The Signal (2014)

Signal

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Weird, but intriguing.

Call me strange, call me a nerd, but when it comes to alien movies, I’m almost always game. Now, I never knew what The Signal was about before watching it, as the trailer itself is more or less vague in that department, but it still looked good enough to watch, and it constantly kept my interest – plus, for a movie I hadn’t really ever heard of until I watched it, it had a surprisingly recognizable cast…so there’s that.

The plot of the thing revolves around a group of three friends, more or less led by a guy named Nic (Brenton Thwaites). As the movie begins, you notice they are on a road trip of sorts, and as it progresses, you realize they are being stalked by some kind of hacker by the name of Nomad. Nomad leads them to an abandoned building – and then everything changes as the group has a blackout. Nic wakes up in some kind of testing facility and is interviewed by a mysterious scientist by the name of Damon (Laurence Fishburne), who claims Nic had come into contact with an EBE – Extraterrestrial Biological Entity – and he was contaminated. Being an MIT student, Nic begins to calculate an escape – but escaping may not be the best idea.

This isn’t your typical alien/government conspiracy film, even if it seems like it will be here and there. This is something else, something more creative and more original. Its more interested in telling a mysterious story and leaving messages for the audience to interpret than anything else. It just uses a very strong and very powerful direction in science fiction to get to those messages. Underneath everything, you’ll find a lot about the human will, and our freedom to make choices despite having every logical reason not to – that the will to live and to survive is stronger than anything else. I was intensely intrigued by this film, there’s no doubt about it.

However, a lot of the movie does feel like it drags on. It takes them way too long to get to the most interesting element. That element kicks the film into high gear, but before that happens, it feels very slow and laggy…which really hurts the movie. In fact, it starts out and ends just fine, but the middle section doesn’t fit. The first part had a lot of suspense and realism – so the movie could go in any direction. The second part was very intriguing, but moved really slow – and you could probably skip a good portion of the second part – and the third was action-driven with a lot of sci-fi, ending in all of the answers to the questions asked before. The ending was the best part, it just took too long to get there.

So it’s not hard to guess that the pacing is a bit iffy for The Signal, but where it falters, it also draws strength in its nonstop mystery and concept alone. The performances weren’t bad either, but they certainly weren’t what drove this film. The “reveals” in the movie were really cool, in a way that sort of made District 9 a success…I don’t know. I just wish the film had some more advertisement than it ultimately got, because I’ve never actually heard of the thing until I watched it – which doesn’t make sense. The graphics and overall visuals in the entire movie were top notch, and all of that together would make a very intriguing trailer…I’m just curious as to how I missed its existence.

The Good:

The Signal is different, weird, and I never heard of it before I saw it…but at the same time, it’s unique, creative, and captivating with it’s mystery, suspense, and grasp on science fiction. For the most part, I really enjoyed this flick.

The Bad:

As great as the film was, it had a bit of an issue with the pacing. You could almost feel the three parts of the film where the pacing changes. From good start, to really boring mid-section, to exciting finale. That pacing ultimately affected my viewing experience, feeling as if the film dragged on for a bit too long.

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

BillTed2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It’s bogus, alright.

I consider myself to be a fan of the Bill & Ted series because it hasn’t ever attempted to be anything other than a bogus and random comedy. It’s clearly slapstick, if even partially self-aware. It knows what it’s doing, so I still find it very funny and the roots of where these actors really came from. The first film is the best, as always, but I have some issues with sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. I believe there are some strong points here and there, but I think it definitely faltered in other areas; areas that are just too important to ignore.

In the second film, Bill and Ted encounter futuristic robot replicas of themselves that were created to stop Bill and Ted from becoming famous and altering the course of history. Very much Terminator-ish. Anyways, these robots end up assuming their lives after they kill the real Bill and Ted, so the guys have to travel through Heaven and Hell, battling the Grim Reaper in order to return to their mortal lives and set things straight.

I should probably start with what I did like about the movie. I absolutely loved the bad guys from the future, and their very subtle intentions. Yeah, they want to kill Bill and Ted, but just listen to the reason why. They want to change the future into something believable, and filled with order and reason – and they are seen as the bad guys. I love it, because that is so entirely self-aware. It might even be the most brilliant part of the film – it was just ignored a little too much in the film to focus on our two heroes. I also kind of like the fact that they were sent to Heaven and Hell. I like it because it’s not just copying off the first film, and it’s still an over-the-top adventure with two idiots – and that always has a funny way of blending together.

