Films of the Year – 2014

It has been a particularly strong year for cinema, both blockbuster and indie. There have of course been disappointments along the way, but 2014 has been bolstered by a reinvigorated superhero genre, whip-smart animations and accessible foreign fare. It was a good year for the Brit-flick (Postman Pat: The Movie notwithstanding), an interesting twelve months in Australian filmmaking (The Rover sits just outside my top twenty) and high time for some cinematic introspection (even Step Up: All In had something to say about reality television and celebrity culture). Most importantly, however, it’s been glorious fun. Scroll down to see my pick of the most thoughtful, emotional and entertaining films of the year. Haha, awesome!

10. Pride

Pride film stillBased on a true story, Pride dramatises the unlikely alliance of the LGBT community and a Welsh mining village in protest against Tory spending cuts to tremendously rousing effect. Though fundamentally uplifting, director Matthew Warchus doesn’t underestimate or undermine the obstacles that stood in either group’s way.

09. Noah

Noah 2014The story of Noah’s Ark may be a Sunday school favourite, but Darren Aranofsky’s adaptation is no nursery rhyme. Mining the fairy tale for unseen dramatic depth, it is a brutal tale of obsession, egomania and entitlement that ends in exile, attempted murder and alcoholism. Amen.

08. How to Train Your Dragon 2

HTTYD2 2014Four years ago Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ How To Train Your Dragon topped my list of the best films of 2010. The sequel — this time directed by DeBlois alone — came very close to doing so again, thanks to its emotional performances, spirited score and unparalleled 3D animation.

07. Boyhood

Boyhood 2014Eleven years in the making, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a film like no other. Documenting the development of Mason Evans, Jr. (and Ellar Coltrane, who plays him) from boy to man, it condenses and in many ways concentrates the aging process in a manner that is both inspiring and utterly heart-breaking.

06. Life Itself

Life Itself 2014Although perhaps best known as part of a double act, Roger Ebert was still remarkable in his own right. Steve James’ documentary explores his subject’s formative years, his international, multi-media success as a film critic and his almost decade-long battle with terminal cancer with an honesty that makes the story accessible to all.

05. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past 2014It’s safe to say that nobody went into Bryan Singer’s third X-Men movie expecting very much. Since X2 the series had staggered and stagnated, spreading itself paper thin and rendering itself almost unintelligible through endless spin-offs, retcons and reboots. Not only did Singer manage to create one of the best superhero movies ever, however, but retroactively consolidate and even exonerate a franchise that had apparently passed its prime.

04. Tracks

Tracks 2014Based on a memoir which was in turn based on a National Geographic article, John Curran’s Tracks told the true story of Robyn Davidson, a disillusioned Australian woman who in 1977 walked 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. Tracks is remarkable not only for its story, its minimalist script and its beautiful cinematography, but for Mia Wasikowska’s transformative central performance.

03. Under the Skin

Under the Skin 2014It’s been quite a year for Scarlett Johansson, but while the traditionally indie actress managed to prop up tentpole movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Lucy it was in Jonathan Glazer’s low-budget, high-concept Under the Skin that she truly excelled. By turns sexy, sympathetic and terrifically sinister, it’s a performance that mesmerised almost everyone who witnessed it. This adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel also boasts the best soundtrack of the year and an ending that will haunt you long into the next.

02. The LEGO Movie

The Lego Movie 2014How To Train Your Dragon 2 may have boasted the best animation of 2014 but The LEGO Movie is its best animated movie. Simultaneously satirising consumer culture and embracing it, writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller both have their cake and eat it. With a top-notch voice cast, cameos from some of cinema’s most iconic characters and a gag rate that most live-action comedies would give their whoopie-cushions for, The LEGO Movie is the very definition of family entertainment.

01. Men, Women & Children

Men Women & Children 2014Unfairly dismissed by most who saw it, Men, Women & Children has to be the most underrated and misunderstood film of the year. It may not be realistic, or even particularly subtle, but where would cinema be without the occasional suspension of disbelief? Using Pale Blue Dot as reference point, Jason Reitman asks pertinent and even prescient questions about our place in the universe — whether the abstract or exotic realities we forge online or the insignificant little galaxy that we call home in RL. Ansel Elgort and Adam Sandler, meanwhile, give the performances of their respective careers.

