Kung Fu Panda 2 A Rousing Extended Tale (Pun Intended)

We saw Kung Fu Panda 2 yesterday, and it was a joy to see a sequel that extended the original story so seamlessly and with such generous emotional satisfaction. Ebert liked it too, but thought the 3-D version detracted. Based on that assessment, we saw the “normal” 2-D version, and liked it very much indeed:

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is exactly as you’d expect, and more. The animation is elegant, the story is much more involving than in the original, and there’s boundless energy. I enjoyed it as fully as I possibly could, given the horror of its 3-D. The original film, in 2-D wide-screen, was just fine. But never mind. Hollywood has brainwashed us or itself that 3-D is an improvement and not an annoyance.What’s best about this sequel is that it’s not a dutiful retread of the original, but an ambitious extension. Of the many new elements, not least is the solution of the mystery of how Mr. Ping, a goose, could be the biological father of Po, a panda. In the original film, as nearly as I can recall, every character represented a different species, so I thought perhaps inscrutable reproductive processes were being employed. But no, Po’s parenthood is explained here, and it has a great deal to do with new developments in the kingdom.

via Kung Fu Panda 2 :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews.

I spotted at least 2 Easter eggs or visual jokes – there’s a Pixar reference (this is a Dreamworks film) in a fight scene along a city street (watch out for the signs, Po!) and there’s an old-school gaming reference immediately afterwards that made me gigglesnort uncontrollably. I was already laughing hysterically when at the beginning of the “stealth mode” sequence, Po truly takes on the role of the Dragon (you will, too), but the sequence built on the laughs to a level that was just pure, childlike delight.

Yet the fight scenes were also intense, although true cartoon-animal violence is handled senstitively. The exploration of Po’s backstory brought me to tears late in the movie, where only the reel before I was laughing or chuckling most of the time.

The antagonist this time out, played by a sinister-sounding Gary Oldman, is a royal peacock with parental issues who seems to have mastered the “war fan” style of fighting using his magnificent Chinese-style tail plumage. His encounters with Po are amazing to watch.

In fact, all the animation is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and there are flashback sections that are told in a simplified visual style that evokes Chinese water colors. The opening and closing credits are beautifully rendered “Chinese cut-paper puppet” scenes.

Jack Black owns the panda, who’s really come into his own as a skilled warrior (who’s still a plushy looking panda after all).  And there’s just a touch of “skadoosh” too.

Highly recommended – we saw it at a matinee and there were a ton of kids, so think about going later when there might be more adults willing to be seen at a “kids’ movie.”

Ugly Americanisms: Two Countries Divided By A Language

In my ongoing love affair with all things British, I sometimes come up against things that are less loveable, such as the crankypants insularity that is a hallmark of the English national personality. I do understand, really I do; references to our popular culture, fast-food cuisine and security-theater politics are everywhere in the UK where there’s a TV, a McDonalds, or an international airport.

I chuckled at this story, which quotes several peevish readers complaining about the use of American idiom and slang in the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper. For the record, “clatch” is the German word “klatsch,” we currently spell it “rambunctious” now (note spelling differs from the original one), and “schlep” is Yiddish. Our shared language is as endlessly diverting as it is diverse.

"Can you please ask your journalists and feature writers not to use American English in their articles? Whilst I appreciate that many are either American themselves, or have spent a long time in the USA, they are nevertheless writing for a British readership. Recent examples include clatch, rumbunctious, drag for High Street, dweebish and schlep. I find myself constantly having to reach for the dictionary to find out what your journalists are saying when I am reading the Guardian or Observer because of these ugly and unnecessary Americanisms."

via Lickety splits: two nations divided by a common language | Mind your language | Media | guardian.co.uk.

Books Most Likely to Be Binned In Britain

Dan Brown’s scat-illogical* books are at the top of the Oxfam list of books most likely to be donated to the charity, which runs a chain of 686 second-hand bookshops. But the Top Gear presenter my husband David and I most love to hate is the first non-fiction author to make the Oxfam list of “most donated” books.

The rants of Jeremy Clarkson, meanwhile, have made the Top Gear presenter the first non-fiction writer to enter the charity’s top 10 of authors most likely to be donated to its 686 shops: either his readers are notably generous, or unwilling to keep his titles on their shelves once read.

Via Dan Brown tops Oxfam’s ‘least wanted’ chart | Books | guardian.co.uk

Oh, what joy! Rapture! to read this, because anything that reveals Clarkson to be the great bloviating boober he is makes me laugh like a happy schoolgirl. His booming sarcasm and bullying presenting style is nearly entertaining enough to get him arrested in at least 2 American states, if not a small South American country. For example, in a recent episode the Top Gear gentlemen of motoring were told they could not be too entertaining, as their visas did not allow them to act as entertainers. Viz:

Oh, those scallywags! Everybody knows you don’t drag race on the main drag, you drag race on an isolated stretch of asphalt out in the boonies. Didn’t you see “American Graffiti?” Fortunately for their future travel to America, they managed to be unentertaining enough so as not to violate the terms of their “non-entertainment” visas.

By the way, that wasn’t their first attempt at driving while being asshats; the last time they japed their way across the American landscape, they almost got the crap beaten out of them in Alabama. They decided to take on protective coloration – by decorating each other’s beater cars. This was in 2008 sometime.

Clarkson is the loud one, who can be quite amusing but is often overbearing. The others are Hammond (the small hamstery one, very popular with caravan ladies) and May (pleasant company if you don’t mind lots and lots of technical detail).

I won’t be buying Clarkson’s book – his opinions and politics would fit right in at FOX news, although he’d be much, much funnier than anybody else they have on. But we’re quite fond here at Chez Gique of Top Gear (we became aware of it on one of our trips to Britain). I’m happy to see it getting some press in the US, even though it’s mostly stories from the Beeb about who The Stig really is (look it up yourself, I won’t spoil you).

*Yes, yes, it’s really meant to be “eschatological,” a word I heard just today on WBEZ, describing an even crappier end-times tribulations book than Tim La Haye’s “Left Behind.” Brown’s bin-liner books, although not strictly eschatological (yet), are confusing crap, so there you are.