‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 154

Thank you to Darin, Georgina, Laiyi, Paul, Jules, Kyle, James, Janie and Vicky for making the clubs inaugural ‘Unlimited Day’ a great success, it was absolute fantastic day! and it seemed I greatly upped my cinema count (did I have an hidden agenda when planning this marathon day!) has we watched 3 very different films indeed….

#115 / 365 – ‘Kung Fu Panda 2 – 3D’ – 90 mins
Cinema Challenge #44 / 115

Having become the Dragon Warrior, lovable, portly Po (Jack Black) now protects the Valley of Peace. It’s a life of immense awesomeness with his chums and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five: Mantis (Seth Rogan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper, (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). But now an evil foe has emerged in the form of emperor albino peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). He plans to conquer China with an unstoppable weapon. Worse still, this threatens the future of kung fu itself.

Following on from the enjoyable, heartwarming and surprise hit of Summer 2008, Kung Fu Panda 2 follows the traditional sequel equation of dishing up more of the same while ladling on heaps of spectacular action. The story this time around is a little darker as we learn of Po’s origins, it brings back all the A-list voices with Jack Black as Po the Panda who is now very much comfortable in the role as the very amusing Dragon Warrior, we get a new villain to replace the now defeated snow leopard Tai Lung, in the form of Lord Shen the peacock, menacingly voiced by Gary Oldman and does Oldman play any other role apart from the villain these days?

Kung Fu Panda 2 looks fantastic all the way through with some simply exquisite animation (check some of the shadowy scenes) and I’m happy to say the 3D element works well for a change, am I being finally won round? or maybe I am thinking it serves better purpose in animated films rather than the live action where its awfully placed. Overall though the adventure here though seems to have lost much of the unique flavour of the first film and Po only brings a few goodies with him in this kaboom of doom.

#116 / 365 – ‘Last Night’ – 93 mins
Cinema Challenge #45 / 115

Meet Manhattan couple Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael Reed (Sam Worthington). They’re young, hip, glamorous and wealthy. What could possibly go wrong with their perfect marriage? Well, at a business party Joanna spots Michael flirting with his attractive new assistant, Laura (Eva Mendes). Back home, she accuses him of having an affair with the woman. Temptation then presents itself when Michael spends a night away on business in Philadelphia with Laura. Meanwhile, Joanna’s old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet) reappears back in New York and she agrees to go on a double date with him. The attraction between them is swiftly rekindled. As alcohol flows and inhibitions are shed, will Michael or Joanna actually cheat? And even if no sex takes place, how far do you have to go for it to count as a betrayal?

There is a reason that Last Night hasn’t received much publicity or any at all, because quite frankly its pretty poor. The comparisons with Mike Nicholls, ‘Closer‘ are inevitable but whilst his adult relationship drama had some bite, Massy Tadjedin style here is all too stiff and clinical. The best moment of the movie comes when the wonderfully blunt and warm friend Truman (Griffin Dunne) mixes brutally honest questions with a gentleness that allows Joanna to be completely revealing.

Performance wise everyone does the best they can with the material given, except Sam Worthington who I’ve now pretty much come around to the fact cannot act – period. Despite the lack of an emotional core, Last Night is beautifully shot and everything smoulders with style within its contemporary setting, but in the end its dull and completely missable.

#117 / 365 – ‘X-Men: First Class’ – 132 mins
Cinema Challenge #46 / 115

Before Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.

Marvel can breathe a sigh of relief again, because its safe to say director Matthew Vaughan (‘Kick-Ass’) has rejuvenated a franchise which has been stuck in complete stagnation since ‘The Last Stand’ and then the disastrous and completely forgettable ‘Origins: Wolverine’ – who in a brief cameo, has the best line here. X-Men: First Class has a great feel with its 60’s Cuban missile crisis setting, even though at times it does appear that too much has been packed into the storyline and the thought of too-many-characters enters the mind, a potential problem for Marvels ‘Avengers’?

With McAvoy and Fassbender being a casting triumph with the latter commandingly stealing the film, along with them its nice to see Kevin Bacon back on the big screen who makes a formidable villain in Sebastian Shaw. Overall with some great stylistic action pieces Vaughan has given the mutants their most confident and audacious first class adventure since X2.

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