Movie Review

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Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Published November 18, 2014 by mrsrag

bh6

Starring the voices of: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Daman Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

From the Disney team that brought us the recent classics Frozen and Wreck-It-Ralph, their most recent offering Big Hero 6, may not quite measure up to the high bar those films set; but it’s not far off.  Hiro Hamada (Potter) and his older brother Tadashi (Henney) are genius quality minds, growing up in the fictitious, hybrid city of San Fransokyo.  Tadashi spends his days at “Nerd”  University with a group of fellow geniuses, pushing the envelope on cutting edge robotics & technological inventions, designed to further mankind.  Hiro, who is 14, may be the smartest of them all, but he’d rather hustle money at underground robot fights than waste his time in school.  That all changes one day after he gets pinched by the cops and Tadashi has to bail him out.  He subsequently brings Hiro to Nerd U., and the younger boy realizes that this is where he truly belongs.  Shortly thereafter, we meet Baymax (Adsit), a Michelin Man looking creation of Tadashi’s, that is programmed to diagnose and treat human beings with pains or ailments.  Baymax is easily the most endearing mechanical creation since Wall-E.  It isn’t long before a text book Disney catastrophe strikes and the movie spirals off into a different direction. 

I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a fictional, hybrid city, but once I got over San Fransokyo, I saw there were many things to enjoy about Big Hero 6.  It was continuously entertaining with much of the story centering around the action that ensues when Hiro investigates the disappearance of his sought after invention: microbots.  Some clever, yet simple humor fuels the sometimes dark storyline.  And Baymax lightens up the scene with his benevolent nature, which off sets his larger than life, and sometimes spaces, appearance.  It was no surprise to me that this was the work of the Man of Action writer’s collective, which also spearheaded the Ben 10 series.  There are some obvious similarities surrounding the style, tone and execution between the Ben 10 series and the MOA’s first silver screen debut, Big Hero 6.  They filtered in some good lessons involving family and loyalty, which I always like to see.  And they even figured in a nice little twist.  But of course, Ross Gallo knew what was going on the whole time, as he so often does.

I am kind of tuned in lately.  We watched a movie on HBO the other night, Fierce People (not bad by the way), and I nailed the perp in that one quickly too.  Big Hero 6 does have a bit of a twist, but the heart of the movie is Hiro’s relationship with Baymax and his new found “super hero” friends.  His growth from selfish boy to responsible young man and most importantly, laying the foundation for what promises to be another multi-million dollar franchise.  I’m not knocking that at all, I can’t wait to see the next Lego Movie, but make no mistake, BH6 is only the first installment.  It is certainly worthy of the chance, as these Caucasians with Japanese names are a force to be reckoned with.  Add in their exotic yet still familiar Japerican hometown, the technology on display, and all the writers need to do is create a villain worthy of the 6.

I have no beef with franchises, but one thing I find incredibly irksome is the necessity to split every final installment into two parts, i.e. The Harry Potters, Twilight, and more recently The Hunger Games. It is a total money grab. I wish I could say that I am protesting such ludicrous Capitalism, but I will be going to see Mockingjay parts I & II. And don’t let Ross fool you, he hasn’t been tuned in lately – he’s ALWAYS tuned in. And he was right on point with Big Hero 6. This is a must see for those of you with boys, especially if they have gravitated towards Ben 10. This film has a nice mixture of sci-fi and action that will help keep your attention as well.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 3 Gummies.

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Movie Review: Gone Girl

Published October 6, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Sela Ward, Missi Pyle.

Rated: R.  Drama/Mystery/Thriller.  Running Time: 2 hours 29 minutes.

Wow, I forgot how truly twisted Amy Elliot Dunne is.  Ross and I had read the critically acclaimed bestseller by Gillian Flynn in late 2012 and we were both immediate fans.  Flynn’s writing was edgy, fresh and captivating.  It was one of those books you pick up and absolutely can’t put down.  Each chapter like a breadcrumb leading down a shocking path.  What I enjoyed most about this novel was the fact that Flynn proved that I could still be shocked as a reader.  When Ross told me that he had read about the production of the movie, I was deeply intrigued.  How were they going to pull this one off?  Readers are exceptionally protective of the stories they love and this was so widely adored.  If they screwed this up, they’d be crucified.  The theatre was jam packed, which was quite a treat when certain scenes unfolded on screen.  I was getting a kick out of hearing some of the reactions to things that I already knew were coming.  My final assessment: they pulled it off.  And quite well.  They pretty much followed the book to a tee, which is always a smart approach.  And as a reader I was surprisingly pleased.  The twisted tale translated well to the big screen and delivered some wicked humor along with thought provoking dilemmas.

