‘Kung Fu Panda 3’
(PG; 94 minutes; Dreamworks): The latest installment in the successful animated film series, brings back the chubby, chop-sockying black-and-white bear, Po, and his cohorts in a beautifully rendered, lovingly constructed action-comedy that’s sure to please kids and adults alike.
This time out, Po (voiced by Jack Black), the legendary if slightly hapless Dragon Warrior, is urged by his beloved teacher, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), to take the elder’s place as the kung fu instructor for the Valley of Peace. But when Po attempts to train his friends – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross) – he proves not quite ready for prime time.
Po’s long-lost biological father, Li (Bryan Cranston), formally introduces his son to all things panda: cookie and dumpling devouring, rolling and bouncing, and sleeping late. Meanwhile, the dastardly Kai (J.K. Simmons) is a spirit warrior locked in an ancient battle with Po’s benevolent mentor, the tortoise Oogway (Randall Duk Kim).
The narrative unfurls with buoyant clarity, gentle charm and much endearing humor. The tale’s “be yourself” mantra, though nothing new, is also well used.
Contains martial arts action and some mild rude humor. Los Angeles Times
‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’
(R; 111 minutes; Paramount): Tina Fey fits plays first-time war correspondent Kim Baker, who makes the rash decision to leave a staid life in New York for a post in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. (It’s based on the memoir “The Taliban Shuffle” by former Chicago Tribune South Asia bureau chief Kim Barker.)
Baker immediately regrets her decision. She’s ignorant of the culture and does not speak any language other than English. But soon she gets hooked on the adrenaline of reporting from a war zone. She befriends gorgeous Brit correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and starts a relationship with a roguish Scottish photographer (Martin Freeman). Fey does her best, giving her character the dark humor that’s reflected in Barker’s memoir. But the script never gives us a sense of who this woman really is, or who any of the characters are beyond their thirst for the story.
Fey is an inherently watchable actress, and that makes the movie inherently watchable. It isn’t a great movie, but it is something rare and important: a woman’s story of self-discovery – having nothing to do with her finding a husband. She takes a risk, is independent, and ultimately succeeds.
Contains pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images. Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Eye in the Sky’
(R; 102 minutes; Eone Films): Helen Mirren brings gimlet-eyed, tungsten-spined intensity to her role as a ruthlessly calculating British army colonel in Gavin Hood’s taut, well-constructed thriller.
Unfolding almost in real time, this soberingly effective nail-biter follows the tactical, legal and ethical implications of a drone operation in East Africa that unexpectedly escalates from a surveillance job to a missile strike. And in Hood’s capable hands, what could easily be a talky, theatrical chamber piece turns into a dynamic work of cinema. The characters and the tense, increasingly dire dialogue drive the action, with Mirren’s Col. Powell overseeing operations from a base in Surrey while she communicates with Kenyan ground forces in Nairobi, U.S. drone pilots in Nevada, a facial-recognition specialist in Hawaii, and a chain of military and political higher-ups in a paneled London situation room.
Powell’s intermediary is a quiet, subtly contemptuous general played by the late Alan Rickman, in a performance that proves how utterly singular he was. “Breaking Bad” alum Aaron Paul plays a U.S. drone pilot, serving as the most plaintive moral voice.
This is the rare military drama that conveys both the graphic physical effects of war and its lingering psychic cost.
Contains some violent images and language. Washington Post
Also out June 28
- “Adventures in Babysitting”
- “DCI Banks: Season 4”
- “Precious Cargo”
- “The Sound and the Fury”