Monday, April 12, 2004

The Cotton Club

Let me just say that I don't like Richard Gere. Really. I don't. He's like...the male Meg Ryan or something. No, actually, Tom Hanks is the male Meg Ryan. But jeez, I can't stand Richard Gere all the same.

However, as coronetist Michael 'Dixie' Dwyer in The Cotton Club.... He was pretty easy on the eyes. I'm ashamed of myself. I want to weep. What's more, the smug sonuvabitch played his own instrument, Richard Gere actually played his own solos. Damn you, Richard Gere, damn you for being so damned hot in a fedora and speaking with a hot 1928 New York accent, damn you. Oh God, I'm so ashamed.

Now that that's out of the way.

Honestly, this is a very muddled movie. Francis Ford Coppola was probably still in a wacky funk after finishing Apocalypse Now, and who wouldn't be? But The Cotton Club could've been so much better in terms of flow, because there are several plot lines going, and not enough depth is given to certain ones.

However, I give nice, big A-plusses to the music, the performances at the Club (portrayals of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway included), and the overall feel of New York in 1928 to 1932. Harlem, to be exact. But again, there could have been more soul.

Not that there wasn't any soul.There was Gregory Hines as Sandman Williams, a hoofer at the Club, and whenever he came on, he always made me smile. Diane Lane as Vera Cicero was adorable. She was beautiful. I haven't seen any of her movies before, but in this she was amazingly natural. (She reminded me of Thora Birch.) Nicolas Cage as Vincent Dwyer, Dixie's younger brother, was a scenery-chewer, but hey, I have nothing against nepotism when it's Nic.

My favorite characters, though, were club-owner Owney Madden and his right-hand-man Big Frenchy Demange, played by Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne, respectively. (And just to remind everyone, Madden and Demange were real-life gangsters who did work together.) Now, there's Bob, little Bob, and Fred, huge, big, former-Herman-Munster Fred. That is an odd couple if there ever was one, but boy, does it work. And while their relationship was fictionalized, I couldn't help thinking, "Omigod, theirloveissopure!" Because that's how it was! And it was so cute and heartwarming. Aww.

Overall it was fairly entertaining, but I was too distracted by how biased I am against Richard Gere for unidentifiable reasons.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Jackie Chan: gangster with a heart of gold

Last night I rented a Jackie Chan movie called Black Dragon, also known as "Miracle." Hong Kong in the 1930s. Jackie Chan in a fedora. Let the good times roll.

First of all, let it be known that I won't scramble after just any gangster flick. For example, there is no way in hell I'd pay anything to sit through Mobsters, with Christian Slater and Richard Grieco. Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello, and Arnold Rothstein would be rolling in their graves. However, if it came on TV, which no self-respecting channel would ever air, of course, I'd watch. But only for the clothes.

Now, back to Black Dragon. Jackie Chan is so adorable it's not even funny. Well, yeah, it's funny, but so funny that it's not even funny anymore. I learned that this movie was a kind of martial arts loose remake of a Frank Capra movie...well, two of them, to be exact -- Lady for a Day and Pocketful of Miracles. However, Capra's movies were based on a Damon Runyon story called "Madame La Gimp." Runyon was the quintessential voice of Broadway in the late teens to the Twenties, and wrote the essence of what became Guys and Dolls. So as soon as Chan's Black Dragon launched into that plot line of a good-hearted gangster trying to help a poor flower-seller pretend to be a high-class woman to impress her daughter, whom she hadn't seen for years, and future son-in-law, whose father was in a prestigious position...I immediately thought of Runyon. Jackie Chan wrote and directed this movie, so he probably didn't even know how far back he was reaching, even further than Capra's version.

And by golly, this was a fun, touching movie, with a fair share of eye-popping action scenes. JC is a genius fight choreographer, make no mistake about that. The sets and costumes were great. The music was cheesy at times, but it only reminded you to lighten up. Oh, and speaking of costumes, the way Jackie Chan handled his hats...drool-worthy. As for the sets, there was this one conspicuous sedan, beige body with a burgundy top, that I kept seeing throughout the movie. It was used several times by the rival gang, but other times it was just used as a passing car, and I just thought that was pretty funny.

Yay for Jackie Chan. He can do no wrong.