How to Train Your Dragon 2

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Vampire Owl :: I have always preferred dinosaurs and Godzilla to dragons, wyverns and all kinds of flying machines.

Vampire Bat :: What about the Golden Dragon Restaurant?

Vampire Owl :: With that chicken and noodles which should not be named?

Vampire Bat :: Yes, that variety which we tested and tasted.

Vampire Owl :: In that case, I guess I will have to make an exception.

Vampire Bat :: Let’s train a dragon then.

Vampire Owl :: As long as it is not named Fernando Torres. I need it to score when opportunity comes.

Vampire Bat :: It is not easy to make the sequel to one of the best animated movies of all time. Still, the reviews are great and lets hope for the best. After all, there is no strong opposition this weekend.

[Reaches the multiplex].

The day of the dragon :: The past goes back to 2010 when the first movie was released, and at that time in the movie, vikings and dragons have been fighting each other. The battle was something which defined their lives and seemed to go on forever. The chief of the group is Stoick who is a firm hater of the dragons. The son of Stoick and the heir to the title, Hiccup is not having a good time with his Viking blood, but happens to capture a blue dragon whom he couldn’t make up the mind to kill. This rare Night Fury dragon and the boy becomes friends and is given the name Toothless for its retractable teeth. The boy would no longer find killing the dragons an option as he feels that it is not right. Even as it did infuriate his father and most of the other vikings, this would lead to a chain of events which will finally lead to the end of war between vikings and dragons. The first idea would be that this is the end of the story, as everything seemed to go on happily ever after. But the need for the sequel comes up and it takes off from here, as this had gone on to become one of the more popular animated movies at that time.

What is it about? :: As the peace has been established and the dragons live happily with Vikings, it seems that nothing bad can happen. Close to taking over as the new chief of his village, Hiccup goes on random adventures with his dragon and best friend, Toothless, as they discover and add to the map lots of unexplored lands and the water-bodies which surrounds their island, as the assistance of flying creatures have made things easier for them. On one such day of exploration, he encounters a dragon catcher and knows about his boss Drago Bludvist who is building a dragon army. Hiccup decides to get to the root of this and find the one who is taking the dragons for himself. Even as Stoick tells his son that the new villain is a mad man and it is impossible to prevent a war and their only possible defence was being inside the walls of the city, Hiccup continues on his path to find the enemy. But on the way, he will meet another dragon rider who will bring some changes to his plan. At the same time, he is chased by dragon catchers as well as his own people who are trying to bring him back. It is to be seen how things will go on.

The defence of How to Train Your Dragon 2 :: The movie takes us into the world of vikings and dragons again, and begins another saga of awesomeness which is a great continuation of the previous one. It is connected quite well to the first part. The story has nice new elements even as some part of it is undoubtedly predictable, but that is to be expected in an animated movie. There is some good 3D, nothing special though. There are moments when nothing special happens, but no boring moment. The Vikings are nice to watch and the dragons are glorious fun; for there are so many of them this time with even two alpha dragons fighting with each other. The villain characters is nice, and the father and mother characters are lots of fun along with our hero’s friends, girlfriend and the friend of the chief. But the best thing is still the relation between the hero and his dragon, followed by his relationship with his father and his mother. The environment of the movie is nothing less than a Avatar in animation as far as the whole visual splendor is concerned, and the dragon designs are nice even as some of them might seem a little too funny for some – well, this is a movie for the kids too and so such things were to exist somewhere.

The claws of flaw :: If we take the major characters out, the movie is centered around dragons and it is their existence that defines this movie, and vikings come only next. There is less about the lifestyle and more about exploration. The Vikings and their way of life takes second place and becomes something based on the existence and presence of the winged creatures. The only other creature which we see is the sheep in a world which seems to be shared by just two creatures. Some of the dragons are actually too cute even for the bigger kids. It was already cute with everything and this gets further. Even as the story is nicely done, there are some areas where it gets predictable. It will also be difficult for those who haven’t watched the original movie, as those incidents have quite a lot to do with this movie, and the characterization is also dependent on what happened earlier. Therefore, the connection will obviously be weak for them, even as the same can’t be said about the fun. The emotional and dramatic scenes often go out of hand, and they are rather far-fetched and still not that effective as Frozen or Mr. Peabody and Sherman. The talks about this being the movie of the year or the best animated sequel won’t work.

