Dream Works Animation Says Merry Christmas…

How to Train Your Dragon 2, poster, movie, sequel

…with the first full-length trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the wildly successful original from 2010.

As the trailer opens, we see that things have changed in Berk. At the beginning of the first film Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) wanted to be from anywhere but there. The sequel picks up five years later and the young Viking is obviously proud of his homeland where man and dragon harmoniously coexist.  (A good bridge between films is the short, 2011’s How to Train Your Dragon: Gift of the Night Fury.  It’s not a coincidence that it aired on television again mere days before the release of this trailer.)

Hiccup and Toothless, his pet dragon, their relationship obviously grown richer, are, of course, still adorable. They’re also still spending their time exploring and soaring above land and sea. During one such adventure, they discover hundreds of wild dragons living in an ice cave inhabited by the mysterious Valka (Cate Blanchett), who seems to be running a sort of dragon sanctuary.

trailer via JoBlo.com’s YouTube Channel

“A mother never forgets.”  What was that? Mother? Whose mother?? Hiccup’s? Or could it be she was referring to Toothless’ mother? As it stands we have six months to wait for an answer.  Hopefully we’ll get more clues with the next trailer. In any case, HTTYD2 is definitely on my “must see” list for 2014.

The official synopsis:

The thrilling second chapter of the epic HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON trilogy returns to the fantastical world of the heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless.  The inseparable duo must protect the peace – and save the future of men and dragons from the power-hungry Drago.

Directed by Dean DeBlois (although this time without his creative partner Chris Sanders), who is also the only credited screenwriter this time around, the cast includes voices from the original Gerard Butler (Stoik the Vast), Craig Ferguson (Gobber), America Ferrera (Astrid), Jonah Hill (SnotLout), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fishlegs), T.J. Miller (Tuffnut),  and Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut), as well as newcomers Blanchette, Djimon Hounsou (Drago Bludvist), and Kit Harington (Eret).

The score of the first film was, in my humble opinion, a key factor contributing to its lasting popularity. Let it be known that composer John Powell has returned to score this film as well.

The first film was released in 3D, as well as conventional 2D, and I saw it both ways. I’ve said many times that I’m not generally a proponent of 3D, but there are some movies that I do believe deserve the technology, as well as your extra ducats. The original How to Train Your Dragon was one such and I believe, judging from the aerial scenes in this trailer alone, that the sequel will also qualify.  We’ll find out when How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens in 3D in the US on June 13 and 4th July in the UK.  By the way, HTTYD3 already has a release date: June 18, 2016.

Watch this space for more!

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James Cameron Doesn’t Need Your Money

James Cameron’s epic masterpiece Titanic is coming back to theaters after undergoing what is, by all the accounts I’ve read thus far, the best post-production 3D conversion to date. My question is "Why?" In case you missed it, I’m not exactly in the “pro-3D” camp. For the most part I think it’s an an unnecessary and expensive gimmick and I resent the high ticket prices associated with it. Film is inherently 2D and I don’t necessarily like stuff flying off the screen and at my face just because they can make it do so. How to Train Your Dragon was gorgeous in 3D, I do admit. It was also gorgeous in 2D.

Titanic definitely deserves to be seen on the big screen, of that there is no doubt. I personally saw it five times way back in 1997. I love the thing. I know every frame by heart. I adore the production values and the costumes, the melodrama-esque dialogue meshed with the sincere performances, including Billy Zane's dastardly villain and despite myself, I still well up at all of the appropriate places as the music swells. I can even stomach Celine Dion’s wailing rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” now that with the passage of time I no longer want to stab myself with a fork whenever I hear it. I can even admit to the enormous crush I had on Leonardo DiCaprio because of Titanic, and if I’m honest, from which I still suffer the residual effects. DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of their “day” albeit without the ridiculous nicknames. Nearly fifteen years later and there are legions of fans who still want Kate and Leo to end up together. (Whenever one of them ends a relationship, it’s huge news because they are celebrities, true, but also because the rabid still think it’s a sign they were “meant to be”. )

