HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014)

 

Toothless and Hiccup

Score = A

(Animation-Action–Adventure / PG)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

LoglineA Chief always protects his people

 Hiccup is a young Viking of adventure.  He’s always on the go in search of undiscovered lands to add to his map, because as we all know; there’s always something more out there.  But, he’s the son of a chief, and with that comes responsibility.  That responsibility includes being groomed to one day take over the duty of looking after the townsfolk.  Although he seems reluctant to even think about his destiny, there is always someone else willing to accept the job.

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is considered The Dragon Master in the town of Berk.  If it wasn’t for his uncanny ability to domesticate dragons in part one of the series, the town would still be at war with these wonderful beasts.  Unfortunately for the dragons, he’s not the only one with wrangling abilities.

Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) is a dragon master of a different breed.  Rather than earning a dragon’s trust and friendship, he uses fear and intimidation to demand their loyalty.  And why, you ask?  To build an army of course; even if it means tearing through the town of Berk to achieve this.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 the crew small

Look at those cute faces. How could you not want one. 🙂

The movie is penned by Canadian screenplay writer Dean Deblois, who is also responsible for a little gem called Lilo and Stitch.  The material for the ‘Dragon series movies was adapted from the books written by talented Londoner Cressida Cowell, who has an impressive collection of children’s books under her belt in addition to the How to Train Your Dragon series.  And with the number of source material we have here, I think this series might actually give Mrs. Rowling’s famous wizard a run for his money in terms of books to movie conversions by the same author, in the same series; especially if the movies keep turning out as good as the first two.

There is just not enough room on this page to really discuss the many things this movie gets right.  Vocal talent and delivery, check… Cate Blanchet, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, etc.  It’s like a smorgasbord of well-known talent on this project.  Striking visuals, check.  The personalities and traits of each dragon are portrayed so well through the animation, you will definitely want one by the end of the movie.  Story, double-check.  Comic, love and tragic elements to play with the gamut of human emotions, triple check.  In fact, it’d be easier for everyone to note what was NOT perfect in the movie.  And even then, it’s only with a trained eye that I’m even mentioning it.  That rough little culprit would be the lip syncing.

There were a number of points during the movie when the animation on the lips just didn’t quite line up with the words being heard through the speakers.  I’m thinking maybe the animators on lip-sync duty may have possibly been on a time crunch and didn’t have a chance to put the fine polish on some of those vowels for better sound to visual integration.  But again, I’m not sure how obvious this is to an untrained eye, and it by no means disrupts the enjoyment of the movie.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a straight up solid film and is right on par with the first movie in terms of quality.  This one scores an A for a positively delightful way to spend a couple of hours out of your day.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians small

Score = B
(Animation, Family/Adventure/ Rated-PG)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline: Do you still believe?

Many moons ago, when we were children, we believed. We believed in a magical world of folklore passed down through generations. The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and of course, jolly old Saint Nick, just to name a few. Our reserve was strong in regards to entities unseen, well, at least until someone spilled the beans and crushed all of our dreams…

Rise of the Guardians remembers the tale of some of our fabled heroes and takes us back to a place. A place of innocence and imagination. A toy factory in the North Pole, a secret underground where Easter eggs are painted; everything was real, as long as we believed. Of course, just like light and fluffy tales, there are also dark and scary ones. The Boogeyman A.K.A Pitch Black to be more specific. Once the lights went out, the Sandman was a distant second to the anticipation of nightmares from this guy. He was a bit of folklore I could have done without when I was young.

Over the years, The Boogeyman has been waiting, waiting for the fears of little children to grow, which, in turn, makes him stronger. His moment finally arrives a few days before Easter. He launches a plan to destroy children’s belief in our heroes until all that is left is fear. And the plan looks thorough. So thorough that the Man on the Moon has chosen an additional hero to become a guardian to assist with the problem: Jack Frost. But, how can he help if no one believes in him? And does he even want to help?

Rise of the Guardians does justice for the imagination. It’s a heartwarming animation that, truth be told, almost feels like it was meant more for us adults.   The innocence of children, Tooth Fairy missing the aspect of being ‘out in the field’ among the little ones while they sleep, Sandman’s double entendre (gently “sanding” folks to sleep and also being a sand-slinging bad-ass), the list goes on…  The themes soaredrise_of_the_guardians Santa's tatts easily over the heads of today’s electronic-aged youth, indicated by whispered explanations from parents heard around the theater at different points of the movie. No game systems, MP3’s or even televisions are present in this movie; and going outside to play in the snow—puleeaase. Although, I whole-heartedly salute the film makers for the socialism aspect.

At the end of the day, Rise of the Guardians is filled with magic and wonder that most of us have probably tucked away in a vault somewhere deep in our psyche ever since a certain teenage wizard’s adventure ended a while back. But, I personally welcome all the wonder that crosses my path and only hope there’s more to come.

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph (2012) – IMDb.

Score = A+

Wreck-it Ralph

(Animation, Family/Comedy/ Rated-PG)

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline: Sometimes being a bad guy just isn’t enough.

            Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain veteran of an old school video game entitled: “Fix-It Felix Jr.”  The 8-bit game cabinet has survived twenty-nine long years inside of an arcade now filled with new and improved games of high-definition caliber.  On the thirtieth anniversary of the game’s existence, Ralph slumps home after a villain support group session, only to find the other characters of the game partying it up during an anniversary party.  Of course, being the bad guy, receiving an invitation to such a party is nothing more than wishful thinking.  Every day Ralph watches the town reward Fix-it Felix Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer—best known for his role as a page in NBC’s 30 Rock) with a shiny gold medal for fixing up the buildings Ralph destroys.   But, where’s his medal?  Why doesn’t anyone reward and love the villain for his contribution?   Bad guys need love too!

            Deciding he’s had enough of living alone in a pile of bricks and fed up with not being loved by the masses, Ralph decides to venture out into other video games to earn his own gold medal for proof that he deserves to live in the high-rise condominiums with the rest of the townsfolk.  Luck is with him as he crosses into a high-tech, first-person-shooter with the final prize of the coveted gold medal he seeks, but the victory is short-lived thanks to a major misstep on his part.  The mistake lands him into “Sugar Rush”—a sweet toothed, kart racing game where all the tasty pieces come together with a hearty helping of hidden drama for dessert—where he meets up with another major character, Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by the indelicate Sarah Silverman).

            A smorgasbord of colorful characters, each with distinctive personality traits, made this movie a delightful indulgence!  Everyone from the hard-nosed Sergeant Calhoun (voiced by the ever talented Jane Lynch) to the popular leader-of-the-pack, snooty girl, Taffyta Muttonfudge (voiced by Mindy Kailing—largely known for her role as Kelly Kapoor on another NBC hit, The Office) connected very well throughout the entire film.  A large part of that connection had to do with some great writing.  Sergeant Calhoun kept things interesting by spouting out kid friendly versions of adult toned anecdotes that seemed to hit the mark every time.  There were also plenty of back and forth banter bouts that kept things moving, but not so much that the little ones would lose track of what was happening on the screen.  During some of the emotional scenes, there was no mistaking the collective “awww” from the tiny voices that filled the seats around the theater. 

           

Attention to detail was duly noted in this movie.   The animation as well as the overall graphical look of the film was impressive.  Little things like the way tiny dust particles swam through the sunlight that pierced through the chocolate jail cell bars were noticeable; or better yet, one could even appreciate the tiny fibers of fabric sticking out along Ralph’s flannel shirt.  The colors in the film were as bold and rich as any Super Mario game and could quite possibly make you salivate at the thought of licking the sugar from one of those peppermint trees.  Being a movie that involved video games, it was only natural to have a ton of references around every corner.    The world-famous Konami code.  Having one of the original video game bad guys at the head of the villain support group.  Even the running, albeit respectful, gag of a nod to the oldie-but-goody Q-bert crew was a well received account of things in the gaming world.

All in all, “Wreck-It Ralph” is not a movie about video games, but more of a movie wrapped in a video game flavored coating.  The desire to want more out of life and be loved by all is something the majority of us can relate to, although, there are the unfortunate few of us that tend to go turbo in situations for a different sort of outcome…   “Wreck-It Ralph” gets an A+ for sheer entertainment, relevant plot lines and an overall good time at the movies for both kids and adults.