Nick Dunne (Affleck) is unemployed and aimless.  He owns a failing bar that his wife bought him, and he wakes up on the morning of his fifth anniversary and heads straight for ‘The Bar’.  His sister Margo (Carrie Coon from HBO’s The Leftovers) is the bartender and they each have a mid-morning glass of  bourbon.  Nick returns home after receiving a call from his neighbor that his cat is wondering around.  He finds the front door open, the house in a bit of a shambles and no sign of Amy (Pike) his wife.  So begins the set-up of Gone Girl, the runaway, fantastic best seller brought to the big screen in record time.  We soon find out the marriage was a Grand Canyon away from happy, and that our husband and wife are severely fucked up in the head.  The search begins for “Amazing Amy” and the lead investigator, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens from another HBO hit Deadwood) quickly focuses on Nick, because it’s always the husband isn’t it?  Maria and I are always careful not to tell too much of the plot, and out of respect for those of you that haven’t read the book, we certainly aren’t changing that practice here, but suffice it to say there are twists for the ages in Gone Girl.  Well cast, well acted and a very worthy adaptation of Flynn’s novel.

They don’t waste any time getting into the action and weaving a web of deception, lies and drama.  Gone Girl is a literal train wreck at full speed without a dull moment.  I really enjoyed the subtle social commentary on how the media reacts when a tragedy of this kind occurs.  Missi Pyle plays Ellen Abbot, a television personality who is no doubt tailored to be our very own Nancy Grace.  It’s a delight to watch her sensationalize the tragedy and then be flippant with her opinions.  Pike’s performance is incredibly impressive as well.  She fearlessly takes on her first starring role as the fierce and unapologetic Amy.  I’d like to imagine that all the ladies of Hollywood were vying for this one.  Pike was not an obvious choice, but she nailed it.  Great performances and a flawless execution make this a must see.  For people who have read and those who haven’t.

There are a few racy and squeamish moments that might not be for everyone, and at nearly 2 1/2 hours it was just a tad too long, but overall I would agree, go see it.  I mentioned to Maria as we were leaving, that the most sure fire way to ensure box office success is to adapt a mega best selling book(s) for the big screen.  She responded that that’s been going on for years, but I submit with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Gone Girl and the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey (abysmally rotten yet successful, see our review in the archives of MRSRAG) among others, that it has never been more prevalent than today.  I’m not knocking the practice, just an observation.  Gone Girl really is a well acted film.  There aren’t a whole lot of characters to like here, as a matter of fact the bulk of them are vile, but it’s the great, refreshing, original story that drives this one to the finish.

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3.75 Gummies.

Recent DVD Release: Noah

Published September 1, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Adventure/Drama.  Running Time: 2 hours 18 minutes.

 

I was raised Catholic, but I am not a practicing religious person.  I haven’t read The Bible much, but I did “experience a childhood on the planet Earth” (just heard that line spoken in the movie Kings of Summer and couldn’t wait to use it), so I know the story of Noah and his Ark as I’m sure you do.  What I didn’t realize was that he had Transformer-like rock creatures (fallen angels) help him and his family get the thing built.  Was that in The Bible version?  Noah (Crowe) is one intense dude and fairly shitty father in this dark and humorless interpretation of the story.  I understand this is serious subject matter, flooding, end of the world stuff, but man this movie really blows.  After watching the humans at work here, you don’t blame God in the slightest for wanting to wipe the slate clean.  The problem is, Noah is no better than the people he is keeping from getting on the Ark.  He treats everyone horrible, especially his family, who are the only decent folks around, and eventually tries to kill some of them too.  Beyond the inexplicable rock monsters, they also have some kind of magic smoke that conveniently puts all the animals to sleep (cmon, was that in The Bible story too?), so any possible chance of cute or funny interaction with them is eliminated as well.  Noah the movie, hasn’t one redeeming quality, it’s too long, dark and miserable.  Russell’s last effort on a boat is awesome, one of my “can’t pass it without watching it” favorites; Master and Commander the Far Side of the World.  Paul Bettany as the Doc, the one armed kid, the Jonah dude who kills himself.  Great stuff!  Watch that one if you’ve never seen it, and NEVER see Noah, it SUCKS!  

