For those of you who have been reading The Movie Blog for at least 2 years or more, you may remember that at one point I signed a small book deal with an even smaller publisher to write a book that I was calling “The Silver Screen From Where I’m Sitting”.
The book was supposed to just be a coffee table book about movies and the movie world where you could just pick it up and turn to any chapter and start reading. Each chapter was just it’s own isolated topic and thus the book didn’t have to be read in order.
Ok anyway… I got several months into the book, sent it off to the editor a couple of times along the way… but eventually I just got too busy. The book got delayed, and then last year I started work on my upcoming Documentary movie “Prince of Peace – God of War” and any time I had was just flushed away. The publisher was very nice to me and understood my situation and we just decided to cancel the book.
So now here we are, and I’ve got 7 chapters that I wrote just sitting here. That’s when I decided I might as well just release some of what I wrote for the doomed book here on The Movie Blog. So for the next week, I’ll be releasing a chapter a day here on the site (the ones that don’t suck too much anyway).
The third part of this was a chapter I did on the worst sequels to good movies. I talk a little about good sequels to good movies… and the oh so rare good sequels to bad movies… but most of the chapter is on the 10 worst sequels to good originals.
Starting Strong and Finishing Weak. Good Movies with Bad Sequels
The four categories of sequels
There are many of us who have an automatic, almost reflex like reaction to hearing the news of a sequel. We cringe. We hear about a “part 2” of a certain film getting made and we get that sick feeling in our guts. The general “wisdom” is that 9 times out of 10 sequels suck. This of course isn’t necessarily true, but it is our perception.
Category #1 – Good Films : Good Sequels
In the great tradition of films with sequels, there are several categories. Best of all is the good film with a good sequel. Franchises like The Godfather, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Toy Story all come to mind when thinking about this category. Good solid films with good solid follow-ups. There are very few things as satisfying to a movie fan as going to see the sequel to a film you loved, and walking out just as happy. This is really the kind of experience that all sequels should (in an idealist world where puppies never turn into dogs, taxes are just a myth, Ice Cream is always free and Jennifer Aniston keeps bugging me for my phone number) be.
Category #2 – Bad Films : Bad Sequels
Then there is the category of bad films with bad sequels. You know the ones I’m talking about. Your first reaction is usually “Why on earth are the making another one of those!?!?!” (Only sometimes there is also swearing involved, like when I heard there was probably going to be a sequel to You Got Served). Thankfully, this category doesn’t happen too often, but it does exist. Franchises that would fall into this category would be Resident Evil, Pitch Black/Chronicles of Riddick, The Fast and the Furious and XXX).
Category #3 – Bad Films : Good Sequels
The rarest category would be the bad movie with a good sequel. Why is it rare? Well, the general wisdom is that if a first movie wasn’t any good, or didn’t make any money, then the powers that be at the studios choose not to do another one. That makes sense. However, every once in a while they’ll take a chance on an idea for a follow-up and lightning strikes. Suddenly one bad film is now a half decent franchise. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the payoff is extra sweet and some studio executive looks like a gutsy genius. The only occupants in this list that immediately pop into my head is Rush Hour and Star Trek
Category #4 – Good Films : Bad Sequels
That brings us to the fourth category which is the subject of this chapter. The good films with bad sequels. If one of the sweetest things for a film fan is a solid follow-up to a movie you enjoyed, then there are few things as disappointing as a bad sequel to a film you enjoyed. Not only have you sat through a bad film… but you’ve also just had a little bit of your enjoyment of the first film stolen away from you. It’s a double hit in the groin.
This is easily the largest of the categories and the reason why so many people have less than positive reactions to the news of an upcoming sequel. I’m going to focus the next few pages on my personal and subjective top 10 list of what I feel are the worst sequels to good films of all time. Those films that left us in pools of our own tears and lamenting the demise of what should have been left alone in the first place. Please note, I’m not including spin-offs or remakes in this list, just pure sequels.
So now, without further ado, I present to you…
The Top 10 List of Worst Sequels of Good Films
(1994) Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock
SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL
(1997) Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe
SPEED (The Good Film)
A disgruntled ex-cop (is it just me, or is there some sort of law that all ex-cops in the movies are disgruntled in one way or another?) turned mad bomber (played brilliantly by Dennis Hopper) decides to kill two birds with one stone by entangling an interfering cop (Reeves) in his newest plan to ransom the city out of large sums of money. His plan? Set a bomb on a city bus that will detonate if it drops below 50 mph.
