Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Release date: February 22, 2018
Running time: 104 minutes
Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett

It's crazy to think that How to Train Your Dragon is nine years old!  The third (and if the filmmakers are to be believed final) movie in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy builds off of what happened in the previous two.  Hiccup and Toothless are faced with multiple dilemmas: a new dragon is discovered that has them both distracted and a new enemy rises that threatens everything that they have worked so hard to build.

As with any animated movie, the first focus is on the animation itself.  And thankfully, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World delivers in that department.  The HTTYD universe is full of different types of unique dragons, and they are all beautifully animated.  Additionally, for this film the dragon riders have been given new equipment and armor inspired by the various dragons.  The detail is immense, with visible individual scales on the armor and hair that moves with the wind.  And as with any dragon movie, the flying is spectacular with little details like realistically rendered clouds that react to the environment being a noticeable surprise. 

This is a kids movie, so the story doesn't have to make complete sense.  But this story is pretty bad.  That is fine because the characters that experience that story and the accompanying action are great, but the story itself seems to just push characters into convenient locations and encounters without any real reason why.  That being said, it does have a surprisingly satisfying ending and one that is a great capping point for this film franchise.  Additionally, some of the characters are just plain annoying, but again, as a kids movie this is to be expected.  

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a beautifully animated movie that continues and concludes the story from the first two films.  It is fun to watch, despite its less than stellar story, and provides a fitting end to this high flying trilogy.

Watch it

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Screening: The Aftermath

Image result for the aftermath poster
In DC-area theaters March 22nd


THE AFTERMATH is set in postwar Germany in 1946. Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in the ruins of Hamburg in the bitter winter, to be reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an unexpected decision: They will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.
Credits:
Directed by:                                        James Kent
Screenplay by:                                   Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse and Rhidian Brook
Based on the novel
THE AFTERMATH by:                       Rhidian Brook
Produced by:                                      Jack Arbuthnott, p.g.a. & Malte Grunert, p.g.a.
Cast:                                                      Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke
Facebook: @TheAftermathTheMovie
Twitter and Instagram: AftermathMovie
#TheAftermath

Screening Details:

Monday, March 18th
7:00pm
Landmark Bethesda

to Download Passes NOW!



Friday, February 8, 2019

Screening: Fighting With My Family

Image result for fighting with my family official poster

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a heartwarming comedy based on the incredible true story of WWE Superstar Paige™. Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone. Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.


DIRECTOR &
 WRITER
Stephen Merchant   


PRODUCERS
Kevin Misher, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Stephen Merchant, Michael J. Luisi 

EXECUTIVE
PRODUCERS
Andy Berman, Hiram Garcia, Daniel Battsek, Tracey Josephs, David Kosse, Rhodri Thomas

CAST
Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, with Vince Vaughn and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson 
Twitter: @FightingWMyFam
Instagram: @FightingWMyFam
#FightingWithMyFamily


Screening Details:
AMC Mazza Gallerie
2/20/2019

7:00 PM


to Download Passes NOW!



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: The Prodigy

Release date: February 8, 2018
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney

If you were looking for one of the creepiest films of the year (maybe ever), then look no further.  The Prodigy delivers creepiness in spades.  The film is about a young boy who is exceptionally smart but also has a dark side that grows darker the older he gets.  His parents must try to figure out "what is wrong with Miles" before something terrible happens.  

The best thing about The Prodigy is the acting of Jackson Robert Scott.  Young Georgie from 2017's IT is back with another horror film role, but this one lets him really work his acting chops.  He is both sweet and creepy at times--often in quick succession--doing a fantastically unsettling job as young Miles.  The film making is also quite good, with a masterful use of light and dark to raise the tension to 10.  I was on the edge of my seat a lot due to a combination of the unpredictable nature of the movie amplified by the stellar lighting.

But the problem with the Prodigy is the story is kind of ridiculous. Now look, I understand that horror movies often have supernatural or unbelievable underpinnings, but this one is particularly egregious.  And to movie makes sacrifices to move the plot along.  Some characters are too conveniently knowledgeable about the main conflict in the movie and other characters just make ridiculous choices that no rational person would make.  The story moves from point A to point B, but that journey is less than ideal.  For a film that does so much right, it is a shame that this major part is not up to snuff.  If you want to see a creepy film that has great tension and lots of jump scares, then check out the Prodigy in the comfort of your own home.  

Rent it


Review: Alita: Battle Angel

Release date: February 14, 2018
Running time: 122 minutes
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Alita: Battle Angel is based off of the Yukito Kishiro cyberpunk manga series from 1990.  This is not that manga's first movie adaptation; two of the volumes were turned into two original video adaptations titled Battle Angel Alita.  The story follows a cybernetic girl who has lost her memories, but is drawn to conflict and using her fighting prowess to right the wrongs of the world she wakes up in.

