on March 28, 2010
How to Train Your Dragon is the latest from the stable of Dreamworks, but apart from the animation style, you'd never know it.
How to Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup, a Viking who feels out of place since he's not a fan of killing the dragons the Viking's world so revolves around in. But, when Hiccup captures the rare Night Fury Dragon and inadvertently injures it, the two become fast friends and attempt to bridge the gap of understanding between the Dragons & the Vikings. It may not sound like much, but things are deeper than they may seem here, and they are 3 reasons you need to go out and watch this movie right now.
1: Casting: Having seen Jay Baruchel as a geeky character in the film Fanboys, this film only solidifies for me the fact that Baruchel makes cliched characters feel real & brings traits out they wouldn't have otherwise, and this fact is very evident here. The same is true for the rest of the cast. In Shrek 2, Larry King was wasted in a long-running and painful transvestite joke. Here, Craig Ferguson is perfect in the role not only because he's Scottish, but he brings the appropriate mix of eccentric leadership needed for the right-hand man of Gerard Butler's character, who is also well cast. The same goes for the rest of the cast with the possible exception of Jonah Hill, who always feels out of place in almost every movie he's in.
2: Visual Effects & 3D: Now this may because the Viking environment hasn't been portrayed much on screen before, but the film is stunningly beautiful, and that's only reinforced by the 3D which is used better than Avatar in some cases, especially in the case of the flying sequences.
3: The Emotion/Uniqueness of the Film in Animation Today: The story gives way to many emotional moments in the film, all of which are played perfectly. And, not to give too much away, but at the end of the film something happens the to main character that was not only shocking to me, since I'd never seen something of its magnitude done in animation period, but to me it was also one of the most tear-jerking moments, especially in relation to what it does to the relationships & similarities between Hiccup & his dragon in the movie.
Overall, how do you train your dragon? With charm, love, understanding, amazing visuals & stunning 3-D flying sequences. This film ranks up there with Pixar's best, and if I had any criticism towards the movie, it would be the fact that it's made by Dreamworks, and with their quality lately, you don't have high expectation entering this film. Nevertheless, How to Train Your Dragon gets a fire-breathing 5 out of 5.
on June 21, 2011
I wanted to do a review not on the movie (which I loved) but on the Single Disc Blu-Ray itself so you can determine whether you want to buy the Single Disc or the Two Disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo as it relates to bonus features since this info wasn't readily available when I was trying to make my decision.
Overall = 3 1/2 stars
Movie = 5 stars
Blu-Ray Single Disc Features = 2 stars
Like many reviewers of "How to Train Your Dragon," I loved this movie!! There were so many wonderful aspects of this movie that other reviewers have already noted (e.g. the unique take on the dragon story, the outstanding animation, the wonderful voice acting combined with the life-like expressions of the characters, the musical score, etc.), that I couldn't wait to get this on blu-ray when it came out. The issue was which version to get since I only wanted to see this movie on blu-ray, and didn't need an extra disc. Therefore, the easy solution would be to buy the Single Disc. However, I also wanted all the extras (such as the deleted scenes and the 17 minute extra short story, along with your other typical extras that are found on disc). The problem was that there is no description on what the bonus features would be on the Single Disc or what's missing. So, I did a little research of the reviewer comments, did a global search online and even called Amazon's customer service, all of which/whom had limited or conflicting information. I guess the safe thing to assume moving forward is that if it's not listed, there are probably very few extras.
However, I took a risk and purchased the Single Disc blu-ray since there was no conclusive info either way, and I didn't want to end up with a DVD I was never going to use (particularly given the $4.50 price difference between the Single vs. Two Disc Combo). When the Single Disc arrived, I checked the package and it alluded to extras but didn't contain a listing so I literally had to open the disc and play the blu-ray. Here is a list of what you get with the blu-ray that's contained in the Single Disc vs. the blu-ray contained in the Two Disc Blu-Ray/DVD Combo b/c they are quite different.
EXTRAS IN SINGLE DISC BLU-RAY
* Viking-Sized Cast
* The Technical Artistry of Dragon
* Filmmakers' Commentary
* The Animators' Corner
* Trivia Track
* Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox
EXTRAS IN BLU-RAY CONTAINED IN TWO DISC BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK
* Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon: Hiccup and the gang return to search for a mysterious dragon in this all-new adventure
* The Animators' Corner Enhances the Movie-Viewing Experience through Picture-in-Picture Storyboards, Behind-the-Scenes Footage and Insightful Interviews
* Uncover More Dragon Fun Facts through Pop-Up Trivia
* Three Deleted Scenes are Revealed
* Author Cressida Cowell Shares Her Inspiration
* Learn to Draw Toothless
* Take the Viking Personality Test
* Race for the Gold in the Viking Winter Games
* Build Your Own 3D Dragons
And More Fiery Fun!
