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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Chocolate (2005)

Starring Henry Thomas, Matt Frewer, Stacy Grant, Jake D. Smith, Michael Curtola, Katharine Horsman, Paul Wu, Leah Graham, Lucie Laurier

Directed by Mick Garris

Expectations: Low. I’m not expecting anything from this series unless it’s a director I highly respect and I haven’t seen enough of Mick Garris’s films to really respect him.

Respectable and well made, Chocolate is a great entry into the Masters of Horror series. Director Mick Garris proves that he’s worth checking out, showing a great sense of suspense and careful plotting. Of his other films, I’ve only seen Sleepwalkers: a fun, if forgettable, early 90s horror romp. Garris loves Stephen King and has directed numerous adaptations of his work so I was surprised he didn’t go down the King path here as well. Chocolate is based on Garris’s original short story, adapted by Garris himself, making for one of the best written and filmed episodes of the series yet.

Starring Henry Thomas (Elliott from E.T.) as an artificial flavor chemist, the film follows him as he begins to have strange sensory losses. It all starts with the taste of bittersweet chocolate in his mouth as he wakes from sleep. As with any mysterious story, the unraveling is the fun, so I’ll leave the synopsis at this. The story does progress is ways you wouldn’t expect, culminating in a fitting finale. My only beef is that the ending itself is somewhat weak, garnering a “That’s it?” and a shrug. It’s not a big concern, as what happens after the fade to black is obvious, but it is a bit jarring. I respect Garris for not completely hand-holding the audience though, and allowing their intelligence to fill in the final blanks.

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