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Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review

Shanghai Noon (2000) movie poster Shanghai Noon

Theatrical Release: May 26, 2000 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Tom Dey / Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar

Cast: Jackie Chan (Chon Wang), Owen Wilson (Roy O'Bannon), Lucy Liu (Princess Pei Pei), Roger Yuan (Lo Fong), Walton Goggins (Wallace), Xander Berkeley (Marshal Nathan Van Cleef), Jason Connery (Calvin Andrews), Brandon Merrill (Indian Wife Falling Leaves), Rafael Baez (Vasquez), P. Adrien Dorval (Blue), Rong Guang Yu (Imperial Guard) Cui Ya Hi (Imperial Guard), Eric Chi Cheng Chen (Imperial Guard), Stacy Grant (Hooker in Distress), Kate Luyben (Fifi), Henry O (Royal Interpreter), Russell Badger (Sioux Chief), Simon Baker (Little Feather)
Shanghai Knights (2003) movie poster Shanghai Knights

Theatrical Release: February 7, 2003 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David Dobkin / Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar (screenplay & characters)

Cast: Jackie Chan (Chon Wang), Owen Wilson (Roy O'Bannon), Donnie Yen (Wu Chan), Aidan Gillen (Lord Nelson Rathbone), Fann Wong (Chon Lin), Thomas Fisher (Artie Doyle), Kim S. Chan (Chong Wang's Father), Gemma Jones (Queen Victoria), Aaron Johnson (Charlie Chaplin), Oliver Cotton (Jack the Ripper), Alison King (Prostitute), Constantine Gregory (The Mayor)

Buy Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights from Amazon.com:
2-Movie Blu-ray • 2-Movie DVD / Noon DVD • Knights DVD / Instant Video: Noon • Knights

The 1998 hit Rush Hour established the mismatched buddy comedy as a viable venue to turn veteran Hong Kong martial artist Jackie Chan into an American movie star. Chan's next big project, the 2000 Touchstone Pictures release Shanghai Noon, hoped that mold would work again.
While piggybacking on an old, time-tested formula, Shanghai had its own game plan. There was quite a difference between a contemporary cop mystery and this, a Western adventure. This time, the comedian to whom Chan would play straight man was not Friday motor mouth Chris Tucker, but Owen Wilson, a blonde Texan who had started popping up everywhere from Anaconda to Armageddon but was not yet a well-known personality nor even a Ben Stiller foil.

Shanghai opens in Forbidden City in the year 1881. Chon Wang (Chan) is part of China's imperial guard and feels responsible when Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) is kidnapped and brought to Carson City, Nevada for ransom. Chon isn't one of the three guards selected to retrieve the princess, but he does make the trip, which puts him on a train that is robbed by Roy O'Bannon (Wilson) and his small gang, including Wallace (Walton Goggins), a trigger-happy new member from Texas who kills Chon's uncle.

Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) make for unlikely partners in the 2000 Western comedy adventure "Shanghai Noon."

That creates obvious tension between our two leads, with Chon leaving Roy, buried up to his neck and being sized up by buzzards, to use chopsticks to dig himself out. Of course, the two adversaries find common ground and team up to serve a greater good, which is rescuing Princess Pei Pei from a plot by a traitor (Roger Yuan) involving the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Along the way, Chan gets plenty of opportunities to show off his kicks, jumps, fast fists, and creative twists on fight scenes, using things like a horseshoe on a rope, antlers, and his own long braid to spice up battles. The Butch and Sundance-type western shenanigans are also spiced up by some modern rock tunes, from Aerosmith ("Back in the Saddle Again") to ZZ Top ("La Grange").

Chan and Wilson have decent chemistry together, the former's modest grasp of the English language hidden by his laconic demeanor and balanced by the latter's cocky chatter. With the story of greater interest to the film than us, scenes like the two outlaws playing drinking games in neighboring bordello bathtubs and the inevitable pre-end credits blooper reel entertain far more than a climactic church gunfight.

Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) wakes up to face paint and an unexpected public reception. Peripheral leading lady Lucy Liu cracks up in the film-ending outtakes reel.