We just saw a clip of Gladiator as we were passing through the channels today.  I loved that movie immediately!  And many others from Crowe’s resume.  But recently, he hasn’t been involved in anything noteworthy.  I saw a horrible few minutes of The Man with Iron Fists and now this Noah flop?  What is Russell doing!?  I figured this might be worth a try since he was teaming up with Jennifer Connelly, his costar from A Beautiful Mind, but I was wrong.  Honestly, I can’t tell you much about the film because I was literally struggling to stay awake.  I started falling asleep periodically once the ark actually set sail.  I always liked the story of Noah and I think they had the potential to do this movie right, but somewhere along the line they lost focus of the story.  The movie dragged on, took some distasteful turns and continuously missed the mark.  I didn’t feel anything…except tired.

If the putridness of the movie itself isn’t enough to depress the shit out of you, then watching the brilliant Anthony Hopkins “playing out the string” of his career with another useless old geezer part (see Oden of the Thor films), should kick the last few handfuls of dirt onto your grave.  He deserves a much better send off, and I for one hope he finds at least one more role worthy of his talent before he sails off into the sunset.  Emma Watson mewls her way through here as Ila, a girl they found, lone survivor of some sort of massacre, who grows up and bangs Shem (Booth) Noah’s son.  This family would need a team of shrinks to graduate to dysfunctional.  This movie would need to be reshot to have any entertainment value.  It has made it’s way into my elite group of “worst movies of all time”, joining the likes of Tess, The Paperboy, Killer Joe, Melancholia and Caddyshack 2.  A Heaven’s Gate for the new millennium.

Hopkins must have one last role worthy of his acting capability. And I hope Crowe finds some kind of redeeming project. Maybe he should try an Indie. It worked out well for McConaughey. But Noah is not leaving a good taste in my mouth. What I did see was incredibly bad and what I didn’t…well, ZZZ. Instead of counting sheep, I may just replay some of the scenes from this movie. The Lord is cleansing the world in this film, but you may just want to cleanse your queue – and spare yourself the torture.

Ross’ Rating: 0 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 1 Gummy.  (WOW RG…harsh, but accurate.)

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Published August 21, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville, Jeremy Howard, Danny Woodburn/Tony Shalhoub,  Tohoru Masamune, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Rated: PG-13; Action/Adventure/Comedy; 101 minutes

 

I was a child of the ’90’s.  So, of course, I absolutely loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And I still do.  I had the Gray Box Nintendo game, I went to see all of their movies and I owned plenty of TMNT themed toys.  I knew it was just a matter of time before Hollywood took another crack at bringing the oversized reptiles to the big screen.  Especially because our technology continues to improve and reach new milestones.  Are these the best looking ninja turtles I’ve ever seen?  Not necessarily.  I actually prefer the old cartoon-style crew.  But this film managed to capture the essence of each member while maintaining their naturally cheesy air.  The storyline even had a new plot twist explaining how the Ninja Turtles became mutated and why they ended up in the sewers.  Ninja Turtles were first spawned as an American comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  In, none other than MRSRAG’s favorite year, 1984.  The history behind the creation of this series is actually an incredible story of two friends who were just brainstorming and goofing around.  Look it up on Wikipedia – it’s impressive.  I was pleasantly surprised by the new movie and would endorse it with their signature catch phrase: Cowabunga!

It seems like every time I’m lukewarm about seeing a movie, I end up loving  it.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no exception.  Maria explained her reasons for wanting to go, and Ethan has become interested in them through their reincarnation on Nick.  Me?  I remember the 1990 version with Elias Koteas playing Casey Jones, as being pretty decent, but wasn’t sure how they were going to reinvent the wheel twenty four years later.  Well Casey Jones doesn’t even make an appearance here, and Maria mentioned the change in backstory, so this TMNT has a fresh coat of paint and shines bright in the 21st century.  Megan Fox as April O’Neil is, believe it or not, fantastic!  I know, right?  She was dreadful as Shia Labeouf’s eye candy love interest in the Transformer movies.  And failed horribly when given her own starring vehicle in the unwatchable Jennifer’s Body.  But I thought she turned a corner in This is 40, a movie I hated, but she stole the show with a small part that poked a bit of fun at her persona, and was easily the best part of that Apatow dud.  And she nails the Turtle’s pal April here in TMNT.  With her sidekick cameraman Vernon Fenwick (the always amazing Arnett), she is what drives the movie forward.  The Turtles themselves are buffed and badass, and their personalities haven’t changed much over the years.  The writing is crisp and the chemistry between the main players is natural and easy.  One negative: the casting of William Fichtner as seemingly good guy Eric Sacks was a horrible mistake.  The guy always plays an asshole, and we all knew instantly he was going to turn out to be a bad guy.  Dumb move.   

