Kung Fu Panda 3 ***1/2

 

IMDB Synopsis: Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

“Kung-Fu Panda 3” is not really a necessary sequel by any means but it is a great one.  I didn’t think that the story of Po the Panda was one that could span multiple movies but I am pleasantly surprised to find him still funny and entertaining.  It also helps that the director and the animators are still fully engaged in surrounding Po with a lush and vividly animated film that looks absolutely stunning on the big screen.  

I especially loved the look of the Spirit Realm.  Sort of a heaven for kung-fu masters of the past.  There resides Kai, a disgruntled master who wants to break free and seek revenge on the Dragon Warrior.  Kai is a an excellent movie villain who just chews up the scenery and takes no prisoners.  I found this plot more interesting than the side plot of Po finally meeting his birth father and finding a village full of Panda’s.  

If there is going to be a fourth “Kung-Fu Panda” movie then I would advise that they really take a risk and set it entirely in the Spirit Realm. If there is not a fourth movie then I think we will be fine with that three that we have.  If this movie makes the amount of money I think it will make then I would bank on seeing Po the Panda again. 

Ride Along 2 *

IMDB Synopsis: As his wedding day approaches, Ben heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James to bring down a drug dealer who’s supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product.

I thought the original “Ride Along” was an ok film. It was good for a few laughs. The sequel on the other hand replaces those laughs long, painfully unfunny scenes of banter. Nothing works here.

I am not sure if the writers even put together a script. There is an outline for an action comedy. All the cliches of a buddy cop flick are used. There is not a single original moment in the entire running time.

The dialogue seems like it could of all been ad-libbed. Ice Cube is simply on screen to insult Kevin Hart’s character. Hart is allowed to run his mouth for way too long. None of it was authentic sounding or funny. Olivia Munn is brought in to play a particularly bland cop. I’m not sure what Hollywood’s fascination is with Munn as she hasn’t given a decent performance yet.

Sequels like this exist to make money. Plain and simply. The first film was a break out hit which meant a sequel was inevitable. Too bad everyone simply phoned it in.

The Best Films Of 2015

These were my favourite films of 2015

  

13 “The Gift” “See, you’re done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”

  

12 “Trumbo” “Friends? What friends? Who the hell has the luxury of friends? I’ve got allies and enemies. There’s no room for anything else.”

  

11 “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” “Hunt is uniquely trained and highly motivated – a specialist without equal – immune to any countermeasures. There is no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become. He has most likely anticipated this very conversation and is waiting to strike in whatever direction we move. Sir, Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny – and he has made you his mission.”

  

10 “The Revenant” ” He’s afraid. He knows how far I came for him. Same as that elk, when they get afraid they run deep in to the woods. I got him trapped, he just, He doesn’t know it yet.”

 

9 “Steve Jobs” “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.”

  

8 “Bridge Of Spies” “We need to get off this merry-go-round sir. The next mistake our countries make could be the last one. We need to have the conversation our governments can’t.”

  

7 “What We Do In The Shadows” “Yeah some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, ‘Oooh, those are some nice pants!”

  

6 “Spotlight” “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”

  

5 “Dope” “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Malcolm Adekanbi. I’m a straight-A student with nearly perfect SAT scores. I play in a punk band with my friends and I’m a 90s hip hop geek. A bad day for most geeks would be being the butt of jokes but when you live in the Bottoms, a bad day could look like this.”

  

4 “Sicario” “You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

  

3 “The Hateful Eight” “When the handbill says “dead or alive”, the rest of us just shoot you in the back from up on top a perch somewhere and bring you in dead over a saddle. But when John Ruth the Hangman catches you… You hang.”

  

2 “Room” “Oh, don’t you tell me how to look after my son. I’m sorry that I’m not nice anymore, but you know what? Maybe if your voice saying “be nice” hadn’t been in my head, then maybe I wouldn’t have helped the guy with the fucking sick dog! Stay there, Jack. I’m calling the fucking lawyer. I can’t stay in this place.”

  

1 “Mad Max: Fury Road” “My name is Max. My world is fire and blood. Once, I was a cop. A road warrior searching for a righteous cause. As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy… me… or everyone else.”

The Hateful Eight ****

“The Hateful Eight” is the eight film by Quentin Tarantino. If you didn’t know that already the helpful credits at the beginning will let you know. When I read that Tarantino was doing another western I began imagining that this would be sort of spiritual sequel to “Django Unchained”. How wrong I was.

