Animated “Dragon” soars; “Chloe” a well-acted chore
How to Train Your Dragon (*** out of 4)
“How to Train Your Dragon,” the animated adaptation of Cressida Cowell’s fantastical story, is the first cartoon I watched in 2-D that made me wish I’d gone out of my way to attend a 3-D screening.
Co-directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders soar to great heights — literally and figuratively — as they recount the coming-of-age tale of young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), an outcast in his rugged Viking village who accidentally discovers that the dragons threatening his friends and relatives aren’t as harmful as they seem. As Hiccup tames his newfound pet, Toothless, the duo embarks on some breathtaking flights around the Vikings’ island retreat, and I envied those who paid the extra bucks for an additional visual dimension.
Yet even in 2-D, “Dragon” weaves a capricious adventure about our rites of passage. It also coveys the difficulties we overcome as we mature in our parents’ eyes. Gerard Butler, voicing Hiccup’s disappointed warrior father, demonstrates once again that he’s better suited for action than romantic comedy. And while Baruchel’s hipster delivery is better suited to a teen employee at Hot Topics than a Viking in training, the production’s magnificent vibe of friendship and the power of teamwork harkened back to the timeless relationship forged between Henry Thomas’s Eliott and Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
High praise, indeed.
Chloe (** out of 4)
Back when Brian De Palma was trying his best to emulate Alfred Hitchcock, he made movies like “Chloe.” It’s explicit, cheaply provocative, and reveals all of the spicy elements that Hitch knew how to shade from the audience. If not for its terrific performances, “Chloe” likely would be relegated to late-night, basic cable or dollar bins at a foreclosing Blockbuster Video. But it’s worth sampling “Chloe” just to witness Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson initiating a slow burn as Canadian spouses who’ve slowly drifted very far apart over the years.
David (Neeson) is a professor who’s uncomfortable with his age, so he gently flirts with his coed students because it rejuvenates his body and mind. Catherine (Moore), sensing this distance from her aloof husband, fills that void with suspicions of adultery. Enter Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, also good), a sexually promiscuous chameleon who – coincidentally – services high-end johns in a nightclub located next door to Dr. Catherine’s medical office. The paranoid ob-gyn hires this lithe beauty to flirt with her husband and see where the relationship takes them. When Chloe reports torrid stories of a lusty affair with David, Catherine’s both angry and surprisingly aroused.
“Chloe” starts off as subtle, pained, and impressively measured. Overrated director Atom Egoyan shows control over his narrative, which improves over his last few pictures (“Adoration,” “Ararat” and “Where the Truth Lies”) which had no tangible stories of which to speak. “Chloe” sprinkles in juicy film noir aspects, from steamy adulterers to outright taboo sex – Moore and Seyfried share a lusty bedroom scene that will ensure a high rental rate once “Chloe” hits DVD shelves.
But anyone paying close attention will unravel the trick Egoyan hides up his sleeve – it involves Chloe’s detail-laden stories – which means we wait for what feels like an eternity for the characters on screen to figure out what we’ve known for some time. Foreshadowing in an early scene tips Egoyan’s hand, and his predictable ending is far too tidy for a picture that wasn’t afraid to get it’s hands (and everything else) dirty.