Friday, May 31, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Unpopular opinion but I think the dragons in this franchise are cooler than the ones in Game of Thrones.



How to Train Your Dragon:  The Hidden World – 5 out of 5

The adventures of Hiccup and Toothless hit me very unexpectedly when the first film came out in 2010.  The trailer made the film look like a lot of fun and I saw it in the theater and found a feature that was not only that but also something with heart and a lot of charm.  Its sequel was just a great but also added another dose of drama to make it feel like the franchise was growing up and, like the first one, I loved it.  I wanted to see the third film, How to Train Your Dragon:  The Hidden World, in the theater but wasn’t able to get around to it sadly; however, with the franchise being 2 out of 2 hits for me, I blind bought the third film.  I had no reservations about doing so and felt there wasn’t a single risk or gamble with this move and, as it turns out, the third film was another out-of-this-world hit for me and one that ended the franchise perfectly.

I'm not crying, you're crying...and so am I.  A lot.

Welp, this might be the coolest way to enter literally
anywhere.
After the death of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) attempts to find his place as the leader of the people of Berk and continue to make it a human and dragon safe haven.  However, with all the people and dragons, things are getting a little cramped and so Hiccup has become determined to locate the “Hidden World;” a secret location his father spoke off where dragons lived in peace.  As he attempts to bring his plan into fruition, Hiccup and his trusty Night Fury dragon Toothless discover a white female Fury (nicknamed Light Fury by Hiccup’s partner Astrid—voiced by America Ferrera).  This new female belongs to a devious hunter by the name of Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham) and he plans on using it to bait Toothless in order to capture and kill him like he’s done with countless other Night Furies.  Now Hiccup must team with his friends to stop Grimmel and find a new home for both his people and the dragons they care so much about.

The Hidden World has "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" playing on a loop...which is amazing
because this movie takes place in a time where that song didn't exist.

The Hidden World is the final film in the franchise and it closest out the trilogy in an immensely satisfying way.  In more ways than one, the story is showcasing a “goodbye” in its narrative and through this illustrates just how far we’ve come with traditional animated “kids” movies.  This film still has all the fun and excitement of the previous two films but also shows how mature it is as we see Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship evolve and grow.  It’s strikingly beautiful the way the film doesn’t try to water itself down as it explores its drama and more emotional side.  Each of these films have the sweet moments and teary eyed moments and this one is no exception but what makes this one different is how the story presents itself and mirrors how the characters are now older and more mature.  With this growth, it delivers a conclusion that is bittersweet but also very heartwarming and satisfying.

"The cute little dragon was able to find someone, why can't you?"
My mom after watching this.

Sweet beard, Hiccup!
From a story perspective, the film is incredibly satisfying and wholly entertaining.  From an animation standpoint, the film is just incredible.  To prepare for this final entry into the series, I decided to watch the two previous films back-to-back and it’s amazing to see how the animation and design has developed.  The first one still looks great but the level of detail they’ve been able to incorporate into the characters and the locations is nothing but astounding.  The second film was a leap forward in this department from the first one and this third one is just another jump.  The backgrounds are so colorful and lush, the character animations are insanely crafted and everything moves and reacts in a way that feels like a cartoon but also looks incredibly realistic at the same time.  I love that with every passing animated feature I check out I am impressed with the work the animators and designers are able to come up with and this one definitely excels in this department.

Oh damn, Toothless proved himself worthy and now has the power of Thor.

I'm including this because Hiccup giving the "thumbs
up" to Toothless as he courts the Light Fury just
cracks me up.
Many of the same actors returned to voice the characters they initially gave life to in the first and second film—with notable exception of T.J. Miller being replaced by Justin Rupple as Tuffnut due to Miller’s unstable behavior IRL.  The performers—Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig and Kit Harrington—are still delivering wonderfully and are able to have their characters express their growth and development that we have seen in the story.  I also really enjoyed F. Murray Abraham’s performance as the antagonist Grimmel.  Abraham really made the character a threatening and calculating villain that was very chilling.  He knew how to be that bad guy that you love to hate but are also kinda impressed with how he is able to accomplish his dastardly deeds.

He also has some pretty decent funny moments.

