Shanghai Knights (2003)

AKA Shanghai Kid 2

Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tom Fisher, Aidan Gillen, Fann Wong, Donnie Yen

Directed by David Dobkin

Expectations: Super low. I remember hating this.


When I saw Shanghai Knights in 2003, it put me off Jackie Chan movies for years. Re-watching it was an equally painful experience; out of all the modern American films Jackie made up to this point, Shanghai Knights was easily the hardest to sit through. But in the nearly 15 years between watches, I’ve become a lot more able to sort through my feelings and process them into some kind of understanding. In 2003, I simply hated the film, but now in 2017 it’s more disappointment I’m feeling.

Shanghai Knights takes the Shanghai Noon boys and drops them into 1800s London, under the auspices of finding the killer of Chon Wang’s father. There’s a little more to it, but that’s pretty much the only thing that matters. Almost everything else is filler or distraction, and very little of it helps to further much of anything. The weak story of action setup can work in a Jackie film (see: Mr. Nice Guy), but this sort of thing lives or dies depending on the person watching it. The comedy of Shanghai Knights is far from funny or entertaining (most of it coming through inane references to popular things from our era), and the action, while good and a step up from the original film, is the source of much of my disappointment.

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Frankenstein Reborn! (1998)

Starring Jason Simmons, Ben Gould, Haven Paschall, Ethan Wilde, George Calin, Oana Stefanescu, Claudiu Trandafir, Roxana Popa

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Frankenstein Reborn! was to be the first of a multi-film series for Full Moon called Filmonsters!, with each film bringing a classic film monster into the Full Moon fold. As a huge fan of the classic monsters (who isn’t?), I would’ve loved to see this series take off. Unfortunately it died a premature death after the release of this film and its concurrently produced sibling The Werewolf Reborn!. The movie even opens with a cool series intro, featuring the Puppet Master puppets resurrecting the monsters in a spooky graveyard. It’s similar to the scene in Puppet Master II, and some of it may even be footage from Puppet Master II. It’s been too long since I saw it to be sure, but regardless it sets the tone perfectly for a short monster movie.

When I say short, I mean it: Frankenstein Reborn! runs about 46 minutes (with a few of those devoted to the intro and credits). The brevity of the movie allows it to just rip through the story and entertain constantly, but I was also left unsatisfied. I don’t think I’d have preferred an 80–90 minute version of this movie, but it barely felt like I watched a movie. Later in the day, I thought to myself, “Oh, I guess I’m not watching a movie today, it’s too late to start one,” before realizing quickly thereafter that I had already watched Frankenstein Reborn!

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The Tuxedo (2002)

Starring Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare, Mia Cottet, Romany Malco, Daniel Kash, Jody Racicot, Boyd Banks, Cecile Cristobal, James Brown

Directed by Kevin Donovan

Expectations: Super low. I remember hating this.


When I first saw The Tuxedo sometime around its original release, I thought it was the worst Jackie Chan movie I’d ever seen. I don’t remember my specific gripes, but my general distaste for the film has stuck with me ever since. Despite this years-long grudge against The Tuxedo, I started it this time with an open mind. The deer pissing in the stream during the film’s opening didn’t fill me with a lot of hope, but by the time the end credits rolled, I was shocked at just how entertaining the movie had been. It still exhibits many problems that American Jackie films have, but it also delivers something unique and in terms of tone it’s closer to Hong Kong than a traditional Hollywood movie (which really surprised me).

Jackie Chan plays Jimmy Tong, a taxi driver with a confidence problem. He’s in love with a woman who works at an art gallery, but he’s unable to get it together enough to ask her out. He thrives in his element, though, crisscrossing through the streets of New York in his taxi faster than anyone else could even imagine. His skills bag him a job working as a high-paid chauffeur for millionaire playboy/secret agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), and unbeknownst to Jackie this will forever change his life. He is soon roped into an international struggle of catastrophic proportions; you might even say that he is an accidental spy! 🙂

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The Midas Touch (1997)

Starring Trever O’Brien, Ashley Tesoro, Joey Simmrin, David Jeremiah, Marla Cotovsky, Danna Hansen, Shannon Welles

Directed by Peter Manoogian

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Like Train Quest, The Midas Touch isn’t listed on Full Moon’s official filmography. Regardless, IMDB lists it as being originally distributed on VHS by the company, and the film bears most of the significant hallmarks of a Moonbeam film (notably missing are any kind of references or posters from other Full Moon films). Directed by longtime Full Moon collaborator Peter Manoogian, The Midas Touch is one of the more respectable Moonbeam films. I don’t have kids so I don’t really pay attention to these things, but I don’t remember anything here that would anger touchy parents. It’s not the most exciting film in their ranks, but just the fact that it can actually work as a family film gives it a rare distinction among its Moonbeam brethren.

