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February 27, 2019

Second Act (2018) --- "Her Talent Was Real. Her Resume Was Not."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by Peter Segal (50 First Dates, Shameless) and written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List, The Big Wedding) and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (Maid in Manhattan, Kidnap), Second Act (2018) is the latest romantic comedy about Maya (Jennifer Lopez), a middle-aged store employee who is passed over for a promotion because she never finished high school. When her wisecracking best friend Joan (Leah Remini) tech-savvy stepson Dilly (Dalton Harrod) secretly reworks Maya's social media presence and résumé, and next thing she knows she is being offered a high-paying position at a cosmetics corporation. Can she carry her secret to her grave? Or will it all blow up in her face?

February 25, 2019

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) --- "The Adventure Continues."

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     Written and directed by Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) is the sequel to the DreamWorks Dragons franchise that was a success 4 year prior to this film. DreamWorks studios start with something amazing and then pushes it even further like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. This film takes place 5 years after the events of the first film and there is peace between Vikings and dragons, unlike anything before. Hiccup is being groomed to take over as chief from his father Stoick, while his relationship with Astrid has grown into something more. His friendship with Toothless, a rare Night Fury dragon, has become stronger as they explore new lands and discover new dragons. But one of their new discoveries uncovers something that answers long-forgotten questions and threatens this new-found peace between the Vikings and dragons. Will Hiccup and Toothless save their friends and their village before its too late? Or will everything they know be destroyed?

February 22, 2019

How To Train Your Dragon (2010) --- "One Adventure Will Change Two Worlds"

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     Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a Norse teenager from the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. His progressive views and weird sense of humor make him a misfit, despite the fact that his father (Gerard Butler) is chief of the clan. Tossed into dragon-fighting school, he endeavors to prove himself as a true Viking, but when he befriends an injured dragon he names Toothless, he has the chance to plot a new course for his people's future. (1)

     Unlike Pixar films, DreamWorks films tend to be a hit or miss, I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda and Shrek but I was never a fan of Madagascar. Luckily their 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon was incredibly well done in all aspects of an animated film. The story, the animation, the characters, the music, everything about this film is done perfectly.
     The story oozes charm as it focuses primarily on the unlikely friendship between Hiccup, a young Viking seeking to distinguish himself within his small village of dragon killers, and Toothless, a young dragon. The entire story is based upon the development of its characters and how they learn from each other to be better then they are. The story’s life lessons are not anything we haven’t heard before but that doesn’t mean people can’t do with a good reminder. This is something that the story does wonderfully through the interactions between the old, battle-hardened warriors stuck in the past and the new generation of warriors look towards a better future.
     Although its been 9 years since its release, the animation still looks astounding today. The fire effects, flying scenes, and the construction of the characters still amaze me. In addition, the animation mixed with being a kids film allows for the animation team to create some interesting looking dragons, each with their own personality. The music by  John Powell is stirring and emotionally breathtaking. The flow of strings, the roar of bagpipes, and the pounding of percussion are what highlights this score even more.
     The voice acting was solid and fitting – Jay Baruchel (This is the End) as Hiccup, Gerard Butler (Geostorm, Den of Thieves) as Hiccup's dad, Stoick the Vast, America Ferrera (Superstore) as Astrid, Jonah Hill (Maniac) as Snotlout,  Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin') as Fishlegs,  T.J. Miller (Ready Player One) and Kristen Wiig (Frozen 2) as the comical and sassy twins, Ruffnut and Tuffnut, and last but not least Craig Ferguson (The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson) as Gobber, Hiccup’s mentor.

      Overall, How to Train Your Dragon (2010) is a charming and enthralling family film that adults and kids will enjoy. The story’s main goal is to focus on the development of its characters, which is something you don’t always see in a kids film but it is what makes it all the more enjoyable. The animation was amazing, the music score was breathtaking, and the voice acting was solid. Whether or not you’re a fan of medieval fantasy films, I believe that this film will still manage to leave you in awe.

"This is Berk. It snows nine months of the year, and hails the other three. Any food that grows here is tough and tasteless. The people that grow here are even more so. The only upsides are the pets. While other places have ponies or parrots... we have... dragons."
- Hiccup

Final Vote --- 8.2 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
Brave (2012)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)
The Croods (2013)
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (2012)
How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
How To Train Your Dragon 3 (2019)
Ice Age (2002)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of  Ga'Hoole (2010)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Madagascar (2005)
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Megamind (2010)
Minions (2015)
Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)
Over the Hedge (2016)
Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
Puss in Boots (2011)
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Shark Tale (2004)
Shrek (2001)
Shrek 2 (2004)
Shrek Forever After (2010)
Shrek the Third (2007)
Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Turbo (2013)
Zootopia (2016)