Soul exploration :: The movie’s most important theme is co-existence. The lack of tolerance has been something which has been hurting more than just one race of people. Well, if dragons can co-exist with a race like Vikings, anyone can do that. This is the age when hatred is spread through Facebook, as people come up with some random post which has no truth in it, and present it as fact just to degrade others and their political, social and religious beliefs. It is a shame that some of these are actually learned men with good status, and in that case they are able to make the fools share what they share. It is quite difficult to reason with people who pervert history for the same, and come out with nonsense to support their cause. In the outside world, there are always wars, but they are all the products of the hatred that is burning in the minds because of the greed or personal agenda of some people. The Vikings had their own purpose and the dragons think only of their major needs, but lets experience this movie and learn something about co-existence not only with other people and creatures, but also with the environment. Avatar did the same, and instead of the tree at the centre, we have the alpha dragons which controls them all.

How it finishes :: The original movie was a smart one, and it was surely not going to be easy to make a sequel to the same. But this movie has accomplished something which only movies like Kung-fu Panda 2 and Despicable Me 2 have achieved, and Rio 2 came pretty close to doing until losing its way. This one becomes a very good sequel to the first movie, and there are occasions when it seems to rise above the first movie. It has all the ingredients to rule the box-office; a strong base which is already constructed by its predecessor, the absence of any better movie in the theatre and some good developments of its own. The only remaining challenge is from what is left over by Edge of Tomorrow, but that should be no real problem considering the kind of audience targeted by the two. It is surely leading the weekend until now. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the second best animated movie of the year after Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and the same can be said about the fun that it carries. There were expectations and this one meets them steadily. Watch this one on the big screen and nowhere else, and it won’t really matter if you are an young man, an older person or a kid, this one is going to make your one hundred minutes count.

Release date: 13th June 2014
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Dean DeBlois
Starring (voice) : Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

White House Down

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So here is the fight we have been talking about for a long time, as the 120 minute long Olympus Has Fallen has finally met its archenemy, its evil twin brother who is longer by 17 minutes. The ruler of the underworld compared to the shorter one’s claim over Mount Olympus, has arrived in the form of White House Down. As I had already written about Olympus Has Fallen (https://moviesofthesoul.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/olympus-has-fallen/), and it was the first one to be released, it is that movie which I would consider the prototype for the list of White House attacking movies which can get a little longer as long as this one is not annihilated in a battle here against the opponents RED 2 and Turbo, along with already existing Pacific Rim and Man of Steel; not to forget the movies in all those languages including Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi. The former had no tough competition when it was released though, with a few weeks delay after the United States release. The delay has followed this movie too, along with the image of white building going down and only one man standing as a barrier in front of the ultimate success of the terrorists. It had fallen earlier, and now it is down, and there is no doubt about the fact that the first of the two had the best title, but the second has got the name which can connect better with the audience and stays close to action.

So the seat of the President of the United States of America needs to be saved again. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) was the former secret service agent in our last adventure of this type and here, John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a U.S. Capitol Police officer looking to be part of the secret service. John already has trouble connecting with his daughter Emily (Joey King), and believes that he can impress her by getting a job with the Secret Service and also by taking her to the place, but fails in the interview is conducted by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a former college acquaintance of his who knew him to be disrespectful to the authority and irresponsible, unable to stick to what he is doing and thus not good enough for the job. He tells Emily that there is still chance and they join with a tour group around the White House. Soon, there is a bomb explosion which separates the father and daughter, followed by a group of armed mercenaries taking control of the White House. The President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is in trouble, and we know that his only hope is the man who was refused his chance to be the saviour once, and the action begins in a few minutes. The situation is pretty much similar to Olympus Has Fallen, as one might have figured it out by now.

