Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Couple of Quick Movie Reviews

I recently saw a couple of movies that are semi-recent, making it remarkable that I saw them. I thought I'd share my observations in an attempt to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not to watch them. Both are remakes. The two movies in question were the Denzel Washington action pic Man on Fire and the Jackie Chan slapstick Around the World in 80 Days...
I never saw the original "Man on Fire", so I can't compare the remake. But I can tell you that it is two hours of my life that I cannot have back. That description may be a little harsh. I'm honestly not sure what I was expecting. I figured with Denzel in the lead, I'd be treated to a good acting performance. In the movie, Denzel plays ex-CIA agent John Creasy who is haunted by his past and has turned to the bottle to escape it. His old partner, Christopher Walken, gets him a job as bodyguard to the daughter of a wealthy Mexican/American couple who are living in kidnap central. She melts his gruff exterior causing him to stop his drinking and finally care about something again. It's pretty predictable from there. She gets kidnapped and he goes after the people responsible. I guess you are supposed to be surprised by the list of people involved in her disappearance, but none of it shocked me. The biggest surprise was that Walken did NOT play a psycho. Creasy basically works his way up the chain of the guilty punishing them in different ways.

One of the few things I liked about the movie happened after Creasy went on his rampage. Much of his questioning of suspects is done in Spanish with subtitles. The subtitling is not just done as straight text on the bottom of the screen. The animation of the subtitles artfully adds to what the characters are saying and how they say it. I don't think this is enough to warrant watching it, but it was pretty cool.

All in all, I give "Man on Fire" a mild papercut sprinkled with lemon juice. It's pretty irritating, but is not too hard to get over it.

Next we come to the Disney remake of "Around the World in 80 Days". This is a very loose adaptation of the book by Jules Verne. Many liberties were taken with the plot. For example, I do not recall any martial arts action in the book, but it is liberally used throughout the movie. The basic premise remains the same, however. Phileas Fogg must make it around the world in eighty days or suffer great personal loss. Additionally, Fogg's butler, Passepartout (Chan) is not really a butler at all. He is the person who robbed the Bank of London, not of money, but of an artifact stolen from his village.

That said, if you don't go in expecting the movie to be true to the book and you like physical comedy, you can have a very good time with this movie. Chan's stuntwork is very inventive and at times comically entertaining. Inspector Fix takes the brunt of many of the sight gags. Some you can see coming a mile away, but you can't help laughing anyway. The cameos are a mixed bag. Thew Governator falls flat as Prince Habih, but Rob Schneider does a good turn as a San Francisco beggar and John Cleese makes the most of his few lines as a British Bobby.

I give Jackie Chan and company a high quality serving of cotton candy. It's a light, guilty pleasure that will brighten your day leaving you satisfied even though you can't for the life of you understand why.