Archive for December, 2011
Thursday, December 29th, 2011
I spent much of my Christmas vacation lying on my favourite chair and not moving around much. I wrecked my back, you see, carrying a giant box of fire logs on a tiny patch of ice. So having lost much of my ability to move, I was fairly stationary. But antsy, because I hate not doing stuff. So I perfected Word Mole on my wife’s blackeberry. Then I watched the entire PBS documentary series on American Presidents…again. Then I ruined Christmas.
Now, I must say I didn’t ruin eveyone’s Christmas. Just my own. See, I had just received the fourth season of Jersey Shore, sent to me by Paramount Home Entertainment for Cynical Cinema. And I put it in my DVD player. And I watched it. The first episode was about the Jersey Shore gang travelling to Italy. Snooki and Deena seemed a little confused about which country was the one shaped like a boot – it was either Italy or Europe, they figured.
So they douchebagged their way to Italy (by way of Europe, no doubt), and got unpacked. I had worked out a little beer cooler beside my chair, which helped me get through the plane ride. In much the same way, it appeared that alcohol had helped Snooki and Deena through the same plane ride, as they kept falling down in the airport with stacks of luggage around them.
Things started to get interesting/perplexing during Beer #2. Mike “The Situation” confided to Ron that he and Snooki had been intimately involved a few weeks earlier, and then drunkenly professed his love to Snooki herself. This confused me. What rational person, drunk or otherwise, would ever admit to having had sex with Snooki? And even more so, who would ever make an attempt at a relationship with this sloppy drunken troll? None of this made any sense.
Then I got to thinking. Maybe there was another explanation. Maybe the producers of the show decided there hadn’t yet been enough drama, and asked the Situation to do something stupid to create some. But that didn’t make sense, because in the next episode Ronnie and Sam started getting back together. So that must have been what the producers asked the cast to do in order to create drama and fights.
Then I thought, cynically, that the Situation was just trying to increase his own fame – see, he and Snooki are the two biggest names from the Jersey Shore cast, and if they became a celebrity power-couple, like they combined forces to become the Snookuation or something, they could make more money in the offseason. But that seemed unlikely. Deena’s drunken move to have sex with some blond girl in episode three was more obvious as an attention-grabbing move.
On episode #4, beer #4, I started to think that maybe I was approaching this all wrong. Maybe the Situation IS as dumb as he appears. And maybe he believes that Jersey Shore is actually reality television. And maybe he thinks all reality TV is like Survivor. And perhaps he thinks that, like on Survivor, you have to be the biggest douchebag in the gang to win the $1 million?
I noticed that a lot of the cast members say “right now” or “at this moment” a whole lot. Like, they will say “I’m just not equipped to deal with this right now”. Or “I’m just an idiot at this moment”. It seems to me if they could just remove those two expressions from their vocabulary, they would unwittingly be speaking a whole lot more truth. I began to sink into a deep depression.
It then occurred to me that every girl the guys were picking up was American, living in Italy. The dirty booty call chick, the two slutty blonde twins, all of them! I once told my buddy Kent that he would never have sex with a girl who spoke English, because she would be able to understand what he was saying, and he would never get laid. He married a Japanese woman. It’s the opposite for the Jersey Shore idiots – they can only pick up American girls, because they are the only ones who know these morons are celebrities, and this might get them on TV!
When the two hot blonde twins came back to their house to have sex with several of them, I asked my wife to bring me some cyanide. It turns out we didn’t have any.
Finally, mercifully, the first disc was almost over. The pain was about to end, since I was definitely NOT going to get up and put in the second disc. Episode #4 was almost done, and beer #6 as well. By now, every person in the house hated the Situation. This created a dilemma for me. So…do I now like him? Is the enemy of my enemy my friend…or my enemy? I felt like Wesley Snipes in Blade II. The beer and painkillers helped me think this way.
Then just as I was about to stop the first disc, the Situation and Ronnie started a fight! A fight that was going to take place…in the next episode. On the next disc. And…I got up. And I put in the next disc. And my back screamed at me. My brain screamed at me. My wife screamed at me. My self-esteem screamed at me. Even my beer started to think I was less of a man. And it was right.
Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Genre: Kids, Cartoon, Comedy, Kung-fu
Country: United States
Starring (Voices): Jack Black, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, David Cross, Michelle Yeoh, James Hong, Danny McBride, Dennis Haysbert, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber
Director: Jennifer Yuh
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
The first Kung-Fu Panda worked because it was as much a kung-fu movie as it was a kids’ comedy. The voice casting was superb, and the kung-fu staples weren’t (badly) dumbed-down. It was as good a kung-fu movie as I’ve seen in a decade, and a gerat kids’ film as a result.
The second Kung-Fu Panda, out on DVD and Blu-Ray December 13th from Paramount Home Entertainment, is even more a kung-fu movie than the first one. There are some wonderfully animated kung-fu scenes, including a great chase through a Chinese city on rickshaws, which I think is the highlight of the movie.
There is much deference to kung-fu movies of the past. And it’s not just the involvement of Michelle Yeoh and James Hong. The central concept is that an evil peacock has invented the Ultimate Weapon, one that cannot be beaten no matter how good one’s kung-fu is. This is a classic plot line to countless films, like Flying Guillotine. And…Flying Guillotine 2. And many others that don’t spring to mind right away.
The weapon this peacock has devised is a cannon. The advent of firearms was a plot device used in many classic films, as it signified the end to a way of life. It was used in samurai movies as well as kung-fu flicks, the most famous probably being The Seven Samurai. Similar themes sprang up in westerns with the advent of machine guns.
Then there are the masters. So many kung-fu movies have multiple masters, each one usually the master of a different discipline. In this case, there is Master Rhino (Victor Garber), Master Ox (Dennis Haysbert), and Master Croc (the wonderfully cast Jean-Claude Van Damme, who says distressingly little throughout the movie).
It works magnificently as a kung-fu movie. Now for the bad news – it isn’t even close to the first film as a kids’ cartoon comedy. Sure, it’s still funny in places, and charming and cute in others. But Kung Fu Panda 2 lacks the charm of its predecessor, and it’s childlike sense of wonder. Now that Po IS a member of the kung-fu elite, he no longer idolizes the Furious Five the way he did in the first film, so much of the magic that created is gone.
I still like Kung Fu Panda 2 a lot. I will definitely be watching it again, probably many times, with the kids (and by myself). Just because it doesn’t live up to the magical humour and throwback genius of the first one doesn’t mean that this movie isn’t also very good. Kung Fu Panda 2 is very good.