That fictional protagonist portrayed by Bruce Willis in Die Hard, John McClane doesn’t really seem to leave this world of the one-man shows, as here comes another one of too similar a name, John Cale – what he does is no different either. McClane’s marriage and the relationship with his children in a constant state of crisis, and his disregard for authority keeps him close enough to trouble – not the kind of things Cale can disagree with. Here, we have the typical Die Hard protagonist who is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, and continues to be there so that he can save the day with almost no outside support at all. Being the lone wolf who is the right person to do it, the two Johns are one and the same, and if this new John is a cheap imitation of the old, that is for the audience to decide. Strangely enough, Channing Tatum has to battle Bruce Willis in the multiplexes here for the supreme position, as RED 2 is surely attracting enough people, and the elder legend is surely the more popular and the more talked about figure in this part of the world. It is louder and less interesting than the first four Die Hard movies most of the time, but it is better than the fifth movie of the series by a long distance. This could have been Die Hard 5, if Olympus Has Fallen can’t be the same, and even if that position is abdicated, there is always the chance to call itself Die Hard 6.

6.5 out of 10 in IMDb and 48% rating in Rotten Tomatoes for Olympus Has Fallen, and 6.3 out of 10 in IMDb and 48% rating in Rotten Tomatoes for this one clearly describe these two movies, and gives a vague report about how close their impact has been, and how much such a theme can affect the audience and the critics. It is a good thing that they are three weeks apart in their attack on the brains of the viewers, as they could have even destroyed one another if released close enough. Gerard Butler’s 300 + Gamer effect would surely give the former an advantage, but Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman would not stand a chance against the invisible fan club of Jamie Foxx which is bigger than it would seem to be from the surface, thanks to that strange effect which Django Unchained had created. This is how these movies come so close to being the same on impact. But our new movie seems to be struggling to fight against this week’s wave as well as the existing waves. There are less number of shows, and there is the need for a twist of fate for this one to bring the fight of money to its twin brother. But it has already proved that fight is on, even as victory is not within sight; the battle shall go on even as the causalities won’t be that interesting for this side.

This is closer than the similarities between the volcanic eruption related Volcano and Dante’s Peak, and the Earth-bound asteroids showing their power in Deep Impact and Armageddon. Even as Gerard Butler wins the battle as the hero and gets all the attraction, Channing Tatum does a great job in this one, but the movie remains lesser than him and Jamie Foxx. The two actors are undoubtedly bigger than the movie as they do defy the movie in what they do and so does the whole world inside the movie in one way or the other. The whole scenario might be stranger in this movie, but Foxx handles it so well that even the situations which seems to be going the wrong way turns out to be funny and interesting – those moments when Olympus Has Fallen takes the back seat. But there is still too much about his character, and there is too much of a strange ruler in the person, may be being closer to Django than the President of the United States. But people do love that kind of a President in the movies, that is for sure. Joey King’s character is cute and interesting most of the time, but annoying at times; there is no controlled environment out there and in the middle of such a hostage situation, that should be more than just agreeable, for kids no longer remain kids these days, and Lord of the Flies was never belonging that much to fiction.

Jason Clarke does manage to make a powerful impact at the same time, and being the stylish evil guy who takes over the place, he comes with some very good fight sequences with the hero. His presence would seem to extend the world from beyond the two-man show. James Woods works his villainy as the mastermind behind all these next. This movie also loses in violence, something which was not expected in the beginning, as right from the bomb explosion, something nasty was expected to come up, but it goes on more as destruction for the sake of demolishing rather than creating that impact of shock in the senses. There is no shortage of action sequences though, and the attempt to escape with a presidential limousine, the fall of the airplane and helicopters and tank v/s rocket launcher battle, they all make the destruction list go high. With the former Duke from G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Django of Django Unchained has held this one from falling deep, but its success in its genre won’t reflect in its box-office collection. That episode of the life of this movie is with the audience and until now, from what can be read, there is trouble for this one in catching up-to Olympus Has Fallen, or even most of the much expected movies of this season. These are bleak times indeed, but this movie has wasted its chance and therefore, blaming the audience or other movies is not the thing – a little adjustment might have saved this one as it is a good addition to its genre.