11. Guardians of the Galaxy, 12. Paddington, 13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 14. Fury, 15. Next Goal Wins, 16. Frank, 17. The Babadook, 18. The Riot Club, 19. Lone Survivor, 20. Starred Up

Advertisements

November 2014 – Werewolves, not swear-wolves!

Paddington posterIt’s been quite a month.

Catching the tail end of Dundee Contemporary Arts’ Discovery Film Festival after having spent October in Aberdeen for theirs, I began November with Beyond Clueless — Charlie Lyne’s insightful study of select teen movies from the nineties and early noughties.

Behind on reviews, I spent the rest of the week bringing my blog up to date with films seen at Hallowe’en and at previous press screenings. These included The Babadook, Ouija and Say When. I also attended an Unlimited showing of What We Do In The Shadows, allowing me to have my review ready in time for its theatrical release.

Big films in November included Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s overblown lecture on love; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, a solid adaptation of a rather more shaky book; and Horrible Bosses 2, a sequel that struggled to meet even the low standards set by the original. The Homesman and Get On Up flew rather more under the radar — but rest assured that if their releases passed you weren’t missing much.

The best film released in November didn’t arrive until the later — pitching up at Paddington Station where he was embraced by audiences the country over. Paddington was that rarest of things: a British children’s movie to be proud of. It’s genuinely amazing to think that this year there will be kids asking Father Christmas for a bear like Paddington — that relic of war-torn Britain given a new lease of life by the producer of Harry Potter.

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited release of the month, for me at least, was not that of a new film but of one from June. I had been planning to buy How To Train Your Dragon 2 on Blu-ray anyway, but when news reached me that my HeyUGuys review had been quoted on the back cover my anticipation levels rose exponentially. This was also the month that Cal King’s tele-mag sixteenbynine shipped out to customers along with my articles on Pokemon and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and in which I flew out to Rome for a brief but much-needed vacation.

It’s been quite a month indeed.

Film of the month: Paddington

 

July 2014 — Ain’t no thing like me, except me!

Boyhood PosterSo, full disclosure: films took a bit of a back seat this month, while I focused on other important things like packed lunches and mocking the Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony on Twitter.

There were no film festivals, no press screenings or interviews, just sporadic trips to my local multiplex to watch How To Train Your Dragon in every format available. (Bog-standard non-IMAX 3D is still the best.)

I did, however, manage to squeeze in the odd new release as well. I saw Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy on or before their opening weekends, and caught up with The Fault in Our Stars and Chef before they vanished from cinemas.

I also continued my Edinburgh Film Festival coverage with a review of The Infinite Man, though I’m still nowhere near finished with the films seen at this year’s festival.

It was a surprisingly strong month, though that’s likely because I had  to be slightly more discerning than usual in my film choices. I missed Pudsey: The Movie, Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie and The House of Magic, so my relatively fond memories of July are bound to be biased.

After all, it was the month I saw Boyhood, a film so profound and prodigious that I’m no closer to coming to terms with my feelings about it than finally getting them down on paper, let alone onto this blog. While not my favourite film of the year, it will undoubtedly prove one of the most memorable.

This month I also yomped a section of the Cateran Way and wrote about my feelings towards Marvel’s Phase Two. But mostly it was packed lunches and mocking Tweets.

Film of the month: Boyhood

 

June 2014 – I’m your best night…I’m your worst nightmare

HTTYD IMAXYou might not know it from my relatively sparse updates, but June was a pretty busy month, all things considered.

Putting aside real life demands on my time like ending one job and starting another, much of this last month has been spent commuting from one cinema to the next. I’ve never spent so much time on a train in my life.

