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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Movie 43 (2013)

Movie 43 (2013)

Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid), an insane and desperate screenwriter, manages to sneak his way into an interview with producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) for a movie pitch. What follows, as Griffin listens mostly at gunpoint, is a series of loosely-connected short films that Wessler thinks will be his cash cow. There is a story of a man with testicles on his neck who goes on a blind date, one about two men kidnapping a leprechaun and the consequences of doing so, one of a woman who proposes the ultimate gift (which may make you more uncomfortable than you think), and one in which Robin (Batman’s sidekick) is on the Gotham City speed-dating circuit. These are not the only skits, but in the end, they all culminate into a film that is reminiscent of others in its genre such as Kentucky Fried Movie.

There were a ton of stars in this film. Aside from Greg Kinnear and Dennis Quaid, there was also Common (the rapper, from Hell On Wheels), Hugh Jackman, Will Sasso, Richard Gere and others.

That having been said – this film should have been AMAZING. As it stands, it felt like I essentially watched an entire episode of Saturday Night Live…and not their best skits, either. Some of them admittedly made me laugh out loud but most were just potty humor. Poop and piss jokes, literally, comprised most of the skits in the film. The one that had me laughing the most was the leprechaun skit but only because of the novelty of seeing Gerard Butler as a leprechaun spouting obscenities at Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott that’d make a sailor blush.

It may be worth watching, if only once, on Netflix or somewhere else you can find it on the cheap. I suspect that mostly teens may find this funny, but for the rest of us it’s so-so (and not as good as Kentucky Fried Movie, either….not by a long shot).

JOE Rating: ★★

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the crime-fighting everyman named Kick-Ass who inspired many people to take arms and assume the role of city protectors is looking to form a superhero team with none other than Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – the closest thing to a real superhero that Dave has ever seen. However, Hit Girl has her own problems with the “Queen Bee” of the school, Brooke (Claudia Lee), who’s raining on her parade and her new adoptive father-figure Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) who forbids her from participating in antics as Hit Girl. This leaves Dave to look elsewhere, which leads him to Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of superhero hopefuls. As Dave tries to continue on his path as defender of the innocent, he must contend with the likes of The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – formerly Red Mist, who has gone insane with revenge bloodlust resulting from Kick-Ass killing his crime-kingpin father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)….as well as all of the hired killers that money can buy.

In my opinion, this film was much more enjoyable than Kick-Ass, the previous entry. While I love both movies, this one kept my interest the entire time and it did not waver. The characters, especially Colonel Stars and Stripes and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) really jumped out and distinguished themselves within the context of the film.

The action was fast-paced, there weren’t a lot of slogging story problems and the special effects were decent. There were a couple of silly elements which almost ruined some of the movie for me, but other than that the only thing I can really complain about is Hit Girl and her dealings with high school students and high school life: Nobody really cares. We spent far too much time dealing with the likes of Brooke, and exposing ourselves to Hit Girl’s vulnerable side…but Hit Girl doesn’t NEED a vulnerable side. I wanted to see more of her, well…hitting stuff.

So, if you liked the first one or other films in this genre (Super, Defendor) then you’re sure to love Kick-Ass 2.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Role Models (2008)

Role Models (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: November 7, 2008
Director: David Wain

Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two energy drink salesmen who travel to various schools and businesses to try and sell their company’s drink. Danny is jaded and fed up with the company and is taking it out on everyone around him, including his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). When Danny goes too far and ends up trashing his company’s truck, he and Wheeler must face either jail time or community service. Not opting for jail, the two salesmen end up as Big Brothers; Danny to a socially-crippled teen named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who spends his days dreaming of being a medieval warrior. Wheeler, meanwhile, is assigned to a foul-mouthed boy named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) and the both of them give the guys a run for their money, testing their patience, wallets and friendships.

I never quite know what to expect from a movie that has either Paul Rudd or Seann William Scott in it. Sometimes I think they get typecast as the same old characters they always play. This movie isn’t that different, but it certainly does some interesting things that a lot of their other films don’t do.

First, I did like the dynamic between Scott and Rudd. They’re just like a different version of the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson duo, to me, and that formula works pretty well. Rudd was sarcastic and sometimes angry like Ben Stiller and Scott was sort of daft and out for himself, but full of heart like one of Owen Wilson’s characters. (Think Starsky and Hutch, or Zoolander).

The addition of the big brother program headed up by Jane Lynch’s character was great, as well as the LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) group that Christopher Mintz-Plasse enjoys so much. There were a couple of smarmy moments I didn’t enjoy, because I find that a lot of times in comedies like this they try to throw in some touchy-feely type things like Adam Sandler started doing with all his comedies after the 90’s and it sort of ruins the pacing.

Overall, I think it’s one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies. Plus, he helped write the script so it looks like working with Judd Apatow has paid off for him because this definitely seemed like it could be an Apatow movie. Give it a watch, even for all the cool cameos by other funny folks.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Role Models

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick Ass (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school kid with lots of problems; Girls, unpopularity and no real talents to call his own. One day, after being robbed by some street thugs, Dave decides he’s had enough and creates the superhero persona of Kick Ass. Despite not having any powers or training, he becomes involved in a web of crime and punishment, teaming up with other ACTUAL vigilante heroes like Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take down evil crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his loyal son, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Kick Ass is, of course, based on the Marvel/Icon comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. of the same name. The comic book differs a lot with major plot points but generally has the same feel, and both can be enjoyed as separate entities. I loved Kick Ass when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the comic before seeing the movie so I didn’t have trouble separating them from each other.

I have been getting a little bit of Nicholas Cage fatigue with all the films he’s been in lately, but this is one of his better roles. He totally nails Big Daddy, and it’s fun to see him on the screen as a cross between The Punisher and Batman. Chloe Grace-Moretz is one of the best characters in the movie as Hit Girl, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both do a great job as nerdy guys trying to be heroes.

There is lots of action, very gratuitous violence and some great scenes. Kick Ass’ character is very reminiscent of Spider-Man’s early years, so it was fun seeing a “more” realistic take on a boy just buying a costume and putting it on to fight crime.

See this film, read the comic book. Enjoy both. The sequel is coming out soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kick-Ass