On the other hand, going to Heaven and Hell gave the film a little too much of a religious tone than what feels natural for the film. People may watch this and feel like they changed too many things, and that they should have just kept to what they knew. Travel through time some more, yatta yatta. While I would have liked to see more time travel, I more or less disagree with them. It was a smart move to do something different and over-the-top, but it wasn’t so smart to go to Hell and kill these guys. That’s a little bleak for a comedy such as this, which doesn’t feel natural with dark humor.

I think my biggest concern has something to do with how crowded the movie actually felt. You have the bad robots, you have heaven and hell, you have the Grim Reaper, etc. The funny thing is, I didn’t mind each of these elements on their own – I think it could have been a great film if it just focused on one of those subjects – but all of them together felt a bit too crowded and jumbled. Beyond that, I had an issue with the surfer accents and personalities this time. The “dudes!” and “most excellent” adjectives used throughout the film felt a bit forced this time – as if trying to push the humor. It didn’t work as well, sorry.

The Good:

It’s cool to see Bill & Ted in whatever environment they’re in, honestly. They have good chemistry and the adventures they go on together are always pretty funny.

The Bad:

This film just felt too crowded and had a weird tone to it, like dark humor. This series is totally slapstick, the dark stuff was just too weird.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

BillTed1

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Doctor Who, anyone?

What do you get when you cross Wayne’s World with Doctor Who? There’s no question to that one – you get Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Just watch the thing, they have the same accents, say the same things, have the same attitude, play the same air guitars, combined with the same-ish sound effects. All the while, they travel through space and time vortexes in a phone booth? Remind you of anything else? It’s all good, though, because Bill & Ted are so loveable, and this adventure is most definitely excellent.

Most of you already know what the story is here, but in case you don’t, it’s obviously about Bill and Ted. Two jamming buddies who are also idiots…now. In the future, they are loved by everyone and practically regarded as Gods. However, they are about to flunk a history exam – which would result in Ted being sent to military school. The future decides to send back a time machine to help set things right. So Bill and Ted decide to travel through history and kidnap huge historical figures for their oral exam.

Yeah, any doofus on the planet can tell where the writers got their inspiration – but it’s interesting to me that they don’t flatly point that out in the film and just chuck it off as a parody. It’s funny enough, but then it occurred to me that back then…that’s not what parodies did. Parodies worked off of an idea, that’s it. So parts of this film feel like a parody, but a really well put-together parody. The idea is so simple, and so over-the-top that it’s practically self-aware. They know it’s over-the-top and stupid, and they thrive off of that fact. This is one of those movies that you watch just because it’s fun.

There are a few things that don’t really translate perfectly nowadays – but they aren’t major distractions. The main one, in my opinion, is the “far out, party on” accents and personalities. Those kind of people are ultimately extinct nowadays, so not a lot of people can connect with them on that level – but at the same time, they are hilarious. A lot of people can’t handle Keanu Reeves saying “woah” too many times, but the way it is done here is priceless simply because the characters are really memorable. I will admit that some of the exclamations throughout the movie are a little repetitive and it starts to feel a tad old, but again – those are fleeting moments.

This is a largely nostalgic film. Those who saw it years ago are likely to lock in the entertainment level and pull it out again when watching it today – and that’s great…but how does it measure up to a modern audience? It’s hard to say, but I think a lot of the written material for the comedy still measures up, because I was catching things left and right that I hadn’t when I was younger – and I was laughing out loud. There’s a lot of over-the-top, random humor in there that I really think you’ll enjoy.

The Good:

No matter how over-the-top, random, and educational this flick is (for a movie about history), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is quite an epic movie when you think about it. It’s not only about Bill and Ted, but it’s also about all of these well-known historical figures throughout time – and how they perceive our world – and the various time periods. It’s also about their interactions with each other that just seems brilliant. The whole thing together creates a really fantastic cult comedy.

The Bad:

Some of the material here just doesn’t measure up for a modern audience. Some teenager that wants to see what the fuss is all about might call this thing cheesy and really not connect with it. That’s what I fear, because after long, no one will care to watch it anymore, which is really a shame.

The Pact 2 (2014)

The-Pact-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
An unnecessary surprise.

