Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Film Review: "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" (2019).

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is Their Final Quest. This computer-animated action fantasy film written and directed by Dean DeBlois, loosely based on the book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, and produced by DreamWorks Animation. It is the sequel to How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) and the final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon film trilogy. What began as an unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon has become an epic adventure spanning their lives. Now chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, Hiccup has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia. When the sudden appearance of female Light Fury coincides with the darkest threat their village has ever faced, Hiccup and Toothless must leave the only home they’ve known and journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth. As their true destines are revealed, dragon and rider will fight together—to the very ends of the Earth—to protect everything they’ve grown to treasure.

In December 2010, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that there would also be a third film in the series. DeBlois said in an interview that the third part will be released in 2016. Although the series has taken a different path of telling a story of Hiccup and Vikings, Cowell has revealed that the trilogy and the book series will have similar endings, with "an explanation as to why dragons are no more." By mid November 2017, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, and Cate Blanchett returned, with F. Murray Abraham joining the cast. T.J. Miller was replaced with Justin Rupple as Tuffnut, due to Miller's destructive behavior making headlines in mid-2018. During the earlier stages of production, DeBlois stated that Djimon Hounsou would also return as Drago Bludvist. It was even planned to have Drago redeemed by the film's end, but halfway through development, his inclusion was ultimately scrapped. In mid April 2018, DreamWorks Animation announced that the sequel's title would be entitled How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The movie was previously set to release on June 29, 2018, but it was then moved to May 18, 2018 due to The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019). However due to Universal acquiring DreamWorks, the film was then moved to March 1, 2019. Ultimately it was once again moved up to February 22, 2019.

The film stars the voice talents of Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson, Ferrera, Hill, Mintz-Plasse, Rupple, Wiig, Harington, Blanchett, and Abraham. The cast gave performances that were just as entertaining as always, but seemed to be incredibly poignant more so this time round as their story comes to a close.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World offers a fun-filled, action-packed conclusion to DreamWorks' endearing animated series. Visually speaking it's all quite impressive, but the storyline fulfils its prophecies enough dramatically speaking. One of those very rare animated features that completely justifies its 3D glasses.

Simon says How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World receives:

Also, see my review for How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Boss Baby.

Monday, 18 February 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 70.

"I think I can make this work", I thought. I was on the edge of freezing to death. I didn’t know exactly how cold it was. But it wasn’t getting better or going away anytime soon, and that’s something I had to deal with. I didn’t have to wonder about when it’ll end. It was never going to. The cold is just freezing wind filling the night air; it’s kind of dangerous to vulnerable people. All I can think of, other than taking photos, is to get inside and have some food as soon as possible. I checked the time, and it was still a bit of time until the photography meetup group would rendezvous and head indoors.

I need to take as many photos as I can so that I didn’t have to go back outside to take it again. I use all the power my camera can muster in the cold to take photos (when I stop in front of places/objects I wanted to capture). If I end up with, at least, a hundred photos or so by the end of night, I should be more than fine. I would have enough to upload onto my blog and Instagram even if I only end up with a dozen or more photos by the end. That’s the best-case scenario. But really, it was kind of hard to tell how it would go at that point. It could all go to shit.

The more I leave the camera on, and power I use, the shorter the time I could have to take as many as I wanted. With the cold climate, I dedicated some of my attention on the camera to make sure it didn’t die on me in the middle of the shoot. So right now, at 3bars, I was perfectly fine, just as I had hoped. It’s okay to lose a little bit of battery power. I have plenty of time, but I can’t let myself get too carried away in the cold, and have the camera on for too long or I’ll be in trouble. At the very least, I need to take as many as I can and as fast as I can before I’m in trouble. If I can move around faster, I can manoeuvre from display to display without the camera failing on me. So I need to find a way to move faster through the crowd to the next display.

I can do that by moving as fast as possible after I’ve gotten the shots I wanted/needed. All I have to do is make sure I’ve gotten the shots first of all. Then I can move as fast as possible to the next display. The displays are close by to one another. They were just a few kilometres apart. So when I worked my way from one to another, I just needed to make my way and just take capture them as best and as many as I could. I wanted to move speedily to the next display, and in however much time and capacity I had. In the end, I did it, with still a lot of battery power to spare. After the shoot, we wrapped up for the night and made our way to the nearest pub, and had a nice warm meal in the nice, warm indoors. Thank God! Since I had spent much of my evening in the freezing cold, I was more than relieved to be in the warm indoors. I might as well enjoy with a nice, warm dinner and drink.