February 20, 2019

Alita: Battle Angle (2019) --- "An Angel Falls. A Warrior Rises. Her Legend Begins."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
      Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Ugly Dolls) and written by James Cameron (Avatar) and Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander, Terminator Genisys), Alita: Battle Angle (2019) is an entertaining and action-packed futuristic film. The film is set around the year 2500 after a catastrophic war left the planet devastated, the rich live in a floating city, Zalem, while everyone else lives on the ground known as Iron City. Alita (Rosa Salazar) is an abandoned cyborg found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate cyborg-doctor who decides to save her. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, where she’s from or even the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido seeks to shield from any who wish to harm her. Despite Ido’s attempts at sheltering her, Alita goes on a journey of self-discovery to not only uncover her past but she also discovers that she has the potential to be greater than she already. Who is she? Why was she discarded in a scrapyard? And will she be able to save those whom she loves?
     Anime, Manga, and Graphic Novels are the foundation of animation by inspiring unique stories that continue to ingrain themselves and entertain with each new generation. Spanning a variety of genres, crossing multiple volumes, issues, and episodes, and telling a variety of complex and intricate stories for anyone. Sometimes it takes decades to tell the story right, so trying to cram it all into a limited time film can be a challenge to get right. However, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe is anything to go by, then it proves that when paired with the right filmmakers sometimes Hollywood manages to get things right. Based on the graphic novel by Yukito Kishiro and thanks to the creative combination of Rodriguez and Cameron, Alita: Battle Angel is a technically stunning and cinematically immersive film that makes it a visual masterpiece. Due to being a cyberpunk action film, Alita is one of the better anime/manga/graphic novel that has been adapted to film and it is sure to entertain and delight audience members.
     The story combines science fiction with martial arts in a dystopian future, which results in a heartwarming and tantalizing adventure about self-discovery and self-fulfillment. There are themes of female empowerment, personal growth, sacrifice, and loss, not to mention it is packed with enough emotion to inspire and get the story across. The music score by Junkie XL was great but that’s not surprising since he also did the score Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Batman V Superman (2016). The fight scenes were well choreographed but avoid overdoing with extended and repetitive fighting sequences. At times the action is a bit violent for a PG-13 but it does not overdo it. In fact, sometimes I wish that there was more to offer, while other times it makes me excited to see how they will improve a second installment, should there be one.
     A successful film relies heavily on a good story but at its heart, it also relies heavily on good acting and fortunately Alita: Battle Angel (2019) does just that. Rosa Salazar (MR: Scorch Trials & Death Cure) is incredible as Alita. She utilizes an amazing level of control over her emotions and in turn delivers a solid performance. Keean Johnson () delivered as Alita's love interest, Hugo, but there were times that I wished he was either better utilized or had more screen time. Christoph Waltz (Downsizing) may not have been fully utilized but he works great here as a surrogate father with a hard/dark past. Jennifer Connelly (The Rocketeer, A Beautiful Mind) is poised and proper as she effectively manages to execute limited yet solid performance. Mahershala Ali is a pretty good actor and he always manages to deliver solid performances, so it is no surprise that he does so here. It was nice to see him in a more subdued or secondary role, as he tends to steal the screen in most of the film’s he’s in. Ed Skrein (Transporter: Refueled) was unrecognizable as the bounty hunter cyborg Zalem but his performance was great.

     Overall, Alita: Battle Angel (2019) is a visual masterpiece and delivers a story that is heartwarming and adventurous. The performances were incredible and solid throughout, and the music was fittingly perfect. Thanks to the creative combination of Rodriguez and Cameron, Alita: Battle Angel is an incredibly entertaining film that will delight audiences. I highly recommend you see this in theaters, preferably in IMAX 3D.

Final Vote --- 8.5 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Chappie (2015)
Cyborg (1989)
D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
Ex Machina (2015)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
I, Robot (2004)
Inspector Gadget (1999)
Robocop (1987)
Robocop 2 (1990)
Robocop 3 (1993)
Robocop (2014)
Short Circuit (1986)
Short Circuit 2 (1988)
Surrogates (2009)
Terminator, The (1984)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Terminator Genisys (2015)
Terminator 6 (2019)
Upgrade (2018)

February 18, 2019

Upgrade (2018) --- "Not Man. Not Machine. But More."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 3), Upgrade (2018) is a sci-fi B-film set in the near future and stars Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Grey Trace, a paralyzed man who uses an experimental computer chip, STEM, to give him special powers to avenge his wife's murder.

February 16, 2019

Cold Pursuit (2019) --- “Revenge Is Best Served Cold And The Perfect Revenge Is All In The Execution.”