Yes it was brainless and a little goofy, but you had to admit that the first Speed film was a lot of fun, and surprisingly had an awful lot of critical acclaim. None of the performances in the film stood out (aside from Hopper) as being particularly inspiring, but the entire cast (including a solid supporting performance from Jeff Daniels who plays the best pal/partner) did a solid job. Surprisingly, even Reeves himself, Mr. stiff as a board, played his part well.
The action sequences were very well done, and director Jan de Bont did a fantastic job making us feel the tension inherent in all the situations faced by our hero. The elevator situation, shooting his own partner in the leg situation, madman has a gun to the girls head situation and of course the bomb on the bus situation are all memorable.
An exciting action/”holy crap how are they gonna get out of this” film that you can easily watch more than once.
SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (The Bad Film)
Who on earth had the bright idea of making a sequel without the main character from the first film and instead centering it around the love interest?!?! This film was doomed from the beginning. Bullock returns, only without her LAPD SWAT boyfriend (Reeves, not in this film) who she broke up with only to get together with new LAPD SWAT boyfriend (Patric), and instead of a bus, they’re on a boat. How pathetic.
Where SPEED had you asking “How on earth are they going to get out of this?”, SPEED 2 has you asking “When on earth are the credits going to roll so I can get out of here?”. This film was so painfully bad it even made Willem Dafoe look inept. You could tell he had no idea what to do with this ridiculous villain. The dialogue was horrible, but even if it was Oscar worthy, the premise was so bad it still would have sounded like drivel.
If films like Speed and Die Hard perfected the art of the “one guy against a terrorist(s) in a confined area (like a bus or building)” action film, then Speed 2 is the annoying nephew’s finger painting. It’s hard to believe these films were directed by the same man.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Judith Egerton of The Courier-Journal
“De Bont deserves to be tied to the yardarm and lashed with a wet towel… If Speed 2 and let’s say, Kissed, a dark comedy about a woman necrophile, were the very last two movies at the video store, I would pick Kissed.”
Personally, I think she’s being kind. This movie made me want to abandon ship about 15 minutes into it. I still don’t know why I stayed instead of heading for the life raft.
(1999) Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Joe Viterelli
(2002) Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Joe Viterelli
ANALYZE THIS (The Good Film)
Billy Crystal plays Dr. Ben Sobel, a second generation therapist who is becoming a little bored with his practice until the day Mafia kingpin Paul Viti (Robert DeNiro), comes into his office desperately seeking help for his panic attacks which reduce him to tears. Hilarity ensues.
It’s hard for me to remember a comedy that surprised me as much as Analyze This did. But really when you think about it I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Robert De Niro as a notorious mafia boss and Billy Crystal as his therapist? The concept alone made me giggle. Then again, perhaps I could be forgiven for my doubt when you consider the concept of a film with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson as his anger management therapist sounded pretty funny too… and look how badly that one turned out.
The film introduces us to a new Robert De Niro… the comedy star (although an argument could be made for Wag The Dog as well), something that was considered unthinkable at one time. I personally had my doubts about De Niro’s ability to hold his own in a comedy along side Billy Crystal, one of the genres most experiences actors. However, De Niro showed fantastic and almost natural comedic timing and expressions that consistently had me in stitches.
A gem of a movie carried by two fantastic stars in the hands of a wonderful director (Harold Ramis). Good Stuff.
ANALYZE THAT (The Bad Film)
Paul Vitti (De Niro) fakes a complete mental breakdown in prison in order to get released (ummm… a breakdown gets you put BACK into society?) into the custody of Billy Crystal in order to find out who has been trying to kill him.
It’s almost sacrilegious to say it, but Analyze That is just another rotation in the horrible spiral De Niro’s career has been in since Meet The Parents. Truly awful films like 15 Minutes, The Score, Showtime (which I liked… but for the wrong reasons), City By The Sea, Godsend and others have put together a stink streak you never would have imagined possible.
