Sunday, June 15, 2014

Last Call For Berk To Berk Wins

Saw How To Train Your Dragon 2 this afternoon, and if you enjoyed the first movie from Dreamworks Animation Studios featuring Hiccup, Astrid, Toothless and the rest of the viking residents of the island village of Berk, the sequel is actually as good if not better.

Dreamworks Animation is pretty hit and miss, and while the Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar franchises have done very well over the 20 year history of the studio, recent outings like Rise of the Guardians, The Croods, Turbo and Mr. Peabody And Sherman were mixed outings at best.  Going back to Berk was the best idea the studio has had in a while.

As the movie opens we find Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) five years older, now twenty and more confident in his skill as a dragon rider, eager to explore the world with Toothless, his dragon companion.  Berk's the home to a dragon riding academy that's cranking out one solid air force, and he's still dating Astrid (America Ferrera) and hanging out with his friends.  The loss of his right foot in the climactic battle of the first movie hasn't slowed him down a step (thanks to a well-designed replacement as Hiccup is still a pretty sly engineer) and his father, village chief Stoick (Gerard Butler), wants to groom him for taking over as his successor.

All that runs into cold reality when the crew happens upon Eren, (Kit Harrington) a dragon trapper who wants to bag Toothless and the rest for his boss, Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) who has also figured out how to control dragons and would very much like Hiccup and the dragons of Berk to join him...or else.  Drago knows an awful lot about dragons and Hiccup and his friends have their hands full this time.

Further complicating issues is the appearance of Valka (Cate Blanchett, yay!) another mysterious dragon rider who warns our young hero about Drago (she has a connection to Hiccup that you'll probably guess pretty early on) and she sets up a pivotal point in the film where Hiccup has to make some hard choices about what kind of man he'll become.  Hiccup's got commitment issues and doesn't want to be tied down to his dad because he feels he's not good enough to fill his shoes.

It's up to Hiccup and Toothless to figure out how to save Berk once again, and the movie has a number of pretty heartwarming and exciting moments.  The film itself is impressively pretty, with awesome flight sequences and plenty of action and laughs.

I enjoyed it, it's worth a matinee at least, so give it a test flight.

Tony Blair Uses The Shaggy Defense

Former British PM Tony Blair wants you to know that when it comes to Iraq's current meltdown, the joint US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003 had nothing to do with it.  It wasn't me!

Tony Blair has strongly rejected claims that the 2003 US-UK invasion ofIraq was to blame for the current crisis gripping the country, pointing the finger instead firmly at the Maliki government and the war in Syria. 
In a passionate essay published on his website, the former prime minister said it was a "bizarre" reading of the situation to argue that the US-British invasion of Iraq had allowed the growth of Sunni jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), whose fighters have swept through towns and cities north and west of Baghdad over the past week. 
"We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that 'we' have caused this. We haven't. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not: and whether action or inaction is the best policy. But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it. 
"We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future," says Blair, adding that force may be necessary. "Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force."

Behold the unrepentant war criminal, who has learned precisely nothing from the last 12 years.

In a defence of his actions in Iraq, Blair attacked as "extraordinary" any notion the country would be stable if Saddam Hussein had stayed in power. 
"The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat. 
He said it was inevitable that events across Iraq had raised the arguments over the 2003 war. While admitting that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, he said: "What we now know from Syria is that Assad, without any detection from the west, was manufacturing chemical weapons. We only discovered this when he used them. We also know, from the final weapons inspectors' reports, that though it is true that Saddam got rid of the physical weapons, he retained the expertise and capability to manufacture them. 
"Is it likely, knowing what we now know about Assad, that Saddam, who had used chemical weapons both against the Iranians in the 1980s war – that resulted in over a million casualties – and against his own people, would have refrained from returning to his old ways? Surely it is at least as likely that he would have gone back to them?"

To recap, Syria's civil war in 2011 justified the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and justifies going back into Iraq in 2014.

There really isn't anything these ghouls wouldn't say or do in order to send us back into Iraq, guns blazing.

Denying The Deniers

President Obama gave the commencement speech at UC-Irvine on Saturday, and he lit into climate change deniers in Congress yet again.

President Barack Obama renewed his campaign to curb carbon emissions Saturday, saying the debate over climate change is over.

Obama, who made the battle against climate change a core promise of his 2008 election campaign, has been stymied at the federal level by opposition from lawmakers.

Congress "is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence," Obama told a crowd of more than 30,641 people, including thousands of graduates at the University of California, Irvine.

"They'll tell you climate change is a hoax, or a fad. One says the world might actually be cooling."

And yet people keep electing these same Republicans to Congress.  Luckily, here in reality, President Obama is encouraging solutions and not ignorance.

The president used his speech to the university graduates to present a $1-billion competition for funds to help communities hit by natural disasters linked to climate change.

"Climate change is no longer a distant threat," the president emphasized.

"In some parts of the country, weather-related disasters like droughts, fires, storms and floods are going to get harsher and costlier."

He stressed that climate change remains "one of the most significant long-term challenges" to the United States and the world.

It is, but that would require governance to deal with it, and Republicans haven't been interested in governance in decades.

"The climate change deniers suggest there's still a debate over the science. There's not," Obama said.

"I've got to admit, though, it's pretty rare that you'll encounter someone who says the problem you're trying to solve doesn't even exist."

When president John F. Kennedy set the United States on a course for the moon, Obama added, "I don't remember anyone saying the moon wasn't real, or that it was made of cheese."

Ouch.  And yet, climate change deniers are just as ridiculous and silly.  Sadly, they're also elected to power.

Perhaps we should do something about that in November.
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