How to Train your Dragon 2 Review

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In the world of sequels, this is a pretty impressive one. The animation is gorgeous and if you spring for 3D there’s a whole added depth. John Powell once again does an amazing job with the soundtrack, though it didn’t quite have the same magic as in the first one and that is something I’ll say about the entire movie.

The movie is very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Where the first movie was a story about friendship and finding your place in your world, this is a coming of age story. It’s five years later and a lot has changed in our favorite viking village of Berk, dragons have became a part of the culture. Things seem perfect, everyone is happy and content–everyone except Hiccup that is. He’s a free spirit and flies far from home, creating maps and searching for dragons. But his father believes it’s time to retire and for Hiccup to take over as leader, this is an honor Hiccup is not thrilled about. The story goes on from there, it’s solid, but not terribly imaginative.

SPOILERS ahead! I found it interesting to discover Hiccup’s mother was actually still alive, but it’s definitely not the most original move. Part of me was happy that Hiccup and Stoick were so understanding as to why Valka has been gone for 20 years. It warmed my heart, but my brain had some trouble with it. I feel like there would have been some anger or hurt going on, it didn’t need to be extreme, but I didn’t feel her explanation as to why she left and stayed away was very convincing. But I will say it was very sweet, especially the scenes with Stoick and Valka, which of course was put in to twist the knife later on.

The idea of the dragon army being amassed by any angry, scarred man, with a grudge against dragons, was rather typical. They went from a heart warming story about a boy who befriends a dragon to a typical action adventure story about fighting an ultimate foe. I liked that Hiccup had to grow up, learn, and take responsibility, but killing Stoick to do it felt like another cliche. I don’t think these things would have bothered me with most kids movies, but after the magic of the first one I had such high hopes. I will not say that those hopes were dashed, because I did truly enjoy the movie, but I did leave feeling disappointed.

I think my final point and perhaps the one that annoyed me the most was that Astrid didn’t play a larger role in the story. I wanted to see her and Hiccup working together more. They’ve been dating for 5 years and are apparently going to get married one day, but aside from the promising beginning there wasn’t much of them working together as a team. It’s not that Astrid wasn’t present throughout the movie, but her scenes weren’t important for the most part and we didn’t get to see much of the relationship between Hiccup and Astrid. I was also disappointed that Astrid and Valka never had a scene together. I would think that Hiccup’s mother would want to get to know the girl who is likely to become her daughter-in-law. It could have been a great scene but it appears they were too caught up in their giant dragon battles to fit that in.

I know this is all rather negative and it is by no means a bad movie, it’s beautiful and has some great moments in it, but after the simple magic of the first, I feel like this one could have been so much more than the big action film it turned out to be.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Predicting the Story

One of the interesting things about being a writer is you begin to understand how other writers think and as a result you can often figure out where a story is going. I was watching ‘The Bates Motel’ with my mom last night and I kept saying character’s dialogue a moment before they did. She thought it was the funniest thing in the world, which I think had to do with the late hour.

I remember when I was younger I thought I’d make a great detective because I could usually figure out “who done it.” It wasn’t until later that I realized that I wasn’t figuring it out because of the clues so much as by how the characters were presented and how they interacted with each other and who I would have made the killer. 

As a result of understanding the writer’s mind many of our family and friends will marvel at our powers of observation. But there’s a bit of a downside to it as well. It becomes so much harder to be surprised by a story, though on the bright side it’s so much more rewarding when the writer does pull the wool over your eyes. I think it should also inspire us, as writers, to not be too predictable. We should strive to think outside the box, don’t always go with your first idea–or your first ten–we want to surprise and delight ourselves as much as our audience. Learn to get off the beaten path and off road it, because that’s where all the surprised are.

P.S. I did not expect this blog post to go this way. I was just going to write about how funny I thought my mom’s reaction to my foretelling of the movie were XD

~~Lady of the Pen~~

Inexplicable Anticipation

Do you ever get moments of inexplicable anticipation when starting a book or movie? There are times when I get a feeling, right at the beginning of a movie or book, that I’ve found something I’m going to love, this is a story that will strike a cord with me.

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I experienced this recently when reading Neil Gaiman’s book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” Within a couple of pages something about the style, the imagery, the tone, the voice had me bouncing up in down in my seat. I knew I’d found something special. And I was right. The words sang to me in a way that few books have.

