How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 2014

“When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.”

I put off watching this film for so long just because I thought there was no way it would be as good as the first one and it would completely let me down. I have never been so glad to be wrong in my life. I don’t really like animated films unless it’s a Sunday afternoon or it’s around Christmas time but the first How to Train Your Dragon film was so good that I watch it about 3 times a year. It is by far the best animated film since Toy Story 2 and there was so much hype about it when it got released and the sequel just didn’t have that hype so I just assumed it was a let down. In reflection I’m quite disappointed that I left it so long before I watched it because it was excellent. Not quite as good as the first one but still a really good animated film and a fitting sequel.

What I was impressed with that you don’t often see in sequels is the character development of both new and existing characters because that was one of the best things about the first film. All the characters in the first film are very likeable and the relationships between them are really well developed and that continues in the sequel. We also see the addition of three new important characters. The new characters are all pretty typical for this type of film but at the same time simple is still good when done properly and it is in this film. We have the estranged family member who comes back in to the protagonists life to help, the cocky villain who changes his ways and turns good, and the proper villain who wants to use dragons for evil to take over the world. Everything down to how the characters look to the people who do the voice-overs is so good and it’s not necessarily what makes the film excellent but it makes it easy to watch. If something looks wrong whether it be how the character looks to his/her voice or their actions it makes the whole film harder to watch, but they’ve just nailed every single character in this film.

I think they nailed the story as well. I wouldn’t say the first film lacked a villain because it didn’t really need one to be amazing but making a sequel they needed to do something a bit different and they did a brilliant job creating this story. I am going to be interested to see what they do for the third film because it’s going to be hard to keep up how good the first two have been never mind topping them. The idea with the whole living on a little island village thing seems easier to make a tv show for kids with a lot of 20 minute episodes than another 2 hour film but they haven’t let me down so far so unlike how I was for this sequel, I am fully behind the third film and may even be prepared to be the oldest person in the cinema who doesn’t have a child with them when it comes out.

I know I’m a bit late with this one so I might be a bit too slow for recommending this film to anyone, but for some reason if you’re reading this and haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen the first one, just stop what you’re doing and go and watch it because you’re doing life wrong if you haven’t seen and enjoyed this film.

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Chris Stapleton – Traveller – Review

Chris Stapleton came in to my life courtesy of Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist which I have to say has added some great songs and artists to my music collection. Having looked at his Wikipedia page he has written some pretty famous songs over the last few years but Traveller is his big break and with his voice and songwriting ability it’s a well deserved big break. I will admit that I don’t remember which song of his I heard first. I definitely heard “Tennessee Whiskey” before any other track off this album but I also heard The Jompson Brothers song “Barely Alive” on Discover Weekly. I had never heard of The Jompson Brothers and didn’t realise it was Chris Stapleton singing until Wikipedia informed me when I looked him up to see what else he’s done after listening to “Tennessee Whiskey”. It doesn’t really matter which I found first, both are amazing songs, it’s just one of those little things that annoys me.

I realise that “Tennessee Whiskey” is a cover and not an original. “Whiskey and You” had been released before by Tim McGraw but I think was written by Stapleton and as much as my knowledge of country music isn’t great I think all the other songs on Traveller are originals. So with all that out the way I have to say it’s a brilliant album. There is a perfect mixture of slow and fast paced songs, all very easy to connect with, and all showing off Chris Stapleton’s stunning voice. It’s an old school passionate, gritty mixture of rock, country, and blues. He has a very unique voice, sometimes he sounds older and more controlled and sometimes he sounds younger and more powerful but you can always hear the experience in his voice. You can tell he has spent a lot of time honing his craft, and he has written and chosen some songs that compliment his voice and allow him to show everything that he’s learnt.

There are 14 songs on Traveller and every single one could have their own page because they’re all so different so I’ll just talk about the few favourites I have. I’ll start with “Traveller”, the most upbeat song on the album and a very happy song to start off the album with. It’s quite a slow album generally so it makes the faster songs seem that much better. So this song as well as “Parachute” are cherishable. They’re good mood songs but at the same time just as relaxing as the rest of the album.