Hey guys, remember that one horror film a couple years back called The Pact? If you were like me, you’d probably say something like…maybe? I actually reviewed it when it came back, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was about…can you say forgettable? Anyways, to give you a bit of a recap, trust me, it’s needed – the first revolved around a girl named Annie that was investigating a missing girl. She discovers a house that seems to be haunted, but it also had a physical presence as well, equally terrifying – but at the end, she killed it. Now, it’s about to start over again in The Pact 2.

Alright, so this particular film focuses on June Abbott (Camilla Luddington), who turns out to be the daughter of one of the victims in the first film. So when a Judas copycat killer arises with similar MOs as before, June is warned that she may be targeted soon. So she calls in the help of the first film’s protagonist, Annie, to figure everything out. Is it really the Judas Killer, come back to life? Is it a ghost? or is it possibly herself? Each sign seems to point in different directions and nothing seems to match up.

Here’s the main issue with this movie…it hinges on the audience being 100% familiar with the first film – and begins merely weeks afterwards. There is no recap, it’s just like another chapter…and that’s a problem because it’s been two years since the first, forgettable film was released. I had to go back and read my initial review as well as watch the trailer to the first to get some recollection in order to keep watching. I had to, because they start talking about the Judas Killer, and all of his character development, including who the guy even is – is all in the first movie. He’s a huge part of the movie, sure, but that’s a lot of details to remember, and if you haven’t seen the first film, this one is completely useless to you. Even if you have, you might still have trouble remembering details unless the first film was one of your all time favorites – that is a major problem.

As far as what made the first film any good, that I can tell, had a lot to do with mystery and realism. The first film did somewhat of a good job leading the audience on as to what was actually happening. Was it a ghost – or was it something physical and real? It turns out it was both in the first film, but the second film added another element. Is it something paranormal, something physical and real, or is it somehow the lead protagonist causing all of these new murders? I have to say that as far as sequels go, it still did a pretty good job at maintaining the same level of mystery that the first film introduced, as well as continue the story and add some new elements here. However, it just wasn’t enough in the end.

You see, the film is even more forgettable than the first because it feels a bit too much like the first. As forgettable as the first film was, it still had some interesting concepts that felt refreshing in the world of horror – but to do it more than once turns out to be unwelcome. They added more, and slightly different mystery, which is fine, but it just needed something else. It needed those recaps and it needed a bigger, and more different plot than we were given. I think that’s partially why the film feels so long and draggy. It focuses a lot on that mystery – because it knows the mystery is it’s best tool, and all of that focus drags the film on and it feels so utterly slow.

Look, I just found out that this movie even exists. No one asked for it in the first place. Not that they ever asked for the first either. It was fine to have one movie, but they pushed things way too far by making another one.

The Good:

I maintain that the strongest element of this series has always been the mystery. It may not be the scariest film in the world, but by adding the concept of mystery – and making the audience wonder if it is a haunting or something physical…is enough to at least creep people out and look inside their closets.

The Bad:

The mystery itself was more or less mirroring the first film, and the problem with that is – they solved the mystery in the first film. Sure, they changed things here and there, and added another element to the mystery – but that doesn’t change the fact that the mystery was stronger in the first and should have just been kept there.

What Dreams May Come (1998)

What-Dreams-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Beautiful and imaginative.

After Robin Williams’ passing, there was one movie that I’ve more or less been avoiding because it brings it a little close to home…and it was just too soon. What Dreams May Come is a very well-known Williams film, and because it revolves around his character’s death…I thought it was a little chilling to the core to even consider watching – but now that I have…I’m really glad, because this is a truly beautiful film that took quite a bit of imagination to pull off.

It’s about a man named Chris Nielson who, a few years ago, lost both his kids to a grisly car accident. The loss caused so much grief to both himself and his wife, and it even brought them to the brink of divorce, but they pulled through. However, a freak accident claimed Chris’s life as well, leaving his wife to be a widow. In Heaven, Chris still felt his wife’s presence, as he lived in the magic of her paintings, which he always loved – but when she commits suicide, Chris must risk his safe and luxurious new home to find his wife in the impossible trap that is Hell.

