A Review Of The Movie Kung Fu Panda

kung fu panda movie posterKung Fu Panda is an animated film about a Panda who loves Kung Fu, where he finds himself having to learn it and save his community from his Master’s nemesis.

I recommend it for kids and adults. The story is simple but engaging, with laugh-out-loud moments. The action scenes are incredible: intense, fast, and fun – it could make you dizzy. The animation is well done.

I took my saven year old daughter (Caitlyn) to see the movie. She laughed out loud at parts, as I did (although different parts). she wasn’t scared during the intense, dark scenes, although I did hear some kids crying during the movie.

I wasn’t aware of the voice actors before I saw it, but the voices seemed familiar during the film, although they weren’t distracting. Only when I saw the credits did I associate the voices with the actors.

Caitlyn and I recommended it.
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“The Incredible Hulk” Ain’t Too Bad

The Incredible Hulk — Another Marvel comic book movie. The Hulk smashes the crap out of everything. Ed Norton and the rest of the cast play their roles well. The story isn’t as involving as Iron Man, but it’s done well and it’s never boring. What else do you want from a comic book movie? It’s fun for what it is. (June 14/08)

The Stone Angel — Based on the novel by Margaret Lawrence, starring Ellen Burstyn. Another sad and depressing Canadian novel where nothing good happens to anyone or anyone’s children, and then they die. (That’s an accurate summary of more than a few Canadian classics.) The film adaptation isn’t much more uplifting or hopeful. The movie tries to encompass too much of the novel instead of taking its time to develop the characters. It definitely has its moments, but I lost interest well before the closing credits. (June 7/08)

The Happening — There is no reason to see this movie, ever, not even out of morbid curiosity. Considering the downward slide M. Night Shyamalan has been on since, well, arguably since The Sixth Sense, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually hit rock bottom, and this is it. Even The Village had moments where you think, “Maybe this’ll get good now,” but there isn’t a single compelling moment in the entire running time of The Happening, and subsequently nothing to feel disappointed about. I like Shyamalan as a director, so I was hoping to see at least a few good scenes or cool shots. But nope. The Happening is a zero on every level. The writing, the acting, the direction — it’s all bad, mediocre at best. (June 14/08)

“Small Time Crooks,” etc.

Deep Water — I’m slowly losing my taste for films about people who do adventurous but stupid things (e.g., Grizzly Man, Into The Wild). Deep Water is a documentary about a guy who enters a competition to sail across the world non-stop by himself, and fails. It’s mostly a sad story and not nearly as gripping as something like Touching the Void, but it’s interesting, especially for viewers who know anything about sailing. (Mar. 29/08)

Black Book — A story of a Jewish woman who, as an undercover operative for the Resistance, develops an intimate relationship with a high-ranking SS officer and falls in love with him. I took a look at this film because James Berardinelli selected it as one of his top 10 of 2007. He called it “a powerful and compelling World War II thriller that features note-perfect performances and an almost flawless screenplay.” But mostly it’s an excuse for director, Paul Verhoeven, to show off Carice van Houten‘s breasts whenever possible (fess up Berardinelli). For me, Black Book felt like a CBC mini-series: exactly the same sharp and clean cinematography, the same self-consciously emotional style of acting — TV, not cinema. I just got an email from someone who watched the movie with me: “The more I think about the movie we watched last night, the less I like it. It seems like manipulative and slick schlop.” I can’t argue with that. (Mar. 25/08)

Small Time Crooks — Here’s the set-up: Some small time crooks devise a plan to open a bakery next door to a bank and tunnel underground into the bank’s vault. But the bakery does such good business that they make more money from the bakery then they would have from robbing the bank. That’s the first 30 minutes of the movie and it’s funny as hell. These guys are completely incompetent criminals. The scene where they first try to dig the tunnel with a jack hammer in the basement of the bakery had me howling. After that the story drags and becomes too serious. Individual scenes work on their own, and Tracy Ullman gives an excellent performance as the baker (and Woody Allen’s wife), but the comedy loses it’s momentum long before the final credits. (Mar. 18/08)

Wacky “Triplets of Belleville”

Some movies I watched over the past two weeks.

Sketches of Frank Gehry — A documentary directed by Sydney Pollack about Frank Gehry, an architect famous for designing buildings that look like things you’d see in an art gallery and wonder, “What the hell is this supposed to be?” It’s a straightforward telling of how and why he became an architect. A portrait of an artist / architect. Interesting to see how he works. (Mar. 2/08)

Interiors (1978) — Woody Allen’s follow-up to Annie Hall. A story about a dysfunctional family, a group of people so used to being discontent they don’t know how to just shut up and be happy. Somewhat agonizing to watch because no one ever stops complaining. It’s uncomfortably realistic at times. Reminds me of the wallowing misery of some Ingmar Bergman films. (Mar. 1/08)

Rescue Dawn / Little Dieter Needs To Fly — In Rescue Dawn, Christian Bale tries to escape from a Viet Cong prison camp in this by-the-numbers P.O.W. movie directed by Werner Herzog. Although based on a true story, it’s pretty light stuff compared to something like The Deer Hunter. The documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, also directed by Herzog, presents a slightly more compelling take on the story. Both films are interesting but seem emotionally cold and less affective than they could be. (Feb. 23/08)

The Triplets of Belleville — Crazy animation, definitely on the bizarre side, surreal, sad and poignant at times, grotesque, yet elegant and perhaps profound, and highly satirical. I just took a peek at Ebert’s review and I notice he tries to describe it like I just did: “It is creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth. What I did was, I typed the word “weird” and when that wholly failed to evoke the feelings the film stirred in me, I turned to the thesaurus and it suggested the above substitutes — and none of them do the trick, either.” Read the linked reviews to get an idea of what we’re talking about. (Feb. 22/08)

Be Kind Rewind — I’ll probably watch Michel Gondry‘s next movie without reading any reviews first, because even when he’s made a ho-hum movie like this one, it’s still more interesting than 90% of the movies that play at my local multiplex throughout the year. That said, I’m disappointed to say I wasn’t too engaged by this one. Jack Black’s magnetized brain erases all the tapes in a video store. He and his buddy set out to re-shoot all the movies onto the original VHS tapes, which are then rented out to customers. The tapes are a big hit and business starts to boom. It’s good-natured wackiness — and I love the idea of it — but it’s more suited for a short film, not a feature. (The Be Kind Rewind website looks like fun.) (Feb. 22/08)

I don’t highly recommend any of these films, but if I had to pick just one to see, I’d say The Triplets of Belleville, because it is so completely wacky and bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it. The animation is way out there (though I admit I don’t watch much animation). It’s definitely not for kids. This was my second viewing of it, and I enjoyed it more this time around. My reaction the first time I saw it was, “This is too much.” I still think it’s too much for most viewers, but it’s so unusual, it’s worth a look. People who know anything about animation will probably love it.

Movies I’ve Watched – 2008 (#1)

Waitress — A feel-good “dramedy” about a waitress with a talent for making pies who gets pregnant and falls for someone who isn’t her husband. It has a cute quirky quality that seems popular with shows like Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, if you like that kind of thing. (Jan. 2/08)

Primer — Some computer geeks create what turns out to be — I’m only guessing here — a time machine. They start messing with the space-time continuum and things go awry. It’s a science fiction movie with no special effects that begins with promise but quickly becomes frustrating by burying the essential drama of the story in unnecessary techno-babble. (Jan. 1/08)