How to Train Your Dragon 2: An Honest Review

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Directed By: Dean DeBlois

Written By: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell (“How to Train Your Dragon” book series)

Music Composed By: John Powell

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Marge and I just got back from seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 and this movie wowed us. So, even though I have some E3 stuff to catch up on (o.O), both Marge and I will be co-writing our Honest Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2. Let’s dig in shall we!

Now, for those who aren’t familiar with the first movie…why are you reading? It’s a sequel! Get out of here!

…just kidding.

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise is based on a series of (currently) 12 children’s books, the first in the series falling under the exact same name. The first book has quite a few differences from the first film (which you can see by following the link above), but the books’ author Cressida Cowell has said that she likes the films, and understands that changes must be made in adaptation.

The first movie’s plot (spoilers, by the way) is centered on dragon prejudice, as the creatures repeatedly terrorized Berk, the home of the Viking characters. All of the humans have gross or unpleasant names to make them tough, we think, and they only kept dragons to train their young to fight them. They catalogued information about them in a book as well, noting that dragons breeds and abilities are about as varied as pokemon.

Hiccup, who is the son of the chief but weaker, skinnier, and more tender-hearted compared to other kids, struggles to fight the dragons like everyone else.

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Not because he really wants to, but because he wants to please his village and his father. He finds the latter particularly difficult, because his father regards him as kind of an embarrassment, and doesn’t listen to him much. Figuratively and literally, Hiccup has some big shoes to fill.

Trying to kill a dragon his own way (that being the brain over brawn, inventive way), he manages to wound a particularly elusive terror called the Night Fury, which no one has ever really seen. But instead of killing the thing, he befriends and learns from it, even inventing a way that it can fly again, with him in the saddle.

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Together, he and his new buddy, Toothless, work to bridge the gap between humans and dragons, culminating in a grand misunderstanding with the village and his dad, and, eventually, a climactic fight with a large “queen” dragon that has been intimidating the other, smaller dragons and demanding food sacrifices. The Vikings realize they were wrong, and they wrangle and ride the dragons to victory.

Hiccup nearly loses his life in the battle, but he makes it out with a brief fakeout moment (as you do with movies aimed at kids), and the loss of one leg.

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Quite a bold move for a family movie, too. But he and his blacksmith friend put together a neat, tricked-out peg leg for him, and he is back in the saddle in no time flat, finally accepted by his father and the rest of the village.

That, we believe, is Dreamwork‘s niche. They seem to love making stories about underdogs, as well as genre homages that end up becoming franchises of their own.

Another cool thing about this movie is that the loss of an important limb, for both Hiccup and Toothless, doesn’t ostracize or weaken them in any way from either dragons or the rest of Berk. The two primarily depend on each other, and become the strongest dragon/rider combo of the whole bunch.

But yeah. Happily ever afters all around! Everything is better than before!

Or is it?

*Warning*

This article contains not just some spoilers, but all the spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to see it for yourself, stop reading here!

Plot

Five years from the first film, the teens are now all young adults. The Vikings have reformed and the dragons are now fully integrated, contributing members of society. The other kids in the last movie, who initially thought Hiccup had some awesome dragon taming/slaying ability and only gradually figured out that he was befriending them in secret, have now become skilled dragon riders and racers.

Hiccup is being set up to be the next village chief, a responsibility he does not want. Though he, with his trusty pet dragon Toothless, has discovered many unexplored lands and territories, he has not discovered what he truly wants because he has not fully discovered himself.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a massive ice formation. They encounter a young dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort.

Plus, Hiccup has a f***ing lightsaber!

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….Okay so it’s not a lightsaber. It’s called a Dragon’s Blade, nicknamed Inferno. But still, it’s freaking awesome and badass.

Eret then attempts to capture Hiccup and Astrid’s dragons for a conqueror called Drago Bludvist, from whom Eret has received a scar for failing to capture enough dragons.

Hiccup and Astrid are able to escape this encounter and return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing. Stoick, who has decided to “protect his own”, orders the villagers to fortify the entire island and prepare for battle instead of attempting to reason with Drago, as Hiccup suggested. Hiccup then flies off with Astrid as they are closing the gates and they heroically…surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret, so as to be taken to Drago.