No, it’s not the film itself I want to deny anyone the chance to experience. Sure, there is a generation that did not get to see the original on the big screen and if the opportunity presents itself, a true cinefile owes it to themselves to avail themselves of it. My problem is this: James Cameron introduces the Titanic 3D trailer saying he’s unleashing it to the 100 million fans he has on Facebook as a thank you for their support. If the self-proclaimed “King of the World” wanted to thank his fans, why isn’t he releasing it for free? Or how about he give us the 2D version for free and the 3D version at a reduced rate? It’s all about the money that’s why. Cameron has come up with a way to milk some more ducats from the Titanic tit. A few tweaks here, a retooling there, using all of the wizardry and gadgets he devised when making Avatar (as if that movie didn’t pay for the technology a million times over) and he’s got a brand new movie.

I realize I’m not this new Techno-Titanic’s target audience. I’ve managed to successfully avoid Avatar thus far. I can certainly enjoy good special effects in service to the story, but to me, it’s the story first. And for all its technological innovation, the general consensus was that Avatar’s story was weak and underwritten. The special effects were all and if you weren’t willing to shell out the $13.50 plus to see it in 3D or even IMAX, there wasn’t much point. Titanic, however, is a good story well told. It was never about the special effects. While the sinking of the great ship was impressive, it impressed us because we cared about the souls who were in peril on it. That won’t change, thank God, with whatever the latest fad or gimmick may be. Bottom line, if you haven’t seen it on the big screen, now is your chance. Do it. But, JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION, you don’t need to line Cameron’s pockets. He doesn’t need your money. The CGI in Titanic was cutting edge for 1997 and that is stick figures on a flip-book compared with what can be done today, I realize. I have no doubt that it will be visually stunning however many Ds you choose to pay for. I didn't see the movie for the effects.I also know that there’s probably a generation of man-boys who will gladly pay any price to see Kate Winslet’s naked body in 3D, but for the rest of you, skip the funny glasses and go to a matinee, sit back and relax for the next three hours and get lost in the tragic love story of Jack and Rose. You won't miss the fact that the icebergs aren't threatening to hit you between the eyes.

embed courtesy of The Film Stage

Westeros, Take Me Away!

I don’t talk a lot about television. I don’t watch a lot of television…but as their long-running and successful marketing slogan says, "It’s not tv, it’s HBO".  There has been no better example of that than this past season. The Fall gave us "Boardwalk Empire" and in the Spring we were gifted with "Game of Thrones". 

Even if you don’t have HBO, you are probably aware of both of these exceptional new series. "Boardwalk Empire" dominated last year’s Emmy Awards and "Game of Thrones" is poised to be its only real competition this year.

Aside from their obvious differences, what these two shows have in common, other than their network, is that they are both made with high-gloss cinematic production values. Each episode is like a mini theatrical film, rather than episodic television. Both shows are worthy of one’s time and attention for the hour a week that they air, certainly, but they also inspire loyalty and devotion in their fan bases, "Game of Thrones" in particular. Not even the the long running entries in the Star Trek canon have developed as rabid a following, and in so short a time. After four years in development, the show was renewed for a second season after only its second episode.

"Game of Thrones" had a built-in audience certainly. George R. R. Martin’s books upon which the show is based, are extremely popular and his readers are some of the most loyal for any genre. When the latest book, "A Dance With Dragons", was released earlier this summer, people camped out days in advance for a chance to get into a signing.  Part of that was no doubt sparked by the popularity of the HBO series, but many had been doing that since just after the 2nd book was released. (There are currently five, of a planned seven, in print)

I have not read the books. I came to the series based on the cast, the subject matter and the previews that were shown prior to the premiere. I have neither the space, nor the inclination to rehash the whole of the first season. The plot is too dense, there are too many characters deserving of vivid description and there are countless places on the web for you to find all the information you could possibly want, including spoilers for the second season, if that’s your desire.  My intention was to provide just a little background before I show you this phenomenal special effects reel.

