Sunday, February 24, 2019

Film Review - How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How to end a project is a difficult and trying act to accomplish. There has been many a film or Television series that has left their loyal audience that hung in there since the beginning feeling less than at the choice of ending. Writer-director Dean DeBlois'  nine year dragon journey had its ups and downs with whispers that there might not be a third due to the significant drop off in box office from the first to the second. However, the third did get greenlit and DeBlois lands the trilogy in the best possible way.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel Voice) has turned his home of Birk into a Dragon sanctuary. He and his crew  raid poachers rescuing  captured dragons bringing them back to Birk where they can roam free. The pirates attacked at the films open want their merchandise back bringing in notorious dragon killer Grimmel (F. Murray Abrihim -voice) to track down the Birkians. Gimmel has dragons of his own, drugged to do his bidding and a plan to turn Hiccup's alpha Toothless against his friends.

Deblois delivers a straight forward that is easy to follow while working on parallel levels. There is Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera-voice) their relationship moving into adult hood and talk of the new chief taking a bride. Toothless encounters a Light Fury, bait from Grimmel, but a potential partner for the Alpha. The story also touches on themes of self reliance and an unfounded like for those that are not like you.

In the end, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ends the trilogy spanning nine years in the best possibly way. The Birkian flock is allowed to self determine making a natural choice. There are valuable lessons here for both children and adults alike. The villain of the piece is dealt with smartly with a coda scene that will have the youngsters oohing and ahhing just before the credits scroll.

*** Out of 4.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World | Dean DeBlois | U.S.A. | 2019 | 104 Minutes.

Tags: Trilogy, Fantasy, Pirates, Dragons, Homeland, Ruler, Marrige, Set Free.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Film Review - Alita: Battle Angel

Part Matrix, a dose of Elysium, a sprinkle of Pinocchio, a dash of Running Man and a whole lot of Rollerball are the key borrows that come together to form a true James Cameron project in Alita: Battle Angel. The events take place in 2563 or 300 years after THE FALL where invaders from Mars attacked leaving the earth in the state of a Dystopian wasteland except for the Beautiful floating city of Zalem with the working class plugs and hustlers inhabiting the wild west like Iron City below. Dr. Dyson Ito (Christoph Waltz) is rummaging through the scrapyard for parts for patients that require cybernetic replacement body parts when he finds the head and core of a still alive teenage cyborg girl. He brings her home attaches a body that he had made for other purposes bringing Alita (Rosa Salazar) back to full being status with a clean slate in a position to start a new path.

However, Alita is drawn to violence an imprint from her past then when she follows her adoptive dad out one evening more of her abilities along with some flashes from her past are revealed making her determined to find out who she is. Her search intensifies when she encounters an abandoned 300- year- old ship warship to which she has an obvious connection.

Director Robert Rodriguez under the watchful eye of co-writer and producer James Cameron brings the 90's era Yukito Kishiro Japanese Magna to life. Alita is the best to date application of uncanny valley human simulation. She's a robot featuring those telltale large CG eyes but the movement and micro differences not as unnerving as in the past. Alita blends seamlessly into scenes with her fully human cast members Dr. Ito and her love interest Hugo (Keean Johnson) who brings parts and supplies to the doctor while on the side works for Vector (Mahershala Ali) providing parts for competitors in the cities main sport Motorball sometimes taking them from unfortunate targets that are still using them.

Alita:Battle Angel is an action filled Sci-fi tale of a teenage girl with human frailties trying to find out who she is. It's another in a strong series of young women empowerment films that will show girls a strong positive image of themselves that will culminate with Brie Larson in March's Captain Marvel. The  story is a classic one of rising up that is heavily influenced but that does not take away from the fact that the film is a big production that works despite some early well-documented set backs making it one that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Alita: Battle Angel | Robert Rodriguez | U.S.A | 2019 | 122 Minutes.

Tags: Sci-Fi, 26th Century, Dystopia, Cybernetics, Japanese Magna, Teenage Gir, Warrior, Death Sport, Bounty Hunter, Floating City, Class System.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Film Review - The Lego Movie 2 : The Second Part

Being forced to play with your younger sister can be a terrifying thought to a teenage boy. That is the scenario brought up at the end of 2014's The LEGO Movie. For the sequel, it's five years later. Duplo invaders have come to Bricksburg smashing everything that they find shiny. To survive the city has been abandoned for a desert wasteland known as Apocalypseburg not to attract any attention. All of the main cast is back from the first installment. Lucy/Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) Unikitty (Alison Bree) Will Arnett's superb portrayal of Batman, pirate Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) Benny the Astronaut (Charlie Day) and Chris Pratt as the happy go lucky Emmet the only one keep his sunny disposition from the past. The big simple Duplo invaders return taking a group of the main players back to their planet for a wedding that Emmet as foreseen as an event that will lead to the end for his friends and himself. Emmet sets out to save his friends running into Rex Dangervest who seems to be his doppleganger only with confidence and stubble. Dangervest is a mix of Pratt's biggest screen roles including Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy and Owen Grady from Jurassic World as evidenced by Rex's spaceship and its crew of wisecracking velociraptors.

