Kung Fu Panda 2

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYet another sequel this weekend (there seem to be a staggering number of them out and upcoming right now), this one more for the kiddies.

Kung Fu Panda 2

“This could be the end of Kung Fu.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A threat to kung-fu is unleashed by a scary peacock. Only the gang from the first film (who else?) can stop it.

See it if you like: CGI cartoons with decent humour, great visuals and a developing story.

Like the Shrek series, Kung Fu Panda takes the events of its first film and starts to add more detail, fleshing out the characters. In this one, we focus on Po‘s past. After all, did you really thing a panda was fathered by a stork?

Surrounding this extra level of characters detail is a story about a terrifying force which could destroy kung fu as we know it. Po and his cohorts are charged with hunting down the source of this evilness and destroying it. This is done in a very visually pleasing way with some good gags and great voice acting from a superb cast.

I confess, however, that I never really warmed to it in much the way the first one never really got my imagination going. I much preferred the original on DVD after a couple of watches – I didn’t think that much of it in the cinema either. No idea why not – they’re both my kind of film – but something just didn’t hit home for me.

At least it’s a more original sequel than Hangover 2, and it kept all three kids who were with us entertained. Little Mister was so enraptured he forgot to drink his Capri-Sun for about 20 minutes.

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Monsters / The Tourist

Gill and I popped over for our hopefully-now-regular two-film shift in Glasgow on Friday night. The timings of the performances gave us the following as out best choices for the evening:


Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl and must travel through alien-infested jungle to get her safely home to dad. Only without many aliens.

Just to clarify something – Monsters is not actually a monster film as such. It’s a film that sets itself around an environment where monsters are present, but is very much a road movie – a film about the two main characters making a journey from A-B. So for those you you disappointed with the lack of disembowellings and big jumpy shocks, don’t say you weren’t warned.

This is cheap film-making at its best. Written and directed by Gareth Edwards, he made the entire thing for around £500,000. This is tiny compared to most Hollywood efforts, despite having a solid (if small) cast and excellent special effects. Every set used is a real building. Every outdoor scene is really outdoors. No special builds were used. The majority of people in the film are just locals who were kicking about. The film crew consisted of two people, as does the central cast.

Best of all, it a) works and b) doesn’t look like it cost so little.

Scoot McNairy and Whitley Able play Andrew and Samantha, thrown together when Andrew’s boss demand that he get his daughter back to the U.S. They’re both in Mexico, and the land between the two countries is classed as an “Infected Zone”, harbouring aliens brought back to earth by a crashed space probe.

On the way they encounter corrupt officials, thieves, friendly locals, guns for hire and – yes – some monsters/aliens. Rather than going for the “big jumpy out” type of creatures, Edwards has instead opted for a sense of “what’s happening next?” which is far better. Most people haven’t seen these aliens except on television, so the characters are torn between fear and curiosity in places.

I would not say this is the best road movie or alien movie ever made. However, I would recommend watching it as it’s fantastic proof that an entertaining and gripping film doesn’t need a budget well into the millions.

The Tourist


Plot-in-a-nutshell: A case of mistaken identity leads an innocent tourist into being mistaken for an international fraudster. But he does get to snog Angelina Jolie, so that’s OK.

I wanted to see this for the humour in the trailer. Gill wanted to see it so she could drool over Johnny Depp. And Angelina Jolie. Strange girl. Anyway.

I saw enough of the trailer to think I wanted to see this, but I have a feeling a lot of the jokes and action are in there. However, it’s still a great ninety minutes or so of pure cinematic candy floss. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll enjoy it.

Elise (Jolie) is the girlfriend of the accountant of a gangster who’s done a runner with a couple of billion dollars. She receives a note – jump on a train, find someone who kind of looks like me and make the police believe that is me. Said accountant has had $20m worth of plastic surgery so nobody knows what he looks like. The idea is to throw police (including Paul Bettany‘s tenacious Inspector) and gangsters (led by Reginald Shaw, played by Steven Berkoff) off the scent so that the two can meet properly and make their escape into obscurity.

But that would be too easy. Instead, Elise falls for Frank (the tourist) and worries about what could happen to him if the police or gangsters get hold of him. So we have Elise caught between trying to catch up with her man while trying to rescue the other chap she dragged into the situation.

It’s all very silly, but fun. Jolie is quite sexy (I’ll be honest – I’m not normally a huge fan), Depp is airheaded and panicky, Battany is tenacious and Berkoff is a bastard. With the lovely setting of Venice, it makes for an interesting little movie that’s a worthwhile way to spend part of your evening.

Don’t expect a classic, but do expect to enjoy it. The crowd in the cinema (a near sell-out) were laughing out loud at some of the dialogue. It’s not too often that happens these days.

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Expendable Salt

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables

A quick two-review post (sorry, buried in other work) on the day I renewed my Cineworld pass again. Damn, I was trying to resist. But there are too many good films coming out. I’ve found one flaw with the Edinburgh cinema, though – it is on a leisure park with a paid car park and the validation at the cinema only allows up to 4 hours of free parking. No good for a full day at the cinema! In fact, not long enough for two films back to back without running out, circling theblock in the car and going back in!


Alright, first up was Salt, the new Angelina Joli film that I believe – like a huge number of films out these days – is based on a comic.

Good action sequences, Joli is very good at them (no surprise after her turns in the Tomb Raider movies and, more recently, Wanted), and a very predictable plot. If anyone who sees this film doesn’t spot the ending a mile away then they seriously need to start thinking about going back to school.

Enjoyable, but ultimately unfulfilling. If it hadn’t been trying to be a thriller I’d have been more forgiving, but it needs more of a plot to reach that level.

The Expendables

And onto a film that’s been followed by the press since its very inception was announced. Featuring not just director/writer Sylvester Stallone, but also Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis this is the first film to actually star all three. Only it doesn’t really. Arnie and Bruce have nothing more than overlong cameos.

Instead, main roles are taken by Jet Li, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren with an aging Mickey Rourke playing the cool older guy. Certainly no lack of muscle talent, then. The plot certainly has a lot less meat on it, but who cares?

The film really does hark back to the action films of the 80’s with a thin story, beefy lead (well, about 3/4 of a tonne of them) and sequence after sequence of mental action. The explosions are simply huge and the action segments ridiculously overblown to the point of utter incredulity… but it’s fun. Not as much fun as The A-Team was (it lacks the humour), but fun nonetheless.

Must be seen on the big screen with a cracking sound system and thumping bass.

Told you they’d be short reviews. OK, back to the lesson planning.

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