DreamMachineTeen Movie Critic -V is a Dream Machine Site
The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
Teen Movie Critic - V

Home About TMC Alphabetic Index Hall of Flame Other Film Sites Feedback

Tuesday: Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a film that I highly recommend to families containing people of all ages.

Kung Fu Panda 2
Buy this poster at
After being unsure about seeing the first one, I finally caved in and watched it. I was very pleasantly surprised with it and found it to be highly entertaining. I missed Kung Fu Panda 2 on the big screen, but wanted to ensure that I could rent it the day it was released on Blu-ray through Netflix. Even with more appropriate expectations, this sequel still was a nice surprise. It's actually a little bit better than the original film. A lot more occurs in not only the story, but with the characters as well. DreamWorks has certainly stepped up their game in the animation genre.

As the legendary Dragon Warrior, Po, the kung fu panda, guards the Valley of Peace alongside his allies, the Furious Five. When a frightful new enemy emerges, Po and company embark on a dangerous joinery to save China and the art of kung fu. As previously mentioned, the story is expanded upon. While there is a new enemy and a new goal, Kung Fu Panda 2 has quite a few flashbacks. These don't reference to the first movie, but actually informs the audience of Po's past. It's much easier to sympathize for a character when we're able to learn more about his or her past. Viewers are taken quite a bit deeper into Po's character than they were in the original Kung Fu Panda. Speaking of characters, they're much more fleshed out as well. We're introduced to a few new roles, although characters from the first film, other than Po, do return. They each serve his or her purpose to the plot, but this story line is much more about Po than anybody else. In the previous entry, the Furious Five are a big portion of what's going on. In the sequel, they are present but don't posses as much screen time as our lovable panda. The dialogue is nicely written and the pace is tight and smooth. All of the humor is pretty spot-on, although there isn't as much as of it as the more personal story of Po takes the driver's seat. Kung Fu Panda 2 managed to keep my full attention from start to finish as it had my eyes glued to the screen.

When it comes to animation, it's absolutely incredible how detailed it has become over the years. Studios such as DreamWorks and Pixar have truly created beautiful pieces of animation. The clarity is truly amazing and razor sharp. I continued to tell myself in my head how unbelievably clear the picture quality is for this film. The audio is just as impressive. Unfortunately, my pre/pro has issues with some Dolby TrueHD audio tracks, which caused Kung Fu Panda 2 to cut in and out a couple of times. For the most part, the majority of the movie played smoothly. The front stage is crystal clear and is presented with nice effects. The surround channels have plenty of sound to immerse the viewers in this animated universe. The bass is tight and accurate, but isn't very loud. Bass heads may not be as happy with this track as they may have been for the original movie. However, those who want to be in the middle of an accurate and clear sound environment will be highly pleased with this release. This disc is sure to be demo material for many home theater enthusiasts.

I was expecting to enjoy Kung Fu Panda 2, but I didn't imagine that I would prefer it over the original. It's just as entertaining, although it contains a better script with a more personal story line that brings the character of Po closer to the audience. Pixar is known to make damn good animated films, but DreamWorks has proven themselves worthy quite a few times. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a film that I highly recommend to families containing people of all ages.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Thursday: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

I rank this film among my favorite films of 2011. Highly recommended.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Buy this poster at
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) The books and the original Swedish films started off with a bang with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). I never read the book series, but I highly enjoyed the trilogy of movies. The first of the trio is one of my favorite films that was released in that year. Once I heard about an American remake, I wasn't surprised. I figured that one would be released sooner or later. I had it drilled in my head that this would be an utter disaster as soon as I started hearing some news about it. However, once I heard that David Fincher was behind the camera, I gained some hope. I'll watch any film he makes. Remakes generally end up being the same shot-for-shot, and others completely derail from the story. I don't believe that either are the correct path in order to create a genuinely strong remake. It has to be able to stay true to the roots of the plot while still making itself memorable and distinguishable from the original.

When Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker is tasked with investigating a prying journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, their separate missions become entangled amid a decades-old conspiracy. David Fincher isn't the only big player behind the scenes as Oscar-winner Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplay. While the plot plays out the same, there are many smaller details that Zaillian chose to focus a bit more upon. We are able to see a bit deeper into Mikael's life than we were in the Swedish original. Lisbeth Salander is also presented a little bit differently. I noticed that she's even a bit more reserved than she was before. Zaillian combined some elements of both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and The Girl Who Played with Fire. By the end of the film, Lisbeth tells a little bit more about herself and her past than she originally did. While I won't spoil the ending, the ultimate resolution is identical, but smaller character details and plot events happen a bit differently. Steven Zaillian has written a marvelous screenplay that captures the dark and disturbing essence of the original, but put his own mark upon it. I was worried that there would be an attempt to completely Americanize the film and give the characters names such as 'Michael' and 'Elizabeth' as well as water down the rape scene and other brutal content. Thankfully, none of this happened. The characters have the same Swedish names as it still occurs in Sweden. None of the disturbing content has been watered down as the more touchy topics such as rape and violence are presented without hesitation. The dialogue certainly is superb. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is almost three hours long, but the running time flies by. I was completely engrossed by the movie and the running time felt much shorter. The pace is smooth as it never drags, or even limps.

The casting is absolutely crucial for a film such as this. Even a perfect script can be heavily hindered if the cast isn't believable. Fans of the books and the original don't have to worry one bit. Daniel Craig has proved that he's an excellent Mikael Blomkvist, not just a great James Bond. His delivery is good and definitely a good match for the character. Rooney Mara performs as Lisbeth Salander. To put it simply, she deserves an Oscar nod, if not a win. She captures both the emotional and physical state of Lisbeth to perfection. She nailed an incredibly believable Swedish accent, as well. Mara even has her share of nude scenes, no body doubles. This just proves how comfortable she is in correctly presenting Lisbeth. This character is very comfortable with her sexuality and isn't ashamed and Rooney Mara has proved she has the dedication to truly represent this character correctly. She definitely deserves the Academy's attention for this captivating performance. Even the supporting roles, such as Christopher Plummer playing Henrik Vanger, are absolutely convincing and do the screenplay justice.

David Fincher and his very selective team have created yet another visually beautiful piece of filmmaking. The film holds the same dark and gloomy tone. The cinematography is absolutely stunning. The visuals of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) cannot be spoken of without mentioning the opening sequence. It's very unique and the photography is amazing. While watching this opening scene, I felt as if I was in a trance. I'm glad that David Fincher is one of the few filmmakers in the industry that genuinely cares about the visual quality of his films and doesn't let anybody let the studio screw anything up. The audio is just as fantastic. If possible, go to a theater that has a very loud sound system for this one. The score created by Trent Reznor is outstanding and is certainly one you'll want to hear cranked up. The surrounds were active throughout the entire movie. I very highly doubt that any moviegoer will be disappointed by the visual experience.

I rightfully gained hope for the fate of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) with David Fincher directing. Even though there are some small gripes, primarily occurring in the final act, this is outstanding filmmaking. There are a lot of similarities between Swedish and American scripts, but there are some smaller character and plot differences as well. This could have ending up being very stale and uninteresting due to the high popularity of the books and the films over the past couple years. However, David Fincher and his cast have brought it back to life. The entire cast is very good, but Rooney Mara is definitely stands out. I hope that the Academy will appreciate her astounding representation of Lisbeth. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is one of the very few remakes that is created correctly. I rank this film among my favorite films of 2011. Highly recommended.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: Wedding Crashers