Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

I went to go see the second installment of this Jack Black epic last night. Long story short, it did not disappoint. The story was original and fresh, but tied nicely to the first movie and stayed true to the characters. It didn't feel like it had been thrown together in a basement overnight as a way to continue to make money off the first movie. You know what I'm talking about--those movies like Shrek 25, or whatever number they're on now.

The plot is also thankfully not a tired repeat of the plot of the first movie. Now, they bear similarities, of course, but you don't have much of a story without a bad guy, character growth, and other various staples. While the first movie covers Po's journey from out-of-place noodle chef to legendary Dragon Warrior and learning that he had it in him the entire time, the second movie is more of a personal journey that comes from having everything he ever dreamed of but realizing he doesn't know who he is. It dives deeper, and with the key characters already sufficiently developed in the first movie, audiences are able to connect emotionally with Po without having to try to keep up with the other characters. And there are some pretty hardcore action scenes, too.

Here's where my critique comes, though. I'm a firm believer in the suspension of disbelief--it's a powerful thing, and movies would be majorly boring without it. But I also believe that you have to establish a set of rules and more or less abide by them throughout the story. So it was a little difficult to believe that a good punch was enough to knock someone out cold, while a cannon blast will only leave you with sooty fur and a headache. That's not a very fearsome weapon. I get that it's a kids' movie, so they don't show you blood, guts, death, or any of that nasty stuff, but it's still easy enough to imply when a character has met his end.

The flick draws its share of giggles, and I appreciated that the writers didn't feel the need to constantly remind the audience of how funny Po is. We got a good sense of that from the first movie, and in this one, his jokes are comfortable and well-suited to the situations, not forced, which allows him to take a somber journey into his past. In fact, the scene in which this really happens is composed extremely well, making effective use of the elegant juxtaposition of the two different animation styles, something we didn't get to see so much of in the first movie.

I'll try not to give away too much, because you should really go see this one, but I will applaud the number of questions that get answered in the film. In the first movie, Po got exposure; in this one, he finds closure. The end promises a third, and I am genuinely interested to see where Po, Shifu, and the "Furious Five" will be taken in the next installment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Smells Like Low Tide...In a Good Way

We're studying poetry from the English Romantic period. Naturally, this involved writing our own Romantic poems. They were supposed to be about beauty and nature and just generally everything fluffy and nice. We were supposed to think of a place in nature that meant something to us. I did this, but my poem ran away with me (you know how poems can be), and mine wound up being more about my grandfather than the place I'd started with.

We have a mobile home at the beach, and that was always one of the places where he was the happiest, I think. He and I used to go clamming. We would pick our way through the marsh/wetland area behind the mobile home park to where we knew the clams were the easiest to find, hauling our bucket, one of those metal things for measuring the clams, a couple of rakes, and a pair of disgusting black gloves that were about ten sizes to big for me. I usually wore the nearest shoes on hand, whether they were my own water shoes or a pair of someone's old sneakers almost as gross as the gloves. I never cared what I looked like. Out in that marsh with my grandpa, I was--if you'll forgive me for this because I don't feel like I can miss this one--as happy as a clam.

Usually his stamina outlasted mine, and I was the one who was done while he kept saying, "One more; just one more." Eventually that changed, though, and I distinctly remember one instance when I was the one begging, "One more!" He wiped his brow and made that face he always made when he was flustered and I could tell he'd have stayed out there with me until the sun went down and came back up again in the morning. The tide was coming in, though, and if we wanted to actually eat the clams, we had to be back in time for dinner. I surrendered and back we went.

Back at the mobile home, we washed and--as was the custom, for he was a dutiful keeper of records--counted them. Thirty-nine. Thirty-nine. It was a very long time before he stopped hearing about that from me.

And now this post has run off with me much in the same manner as my poem did earlier today. So, without further ado, here is my little sentimental aberration (for this is truly a deviation from my cynicism I'm sure you've all come to know and love):


I remember the mud
That swallowed my shoe,
The bucket, the rake,
And I remember you.

The grass a brilliant green
And the water just as blue
Twenty times “Just one more!”
But that’s what we’d do.

The breeze lifts my wet hair
And it clings to my shoulder.
I try to pretend
That I’m not getting older.

The grass is still here
To dance with the breeze,
And a thousand fish dance
In a thousand blue seas.

But you aren’t here, Papa,
Not where you should be.
And now I’ve got no one
To dance here with me.

I remember
The sun on my skin,
And the water that rose
As the tide came back in

I know when I’m here,
I’m not truly alone,
But as the sun sets,
I walk back on my own.