* Filmmakers' Commentary
* Viking-sized Cast
* The Technical Artistry of Dragons
So, if you're focused on getting a lot more extras on your blu-ray (like me), I would highly recommend getting the Two Disc version (vs. the Single Disc that I ended up buying). If you are mainly focused on the movie itself and a handful of extras, then go with the Single Disc. Hope this helps in your decision-making.
I went with a total of 3 moms and 9 kids to see this movie in the theater last month. Every single one of the 12 of us loved this film, it's cute, heartwarming and a whole lot of fun. From the story of a father trying to know his son (and his son trying to know him) to the boy and beast learning mutual trust, it's full of feel good moments for the adults. From the silly antics to the cheesy jokes, it was full of entertainment for the kiddos.
This is well worth a watch and a great movie to watch with your kids - you won't be bored and the kids will think you're the super cool parent that you are.
Me? I want my own dragon, darn it!
on March 27, 2010
The first Shrek and Kung Fu Panda were both very close to Pixar level in terms of storytelling, but How to Train Your Dragon is the best by far from Dreamworks. The animation is very high in detail, especially in IMAX 3-D, and the characters are not only likeable, but memorable. The main dragon, Toothless, is one of the greatest animated characters in a long time, and like Wall-E, he doesn't even talk. All of the other species of dragons also have unique looks and personalities. The flying sequences here really show the power of 3-D as a tool to put the viewer in the movie, not just a gimmick. I would say it's second only to Avatar when viewed through those funny looking glasses.
This film is more serious in tone than laugh out loud funny, much like the latest from Pixar (UP, Wall-E, etc.), but it does have quite a few laughs that come naturally, not forced. I'm so glad they stayed away from pop culture references. Both kids and parents will love How to Train Your Dragon equally and probably for much different reasons. The only thing that I didn't care for were the first 10 minutes or so. Not that they are bad in any way, but it felt a little rushed. Once the film settles and Hiccup (the boy viking) meets the dragon, everything begins to click. The only other negative is that every kid is going to want a pet dragon for their birthday. Good luck with that!
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Vikings are by all accounts burly, hairy, looming, and fierce, and that's probably just the womenfolk. Hiccup, the movie's sometime narrator, isn't your average tough and brawly Viking. Hiccup happens to be a hapless, noodly-figured, often scorned Viking teenager, and that his father is the intimidating village chief is maybe the sole reason why he isn't kicked more to the curb. Hiccup spends most of his days trying to prove himself to the warrior community. He only keeps on embarrassing himself. He's often relegated to the smithy, indoors and safe as the blacksmith's lowly apprentice.
Hiccup's village sits on a desolate island, and it's a bleak living, made even more arduous by frequent encroachments of ravaging, fire-breathing dragons. Hundreds of years have seen these battle-craving Vikings hunting down these dragons, and Hiccup is expected to step into this manly habit. Except that Hiccup, an outsider and more introspective than most, will sort of accidentally topsy turvy that age-old tradition. But that's only if he makes it thru dragon slaying school. And if he survives his efforts to befriend the elusive Night Fury dragon.
DreamWorks Animation still lags behind Pixar, but HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON goes a ways in garnering street cred for DreamWorks. It's real easy to get behind the story, its themes and philosophies, and the likable central character. The best things - or, rather, my favorite bits - about this film all have to do with Hiccup hanging out with his dragon and incidentally picking up invaluable insights in dealing with dragons. Toothless the Night Fury dragon is awesome and wonderfully expressive. Whenever Toothless springs into action, the film pulses with an exhilarating sense of adventure. These moments are when we're reminded that Toothless may be adorable but he's still very much a formidable presence. The message of tolerance and open-mindedness is naturally integrated into the story, so thankfully this doesn't at all feel like one of those very special Blossom episodes.