Friday, 15 February 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 69.

Well, I lived it up for the day. It was bound to happen eventually. I spent Valentines Day alone and ended up having a decent day out of it. Because I got to spend it by myself, so I got to do things without waiting or dragging anybody with me.

The day consisted of me waking up a little late (around 10am-ish), have a nice shower, get dressed, and make my way to the Ryerson University Dining, where I was going to have my brunch. And I’ve wanted to attend another RU Dining after the last one. Originally, I was going to go on Tuesday, but that day saw severe snowstorms, which made me stay home and delay the Brunch, my grocery shopping or anything else I had to do outside. Well, now I’m off!

I’ve waited for a long while for another opportunity at RU Dining, and I’m going to enjoy it on a day such as this. So I’ll be out for the day. Luckily I made it just in time, so I was able to grab a table before it was full. For my brunch, I ordered the Golden Fired Calamari for starters. Then I ordered the Chicken Souvlaki for mains. Finally, I ordered the Kormos (Chocolate Log) for Dessert. It was well portioned. But most importantly, it was delicious and worth the twenty dollars. I kind of spoiled myself today.

I ended the day with a time at the movies, watching Alita: Battle Angel in 4DX. Probably a good idea since there were no other movies to see really, and since I had nothing else to do for the rest of the day. Overall, the film was decent in certain areas, and underperformed in certain areas. I went home afterwards, and just relaxed for the rest of the evening until I had an early night’s sleep.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Film Review: "Alita: Battle Angel" (2019).

"An Angel Falls. A Warrior Rises" in Alita: Battle Angel. This cyberpunk action film directed by Robert Rodriguez, adapted by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, based on the manga series Gunnm, also known as Battle Angel Alita, by Yukito Kishiro. A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

Kishiro's manga was originally brought to Cameron's attention by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and Cameron immediately became enamored with the concept. In April 2003, the project was officially announced to be Cameron's next film after Titanic (1997). Cameron confirmed in an interview that the film would be a combination of the first four books of the manga (taking the story from the first two books, and Motorball from the third and fourth books). In another interview, Cameron also said that should this film be successful, he hopes to make another two films. However, the film was repeatedly delayed due to Cameron's work on Avatar (2009) and its sequels. After years of languishing in development hell, Rodriguez was announced to helm the project in April 2016. In May, Rosa Salazar was cast in the title role, after Zendaya, Maika Monroe and Bella Thorne were considered. By mid October, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Eiza Gonz├ílez, and Michelle Rodriguez rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography began, with a budget of $200 million. Filming took place in Austin, Texas and Wellington, New Zealand, utilizing the 3D Fusion Camera System, facial performance capture, and the Simulcam. In early February 2017, filming wrapped. Like Avatar, the visual effects were provided by Weta Digital, DNEG and Framestore and supervised by Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, Nick Epstein, Raymond Chen and Nigel Denton-Howes. The film included roughly 1,500 visual effects shots, just 300 visual effects shots less than Avatar. In early December, the first trailer was released to a polarizing response, focusing on Alita's appearance, especially her big eyes.

The film stars Salazar as the title character with Waltz, Connelly, Ali, Skrein, Earle Haley, Johnson, Gonz├ílez, and Rodriguez. The cast gave spectacular performances, especially Salazar, who made another great addition to the James Cameron hall of strong female characters. However, Alita's journey, unlike those women, is that of a born-warrior who learns to find her humanity.

When watching Alita: Battle Angel, I felt sort of the same as when I saw Avatar in 2009. The film employs a new generation of special effects, and it is not simply a sensational entertainment, it's a technical breakthrough. However, for the film to stand the test of time, what really matters is the story. And here it falls short. One can't help but feel that it's story is merely a nearly two-and-a-half hour trailer for the real story. It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but the film reaffirms Cameron and Rodriguez's singular gift for imaginative, absorbing, and kinetic filmmaking.

Simon says Alita: Battle Angel receives:

Also, see my review for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Film Review: "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" (2019).

