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  • Kicking it with ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’
    Kicking it with ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

    Animated sequel familiar, but still plenty of fun

    As much as we might bemoan the lack of originality in Hollywood, there’s no denying the reality that there’s a lot of money to be made by giving people what they’ve already shown that they like.

    Animated movies are among the guiltiest of offenders. Any animated film that achieves even a modicum of success swiftly becomes a franchise, a family-friendly cash cow that can be counted on to generate serious box office and merchandising revenue over and over and over again. Granted, all of these animated franchises fall prey to the inevitability of diminishing returns, but some manage their drop-offs better than others.

    “Kung Fu Panda 3” is a good example of that sort of quality management. The folks at DreamWorks have never been shy about hitting the same notes repeatedly (“Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and – most egregiously – “Madagascar”), but they’ve handled this particular series with a lighter touch. The end result is a film that, while undeniably familiar, still manages to retain a bit of freshness.

  • ‘The Finest Hours’ not so fine
    ‘The Finest Hours’ not so fine

    Historical rescue drama mostly mediocre

    The moviegoing public has always had an affinity for films that are based on a true story. Of course, there’s always a degree of interpretation and dramatic license that goes into bringing those narratives to the big screen – too often, reality simply isn’t deemed interesting enough.

    “The Finest Hours” is an example of a movie that seemingly sticks fairly closely to its original source material. The story of a 1952 Coast Guard rescue operation off the Massachusetts coast has plenty to recommend it, with heroic actions in the face of overwhelming odds and the uncaring rage of Mother Nature and all of that.

    Alas, while the pieces are there for something really good, the end result is ultimately less than memorable.

     

  • Crashing of ‘The 5th Wave’
    Crashing of ‘The 5th Wave’

    YA sci-fi adaptation fails to live up to source material

    Young adult apocalypses are big business at the box office. Book-based franchises such as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” and “The Maze Runner” have shown themselves to be lucrative properties. Unfortunately, we’ve definitely passed the point at which the law of diminishing returns kicks in. For every success, there is going to be at least one failure.

    Unfortunately, “The 5th Wave” appears destined to fall in the latter category.

     

  • Some dirt just won’t wash off
    Some dirt just won’t wash off

    “Dirty Grandpa” one of 2016’s worst so far

    Ever wonder what would happen if you paired one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history with a sentient set of abs?

    Well, whether you did or not, the answer has arrived in the form of “Dirty Grandpa,” a comedy – sorry, “comedy” – starring Robert De Niro and Zac Efron. Let me be the one to assure you that however bad you might believe this movie to be, rest assured that it is much, much worse.

     

  • ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’
    ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’

    Flawed film features solid action, questionable accuracy

    There are few filmmakers in Hollywood who are as commercially successful and as critically reviled as Michael Bay. His over-the-top explosion-laden aesthetic has proven to be extremely popular at the box office, much to the chagrin of just about anyone who actually cares about movies as an art form.

    However, it should be noted that Bay has occasionally managed to transcend his inherent schlocky dudebro-ness and create something more. And I do mean occasionally – I can think of two, the most recent being 2013’s “Pain & Gain.” Make no mistake – these offerings are still very much Michael Bay movies. They just have a less “lowest common denominator” vibe than his usual fare.

     

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