The animation is really excellent, with the CG artists opting for more playful, more exaggerated renditions of the human characters and the dragons. The most realistically rendered elements turn out to be the atmospheric land-, sea-, and skyscapes. The dragon flights in this film are as breathtaking as those we saw in AVATAR. It makes me wish I'd seen this in 3D. I don't know why these Vikings have burry Scottish accents, but it does give us a chance to listen to the always funny Craig Ferguson (Gobber), so it's all good. Gerard Butler, who plays Hiccup's bullish father, channels his roaring persona from 300.
So I've got the 2-DVD set. Disc 1 has the feature presentation and the following bonus stuff:
- Audio commentary with Filmmakers Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, and Bonnie Arnold
- "Viking-Sized Cast" has interviews with the voice actors (00:11:44 minutes long)
- "The Technical Artistry of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON" - a focus on the film's state-of-the-art CG technology (00:10:13)
- "Get Your Game On" previews the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and KUNG FU PANDA WORLD video games
- Trailers to SHREK FOREVER AFTER, THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, THE LAST AIRBENDER, and the upcoming MEGAMIND
- The trailer to and a Behind the Scenes segment on SHREK THE MUSICAL
The second DVD offers the fun animated short, LEGEND OF THE BONEKNAPPER DRAGON. It runs at around 16 minutes long. Taking place some time after the events in the film, this one tells of how the blacksmith Gobber, Hiccup and his young Viking friends embark on a quest across the icy seas for the mythical Boneknapper dragon. But they end up stranded on a barren rock formation. This short also features moments of old school 2D animation (whenever Gobber is flashing back to one of his rather far-fetched stories). My biggest beef with this short: Toothless is barely in this one.
Bonus material for this second DVD:
- 3 Deleted Scenes from the feature film, done in rough storyboard sketches, with intros from Director/Co-Writer Dean DeBlois (total running time: 00:07:34 minutes)
- "The Story Behind the Story" presents an interview with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON author Cressida Cowell (00:07:40 minutes)
- ""Racing for the Gold" is a fun, quick, animated peek into four categories within the Viking Winter Games (bobsledding, speed skating, ski jumping, and snowboarding) and also the medal ceremony for that greatest of Viking sports, Dragon Training (the top medal is made out of ham)
- Animator Gabe Hordos instructs on "How to Draw Toothless" (00:10:57)
- "Take the Viking Personality Test" - Take a multiple-choice survey to learn which of the characters in the film you're most like
- "DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox" allows you to click on songs from previous DreamWorks animated flicks: "I'm a Believer" (SHREK), "I Like To Move It, Move It" (MADAGASCAR), "Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting" (KUNG FU PANDA), "Rockin' the Suburbs" (OVER THE HEDGE), and "Here Comes the Sun" (BEE MOVIE)
- "Dragon Activity Center" - Insert this DVD into your PC and access the following DVD-ROM activities: "Build Your Own Dragons" (construct a life-size Toothless, a 3D Gronckle, a 3D Terrible Terror, and a 3D Night Fury) and "Viking Zone" (a peek at Viking Accessories, Viking & Dragon Masks, Flashlight Patterns, Growth Chart, Coloring Pages, and Stickers)
I bought this quite some time ago in an auction because at the time it, like Avatar 3D, was proprietary: Dragon with Samsung, Avatar with Panasonic.
The craft in this film by Dreamworks Animation is the equal to what Disney has been doing recently. The actors are perfect, though it is not clear why the Vikings (played by Scotsmen Craig Ferguson and Gerard Butler) speak with a Scots accent while the kids (Jay Baruchel, America Ferrara) sound as if the stepped off a California beach. But it works. The story has been changed from the book series by Cressida Cowell on which the film is based in that the many types of dragons that frequent the Island of Berk start as protagonists. The slightly built Hiccup decides to capture a dragon with his cannon/net invention and surprises himself by knocking the dreaded Toothless out of the night sky, injuring him in the process. With another invention Hiccup fixes Toothless's problem and gains his trust, but he fears the reaction of the adults as well as his peers if they discover his pet dragon -- which, of course, they do.
How to Train Your Dragon was nominated for two Oscars (best animated film, best original score) and to my mind it should have won BOTH. The score by John Powell is epic in its scope, and uses Celtic themes that play off the Scots accents. I rarely buy CDs of a film score, but I bought this one. The track "Test Drive," accompanying the scene where Hiccup takes Toothless out for a spin, literally, is as good as many a John Williams classic and is stunning in its emotional ride. (The track by Jonsi (of the Icelandic group Sigur Ros) that plays over the credits is great in its own way but unnecessary.)
