Kung Fu Panda (June 6). I always get a little worried when DreamWorks Animation opens up the cute talking animal stable. Yes, Madagascar and Over the Hedge worked; Shark Tale and Bee Movie, not so much. I have mixed feelings about this one. Plot looks like The Karate Kid with fur, and it seems to contain some iffy ethnic stereotyping à la Shark Tale (which, like KFP, starred Jack Black as a wuss trying to appear tough). On the other hand, the artwork looks solid, and there’s a clever scene where the panda (Black) and his sensei (Dustin Hoffman — no, really) battle with chopsticks over an elusive dumpling. By the way, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan are in this movie, too — why aren’t their voices in the trailer?
Street Kings (April 11). Here’s another tale of rule-bending L.A. cops from Training Day scribe David Ayer (in the director’s chair this time). Here, it’s Keanu Reeves as a supposedly hard-boiled veteran officer who’s apparently willing to flout the law in order to avenge his partner’s murder. Now, I’m happy to watch Keanu do wire-fu action heroics or express wide-eyed awe (“Whoa.”), but hard-boiled he’s not. He’s not Denzel Washington, either: that is, a usually genial presence with reserves of anger so powerful and astonishing that on the rare occasions when he taps them (Glory, Training Day), it’s enough to win him an Oscar. (Forest Whitaker and Hugh Laurie, two much more versatile actors, have what look like thankless supporting roles.) Still, the movie’s based on a James Ellroy story, and no one does L.A. crime tales like Ellroy, so it still has to be worth a look, doesn’t it?