NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday January 18th 2022

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Solitary Man & The Karate Kid

The Solitary Man

Solitary Man (2009)
***1/2
Millennium Films
Comedy/Drama
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Michael Douglas as graying old Ben Kalmen is neither villain nor hero in “Solitary Man,” Mr. Kalmen in his heyday was a sparkling car dealer for New York”'s Honest Car Dealership. He”'s saliently flawed in the morality department by cheating on his wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon) and disappointed his daughter Susan (Jenna Fischer) too many times to count.
Interestingly enough, Ben”'s not solitary by choice but because of his breaking trust with the ones he loves. His new girlfriend Jordan (Mary-Louise Parker) asks him to accompany her college-bound daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) to a college interview at his alma mater. He”'s reluctant to go but he goes anyway. Later (as he has done in the past) he makes more injudicious choices.
Michael Douglas is one of those actors who can look like he”'s in crisis or about to get out of one. “Solitary Man” is no “Fatal Attraction” (1987) nor is it “American President” (1995) which Michael Douglas also starred in. Douglas, like Robert DeNiro in “everybody”'s Fine”, has alienated himself from familial circles in sated conclusion: everybody”'s dysfunctional.

The Karate Kid (2009)
Drama/Martial Arts
**1/2
Millennium Films
Rating: PG
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: Harold Zwart
Remaining faithful almost throughout to the original “the Karate Kid” (1984), starring Ralph Macchio and the late Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, the remake hires a much younger Karate Kid, Jaden Smith, 12, and the elegant teacher-actor Jackie Chan. Except for the opening scene filmed in Detroit, the rest of the movie is filmed in China, landscapes with scenes of “the Forbidden City.” (reminded me briefly of the beautiful 1987 Oscar winning film “The Last Emperor” and the “Great Wall”. Jackie Chan teaches Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Oscar nominated Taraji P Henson, plays Sherry Parker, character mom of Jaden Smith as Dre Parker, barely has more than a dozen sentences, mostly as as scholding mother. Much more time is devoted to Dre and his new schoolmate Meiying (Wenaven Han), a gifted violinist, drawn together in puppy love. She”'s also friend to Dre”'s nemesis Cheng (Zhewei Wang), leader of a band of bullies intending to create hell for Dre at the school and off school grounds.
But things begin to change for Dre once he crosses paths with the handyman, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Mr. Han takes Dre as a karate student, or more accurately, kung fu student. First and foremost, Han rigorously inculcates discipline in his new student. What seems inane repetition for Dre is conditioning him to be skilled in kung fu.
Second, Han unknowingly takes Dre to what seems a legitimate school for martial arts, but is actually run by corrupt Master Li (Rongguang Yu) whom one of his students is Yeng. Master Li reluctantly lets Dre decline a match with one of his students that day but Le and Han agree to have a televised match between Dre and Yeng shortly after.
So what”'s wrong with the remake of “The Karate Kid”? Harold Zwart for one, his remake goes far too long. The original is much shorter. The clashes between Dre and the bullies are satiated. Some of the fight scenes are superfluous. Another problem with Zwart”'s remake is the intense fighting scenes betray the PG rating.

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