Thoughts on recently-seen movies (MINOR SPOILERS POSSIBLY)
Kung Fu Panda: A fun movie despite the Jack Black Factor. He plays Po, a fat, out-of-shape panda who, by virtue of being in the right place at the right time, is appointed by a sage turtle to be the Dragon Warrior, much to the dismay of the trainer (a mouse-looking thing played by Dustin Hoffman) and his Furious Five (snake, monkey, mantis, bird, and tiger). Having been to China more than once I appreciated the film's attention to detail, particularly in its use of Chinese Zodiac characters for all of the major roles. The first half is great, though it falters a bit in the second, especially with the too-hasty ending. B+.
Quantum of Solace: This is Casino Royale Part II, with Bond channeling Jason Bourne. Fast-paced, action-packed, ADD-edited, and more than a little convoluted, but better than many people are saying. Bond's out for revenge this time - not only against the people who killed his one true love, Vesper Lynd, at the end of Casino Royale, but also against double-agents in MI-6 who attempted to kill M (Judi Dench again, I love her in this role). There's more emotional substance here than most viewers seem to have noticed, but maybe they were just thrown off guard because this time, he doesn't bed the main Bond girl (Olga something or other) nor walk off into the sunset with her at the end. I did like the interplay between Bond and M, and how they truly trust each other even though they won't always act that way in front of the other person. I won't go into much detail about the villains involved, except to say that the main one, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric, sp?), is an faux-environmentalist with ulterior motives, and there are almost too many "supporting villains" to keep track of. Note to the cameraman: HOLD THE FUCKING CAMERA STILL! B-.
The Duchess: This year's requisite Keira Knightley British period costume drama (last year it was Atonement, before that Pride and Prejudice) is the best of the lot - a ravishing entertainment of Georgianna, a yound socialite who at 17 is forced to marry the older Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) and give him a son...except problem is, she keeps popping out girls, ultimately driving hubby into the arms of another woman. These kinds of movies never fare well in Crankyland, but rest assured, it's much better than it sounds. Knightley gives the best performance of her career as "G," stuck in a loveless marriage and, did I mention, in love with a Whig party commoner who one day may or may not become Britain's prime minister. Okay, this one doesn't have any of Coaster's Five Elements of a Good Movie, but I really liked it anyway. A.