The Dragon Warrior

Kung Fu Panda 2 succeeds by going deeper with the legend of a panda of pure awesomeness. Turns out DreamWorks Animation is really good at making sequels. Since Kung Fu Panda 2 more than lives up to the standard set by the original. Po’s path to become the Dragon Warrior was so awesome that it led to an equally awesome Nickelodeon series called Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. Despite being 15 at the time, Kung Fu Panda was an action-packed martial arts tale for everyone. I definitely wasn’t expecting the sequel to be as dark as it ended up being. Kung Fu Panda 2 deals with heavy themes such as adoption, genocide, and death. All while retaining the hilarious sense of humor of before. Since it was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Kung Fu Panda 2 became the unlikely highest grossing movie with a female director. DreamWorks studied Chinese culture a lot closer and the opening reflects that by using another unique animation style. Chinese puppetry is used to tell the story of our newest villain.

After a physical threat like Tai Lung, Lord Shen ended up being a peacock. An evil peacock who uses bladed weapons, a deadly fireworks cannon, and wiped out a village of pandas when a soothsayer foretold his defeat. The brilliant Gary Oldman brings a sinister gravitas to a personal threat like Shen. Michelle Yeoh voices the old goat Soothsayer due to her strong connection with martial arts films. The same applies to one member of the legendary masters of Lord Shen’s former palace in Gongmen City. Jean-Claude Van Damme manages a computer animated split as Master Croc, Dennis Haysbert keeps you in good hands as Master Storming Ox, and Victor Garber gets some time in as Master Thundering Rhino. Learn more about them in their short Secrets of the Masters. Meanwhile, every other major voice actor from the first movie returns to save China from Shen’s kung fu ending weapon. Jack Black explores the deeper side of Po as he discovers he’s adopted. Mr. Ping being a goose was originally played for laughs, but they really take it seriously this time. Po was an adorable panda cub that Ping discovered in a radish crate and raised as his own. You might assume the comedy would be lost as soon as Master Po became a skilled kung fu panda, but his fighting style can still be hilarious.

Po is fully accepted by the Furious Five as they fight side by side. Angelina Jolie gives Master Tigress the most surprising character development as she participates in Po’s antics and becomes a genuine friend. Some say romantic, but I’m not sure that was their intention. Crane, Mantis, Monkey, and Viper have their moments of action, comedy, and companionship as well. It’s actually Master Shifu who’s left out since he has achieved inner peace and no longer needs to train the Dragon Warrior. A more withered Dustin Hoffman still shines no matter how small the part. The martial arts fighting is even more of a spectacle with the improved computer animation. Po and the Furious Five face a pack of wolves and gorillas in several creatively epic sequences. Po continues to be haunted by flashbacks associated with Shen’s symbol until he learns the terrible truth. That his mother was killed saving his life. With inner peace mastered, Po takes down Shen’s army with the help of his friends and a final “Skadoosh.” In the end, the lesson is to not let your past define who you are. Making Po’s acceptance of his adoptive father truly emotional. I just wasn’t expecting a cliffhanger where Po’s birth father is alive amongst other pandas. Kung Fu Panda 2 brought depth to a warrior of black & white.

20. Kung Fu Panda 2

Po fights with the Furious Five

Preceded by: Kung Fu Panda & Followed by: Kung Fu Panda 3

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

Kung Fu Panda set DreamWorks Animation on a path of legendary awesomeness. After something as bizarre as Bee Movie, DreamWorks needed a sure fire hit to fully earn back their lost appreciation as a computer animation studio. Kung Fu Panda sounded like a joke the second you heard the title. Yet just like our unlikely panda hero, the success of Kung Fu Panda was no accident. The original intention was to make a parody of martial arts films with anthropomorphic animals. Like the great masters before him, the director saw the potential to tell a genuine wuxia hero’s journey that honored Chinese tradition.