 

 

ImageI had a similar experience when watching a movie called “INK.” It’s a low budget, surreal fantasy that portrays some very interesting concept with an artist ingeniousness that can only come from using all your creativity to make due with limited resources. I love that movie. It took a little longer than “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” I think it was the third scene when I realized that I was going to love this movie.

 

I’m fascinated by this strange phenomenon. There have been plenty of times I’ve adored a book and not had this feeling. But there are times when a storyteller’s work strikes a deep vein in me from the very beginning and I know there is no way I won’t like this story.

~~Lady of the Pen~~

The Breakfast Club

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I watched The Breakfast Club, for the first time today. When a friend of mine realized that I’d never seen it she looked aghast. “How have you never seen it? It’s a part of American culture!” Properly chastised, we quickly remedied my gap in 80s culture.

It was a pretty great movie. The characters all represented different cliches, and are fun and memorable.  My favorites were John the mostly hatable, some times lovable criminal who always has a smart remark and Alice the compulsive lier and kleptomania. It was a pretty great cast of characters and the contrast between characters made them all the more interesting.

Aside from being funny the movie had a surprising message about not taking people at face value and that if you actually get to know that person who seems so different, you might actually find you have more in common with them than you think, even if it’s only that you share in the same struggles.

It’s interesting that I ended up watching this now, because I’m currently reading a book called Ready Player One, which in short is about a man who creates a massive online multi player game in the future and before he dies creates a contest. Whoever wins the contest will inherit his multi billion dollar fortune. So millions of people become obsessed with winning this contest and one of the ways they prepare for this is by learning all they possibly can learn about 80s pop culture, because apparently the creator was totally obsessed with the 80s. It’s a total nerd book! And if that’s not a good enough reason to read it it defends on honor of the movie Ladyhawke, which is an awesome old fantasy movie and under appreciated. Anyway, getting off topic here. The point is it was fun watching the Breakfast Club while in the middle of a book where all the characters are completely obsessed with the 80s 😉 It’s reminded me that the 80s did have some pretty great movies XD

Haywire Review: Not a Spy Movie For Everyone

I just finished watching ‘Haywire.’ I really liked it. It appears to be a lower budget film with some heavy hitters such as Antonio Banderas and Channing Tatum. I’m certain that many people would find ‘Haywire’ to be a slow movie. Especially considering it’s about a spy on the run. But I didn’t find it to be slow. I liked the pacing, it drew me into the movie. The film also challenged me to understand what was going on with the larger plot. I understood the immediate problems, our protagonist, Mallory Kane, is on the run from her employers who have tried to kill her, I don’t feel like I’m being left in the dust, but I’m forced to close my computer-which I’m usually using while watching a movie-and pay attention. And as I payed attention I found myself drawn in by the long scenes, the two or thee camera angles, and the often absence of music. There was an underlining tension that could be felt in the film even during the slow parts.

Then of course there’s Gina Carano who plays Mallory Kane. Most actresses who play spies are just a pretty face. Their stunt double do most of the sweaty work leaving the actress to stand over “her conquered foes” once the Double is done. But Gina Carano is an ex MMA fighter and she knows how to handle herself. Her fights lack the usual Hollywood over the top showiness-though there are some cool moves-but actually look like realist fights. Not to mention the movie doesn’t make her Superwoman. She has to go up against a couple of the guys and she doesn’t beat them with just brawn, but with skill and strategy. Because come on, I’m a martial artist, and there’s no way I’m going to go up against a guy twice my size and start trading punches. I’m going to go for his weaknesses and try to finish it as quickly as possible.

I’d say this is one of the best female spy movies I’ve seen. Though not for heart pumping, flashiness, but rather intensity and believability. The movie has it’s flaws, the dialogue is a bit weak, though it preferred to show you what was going on rather then tell (hence the need to pay attention). Interestingly enough many of the things that I believe people would call flaws in the movie were actually the movies strengths; the long scenes, the limited camera angles, and lack of soundtrack are all things that many-including myself in many cases- would call flaws, but in this movie I would say they were the things that drew me in.

This is definitely not a movie for everyone, but I for one enjoyed it.