Grossing $56.9 million domestically (and only $42.3 M more in not as significant foreign markets) on a $55 M budget, Shanghai Noon was no hit, despite its desirable Memorial Day Weekend opening.
Video sales and rentals must have been strong, though, because three years later, with Chan's US success still limited to the Rush Hour franchise (whose 2001 sequel provided unusual growth), he and Wilson reunited for Shanghai Knights.

Shanghai Knights is no better or worse than the first movie. I'm convinced that people prefer the original simply because it is an original movie, whereas this one is a sequel and feels like it. Opening in Forbidden City in 1887, the film establishes that Chon Wang's father (Kim S. Chan) is the keeper of the Imperial Seal and disappointed in his son, whom he claims is "dead to him" for starting a new life in America. When the Seal is stolen and Chon's father killed, the family's honor must be restored.

Meanwhile in America, Roy's exploits have been embellished and novelized, turning him into a folk hero, while downplaying the role of the "Shanghai Kid." Despite his literary popularity, Roy is broke and working as a waiter/gigolo in New York. He reluctantly reteams with Chon to catch the Seal's thieves and Chon's father's murderer, whom Chon's baby sister Lin (Fann Wong) has tracked down to London.

A mischievous young Charlie Chaplin (Aaron Johnson, now Aaron Taylor-Johnson) pockets Roy's pocket watch on the streets of London. Chon's younger sister Lin (Fann Wong) emerges as a love interest and fiery dream girl for Roy.

East of the Atlantic, Roy and Chon are up to more of the same hijinks. The location narrows the rock music stylings to remixes of British Invasion tunes by The Who, The Zombies, and The Kinks (whom you're waiting for until the end credits begin). Chan dabbles in more prop-based combat, expanding his arsenal to include such things as an umbrella, a library ladder, and valuable vases. You can be sure that English cuisine is a comedy target and that a minute of screentime is devoted to "spotted dick" jokes.

This sequel makes more of an effort to incorporate historical developments, some of them plainly anachronistic. Queen Victoria makes multiple appearances, there's a Jack the Ripper sighting, the world's first machine gun is unveiled, and the duo's local police contact is Scotland Yard officer Artie Doyle (Tom Fisher), whom the adventure turns to novel-writing. There's even a Cockney waif (an unbelievably young Aaron Johnson, now Aaron Taylor-Johnson, of Kick-Ass and Savages fame) whose name is eventually revealed to be that of the creator of cinema's most famous Tramp.

Making use of wire work, climaxes set in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum as well as inside and high up Big Ben, and another standout pre-credits outtakes reel, Knights is overlong and fairly underwhelming. It offers mild twists on plot points from the first film (a feelings-hurting overheard conversation, for instance), but not many. It is a casual production with no sense of having to uphold a high standard or do right by devoted fans.

Naturally, heroes Roy and Chon (Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan) end up high on Big Ben for one of the climaxes of "Shanghai Knights."

For Chan, this would be one of numerous modestly performing American vehicles. For Wilson, whose career was on the rise, it was a chance to collaborate with people other than co-writer/director Wes Anderson and the so-called Frat Pack of comedians like Stiller and Vince Vaughn. Knights grossed $60 million domestically (about the same as its predecessor adjusted for inflation) and just $28 M overseas, presumably narrowly meeting the lower expectations implied in a February theatrical release. Needless to say, neither the studio nor the public clamored for another outing after this one, but Wilson would reteam with director David Dobkin to rousing returns on the blockbuster 2005 Frat Pack comedy Wedding Crashers.

Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights make their Blu-ray debut today sharing a single disc and being unaccompanied by the recycled DVD copies Disney has usually included in such 2 Movie Collections.

Watch a clip from Shanghai Noon:

Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights: 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French); Noon: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish); Knights: Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Most Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 7, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.50
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Still available on DVD: 2-Movie Collection ($14.99 SRP; February 10, 2008), Shanghai Noon (October 10, 2000), Shanghai Knights (July 15, 2003)
Also available on Amazon Instant Video: Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights

VIDEO and AUDIO

Thirteen years since it opened in theaters, Shanghai Noon gets a Blu-ray that does not compare with present-day fare, but isn't too far from those high standards. While its 2.35:1 presentation is a bit grainy at times, it's mostly quite good, boasting satisfactory sharpness and clarity. Shanghai Knights earns the same "good, not great" classification, although its weakness isn't grain but sharpness, as certain shots and parts of shots look slightly out of focus at times.

