Tag Archives: Jay Baruchel

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

dragon2

Little boys just love training their dragons. Following the relatively successful How To Train Your Dragon from 2010, Dreamworks is back to milk that cash cow, or more accurately, that cash dragon, with the sequel, How To Train Your Dragon 2.

I actually really enjoyed the original (review here), which was an entertaining, sweet little story about the friendship between a kid viking called Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his cute but powerful dragon Toothless. It’s not one of the more memorable animated features in recent years, but it’s in the upper echelons in terms of quality, excitement and fun.

In the sequel, Hiccup and Toothless are back, five years older and closer than ever. Pretty much all the old cast is back too, with Gerard Butler playing Hiccup’s father, Craig Ferguson as Butler’s right hand man, America Ferrera as Hiccup’s girlfriend and Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as fellow viking friends. Cate Blanchett also joins the cast as a female viking whom I won’t spoil.

Since learning about prejudice and making peace with the dragons in the first film, everyone in Hiccup’s village of Berk has changed for the better. But of course there is a brand new villain (Djimon Hounsou) hell bent on conquering all dragons for his own benefit, and it is up to Hiccup and Toothless to try and stop him with the help of their family and friends.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by How To Train Your Dragon 2, which is as good as its predecessor when it comes to visual thrills and tugging the heart strings. The story itself is relatively stock standard, predictable even, so film’s biggest strength lies in the stunning visuals from all the dragon-riding action sequences that make fine use of some creative and skilled camera work. The dragon designs, and especially all the beautiful mix of colours, really added to the visual feast the film provides.

It’s more or less a continuation of both Hiccup and Toothless’s coming of age, and I’m glad to say that the title is not misleading because there actually is more legitimate dragon training in the film. Like its predecessor, it’s not the funniest animated film out there, but How To Train Your Dragon 2 more than makes up for the dearth of laughs with the exciting action sequences and emotional resonance.

Last word: A good film for the family that builds upon the solid foundations of the original by taking things to a new level.

4 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: This is the End (2013)

This-Is-The-End-Poster

While I’m not the biggest fan of Seth Rogen, I was really looking forward to This is the End,  an apocalypse movie featuring a bunch of comedic actors as parodied versions of themselves. The list of celebrities in the film is long — the leads include Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, with cameos from the likes of Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Krumholtz, Channing Tatum and Aziz Ansari. The film has received mixed reviews, and I can see why. It’s undoubtedly a good time and funny, albeit a little too hit-and-miss, and could have and probably should have been a lot funnier.

The central character of the whole thing is actually Jay Baruchel (She’s Out of My League, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and How to Train Your Dragon), who arrives in LA to catch up with his buddy Seth Rogen as they head off to a house party at James Franco’s house attended by all the above stars. Midway through the party the biblical End of Days (as depicted in the Arnie movie of the same name) descends upon them and the surviving celebs must find a way to deal with the terrifying aftermath, one that involves demonic monsters and possession.

It’s such an obvious idea, but as you can imagine, it’s also brimming with potential for laughs. I imagine the writers, Rogen and buddy Evan Goldberg, were likely stoned when they wrote this loose script, and it shows. There isn’t much of a plot, and the majority of the movie involves moronic, childish and sexually explicit banter and one-liners from the cast that serve to lampoon themselves.

Each of the actors plays a version of their real-life persona, one that corresponds with the public perception of them. Rogen, for example, is the same goofball you see in all his films, while McBride is the obnoxious slacker he portrayed in Your Highness. James Franco is interesting as a pretentious, sexually ambiguous nerd, though the funniest (and also most obvious) one is Michael Cera, whose has played this over-the-top douchebag version of himself so many times now that it has to make you wonder…

With so many comedians given free rein to show what they can do, you can expect at least some laughs, though how funny you find This is the End will likely depend on how much you like the particular brand of comedy of the six lead characters — ie, loud, profane, occasionally sharp, random, politically incorrect stoner comedy. I’ve always found this type of comedy a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, I really enjoyed Pineapple Express but hated Your Highness and thought films like Superbad and Knocked Up were overrated. I would place this film near the higher end the spectrum, mainly because no particular actor dominates and it was fun watching them play off each other. A couple of clever ideas had me laughing out loud pretty hard.