This is not a movie. A movie has a plot that progresses through a series of scenes to form a story. This film is just a jumbled series of skits more liken unto an episode of Saturday Night Live than a motion picture. About 20 minutes into the film you get the feeling no one knew what on earth this movie was supposed to be about.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“It’s the kind of under-inspired, overblown enterprise that gives Hollywood sequels a bad name… there’s really not much to do here but milk the star chemistry for all it’s worth in a series of increasingly slapsticky situations that all seem pasted onto the script’s feeble and contrived excuse for a reunion.”
This wasn’t made because someone at the studio had a great idea for the film. It was made just for the sake of being made while fooling themselves into believing that somehow, someway De Niro and Crystal would manage to make it work. They didn’t.
SUPERMAN I & II
(1978, 1980) Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp
SUPERMAN III & IV
(1983, 1987) Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Richard Pryor
SUPERMAN I & II (The Good Films)
When only a baby, Kal-El is fired off into space from his doomed world of Krypton by his parents in an attempt to save the child’s life. Crash landing on earth, the baby is found and raised by the Kent’s who give Kal-El the name Clark and raise him as their own. Later, Clark discovers both his powers and his true identity and must save the world from the threats of the evil Lex Luthor and Kryptonian convicted criminal General Zod, all while falling in love with Lois Lane.
To this day, the 1978 original Superman is considered by many to still be the greatest Superhero film of all time (a title that I personally give to X-Men 2), and a few would say was only ever topped by it’s 1980 sequel.
The film was a true breakthrough in the superhero genre and in the realm of visual effects. It was the first film that actually made us believe that a man could fly. The scene on Lois Lane’s balcony is still one of my favorite moments in a Hero genre film.
And what good is a hero without a villain? These films were blessed with 2 great ones. Gene Hackman (who just OWNS the role of Lex Luthor) in the first, and Terence Stamp as General Zod in the second.
And with all due respect to both Tom Welling and Brandon Routh, Christopher Reeve will always be the Man of Steel.
SUPERMAN III & IV (The Bad Films)
First, Superman must battle wits against Richard Pryor and do some hand-to-hand combat against a Pryor designed supercomputer all while fighting off the effects of a new breed of Kryptonite that makes him totally wasted (yes, you read all that right). Next, Superman must battle for world peace by junking all of the world’s nuclear weapons, and then has to fight Nuclear Man who… aww damn there’s no need to go on with this. I mean come on! Nuclear Man?!?!
All anyone had to do was look at the poster for Superman III to immediately know that the franchise had totally lost its way. Superman III and IV embody the phrase “going back to the well one (or in this case two) too many times”. Both III and IV were such obvious desperate attempts to capitalize on the trends and fears of the day (computers in 3 and Nuclear War in 4) that they stopped being Superman stories and became more like bad Sunday editorials on the dangers of over reliance on technology and the threat of Nuclear Weapons.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Desson Howe of the Washinton Post
More sluggish than a funeral barge, cheaper than a sale at K mart, it’s a nerd, it’s a shame, it’s “Superman IV.” Christopher Reeve, in his fourth consecutive role, wrote the story for this film — an unabashed nuclear disarmament message. But by the end of this movie, nuclear winter seems more appealing than the prospect of “Superman V.”
A horrible and elongated end to an otherwise terrific franchise.
(1980) Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray
(1988) Chevy Chase, Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd
CADDYSHACK (The Good Film)
A young caddy at a snobbish upper class golf club has aspirations of being awarded a scholarship in order to go to college. In order to attain this goal he attempts to get on the good side of a stuck up executive member at the club (Ted Knight). The club is turned on its ear when a highly irreverent land developer (Rodney Dangerfield) arrives on the scene and disrupts the status quo. Hilarity ensues.
I can’t believe it took me so long to see this film. It wasn’t until a late night in 2001 while playing RISK with a group of buddies (we’d always pop in a flick when playing) that one of the guys (a gold fanatic named Curt) brought along Caddyshack… and it was every bit as funny as all the hype I’d ever heard about it.
Although not figuring largely into the plot (then again, nothing really figured largely into the plot of this slapstick comedy), the two characters that stood out to me the most where those of Chevy Chase as the laid back, dim witted yet bright golf ace, and Bill Murray as the psychotic, gopher destroying obsessed grounds keeper.