Strangely, especially considering their relative youth, neither film is treated to one of the lossless audio formats typically used on Blu-ray. Each gets a plain old Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, albeit with a much higher bit rate (640 kbps) than the ones they had on DVD. Truthfully, you could have mislabeled these mixes DTS-HD MA and I doubt I would have noticed any difference. The mixes are active and lively, full of boisterous music and effects while volume levels are reasonable and dialogue is never drowned out. Each film has its share of foreign dialogue translated by burned-in English subtitles.

This deleted scene features Curtis Armstrong as circus showman Bulldog Drummond, a character mentioned only by sign in the final film. What looks like a crazy person being helped in the woods is really just a brightly-dressed Jackie Chan coming up with stunt ideas in short Shanghai Noon featurettes. Jackie Chan rocks out on guitar in between Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock in the "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" music video.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Although the nearly four hours of featured 1080p video eats up a lot of space, the Blu-ray disc still finds the room to retain most of the films' DVD extras,
all of which remain in standard definition.

Noon's extras begin with an audio commentary by director Tom Dey, Owen Wilson, and, recorded separately, Jackie Chan. Dey dominates the discussion, citing his influences and describing his intent. Wilson and Chan chime in on occasion to add their distinct perspectives, as actor and action hero-stuntman. Clearly predating the time when commentaries became the norm and when actors rarely turned up on them, this is a fairly strong listen.

Most video supplements are relegated to a Classic DVD Bonus Features section, which sadly lacks some obvious "Play All" options. They begin with eight deleted scenes you have to select one by one to view. Most of these run around two minutes for a grand total of 17 minutes and 34 seconds. Most notable among the cuts: an appearance by Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds) as circus promoter Bulldog Drummond, who's coerced into putting Roy's gang on Chon's trail, an explanation for how Roy was unburied, and Roy trying to play it cool in front of Chon's wife bathing in a lake.

Under the heading Featurette are seven short featurettes. "Making an Eastern Western" (3:23) talks up the concepts at the heart of the film. "Partners" (4:09) celebrates the chemistry and contrasts of the leading men. "Jackie's Comedy" (3:48) questionably places Chan in the tradition of Buster Keaton, whose western silent film highlights are compared. "Western Stunts, Eastern Style" (3:39) discusses the mix of cultural traditions at play in the film's action sequences. "Hanging with Roy & the Kid" (2:16) presents an assortment of behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsal to stunts. "Action Overload" (2:41) simply serves up the film's most "exciting" moments. "Choo Choo Boogie" (3:09) takes us behind-the-scenes for a banjo-driven look at the production's creation and destruction of a scale miniature train.

Closing the section is Uncle Kracker's "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" (4:09) music video. Set in a saloon, it features Wilson, Chan and producer/pal Kid Rock.

Finally, the "theatrical trailer" (1:18) isn't truly that. It's a video ad, but it's still cool and something Disney rarely includes for their films.

From the original film's DVD, the two-part trivia game "Shanghai Surprise" are dropped, as are their unadvertised rewards for successful completion. It's no surprise that studios aren't bothering to re-author interactive DVD features for Blu-ray, but some will be bummed to lose such fun here.

Artie Conan Doyle (Thomas Fisher) shows his deductive side in this deleted "Shanghai Knight" scene. Director David Dobkin is all ears as Jackie Chan explains his art in "Fight Manual." "Action Overload" makes the sequel look like an old silent movie.

Shanghai Knights gets twice the commentaries. First, director David Dobkin flies solo. Dobkin explains how he got the job and what he wanted to do. His screen-specific remarks expand to the creative input of Wilson and Chan, the specifics of filming, the casting of supporting roles, and the film's many anachronisms. Considering he's alone and commenting on a bland movie, Dobkin does the best he can, but that doesn't mean you need to hear this.