Billy (Trever O’Brien) is your typical weakling kid, lacking in confidence and easily susceptible to bullying. His parents tragically died, leaving him in the care of his grandmother (Danna Hansen). She’s not doing great, either, as her heart condition has forced her to step away from her job. These stressful factors all contribute to Billy’s anxiety about life, but his grandmother does her best to instill in him the courage and confidence necessary to persevere and make it through the day. Billy’s dream, though, is not just to get through the day, but to be rich enough to provide a better life (and a pacemaker) for his grandma. Lucky for Billy, circumstances lead him to the creepy mansion of Madame Latimer (Shannon Welles), a woman with an ability that might be able to make his dreams reality.

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Blood Money (1975)

Blood Money [龍虎走天涯, Là dove non batte il sole] (1975)
AKA The Stranger and the Gunfighter, La brute, Le Colt et le Karaté

Starring Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh, Patty Shepard, Femi Benussi, Karen Yip Leng-Chi, Julián Ugarte, Erika Blanc, Wang Hsieh, Chan Shen, Cheng Miu

Directed by Antonio Margheriti

Expectations: High. I love Spaghetti Westerns and Kung Fu! This sould be a slam dunk, right?


On paper, Blood Money is the kind of movie I should love. A Spaghetti Western starring Lee Van Cleef, co-produced by Shaw Brothers and co-starring Lo Lieh. When I first heard about this movie a few years back, I imagined it as something similar to My Name is Shanghai Joe, only better since it had a great cast and the power of the Shaw Studio’s martial arts behind it. But man… that honestly couldn’t be further from the truth. Blood Money isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s definitely not taking full advantage of all the greatness at its disposal.

Dakota (Lee Van Cleef) comes to town with one thing on his mind: cracking the safe of Wang, a man said to have his fortune stored within. Dakota gets right to work, finding a sequence of locked doors within, each containing a picture of a prostitute who works for Wang. The safe’s final door requires some dynamite, and the blast not only opens the door but mistakenly kills Wang. Dakota retrieves the contents (another photo… and a fortune cookie), but he is arrested before he can get away. Word of Wang’s death reaches China, so Wang’s nephew Wang Ho Chien (Lo Lieh) is sent to investigate and find the missing fortune. His first stop is to question Dakota in jail, but this is just the beginning of the hunt for Wang’s treasure!

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Cryptz (2002)

Starring Choice Skinner, Rick Irvin, Dennis Waller, Lunden De’Leon, Andre McCoy, Ty Badger, Olimpia Fernandez, Archie Howard, Lemar Knight

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Super low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Cryptz isn’t exactly an original film (it’s kind of a Full Moon take on Vamp), but it is competently made and incredibly entertaining. For a film with an ultra low-budget like this, you really can’t ask for much more than that. And when this is coupled with incredibly low expectations due to my general disinterest in the films of Danny Draven, you’ve got the recipe for a B-movie sleeper hit. Cryptz works for a couple of very basic reasons which are generally taken for granted in a bigger film. One of these reasons is definitely not the story, but it does set up the film perfectly to deliver its goods.

Like so many of Full Moon’s “urban” films, Cryptz is about a group of amateur rappers hoping for their big break. The difference here is that this is merely character window dressing, so we aren’t forced to sit through any of their performances. This might not seem like much, but if you’ve seen Full Moon’s other black-focused movies you’ll know what I’m talking about. In any case, our lead is Tymez Skwair (Choice Skinner) and his mom is fed up with his rap career. She tells him to get a job… TODAY! On his way, he is sidetracked by his rapping buddies, Fuzzy Down (Rick Irvin) and Likrish (Dennis Waller), and this is further compounded when they meet Stesha (Lunden De’Leon), a buxom woman wearing a shirt advertising a bar named Cryptz.

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Shanghai Noon (2000)

Shanghai Noon (2000)
AKA Shanghai Kid, Shaolin Cowboy

Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Yu Rong-Guang, Jason Connery, Walton Goggins, Adrien Dorval, Rafael Báez, Stacy Grant, Kate Luyben

Directed by Tom Dey

Expectations: Moderate.


From where I’m sitting, the years have not been kind to Shanghai Noon. I initially saw it upon its original home video release, and I remember liking well enough to carry a positive memory around with me in the intervening years. Seeing it in relative close proximity to some truly great Jackie films, though, Shanghai Noon feels neutered and missing so much of the “it factor” that makes Jackie unique. The action is minimal and not satisfying at all, though to be fair Shanghai Noon is trying its best to be a comedy more than anything else. This becomes a problem when you’re not laughing along with the movie, because there’s literally nothing else to carry the film (other than every western genre cliche you can imagine).

Jackie plays Chon Wang, an Imperial Guard who is friendly with Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) and feels responsible when she is kidnapped and taken to America. So along with a trio of uptight guards, Jackie makes his way to the land of cowboys and golden dreams to begin his search. Initially he finds it a bit hard, running into a bumbling gang of train thieves led by Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson). But to be honest, the plot of Shanghai Noon isn’t of much concern; it’s more about the comedy of the two lead characters coming together and dealing with situation after situation of bad luck.

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