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by Hans Petter Moland (Kraftidioten), written by Frank Baldwin, and based on the Norwegian film written by Kim Fupz Aakeson (Kraftidioten), Cold Pursuit (2019) is an R-rated action revenge film set in a remote Colorado town and follows Snow-plower and Citizen of the Year Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) whose happy life is suddenly interrupted when his son is found dead from a drug overdose, despite not having a history with drugs. Suspecting foul play, Nels decides to do his own investigative work to find out who’s really responsible for killing his son. He quickly becomes a vigilante as he kills off several people in order to get to "Viking" (Tom Bateman) and inadvertently becomes involved in a bloody feud between two violent gangs. Will Nels exact his revenge on Viking personally? Or will the Native-American’s get to him first? Who will be left in the aftermath or the chaos?

February 13, 2019

Wind River (2017) --- "Nothing Is Harder To Track Than The Truth."

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     Written and directed by the talented Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water), Wind River (2017) is a decent crime drama set against the beautiful winter backcountry of Wyoming (Utah) and tells the all too common story about a rookie FBI agent and big game hunter uncovering the mysterious murder of a young Native woman, Natalie, left in the frozen wilderness.

February 11, 2019

Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) --- “Old School Meets New School.”

Plot Summary
Video game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz must risk it all by traveling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope's video game, "Sugar Rush." In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet -- the netizens -- to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss, who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) is a fun family film that continues the story of Ralph (John C. ReillyHolmes & Watson) and Vanellope (Sarah SilvermanBob’s Burgers) 6 years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph (2012). With the installation of Wi-Fi into the arcade, a whole new world is open to Ralph and Vanellope, who set out on a new adventure to save the latter’s game. Directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore return to help this sequel film, bringing back much of the same elements that made the first film a hit and introducing some new characters and references that are sure to bring about some nostalgia. There are a lot of pop culture references and  Easter Eggs, some serve the film well while others are just there for entertainment.

February 8, 2019

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) --- “When The Arcade Closes, A New World Comes To Life. Get Ready For A New Kind Of Hero.”


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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
   Directed by Rich Moore (Zootopia; Wreck-It-Ralph 2) and a written by a host of writers, Wreck-It Ralph (2012) is a classic, nostalgic, surprisingly adept, and emotional film by Disney. When the lights go off at the Arcade, for the video game characters it's just the end of another day on the job. Using Game Central Station, the characters can leave their own game to go party, visit friends or chill at a bar until the Arcade opens in the morning. This film follows Wreck-It-Ralph (John C. Reilly), the “villain” in the game "Fix-It Felix Jr". Tired of not being recognized or appreciated by the “good guys” of the game, Ralph decides to leave his game to win a medal in the hopes that it will win him the appreciation and acceptance he so desperately craves. Along the way, Ralph finds himself on a misadventure as he jumps through various games, meets a slew of characters, leaves a path of destruction in his wake and uncovers a hidden conspiracy. Will he finally find acceptance before its too late? Or will he wreck it all?

February 6, 2019

Emoji Movie (2017) --- “Welcome To The Secret World Inside Your Phone And Go On An Adventure Beyond Words.”

Plot Summary
Hidden within the messaging app of your smartphone is Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live, hoping to be selected by the phone’s user. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene (T.J. Miller), a multi-expressional emoji who was born without a filter and is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal” like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, they embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the Code that will fix Gene. But when a greater danger threatens the phone, the fate of all emojis depends on these three unlikely friends who must save their world before it’s deleted forever.

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Directed and written by Tony Leondis (Igor) alongside writers Eric Siegel (Men at Work), and Mike White (School of Rock TV and film), The Emoji Movie (2017) is a touching and heartwarming film that is beyond words.

February 4, 2019

Miss Bala (2019) --- "Who Would You Become To Save Your Family?"

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     Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Contrapelo), Miss Bala (2019) is an entertaining action thriller that follows Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), a makeup artist in L.A., as she returns to Mexico to visit her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo), who is competing in a beauty pageant. Unbeknownst to her, a fun night at the club would pull her into a turf war between the local cartel and dirty cops. Gloria survives the shooting but must play a game of cat and mouse with the DEA, the cartel, and dirty cops in order to find her friend and survive a nightmarish vacation. Will she find her friend in time? Will she escape before its too late?

February 1, 2019

Breaking In (2018) --- "Payback Is A Mother"

Plot Summary
Shaun Russell takes her son and daughter on a weekend getaway to her late father's secluded, high-tech vacation home in the countryside, but the family soon gets an unwelcome surprise when four men break into the house to find hidden money. After managing to escape, Shaun must now figure out a way to turn the tables on the desperate thieves and save her captive children. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by James McTeigue Ninja Assassin, V for Vendetta) and written by Ryan Engle (Rampage, The Commuter), Breaking In (2018) is a fairly predictable, slightly above-average action/ crime/thriller that follows Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union), a mother who risks life and limb to protect her children (Ajiona Russell and Seth Carr) under extraordinary circumstances.