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Showing posts from August 20, 2017

Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

Po (voiced by Jack Black) has been promoted to Dragon Master status, meaning it is now his responsibility to carry on the teachings of Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman). It doesn’t go terribly well. He also gets a visit from his own birth father Li Shan (voiced by Bryan Cranston), who wants to teach him how to eat and live like a true panda. Adopted father Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong) is somewhat jealous of this father-son bonding. Meanwhile, a new evil emerges from the afterlife, General Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons) to start capturing everyone’s ‘chi’ and turning them into jade zombies, including Po’s comrades. It’s up to Po to train an army of roly-poly, lethargic pandas into a capable army to stop General Kai’s zombie attack. Angelina Jolie (Tigress), David Cross (Crane), Seth Rogen (Mantis), Lucy Liu (Viper), and Jackie Chan (Monkey) all reprise their voice roles.

If I saw the previous “Kung Fu Panda 2” in whole, I don’t really recall much if any of it. I do remember rath…

Review: Step Brothers

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play two developmentally-challenged (i.e. Juvenile and lazy man-children), middle-aged losers still living at home with clearly no desire to change that arrangement. Ferrell’s single mum is the nice, beautiful and loving Mary Steenburgen, whilst Reilly’s single dad is the long-suffering Richard Jenkins. The two parents hook up, decide to move in together, and instant, violent (sophomoric) hatred is formed between the two sons forced to room together. The two eventually find a common enemy in Ferrell’s smarmy, more successful brother Adam Scott. Seth Rogen has a pretty funny cameo as one of the interviewers the guys meet when forced to seek employment (resulting in one of the funnier fart gags I’ve come across in a while).

The team behind “Talladega Nights” strike out in this largely unfunny 2008 Adam McKay misfire. The problem is that Ferrell and Reilly have their best moments when their characters start to actually bond over a common enemy (Scott) and …

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Archaeologists uncover the tomb of the powerful mutant En Sabah Nur, AKA Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) who is freed from his holding cell and proceeds to run amok, recruiting a couple of followers along the way. He wants to set the world back to what it was during his era, which could lead to absolute global catastrophe. Needless to say Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his mutant X-Men have their work cut out for them. Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has his cover blown while hiding out in Poland, leading to tragedy which in turn causes Eric to act out violently. Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) turns up in East Berlin and comes across young mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), whilst a new face turns up at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), younger brother of Alex/Havoc (Lucas Till). Scott has the special power of shooting powerful laser beams out of his eyes, something that he feels to be more of a curse than a superpower at t…

Review: Trumbo

Bryan Cranston stars as Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who is blacklisted in the 1940s by the House Committee on Un-American Activities under suspicion of being a Communist. Refusing to name names, Trumbo is essentially isolated within the industry and even serves jail time for contempt of congress. Among his chief opponents are powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Dame Helen Mirren) and red-hating man’s man John Wayne (David James Elliott). However, he is able to make a comeback of sorts via pseudonymous screenwriting and even winning a couple of Oscars during this time. Michael Stuhlbarg plays actor Edward G. Robinson, a noted liberal whose loyalty and support to Trumbo and his fellow ‘Hollywood Ten’ is severely tested under threat to his career. Louis CK plays Arlen Hird, who is actually a composite of five of the ‘Hollywood Ten’ members. Diane Lane plays Trumbo’s wife, Elle Fanning is Trumbo’s daughter, John Getz plays an a-hole Sam Wood (director of a couple of Marx Bro…

Review: Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has gone off the grid and turned into an underground fighter in some Eastern European hellhole. He’s propelled back into action when contacted by his former CIA handler Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who has also left the fold. She contacts Bourne to give him vital information about his father (Gregg Henry) and specifically how he died. Meanwhile the CIA, under the direction of Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his personal assassin known as ‘The Asset’ (Vincent Cassel) are on the lookout for Bourne, who in turn is coming straight for them anyway. Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee, Dewey’s underling who tries to get Bourne back into the fold rather than having to rub him out. Riz Ahmed plays a tech tycoon who has developed a program useful in accessing people’s private information, which figures into the plot.

I don’t have much time for this franchise nor all that much knowledge of it or the Robert Ludlum novels. I didn’t sit all the way through the first film…

Review: Sleepers

Starting in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 60s, where four young friends (Brad Renfro and Jonathan Tucker among them) attempt to pull a prank on a hot dog vendor commandeering his cart, a stunt that proves fatal and will change the boys forever. Found guilty of reckless endangerment, they are sent to a reform school, where they are under the rule of a cabal of sadistic and perverted guards. The guards are headed by the repugnant Kevin Bacon, who leads his crew in mental, physical, and sexual abuse on the boys. Cut to 1981 (in a film containing enough plot for one film already), and the boys have never gotten over their brief but torturous stay at reform school. Two of them (now played by Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup) have become petty crims who encounter Bacon (in a major contrivance) in a restaurant one night, and take out their revenge on him. Childhood buddies Brad Pitt and Jason Patric take an interest in the events, with Pitt now a DA planning on prosecuting his former buddies, …

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Veteran chicken-stealer Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) has been forced to a life of crime-free domesticity by his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep) as they raise their son. Their nephew is also staying with them. Eventually the Fox family move into a new house in a tree, however with a perfect view of the farms run by farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (the latter voiced by Michael Gambon), temptation proves too much for Mr. Fox and he plots his latest scheme to raid the farms of their chickens, ducks, and even cider.

This 2009 adaptation of one of the first Roald Dahl books I ever read isn’t perfect, in fact I think the mostly American voice cast is completely wrong. However, so far as Wes Anderson (“Rushmore”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) films go, well this is the only one I’ve liked since his debut “Bottle Rocket”.

So that counts for something. What I love about this film is the use of stop-motion animation, which is completely charming. The film looks absolutely terrific, it’s probab…