the human toll of hubris and an ideologically blinkered push for war — as shown on NBC national news last night, during a photo montage segment about President Bush’s visits with wounded veterans.
Jackie Chan spans time in The Myth, a more or less family-friendly, 2005
adventure flick that gets a lot of mileage out of its hodge-podge concept and
Chan’s accrued goodwill and likeability before ultimately collapsing under the
weight of less-than-stellar execution.
In the modern portion of the film, Chan stars as
archeologist Jack, who finds himself beset with strange and powerful period
piece dreams in which is recast as General Meng-Yi, a duty-bound warrior
struggling with newfound feelings of love and infatuation. Along with ambitious
scientist William (Tony Leung Ka Fai), Jack discovers a precious ancient sword
and a magical gemstone, leading them to the entrance of a mythical mausoleum
built in 221 BC by Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of
A vast royal tomb that took more than 35 years to construct, and required the
work of more than 700,000 forced laborers, this tomb holds the key to mysteries
linked between past and present.
The closer Jack moves to revealing the hidden treasure of
the Qin Dynasty, the more these two worlds collide violently, with Meng-Yi, a
loyal army leader who’s fallen in love with a Korean princess, Ok-soo (Hee-seon Kim), meant to
be married to Emperor Qin, holding the key to the safety of both the tomb and future
generations. Working with his Supercop
(aka Police Story) collaborator,
director Stanley Tong, Chan dreams up some nice stunts, which are choreographed
between the two of them and Richard Hung. The execution of the archeological action-adventure
elements are reminiscent of Chan’s Armour
of God movies, but the chief problem is that the CGI work in The Myth is clearly not up to snuff, and
it jerks one out of the movie at key moments, badly.
The Myth is housed
in a regular Amray case, and is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
transfer. Its audio is presented in an English language Dolby digital 5.1
track, with alternate subtitles in English and Spanish. A nice slate of bonus
material anchors this DVD release, most notably Chan’s first full-length audio
commentary track. In inimitable Chan style, he talks comparative budget figures
(saying The Myth would have cost $150
million with American union rules and crew size), good-naturedly calls out a
costar’s fear of a helicopter ride, and talks about the transportation
difficulties on this movie versus an American film. He also discusses the
movie’s reliance on practical effects work and his preference for one-on-one
fight scenes, in the process anecdotally illuminating key differences between
Asian and American genre cinema.
A 21-minute making-of featurette, laden with interview
clips, finds Chan only half-jokingly revealing that the movie is a historical
rip-off/homage to Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon. Slightly less interesting is a throwaway four-minute clip, entitled
“Will the Real Swami Please Stand Up?,” in which Swami Nithyananda talks about
his meditation techniques and healing centers, which he touts as unlocking
one’s deep-seated inner consciousness. Finally, a three-and-a-half-minute
segment entitled “Jackie’s Kids” opens likes a joke, with Chan talking about “a
family sharing one pant” [sic], but is actually a moving snapshot of his vast
charity work through his Dragon’s Heart School Foundation.
Six deleted scenes from the movie run about 11 minutes in
total. One concerns a booby-trapped entrance to the emperor’s tomb, and another
sequence showcases a secret entrance to an Indian temple; the most interesting,
however, might be an ice cave scene where the princess uses a little body
warmth to help keep General Meng-Yi alive. Rounding out matters are a
collection of previews and two “Endless Love” music videos, one a Mandarin pop
version of the song. To purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B+ (Disc)
It’s a happy birthday to Brittany Murphy, who turns 30 today, and celebrates by activating Wonder Twins powers, or perhaps playing a game of “find the nut” with some sort of corporeal reward.
a certain crazy-girl appeal, something that, by my informal count, her three broken engagements would seem to support. I can’t speak to how damaged the goods really are, but I will say this: it’s a shame that Murphy’s starring role in a Janis Joplin biopic never went off. That, I believe, would have been a very solid vehicle for her talents, so adept is she at channeling doomed and troubled women.
Oscar season can remind one a bit of a Rotary Club bake-off.
