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Review: Angry Birds by Jamie

Ever since the release of Super Mario Bros in 1993, Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to leech off of the popularity of video games. This was particularly troublesome back in the day because most video games didn’t have much going in the way of plot beyond run right, jump and stomp on bad guys. Studios inevitably found themselves having to try and flesh out these threadbare plots to try and put something on the screen for at least an hour and a half so that they could somehow justify calling it a film.

It’s just like the game you remember and love!

Even as the years have gone by and the games themselves have developed more complex and intricate storylines with more fleshed out and developed characters, for some reason the movies that are adapted from them don’t seem to have been able to bring that to the screen. Max Payne was a game widely regarded for it’s storytelling and strong central character but the movie version is a lukewarm piece of shit starring Mark Wahlberg that no one really remembers any more and rightfully so.

Still, video games are massive money makers and with the right property it should be possible to pull of the seemingly herculean task of actually making a video game movie worth seeing. I won’t lie, some of them do seem like they could be promising. There’s the Duncan Jones helmed Warcraft movie which has some potential and an Assassin’s Creed movie starring Michael Fassbender which could be pretty good. And then there’s Angry Birds. Yes, someone out there saw the travesty that was the Super Mario Bros movie and said to themselves “Can we find a game that has even less of a plot than that and make that into a movie? After all, the only thing that matters is brand recognition. As long as the name gets people to put their money on the counter, who gives a fuck if it has literally any story?”

It’s that easy!.

And so here we are, nearly a quarter of a century later and we find ourselves faced with a movie based on a video game that most people spend five minutes playing at a time while sitting on the toilet. What is the plot of the game? Some pigs steal some birds eggs. The birds want them back. FIne, that’s a perfectly fine and simple setup for a quick little physics puzzle game. I’ll even go so far as to say that it could make a fairly decent basic of a plot for a movie maybe. But the problem is that by adapting that story from a video game, you suddenly find yourself restricted by the rules of that video game. This means that you have to reference things that the video game has in it. For example, one of the characters in The Angry Birds Movie is called Bomb. When he’s upset, he explodes. It’s as simple as that (or it would be if he actually exploded the many, many times he should surely be upset during this film, but I digress). Why does this happen? I dunno. This is perfectly fine as a mechanic for a video game that you’re not meant to put too much though in to. At the end of the day, if the object of the game is to knock down structures and kill pigs, does it matter if it’s an exploding bird or an actual bomb? No. No it does not. But when it’s a talking, emotive character in a movie then there should be some kind of reason? Why do some of these birds have super powers? Why do some of them not? Why did someone decide to make Angry Birds into a movie? These are all questions which probably should be answered.

There are other problems too. Early in the movie, Red, the main character, is sent to an anger management therapy where he meets the previously mentioned Bomb and the small yellow bird named Chuck. Neither of these two actually seem particularly angry. Chuck is literally just fast and Bomb’s only problem is his exploding which generally seems to happen when he is startled rather than infuriated. Why are these two in anger management? Fuck knows. Because Red has to meet them somehow I guess?

Ok, so maybe I’m thinking a little too much about what is ostensibly a children’s movie. Sure, I can understand that and perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the most importnat thing when you really get down to it is whether or not the movie is entertaining. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. There aren’t really jokes in this movie. Just things happening and then people reacting to them often with a phrase that’s popular at the moment. You know, the kind of timeless humour that will really, really play well in a few years time. And there’s a few jokes sprinkled in for the adults throughout although they are mostly pretty weak such as a book on the pigs ship being called “Fifty Shades of Green.” That kind of thing. In fact, there were maybe two jokes that made me laugh throughout the whole film. One was the line “Something isn’t kosher with these pigs.” and the other was when Red insinuated that another bird looked like he may be a kid abducting paedophile. Hehehehe. Children’s movies. Ok, I’ll admit, Peter Dinklage might have gotten a smile out of me as the Might Eagle but I couldn’t tell you if that was because of the movie or because I thought of Tyrion.

Finally, there’s the message of the movie. Red doesn’t trust these foreigners who have shown up on his land and his ingrained mistrust of strangers is proven to be correct. It turns out that these weird people from a strange land don’t want to be friends! They just want to eat the natives children! Vote Red, 2016. Make Bird Island great again.