The movie lacks in a number of things compared to Olympus Has Fallen, as the most important thing is patriotism, and the next but almost equally important thing may be in being clever – there has been more silliness in this one, but there has still been enough control between the two sides of mindless action and saving the world. Emmerich’s works have been interesting, from Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and my personal favourite, The Patriot. But he had to deal with being there second, and that would have been difficult. To add to it, the movie’s need to match up with the other White House take-over would have created a situation from where there is no escape. This movie is thus a wasted opportunity on one side, and a work which could live even with all its flaws on the other hand. It is on this dual nature that this movie can work on, but that won’t help its cause. It needed something special, and it has managed to achieve the same only through its leading actors, but even in their case, this is not their best performances. When White House Down looks up from its world deep down the underground, Olympus Has Fallen might be looking from the top of the Mount Olympus which it had created from its success at the box-office, and in the OHF v/s WHD battle, the war of the down-fallen houses, we have only one winner, and its name starts with O.

Release date: 19th July 2013 (India); 28th June 2013 (United States)
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Michael Murphy, Joey King, Rachelle Lefevre, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Lance Reddick, Barbara Williams

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Olympus Has Fallen

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There are a few characters we find difficult to forget. One of them might be that NYPD detective John McClane makes more than just an impact in a Los Angeles skyscraper. It was Die Hard and spanned four sequels, the last one being the most critically panned edition. The first of the series was one of those movies which ruled my childhood, and what Olympus Has Fallen managed to do is to remind me of that one. It is not really a bad thing, as Die Hard never really had a deserving sequel, and this one could have been the closest to being the same. There are terrorists of different nationalities, the setting and the type of building vary by a heavy margin and both the hostages and the redeemer are different, other than that, there might seem a similarity in style and the attitude of the hero in both these movies. With the support of the new technology and the experience gained by the new age movie makers, this one has almost become a worthy successor, not just by the skills, but also by divine providence. This movie’s story is actually an opportunity to die hard, not just for the redeemer, but also for the terrorists – both sides have their own chances, as they have chosen to take the risk.

The name was the first thing to catch my attention. There is something “fallen”, long time after I hear that word, for the second movie of Transformers had it in the name, and so do we hear it relating to the fallen angels of the firmament. But it is not someone who has fallen this time, for it is something. Just for a moment, forgetting the fact that Mount Olympus is also the name of a mountain in the Washington state, lets go to the other Mount Olympus whom we are more familiar about, the highest mountain in Greece, hailed in Greek mythology as the dwelling place of the Twelve Olympian gods of the ancient Greek world ruled over by the most powerful God of thunder and lightning, Zeus himself. According to the writing of the legendary writer Homer, Olympus was that great and divine that it was not shaken by winds nor was wet with rain, and never did snow fall upon it. So it was said about the abode of the twelve; Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes, and here we have another Olympus, another seat of supreme power, the White House of the United States.

The hero of the story and another form of John McClane is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the lead Secret Service agent assigned with the United States President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) whose wife dies in an accident – an incident which Banning fails to prevent even as he manages to save the President’s life. Eighteen months later, Banning works at the Treasury Department, not separated by the scars of the incident which blinded his senses. But he is still not separated from his skills. His office is not too far away from the White House and lives a quiet life with his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) after being demoted. Meanwhile, during a meeting between the heads of the United States and South Korea, Korean-led guerrilla forces, aided by some people from the inside itself, launch a perfectly planned air and ground attack which surprises and even shocks the defence and leads to the capture of the White House. The ease with which they achieves this rather surprising, and the deaths which occur in this assault, especially of civilians is more of a thing of terror than strangeness.