 

“The Hateful Eight” is probably Tarantino’s darkest and nastiest film to date. All of the characters are truly despicable in their own nasty ways. I hesitate to say that any of them are the hero of this story. The story mostly takes place at Minnie’s Haberdashery during a blizzard. Eight different types of villain are hold up during the storm. Eventually it comes to light that some of them have connections. Eventually bitter hatred and secret revelations result in blood shed.

 

From a filmmaking stand point this might be Tarantino’s most visually gorgeous film to date. It is shot in ultra wide screen using 65mm cameras that capture even the tiniest details. From the epic shots of a snow covered country side to the cold and dusty barn where the horses are stabled, this is some of the best cinematography I have seen in a Tarantino movie. The score by Ennio Morricone is down right haunting.

 

Now after eight films by Tarantino i’m pretty sure you know whether you are in to his films or not. If you disliked “Django Unchained” or “Kill Bill” then you are probably goin to really dislike “The Hateful Eight”. It is a nasty and violent film that I enjoyed from start to finish.


The Revenant ****

“The Revenant” is the latest from Alejandro Inarritu. He won last years Oscar for best director for his electrifying film “Birdman”. Here he directs Leonardo DiCaprio in the true life story of fur trader Hugh Glass. Glass lead an expedition of trappers as they venture into unsettled wilderness. When they were attacked by First Nations people about half his party is killed while the rest are on the run. Making matters worse, Glass is attacked by a wild mother bear protecting her cubs. He is wounded and left for dead but not before watching Tom Fitzgerald, a criminal, murder his son in front of him.

The story then follows Glass as he miraculously puts himself back together enough and begins to make his trek towards a settlement so he can seek revenge on Fitzgerald. His journey is backdropped by some seriously gorgeous yet perilous terrain.

Inarritu apparently opted to shoot this entire film in real locations using nothing but natural light. The result is a film that looks and feels about as real and as raw as it gets. Never have I been so immersed in the setting of a film like this. This is the films true power.

The performances are also some kind of revelation. After so many great roles performed by Leonardo DiCaprio was there anything from him we had not seen? Apparently so because he gives it his all here. If he does not win the Academy award that he desperately wants then he never will.

My only gripe with this movie is with the performance by Tom Hardy, one of my favourite actors. He plays Fitzgerald and there was something kind of over the top about his accent. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Joy ***

“Joy” is another enjoyable entry in to this career resurgence that David O’Russell is experiencing. Whether or not it becomes another smash hit at the box office as well as a critical darling remains to be seen. I found it to be a solid biopic. O’Russell is a master at taking indie stories and making them mainstream and accessible to general audiences.

Jennifer Lawrence turns in a great performance as the woman who invented the miracle mop. The road to her thriving business was bumpy at first due to her meddling family and some potential fraudsters. Robert De Niro steals every scene he is in as Joy’s sometimes loving and sometimes cold father.

I enjoyed all of this story in an entertainment level. Did it fully engage me on an intellectual level? I’m not quite sure yet but I do think that O’Russell and his team have another hit on their hands.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens ***1/2

  

IMDB Synopsis: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

After three long years of waiting we finally get “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. First off kudos for the creative team breaking form an dropping the words “Episode VII” from the title and putting it where it belongs. It feels like the last three years I have been reading about this film. It comes to us with a tidal wave of hype. So what is the verdict? I can honestly say that it is a fantastic film.

Nostalgia has been all the rage lately and “Star Wars” is no different. But the director, J.J. Abrams, and his creative time have taken that trend to a new and much better level. They are not just revisiting this universe, they are putting it back together as it was. On display here are actual sets and locations as well as make up effects, animatronics and true special effects. Sure CGI is used as well but only when it is needed. The result is one of the best looking big budget films of this decade. What is more amazing is that all of the budget has been put together in support of the story and the characters.

Now I have been pretty hard on director J.J. Abrams over the years. He has real talent as evident here. I have been frustrated though by the problems that have plagued his films. I am happy to say that this is a mostly complete film. The the are some minor flaws such as the action on Han Solo’s freighter involving some ugly CGI monsters. That seems to be Abrams speciality. I also found some of the plot was a little too convenient for my taste. Seriously the Millennium Falcon is just right there? Minor nitpicks I assure you.

I have seen this movie five times now and it keeps getting better. Why didn’t I give it a perfect score you ask? Well the story is basically a remake of “Star Wars”. It hits all the right beats. There is not much originality that way. But this film sets the stage for two more instalments that I am now desperate to see.