Movie Review: “How to Train Your Dragon 2″

Starring
Jay Baruchel, American Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harrington, Craig Ferguson
Director
Dean DeBlois

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” does something simple yet amazing: they allowed their characters to age. That is unheard of in animated films, but it’s a savvy move here, for two reasons: it gives the writers the opportunity to truly make a man out of Hiccup, and it also allows them to be more forthright about the romance between Hiccup and Astrid, because watching two 15-year-olds kiss on screen, real or CGI, is kinda icky. Twenty-year-olds, totally different story.

Kung Fu Panda 2” seems to be the blueprint for the story (and that makes sense, since they’re both DreamWorks properties), in that it raises the stakes about the importance of what Hiccup has accomplished, and it develops Hiccup’s family. Sadly, it doesn’t work as well as it did for “Panda.” It’s entertaining and gorgeous, but disjointed, veering between wildly emotional scenes on both ends of the spectrum without much thought for how they should flow together.

Five years after the events of the first film, Berk is doing remarkably well now that the residents have embraced the dragons (and vice versa), and the tribe’s chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) plans to swear in his son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) as the new chief. Hiccup isn’t sure if he’s ready for that much responsibility, but he forgets about becoming chief after he runs across dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harington), who works for a madman named Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who is building a dragon army. Stoick knows Drago and prepares for war. Hiccup, however, wants to try and reason with Drago, and receives some help in the form of someone who’s known him since the day he was born: his long-lost, presumed-dead mother Valka (Cate Blanchett).

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Movie Review: “This Is the End”

Starring
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson
Director
Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

It makes sense that “This Is the End” turned out the way it did. If Seth Rogen is going to write a script about the Apocalypse, it’s not going to be subtle, nor should it be. (Come on, how boring would that be?) However, in his attempt to spread the wealth among his six leads, he loses sight of what would work best for the story, and in the process loses nearly all of the momentum he and co-writer Even Goldberg gained with an explosively funny first act.

Jay Baruchel (all of the name actors in this movie are playing themselves) flies to Los Angeles for a weekend of bonding with lifelong friend Seth Rogen. Seth asks Jay if he wants to go to a party at James Franco‘s house, but Jay isn’t crazy about Seth’s new friends, and just as he expected, he winds up bored and angry at Seth. When the two leave to get some cigarettes, the Rapture takes place before their eyes, with people being beamed up to heaven while hell is unleashed on earth. They get back to Franco’s house just before a giant hole swallows up everyone but Seth, Jay, James, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill. Oh, and Danny McBride, who crashed the party and fell asleep in the bathtub.

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A chat with Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel and director Michael Dowse of “Goon”

Aptly enough for a sports comedy, our interviewees today are a ragtag collection of lovable underdogs. Unavoidably geeky, Jay Baruchel’s starring roles in “She’s Out of My League,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and “How to Train Your Dragon” have left him short of the A-list; he’s still perhaps best known as the lead alum of Judd Apatow’s beloved, quickly cancelled 2001 sitcom, “Undeclared.” Leading man Seann William Scott has worked in numerous films in a pretty wide variety of genres, yet to almost everyone he’s still obnoxious Steve Stifler of the “American Pie” series; he’ll be reprising the character for a fourth go-round in the upcoming “American Reunion.” Director Michael Dowse has some indie successes on his CV, but his last attempt to break into the mainstream, “Take Me Home Tonight,” was an unmitigated commercial disaster and, for the most part, a critical flop. (We, however, liked it a lot; so much for the Bullz-Eye bump.)

Already available on VOD, “Goon” is one underdog movie we’re definitely rooting for. Loosely inspired by minor league hockey star Doug Smith’s memoir and co-written by Canadian hockey fan Baruchel and veteran Apatow-scribe Evan Goldberg, the film focuses on Doug Glatt (Scott), a goodhearted bouncer of no great intellect who finds himself promoted to full-time hockey thug.

Featuring an outstanding supporting cast comprised of Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Kim Coates (“Sons of Anarchy“) and Alison Pill as the dysfunctional love of Doug Glatt’s life, “Goon” doesn’t gloss over the ugliness of sports violence even as it humorously celebrates it. For that, it took some punches from the traditionally violence-averse British press on its earlier UK release. The Yankee press, however, has been kinder, and there may be some hope of a wide release if enough of you hit the initial U.S. screenings starting this Friday.

Low-key Minnesota native Seann William Scott, intense Montrealite Jay Baruchel, and matter-of-fact Canadian filmmaker Michael Dowse were still high on the afterglow of a successful industry screening the night before when a bunch of us journos met with the trio at the Beverly Hilton. Some amusing and informative highlights are below.

Jay Baruchel on creating Doug Glatt, the not-so-bright but incredibly decent hero of “Goon.”

My dad used to have this expression, which was “Don’t complicate a ham sandwich.” In my experience, a lot of the hardest guys I know are also the kindest and most mild-mannered and gentlest. This in no way means that [their kindness] should be mistaken for weakness. He’s a man who knows what he wants, or finds out what he wants and where he’s supposed to be. He’s fulfilled.

Seann William Scott on playing Doug Glatt.

He’s written to be such a lovable guy and so good to his core. It was written with that specificity and I consider myself to be a good guy, so it’s not hard for me to play that… I was always aware of wanting to make sure there were different colors. Anything that I could bring, but it was already written with that kind of code of honor that he has. He’s self aware of the kind of guy he is and where he is in the world, but it is kind of black and white.

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