There, there’s generally a lot of talk about new recipes, and everyone
excitedly looks forward to trying something new and perhaps a bit exotic. Yet
when it comes time to hand out the blue ribbons, it’s often the most tried and
true recipes, or at least some slight iteration upon an old favorite, that
carries the day.
Awards voters have proven time and again their
love for epic-scale productions (Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King… errr, The
English Patient?), and Oscar and Golden Globe history is littered
with easily identifiable trends, hence the annual entertainment editorials that
start trickling out about this time of year regarding actors and actresses gaining
weight, or playing “ugly” or disabled. More to the point, though, once a performer
scores their first nomination, it begets them extra opportunities, certainly,
but also just more looks from critics and audiences, meaning that the
nomination process becomes somewhat cyclical, with previous honorees typically
(if not undeservedly) getting more and more acclaim.
Road, then, has many if not most of the basic ingredients of a
traditional Oscar bait film. It stars Joaquin Phoenix — twice nominated for an
Academy Award, most recently in 2006 for his turn as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line — and Mark
Ruffalo (above left), a habitual awards season flirter, and the winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics’ New Generation Award in 2000 for his performance in You Can Count on Me. Its
female lead is Jennifer Connelly, 2002’s Best Supporting Actress winner for her
role in A Beautiful Mind.
The second female lead? Mira Sorvino, 1996’s Best Supporting Actress winner for
her turn in Woody Allen’s Mighty
Aphrodite. The film is directed, meanwhile, by the respected
writer and filmmaker Terry George, himself twice Oscar nominated, and coming
off of a critical hit with important political overtones in the form of 2004’s Hotel Rwanda.
Then there’s the Oscar-bait subject matter itself — a
grief-saturated drama with plenty of big emotional scenes, the movie is adapted
from John Burnham Schwartz’s novel about the accidental death of a child, and
how the adults closest to the situation variously deal with the heartache,
anguish, misery and guilt. Reservation Road‘s main problem, diagnosed in macro fashion, is that the seams of its oh-so-cutely constructed Oscar inducement show a little too obviously; the film recalls, in its own tangential and component ways, Miramax’s
late-millennium run of Lasse Hallström movies (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat and The Shipping News), each progressively more treacly and inert than the one before it.
The movie’s score, from composer Mark Isham (A River Runs Through It, Quiz Show, Crash),
swells in all the appropriate places, but George’s direction and the
film’s script are so busy telling us what to feel — and when to feel it — that a certain contrarian resistance develops. Phoenix’s performance is the single real standout thing about Reservation Road,
which otherwise hits all the standard aggrieved dramatic beats in
elongated fashion, and lacks any satisfying, stalking thrill that would
qualify it as a cousin of Neil Jordan and Jodie Foster’s recent The Brave One.
So why the half-hearted sales job by distributor Focus Features? It’s
called playing the odds. After sticking a finger to the wind with
critics — both in advance of its bow and just after its limited release — plans to take the movie wider, and give it a deep and sustained
theatrical release across the country, were basically scrapped. Focus
also had Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Pride & Prejudice director Joe Wright’s buzz-heavy Atonement
on their holiday season slate. With advance notices on each of those
films — and in particular the latter, considered an early Oscar
frontrunner — trending markedly better, it was easy for Focus to turn
its focus elsewhere, away from Reservation Road. For the slightly more fleshed out review and awards season assessment, from FilmStew, click here.
The trailer for Alvin and the Chipmunks is now online, and despite my not laughing once, nor cracking a single smile, it looks like 20th Century Fox will probably have another completely anonymous, CGI-live action blend, Garfield-type hit on its hands. The first film in that series did just a hair under $200 between domestic ($75 million) and international gate, and while the poor Stateside returns of 2006’s follow-up ($28 million) might have dinged chances for a third installment, the sequel still pulled in $113 million internationally. It’s quiet hits like these — movies that stalk and pocket big family dollars, but disappear from the consciousness of mainstream filmgoers on contact — that fill studio coffers, and allow them to actually make an originally penned, non-franchise or non-adaptation script every once in a while. To view the movie’s trailer, click above; to create your own character-based avatar, or, as they’re saying, to get ‘Munked, meanwhile, click here. Alvin and the Chipmunks opens nationwide December 14.