I don’t need a reason to listen to the soaring theme music (which was inexplicably overlooked for an Emmy nomination. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The score for How to Train Your Dragon failed to win an Academy Award last year. No, I’m still not over it.  Although the show did garner an impressive 13 other nominations, one GLARING absence was Sean Bean for Best Actor in a Drama for Eddard Stark. Bean had the role of his career. After a lifetime of playing villains, with the possible exception of Boromir, Bean was cast as a genuine hero and he devoted body and soul to playing him. All of Ned’s joys and sorrows, the whole of his life, could be seen in Bean’s craggy and weathered visage. Would his fate have resonated as far and wide as it did, if he had given it less?) But I digress…back to the clip.

Basically it’s a little more than three minutes of something being created from nothing with the aids of CGI and green screens and the actors who are able to imagine that they see what we will eventually see, all set to the lush, majestic strains of that incredible music. It does what such music is supposed to do, it stirs the emotions and sets the "theme" for what we’re about to see and it perfectly compliments the incredible, evolving opening title sequence. (Which was nominated for an Emmy. They got that one right. They also got right, very right, Peter Dinklage’s nomination for Supporting Actor for Tyrion Lannister. Sorry, another digression…)

The opening credits:

Sean Bean talks about Ned (with that Yorkshire accent…*swoon*):

And did you honestly think I was going to do a Game of Thrones post with absolutely NO Khal Drogo? Pffffft.

Game of Thrones season 2 is expected to air in the Spring of 2012.




Part Deux: Dance of the Demented Poodle

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…or “Popcorn for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”

When I started the post about four films worth seeing that were all opening on the same weekend, I really hadn’t intended to see them all on that same weekend.  The project sort of took shape of its own volition and I felt compelled to see it through.

One of my very good friends and I used to do movie marathons on occasion and I think our record was six. In one day. We’d study the logistics and map out the theaters and show times as well as timing our travels around the city with the precision of a general leading an invading army into battle.  I also know that there are bigger, more well-traveled, more extensively-read bloggers than I who regularly attend something called the annual “Butt-Numb-a-Thon”, where they watch movies for 24 hours straight. My point is, it was certainly no hardship to see four films in a weekend. I don’t regret spending my weekend at the movies.  I just didn’t get much else accomplished that’s all. Oh well.

First up, on Friday night, was Limitless.

It is an entertaining film as long as the viewer is able to check the 20% of their own brain currently in use at the door. There are some serious plot holes and some threads that are just left flapping in the breeze, however, it’s also a lot of fun if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bradley Cooper must have been sleeping with Director of Photography, Jo Willems.  He looks fantastic in this movie. The camera certainly makes good use of the actor’s amazing eyes.  There are lots of closeups. It’s also worth noting how much better looking he gets, the smarter he gets. As if it’s not enough that with the drug there are no limits (Limitless, get it?) to what he can do and achieve with his brain, we have to add sex into the mix or else it’s all for naught. (Apparently the filmmakers are unclear on the concept that smart and talented is sexy.)

Willems certainly wasn’t sleeping with Anna Friel. In her first scenes (which are flashbacks) I thought I was looking at Evangeline Lilly before I remembered Friel was in the movie. By the time she shows up again, she is truly unrecognizable. I know it was makeup, but sheesh. (Either that or the dissolution of her long-time relationship with David Thewlis has REALLY taken its toll!)

