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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)



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#1 of 15 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 14 2010 - 03:46 PM


How to Train Your Dragon

 

Studio: Dreamworks Studios / Paramount Pictures
Year: 2010
US Rating: Rated PG for Sequences of Intense Action and Some Scary Images, and Brief Mild Language
Film Length: 98 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese

 

Release Date: October 15, 2010

Review Date: October 14, 2010

 

“Don't worry. You're small and you're weak. That'll make you less of a target! They'll see you as sick or insane and go after the more Viking-like teens instead.”

 

Introduction

 

One could say that Cineplex’s have become inundated with CGI animated films, and with the explosion of 3D films, the horizon appears brimming with more computer generated family fare than ever before. The slew of animated films over the past few years has revealed what commonly occurs when may attempt to tap into the same vein of success that others have experienced, the landscape becomes adorned with failures of quality, marketing, or glut-induced apathy. How refreshing then that the year that brought the world the tired Shrek Goes Forth can also yield the phenomenal How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me (and there are high hopes for Megamind).   Toy Story 3 may rank as the number one movie from this year – standing at $412MM, but How To Train Your Dragon, for me, succeeds as the most entertaining, surprising, and spirited animated film from 2010.

 

 

The Film: 4.5 out of 5

 

In the village of Berk, a small town perched against the a rock outcropping and the ferocity of the sea, villagers are on constant high alert for the marauding, troublesome, and dangerous ‘dragons’, who frequently raid the village taking food and other livestock and endangering the towns people. The brute Vikings that populate Berk are fierce warrior’s themselves, vigilant in there alertness for signs of dragons, and well-rehearsed, trained, and experienced when the attacks happen.  The ranks of dragon fighters is filled with axe wielding, horned-hat adorned characters eager to rid the homestead of the fire-breathing threat. And waiting in the wings – a dragon-fighting succession plan – are the inexperienced and young members of the village. Hiccup, the young and clumsy son of Stoick - Berk’s leader, is perhaps the most eager and the least likely to ever get his act together and survive as a Viking warrior. Despite his best efforts, including building his own contraption designed to shoot down the most dangerous and mysterious of all dragons (a ‘Night Fury’ dragon that moves so fast no-one has been able to catch a glimpse), Hiccup always seems to cause more harm than good, as evidenced during a raid on Berk by the fire-breathing enemy.

 

During the raid, Hiccup rolls out his weapon, and shoots at the elusive Night Fury dragon, but despite being certain that he as hit one, the catastrophe that results from his participation in fending off the dragons washes away any credibility he has. His father, though, is still optimistic. The next day, while he leads the Vikings on yet another venture to find the dragon stronghold and rid Berk of their foe, Hiccup and the other younglings attend training to (hopefully) become the next line of defense. But his curiosity beckons him to search for evidence of the dragon he is certain he felled. And he finds it.

 

The story of How To Train Your Dragon may not be immediately surprising – the weak, underdog child finding a special and secret relationship with something that helps build his confidence and change his life. But what makes this film so much fun is the nature of the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless (the fallen Night Fury dragon). Described as “the unholy offspring of lightning and death itself”, Toothless is a gorgeous creature with intense eyes, limited expression, and distinctly feline behaviors. Hiccup helps Toothless become untangled when they first meet, and during their next meeting, the uneasiness (and Hiccups fear from being told how ruthless these creatures are) becomes assuaged. The communication between Hiccup and Toothless is trial and error; Hiccup’s learning and understanding who this creature is – and what he is not, marks the soft-center of this adventure, and it is welcome and delightfully done. The best family films will also surreptitiously weave morality tales through the adventure and hijinks, and the lesson to not prejudge, to challenge perceptions, and to ask ‘why’ and stand up of yourself in that endeavor, is layered throughout this film along with the staples of building confidence and finding your place in life (following your own path).

