Kung Fu Panda

Not rated yet!
Director
Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Runtime
1 h 30 min
Release Date
4 June 2008
Genres
Adventure, Animation, Family, Comedy
Overview
When the Valley of Peace is threatened, lazy Po the panda discovers his destiny as the "chosen one" and trains to become a kung fu hero, but transforming the unsleek slacker into a brave warrior won't be easy. It's up to Master Shifu and the Furious Five -- Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey -- to give it a try.
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Kyle Smith5
National Review



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Review: "Kung Fu Panda"
    BLACK POWER! Kyle Smith review of “Kung Fu Panda” rated PG 3 stars out of 4 Seth Rogen calls “Kung Fu Panda” co-star Jack Black “about one-eighteenth panda.” Not to question anyone’s ancestry, but that seems a low-ball estimate. Black plays the title character as if he were born in a bamboo patch, turning the latest from DreamWorks Animation into a big, plush funball. Even his voice is roly-poly, which sets him up perfectly to embody Po the Panda in a sort of Chinese take on “Nacho Libre.” As in that movie, Black starts out as a humble food server in a foreign land who yearns to be a legend of combat (this time the character’s mask is built-in). Slinging noodles at a humble restaurant (no one seems to notice that his father is a duck), Po is a tomato-shaped fanboy, a sort of Hairy Knowles, who thrills to the deeds of legendary martial artists the Furious Five. They include: Tigress (Angelina Jolie, who is not famous because of her voice), Mantis (Rogen, who doesn’t get enough to do) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). Po pictures fighting beside them, “his enemies [going] blind from overexposure to pure awesomeness.” Black’s bazooka delivery makes that line, and pretty much all of them, funny. If the guy rattled off the iTunes licensing agreement, it would be funnier than “What Happens in Vegas.” As one of the Furious Five is about to be anointed the next Dragon Warrior, Po schemes to watch – but instead tumbles into the middle of the ceremony and finds himself given the honor. “There are no accidents,” proclaims the placid, Obi-Wan-like Master Oogway the turtle (Randall Duk Kim). Oogway leaves it to the more ornery Yoda figure, a tiny red panda called Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, an excellent foil), to make something of the pillowy mammal. Po not only can’t see the path to true enlightenment, he can’t see his toes. He has to be tricked into training by making it part of lunch. Adding to the urgency is the problem of the kung fu maven who went bad, the imprisoned snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who is planning a jailbreak and a raid on the scroll that promises ultimate power. The animation is dazzling, so lovingly detailed you can make out individual hairs on the titular beastie, and full of bright Chinese images. Background characters at the restaurant – pigs and bunnies – are as cute and friendly looking as Richard Scarry creations, while a death is rendered with oblique charm by a blizzard of petals, and the action set pieces, such as Tai Lung’s prison break, are boldly stylized eye-poppers. Though the story is ostensibly similar to the cliché of a Westerner learning to accept Eastern ways – recently seen, for instance, in “Forbidden Kingdom” – the story is infiltrated by invincibly American ideals: to eat as much as we want, to make as much of a racket as we want, to “wash our pits in the pool of Sacred Tears.” Po speaks loudly and carries big shtick. Let the rest of the world cringe at our hyperconfidence, our charisma, our pure awesomeness.]]>
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  • Midterm Report Card: The Best Movies of The First Half of 2008
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    I’ve sat through so much bizarrely unwatchable dreck this year–movies whose scripts shouldn’t have made it past the intern who does the first read–that I am surprised to find, upon reviewing the record, that there were more than 10 movies I really liked. (Click on hyperlinks for my reviews.) So here we go: 1. Cassandra’s Dream. A haunting Greek morality play set on the Thames, with Colin Farrell doing excellent work. Woody Allen’s film left me with the shivers. (Note: this made Lou Lumenick’s Worst list.) 2. Funny Games. But don’t watch it. You can’t handle it. Clever, wicked, disturbing. The golf ball rolling into sight was about as terrifying a moment as I’ve come across on screen–but note that no violence is actually depicted in this film. It’s all implied, which makes it all the more gruesome. (This one also made LouLu’s Worst list.) It’s out on video. 3. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Some of the funniest scenes of the year in a raunchy but very human comedy about getting dumped. 4. Definitely, Maybe. Romcom charmer now on video, with three of the tastiest actresses working: Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher. 5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Depressing but searing Romanian film about a girl’s search for an abortion while she descends into a grimy netherworld. The scene in which her friend leaves her alone to attend a dinner party is one of the scariest and most suspenseful sequences of the year. 6. U2 3D. Reinventing the concert flick. U2 is, along with Bruce Springsteen (and, obviously, the greatest genius still living, Paul McCartney) the best concert act I’ve ever seen, and this film is as cool as seeing one of their shows. 7. Iron Man. Second half isn’t so hot, but the first half is mighty fun. Also has the best kicker of the year: “I am Iron Man.” Well, of course you are. And one of the best unbilled cameos (after the credits, it’s Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury). 8. Reprise. Norwegian film about young lovers and writers has the spirit of the French New Wave. 9. Kung Fu Panda. A movie ticket is $12 in Manhattan, and Jack Black’s voice is worth about $15 of that. 10. The Counterfeiters. Morally complicated Holocaust tale.]]>