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Johnny Whitworth gets the Mark Strong Award for “Good Actors Cast in Tiny Parts in Big Movies”. And in this film, Friel shares it with him. I’ve been waiting for Whitworth to break out since The Rainmaker. Still waiting.  I’m hoping this will also lead to bigger things for Friel. “Pushing Daisies” was terrific, but it ended over two years ago. She’s also in the much anticipated (by me) London Boulevard. Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

I loved Andrew Howard’s Russian gangster. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be saying that an old school villain like Gennedy has no place in a movie like this, with such a modern premise.  I disagree.  Considering how he became involved with Morra, I think what came next is entirely plausible (within the unplausible context of this story.) Granted, I do have to agree that more could have been done with the character and his relationship to Cooper’s, but this wasn’t his story. And if you’re going on the ride at all, you have to be prepared to endure the bumps.

I have to say DeNiro is more DeNiro than we’ve seen in a long time, but he’s still not as DeNiro as he could have been. This was the DeNiro of Righteous Kill not Heat (to contrast two films with both DeNiro and Pacino).  Regardless, he’s always a joy to watch.

Abbie Cornish was underutilized. JMHO, but anyone could have played Lindy. Maybe you disagree.

I really enjoyed the trippy techno soundtrack music. I think I’ll have to see the movie again before I decide whether or not to add it to my collection.

I have to say, Roger Ebert summed up Limitless perfectly: “{It} only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that’s more than a lot of movies do.” I recommend it, although it will lose nothing in the translation from big screen to home viewing.

On Saturday morning, me and a handful of geeks bounced into the theater to see Paul. I’m quite sure some of them had already seen it at least once. The excitement in the air was tangible. The movie did not disappoint. It was, in a word, hilarious. The script, co-written by its two stars, must have contained a reference to every sci-fi movie made in the last 30+ years. (I’m sure I missed some of the references and will have to see it again if I hope to catch them all.) Filming part of the movie at Comic Con (and indeed using it as the jumping off point for the plot) was inspired. It was obviously a labor of love and a valentine of sorts to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds.

Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul, is pitch perfect. I honestly can’t remember when, since "Freaks and Geeks", that I’ve enjoyed a performance of his more.  It’s also evident in his voice that he was enjoying himself as well. Indeed, it looked to me like everyone involved was having a great time. Perhaps that’s because I was following Simon Pegg’s Tweets while they were making the film, but I don’t think so.  I suspect there will be one hell of a blooper reel on the dvd (or at least I hope so.)

I’m trying to remember a comedy team with which to compare Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their timing can be compared to Abbot and Costello or Martin and Lewis, and Nick Frost certainly has the sweet charm of a Lou Costello or 50’s era Jerry Lewis, but Simon Pegg is nowhere near as arch as Bud Abbott or as suave as Dean Martin. Over the course of three films and a television series, their chemistry has not been diluted at all, probably owing to the fact that they are close friends. Some of the best laughs in Paul come from just a look or a tilt of the head between them. Indeed, the bromance is at the heart of the film. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it is also very sweet, in an ET kind of way, as well as a ‘we all have to grow up sometime and realize our true potential’ kind of way.

While I don’t remember most of the soundtrack, I will say it was nice to hear some ELO again.

I recommend this one as well and again, I don’t think it will lose much in the translation to home viewing.

After the credits rolled on Paul, I went immediately in to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

The opening credits of a film should be used to set the tone for the movie, but rarely are they to such good effect as for this film.  We get our first taste of the incredible 70’s flavored R & B soundtrack that is to come and the bold graphics reminded me of countless movies from the 70’s from Shaft to Death Wish to Prime Cut. I even got a bit of an Across 110th Street vibe, although that one is set in New York and this is totally an LA movie.

I’ve read a couple of references in reviews of this movie to both The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould and Twilight (Not the one with the vampire angst, the one with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and James Garner.)

The former is an updated (at the time) take on Raymond Chandler from the 70’s in which Gould played Philip Marlowe and the latter is about an aging ex-cop turned PI. It was made in the late 90’s, but they share a "feel" with this movie. It was definitely this particular flavor of LA that the director was going for.

