How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Borg Queen doesn’t love this sequel.

How to Train Your Dragon 2.  (C)

If you are looking for a funny, uplifting, happy movie, don’t go to see this sequel.  This movie takes place several years after the first How to Train Your Dragon, which I found quite charming and witty.  While I still enjoyed many moments between Hiccup (now about 20 years old) and his loyal dragon, Toothless, and some other humorous moments, the movie moved slowly and, at times, purposelessly.  I do not recommend this movie for very young children.  Dragons aren’t always treated terribly well, and there are deaths in the movie that remind me of Bambi, which scarred me for life.  I saw that movie once when I was very young in the theater, and left crying, and never saw it again.  I could see young children having that kind of reaction to this movie too.  I’d wait for the rental.

Non-Stop

The Borg Queen stops long enough to send us this review.

Non-Stop  (B).  I enjoyed this film much more than I anticipated, and it even kept the interest of my teenage daughter, which is saying something.  The story centers on Bill Marks (played by the always entertaining Liam Neeson), an air marshal on a non-stop flight to London.  Shortly into the flight when most people are sleeping, he begins receiving text messages from an unknown number threatening to kill a person every 20 minutes if $150 million is not transferred into a specified account.  Chaos ensues.  Throughout the movie you keep wondering – how is a person going to be killed every 20 minutes when everyone is in such close quarters and he can see everyone?  How is this person getting away with texting Marks without anyone noticing?  It’s not the next Lord of the Rings by any means, but the movie maintains a good pace, is humorous at times, and keeps you guessing.  My daughter and I made a game out of trying to guess first who the culprit was and how they are doing it.  A good rental for a Saturday night with the family.

Maleficent

The Borg Queen checks in on a current release.

Maleficent  (A-)

The first thing my 15-year-old daughter said when this movie ended was, “I loved that movie!”  And I felt the same way.  This movie is a retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty from the vantage point of Maleficent, the fairy (though in the classic she is a witch) that casts the spell that sends Princess Aurora into a deep sleep.  The story keeps many of the basic elements of the original, but the story overall is quite different.  At 97 minutes, the story wastes no time and moves at a good pace.  The special effects were outstanding and Angelia Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent is excellent.  It may have been a bit predictable, but even though you know how a rollercoaster comes to an end doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the ride getting there–at least, not in this case.  The film is rated PG.  Although I think the film overall is good for children of most ages, very young children may be scared by some of the creatures.  There is also one highly dramatic scene that I have since learned is supposed to be a metaphor for rape and plays a large role in the events thereafter.  Though that concept was lost on me when I saw the film, reflecting back on the film now I am struck by how remarkably well Angelina Jolie and the writer captured the emotions of that scene and the events that followed.  Definitely worth your hard-earned money to see this one in the theaters.

Divergent

The Borg Queen fires all phasers at a new release.

Divergent – C+

This movie failed to turn me into a fan of the latest young-adult-book-turned-to-movie craze.  It is yet another teen romance in the context of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Rather than being divided into 12 (or 13) “districts,” though, the people are divided into 5 “factions” and live within the crumbles of what used to be Chicago (partially rebuilt and partially left in ruin) surrounded by a mysterious large fence.  When the teens reach a certain age, they undergo some kind of testing that is supposed to tell them what “faction” they are predisposed to (selflessness, peacefulness, honesty, bravery, intelligence), and then the next day they have to choose which faction to live in, and cut ties with their family if they are in a different faction.  The purpose of this segregation is supposedly to put people in their “place” in order to prevent another uprising.  The story focuses upon Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now), born in the Abnegation faction.  The Abnegation (selfless) faction apparently is the faction that governs all 5 factions, and Tris’s father is one of the leaders.  When Tris undergoes the testing, it reveals that she is “divergent,” meaning she doesn’t fit squarely within any one particular faction – something that supposedly would make her difficult to “control” and a threat to their “everyone knows their place” society.  So, she must lie about her test results to keep her “divergent” result a secret.  On choosing day, Tris breaks away from her family and chooses a different faction, Dauntless (brave), which provides the “police” of the society.  There, she encounters Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening), who is responsible for training the new members/recruits . . . and the typical teen romance develops with Tris.  Kate Winslet (Little Children) plays Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite (intelligent) faction, which tries to overthrow the Abnegation faction.  Overall, the acting in this movie was great, the special effects were great, and the story kept my interest.  But at the same time, the story didn’t make any sense to me.  Dividing people into the 5 factions based on personality traits (as they exist in mid-adolescence) that all people would seem to possess without a significant amount of variance made no sense to me.  And they didn’t explain, at least not well, why Erudite wanted to overthrow Abnegation – especially when Jeanine is portrayed as someone who highly values a lack of uprising, yet is initiating an uprising herself.  This is probably a movie you might enjoy more if you have read the books and already know the story.  I left the movie feeling confused and disappointed.

