How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
I saw the trailers (and teaser spots during the Olympics) and nothing really grabbed me. "This is just another in the long line of lackluster Dreamworks ilk," I thought. But then everyone started raving about this movie and I felt that I had to see it. I have rarely been so happy to be wrong. The film is full of engaging characters (especially the main character Hiccup, who has a wonderfully dry humor) and the humor doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator. The story went in some unexpected places and the resolution was completely satisfying. The main dragon is immediately endearing and the scenes of flying are thrilling. The only real complaint I have with the movie is that so much time is spent at the beginning talking about how Vikings kill dragons because dragons kill Vikings, they should have driven that point home with an actual onscreen death.
The Happening (2008)
The movie starts out promising as the people of New York City start killing themselves in the quickest, most efficient ways possible. The scene is creepy and even a little funny in a morbid sort of way. But things quickly go downhill. We are introduced to a science teacher played by Mark Wahlberg who is going through some sort of marital problems with his wife played by Zooey Deschanel. The screenplay never really explores what is wrong with their marriage, and neither character is particularly interesting, which gives the audience absolutely no reason to care. But our intrepid couple do not have much time to dwell on their issues, because whatever caused the New Yorkers to start killing themselves is rapidly spreading across the east coast. Whatever it is appears to be airborne, so they find themselves running away from the wind. That’s right, The Wind. Scary. The group of people Marky Mark escapes with depletes faster than the cast of a Roland Emmerich film and soon just the hapless couple and the girl they are babysitting are the only ones left. And then a completely different movie starts as they find themselves at an isolated farmhouse inhabited by a crazy lady (who of course just happens to be a religious conservative). No character does anything interesting and every new turn the plot takes is more ridiculous than the last. I usually try to be very sensitive about spoilers, but at times the big twist or explanation at the end is so absurd, so laughable, so idiotic that I feel like I am doing my audience a favor by spoiling it. This is one of those instances. The thing causing all this mayhem and death is not some sort of biological weapon. It is not a terrorist attack. No, it is plants, conspiring against humanity to release deadly toxins that are only harmful to humans. The more I try to wrap my head around this explanation, the more ludicrous it becomes. See? I told you I was doing you a favor.
Coming up next: two movies featuring heavy doses of large-scale destruction.