On Friday, 3 June 2011, I met former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. to screen Kung-Fu Panda 2. While not as clever as its predecessor, the computer-animated martial arts comedy was still entertaining.
Kung-Fu Panda 2 has a similar plot to the first movie, in which a pudgy panda (played by Jack Black) must find hidden strength to fight a nasty villain. As before, Po has a strong supporting cast voiced by Dustin Hoffman as red panda Shifu, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey, James Hong as adoptive father Mr. Ping, Lucy Liu as Viper, and Seth Rogen as Mantis.
New characters include Michelle Yeoh as a goat soothsayer, Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc, and chameleon Gary Oldman as peacock dictator Shen. While Black doesn’t get to improvise as much as he has in other flicks, the other actors are well-chosen and don’t distract from their roles.
The martial arts choreography was strong, with each animal demonstrating a different style, and for once, I thought the 3-D helped rather than hurt the viewing experience. The writers and animators also expand the story’s venue beyond the monastery and village to the wider countryside and a city in ancient China. Ken even noticed that in one scene, funky music underscores a scene similar to 1970s action movies.
The movie is framed by animation resembling paper cutouts, and it clearly leaves an opening for another sequel. Overall, I’d give Kung-Fu Panda 2 a B or B+, 8 out of 10, or three and a half out of five stars. It’s rate PG for violence. I haven’t yet seen Pirates of the Caribbean 2: On Stranger Tides (which has gotten mixed reviews) or X-Men: First Class (which has gotten surprisingly favorable reviews). Ken and I also had dinner at Fresh City, which was OK.
On Saturday, Janice and I attended the Needham Street Fair and the Cambridge River Festival. Both had interesting vendors and varied cuisine (Thai and Indian were popular), and the latter had performers and several tables for progressive political causes that I support, such as Amnesty International.
After browsing at some of our usual book shops in Harvard Square, Janice and I had dinner at the Border Café, which is one of our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants. On Sunday, between a car inspection and picking up my comic book subscription at New England Comics in Norwood, Massachusetts, we had lunch at Conrad’s, a good family/pub-style eatery.
I’ll be busy with work and travel in the next few months, so I may not be able to blog as regularly as I have been doing, but have no fear, gentle readers — I’ve got more ideas coming!