Just the idea alone – that this is Robin Williams exploring the afterlife – chills me to the core. I know I shouldn’t really consider that for the review, but it really does now. It’s been a while since I actually watched this, so I couldn’t remember if it was a dark or light film – and I feared dark. It’s not though, it’s a mixture of both with a preference for light. In all honesty, it’s absolutely beautiful and imaginative. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I loved every second of it – in terms of visuals – and that’s a rarity for a 1998 film. The set designs sometimes were clearly just backdrops or green screened, but the cinematography was ingenious and captured what the film was ultimately going for.

However, I wasn’t the biggest fan on how the film defined suicide, that victims of suicide just go to Hell. Especially after the irony of Williams’ own passing – I don’t want to even think that Robin was immediately shot to Hell because he took his own life. I have my own beliefs on suicide, but I won’t get into it – just know that the description here kind of peeved me. Now, I understand why they did it that way – to progress the plot, I just wish it was a little different…like purgatory? I’m not sure. That being said, the way the film visually painted Heaven and Hell as two complete opposites was absolutely brilliant. Heaven is filled with smiles, and a world of visions that anyone can paint, while Hell is a desolate place where dreams are forgotten. It’s amazing actually, the thought process the visionary director must have went through to create this world.

In all actuality, this is a wonderful, beautiful film that does a really good job depicting love, loss, and even the subconscious. There have been films done like this in the past, but I’m not sure how many were so creative and honest with how everything was depicted. I was impressed. I just hope that somewhere out in the vast, mysterious unknown, Robin is painting his visions with a huge smile on his face.

The Good:

There’s no question about it. What Dreams May Come is beautiful in every aspect – from story, to acting, to writing, to visuals – this film has it all. It somehow captures both Heaven and Hell in the perfect light, without insulting anyone’s own vision.

The Bad:

I said it in my review – the depiction of suicide in this film, while it makes sense for the plot, really upsets me. They locked in the accuracy of feelings so well in this film, and how Heaven or Hell might actually feel – but the whole suicide thing really annoyed me.

Tremors (1990)

Tremors

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Monsters vs. Hicks.

Recently, I was scrolling through comments of what some people consider great films – one of these topics specifically was on Kevin Bacon movies. I was shocked at how many people actually mentioned Tremors, a movie I never cared to ever watch, but all of these people coming together to talk about how much they loved this flick had me thinking. Either it was a massive conspiracy to have people watch a horrible movie, or it really was good – and the critic reviews on both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes have me thinking it genuinely has some promise. And then I watched the thing. On one hand, I sort of understand the love, but at the same time, the movie isn’t entertaining at all…at least not to me.

In a really small town called Perfection – in the middle of the country, a bunch of hicks discover a monstrous creature that lives underground. Several creatures, in fact. They react to vibration, or tremors in the ground, because they are in fact blind monsters – and when they follow these vibrations, they come up from the ground and snatch people and objects – swallowing them whole. Kevin Bacon and his group of commodores have to escape these things – and to do that, they must be really quiet, and stay off the ground.

Okay, now it took me a really long time to figure out what fascinated so many people and lured them in so much – that’s because the pacing of the movie isn’t all it should be – and instead focuses on these two annoying hick best friends as they discover death and destruction, leading to the discovery of the snake-like-worm creatures that live underground. Then, they have to study the things in order to figure out that they’re blind – THEN we can get into the film’s most powerful element – and that is probably something it never intended to do. It got very reminiscent of a child’s game of “The Floor Is Made Out of Lava”. Instead of lava, we got evil monsters. Being reminiscent of the game was, in my opinion, what made a lot of people consider the movie fun – as it is a comedy/horror.

That’s fine and all, but for the most part, I couldn’t really sense any humor nor horror in the entire thing. I sat here with a slack look on my face wondering when it would end. The whole unintentional “Floor Lava” concept was really cool, and I wish they expanded that more, but instead we were given way too much introduction. I don’t care about these hicks, and I find them annoying. I don’t think I’ve ever been so annoyed at a Kevin Bacon character than I was here. I know they wanted the tone of the movie to seem different than your typical creature feature – but it just doesn’t work very well. Maybe in 1990, but in 2014 it just seemed dumb. I can appreciate horror/comedy flicks – there are some I love, but comedy in 1990 was very different than it is now – and in my humble opinion – it doesn’t translate well.

The Good:

Those of you that watched Tremors when it came out 24 years ago are probably struck hard with a lot of nostalgia, and that’s great. The movie does a fine job at bringing back memories of a floor made out of lava, and everything you had to do to avoid touching it.