I began June in Glasgow with press screenings of Grace Of Monaco, The Young And Prodigious T. S. Spivet and Belle, before returning to Dundee in order to mop up at the multiplex with 22 Jump Street and a second viewing of X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

That, however, was just the calm before the storm. On the 17th I made the first of six trips through to the Capital for the 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival. Having picked up my press pass on arrival, I kicked things off with Manakamana, a Nepalese fly-on-the-wall documentary that followed worshipers as they pilgrimaged to a remote temple…by cable car.

Overall I saw sixteen films at EIFF 2014, only some of which I found the time to review, either for this blog or for HeyUGuys. These included Greyhawk, Palo Alto, X/Y, Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang, We Are Monster, Snowpiercer, A Most Wanted Man, Something, Anything, Night Flight, I Believe In Unicorns, Parents, A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide, The Nut Job, The Infinite Man and The Green Inferno, for which I interviewed director Eli Roth and star Lorenza Izzo.

The best film I saw in Edinburgh was not a festival film at all, but How To Train Your Dragon 2 (in IMAX 3D). The original is one of my favourite films — if not my favourite film — of all time, and having initially been slightly underwhelmed by the sequel I was relieved to find myself warming to it on second viewing. I have since downloaded the soundtrack, and plan on seeing the film again at the nearest opportunity.

With July approaching I have a lot to catch up on. It looks like I’ve missed Oculus and The Devil’s Knot, but there’s hopefully still time to see Jersey Boys, Walking On Sunshine and The Fault In Our Stars before they disappear from cinemas. Otherwise I’ll have no option but to swallow my pride and go see Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie, or whatever it’s called. Feckin’ right.

Film of the month: How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

HTTYD2It’s been five years since the denizens of Berk finally welcomed dragons into their midsts, ending a war that had raged for generations. Since then, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless have continued to explore the viking world, discovering new species and acting as ambassadors for human-dragon relations. After an encounter with a trapper named Eret (Kit Harrington), however, Hiccup is ordered by Stoic The Vast (Gerard Butler) to cease his activities and assist in safeguarding Berk against possible invaders — namely Eret’s master, Drago (Djimon Hounsou), with whom the chieftain has history. Confident of his outreach programme, Hiccup flees from Stoic only to end up in the company of his mother, Valka (Cate Blanchet), who he had long presumed dead. While Hiccup reconnects with his estranged parent, old classmates Astrid (America Ferrera), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (T. J. Miller) set out in search of their missing friend.

When How To Train Your Dragon was released in 2010 it took the box office by storm and audiences by surprise. DreamWorks had long been overshadowed by Pixar, and yet here was a film with as much heart, wit and spectacle as anything its rival had to offer. It promised a new dawn for DreamWorks Animation, with directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders enlisting the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Roger Deakin and John Powell to produce the studio’s first undisputed masterpiece. While it’s true that How To Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t quite reach the same heights as its predecessor, it’s still ambitious enough to impress in its own right.

A more serious film than the first, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has aged its characters by half a decade and introduced an external threat that was much less pronounced the last time around. Older, wiser and rather more confident than before, Hiccup has begun to shed his awkward, adolescent angst to become something of a hero-figure. His relationship with Stoic has inevitably changed, and with the return of his mother it soon changes again. He may have lost a leg at the end of the first movie, but it didn’t seem to dampen his spirits or weaken his resolve. This time, however, his decisions may continue to have a cost but it’s the people around him that suffer the consequences, upping the stakes and giving the character a real sense of weight and responsibility.

That’s not to say that the film isn’t funny, just that the jokes don’t come quite as thick and fast as before. Hiccup and Toothless’ interactions continue to be a source of wit and warmth, as they work – often simultaneously — on both their synchronicity and independence. Gobber (Craig Ferguson), meanwhile, continues to entertain with his assortment of replacement limbs, while Ruffnut earns arguably the biggest laughs of all with her feelings for Eret — much to the chagrin of both Snotlout and Fishlegs, who have by now given up on finding favour with Astrid and refocused their attention at Tuffnut’s twin. As before, the dragons are almost as engaging as their riders, and there is often so much going on in the background that you suspect repeated viewings may be once again necessary to enjoy every gag.