Alita: Battle Angel is more than just based on that manga series, the filmmakers clearly loved that source material as many aspects of the manga make their way into the movie.  The most noticeable (and probably polarizing) aspect of this is Alita herself: the character's eyes are roughly twice what they should be, a clear callback to the manga and anime character's propensity to have disproportionately large eyes.  Additionally, the characters will occasionally have overblown and exaggerated reactions, something that is common in anime.  I'm sure many moviegoers will think this is poor acting or writing, but I appreciated the authenticity that the filmmakers were going for.  Additionally, some of the dialogue is likewise confusing and out of order, again what I think is a callback to how the original Japanese would have been translated.  These small touches would probably be ignored by most of the target audience, but I loved seeing them in a major studio film.  

The first thing you will notice about this film (and probably the reason many people are going to see it) are the special effects.  The CG is unreal in this movie.  As with any computer-generated character, the risk of falling into the uncanny valley is very high, but the filmmakers used some innovative video game-inspired techniques to turn Alita into a lifelike member of the cast.  Rosa Salazar filmed the movie in a motion capture suit (to record her body movements) with two high definition cameras aimed at her face (to record her facial animations).  The result of all this effort is a clearly computer generated character that moves and emotes like a regular actor.  

Alita: Battle Angel does have several flaws, so make sure you know what you are getting into.  The movie is fun and exciting, a great summer popcorn flick.  But the movie is not going to win awards for complexity or easy to follow plot.  Several details are left unexplained and the ending is unsatisfying, clearly setting the movie up for a follow on sequel.  And for those that don't appreciate some of the anime influences, the dialogue and character reactions can be unsettling.

That being said, Alita: Battle Angel is a special effects force that should be seen in theaters to fully enjoy.  The animation and sound are awe-inspiring, and the effort that the filmmakers went to to realize this world is great to see.  Despite its flaws, this is movie you will want to see in theaters to really take in everything it has to offer.  

Watch it


Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: Fighting With My Family

Release date: February 14, 2018
Running time: 108 minutes
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey, Florence Pugh 

What would you do to achieve your dream?  And what would it take to actually realize that dream once you were given the opportunity?  Fighting With My Family is a WWE produced movie based on the true story of WWE Divas phenom Paige.  The story follows Paige's unlikely journey wrestling in an obscure English amateur wrestling league to the largest wrestling federation in the world.  There was much more drama than I had thought there would be, which I enjoyed seeing.  Although wrestling is a key focus of the movie, a lot of the film deals with Paige's own personal struggles going from her tight knit, familiar family setting to the more ruthless process of trying to become a wrestling professional.  

And to complement the drama (and as is instantly clear from the trailer), there is a surprising amount of humor thrown in.  As with any good WWE event, there is plenty of fighting, dramatic performances, and a good amount of humor thrown in to keep the audience entertained.  The characters are all quirky and entertaining; the story is fun to follow; and the overall effort put in by Paige to fulfill her dream is great to see.  Pugh is believable as a young Paige and has you rooting for her from the start.  The Rock and Vince Vaughn are both perfect in their roles, with the Rock adding his trademark humor and wrestling authenticity to the film.  

The movie is not without its flaws.  The character progression is made for Hollywood, with too convenient character changes and epiphanies at just the right times.  Also, the movie takes some liberties with the time line that makes the last part of the movie seem too convenient to be true.  The compressed timeline also cheapens the effort that Paige put forth to fulfill her dream, making it seem like she worked hard, but that it wasn't as difficult as the real life story.

Despite these minor flaws, Fighting With My Family gives you a heartwarming story, filled with thoroughly enjoyable characters and action, that takes some creative liberties but still tells a solid tale.  I haven't watched wrestling in years (I used to sneak downstairs to watch WCW on Saturday morning before my parents woke up) but I loved this film; fans of wrestling, both old and new, will enjoy watching this.

Watch it


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Release date: February 8, 2018
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett 

The Lego characters are back for a follow up to the surprise 2014 hit about the iconic childhood toy.  The story follows the events of the first film, with the heroes encountering a powerful new adversary that causes their world to change into a decidedly less awesome and more desolate place.  Can Emmett's relentless positivity survive in this harsh world?  That is one of the many questions that are answered in this second movie.

As far as sequels go, this one is a decent successor.  It changes enough about the first film to keep everything fresh, and introduces a host of new semi-Lego characters to change up the formula.  All the main characters have returned and it introduces fun new ones to liven up the adventure.  The animation is as stellar as the first, with plenty of Lego details that are lovingly thrown in.  The attention to detail is insane, with oceans of legos, great modern effects "de-mastered" into lego style, and wear on the various characters that one would expect from typical rough play.

However, the movie isn't without its flaws.  The story, while being a new adventure, wasn't as engaging as the first one.  I found myself wondering several times why certain events were happening and when the story would move on.  There is a ton of foreshadowing in the movie that also makes the plot predictable.  Maybe this film just isn't as special as the first one.  The first movie was such an amazing breath of fresh air, a unique animation style for an old children's toy, that perhaps this film just couldn't live up to that.

The Lego Movie 2 is a good sequel to the phenomenal first movie, but the story is easy to follow and it doesn't have the same special charm that the first film had.  Only masterbuilders should see it in theaters.  Everyone else should:

Rent it



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