However, Stoick, Gobber and Berk’s other dragon riders pursue and find them before Eret takes him to Drago. Stoick explains to Hiccup that he once met Drago before. Drago wanted to convince the whole Viking console that he knew how to kill all the dragons and all they had to do for that would be to bow down to him. They laughed it off, as did most of the group listening to this story, but when Drago stormed out, an armored dragon crashed through the roof and burned the place. Only Stocik escaped with his life, and the event has clearly shaken him to this day.

Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable and again, flies off with Toothless. They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka. Inferno can be used not only for the use of combat, but also to allow him to bond with wild dragons and show them that he is “one of their own.”

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Valka is revealed to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. The two of them then make up for lost time, bonding as mother and son over their mutual love of dragons.

As it turns out, Valka was once like Hiccup. She believed that dragons were good, and tried to persuade others to no avail. She realized she was right when, during one “dragon attack,” one of the creatures snuck into Hiccup’s room. Instead of hurting or eating him, it played with him, but Stoick muscled his way onto the scene and, mistaking the situation, engaged the dragon in combat. It burned the room and fled, taking Valka with it.

This explains most of Stoick’s dislike and distrust of dragons in the previous film, fixed only when he sees Toothless loyally defend and fight with his son, against all odds.

Stoick and Gobber track Hiccup to the island, where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret, thinking Hiccup has gone after Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk’s dragons and the nest with the alpha, leading him to drop everything and hightail-it there.

His army lays siege to Valka’s sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle erupts between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all of the dragons. Drago’s Bewilderbeast emerges victorious (by killing the other one, albeit bloodlessly) and seizes control of all the dragons.

Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago has a vendetta against dragons, and has grown increasingly unreasonable and power-hungry. With control of the new alpha, and by extension, the dragon army, he can wipe out dragons with other dragons, and subjugate the humans who come to him for protection.

He can’t see the potential to befriend the dragons and gain their respect.

Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha (which Drago directly and verbally commands), approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast at him. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. When Toothless regains his senses, a heart-broken and angry Hiccup drives him off. Drago leaves Hiccup and the others, riding the re-bewitched Toothless, and leads his now larger army to destroy/enslave Berk.

Stoick is given a neat “Epcot Viking funeral”; a cool image, complete with a ship set ablaze by flaming arrows. Hiccup, filled with regret at the loss of his father, but also new determination, decides that he will fly back to Berk to “protect his own,” as both Stoick and Valka advised him previously.

The dragon riders ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control (as they don’t listen to anyone. Haha, sure the parents got a good snort out of that one), and arrive at Berk after the Alpha has already attacked on the village and taken control of the dragons there. Drago destroys things and generally terrifies the village.

Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless in the air, while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast by catapulting sheep, among other things. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. He knew his friend never meant to hurt him, or his father, and his courage and unyielding trust in the dragon break through to him, and he fights the alpha’s control from there on out.

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Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived however, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the alpha, repeatedly fires plasma blasts at it. At this, the other dragons are freed from the Bewilderbeast’s control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue erected in Stoick’s likeness, and Hiccup living up to his duties as chief.

In the last film, the dialogue from the beginning is turned on its head in the end. Now, it reaffirms the convictions of the beginning, that dragons are their friends and worthy of their respect, with an extra quip that playfully warns away anyone who would rise against them. Hiccup proudly declares that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has dragons. So good luck with that.

Characters

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Movie 2014

Hiccup is the main human character. He is a bit scrawny and wimpy, although now a bit less so, but makes up for it with his resourcefulness, intelligence, and his desire to keep the peace and negotiate. He hesitates a bit, unsure of himself and uncomfortable living in his father’s shadow, but both this and the previous film do a great job showing him coming into his own, finding his own strength as the next leader of his village. He can build traps, equipment for dragons and riders, and a glider that allows him to fly alongside Toothless, at times. He spends a lot of time exploring the land around Berk, naming and mapping it.