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  • Thinking ahead to Summer 2011
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Even the biggest “Inception” fan (do they have a nickname yet?) would concede the current summer movie season stinks. “Prince of Persia.” “The A-Team.” “Iron Man 2.” “Sex and the City 2.” “The Last Airbender.” Did any of the aforementioned films deliver on their promise? So let’s look past this sorry season and take a peek at what next Summer has to offer. If you like superhero films, Summer 2011 will be cinematic paradise. “Thor.” “Captain America: The First Avenger.” “Green Lantern.” “X-Men: First Class.” Movie bloggers should start working on their “superhero overload” posts now, not later. The rest of the summer features the standard onslaught of unnecessary sequels. We’ll get a new “Pirates” film, a second “Hangover” and even the further adventures of “Kung Fu Panda.” The remake slate offers more promise. What will director Craig Brewer do with the “Footloose” template? And can a new version of “The Thing” recreate the chills from the John Carpenter remake? In baseball, spring training is a time of hope for every team – except the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same holds true for the summer movie season. Next year’s crop could be chock full of winners, even if our heads tell us otherwise. After all, could the forthcoming “Transformers 3” really be as bad as the second installment?]]>
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  • "Despicable Me" and Blockbuster Budgeting
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    If I ran a movie studio….it’s astonishing how much studios spend on animated fare. The results are often spectacular — I recall how gobsmacked I was to see “Kung Fu Panda,” in which individual hairs on the title character’s fur were distinguishable. But these movies have skyrocketed in cost — the original “Toy Story” reportedly cost $30 million, the second $90 million, the third $180 million. Unbelievable. Do little kids really need that kind of obsessive attention to detail? Do adults? Don’t we really just want a story that works, some characters that are interesting enough to spend time with and some funny jokes? Just because you can animate every single bubble in the wave doesn’t mean it’s a wise use of your money. It turns out “Despicable Me” cut some corners in animation. I didn’t notice this, and neither will you. But this means, says the Wall Street Journal, that the movie cost only $69 million, which is more or less a laughably small sum. (“Date Night” reportedly cost more than that, and it was basically a Thursday night sitcom with a couple of chase scenes thrown in.) It’s hard to imagine how “Despicable Me” could possibly lose money given its budget — and now it turns out to be a big hit, with lots of possibilities for sequels and merchandising. Hollywood economics is really about one thing–cost control. It’s mystifying to me that the honchos never learn this lesson. Instead they seem to operate on the rule that it’s okay to spend any amount of money as long as you’re sure the thing is going to be a hit….then you wind up with “Robin Hood” or “Sex and the City 2.”]]>
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Crosswalk1
Cross Walk



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Kung Fu Panda's Third Chapter Still Has Plenty of Kick
    Movies DVD Release Date: June 28, 2016Theatrical Release Date: January 29, 2016Rating: PG (for martial arts action and some mild rude humor)Genre: Animated/Sequel/FamilyRun Time: 100 min.Directors: Allessandro Carloni, Jennifer YuhCast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong While no one would mistake it for a Pixar level of greatness in terms of creativity or high-brow storytelling prowess, the Kung Fu Panda trilogy has been a consistently fun and family-friendly cinematic diversion for eight years now. And considering just how awful so many sequels are, especially in a genre that can be a shameless cash grab from parents who want to enjoy a movie with their kids, that's a fairly remarkable feat. It helps, of course, that these characters almost feel like old friends by now. Po (Jack Black, funny and charming as ever), at long last, has been reunited with his biological father (Bryan Cranston, Argo). But as happy of a development as that is (in the last installment, the big reveal was that Po wasn't an orphan after all), it stirs up unpleasant feelings of jealousy for Po's adoring adoptive dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong, The Lost Medallion), and leads to a bit of an identity crisis for Po. In what's another big change for the titular panda, his longsuffering mentor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, Chef) has recently informed him there's really nothing more he can teach him. Now encouraging Po to step into the role of teacher himself, something that isn't exactly in his natural skill set, Shifu has charged him with training the Furious Five, a.k.a. his faithful friends Tigress (Angelina Jolie, By the Sea), Viper (Lucy Liu, TV's Elementary), Crane (David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks), Monkey (Jackie Chan, The Tuxedo) and Mantis (a scene-stealing Seth Rogan, Neighbors) for their biggest battle yet. Their foe, a menacing supernatural baddie named Kai (a perfectly cast J.K. Simmons, Whiplash), is particularly formidable. Boasting about his secret weapon, namely the stolen relics of former kung fu masters that he stores like trophies on his belt, Kai's first battle is with his former student Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), an