I was hoping they were going to pull a double switcheroo – and have him seem bad and then turn out good.  But they just stuck with his usual evil shenanigans.  I was really impressed with how they outfitted Shredder, donning head to toe shiny silver with retractable knives, the leader of the dreaded foot clan looks more dangerous and fearsome than ever.  Growing up I was a hardcore Leonardo fan, but in time I learned to love Michaelangelo.  He’s pure entertainment and provides a lot of the laughs here while swooning over Fox.  TMNT has always had the same formula – Raf acts like a jerk, Splinter almost dies and then one brother has to save the other three.  Ninja Turtles has never taken itself too seriously.  And that’s what is most important to keep in mind.  It’s fun.  And sometimes you just have to allow yourself to revert back to 8.  I felt like a kid again.  Oh, and there’s some rapping.

Michaelangelo, definitely my favorite, and I’m not even a stoner.  The bottom line here is this is one non-stop, funny, entertaining movie.  The Turtles kickass, the bad guys are super bad, and the special effects create scenes that are mesmerizing and jaw-dropping.  Raphael can still be a douchebag, but he comes around, and near the end when they thought they might die, he laid it all bare and had me on the verge of tears.  Seriously.  There’s no way you won’t have a good time at TMNT, unless you’re humorless with no imagination or sense of adventure, in which case you wouldn’t have gone in the first place.  So, bring your kids, have fun and then take them out for a “99 cheese pizza” after the show.  Wait, that’s physically impossible, isn’t it??

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummies.

 

 

 

 

     

Movie Review: Earth to Echo

Published July 11, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt.

Rated: PG.  Adventure/Family/Sci-Fi.  Running Time: 1 hour and 29 minutes.

 

Prior to seeing this flick I had mixed feelings.  Ross had described it to me as a ‘modern day E.T.’ and then at boot camp someone told me this was one of those “shaky handheld camcorder” films.  Needless to say the latter news was not well received, as I have to admit I am not a big fan of this type of cinematography.  And I don’t readily back remakes either.  But we were giving Earth to Echo a chance either way, as it was one of the only movies we could view with Ethan that we hadn’t yet seen.  ETE is reminiscent of The Goonies and of course the similarly named, aforementioned, big screen alien created by Mr. Spielberg.  But it also has some genuine charm and likeability all its own.  The story centers around three young boys who are as tight as can be, but they’re facing tough realities and are fast approaching the time when they’ll have to move far from their cherished homes and best friends.  They begin taping in hopes to halt construction of a freeway that will literally trample their neighborhood.  Tuck (Astro) films everything and posts their cause all over YouTube in protest.  Eventually you get the feeling that they have accepted the move, but that they plan on making their last night in the old stomping grounds count.  Their plan for the night starts to take shape as the boys begin investigating what they refer to as “phone barf”.  Munch (Hartwig) realizes that the “phone barf” is actually a map and the adventure ensues.

E.T meets The Goonies meets Stand By Me, shot in the annoying style made famous by The Blair Witch Project and starring a cast of unknowns; Earth To Echo had every right to suck horribly or at the least be a worn out retread.  It didn’t, and it wasn’t.  The chemistry between the three boys on their quest to help Echo is what makes the film work.  Halm, Astro (seriously though, come on man!) and Hartwig “feel” like true friends, complete with the camaraderie, insults, lies, hard truths and always having each others’ backs, that come with the real thing.  The same ingredient that all of the classics listed above had as well.  I’m not saying that ETE belongs in the same category with those movies, but it does have it’s own charm and some cutting edge special effects that had me “wowing” from my seat!

The effects are certainly worth a mention.  And I agree that it won’t be stowed away with all of the friendship classics we’ve covered.  But I had low expectations going in and it kind of surprised me; which I suppose is always better than that feeling of expecting great things and being horribly disappointed.  ETE had some heart behind it and concisely wrapped up its story with a touching lesson about long distance friendships.  Something I’ve come to know very well since the best friends I’ve accumulated over many years are spread throughout the entire country…or World.  And the important message they are trying to share is that “distance is a state of mind”, as Alex so clearly states in the final scene.  And I can vouch for that…it really is.

