Film Friday #187

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Five years have passed since Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) befriended Toothless and changed the town of Berk into a peaceful haven where dragons and Vikings live together in harmony. While Hiccup’s friends are content spending their time dragon racing, Hiccup has been flying ever further from home not only to explore the surrounds but also to get escape the pressure his father, Stoik (voiced by Gerard Butler) is putting on him to take over as chief. It is on one of these journeys that Hiccup, with Astrid (voiced by America Ferrara) in tow, come across a group of dragon trappers, who claim to be working for someone called, Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) who is building a dragon army. The two escape and raise the alarm in Berk. Having encountered Drago in the past, Stoik is adamant that they should prepare for war but Hiccup wants to negotiate and escapes the town-wide lockdown to try and talk some sense into Drago. A series of events leads him off course though and he finds himself in a colony of wild dragons who are accompanied by a mysterious dragon rider, who just happens to be his long lost mother, Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett). Here he learns some of the dragons’ secrets as well as about himself. Now Hiccup will have to bring his family together for the good of all dragon-kind and prevent Drago from destroying everything he has built. How to Train Your Dragon was one of those very few animated films I actually liked so I was anxious to see how the sequel would pan out and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. The animation, particularly for the flying scenes, is dazzling, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless is wonderful and getting to see so many new and interesting dragons is wonderful. There are some minor complaints though. As a bad guy Drago is underdeveloped and the motivation for his anger and destruction seems to be lacking. I also wasn’t sure exactly how he was controlling the dragon alpha… was there the dragon equivalent of catnip in that stick he was waving around? And I still don;t understand why the adults have Scottish accents and the children have American accents. None of this takes away from the fact that this film is hilarious, poignant, touching and just as special as the first one. I already want to watch it again. And I want my own dragon! One small caution, I sat next to people who had brought their children who must have been between five and seven. There were some scenes where they were visibly distressed so it might worth keeping in mind if you have very small children. 4.5/5

Yes, you definitely need to see the dental hygenist

Yes, you definitely need to see the dental hygenist

American Beauty (1999)

Suburban dad, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) drifts through life like he’s in a coma, disconnected from his success obsessed realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening) and his disaffected teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch).  While attending a football game where Jane is performing as a cheerleader, Lester meets her attractive friend, Angela (Mena Suvari) and suddenly develops a new lease on life – quitting his dead end job, blackmailing his former boss and standing up to his overbearing wife. This coincides with the arrival of the Burnhams’ new neighbours, the Fitts family made up of retired army man, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper), his prescription drug addled wife, Barbara (Allison Janney) and their son, Ricky (Wes Bently), who has recently been released from a mental institution. Colonel Fitts rules the roost with an iron fist focusing most of his energy on ensuring that Ricky doesn’t return to drug abuse or become a homosexual. What he doesn’t realise is that Ricky is an extremely successful drug dealer and that Lester has become one of his best customers. As Ricky and Jane form a connection, Lester fantises about Angela, Carolyn obsesses about creating the perfect family image and Colonel Fitts starts to lose grip of his carefully controlled life, everything will come to a head on one fateful night that will tear the neighbourhood apart. From it’s iconic score, to the connecting image of red roses and the exploration of disconnection in modern suburbia American Beauty is unforgettable. Spacey’s performance as a man set free from the chains he has imposed on himself is perfection as is Bening playing his wife driven to neurosis by the pursuit of appearance over reality. While there is no question that this film takes on some very heavy themes it also manages an excellent dark sense of humour, which breaks up some genuinely disturbing scenes. There is nothing I can really fault. If you have not seen this you are missing out. 5/5

So that's where I left those roses...

