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Movies Review

Movie Review – Kung Fu Panda 3

I previously held up Kung Fu Panda 2 as an example of how a sequel should be done.  I don’t think Kung Fu Panda 3 reaches those same heights but it’s still a fun ride.

Kung Fu Panda 3 picks up not long after 2 – Po is living his ideal life as the Dragon Warrior.  He gets to kick the butts of bandits and protect the valley, alongside his best friends, the Furious Five…until Master Shifu steps away from teaching and puts Po in charge.  His first attempts at teaching go poorly, and his life gets spun completely around when his father comes to town to bring him home (you’ll recall he learned Po was alive at the end of KFP 2).

What follows from here is basically a love letter to the Kung Fu movie genre, right down to the unconventional training techniques, montages, and “your chi is no match for mine!” moments.  You also get the expected drama from the goose that raised Po, Ping, who must learn to be happy for his son and support him in his new journey.

One of my favorite actors, JK Simmons voiced the villain, Kai, and Bryan Cranston was Li, Po’s father.  Both excellent additions.  One thing that bugged me throughout the movie was, I’m fairly certain they cut some scenes with Po and Tigress, possibly even more with Mei Mei (lady panda voiced by Kate Hudson).  After KFP 2 seemed to indicate Tigress developing feelings for Po, and Mei Mei basically built up as a complication to that, it seemed like it was dropped and everybody is just friends.  Oh, and while I thought the animation was great, it seemed like a few times they didn’t show something that would’ve been awesome – like Crane and Mantis fighting Kai.  Having more good moments for the Five keep them from sidekick status, and considering they were masters before Po, that’s a good thing.

Kung Fu Panda 3 was a fitting end to the trilogy, with Po maturing and coming full circle.  Like Toy Story 3, I’d be happy if this was the end but I believe they have another trilogy planned.  Considering the quality of the three movies so far, I’m good with that.

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Movie Review – The Amazing Spider-Man

Note:  some minor spoilers.

I’m going to shift things up a bit, as the movie has been out for a while.  First, I’d suggest reading this, which compares the Raimi Spider-Man movies with The Amazing Spider-Man.  This covers many of my problems with the movie, though I enjoyed it a bit more than that reviewer.

I’d like to doubly call out the new movie’s score for being terrible.  A good score stays out of the way of what’s happening on screen.  A great score adds depth and dimension.  A terrible score knocks you out of your immersion into the movie, and this one does that at a few different points.  Seriously, Gwen is hiding in a closet from a huge fucking lizard monster, and it sounds like there’s a pianist just hammering away on the keys just a few feet away.  I don’t normally get distracted by the music in a movie but I was rolling my eyes big-time.  Way to ruin a moment.

Speaking of Gwen, Emma Stone is absolutely gorgeous as Gwen Stacy, even though they wedged her firmly in the plot by having her work for Dr. Connors.  How convenient!  Much better love interest than Kirsten Dunst as MJ.

I was also bothered by Dr. Connors – I never felt sorry for him, not really.  He was successful, despite his missing arm, and the (small) references to Peter’s parents hurt the likability too.  Rhys Ifans is a good enough actor, but he just wasn’t given enough to work with to make Connors the tragic figure he needed to be.  You just sort of…shrug.

However, the action scenes with Spider-Man fighting the Lizard are AMAZING (heh).  The action looks like how Spider-Man would fight, using the webshooters in clever ways especially.  I used to think the Raimi movies had decent fights, but these blow them away.  I feel I got my money’s worth just from the combat.

Nitpicky stuff:  The shoes – I didn’t actually think that his shoes were sticking to the walls, any more than regular rubber-soled shoes would.  I’d have to see it again, though.  I liked the tech-based webshooters.  I thought they didn’t establish his love of science quite enough.  Why is Flash Thompson at a ‘Science’ high school if he’s a jock?  Seemed an odd change.  Denis Leary as Captain Stacy was fun.  Martin Sheen makes a good Uncle Ben, but the famous line didn’t make the cut.  I thought Raimi’s Spider-Man dealt with him dying better.  The older Aunt May worked better for me too, more like the comics and cartoons I’m used to.  Sorry Sally Field.

I’ll say the movie was worth it for me just for the action and Gwen, despite the rest of the emotional parts falling flat.  Still needs more humor, though I can see the conflict of putting more in when they are playing things a bit more serious than Raimi did.  Bring back JK Simmons as JJJ and I’m good.