It’s the film’s villain that lets it down. While Hiccup’s mother is a welcome addition to the cast (though Blanchet’s Scottish accent could do with a bit of work), the other newcomers are nowhere near as memorable. Whereas every character in the first film felt fleshed out and integral to the plot, Harrington’s rogue never really coheres (even despite Ruffnut’s affections for him) while the big bad never feels like that much of a threat. Previously the conflict came from Hiccup’s strained relationship with his father, and next to that the antagonism he shares with Drago feels tenuous and beside the point. How To Train Your Dragon 2 just doesn’t feel as sharp or as streamlined as the first; Hiccup’s narration feels clunky and unnecessary as he introduces every viking and his dragon; the dragon races feel like a hangover from the spin-off TV series; and the happy ending doesn’t feel deserved after what is otherwise a pointedly traumatic third act.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is still incredibly entertaining. The animation is even more astonishing than before, the flight scenes are just as stirring and though not quite as uplifting John Powell’s score is still a delight. It’s just a shame that in pushing for something bigger and broader DeBlois has lost track of the finer details that made the original such an unmitigated and unexpected success.

4-Stars

INTERVIEW: James Baxter Talks The Croods

The Croods PosterAhead of his latest film’s December 9th home entertainment release, British head of character animation James Baxter was kind enough to discuss with me the work he did on DreamWorks Animation’s caveman comedy The Croods.

For the uninitiated, the film centres on Eep (Emma Stone) and her family of troglodytes as they are forced to leave the safety of their cave and venture out into the weird and wonderful world around them. While father Grug (Nicolas Cage) errs on the side of caution, Eep yearns for adventure, befriending a self-proclaimed modern man (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) as she endeavours to evolve — or die trying.

Though the character designs and behavioural observations suggest relatively more than just a basic understanding of human evolution, at least when compared to other children’s movies (I’m looking at you, Ice Age), Baxter admits that his team only researched the film up to a point.

“I’m a big fan of evolutionary biology and I always have been, it’s one of the things I’m interested in, but all of that just kind of gets thrown out of the window when you’re doing a movie like this. It’s such a fantasy that if you actually had to defend it on scientific grounds you’d be in trouble.”

Although not as hands on as he’d perhaps like to have been, instead working with a team of up to thirty animators on the busiest days, Baxter did manage to animate Douglas the ‘crocodog’ on a number of occasions. While the human characters bear at least some resemblance to the historical records, however, the flora and fauna that they encounter are often a little more difficult to identify.

“It was fun to play with the idea that some of these creatures are these evolutionary dead-ends. We had certain things that we ended up not doing because they were really kind of contrary to presenting a world which felt like planet earth. We had to do this sort of slight rationalisation, just so that we could figure out how these animals would move or how they would behave.”

Although a sequel has since been announced, Baxter and his team never took the possibility of another film for granted. The animators would often joke that characters or environments could be put in The Croods 2, but as he points out, to count on it would have been presumptuous. “But I’m glad they’re making one”, he adds, “I think there’s a lot of unexplored territory”.

Unlike DreamWorks Animation’s previous film, Rise of the Guardians, The Croods has evidently proven lucrative enough to warrant another adventure. The film didn’t just follow a box office disappointment (though Rise of the Guardians is now in the green), however, it was also the first film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox rather than Paramount, yet he assures me that there was almost no additional pressure behind the scenes to get it right.

“I’m sure there was [pressure], amongst the financial people [laughs]. Strangely enough, we were already deep into doing Croods by the time Guardians came out, and you have so much momentum by that  point on a movie that it doesn’t really change what you’re doing so much. I guess you just have to keep your fingers crossed for it, every time you do this, just to see if people are going to respond to it.”

It seems that, for Baxter at least, people have been responding to his work for years. He started out at Disney around the time of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and one of his first jobs — at just 23 years of age — was to animate Belle for a little film called Beauty and the Beast. At the time, however, there was little indication that it would go on to become such a classic, widely considered to be one of Disney’s finest features.