So that’s where I left those roses…

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

In this adaptation of a Steven King novella, accountant, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Here befriends, Red (Morgan Freeman), through whose eyes Andy’s story unfolds. As the years pass the two develop a deep bond and Andy finds ways to make himself indispensible to the corrupt prison guards and administration. Subjected to cruelty and inhumanity from every angle and sucked into several of the warden’s (Bob Gunton) schemes, it seems Andy is doomed but what no one realises is that Andy is playing the long game, one that will end in a way that no one could have predicted. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the first films I ever watched that put me in awe of cinema and made me realise what a powerful medium it could be. Although the running time is almost three hours, every minute is necessary, every scene is vital and it never feels long or overdone. Most of this centres around the time put into 360 degree character development not only for the leads and their antognoists but also for the supporting cast, which means that you find yourself deeply invested in even the most minor players. One of the most affecting scenes in the film involves the release of an elderly prisoner who is unable to cope in the real world. The storytelling element is simply fabolous. And while it is one of the most uplifting films I have ever seen, it does not shy away from brutality, while exploring the ethical implications of the power dynamics within a prison situation and the consequences of institutionalisation. Both Robbins and Freeman turn in the performance of a lifetime but it’s impossible not to credit the vast outstanding supporting cast. This sounds like a very bare bones review but the best suggestion I can make to understand what a wonderful film this is is to tell you to watch it. There’s a reason it’s number one on the IMDB top 250. 5/5

Andy found the showers at Glastonbury left a lot to be desired

Andy found the showers at Glastonbury left a lot to be desired

Misery (1990)

Novellist, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), has made his name writing best selling novels about a much-loved character named Misery but ready to move on, he decides to end the series by killing Misery off. Just after finishing his final book, Paul is in a terrible car accident during a blizzard. Fortunately for him he is rescued by nurse, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be his biggest fan. She tells him the blizzard means that there is no way of getting him to a hospital but she is committed to nursing him back to strength. At first Paul is grateful for her assistance but when she realises that he’s killed off her favourite character things turn dark and Annie decides that she won’t let Paul interact with the outside world until he rewrites his final book just for her. Throughout this film there is an ever-increasing sense of dread as Annie’s behaviour becomes more and more controlling and incapacitated by the accident, Paul becomes ever more aware that he is completely under the control of a woman who is completely unhinged. At the same time only the local sherriff (Richard Farnsworth) belives Paul is still alive but will he get to him before it’s too late? Bates gives a genuinely disturbing performance, which is supported by the fact that she is constantly shot just a little bit too close-up and often from below giving her an overwhelming presence much like her presence in Paul’s life. Added to this, director Rob Reiner does not shy away from showing every second of Annie’s most brutal method for controlling Paul, which multiplies the psyschological impact of this classic thriller. Believe it or not, this is another Stephen King adaptation – I really think he’s better when he’s not doing horror. 3.5/5


Hi! I’m Annie and I’m really, REALLY sane!


  1. Ooh, great week. Haven’t seen HTTYD or its sequel but I really feel I wouldn’t enjoy them. The other three films are among my favorites!

    1. Abbi

      There is something kind of special about HTTYD. It might be worth giving it a shot. It was definitely a good week 🙂

      1. Maybe I will somewhere down the line…

  2. Some absolute classics in there. Great to see your take on them. Love this feature!

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! I actually couldn’t believe my husband hadn’t seen Shawshank so it was great to watch together.

      1. I’ll double and treble that shock. I wonder if anything will top it on IMDB.

        1. Abbi

          He has this thing about avoiding stuff that is universally liked but when he watched it he was like, “that was AMAZING!”. Sometimes everyone is right. Lol!

          1. Are there any other films likes that he hasn’t seen?

            1. Abbi

              He only very recently watched Kill Bill.

              1. What did he think? Will he watch the sequel?

                1. Abbi

                  He loved it and we did.

  3. Well THIS is a great group of films. : ) I love American Beauty – I never hear that one mentioned much. And I LOVE Stephen King and, as far as the movie adaptations are concerned, yes, the “not-so horror-y” ones are much better. But I will watch any and every King movie. And sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t admit that Shawshank is, probably, my number one favorite film if I had a gun to my head & was forced to choose (there are probably about 5 I rotate between) ; ) It really is SO perfect, though. Yes, it may be the first one responsible for making me fall in love with “film” as opposed to simply enjoying a fun movie. : )

    1. Abbi

      I probably shouldn’t admit that I still haven’t seen The Shining… . Shawshank is an awesome film though. I don’t think there is any shame in calling it your favourite. It’s rare for a film to come together so perfectly.

      1. Wait. Back up. What was that you said about The Shining??????????

        1. Abbi

          Erm… I’ve never seen it? I need to fix that.

          1. Yes. Yes you do. Like, ASAP. ; )

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