My only complaint with Dragon is that the 3D screen ratio is 2.35:1 -- very wide screen. I have to agree with James Cameron in his decision to released Avatar at 1.78:1 because, he stated, the extra visible picture (rather than black bars) top and bottom on a wide-screen TV results in an enhanced 3D effect -- a greater sense of depth. I wish there were a bit more Dragon.
But that is a small complaint relative to the grandeur of this animated film and its story and score. Bravo!
on May 17, 2010
First of all, I've never actually read the book this movie was based on. Does that matter? In my opinion, not at all. I'll be fourteen next month and I loved, loved, loved this movie. I went in expecting it to be 'nice' and such, but I came out in love! I sincerely felt for the characters, (dragons included!) unlike some of today's biggest films. (Hello, Avatar? I could care less.) I know the plot isn't that original, but it felt fesh and kept me enchanted. I loved the world Dreamworks created. Contrary to what some people are saying, I didn't feel like Hiccup was too witty and had 'a juno-esque feel' to him at all. Additionally, I can't even comprehend why some people are complaining about violence. Great movie!
on October 29, 2010
It seems as if our family spends more time deciding what movie we want to rent than actually *watching* the movie once we decide. But finding this one new to Amazon's video on demand was a no-brainer - and the quickest decision for "movie night" that we've ever made.
We saw this movie multiple times as a family in the theater (never in 3D, because that's just not that important to us) and tonight's viewing was on Amazon's VOD in HD on my Sony Bravia. What a *fantastic* experience (better than the theater!) and the movie is simply one of the best movies our family has seen in a number of years. Incredible story, exciting, funny - and absolutely beautiful. Oh, and the music was perfect. Sweeping, melodic and memorable.
Probably the biggest compliment I could pay this movie was the fact that in no way was it "dumbed down" or formulaic for a family movie. Too many movies of late are too predictable with their obligatory stupid jokes insults. This movie was above that. It was surprising and creative - with a very witty and well-thought-out script.
My only complaint is that the trailer for this movie (at least the one we saw when it was being advertised for the theaters) didn't do it justice. So we didn't initially jump to see it. But we've more than made up for it with the multiple viewings since.
Kudos to Amazon for making this available in HD and in *fantastic* quality.
(for you geeks out there like me, the encoding on this was among the best I've seen in my streaming experience - absolutely stunning, limited artifacts except for some of the solid color scenes). OK, enough geek speak. :-)
on October 29, 2011
First off, I purchased this at Best Buy because not one store carried this movie in 3D. The only place to buy it was BB or Amazon, which was charging double what BB was. I saw the movie in theaters twice. Once in 3D and once in 2D. This version has both 3D and 2D on the same disc so if you don't have a 3D blu-ray player, no worries. Although if you want to get one in the future 3D will always be an option. The 3D looks just as great at home for this movie. It also includes TrueHD, unlike many blu-ray releases today. It makes a huge difference in the audio quality and the true movie accurate surround sound. I should mention I have an LG PASSIVE 3D HDTV meaning it does not use battery powered active shutter glasses. I highly encourage everyone to consider getting an HDTV with passive 3D. It makes a world of difference and active cannot compare. It's exactly like it is in the theater. No headaches, no flashes, no darkening, just amazing 3D. Keep in mind there are no extras on this.
on December 29, 2010
First of all I consider myself a loyalist to the Walt Disney Company. I've had a year pass to Disneyland for a while. I even worked for the studio for a bit. However, this is the first time I've felt like DreamWorks Animation was acting as competition for Disney/Pixar.
How to Train Your Dragon is a great film. It doesn't include the usual fart and bathroom humor jokes that are usually found in the DreamWorks movies. There is actual conflict, you like the characters because it's a heartfelt movie. There is a drama, comedy and beautiful landscapes. The characters are likable without being over the top obnoxious. I once heard that Pixar films are for the child in every adult and that DreamWorks films are for the adult in every child. That mostly reverenced the irreverent humor that kids didn't quite understand, but liked to repeat. I think this film changes the game for DreamWorks Animation. Bravo to DreamWorks!
As far as the Blu-Ray goes, it gets straight to the point. There are not a lot of things that force you to watch for 5 straight minutes (Shrek 2 DVD anyone?) before you can get to the feature presentation. It's easy to navigate and the compression on the film is beautiful. There are some good special features, but I haven't spent a lot of time watching them because we've been watching the film over and over again.
I challenge you to buy the film and not like it. It's close to impossible.