I knew nothing of Brad Furman before this film and judging from his CV on imdb, there’s not much to know. I’m not sure what anyone saw in him to make them think he was capable of making a multi-million dollar movie, let alone one with any nuance, but, JMHO, I think their faith was justified. I really like what he did with this. 

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The story itself was one you’d think would be more at home on the mean streets of New York, but instead they used LA (because the writer of the books did, I realize) and made it almost another character.

The color palette was very muted, almost washed out. This was the LA where ordinary people live and work. As McConaughey’s character Mick Haller rolled down the streets in his late model Lincoln, he did so past railroad tracks and cement gulleys (like in To Live and Die in LA) or small houses.  It was all very sun bleached, not quite seedy, but by no means glamorous. (I actually think the house in the hills in which Haller lived was used in Twilight, although I won’t swear that was the film.) They seemed to be using natural lighting.  Everyone, with the exception of the preternaturally cool Ryan Phillippe’s character, had a sheen of sweat that would come from existing in the heat of Southern California.

I can never get enough of William H. Macy. He’s one of the most talented actors alive and when he shows up looking like he could be Easy Rider-era Dennis Hopper’s younger brother, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s not on screen for nearly long enough. The same can be said of Michael Pena and John Leguizamo, who tones down the crazy in this one. Speaking of toning down the crazy, Frances Fisher finally dimmed her hair color so she looks less frightening. Ironic.

Uber-Douche played an Uber-Douche (although to be fair he was also a sociopath. Not sure if he is in real life or not.) I suppose I ought not to continue to refer to Ryan Phillippe in this manner, but I thought I should carry it through from my last post. I just don’t get his appeal. What was “pretty” in his 20s is now just “soft” in his 30s, and it’s just too much and yet not enough for me to take seriously.

I do have to say, that Marisa Tomei looks incredible. Better than she did at 25. As an actress, she’s light years from where she was at 25 or even 29 (when she won an Oscar.)

That funky soundtrack is worth coming back to. There are some original classics, some remixes and some that were complete modern remakes and they all completely jibe with the film; a soundtrack in the truest sense. In any case, I will be adding it to my collection.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey went a long way toward redemption in my eyes with this one. Speaking of eyes, one of the things he’s always done really well is to let his emotions play through his and he uses that talent to good effect here. Even before this movie was finished, I was thinking about how I wanted more of this character.  This felt like it was somewhere in the middle of the series and I know that there are many more books featuring Mickey Haller. I want to know how he got where he was and where he’s going next. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a franchise, as long as they continue to do them right.

The Lincoln Lawyer was not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, came the film that I was undoubtedly looking forward to the most: Jane Eyre.

Oh, Focus Features, I forgive you for so shamelessly toying with me. Your film was well worth the enhanced anticipation you created by making me wait an additional week and in fact, you had me at the title card.

Cary Fukunaga, with all of two major films on his resume has positioned himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It’s staggering, considering how young he is, to think of the career that is ahead of him. Back-handing away any notion of a sophomore slump, he followed up the beautiful Sin Nombre with the equally beautiful and haunting Jane Eyre. On the surface, these two films could not be more different, but at their core they are both about the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Fukunaga has created a film as beautifully and deftly as any old world master would put paint to canvas.

I’ve seen many versions of this story and they all have something to recommend them. This one is my new favorite.  Screenwriter Moira Buffini’s choice to land us in the middle of the story and use flashback to fill in the gaps helped to make it seem fresh. It was the most atmospheric and gothic production, although two recent BBC versions came close, that I can recall. It was again augmented by the use of natural light, which in those days meant a few candles and a hearth.  When Jane creeps through the dark hallways of Thornefield Hall holding a single candle, we only see as much as she sees, all of us waiting for something to jump out of the darkness. There is an instance where the entire audience did jump and it happens in broad daylight (well, as broad as it gets in the north of England,) but I won’t spoil it here.