It just happened to star animals. Unlike some anthropomorphic animal movies, Kung Fu Panda is totally warranted in using an all animal world. I’ve always been a big fan of martial arts, but I hadn’t seen many movies centered on the subject. Kung Fu Panda is the perfect gateway for children to become entranced by kung fu. I was 13 years old in 2008 and there was no way my brother and I would miss out on what was sure to be a blast. Kung Fu Panda was so awesome that it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature and became the highest grossing non-sequel for DreamWorks at the time…

12. Kung Fu Panda

Po trains with Master Shifu

Kung Fu Panda is the best of both worlds for DreamWorks. It was comedic, but there are no pop culture references or Disney jabs. Martial arts movies were an influence, but this level of dedication to action hadn’t been done before. The breathtaking computer animation and respect for ancient tradition even earned Kung Fu Panda acclaim in China. Not bad for a predominantly American production with primarily American voice actors. The animation wasn’t just limited to CGI, because the opening establishes the mood with a beautiful traditionally animated sequence meant to resemble a Chinese painting. The Valley of Peace is a peaceful Ancient Chinese setting mostly inhabited by Chinese animals such as rabbits, pigs, and geese. Each of them wearing appropriate Chinese attire.

Our hero is the most unlikely warrior imaginable. Po is a big fat panda with an intense fanboy appreciation for kung fu. After his less than inspired role in Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda was exactly what Jack Black needed in his 2008 career resurgence. Jack Black’s hilarious enthusiasm was just right for Po, but he also gave the panda more depth than you’d expect from a comedian like him. Po dreams about being the legendary Dragon Warrior even though his father wants him to run the family business. They trick you into thinking he’s a panda, but Po’s father is actually a cheerful goose named Mr. Ping. Ping loves his son as much as he loves making his secret ingredient noodles. The funny and criminally underappreciated James Hong is one of at least four Oriental actors in the movie.

The center of all kung fu action is the Jade Palace. A sacred hall where the greatest warriors in all the land come to train under Master Shifu. A role filled by the critically acclaimed Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman isn’t someone I’d immediately associate with kung fu, but his experience brought great complexity to the stern Shifu. Despite his anti-panda sentiment, most people forget Shifu is actually a red panda. The wisest member of the Jade Palace is the elderly tortoise Master Oogway. Randall Duk Kim voices the ancient mentor who envisions the return of a deadly foe. Leading to a ceremony where the Dragon Warrior is chosen. Everyone including Po is shocked when he’s the one chosen. Shifu doesn’t believe a flabby panda can become the greatest warrior in history, but Ooway knows what he’s doing.

The Furious Five are the most clever use of anthropomorphic animals in the movie. Since each of them embody a different animal style of kung fu. The Furious Five are easily the coolest characters with all their high energy martial arts experience. Like Jack Black, Angelina Jolie got her Shark Tale redemption as the fierce and highly dedicated Master Tigress. Next to Shifu, Tigress is the most vocally against Po training among them. Jolie really captures her warrior spirit and longing to prove herself. The rest of the Furious Five are made up of 2 Chinese actors and 2 comedians. Jackie Chan himself is the high energy humor loving Master Monkey. He’s a monkey of a few words, but a great fighter on the team. Lucy Liu brings slithery sweetness to Master Viper. She’s probably the least hostile team member towards Po. David Cross uses his trademark sarcasm for the flighty Master Crane. The first team member to directly interact with Po, but it doesn’t go too well. The least likely Furious Five member is Seth Rogen as the small Master Mantis. You get what you expect from the laugh prone Rogen, but every warrior is beneficial to the team.

The Furious Five was so interesting that they got a short film detailing their unique origin stories called Secrets of the Furious Five. The slapstick that comes from Po’s training is hilarious, but a real warrior never quits. Not even when the main villain escapes his inescapable prison. Ian McShane is excellent as the extremely intimidating snow leopard Tai Lung. He was once raised by Shifu like a son, but his heart turned to black when Oogway rejected him as Dragon Warrior. His prison is heavily fortified with thousands of rhino guards and Tai Lung as the only prisoner. The late Michael Clarke Duncan makes the most of his small role as a guard who shows a Dan Folger voiced messenger goose every precaution. Kung Fu Panda is very funny, but action is the real highlight of the movie. The stylised, fast paced, yet cartoon friendly kung fu sequences are edge of your seat excitement.

He may be the villain, but Tai Lung’s escape is a pure spectacle. The Furious Five vs. Tai Lung is an epic bridge showdown that practically defies the laws of physics. Meanwhile, Shifu makes a breakthrough with Po when he realizes food is a great source of motivation. You really come to believe Po’s journey as he fights for his dumpling and masters panda style. When Tai Lung nerve strikes the Five, it’s finally time for Po to unlock the secrets of the Dragon Warrior scroll. It appears to be blank, but Po’s father helps him to realize there is no secret ingredient. You need only to believe you’re special. Master Shifu vs. Tai Lung is a brutal fight between mentor and mentee that only ends when Po eventually climbs up the stairs.