The Bad:

It’s just so boring. 24 years is a long time for the genres of comedy and horror alike to evolve. The way they are presented here just don’t translate very well for a modern audience who has never seen it, myself included. The pacing itself was too long, as it wanted to focus a lot on the hicks – and they were just annoying…so I couldn’t care less.

The Possession of Michael King (2014)

Michael-King

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Smothered with Melodrama.

Ah yes, here in the world of Hollywood, we can never get enough Paranormal found-footage horror flicks. Seriously, how many are there floating around aimlessly? Too many if you ask me. There are a precious few that I consider okay, maybe even good, but for the most part, they’re all just trying to rip off The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. So I was reluctant, to say the least, when considering watching The Possession of Michael King. At the same time, there was one thing that actually reeled me in – knowing that through all of the exorcism and possession movies, hardly ever is the victim an adult, and hardly ever is the victim a man. That proved to me that it at least, somewhere down deep, had at least a fraction of potential material. I was more or less mistaken.

This is the story of Michael King’s possession. Duh. It’s told through the documentary style. Michael recently lost his wife, and to prove to himself and to others that she’s okay…somewhere in another life – he goes method after method, with black magic, to find her. His journey obviously lands him much farther than he ever intended to reach – as his demonic alter-ego wants him to do one thing – kill his daughter.

So I did like the fact that the person possessed was an adult man. I thought that was weirdly new and fresh, so I welcomed it. I also liked the fact that even though he was technically doing things that other paranormal films have done countless times before, his methodology was specifically unique. The way he went about doing these things was very different and separated itself from other paranormal flicks, so that’s really good. Unfortunately, for the most part, everything else was way too loud in terms of what made this horrible.

It’s not entirely found-footage, it’s more or less a mockumentary. The difference being – found footage is made to look raw and unedited – including fragments of video that are random and have no real significance to the overall story. Those are put in there for realism, because most people who shoot amateur home videos for the first time will have those random clips where they are having trouble turning off the camera. A mockumentary is a false documentary. It’s edited together and even narrated, complete with asides. It immediately doesn’t feel realistic, because you know the guy would have had to edit the thing – and he was going banana sandwich crazy…so he couldn’t have edited it together at all.

As for the acting, this is very, very tricky. Shane Johnson plays King, and here’s the thing – I honestly don’t think he’s a bad actor, just chose the worst role. This isn’t the type of role he should pick, because he over-acted, and you shouldn’t over-act in any amateur, self-made video. It looks, sounds, and feels fake. He has a really deep and commanding voice, and I could see him as a very successful villain on, say, Star Trek or something. It’s not only that though, most of the movie focused on him and only him – which is different than most paranormal films. This felt way too much like a One Man Show starring Shane Johnson. So there was a lot of opportunity to recognize his faults – and that’s not the actor’s problem. It’s the directors for not realizing what kind of actor this guy is…I guess some of the blame is also on the casting director.

The Good:

If I was asked what the best part of The Possession of Michael King was, I’d probably have to say the physical stuff. Those scenes with the ants and the really simple shots of pain – like the pin and finger scene. Those, and other physical shots like it made it look really nice at times.

The Bad:

Not only is this just another paranormal documentary flick, but it also had some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen. I respect parts of what it was going for, but I’m sorry. Shane Johnson was wrong for the role. He removed all believability – as microscopic as it was – from the film. A movie like this hinges on what’s believable or not, and this just got to the point where it felt like a parody of itself. Bloody arrows leading someone through a house, really? A ghost/demon/entity is going to take the time out of it’s busy day to draw on the walls?

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Purge-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
What I wanted. 

I was one of the few that actually was looking forward to the first Purge film. Not because it really looked amazing, but because it posed such a unique line of questions for our society – and the movie definitely did just that. It wasn’t the best movie, though, because even though it posed those questions, it still had one underlining issue…it was more or less just another house invasion type film. I wanted something more, I wanted something that really delved into what this purge really was on a deeper level. I wanted to explore the world and see how it was dealt with…and The Purge: Anarchy totally satisfied me on that hand, on the other…it lost quite a bit of the potential the first film had.