While I’m bummed to see the trilogy come to an end (unless of course spin-offs start or new sequels suddenly go into production) I felt How to Train Your Dragon:  The Hidden World closed out its story in the best possible way.  Visually, the film is stunning and the cast is great and there are a ton of gags that are very funny (Toothless trying to woo Light Fury is very choice) but the heart this film puts on display and its exploration of the bond that Hiccup and Toothless have is really what made not only this film magical but what made this franchise truly something special for me.

Let's end this review with an adorable screenshot of Toothless.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Overlord

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  This film had me at Nazi killing.



Overlord – 3 out of 5

With the fact that Nazis are literally rising back in the public eye thanks to a President who deems that there are “good people” on that side, it’s hard to want to get invested in any property or story that involves these monsters.  However, I’m kinda all about the cathartic release of seeing a Nazi in pain so when I heard that there was going to be a zombie Nazi film in the form of Overlord, I was pretty excited.  Making the Nazis zombies basically made the promise that we’d see an even higher Nazi body count and that the kills would probably be super gory.  And with today’s political times being what they are we need to see Nazis getting killed.

In this current era, I'd pay to watch a movie that is just one man and a magical
machine gun that had an infinite clip just mowing down wave after wave
of Nazis for an hour and a half.

In WWII, some paratroopers are sent to take out a German radio tower but their plane is shot down.  Only four soldiers; Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Private Tibbet (John Magaro) and Private Chase (Iain De Caestecker) survive.  With the help of a local named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), the soldiers find the church but discover that secret experiments are being conducted in there and a mysterious serum is being developed.  The team soon learns the serum turns people into inhuman monsters and the Nazis plan on using it in order to take over the world.  Now what was once a mission to destroy a radio tower has become a frightening mission of survival.

Yes, the typical open-mouthed stare at something that will turn out to be
a monster out to kill you.

Sure, it's a zombie but looks how shiny and smooth
they're skin looks!
Overlord starts out very exciting.  The entire sequence with the paratroopers in their aircraft getting ready to jump over enemy territory and get their mission done is killer.  This whole part is exceptionally crafted as it creates a very tense atmosphere as the chaos of getting to the jump point as explosions are ripping through the skies around our main cast.  Sadly, after this point, the film slows down too quickly and the build to get to the part where we get to see zombie monsters made by Nazis takes too long to arrive.  The build-up isn’t terrible but it results in monster action arriving too late in the story and the fun element feels fleeting.  As it stands, the pacing basically made the film an average, middle-of-the-road experience that wasn’t terrible but wasn’t something that stood out either.

I don't want to say it all goes downhill from here but this sequence set the bar
very high.

The performances in the film are undeniable great.  Pilou Asbaek is fantastic as the antagonist and he brings that same “love to hate him” charm that he brings in Game of Thrones.  I really enjoyed Jovan Adepo as Boyce because he really nailed the character’s development and it was incredibly easy to sympathize with and cheer for him.  The only weak link I saw in the cast was Wyatt Russell as Ford.  Russell feels very vanilla in his role and he doesn’t have a very commanding screen presence.  His performance isn’t bad in any real sense.  He looks and feels like a real soldier and his confidence feels legit but he doesn’t bring anything memorable to the role.  To boil it down, I found Russell to be serviceable.

It could have been worse, I guess.  It could have been that episode of Black
Mirror
that Russell was in.  That was pretty unbearable.

Finally, while the monster action takes a bit to arrive, when it does it is very cool.  The makeup and practical effects look terrific.  Sure, this compounds the disappointment I had that the film doesn’t feature this aspect enough but when it is around it is very cool to see.  One scene of note is when the troopers foolishly test out the Nazis’ serum and the results are pretty horrifying but very wickedly cool to watch.

This is how I imagine a trip to the chiropractor would look for me.

Overlord is not without its entertainment value or without its charm.  The film is definitely entertaining and the cast is great but it didn’t quite deliver the punch I was hoping from it and it feels like it takes too long to establish its premise and too quickly resolves its conflict.  It’s a decent and entertaining film but one I feel probably didn’t live up to its potential.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Vice

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Finally, a film about my favorite type of pliers!



Vice – 4 out of 5

I’m not stranger to watching movies about evil people.  I’ve seen my fair share of biopics that center on horrible people who do horrible things so I would never rule out watching a film about one of the most conniving men to ever exist:  Dick Cheney.  However, when you slather that biopic in a dark humor/satirical sauce, have it directed by Adam McKay and have Christian Bale put on some poundage and portray the dill weed, you have a better chance of getting me to check it out.  And check it out I did.  I watched Vice and found it a very amusing and entertaining exploration of a truly vile person.

How much longer can Bale's body go through these physical changes before
he melts or explodes from the stress?

Vice tells the tale of, you guessed it, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale).  It follows him from his days as a college dropout getting pulled over by the cops for driving while intoxicated to him setting his sights on working in the government.  From his early days as a White House intern under Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) during the Nixon administration to the moment George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) asks him to become his running mate, the story showcases Cheney’s mad obsession with power and how he changed everything we know about politics and the powers of the Vice President and his lasting, negative effect he’s had on the office to this day.

I hate Dubya but I love Sam Rockwell.  I'm so conflicted!

Making a biopic about a still living Vice President is hard enough but making one about a truly heinous, power-hungry piece of shit (is my bias showing?) makes it all that more difficult.  Now imagine doing that with a slightly comedic tilt that wasn’t full-on parody?  However, Adam McKay tackled a difficult subject not meant to have a humorous leaning with The Big Short so the tale was definitely in good hands.  McKay showed that artisanal comedic craftsmanship all over again with Vice as he delivered a film that wasn’t afraid to showcase that its central figure is nearly completely irredeemable (probably the only decent thing about him is the sequence where he tells his lesbian daughter—played by Alison Pill—that he loves her no matter what) and is able to make a story that is engaging and utterly entertaining.

Even evil men can love and accept their children...but it turns out she had oil
inside her and he could use that to orchestrate a war that he can profit off of.

Probably my favorite element of the film is the narration that is done by the character of Kurt (played by Jesse Plemons).  Who exactly is the character is a surprise that is revealed in the end so I won’t get in to that for the sake of Spoilers but his inclusion is wickedly creative and a very amusing way to illustrate Cheney’s story.  This also allowed the film to have a fly on the wall feel so that never feels like we are joining Cheney on his evil journey of power but rather are watching him go through this.  Doing this created a presentation that allowed for some truly creative and very funny moments.  Some of which included a false ending that hysterically presents a happy ending for the corrupt man and a terrifically edited sequence where we see who really was pulling the strings with Dubya as the scene where George asks Dick to be his running mate is splice with shots of fly fishing.  McKay really delivered an expertly forged format to tell this story and really made a tale about a terrible person interesting and easy to digest.

The film did a great job of teasing this character's connection to Cheney and
it was an amusing surprise when it is revealed at the end.  Plus, Plemons is awesome!

Amy Adams is fantastic in this film but that's just
expected because she never fails to deliver.
Not surprisingly, the cast in this film is just phenomenal.  There’s already an abundance of talent as you have Bale in titular role, Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney and the likes of Plemons, Carell, Rockwell and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell—just to name a few.  Everyone frighteningly captured their real-life counterparts in both look and mannerisms.  I’m always amazed at the lengths Bale will go to physically change himself for a role but he really nailed down every detail of Cheney.  From the way he walked and sat to how he spoke out of the side of his mouth.  It is probably the closest one could get to a real Dick Cheney on screen in a comedic biopic about the guy.

The film concludes with the fourth wall being broken and Cheney speaking directly
to the viewer.  It is brilliant but goddamn unsettling.

Vice is tricky subject material in a barrage of ways.  It’s easy to make biopics about terrible people after they are gone but it’s a different minefield to navigate when they are still here.  However, I feel Adam McKay delivered a film that was, for lack of a better term, pretty fair and balanced.  The story doesn’t ever showcase Cheney as a sympathetic person (far from it) but it does showcase how his obsession with power altered our political landscape forever and it does so in a way that never felt too over-the-top or overtly bias (unlike my descriptions of the former Vice President).  Granted, there is no denying the film has bias but it never comes off as childish as our current leader has a tendency to get.  Overall, the film tells an intriguing story (and frustrating one in the fact Cheney pulled off this crap) and is filled with tremendous performers and some great humor.