Toothless is Hiccup’s dragon companion. While he is silent (aside from gurgles and various sound effects), his face and body are very fluid and expressive, giving him almost as much personality as Hiccup. He is covered in black scales, has black and yellow eyes and a large mouth. The left side of his tail fin is missing, replaced by an artificial one that Hiccup put in place. He is a fast and agile flier, and rumored to be the last of his kind, the Night Fury, which is known as one of the most, if not the most, intelligent breed of dragons.

Stoick is the head of Berk, father of Hiccup, and best friend to Gobber, the blacksmith. While he is accepting of dragons now, he can still be stubborn and not listen to Hiccup, who frequently mumbles and beats around the bush anyway. He is large, strong, and extremely loyal, to the point that he does not appear at all angry with his wife, even though she essentially hid from him for 20 years.

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Drago Bludvist is a new character, and the resident “bad guy.” His unnamed village was attacked when he was a kid, and his arm was either chewed or blasted off. His only real character trait is ruthlessness. He shows no mercy to dragons, or people, if they cross him.

He could have been more interesting, given more motivation, personality, or even less vagueness in his backstory. He isn’t forgettable, necessarily, but he comes across as very standard. By the books baddie.

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Valka is a new character, wife of Stoick and mother of Hiccup. She has essentially gone Tarzan, living in harmony with the dragons and learning all of their secrets. She did not go back to Stoick and Hiccup (even after she learned to ride dragons) because she was convinced that nothing in Berk would ever change, and she couldn’t compromise what she felt was the right thing. As with Drago, it might have been interesting to learn more about her, but que sera sera…

Astrid is (now officially) Hiccup’s fiancé. In the last film, she was stubborn, proud, and violent, but now she is a bit more reserved emotionally. She still has her fun, snarky, ass-kicking moments, and moments where she mouths off at the bad guys, too. She is the best fighter of the group, and has become almost as good a dragon rider as Hiccup, despite getting pushed to the background frequently.

The rest of the group are Fishlegs, the large, clumsy, nerdy one; Snoutlout, the bro-y guy who thinks he’s cooler than he is; and Ruffnut and Tuffnut, fraternal twins that like to prank, bicker, and generally be vulgar with themselves and others. Ruffnut, the girl twin, crushes on Eret after she meets him, constantly flirting and making creepy faces.

<Marge note: 50% of the time, she is funny, and the other 50% is “Do. Not. Want!”>

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For a while, she also has Fishlegs and Snoutlout at her beck and call. I guess that is because she is the only single girl left in the group, but she uses them, then acts disgusted and annoyed by them, repeatedly.

These characters (other than Astrid) mostly make up different flavors of comic relief, usually relating to slapstick and clumsiness. Gobber is the dry-wit comic relief. He, Astrid, and Hiccup get most of the one-liners.

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Eret is a new character, a dragon trapper that works for Drago. He seems cocky, only interested in money and saving his own skin, but he turns around when Astrid’s dragon saves him from being murdered by Drago.

Music

Since music is my speciality, this part is strictly from me.

John Powell returned from the first movie, which he won his first Academy Award from, to score the sequel. Powell recorded his music in London with a 120 piece orchestra and a 100-voice choir. The music was conducted by the composer’s usual collaborator, Gavin Greenaway. Powell called the project “a maturation story”, stating that he also hoped to achieve maturation in the structure of his music, by further developing and pushing every aspect of his compositions from the original film. Even with such a good foundation, it can be a challenge building off of the old and making outstanding new.

<Marge note: At times in the score, I could swear I heard notes and chords from “Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal),” from Disney/Pixar’s Brave. Just a few, and I couldn’t be totally sure, but still. But I like that song, so no issue there 🙂 Also, all of the adults have Scottish accents (despite the kids sounding distinctly American) anyway.>

Also on the project were pipers from the Scottish group, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers (not to be confused with the “Peppers”), and Sigur Rós lead vocalist, Jónsi, who wrote the songs in collaboration with the composer.

A soundtrack album for the film will be released on June 17, 2014 by Relativity Music Group. The album will feature over an hour of score by Powell, along with two original songs by Jónsi. Powell is expected to come back for the next film as well, which is currently planned for sometime in 2016. Interestingly enough, Norwegian artist Alexander Rybak, who provides the Norwegian voice for Hiccup, also provides the song, “Into a Fantasy” in the European version of the film.

