*THROWBACK REVIEW* A NEW YORK WINTER’S TALE

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An unexpected watch. Went in to the screen (not literally) expecting the usual luvvy duvvy guff (my terminology for romance stuff), but came out surprised. A well-acted love story that is as different as it is strange. Cudos for the concept but not so much for its execution. Great chemistry from a great cast shies away from the numerous plot holes. However, I would say give it a go. One that doesn’t deserve the backlash it received.

At its core without spoiling too much is the story of thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who fights to keep a dying girl’s (the beautiful Jessica Brown-Findlay from Downton Abbey) hope alive in a battle against a devilish villain, the scarfaced Pearly Soames (a sinister Russell Crowe). However, what ensues is quite different, actually. Their love unwittingly becomes a game between hidden angels and demons. I kid you not. A supernatural love fantasy that spans a century . . . almost.

Not what I expected at all from the trailers. I was going in for a typical by the numbers old fashioned period piece. The opening hooked me from the get go. We follow an amnesiac Farrell in the present day New York attempting to piece together his identity and his past. It all flicks back and forth and has enough questions and intrigue to keep me quiet.

Once the story sets itself in 1916 and the supernatural elements kick in, it gets even crazier. It all settles down a little too comfortably when Farrell and Findlay first meet, with the pace slackening. The usual love at first sight guff. The chemistry between Findlay and Farrell is brilliant. They make such a likeable couple that can get away with some of the more cringey one liners.

Crowe plays the baddie role to perfection. But for even with his Bond villain scar face, you can’t help but feel his role is being wasted. Reduced to merely plotting, making deals with fallen angels and demanding approval from his superior, The Judge (ol’ Big Horns himself. That’s right. The Devil). Cue an unexpected cameo that brought a smile. I would love to tell you. But this a story all about how . . .

I don’t want to talk about the story too much as I do want people to see this.

Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography certainly made the film worth looking at. The performances are brilliant with a massive ensemble; William Hurt (Lost in Space/Damages), Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth/Blood Diamond), Matt Bomer (White Collar/Glee) and Scott Grimes (ER/Band of Brothers) in a blink and you’ll miss it role.

Now I understand that the film was adapted from a Mark Helprin novel. Unfortunately I will admit that I haven’t read it. This film has certainly peaked my interest. But that is mainly because despite its attributes and every supernatural twist or turn, a bigger plot hole popped its ugly head. Without being too spoilerific, why was Farrell Irish when his parents were Polish immigrants? Can the guy really not do any other accent?

And what was the deal with the horse? Anyway, despite being pulled apart at the seams, it’s still a nice jacket to look at, even if it looks different to what you expected when you paid for it. An interesting concept for a debut from writer/director Akiva Goldsman. Considering this was the guy (yeah he’s a guy. I know, right? Thank God I did my research) who produced the Paranormal Activity franchise.

An easy-going supernatural love ride that may be a bit shoddy on the exposition but makes up for it with originality, special effects and good acting.

3 (just)/5

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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 REVIEW

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DRAGONS! Hiccup and Toothless are back after the DreamWorks animated blockbuster hit the big screens! Bigger? Absolutely. Better? Visually it’s a feast for the eyes. While not surpassing the original, it certainly matches it for story, drama and entertainment. Get the little ‘uns or the big kids (like myself) over to the pics and invest!

So what’s it all about? It’s been five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favourite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the centre of a battle to protect the peace.

Firstly, 3D not a massive investment to be honest. So save your pennies, parents. The animation is incredible alone. The 3D makes it more prominent but not a must. The detail is stunning. Every little thing, the expressions, the waves as Hiccup and Toothless soar across the seas, brilliant. Anyway, we reunite with the dynamic duo and it is great that the characters have actually aged in the five years. Hiccup does look very different, and weirdly a little like Andy from Toy Story.

The gang are all back, along with the original and very talented voicing cast consisting of Jonah Hill, America Ferrera, Kristen Wiig, Craig Ferguson, Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse and T. J. Miller. Although, they don’t seem to be in this film as much. They still make a mark and bring the laughs but until the second half really. They seemed to be cast aside and understandably so as the story primarily revolves around Hiccup yet again. Torn between being a dragon rider and taking over the reins of being chief by his pushy but legendary father, Stoick (THIS IS . . . Gerard Butler), Hiccup must make a choice.

The spoiler-ific trailers reveal the identity of the mysterious Dragon Rider which was hardly a surprise twist. But for those who were lucky enough not to see that trailer then don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond/Gladiator) brings his gravelly gravitas to the sinister Drago with aplomb. It was irritating me who was voicing Eret, the henchman. Firstly because I recognised the voice and secondly because his voice didn’t seem strong enough and didn’t match the character. And low and behold, I know nothing as it was Kit “Jon Snow” Harington (Game of Thrones – obviously). Shame. His conviction didn’t pull it off for me.

However, these are only minor quibbles as there are laughs to be had. Moments that surprise and pluck at the heart strings. It’s riveting, a feast for the eyes with an enthralling visual masterpiece of a finale with Toothless taking on his biggest foe to date. It may not surpass the original as the story may not necessarily break new ground but it is most certainly on par and if rumours are hinting at another, then another I want. I won’t divulge too much as this is one I would recommend that you see. There’s a little something for every one plus DRAGONS, hellooo.

In the words of GB, THIS IS . . . Not a bad sequel. 4 out of 5! Better. See I do like some films, you know!