You wouldn’t expect a fierce snow leopard to be a match for a lazy panda, but Po vs. Tai Lung is a hilariously unconventional fight that’s very evenly matched. Po proves himself by mastering the Wuxi Finger Hold and conquers his enemy with a final “Skadoosh.” In the end, Po’s dream comes true as he’s honored by the Furious Five and accepted by a much more light hearted Shifu. An after-credit scene (that I often forget about) shows them bonding over a meal and reveals a symbolic peach tree that begins to sprout. Of course I’d be sad if they didn’t use the always catchy song “Kung Fu Fighting” at the end. A song normally used as a punchline, is given an honorable cover by CeeLo Green. Kung Fu Panda is more awesome than DreamWorks could’ve expected.

13. Kung Fu Panda

The Furious Five

Followed by: Kung Fu Panda 2

What a Woman

Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman is the unnecessary remake to an already cheesy cult classic. A B movie concept like this can only go so far in the 20th century. Director Christopher Guest goes for a slight campy tone, but still expects it to be taken seriously. Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman became a TV movie released on HBO. Despite the R rating, there’s only one instance of nudity and an F bomb. The blue tinted 1993 remake follows a lot of the same beats as the original.

Daryl Hannah goes from timid Nancy Archer to confident sexual goddess over the course of the movie. The aliens arrive in a conventional flying saucer that eventually turns her into a giantess. The enlarging effects obviously look better in the 90’s. They just take more cues from The Amazing Colossal Man by including a giant needle and a mundane activity like bathing in a swimming pool. The ending is more like the original when Nancy starts screaming for “Harry!”

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is playing at a drive-thru to make it more obvious. The biggest difference is the more feminist slant they give it. None of the female characters are made to look bad. Harry is still a cheating jerk (played by a Baldwin), but Honey is more redeemable. Nancy’s father is also included to show someone else putting her down. Her psychiatrist and the comical deputy are also changed to women. I was mostly on board until the drastically altered ending. Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman is a fine, but forgettable remake.

Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman

Nancy Archer baths in a swimming pool

Remake of: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman turned a beast into a beauty. Although The Amazing Colossal Man and its sequel War of the Colossal Beast have been mostly forgotten, the gender swapped Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a well known cult classic. I dare call it my personal favorite 1950’s B movie. I’d been wanting to see it for years. The idea of a 50 foot scantily clad woman going on a rampage was much more appealing to me. Hence why Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is so bad that it’s good.

It’s far more silly compared to other size changing movies. Since most women in 50’s movies never had any serious problems to deal with. Nancy Archer is wealthy, but dealing with mental distress and a drinking problem. Made worse by her sleazy husband Harry cheating on her with a floozy named Honey. They plot to take Nancy out of the picture, but a giant alien in a UFO does that for them. More time is spent on either Harry’s scheme or the police investigating Nancy’s claim.

Nancy finally becoming a giantess doesn’t disappoint. She’s definitely one of the sexiest monsters of all time, thanks to busty model Allison Hayes playing the part. A laughable paper mache hand is used for close up shots and some truly terrible compositing effects are used when she walks around. The only convincing shots are in miniature sets. Nancy’s only goal is to take out her cheating husband “Harry!” He very noticeably becomes a doll when she finds him. Neither survive, but I wasn’t expecting them to. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman speaks for itself.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Nancy Archer disrupts a power line

This Man, this Monster

War of the Colossal Beast continues the tragic tale of “The Amazing Colossal Man.” It’s a fitting title since former Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning is now more beast than man. Manning grunts like a monster and has a freakish half skull disfigurement as a result of his fall from the Boulder Dam. Eternal growth is no longer an issue since the giant syringe kept him at 60 feet. The makeup is disturbing even for a 1950’s B movie, but it was likely done to hide the fact that he was a different actor.

None of the original cast returns for War of the Colossal Beast. You’d swear it wasn’t a sequel if they didn’t reuse a large chunk of the first movie in an extended flashback. Despite claiming to have no family, Manning’s sister Joyce replaces his fiancée Carol as the most personally concerned party. A mysterious accident in Mexico slowly reveals Manning’s monstrous presence. The military tries to reach the man within, but Manning has completely lost his mind at this point.

