One of the gripes I have with the movie is regarding the demise of the young virologist Andrew Fassbach who’s on mission to South Korea to find the source of the zombie outbreak. I mean seriously, with all of those zombies all around him, he actually perished when he tripped on the plane’s rear door and accidentally shot himself!! Unbelievable! Is this one of those last-minute rewrites that they didn’t even bother to figure out a decent way to go for the doctor?? I thought that was pretty lame that it took me out of the movie for a bit. Anybody else bothered by that?? I also heard that this finale is a result of one of those rewrites, which gives the audience a more hopeful ending. My impression is that the finale is a bit too good to be true, but I guess it’s got a perfect set up for a sequel. Props for Marc Forster for delivering an action-packed zombie thriller that’s both thrilling and suspenseful. Instead of a typical monster horror flick, World War Z is more in the vein of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion which also deals with an infectious disease that spreads quickly. I think the scariest part is that those two films make me think that this kind of calamity is perhaps not so implausible. Maybe we should give this CDC article a read then, you just never know, ahah.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU see this weekend?