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How to Train Your Dragon Review


Since its inception, Dreamworks, as an animation studio, has trailed behind its primary competitor, Pixar. In pair-up after pair-up, Pixar’s are always the funny, warm-hearted, timeless classics, and Dreamworks’ are the pop-culture hobbled toilet humor fests with the depth of a teaspoon. Dreamworks has collaborated with other studios to produce Pixar-comparable films (such as Chicken Run and Flushed Away, which were done in conjunction with British animation studio Aardman.) But it’s not until now that I’ve really felt Dreamworks has made a truly stellar film all on its own.

How to Train Your Dragon is that film. It’s rare find among family films: a movie that kids will love but that parents won’t want to drill through their own heads to escape (as if you need an example, but: Chipmunks 2: The Squeakuel). In fact, there were plenty of adults in the theater, myself included, that had come out to see it on our own, without even using a young cousin as an excuse. The story goes something like this:

When Hiccup, a young Viking without much skill for fighting, brings down a type of dragon so rare that no one’s ever seen one, he finds himself making friends with it rather than fighting to the death with it in the Viking tradition.

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Daybreakers Review


I had been looking forward to seeing Daybreakers ever since I saw the trailer shot of the people plugged into the blood-sucking machine. It reminded me of two other darker sci-fi action-horror type movies: The Matrix before it went all philosophical on me (because the robots had people plugged in too) and 28 Days Later (because it takes place not during the outbreak of the epidemic but after, when horrors dominate).

The basic idea behind the film is this:

In a vampire-dominated world, humans have been hunted to near extinction and a blood substitute is desperately needed to stave off famine.

I thought: an original (and very cool) story idea plus a Matrix-ey feel? Sign me up! After the Avatar letdown I needed something that looked original to actually BE original. I saw Daybreakers the day it came out, and boy was I ever NOT disappointed!

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Avatar Review: the blue one, not the anime one

In my head, I have a list of film professionals (writers, directors, actors, composers, etc) whose involvement in a project triggers my automatic ticket purchase reflex. It won’t surprise you to learn that Avatar warranted a reflex purchase, but you might raise an eyebrow if I told you it was Sam Worthington’s name, not James Cameron’s, that triggered it. (If you’ve ever seen True Lies you know why James Cameron is not on the list).


I wanted to love Avatar. I went into the theater hoping to come out feeling the way I felt when I saw Star Wars for the first time – awestruck and excited. When it was over, I was forced to admit to myself that I was neither, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I maybe went to see it again, it would be better, just because I wanted it to so bad. So I did, but it wasn’t.

I can blame some of my disappointment on the hype. I tried to stay away from it. It was pretty easy in Cape Breton (the theater wasn’t even full on opening night) but impossible on the internet, which was teeming with pictures and videos and articles on James Cameron and his blue people. With so much anticipation built up, if Avatar was anything other than the most amazing and moving film ever made it was going to be a disappointment.

For those of you who are cave dwellers and STILL haven’t heard of it even though it’s made over a billion dollars, here are the cliff’s notes:

Avatar, a movie James Cameron has been working on for something like 15 years, is a full 3D film that blends live action with motion-captured CGI to create lush jungle planet called Pandora and the a race of blue natives that inhabit it.

The story follows Jake Sully, a wheelchair bound ex-marine who is recruited by a ruthless mining company to take over his dead twin’s avatar and finds himself caring more about the clan of natives he’s infiltrating than the interests of the company he works for.

Sounds amazing, right? And it is, sort of. Is it an amazing accomplishment? Yes. Should James Cameron quit now to rest on his laurels/money? No.

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Top 5/Bottom 5 Movies of 2009

First let me say that I’m not a professional movie critic. I actually have to PAY for all of my tickets, so naturally I haven’t seen everything, and I’m not putting movies on my list that I haven’t seen.

I was going to do Top 10 and Bottom 10 in separate articles, but then I realized that nearly half of the movies I’d seen would have to be on one list or the other (I counted, I’ve seen 42 movies this year, five of them more than once), so I pared it down to 5 of each.

There are some films (Hurt Locker and Bright Star in particular) that might have been on the “top” list if I’d seen them, but they never came to Sydney. I also tend to avoid movies if I think they’re going to be bad, so the ones on this list are the ones that slipped through my filters and/or I was dragged to by friends.

That said, on with the best and worst films I’ve seen in theaters in 2009.

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