Echo is not of this Earth, but unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t phone home he phones the boys.  I’ve lauded their chemistry but forgot to mention Ella Wahlestedt, she arrives late to the party but injects a much needed dose of teen estrogen and moxie, right when it was needed.  The friendship and shared adventure of the four kids is certainly the heart of ETE, but the technology age and tech savvy-ness of all involved, is clearly second billing.  It’s no secret we’re living in an exciting new world, but the ease in which these kids wield power and knowledge through their phones, cameras and computers is impressive.  Honestly most parents out there, yours truly included, get a glimpse into that world everyday.  It really makes you wonder, “what’s next?”   One can only imagine.  Earth To Echo is polished and glimmering, perfect for 2014. 

Maria’s Rating:  3 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3.5 Gummies. 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent DVD Release: Lone Survivior

Published July 4, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Yousuf Aaami, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Ali Suliman, Jerry Ferrara. Rated: R.  Action/Drama/Biography.  Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute.

 

Based on the real life mission, Operation Red Wings from 2005, Lone Survivor is the story of four elite Navy SEALS dropped into Afghanistan to apprehend and kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.  Shah (Azami) is an earlobeless, heartless murderer who you will instantly hate, and our men, Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Kitsch), Matt Axelson (Foster) and Danny Dietz (Hirsch) you will quickly realize have been sent to one of the most hostile environments imaginable.  While set up in an observational position high above the enemy compound, the guys are discovered by a goat herder and his two young sons.  Rules of Engagement dictate that they must let them go, so they do and scrub the mission.  This is the first part of the movie that angered me.  Okay let them go, but tie them to a tree then make your escape, don’t just let them walk/run away!  They went straight to Shah and soon the whole fucking compound was raining fire down on them.  This is certainly a story of bravery the likes of which I can’t even imagine conjuring myself.  These SEALS are the best there are, but therein lies another problem in my opinion.  They are so good they perceive themselves invincible, and against insurmountable and obvious unwinnable odds, this seemed to cloud their judgment as pertaining to their escape.  I don’t want to diminish at all what these men went through or downplay the valiant way they fought, it’s easy to give opinions sitting on the couch watching events unfold.  That is what we’re here to do though, so I’ll leave my two cents out there for you to evaluate.  

I agree that there were moments as the story developed on screen where I just didn’t comprehend the decision making.  It was mostly infuriating because I was still finding myself hoping they’d all make it out alive.  Something the viewer already knows is not possible going in; as it’s so blatantly advertised by the title.  And although this film is based on true events – it would be impossible to completely simulate the actual incident.  So, I resign myself to the belief that they did everything they could have to try and survive.  And when it came down to it, they had to make the ultimate sacrifices for their brothers.  We picked a very fitting movie for the week of the 4th.  And as we celebrate our independence today, the men and women who fight to protect our freedom are at the forefront of my thoughts.  I have always been quite mindful of them, but after the conclusion of Lone Survivor I found myself feeling the depth of thankfulness they truly deserve.  Soldiers forfeit time with wives, children, family and friends to defend our country.  And dead soldiers leave all of these people behind.  To be the type of soldier that is on the frontlines of battle takes a certain degree of selflessness, the likes of which is rare.  The greatest tragedy is that we have to lose people of that caliber.  Those are the type of people that I want around.  The people we need more of in this World.

Well written Maria.  The title, Lone Survivor, does take away some of the “edge of your seat” suspense of the movie, especially near the end.  It’s a Mark Wahlberg film, who do you think is going to be left standing (so to speak)?  There are some seriously shitty people in this world, and LS portrays that in spades.  I found myself despising these bad guys.  This wasn’t a comic book, this was real life and I wanted them all dead.  That being said, there is still decency to be found, and as illustrated here, sometimes you can find it in the most unlikely of places.  So on this Fourth of July, I would suggest you have fun, be safe and show patience and kindness to your fellow man.  Regardless of whatever political or theological differences we all have, this is still, easily, the greatest country in the world.  And that we have the rights to believe what we want is not to be taken for granted.  Thousands of brave men and women have given their lives so that we can cookout, light off fireworks, go boating, take our kids to a parade or just sit on the couch and watch a movie.  So celebrate being an American today, and maybe raise a glass to the people that have helped keep this country safe and free. 

