How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release: June 13, 2014
Director: Jean DeBlois

Five years have gone by on the Viking island of Berk since the heroic deeds of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless resulted in the once-feared beasts becoming allies and pets. During a training flight to help train Toothless to maneuver better, Hiccup discovers a sect of dragon hunters who are led by the insane Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who has a desire to subjugate dragons at any cost, including all-out war.  Add that to pressures from his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) to take on the throne and the appearance of a mysterious dragon rider who steals dragons in the night and young Hiccup certainly has his hands full.

This is obviously a sequel and I loved How To Train Your Dragon so much that it was out of the question for me to miss this movie. I haven’t read the books by Cressida Cowell, but I hope to check them out soon.

The animation, as always, was fantastic. Toothless has never been cuter and there were some new things to look at in the form of new armor, new weapons and new dragons. All the old cast has returned including the aforementioned Hiccup and Stoick, and aside from the sinister Drago there are a handful of new characters as well.

The best part of this film is that it has more complexity to it than the original. In the last one, both Hiccup and Toothless were younger. Though it’s only five years that have gone by, the characters have grown. As a result, the mood of this sequel is a bit darker than the previous entry. There are darker themes and concepts and I think it provides a richer film experience. The relationships between characters have also grown, with Stoick becoming warmer toward Hiccup as well as Astrid and Hiccup being more mature in their romantic relationship – which is not overdone and sappy but you can still tell how much they care for one another. Hiccup’s mother is introduced, as well – which provides for a new dynamic between Hiccup and his parents. (Not giving anything away…it’s in the trailer.)

There were a couple of things I felt could have been improved, but they are sort of trifling. It was a bit too long for my tastes, and the pacing felt chunky at times but mostly because of all the interwoven narratives happening simultaneously. I took my young nephew and he sort of needed to get up and move around before the movie had ended, so watch out if you bring the kiddos. It may be too long for them to sit still. However, with all the cool dragons flying around on screen it’s hard for anyone to not be captivated.

Overall it was a great film and a sequel that I believe is mostly superior to the original, which is rare in many cases. It’s fun, it’s rich, it’s exciting. It’s definitely an adventure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For How To Train Your Dragon 2

 

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Hulk Vs. (2009)

Hulk Vs. (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: January 27, 2009
Director: Sam Liu, Frank Paur

The Incredible Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful and dangerous characters. In this animated double feature, the Hulk goes up against The Mighty Thor (Matt Wolf) and Wolverine (Steve Blum) in two separate vignettes.

In the first, Hulk is transported to Asgard by the mischievous Loki (Graham McTavish), Thor’s jealous brother, and placed under a spell with the help of Enchantress/Amora (Kari Wahlgren). With Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson) separated from his monstrous other half, the Hulk, he can only watch as Loki uses Hulk to smash his way through Asgard with only Thor and his Asgardian friends to stand in the way.

In the second, the Canadian military is after the Hulk when he is suspected of making attacks on defenseless wilderness homesteads. They call in Wolverine, who uses his superior senses to track Hulk down. However, as the two rage away at each other in the forest they are both attacked by members of the Weapon X program which created Wolverine’s adamantium-laced bones and claws and Wolverine is left to fight Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Lady Deathstrike (Janyse Jaud), Omega Red (Colin Murdock) and Deadpool (Nolan North) all at the same time, with Hulk as the wild card.

It was an interesting choice to package this as a double feature. The whole thing, with both movies, runs to about an hour and a half.

I found the first story with Thor to be a little underwhelming. It’s always cool to see Thor go up against Hulk, but this one wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be. There were a few instances in which Thor really went to town on Hulk, but overall, to create more drama, the writers sort of overpowered Hulk a little bit. I felt like with these two titans beating on each other, there should’ve been more destruction, more action.

Luckily, the second story redeemed the entire movie.

Wolverine versus Hulk, to me, is always really great…and this one tried to re-create, at least a little bit, the fight they had in Incredible Hulk #180, which was Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974. Notable differences being the involvement of Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Deadpool. For the movie version, it worked however because a fight between Hulk and Wolverine would be pretty brutal but also pretty short, so having the villains show up enabled the pacing to be the way it was.

Overall, it was a fun watch. I just wish they had tweaked the Thor section a little bit more.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Also, just a side note: If you’re interested in all-things-Hulk….check out The Collectionary, which features tons of Hulk-related merchandise to peruse and consider purchasing for gifts or for yourself.

Trailer For Hulk Vs.

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: February 28, 2012
Director: Lauren Montgomery

The Justice League is a team of powerful superheroes dedicated to protecting Earth from all manner of supervillains and other dangers. Batman (Kevin Conroy), the most human of the Justice League, has created contingency plans to defeat each individual member of the famed superhero team. Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) has plans of world domination and decides to send Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof) to sneak into the Batcave and steal all of Batman’s files, including the weaknesses of the Justice League. This results in Batman, Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) and Cyborg (Bumper Robinson) all having to fight for their very lives as Batman’s contingency plans prove all too effective.

Taken from the Tower of Babel story line, the events in this film mostly mirror those found in DC Comics, with some differences. However, with only 77 minutes to tell this story, I think they managed to do a good job, overall. Still, some fans of the original material might feel like this doesn’t adequately translate Mark Waid’s original writing. Movies will almost always lack the depth of their source material, so it’s best to treat them as separate entities if you can.

The animation was very slick and stylized. The voice acting was consistently very good, and it was nice to see the Legion Of Doom go up against the Justice League. You could get a sense of the classic rivalries between the characters even without knowing all of the years of back story behind them.

