How To Train Your Dragon
A Middle Aged Movie Blog. Being the periodic journal of a film loving middle aged independent science fiction writing father of two and his ongoing adventures in cinema and home video
A day spent cooking and watching movies with the kids. Kicked the morning off with a full family screening of How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), a highly entertaining sequel to the 2010 original, that developed the first’s premise with some truly spectacular animation.
It’s worth noting that the film features a fine voice performance from action movie stalwart Gerard Butler, which was a truly pleasant surprise, some neat twists, a spot of heartbreak, some incredibly well developed and handled battle scenes, and a Roger Deakins credit on visual consultant duties. The kids loved it. I, too, was won over by the myriad charms of the film and am now looking forward to the third and final instalment.
Revisited The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian (2008) with the kids. Not anywhere near as bad as I recall. Preachy C.S Lewis Christian subtext aside, the film features some well-staged action set pieces, neat effects work and impressively photographed landscapes via DP Karl Walter Lindenlaub. Older kids Peter and Suzanne, played by William Peter Moseley and Anna Popplewell respectively are as wooden as fence posts, but enjoyable supporting performances from Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davies help steady the ship. Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep is value for money, whilst rent a baddy Sergio Castellittosuch as Caspian’s evil Uncle Lord Miraz proves heckle-worthy. Ben Barnes as Caspian is the poster boy with good hair. Thankfully, his work in The Punisher and Westworld is streets ahead of this particular performance, which has all the gravitas of a soggy pair of trousers.
I expected more from these movies on release and was disheartened by how average they turned out to be. Still, alongside The Golden Compass (2007), which was disappointing in the extreme, and lesser entries in the Harry Potter-verse, retrospectively, they don’t come off too badly. Directed by Andrew Adamson.
Flipped a coin for The Parallax View (1974) or Don Siegel’s Hell is for Heroes (1962) and plumped for The Parallax View. Not a decision I regret. It’s some time since I watched the movie and I’d forgotten how great it is.
Alan J Pakula’s politically curious, post JFK conspiracy thriller, with its corporate no-gooders and questing journalists, is as relevant now as it was in 1974. Featuring a charismatic turn from Warren Beatty as political reporter Joseph Frady, up to his hips in corporate toilet water, with a talent for attracting trouble and sniffing out a story, the film never shirks from asking big questions. Whether it answers them or not, is down to the audience to decide.
The film smoothly negotiates the perils of the political thriller without losing its nerve en route or beating the viewer over the head with expositional warbling or telegraphed twists. There’s nothing about the film that smacks of contrivance. As things take a turn for the paranoid, the viewer never feels as if it’s losing its way. Clear parallels can be drawn with Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Three Days of The Condor (1975). However, The Parallax View’s cynicism makes for a much more unsettling and subversive viewing experience than either.
The direction is restrained, nothing too flashy or expressive, which allows for the plot to breathe easy. The photography is natural with some of the grittiness quality films from the seventies are retrospectively renowned for. The film has definitely aged well and is as relevant in these troubled times of fake news and puppet politicians as any number of faux modern thrillers. Seek it out, if you’ve never had the pleasure.
Watched How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) at the cinema with The Clan. Perhaps not as strong as the second of the trilogy, which was a real step up in terms of animation and narrative. However, it cleverly sidesteps any attempt to top its grandiose forerunner and instead lightens the tone, opting for a central love story narrative that is as fun as it is engaging.
The animation is top tier Dreamworks. The comedy is as sharp as ever. A fitting finish for the story, one would assume, and not without moments of sadness and wonder. Directed by Dean DeBlois. Starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, and F. Murray Abraham.
Watched Outlaw King (2018) on Netflix, David Mackenzie’s take on the exploits of Robert The Bruce. Following hot on the heels of the tale of William Wallace as depicted in 1995’s Braveheart, and acting as a technically accomplished, bloody, and slightly less grandiose picture than Mel Gibson’s spiritual forebear, the film chronicles The Bruce’s rise to prominence as a rebellious guerrilla hell bent on freeing his countrymen from the tyrannical rule of the villainous King Egbeth. Chris Pine mostly convinces as the King of Scots, ably supported by a savage turn from Aaron Taylor-Johnson as James ‘The Black’ Douglas and Florence Pugh, underused in the love interest role, as his stoic English bride, Elizabeth.
The battle scenes are well staged, plenty of mud and blood to justify the budget and the film never outstays its welcome despite clocking in at 121 minutes. Historians will no doubt balk at glaring inaccuracies and fudged timelines, but for all that, this is still an impressively mounted movie, with enough of a punch to justify viewing.