I think that is a wonderful message for the 4th.  Lone Survivor is definitely one of those movies that gives its audience perspective and leaves them thinking long after.  I’ve been thinking about it and discussing it with people for days.  And that’s what is truly important about this film.  It spotlights the real heroes and the real people that deserve recognition.  Not the Bieber’s and the Miley’s and the Kanye’s that are splattered all over magazine covers in the market.  These soldiers should be the ones cashing 7 figure checks.  Because the service they provide is priceless.  I don’t even like “war movies”, as I so often refer to this genre.  But I enjoyed Lone Survivor and I believe it’s an important piece of cinema.  Happy 4th everyone!  America, fuck yeah.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

 

 

Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Published June 19, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington, Djimon Hounsou.

Rated: PG. Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

 

Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks…my girlfriends and I went down to Key West for my bachelorette party, I then turned 30 and I’ve been entertaining a serious amount of guests.  I hope you enjoyed reading the wonderfully enlightening (and darn good) writing of our guest reviewer, Ethan.  The boys had a great time at Maleficent and they had a ton of fun writing the review together.  The Keys were awesome – per usual.  We danced up a storm, relished a libation or two and had an all round blast.  Ross and I are getting back into the swing of our routine and we took Ethan to see the sequel to one of our family favorites: How to Train Your Dragon.  We saw the first one all together and absolutely fell in love with the witty humor, heartfelt story and superb animation.  All of us were so looking forward to the second installment, but I don’t think any of us expected what we got.  It was just as good as the first one – maybe even better.

All of our favorites are back for How To Train Your Dragon 2.  Hiccup (Baruchel), his dragon pal Toothless; Stoick (Butler) Hiccup’s hard Viking father, Gobber (Ferguson), Astrid (Ferrera), Snotlout (Hill), Ruffnut (Wiig), and the wide variety of dragons.  As Maria mentioned, we all loved the first installment, and I was wondering how they planned to freshen up the encore.  Hiccup and Toothless learned to fly together, won over the village and saved the day in the original, and they do more of the same in 2, but the cast of newcomers make the sequel anything but stale.  Valka (Blanchett), Eret (Harrington) and Drago  (Hounsou) are wonderful additions to the franchise.  Maria and I were playing our favorite game of, figure out who the voice is, and she made one of the GREAT snipes of all time by guessing bad guy extraordinaire Drago was the always amazing Djimon Hounsou.  Valka was easy, but neither one of us could come up with Kit Harrington as Eret, which was a major disappointment because we love him as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.  These three are HUGE parts of HTTYD2, and there are several  plot twists that you just don’t see coming.  There are also some seriously badass new dragons!

I hate spoilers…so there’s no way I’m going to give you details about this plot that could possibly ruin it for you.  I’ll just say that HTTYD2 was way more emotional IMO.  I was cleaning up some serious tears during a few parts.  And I think that’s why I enjoyed the movie so much.  It was very clever to age our main character Hiccup and the story aged with him.  It was a heavier plot with some very serious and thought provoking occurrences.  It had us talking on the way home, which is always a good sign.  If we get in the car and no one’s interested in recapping the jokes or storylines, then it’s usually a flop.  This was not the case with our favorite Dragon riders.  The sequel examines the dynamics of familial relationships, the obstacles of friendship and the acceptance of great responsibility.  It always pleases me when they can comingle such important principles with just plain fun.  The dragons are up to their usual tricks and we meet some really cool, new breeds.  But Toothless & Hiccup will always have a special place in our hearts, as the leading duo who started a dragon riding revolution.

Everyone has their own style and ours is, to hopefully, give you a review that informs without ruining the plot.  What’s the reason we read reviews in the first place?  There are certain movies that we, as individuals, will go see no matter what anyone writes.  Maybe you’re a fan of Star Trek, or X-Men or Brad Pitt movies.  You may hope the movie is well received, but it’s not that important.  It’s the movie you’re on the fence about, or the kid’s movie you’re not sure you want to spend the money taking the whole fam to, that you want to hear about.  And hear a solid opinion without learning that Bruce Willis is really a ghost, Charlton Heston never left Earth or that Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze.  What you need to know is, should I go see this movie?  Wait for On Demand or the Redbox?  Or just wait until it gets to HBO.  Here’s your answer for How to Train Your Dragon 2: a resounding “absolutely yes!”  At the very least, it’s as good as the original, and the emotional journey is deeper than most of the animated fare.  One last bit of advice, a common refrain if you read MRSRAG on the regs, save the money on the 3D.  It’s already a giant, Hi-Def screen, everything looks awesome!  Spend the cash on M&M’s or Skittles or Nachos.  Even that fake, yellow plastic, melted cheese product they slather over the chips will give you more value, and you don’t need to wear glasses to eat it. 

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4.25 Gummies.