Okay, so the second film focuses on three separate groups of people that come together to experience The Purge firsthand. One couple, hassled by a bunch of Skullriders (coined by me) are stuck outside as the purge begins, while another group are forced outside of their home by a rapist and other random killers. These two groups are met by a guy credited as “Sergeant” (Frank Grillo), who is a purger turned vigilante who saves these people running from other maniacs – but is the saying true…once a purger, always a purger? Meanwhile, a group of Anti-Purge radicals are lurking in the shadows, ready to make their plans known.

This is weirdly exactly what I wanted from the first, but it’s not how I wanted it to be presented. I wanted to see the world, and the varying perspectives of the purge. It’s such a mind-boggler that makes you ponder society – and the shifts in what we’re always willing to do. The first was more or less just a house invasion flick. I wanted to see more, I wanted to see them take blunt risks to show the depth of human insanity. I wanted to see more crimes, and different people and…all that – and this movie more or less had all of that. There were more crimes, there were varied perspectives from different people, including a purger as a main character. However, it was so…so…mediocre in everything that it does. Just watch the thing, it feels too much like a B-movie to ignore. The acting was melodramatic, the color filters on the camera felt like some kid messing around on instagram…it really disappointed me.

You ask me, this film still poses a lot of questions about society, it’s just watered down too much. I actually like the radicals willing to go the extra miles to stop the government-sanctioned Purge. I actually like the idea of a vigilante, practically Batman, saving the innocent victims of this hateful day. The material was really good. It was very smart, it just wasn’t put together all that well…actually, I don’t think they took it very seriously. They just wanted a movie to be made because they wanted money – and they ignored how much potential it actually had.  So on one hand, it had absolutely everything I wanted that was missing from the first, it just removed everything that was good about the first at the same exact time. It’s a catch 22…or something.

The Good:

When I first heard about The Purge, I thought the idea was incredible, and my mind shot to so many different what ifs? I mean, every crime is legal, including murder. Why focus only on murder, why focus only on this one family in this one house – making it just another home invasion flick? Why not expand the universe, expand their limits, go wild? They went wild in The Purge: Anarchy. They explored different crimes and different perspectives – and got political at the same time.

The Bad:

They just forgot everything that was good about the first movie. The first was very simple, and it posed a very interesting question. The second just wanted to make money, so it was very mediocre and didn’t take anything seriously anymore. In short, missed opportunity and potential.

The Giver (2014)

Giver

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A bit disappointing.

Read my review of the book here

The original book of The Giver was released in 1993, and ever since then, I’ve personally wanted the thing to be made into a film. In fact, of all of the young-adult made movies that we’ve been bombarded with, this was the one and only book that I actually wanted to be made…it’s one of my favorites! The idea is so simple, yet still pretty original and unique…it’s a wonder to me how it was never made to begin with. Finally, word came out that it was being released and it was like…a dream come true. Then, word came out that it wasn’t as good…but when is it ever as good as the book? Now…as much as I try not to compare the movie to the source material…I find it practically impossible here – because there really is a lot of…issues that I find with it.

The story is pretty simple, at the time of “graduation” Jonas is about to be chosen for a new role in life…but he hasn’t ever fit in anywhere, because he has the traits of everything they’ve ever looked for in people. He is chosen as “Receiver of Memory”, a role where an old man by the name of “The Giver” transmits memories of the world to Jonas magically. That’s when Jonas realizes that the world he knew was a sham – they created “sameness”. The world is black and white, no one has any emotions, and nobody truly knows the importance of ethics. It’s up to Jonas and the Giver to figure out how to right the world.

I want to first start off by saying that I read the book right before seeing the movie, to remind myself how the book made me feel when I was a kid, so a lot of this review might be a bit too biased based on the book, but I’ll do my best to be fair and objective. The movie definitely gets the idea across – you can follow it and even understand the messages throughout, however…the pacing was absolutely horrible. The entire book is filled to the brim with a very detail-oriented narrative. It’s a short book, but the detail is astounding – and it makes the pacing of the book incredible. The movie is also short, but it should have been longer. They mention everything in the book, more or less, but it’s through Jonas’s narration. He narrates the whole movie, and just mentions important plot points and that’s it! So, they used Jonas’s narration as a tool to keep the movie short when they should have just…not had any narration at all – show us these things! The movie feels so, so rushed for no reason.

