Monday, May 30, 2011


Hope that everybody had a great Memorial Day.

Opening this past weekend was Kung Fu Panda 2, with Jack Black providing the voice of the rotund title creature, Po by name.

The adopted son of a goose restaurateur (James Hong), Po fights for freedom & justice in an ancient China populated by talking animals, as part of a band of Kung Fu warriors: a Tigress (Angelina Jolie), a Crane (David Cross), a Mantis (Seth Rogen), a Monkey (Jackie Chan) & a Viper (Lucy Liu), all of them trained by a sage Red Panda (Dustin Hoffman).

It’s a funny, exciting picture—Rogen gets the best line, when the Mantis describes his dreams for the future. But if you plan to see it, I would urge you to avoid seeing it in 3D.

Of the many films offered in 3D the last couple of years, a large number have been movies for children. It’s been a real enhancement to some of these, but I can’t think of one image or effect in Kung Fu Panda 2 that required more than two dimensions—indeed, the flashback sequences in KFP2 are in old-school “hand-drawn” 2D animation, and are so lovely it occurred to me that the whole film could have been in this style with no loss of beauty.

The trouble, in KFP2, is that the 3D glasses dim out the images onscreen, many of which are already in a dramatic chiaroscuro style. It’s really quite a visually impressive picture, but through the haze of those stupid glasses it becomes dull & murky to look at. If you slip the glasses off, the colors pop vividly, but of course it’s impossible to watch without them on.

I get that studios & exhibitors have latched on to 3D as a way to lure audiences away from home video & pay-per-view & back into the multiplexes. But the technology just isn’t right for every movie. No chance they could consider lowering the price of tickets? Or of popcorn?

RIP to the troubled Jeff Conaway of Grease & Taxi & Babylon 5, passed on at 60. I didn’t know until I read his obit that he & I made the same theatrical debut, as one of the bullies in All the Way Home (he in the original 1960 Broadway production, I at the Erie Playhouse in 1976).

RIP also to Ben Agresti, Artistic Director of the Camille Playhouse in Brownsville, Texas, & a theatre legend in my hometown of Erie. Ben, who passed on this weekend in Texas, played Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1977 at the Brick Barn Theatre in North East, PA, the second play I ever appeared in.

I later worked for Ben several times in dinner theater, notably in California Suite & in Dial M for Murder at Peek’n Peak in Clymer, NY. High theatrical art or not, the latter show was about as much fun as I ever had as an actor.


  1. I thought you might find these two articles on 3D movies interesting.

    A while ago I read a story about James Cameron at a exhibitor's conference, I think in Vegas, this year, and one of the things he mentioned specifically is that the theaters needed to up the light for 3D to offset how dark the glasses make the image.

    On Rober Ebert's blog Walter Murch wrote that the glasses reduce the image by about a stop. If this is true, I don't see why the 3D film prints can be printed a stop brighter, or the digital projectors calibrated to account for this. The glasses then would bring the image back to where it is supposed to be. Maybe the issue is more complex than that. I don't know.

    Loved KUNG FU PANDA 2, though. I don't think it's a coincidence that the best American action movies of late are annimated. I'm not sure why this is. My hunch is that with annimation they have to plan and design a sequence with greater care than live action. I know live action movies are storyboarded and planned, but often the action is filmed with 12 cameras and it seems as if they feel the need to use every single shot when they are putting a sequence together. The annimation director needs to know precisely want they want ahead of time and cannot rely on "finding it in the edit".

  2. Thanx as always for the linx, Phil!
    I think your assesment is dead-on as to why American action-movie action is so often muddy & hard to follow in recent years. Now that you mention it, that's probably also why animated movies have such comparatively lucid & coherent action scenes. Maybe too much coverage isn't always a good thing...

  3. I thought you would find this interesting. I remember the orginal being something you more or less enjoyed.

  4. Ha! The good ol' Brits; they have a long history of banning horror movies...They b anned the Universal classics in the '30s, with the inevitable result that kids over there were half-crazed to see them. I remember an interview with Alex Gordon in which he said that they were so crazy to see Bela Lugosi because of what they'd heard about "Dracula" in the '30s that they flocked to a low-rent crime picture called "Postal Inspector" in which he played a gangster. "Human Centipede" WAS pretty effed-up, though... Thanx as always for the link.