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Reviews for the week of June 5, 2000.

Monday:
Shanghai Noon

Shanghai Noon
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Normally I don't like "old western" movies, but Shanghai Noon gives the genre a lively new twist.

Jackie Chan plays an Imperial Guard sent to the western United States to rescue the kidnapped princess (Lucy Liu). Once there, he meets up with a band of cowboy outlaws. An elaborate train heist and fight scene ensues, and eventually Chan ends up out on the prairie with an Indian tribe. Soon, however, he makes it back to civilization, and runs into his cowboy friend, Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson). They team up to save the princess.

Despite the fact that it was unrealistic, Shanghai Noon was quite entertaining. I've noticed that most Jackie Chan movies consist of a certain formula: Martial arts expert from Asia comes to America on a mission (usually to rescue a damsel in distress) and teams up with a radically different American. They work together, become friends, and save the day.

Audio VersionAs much as I am opposed to formulaic movies (cheap and easy moviemaking), I have to admit this method really works for Jackie Chan. I can even forgive the predictability. Shanghai Noon, like his other films, is a laughable comedy and exciting martial arts movie.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Mission Impossible 2

Mission Impossible 2
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It is exceedingly difficult not to like a Tom Cruise movie. Cruise is, after all, sexy, charming, and a superb actor.

Of course, a movie requires more than one outstanding actor, and Mission Impossible 2 offers everything else a moviegoer could want - clangorous, explosive action; snappy plot; intriguing characters; an excellent supporting cast; and highly entertaining dialogue.

Examining the components of MI:2, I find some diverting comparisons and contrasts to traditional spy movies, including the original Mission Impossible.

Tom Cruise returns as spy Ethan Hunt. The first movie found Hunt stealing government secrets - typical spy work. Most spy movies involve one or both of two recurrent themes: the theft of government secrets (used for good or evil, as the characters reveal), or the prevention of terrorist attack.

A sub-element in nearly all spy movies is a romantic interlude between the spy and a beautiful woman - who fits one of these categories -

  1. coworker in crime
  2. rich heiress in need of protection from her enemies
  3. enemy who seduces the spy in order to learn his secrets and thereby outwit him.

In MI:2, Hunt has a new adversary: an extremely virulent super-virus called Chimera. New wave of the future: movie writers realize that people will one day get sick of quick-diffuse-the-bomb-before-it-blows-up-and-we-all-die spy movies, so they are branching out. Their favorite new avenue is, apparently, secret government bio-weapons (really talented germs).

This trend actually began with authors; several recent thriller novels have related "superflu" disaster stories. The movie industry quickly caught the "bug" bug. At least the first few movies (including MI:2) will be original.

Moving on to the romantic subplot, here you have a dilemma: Ethan is quite attracted to his new cohort, Nyah (Thandie Newton). He likes her so much, in fact, that he hates asking her to do her mission, which involves reuniting with her old boyfriend, Sean (Dougray Scott). Old Beau has important facts about Chimera; Nyah will have to steal info and secretly communicate it back to Ethan.

MI:2 also nabs a catchy bit from the film Faceoff; while Ethan and Sean don't surgically switch faces (as in Faceoff), they don completely convincing masks as they impersonate each other. This seemed unrealistic, exaggerated, and a bit silly to me, but it is forgivable.

As far as I'm concerned, the two worst crimes Sean commits are walking around with Tom Cruise's uniquely handsome face, and causing Tom Cruise to get his hair messed up.

Audio VersionThe action scenes are spectacular, as are all the aspects of this film. Mission Impossible 2 is a smashing (literally) film.

My Rating = Four Stars

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