How to Train Your Dragon 2

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I am going to start my review of ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ this way: it is my favourite animated film since 2012’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph’. While that may not be a popular opinion with others, especially with the love that 2013’s ‘Frozen’ gets, but that is just the level of impact that ‘Dragon 2’ had on myself and my family yesterday.

I firmly believe that this is the rare sequel that is a large step above the original, and that is truly saying something as the original was a great film four years ago as well. ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ hits on all the notes: laughs, action, great animation, and even manages to tug at the heart strings on multiple occasions, all to the great effect of providing amazing change of pace in a 102 minute film.

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ also features just enough character growth to make the story an actual success, instead of just forcing the audience to accept the changes that were happening. With this, it certainly allows the aforementioned heart strings to certainly be tugged in a manner that was quite a shock to myself.

As for the story itself, ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ does a wonderful job of continuing the story from the first film, and is actually quite a natural progression, despite a five year gap in setting from the first film to the sequel. Further exploring family, along with loss, the film plays to strengths you would not have expected.

At the end of the day, I truly feel that ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ tells the best story so far at the theatre in 2014, and is my favourite non superhero film of the year to date.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

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Edge of Tomorrow

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I wrote last year about how 2013 was going to be a break out year for science-fiction films at the theatre. After an up and down year, it appears I was a tad premature on my thoughts on that front. But only by a year, as with last weekend’s debutante, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, I can safely say that sci-fi is not a dead genre anymore.

Tom Cruise is at his best as an outmatched United States Major forced into battle for the first time in his life. Ending up with the ability to reset the battle by dying, Cruise’s Major William Cage goes on one of the strongest character arcs in recent memory as he explores the desperation, hopelessness and fear that comes with living and dying over and over again.

In what one would have hoped was a strong role, Emily Brunt is relegated too many times to an almost damsel in distress role as Sergeant Rita Vrataski, the only other person who has gone through the same situation as the main protagonist. At times strong, at times tossed aside, in the end, Vrataski is the one character that director Doug Liman and co-writers Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth could just not get right, and in the end, it hurts the film a touch.

Some will refer to ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ as a poor-man’s ‘Groundhog Day’, but that is doing neither film justice. While the time loop elements of both are a tad similar, the fact that the main antagonist of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ resets not by going to sleep at the end of the day but by dying delivers enough of a difference to sell the concept.

At the end of the day, the film originally called ‘All You Need is Kill’ and based off of the Japanese novel of the same name, is a powerful, exciting return to enjoyable science fiction for not only Tom Cruise, but audiences as well. I fear not enough people will see this in theatres and that is a major loss for them.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Best Picture: The French Connection

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The next film in my tracing back of past Academy Award Best Picture winners is ‘The French Connection’.  Featuring Gene Hackman in his Best Actor award winning role, ‘The French Connection’ is commonly known for having one of the best car chase scenes of all time, and one that has been parodied many times over in the forty plus years since.

Based loosely on true events, ‘The French Connection’ centers on a heroin drug smuggling operation from France, one that allows director William Friedkin, who won the Best Director Oscar for this film, to show how singularly focused police officers can become in pursuing leads of the nature shown in the film.

I will admit that the opening to ‘The French Connection’ is a tad dry, but as you get introduced to main protagonists and antagonists, the film does start to pick up, and never is this better seen than when Hackman’s character, “Popeye” Jones trailing his mark, the affectionately known “Frog One” and gets made at a subway.

As for the aforementioned car chase scene, the use of multiple angles, chasing of an elevated train, and the cramped confines that entailed all make it one of the greatest car chases ever put to film.

In the end, ‘The French Connection’ is a product of its era, limited in what it could do when compared to films today, but a major success as a result. Telling a point a to point B story that didn’t worry about trying to throw the audience for a loop, it only deviated at the end to leave those watching guessing as to the end.

All in all, I was quite entertained by ‘The French Connection’, but I feel I won’t be venturing into the sequel, for I have heard it is nowhere near the original.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.