Whoa! I cannot believe that I have gone to see a movie, in theaters so less, every other day this week. So here’s a brief mashup of mini-reviews for the latest four films I’ve seen in cinemas:
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Release Date: February 22, 2019
This was going to be a Penn-Mar Literary Critic outing, but unfortunately circumstances conspired against us. Having missed the previous two How To Train Your Dragon movies in theaters (due to my own stubborn and short-sighted belief that the films would be stupid because the dragon designs “looked dumb”) I didn’t want to miss seeing this one on the big screen. And while I’m sorry that it couldn’t be an outing, I am glad that I went. How To Train Your Dragon is a trilogy with so much heart and awesome sweetness, and I’m happy to say that the third installment was just as good as the first two. It’s a lovely film that really feels like it brings the story of Hiccup and Toothless and their growth from awkward kids to confident adults to a fitting close. It’s charming, adorable, well-paced, and I’ll be happy to add it to my personal collection when it comes out on DVD.
Release date: March 8, 2019
Normally I am so much better at getting to Marvel films the week they come out, but I was unable to go see it when my friends went (and while I normally don’t mind going to the movie alone, I prefer going to see Marvel films in a group to enhance the experience). After that life was busy, I just wasn’t in the mood for Marvel (being stuck in the world of Voltron at the time) and so I didn’t get around to it until now. I vowed I would see it before Shazam! arrived on screen and I just barely made it! And while I liked Captain Marvel well enough, it didn’t wow me. It was a decent, workman-like Marvel film, better than Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, but not on par with the Captain America installments or Doctor Strange. It hovers around the level of Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of overall practical quality, but lacks a great deal of the humorous spark that made those movies so much fun. I don’t regret watching it, there were some good moments, and I like pretty much any scene that has Jude Law in it, but my overall reaction is, “Eh, it was okay.” (Although I fully admit that I cried during the opening credits.) I’m hoping that’s just a result of having too many scriptwriters and directors diluting things and that Carol Danvers’ appearance in Avengers: Endgame will be better. (My biggest complaint about Captain Marvel? The CGI cat. The not-well-done-in-my-opinion-CGI cat. They’ve gotten better with horses, but cats still lie well within the realm of the Uncanny Valley, especially when they come close to shots of an actual cat.)
Release date: April 5, 2019
After the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, I was actually feeling hopeful about Shazam! not breaking DC’s winning streak. And boy, it did not disappoint. This film was a ton of fun, filled with a great cast, including excellent child actors, which if really rare. (I loved the kid playing Freddie.) Normally I’m not fond of the kid-in-an-adult-body or vice versa because it just seems awkward and weird to me. But this worked really well. It felt believable, I remained invested in all of the story lines, the character motivations made sense, and the pacing was fantastic. Like, it didn’t beat around the bush; within the first two minutes, you are there, man. Shazam! also managed to strike a great comic book movie balance between lighthearted humor with positive themes and messages with some pretty dark and disturbing content. But it doesn’t leave you in the dirt and I just felt so happy and upbeat at the end of the movie. It does so many things right and for the first time I think DC has a decent shot at being real competition for Marvel in the realm of cinema. (Ideally, both should keep making good movies, but at the moment it feels a little like DC is upping their ante while Marvel is coasting on their laurels.)
Howl’s Moving Castle
Release date: June 17, 2005 (USA)
Can you believe that Studio Ghibli’s animated adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle is celebrating its 15th anniversary? Yeah, neither can I. But apparently it is so, and it’s back in select theaters for a few days in honor of that milestone! Howl’s Moving Castle is my second favorite Studio Ghibli film (my absolute favorite being Spirited Away.) The visuals and music and heart of the film still hold up, even today. I will admit that over the years I’ve spent rewatching the film, I’ve gotten more and more confused by some of the decisions Sophie makes in the final act. (Like, how is taking in the Witch of the Waste a good idea? So taking Calcifer out of the castle will destroy the portals so they aren’t in danger anymore, but how is that supposed to help Howl? And after doing that, why would you then move the castle back into danger to tell Howl you’re out of danger? What? Why? How is that supposed to work?) Still, which on a narrative level the movie doesn’t hold up as well, I’m still so invested in the characters and the emotional journey that I’m willing to overlook some practical pitfalls. (I do feel like I need to reread the book by Diana Wynne Jones though… I tried reading it a couple years ago, but ended up not liking the book because it was too different from the film. I wonder if I’ll feel the same if I try again now.)
Holy moly, that’s a lot of cinema, and there’s even more on the way! I hope you enjoyed this smorgasbord of mini-reviews, and be sure to stay tuned for more content!