Again, I know I’m probably coming down too hard on a piece of shit fluff movie that’s just meant to keep kids entertained for an hour and a half. But there are movies that prove that can be done well and with thought and passion and craft. Movies like How To Train Your Dragon or Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs or, you know, most of Pixar’s catalogue. People deserve better than someone assuming that you’ll cynically pay to see a move just because they recognise the name of it. Your children deserve better than that too.

½ pint out of five for that paedophile joke. Hehehehe.

The Angry Birds Movie

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Review: Epic by Jamie

I often moan about 3D. I find it unnecessary and it generally takes away from the cinema experience rather than enhance it. When I saw Toy Story 3, for example, I’d forgotten that I was even watching it in 3D after around ten minutes. If that’s the case, then what’s the point? Of all the 3D movies I’ve seen, only two have ever impressed me. Piranha 3D which used the 3D as the gimmick it is, and Transformers 3 though that may have been me trying to grasp onto anything I could possibly enjoy from that shit pile.

And so it is that for the most part I see movies in 2D whenever possible. But sometimes that isn’t possible like when a preview screening of Epic sells out in 2D because the world is an annoying place. So after much bitching and moaning I buckled down, paid the extra money for the “3D experience” and the stupid 3D glasses as well. And goddamnit, it was actually worth it this time. For the first time that I can remember, the 3D actually added something. It probably has to do with the nature of the movie. In a forest, you really can make a depth of vision that’s noticeable especially when you’re experiencing it at the height of a bug. So yes, first off I’ll admit that the 3D was actually good throughout and I’d recommend seeing it this way if you do choose to see it.

Still 3D isn’t the reason people go to the cinema. They want to be entertained. They want to see something new. Epic succeeds on the first part, the second well kinda. Obviously this is a story we’ve all seen before, inhabitants of a forest trying to save said forest. An outsider being shrunk down and helping in that battle is also something we’ve seen before. Yes, Epic is very, very similar to “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” except now we have a snail and a slug instead of a bat as the comic-relief.

So yeah, you know the story. There’s a scientist named Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) who’s obsessed with discovering a race of tiny men that he believes live in the forest. His daughter MK (Amanda Seyfried) comes to stay with him after her mother dies but believes him to be insane because of said obsession. Events unfurl that lead to MK being shrunk, finding out that her dad was right and having to help the tiny race known as the Leaf Men fight their enemy, The Boggans, who spread rot.

Honestly, the film sounds like it’s literally been reassembled from the assorted carcass of other movies like some kind of Frankenfilm’s monster. Take a bit of Ferngully, a bit of ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’, a little ‘Lord of the Rings’, stitch it all together and you get Epic. Despite all that there is an enjoyable story here and there’s some innovative stuff that I’ve never seen on film before like the theory that Bomba comes up with that we can’t see the race of little people because they live faster than we do. Hence when MK is shrunk, all the larger animals seem to be moving in slow motion. It’s not completely insane. Pigeons, for example, see in slow motion. That’s why they leave it until the last second before moving out of the way of danger. They’re not completely stupid… Just partially stupid.

The voice talent is all pretty good. Biggest surprise was Steven Tyler as an old caterpillar (caterpillars do not work that way) called Nim Galuu. His voice fit the role well and he did a pretty decent job. The slug and the snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively were entertaining enough. Sure, they had a few jokes that fell flat but the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy them so fair enough. The stand out, however, is of course Christoph Waltz as Mandrake, the villain. What can I say? He’s Christoph fucking Waltz for fucks sake, of course he’s good. Perhaps most interesting for the character itself was that he has a son and he actually seems proud of him. This is surprising because normally when a villain has a child, they find them bumbling or incompetent and quite an embarrassment. This was a nice change. Also Mandrake wears the skin of a bat which may have been a mistake on the film makers part. You expect me to root against a character wearing a bat cape and cowl? For shame.

Another big surprise was Colin Farrell as Ronin, the leader of the Leaf Men. He brings a lot of humanity to a character that, in a lesser film, would just be a gruff hard ass who’s always getting on the case of the male lead, Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Instead he’s a layered character who cares about Nod due to his relationship with Nod’s father and it’s his unresolved emotional feelings towards the Queen of the forest (Beyonce Knowles) and his strong sense of duty that really drive him on his quest.

