Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie Reviews: "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Super 8"

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

Who am I? Kung Fu Panda 2 is about a panda with an identity crisis. Po, our hero (voiced by Jack Black), has mastered the art of kung fu, but when his father (a goose) reveals he isn't really Po's father (I know, shocker, right?), Po begins to wonder who he truly is. All the while Po has dreams of what he believes to be his real parents, and a peacock who haunts the darkness in the midst of flames.

Kung Fu Panda 2
is a character piece, that has some astonishing action set pieces, both highly creative and well choreographed with the camera, a rarity in this day and age of confusing whiz-bang action. The villainous peacock, Shen (voiced malevolently by Gary Oldman), has deep ties to Po's past, making him a villain that seems more menacing than your average, "I wanna take over the world," bad guy, even though he wants to do that too. No other character is ever given anytime to develop or grow further than what their archetype allows, which kind of echoes the overall sentiment. There is an attempt at depth to the story, but it is rushed at almost each attempt to reach the next cool action set piece. While the story and humor always works, the emotion is not always there. Perhaps if more time had been taken and certain things fleshed out, this would be more than an enjoyable kid's movie and be something more, regardless, the action and humor of Kung Fu Panda 2 charms the child inside.

I give Kung Fu Panda 2 a C!


Movie Review: Super 8

Small town America, the most unassuming place in the entire world for anything amazing or spectacular to happen, and yet it does in 1979 Lilian, Ohio. Super 8 is a fond throwback to the time that the filmmaker, J.J. Abrams, grew up in. A time running around with your friends making home movies, just when you started liking girls, and still at a time when you believed in the mysteries around us all.

Joe is our hero, a 12-year-old boy whose mother recently died. His father, a police deputy, has no idea how to relate to his son. Joe wants to help his best friend Charles finish his zombie movie, and it doesn't hurt that his crush, Alice, is the lead actress. Upon sneaking out one night to film a pivotal scene in Charles's movie, this lovable gang of pre-teens witness a train crash carrying a peculiar cargo, leading to the U.S. military's arrival in Lilian, along with a monster that starts wreaking havoc across the town.

Super 8 is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, and it is the better for it. So many monster movies fall in the B-movie tropes of forsaking any sort of character for the monster, and Super 8 is the other way around. In a way, this movie could have been made, and possibly have been better had it not been so focused on constantly trying to give us the monster thrills to make this a Summer blockbuster. The relationship between Joe and Alice develops nicely, and is just plain cute and authentic, with newcomer Joel Courtney and the other Fanning, Elle Fanning obviously having some sort of chemistry. The movie often stumbles when it tries to cut away from our young heroes, and focus on the adult perspective which is where majority of the exposition to the monster portion of the movie takes place, following Joe's dad as he tries to understand what is truly going on in Lilian.

J.J. Abrams' screenplay is exceedingly well written, with his dialogue mirroring almost any pre-teen boy or girl, and the characters seem to represent at least someone you knew at that age of innocence. Whether you were the quiet Joe, or the artistic and bossy Charles, or the pyromaniac Cary (who needs a whole bunch of Ritalin), these characters take the viewer back to their own Middle School days.

As pure entertainment, Super 8 excels, as a monster movie, it can stand proudly alongside many of the 1950s classics, but it lacked that special something that could have made it something more than a monster movie. That something was in there, but the monster overshadowed it. While the monster is incredibly cool, each time I saw it I just wanted to get back to Joe and see what was happening with him, Charles, and their friends making their movie, which is where the true heart of the story lies, and ultimately only three-fifths of the story takes place. Though it's easy to overlook when you have David Gallagher from 7th Heaven stealing the show as the pot dealer working at the local film developer.

I give Super 8 a C+!

No comments:

Post a Comment