Is 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' A Good End To The Trilogy? Here's What The Reviews Are Saying
THIRD TIME'S A CHARMER?

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DreamWorks has made a trilogy-ender for what might be its best franchise yet. "How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," is out today, nine years after the original — meaning the kids who fell in love with Toothless the Night Fury may be about to embark on a new journey of their own. Does "The Hidden World" wrap things up nicely, or is this one of those movies where the door's left open for more dragons (and dollars) to come? Here's what the reviews have to say:

The Movie Sets Up Some Time-To-Grow-Up, Trilogy-Capping Stakes

The first film introduced us to an awkward Viking boy named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel)—who's also the son of a fierce Chieftain—and a reputedly dangerous dragon named Toothless. On Hiccup's craggy island of Berk, young people were trained to kill dragons, but Hiccup befriended Toothless after he initially wounded the Night Fury dragon, and even created a prosthetic tail for him. Following their example, the Berkians learned that they can befriend and be befriended by dragons.

[RogerEbert.com]

There are two main developments this time out: Hiccup's plan to move his colony to the Hidden World, a mythical dragon paradise that may or may not exist, and Toothless falling in love with a fellow night-fury[…] Not that Hiccup and his cohort want to move. The pilgrimage is spurred by the misdeeds of Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a dragon hunter whose view of the creatures is considerably less utopian than Hiccup's.

[IndieWire]


DreamWorks Has Upped The Visuals Once Again

Master cinematographer Roger Deakins served as a consultant on all three movies and I'm guessing he played a part in developing the exquisite quality of natural light, particularly in the flying scenes and a stunning phosphorescent-lit encounter.

[RogerEbert.com]

From its inception, this series has insisted on a widescreen style different from that of other animated features, attempting to map the live-action idea of "magic hour" onto virtual landscapes and stylized human figures. Here, the visuals outdo anything we've seen before, to such a degree that we might almost overlook the subtler innovations in the character animation: the nuances of expression on both the human and reptilian faces, and the wonderful nonverbal tactics the artists use to convey emotional intricacies neither Hiccup nor Toothless has had to communicate before, all of which pays off in an unforgettable final scene.

[Variety]


The Scripts Doesn't Quite Know What To Do With Its Large Supporting Cast Of Humans, Or Dragons For That Matter

The script, by returning writer-director and series mainstay Dean DeBlois, sags with subplots. One of them involves boastful sidekick Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and his weird fixation with Hiccup's mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett)—though it's honestly a little unclear whether he's seeking a surrogate parent, a mentor, or something less platonic. (Competition for her attention comes in the form of Kit Harington's deeply inessential Eret, who seems to have been introduced in the last installment for the sole purpose of being voiced by somebody from Games Of Thrones.)

[The A.V. Club]

To reach those lovely, near-wordless scenes of intimate communion between the young Viking leader Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his black-scaled companion, Toothless, you have to endure a few inscrutably busy action scenes and an awful lot of strained, obnoxious banter among Hiccup's many, many friends. Since we've reached the end of a trilogy, couldn't at least one of them have been incinerated or taken a fatal tumble along the way?

[LA Times]

The muddled metaphor of the dragons becomes a serious obstacle to the themes of the film because in some scenes, dragons are supposed to be equals with humans. When Grimmel rails against dragons, he treats them as inferior and as "thieves" and "killers", thus conflating his prejudice with the bigotry of those who also lack familiarity with another group. But in other scenes, the dragons are just unique pets.

[Collider]


There's Still A Bit Of A 'Star Wars' Vibe To The Proceedings

Clad in dragon-scale armor, his renegade silhouette suggesting a guerrilla in the mist, Hiccup brandishes a flaming sword that's like this series' version of a lightsaber. The original "Star Wars" trilogy is clearly an inspiration for these movies, with their parental revelations and monomythic hero quests, although DeBlois knows better than to wrap things up with an Ewok jamboree.

[Variety]

Like its predecessors, "The Hidden World" shares some pop-mythological DNA with "The Black Stallion," "Star Wars" and a rich tradition of big-screen fantasy. If the setup and plotting feel a bit perfunctory, the longing for home, with all its suggestions of settling down, achieves a genuine resonance.

[LA Times]


The Conclusion Will Hit Younger, Longtime Fans Hard…

Watching How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I was reminded of another animated trilogy capper: Toy Story 3. Both are animated series that basically aged with their audiences. If you started watching these movies when you were a kid, you're at a very different point in your life watching the third installment, and both movies are kind of about putting childish things away.

[Collider]

The elegiac ending is simplicity itself, a perfect close to a wondrously imperfect story.

[LA Times]

If you've spent any time with these characters, it's hard not to get swept up in the saga, and it's easy to be moved by the bond between Hiccup and Toothless, who is, in effect, a very loyal dog who can fly and harness the power of lightning bolts.

[The New York Times]

… But Otherwise, The Appeal Is Mostly Surface-Level

Though obviously aimed at kiddos, this chapter of "How to Train Your Dragon" might be best appreciated by below-the-line enthusiasts with an appreciation for the nitty-gritty that goes into an animated movie with a reported price tag of $129 million. You can see every cent onscreen, often in more vivid detail than you can see Hiccup's internal journey.

[IndieWire]

The Hidden World doesn't really stop giving you lovely things to gawk at. But as an act of storytelling, it's curiously perfunctory, never rising to the level of effort and care put into creating its cornucopia of visual pleasures.

[The A.V. Club]


TL;DR

The series has earned affection for its characters and its disarming premise. Now it's time to let it go.

[The New York Times]


Watch The Trailer

 



Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

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The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

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The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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