Asher and several top officials are held hostage in the White House bunker, where the South Korean prime minister is killed by the same terrorists. The attack has been lead by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), a wanted terrorist wishing for a reunification of Korea. He wishes to force the United States army to withdraw from Korea. He also wants to detonate all of America’s nuclear weapons in their own soil and destroy the country by turning it into a nuclear wasteland, but for this, he will need a few access codes, and in achieving this, he will go to any limit, murder being just a simple thing of no significance. Meanwhile, Banning manages to get into the White House, and begins his own mission of saving the President’s son who might be somewhere in the house and murdering the terrorists one by one before finally rescuing all the captives including the President himself. It is his miracle and his second chance given by fate on the way to redemption, his chance to become another John McClane, into which this character successfully transforms into. In the objective, he is aided by Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), the Speaker of the House and the Acting President through earphone.

Gerard Butler is at his best since his King Leonidas of 300; as he improves upon Gamer & unleashes the new action hero who is likable to most of the audience if not all of them. Mike Banning is the new John McClane, and there is no point in the movie where you can doubt it with full heart. He saves the day, and his world as well as of others, and he is alone in this job. He looks vulnerable on so many occasions, and is still strong throughout. He had his ups and downs in life and career. He has more courage and love for action than anybody else – he wishes to die hard. Radha Mitchell’s role as his wife is limited, and Morgan Freeman’s role is not that much as expected considering the posters. Rick Yune’s villains is successful without doubt, not in the mission but with the audience. Aaron Eckhart’s President works quite well. The best thing is that there is no silly romance, and even the screentime for married couple discussing future is pretty much low. There is no slowness in the movie, and even when the situation seem to calm down, there is a certain amount of thrilling factor ready to explode.

The movie can be termed as unrealistic and violent as most of the others of the same genre, but there are limits which the movie hasn’t crossed, those which have contributed to the success of this movie for the common audience. Still the dose of patriotism and CGI might be a little high. The action and the blood reminds one of more than one first person shooters of the 2000s, for I shall not speak about 2010s and what is to come later. But, this is no computer game – still, the destruction is immense, not just with the bombing and shooting, but also with the two people of fearlessness on both sides, of good and evil, of saving and destroying. There might be less memorable dialogues in this one considering what one should be expecting, but the avoidance of unnecessary dialogues also contributes to the success of this movie, for it rests on Gerard Butler’s character as what he is, rather than what he pretends to be, and what he appears to be. In that case, he is better than John McClane, even if not more interesting for the masses. The fall of the Olympus is one thing and the rise of the titan is another, and that titan in Butler as Banning, for he has to achieve what the Olympian gods couldn’t, not by fighting them or himself, but by saving his own Olympus from the common outsider enemy.

As the upcoming movie White House Down also seems to deal with the same theme of a takeover of the White House, one has to wait and see which one ends up being superior. But for now, Olympus Has Fallen keeps the title of being the movie which has taken this theme to new heights. Even as it is more of a Die Hard happening in White House, there is no point where this can be seen as a thing of lesser energy or imagination. There has been no creativity which was left in the gutters with this movie, as it had that impressive style of taking the audience by surprise, at least in this part of the world where this is to be considered as a highly under-rated and a not much screened movie. The presence of the new 3D version of Jurassic Park and G. I. Joe: Retaliation‘s hesitation to leave might be the main reasons. But as even Life of Pi hasn’t really left some of the theatres here, there is surely no surprise about. But the fact remains that it is time these movies get their due, even if they are not hyped enough and has no stars who are popular enough in this part of the world.

Release date: 22nd March 2013 (USA); 5th April 2013 (India)
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Cole Hauser, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Rick Yune

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.