The Colossal Beast rampages through Los Angeles and very nearly destroys a bus full of kids. The miniature sets and special effects are just as iffy as before. His sister reaches his humanity, but Manning’s fate is sealed by a nearby power line. Although entirely black & white, color is briefly used for the electrocution. War of the Colossal Beast is more tragic fun that gave Mystery Science Theater 3000 even more to mock.

War of the Colossal Beast

Glenn Manning electrocutes himself

Preceded by: The Amazing Colossal Man

I Don’t Want to Grow Anymore!

The Amazing Colossal Man really grows on you. This 1950’s B movie takes us through the tragedy of eternal growth. The extreme opposite of eternal shrinking. The Amazing Colossal Man was released the same year as The Incredible Shrinking Man as an obvious cash in. So obvious, that The Amazing Colossal Man had the honor of being mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000. A normal sized Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning has his life changed forever when his body is belted by plutonium on a military testing range.

All of his dead tissue grows back, but his head remains bald. Much like the incredible shrinking man before him, the growing process is a slow one. Manning grows approximately 8-10 feet a day. The military keeps him under control and doctors try to treat him, but it’s no use. His caring fiancée Carol is all he’s got in the world. Even with the standard monster movie premise, Manning’s personal torment is unfortunate. He doesn’t want to grow anymore!

As his mind starts to go, the newly dubbed “Amazing Colossal Man” wanders into Las Vegas. The miniature sets and special effects used to enlarge Manning actually look pretty good. At least they do when he’s about 16 feet tall. His 60 foot rampage through Vegas hasn’t aged well. Especially when Manning picks up Carol. Manning’s heart will give out unless he stops growing, but a giant syringe can only do so much. The Amazing Colossal Man is big fun with a tragic end.

The Amazing Colossal Man

Glenn Manning sits with Carol

Followed by: War of the Colossal Beast

Deliver Us

The Book of Eli has a deeper purpose than I could’ve possibly imagined. I initially wrote it off as just another late 2000’s-early 2010’s post-apocalyptic movie. True, The Book of Eli is very similar on the surface. A war has ravaged the world and plunged it into a bleak dystopian future where crime runs rampant. Remaining humans wear sunglasses to protect them from the light. Denzel Washington walks through the wasteland as Eli. His mission is to carry a single very important book to a safe location. Important because most books were destroyed after the war.

The Book of Eli is seriously underappreciated. My mom stressed the importance of my brother and I seeing the movie. The action is the first major highlight as Eli quickly dispatches of several highwayman using only a machete. Subsequent brutal violence is just as fast-paced with satisfying take downs. Denzel is at his usual best and the rest of the cast is up to the task. Mila Kunis really convinced me that she can do action as her character Solara joins Eli on his mission.

Jennifer Beals is her blind mother and Gary Oldman is the despicable villain who runs a destitute town. Carnegie will cross any line in order to rule mankind with Eli’s book. SPOILER ALERT! After awhile you realize the sacred book is in fact The Bible. As a Christian, it’s so refreshing to see the importance of faith reinforced in an action movie no less. The Book of Eli feels so much like a modern passage with Eli representing a man given a difficult task by God. The second twist is far too shocking to give away. The Book of Eli needs to be seen to be appreciated.

The Book of Eli

Eli remains on his path

I Wanna Grow Old with You

The Wedding Singer is the best place to see Adam Sandler’s sentimental side. As well as his musical talent that he often shows off in most movies he stars in. Even when I wasn’t a Sandler fan, I knew I wanted to check out The Wedding Singer. Since I can’t say no to a good romantic comedy no matter who the leads are. This is the first of three rom-coms starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. They have really believable chemistry.

Sandler is the titular wedding singer that’s apparently the most undignified profession there is. Even though Robbie Hart is a nice guy who cares about his wedding attendants. When his fiancé stands him up on their wedding day, he falls into a deep depression. This is a surprisingly layered performance for Sandler. The comedy is there, but it’s much less in your face. Barrymore is the perpetually sweet wedding waitress Julia. She helps Robbie out of his romantic rut. Causing them to really connect and even share a meaningful practise kiss.