The songs and score combine some of the traditional and modern, which works nicely and fits the more modern characters dwelling in an old world” theme. “Where No One Goes” takes one of the main musical themes from the last movie, and adds lyrics and different instrumentation to it. This song is both of our favorites of the whole soundtrack.

Comedy/Drama/Things Parents Might Want to Know

We’ve already sort of brought up the comedy in the character section. It’s funny, if a little overdone sometimes (particularly Ruffnut). So let’s move on to the drama, shall we?

Oh, the drama. Be warned, for once you reach the second half of the film, the feels get pretty intense. There are aerial battles (of course), but also…

Hiccup’s dad dies instantly, seemingly painlessly, leaving no room for spluttering breaths or a death speech. Hiccup momentarily lashes out at Toothless for killing him (albeit unintentionally), but while Hiccup realizes it too late, as you would expect, it’s pretty quick by the standards of movie run time. Some emotions are short, but well played, making good use of what time they are allowed.

We heard a few kids cry in the theatre during the funeral scene, but at least it didn’t linger on the body so much, like with some other notable characters.

The original alpha dragon dies, but as we’ve mentioned, it’s bloodless and very quick. Marge almost didn’t realize it at first, so it might fly over plenty of people’s heads. At least at first.

We give Dreamworks credit: they certainly don’t pull punches. Maybe everything turns out alright in a Disney movie (except for the parents, because screw having parents!), but Dreamworks seems to like to mess with the typical idea of a “happy ending.” Just like they really like making the main characters of their movies losers, outcasts, or grotesque in some way (probably in an effort to make them more realistic, or at least relatable).

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A happy ending in the last movie meant dealing with the loss of Hiccup’s leg. This movie’s happy ending is moving on from the loss of his father and becoming head of the village. Sometimes, the happiest ending of all is just making it through the day. That can be a worthwhile lesson, even if it isn’t the cheeriest.

Effects

To quote the mighty, all-knowing, and infallible Wikipedia:

“How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film that used ‘scalable multi-core processing’, developed together with Hewlett-Packard. Called by Katzenberg as ‘the next revolution in filmmaking,’ it enabled artists for the first time to work on rich complex images in real time, instead of waiting eight hours to see the results next day. The film was also the studio’s first film to use its new animation and lighting software through the entire production. Programs, named Premo  and Torch, allowed much more subtlety, improving facial animation and enabling ‘the sense of fat, jiggle, loose skin, the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together.‘”

Just as with How to Train Your Dragon, the highlights of the film are any given flying seen. Whether just flying to fly, or flying into battle, the characters and their dragons practically leap off of the screen.

Shiiiiiiiiiny.....
Shiiiiiiiiiny…..

If visuals alone could carry a film, this would definitely qualify as a good, strong one. Thankfully, it also has engaging characters and story.

But animation and graphics are crucial, for without them, we would not be able to buy the illusion, no matter how good the story was. That is the simultaneous goal and challenge of film as a medium, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 laughs at such a challenge, daring the audience not to be enthralled and enraptured by the world it has created. Look at the gif above again, and just stare in awe at the detail put into every wave on that CG sea.

Overall (and from both of us)

9 out of 10. Definitely a must see for kids of all ages, especially those at heart.

 

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The Legend of Zelda Overview

How about that trailer for Zelda 2015?

E3 has come and it will be ending tonight, but it has left a huge amount of potential for new games….for 2015. Yeah, that’s right we have to wait for 2015 in order for the next gen to really kick-start. I will be going into more detail about this year’s E3 in a later article.

However, in light of two new Zelda based games, Zelda 2015 and Hyrule Warriors, I wanted to team up with Marge to do a Legend of Zelda series “review”. It is a favorite series of games for both of us, and the legends and the lore are as fun and fascinating as the gameplay.

This really won’t be a review as much as it will be us talking in-depth about each of the games separately and some of the theories that have spawned from each game, even adding some of our own theories and research.

We’ll be getting those out to you when we can.

Thanks again, and stay thirsty my bros.

Sia’s “Chandelier”

All right! Back to the jams!

I’ve been itching to do this one for a while now. I like Sia, and I really like this song.

