Tag Archives: Jay Baruchel

Dragon Ball 3

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

by George Wolf

I usually like to steer clear of spoilers, but I really need to warn you…this film contains gratuitous dragon flirting.

And full-on nuzzling.

It’s cute, but The Hidden World offers so much more than just cute, and more than enough substance to solidify the entire Dragon saga as a top tier film trilogy.

Writer/director Dean DeBlois is back to finish what he started in 2010, and continued in 2014. He picks up the tale one year after the close of HTTYD 2, when our hero Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) finds that his pal Toothless isn’t the only Night Fury dragon, after all.

This new one is a Light Fury, she’s a charmer, and Toothless is in love.

But all of Hiccup’s dragon friends are in danger, none more than Toothless, thanks to the bloodthirsty Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) and his batallion of dragon hunters. To continue living in peace, Hiccup and his entire village must find mythical dragon birthplace The Hidden World before Grimmel does.

This franchise has delivered true visual wonder since the original film’s opening frame, and part 3, taking natural advantage of enhanced technology, ups the ante. The aerial gymnastics and high seas swashbuckling are propelled by animation that is deep and rich, while new details in the dragons’ faces bring wonderful nuance and expression.

There is real tension here, along with warm humor, thrilling action pieces and resonant themes backed by genuine emotion.

As you realize Hiccup is leading a group of wartime refugees, the bittersweet coming-of-age tale moves to the forefront. We’ve watched Hiccup move from losing his father (Gerard Buter) to finding his mother (Cate Blanchett) to becoming a father figure for the orphaned Toothless. Now, he may have to let his best friend go and remember that “with love comes loss, it’s part of the deal.”

These themes may not be new, but DeBlois handles them with an understated poignancy that hits the feels, leading to a breathless emotional high point reminiscent of Toy Story 3‘s classic “holding hands” throat-lumper.

Packed with excitement, sincerity and visual amazeballs, The Hidden World ties a can’t-miss ribbon on a wonderful trilogy.

 

Goon Baby Goon

Goon: Last of the Enforcers

by George Wolf

Seven years ago, we got three successive blasts of fresh air released in roughly 18 months: Kick-Ass, Machete and Goon. Sequels for the first two quickly followed, each doomed by an approach that seemed oblivious to all that made their origin stories so appealing.

It’s taken quite a bit longer, but Goon: Last of the Enforcers is here to complete the unfortunate trifecta.

Lovable hockey goon/overall simpleton Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is touched to be named captain of his Halifax Highlanders squad, but when he’s beaten to a bloody mess by new goon on the block Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), Doug faces some tough decisions.

His girl Eva (Alison Pill) is pregnant and really doesn’t want him fighting anymore, so Doug takes a sad gig handling “insurance documents.” But with his team in disarray and a familiar itch to scratch, Doug starts training with old foe Ross Rhea (Liev Schrieber) for a possible return to the ice.

Familiar sports movie cliches follow, but that’s not what makes this new Goon so disappointing. The problems come from forgetting to give us any authentic reasons to care about Doug, or any attempts at humor that rise above sophomoric.

Jay Baruchel returns as co-star/co-writer, and takes the big chair for his debut as a feature director. His vision falls well short of the bawdy bulls-eye the first film delivered, sorely missing the script input from original co-writer Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, This Is the End, Sausage Party, Superbad). Goldberg’s smart brand of humor is just what this film needs more of, as it relies instead on silly gags aiming for the lowest hanging fruit.

Also gone is the goon so easy to love. Doug is much too broadly drawn this time, reduced from a big-hearted brute we rooted for to a village idiot merely there to laugh at, not laugh with.

Goon was an underdog winner. Last of the Enforcers earns the penalty box.

 

Something Special in the Air

 

How to Train Your Dragon 2

by George Wolf

They had me at “Drago Bloodfist.”

Actually, they had me four years ago, when the original How to Train Your Dragon was not only one of the best films of 2010, but one of the most visually stunning 3D films ever.

Part 2 may fall a hair short of those original lofty heights, but you can still expect an exhilarating, often eye-popping family adventure.

Writer/director Dean DeBlois returns to catch us up with Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless, five years after they showed their village that dragons and Vikings can be buddies after all.

Things aren’t so harmonious in neighboring villages, as the evil pirate Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou) has his henchmen always on the hunt, looking to capture new additions for a growing dragon army. Hiccup favors reasoning with the pirates but his father, Chief Stoick the Vast, (Gerard Butler) prefers a pre-emptive strike.

With obvious parallels to current global terrorism, HTTYD2 offers more mature, darker themes, but wisely doesn’t overplay this hand. The franchise, with part 3 already on the way, continues to be anchored by the bonds of family and friends, and the special relationship that can develop between man and beast.

What may make the younger viewers start to fidget are two backstory sequences, one involving Bloodfist and another featuring Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett). Though hardly fatal flaws, the compelling nature of the story begins to wander away, safely returning when Hiccup and Toothless get back into focus.

As the showdown between pirates and Vikings draws near, the visual elements continue to impress. With an assist from esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins, the effects department again illustrates the glorious possibilities of 3D animation. The in-flight sequences make the heart race, and when Valka runs to the edge of a cliff to grasp the size of the approaching armada below, the aerial shot is simply breathtaking.

Boasting inspired storytelling, magical visuals and enough subtle, real world sensibility to give it resonance, HTTYD2 keeps this franchise crackling with vitality.

 Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

Dead Man’s Party

 

 

by George Wolf

 

You know what This Is the End made me think of? Dear, departed Father Art from my church.

Stay with me.

Father Art used to surprise the faithful by occasionally dropping Howard Stern’s name into the homily, citing Stern as someone who, underneath the raunch, had a positive message:  do what you’re supposed to do.

This Is The End also has a positive message, stressing selflessness as a key to salvation. Sure, this message is mixed with heapin’ helpings of sex, drugs and profanity, but it’s a combination that produces some pretty funny shit.

Your reaction will most likely depend on how much you enjoy the comedy stylings of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, seen at their peak in films such as Pineapple Express, Superbad and Knocked Up. Co-writing and directing This Is the End, they’ve expanded their 2007 short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse into the funniest film of the year.

Seth is Rogan, and Jay is his buddy Jay Baruchel, who comes to LA hoping for a low-key visit. Instead, Rogan takes him to a rockin’ party at James Franco‘s place where, amid plenty of famous faces, the rapture begins.

As the final battle rages outside, Franco, Rogan and Baruchel are joined by Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride for a star studded celebrity survivor sleepover!

Things get pretty crude (so much so that Rogan has said he expected an NC-17 rating instead of the R they received), but the result is far from dumb humor. Self-deprecation is always endearing, and the gang uses it well, lampooning their films, their images, and the self-absorbed nature of celebrity culture.

It’s a wild ride featuring great cameos (well done Channing Tatum and Michael Cera) and fine ensemble work from a bunch of funny guys who play themselves with undeniable comic chemistry and a sense of camaraderie that makes them fine company for the end of days.

Remember, they have a plan to be among the chosen, and you’ll most likely be laughing too hard to argue with it.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars