How to Train Your Dragon 2

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-trailer1

DIR: Dean DeBlois • WRI: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell • PRO: Bonnie Arnold • ED: John K. Carr  • MUS: John Powell • CAST: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler

2010’s How to Train Your Dragon took me, like it did the majority of the movie-going public, completely by surprise. Dean DeBlois’ fantasy-family romp, from an animation studio who’d long seemed content to mop up the spare change left by the behemoth Pixar, more often than not to the tune of an ever-tiring Scottish ogre and a zebra of African-American descent, and baring a title more marketable to the pop-up book industry,  proved the finest collaboration of human storytelling with other-worldly elements suitable for all ages since Tom Hanks voiced a cowboy doll. Despite  taking a couple of watches for me to admit my love, my adoration for it grew with each viewing until I, like every other red-blooded audience member who chanced upon it, pondered the cruelty of the sort of world where I could not acquire a Toothless to call my own. Though anticipating this sequel eagerly, I found it difficult to believe that lightning could strike twice to the same extent. My cynicism did not linger beyond the five-minute mark. Cynicism has no place in this movie landscape.

Opening with a ten-minute visual bombardment of a reminder as to why we adored the first film so much (featuring a Quidditch-type game simply titled ‘Dragon Racing’) it does not take long for spectacle to blast a smile on one’s face. The rich spectrum of colours from the original remains intact but the attention to detail is heightened in terms of vibrancy, as is the case with animation sequels. Rather than leaps forward in production design, depth is felt more-so in the textures of beards, scales and weather – which is fine… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; polish it.

The story this time around stems from conflicts within the realm of the expanding world of the Vikings (thanks to their winged friends) and the importance of defending one’s actual homestead, with themes of stagnancy and environmental control in the face of expansion and understanding warring for the in-story triumph. Returning at centre-stage is Jay Baruchel’s Hiccup as well as the whole clan with the additions of Cate Blanchett voicing his dragon-hippie mum, and a new adversary in the form of one Drago Bludvist, who’s about as nice as he sounds.

The great strength of this sequel is its achievement in evolving the story from essentially a fantasy-pet yarn to a broadened, emotionally involving mythology that balances hope with despair, love with tyranny and slapstick comedy with gripping action sequences. Every review will claim this is attempting to pull an Empire Strikes Back and, apart from the lack of a dark ending, I can’t render a denial of this as a fact on paper. DeBlois has upped his franchise’s game in every sense, with a very special shout-out to composer John Powell for a score that will accompany as many a morning as it will take for this reviewer to tire of it. DeBlois’ script does not miss a beat, with every plot device introduced serving refreshing functions outside of mere spectacle and with the core thematic concept of communication and understanding here, even riskily suggesting homosexual undertones amongst the patriarchal Vikings, in one of the more progressive moves yet seen in child-fiction. For some reason this understanding does not lend itself to sheep, who fall victim to needless cruelty throughout.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 achieves what all children’s films should strive toward. This is by no means necessarily for children and yet it can be enjoyed with children. For a second time Dreamworks animations have produced a work that respects its adult and infant audiences in equal measure. Your move, Pixar.

Donnchadh Tiernan

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
101 mins

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is released on 27th June 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Coriolanus

Shake it Up

DIR: Ralph Fiennes • WRI: John Logan • PRO: Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, Colin Vaines • DOP: Barry Ackroyd • ED: Nicolas Gaster • DES: Ricky Eyres • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt

After his brother played the title role in Shakespeare in Love, Ralph Fiennes decided to one up his sibling with his directorial debut, Coriolanus, a modern-day version of the Shakespearean tragedy, spoken in original verse.

Set in ‘Rome’ – a place unsure whether it is a nameless poverty-stricken Eastern European country or the UK – the film opens with it’s unhappy citizens plotting against Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes), an Army General who’s withholding grain from them. After riots begin break out, Martius quells them with force, while making little effort to hide his repulsion towards the lower classes.

Later, in an action-packed battle sequence, Martius comes face to face with his nemesis, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Following a knife-fight between the two – which resembled an odd energetic bear hug – Martius returns to Rome where Cominius gives him the third name Coriolanus. So after a chat with his mum, the newly-dubbed Coriolanus is convinced to run for consul, which he does reluctantly, and wins – however he ultimately loses because the fifteen/twenty people in a shanty town get a sudden change of heart. Thus initiating the PR disaster that is the downfall of Coriolanus.

The performances overall were decent. It was only Ralph himself letting the side down; his choice to play Coriolanus as overtly stoic, teamed with Willy S’s dialogue meant it was difficult to fully understand the character’s thought process. Vanessa Redgrave was excellent as his mother, what little lines Jessica Chastain got were performed exquisitely, and local talent, James Nesbitt does a top job as the snide Sicinius. Come to think of it, it wasn’t just Ralph. Lurking in the background is some of the funniest extra acting to date.

Coriolanus feels much longer than it actually is, due to the fact it’s limited action takes place solely in the first third of the film. The rest is a compilation of unnecessarily slow, lingering shots and countless, weighty monologues that make little sense in the bizarre modern setting.  In fact, quite a few scenes are indulgent, contrived and sometimes downright ridiculous (see Aufidius’s troops’s homo-erotic chair party).

This verbose, clunky film should only be viewed as a cheeky alternative for lazy students who couldn’t be bothered reading the original.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Coriolanus is released on 20th January 2012

Coriolanus – Official Website

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RocknRolla

RocknRolla
RocknRolla

DIR/WRI: Guy Ritchie • PRO: Steve Clark-Hall, Susan Downey, Guy Ritchie, Joel Silver • DOP: David Higgs • ED: James Herbert • DES: Richard Bridgland • CAST: Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven, Ludacris, Tom Wilkinson

RocknRolla is Guy Ritchie’s hopeful return to the East End milieu and the commercial success of Lock, Stock and Snatch, and even though it’s not quite as good or as fresh as those films were, it’s good enough to make you want to pretend he hasn’t done anything in the meantime.

The film starts with a pretty funky credit sequence, followed by a lot of exposition, much of it in voiceover. It moves quite fast but still manages to be a bit dull (it’s basically about real estate), so the film takes a while to get its bearings. After that, it gets more entertaining. There’s not a lot of action, at least for a while, but when it comes it works well enough, and there’s plenty of humour in the meantime, which is probably the strong suit of the film.

In general, it’s solidly made, if a bit gloomy visually. The acting is decent, though Jeremy Piven and Jimi Mistry seem to struggle a bit, which is surprising because they’re usually good. The film is at least partly named after a rock star character who Ritchie seems to be very fond of, even giving him a nice payoff at the end, although aside from that, you really wouldn’t mistake him for a major character, especially in such a big cast. The only notable female role is played by Thandie Newton, and seems to go unnamed throughout the movie, though she doesn’t really need a name: she’s basically a generic devious, geezer-loving posh bird. But maybe this is understandable, as that is a convention of gangster movies, and aside from that the film tackles racism and homophobia in a well-intentioned way.

There are moments where it seems like a clever movie playing at being dumb, and others where it seems like a dumb movie trying to be clever. At times it feels a little over-written, and as if it’s trying a bit too hard, which would be a shame, because Guy Ritchie is a good enough writer/director that he doesn’t need to do that. In the end, while it’s not as good as his first two movies, it is a step in the right direction.

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