Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

Jackie Chan and Jet Li star together for the first time in this American written and directed version of an Asian Martial arts epic. The film doesn't try for any thing original except for the pairing of these two superstars. It's a combination of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" ,"The Karate Kid" , "Lord Of The Rings" with a bit of " The Wizard of Oz" thrown in for good measure.

The story itself is entertaining but suffers from anemic dialogue. The sparks do fly with every action sequence, especially an early fight between Mr. Chan and Mr. Li. The legendary fight choreographer, Woo Ping Yuen is not content to have his actors battle on the ground. There is more wire work in this film that a mouth full of braces. Even so, the action is fast and furious and fun to watch. Michael Angarano does his best Ralph Macchio impression learning to fight from the two masters while trying to find his way home.

If you enjoy this genre, you'll appreciate it more on a big screen. The locations are a visual treat, even if there is no logic to the trek between forest, desert and mountaintop. The desert sequence appears to have been written solely as a set up to a crudely humorous visual joke. Most of the humor in the film is provided by Mr. Chan and contrasting his style against the more serious Mr. Li is what makes the film fun to watch.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Ruins

I really Enjoyed Scott Smith's "A Simple Plan", both the book and the film adaptation.
This lead me to read his second book, "The Ruins". A quick read that was disappointing after such a great debut. Having read the book though, I finally decided to check out the Hollywood version.

The film follows the book pretty faithfully with a few minor changes. The biggest difference is the lack of any character development in the film. Therefore, you couldn't care less when bad things start happening to good people. The horror here turns out to be a pretty silly thing but the film does manage some suspense along the way.

The acting is minimal and the biggest name in the cast is Jenna Malone, who usually does a great job in Indie films. The story starts out with a decent premise but what eventually happens is never explained. Hollywood also tinkers with the ending.

Be warned, there are some gruesome scenes. One character has their legs amputated under less than ideal conditions and another character goes mad and mutilates their own body.

A good idea...ruined.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


George Clooney goes for a touchdown but comes up short and settles for a field goal in this period piece about the early days of football. Co-starring Rene Zellweger, John Krasinski, and Jonathan Pryce, the film is well cast but it's fault lies in it's director, Mr. Clooney.

Trying to recreate a "screwball" comedy of the period, the banter between Mr. Clooney and Ms. Zellweger seems forced and both actors try to hard to compete with the great comic battle of the sexes that have come before them. As a director, Mr. Clooney's comic timing is way off and there are stretches of film that border on dull and unnecessary. The football sequences are fun but in short supply.

Peter Gerety adds some real spark late in the film as the new commissioner of Pro Football. It's a shame he has only a few scenes.

"Leatherheads" is worth a look if you're a football fan otherwise better saved for a DVD rental.