Reviews

Rush Hour 3

Disjointed and hyperbolic, the film's many chases and showdowns pit Carter and Lee against an array of forces -- again.


Rush Hour 3

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Noémie Lenoir, Max von Sydow
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: New Line Cinema
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-08-10 (General release)
Website

"War! Huh-yeah! What is it good for!?" Edwin Starr's glorious anti-Vietnam war song became a buddy-anthem in the original Rush Hour, wherein LAPD muck-up James Carter (Chris Tucker) joined forces with exceptionally patient Chinese Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) -- even though they could barely understand one another. The jokes about cultural ignorance were obvious but the charismatic players brought differently appealing skills: Chan the ever-inventive martial artist and Tucker the irreverent motormouth.

Two movies later, the combination is tired (and once more, the best material appears in the outtakes at film's end). In Rush Hour 3, the buddies fight, bond, trade japes, rescue beautiful women, and fight off expert killers. This time, following the shooting of Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma, back again), they make their way to Paris, for some reason a haven for Chinese Triads. Supposedly protecting the head of the "World Criminal Court," General Reynard (Max von Sydow), for whom Han was conducting a special investigation into the Triads, the duo indulges in one raucously formulaic mini-adventure after another.

Disjointed and hyperbolic, these chases and showdowns pit Carter and Lee against an array of forces. Right after Han goes down they take off after the shooter, passing as they go a group of protestors carrying placards against the WCC, an ostensible political point never elaborated. The pursuit takes them across traffic lanes and into dark alleys, Carter screeching in a Mercedes he's jacked from a pair of buxom traffic violators (he's been reduced to directing traffic, which he performs to the beat of Prince's "Do Me, Baby" at film's start, Tucker's MJ-imitative crotch-grabs and falsetto sing-along not exactly news anymore) and Lee, of course, on foot, leaping over barricades and up brick walls.

The shooter turns out to be Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), once an orphan in Hong Kong with Lee, though, being Japanese, not adopted as Lee was. When Lee is unable to shoot him, Kenji scampers away, leaving Lee in a familiar position, ashamed and determined to save face at their next encounter. This is ensured when he and Carter pledge to Han's daughter Soo Yung (Jinchu Zhang) -- very young kidnap victim in the first film -- that they will find the man who shot her father. Much like Lee, she's caught in-between spaces, both victim and martial arts expert (her training at a local NYC studio occasions the partners' clobbering, for long minutes, by the studio's guard, real-life 7'9" basketball player Sun Ming Ming, here lumbering and showing off his size 20 shoe, planted on Carter's neck). For the most part, though, Soo Yung is relegated to the role of distressed damsel, especially once the action moves to Paris (where she is promptly kidnapped, again).

Here the cross-cultural "war" finds a new framework, namely, Carter's insistent abuse of all things French. (Back in the States, he reveals that he's also averse to Iranians, having put six scientists in jail because, he tells the captain [Philip Baker Hall], "Just because they cure cancer in rats doesn't mean they won't blow shit up"). On meeting a Chinese assassin who speaks French, Carter chastises him: "You're Asian, man! Stop humiliating yourself!", while the interrogation scene allows jokes about the "n-word" and the "h-word," via the adorable inflections offered by their interpreter, a nun played by Dana Ivey, of all people.

The interrogation yields a Parisian street address; the boys are greeted at De Gaulle by none other than Roman Polanski as Detective Revi, who dons a rubber glove in order to search their nether regions (just why the anal probe is eternally hilarious in cop-buddy movies remains a mystery). This joke presages others targeting the le-pewy French (Kenji's lair is located in the city's famous sewers, which allows for yet another sight gag, namely, the boys sliding through a chute full of waste), but hardly slows down the action, as each buddy finds a lady, Carter's quite beautiful and Lee's quite lethal (so much for Jackie Chan getting laid this time).

Model-singer-gambler Genevieve (Noémie Lenoir) appears the perfect object, her face on billboards, her outfits revealing, and her nightclub stage-show featuring a spectacularly violent number: Genevieve corseted and shot up in a car to the tune of Bridget Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde." Intimately connected to the Triads plot, Genevieve the seeming "superfreak" also occasions Carter's singular proclamations of lust ("I'd like to strip you down and butter you like a slice of Wonder Bread") as well as a romp in bed (for which he orders up honey and Red Bull from room service). Lee's encounter is less friendly, as the assassin Jasmine (Youki Kudoh) comes at him full-force -- all flying knives and feet -- even as Carter, listening at the door of Lee's room, imagines his boy is engaged in a good time ("Tear that ass up!").

The film is, of course, insistently focused on the buddyship, which is again premised on their efforts to bridge differences. When Lee is unable to share his "feelings" in quite the way Carter wants, they split up briefly, giving way to the film's most outrageous bit of satire, a sad-and-lonely crosscutting montage set to Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word." While Lee grows misty-eyed over a TV documentary showing "Africans," Carter catches a glimpse of Temple of Doom, with that crazy-cute stereotype Short Round warming his heart near to bursting. In the midst of all the madness, the sequence momentarily underlines Rush Hour 3's self-understanding, its acknowledgment of the clichés it delivers with such vengeance.

Perhaps the most egregious (aside a finale set on the Eiffel Tower) is the cigarette-smoking, smugly American-hating Frenchman. Here he's named George (Yvan Attal), and turns up repeatedly as their cab driver. Initially he's utterly dismissive of the Yankees ("You lost in Vietnam, you lost in Iraq," he sniffs, "The Dream Team is dead"), but George is soon won over by Carter and Lee's thrilling chaos. Enlisted in a couple of car chases and shootouts, he offers his services free of charge, because he wants to be a super-spy. Though George eventually abandons this ambition, he does step up at a crucial moment to marvel at "what it means to be an American," namely, what it's like to "kill people for no reason."

The movie doesn’t precisely resolve this strangely arranged debate between George's critique of the U.S. per se and Carter's attacks on France. But like its precursors in the franchise, it does make a case against "war" and in favor of buddies, across languages and expectations. That doesn't make Rush Hour 3 good, but it does put Carter's American excesses in a context.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Features

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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