Rush Hour (1998)

rushhour_1Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Tzi Ma, Ken Leung, Elizabeth Peña, Mark Rolston, Rex Linn, Julia Hsu, Chris Penn, Philip Baker Hall, John Hawkes

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Interested to revisit it.

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And so begins my descent into madness — I mean, the American films of Jackie Chan. While I have always been happy that Jackie achieved global success, his transition to Hollywood definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality filmmaking. For newcomers to his work, I suppose the flashes of fearless stunts and athleticism are welcome and shocking additions to the American action film, but to anyone who’s seen one of his Hong Kong films, it’s hard not to be somewhat disappointed with the watered-down Jackie Chan present in Rush Hour. That being said, Rush Hour is just about exactly what a “Jackie Chan comes to Hollywood” movie should be, providing the audience with an ample amount of action and lighthearted comedy.

Jackie Chan has often said that Hong Kong directors know action and American directors know story. Rush Hour isn’t the best showcase of this “knowledge of story” that Jackie speaks of, but there is a fundamental difference in the way Hollywood films are structured that is in evidence. If you look at a movie like Mr. Nice Guy, it’s easy to see how the story was built up around the action set-pieces in a way to string them together as seamlessly as possible. Lots of Hong Kong films feel similarly (but Jackie is wrong, there are plenty of Hong Kong directors who understand story!), whereas Rush Hour is clearly set up with the story as its foundation and the action arising where it can. It’s kind of a subtle distinction in Rush Hour, as the story is pretty thin. It’s a key difference, though, and consequently there aren’t any huge, extended action scenes in Rush Hour.

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Eraser (1996)

eraser_10Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Vanessa Williams, James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli, James Cromwell, Danny Nucci, Andy Romano, Nick Chinlund, Michael Papajohn, Joe Viterelli, Mark Rolston, Tony Longo, Olek Krupa

Directed by Chuck Russell

Expectations: Moderate, but I’m very excited to revisit.

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I’ll never forget the first time I saw Eraser. I was 14 when the film came out and I was staying with my grandparents. They asked me what movie I wanted to see, so of course I picked the latest Arnold explode-a-rama! (Side note: the next summer we went and saw John Woo’s Face/Off!) I was beside myself afterwards because I felt Arnold had been in something of a slump at the time, and Eraser was a great antidote to that in my eyes. My grandparents weren’t especially thrilled, though, and I specifically remember my ex-Navy pilot grandfather laughing at how ridiculous the entire plane sequence was. I remember this because at the time I didn’t quite understand why it seemed so absurd to him.

As I’ve documented in many of my previous Arnold reviews, I idolized Arnold like no one else on-screen. He was the ultimate movie hero to me in my youth, so when confronted with the CG-aided plane shenanigans in Eraser it never seemed implausible to me; it made perfect sense. He’s Arnold, of course he can open the plane’s door at 10,000 feet and rip a seat off the wall to throw into the engine so he doesn’t get sucked in when he jumps out of the plane to catch the parachute that just flew out the door. Duh.

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Scanner Cop (1994)

Starring Daniel Quinn, Darlanne Fluegel, Richard Grove, Mark Rolston, Richard Lynch, Hilary Shepard, James Horan, Gary Hudson, Cyndi Pass, Luca Bercovici, Christopher Kriesa, Savannah Smith Boucher, Ben Reed, Brion James, Elan Rothschild

Directed by Pierre David

Expectations: Moderate, but hopeful. Anything with a “______ Cop” title is usually worth a watch.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


I didn’t expect much going into Scanner Cop. As the fourth entry in the Scanners series of unrelated films, I figured they were probably fairly close to the bottom of the barrel. There are lots of cop movies from around this time, so I figured Scanner Cop was just another in a long line of clichéd cop movies (even if the naming convention of “______ Cop” always gets me excited for a movie). It is clichéd, without a doubt, but you can’t discredit the fact that Scanner Cop is actually a pretty damn good movie. It gets two key things right: amazing FX work by none other than unsung genre hero (and one of my favorite FX artists) John Carl Buechler, and a killer story. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t always up to par with the premise, featuring inventive lines such as “My men are dying! It’s a war out there!” populating a lot of the film’s cop dialogue exchanges. All of that is a moot point as the wild inventiveness of the situations take hold of your soul and never let go.

Consider the opening scene. A man, obviously a scanner, crashes through his dingy apartment looking for his medication. His young son looks on in fear as his father gets more and more outraged at his inability to find his pills. The father locks himself in the bathroom and while looking at his haggard face in the mirror, small human faces start pushing themselves out from his forehead. If that doesn’t sell you on Scanner Cop, then you’re beyond hope. I was howling with laughter, I was cringing in horror, I was abso-fucking-lutely riveted.

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Aliens (1986)

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, William Hope, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston, Ricco Ross, Colette Hiller

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: Y’know, it’s Aliens. It’s good.


As I often say in reviews where I know I’m treading on hallowed ground: I’m just calling it like I see it. I’ve always wanted to burn (or re-burn) through the Alien films in one fell swoop, as until now I’ve only seen them with multiple years in between. Watching Aliens only a few days after Alien, with its tight, restrictive corridors and masterful atmosphere firmly rooted in my mind, was a completely different experience. Instead of purely enjoying the more action-packed take on the xenomorph, I found myself disappointed at the almost entire lack of the look and feel of Alien. I understand that this series is unique in that it has multiple creative forces behind it, but I couldn’t help but think that Aliens was far inferior to Alien. Obviously, this debate has been going ever since this sequel dropped, and ultimately it comes down to what type of movie you prefer, but for my money I have always (and apparently will always) prefer the original Alien to James Cameron’s loud, crammed-full-of-shit sequel.

Harsh words, I know, and honestly I don’t mean them to come off like they probably sound. I love Aliens, I truly do, but my undying love for Alien, coupled with the fact that its memory was as fresh as a newly hatched facehugger, led me to notice the trashy, mainstream-leaning nature of this film like never before. But I recognize that I’m being overly harsh and bringing in a hard-lined bias toward the atmospheric horror of the original. Where Alien transported you into the future and into a derelict alien ship, Aliens feels like you’re watching a movie. It delivers some fucking awesome visuals, but it fails to cohesively feel like a real place to me. At the end of the day, Aliens is a dope sequel to a much doper movie, aimed directly at those in the audience that prefer military clichés and the axiom “Bigger is Better” than silent terror and careful plotting. It’s a throw everything at the canvas sort of deal; James Cameron is clearly the Michael Bay of his era.

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