Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Image is property of Dreamworks Animation Studios

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Film Review

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler

Director: Dean DeBlois

Synopsis: Having become the new chief, Hiccup strives to create a utopia for both humanity and their dragons on Berk. However, a new threat emerges which encourages Hiccup to go in search of the previously undiscovered Hidden World…

Review: When it comes to top quality animation, it is hard to compete with the juggernauts that are Disney Animation Studios, and their subsidiary company Pixar, but if there is one company that is giving them a solid run for their money and pushing them hard, then Dreamworks Animation is perhaps that company. Apart from one notorious Ogre and his friends, no franchise better epitomises the excellence of their output over the last few years than the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Set one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup has ascended to the position of chief of Berk and is simultaneously being besieged by questions as to whether he is ready to propose to Astrid. As he is adjusting to his new responsibilities as leader, the island of both people and dragons is becoming more and more populated. Furthermore, a new threat is emerging to the people of Berk in the form of Grimmel, a dastardly figure who will stop at nothing till he has hunted all the dragons down, which naturally puts him on a collision course with Hiccup’s ambition to create a human and dragon utopia.

“Look at the shiny lights….”

One key aspect of this animated franchise is the core relationship between our primary antagonist Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless. Together, these two have been on a remarkable journey, and in Toothless Hiccup has a creature with whom he has experienced a substantial amount of friendship, unity, and as we saw in the last film, devastating heartbreak. For Toothless, the adorable beast that he is, his attention is now on a mysterious new female Light Fury that has arrived on the island, nicknamed a Light Fury by the locals. that Toothless has fallen head over claws for. Hence, putting the pair’s friendship to the ultimate test.

As ever Hiccup is the protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with and just want to root for him, especially when it comes to making that all decision to propose to Astrid, whilst at the same time, doing his utmost to keep his people safe, talk about pressure being on the shoulders of such a young leader! Though he has able support, it can be hard Which brings us to Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham). His terrible plan is certainly one that requires Toothless and Hiccup to take to the skies for one final showdown. Given how how the bar was set by the nefarious Drago from the previous film, Grimmel is certainly dastardly but he doesn’t quite match those standards of uncompromising villainy.

The film had some really high octane action sequences, and once again, there are more than a few scenes that are just a visual treat for the eyes. However, it does downplay the action in favour of considerably more emotional stakes. An admirable choice to make, though it doesn’t quite match up to the lofty standards set by the previous instalments. However, fans of this franchise can rest assured that if this is the last time that this series takes flight, Dreamworks has produced a series that is up there with the likes of Toy Story as one of the finest animated trilogies ever made.

Third films in franchises so often disappoint, and while The Hidden World doesn’t quite soar to those wonderful heights set by the previous instalments, it is without doubt, a worthy conclusion to the franchise.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: Having come out of hiding to claim the throne of Asgard, Hela the Goddess of Death seeks to rule Asgard. Having been cast aside on a distant planet, Thor must use his strength and an old friend to help him reclaim Asgard’s throne, and prevent Ragnarok, the end of all things, from occurring.

Review: Of all the directors Marvel could have hired to take on a film that studio head honcho Kevin Feige described as “very important movie in our timeline”, one of the most out of the blue choices you could suggest would be New Zealand native Taika Waititi. Having made his name with the very quirky comedies such as What We Do in The Shadows, and last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Yet, having seen humour become an important aspect of their films, Waititi seems to be the perfect match for Marvel, and as it turns out, it is absolutely a match made in Valhalla.

For a film subtitled Ragnarok, meaning the end of everything, to be pitched as a quirky comedy masquerading as a big budget superhero blockbuster, could have been a spectacular misfire, but in the hands of Waititi it is all just blends together beautifully. On a quest to find out some information is where we meet the God of Thunder, and he quickly learns that The Goddess of Death Hela has come back to Asgard to take her place on the throne, setting off a chain of events that sees Thor trying to unseat the Usurper whilst preventing Ragnarok from occurring. Though not written by him, the script has that Waititi stamp written all over it. There are gags aplenty, and they’re almost always hilarious. It’s a bold claim, but this might just be the funniest Marvel film to date.

Old friends reunited…

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are once again just delightful to watch in these roles that they have made their own, with it also being great to see Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk in all of his green, raging glory back in the MCU once more. There are quite a few new faces here, the absolute standouts being Tessa Thompson’s badass Valkyrie and an absolutely uproarious star turn from Waititi himself in a role that will have you almost crying tears of laughter. It is absolute comic gold and a character one would hope gets his own movie somewhere down the line. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum is inevitably always a pleasure to watch, and as the Grandmaster, it feels like a role that was just written for the Goldblum and he like the Odinson brothers, he bosses it.