Before we start, here are a couple of things to mention:

  • Sia Furler is a 38 year-old Australian-born singer/songwriter, who started out as an Indie darling and has since exploded into the mainstream pop world on such tracks as “Wild Ones” and “Titanium.” Recently, she has written much with and for other people, collaborating with David Guetta, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce, among many notable others.

 

 

  • The dancer is Maddie Ziegler, a contestant from yet another show about moms living vicariously through their children, wearing a “Sia” wig. No, I am not passing judgment on her as a person or a dancer, or people who watch the show. I’m just not crazy about the whole Toddlers in Tiaras trend for a number of reasons, so I don’t watch shows like that. I did see Honey Boo-Boo once out of morbid curiosity, and I swore never again.

 

And…that’s about all we need to know, so let’s move on to my review of the song and video.

Unlike with “Birthday,” my first time hearing the song was while watching the official video. Therefore, I shall talk about both. Don’t worry, though. I won’t take long. 🙂

Here is the official video, for your convenience:

 

 

Here are the lyrics, for double the convenience:

“Party girls don’t get hurt

Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw ’em back, till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

And I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw ’em back till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

And I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight
On for tonight
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight
On for tonight
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight
On for tonight”

 

Quick First Impressions:

“That leotard makes the girl look naked. Must be symbolism!”

“This reminds me of when I tried ballet as a kid. Except maybe the bugging eyes.”

“…Sia sounds a bit different this time around. What is with the Elmer Fudd and Rihanna impressions?”

“I hope that chandelier can hold her. If it doesn’t, she won’t be living ‘like tomorrow doesn’t exist’ for much longer…Personally, I’d go for the one from Phantom of the Opera.”

 

Actual “Thoughtful” Analysis:

In many song reviews, I will distinguish the singer from the “character,” as many songs are stories, or are written and produced by multiple people (this particular song definitely has the latter trait, if nothing else). Whether or not he or she is the “author avatar” is ultimately irrelevant, unless I’m review the singer/songwriter as a whole.

On the surface, “Chandelier” seems like just another “party like it’s no tomorrow” song. Like “DJ Got US Fallin’ in Love,” or pretty much any Ke$ha or Pitbull song. Not as pop-y, no rap cameos, and the singer feels genuinely and naturally talented (a rare occurrence), but the same basic principle. Nothing special, right?

What it really sounds like, when you get right down to it, is a cry for help. The verses reflect exhaustion, especially the second, shorter set, as the character seems to be enduring an almost robotic series of actions on repeat, literally going through the motions of partying again and again. She clearly feels like she has to. It looks like an addiction, no doubt escaping and/or covering up something in her regular, mundane life that is unpleasant. Stifling.

The chorus then explodes with a mighty surge; a veritable “Let It Go” moment, in which determination (or, more likely, desperation) kicks in and the character decides to go all out. What matters is feeling alive in the moment. She’s swinging on a possibly fragile chandelier that could come crashing down at any moment, but that moment is then, “tomorrow.” This is now.

That is what I have gathered.

Is this what it’s like for you, girls who party a lot? Is it so fun, it hurts? Do you keep on doing it anyway?

Who knows?

The nice thing about pop music (like having kids with talent, and unfulfilled dreams and parental frustration from your own childhood) is that you can live through it. Not a partier? Well then, don’t you worry! You can experience all the ups and downs of fame, popularity, partying, etc. by scanning Pandora and listening for half an hour.

The music itself is awesome, if a little melancholy at times. It’s like a good version of “We Can’t Stop,” in which being depressing was intentional. And yet it didn’t ruin the fun.

Not sure why it sounds like she’s keeping her lips puckered though. It didn’t add anything from the song for me, aside from confusion, but it doesn’t lower my ranking either.

For the video…

I wasn’t kidding when I said it reminded me of when I tried ballet as a little kid. My parents can tell you how I stood in the corner during class, off in my own little world, mimicking what I thought ballet looked like. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking back then, but needless to say, I quickly moved on to trying out other potential hobbies XD

The dancing is mesmerizing and certainly takes talent, but I maintain that a decent chunk of it looks like flailing. Stylized, timed and choreographed flailing, but flailing nonetheless.

 

I can see how it could be interpretive and symbolic, but personally, I think Pink made it work better:

 

The dingy apartment adds to the tone of the song I mentioned above, what with its ratty, minimalist furnishings and dull colors. The only thing that adds energy and life to the scene is, well, Maddie. I also mentioned above that her flesh-colored attire gave me the impression that this was the bared soul of the character, or even a representation of the character’s mind (in which case, Maddie would probably be the brain). Maddie looks like a doll, seeming very creepy at times, but still…

You can’t really look away. It’s definitely haunting.

I could probably dig up more with squinting and cribbing from other reviewers, but I won’t. Right now, I haven’t really looked at other people’s reviews in detail, but the general consensus seems to be “OMG SO GOOD!”

Suffice it to say that I think this song is good. If I gave it a score, for the video and song each, it’d be an 8/10 both times. It’s got a good beat that swells just right when it needs to; hypnotizing, yet simplistic visuals; and near heart-wrenching vocals with some effective mood-whiplash.

I’d say check it out, but if you’ve been following along, you technically already have. So instead, how about you check out some of Sia’s earlier work? 🙂

*Once again, no pics or videos are owned by me. Credit due to singers, songwriters, composers, musicians, studios, etc.

 

 

 

Non-Review Review: 22 Jump Street

The value of winking to the audience.

the m0vie blog

Comedy sequels can be a tough beast.

After all, a joke isn’t as funny the second time around and – if it is – there’s always the DVD.  Comedy sequels often find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. They have to pay homage and due respect to what came before, but they can’t simply tread out the same old jokes. It isn’t a case of simply doing the same thing but bigger, as with most sequels. Comedy sequels are a tough nut to crack.

The genius of 22 Jump Street is the way that it accepts this and turns it into the biggest joke of the film.

Jumping back into their roles... Jumping back into their roles…

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5 Ways Will Smith Can Recover His Star Power

Avoid the Shayamalan. At all costs, avoid the Shayamalan.

Popcorn Whiskey

Will Smith is one of the biggest names in Hollywood. In fact, in 2007, Newsweek named Smith the most powerful actor in Hollywood. But it’s no longer 2007 and Smith is no longer the mega star that he once was. Will Smith’s Highest grossing film of all time was back in 1996 with Independence Day. His last major film ranks 16 in Will Smith’s highest grossing films list, a major disappointment. In fact, of the top 10 highest grossing Smith films, Hancook which came out in July 2008 is the most recent film on the list. So clearly, Smith is not the movie star he once was. And with After Earth receiving an incredibly bad score of 11% he needs to make a move soon. There are rumors that Smith will star in a movie about the concussions of the NFL, but we are not sure that is the right…

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Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Musical

Let me start off by giving props to the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. It is a spectacular venue for music, live performances, and more, and if you live in Vienna or visit sometime in the near future, you should definitely check it out and give your support! It is certainly a staple of my summer 🙂

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Also, major props to the cast, crew, and creative team behind Beauty and the Beast! Adapting and performing any show for Broadway is a difficult task that requires a lot of talent and creativity. No matter what is said in this review, I assure you that I mean no disrespect to the people who worked their hardest to make this show what it is. It was fun to watch, and looked like fun to put on.

Without these two groups, I could not have watched last night’s show. 🙂

On and off-Broadway, I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Les Miserables, If/Then, and snippets of many assorted ones at my high school (the night of a show, they’d do little previews all day in the theatre. If you were lucky enough, your teacher was nice and let you go watch them). I’ve only been in one musical myself, in Bye Bye Birdie in middle school, and that was just as an adult chorus member/concerned parent.

Suffice it to say, you probably won’t see many reviews like this one from me, but media is media, and the stage is a unique arena of entertainment that a lot of people overlook. It requires more volume and more expression, as the actors try to reach the back row and be heard and understood by everyone.

While I may compare this to the movie here and there, rest assured that I understand the limits of the different mediums. Changes must be made, and the movie and show are not one and the same, nor should they be regarded as such.

With that said…

What I liked:

The music was very good. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the new songs added in, particularly “If I Can’t Love Her.” Personally, I felt that “Human Again” was much more useful to the musical than it was in the movie. Definitely not as redundant.