 

How To Train Your Dragonis absolutely the best family film of the year (though I am sure others will contend that honor goes to Toy Story 3); a solid amalgam of humor, heart, sincerity, and beyond expectations visual splendor, it soars with thrills, excitement, and friendship. There are ample bouts of goofy excursions, thrilling high-flying adventure, and warmth born of kindred spirits across species. The dynamic between Hiccup and Toothless is beautifully and patiently constructed, giving the mysterious and cat-like Toothless a distinct and not easily tamed character that exists throughout the film as something unique and enjoyable.

 

The cast is uniformly superb, with Jay Baruchel providing Hiccup with his near-raspy bounty of sarcasm with a whimper; Gerard Butler’s bellowing Scottish accent provides the village leader, Stoick, with authority, occasional apoplectic bouts, and an earnest amount fatherly care. Craig Ferguson, a late addition to the voice cast, is stand-out as Gobber, and I can expect that we will hear more of his quick-wit and humor in future animated fare. America Ferrera as Astric, Hiccups somewhat love interest, is solid with bravura and innocents, while the sprightly team of dragon-killer wannabes, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Ruffnut, and Tuffnut, are afforded the highly comedic team of Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristin Wiig, and T.J. Miller respectively. The voice-talent is lively, spirited, and with great comedy timing.

 

How To Train Your Dragonwas a terrific success at the box office, receiving warm critical and audience responses around the world, and amassing a worldwide box office take of over $440 million. It is with little surprise that a sequel has been green lit, and based on comments from co-writer and director Dean Deblois, the second adventure may be act two of a trilogy.  

 

 

The Video:  5 out of 5

 

Wow. Animated films are more likely to achieve excellent results in the high definition medium, and How To Train Your Dragon is absolutely no exception. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio (for non-IMAX presentation) is preserved and presented with a MPEG-4 AVC video codec. The image is lush, bright, bold, and almost luminous at times (particularly the unique fire from the Night Fury). The black levels are deep, there is absolutely no evidence of unnecessary tampering, and the entire image is vibrant from start to finish.

 

There are moments in the film where the animation is of such quality that it appears like near photo-realisms, particularly in early scenes between Hiccup and Toothless, the scaly skin on the dragon is slightly reflective, and the detail in the shadowing is superb. During the big finale, there is a fire-ball and smoke, with movement through that plume that looks stunning. Bravo to the visual effects teams and animators for rendering such high quality visuals that we can now enjoy in superb high definition at home.

 

 

 

The Sound: 4.5 out of 5

 

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks present How To Train Your Dragon on Blu-ray with a rambunctious English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio (as well as French, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital). The bellowing fire from dragons often punch the LFE, the deep booming of Gerard Butlers voice, though dominant in the center channel, manages to boom at times in the bass, and the flying, swooshing, crashing, and aerial somersaulting  whip sounds throughout the channels, with great directional effects. Perhaps the highlight for me as a fan of John Powell’s exceptional film scores is the vivacity with which his glorious, powerful, sensitive, and Celtic-influenced score comes across.

 

 

The Extras: 4 out of 5

 

This release comes with a solid set of extras, some duplicated on the Blu-Ray and DVD version in this combo pack (as noted below).

 

Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (16:33): This exclusive short animated tale is a great deal of fun and a promise that the continuing adventures of this universe will be worth waiting for.

 

The Animators’ Corner (BD Exclusive): Watch the film with in-video commentary with the filmmakers and animators, with pre-animatics, pre-visualization, and more. Some of these clips are borrowed from other special features, but this is a good way to enjoy the artistry of the film.

 

Trivia Track (BD Exclusive): Watch the film with the trivia track engaged featuring counts of the number of times Hiccup says “but you just referred to ‘all of me’), and information about the number of shots with visual effects, and more.

 

Filmmakers’ Commentary: Insightful commentary that may cover some of the observations from other sources (including the BD-Live “Making-Of”), but is still worth exploring.

 

The Technical Artistry of Dragon (10:13): DreamWorks animators and the filmmakers discuss pushing the animation envelope of detail, excitement, complexity, and visual effects. The focus on the creation of different types of fiery dragon breath is particularly interesting.

 

Viking-Sized Cast (11:44): With interviews with the voice cast and the co-directors/writers, and producer discussing the importance of getting the voice right, playing it right, and imbuing the frail or bulky character with more than just the expected vocal characteristics.

