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'Forbidden Kingdom,' Autos & Fine Tunes
by Scott Holleran
April 18, 2008

Burbank, California—Martial arts masters Jackie Chan and Jet Li team in their first collaboration, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the result is nearly incomprehensible. Granted, this is not my favorite fare but I didn't understand half of what was going on and I made out only every other word from Chan's garbled narration.

The kicks and fights are marginal at best and the Li/Chan pairing is less than exciting. What's worse, the Chinese fantasy—which is vaguely anti-Western—is anchored by an American kid played by the guy from Sky High, and he's horribly miscast. Combined with the jumbled gibberish, Forbidden Kingdom is like The Karate Kid on hallucinogens. At one point, Chan's dreadlocked drunk pleads: "don't think," and that sums up this picture's approach.

The perceptual assault action tale of a monkey man and his magical staff—don't ask—improves in the last act and Jet Li does what he can in a dual role as some sort of flying monkey and a high-kicking mystic that looks like the Dalai Lama. The rest of the cast trips in an unintentionally hilarious plot with a witch in a Cher wig, a warlord wearing eye shadow and subtitles. This derailment—directed by Rob Minkoff, who did mythology right by Disney's The Lion King and perfectly adapted E.B. White's charming Stuart Little—delivers a half-hero who defeats the enemy by accident and some of the worst lines, acting and action in a picture this year.

Locations

A much better time's to be had this weekend over at the Petersen Automotive Museum, located on the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. A first time visit is impressive—though cars from the Sixties through the Nineties are scarce—and the quality of the automobiles is simply astonishing.

Be sure to see the 1948 Tucker owned by Preston Tucker, the subject of Lucasfilm's 1988 movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, screening at the Petersen later this year. What a fabulous car. The Tucker is part of the Petersen's outstanding Gordon R. Howard Gallery exhibit, Treasures of the Vault, which runs through October 5, 2008. Art Deco design, pioneering front-wheel drive and hand-built Rolls-Royces are part of this display, which echoes the Museum's purpose to educate the public about southern California's automotive history.

Highlights include a Ford Model T modified and used in Stan Laurel's and Oliver Hardy's 1930 picture, Hog Wild, a 1999 prototype of Speed Racer's Mach 5 and Steve McQueen's 1956 Jaguar. Other featured vehicles: a car from Blake Edwards' The Great Race, with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood (1965), which budgeted $100,000 for creating special vehicles and grossed $8 million, the Volkswagen from Herbie: Fully Loaded and the black sedan—don't forget to look who's in the back—from The Green Hornet television program with Bruce Lee as Kato.

Free audio tours are available through a cellular phone and there's an atomic powered vehicle prototype that's a must-see—the sort of thing Disneyland's Tomorrowland used to feature—and more on the Petersen's three floors of cars (including several low-riders). For information about the Petersen Automotive Museum, call (323) 930-CARS (2277). Admission is $10 for adults, $3 for kids aged 5 through 12, $5 for seniors (62 and up) and students with identification and free for children under age five. Parking is $8 and bottled water is prohibited from the exhibits.

Music & Scores

"Yeah, Holly-wood/kiss me kiss me good," Collective Soul playfully sings on "Hollywood," one of the infectious songs on the popular Nineties band's seventh studio album, Afterwords, which is occasionally generic yet laden with rock hooks suited for starry summer nights. Released exclusively through Target, most of these eleven songs (most music and lyrics by Ed Roland) ride that upbeat Collective Soul train.

Though it's off the market, the obscure Coleman's Collection is a fine assortment of ten tunes from Robert Benton's poetic 2003 picture about race, healing, friendship and romantic love, The Human Stain. This companion to Rachel Portman's haunting soundtrack (also worth a listen), features sharp jazz compositions and, courtesy of his widow, Fred Astaire singing Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek."

"Honeysuckle Rose" by Jess Stacy is a cheery jingle, and Woody Herman's "Woodehopper's Ball" and Tommy Dorsey's "Sleepy Lagoon" are both excellent and, with two Duke Ellington numbers and Ken Peplowski's version of "Cry Me a River" and more (feel free to skip the funereal Schubert track), this collection—named after the Anthony Hopkins character, who favored classical jazz—is, like the motion picture, refined and rewarding.

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RELATED ARTICLES
Interview: Robert Benton on 'The Human Stain'
Review: 'The Human Stain'
Interview: Rachel Portman on Composing 'The Human Stain'
Scott Holleran Column Index

RELATED LINK
Petersen Automotive Museum

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