A lot of people complain about Jonas’s age. In the book he was 12, in the movie he’s 18, so he’s an adult. I don’t really have a problem with that, in fact I thought he was a little too young in the book if anything. The thing I had more of an issue with…was the parents. THEY were way too young and didn’t fit the roles at all. I pictured, maybe, a Jon Hamm type guy for the father. Let me say that – yes, they changed a lot in the movie, but most of the changes I don’t care about. Things like – changing the occupations of Jonas’s friends. It’s fine, and I understand why they did it. The whole Fiona and Jonas romance thing was a little forced, but if you haven’t read the book, it really wouldn’t matter to you.

I just think that the movie tried a little too hard to be something it never needed to be. The book contained such a simple idea – and that idea was successful through an impressive voice of detail and emotion. They could have easily made an award-winning movie based on the book in the early ‘90s. They didn’t need technology or holograms, or any of that. K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple, Stupid. Words to live by. When they pushed, they kept the main idea and the messages involved, but they lost a bit of the soul and mystery of what could have been.

The Good:

The idea of the book remains intact in The Giver, and a glimmer of its mystery remains alive in the question of a sequel.

The Bad:

Any book that has been out for nearly 20 years – being award-winning and bestselling – is going to carry quite a bit of expectations. That’s almost unavoidable, but not everyone has read it – and this movie is for those people. The book is just too good, and anyone, anyone who has read it is likely to be unimpressed and even disappointed in what this movie did to the story. I myself am having a very difficult time seeing anything other than a rushed, missed-opportunity for insane potential. I am personally pretty disappointed.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It will do.

When it comes to reviewing movie franchises, I almost make it a rule to watch and review these things in order, but not always. I’ve seen How to Train Your Dragon enough times by now to know what I think about it, and not consider a review entirely necessary. To be frank, I wasn’t always the biggest fan of the movie. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, really, I just don’t think it was my thing. Was I really all that excited to see this one either? No, not at all, but it’s one of the more well-known animation films of the year, so I got to give my report. It’s basically the same deal – nothing wrong with it, but not really my thing either.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes back to the land of Berk – 5 years after the events of the first film. By now, everyone knows dragons aren’t the vicious creatures they once thought they were – and Berk itself has collected several dragons to train and ride. They even have a sport called Dragon Racing. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the world bent on making the dragons vicious anyways. Knowing they are trainable creates cause to train them to be bad – and then we have the same basic idea…give or take…of the first film. Dragons against other dragons – some bigger, some smaller – lots of fire and animated violence. There ya go.

I was never a huge fan of the series, as I’ve said before, but this movie did a few things that weren’t only risky, but were smart as well. The first thing was aging the characters. I don’t know many animated films that actually age their characters through the sequels. It makes sense, and it creates a separate perspective on the entire thing – however, I do have one complaint about that. Hiccup’s voice is the same, as if he’s still going through puberty. I know that’s Jay Baruchel’s actual voice, but it annoyed me that they didn’t at least try to alter it – because…now it just sounds unnatural. He sounded younger than he looked, basically, just because of how he sounded in the first movie. It’s not a huge complaint, but it is an observation I wish was different.

Another smart thing they did was keep a strong focus on Hiccups history and character development. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a moment in the film that’s actually pretty surprising in that area…it’s actually where the film shifts and really gets on a roll. I wouldn’t say it was entirely unpredictable for everyone, but for the target audience, it will most definitely be a surprise – along with some powerful moments that may or may not tug on your heartstrings…depending on who you are. Since I didn’t care for the movie personally, it didn’t really affect me, but I can see it working for others.

The main issue I have with the thing is that there was never really any need for a sequel. Sure, the book the first film was based off of is part of an expansive book series, but that’s that…and this is this. The first had a complete and solid story that ended in a shifted perspective on the things we don’t understand and jump to conclusions out of fear. It had some really good messages – and that was fine. Sure, this one has messages as well, of devotion and family…but also of the darkness in the world that we can’t change. I’m not saying it didn’t have good messages, it did, but the story itself just looked a little too familiar to the first in general.

The Good:

How to Train Your Dragon 2 will most definitely work for its target audience, which for the most part, is children. It has a lot of valuable messages in regards to the importance of family and loyalty, and it also serves as a warning – that you can’t make everyone happy, and you can’t change everything for the better. Some things are dark and will always be dark.

The Bad:

I personally didn’t care for the movie. I thought that underneath all of the messages laid a movie that was a little too similar to the first one. If I muted it, it really wouldn’t look all that different either, other than the aged characters.

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