The second commentary features Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the screenwriting team behind both this and the first film. They discuss their hopes and inventions for this sequel, touching on things like writing in interesting things from the period as well as the details of filming, which they were evidently on hand to watch. This is an easier listen than Dobkin's track, but once again, nothing essential.

Eleven deleted scenes are offered from Knights and these too have annoyingly dropped the "Play All" option from the DVD. Most of these are extensions with surviving bits repeated. The last and longest four extend the already overlong fight sequences. The one bright spot here is a scene of Roy and Chon trying out "English accents." Altogether, they run 28 minutes and 8 seconds, but you can probably add a couple of more minutes for all the button pressing and menu returns required.

"Fight Manual" (9:03) takes us behind the scenes, with Chan and Dobkin recalling what goes into a Jackie Chan action comedy and this one in particular.

"Action Overload" (1:34) does for the sequel what the feature of the same name did for the first film, only it at least makes the clips look like an old silent movie for some reason.

Chon and Roy's wanted posters adorn the Shanghai Noon Blu-ray menu. Updated Chon and Roy wanted posters adorn the Shanghai Knights Blu-ray menu.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for The Lone Ranger and The Muppet Movie Blu-ray, followed by an anti-smoking truth spot. The menus' "Sneak Peeks" listing plays ads for The Lion King on Broadway and an unbelievable ABC Family sitcom "Baby Daddy", before repeating the two automatically-played trailers.

Each film gets its own static, scored menu screen featuring wanted posters of the leads. The disc neither resumes unfinished playback nor allows you to set bookmarks, issues that have held back Disney's Blu-ray authoring for nearly seven years while seemingly every other studio has mastered such touches.

No inserts, slipcover, reverse cover art, or remarkable disc art jazzes up the side-snapped standard blue keepcase.

Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) teaches Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) everything he needs to know about being a cowboy in one short "Shanghai Noon" montage.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Both Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights are mediocre cinema,
passable lowbrow buddy comedies you wouldn't begrudge anyone for liking but probably won't personally love. While Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson have nice chemistry and these adventures play to each of their strengths, the comedy is often flat and the many action sequences not terribly exciting. The diversion offered seems best suited for passing time on a Saturday afternoon awaiting something better.

At its reasonable asking price, Disney's Blu-ray possesses a decent amount of value for those who like both movies. Though the hi-def presentations could be better, they're adequate and nearly all of the films' DVD extras make the leap to Blu-ray (but not high definition). I'm not impressed enough to recommend the movies to those unfamiliar with them, but fans should appreciate this predictably straightforward platter.

Buy Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights from Amazon.com: 2-Movie Blu-ray • 2-Movie DVD /
Individual Movies on DVD: Noon • Knights / Individual Movies on Instant Video: Noon • Knights

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Jackie Chan: Around the World in 80 Days • The Karate Kid (2010) • The Spy Next Door • Rush Hour 3 • Kung Fu Panda • Kung Fu Panda 2 • Mulan (music video)

Owen Wilson:
Bottle Rocket • Armageddon • The Royal Tenenbaums • Marley & Me • Midnight in Paris • Night at the Museum Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Drillbit Taylor • The Darjeeling Limited • How Do You Know • The Wendell Baker Story • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • Hall Pass • Cars • Cars 2

Donnie Yen: Hero • Dragon | Aaron Johnson: Albert Nobbs | Directed by Tom Dey: Marmaduke | Directed by David Dobkin: Fred Claus
Written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar: I Am Number Four • Herbie: Fully Loaded • Spider-Man 2
2 Movie Collections: Father of the Bride & Father of the Bride Part II • Sister Act & Sister Act 2: Back in the Habbit • Hollow Man & Hollow Man II
Road Trip • Galaxy Quest • Sherlock Holmes • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution • Jingle All the Way • Phenomenon
New: The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernαndez • Iron Man 3 • Silver Linings Playbook

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Reviewed May 7, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2000-2003 Touchstone Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment, Birnbaum/Barber Productions, Jackie Chan Films Limited Production,
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