Skip to main content

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 starts out gorgeous and rapidly upgrades to magical. It's a testament to the skill and vision of DreamWorks, whose teams crafted a story that's pleasing to the eyes, ears, and heartstrings. In this movie, they created truly impressive visuals that look like the lovechild of Studio Ghibli, Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has become a respected young man who's being tapped to replace his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerald Butler), as leader of their village. Conflicted, Hiccup takes to the skies with Toothless, where he and Astrid (America Ferrera) discover dragon hunters who think they're working with the mysterious Dragon Rider. The hunters are helping to build a dragon army for the vicious Drago (Djimon Hounsou), and Hiccup goes after him, determined to keep the peace.

Naturally, he meets the Dragon Rider, who is initially like Mononoke-hime but without the biting. This is where the animation truly shines -- the Dragon Rider moves with balletic, animal grace, in stark contrast to Hiccup's awkward mannerisms. There's one particular scene where the Dragon Rider dances from dragon to dragon as they fly. There's no dialogue, only music, but that sequence effectively shows two characters sharing a profound love for dragons, the sky, freedom, and seeing what others can't see.

The action and flight sequences are equally eye-popping. Everyone gets their share of the glory, including the secondary characters who are excellent as comic relief. Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) is especially hilarious as the unimpressed gal being fought over by two dudes who ends up falling for the rippling biceps of the dragon hunters' leader, Eret son of Eret (Kit Harrington).

Hiccup's inventions are also fun--apart from his steering mechanisms for Toothless from the end of the first movie, he's made himself a couple of high-tech gadgets that work in a convincing manner. But what's coolest is Toothless, in a reveal that I'm convinced is a shout-out to Godzilla. Just like in the last movie, Toothless acts kind of as the Draco Ex Machina, but it's inspired by his loyalty and love for Hiccup.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a lot more grown-up than the first movie, and deals with themes like identity, responsibility, abandonment, commitment, control, and coexistence. Hiccup is the solid emotional core, particularly when he makes a discovery that sheds light on his distinctly non-Stoick characteristics.

TL;DR: This movie is in a class of its own in terms of animated movies of 2014. Watch in 3D.

Popular posts from this blog

Paint Nite!

Last night I joined the "Oops" Paint Nite event hosted by the Club Cafe in Back Bay. About 12+ people came to relax and have two artists guide them through painting this original work:

The point was not to slavishly duplicate "Oops" -- we were instructed to make it our own, to relax, and not to utter the words, "Mine sucks," "Can you do this for me?" or "I thought this was paint-by-numbers!"

Speaking of dashed hopes, I had assumed that wine was included. I had done something like this before, only it was in the morning and we all got mimosas. Not so here! While the artists were setting up, I schlepped over to the bar and was rewarded with a generous pour of Cabernet. Now I was ready.

The setup: Everyone got a 16" x 20" canvas, three paint brushes, and a palette (a paper plate) with red, yellow, blue, and white paint. One artist (Brian) had the microphone and would paint with us, while the other was the assistant (Kory) who wo…

An International Women's Day Miracle!

Truly, International Women's Day is a special day. No, not because multitudes are out there rallying for our rights and giving voice to the powerless. It is because I won a gift card from a company raffle!

Let me explain why this counts as a minor miracle. You see, I never win anything. I answer every damned survey sent my way, participate in all the raffles, buy lottery tickets -- to no avail. This particular raffle occurred monthly, and I had been faithfully entering my name every month for two years, with no results. Finally, last month, I declared: "No more!" and unsubscribed from the mailing list -- but not before entering one final time, because why not.


There's also some déjà vu at play here. You see, four years ago, I won a gift card from a company raffle. The one fracking time I won anything! I was elated! Shortly thereafter, also on International Women's Day, I was laid off from my job.

Sooooo...since the day's almost over, I guess I'm not…

Get Out (2017)

Get Out has a charismatic lead, a terrific soundtrack, and damn good cinematography. While it’s described as horror/comedy, it’s more disturbing/cringe-y than scary, and I mean that in a good way. This is an entertaining movie that’s also pretty effective as social commentary.

The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a photographer who’s about to spend the weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parent’s house. Naturally, it’s in a secluded spot in the woods. When they get there, the awkwardness that might be expected from a first-time meeting gives way to a series of bizarre behaviors and interactions. While Chris initially takes it all in stride, it eventually becomes clear that there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes.

The acting and dialogue are highlights of the film, as is the camera work. In particular, Kaluuya’s eyebrows and head tilts are so expressive that the audience knows what’s going on in his head even as he politely brushes off eccentricities. A…