I know that “Be Our Guest” is supposed to be the big show stopper (it was the top contender for my favorite in the film), and there are a couple other particularly big numbers to go up against it, but the song that captured my heart and attention was “Gaston.” The dancing, the energy, the people clinking their beers and cheering, and the outstanding performances of both Gaston and LeFou were just so enthralling. I could probably recommend the show on that song alone.

But come on. It’s Gaston. No one says no to Gaston.

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The sets were very colorful, sometimes bordering on sugar high levels. But it could also become dark and foreboding in the blink of an eye; the fairytale screen and border around the stage could be transformed for scenes in the creepy forest very easily, with just the right lighting. The props and set pieces, particularly Maurice’s bike/wood-choppy thingamajig were all very nice, and the actors and stage hands moved them pretty fluidly. The first half of the show took place at sunset, so I especially applaud the lighting guys for still making that part of the show work well despite conditions and limitations.

The stand-out actors and actresses for me were those for Belle (Hilary Maiberger), Gaston (Tim Rogan), LeFou (Jordan Aragon), and Mrs. Potts (Kristin Stewart….no, thankfully not that Kristen Stewart). All of them felt like their movie counterparts, although Belle had a lot more spunky attitude. She was still patient, but sometimes more sarcastic than I would have imagined Belle being, but surprisingly, I thought it worked. Every girl needs attitude 🙂

I also liked a couple of the story changes from the movie. Maurice’s brief reminiscing about Belle’s mother was cute, and the Beast trying to “act like a gentleman” and bring Belle dinner after he told her she couldn’t eat without him was a nice little touch. Despite being delightfully creeped out by the cold, serious, and menacing Monsieur D’Arque in the original film, I was intrigued by his portrayal in this production as much more silly, possibly mad himself. His laugh reminded me of the hyenas from The Lion King, and I chuckled at his introduction, where he analyzed both Gaston and LeFou as crazies themselves, before they het the chance to tell him what they really called him for.

Beast listening to Belle read to him, and talking about how they both feel like outcasts that no one gives a chance to, was brilliant. It was a really powerful moment that made clear exactly how they were bonding, and what they were beginning to feel for each other. It was them realizing how alike they were, and how much they needed each other, not just in a romantic way.

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One last big thing that stuck out to me: the changes to the spell and the time limit. Instead of saying, “it would bloom until his twenty-first year,” the narrator said, “it would bloom for many years.” That nicely hand-waved away the rather screwed up element that Beast was about 10-ish years old when the Enchantress cursed him. Because yeah, kids can be bratty and selfish. Not sure that’s a good enough reason to curse someone.

The servants admitted to themselves that they were cursed because they let the prince become the way that he was, which was a nice couple of lines. I really liked that as time passed and the servants became more one-note and despairing, that they would grow more like actual objects before eventually turning into to un-enchanted ones. That was great.

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Cogsworth was okay. Decently done, and funny from time to time. Not as dry as the original, I think, but it was fine.

Some lines ripped straight from the movie were still pretty funny. Definitely delivered with different speeds and inflections, as you would expect, there were only a few misses.

And one last random thing: for some reason, I thought Maurice looked like Mr. Miyagi. I have no clue why; I just looked at a picture of him in the program before the show started, and thought that. He was still the cute and bumbling inventor character, but even more silly and benign than before.

What I didn’t like so much:

Most of what bothered me, you can boil down to the humor. And no, I’m not dissing LeFou. He was great.

It was a lot of slapstick (I think I described it to my friend as Beauty and the Beast meets Vaudeville during the intermission), and pointless sexuality and innuendo.

There is nothing wrong with a little of the former, but it was very overplayed and ham-fisted. The latter, which also would have been great in small doses, was very much the same. Other than the brief Lumiere and Babette (feather duster lady) scene they tweaked from the movie (which was already pretty risqué, now made more overt, I think), a lot of it seemed like Lumiere, Babette, and Madame de la Grande Bouche (wardrobe lady) pelvic-thrusting, spazzing, and slurring their words, sometimes right out of nowhere. A lot of silly, pointless insinuation for cheap laughs. It all seemed so incredibly deliberate and unnatural.

