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Notes from the Back Row

Return of the sequel



With the Canucks pushing for the Cup it's a wonder that anyone is out at the movies these days but if you are heading out for a flick this weekend get ready for some sequels.

Kung Fu Panda 2 opens this week and it's one of those rare sequels that lives up to its predecessor. Jack Black returns as the voice of Po, a chunky Panda who learned to kick ass last time around and now has to save China, his own inner peace and Kung Fu itself from a maniac peacock (voiced by Gary Oldman). SPOILER ALERT: said peacock also once murdered Po's parents and if we learned anything from Tarantino it's that Kung Fu and revenge are a match made in heaven.

The Furious Five supporting cast gets to do a lot more this time around at only 91 minutes long things move quickly and are easy to like.

One of the biggest pit-traps of sequels is that they usually just recycle jokes from the first installment. Kung Fu Panda 2 avoids this (mostly) by going heavier on the action while still letting Jack Black do his thing. It's worth checking out with the kids although Whistler is still without a 3D projector so make sure you warn the little ones beforehand to avoid disappointment. Also, Angelina Jolie is back voicing Tigress so it's good for adults too.

Speaking of adults, The Hangover Part 2 , now playing, is this summer's first R-rated comedy. To some extent this one does fall prey to the classic sequel recycling issues. Bear in mind that the bar was set pretty high - the first Hangover was the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time and relied on a unique one-off situation and virtually unknown, big talent stars Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper.

Now director Todd Phillips' actors are A-listers but that comes with high expectations. The plot is essentially the same - the worst morning after ever - but Phillips changes the setting - to Bangkok this time, land of Ladyboys and drug dealing monkeys.

This time around the guys lose the bride's younger brother but otherwise it's more of the same - dudes yelling at each other, Tyson, Ken Jeong as the brunt of some Asian jokes, male full frontal, a decent car chase and, in one of the worst calls ever, Paul Giamatti as a supposed tough-guy villain. I can barely stand Giamatti when he delivers award-winning performances. And this is far from that.

Despite the faults there is some decent juvenile humour to be had in The Hangover Part 2 (the title is a nod to The Godfather Part II ) will still appeal to high-fivin' white kids stoked that university is over. For the rest of us, however, this sequel feels kind of tired, kicked-in, nauseous and hungover.

Not much happening on the DVD/download front this week except Black Swan gets a release and is worth watching if you like dancing, psychological horror, Mila Kunis or hallucinatory lesbian cunnilingus scenes (or all the above.)

Also worth checking out is Inside Job , the documentary about how Wall Street swindled America and knowingly caused the last recession. This one is an Academy Award Winner and Goldman Sachs is all over the news lately, getting called out by everyone from the U.S. government to Rolling Stone magazine for purposely screwing people over.

The moral of it all: banks suck ass and we should start keeping our movie admission money in coffee cans buried in the yard.

X-Men: First Class comes to town next week and until then, Go 'Nucks.


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