“Whiskey and You” and “The Devil Named Music” fight it out for the best song on the album for me. Both very different and both exceptional songs. As I said before his unique voice just makes these songs so emotional and it makes for beautiful listening. Nothing about his vocals are perfect, but it’s that grit and emotion that make his music so easy to connect with and these two songs do that so well for me. They’re not exactly head and shoulders above the rest of the album and it’s so hard to pick a favourite because the entire album is so good, but first time listening to the album these two stuck out for me and have done ever since.

Listening to the album more and more “Might as Well Get Stoned” and “Nobody to Blame” have also become favourites of mine but as I said at the beginning of talking about this album, every single song could have its own post it is that good of an album.

Discover Weekly has not been so kind to me recently but I am very grateful to Spotify for introducing me to Chris Stapleton and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. I would highly recommend Traveller to anyone who likes the rock/country or country/blues blend because there are some fantastic songs to listen to on this album.

Halestorm – Into the Wild Life – Review

Halestorm are one of those bands where I am permanently trying to figure out when and where I first heard them. I first saw them live in Manchester in 2014 when they were touring with Alter Bridge and Shinedown but I had definitely been listening to them for much longer than that because I remember listening and loving The Strange Case Of… when that first came out. Lzzy Hale is just a goddess among women and her old school style and voice is what instantly hooked me in. As much as there has never been a shortage of female rock vocalists over the years I don’t think there has been anyone quite like her. You always have to question singers who have that much power on a record because you never know how much of it has been changed and autotuned. There’s no doubt that Halestorm, like everyone else in the world, has had a bit of fine-tuning on their recorded albums, but they are insanely good live. That raw power, grit, and passion in her voice is so real and she knows how to put on a performance that blows away a crowd.

It’s not all about her though. Arejay steals the spotlight too, and it is that brother and sister dynamic that I loved about watching them live. You can tell they’re ridiculously professional and it’s about putting on a show for the fans, but at the same time it always feels like they’re competing with each other and I love that. There are not many bands who could have a drummer do a solo for 10-15 minutes but he is incredible. On top of that they’re another band who have not had a lot of changes over the years so the whole band just has great chemistry and you can see that on stage.

Having said that Into the Wild Life is not the best album they’ve done. I like it but it’s not setting the world alight. I thought “Scream” was a good opener to the album, good energy, still a proper rock song. “I Am The Fire”, “Sick Individual”, “Amen, “The Reckoning”, “Apocolyptic”, and “Unapologetic” on the Deluxe Edition are all really good songs, but that only makes half the album. The other half is a bit predictable, repetitive, and pop-rock-ish. They have their token slow song with “Dear Daughter” but in all honesty it’s just a boring song. I have no idea what they were trying to do with “New Modern Love” and “Bad Girl’s World” but they sounded like Lana Del Rey songs with a bit of personality. The rest of them just sounded like fillers to put a few more songs on the album but I would much rather have an album with just 9 or 10 good songs than 9 or 10 good songs and a few shit ones.

Having said all that I think they released the right singles from the album. “Apocolyptic” is what I would expect from Halestorm. Not in the way that all their songs sound the same but just the standard I would expect that some songs on the album don’t live up to. “Amen” is a bit more pop than “Apocolyptic” and than anything else Halestorm have done before but I think that’s a necessary change in today’s music industry. I’m glad “I Am The Fire” is the next single being released because it’s my joint favourite song on the album. It’s a perfectly suited song for Lzzy, the lyrics and the rhythm suit her voice perfectly and the music surrounding her is spot on.

Overall the album isn’t bad, it’s just not great, and because I love Halestorm I’m not disappointed with it, I just wanted it to be great. I will listen to every song on the album like I do with their self-titled album and The Strange Case Of… but it is a bit different to those and for me their previous album was so good that any change was going to be a bad thing. I do still love them and will definitely be seeing them again soon but I would hope they’d exclude a few of the bad songs off this album.