The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'Rush Hour 2' still a guilty pleasure, but improves on first

August 9, 2001
By Franklin Harris

"Rush Hour 2" benefits from diminished expectations.

If, like me, you weren't thrilled with the first "Rush Hour," then you'll be pleased to learn that this installment is better. And if you did like the first one, there is no reason you shouldn't like this one, too. It's basically the same movie, but with slightly better jokes and tighter pacing.

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker are back as our pair of mismatched cops, one from Hong Kong, the other from Los Angeles.

As the film opens, Detective Li (Chan) is back on the job, and Detective Carter (Tucker) is vacationing in Hong Kong and making a pest of himself. Pretty soon, the two are caught up in a case involving a bombing at the American consulate and a Chinese counterfeiting ring.

The trail leads to a Triad gangster named Ricky Tan (John Lone), his beautiful enforcer (Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") and an American real estate baron (Alan King).

Most of the first movie's shortcomings are still evident here. There isn't enough of Chan's trademark stuntwork, and there is too much of Tucker's loudmouthed antics. Amazingly, only one character seems to notice how loud and obnoxious Carter really is.

Reportedly, Chan himself was upset that the film's producers turned his elaborately choreographed fight scenes into brief vignettes. And how can you put Chan and Ziyi in a film together and not even have them fight each other?

Ziyi's big showdown with Tucker is a joke, and the filmmakers play it as one.

Still, something somewhere in "Rush Hour 2" must have worked, because I did have an enjoyable 90 minutes.

Chalk it up as a guilty pleasure.

Toons for grownups

There is nothing guilty, however, about the pleasures of "Cowboy Bebop."

"Cowboy Bebop" is a 26-episode anime series that may well be the finest animated TV show ever. It is available on VHS and DVD, but you'll soon be able to see it on Cartoon Network, which has picked it up for its new nighttime animation block, Adult Swim.

Set in the 2070s, "Cowboy Bebop" follows two bounty hunters, Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, as they cruise the solar system, looking for the big score that keeps getting away.

Jet is a former cop with a bionic arm, and Spike is a reformed gangster with a mysterious woman in his past.

During their adventures, Spike and Jet meet a beautiful con artist named Faye Valentine, who cannot remember who she is, and a spastic girl named Ed, who is an expert computer hacker.

And then there is Ein, a genetically enhanced dog who may be the smarted one of them all.

Mixing elements of '70s action movies, John Woo's Hong Kong films and '60s caper movies, "Cowboy Bebop," is aimed squarely at adult audiences. So, Cartoon Network will air it only after most children have gone to bed.

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is a departure for the network, which has, until now, stuck with fare aimed at children and teens. Adult Swim will target adults ages 18 to 34.

In addition to "Cowboy Bebop," Adult Swim will include cartoons featuring new, twisted takes on old Hanna-Barbera characters: "Sealab 2021," "Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law," "Leave it to Brak," and new episodes of the cult favorite "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast."

"Sealab 2021" is an irreverent retread of an early '70s cartoon, "Sealab 2020." This time around, Erik Estrada ("CHiPs") lends his voice talents to the enterprise.

"Harvey Birdman" gives us former '60s superhero Birdman as a lawyer.

In the pilot episode, Birdman represents Dr. Benton Quest in a nasty fight with his bodyguard, Race Bannon, for custody of Jonny and Hadji.

"Leave it to Brak" stars Brak, Space Ghost's nemesis-turned-sidekick, in a parody of '50s sitcoms.

And, of course, "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast," the first animated talk show, returns for more hilarious non-sequiturs.

Watch and find out why Oxford American magazine proclaimed "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast" the funniest show on television.

Additionally, Adult Swim will feature "Home Movies," a failed UPN cartoon series, and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a bizarre show about walking, talking food products who also happen to be superheroes.

Adult Swim begins Sept. 2 and will air Thursdays and Sundays from 9 until midnight.

Poul Anderson, R.I.P.

Lastly, the science fiction world mourns the passing of a giant.

Poul Anderson, author of such novels as "Harvest of Stars" and "The Boat of a Million Years," died last week of prostate cancer. He was 74.

Anderson wrote in nearly every sub-genre of SF, winning the two most prestigious awards in science fiction, the Hugo and the Nebula, a combined 10 times.

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