So yeah, overall a perfectly enjoyable film and one that is actually improved through it’s use of 3D. There’s a battle sequence early on between the Leaf Men and the Boggans that’s fast paced and extremely lively just because of the way they’ve used the depth and vibrancy that the 3D provides them and I applaud them for it. Still, it probably doesn’t quite deserve the title Epic. Maybe Good but who’s going to see a movie just called Good? No one. There are moments where the film seems to slow down just a little too much and he relationship between the two leads never really develops naturally like it should. I’d probably rank this just below your better non-Pixar CGI films. It never really reaches the heights of ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ or ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’ but it’s certainly better than stuff like the Ice Age or Madagascar sequels. Three pints out of five. Laters.

Poster



Review: The Smurfs (2011) by Jamie

I don’t really remember ever watching ‘The Smurfs’ as a kid but I know the basic gist of the whole thing. Bunch of little blue creatures live in a forest and an evil wizard tries to capture them. Pretty simple premise so why not take that idea and stretch it out in a live action/CGI mixed feature length film? Well how about because a) that’s a paper-thin premise that seems like it would require a lot of padding and b) The Smurfs are some of the most irritating fuckers to ever grace the silver screen. This is a point which is actually acknowledged several times throughout the film. If much of the supporting cast are pointing out just how unlikeable the little blue shits are, what makes the film makers believe that anyone watching it should care about them?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to point a. So how do you pad out such a simple concept? Well, you take the Smurfs and the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and teleport them to modern day Manhattan! It’s a fish out of water story where the characters find themselves confused by the everyday things we take for granted! That concept’s never been done before! (For films that have, to some extent, explored very similar concepts see: Blast From The Past, Coneheads, Crocodile Dundee, Elf, Enchanted, Encino Man, Hercules In New York, The Little Mermaid, Short Circuit, Thor… I think you get my point). I suppose I shouldn’t be to angry with the writers. I imagine they were just told to write a script for a Smurf movie and, honestly, what more could really be done with the concept?

So anyway, The Smurfs are transported to New York and end up staying with Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) Winslow and together the group learn important lessons about how important family is and how you’re more than just one defining characteristic, which may be true for humans but honestly seems to go against everything Smurf society is built on. In fact I imagine the sequel to this film involving Clumsy Smurf bringing this dangerous new philosophy back to the Smurf village and, in turn, starting a revolution against the dictatorial Papa Smurf who was the one who gave them all their predetermined roles in life in the first place. Yes, an encounter with human characters other than a one dimensional bad guy can only lead to the spilling of gallons of blue blood. Will the plucky rebels come out on top or will Papa Smurf be able to retain his iron grip on Smurf Society? Find out in ‘The Smurfs 2: Viva La Smurfolucion!’ coming in the summer of 2013.

Ahem. I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked. There are some amusing moments from the couples interaction with the blue demonspawn most of it stemming from Will’s absolute and completely understandable annoyance when it comes to the way that the Smurfs, well, just the way that the Smurfs are. He rails against them for randomly replacing words with the word Smurf. This makes sense because seriously CAN’T POSSIBLY MAKE ANY SENSE IF YOU USE THE WORD SMURF FOR EVERYTHING! VERBS, ADVERBS, NOUNS, PRONOUNS, PROFANITIES! IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE GRAMATICALLY OR LINGUISTICALLY! I mean, the last thing Patrick says to Grace is “Grace, I smurf you” which is either very sweet or a filthy and degrading insult. There ambiguity of the word Smurf means that there is no way to tell which.

He also points out just how fucking irritating the Smurfs theme tune is which they sing, whistle or hum a fuck load in this goddamn movie. If you’re lucky enough to have never heard the theme tune to the Smurfs, allow me to shatter that peaceful existence you one had and destroy the happiness that once dwelled in your heart:

Yeah, like I said, that theme just keeps coming back again and again and again. There is one time, near the end, where the song is used almost as a war chant a the creatures prepare for their showdown with Gargamel which was, admittedly, kinda inventive. So well done for that I guess.

Speaking of Gargamel, Hank Azaria is actually one of the movies small redeeming features, particularly near the beginning of the film. He also makes a few cracks about The Smurf way of life that everyone has discussed since they got old enough to realise just how fucking weird it was that the Smurfs lived in a village that only had one female. Unfortunately as the film goes on, Azaria gets more and more over the top and eventually becomes almost as irritating as the protagonists. As for the rest of the cast, well, there’s really only one person worth mentioning and that’s Sofia Vergara.

 

Sofia Vergara

I don’t remember anything about her performance,
but she is worth mentioning.

