Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 21 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

Film » Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 21

by

comment

Page 7 of 12

KUNG FU PANDA 2 Hollywood's obsession with 3-D — or, more accurately, the extra bucks it generates — is so out of hand that it would hardly surprise me to learn that 3-D remakes of Scenes from a Marriage and My Dinner with Andre are in the works. Yet for all of its uselessness when it comes to live-action films not named Avatar, the gimmick is a logical fit when it comes to animated efforts, as witnessed by its employment in (among others) Toy Story 3, Despicable Me and now Kung Fu Panda 2. Yet it isn't just that extra dimension that elevates this agreeable sequel to the 2008 blockbuster. As was the case with this spring's Rango, Kung Fu Panda 2 displays a terrific set design that's atypically detailed and vibrant for a toon flick. Whereas it was ace cinematographer Roger Deakins (True Grit) who served as visual consultant on that Johnny Depp vehicle, here it's Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro who's billed as creative consultant, clear examples of studios not cutting corners when it comes to acquiring the best. KFP2's backgrounds are frequently so gorgeous to behold that aspiring art directors might further pad the film's box office haul via repeat viewings. Everyone else will probably be satisfied after one showing, as the serviceable story finds Po (returning star Jack Black) again teaming up with the kung fu masters collectively known as The Furious Five (Angelina Jolie and her underused co-stars Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross), this time to vanquish a deadly enemy (Gary Oldman) who holds the key to Po's mysterious past. The kids will have a good time, and the adults will be entertained to the point that they won't secretly be wondering what R-rated film is playing in the adjacent auditorium. **1/2

LARRY CROWNE Larry Crowne opens with Tom Hanks' title character taking so much grinning-idiot pleasure in his job at a retail box store (he's even cheerful when wiping a kid's vomit off the mechanical horse out front) that we momentarily suspect the actor has elected to revive Forrest Gump in an unauthorized sequel. But no, Larry Crowne is just that kind of guy — jovial, hardworking, uncomplaining — which makes it a shocker (at least to him) when he's downsized by a group of corporate caricatures (in a wretched scene played partly for nonexistent laughs) who state that his lack of education makes him expendable in modern-day America. After failing to land another job, Larry, only slightly less square than Napoleon Dynamite, decides to go back to school, only it was a helluva lot more fun when Rodney's Dangerfield's Thornton Melon chose this route 25 years ago. Larry's escapades at the local community college are, like practically everything else in this film, barely perfunctory as narrative and wholly lacking in any sort of dramatic conflict. Positioned as a picture about how it's possible to still succeed in a country that's been destroyed by rising unemployment rates and soaring gasoline prices, Larry Crowne, co-written by Hanks and My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos, actually has little basis in reality, with Hanks' "don't worry, be happy" protagonist sailing from one existential uptick after another. Julia Roberts appears as Larry's unhappy teacher, but like everyone else in Larry Crowne, her character is only on hand to lavish praise on a dull character who hardly deserves his own motion picture. *1/2

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Stating that Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's best film in over a decade really doesn't mean anything at all, considering that most of his output since the previous century has consisted of such clunkers as Hollywood Ending and Cassandra's Dream. His last picture, 2010's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, even managed to sneak onto my year-end "10 Worst" list, so color me stunned that Midnight in Paris exudes both charm and cleverness in equal measure. Owen Wilson, who proves to be a natural fit for Allen, plays a burned-out screenwriter named Gil, who appears to be more in love with Paris than with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams). And why not? Inez is pushy, self-centered and spoiled, while the French capital (which they're visiting) is warm, inviting and deeply romantic. While Inez spends time with a pompous acquaintance (a funny Michael Sheen), Gil walks the city streets and soaks up the culture. Employing a bit of leftover fairy dust from his 1985 gem The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen soon has his leading man magically transported back to the 1920s, where he hobnobs with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston, Thor's Loki), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and falls for Pablo Picasso's beautiful mistress, Adriana (an enchanting Marion Cotillard). Despite making some salient points about the manner in which people belittle their own era while longing for a simpler, more innocent time (something which of course has never existed), Midnight in Paris is a lightweight bauble from Allen, and it provides few of the hearty laughs that propelled many of his past classics. But it's nevertheless an irresistible bauble, and a goofy, appreciative smile remained plastered on my face throughout the course of its tragically brief 95 minutes. ***


Creative Loafing Charlotte Pick

Recover - CBD Roll On by Leef Organics

5% Bitcoin back
Roll-on relief by Leef Organics is a unique roller ball that includes cold-pressed, broad-spectrum whole plant CBD blended with wild crafted herbs, all on a mission to bring relief. Click for product details.
Earn bitcoin for shopping with Creative Loafing Charlotte

Add a comment

Creative Loafing Charlotte Pick

THRIVAL Liquid Superfood - CBD Extract

5% Bitcoin back
The THRIVAL CBD formula by Leef Organics is unlike any other cannabis-based wellness product on the market. A daily dose of this superfood helps bring overall wellness to the body. Click for product details.
Earn bitcoin for shopping with Creative Loafing Charlotte