Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG/102 Min.)

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 has thrown the sequel standard out the window. I would almost venture to say that it was better than the first. This is the story about the power of love, forgiveness and true friendship. I'm ready to see it again.

I went to Saturday's pre-screening and, as you can imagine, a lot of children came to see this show. But, as with the showing of Maleficent, as soon as the movie started you'd never have known any munchkins were in the room at all until something funny or sad happened. They were completely engrossed. It's not surprising at all, really. The animation was captivating and the movie started with a dragon race. What's not to love? My favorite audience participation moment? One character kissed another and several children yelled, "EEEWWWWW!" Just you wait, kids.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up 5 years after we first met Hiccup and Toothless. Instead of joining in the fun of the dragon races, our daring duo is off mapping their world. I know that doesn't sound terribly exciting but anything must be exciting with a dragon for a friend. Along the way, they run across a band of dragon trappers and then discover a cave full of hundreds of dragons who are protected by a mysterious dragon rider. All parties must join forces against the evil Drago to prevent him from controlling the dragons and, therefore, mankind. And, in the middle of all this, Hiccup has to figure out who he really is. No pressure.

If you liked the different characters in the first movie, you'll like them in the sequel. I think you'll also like the newcomers and strongly dislike Drago. He's just a no good, stinky, poo poo head. Sorry for the language. I couldn't help myself. As far as the dragons go, after Toothless, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite. How fun must it have been thinking up all those critters? I especially liked the ones that belonged to the little old lady in the village. They reminded me of my cats.

This movie has a little bit of everything in it. It's got action. It's got cute, little baby dragons. It's got villains. It's got romance (minimal). It has super-cool, ginormous dragons. It's got a big battle scene. It's got drama. More than I wanted to see but well-done just the same. I will warn you now that one of the dragons and one of the good guys dies in this film. I very nearly came undone. If I hadn't been so worried about being laughed at by the guy who was sitting next to me, I may have bawled for a moment or two. Most of the people in the theater, children included, gasped when both happened. The only reason I mention it at all is so you'll be prepared ahead of time in case your kids wonder what on earth just happened. I'm hoping that I took it to heart more as an adult than a child would because of the things that happened leading up to this scene. Hiccup's reaction, though understandable, hurt almost as much as the loss. I'm getting all sniffly just thinking about it.

Please note that the above-mentioned sadness is just a small part of the movie. They don't give you much time at all to grieve before you're thrust back into battle. After a short, funny scene that is. I was so grateful for that.

If you liked the first film, go see the second. If you haven't seen the first film, rent it and then go see the second. This isn't one you'll want to jump into without knowing the background of the different characters. I would love to be able to go this weekend so I can help it at the box office but my mom is visiting and we'll be off doing various mother/daughter things. Maybe some of you can go twice to make up for my absence. No? Didn't hurt to try. There is no need to stay through the credits unless you like looking at the names. If you do, it's worth it. Some of them are doozies!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maleficent (PG/97 Min.)

To date, my all-time favorite movie in the history of ever has been Sleeping Beauty. Yes, I do mean the 1959 animated movie. It has true love. It has magic. It has fairy godmothers. It has singing. It has the coolest villain ever. It has dragons!!! What's not to love? Though this movie will always hold a place in my heart, it may have, quite possibly, dropped down to second place in my esteem. I loved Maleficent. LOVED IT!!! I just saw it a few hours ago and I'm ready to see it again. I was ready to see it again right after it was over. I AM seeing it again tomorrow night. I think that's a valid amount of time between viewings, don't you? I'm actually listening to the soundtrack as I type. Loved that too.

Maleficent is the basic story of Sleeping Beauty but with a twist as we get to see the tale from the villain's point of view. Simple. To the point.

I'm finding it difficult to tell you what I liked about this movie without telling you what happened. I'll start with the special effects. So good! Faerieland was amazing. And its inhabitants? Beautiful! Even the little squishy guys who like to sling mud. Literally. Not politically. The writers deserve tons of atta-boys/girls. This could have so easily gone cheesy but it didn't. Could you guys please tackle the Wonder Woman movie problem? Apparently cheese is a big reason it hasn't been made yet. But back to Maleficent... I almost forgot the costumes. Well done, wardrobe department! This movie needs to win awards.

I've liked Angelina Jolie since I first saw her in Hackers but now it's going to take quite a lot to even begin to knock her off my list of favorites after this film. No one else could have played Maleficent. Did she even have to audition? Did the powers-that-be know it had to be Angelina all along? Was anyone else even considered? This was a definite no-brainer. She played this role beautifully, from her chiseled cheekbones to the horns atop her head, to her deep, villainous laugh. I just can't say enough good things about her. Everyone else paled in comparison to Angelina. But that's as it should be, right?

Elle Fanning was cast in the role of Aurora. While I thought she was well-chosen, my friend Mack didn't agree. She thought Amanda Seyfried would've been better. We agreed to disagree. Neither one of us could think of anyone else who could've taken Elle's place so I win by default. Elle was one of at least four Aurora's in this movie. There was baby Aurora, toddler Aurora, tween Aurora and, finally, 15-year-old Aurora. My favorite besides Elle? Toddler Aurora. Why? Because she's the only child who could be found to play opposite Angelina Jolie's Maleficent. For those of you who don't already know, the studio had trouble finding a child who wasn't afraid of the star in full costume. Who did they find brave enough to share a scene? Angelina's own daughter, Vivienne. Perfect! And what a cutie pie!