"The Universe is Expanding" in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. This computer-animated musical adventure comedy film directed by Mike Mitchell, written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and produced by Warner Animation Group and Animal Logic. It is a sequel to The Lego Movie (2014), it is the fourth film in the franchise, following The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie (both 2017). It's been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: Lego Duplo invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.

In early February 2014, after the release of The Lego Movie, Jared Stern and Michelle Morgan were hired to pen the sequel. In mid March, Deadline reported that animation co-director Chris McKay would direct the sequel with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as producers. In late July, it was reported that Chris Pratt and Will Arnett might return to their roles of Emmet and Batman, although it was not confirmed. In October 2014, Warner Bros. scheduled The Lego Batman Movie for 2017, and The Lego Movie 2 for May 25, 2018. In the same month, it was also reported that Lord and Miller had signed on to pen the sequel. In addition, it was announced that Australia-based animation studio Animal Logic was in talks to produce the next three Lego films, though the deal was not finalized. In late February 2015, the title of the sequel was confirmed to be The Lego Movie Sequel, and it was to be directed by Rob Schrab, replacing McKay, who went on to direct The Lego Batman Movie instead. By November, Miller announced that the first draft of the script was completed, even though Lord and Miller would go on to rewrite the script during production. By February 2017, Schrab was replaced by Mitchell, who reportedly left the director's chair due to "creative differences". In early October, Production began in Canada. From late March 2018 onwards, it was reported that Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, and Will Ferrell were confirmed to reprise their roles. The cast was further rounded out with Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Richard Ayoade, Margot Robbie, Jason Momoa, and Maya Rudolph as new additions. In May, the film was officially renamed The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, and was pushed back to a February 8th 2019 release date.

The film stars Pratt, Banks, Arnett, Day, Brie, Offerman, and Ferrell, who once again gave performances that were entertaining, even though it was not as fresh as the first time round. The film also stars Haddish, Beatriz, and Rudolph, who all gave performances that put unique spin on their characters, like the cast in the first film.

While not as clever or inventive as its predecessor, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part compensates with enough dazzling visuals to keep younger viewers entertained.

Simon says The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part receives:

Also, see my review for The Lego Batman Movie and Trolls.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 68.

I’m in trouble. I attended an immigration seminar and I found out that I have a lot of stuff to do, more than what I had expected. I thought about my current situation as carefully as I could, and it wasn’t at all what I had expected. As far as I can, I still had a long way to go. CRAP!

At this point, I can either keep moving forward or just consider giving up. The latter of the options will probably be worse than the other, because it’ll the path where I come back with my tail between my legs. I figured that I should keep trudging forward and put in some effort into figuring out what is the direction to move forward, so I started to plan out whilst I was making my way home from the seminar. That’s the sort of thing a person like me would do in a situation such as this, but it’s completely necessary to try and overcome an ordeal such as this.

Anyways, I got home, and damn, it was quite a painful night. From thinking about what can I do going forward to considering contingency plans just in case, I got quite a job to do. I figured I might be able to think things more clearly, and relieve my stress, if I got a good night’s rest, and maybe get an idea out and see the best way around it.

But I couldn’t sleep as well as I had hoped. There was a dark cloud looming over me as I was lying on my bed, with my head resting on my pillows. It’s not uncommon in times like these; people in similar circumstances would react the same way, after all. But it seemed more thought provoking than any I’ve had in my life so far. I’m not accustomed to this kind of situation at all, my brain was hurting. Then it didn’t get any better. I rolled back and forth on my bed. Everything I did whilst I was trying to sleep wasn’t helping. But that gave me some time to think. I looked towards my room window. Then the night sky. Then to the moon above, illuminating the night sky. Each minute staring at it assisted me in my contemplation, and what the best solutions were.

Not only am I in a particular situation, but’s bothering me as I am trying to sleep. A few hours ago, I was worried because I had to figure out the next best step for my future, and it overwhelmed me. But what is the best direction? It’s no longer an issue of trying to get a good nights rest. If I can’t go to sleep, I’d might as well continue to strategize. I don’t have a single idea. I have no way of figuring out what to do next, or what is best. I’d give anything for a single idea. Now that I think of it, my brother might be able to help me on this when I talk to him tomorrow. I’m on the clock. I have to figure out how to figure out what I need to do when my brother calls me. And I have to do it when the time comes. And right at that second was when sleep came to me. Finally!