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Kung Fu Panda 3D(2008)
Kung Fu Panda features Po the Panda, a lowly waiter in a noodle restaurant, who is a kung fu fanatic but whose shape doesn't exactly lend itself to kung fu fighting. That's a problem because powerful enemies are at the gates, and all hopes have been pinned on a prophesy naming Po as the "Chosen One" to save the day. A group of martial arts masters are going to need a black belt in patience if they are going to turn this slacker panda into a kung fu fighter before it's too late.
For more about Kung Fu Panda 3D and the Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray release, see Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan
Directors: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
» See full cast & crew
Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray Review
Po in 3D -- now extra rotund!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 15, 2011
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.
Cuddly animals sell. Be they giant stuffed prizes at carnivals, the fluffy kitten in the corner pet shop window, or characters in the latest live-action or animated films, furry four-legged creatures are a marketer's dream come true. Hollywood has enjoyed a long and storied lineage of animals in lead roles. Old Yeller, Milo & Otis, Lassie, Babe, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and even Remmy the Rat from Ratatouille effortlessly capture the hearts of audiences everywhere with their often human-like personas, showing a range of emotion and stirring the soul through the good times and the bad, their adventures, well-being, and fates practically a part of culture and certainly of cinematic legend. Of course, like any good idea, loads of wannabe imitators crop up more often than one might care to admit, giving the world a couple of live-action Garfield films and enough Air Bud flicks to keep a five-year-old busy until he or she starts high school. Fortunately, one of the more recent animal-centric films, DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda, stands firmly with the best of the best of the cute-and-cuddly animal world movies. Rivaling the animation, storytelling, and characterization of the best Pixar films, Panda will tickle the funny bone, pull on the heart strings, dazzle with its death-defying action, and prove once and for all that it's what's in the heart that really counts.
In ancient China there was once a Kung Fu warrior so powerful that he blinded his enemies at the mere presence of his awesome power, and even the Furious Five, a group of China's most accomplished Kung Fu warriors, bowed down to him, at least in his dreams. In reality, he is merely a lowly, overweight panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) who works in his father's noodle shop and cannot climb a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath. In reality, it is Po who worships the Furious Five, playing with their action figures and dreaming of one day being the hero they are. When it is announced that one of the Five will be awarded the title "Dragon Warrior," a recognition given to the most powerful Kung Fu Master of them all, Po heads to the Jade Temple, ascends the massive staircase but finds he is seconds late, the doors closing, shutting him out of seeing his heroes and one of the most important moments in Chinese history. When Po manages to literally drop into the arena from the sky, smack-dab into the middle of the ceremony, the ancient Master Oogway (voiced by Randall Duk Kim) chooses Po to be the Dragon Warrior! The Fabulous Five, particularly star pupil Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), are outraged, but Oogway insists that Po is indeed the chosen one, and Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) is charged with the task of training the seemingly untrainable Panda, and all before the unstoppable enemy Tai Lung (voiced by Ian McShane) breaks free from captivity to wreak havoc on the Chinese countryside.
Besides the explosion of smartly and seamlessly computer-created characters and worlds that have dominated animation for the past several years, the best of a more recent vintage seem to share a similar running theme, espousing the importance of individuality, self-worth, and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In Cars, Lightning McQueen must discover that it isn't about being the flashiest or the fastest car on the track, or even winning the Piston Cup, but rather the importance of what's underneath the fancy tires, paint jobs, and engine: a heart. Ratatouille cooks up a theme that shows that no matter how small or insignificant one may be, no matter how reviled by others, no matter who says "no you can't," a sprinkle of determination, a pinch of heart, and a bowl full of positive attitude can take you anywhere. Likewise, in Kung Fu Panda, audiences come to know Po, a lovable, overweight Panda with big dreams -- and an equally large gut. Laughed at for playing with his Kung Fu toys, working a career pushed on him by a father (a duck, oddly enough) who thinks his son can do no better than the lot he's supposedly drawn, and believed to be too clumsy, too large, too unfocused to be a great Kung Fu warrior by all but, it seems, Fate, Po nevertheless tries his hardest, and with the help and blessing of a wise old friend and his master's acceptance of the fact that "there are no accidents," Po becomes not necessarily the best Kung Fu Master -- but the Master of the heart, of determination, of a never-say-die attitude that takes him to unbelievable heights, fulfills his destiny, and equally important, his dream. What makes Kung Fu Panda so special is that the film never insists that a character need drastically change in order to fulfill a dream or a prophesy or discover who they really are. Po's physique never alters -- he becomes capable of great things in spite of his waistline, the film smartly stating that it's what's inside that really matters.
Aside from the plainly obvious yet nevertheless heartwarming and uplifting message it espouses, Kung Fu Panda is, just as importantly, a wild, exciting, and particularly funny movie. Each character is well-scripted and interesting. While the "Furious Five" don't receive all that much in the way of exposition, they nevertheless manage to satiate audience appetites as lovable, endearing characters, certainly an odd mixture of creatures and each of them with unique abilities and personalities. Still, they are mostly superficial, clearly supporting cast members whose lack of development seems like a missed opportunity, but considering the movie features, as is, nearly perfect pacing, sacrificing a kid-friendly runtime and adding a good 10 or 15 minutes to flesh out the background characters would probably serve as more of a hinderance than a help to the film. The short film Secrets of the Furious Five does delve into the backstory of each of these characters, just a heads up for those who want all the Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane they can get their hands on. Still, Kung Fu Panda smartly focuses on its three primary players -- the film's title character, Po the Panda, Master Shifu, and the villainous Tai Lung. Clearly, Po is the centerpiece of the film, and his character never disappoints. One of the more endearing characters in recent memory, Po bumbles his way though the film, and the running theme of his love for food never becomes cumbersome. The film smartly integrates food into practically every sequence; Po works in his father's noodle shop; his love for a good meal is a major hindrance to his physical wherewithal -- and a detriment to his waistline; Master Shifu integrates food into Po's training regimen, exploiting his "weakness" for dumplings. In fact, the gags never become old, and laughs abound throughout the film. A running joke, one that only becomes funnier every time it is incorporated into the film -- that of Po becoming short of breath and doubled over every time he must ascend to the top of the Jade Palace -- is smartly integrated into the story, and each time the joke is seen, it ends with varied comical consequences.
Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
DreamWorks' release of Kung Fu Panda in Blu-ray 3D is pretty spectacular. It's not the perfect 3D title, but the movie looks great with the added dimension and this is easily a worthwhile add to any high-def collection that already includes the previous 2008 2D-only Kung Fu Panda release. First, this presentation doesn't lag very far behind the visual perfection of the original release. Blacks are a little darker, but there are no scenes where information is completely lost to darkness, as is the case with some 3D titles. Po's black fur threatens to melt into darker backgrounds in some lower-light scenes, but the transfer maintains enough clarity and stability to prevent that from happening. Fine detail excels in every frame; whether various character's fur coats, the wooden floors and stone walls of Po's father's eatery, and even the smallest little fibers that make up the frayed rope on the bridge where Tigress and Tai Lung do battle, there's nary a moment where the digital creations don't look exemplary. This transfer is crisp and razor-sharp from start to finish. Colors are superb as well; Tigress' orange-and-black striped fur, Mantis' green body, and general odds and ends around town and at the Dragon Warrior ceremony sparkle, with the brightest shades popping right off the screen. Banding is minimal, and there are no other troublesome anomalies of which to speak. The material holds up well with the added 3D element, an element which makes a great movie even better.
The 3D aspects of this transfer are superb. Only slight and infrequent bouts of crosstalk mar otherwise glorious 3D visuals. Things begin with a nicely offset DreamWorks logo, followed by the film's title, which features the word "Panda" appearing to almost lay flat. It's a genuinely impressive feat, though relatively simple nevertheless. The transfer is awash in magnificent depth throughout. There's very good separation, even in the more "flat" animation that opens the film in the form of one of Po's Kung Fu dreams. There's a fine sense of spacing, whether from building to building in town, up daunting flights of stairs, or visible in something as simple as the space between Oogway's reptilian body and hardened shell. His neck and head appear to stick out of the screen in one scene, as does the business end of a spear in another. Debris, confetti, and leaves all appear to drift in front of and through the screen during several scenes, adding a further "wow" factor to the visuals. Everything is very shapely and natural, particularly round objects, such as vases, and Po's rotund belly. DreamWorks' 3D transfer is fairly seamless, even if it encounters a few easy-to-overlook obstacles on its way to Blu-ray 3D excellence.
Note that this disc does not offer 2D playback; all screenshots were taken from the 'Kung Fu Panda' 2D-only release from 2008.
Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kung Fu Panda slices and dices sound systems with an amazing Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This is a rich and fulfilling experience that always finds just the right balance. It is never too loud, too forced, or too underwhelming. Everything works together in perfect harmony to create a fine mix. The sound flows naturally and evenly across the front, with the perfectly-rendered dialogue remaining entrenched in the center, although the track features some excellent panning and directionality of dialogue in several instances that never sounds forced or out of place. Bass is well represented. Deep and powerful, but never overextending its welcome, it is simply natural and precise. Surround speakers are used to excellent effect; there is a deluge of information thrown back there, but all of it is integrated wonderfully into the film, never becoming a distraction but nevertheless creating an immersive, fulfilling experience. From the most subtle atmospherics to awesome directional effects, from the score to sound that sweeps across the back, the surround channels are put to excellent use through virtually the entire picture. Tai Lung's escape sequence in chapter 10 is a sonic delight, extremely active yet clear and clean as a whistle, the entire soundstage coming alive as the Snow Leopard escapes, the prison crumbling and exploding all around, the action incredibly robust and the sound field full and powerful yet elegant and delightful. Kung Fu Panda offers a reference-grade sonic experience from the Dolby TrueHD presentation.
Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only supplement on this disc is a Blu-ray 3D trailer for Puss in Boots. A 2D DVD copy of the film is also included.
Kung Fu Panda 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Kung Fu Panda is a film that does most everything right. Witty, action-packed, featuring a fabulous cast of characters, and with a strong, uplifting message, the film never sees a dull moment. The film holds up extremely well to repeat viewings, and Kung Fu Panda is destined to become a long-standing favorite among fans of animation, the martial arts, or as a movie that lifts the spirits and dampens the negativity that surrounds any situation life may offer. Whether one struggles with self-image issues, lacks courage or discipline, or is ridiculed and put down by others, the film offers a nice reprieve from life's problems and offers meaning, depth, and reassurance while it entertains. DreamWork's Blu-ray 3D release of Kung Fu Panda is, no surprise, a winner. Featuring superb 3D video and a stellar lossless soundtrack, this release is a must for 3D-owning fans of the movie. Suitable for audiences of all ages and available and a top-notch Blu-ray to boot, Kung Fu Panda's Blu-ray 3D release comes highly recommended!
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