Cube Critics review ‘Dream Scenario’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’

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Cube Critics
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Cube Critics Jacob Aloi and Alex V. Cipolle review “Dream Scenario” and “Kung Fu Panda 4.”

The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.

MPR News senior arts reporter and critic Alex V. Cipolle: “Dream Scenario.”

MPR News arts reporter Jacob Aloi: (Simultaneously) “Kung Fu Panda 4.”

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Both: 3.2.1.

Cipolle: Mystic.

Aloi: (Simultaneously) Dustin Hoffman?

I feel like Nic Cage has been in a movie with Dustin Hoffman. They’ve both been around for so long.

Cipolle: But what about panda stuff?

Aloi: Nic Cage seems like a guy who would do panda stuff. Anyway, I’m Jacob Aloi.

Cipolle: Alex V. Cipolle.

Aloi: And this is Cube Critics.

Aloi: So, Alex, this week you watched a movie that stars Nicolas Cage. Tell me about it.

Cipolle: Yeah, I watched “Dream Scenario.” It is a surreal dark comedy from A24, came out in theaters in November, but it just became available streaming — you can rent it on several platforms.

So Nicolas Cage plays Paul, a kind of dorky and middling college professor who is very desperate for recognition in his field. It starts when his tween daughter starts to dream about him.

Well, not really him. Her dreams just feature him as a neutral observer, as weird things happen to her. But before long, more and more people start to dream about him. His students are dreaming about him, a waitress, a former girlfriend — but he’s always just sort of in the background.

So the dreams spread. They go viral, and he becomes a sort of folk hero. But of course, this can’t end well. This is bad. He starts to turn violent in people’s dreams. The backlash ensues. He becomes a pariah. But keep in mind, he hasn’t actually done anything.

Aloi: It’s all in people’s heads.

Cipolle: It’s all in people’s heads. It’s really a cautionary tale about so many things: fame and who seeks it; mass hysteria; “cancel culture.” It really kind of feels like a Charlie Kaufman film, but it isn’t. Anyway, it’s a funny, disturbing, sad ride, I highly recommend it.

What about you? Some panda stuff over here?

Aloi: So, Alex V. Cipolle, I watched a film that, surprisingly, also deals with celebrity and expectations that people put on you — and then goes into, you know, big transitions in life when our careers change.

And that movie is “Kung Fu Panda 4” starring Jack Black, as well as Awkwafina. And a whole host of other people, including Ke Huy Quan, the Oscar award winner from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

So this is a continuation of the Kung Fu Panda series, which is about a panda named Po, who is the Dragon Warrior, and how he is the protector of this valley and this village, and he’s kind of like this mystical fighting figure, this warrior. And in this film, he has been chosen as the next spiritual leader of this village, right? He’s been selected for this and has to pass on the mantle of Dragon Warrior.

And it’s kind of a thing that screws to your psyche, a massive transition from being a warrior to being this kind of spiritual figure. And most of the film, though, is actually a buddy cop film between Jack Black’s Po and Awkwafina’s character, who’s actually a new character that’s been introduced into this franchise with this film.

Cipolle: Good chemistry there?

Aloi: Good chemistry, although I think it lacks some of the fun of the original series, like the original films. I grew up watching them. They came out when I was a kid. And this one, I think, lacks a little bit of the chemistry with the entire cast.

But I will say, Viola Davis, who plays the villain, who’s this kind of trickster sorceress — she is deliciously evil. She’s fantastic. So not as good as the previous entries, but “Kung Fu Panda 4,” in theaters now.