The stand out moment for me in the film (and I don’t know what this says about me) was the chocolate bar floating in the pool which was later eaten by Murray. I still giggle like an idiot when I think of it.
CADDYSHACK II (The Bad Film)
We are returned to the exclusive golf course of the first Caddyshack film where more mayhem is in store. A millionaire is refused admission to the club and gets revenge by buying the course and converting it into a golf amusement park. Obviously everything must come down to a dramatic (please note sarcasm) golf match where winner takes all.
Total jaw dropping garbage. That may sound a little harsh, but honestly folks that’s what we’re dealing with when watching Caddyshack II. Yes there is a golf course. Yes it’s a slapstick comedy… and there the similarities end. Where the original Caddyshack had fantastic timing and sharp wit, Caddyshack II has predictable humor, forgettable characters and absolutely zero charm.
Where was Rodney Dangerfield? Where was Bill Murray? Rumors have it that Dangerfield and the producers parted ways when Dangerfield demanded some script rewrites after reading the crap he was handed. As it turns out they really should have listened to him. They ended up having to recast and consequently rework the script anyway.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Abbie Bernstein of AudioRevolution
Golf fans who loved the original ‘Caddyshack’ will be outraged that there’s barely any golf at all until well over an hour into the film, which qualifies as bait-and-switch, given the advertising. Nearly everyone else will squirm in boredom at the predictable slapstick, banal romantic subplots and the overall lecture on class prejudice.
(1977) Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
(1999) Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
STAR WARS (The Good Film)
A young farm boy gets caught up in a galactic struggle between good and evil, the Empire vs. The Rebellion. In his adventures he encounters Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and perhaps the greatest film villain of all time, Darth Vader. In his race to free the princess he must also destroy the gravest threat the universe has ever encountered, the Death Star.
I’m not even going to pretend to be impartial here. This is hands down my favorite movie of all time. Second to none, no questions asked. It is the film that began my love affair with the movies and to this day no other motion picture has been able to equal the sense of awe or capture the imagination like the original Star Wars has. It is the standard by which all other science fiction and fantasy films are measured by, and probably always will be.
The characters in the film have become household names. Luke Skywalker. Han Solo. Obi-Wan Kenobi. Darth Vader. Chewbacca. Mention any of these names and people will instantly know what you are talking about. As great as The Lord of the Rings films are, can you say the same about Legolas? Boromir? Sauron? The fanatics would know… but not your average person. That is how powerfully Star Wars not only impacted film, but became a pop culture supernova that has rippled through the decades and remains as popular as ever almost 30 years later.
THE PHANTOM MENACE (The Bad Film)
Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Master Qui-Gon Jinn are sent to settle a trade dispute on the planet of Naboo only to discover upon arriving that a much deeper and dangerous conflict is getting ready to unfold. Upon escaping deadly traps, the Jedi find themselves on the planet Tatooine where they encounter a 9 year old boy by the name of Anakin Skywalker… the boy who would grow up to be Darth Vader.
This pains me to write, but this installment of the Star Wars saga was just horrible. Besides the lack of compelling storytelling and hyper over-reliance on visual effects (although spectacular), Phantom Menace brought us the most annoying screen presence since Pauly Shore… the abomination that is Jar Jar Binks. In one “behind the scenes” clip on the DVD, George Lucas is heard saying something along the lines of “Everything will depend on Jar Jar”. Well, I guess you should be careful what you wish for.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Paul Clinton of CNN
And there are no romance, no humor, ultimately nobody to care about in this oddly sterile movie. But despite all the magnificent razzle-dazzle, when it comes to movies “it’s the story, stupid.” This could have been, and should have been, a much better story.
As odd as it sounds, I enjoyed watching this film even thought it’s so awful. Probably just because it’s Star Wars. Still, what should have been the most celebrated event in movies in the last 20 years ended up being one of the biggest disappointments the film industry has ever dished out. The fact that so many people are still Star Wars fanatics is a testament to just how good the original is.
(1998) Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart
Mission Impossible II
(2000) Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton
Mission Impossible (The Good Film)
A film which shares very little with the television show of the same name other than self destructing messages and a character’s name or two. Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, a super spy who is framed for an operation that goes bad ending in the death of his teammates. Hunt pulls together a ragtag group of outcasts and attempts to navigate his way through a series of action sequences and double crosses to find his way to person responsible for his crisis.