ancient tortoise who has succeeded in building physical strength but lost mental sharpness in the process.SEE ALSO: Plenty of Kick Found in Kung Fu Panda 2 googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); With Kai now threatening of all China and hoping to add a few more trinkets to his belt from Po and his pals, it's a chance for Po and the Furious Five to step up, use their own version of "The Force" and be all they can be. Giving everything your best in life and staying true to your friends are just two of many deeper themes that Kung Fu Panda explores with aplomb. But before drifting head-long into dreaded 'message movie' territory, the film balances these gentle life lessons with fun and footloose action sequences, snappy one-liners, plenty of belly laughs and the emergence of a surprising new Kung Fu Master who might even carry the franchise into the future. Anchored by lively vocal performances from a Who's Who of celebrity names, including a new female character, Mei Mei, voiced to perfection by Kate Hudson (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and eye-popping animation that truly maximizes the 3-D technology and transports the audience to the Far East, Kung Fu Panda 3 is proof that a simple concept, well-executed, can win over an audience again and again. CAUTIONS (May contain spoilers): googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Drugs/Alcohol: None Language/Profanity: No profanity, just a little scatological humor Sex/Nudity: None, only mild flirtations between characters Violence: Totally on par with previous installments with bloodless martial arts maneuvers. Po shoots people with buns emerging from his mouth, while the scenes with Master Ram feature blade-like weaponry that ups the ante only a little in the intensity department. Publication date: January 28, 2016SEE ALSO: Kids and Adults Will Get a Kick Out of Kung Fu Panda ]]>
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PJ Media Staff3
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Seth Rogen's 10 Best Movies
    Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'The Interview - Official Teaser Trailer - In Theaters This Christmas', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); When someone is threatened by a murderous dictator it's usually not something to cheer and laugh about. Unless it's my generation's funniest actor-filmmaker being intimidated in response to a satirical film about the tyrant's assassination.When one of the world's most evil men declares your work "an act of war" you're doing something right. The Verge reported:The government of North Korea today issued an unsurprisingly harsh statement about Seth Rogen's upcoming film, The Interview, denouncing the action-comedy as an "act of war." In the movie, Rogen and James Franco star as two journalists who, after scoring an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, are ordered by the CIA to assassinate him. In a statement published by the state-run KCNA news agency, a foreign ministry spokesman characterized Rogen as a "gangster filmmaker" and called upon the US to block the film, according to a report from the AFP."The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays an attack on our top leadership... is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable," the spokesman said, adding that the US would face a "resolute and merciless response" if it fails to ban the film, which is slated for release later this year.Rogen was born in 1982 and is 32 now -- making him 2 years older than me and part of my generational cohort of those born 1981-1985, which I argued in this article here should best be understood as stuck between generations, the Millennial-Xer Blend. (Those born 1976-1980 are Millennial-leaning Gen-Xers. Those born 1986-1990 are X-er leaning Millennials. I think it's only those born in '71-'75 and '91-'95 who tend to most embody the peer personality traits associated with the Generation X and Millennial stereotypes.)So I'm a fan. I think Rogen's consistently funny and now that he's expanded into screenwriting and directing he's  shining. He has real potential to be our generation's Woody Allen, minus all the narcissistic and creepy stuff. (Rogen doesn't seem to be particularly self-obsessed and most of his films have a moral core amidst the skillful vulgarity.)Here's how I'd rank his 10 best so far. We'll have to wait until October 10 to find out where The Interview ranks among them... class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/6/27/seth-rogens-10-best-movies/ previous Page 1 of 11 next   ]]>
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  • Monsters vs. Aliens: It Ain't No Kung Fu Panda
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    PJ Media I was hoping Monsters vs. Aliens might be a documentary about the American Trial Lawyers Association vs. the Taliban. Maybe both sides would get wiped out? However, it turns out the movie is a cartoon about a gelatinous blue blob, a brainy cockroach, a fish-man, and an oafish grub, all of whom are being held prisoner at a secret government hideaway ("this place is an X-File wrapped in a cover-up and deep fried in a conspiracy.") They are joined by a bride, who, when she encounters a radioactive meteorite, turns into an ungainly 50-foot feminist. Picture a sexy Janet Reno. Okay, that's asking too much.The bride (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is the least interesting of the monsters, yet has the central role as the zanier creatures befriend her while defending the earth against an alien invasion led by a four-eyed squid called Gallaxhar (the superb Rainn Wilson of The Office), who reassures the earthlings, "Just to recap -- I come in peace. I mean you no harm, and you all will die."This DreamWorks film more or less continues a pattern: Pixar movies are (usually) classics, whereas DreamWorks movies drop