The problem is her rich unfaithful a-hole fiancé Glenn coming between them. Not sure what she sees in that guy. Several frustrating misunderstandings get in the way, but it’s nothing a mad dash to the airport followed by a grand declaration of love won’t fix. Robbie wins Julia’s heart by serenading her on an airplane with a little help from Billy Idol. The hilarious cameo is thanks to The Wedding Singer taking place in 1985. So expect plenty of 80’s era songs, big hair, and bright colors. The Wedding Singer puts its loving, wedding filled atmosphere to good use.

The Wedding Singer

The wedding singer

A Miss Most Foul

Artemis Fowl is easily one of the worst book adaptations of all time. It’s right up there with botched adaptations like Dragonball: Evolution or The Last Airbender. I never read the children’s book series by Irish author Eoin Colfer, but even I knew what the fundamental problem was. Artemis Fowl is supposed to be the villain of the story! Artemis Fowl is described as “Die Hard with fairies” and the 12 year old genius criminal mastermind is supposed to be the Hans Gruber of the story. Disney basically said, “We can’t have a mean old villain as the main character.” So they instead turned Artemis Fowl into a stiff stock smart kid in a suit with redeemable motives. I knew about Artemis Fowl for a long time since the book was advertised on my Spy Kids VHS tape. I always expected an adaptation, but it looked ridiculous the moment I saw the trailer. The 2019 release date being pushed back to 2020 didn’t inspire much confidence.

I was expecting a colossal box-office bomb, but Disney got lucky by releasing it on Disney+ during the pandemic. Artemis Fowl bares an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and is every bit the boring, lackluster, confusing, mess it appears to be. Instead of kidnapping a fairy for a ransom of gold, Artemis just wants to find his father. He was kidnapped by the incredibly pointless villain Opal Koboi. Even as a basic adventure fantasy science fiction story, Artemis Fowl fails. All they do is deliver never ending exposition and tell you how to feel at all times. Gold is replaced by some random McGuffin not present in the book. The underground Haven City world of fairies, dwarves, trolls, and centaurs is so dull you’d hardly believe this was directed by Kenneth Branagh. Fairies wear green and have pointy ears, but I swear they’re not elves. They’re also Irish and work for a police force called LEPrecon, but I swear they’re not leprechauns.

Holly Short is the kidnapped fairy who’s supposed to be the protagonist, but she’s instead relegated to co-lead. The unknown child actors are lousy and they roped several major celebrities into this travesty. Dame Judi Dench talks with a bizarre gravelly voice, Colin Farrell is wasted, and don’t get me started on Josh Gad. He plays the giant dwarf Mulch Diggums a little too close to the book as he unhinges his jaw with freakish CGI and dirt shoots out of his butt. Fowl’s intimidating bodyguard Butler is strangely race changed and his niece is just kinda there. Just about everything takes place in the Fowl Manor during a painfully generic time stopping fairy house raid. Artemis and Holly become fast friends and the movie ends with Artemis calling himself a criminal mastermind despite never earning that title. Artemis Fowl is the disaster you get when you purposefully anger longtime fans and give general audiences no reason to care.

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl and friends

Just Say No

Reefer Madness is the shocking dramatization of the deadliest drug in existence. Worse than heroin, worse than crack, worse than cocaine. I’m talking about the sinister silent killer known as MARIJUANA!!! A drug so terrible, it will send you into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. People who smoke reefer are guaranteed to murder their entire family with an axe. It leads to manslaughter, assault, suicide, hallucinations, and an inevitable descent into madness. TELL YOUR CHILDREN!!! No youngster is safe as long as marijuana is out there. It can happen to you… April Fools!

Everything I wrote was a joke, because Reefer Madness is actually one of the worst films ever made. It was released in 1936, so that makes it one of the earliest bad movies too. Reefer Madness was meant to be a morality tale for concerned parents, but it ended up being a campy melodramatic laughing stock. The primitive black & white and unknown cast didn’t help much. Everyone knows the worst marijuana can do is make you silly, relaxed, paranoid, or have the munchies.

The movie practically fills the screen with smoke. Depicting teenagers being given reefer by drug pushers and ending up either killed or imprisoned due to its effects. The movie literally ends with a high school principal pointing at the audience as a warning. Reefer Madness earned a reputation as an exploitation cult classic and early midnight movie. It was even turned into a musical. I’m not personally gonna get high, but I can still appreciate how ridiculous Reefer Madness is.

Reefer Madness

Ralph puffs away

P.S. Being public domain, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.