Kung Fu Panda 3, The House Of Magic, Rio 2 & Muppets Most Wanted Movie Reviews

I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.

I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.

So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson

From: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

My Opinion:

I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.

What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.

Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.

I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:

I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.

My Rating: 7/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.

The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)

Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert

From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.

My Opinion:

I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.

My Rating: 6/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).

Rio 2 (2014)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy García, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx

From: Blue Sky Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

My Opinion:

Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets

From: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

My Opinion:

I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…

This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:

**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.

Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).

I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!

Tinker Bell And The Pirate Fairy (2014) Review

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Tinker Bell And The Pirate Fairy (2014)

Directed by Peggy Holmes

Starring Voice Actors:
Mae Whitman
Tom Hiddleston
Christina Hendricks
Megan Hilty
Lucy Liu
Raven-Symoné
Anjelica Huston
Carlos Ponce

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Running Time: 1 Hour 18 Minutes (Nice & short!)

Plot Synopsis:
Not much different from the other Tinker Bell movies. But with added pirates.

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My Opinion:

Okay, so… Like with Tinker Bell And The Secret Of The Wings (review HERE), I didn’t necessarily choose to go see this. However, it’s not too bad as far as Tinker Bell movies go. They’re all decent enough movies aimed at young girls. This one is definitely better than Secret Of The Wings and probably as strong as the very first film (where Tinker Bell was born? Or the one with the little girl? I don’t know – there are a lot of these now & I confuse them!). What I’m saying is, it’s one of the better ones. And while Tinker Bell movies are always going to be “girl” movies, this one at least won’t be a bad one for any brothers to have to sit through as well since it has the pirate thing going on. It’s a decent boy one! Bring your daughters AND sons if you want!

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Zarina is a new fairy that we meet in this film (psst – she’s the “pirate fairy” in the tale. I mean, she’s on the poster). She’s a decent character and I guess her curiosity (She likes to experiment with creating different forms of pixie dust. This is at the very beginning of the film so I’m not being spoiler-y) sets a good example to girls that they can be interested in science & things like that. She’s a little like Tinker Bell in that way. And we of course get all the usual other fairies (Silvermist, Fawn, annoying Rosetta, etc) which I think has been a good thing about the Tinker Bell movies as they all have different personalities & “talents”. Speaking of the talents, there’s a clever little twist with that which I think was a fun thing to add to the film.

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I honestly don’t know if any adults will care and I also don’t know how much has been given away through Disney marketing but I still try to make my reviews as spoiler-free as possible. So all I’ll say is that I really like there finally being a link to the Peter Pan story again. Since they created all these Tinker Bell movies & all her fairy friends, they’ve really moved away from anything to do with Peter Pan. She’s from Peter Pan! I’ve sort of enjoyed the fact that Jake & The Neverland Pirates has much more to do with Peter Pan (Plus he was even in an episode. Yeah – I’ve had to watch that TV show as well. Don’t be jealous!). I liked seeing a hint of where the character of Tinker Bell comes from in this one. And there’s an adorable baby crocodile, which was one of my favorite bits of the film.

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Summary:

Tinker Bell And The Pirate Fairy is, well, definitely one of the better Tinker Bell movies and quite likely to be the favorite of the fathers of daughters who watch it over and over. The brothers of these girls won’t mind this one so much either. And HOORAY for the Peter Pan links and a more creative story than some of the other films. It’s not going to change the world and it’s not like it’s a Pixar film or something (those get 8 or 9 from me usually because *I* love them as much as any film aimed at adults) but it’s an enjoyable enough movie for your little ones and you MIGHT enjoy it a little bit too. Oh, and stay for a worthwhile scene partway through the credits. I heard some kids shout in excitement at it. 🙂

My Rating: 6/10

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Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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For today’s IMDB Top 250 guest review, we have the wonderful Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are. Abbi has a fabulous site filled with everything from movie reviews to fashion to top ten lists to health & fitness to cooking. Cooking! I always feel totally inferior whenever I look at her site because the closest I come to cooking is popping crumpets in the toaster and the closest I come to exercising is walking to the nearest bus stop. And her outfits are great! I have no style. And she’s funny & her Film Friday movie reviews always crack me up. Basically, she’s cooler than me in every way so you really need to check out her site if you haven’t already. 🙂

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now over to Abbi for her thoughts on the kick-ass Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol 1, IMDB rank 152 out of 250

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Kill Bill vol 1

In this first instalment Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films a young, pregnant bride (Uma Thurman) is viciously attacked on her wedding day by her former associates and left for dead. Five years later she wakes suddenly from a coma and embarks on an unstoppable revenge mission intent not only to avenge the five years she has lost but also the life of her unborn child. Her plan is to pick off the former members of the Viper Squad, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and Budd (Michael Madsen), finishing eventually with Bill (David Carradine).
And really that is pretty much the sum of the entire plot of Kill Bill, so what is it that makes sounds like a pretty run of the mill revenge movie that exciting?
First has got to be the casting of The Bride (who happens to be one of my favourite movie characters of all time). Uma Thurman is able not only to carry off her unmeasured fury but also the vulnerability caused by her confused and damaged emotional state. As a former assassin The Bride is a vicious and ruthless killer, and obviously a total badass, but she also feels pain, loss and fear, which makes her someone that it’s easy to identify and even sympathise with.
Second is the fact that Tarantino is not afraid to borrow from every and any genre he likes the look of all in one glorious hotch potch. From Western, to traditional Kung-Fu, to anime to multiple other things that I probably didn’t even register, he throws everything in everything but the kitchen sink. It shouldn’t work, and in the hands of a less skilled director it probably wouldn’t but somehow the genre switches work as a way of creating episodes within this already truncated part of a whole, which means the story at hand never gets tired. It also highlights the constant juxtapositions that crop up throughout the film. One of The Bride’s most noteworthy opponents is Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) a seventeen year old Japanese schoolgirl, who giggles behind her hand but is also lethal with a mace. And one of the most violent kills happens in a beautiful Japanese garden where the colour of the blood spilled is that much more vibrant spilled across the snow.
Third is the cinematography. Kill Bill vol 1 is a riot of colour interspersed with black and white that changes the perspective and emotions from one scene to the next and often within scenes. In so doing Tarantino creates intense and memorable visual portraits, the most iconic being The Bride in her yellow jumpsuit. This is mixed with creative, razor sharp fight choreography and oceans and oceans of cartoonish blood that remind us that this story is set in a hyper reality that we can only enter as bystanders.
Finally both the soundtrack and the use of sound in Kill Bill vol 1 are used mindfully to accompany and intensify the visual attack taking place onscreen, with the soundtrack always matching the genre that is currently at play.
The overall effect is that the viewer is left desperate for more after the cliff hanger ending.
5/5

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Competition for the Primark Christmas sale had become particularly fierce.