lots of allusions to classics. Funny sequences like a riff on the alien-attracting melody in Close Encounters of the Third Kind keep things entertaining but also give the movie the disposability of late-night sketch comedy. This uneven comedy is a cute but routine spoof of flying saucer movies loaded with pop culture references ("Oh, spaceballs!" is one exclamation of woe). More than a few of the jokes are labored: "The earth's getting warmer? It would be great to know that. It would be a very convenient truth."Monsters vs. Aliens doesn't meet the standards of recent cartoon features like last year's Kung Fu Panda and it's far short of more grownup animated fare like Ratatouille, but it has plenty of roaring action scenes. When an alien robot probe attacks San Francisco, the 50-foot woman sticks her feet in a couple of convertibles and uses them as roller skates. Scenes like these are designed to please the kiddies, especially those who see the film at one of the many theaters offering it in 3-D (an effect that requires bulky glasses handed to you at the door). class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/blog/monsters-vs-aliens-it-aint-no-kung-fu-panda/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
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The Federalist Staff3
The Federalist



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Your Guide To This Weekend's New Movies
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    There’s something for everyone in theaters this weekend. While the latest supervillain movie “Suicide Squad” is getting universally horrendous reviews, “Little Men” is being praised for its beautiful portrayal of the simple bond between childhood friends. Barry Sonnenfeld’s family comedy “Nine Lives,” starring Kevin Spacey as a dad who’s turned into a cat, is also released this weekend—along with the tragic drama “Five Nights In Maine” about a husband and mother-in-law’s shared grief at the passing of their wife and daughter. Meanwhile, those in the United States can access the animated “The Little Prince” based on Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic children’s book, on Netflix for the first time. While many are lauding the film for its simplicity and innocence compared to today’s vulgar children’s entertainment, some critics suggest director Mark Osborne ruined the original story by mixing in new elements. 1. “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer, starring Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Will Smith People have been waiting for this latest DC-Warner Bros. partnership for months, but so far the reviews of the movie itself have been relentlessly ruthless. Criticism has been so unfavorable that fans have actually taken to signing a petition to protest Rotten Tomatoes’ unfavorable 31 percent rating of the movie. Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal) In a word, “Suicide Squad” is trash. In two words, it’s ugly trash. Maybe no more words should be wasted on a movie that is, after all, only a movie, not a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Still, movies contribute to the collective awareness. They can color the way we feel about the life around us. This one deserves further attention by virtue of its exceptional cynicism and startling ineptitude. “Suicide Squad” amounts to an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment. A.O. Scott (New York Times) …“Suicide Squad” is a so-so, off-peak superhero movie. It chases after the nihilistic swagger of “Deadpool” and the anarchic whimsy of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but trips over its own feet. The colors are lurid and smeary (when it’s not too dark to see what’s going on). The language pushes the far boundary of its PG-13 rating. The death toll is high, and the weapons are nasty. In spite of all the mayhem and attitude, the overall mood is cautious. For a film about a gang of outlaw brawlers, “Suicide Squad” is awfully careful to stay inside the lines. Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly) Writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch) skillfully sets up the film, introducing each of the crazies with caffeinated comic-book energy. But their mission — to take down Cara Delevingne’s undersketched witch, Enchantress, and her giant golem-like brother — is a bit of a bust. The stakes should feel higher. As someone who isn’t fluent in Suicide Squad lore, I can’t imagine there wasn’t a better villain in its back ­catalog. Still, it’s nothing compared with how wasted Leto’s scene-stealing Joker is. With his toxic-green hair, shiny metal teeth, and demented rictus grin, he’s the most dangerous live wire in the film. But he’s stranded in the periphery. For DC, which blew it with Batman v Superman last spring, Suicide Squad is a small step forward. But it could have been a giant leap. B– 2. “Nine Lives,” directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Christopher Walken, Jennifer Garner, Tom Brand In this family comedy, the soul of dad Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) gets stuck in the body of “Mister Fuzzypants,” the cat. When Brand’s co-workers start conspiring to sell off his company, the now-furry feline must save the day. Owen Gleiberman (Variety) In “Nine Lives,” it’s supposed to be a major hoot that Spacey’s Tom Brand, a vaguely Trumpian New York entrepreneur obsessed with building the tallest, longest skyscraper in America, gets into a freak accident that transfers his personality into the body of a cat. (Meanwhile, the body of Brand himself lies in a coma. No, it doesn’t really make sense.) None of the members of his family can hear the cat talking, and neither can his back-stabbing business associates. That privilege is reserved for those of us in the audience. We’re the ones who are supposed to be cracking up whenever Mister Fuzzypants says something like “Oh, look, Satan’s over!” (as his lush of an ex-wife wanders into the room). There’s probably a funny mainstream comedy to be made (even for kids) that centers on a rascal of a talking animal. But that won’t happen until the people who make it figure out that it isn’t enough to hear an animal talk. He (or she) has got to say really funny things. John DeFore (Hollywood Reporter) This is a family movie about cats? Please, somebody tell the three separate teams of screenwriters credited with penning this thing. Before letting them go home, Nine Lives gives viewers plenty of out-of-place ex-wife-hating barbs; groan-worthy feline puns; an apparent suicide attempt; some acting that an experienced director should never have allowed onto the screen; and an unusually gruesome color palette. And if you think it’s going to fail to include a “Hang in There, Baby” joke, Sonnenfeld will beat that sight gag into the ground to make sure you don’t miss it. Sometimes, though, letting go of that rope is the best thing a poor cat can do. 3. “Little Men,” directed by Ira Sachs, starring Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri This version of “Little Men” explores the childhood bond between two Brooklyn boys: Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) and Tony Calvelli (Michael Barbieri). When Jake’s family moves to Brooklyn after his grandfather’s death, the two middle schoolers embark on a beautiful relationship, but it soon takes a hit due to the money problems of the adults in their lives. A.O. Scott (New York Times) When parents are around, “Little Men” feels like a modest, precise drama of urban life, but when it follows Tony and Jake, absorbing the loose rhythms of their companionship, the film becomes something richer and harder to classify. It’s a boys adventure story edged with unspoken risks, and the young actors take the kind of chances that their more careful and disciplined elders have been trained to avoid. There are inklings of sexual desire between the boys and implications of homophobia in the world around them, but mostly there is a sense of discovery and change, of all the unruly and enigmatic experiences often collapsed into the phrase “coming-of-age. Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) Sachs handles this material with sublime delicacy and feeling, even as circumstances of money and class push Jake and Tony apart. It’s time to realize that Sachs is a modern master, lyrically attuned to the cadences of what it’s like to be fallibly human. Little Men, with its two boys racing at life with the brick wall of maturity still at a distance, is funny, touching and vital. It’s truly an exhilarating gift. Peter Debruge (Variety) Instead of laying on the melodrama, Sachs keeps things subtle, telling his story almost exclusively through quiet moments, some of them so minor that our minds wander away entirely. Though “Little Men” was made on a startlingly small budget, nearly every supporting detail — from d.p. Oscar Duran’s careful framing to Dickon Hinchliffe’s life-affirming score (which hums with the anticipation of better things to come) — adds value to this little gem. 4. “Five Nights In Maine,” directed by Maris Curran, starring David Oyelowo, Diane Wiest Curran’s film attempts to capture the phenomenon of mourning. Young Sherwin (Oyelowo) is shattered when his wife dies in a car accident. He spontaneously undertakes to visit his mother-in-law Lucinda (Wiest), at her home in Maine, where the two struggle to deal with their grief as Lucinda battles cancer. Neil Genzlinger (New York Times) Maris Curran had plenty of opportunities to insert a cheesy plot twist into “Five Nights in Maine,” her delicate drama about loss and its aftermath. Yet she stayed true to her intentions, and the result is a believable character study that may not draw crowds but certainly challenges its two lead actors. Ms. Wiest and Mr. Oyelowo probe the pain slowly and convincingly. In the end, you may feel as if you didn’t know enough about either character. Some may consider that a weakness of this spare film, but it can also be viewed as a strength. Andrew Barker (Variety) In the absence of much understanding of either of these characters, a number of scenes and exchanges play almost like Rorschach tests, inviting viewers to fill in the details themselves. Curran’s refusal to hand-hold or prod her characters into exposition is clearly intentional, and theoretically admirable; grief, the film seems to argue, is an emotion that often plays out too far beneath the surface for an outside observer to really see it for what it is. But too frequently the film settles for arm’s-length mimesis of this behavior, rather than attempting to mine it for some sort of deeper truth, and a few of the film’s themes are both obvious and too obliquely handled to really connect. 5.“The Little Prince,” directed by Mark Osborne, starring Mackenzie Foy, Paul Rudd, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic children’s book has been translated into more than 250 languages since it was published in 1943. Americans have been anticipating Netflix’s release of the movie version ever since Paramount dropped it earlier this year. Director Mark Osborne has placed the original story within the frame of a tale about Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), a child struggling with the demands of her controlling mother. When she meets her next-door neighbor the Aviator (Jeff Bridges), he begins to tell her stories about a little prince he once encountered when his plane crashed in the desert. Here’s what critics had to say about Osborne’s take on the beloved book. Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal) It’s almost always bad news when someone tries to expand a classic with new material. But the early stretches of “The Little Prince” are less an expansion than an investigation—the Little Girl is refreshingly skeptical when the Aviator spins his stories of the Little Prince—and the material succeeds brilliantly. It’s a paradox, then, as well as a pity, that the film loses its way at precisely the point when the new story starts to merge with the old one, and the Little Girl meets a character called Mr. Prince. (He’s voiced by Paul Rudd.) Pretty much everything that follows is dramatically inert, and anticlimactic; even the closing credits go down instead of up. All the same, Mr. Osborne has done himself proud. What’s essential in his film is the singular beauty of the first half. Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly) One of the most inspired choices Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) makes is to build such a striking visual contrast between his two scenarios. The Girl’s has the smooth, hyperreal look of modern computer animation, but the Prince’s is pure magic: beautifully textured stop-motion frames that hold every bend of shadow and light in their crinkled, papery folds. The seams of the film’s parallel plots don’t always come together quite as neatly; translating de Saint-Exupéry’s metaphysical oddity into an at least semi-conventional kids’ movie is a challenge no one may ever quite be able to meet. But at its inventive best—like the creation of a little cloth fox who never speaks but steals almost every scene he’s in—it does capture the odd, tender wonder of his world. B+ Stephen Holden (New York Times) Although the message of the novella — that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” — is reiterated, the film’s caricature of the digital age atmosphere is so forbidding that it makes the charming fancies of “The Little Prince” seem quaint and frivolous. The movie, a Netflix release receiving a theatrical run, can even be seen as an allegory about filmmaking in today (by a director of “Kung Fu Panda”), straddling the line between modern and traditional styles and blending the best of both. Inevitably, youth, vigor and technological innovation triumph over nostalgia. ]]>
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  • Paramount Knew Four Months Ago That 'Monster Trucks' Will Bomb
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    The press release, by itself, would not normally elicit a big reaction from the entertainment press. Viacom made the announcement for investors of a revised earnings-per-share amount, lowering previous projections. In a beautiful corporate euphemism, the company attributed the lowered stock payout to “a programming impairment charge.” Investors saw the company incurring a write-down loss totaling $115 million from “the expected performance of an unreleased film.” The entertainment conglomerate, owner of Paramount Pictures, was absorbing a loss for the family-oriented title “Monster Trucks.” While certainly a stark figure, it is not uncommon for a studio to report revenue losses when one of its titles fails to go blockbuster. What was different about this fiscal declaration was the timing and the particular film. The announcement focused on a movie that opens on January 13, and came four months before the movie’s release date. Box office disasters are an infrequent but accepted reality in Dreamland, and it is not uncommon to see entertainment producers licking their fungible wounds. A studio often resorts to a stoic marketing effort for a sub-quality product, hoping to recoup some of the expenses. Other times they cut their losses. Rather than spend more on advertising and distribution, the studio will dispatch a title to the rental market. To behold a Hollywood major conceding defeat in this manner is indeed a rarity. The Promise of Disappointment Each year movie fans with affection for bad cinema note on the calendar the dates of releases that suggest a sublime viewing experience. Of the hundreds of titles Hollywood releases annually there are sure to be a handful that can deliver unintentional laughs. These may vary, depending on individual preferences and taste, of course—one’s garbage could always be another’s mirth. Yet every so often a blatant misfire looms that appears obvious to all. It becomes an unavoidable event. In a way these films resemble one of those crass roadside attractions available once your car drives onto an off-ramp. Everyone just knows. This is evidenced by a conversation I had with writer Paul Young, from ScreenRant: ME: So, “Monster Trucks” is coming. PAUL: Oh, yeah, that’s been on my radar. ME: I’ll be seeing it opening night! PAUL: I have notifications set when advanced tickets on sale! ME: I’m looking for it in 3D! PAUL: Hope it’s at IMAX! This is not a case of critics unfairly lobbying for a movie to fail. The plot line—a sea monster that is adept with tools and resides inside a pickup truck—would be enough to earn vitriol, but the story behind making the film set the expectations. Now the studio is admitting it has a cashflow bonfire on its hands. The effort behind this in-the-ditch release began in 2013. It was announced Paramount Animation intended to launch a new family film franchise, ushered in by then-president Adam Goodman. The director of “Ice Age,” Chris Wedge, was given the reins. Established script writers Jonathon Abel and Glenn Berger (who teamed for “The SpongeBob Movie” and the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise) were hired to formulate the story into a screenplay. Along with bringing in proven talent, the studio granted a healthy budget for the production. At issue, however, was the “concept.” The story derived not from a proven source material, nor the fertile trove of an imaginative writer; it came from a preschooler. Paramount was hurling a fortune in cash at a concept Goodman’s four-year-old son had hatched. What could go wrong? An answer: One hundred million things. Shooting took place in various parts of Canada in spring 2014, and at one point additional writers