So all in all, just how bad is ‘The Smurfs’? Well, it’s pretty fucking bad, I don’t know how well it would play for kids but really who cares because kids are idiots. If they weren’t then they wouldn’t get smarter as they got older. In terms of these CGI/live action reboots of old cartoon series though, it is better than the Chipmunk movies and the Transformers movies because whilst this film is awful, it does have some redeeming moments here and there and I didn’t feel totally mentally, physically and spiritually drained after watching it unlike those other franchises. On the other hand, it did have one of the worst blasphemies committed against music. The Smurfs replacing various words in ‘Walk This Way’ with word Smurf…Fuckers.

And that’s one of the big problems with these kinds of films. They take these innocent little cartoons that made up many of our childhoods and try and modernise them in a way that just seems tacky, out of place, completely unnecessary and it just reeks of a coroporate type’s idea of getting down with the kids in the most simplistic, basic and crass way possible. “What do kids like? Rap. Can we make the Smurfs rap? Excellent. That should sell a few more tickets.” All it actually ends up doing is to make the whole thing end up seeming like an empty shell of what it once was, putting as little effort as possible into what was once a beloved franchise in order to make a quick buck. And that’s sad… On the other hand:

 

Sofia2

The Smurfs gets one pint out of five.



Zombie Month: The Goon Trailer by Jamie

It’s been a long Christmas period. I feel knackered. Here is a trailer for ‘The Goon’ a CGI film coming in 2011 featuring Zombies. Laterz.



Review: Toy Story 3 by Jamie

Right. This is a spoiler free review.

15 years ago, the first fully CGI animated film was released by Pixar. That film was, of course, Toy Story.. It introduced us to a cast of characters who, despite being made of plastic, had an emotional range equal or greater than many actors who have graced the silver screen. And far, far more emotional range than Keanu Reeves. It was a great film as was the second which came out in 1999. A good time was had by all.

Personally, I was 10 or 11 when the first Toy Story film came out. It’s hard to pin down exactly which because of the great difference in release dates between the UK and the US, especially with Pixar films and especially back then. Still even though I wasn’t exactly a little kid I still kind of grew up with the Toy Story films and, even though I’m always a little cautious with sequels, especially ones with the number three in the title, I was looking forward to Toy Story 3. So was my anticipation rewarded with the kind of joy akin to receiving a Castle Grayskull on Christmas Day or was my hope dashed to pieces like so many ruined LEGO creations?

The answer, of course, is rewarded. Toy Story 3 is seriously the best film to come out this year (Still haven’t seen Inception yet but even that will have to work hard to top this) and admittedly that’s not saying much given the turgid shit that this summer seems to have served us up so let me go one step further. Toy Story 3 is one of the best films this decade… Wait, that doesn’t work either what with this being the first year of the decade… Fuck it, Toy Story 3 is really, really good, alright.

I’m not gonna do one of my normal, long winded synopsises because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Everyone should see this film and they should see it knowing as little as possible about it. So I’ll just summarise a few things that everyone should probably already know. It’s a good few years after Toy Story 2 and Andy is 17 and is getting ready to leave for college. In the confusion of his packing, moving things to the attic and moving other things to the trash, his old toys get donated to a local daycare. They find life isn’t as awesome there as they might have hoped and so they decide to try and escape and make their way back to Andy.

There, synopsis over. Let’s get to the substance. There is so much going on in this film and yet it plays out in a beautifully simple way. It touches on themes of loyalty, love, friendship, family and learning to let go and it all seems as though Pixar where taking a massive risk taking the franchise in this direction. They could have done another film set when Andy is young and it all would have been very safe and familiar and I think the first idea for this film would have been like that with some kind of recall for Buzz Lightyear figures put into effect or something. Thankfully someone came up with this idea and thankfully Pixar doesn’t shy away from risks.

Perhaps first and foremost on the importance block is the fact that the film was funny. I mean really funny. There were scenes were the whole cinema was filled with raucous laughter, in particular a certain situation involving Mr. Potato Head and when Buzz is accidentally set to a Spanish mode (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, it was in the trailer.

Still, the character with the most consistently funny scenes is Ken (Michael Keaton) who I was surprised was actually in the film as much as he is. I remember seeing the clip of him and Barbie meeting in either a trailer or a preview clip online and thought that would be it, he would be there for that one joke. Thankfully he’s not and he is awesome. He is ridiculously camp, obsessed with fashion and just basically seems to have the kind of personality that a male toy from a girls toy line would probably have.

