Wednesday, September 15th, 2004
Kung Fu Do What You Do To Me
Another evening, another world premiere film. You envy my jet-set lifestyle, I know you do. Kung Fu Hustle is director Stephen Chow’s follow-up to his sorta-international smash Shaolin Soccer (I have no facts to back up that claim, by the way, save that I know people in at least two countries who really liked it). Kung Fu Hustle is set in a 1930s Chinese tenament colourfully named “Pig Sty Alley” wherein a small-time hustler (Chow) tries to make a name for himself with the local crime bosses, The Axes (a group of nattily dressed, dancing, axe-wielding gangsters), and stirs up a load of trouble when the slum turns out to be inhabited by a variety of kung fu masters.
In typical Chow fashion, it’s as much slapstick comedy as it is martial arts film, with the marvelously coreographed fight sequences liberally enhanced with not-quite-state of the art CGI effects. Yes, some of the effects reside on the fromage side of cheese but I think that’s deliberate and the campiness of it is part of the charm. I think I enjoyed this one even moreso than Shaolin Soccer, maybe because the premise isn’t quite so absurd (this, of course, is a very relative statement). I have some minor complaints: the humour is mostly lighthearted, which made it a just a little jarring when the violence suddenly turned gruesome (severed limbs, beheadings, etc), and the plausibility with which the various plot threads come together at the end is tenuous at best… But when you’re talking about a film that offers as many laughs as this one, these complaints are pretty much irrelevant.
Despite this being the world premiere (oh, did I already say that?), director Chow was not in attendance – instead the film’s ambassadors were a couple of actresses from the film. I don’t have names, but one had a main role as the Lion’s Roar-weilding landlady of the tenament and the other was a film rookie cast in the demanding role of pretty girl who does pretty much nothing. But she was good at it, so, uh, kudos. The crowd was incredibly enthusiastic about the film, and justifiably so – it’s a whole bucketload of fun. Hopefully this one will get proper distribution in North America quicker than it took Shaolin Soccer (that took what, four years?).
The timing of the film was such that I missed the final of the World Cup of Hockey. All the honking and flag-waving down Yonge St when we exited the theatre quickly informed us the good guys had indeed won. It wasn’t quite the zoo that the Olympic gold in ’02 was, but Toronto is never one to pass up the opportunity to honk car horns and wave giant flags out windows. For my part, I rode my bike home with my lights on ‘blink’. Seemed more celebratory that way. Congratulations, Team Canada – now get your punk asses back to the bargaining table and work out a deal to save the NHL season you greedy SOBs.
The reunited Camper Van Beethoven is at Lee’s Palace on October 21 to promote their first album of new material in 15 years, New Roman Times (great title, btw), out October 12. I will give $5 to anyone who goes the show and says within earshot of Dave Lowery, “Man, I wish Cracker would get back together…” (Fine print – I will not actually give you $5).
Coolfer has a nice little essay directed at music downloaders which attempts to dispel some popular myths about the cost of downloading.
Where’s Willy is a website designed to track the movements of marked $5 bills around Canada. It’s a cute idea and I’m only linking it because I got a branded five-spot last night and dutifully logged it when I got home.
np – The New Year / Newness Ends