Memorial Day: Beat the Traffic, Check Out 'Kung Fu Panda 2'

If you’re into saving a little bit of time and money, and maybe some patience too, it would be wise to stay off the roads this Memorial Day weekend.

AAA reports that nearly 35 million Americans will be traveling 50 or more miles over the coming holiday, up two percent from last year.

With gas prices breaking the bank, perhaps it’s time to reroute your vacation to your local neighborhood, chocked full of Iced Venti Caramel Macchiatos, Regal Theaters, and parks to spare.

Besides, what better way to spend the long weekend than over some good ol’ barbecue and a movie?

And with plenty of flicks opening this weekend, the only thing you should be debating is “Kung Fu Panda 2” or “Tree of Life”? Red Vines or Milk Duds?

Now let’s take “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

It’s been three years, since we’ve last seen Po, now probably a seasoned and well-trained Dragon Warrior. Maybe he’s even shed a pound or two – after all, martial arts is no easy feat, even for an animated DreamWorks panda. Okay, who are we kidding.

So what’s left for Po to conquer now, now that he’s already beaten the vengeful and treacherous leopard Tai Lung?

How about an angry peacock whose got a little bit of a Napoleon complex, an army of wolves, and a whole lot of doomsday cannonballs ready to show Po who’s boss?

Though that might be a lot to handle, the Furious Five continue to stand behind the ready warrior, although you might not be able to see them as easily.

As if that wasn’t enough for our portly hero, we can’t forget about sweet, sweet daddy Ping, who turns out, wasn’t Po’s real birth father in the first place – demystifying the goose-panda family line, just in case audiences missed the resemblance.

With the Tomatometer at 73 percent currently, critics are giving a go to the sequel, which they say although a tad unoriginal, still “offers enough action, comedy and visual sparkle to compensate.”

Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, and Gary Oldman star in the PG sequel directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, which is for some, reason enough to go and see the movie. That, and the kids too.

While his partner’s busy out saving the world, Brad Pitt’s got worries of his own, playing father to Jack, “a lost soul in a modern world,” in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.”

If a light, action-packed comedy is not your fill, Malick’s new film – being released in select theaters this weekend – is sure to bring some gravity to its viewers.

Highly anticipated by many, “The Tree of Life” is described as an “impressionistic story of a Mid-western family in the 1950s.”

Tracing the evolution of an 11-year-old boy named Jack through his disillusioned adult years, the movie follows Jack as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father while seeking answers to the origin and meaning of life.

Rotten Tomatoes surmises, “for patient viewers, Tree of Life [will be] an emotional as well as visual treat.” For others, a mere “unrewarding” experience.

Peter Travers, from the Rolling Stone, praised, “‘Tree’ delivers truths that don’t go down easy. No one with a genuine interest in the potential of film would think of missing it,” while Rex Reed, of the New York Observer, was less enthused, unable, or unwilling, to digest the “truths” of the film.

“[While Malick is] a meticulous visionary who knows where to place a camera,” Reed penned, “he hasn’t a clue about how to tell a story with simplicity and coherence.”

For those still on the fence, would a couple of life-size IMAX dinosaurs make any difference?

VFX artist Mike Fink told Empire magazine about his work on the film, dropping some details about the dinosaurs, most likely unlike the creatures dawning “Jurassic Park” and “The Land Before Time.”

“We’re just starting work on a project for Terrence Malick, animating dinosaurs ... It’ll be shown in IMAX – so the dinosaurs will actually be life size – and the shots of the creatures will be long and lingering,” Fink revealed.

If dinosaurs aren’t selling it, how’s Pitt doing? We’ll throw in Sean Penn too, as an added bonus. And the PG-13 rating couldn’t hurt either.

So how’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” sounding just about now? Better by the minute? Though some themes of Eastern religions are present in the film, overall the film presents some comic relief in the midst of high gas prices and ongoing disasters, and you come away with a good message to reflect on.

If not, there’s always “Thor,” if the former two aren’t appealing enough to spend a holiday weekend indoors.

And if all else fails, we’ll see you on the road, along with the other 35 million others who weren’t sold.

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