Movie Reviews

Kung Fu Panda – It’s like Kill Bill for kids

There is a noticeable difference between Disney’s and DreamWorks’ animated films: Disney’s are of such high quality that they do not need to rely on celebrity voiceovers, while DreamWorks sells their mediocre movies on the names involved. Usually. Even though DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda has a typical list of celebrity voices, it is far better than any of their previous animated flicks.

Jack Black lends his voice to play Po, an overweight, underqualified misfit appointed by the elders to defend the nation as the next “dragon warrior.” After constantly being ridiculed and tormented by the nation’s top five warriors, Po is faced with giving up or overcoming the odds.

While the plot is fairly typical and leaves hardly any room for surprise, the delightful entertainment along the way makes the ride well worth it. The witty script is filled with hilarious moments and great dialogue. For great, fun, family entertainment, Kung Fu Panda is it.

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
– Sandler’s first comedy worth messing with in a long time

When you saw the first trailer for You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, you probably thought exactly what everyone else thought: That looks awful. Surprisingly enough, if you can handle the vulgar factor, Zohan is a lot better than it looks.

Adam Sandler plays Zohan, the most effective Israeli combat soldier. Tired of secret operations always ruining his personal life, he decides to change his identity, move to America, and fulfill his ambitions as a hair stylist.

Though Zohan is PG-13, it is a very R-rated PG-13. It goes way beyond potty humor. There are countless references to genitals and sexual habits. You’ll see many women in sexually compromising positions, lots of male and female butt, and countless visual innuendoes mimicking NC-17 behavior. Be warned.

Written by Sandler, Robert Smigel (SNL) and Judd Apatow, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is random, cameo-stuffed comedy you’ve been waiting to see Happy Madison Productions make.

The Incredible Hulk
– The “Hulk smash” that we all want to see

It’s odd that five years after Ang Lee’s international flop The Hulk, Universal Pictures would decide to revisit and reboot the franchise. What’s even more odd is that they’re not advertising it as a reboot.

For The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios has teamed with Universal to release their second picture. Because their first, Iron Man, was so successful, you’re going to hear many people compare them. In reality, they are two different types of flicks. Iron Man, is an action and comedy driven blockbuster, while The Incredible Hulk is a story driven drama, tapping mostly into the “wanderer” feel of the television series.

Edward Norton, who cowrote the screenplay, plays Bruce Banner — a scientist whose accident-derived curse strips him of the woman he loves (Liv Tyler as Betty Ross) and forces him to run like Harrison Ford from Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. When another genetic scientist thinks he may be able to cure Banner from the green beast within, Banner comes out of hiding, returns to where it all happened, and searches for the needed missing pieces.

More than an action movie, The Incredible Hulk is filled with many dramatic elements. There are more scenes that dive into Banner’s dark personal life than there are of Hulk smash. Don’t misunderstand: the new Hulk smash is far superior to Lee’s. If you’re looking for a great drama, then check it out.

If you’re looking for another Iron Man, because you heard that Robert Downey Jr. shows up as Tony Stark, then don’t get your hopes up too high. Though Stark does appear in The Incredible Hulk, they are two completely different types of movies.

The Happening
– Considering its title, there’s not much going on

Before hearing what I have to say, know that I ‘m an M. Night Shyamalan fan. In my opinion, The Sixth Sense is a supernatural thriller which threw everyone for a loop, Unbreakable is a beautiful, personal struggle about learning your strengths, SIGNS is a testimony of God and divinity, The Village is touching story about the cost of love and loss, and Lady in the Water is a fairytale for adults that gives us a chance to feel like kids again.

The trailers for The Happening have been vague, as if hiding a secret as big as The Sixth Sense‘s ending. All you know beforehand is that an airborne toxin is blowing around, causing people to lose control of their speech, become disoriented, and kill themselves in the quickest way possible. Even if you hate Shyamalan, you have to admit it’s an amazing idea for a film.

Out of everyone who I know, I’m the only one who has wanted to like this movie. You’re reading it from the words of a huge Shyamalan fan: The Happening is the worst movie of the year. Here’s what I think: On Yahoo’s movie site, there’s an exclusive clip of The Happening beginning with a two-minute segment in which Shyamalan explains how he came up with the idea. He gets so excited about how great an idea it was that you feel like he might tell you the whole thing instead of show you the clip.

I think Shyamalan came up with such a great idea — which it definitely is — that he wrote and filmed the movie too quickly, not focusing on characters, story or direction.

Nearly the entire movie focuses on a small group of people aimlessly wandering around through the Pennsylvania countryside trying to escape an invisible monster. Of the three main characters played by Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo, the only one that you care for has the least screen time. The film attempts to bring up emotion between the other two, but you never care about them. And the side characters are so odd and outlandish that, at times, you fear them more than you fear the results of the toxin.

In all of his other films, Shyamalan banked on his intensity by never showing you anything. He let your imagination paint the picture. In his introduction to the Yahoo clip, he explains that the only way he could make this film as frightening as it could be was to show you everything, landing it an R-rating. The only problem with that becomes evident as you watch the film — Shyamalan doesn’t know how to effectively show you graphic violence.

Minor spoilers:

In one great scene, you see a cop from the abdomen down. You see his hand retrieve his gun and go off screen. His body falls lifelessly to the ground with a bullet hole in his forehead. As the camera pans back, you see where the gun fel
l. Feet appear on the screen as another person’s hand picks it up. Bang. Another body falls dead into the frame. And again. That scene works. We did not need to see the shot to the head to feel the threat.

In another scene, this one less effective, you see a zookeeper walking zombie-like into a lion den. He dangles his arms in front of a female lion, who slowly rips the man’s arm off. After seeing the reaction from spectators, we cut back to the one-armed man. Already afflicted with one bleeding stump, he quickly loses his other arm to another lion’s gaping maw. It’s obvious Shyamalan was trying to make a shocking scene, but instead it feels like a Saturday Night Live sketch mocking his movie.

End spoilers. The Happening feels like a made-for-TV disaster movie. While it has an amazing idea, it never even gets close to reaching its potential. And if the critics’ harsh reviews of The Village caused Shyamalan to kill a critic character in Lady in the Water, I’m afraid our bad reviews of The Happening may throw him overboard. This time, he’s either going to kill a real critic, retire, or go into hiding, write something amazing and, in a few years, blow us all away. Let’s hope he chooses the latter.

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