Reel Critics: 'Panda' will delight the whole family

The Dreamworks studio builds well on successful elements of the first movie of this franchise to make "Kung Fu Panda 2" a very worthy sequel. But it's the new director, Jennifer Yuh, who skillfully blends the fast-paced action with family-friendly themes to really make it all work.

Our panda hero seeks to solve the mystery from the first film surrounding his long-lost parents. In the process he comes into conflict with the evil peacock responsible for his fate. Many different animal friends and foes take part in the adventures that follow. They all participate in rollicking chases and fighting scenes played for fun that seem to leave no one with actual injuries.

I thought the frenzied antics and wry comments by the characters might be better suited for older kids. But the many younger children at my packed viewing were laughing loudly at the snappy dialogue and wild action.

Great special effects enhance all aspects of this production that will entertain young and old alike.


There's magic at 'Midnight in Paris'

The City of Light has never looked more idyllic than in "Midnight in Paris."

Woody Allen has written and directed an enchanting, witty homage to the city's timeless beauty and artistic legacy.

Owen Wilson (in a charming, wide-eyed performance) is Gil, a writer in a mild creative crisis. He'd like nothing better than to hole up in some Parisian attic to work on his novel. Fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) doesn't share such lofty ideals.

Out for a stroll, Gil magically meets his heroes of 1920s Paris — Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a lovely woman (Marion Cotillard) who stirs his soul. Can this be real?

Similar in tone to his "Purple Rose of Cairo," Allen has created a little fairy tale full of nostalgic longings. The film's period look and cast — notably Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody — are perfection.

"Midnight in Paris" is like a pretty postcard: You don't see the messiness of real life, which is the point Allen wisely gets across. Yet it's precisely that little getaway of the mind that keeps us coming to the movies.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

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