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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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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Quick Takes: Hall Pass, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Hesher

Hall Pass (2011)

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant
Directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly

I wanted a hall pass from Hall Pass so I could cut class and watch a better movie. A comedy should be funny, and for the most part, the jokes in Hall Pass are too easy, too stupid, or just not there. There’s a great moment when Owen Wilson and Jason Sudiekis talk about their friend’s family painting of themselves as sea captains, but not much else worth remembering. Not to mention the fucking commercial for Applebee’s in the middle of the movie. Ugh.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)

Starring Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers
Directed by Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg

Enjoyment dependent on your tolerance for Joan Rivers, this film is quite enlightening to her career and her dedication to her craft. I’m a huge comedy nerd so I enjoyed seeing the old footage when she skirted censorship with clever wordplay, and the new footage when she just lets it all out. I’ve never been much of a fan, but after this film, I respect and enjoy her work more than ever. The film drags a bit overall, but it’s much better than I expected it to be.

Hesher (2011)

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, Natalie Portman, Brendan Hill, John Carroll Lynch
Directed by Spencer Susser

The trailer made me think this was all about a hesher and the crazy shit he does, scored with kick-ass thrash metal of the 80s. It’s not. It’s actually a dreary, indie drama about a kid and his family dealing with some serious loss while the mysterious hesher moves into their house uninvited. It’s mostly an OK movie, but it’s heavy-handed and it gets really awful in spots. The end monologue by Hesher about losing one of his nuts is painful, but possibly deep if you’ve just knocked back a Pabst Blue Ribbon tall can like Hesher.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni, Yves Heck, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Sonia Rolland, Daniel Lundh, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody

Directed by Woody Allen

Expectations: Woody Allen films are always fun for me, even the bad ones, so I expect to enjoy this.


(If you’re really anticipating this film, come back after watching because I’m about to spoil it all as I seek to analyze.)

Woody Allen is one of the last classic directors still pumping out films like clockwork. While his output of the last fifteen years has had its ups and downs, he never lost that Allen feeling and voice. Not many filmmakers can say that about themselves. So when a new Woody Allen film drops, I always approach with a distinct love and appreciation of his work, but not a lot of high expectations. I seem to enjoy his recent films a lot more than the average Allen fan, but I still approach with trepidation. Leave it to me to moderately enjoy the newest in the string of “Allen’s best film in decades!” Sure, it’s a solid film, but at the end of the day, it isn’t much more than amusing. It’s one of those Allen films I enjoy with a small smile on my face throughout the film, as it’s not laugh-out-loud funny but it is quite charming.

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