There were too many characters in this movie to talk about each one so I'm going to move on to why this film received a PG rating. There was no cussing. No nudity. No sex. No drinking. No drugs. So, why the rating? That rests solely on the violence. There is a battle scene and a couple of skirmishes but the blood was kept to a minimum. The only blood I recall seeing was from a couple of scratches. Nothing gory at all. If you think your child can handle the Lord of the Rings series, they can definitely handle this. A good portion of the audience consisted of children and they were hooked from the get go. Except for a giggle from the young girl a few seats down from me, you wouldn't have known there were any kids in the theater at all. As soon as the movie started they settled down and that was that. A young boy sat in front of me and I don't think he moved during the entire film. I'm not making light of the violence at all. People do die in the movie. I just want to give you the basic facts so you can make decisions for your own young ones.

Was there anything I didn't like about Maleficent? One scene in particular was almost exactly like the animated version except for one slight change. I understand why they had to do it but I didn't care for it much. Other than that, I don't think I found anything wrong. This is a well-written, beautifully made movie.

I am definitely going to see this again...tomorrow night. And who knows how many times after. Guys, if you think this is a chick flick, you are so wrong. There were a lot of people of the male variety, both young and old, at this film and they seem to have enjoyed it. Enough action scenes were included to keep it interesting. Unless you just absolutely hate fairy tales, go see this movie. Even if you do hate fairy tales, go anyway. You just might enjoy it. I wish I could be there when my parents and niece see Maleficent. I know PT and my dad will like it but I feel pretty confident in saying that there is one scene that'll cause my mom to start clapping. I almost did that very thing. She is so fun to watch movies with because her filter isn't quite as strong as mine and she does the things that I wish didn't embarrass me when I do them (I think that made sense). She's just a very happy person that way.

Nothing happens after the credits. They do begin them with a song from the animated movie but sung by Lana Del Rey so you might want to stick around a bit for that. Enjoy!

P.S. Harry Potter fans may have issues with one of the fairies. Because Imdelda Staunton does such a good job of playing Dolores Umbridge in HP, I can't picture her as anything else. But, can you really blame me? Stephen King, during his review of the book, called this character the "greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter." And that's saying something.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (R/116 Min.)

Let me begin by saying that I knew absolutely nothing about this movie save for the actors who took part in it. I didn't watch the trailers. I didn't read any synopses. I didn't look to see who wrote or directed it. I wanted to see it based solely on who was in it. BIG MISTAKE!!! HUGE! I will never ever never do that again.

For those of you who feel the need to comment about what a poor movie critic I am, let me cut you off at the pass. If you liked Neighbors or This Is the End or Ted (I'm told), you'll probably really enjoy A Million Ways... If you thought any of those movies were crass, stay far, far away from this one. There. If the comparison to the movies mentioned above made you decide that you definitely are going to see A Million Ways then you can just stop reading now because the rest of this review will, more than likely, make you mad. And then you'll send me rude yet anonymous comments which I've decided not to post. Now, if you disagree with me and feel like politely telling me why, I'll be more than happy to share that with the general population. I might even share the rude comments if the commenters don't hide behind anonymity. Own it, people! As always, if you cuss at me, I most definitely won't post your comment. Woo! Sorry for the tangent. Just wanted to get that out of the way. By the way, I took my friend Mack with me and she didn't think it was as bad as I did. So, to each his/her own.

Back to the movie. A Million Ways to Die in the West is the story of a sheep farmer named Albert who will never be mistaken for a gunslinger...or a sheep farmer. I've seen some summaries label him as cowardly but if you know you can't hit the broad side of a barn with a gun (or the bullets in one)but can talk your way out of getting shot I see that as a good thing! But that may be just me. Anyway, poor Albert has been dumped by his girlfriend, Louise, and he's decided that life in the West pretty much sucks without her. Along comes Anna, wife of the notorious (dun dun daaaaaa!) gunslinger, Clinch. Anna takes a liking to Albert and a friendship ensues.

That's the very basic plot. So much more happens but I'm trying to keep this relatively short. The acting wasn't bad considering what they had to work with. I think I enjoyed the cameos more than the main actors.

As for the rating, I wish theaters could enforce a no children at R-rated movies policy. I still can't believe there were kids at this screening. Some parents are going to have some explaining to do. There was cussing and cussing and more cussing. We got to hear people having sex. Loudly. We got to see way more body fluid/waste than I EVER wanted to see. Poor Mack very nearly got puked on. I truly couldn't help it. It's bad enough to hear someone have explosive diarrhea. I most certainly don't want to see it. I'm trying to remember but I really don't think there was any nudity. Shocking! The only "parts" we saw were sheep parts and though no one wants to see that, I'm glad that's as far as they went. There was drinking. There were drugs. There was racism. There were several jokes aimed at Christians. If it could be insulted they pretty much did it.

For those of you who are wondering what others in the audience thought of this film, I'll say that most of the laughter sounded uncomfortable. There was one woman who would, on occasion, yell things like, "That's hilarious!" Most of the racist jokes fell flat. Thank goodness. The girl next to me, who decided to join in the dancing during the town dance scene, really enjoyed the kissing. Any time anyone locked lips I heard, "Aaawwww!!!" She was such a joy.

I will not go see this again. As mentioned before, if you liked those other movies, you'll probably like this. If you didn't, you won't. If you do go see this, stay through the credits. There's a very short extra.