How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Movie Poster

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I went to see How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World last weekend. This movie, the third (and final?) film in the series, wraps up Hiccup and Toothless’s adventures fighting dragon hunters and blending viking and dragon lives. I’ll say right up front that I loved the movie.

The first film remains my favorite. There was a loose energy to the film that the subsequent films don’t have. It probably has something to do with the first film being done very quickly with a comparatively low budget. The second film was visually pretty great, but the story was choppy and not spectacular. Fortunately, the third film brings everything together nicely. As you might expect with advances in CGI and animation techniques, this most recent film is visually spectacular. Without spoilers, lets just say the dragon breath, slobber, and other visuals are outstanding. Oh, and go see it in Real D 3D on a big screen. It’s worth it.

The movie picks up where the second left off. Hiccup and his clan are still living peacefully with dragons, but as Hiccup and his crew work to rescue more dragons from hunters, Berk is near bursting with dragon overcrowding. Things get complicated quickly when a new villain shows up on the scene intent on catching and killing Toothless. That’s all I’ll say about the story because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you’re not sure about it, just watch this trailer:

Of course, animated films usually come with an assortment of toys and other products that capitalize on a film’s popularity. I don’t usually care about any of those things, but this particular film series does have an “Art of” book dedicated to each film. The insights in these books are fascinating to me.

I enjoy getting a glimpse at the concept work that went into these movies. I particularly like the dragon designs and animation. Toothless for example acts a bit like a dog, a bit like a cat, and who knows what other mannerisms blended into the character. I also like that the dragons come in many shapes and sizes. Some are comical, some are big and hulking, some are relatively tiny, but all of them are original. I’ve kicked around drawing many of the dragon concepts in a more ‘serious’ or ‘menacing’ style. It’s a project on the to do list. You can check out the art books for yourself here:

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel

I went to see Alita: Battle Angel over the weekend and it’s fantastic. Go see the IMAX 3D version. Robert Rodriguez did a fantastic job adapting Yukito Kishiro’s manga series into a live action feature film. In case you haven’t heard of it, watch the trailer below:

I’ve been an fan of the series in comic/manga for since the 90s. Kishiro is a highly regarded illustrator that rose to prominence at the age of 17 when he released his first manga series. The Alita series is his best known work and if you want all of it in one sweet box, you can buy the collected deluxe edition here.

At Eternity’s Gate is OK

At Eternity’s Gate Movie Poster

I’ll start by saying I really like Willem Dafoe and the roles he usually picks. Some may remember him as Paul Smecker, the detective in “Boondock Saints.” He’s been in a lot of films and has over 126 roles and credits on IMDB. So, I was looking forward to this film about the artist, Vincent van Gogh and went to see it in my local little indie theater–you know, the small ones with chairs instead of recliners and a small stage that might be used for burlesque shows as much as watching movies.

I’ll get right to the point. I found the film ok. Yeah, just ok. The storytelling was really well done. The imagery, scenery, background settings, and acting were all really well done. So why just OK? Because the director made some choices in the way he shot it that just sucked. For example, there’s not a single stabilized camera shot in the film. It has that Blair Witch vibe with tons of camera shake. Scenes that would otherwise be gorgeous are hard to watch. The second point is the score. I’m not sure if the intent was to show the distress in van Gogh’s mind or anxiety, but there are segments of the film where the score consists of someone beating on a piano. It’s distracting to listen to and kills parts of the film. I recommend you watch it on Netflix if you’re going to watch it at all.

I’m bummed about how I feel auto this movie. I really wanted to like it more than I do. I like the actors in it and thought it was beautifully acted. The vehicle that brings us the story, however, the camera and the score seem to have been driven by someone under the influence.

If you’re a Van Gogh fan, check out his complete works–this 700 page book is pretty great. Van Gogh liked to paint quickly and was prolific. And if you like the poster, which I really do, you can get it here.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is AWESOME!

Official Movie Poster for Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

Update: This film won the Oscar for best animated feature! It is available in 4K, Blu-Ray, DVD combo now!

When I saw the preview for this movie at the end of Venom, it didn’t really make me think I’ve got to see that. Instead I thought it was a bit of a contrived mash up, but I did like the style of the animation. 

Fast forward to the film’s release date and I started noticing a lot of comments on social media about how great it was. Really?  

So I went to see it. IMAX and Dolby style–with reclining seats that move with the sound. Holy shit. It was AWESOME!  I’m pretty sure it’s the best Spider-man movie that’s been made thus far.  I love the characters. I love the diversity and that it’s a modern story. You can tell that this isn’t the same story from 1962. Instead, the story stays true to its roots, but it’s been thoroughly updated for a modern audience.  It really deserves that Golden Globe nomination

Oh, let’s not forget the soundtrack! It’s pretty fantastic and consists of multiple collaborations that are woven into the film beautifully.  For example “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, “Familia (feat. Bantu) by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA, and “What’s up Danger” by Blackway & Black Caviar to name just a few.  Although, I have to admit, after buying the soundtrack I like some of the songs much better in the context of the film.  Other than “Sunflower” and “Elevate” much of the album will likely not make it into a playlist I listen to regularly. 

Titan has even released a deluxe collector’s edition book.  Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse The Official Movie Special. Look for a review here after I get it. Here’s the IMDB link so you can check out the whole cast, crew, etc. You can come back after you run out to the movies and watch it if you haven’t already! 

IMDB Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse