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Kung Fu Panda 2

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Poster for the movie "Kung Fu Panda 2"

Kung Fu Panda 2

Prepare for the Year of Awesomeness!

20111 h 31 min
Overview

Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five - Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. It is up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? He must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

Metadata
Runtime 1 h 31 min
Release Date 25 May 2011
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fantastical film that perfectly follows up the first movie. Many aspects of the film are done just the right way, from character development to the hero vs. villain conflict to aesthetics and more.  This film is equal to Dreamworks’ other epic sequel films, like Shrek 2 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Despite being known as underdogs to Disney, Dreamworks continually puts out somewhat underacknowledged movies that are still pretty darn good. With a powerful blend of action, comedy, and storytelling, Kung Fu Panda 2 more than holds its own.

Being a sequel, we already know a bit about some of the characters here. Going in we already know a lot about Po so, while the film still focuses on him a lot, we have more time for side characters. The Furious Five all get more developed here (particularly Tigeress) as they accompany Po on this new adventure. Po/Jack Black’s arc focuses less on who he is and more on why he is that way. And extending from there, what kind of person he will grow into in his life as the Dragon Warrior. As is usually the case with heroes, Po is largely shaped by the villains he faces.

Shen gets a fair amount of screen time and was a much better villain than Tai Lung in the first film. That is not to say Tai Lung was a bad villain, there is just so much more to Shen. Audiences get to see more of Shen’s past, his goals are much grander, and the atrocities he commits are darker. The way his movements are animated are also very elegant; the animators took advantage of his peacock body and incorporated that into his fighting style. He sees himself as a poised gentleman while his temper and ruthlessness show his true self: an arrogant, merciless monster.

The creators of Kung Fu Panda 2 clearly did their research regarding China more ways than one. The land in the film is referred to as “China” by the characters, just with talking animal people here. The landscape, from farmlands to mountains, all resemble China’s actual geography. The architecture of the buildings, the food characters eat, everything is taken from Chinese culture. The villain Shen is even a white peacock (white symbolizes death in China). The Kung Fu Panda series even caused a stir in China regarding how accurate they are for American made films. While Disney still wins all the awards, Dreamworks shows its own films are on par (except Shrek 3 & 4).

May 27, 2018

Batman: The Killing Joke

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Poster for the movie "Batman: The Killing Joke"

Batman: The Killing Joke

The madness begins.

20161 h 12 min
Overview

As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.

Metadata
Director Sam Liu
Runtime 1 h 12 min
Release Date 24 July 2016
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

 

Warning: This review WILL contain spoilers about The Killing Joke. Yes, the movie is new but if you have not picked the book up in the last 28 years that is kind of on you.

The Killing Joke graphic novel was one of the most influential works in comic book history. Author Alan Moore created his own version of the Joker’s origin and the psychology behind The Clown Prince of Crime’s madness. Largely considered to be one of the most definitive stories in DC Comics, what was original supposed to be a one-shot non-canon story laid the groundwork for what became widely accepted as the Joker’s origin story. Furthermore, it provided a set-up for the future of the character Barbara Gordon and provided readers with a concrete in-universe analysis of the Joker and Batman’s relationship.

Skip forward almost three decades after the graphic novel was originally produced and now we have a film to go with it. Nothing from the book was left out; in fact, quite a bit was added into the film version. Normally adding a bunch of stuff in when taking a book to the big screen is a bad idea. But for this story, it was necessary for two reasons. First of all, The Killing Joke is a short book. Just taking it panel and panel and turning that into film form would probably have not been enough to give audiences a full-length film. Secondly, audiences who are unfamiliar with this story needed what was added into the story as a prologue.

Before The Killing Joke truly starts, the film version opens up with a story about Barbara’s last adventure as Batgirl before hanging up her cape and mantle for a civilian life. Making this movie, the creators needed to do something like this. In the Killing Joke itself, the only time Barbara appears is when she is shot. If audiences do not know anything about her and do not have a reason to care, her paralysis will not have the emotional affect it is meant to convey. The issue was how they choose to handle it. This segment shows Barbara displaying feelings for Batman and she kind of has sex with him under some gargoyle statues on a rooftop (lucky gargoyles…). People who are familiar with the comics know that this is pretty out of character. She dated Dick Grayson, the first Robin, and the other members of Batman’s team are generally portrayed as looking up to him as a father figure. Having her suddenly lusting after him was just not the way to go. While they did need something at the beginning of the movie, it was not this.

Ok, into The Killing Joke itself. Everything from the graphic novel is in here and then some. A few scenes were expanded in order to lengthen the film, such as Batman searching for the Joker after discovering his latest escape from Arkham Asylum. The film is just as dark and gritty as the comic; the Joker torments Commissioner Gordon by injuring, paralyzing, and sexually abusing his daughter. He does this all to prove a point: that anyone can be driven as mad as him under the right circumstances. But at the same time, seeing the Joker’s origin story and how he became insane makes him kind of a sympathetic character in this story. At both the beginning and the end, Batman attempts to convince the Joker to let him help. To get rehabilitated. And both of these scenes, particularly the final scene of the film, is made all the more powerful by having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their iconic voice acting roles as Batman and the Joker. While this film adaptation is not everything it could have been, it is still an excellent watch for any comic book fan.

August 28, 2016