No one enjoys a good brainless action flick more than me, but what stood out to me about Mission Impossible is the very thing that caused some other to dislike this intelligent film. It actually had a solid plot and kept you thinking. More story twists than an Agatha Christie novel with allegiances shifting more than the San Andreas Fault, director Brian De Palma succeeds in not only thrilling the audience, but engaging us in the slowly unraveling mystery.
I must admit that it didn’t fully appreciate the film until I saw it the second time and it all made more sense to me. A critic of the film could rightfully complain that the sheer number of twists and turns can leave the audience a bit dazed and confused as to what the heck is going on. However, if you take the film slowly, digest what happens, and perhaps even see it a second time, the plot becomes much more tangible and extremely enjoyable. I suppose one could call Mission Impossible a “thinking man’s action film”.
Mission Impossible II (The Bad Film)
Tom Cruise (returning as Ethan Hunt), is given the mission of tracking down and stopping another agent gone bad before he executes his plan of unleashing a genetically created disease on the whole world and then sell the antidote at the highest price. Aiding Hunt in his impossible mission is thief and former lover of the villain named Nyah. The clock is running, and only Hunt can save the day.
Ok, now take everything that was good about Mission Impossible, the smart intelligent action film, and then strip away everything that was smart and intelligent. What you’re left with is Mission Impossible II. A sorry, painfully dumbed down action flick that is totally all style and no substance.
Add on top of that one of the worst performances from an actress I’ve seen in a major motion picture in a long time. Thandie Newton’s presence as Cruise’s love interest is like a car wreck you just can’t take your eyes off of. As clumsy on camera as she is beautiful, her performance was so bad and unbelievable that I was snickering to myself the entire film.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From A.O. Scott of The New York Times
If Mr. Cruise peeled off his face and turned out to have been Chow Yun Fat all along, the picture might be saved.
What really ticked me off was how the film’s marketing gave the impression that Anthony Hopkins co-stared in the film, only then to discover he had about 3 minutes of screen time in total.
The Blair Witch Project
(1999) Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen
The Blair Witch Project (The Good Film)
Three student filmmakers set out to shoot a documentary about a local urban legend in Maryland centering around children gone missing in the 1940’s. The students themselves go missing and one year later their sound recorder and video footage is found, telling the tale of the students dreadful last few days wandering aimlessly in the haunted woods in search of the Blair Witch.
A simply brilliant and creative horror film that is still the scariest movie I’ve seen in the last 10 years. The film was shot on a shoe string budget of $30,000. A wonderful concept that was executed to sheer perfection. Told in the first person by the students themselves, the film draws its eerie power from the pure believability of the film as a documentary. It just looks, sounds and feels so much like a real documentary that when things start to go wrong the audience has a difficult time remembering that “this is just a movie”.
The biggest accomplishment of The Blair Witch is that its creators introduced Hollywood to the concept that audiences will be much more terrified by what they DON’T see on the screen than what they Do see. No filmmaker can equal the horror our own imaginations can create with clumsy costumes or magnificent CGI. Blair Witch scares the crap out of you BECAUSE you don’t see anything. What a concept!
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 II (The Bad Film)
Inspired by all the hype created by The Blair Witch movie and wanting to cash in, a local bad boy sets up a tour business taking patrons to the various locations in the woods that the original Blair Witch took place. When four students sign up to take the tour, they being to realize that there may be more truth than fiction to the legend of The Blair Witch. Zaniness ensues.
What a total vomit inducing waste of time. First of all, the film never really spells out if the events of the original Blair Witch movie were supposed to be real (ie. footage from the students cameras being found), or if they were referring to the actual REAL “The Blair Witch Project” movie. It’s a silly distinction, but one that really should have been made. In this world, did the students think The Blair Witch Project was a motion picture, or a nation wide documentary release of the edited footage of the film students from the original?
The movie revolves around the idea that these new characters need to unravel what happened to them during 5 missing hours from their lives. The mystery for me was trying to figure out how I was going to get back 2 wasted hours from mine.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Jim Judy of Screen It!.