“I just remember being scared, trying to live up to things like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, you know — and as an animator knowing how good that work is.  I do remember making some conscious decisions about the brown hair and brown eyes; we’d never really done a brunette since Snow White, really. It was a really amazing experience for me, as young as I was, and it’s one of those moments that I almost wish I could revisit, because I know now that I’m a little better at spotting what’s going to work and what’s going to become something big. I think that if I’d known [how well it would be received] at the time I probably would have done some things differently.”

Although Baxter has been at DreamWorks since The Prince Of Egypt, he took a few years out to set up his own studio, called James Baxter Animation. It was at a time when next to no traditional hand-drawn animation was being produced, at least in Hollywood, and it was this more than anything else that motivated him to become his own boss. Oddly, it was while working independently that he was asked to develop the opening and closing credits sequences for Kung Fu Panda. And then something lured him back.

“I enjoy working for DreamWorks, they’ve always been a nice company to work for. I had a good time at Disney too; I learnt a lot. You know, my time at Disney, it was a great place to be to learn how to be an animator, to do feature film animation. They have so many resources, and they have this rich legacy. And you can go and explore their libraries. That’s a great place to go to learn to be a character animator. But I enjoy the culture here at DreamWorks very much; I think they’re an interesting company.”

It’s certainly true that in recent years DreamWorks Animation has emerged as one of the leading animation houses in America. Though much of their output has succeeded financially, it wasn’t until Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon (“I think it’s my favourite film that I’ve ever worked on”) that the critical consensus matched the commercial one. Over the last few years, the studio has brought in the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Roger Deakins as consultants, though Baxter is quick to reveal that they aren’t the whole story behind DreamWorks’ growing success.

“I’ve met Roger a few times. I don’t think I would credit…as fantastic and brilliant as those two men are, I think there was a larger thing going on at DreamWorks over the last ten years. I think the success of Dragon [in particular] really comes down to [the film’s director] Dean DeBlois more than anyone else, and I think DreamWorks’ efforts to cultivate directors like that is starting to pay off.”

As for the future, James Baxter sees much to be excited about in the current state of animation. With the likes of Laika, Aardman Animations and Studio Ghibli bringing some much needed diversity to a genre that had become somewhat lost in a homogeneous sea of pixels — and even DreamWorks planning a blend of styles in the form of upcoming film Me and my Shadow — it seems that the stage is set for something special. Even more so when you look beyond the multiplex.

“Animation, ever since really I got into it, has been a pretty exciting place to be. I’m really enjoying working on the sequel to How To Train Your Dragon — I’m finishing that up in January/February. So there’s that sort of animation where you’re really pushing what you can do in terms of performance and subtlety — dramatic animation — but I also really enjoy a lot of the things that are going on in television right now: Adventure Time, The Regular Show and Gravity Falls on Disney.”

Failing that, of course, you need only watch The Croods to feel excited. As I said in my review, early scenes of Eep scaling a cliff face induce actual vertigo, while the environments and creatures are among the most creative to grace the screen in years, and all this is yours to own on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday. Eep indeed.

Many thanks to James Baxter for speaking with me, and to Premier for making it all possible.

January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong

Since bringing in this new year with shots of Danish Aquavit and a sizeable slab of brie, I have tried to kick-start my year into shape and set my numerous resolutions into motion with a new blog and a new mindset. Thoroughly failing to reboot my life with a new job and daily productivity so far, I have nevertheless sustained a half-decent blog through the first month of 2011. Go team me.

Beginning the new year with the obligatory list of my 10 favourite movies of 2010 and a review of my highlights working for HeyUGuys, I also posed a series of actresses who might be able to save the inevitable Buffy reboot from total travesty. Wasting no time in rounding up my most anticipated and dreaded releases of this coming year, I was finally free to set about reviewing the films already taken by other writers for HeyUGuys and BestforFilm.