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable from their first exchange. When they are onscreen together, everything and everyone else falls away. This scene that I showed you a few weeks ago, encapsulates all of that (and would have shown again if my post weren’t "too big".)

What I said at the time,This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.”

I thought I was prepared. I thought I’d seen it so often that the magic had worn off, that I couldn’t possibly “feel it” the way I did the first time I saw it. I was wrong. Think about the frame of that scene a thousand times larger, with that voice booming out in Dolby THX (or whatever the hell the sound system at your local theater is)…imagine that and you’ll begin to get an inkling. It not only still took my breath away, but it rocked me to my toes. It was quite simply…erotic. Considering that the participants were both fully clothed and only their hands touched, that’s saying something.

Beyond all of that, (and frankly because of all that, Fassbender and Wasikowska could have been acting on a bare stage,) the English country side was used to spectacular effect. Just as LA became another character in The Lincoln Lawyer, so did the moors of northern England in Jane Eyre. It is easy to forget that England is geographically such a small country when there seem to be so many vast areas that appear to remain untouched, natural and wild and mostly uninhabited. In the film, as in the novel, the harsh landscape is a reflection of Jane’s life. We see it flower and bloom very briefly when Jane does, but for the most part it is harsh and unyielding.

The supporting cast, led by Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St.John Rivers, is all marvelous, as is befitting a movie made in a country where it appears every one of its citizens lives to act.

I must also mention the score by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli. (He won in ’07 for Atonement and was nominated for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.) Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Actually, lush is a better word.  It’s not too early for me to predict another nomination.

JMHO, but the entire thing was utterly swoon-worthy and I can’t wait to see it again. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this one and I’d go so far as to say, see it, if at all possible, on the big screen. It will no doubt play well at home, but the sight and sound of 10 ft. tall Fassbender is worth the price of the ticket.

May I also just reiterate what a joy it is to see a movie at an art-house where only adults go to see movies? Not only were there people waiting for the doors to open for the first showing of the day (and not just for Jane Eyre, but obscure films like Poetry,) but inside the theater you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire movie. (Unlike Limitless where I had to endure the five kids from the nearby technical high school that acted like they were on a field trip and came in 15 min. in, parked themselves next to me in the front row and proceeded to talk to the screen and to each other the entire time. Between them and the transient loudly SNORING at the end of the row, you people are lucky you didn’t see me on the news.)

Thus endeth my weekend at the movies.

As always, thanks for reading. Next up, Win Win on Wednesday night!

Like a Dog with a Bone…

I realize that I’ve already blogged about the score for How to Train Your Dragon (probably ad nauseum for some of you,) as well as my outrage at John Powell’s (perceived) slight by the voting bodies of most of the major film awards. I’ve also previously written about Powell’s IFMCA win. This morning, however, I received this email and I felt the subject deserved to be revisited just once more. (Okay, I can’t promise this is the last time. I’ve been accused of being a dog with a bone more than once.)  Call it sour grapes if you will, but seriously…Trent Reznor? Okay, enough.

I have no idea whether or not Mr. Powell has been asked to score HTTYD2 (if they’re even at that point yet,) but if he is, I personally can’t wait to hear it.


                                                                                                          

John Powell receives IFMCA Awards for How to Train Your Dragon

Composer John Powell has been presented with the International Film Music Critics Association Awards for Score of the Year and Best Score for an Animated Feature in 2010, for his Oscar-nominated work on How to Train Your Dragon, by IFMCA members Jon Broxton and Oscar Flores.

Powell overcame strong opposition from Hans Zimmer (Inception), Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy) and two scores by Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech and The Ghost Writer) to win Score of the Year, and was up against Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, David Hirschfelder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Alan Menken’s Tangled, and Randy Newman’s Toy Story 3 in the Animation category. Including this year, Powell is an 18-time IFMCA Award nominee, and previously won for Best Score for an Animated Film for Happy Feet in 2006 and Best Action/Adventure score for The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007.

Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, is an animated action-adventure following the adventures of a young Viking named Hiccup, the son of the Viking chief Stoick the Vast, who lives on an island where fighting dragons is a way of life. Hiccup is a brainy outsider with a smart mouth who would rather not grow up to fight dragons; however, in an attempt to impress his father, he seeks out the most dangerous dragon of all: the Night Fury, intending to capture and kill it. However, rather than becoming the fearsome warrior his father intended, Hiccup inadvertently saves the life of and befriends the dragon he was supposed to slay… The film stars the voice talent of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill.

John Powell was born in London, and studied at London’s Trinity College of Music, before becoming an assistant to fellow composer Patrick Doyle in the early 1990s. Powell relocated to the United States in 1997, and worked extensively with composer Hans Zimmer at Media Ventures on scores such as The Thin Red Line and The Prince of Egypt, before emerging as a talent in his own right following the releases of Face/Off and Antz in 1997 and 1998. Since then Powell has become one of Hollywood’s major composers, with box office successes such as Shrek, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Robots, X-Men: The Last Stand, Happy Feet, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Hancock, Kung-Fu Panda, Horton Hears a Who, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the Jason Bourne trilogy to his name.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images…

  

http://filmmusiccritics.org/2011/03/john-powell-receives-ifmca-awards-for-how-to-train-your-dragon/

My Daily Moment of Zen! Now with More Gloating!

Okay, I’m suffering from my annual post Oscar Night let down, BUT the fact that I "outguessed" a lot of the so-called professionals has eased the pain a bit.

I improved my average from the BAFTAS from 65% to 67%, which means I got 16 of 24 categories right. I didn’t even hazard a guess for the three "shorts" categories, so if I delete them, my average improves further to greater than 76% (16 of 21)  – Sorry my OCD is showing.  I realize this matters to no one else but me, but one takes one’s little victories where one may.

So, I’ve decided it would be easier to discuss where I went wrong (even though I’m very happy to say that I got Tom Hooper right!)

I was absolutely gutted, but not altogether surprised, that John Powell and How to Train Your Dragon did not win for Best Original Score. I was thrilled that it was nominated, and it was, of course, my favorite score, as I’ve loudly proclaimed from this blog and elsewhere for nearly a year now. I’ve also made clear that I could have lived with Alexandre Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech beating HTTYD. I cannot, however, understand the love for the music from The Social Network. I should have seen its Golden Globe win as a portent of things to come, but I naively believed that quality would win over the Academy’s newfound desire to be perceived as "hip".  Perhaps there is a contingent of completist Nine Inch Nails fans that will download Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ neo-emo soundtrack, but I don’t believe they’ll still be listening to it a month from now, let alone long enough for it to deserve to go into the annals of AMPAS.  It remains to be seen whether or not either Reznor or Ross continues to supply the world with beautiful movie music. I think it is a given that Powell, Desplat, Zimmer and even Rahman will do so.

I was a little surprised, although I can’t say I was disappointed, that David Seidler’s original screenplay for The King’s Speech won out over Christopher Nolan’s for Inception. Seidler had the momentum going into last night’s ceremony and there is no doubt that it was a great piece of writing, but I really did think that the Academy would give it to Nolan because 1. His script was original in every sense of the word and 2. to atone for his egregious snub in the Director’s category.  No one thought Inception, despite its merits, would win Best Picture.  Despite the fact that the film won other, richly deserved awards, The Best Original Screenplay category would have been a great way to recognize Nolan. 

For Best Costume Design, I went with The King’s Speech, but was not shocked nor particularly disappointed that the Academy went for all-out fantasy and Alice in Wonderland took the award. That film was all about the visuals, particularly the costumes, which were spectacular, even if the rest of the film was not. It made sense.

I flat out guessed on my pick for Best Foreign Language Film. I went with Biutiful because both the director, Alejandro Gonzales-Inarritu and its star, Javier Bardem, are known to the Academy and its voters. Bardem was even nominated for Best Actor for this film.  Again, I should have paid more attention to the bellwethers of the Hollywood Foreign Press and expected Denmark’s win for In a Better World.

