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!

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This Is 40, Admission & Bad Grandpa Movie Reviews

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Time to start getting more movies off my “Reviews To Do” list! Since starting this blog, I feel like I must review absolutely every single movie I watch. I’ve put off reviewing some because I just don’t have much to say about them (especially things like throwaway comedies & the occasional chick flick) so I’ll start reviewing movies like these together every now & then. Most movies like these are ones I watched in 2014 so I’m a little behind. But they’re on my list! I gotta do them!!! 😉

So here are three quickies! One was boring, one was okay, and one I really enjoyed.

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This Is 40 (2012)

Directed by Judd Apatow

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Graham Parker, Albert Brooks

My Opinion: This is the one that was okay. I watched This Is 40 at least a year ago & remember thinking something along the lines of “I enjoyed that but I better review it quick because I won’t remember much of it in a year”. Ha! It’s true. For example: That annoying Melissa McCarthy was in this? Really?? And I forgot that the even more annoying Megan Fox was in this. Well, I watched this for Paul Rudd. If it had been a different male star, I doubt I’d have bothered.

I have yet to love anything from Judd Apatow. I feel like I should as I suppose I’m the sort of target age range for his stuff? I don’t know… Who here is a huge Apatow fan? What am I missing? Looking at what he’s written and/or directed, I did like The 40 Year-Old Virgin and remember that pretty well even though it’s much older and I only saw it once. This Is 40 is probably my second favorite but considering I only remember certain parts of it a year later doesn’t say much for it, I guess.

I liked Rudd, as always, but this wasn’t exactly my favorite ever character of his. He & Leslie Mann were fine but there was maybe a little too much of the “Oh god! I’m 40 & having a midlife crisis!” thing going on. I liked the family as a whole & they felt like a real-life family. Of course, it probably helps that the kids are the real-life daughters of Apatow & Mann but the Hollywood nepotism thing and Apatow’s insistence on always casting his borderline-annoying wife is, like the characters in This Is 40, getting a little old.

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I do remember laughing a few times throughout this movie. It’s not a laugh-out-loud comedy but an observation on our relationships in life and, of course, growing old. It’s much more grown-up than some of Apatow’s other films and I can’t see as many people enjoying it unless they’re approaching or past the big Four-Oh. For the most part, I think this was a pretty well-written film and I liked the different sorts of relationships between the three generations of both Rudd’s & Mann’s families. It’s just a “watch it once and you have no need to watch it again” type of film. I’d only recommend it if you’re a fan of any of the stars or the director AND you’re at least 35.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Admission (2013)

Directed by Paul Weitz

Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, Wallace Shawn, Lily Tomlin

My Opinion: This is the boring one of these three movies. As you can see, it’s Paul Rudd again and I only watched it because he’s in it. This is one of those damn “dramedy” romance movies. Dramedies sometimes work but this one didn’t have much comedy and I didn’t care enough about Tina Fey’s character to give a shit about her drama. Like This Is 40, this is a more grown-up movie for a slightly older audience but the forced quirkiness of some of the characters and Tina Fey’s uptight Princeton admissions officer just didn’t work for me.

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Paul Rudd was his usual adorable, likeable self but I’ll admit he always plays the same character (which is fine if you like him like I do). I’ve never really been a fan of Tina Fey, who also plays her usual self, so I can’t say I liked her character (which isn’t good as she’s the main star & the film centers on her career & relationship struggles). Nat Wolff was in this, who played the slightly annoying friend in The Fault In Our Stars and has the lead role in the next John Green adaptation coming out (Paper Towns, a book I really didn’t like so it’ll be interesting to see if the movie is any better). I did like Lily Tomlin as Fey’s mother and Wallace Shawn had a small role as Fey’s boss. It always gives me warm fuzzies just hearing his distinctive voice… “Inconceivable“! This is one of those movies that just tries too hard to be intelligent & serious and ends up feeling fake & forced. To be fair, romantic dramedy isn’t my favorite genre in the first place but this one just didn’t work for me at all.

My Rating: 5/10

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Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

Directed by Jeff Tremaine

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, A bunch of unsuspecting victims

My Opinion: Well, damn – I thought this was hilarious. Why am I ashamed to admit that?! I’ve thought all the Jackass movies were a riot. They’re not the sort of movies I’ve ever felt the need to watch more than once but they’re entertaining as hell on a first watch when you don’t know what kind of outrageous stuff to expect. I don’t really get why I like them as, in real life, I hate dumbass guys who do childish, idiotic things. I guess you have to give Johnny Knoxville credit for making a career out of it – he earns way more money than I do!