 

Deleted Scenes: Three deleted scenes presented with video introductions by the Chris Sanders, all of which are test scenes (storyboard stage) only.

  • Axe to Grind (4:57)
  • Goodbye at the Docks (1:31)
  • Aftermath (1:05)

 

DWA Trailers

 

The Story Behind the Story (7:40): A look at the source material, the popular children’s books that attracted the filmmakers to the world of dragons and Vikings. Author Cressida Crowell, discusses her childhood inspirations for the village of Berk and the dragons.

 

Racing for the Gold: A selection of brief animated snippets of various winter sports. I am not sure if these were part of a marketing tie in with the Winter Olympics, but they are cute fun.  

 

How to Draw a Dragon (10:52): Learn how to draw Toothless in simple, easy to follow strokes. Lead character animator for Toothless shows how simple lines and shapes together can create the character of Toothless. For those who are even slightly artistically inclined, this might just work!

 

Your Viking Profile : This interactive feature presents several simple questions that will build a character (presented in the form of a test) – I ended up becoming Hiccup – not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

 

DWA Video Jukebox (00:00): This ‘Jukebox’ presents several song and dance numbers from different DreamWorks animated features (such as ‘I’m a Believer’ from Shrek, and ‘Rockin’ the Suburb’s fromOver the Hedge)

 

BD-Live – “Making The Story” – Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois take fans behind-the-scenes for a fun and in-depth look at the two year process of making the smash hit: This is a wonderful, near-hour long look at the process to bring this film to the big screen, with a look at writer’s meetings, internal screening feedback, public screening responses, input from Jeffery Katzenberg, and the exhausting day-in, day-out work to make a major animated movie. A real highlight!

 

DVD

 

The full-length feature film

 

Filmmakers’ Commentary: Insightful commentary that may cover some of the observations from other sources (including the BD-Live “Making-Of”), but is still worth exploring.

 

The Technical Artistry of Dragon (10:13): DreamWorks animators and the filmmakers discuss pushing the animation envelope of detail, excitement, complexity, and visual effects. The focus on the creation of different types of fiery dragon breath is particularly interesting.

 

Viking-Sized Cast (11:44): With interviews with the voice cast and the co-directors/writers, and producer discussing the importance of getting the voice right, playing it right, and imbuing the frail or bulky character with more than just the expected vocal characteristics.

 

DWA Trailers: A look at Megamind, and other DreamWorks upcoming properties.

 


Final Thoughts

 

How To Train Your Dragon surprised me.While I am a fan of good animated films, I was not expecting to laugh as much at the banter and klutziness of Hiccup, nor experience goose bumps at the exhilarating flying sequences, nor as thrilled by the scope and scale of the final act. As a family film, How To Train Your Dragon comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as a good, solid, entertaining, and superbly animated film, this film should be high on your ‘buy now’ list!

 

 

Overall 4.5 out of 5

Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC 


"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#2 of 15 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted October 14 2010 - 04:07 PM

Neil, thanks for the review.  I preordered this the day it was announced.  I saw it in the theater with my daughter and we both loved it.  I'm glad that the audio and video quality matches that of the story.

#3 of 15 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 16 2010 - 08:42 AM

I added more commentary on the special features, which are a reasonable blend of kid-oriented and filmmaking process oriented adult focused. I really did enjoy the new short provided with this release as I watched it again this morning!
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#4 of 15 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted October 16 2010 - 10:03 AM

I enjoyed the short as well (as did the twins).  The interviews with the voice cast was pretty good too for helping me put faces to names.  All in all a great movie and a great disc.

#5 of 15 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted October 16 2010 - 01:49 PM

Just watched this w/ the kids -- my last minute preorder w/ B&N arrived today.  It's a great family flick, maybe the best (animated one) yet from Dreamworks -- definitely better than I expected.  So glad I preordered it even though it cost more than what I normally spend on a BD -- well, it was partly for a good cause, so the premium was worth it for that reason too.  Too bad we didn't make it out to the theater to see it in 3D though. _Man_

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#6 of 15 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted October 18 2010 - 04:41 AM

Does the "Making the Story" BD-Live feature stream online or download to the player's hard drive or something?


Tough to compare this to Toy Story 3 as the top family film of the year, since these characters are new and the Toy Story gang has been around and beloved for so long.  They may actually be the two best films of the year, period.


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#7 of 15 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 18 2010 - 02:00 PM


I hear you. My thought was that, as an un-established franchise, HTTYD succeeded in really breaking out of the gate with a great set of characters and a wonderful film. But you are right, they are both strong candidates for among the best of the year, period!


Edit: And the 'Making the Story" feature runs just under an hour so I believe it is streaming.

Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman 

Does the "Making the Story" BD-Live feature stream online or download to the player's hard drive or something?


Tough to compare this to Toy Story 3 as the top family film of the year, since these characters are new and the Toy Story gang has been around and beloved for so long.  They may actually be the two best films of the year, period.




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#8 of 15 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted October 18 2010 - 03:08 PM


The Extras: 4 out of 5

 

This release comes with a solid set of extras, some duplicated on the Blu-Ray and DVD version in this combo pack (as noted below).

 

Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (16:33): This exclusive short animated tale is a great deal of fun and a promise that the continuing adventures of this universe will be worth waiting for.



Anyone got any thoughts as to why they spelled "Boneknapping" with a "k?"  It has been stumping me. 


After all, people don't "kidknap."  Or does the word have a different meaning from what I expect?




I've never warmed up to Dreamworks animation.  Maybe I'll give this one a try.



There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted October 19 2010 - 03:11 AM

It's in tribute to Mike Knapp.


I tend to like Dreamworks Animation flicks (and not just because they've treated me to lunch several times ).  Of course, I've only actually seen Shrek 1 and 2, the     Madagascar films (and TV show), Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, and half of Kung Fu Panda. That said, this is easily the best of them.


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#10 of 15 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 02:56 AM

How do I get the "Animator's Corner" feature to work? When I turn it on, I get a PiP with no audio. The normal movie audio keeps playing. I flipped through the Audio menu of the BR and there's only the movie commentary, nothing matching the Animator's Corner. I appreciate any help.

#11 of 15 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 31 2010 - 03:40 AM

Dave, let me take a look when I get home and I will let you know (unless another member beats me to it)...
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#12 of 15 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 04:06 AM

Thanks. :)

#13 of 15 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 04:20 AM

By the by: I got an SVS sub (mid-range, cylinder) this year. It's tuned for lowest extension (16 Hz?), but not set for especially loud playback. And my mid-range Onkyo HTR has been put through its Audyssey MultEQ calibration. I watched HTTYD last night at normal volumes (not trying to bring down the house). During the intro attack scene, my coffee table was shaking. In my inexpert view, HTTYD doesn't have massive audible bass, but it seems to have substantial near-sub-sonics, approaching felt more than heard. If you've got the sub for it, I highly recommend giving this disc a listen!

#14 of 15 ONLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 31 2010 - 04:53 AM



[quote]Originally Posted by DaveF [url=/forum/thread/304992/htf-blu-ray-review-how-to-train-your-dragon-blu-ray-dvd-combo#post_3766463]



#15 of 15 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 31 2010 - 08:24 AM


[quote]Originally Posted by DaveF [url=/forum/thread/304992/htf-blu-ray-review-how-to-train-your-dragon-blu-ray-dvd-combo#post_3766497]


If you set it up to convert the lossless audio formats to multi-channel PCM, you can then just leave the 2ndary audio turned on all the time.


Otherwise, you'll have to keep toggling that on/off for PiP stuff.  This is because the HDMI connection can only stream one audio signal at a time -- and when you have the player convert to M-PCM, it can mix the 2ndary audio into the same signal before passing the mix over HDMI.


The only diff (short of some potential conversion issues like lip sync, unless you can actually hear the diff of PCM jitters) is that your receiver won't see/know the original signal source format.  But other than giving your receiver a bit of a test to make sure it works fine for all the different formats, that probably won't matter at all for normal everyday use.


_Man_


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