were brought in to rework aspects of the script. Copious CGI work was needed in post-production to animate the monsters and vehicle effects. The movie was prepped for a May 2015 release, as Paramount plotted a summer blockbuster to launch the franchise. Then signs began to arrive the movie was being wheeled into the motor pool. The studio announced they were shifting its debut to Christmas. This indicated that it needed work, but Paramount was still hoping it had a potential family hit. Then, near the original release date, Paramount announced another date shift to the lightly competitive schedule in March 2016. Six months later came yet another move, to its present premiere date, indicating the studio had given up. January is the traditional dumping ground for studio misfires. Disaster in the Making The question to ask in assessing how a film with an infantile premise became such a money sump is not “What went wrong?” The proper analysis here involves “How was this allowed to happen?” If an unreleased title is so obviously a failure, how was it not cut off earlier, before losing the equivalent of a third-world nation’s gross domestic product? The largest factor: the conception took place when Paramount was still financially vibrant. 2013 was a flush year for the studio, with nearly $1 billion in receipts. Optimism buoyed hopes of creating a new film franchise with built-in toy and marketing product lines. As shooting began in May 2014 (prepping for summer 2015) Paramount was having an even better time, clearing more than $1 billion by year end. The first sign of trouble was in January 2015, with the move to a Christmas release. The next month saw the departure of Goodwin, one year before his contract expired. His film, dubbed his “priority project for Paramount animation,” was now going through post-production without its executive backer. In May it became clear the studio was struggling with the property, revealed by that second release date change. Next, in August Bob Bacon, lead executive of Paramount Animation, left the company. Rather than seeking a replacement, Paramount eliminated his position. By the Viacom earning report this past September, Paramount also saw interim CEO Tim Dooley leave, as well as the studio’s vice chairman, Robert Moore. “Monster Trucks” was now all but abandoned by the side of the road. The Curse of the Fours Viacom has been a conglomerate with upper management conflict lately, and the parent has also been looking for investors or buyers for its Paramount division. The exodus of big-name board members has been connected partially to sale rumors. Another factor: the drop in film revenues. Despite those flush years Paramount was facing a rough economic road ahead. With the exception of “Transformers,” the company had few franchises with sustainable momentum. The 2015 film slate delivered about half of the previous year’s box office revenues. This year delivered a diminished “Star Trek” entry, a flagging “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sequel, and the outright bomb in the remake of “Ben Hur.” Adding in the projected loss from “Monster Trucks,” Paramount stands to lose $500 million in fiscal 2016. The result of a flawed concept, executive flight, and unknown studio prospects snowballed this film’s production mess. Once the budget was allocated and the production underway, “Monster Trucks” lost its driving force in Goodman. Dissolving the animation division then saw the title towed to backlot calendar dates as new executives grappled with how to handle the older-model lemon of a movie. That four-year-old’s inspiration seemed to set a curse. “Monster Trucks” has had four writers, four release dates, seen four major executives leave the studio, and after nearly four years its own studio predicted it will bomb—four months before it arrived in theaters. Paramount would rather forget it ever existed. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

The American Conservative Staff1
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Magic Feather Syndrome
    (”Kung Fu Panda” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Last year, we took our son to see the Broadway show about cheerleaders, Bring It On, based (very loosely) on the movie of the same name. He had a great time – a better time than I expected, frankly – and he had some incisive things to say about the plot afterwards. Incisive and media-savvy. Specifically, he asked whether the original movie was owned by Disney. No, I said; it was distributed by Universal. I knew it, he said; if it had been a Disney movie, the black team would have won in the end. This wasn’t really an observation about political correctness with regard to race. It was an observation about political correctness with regard to plot dynamics. The plot (of the musical) involves a white cheerleader, Campbell, who should be the head of the squad at her all-blonde suburban high school, being unexpectedly transferred to a “diverse” urban school where there is no cheerleading squad. But they do have a really impressive dance crew. And so, after establishing that she’s tough enough, talented enough and game enough to win the respect of the crew, she sets about turning them into a cheerleading squad by any means necessary (including lying about the possibility of winning a college scholarship). Eventually the truth comes out, and Campbell has to face what kind of person she has become in pursuit of her dream. She apologizes to her crew-cum-squad mates, and, after a rather easy reconciliation, they go on to compete for the national cheerleading title. In the competition, instead of playing by the rules and trying their hardest to win, they “do their own thing” – they focus on their art and on the effect they are trying to achieve, and don’t fret about whether they stay inside the lines or stay within the allotted time or perform the expected moves in the