Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Craig Ferguson

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz


Brave (2012)

Don’t worry Katniss, you can still hit a bulls eye better.

The story is set in the Scottish highlands and centers on Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald), the red-haired princess of the kingdom who defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to her land. In order to right her wrong, she goes to a Wise Woman who grants her an ill-fated wish that may be more than she bargained for.

After the disappointing Cars 2 from last year, Pixar seems like they have finally gotten themselves back up to where they were in the first place. Sadly, I think their bar has been raised a little too high for their own good.

What I liked most about Brave, was the set-up of this flick. I would say probably the first 45 minutes are exciting, adventurous, and very funny and this is where I really thought I had a keeper on my hands. I mean you got Princess Merida acting like a cool, young chick that she is, wanting to do her own thing and you feel like that’s what this film is going to be all about. However, there’s a big twist right in the middle of the flick that I won’t give away and then that’s when things start to get…well..kiddish.

I know it sounds stupid for me to get mad at a Pixar flick for being too “kiddish”, considering that’s the type of movies they make, but the twist here just felt like they were really taking away from a story that could have done so much to me. It could have made me get excited, it could have made me laugh a whole lot more, and it probably could have made me laugh, but instead, it just goes for this playful idea that doesn’t talk about Merida and her struggle of doing what she wants to do, it actually is about her and her mother. This really surprised me because all of the trailers have been pretty much advertising this as a crazy epic, with a strong female lead, that finds out what she wants to do with her life and how. The problem is, that’s only the first hour and the rest is left for us to see and cringe at.

Actually, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “cringe-worthy” but it’s just disappointing to see, coming from Pixar. Pixar is the company that has had me, in the past, drowning in a puddle of my own tears, destroying my gut by how much I was laughing, and walk out of the theater with a big smile on my face, wanting to hug every person that walked by my for the next 10 minutes. But now, it seemed like Pixar was playing it a little too safe with this one and rather than just going that extra mile in trying to connect with both kids and adults alike, they just go for the low-road and make this movie towards kids. Once again, nothing really wrong with that, it’s just a bummer that this is what Pixar ended up going on with in the end but it’s not their worst film. Just not their best either.

Aside from all of the bad things, though, Brave also has a lot of good that I can’t leave unnoticed. The visuals, of course, for this movie are absolutely gorgeous and I definitely recommend seeing this one in 3D. This is the first time that Pixar has visited the land of Scotland, and they make it look like such a fantasy world with all of these vibrant colors popping out of nowhere and long, sweeping shots of land and forests. Probably the most beautiful thing to look at, out of this whole movie, is actually Merida’s flowing red locks that come right out at you in the 3D as if you can almost reach out and nip a piece of her hair out. So whenever the story is getting you down, just pay attention to the eye candy this movie has on-display here and then it will all get better, as it did for me.

Another first here for Pixar, is that this is the first time they are focusing a film around a female lead and I think they found the perfect one with Merida. First of all, Merida is a kick-ass character that is like all teenage girls out there: she wants to be her own woman, wants to do things herself, and rebels against everything her mother says or tells her to do. This is obviously, an easy character to relate to and cheer on but she also has a lot of spunk to her that gives her this edge, where you don’t know what’s going on throughout her mind next. It’s a pretty cool character and I think that Kelly McDonald was a great choice to voice her but my thing with her is that every time I mention Merida and the word “heroine” in the same sentence, I can’t stop thinking about Trainspotting. I know, I can’t help it, that’s just where my mind goes sometimes.

The rest of the voice cast is pretty good as well, with some familiar voices here and there. Emma Thompson brings some heart to Merida’s conflicted mother, Elinor, and also shows that she can handle a Scottish accent very well. So well, that some of the people around me in my screening were actually jabbering on about whether or not that was Thomspon’s voice. Probably the most times I laughed during this film, were the times the film focused on the subplot with Merida’s dad and his way of controlling a wild and out-of-control drunken party at the castle, with the other kings. I think the main reason I laughed at these parts so much were because when you have such vocal talents like Billy ConnollyKevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson on-top of their A-game, you can’t help but laugh your ass off, even when things start to get very cute for this film in the last act, and all of these guys are merely forgotten.

Consensus: Brave definitely has some nice heart, humor, and beautiful visuals to show off, but it’s not Pixar’s best because of a surprising plot twist that takes it right into kiddie material, which wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t any other flick. However, it is Pixar and the bar has been raised a little too high for them to do something like this, and almost get away with.


How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Now instead of a dog and a cat that I have, I want a dragon.

As the son of a Viking leader on the cusp of manhood, shy Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III faces a rite of passage: He must kill a dragon to prove his warrior mettle. But after downing a feared dragon, he realizes that he no longer wants to destroy it. So, he befriends the beast — which he names Toothless much to the chagrin of his warrior father.

This film was probably one of the biggest surprises of last year. Jeez, now I can say last year, whenever I talk about 2010. Anywho, this film grossed about half a billion dollars at the box office, and was one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Never would have I expected that from an animated film starring Gerard Butler, and Jay Baruchel.

The screenplay is what took me by surprise with this film as it has a decent amount of good comedy, but the dramatic depth is what really takes you over. There is a montage in this film that is used with no dialogue, and it really does tug at your heart. Showing you that sometimes no words spoken at all, can sometimes be the most effective. The film has a message about being pro-animal and how we should treat all species with respect, but they don’t hammer us with that message, and it feels fresh.

However, it’s the visuals that take over this film. There are plenty of flying scenes that will strike you in awe, as you are taken on this beautiful, fun ride, and the visuals are just breath-taking. It looks pretty, but it also has the action to back it up, and keep you watching, and sit in amazement.

The only problem I had with this film was that it just wasn’t as memorable as I was expecting it to be. Yeah it’s got a good story, and awesome visuals, but will I be buying this for my kids 20 years from now, telling them about my experience with this movie as a kid? No, and it is very good, just compared to other DreamWorks animation films it’s not as good.

Jay Baruchel‘s nerdy, awkward-voiced way of delivery actually is works here, and his character is a your typical softy, but a lot of the timing from his delivery, brings out a likability within his character. Gerard Butler is actually in a film that doesn’t blow! He plays the viking father, with his native Scottish accent, and does a good job for once. Wish I got to see more of this, but something tells me I shouldn’t get my hopes up. America Ferrera doesn’t really have that many lines in this film, but her character is strong, and we think shes actually pretty cool. Others in this film are Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kristin Wiig, and McLovin.

Consensus: Although not as memorable as other animated films that have came out in the past couple of years, How To Train Your Dragon still impresses with its great story, that has effective emotional depth, and enchanting visuals, that keep you watching.