A real consistent Achilles Heel for the MCU has been their villains, as the last Thor film testified. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett as Hela is able to avoid falling into the realm of bland and generic villains that have troubled MCU films gone by. She is well fleshed out as a character and it makes her story so much more compelling to watch. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Karl Urban’s character who does sadly fall into that category of villains that are just kind of forgettable.

Whilst also perhaps boasting the most vivid colour palette that the MCU has seen to date, when the action goes down Waititi’s direction is confident and assured.  The battle between Hulk and Thor that we saw a glimpse of in the trailer is just spectacular stuff, you cannot beat a bit of intergalactic gladiatorial duelling can you? With the help of some Led Zepplin, the final showdown is also breathless to watch. The whole thing might seem absolutely bonkers and absurd, but it all blends together into some delightfully, colourful and exhilarating entertainment.

With complaints of superhero fatigue coming from some audiences, this is the shot in the arm that the genre needed to help keep things fresh. It’s so different in terms of style and everything that it is certainly a most welcome breath of fresh air for the genre. With them now a staggering 17 films deep into their universe, Marvel are showing no signs of slowing down, and when they’re continuing to produce such glorious excitement, who in their right mind would want them to stop?

Fusing a deeply personal story with some absolutely first class humour that will have your sides hurting, Waititi brings his vibrant style of quirky comedy to the MCU, and it pays off big time. The best MCU film of the year.

 

 

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

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Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm,

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: When a young hobbit Frodo Baggins receives the One Ring of Power. He along with eight unlikely companions set off on a quest, to journey to the heart of Middle Earth and Mordor and destroy the Ring.

Review: When discussions about films and more specifically film trilogies rage across film schools, and fans of films in general, several trilogies may get mentioned and debated vehemently. Yet, the name of one trilogy that could and should always be mentioned is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  A project that Jackson considered way back in 1995, but through various deals falling through, and tough negotiations that reached an impasse, with talk of it being two films instead of three. It was a tough challenge and despite the production impasses, it pulled through and the final end product is what many believe to be one of the finest trilogies in the history of cinema. and thank goodness it was three films and not two!

Thanks to the brilliance of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the mastermind behind this incredible world of Middle Earth, came into being, and his trilogy of novels, and it was Peter Jackson who took up the challenge to adapt it for the big screen. With a screenplay by Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the land of Middle Earth is beautifully realised and the world is established in all of its glory. On top of that, we are provided with some sweet action sequences within the first 20 minutes. Yet there is much to be built up, events to be established in order to bring those who will have not read Tolkien’s works up to speed. Build up can be a slow tedious process, but not here. The world of Middle Earth is so enthralling, it’s just gripping to watch as the audience is introduced to this vast world and all of its key characters, of which there are many.

The cast is quite extensive, but every single performance on show shines and shines brightly. However, it is the main ensemble of the Fellowship all lead the way with sublime performances from each and everyone one of them. However, there are however some stand out performances among the wealth of great acting on show. Elijah Wood as Frodo, who is the one tasked with the seemingly impossible challenge of destroying the ring. Viggo Mortensen as the fearless and strong warrior Aragorn, who is a key piece of the puzzle, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey likewise. With the late and great Sir Christopher Lee also showing his tremendous ability and deep booming voice as Saruman the White. Sean Bean also gives a very memorable performance as Boromir the warrior of Gondor. All of the aforementioned give superb performances and the acting from all is of such a top quality, that you do not see the actors any more, you see the characters, and that’s a credit to everyone involved.

The cinematography is beautiful from start to finish. The film is packed with some breath taking shots of Middle Earth AKA New Zealand scenery.   There are plenty of superb swooping shots that to leave the audience breathless. In addition, there is some awe-inspiring visual effects such as the with the battle scenes are also sublime but in terms of battle scenes, the best is saved for later in the trilogy. This isn’t to say that there are some terrific battle scenes here, The score composed by Howard Shore is equally epic in every sense. From the jovial tune that we hear in the Shire to the sinister notes we hear when entering  Isengard. Every scene is accompanied by a beautifully composed tune that captures each scene perfectly. Out of the thirteen nominations received, the film bagged four Oscars for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Make-up, and all were very well deserved.

Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect start for this trilogy and it set the benchmark. There are some great themes packed throughout this film. Friendship, honour, sacrifice and loyalty. It is just simply a joy to behold. Every element of this film hits the spot, and it hits it perfectly. Some may say its too long (not counting the extended edition!) While it is long, it is impossible to deny the sheer brilliance of what Jackson brought to the big screen. We will never know what Tolkien would have made of Jackson’s vision of his beloved trilogy, but one would hope that he would have loved what he saw, as audiences around the world certainly did!

Visually breath-taking, with a riveting and terrific story, some superb action sequences, a fantastic score and a tremendous ensemble cast, the first instalment of this trilogy set in motion one of the best trilogies of all time.

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