I really thought it was "too soon" for Inside Job to win for Best Documentary Feature.  I was wrong. Its win will ensure that more people see it, which is not a bad thing, although I would have liked for Restrepo to have gotten that kick.

So, those are the five that I got wrong.  My other misses, as I said, were for the three "shorts" – Documentary,  Animated and Live Action- which I didn’t even guess at. (Although if I had, I would have gotten Animated wrong because I’d have gone with Day & Night, but I’d have gotten Live-Action right because I’d have picked God of Love -honest!)

So it’s all over for another 10 months when the madness begins anew. It was a good night for Harvey and The Weinstein Company, and I fully expect to see him back in his seat at the Kodak this time next year in support of another ‘little-film-that-could’…

As always, thanks for reading. Oh and I’ve got TREATS!!


And the bromance continues…


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edit: (and I stated this elsewhere but felt the need to amend this post) Adding to my surprise (and disappointment) that Gerard Butler wasn’t at the Academy Awards, was my disappointment in the lack of support for How to Train Your Dragon. Is it every day he’s involved with an Academy Award nominated film of any kind?? I realize it was just about a foregone conclusion that Toy Story 3 would win the category, but I don’t think that excuses the complete lack of a showing for HTTYD, (by anyone involved – they ARE doing a sequel- would it have been that difficult for say G and Craig Ferguson, possibly even Jay Baruchel, to show their faces?) especially when it swept the Annies and John Powell’s score had just been named Score of the Year. The appearance of hope would have been nice. The 9 other films nominated for Best Picture, who had to have been at least 75% sure that The King’s Speech would win, still had strong turnouts.

Rant over.

HTTYD IS NAMED IFMC 2010 FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR!!


JOHN POWELL’S SCORE FOR HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON IS NAMED
INTERNATIONAL FILM MUSIC CRITICS’ 2010 FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR

From their website:

"The International Film Music Critics Association announces the winners of its seventh annual awards for excellence in musical scoring in 2010 with John Powell’s score for the animated film HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON topping the list, winning both Film Score of the Year and Best Score for an Animated Film. Alexandre Desplat receives three awards: Best Score for a Drama Film (THE KING’S SPEECH), Best Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller Film (THE GHOST WRITER) and Composer of the Year."

 I’m doing the demented poodle dance right now!

I couldn’t be happier or more excited that Powell and HTTYD have been recognized in this way. I love the fact that this organization differentiates between types of scores. I am a little confused, however, how they can decide that HTTYD has the Best Score of the Year and yet Alexandre Desplat is the Composer of the Year.

The seeming disparity actually it reminds me of the Oscar races for Best Director and Best Picture. Many pundits and critics are still predicting David Fincher will take Best Director for The Social Network while also guessing The King’s Speech will win Best Picture. I guess that means that scores can compose themselves just like films can direct themselves.

So what does this win mean for John Powell and HTTYD‘s chances on Sunday night?

Desplat’s last win in which he went head to head with Powell was at the BAFTAs. Not at all surprising given the rout that the ‘veddy British’ The King’s Speech perpetrated on its competitors. The question remains how will either one of them do Sunday night against Golden Globe winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. I realize there are two other films also nominated and Hans Zimmer can never be counted out, particularly when support for Inception seems to be gaining ground. A.R. Rahmin, who won in 2009 for both score and song for Slumdog Millionaire should probably just be happy to be nominated.

IF Powell has to lose, I’d much rather it be to Desplat, who has been nominated four times for some truly beautiful music, including the score for The Queen, but has never won, than to Reznor and Ross for a score that I don’t think anyone will be listening to nor even remember next year. 

That being said, I really really really want Powell to win.

As always, thanks for reading. Since I can’t give you pics of music…


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