Po and the Fabulous Five are back, and they are kung fu fighting in 3-D this time around in “Kung Fu Panda 2,” which stays true to the style and humor of the original as it continues the journey of the unexpected Dragon Warrior.
Having earned respect and renown, Po the panda must now face Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman), a villainous peacock whose minions are scores of ravenous wolves. Lord Shen is on his way to take over all of China and destroy kung fu with a powerful new weapon.
With the very survival of kung fu at stake, the original cast members reprise their roles - with Jack Black as Po, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey and Dustin Hoffman as Po’s Yoda-like kung fu master, Shifu. They are joined here by new masters Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Oxen (Dennis Haysbert).
Let's get this out of the way immediately: Lightning doesn't strike twice.
"The Hangover" came out of nearly nowhere, bringing along a fat guy, a geeky guy and one (not well known) hot guy, to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. And it deserved the accolade. "The Hangover" had a clever premise -- an out-of-control bachelor party the audience never witnesses and the participants never remember -- executed flawlessly. It was one of the most outrageously funny films of the last decade.
Warner Bros. had a feeling it had a hit on its hands. The studio greenlighted a sequel before the original even hit theaters. Now, "The Hangover Part II" isn't as good as the original, which was nearly sui generis. But it's awfully fun. Who wouldn't want to hang out with the Wolfpack for a couple more hours?
It would be interesting to see an original talent make something new of the samurai flick, a genre that reached its zenith in Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic "Seven Samurai." Sadly, that's not what we have here. "13 Assassins" is a disappointingly straight-up samurai adventure -- and one that owes more than a little to Kurosawa's masterpiece.
"Midnight in Paris" has many similarities to Allen's past work -- the delightfully pretentious Paul is rather like the Alan Alda character in "Crimes and Misdemeanors." The whole film feels a little like the Marshall McLuhan moment in "Annie Hall." But there's something fresh about this film anyway: Who would have thought Woody Allen would make a science-fiction film?
Indeed, this film is his best in years. It's funny, warm, even enchanting. Allen might not know Paris like he knows New York. That's why it's so wise of him to have made a film not about present-day Paris, but about its past, a mythic past that witty Americans -- not unlike Allen and his actors, who often seem to do their best work in his films -- helped create.