expected sequence. And as a consequence – they lose. They don’t even place. That’s what my son noticed, and what he thought was an “un-Disney” moment: the decision to make the moral not “if we are all true to each other, then we can do anything, even win nationals” but “if we are all true to each other, then we won’t really care about winning nationals.” I thought about that apropos of this article about the proliferation of “magic feather” stories in children’s movies. It seems the problem isn’t just Disney: For all the chatter about the formulaic sameness of Hollywood movies, no genre in recent years has been more thematically rigid than the computer-animated children’s movie. These films have been infected with what might be called the magic-feather syndrome. As with the titular character in Walt Disney’s 1943 animated feature Dumbo, these movies revolve around anthropomorphized outcasts who must overcome the restrictions of their societies or even species to realize their impossible dreams. Almost uniformly, the protagonists’ primary liability, such as Dumbo’s giant ears, eventually turns into their greatest strength. But first the characters must relinquish the crutch of the magic feather–or, more generally, surmount their biggest fears–and believe that their greatness comes from within.   Examples from the past decade abound: a fat panda hopes to become a Kung Fu master (Kung Fu Panda); a sewer-dwelling rat dreams of becoming a French chef (Ratatouille); an 8-bit villain yearns to be a video-game hero (Wreck-It Ralph); an unscary monster pursues a career as a top-notch scarer (Monsters University). In the past month alone, two films with identical, paint-by-numbers plots–Turbo and Planes–have been released by separate studios, underlining the extent to which the magic-feather syndrome has infiltrated children’s entertainment. Needless to say, the author, Luke Epplin, doesn’t think this is a good thing: It’s probably no coincidence that the supremacy of the magic-feather syndrome in children’s movies overlaps with the so-called “cult of self-esteem.” The restless protagonists of these films never have to wake up to the reality that crop-dusters simply can’t fly faster than sleek racing aircraft. Instead, it’s the naysaying authority figures who need to be enlightened about the importance of never giving up on your dreams, no matter how irrational, improbable, or disruptive to the larger community. As Jean Twenge, the controversial cultural critic of America’s supposed narcissism epidemic, argues in her bestselling book Generation Me, younger generations “simply take it for granted that we should all feel good about ourselves, we are all special, and we all deserve to follow our dreams.” Following one’s dreams necessarily entails the pursuit of the extraordinary in these films. The protagonists sneer at the mundane, repetitive work performed by their unimaginative peers. Dusty abhors the smell of fertilizer and whines to his flying coach that he’s “been flying day after day over these same fields for years.” Similarly, Turbo performs his duties in the garden poorly, and his insubordination eventually gets him and Chet fired. Their attitudes are all part of an ethos that privileges self-fulfillment over the communal good. In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification. The magic-feather syndrome has so thoroughly penetrated animated features that it’s difficult to imagine a film that doesn’t incorporate at least some of its tropes. Perhaps, you might be tempted to argue, kids movies have to be this way. But that’s easily debunked–just look at Pixar’s roster, which features a number of magic-feather narratives but also includes stories largely about family, friendship, and growing older. Epplin goes on to cite the work of Charles M. Schulz as the perfect antidote. But the assertion that nobody (other than, occasionally, Pixar) is making movies for kids that don’t hew to the “magic feather” script got me to thinking of the exceptions to that rule. Looking back over the past decade, here’s what I came up with: “Tangled” (2010). A Disney princess movie based on the story of Rapunzel, “Tangled” is about a lot of things – overcoming the legacy of emotionally abusive parenting, giving up on a projected bravado and letting oneself be vulnerable, heroic self-sacrifice (the prince actually dies in order to save his beloved), and the power of true love to overcome death. But it’s not about the magic feather. “Despicable Me” (2010). A movie about how the opportunity to give love can change you from a (failed) super-villain to a (successful) ordinary human being. Not a magic feather movie. “Coraline” (2009). A movie about the ultimate horror of embracing ideal fantasy rather than frustrating reality. Not a magic feather movie. “Enchanted” (2007). Another Disney princess movie! This one I’ve written about before. It does climax with the heroine vanquishing a fire-breathing dragon. Nonetheless: not a magic feather movie. “Charlotte’s Web” (2006). Y’all know what this one is about. But for the purposes of this discussion, it’s an interesting inversion of the magic feather theme. Because there’s nothing magical at all about Wilbur; he’s a perfectly ordinary pig, if anything a bit inferior (he’s a runt). It’s the extraordinary spider who loves him who makes everybody think he’s something special, so they won’t kill him. I’m sure there are more, but it was alarmingly tough to come up with those five – and too easy to think of movies that were badly damaged by allegiance to the magic feather theme (such as this one, or this one). Anyway, I’m curious to hear: what films am I forgetting, that were released in the past ten years, intended for children, not by Pixar, that either don’t follow or subvert the “magic feather” trope. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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