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Kung Fu Panda June 10, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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In the near future, we will be inundated with animated films. You will see funny gangster films. Then there will be comical disaster flicks. After that it will be the turn of hilarious scary movies followed by sidesplitting torture porn. And the characters in all these films will obviously be talking animals.

Right now, it is the turn of the animated kung fu comedy. The animals are totally unnecessary except, of course, that they are needed to bring in the target audience and they certainly will.

The setting is new for animated films but the premise is very old. Po (the Panda) doesn’t want to join the family noodle-making business. Instead he dreams of becoming a kung fu master. Due to a surprising turn of events, Po is selected as the dragon warrior who will be “the one” to thwart the greatest threat to their town. Obviously he isn’t “fit” enough for the job and has no clue what he is doing. But as you can guess, he will get the job done in the end.

Despite the mostly positive reviews by critics, I didn’t warm to the film immediately. It felt like more of the same. Nothing novel or funny enough to get me hooked. But as the film progressed it did get better (particularly, after the Panda’s training session began) and it finally ended up entertaining me just enough to keep me from swearing off animated films for a while. I might have actually enjoyed a live action version of this film more (it is easier for a real human to put a smile on my face).

The best part of the film is the action. A few superbly choreographed and brilliantly animated action sequences provide the primary reason to watch this film. It isn’t easy for action to make the right impact in an animated film but the the technical team gets it right in this one and their work is praiseworthy. A major strength of many animated films, the voice cast in this film also is terrific. The best work is for the primary characters voiced by Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Mater Shifu) and Ian McShane (Tai Lung). The others in the cast like Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen don’t get enough scope to impress.

If you’ve got kids, you are probably going to have to watch this film anyway and the kids will love it. If you are one of those who hasn’t yet had enough of the talking animal movies, you should love this one too. For those who might look for entertainment with more adult appeal, this film doesn’t have too much.

The Forbidden Kingdom April 25, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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This martial arts script seems interesting.
Hmm.. not bad. It will need a big star like Jackie Chan or Jet Li.
Wait a minute! There’s two sizeable roles here. How about putting Jackie Chan and Jet Li together? That should guarantee box office returns.
Thats a sensational idea. But will it appeal to a larger audience in North America? How about putting an American in the middle?
Now, who wrote this?
John Fusco.
I should get him to work on a rewrite immediately.

It is possible that the film was conceived this way. Maybe it wasn’t.

As you can figure out by now, an American boy is at the centre of this film and he is crazily devoted to kung fu cinema. After an unforeseen turn of events involving an altercation with the local thugs and a shooting incident, the boy gets hold of the weapon of the Monkey King, a warrior from ancient China (presumably). Now the boy is magically transported to an unknown land (where fortunately, the friends and foes can speak English). His mission is to deliver the weapon back to the Monkey King and free him in the process so that he can overthrow a truant ruler. He is accompanied on his mission by a drunken kung fu master, a monk and a girl bent upon revenge. He also learns kung fu along the way and it stands him in good stead in his world.

The teaming of Jackie Chan and Jet Li is obviously the big deal in this film but I wouldn’t say that this film is tailored specially for the pairing. I am not sure if fans were expecting to see them pitted against each other but that isn’t the case here (though they have one enjoyable duel). Nevertheless, they work well together. Jet Li is especially hilarious as the Monkey King. The younger cast members, Michael Angarano (Sky High) and Liu Yifei are likable.

The film is really an action comedy with an element of fantasy. Director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) maintains the comic tone throughout except for a small part towards the climax where he attempts to involve you emotionally. The comedy in this film might not make you roll on the floor but it is amusing enough. The film does have some good locations/sets and pleasing cinematography but there isn’t an attempt to enchant the audience with the visuals. When Yuen Woo-Ping (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill, Matrix) choreographs the action sequences, you can be sure they are first-rate and obviously the two J’s look good executing them.

Despite the epic setting, this fantasy isn’t an epic. It isn’t a classic and it isn’t trying to be. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining entry in the martial arts comedy genre that is aimed at an audience looking for a fun night out. Fans of the genre and the two lead actors should definitely enjoy this non-serious adventure.

Rush Hour 3 January 16, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker (who was overpaid for replaying the only role that he has in the last decade) reteam with director Brett Rattner to deliver the third film in the Rush Hour franchise. The film made some money at the box office but was far less successful than its predecessors. Did I hear someone add “thankfully”?

The plot is all too familiar. An assassination attempt on a Chinese ambassador brings Chan and Tucker together to investigate. A little slapstick, some mildly funny scenes, a few Chan style action sequences, a couple of good looking women on the screen, a bit of travel, a lot of boring interludes and finally the bad guys are done away with.

Simply put, this is quite a boring endeavor if you’ve seen the first two films. I really couldn’t recollect much of the film an hour after I saw it. Yes, I laughed a few times and its always nice to see Jackie Chan’s action sequences but the material is too familiar and repetitive despite the six year gap. Watch it only if you are a big fan of the series (or if you are on a long flight as I was).