Monday, May 30, 2011

As much as this can be seen as making a mountain out of a molehill to most people, but the performance of Kung Fu Panda 2 against The Hangover Part II this last weekend was a dispiriting moment for a film and animation lover as myself.

I hate it when an artistic production gets such a success it does not deserve if the Hangover's Tomatometer of only 35% on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication while KFP2 has 80%. Whether it is inadequate marketing (how can a campaign that includes a kick ass Super Bowl commercial be considered "inadequate"?) or the public turning against 3D presentation is to blame, I fear that DreamWorks may draw the wrong lessons from this incident and not strive to make as good a film as they can for the next sequel, provided there is one.

I know I shouldn't be so hasty; the film got an A with CinemaScore's audience survey, which indicates it's connecting with audiences and thus has a good potential for good legs as word of mouth gets around. Furthermore, the film is going like gangbusters internationally, especially in China, with the promise of much more when the film is fully opened up in other countries. That alone is proving a big factor for big moneymaking films and hopefully DW might feel the upcoming Kung Fu Panda TV series may go a long way to further develop the audience for Part 3. As it is, I try to remember what John Grant said, "Quality always pays off in the end"

Alas for the short term, a film starting out slow in the summer movie season has a much greater challenge to make it big than in other seasons. After all, How to Train Your Dragon had a clear field in spring 2010 with more than a month of no major animated or family films as competition to become such a sustained hit. KFP2 on the other hand has to withstand the premieres of X-Men: First Class, Super 8 and Green Lantern as big family friendly headliners in each of the following weeks to contend with until Pixar's comes out with their own sell out sequel, Cars 2, to close the window.

As I said above, I know this is trivial, but I deeply enjoy the KFP series and I would like it get the full accolades deserves. After all, I was volunteering for my national political party in the last federal election and having done my bit in something really important, I was hoping for a little more substantial good news in some other area.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Well, it's the opening day of Kung Fu Panda, and the Rotten Tomatoes suspense I mentioned earlier did not disappoint.

The film's tally started with one bad review (0%), to include 2 good ones (80%) to (91%) with more praise until 4 bad reviews knocked it down to 69%.  Now, the general rating is wavering around the mid 70s while the Top Critic section gives it 83%.  The frustrating thing is that for major film releases, RT usually would have amassed sufficient reviews for a consensus statement by now and it seems that it is updating KFP2's page in a maddening trickle.  I know that might be because of the film opening on a Thursday and there might be publications that have a schedule so rigid that we'll have to wait until tomorrow, but it hardly makes the wait any more tolerable.

This kind of anticipation for a number may seem anal and pointless, but to me it gives the filmgoing experience a fuller feel of involvement that goes beyond simply seeing the film.  I read my favourite film history book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of the New Hollywood and I can only envy the rich film culture that sophisticates by Robert Benton and David Newman of Esquire Magazine had in early 1960s France and New York City got to enjoy with parties where debates about films and their meaning had such zest, atmosphere and immediacy that participating on an online forum cannot match. So, what I do here is the closest thing I can seem to do for an introvert as myself to.  Maybe the introduction of home video made the experience more insular since you beforehand had to see films either by waiting a TV station to deign to present it, or go to film societies where seeing their screenings was an event.  That's a subject I'll go into later, but I will have my post viewing experience to describe later.

Anyways, it's under two hours before KFP2 screens at my downtown cinema and it's a experience that I am dearly looking forward to.  I just wish I had the option of seeing without the 3D, but at least I know DreamWorks Animation is one of the few productions companies who make it worthwhile at least to some degree.

Either way, I've waited for this and I hope to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Now that Harold Camping is doing the usual Apocalypse prophet excuses and Oprah has had her send off for her talk show, the way seems clear enough for Kung Fu Panda to get its fair share of media attention this week.

However, I've discovered that for films I'm looking forward to, there is a drama to them that begins long before they are screened.  That happens when you follow the film's status on the movie review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, in the days leading up to its release.