It was kind of weird at first how they acted out this fictional story of “grandpa & grandson” but I think it worked and, in the end, it was actually sort of sweet in a weird, f*%ked up kind of way. Johnny Knoxville was also in the movie Fun Size with the kid (Jackson Nicoll) and the kid was the best thing about that strange but somewhat enjoyable Nickelodeon movie. This kid cracks me up but I can’t say I’d ever let my kid hang out with any of the Jackass guys… Ha! Talk about bad role models!

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Anyway, I never thought I’d find explosive diarrhoea (UK spelling, FYI) or an old man’s testicles funny but what really works in this movie, I guess, is the shocked reactions from the poor bastards they play their pranks on. Looking at photos for this post I was reminded again of the pageant bit… Hahaha! Why do I like these juvenile Jackass movies?!? I should be ashamed. But I’m not!

My Rating: 7/10

Ponyo (2008) Review

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Ponyo (2008) (aka Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea)
Gake no Ue no Ponyo
Japanese:
崖の上のポニョ

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Cast:
Tomoko Yamaguchi
Kazushige Nagashima
Yūki Amami
George Tokoro
Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Rumi Hiiragi
Akiko Yano
Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Tomoko Naraoka

(English Dub Voice Cast: Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, BETTY WHITE!)

Running time: 101 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Mainly the English dubbed version – saw the subtitled version years ago

Ponyo is very cute. Cutesy cute! Cute is a funny word, isn’t it? Like with Kiki’s Delivery Service & My Neighbor Tororo, Ponyo is a very kid friendly Studio Ghibli film. I’d say it’s actually aimed at the youngest age range of all as the two main characters are very young but it’s far more strange than Kiki’s Delivery Service so it MAY not be as popular with kids as that one. I guess it depends on the kid and if they like unusual stories or not.

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Ponyo is an adorable little goldfish who longs to be human, especially after tasting human BLOOD! Lol. (No, really…). Basically, her father is human but, I think, magic or something so he now lives under the sea with all his “fish children” he had with some sort of huge Goddess of the Sea. Or… Something like that. Am I selling this to anyone yet?!

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So… Ponyo’s father, who’s this weird cross between David Bowie & Alice Cooper, doesn’t want Ponyo to become human but she loves a little boy named Sōsuke who helped her & took care of her when he found her stuck in a bottle in the sea. She wants to be human & live with Sōsuke.

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Subtitled vs Dubbed:

Ponyo’s Bowie/Cooper father looks super cool yet sounds like… Liam Neeson?! I first saw Ponyo years ago with subtitles, which I always prefer. I’ve only seen the dubbed version since as I have it recorded off TV & it’s the only version I have. I have got to buy the DVD. A character that looks like that dude above should NOT sound like Liam Neeson. And Ponyo, as adorable as she is, is very shout-y in the dubbed version. I’d like to see the subtitled one again to hear what she sounded like as I can’t now remember. The shout-y overexcited thing kind of actually works for this character as she’s still learning to be human and is so very happy. Looking this up I see that she’s voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Miley’s younger sister. Ha! Well, I don’t think subtlety runs in that family so a shout-y performance isn’t surprising. Like I say, it kind of works but I really wish to stop seeing the dubbed version. Again, though, you’re likely to watch this one with a young kid so you’d be watching it dubbed. Oh! But I have no complaints about Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, and especially Betty White as the three old women. Those ladies ROCK. 🙂

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Summary:

I haven’t really said much about this one. It’s a hard one to describe. It’s odd but also very sweet & innocent. It’s about unconditional love (Sōsuke must prove that he can love Ponyo whether she be a fish or human). I think young kids will love both Sōsuke & Ponyo and will just roll with the slightly odd story as young minds are usually more open to these sorts of things. It’s really not much more odd than a lot of Disney fairy tales. I do recommend this one to kids & to adult Studio Ghibli fans. Of all the Ghiblis, it’s definitely the most “sweet” and it’s hard to not like Sōsuke & Ponyo and seeing a love so pure.

My Rating: 8/10

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