Women play a big role in the film with Finn's sister Bianca (Florida Projects Brooklynn Prince) leading the way, a strong, fierce and independent Wyldstyle and new character Duplo Queen Waterva Wa'Nabi (Voice Tiffany Haddish). In the real world, Finn and Bianca's Mom (Vera Rudolph) threatens to shut down Lego all together if the siblings are not able to get along. The visuals continue to pop but the material seems not as fresh with some of the repeated cuts to live action becoming tiresome.

Music again is centre stage with the centrepiece song titled Catchy Song used as a brainwashing device that will definitely get stuck in your head. There's also a Will Arnett voiced piece that touches on every incarnation of the caped crusader from Adam West to Ben Affleck. Be sure to stay for the end credits song Super Cool with The Lonely Island Guys, Beck, and Robyn that hits all of the production departments then shifts to the cast the stars that rotate into centre frame Avengers style.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is an entertaining feature that had a hard act to follow in the first installment. There are some valuable lessons her for kids in teamwork, being true to yourself and the dangers of trying to change others. The narrative is an empowering message to girls but the narrative and some gags do get too repetitive making it a build that feels like it's missing a key piece.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

 The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part | Mike Mitchell | Denmark / Norway/ Australia / USA | 2019 | 106 Minutes.

Tags: LEGO, Toys, Sibling Rivalry, Dystopian, Time Travel, Glitter, Wedding, Washing Machine, Dryer, Storage.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Renaissance Media Film Review - The Prodigy

Where do our souls go after we die? Is there empty nothingness? Do they go up to heaven, or could they return to earth inhabiting another being? The possibility of reincarnation is the version that is explored in The Prodigy. Serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux) is tracked down, surrounded and killed in the middle of the night in Ohio. Just after his death in Pennsylvania Sarah (Orange is the new black's Taylor Schilling) and her husband John (Peter Mooney) welcome Miles into the world their newborn son who has red droplets of blood in the same locations as where the bullets pierced Scarka's body.

Miles development is advanced landing in a gifted school where violent behaviour begins. The family reaches out to reincarnation specialist Dr. Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore) who fills in a lot of the plot points on the subject concluding that Miles and the serial killers' soul are battling and now that he is eight Scarka could gain total control.

Director Nicholas McCarthy alongside writer Jeff Buhler bring a fresh spin on the demonic child to the screen. There is no ancient spirit throwing slime at a priest who battles back with holy water. Instead, a sadistic ritualistic killer is battling for Miles body refusing to leave the earth until he can complete one piece of unfinished business. Joseph Bishara's score also helps to build the tension and the adults are smartly written avoiding seeming to do what a reasonable person would at each step of the progression.

Taylor Schilling leads the cast at Sarah. At first, she will not believe that there is anything wrong with her gifted child but as the evidence mounts, she takes actions drifting towards the extreme in order to save her son. Peter Blume is the level headed dad John. He is first to realize that they can't handle Miles on their own at home taking steps to get him professional help. Jackson Robert Scott is effective as Miles. Working well with Paul Fautex mimicking Scarka's mannerism and playing his part in the smooth transitions in control between the two especially in one hallway scene that is the early leader for the most frightening scene of the year.

The Prodigy is an original entry into the possessed child horror genre.  Reincarnation is the vehicle here following a serial killer's soul jump to a newborn biding its time as the child develops to the point that he can use this new body to complete one final task. The team of actors does not make a wrong step with the project. While the film does suffer from some issues with pacing there is enough meat here to keep the audience engaged for its full 92 minutes.

*** Out of 4.

The Prodigy | Nicholas McCarthy | Hong Kong / USA | 2019 | 92 Minutes.

Tags: Reincarnation, Serial Killer, Ritual, Calling Card, Survivor, Pregnancy, Child Birth, Manipulation, Hypnosis, Babysitter, Pipe Wrench, Garden Shears