It's hard to believe that seeing the updates of a percentage number can be so suspenseful, but each film is an artistic crapshoot and that even the greatest filmmakers have created their share of bombs.  Thus, as the release date approaches, the regular updating of the film's Tomatometer rating becomes a roller coaster ride as you wait to see where the critics are leaning.  That especially goes for the films hovering around the vital 60% that marks it as Fresh or Rotten as you endure the rise and dip as the opinions mount.  There's even a finish line to this challenge when the tally is clear enough for a consensus statement to be issued as the final word, except when it isn't when a late shift comes dramatically enough to force a rewrite.

So, however much criticism of RT deserves of reducing film reviews to a vote tally, the fact remains that the site provides a unique thrill to the filmgoing experience that is supposed to consciously defy the hype. Instead, I can know the hopefully well considered opinions of critic who simply want to say if a film is any good. When that happens, I'm sold in a way that beats glossy trailers or commercials any day.

As it is, Kung Fu Panda has 83% so far with only 6 reviews, so the ride to Thursday is just beginning with a hopeful start.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The more I see all the stupidity about Harold Camping's  self-grandizing "prophesy" about the Rapture supposed to happen on May 21, 2011, the more I know why atheism is the only "spiritual philosophy" that makes logical and moral sense to me.

After all, if Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 "“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," then who does Camping think he is to claim that he does?

For me, I'm looking forward not for this unBiblical non-event, but a true second coming: The general North American theatrical release of Kung Fu Panda 2 on May 26th, 2011.

Why, you might ask?  Well, there are a number of things:

  1. I know there is clear authoritative and verifiable evidence it is going to happen
  2. There are no arrogant self serving propagandists lying through their teeth (to themselves if no one else) trying to scare people into giving up their life savings to promote this coming.  DreamWorks Animation certainly has sufficient funds to do this by themselves.
  3. Po and the gang's second cinema coming, if the early reviews are credible, promises to provide intelligent laughter, thrills and moving drama as a spiritual parable to people around the world like their previous film.
  4. It is the result of something closer to a true international brotherhood demonstrated by filmmakers who are creating excellent stories set in another land and culture that the natives of those lands find both impressive and flattering.
  5. Finally, the film features a humble furry hero whose search in part for the truth and peace about his past is ironically more desirable a vision of a real humanity than Camping and his minions can ever display in my eyes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I forgot to mention that I am a local theatrical and film critic in my city, writing for Theatre in London ( and The Beat ( for each medium respectively, as well as for gratis and for pay in the same way.

Since writing means tooting your own horn for your very career future, I'll be posting my links to my reviews, beginning with my latest:

How I Learned to Drive by Paul Vogel and performed by The Verve Theatre company

It's a challenging play about abusive families and the difficult emotional complexities that thrive in them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In a world of 70 millions blogs, and one that still likes that old trailer chestnut, I finally stake my place in the blogosphere.

While I’m may not yet be in the league of greats like TV/comics writer Mark Evanier ( or parenting columnist Lenore Skenazy (, online silence is not golden. For a guy who was told that writing is my greatest strength, I’ve been slouching down this technological path when I should be running. As it is, it’s long past time to pick up my pace.

I haven’t done it sooner because I didn’t feel I had anything to say meaningful and regularly. Yet, I’ve had this growing urge to speak out more. I’ve put my oar in the public waterway with sporadic newspaper letters to the editor, but I’m through waiting each month to write to the London Free Press about about the right issue and hope I get printed.

I intend to cover mainly Canadian politics and media issues as well as popular arts like film, comics and animation, hopefully like Jian Ghomeshi’s opening monologues on CBC Radio’s Q, at least until a more specific topic inspires me. In an effort not to be like 80% of Americans, I try to seriously follow the news each weekday with multiple sources like the CBC, Toronto Star,, London Free Press, Ain’t It Cool News, New York Times Magazine, The Walrus and This Magazine. I just hope I can comment about the world with some humanity as opposed to brainlessly regurgitating news. If that makes me “biased,” then who am I to argue with Stephen Colbert’s observation, “Reality has a liberal bias”?

If you’re game, then I invite you on this personal journey as I hope to do my bit adding to the Net’s contextual cacophony and hopefully I’ll strike a good note.