I didn’t find those characters all that funny, but the rest of the audience and their kids seemed to. So what do I know?

I understood making Beast a bit more childish, but it sucked the fear of his character, for both the audience and the other characters, right out of the room. I didn’t buy it at all, not even when he got violent towards Belle.

Can we talk about this for a minute? Because my first post ever was a defense of the movie.

I hated that he actually put his hands on Belle, although, admittedly, he did it once when she met him in the movie. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that ( I forgot to in the aforementioned rant), but I am loathe to speak of it anyway. After all, in the film, he was grabbing what he thought was an intruder. Here, he grabbed her clearly just to intimidate her.

I don’t like that instead of flipping tables and things, like a kid throwing a temper tantrum, he actually hits her. Scratch that. I hated it. Hate hate hate hate hate. Even if he did try to quickly apologize afterward.

You want to tell me Beast is abusive? I believe it! In trying to close up plot holes, discrepancies, and messed-up stuff from the original movie, the musical just made more. Maybe even some worse ones. If nothing else, it muddled the character.

 

The Picture of Stockholm

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But yeah…moving on…

Overall, Belle was a much stronger character, which cancels out the above stuff, I guess. But the Beast was much weaker; he had a higher voice (though beautiful when he sang), and a roar that never shook the crowd with its loudness and ferocity. He roared because he was the Beast, and for no other reason. That’s what beasts do.

So I didn’t buy her or the servants’ fear of the Beast. At all.

He was still a decently sympathetic character, as he would get nervous, childish, angry, excited, etc. Some of it was played for laughs, though, which, again, wrong! Don’t do that! Subtle moments can still happen, even on stage, and not everything had to be made into a joke!

All we really needed was LeFou, and a little of Lumiere, being the comic relief, and then more subtle jokes, like the Beast doing something unintentionally funny. Or Belle just being awesome. It’s a shame, too, because one of the most powerful and visually stunning scenes from the movie, the “Beauty and the Beast” song, had a lot of awe and magic sucked out of it by Beast being too purposefully derpy and goofy.

Also, the Enchantress was hilarious. What was with the big, willowy puppet that towered over the prince in the beginning? Even behind the screen, it looked ridiculous.

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh at it, but I’m not quite sure.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed watching the show, but this is probably my least favorite of the musicals I’ve seen live.

Again, no disrespect meant to the people who put it together, but the overabundance of low-brow humor was a giant boat anchor that weighed down an otherwise energetic, enchanting production. The original movie was plenty dark and serious at times, even as an animated fairytale. This musical tries to do too many things: aiming for that same tone, while still trying to be light and colorful and “der-her-her funny,” sometimes at the expense of the characters and story. The Little Mermaid: The Musical still had the tone of the movie it was based on (and plenty of dignity and charm). Even if the climax was kind of lame…

Close, Disney, but no cigar.

I still recommend it though, because it was fun, and it’ll please kids a lot. Adults too, though some less than others.

It’s still a tale as old as time…it just might get a little old at times.

*Hey, guess what? I still don’t own any of the content! Not the pics, not the videos, not the character, nothing! Support the official sources and releases

 

THE BOOK THIEF (2014) movie review

Do you kill off characters for a good reason? To show that you can? To make things seem more gritty or realistic?
Can death kill a movie?

Splatter: on FILM

At least with Titanic, you knew the boat would sink.

The-Book-Thief-Movie-Review

This film showed such perseverance of the soul, such hope in desperation, such light in darkness, such freedom breaking out with boldness, bursting through despite fear. It was gorgeous until…

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the-book-thief-max-liesel

the-book-thief-movie-ben-schnetzer

the-book-thief-1…until the end.
The end, if you can call it an ending, attempted to jump 80 years or so into the future and relay the deaths of ALL OF THE CHARACTERS!
Never before have I seen a script invest in and develop characters and relationships so delicately, so painstakingly right up until the instant death of almost all.
Sure, there are gruesome war films. But this? Everyone dies horribly, too soon, only to be found by the one girl who loves them all. We have to watch the main character grieve again and again over each one. It was too much.

They all live through wars, but die in a moment?…

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