Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 3 – Cute, Fun, and Intelligently Made

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Here’s something I’ve only said about a few third franchises in a chain; I loved this. This is a really good, really clever storyline that unfolds pretty organically. I mean, haven’t we always kind of known Po was adopted? His father was a bird, for Christ sakes.

Well, that loose end gets tied up in Kung Fu Panda 3, where we meet Li (Bryan Cranston) Po’s (Jack Black) long lost dad. The two connect and Po gets to meet up with a whole world of pandas. All is good, until the evil yak Kai (J.K. Simmons) begins challenging Kung Fu masters across the land, and Po had to train an army of Pandas to fight.

I absolutely loved that they managed to take this in a new, fresh direction without forcing a plot point. It really was a very well done story that’s complicated enough to be intriguing, while simple enough for younger viewers to follow. The writing was phenomenal and there are more than a few laugh out loud moments.

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Of course, the animation continues to be excellent and adorable. It’s the caliber of animation that’s expected to come from a DreamWorks/Disney effort. Everything about the movie is visually appealing and it would have gotten marks for that alone if the screenplay was crap.

But the screenplay wasn’t crap. It was pretty damn good. I loved the addition of Bryan Cranston, easily one of my favorite actors, and he has a great ‘dad’ voice. He helped to take this movie to a new dimension.

This movie deserved to be the one to beat out The Revenant at the Box Office. It’s just what we need to recover from that movie anyway. It’s cute, it’s fun and it’s intelligently made. This sequel was written with the same care that an original would have been and that made all the difference. It’s rare to see a number three that isn’t a shameless cash grab, and this clearly isn’t. It appears to still be a labor of love for those involved.

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If that’s the caliber they keep producing, they can keep putting out one Kung Fu Panda after another forever and never have a straight to video run. Of course, that isn’t really sustainable, so while I enjoyed this movie, I have to say that enjoyment is bittersweet because I’m sure any future Kung Fu Panda movies will come up lacking when compared to this one.

It’s a fun, uplifting movie that’s tied into a neat storyline and will be difficult to beat for any future animated features. Of course, I’m not aware of any coming out soon, so Kung Fu Panda may reign at the box office for some time. This is clearly a collaborative effort, from the artists at DreamWorks, to screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, as well as Yuh Nelson and her co-director, Alessandro Carloni, who collaborated to deliver a terrific, well-paced storyline for Po and his companions.

If you have kids, this one is worth the watch. Heck, it’s one that’s worth the watch even if you don’t have kids.
This is absolutely worth the watch, though you may want to get comfortable. You’re going to be there awhile.

WE GIVE IT: 4.5 STARS!

four and a half stars

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Movie Review: Annie (2014) – An auto-tuned, outdated remake.

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Right in time for the holidays, Columbia pictures released the heartwarming story of a single man who adopts a young orphan girl, with little to no government oversight, simply because he’s rich.

Wait, is that seriously the plot to Annie? Wow, that’s just wrong.

In this modernized rendition, Quvenzhané Wallis stars as Annie, a young, tough as nails orphan who was abandoned by her parents, with a promise they’d be back for her someday. Of course, they cared so much that they dumped her off with an incredibly cruel foster mom, Mrs. Hannigan, played by an evil Cameron Diaz. Then, she gets pulled from that life when Will Staxx (Jamie Fox) a wealthy New Yorker and mayoral candidate does the rent-a-orphan thing as a campaign ploy.

I’m going to say it. Annie is from a time when the world was a bit more innocent and people didn’t go on sex tours of Thailand. So regardless of how handsome or rich, there’s just something about a single man adopting a little girl that bothers me. I know it’s wrong and I know my mind is in the gutter, but the original movie had its roots in depression era America. Child sex trafficking was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Today, that’s no longer the case.

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I have to say that I like the understated acting in this movie. In the past, Annie tended to be a bit too over the top and made of so much sugar, she could give you cavities. Quvenzhané Wallis had the ability to give enough edge to the roll to not make Annie unbearably sweet this time. Her singing was a bit more low key as well and anyone could tell they auto tuned the crap out of her performance of “Tomorrow”. But it was her acting, and her ability to play the role with grace that really did it for me.

But that’s all it did because the rest of the movie was just plain Bad, and that is with a capital B. Jamie Foxx has all the range of a stationary bicycle and Cameron Diaz seemed to think she was on a Saturday night live skit, with her completely unfunny comedic overacting. It was like Diaz was afraid to be mean to children, which is ridiculous because she rocked that role in Bad Teacher.

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But it was Foxx who really chewed the scenery with his ‘overacting by under acting’ rendition of Daddy Warbucks. Honestly, if I had the choice of being an orphan or living with the robotic Foxx, I’d pack my bags for the orphanage. I don’t think his facial expression changed once during the film.

Finally, who told the lead character that the ideal way to gain votes would be for a single man to adopt a small girl? Was it the same person who wrote the script?

Let be honest. The original Annie wasn’t that convincing, the acting was over the top and the characters were caricatures. But it had some catchy tunes. The first time I heard “Tomorrow” I knew that I’d be forced to listen a rendition from every single little girl with musical aspirations until the end of time. But this movie is missing what the original Annie had; music that is a virtual earworm.

WE GAVE IT : 3 STARS!  Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below

stars

 

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