World War Z

The Borg Queen steps outside her comfort zone.

World War Z – B

I am not a fan of scary movies, and I absolutely loathe zombie movies.  So, I’m not sure what possessed me to see World War Z.  This movie centers on a United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) who is traveling the world trying to find a cure for a pandemic of unknown origins that is causing people to turn into zombies.  One bite, and you’re a zombie seconds later.  The movie wastes no time getting straight into the action and it’s a roller coaster ride all the way to the end.  I was constantly on the edge of my seat (or, under it sometimes) and engaged with the film.  The movie has its fair share of scares and, thankfully, is not gory.  The camera work, especially in the action sequences, is too shaky for my taste, making it hard to see what is actually taking place at times.  I also heard some people grumbling outside the theater about the movie being different from the book upon which the film is based.  So, I guess if you’ve read the book, be open to differences.  Overall, though, this movie is a fun night out.

Man of Steel

The Borg Queen transmits a new movie review.

Man of Steel  (B-).  I was reluctant to see this film.  I’ve seen all of the Superman movies and did not really want to see the same story yet again.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Although many of the key aspects of the Superman story are in this film, the story is changed significantly.  You can go see this film without knowing exactly how everything is going to play out or what is going to happen next.   Although Amy Adams (Enchanted) is not exactly what I have in mind for Lois Lane (and still don’t), I really enjoyed Henry Cavill (TV’s The Tudors) as Superman.  I thought he did a fantastic job and look forward to see him in future films.  The move is long (2 hours, 23 minutes) but it keeps moving generally (though there are a couple of lulls).  The special effects are also generally very good, although there are a few moments (though brief) where the animation was almost comical.  Overall, this movie is certainly worth the price of admission, but I doubt seeing it in 3D adds much.

Sound of My Voice

A new review from The Borg Queen.

Sound of My Voice – C+

Ever since seeing Another Earth, which was written by its leading actress, Brit Marling, I was excited to see Sound of My Voice, another project by Ms. Marling.  Although I enjoyed most of the film, the ending was so unsatisfying that I ultimately felt like I wasted my time watching the film.

***  ARGUABLE SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

The story is about a journalist and his girlfriend who infiltrate a cult led by a mysterious woman named Maggie (played by Brit Marling).  Maggie claims to be from the year 2054 and to have come back in time to “save” people important to her (who, by some act of mystery, happen to be those who come into the cult) from some unspecified, catastrophic event.  The journalist and his girlfriend join the cult to make a documentary exposing Maggie as a fraud.  The question remains:  Is Maggie really from the future or is she a con artist?  Why does she collect blood from her cult members?  Ms. Marling plays Maggie with a magnetism that pulls you in, and you can understand why these cult members form a bond with her.  The journalist is also a substitute teacher, and there is a side story about a peculiar young girl in his class who bears a striking resemblance to Maggie.  She never takes off a red hat, has an inexplicable episode at school where she calls another girl a “terrorist,” and when she comes home she runs to her room every day to make strange structures out of nothing but black legos until her father comes in to put her to bed (where he injects her with something between her toes and then lies next to her in bed, presumably until she falls asleep).  Is this girl connected to Maggie?  What is the significance of the red hat and legos?  Is there abuse with the father taking place and, if so, how does that fit into the Maggie storyline, if at all?  There is also another side story about an FBI agent who acts quite strangly upon arriving at a hotel room.  Does she have a connection to Maggie?  Does she have proof that Maggie is a fraud?  Why does she want to find Maggie?  Throughout the film, questions continue to arise and you easily get pulled into the movie.  As in Another Earth, Ms. Marling has a unique appeal that is very pleasing to watch on screen.  The acting overall is excellent and the film is remarkably intelligent – except for the ending.  Without giving anything away, the end of the film fails to answer many questions.  Unfortunately, this is not a film where you can go back and watch it again looking for missed clues (though there might be some) to answer those lingering questions.  Upon reading an interview with Ms. Marling, I learned that she and her co-writer apparently wrote the the film to be left open to interpretation – something I wish I had known before hitting “play” on my DVD player.  I googled to see if there is any online explanation for the film – to find that none exists.  Like others, I praise Ms. Marling and her co-author, Zal Batmanglij, for striving to make intelligent films that depart from the norm, and I believe that Sound of My Voice is artistically exceptional.  But leaving the audience without a satisfying ending is no doubt the reason why critics enjoy the firm substantially more than we normal folks.  If you know going into the film that many questions will not be answered, and if you are fine with that, then I recommend you give this film a try.  Otherwise, watch Another Earth, which I enjoyed very much.