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Review: The Karate Kid, Predators, My One and Only & Knight and Day

By December 30, 2010No Comments

The Karate Kid posterThe first thing to know about The Karate Kid is that there is no kar­ate in it. This remake of the eighties favour­ite sends twelve-year-old hero Jaden Smith to China where they hurt people with kung fu instead. It was ori­gin­ally going to be called The Kung Fu Kid until someone in mar­ket­ing real­ised cer­tain syn­er­gist­ic oppor­tun­it­ies might be missed by the less cred­u­lous tar­get mar­ket. So there we are.

I have mixed feel­ings about this film. I have no great love for the ori­gin­al (des­pite ador­ing my occa­sion­al nick­name “Daniel-san”) so am not much bothered about the updat­ing. Director Harald Zwart man­aged to get my pulse going a bit faster than nor­mal, which doesn’t hap­pen very often these days, and there are some nice scenes that take advant­age of some inter­est­ing Chinese loc­a­tions. But this is basic­ally a pre-teen Rocky with some pretty real­ist­ic smacks and I’m a little uncom­fort­able about that.

Smith plays young Dre, plucked from his nat­ive Detroit by his moth­er (Taraji P. Henson) who has been trans­ferred to Beijing for work. He’s sour and surly, of course, as they tend to be at that age, but things get worse when he meets the neigh­bor­hood bul­lies who pro­ceed to make his life hell. Luckily, the lonely build­ing super­visor (a hag­gard Jackie Chan) takes him under his wing and gives him a chance to take his revenge at the big kung fu championships.

If it turns out that young Smith can sing too, he may well become the biggest star the world has ever seen – he’s got everything else – and I look for­ward to see­ing his career devel­op. Sadly, though, The Karate Kid is a film that tells young people that they can solve their prob­lems using viol­ence and I just can’t get behind that. (Sidebar: one of the young people sit­ting behind me at the Karate Kid screen­ing had nev­er heard of Jaden’s dad, Will Smith. How fra­gile is fame.)

Predators posterWhen one is con­fron­ted by giant, invis­ible, green-blooded, sad­ist­ic ali­ens of course, viol­ence is a much more reas­on­able response so it’s lucky that the né’er-do-wells and miscre­ants in Predators have some skills in that area. A bunch of hood­lums, mer­cen­ar­ies and assor­ted mean­ies are plucked from Earth, doped, then para­chuted in to the sur­face of a jungle plan­et where they are hunted by the afore-mentioned Predators for sport.

Adrien Brody is the alpha-of-alpha male who works out what’s going on, but even he is power­less against these brutes until he gets some help from Laurence Fishburne – the mys­ter­i­ous sole sur­viv­or of a pre­vi­ous hunt­ing expedition.

Respectably true to its own intern­al logic and inten­tions, Predators does a decent job of re-booting what had become a ridicu­lous fran­chise but the dread­locked ant­ag­on­ists them­selves are a lot less scary the more you see of them.

My One and Only posterDestined for undeserving art­house obli­vi­on because of the Film Festival is a sweet little coming-of-age story called My One and Only, which turns out to be about the fam­ously tanned Hollywood star George Hamilton. When his moth­er (Renée Zellweger) dis­cov­ers his dance band lead­er fath­er (Kevin Bacon) in flag­rante with a show­girl she impetu­ously, but jus­ti­fi­ably, emp­ties the bank, buys a car and takes her two sons on a cross-country odys­sey to find a new husband.

English dir­ect­or Richard Loncraine achieves the mira­cu­lous and man­ages to wind Zellweger down to a bear­able level and there are good per­form­ances too from a sup­port­ing cast that includes TV stal­warts Chris Noth (SATC’s Mr Big), Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”) and Steven Weber (“Wings” and “Studio 60”).

Knight and Day posterThere was a time when James Mangold was going to be that rare thing these days – a Hollywood auteur. Films like Heavy (1995), the great Cop Land (1996) and Girl, Interrupted (1999) signaled that rare thing these days – a per­son­al vis­ion. His latest film though, Knight and Day, is the very defin­i­tion of hack­ery – a giant budget, high concept, star vehicle in which every dis­tin­guish­ing factor is pol­ished by focus groups, stu­dio execs and the star’s “people” until noth­ing inter­est­ing remains.

Cameron Diaz is an ordin­ary cit­izen (a rebuild­er of clas­sic cars in fact) who bumps into hand­some Tom Cruise on a flight that he is about to hijack. Some heavy-handed flirt­ing ensues, fol­lowed by a noisy plane crash that kills every­one on board except these two. Cruise turns out to be a G‑man with a macguffin that some bad guys want and now Diaz is stuck in the middle, dodging the digit­al bul­lets and bombs.

Despite the glam­or­ous loc­a­tions (Boston, Seville, Salzburg and some kind of desert island), the dodgy CGI rear-projection means that Cruise prob­ably nev­er left the Hollywood back­lot and he cer­tainly doesn’t appear to have taken his eyes off the paycheck at any stage.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 21 July, 2010.