The villain of the piece shows up in the cuddly bear form of Lotso (Ned Beatty) a toy who certainly has some issues with abandonment. He is aided in his dominance of the Daycare by Big Baby, a baby doll who appears in one of the creepiest and bizarre moments of the films. I won’t give it away but I’ll just say it involves a swing and it is awesome.

Speaking of terrifying, Jesus fucking Christ, one of those creepy fucking cymbal monkeys is in here as well, his unblinking eye always watching for any escapees, his cymbals and horrible monkey screeches acting as an alarm. He also posses one of those rictus grins that those little bastards always have. Ugh, but still awesome.

Speaking even more of terrifying, there is a scene near the end that is actually pretty goddamn horrific considering the film is a U. But it is also this scene which has perhaps the second most heart-wrenching moment in the entire film, just watching the toys come together as a family and the way that they deal with what is about to happen to them. I have no shame in saying that I was crying at that moment and also genuinely scared for the characters.

The biggest heart-wrenching moment is, however, the ending. Seriously if you don’t cry during that scene then you are an inhuman monster, devoid of emotion, incapable of empathy and we should probably lock you away before we find a bunch of dead hookers buried under the patio in your garden. You sicken me.

Hmm, I don’t like this whole writing without spoilers thing. It constrains me too much. Still, you honestly just have to see this and I would hate myself if I ruined any of it for you.

Now, is there anything really that bad to say about the film? Well, not much actually. There is the occasional bit where the film seems to drag on a little but these moments are few and far between and quickly forgotten when things get going again. There’s also the feeling that some of the plots threads are recycled from the previous two films and the idea of a prison break style plot isn’t exactly massively original but it all seems easily forgivable given what the filmmakers do with everything they have at their disposal.

So to summarise, Toy Story 3 will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you nostalgic for your own childhood and your own toys. It has references to Jurassic Park, Cool Hand Luke and the original Toy Story with a cameo from Sid. Hell, it even has Timothy Dalton playing a thespian stuffed hedgehog.

Most importantly it is the ending to a great trilogy of films (Hopefully at least. The biggest mistake Pixar could make is deciding to green light a Toy Story 4), a trilogy 15 years in the making. For many of us that’s a substantial part of our lives, certainly over half of mine. We’ve travelled along way and for a long time with these characters, we’ve seen them lose their way and redeem themselves. We’ve seen them grow closer as friends and as a family. Finally we’ve seen the end of their story and, even though they are only toys, it’s one of the most emotional and human endings to any film series I have ever seen. Five pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: How To Train Your Dragon by Jamie

I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers but there are still a couple of things which people may consider to be a little spoilerish.

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of dragons. I’m assuming this is probably some kind of extension of my lifelong love of dinosaurs. There’s just something fascinating about the giant, mythical reptile beasts with their leathery bat-wings and their propensity for igniting their breath. Yet despite the fact that some kind of dragon legend or other permeates almost every culture on Earth, dragons on the big screen have always been a little hit and miss.

From the crap like D-War and Eragon to the pretty good like Reign of Fire, there’s never really been a dragon film that stood out. Well, I suppose there was ‘Pete’s Dragon’ but in terms of ‘realistic’ dragons, there’s never been anything great. I should probably define that term ‘realistic’ dragon. I mean something that makes somewhat sense biologically, with a slight hint of suspension of disbelief for things like flying, occasionally speech and fire-breathing, but something which looks like it could possibly exist without a ridiculous number of magical powers. That’s why Pete’s Dragon doesn’t count in this definition and Draco from ‘Dragonheart’ does.

So it was with some apprehension that I decided to watch ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. I’ll say that I watched in 2D because a) My last experience with 3D with ‘Clash of the Titans’ was so piss-poor that I’d rather just watch things in 2D and b) I think maybe 3D doesn’t work for me as well as it does for most people. Maybe it’s because I wear glasses, maybe it’s because I need to have my eyes tested again and get better glasses. I’m not sure but 2D is fine for me anyway.

Also, yes, I know this is based on a book. No, I haven’t read the book. From what I understand the film is quite different from the book in that the film has more of a mature edge. Right, that’s that out of the way. Let’s get on with the review.

So, ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ concerns the story of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of Chieftain Stoic The Vast (Gerard Butler) and the village’s local fuck-up. In their particular clan it’s generally seen that the best thing you can be is a great and mighty Dragon Slayer. Sadly, due to the fact that he is a bit of a fuck-up, it seems as though Hiccup will never achieve such glory. However during a Dragon raid on their village, he manages to use a special bolas machine he has invented to take down the legendary Night Fury, a dragon so rare and that flies at such great speeds that no one has ever actually seen one. Of course, no one believes Hiccup and so he goes to the forest where his target crashed in order to prove himself to everyone.

Unfortunately when he finds the dragon it turns out that he’s only ensnared it in the giant bolas rather than actually kill it. He is about to stab it and cut out his heart but finds he pities the creature, sensing it’s fear and decides to free it instead. The dragon takes off into a valley, a valley that Hiccup finds that the dragon can’t get back out of because the bolas has damaged his tail and he isn’t able to fly properly anymore. Hiccup manages to gain the beasts trust by feeding it fish and gives it the name Toothless due to it’s ability to retract it’s teeth back into it’s gums. He slowly begins to train domesticate the dragon, inventing a kind of prosthetic tail-fin to enable it to fly again and allow him to control Toothless whilst riding him.

Whilst this is going on back in the Village, Hiccup is being trained to be a Dragon Slayer with his peers, braggart Snotlout (Jonah Hill), frantic fraternal twins Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruff nut (Kristen Wiig), nerdy Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and the object of his adolescent fantasies Astrid (America Ferrera). This training is carried out by the awesome Gobbler The Belch (Craig Ferguson), a Viking who’s run in with dragons in the past have left him with a metal leg and an arm which he can screw various different tools into including, most awesomely, a mead tankard. If I ever loose a hand, I’m so getting a tankard attached to my stump.

Anyway, to begin with Hiccup isn’t particularly great during these lessons but as time goes on, he gets to learn more about dragons from his experiences training Toothless. He uses these things to basically tame the dragons in the training pens in a similar manner and soon the Vikings think he has some mystical affinity with the beasts.

I’ll leave the plot discussion there for now. I don’t particularly want to give away the ending except to say that things happen on an incredible scale and it’s amazing to watch, especially compared with that fucking confusing Kraken from ‘Clash of the Titans’. (Though admittedly, the trailer below gives it away a little).

Let’s start of with the look of the film. It’s fucking amazing. Some of the scenes with the dragon in flight are some of the most incredible things I’ve seen in a CGI animated film and I’m even gonna include ’Avatar’ in that. It truly is beautiful and there are times when there are literally hundreds of dragons on screen and it’s truly a magnificent sight. I also really love the design of Toothless. He’s somewhat reminiscent of an axolotl and everyone loves axolotls. They rule. It’s a nice departure from something strictly lizard-esque though still recognisable as something close to the classical image of a dragon.

It’s also genuinely funny and it completely avoids any pop cultural references (Though you could say the little arena where Hiccup must fight a dragon looks a bit like the thunder dome for Mad Max 3) which have become the hallmark of the somewhat lacklustre recent ‘Shrek’ films and non-Pixar CGI films in general. Every piece of humour works perfectly well and consistently within the context of the films medieval/fantasy world. I’ll also say that this is probably the first family film that I’ve ever seen that contained the phrase “Breast Hat” and for that alone it must be applauded.

The actors providing the voices are all really quite brilliant, delivering believable performances. Perhaps the most enjoyable, besides Hiccup himself, was Gobbler played by Craig Ferguson. He managed to deliver just enough humour but also seemed to care for Hiccup in a way that his father really didn’t seem to. Speaking of his father, Stoic played by Gerard Butler , I was really surprised by this performance. Butler seems to have a more convincing emotional range in this then he’s ever had in any film where he’s actually appeared on screen. I honestly hope he does more of this kind of film because he was really, really good in it.

There is one thing that did seem a bit odd. Why is it that all the adults in this film have Scottish accents whilst all the children have American accents? I mean that’s odd on it’s own but aren’t these people supposed to be Vikings? Shouldn’t they all be talking like the Swedish Chef or something? No, no that’s stupid. I apologise. I suppose it’s fine the way it is… Just a bit odd is all…

Anyway, if I had to compare this to any other recent film of this type, I suppose I’d say it’s most like ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’. In fact the underlying emotional story is pretty similar. Both films are essentially about sons who want nothing more than their fathers approval and trust. I think that that particular story element is probably explored a bit more fully in ‘Cloudy…’ but in terms of overall enjoyment I think ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ just beats it for me personally. Maybe it’s just my natural love for all things Draconian. Four and a half pints out of five.




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