DC seems to really have a handle on all of their animated features – I will give them that. DC characters are sort of larger than life and tend to lend themselves more to animated adventures, where Marvel characters tend to be more gritty and aside from characters like Spider-Man, are more suited to the big screen.

With that said, in this (too) short animated feature, you will find copious amounts of action, danger and adventure…and you will feel that the League really is close to being defeated, because they are…and it’s because of one of their own members. (Thanks a lot, Batman…)

JOE Rating:  ★★★★

Trailer for Justice League: Doom

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: September 2, 2008
Director: Jay Oliva, Gary Hartle

It’s been around twelve years since the Avengers were defeated and scattered by the villainous android known as Ultron. Captain America, Wasp, Giant Man, Black Panther, Hawkeye and Black Widow are all dead. Thor (Michael Adamthwaite) is in Asgard and Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is missing. Iron Man (Tom Kane) and Vision (Shawn Macdonald) are the only ones left but Iron Man is in charge of protecting the children of the original Avengers: James (Noah C. Crawford) – the son of Captain America and Black Widow, Torunn (Brenna O’Brien) – the daughter of Thor, Pym (Aidan Drummond) – the son of Giant Man and Wasp, Azari (Dempsey Pappion) – son of Black Panther and….Hawkeye (Adrian Petriw) – son of, well….Hawkeye.

It starts out a little slow and depressing, what with some of the kids (Pym especially) being annoying and all the cool Avengers being dead or gone.

The animation and action sequences were fairly well-done, but it might be a little too “cartoony” for some older viewers. It’s very reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon special, but depending on how you look at it, that could be a good thing, too.

The take on the Avengers’ kids was kind of a neat idea but some of the character motivations were a little vague and seemed thrown in there. (Thor seems to have basically let the Avengers be slaughtered). While we’re at it, for a kid’s flick, this is pretty dark. It deals with death and it deals with loss. Grown-up themes for the kiddos, in my opinion, but as long as a parent is watching with the kids and can explain all that stuff if they need to ask, it should be fine.

All-in-all, it was good to watch just as sort of a “What If?” type of thing.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Oh, and if you like The Hulk and all things Hulk-related, check out The Collectionary….where you’ll be able to find a HULKING (get it LOL) amount of merchandise for all your collecting needs.

Movie Trailer For Next Avengers: Heroes Of Tomorrow

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2007
Director: David Silverman

In this film adaptation of The Simpsons television show, Homer Simpson adopts a pig that was to be slaughtered after a Krusty Burger shoot. In typical Homer fashion, he indulges with the pig on an eating binge and the two of them fill up a silo with feces (yes, Homer helped fill it) which Marge tells him to dispose of. The lake in town has recently been protected, but homer dumps the silo into its waters and pollutes it, causing Russ Cargill and the EPA to place a dome over Springfield. The Simpsons escape the dome to the outside world and become fugitives, as Russ has plans to destroy Springfield and doesn’t want any witnesses. The Simpsons must decide whether they love Springfield enough to try and go back to save their town and all the people in it.

I have been a Simpsons fan since before the cartoon even came out. I still remember the Butterfinger commercials, announcing the “coming” of the animated show. The series started off strong and really hit its stride in the mid-to-late nineties and then, I felt, lost some of its edge with shows like Family Guy being more bold and edgy. I did notice the Simpsons start to do this but not too much (as Family Guy sometimes does).

The movie was great in the first half, but lost its momentum. I felt many of the episodes of the show were far funnier than the film, and I’m not sure why that was. I would rather, I think, have watched the movie slimmed down into an episode’s length and I may have been far more satisfied.

Still, it was fun to see the Simpsons family finally get their big-screen debut and although we don’t get to see a lot of the minor characters for any length of time, it was nice to spend so much time with the family we’ve all come to love over the years since being first introduced.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Simpsons Movie

TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Director: Kevin Munroe

The movie takes place after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and is the fourth and final movie in the series, (at least for now) though this entry disembarks from the live-action method of the previous three films and goes to CGI. The plot revolves around ancient creatures coming to wipe out mankind, starting with New York City, and the TMNT must fix their differences if they don’t want to end up as turtle soup.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty hard to mess up.

Initially, I was dubious about the CGI. My worries were unfounded, however, as the CGI was one of the best things about the entire movie. As much as the animatronics and rubber suits get me all nostalgic, the TMNT were brought so much more to life and we could actually get a better picture of their ninja skills.

Almost all of the best scenes in the movie were fight scenes, and I felt like there was a lot of wasted opportunity with the story. Sure, it’s nice to see the Turtles in action but the majority of the attention focused on Leonardo and Raphael. Not that those two aren’t cool, but I always hated how the wooden-weapon-wielders, Donatello and Michaelangelo, (say that five times fast) are never shown kicking shells as much as Leo or Raph.

Some of the voice talent was awesome like Sarah Michelle Gellar (April O’Neil), Chris Evans (Casey Jones), Patrick Stewart (Winters) and Laurence Fishburne (Narrator) but again, lots of it wasted on no story. I did like Leo and Raph’s standoff but it took too long to come to a head and the other characters seemed largely ignored. Kevin Munroe, the writer/director, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to do but it doesn’t seem like it was enough to satisfy.

Overall, it’s fun (and is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) and your kids will love it because it’s very much a cartoon in guise of a full-length feature film. It’s worth watching if you love the TMNT but in the end, you’ll be wanting to just go back and watch the older stuff.

Also, check out my review of the Nintendo Wii game tie-in (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up) that smacks of this movie’s artistic style, HERE

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For TMNT