It's the rare sequel that lives up to the original. Paul McGuire Grimes from the website Paul's Trip to the Movies thinks the third installment in the "Kung Fu Panda" series is still going strong.
He also thinks "Straight Outta Compton" is worth watching at home, even if you aren't a fan of rap music. But skip the new Disney movie "The Finest Hours". Paul says it's just not any good. More of his thoughts on these three films are below.
KUNG FU PANDA 3 (theatrical release)
The adventures of Po and the Furious Five continue on his this third chapter of Dreamworks’ franchise. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman and the rest of the gang are all back along with some new faces for this story of the power between fathers and son. Master Shifu announces that he is offering his final class of enlightenment and kung fu training and is handing the teaching reigns over to Po. Po’s first day goes horribly awry as he doesn’t believe he has the power inside of him for such a task. In an unexpected turn of events for Po, his long lost biological dad, Li, shows up and takes him back to his home village. His “adopted” dad, Mr. Ping, fears being replaced by Li and sneaks along for the trip. Po’s unaccustomed to true panda life so this is all very new to him. Throughout all of this, an evil spirit by the name of Kai has been sent back to Earth from the spirit realm. He was a supreme warlord of China who stole the chi (the energy flowing within us) from ancient warriors and was banished to the spirit realm. He’s back and can only be stopped by a true master of chi.
-Kate Hudson, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons are new to the franchise.
-Unlike other animated sequels, Kung Fu Panda 3 feels like the story and themes come first versus a set of annoying characters that are guaranteed to make kids laugh and adults groan.
-Makes family a priority in this one in its themes. The idea of family extends to the film’s cast as Jack Black’s son has a voice in it as well as some of Angelina Jolie’s children.
-Po learns that his real strength comes from being the best version of himself even if it takes some time for him to learn that.
-The animation is quite top notch with the multiple locations in which the story takes place. I always think when the animation is this good that 3D enhances it in a way that it can’t do for many live action films.
- The film is funny without relying on old gags or potty humor, which is another trap for animated buddy films. The humor seems innocent and shouldn’t ware thin on the parents taking their kids to the theater.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? For its third outing, Kung Fu Panda 3 is still wholesome entertainment with good lessons behind it.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
THE FINEST HOURS (theatrical release)
Disney is no stranger at taking true stories and attempting to turn them into inspiring movies. They’ve done that with many underdog sports films. Their latest is focused on a 1952 Coast Guard mission that is considered to be one of the greatest and most daring rescues to date. The SS Pendelton was an oil tanker caught in the middle of a huge storm. The gale force winds whipped through at 50-60 miles per hour and struck the tanker completely splitting it in two. As the senior officer and chief engineer, Ray Sybert, tries to rally the crew in order to get them to work together when many of them would rather jump ship and risk it out on life boats. News of their tragedy spreads to the Coast Guard and Ben Webber risks all ends by taking a small crew in a motor boat out to rescue them.
-Stars: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, Ben Foster
-If you’ve seen any of these Disney true story movies, they all feel the same after awhile. It becomes quite predictable with stock characters and bad dialogue all leading up to its feel good ending.
-The acting is all over the place with Chris Pine playing it very safe and earnest and Casey Affleck trying really hard to make his one dimensional character have depth.
-The script doesn’t give any bond between the members of the coast guard or the tanker leading to a lack of emotion throughout the movie. The only backstory in the movie is given to Chris Pine’s character who falls in love and gets engaged before the storm hits.
-Don’t see it in 3D, the conversion makes the special effects look horrible and unrealistic.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Go and do some research on the Coast Guard and what their mission is instead of seeing this.
RATING: 1 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (home release)
The year was 1986, and three young men struggling to find there place took it upon themselves to start a new revolution of music that would not alone define themselves but challenged the societal norms that were forced upon them. Compton, California was a poor city with few opportunities. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young was a struggling DJ with a baby out of wedlock. O’Shea Jackson aka “Ice Cube” was just in high school as the film opens and has a passion for writing rap lyrics. Dr. Dre turns to his find Eric “Easy-E” Wright about starting a music label. Ice Cube was brought in to write the raps, but Easy-E performed them has he had the personal experience and credibility to rap about what the lyrics spoke about in terms of their image, stereotypes, and being constantly profiled by the police. Their first single was “Boyz N the Hood” on Ruthless Records. The single caught the attention of music manager Jerry Heller whom the boys would go on to hire. Their group “N.W.A” became huge and their egos and confidence took off as their population grew. The film follows their journey into the music industry and what led to the fall of the group.
-Produced by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Tomica Woods-Wright (the widow of Eazy-E). It’s good to keep in mind that this movie is coming from their point of view of the events. I appreciated that Ice Cube allowed himself to not always come across in the best light.
-Stars an extremely talented young cast including: O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge. Paul Giamatti portrays their manager Jerry Heller.
-Jackson is the son of Ice Cube and gives a spot-on performance.
-Feels very timely given the ideas around police brutality and them being arrested for “looking like gangsters.”
-Asks the question of how far do you take the ideas behind freedom of speech and censorship when the lyrics of rap can be violent and aggressive toward the authorities.
-Film spans nine years and gives a thorough look into that whole period. Many biopics tend to feel like they give a general wash over key points, but Straight Outta Compton felt like it had specificity and purpose with every scene idea.
-Even if you’ve never listened to N.W.A or don’t like rap, give the film a try. It may open your mind to where this idea of “gangster rap” came from. Their art was a reflection of their reality.
-I don’t listen to rap, but this movie stuck with me for days after watching it. It’s exceptionally well made and can hopefully lead to good discussion afterwards.
-Highest grossing music biopic of all time
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? You don’t need to like rap to be drawn into their story.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS