Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dragon Hunters (2008)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Every so often, I like to watch movies.  I have a preference for animated movies.  When I saw Dragon Hunters, I thought it was How to Train Your Dragon and recorded it.  It wasn’t until months later, when I wanted to watch the movie, that I realized my mistake.  This doesn’t mean that I was disappointed.  (I’ll just have to keep scanning the various Encore movie channels and hope that How to Train Your Dragon comes on.)

Dragon Hunters was released in 2008 and, like How to Train Your Dragon, is animated.  As you might expect, it’s not about hunting dragons.  Instead, it’s about Lian-Chu, who hunts dragons, and Gwizdo, who tends to handle things like getting paid for dispatching dragons.  Along for the ride Hector, a little dog-like thing that can make fire come from something other than his mouth.

Now, when the movie says dragons, it apparently means a wide variety of creatures.  The movie starts with Lian-Chu fighting something that looks more like a giant caterpillar.  It takes him a while, but he is able to kill the creature.  When Gwizdo tries to collect payment, their clients try to back out.  It isn’t until Hector does his thing that they run away in fear.  Alas, poor Lian-Chu isn’t taken seriously enough.

As luck would have it, though, they happen upon Lord Arthur, who’s predicting the return of the World Gobbler.  He’s willing to pay a large amount of gold if they can get the job done.  Gwizdo is even able to secure an advance, which he intends to just take while disregarding their mission.  Lian-Chu, on the other hand, wants to fight the dragon.  He has dreams of living on a farm one day and the reward would go a long way to helping.  The only complication is Zoe, the Lord’s niece.  She idolizes a fictional dragon hunter and hopes to become one some day.

The movie is 80 minutes and most of that is their journey from the castle to the end of the world, where the World Gobbler is doing his thing.  What the movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in great animation.  This is one of the few movies where I think it might be worth it to see it on a better TV set.  I’m sorry that I didn’t see this in theaters.

I don’t think that this movie will win a lot of fans for animated movies.  It’s set in a medieval-looking world with some very interesting physics.  There are islands that float in the air, where people can hop on and go for a ride.  They range from small islands, big enough for a few people, to very large islands, containing parts of castles.  There are even spheroid islands that have their own gravity pointing towards the center.  (People and other objects seem to be of normal weight.)

One big complaint I’ve seen is a lack of plot, which I can’t argue with.  There are maybe a dozen or so people shown throughout the entire movie.  It was also a little confusing at times.  It might make more sense on a second viewing.  I think most of the problem is that it’s based on a TV series and may have been condensed quite a bit.  I’d like to look into renting the TV series, partly to see if this is true, but mostly because I liked the movie that much.

For the most part, it’s relatively kid-friendly.  The only thing I could see being scary is the World Gobbler, which is a giant undead dragon.  The scene is only a few minutes long, but small children may have issues.  It should be safe for teenagers and above, though.

As for the rest of the characters, they tend to have an exaggerated look.  If you can see the cover art, you should get a good idea of what I mean.  Lian-Chu is very big and top-heavy.  Hector is very hyperactive and bounces around a lot.  For those that like animation, I’d definitely recommend this movie.  For those that aren’t, all I can say is to go in with an open mind. 

IMDb page

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

It seems that history repeats itself.  That seems to be the case with movies these days.  There’s a new cycle of rebooted Star Trek movies.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are getting new movies.  There’s even a new Ghostbusters movie.  Netflix decided to get into the game with a new Pee-Wee Herman movie.  Yes, that Pee-Wee Herman, the childlike alter ego of Paul Reubens that started as a stage act in the early 1980s.  (Reubens is in his 60s now, even if Pee-Wee is forever young.)

The story is similar to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  Instead of a stolen bike, Pee-Wee is set off on his adventure after meeting Joe Manganiello.  Joe shows up in the diner where Pee-Wee works.  After becoming best of friends, Joe invites Pee-Wee to his birthday party in New York.  There’s just one problem:  Pee-Wee has no interest in leaving Fairville.  Joe leaves Pee-Wee to reconsider, which Pee-Wee does.  He sets out on a trip that takes a lot of unexpected turns.  He meets several interesting characters along the way.  The journey may not have gone to plan, but Pee-Wee ends up where he needs to be.

It’s strange how some movies or songs will always be enjoyable to some people while other people will have no use for them.  It seems like most of the people I know love Pee-Wee Herman or could do without him.  When I told my parents about the new movie, they weren’t all that excited, but I know that there are a lot of fans that won’t be disappointed.   Even if the movie is similar, it’s fun for me to see the character again.  Paul Reubens will forever be known for this character and still manages to play him well.  Throughout the movie, I was rooting for Pee-Wee to make it to New York.

The only real downside to the movie is that, so far as I know, you have to have (or know someone who has) Netflix to watch it.  I’m not sure if there were any plans to continue the franchise or if this was a one-off deal.   Wikipedia mentions some projects that may happen, but I don’t see anything new for the character on IMDb.  I don’t know if anyone will be signing up for Netflix just for this movie, but if you do, tell them Large Marge sent you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Paradox (2016)

It’s hard enough defending a group from a gunman.  It’s worse when the gunman may be part of said group.  Add to that the realization that you might be the gunman and you have Paradox.

The movie starts with someone calling his boss to warn him not to come in to work.  He’s then gunned down.  We then see two government agents staking out a building.  One is telling the other who all the major players are.  Mr. Landau is the guy running Project 880.  On his team are Jim, William, Randy, Lewis and Gale.  Jim ends up being the one to go an hour into the future.

Once there, Jim finds the self-destruct sequence has been activated.  Everyone he sees is dead or dying.  Oh, and there’s the gunman on the loose.  Jim manages to take a video camera back with him, but the video gets corrupted on the trip back, making it almost useless.  So, two options present themselves.  The group can try to change the future by working on the video or they can accept their fate and die.  Oh, and someone might be a turncoat for the government.

This is one of those movies I stumbled upon while browsing Netflix.  Given the TV-MA rating, I’m assuming this was a made-for-TV movie.  The acting was pretty good, as were the effects.  I feel like it’s the writers that could have done better. The entire time-travel angle seems like just another plot device.  Jim tells everyone they’re going to die and has to watch them get hurt one by one.  Some people feel like changing the timeline might be a bad idea, but they can all agree that letting themselves be murdered sounds like a bad idea, too.

It ends up being a way of making us wonder who it could be.  Since it could be anyone, the killer can be in two places at once.  All of the characters can’t really claim innocence since they don’t know if they’re going to become the killer.  Instead of using this to make the story interesting, it ends up becoming a run-through of all the clichés you’d expect to find in a time-travel movie.  When it’s revealed who the killer is, we get to see a series of you-are-me arguments.  The future version of the character knows what the past version of the character was thinking, implying that there’s no choice in what’s going to happen.

We also find out that several people came from the future to capitalize on knowledge of the stock market and build the time machine, thus leading to a bootstrap paradox.  Did someone really invent time travel or did someone bring the basics back with them?

With movies like Time Lapse and Timecrimes, we see that time travel can be used to further the story and provide something to think about.  Here, it’s just something to move the story along.  The whole thing seems like an exercise in futility.

IMDb page