Isn’t particularly frightening unless one considers how horrible a piece of filmmaking — in nearly every sense of the definition — it really is.
Here’s today’s lesson: Just because you go from a $30,000 budget to a $30,000,000 budget doesn’t mean it’ll be 100x better. When a concept runs dry, even big cash won’t revive it.
Charlie’s Angels (2000) Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu
Charlie’s Angels (The Good Film)
Based on the popular 70’s TV show, three beautiful women work as James Bond style agents for their mysterious boss named Charlie, who is never seen. When a brilliant and successful programmer hires Charlie’s agency to investigate the theft of his latest voice recognition software, the lives of the Angels and Charlie himself are put in danger.
It’s difficult to say why some “brainless” action flicks work and why others don’t. Charlie’s Angels definitely falls under the “brainless” action category, but it works for three important reasons:
The film has moments of true humor (thanks to Mr. Bill Murray)
Hot Chicks kicking lots of ass and somehow not making it look totally ridiculous at the same time.
You can’t help but be taken with the characters. For some reason, and it’s not their looks, you just fall in love with these quirky, fun girls and genuinely enjoy watching them partake of aforementioned ass kicking and interactions.
Putting all three of these elements together made me walk out of the theatre and say “Man that was stupid… but a lot of fun!” This is the ultimate compliment you can give a “brainless” action flick.
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (The Bad Film)
Charlie’s super agents are thrust into action in order to retrieve two rings that together give the identities and locations of ever person in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program when five people on that list turn up dead. To complicate matters, the Angels discover they’re not going up against just an average run of the mill villain. This time their foe is a former Angel herself (played by the beautiful Demi Moore).
In the first film you were captivated by the playful and likeable nature of the three Angels. However, in this film that playfulness was somehow transformed into an annoying air headedness that leaves you wanting to “throttle” these chicks so your headaches will go away. The first film had you believing these girls knew what they were doing. In this film they come across as three dumb sluts who couldn’t boil water without a recipe.
Don’t get me wrong, as a heterosexual male I enjoy seeing Cameron Diaz do a little wiggle and jiggle as much as the next guy. But when that’s all the filmmakers seem to rely on it gets really old really fast. Bad plot, inferior action compared to the first film and annoying as hell lead characters has you scratching your eyes the entire time you’re being subjected to this film.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.
…watching Full Throttle is like being pummeled for two hours with a feather duster. It leaves no scars, but you do feel the pain.
The Angels have fallen and they can’t get up. What could have been a great money making franchise for many years is now toast.
Shanghai Noon (2000) Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu
Shanghai Knights (2003) Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Donnie Yen
Shanghai Noon (The Good Film)
Set in the times of the old west, Jackie Chan plays a Chinese Imperial Guard who volunteers to travel to the United States to search for and rescue the Emperor’s sister who has apparently been kidnapped. Along the way he befriends a failed outlaw (Owen Wilson) who begins to teach him the ways of the west as the pair get in and out of a series of predicaments. The mission becomes more complicated when they realize the kidnapper is a former Imperial Guard himself.
I know this is saying a lot, but no film in the last 5 years surprised me as much as Shanghai Noon did. I enjoyed Jackie Chan films before, but mostly for the action and the stunts. Unfortunately, everything he had done in North America up to Shanghai Noon had been a real disappointment. I thought this film would be the same story. I was wrong.
At it’s core, this film isn’t an action movie at all. It’s a straight up comedy that had me in giggles the whole time. Yes, some of the action was fantastic (but nothing compared to some of Chan’s earlier work), but it’s the humor that made this film work.
Shanghai Noon was also the coming out party for Owen Wilson as a legitimate Hollywood Star. I’ve liked Wilson in a number of films since, but his role as Roy O’Bannon is still the best performance he’s ever given in my opinion. It was also the last good North American film Chan has been in. Which leads us too…
Shanghai Knights (The Bad Film)
Chon (Chan) and Roy (Wilson) head to England in order to find the person responsible for the murder of Chon’s father, who was the keeper of the Royal Seal of China. The Seal was stolen and Chon takes on the added duty of retrieving it. What they find is not just a simple murder and theft, but a conspiracy to overthrow two thrones at the same time.
