Impressive, most impressive

I was wrong.  I take it all back.  Well, almost all of it.  Not that long ago, I said some disparaging things about 3D movies.  Today I transcended 3D and watched How to Train Your Dragon in 4D.  Let that sink in. 4. D.  If there is one things that Koreans love, it is doing things bigger and better than everybody else.  Especially if it involves a gimmick.  When Fox announced that Avatar would be released in 3D, the Korean branch decided that its moviegoers deserved a little bit more.  For about a year before the movie was released, several theaters were retrofitted to give a “4D” experience.  What does this extra dimension add?  Time travel?  Not quite, but it was pretty awesome.

The 4D movie experience means that not only is the movie projected in 3D, but each chair is rigged with special enhancements.  When the camera dips and pitches, your seat the the same.  When there is wind, your chair blows air  in the direction of the wind; if something jumps out of the water, you get a little splash.  They have even gone so far as to coordinate smells.  SMELLS!  Is it a gimmick?  yes.  Does it work?  yes.

Of course, it helped that the movie I was was absolutely magnificent.  The only movie playing in 4D theaters right now is How to Train Your Dragon by DreamWorks.  I knew just nothing about the movie going in, other than it was going to be played in 4D.  I don’t want to ruin it for any of you, but this a movie that is worth seeing.

The story follows a young boy who is coming of age in a viking village.  This village is like any other, well, except for the pests: dragons.  The animation in the movie was really top notch.  The vikings look as vikings ought to, big and burly.  The dragons are varied and detailed.  The music was also engaging and well done.  Even the 4D effects were well done.  When the dragons breath fire, you get a burst of air and the smell of smoke.  When the characters fly through the air, you can feel the wind on your face and you dip and turn with them.  Explosions cause an extra flash of light as the whole theater to shakes and rumbles.

Despite the movie’s impressive presentation, the best part about the movie is the characters. They were very easy to relate to; I think most teenage boys have felt like Hiccup, the main character, at some point: alone, awkward and like you’ll never get the girl.  The dialog was delivered very well by the actors, and each one played their role convincingly.  It is very hard to find anything that I don’t like about the movie.

At first I wanted to say, “this could be a Pixar movie” because it was so good.  But it is distinctly different than movies such as Up, Wall-E, and Toy Story; in this case, that isn’t a bad thing.  I admire DreamWorks for taking a different approach to making an animated movie.  They didn’t try to copy Pixar, and instead came up with something that is altogether unique.  If you enjoyed Flushed Away or Prince of Egypt (or if you have any boys), you will have a good time watching it.  The movie is genuinely enjoyable; there aren’t any of the fart jokes or pop references that plague the Shrek series.

In short, How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent movie with relatable characters and stellar presentation.  See it.  Please.  If you are in Korea and don’t mind spending more on your ticket, see it in 4D.  I give this movie 4 and a half breaths of fire.  It is worth seeing in the theater and buying a copy when it is released on DVD; I know it will end up on my “to buy” list very soon.


Terminator Salvation

With the recent revival of the Alien and Predator series, it was only a matter of time before this iconic 80s action franchise was brought back from the dead.  I’m pleased to say that this movie was actually quite enjoyable.

I have one major complaint about the progression of the terminator series, and I might as well get it out in the open right now.  It seems like the terminators are becoming less and less threatening as time goes on.  The first terminator was an (almost) unstoppable robot.  The second terminator movie introduced us to the wonderful world of CGI liquid metal terminators.  Terminator three seemed like they were stretching it when they combined the first two terminators to make a liquid metal terminator that still had the (almost) invincible robot shell.  How is this more threatening than a robot that can squeeze through any tight spaces.  Nothing in this movie was as cool as the scene where the second terminator walks through the bars in the jail.

I was interested to see what they would do for the robots this time around.  I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but I don’t think they managed to match the awesomeness of the liquid metal terminator in this movie either.

The events of this film take place after the robot apocalypse (Judgment Day).  Humans exist in small communities and are actively fighting against the terminator armies.  The atmosphere of the movie is well done.  You are left feeling that all these people live in a vast wasteland and are fighting for survival.  Kind of like Las Vegas.

Both sides of the war are searching for a cure-all which will end the war for good.  Both sides think they have found it.  Spoiler alert, it backfires on both of them.

The movie was well made, with great attention to detail (though not necessarily plot).  Particularly the sound effects for the robots was spot on.  This may seem like a minor detail, but in a movie about a war between robots and humans, it is important.  The special effects were also well done; I never once missed the old stop motion terminator.

It was a good action flick as long as you don’t think too long about the first three movies and the timeline of events.  If you need a good action flick, this one wasn’t quite as good as Alien vs. Predator, but was better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  My one major comlaint would be that Christian Bale talked in his batman voice the entire movie.  It was a bit much.  Despite this, I give this movie three and a half “I’ll be backs.”

Disney, Disney, Disney

When I heard that Disney was making a princess movie set in New Orleans, I was a little bit confused.  A princess?  in New Orleans?  When was there a kingdom in New Orleans?  I knew this wasn’t going to be a movie I rushed to see in theaters, but I am glad that I had the chance to watch it.  One some levels The Princess and the Frog exceeded expectations, but on other levels it disappointed.

I am pleased to say that Disney did not do anything so ridiculous as attempt to create a kingdom of New Orleans.  In fact, they seem to acknowledge that the “princess” in the firm is stretching what it means to be a princess (the main character’s response to who the princess is, “Wait, does that even count?”).  The main character isn’t a princess at all, but is a waitress.  She is also perhaps the only genuinely likable character in the movie.

Tiana believes that hard work and dedication will help her achieve her dream of opening her own restaurant.  She finally gets enough money for the restaurant, if she can only manage to make it through the big catering gig with the richest family in town.  Of course, it is at the party that everything goes horribly awry.

We are also introduced to prince Naveen of Maldonia, who is perhaps the least likable character in the movie.  He starts the movie as a jazz-loving spoiled ladies man.  He stays this way the entire movie until one of the musical numbers, where he suddenly changes.  Now he is a selfless prince whose heart is dedicated to one woman.  It was just a bit too much all at once; there was no buildup to the moment of transformation.

Though I didn’t especially like the movie’s prince, I did enjoy the animation.  The animation was wonderful; it was obvious that a lot of work and care went into making the film beautiful.  The movie also met the #1 criteria of any movie, it was entertaining.  However, it was not without flaws.  The musical numbers were uninspired and boring.  And some characters seemed  were pulled directly from other popular Disney movies.  The prince’s bumbling and scheming sidekick seemed to be an exact copy of Nathaniel from Enchanted.  The evil voodoo shadow man seemed to borrow heavily from The Little Mermaid’s Ursula.

Despite its flaws, the movie is worth watching but probably not worth buying.  If you have netflix and you enjoy Disney movies, it you should add it to your que.  The film gets two and a half ribbits.