So far this year I have watched: The Kings Speech (magisterial), Bridge to Terabithia (surprisingly poignant), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (disarming), Casino Royale (21 months early), Tangled (for which I have the monopoly with reviews at HUG, BFF and on this here blog), Tron: Legacy (snore), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (ponderous), 127 Hours (arresting), Cloverfield (engaging)  Blue Valentine (devastating), The Emperor’s New Groove (perfection), Step Up 3D (entertaining), Season of the Witch (crap), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (enchanting), The Green Hornet 3D (insulting), The Next Three Days (acceptable), Morning Glory (wonderful), Black Swan (infectious), Conviction (passable) and Hereafter (underestimated).

January was the month in which How to Train Your Dragon 2 was thoroughly demystified, Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy were cast in The Dark Knight Rises and we caught our first glimpse of Andrew Garfield as Spider-man. January was also – as is often the case – home to Burns Night, spurring a list of the eight most random Scots cameos in film.

With 22 months remaining until the release of Bond 23, January also proved the perfect opportunity for a franchise retrospective. Joining The Invisible Suit and a whole host of other bloggers, I have endeavoured to watch a Bond movie a month for the BlogalongaBond challenge.  Starting 2011 with Dr. No, I have only 21 months left until I am free of this beautifully pointless exercise.

So, January has been a busy month. While I have yet to escape to greener (journalism-centric) pastures, I have founded a place to vent my frustration at idiotic customer questions and commit my overwhelming popcornaddiction to web.

Film of the month: Morning Glory.

FILM NEWS: How to Continue Your Dragon

Despite my own overwhelming urge to climb into the screen each time I watch How to Train Your Dragon, I was nevertheless sceptical when news hit that a sequel was on the way. Sequels tend to ruin once great films, rarely living up to their potential and serving only as reminders of how good the original once was, before knowing the uninspiring futures awaiting your favourite characters.

My fears only multiplied when DreamWorks announced that they would be spreading the title over two platforms, promising a television series to bridge the gap between 2010 and the distant future – like, with jetpacks – of 2013. Just look at The Lion King, my favouritist (my word) Disney movie, unceremoniously trampled under a stampede of knock offs and cash ins. First came the mandatory straight-to-DVD sequel, then the trilogy-capping travesty, and finally an assault of charicatured Timon and Pumbaa centric TV episodes that ran out of ideas almost as quickly as they ran out of original cast-members.

What I needed was reassurance, someone to pull me close and tell me everything was going to be OK. After all, for every Shrek 2 DreamWorks had also produced the original-improving Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, surely with their new and improved mantra they might even manage to not spectacularly fudge my favourite movie of last year. It turns out, then, that Tim Johnson (who?) is that person. Opening up to badtaste.it, the director ticked off just about everything I needed addressed.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (and its resident series) are to be much, much bigger according to Johnson. Promising to further explore the Viking land of Berk, the executive producer confirmed that one of the original’s director’s is back for the sequel and that all involved are suitably worried. Ever the optimist, I have interpreted this to mean that they are anxious not to shit all over the masterpiece original and not that they are concerned by their lack of good ideas. That, as Johnson explained, the studio had previously been similarly worried about cutting Hiccup’s leg off, I reserve the right to delude myself with uniformly positive thought. Amputating Hiccup’s leg was a stroke of genius, and if this takes worrisom brainpower then so be it!

With source author Cressida Cowell’s next-in-line book intriguingly titled How To Be A Pirate, it is anyone’s guess where the franchises future might lie. Teasing new locations and characters, the sequel will hopefully not content itself with new Vikings and regions of Berk. Cowell’s books contained some insane dragons, as did the movie’s Dragon Book, whetting ones appetite regarding what Giant-trouncing behemoths might be hiding under volcanoes everywhere. The name-dropping of Trolls too, might foreshadow future antagonists.

Putting my own wish-list aside, however, the facts are more than enough to sate my curiosity for now. I am hugely relieved that DreamWorks are ‘worried’, that the series won’t be dumbing itself down for Nickelodeon and that  – mostly- the studio didn’t kill Hiccup first time around (seriously – it was actually considered). How to Train Your Dragon was a truly extraordinary film, not least for its pitch-perfect use of 3D, and it is a good day when you can look forward to a second dose of dragon training – any worry safely in the hands of those in charge.