I mentioned earlier that Shanghai Noon was a total surprise to me. Unfortunately, I went into Shanghai Knights with higher expectations. I should have left those at home. Where “Noon” had me laughing the whole time with 10-12 all out howling moments, “Knights” had me grinning a few times with 1-2 howling moments at best.
Shanghai Knights became a true North American Jackie Chan film. Far too silly, relying on bad slapstick and a belief that what really entertains audiences are clowns who are good at kicking stuff. All the charm and wit of the first Shanghai film are gone and replaced with mind numbing silliness and a complete lack of any storytelling at all.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Observer.
“Why would the writers bother with narrative when the story is just something that kills time, and brain cells, between feats and fists of fury?”
In the first film, you really get taken with the charm of both of these characters. In this film, you find you don’t even like either of them as they bad mouth and betray each other every step of the way while still trying to convince the audience they’re best friends.
Highlander (1986) Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown
Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Michael Ironside
Highlander (The Good Film)
Connor Macleod was born in 1518 in the Highlands of Scotland. One day in fierce battle Connor was killed only to awaken a short time later. Connor was banished by his clan for suspecting him of being a devil worshiper, and so alone and confused he wandered until meeting Ramirez, a Spanish swordsman who teaches Connor the truth. Connor and Ramirez are immortals. There race of the immortals can only die when their heads are taken Ramirez teaches Macleod the ways of the sword, until Ramirez is tragically killed by Connor’s arch enemy, the evil Kurgan, an immortal who first killed Connor. All immortals must battle until only one remains. To him goes “The Prize”, an unknown power that will enable the victor to help or even enslave mankind. They must battle until the time of the gathering, when all surviving immortals feel inexplicably drawn to the same place. They will then fight until only one remains. The gathering happens in 1985 in the city of New York.
This… film… RULES! I loved it the first time I saw it, and I love it still to this day. It’s a shame Christopher Lambert wasn’t able to put much of a career together after this film… but who cares!
One of the most creative and original movies I have ever seen. Still sits on my personal Top 10 Films of all time list. If you haven’t seen it, drop this book, go to Blockbuster and get it NOW!
Highlander II: The Quickening (The VERY Bad Film)
The year is 2024. Connor is now an old man (one of the benefits of “The Prize” was to cease being immortal). Using “The Prize”, Connor helped create a giant shield around the earth to protect it after the destruction of the Ozone Layer. But perhaps the Ozone Layer has repaired itself, and the evil corporation controlling the shield will not let the rest of mankind know it. Villains from Connors home planet come looking for him and he becomes young again, calls upon the spirit of his old friend Ramirez to resurrect and help him battle the aliens and take down the shield. This pile of dog crap is to this day the worst film I have ever seen in my life.
For some cocaine induced reasoning, the makers of this film decided to take everything we know about Connor and the immortals and throw it out the window. Now the immortals are actually aliens from a distant planet and are banished to earth and become immortal as some sort of punishment. Huh? On top of that, Connor and Ramirez are old friends from the old planet. Huh? Just by yelling out “Ramirez I need you”, Connor brings Ramirez back to life. What the hell?!?
The rest of the Highlander movies and the television show all pretend like Highlander 2 doesn’t exist and rely solely on the story of the original. Good move, but the mental damage was done.
Favorite Critic Quote:
From Roger Ebert of RogerEbert.Com.
“If there is a planet somewhere whose civilization is based on the worst movies of all time, “Highlander 2: The Quickening” deserves a sacred place among their most treasured artifacts.”
And lest we forget, there are many other horrible sequels to good films that at least deserve to get a dishonorable mention here:
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Bad Boys 2
Dumb and Dumber
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Friday the 13th Part 1
Friday the 13th Part Everything Else
Nightmare on Elm Street Part 1
Nightmare on Elm Street Part Everything Else
Predator 2 (AKA “Where’s Arnold?”)
Police Academy 2 through 84
Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes “Beating this thing to death”
For studios, making a sequel to a successful film is like printing your own money. The franchise already has a following built in and at least a minimum return on the investment is guaranteed. I think this kind of security lulls the studios into basically not caring how good or bad the film ends up being. Why spend more time on development? Why spend more money for a better director? Get it made fast, spit it out into the theatres and then collect the first weekend box office return. Who cares if it sucks? It’s a shame.