Ted Kramer’s wife leaves him, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple’s son, deepening the wounds left by the separation. (IMDb)
On the one hand Joanna is a fascinating character–an enigma, full of pain and repressed desires. Yet at the same time I can’t help but wonder if the film, by leaving her to the bookends, reduced her to the mere emotional and irrational woman trope, saved at the end by the easily redeemed (it is admittedly a poignant journey through parenthood) formerly absent husband and father. This issue aside, it’s certainly clear at least that each and every individual scene is written and acted marvelously.
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to home. (IMDb)
As colourful and creatively animated as always (see the unique multi-panel training montage, trippy climactic trip to the spirit world) but with heightened humour (“Even Master Chicken’s going in, and he’s a chicken!”) and emotion (the two-dad arc is a touching one: “Dads!”) this time around, often taking place within the same wonderful moment (see the two-dad fighting combo; chi circle: “You taught us to be who we were meant to be. A dad” “A friend” Granny panda: “A lethal fighting machine”).
7.5/10 (Really Good)
Po and his friends fight to stop a peacock villain from conquering China with a deadly new weapon, but first the Dragon Warrior must come to terms with his past. (IMDb)
Like the first, the fat jokes fail (do we really need a “boing” sound every time something hits his tummy?) but the wild action sequences are heaps of fun (see Po’s cart ride with the wolf through town) and the animation delights (see the lovely 2D bits). Elsewhere, the villain’s good, the “who am I?” pathos is unremarkable, and the non-fat-joke humour lands (see the snarky old Soothsayer); ultimately, the colourful, lively anthropomorphic animal world carries this through any inconsistencies.
The Dragon Warrior has to clash against the savage Tai Lung as China’s fate hangs in the balance: However, the Dragon Warrior mantle is supposedly mistaken to be bestowed upon an obese panda who is a tyro in martial arts. (IMDb)
Unless you’re a fan of fat jokes, the humour doesn’t do much to spice up what is very much a predictable, seen-before “unlikely hero” story, just in a different context. Fortunately, said context is beautifully animated and said story is broken up by numerous large sequences of stunningly rendered and superbly creative kung-fu action. Boosted by Hoffman’s strong voice work, Shifu’s touching arc (see his farewell to Oogway by the tree) also adds a compelling secondary character element.
An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father. (IMDb)
Shifts from a first act packed to the brim with quirky, rapid-fire dialogue (Hoffman’s self-absorbed Harold is the highlight here: “It’s my protest”), entertainingly edited (see the snippets montage) to a downright hilarious second act (see the siblings’ note taking, Pam obsession) and a slower, more ponderous third act that really brought out the complex dynamic between the brothers and The Dad (both Stiller and Sandler are great–see their pre-fight exchange). Well-paced, and never predictable.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
Family-patriarch Jack Byrnes wants to appoint a successor. Does his son-in-law, the male nurse Greg Focker, have what it takes? (IMDb)
A little old and tired, just like its characters, with a dumb plot pulled out of thin air (“Godfocker”? Really?) and over-the-top body/sex humour trying desperately but failing to get some laughs (see the finger-cutting; erection incident). Elsewhere, there are a few funny moments (Dern’s small part is a highlight; Wilson’s Spacey Kevin is always good), and the marriage/family drama probably would have been decent if the film didn’t try and make it funny (see the uncomfortable hospital scene).
All hell breaks loose when the Byrnes family meets the Focker family for the first time. (IMDb)
A most minimal of plots is saved by the excellent cast, who play off their characters’ striking contrasts (to DeNiro’s no-fun Jack and Stiller’s awkward Greg is added Hoffman’s delightfully exuberant Bernie and Streisand’s free-spirited Roz) with natural ease and to hilarious results, as the script takes the chaotic tension impressively far (even deep) before the heartwarming payoff (see Jack’s “we’re family now”). Given the film’s length though, the silly son sub-story could have been cut.
A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means. (IMDb)
A few odd (literally) instances aside (see the mud sex), it maintains a perfect balance between quirky existential comedy (the philosophy also nicely rejects the extremes) and relatable drama, as wildly memorable dialogue-packed scenes (see dinner at Steve’s) craft numerous brilliant character arcs (Dawn’s epiphany is hilarious; Schwartzman’s on the lawn poignant), boosted by outstanding turns (see Law’s face listening to the joke recordings; Wahlberg’s petroleum rants). Nice soundtrack, too.
A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter. (IMDb)
A few uncomfortably stiff scenes (the initial seduction comes out of nowhere, and lacks authentic sensuality) and some puzzlingly unfounded plot points (see Benjamin’s sudden love for Elaine–saved only by the uncertain ending) are mostly overshadowed by the film’s unique blend of dry, awkward comedy (see the hotel lobby scenes), sexual drama, and melancholy coming-of-age fare, and its daringly creative cinematography (see the brilliant diving/hotel room montage and the classroom time lapse).
7.5/10 (Really Good)