There is something to be said for a movie that knows what it is and executes that well. It’s not pretentious or trying to be high art- just a simple genre film. Such is the case with the new action shlockfest, Plane, starring Gerard Butler directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Fans of the show 24 (which I am) will recognize much of Jack Bauer in Butler’s character Brodie Torrance (he’s even got a suitable tough guy name). You can also see elements of MacGyver and Die Hard in the film. It’s your classic innocent but tough guy put in an untenable situation where he saves the day fighting bad guys (and nature).

In the film, Butler plays a pilot of the plane from the title and after flying into a storm from Singapore they are forced to crash in a militia controlled island in the Philippines. The crash landing makes up the first act of the film and I thought it was very well executed. Maybe it’s because I travel quite a bit and always get nervous when we reach a bumpy section but seeing all the steps before they have to brace for impact was very effective.

Once  they land everything becomes a lot more generic. Mike Colter plays a fugitive ex-military guy who helps Butler track down help and then confronts the terrorists (who hold the passengers hostage.) His role is very basic but it worked for the movie I was watching. The terrorists are also one note evil bad guys we’ve seen a million times. It is true there are islands in the Philippines run by Muslim rebels called The Moro Islamic Liberation Front but there is no attempt in this film to humanize them or show their point of view. I didn’t really need that (I’m fine with just bad guys being bad guys) but it can be awkward when minority groups are only presented one way in a film or genre. If people are offended by that choice I wouldn’t blame them.

As an action film, Plane is less compelling when it is grounded but it is still entertaining with servicable action and likable performances from Butler and Colter. Again, this is not high art. It’s completely predictable and obvious but sometimes I enjoy a slickly made action film and this fills that need. It’s also only 107 minutes which is refreshing in this era of bloated action and superhero movies.

If you watch the trailer for Plane and it looks like fun than I think you will enjoy it. Let’s just say this film comes in for a solid landing.

6 out of 10

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

htyd2What a year in animation 2014 has been!  If Big Hero 6 is the masterpiece it looks to be (currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) than I wonder if this is the best year in animation since the renaissance?  2010 was a also great year too with Toy Story 3, Tangled, Secret World of Arriety, Megamind and the original How to Train Your Dragon.

That film was a fun adventure about an underdog kid named Hiccup in a viking culture that thinks Dragons are an enemy.  He befriends a hurt dragon named Toothless and realizes they are kindly, peaceful creatures.  Unfortunately nobody including his father Stoick will believe him and they insist upon hunting down the nest of the dragons. Eventually Hiccup helps the dragons prove their worth and they win over the town including Stoick.

how to train your dragon cast

For this update Hiccup is now a young man and expected to follow his father Stoick as Chief of the town.  His girlfriend Astrid is a winner in the dragon races.  The plot gets going when an enemy named Drago threatens to conquer them and take all of their dragons.

Hiccup wants to talk to Drago but his father says it is madness and they must prepare for war.  It is a great very grown up discussion for kids about whether seeking peace is correct or appeasing your enemy.  When do you fight for your family or seek peace at all costs?  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had a similar debate and I LOVED that movie.

I don’t want to spoil it for any of you but this is an epic movie.  If your kids are frustrated they can’t see Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter this is a perfect option for them.  It feels like that kind of  epic fantasy.  As fun the first one is, this sequel is even better.  It’s bolder, it says more and has a very meaty story.

New characters are introduced including a special relation to Hiccup.  And the villain Drago and his hypnotizing Beast called the Alpha are very effective.   It does a good job of making things seem without hope for our heroes which is key to this type of movie.

Drago and Alpha

The animation is stunning.  I still wish they wouldn’t make the dragons so separated from the styling of the rest of the film.  All the fluorescent colors don’t seem to fit in well. I love in animated movies when characters fly and in this movie Hiccup even does some base jumping!

base jumping

While I am still not in love wiht Jay Baruchel as Hiccup’s voice, he is fine.  Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera and Jonah Hill all return and do a good job as their characters.  Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou are new to the cast and both good; although the inconsistencies on accents is a little annoying.  Why does Hiccup and Astrid sound like  Americans,  Blanchett’s Valka sound British and the rest Scottish?  But that’s a nitpick.  It’s a good cast .


The disappointed Dad storyline is a little tired but there is so much else going on I didn’t mind it.  It might be a little complicated for some kids but there is enough excitement that I think they will still enjoy it.  There are also some scenes of real heart and not to repeat myself it is an epic fantasy story!

The score is phenomenal by John Powell who earned an Oscar nomination for the first movie and he should win another.  It was so good in building tension and excitement without being overbearing.  Evidently they used an array of Viking and Celtic instruments including harps, uileann pipes, tin whistles and bagpipes and you can hear it.  It’s gorgeous.

The official trailer gives away a big spoiler so I wouldn’t watch it if you care about spoilers.  This one just shows the amazing flying sequences.

Aside from a few squabbles it is a very strong film and should be a huge hit for all ages of kids and adults.  I loved it!

For very emotional kids there are a few moments of death and sadness and battle that gets intense.  It’s also probably a little long for very small kids at 1 hr 41 minutes.

Have any of you seen it?  What did you think?

Overall Grade A   Content Grade A