That said, I think it could have been funnier — perhaps with more scripted jokes, or less, or more editing to refine the material down to just the best parts. There were just too many jokes wasted for missing the mark or being too obvious.

Still, This is the End has enough quality stuff packed into it to make it one of the more memorable comedies of the year. Strangely, even though the story becomes more farcical as it progressed, it did not feel as though there was a mismatch with the “reality” TV style of comedy they were trying to make. That probably says more about reality TV than it does about this film.

3.5 stars out of 5

PS: Excellent ending sequence, so stick around for the surprise.

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

When I first heard about the film How to Train Your Dragon, I thought it was the name of a penile enlargement instructional video.  Little did I know it was actually the new DreamWorks Animation feature featuring an amazing voice cast including Jay Baruchel (She’s Out of My League), Gerard Butler (300, The Bounty Hunter), Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera (TV’s Ugly Betty), Jonah Hill (Superbad) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass).

I usually like animated films, but rarely do I see one that I really love.  I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it has been.  Well, How to Train Your Dragon is definitely one of the better animated films I have seen over the last few years, but it still doesn’t quite get me over the hump.

The story is based loosely on the 2003 book of the same title by Cressida Cowell.  It’s about a weak little Viking boy by the name of Hiccup (Baruchel) who lives in a world where people live to slay dragons.  All Hiccup does is try to please his father, the Viking Chief (Butler), by capturing a killing a dragon of his own.  But of course, as the title suggests, Hiccup eventually befriends and trains one, turning the world as they know it upside down.

In terms of pure laughs, How to Train Your Dragon is not as strong as a lot of the other animated films out there — that’s not to say it isn’t still very funny.  But where the film stood out for me was its heart.  The relationships between Hiccup and his dragon, his father (Butler), his mentor (Ferguson) and the girl of his dreams (Ferrera) are all extremely well developed and more poignant than you would have expected from a cartoon about dragons.  The story itself is actually pretty good too.

And of course there’s the excellent voice cast.  Apart from Butler and Ferguson, I don’t think any of the others are immediately recognisable, but they all sound strangely familiar.  One way or the other, they manage the bring the quirky characters to life.

I think it’s definitely a film that can be enjoyed equally by children (for the dragons and the action) and the adults (for the laughs, the characters and the storyline).

4 out of 5 stars!

Movie Review: She’s Out of My League (2010)

I heard some good things about She’s Out of My League before I went to see it — so I had reasonable expectations.  It seemed like one of those Judd Apatow-esque films, with a quirky premise, everyday characters, and lots of funny (and sometimes outrageous or vulgar) dialogue and interactions.  Well, it pretty much was, and while it’s not bad, there’s nothing to really separate it from other similar films in recent years.

Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder), a very underrated actor in my opinion, plays Kirk, a regular guy who works in airport security.  British Actress Alice Eve plays Molly, a pretty girl Kirk meets by chance, and who seems too good to be true.  The name of the film says it all, so there’s no need to elaborate much further than that.  Of course, there are the wacky friends, the crazy family, the rival, and a bunch of embarrassing incidents — all things you could have probably guessed.

For what is essentially a vulgar-ish rom-com, She’s Out of My League actually offers some interesting and honest insights into human nature and relationships.  At times, the story can be sweet and display some heart, but it never really gets there in my opinion.

Is the film funny?  Yes, but nothing that had me rolling in the isles.  To be honest it was too “hit and miss” for my liking, and there was an over-reliance on swearing for comedic effect.  When used correctly, it’s awesome, but too often in this film it comes off as contrived and obnoxious.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some genuinely funny moments, whether it’s a casual conversation or a cringe-worthy incident.  But sadly, this was another one of those films where the trailer revealed all the best jokes.  When will I learn to stop watching them?

She’s Out of My League is a decent film capable of making you laugh, especially when in the right frame of mind, but ultimately it’s not a standout in this type of genre.

3 out of 5 stars