Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Movie Review: Mr. Nice Guy

The next Jackie Chan film in my on-going, never-ending film festival is similar in outline to some of his previous films, such as Thunderbolt and Rumble In The Bronx. That is, it's set in contemporary times and he isn't playing a cop or a spy, just an ordinary guy....who happens to be a martial arts expert. This time, he's a TV chef who gets caught up in helping a female reporter escape from two groups of mobsters whose drug deal she managed to videotape. Along for the ride are his newly-arrived fiance and his female producer, who prove to be much less annoying than the female threesome Jackie schleped around the desert with in Operation Condor.

If you liked his other movies of this period (such as the above mentioned movies and the preceding First Strike), you'll probably like this one. It's the same mix of a thin plot, destructive stunts, and some fascinating fight scenes set in locales with lots of stuff to throw around. A Jackie Chan fight scene set at a construction site is certain to be fun, and the one here is no exception (stunts set on an operating table saw are a highlight).

The painful humor level is toned down a bit - this one was apparently targeting a more Western audience, as it was filmed in Australia and features a mostly English-speaking cast. (The director, the great Sammo Hung, does give himself a pretty funny cameo appearance.) What isn't toned down, though, is the scenery-chewing by the bad guys. Half of them are another faux-eighties street gang similar to the one from Bronx, and the other half are led by a cigar-chomping Richard Norton - neither side seems particularly scary or at all realistic.

And sadly, it's another movie (like Thunderbolt and Bronx) where things don't end up with a Jackie Chan fight against "the big boss" - instead, it's a vehicular stunt sequence, with Jackie tearing down a mansion with what may be the largest construction truck seen on film. An impressive amount of damage, to be sure, but why can't we end with an impressive fight scene, like his early films?

So, all-in-all another solid three star effort for this one. As I said, Jackie was in a very consistent state during this part of his career, so if you liked any of these early 90's films, you should probably give the others a shot, too. Up next: Jackie forgets his name, but probably not his moves, in Who Am I.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How Not To Inspire Confidence

It's just a camera phone shot, so not very high-rez, but still...

This is a screenshot from Time Warner Cable's new DVR box, informing the customer that they aren't subscribed to a channel.

Or rather...that they "aren$t" subscribed.

I'm guessing the text message uses a "smart quote", but the font they used didn't have that character, or they used the wrong encoding, or something similarly dumb. So a garbage character appears on screen.

Come on, Time Warner Cable...believe me, I understand testing is hard, but how stupid do you have to be to not catch this during even the most basic functional test? Would this make you feel good about having Time Warner Cable handle your TV connection? Your internet connection? Your phone line?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning Afternoon Constitutional

My old Morning Constitutional posts were on dumb things I heard people say on C-SPAN's Washington Journal show. The theory was: hearing somebody say something so dumb would make me feel smarter by comparison.

The problem with that theory was: these people are also out there, driving....and voting.

Shudder. At any rate, I scaled back my C-SPAN viewing a bunch, because I just couldn't take the endless stream of dumb.

However, I can dust the series off for this bit of genius from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Almost everything he's said in relation to the recent Times Square bombing attempt has been the work of an idiot, but this one might take the cake:

"There is no evidence here of a conspiracy, there is no evidence that it's tied into anything else. It looks like an amateurish job done by at least one person," he told Couric.

Wow, really? "At least one person" did this? So, we can rule out zero people? Or a negative number of people?

What a maroon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Movie Review: Jackie Chan's First Strike

This film is pretty typical of the movies in this period of Jackie Chan's career - a comedy/action film set in the current-day, with heavy emphasis on the stunts and "environmental fights" (fight sequences that focus on Jackie using any- and everything around him to fight off his opponents). Nominally connected in some way to the earlier Police Story movies, my English dub simply calls his character "Jackie" and doesn't pretend to be a sequel in any way.

What hasn't changed is that he is still "the only cop that can do the job" - here, he starts out assisting the C.I.A. on some operation and then somehow gets loaned out to the K.G.B. as part of a joint American-Russian operation (!?!?). The goal is to track down a rogue double agent trying to sell nuclear material to another rogue Russian officer (lots of rogues in this one). But, as usual, keeping track of the plot holes really isn't the point - just let all that drift away as we go from one action set piece and one odd comedy bit to the next.

There are several good sequences to be found here. I had happened across the opening of the James Bond flick A View To A Kill earlier in the day, and the ski/snowmobile/helicopter chase in First Strike is miles better than the one that opens the Bond film. A particular highlight occurs late, when Jackie takes on a staff-welding gang in a church and holds them off with tables, chairs and a stepladder. That's the kind of sequence that got me into Jackie's films in the first place, and this one is just great. Add in an underwater battle in a shark tank, and you got enough Jackie Chan action bits to keep you satisfied.

And I'm not sure where they found so many seven-foot tall mountain men for Jackie to run away from.

After a few films where Jackie seemed to have the comedy bits more under control, things slip way off the deep end here. There's a scene where Jackie is stripped naked by a bad guy looking for a wire (one for the ladies, I guess) - he then is handed a giant penguin mascot suit to wear in its place, and the next few scenes process in all seriousness with Jackie dressed as the mascot. Just bizarre.

Like most of his 90's films, this one is no classic, but it's an above average action film. Just turn off your brain in between the set pieces, and you'll have a lot of fun. Three solid stars here. Next up: Jackie is once again the ordinary man (who happens to be a karate superman) in the wrong place in Mr. Nice Guy.