KUNG FU FIGHTING
There’s nothing frightening about a bizarre new martial arts flick. Plus: professional skaters and other kids with too much money
Kung Fu Hustle
Release: July 2, 2005
I had no idea how I was going to review Kung Fu Hustle. I wasn’t sure if it was the best movie I’ve ever seen or the worst. So I tried explaining it to my friends and found each time I talked about it I was smiling and laughing with amazement. So five stars it is.
I have never seen anything like it. Imagine Enter The Dragon, crossed with The Matrix, crossed with Reservoir Dogs, crossed with a Road Runner cartoon. Yeah, it messes with your mind.
I’ll try to explain the plot but I was so wide-eyed during the screening I hardly took any notes. I didn’t want to miss a second of the sub-titles in case it suddenly made sense.
Set in pre-revolutionary China, Kung Fu Hustle tells the tale of a petty crook called Sing, (played humorously by Stephen Chow) who wants to join the notorious Axe Gang. The Axe Gang is running the city and killing people with axes (obviously) while dancing in tails and top hats (betcha didn’t see that coming).
Sing pretends he’s part of the Axe Gang to extort money for the poor folk living in a slum called Pig Sty Alley. But all is not what it seems. Pig Sty Alley is home to some kick-butt Kung Fu masters, including the local gay tailor who uses curtain rings to fend off assailants and swoons after a fight, sighing, “Is it a crime to be good at Kung Fu?”
So along with the screaming landlady and her husband who also happen to be Kung Fu superfreaks this team plans to battle the Axe Gang. Then it all gets a bit Looney Tunes with the use of CGI and an honest-to-God Road Runner homage.
Finally Sing is revealed as a super-SUPER-powered Kung Fu master and he takes on a Kung Fu killer just released from a lunatic asylum who can harness his own powers and turn himself into a fighting bullfrog. The climatic fight scene is an insane building-smashing, CGI-bending, martial arts masterpiece.
Stephen Chow not only plays the lead role, he also wrote, produced, and directed the movie. Whatever he’s on, I’ll have what he’s having.
Release: August 11, 2005
Breath taking, magical, delightful! A family film that is inspiring yet not sickly sweet. Disney you ask? DreamWorks perhaps? Nope. Millions is a Danny Boyle film. Yes, the same Danny Boyle who brought us the drug-fest Trainspotting and zombie flick 28 Days Later has produced one of the most enchanting films of the year. And without an animated animal in sight.
Millions is set in Northern England in the week running up to Britain changing from it’s currency from pounds sterling to euros. Two young boys find a sports bag stuffed with more than £250,000 in cash and, with just seven days before it becomes worthless, have some quick decisions to make.
Anthony (the charming Lewis McGibbon), is nine years old and a bourgeoning capitalist. He plans to buy property and wants to avoid paying tax (“Do you know how much 40 per cent is?” he asks, “Nearly all of it”). His seven year old brother Damian (captivating newcomer Alex Etel), is a more troubled soul who has memorised the names and dates of every saint in the Christian calendar and wants to use the money to help the poor. While his unimpressed older brother tells him there aren’t any poor where they live as the house prices keep them out, Damian’s struggle to do the right thing make him the star of this modern day fable.
This imaginative and incredibly funny film follows the trial and tribulations of the two boys as they deal with their windfall while escaping the crooks who want their stolen loot back. They have to rely on each other as their Mum is dead and their Dad (the adorable James Nesbitt) is lonely and unaware of their money dilemma.
This sophisticated family film uses exceptional camerawork and floating music to show you the world through a child’s eyes. The ending is a little sappy but in a morality tale it’s expected the characters have to choose between right and wrong. And so much of this film is very right.
Lords of Dogtown
Release: August 18, 2005
Lords of Dogtown is a movie based on Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary based on the real lives of the Z-Boys, the famous Cali-fornian skateboard legends of the 70s. But as with any copy, it gets weaker with every reproduction.
It’s the story of the Z-Boys, a group of grommets who muck around with skateboards when the surf is flat. One day the local skate/surf shop owner, Skip Engblom (brilliantly played by Heath Ledger – who I think was channelling Val Kilmer), comes up with a key breakthrough, polyurethane wheels. The trick is they grip. So with the additional traction, the Z-Boys try skating the sides of the big, open drainage canal that runs through the area. Then when locals were forced to empty their pools due to water restrictions the Z-Boys saw those curved pools as cement dreams.
Their freestyling techniques cause such a stir they introduce their own sub-culture to skateboarding. With that the big sponsorship bucks (and the groupies) followed. Of course the money corrupts their friendship and they all go their separate ways, reminiscing of those lazy summers.
The Z-Boys are: Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Stacy Peralta (John Robinson). They all do an OK job but none of them can do the amazing stunts that are in the documentary so it seems like the fuss is all about nothing.
As always, you can’t beat the original.
Release: September 8, 2005
We have some amazing acting talent in Australia. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Martin Henderson even Noni Hazelhurst all shine in Little Fish. Too bad the story sucks. All right, maybe it doesn’t suck but man is it dark! Cate Blanchett is exceptional as Tracy, an ex-junkie working in a video store in a slum-like working class suburb of Sydney nicknamed ‘Little Saigon’.
She’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow and wants to open a business but naturally no bank will give a reformed drug addict a loan. Her stepfather, breathtakingly played by an almost unrecognizable Hugo Weaving, is a gay ex-footy star and a heroin addict. Her brother, played impressively by Martin Henderson, is disabled and looking to make a quick buck by dealing drugs. Her ex-boyfriend, played by Dustin Nguyen, says he’s not in the drug business anymore but is a liar. And her mum, played by the fabulously craggy Noni Hazelhurst, is desperately trying to keep her family’s head above water.
You know it’s going to end in tears. Little Fish is well acted, well told and, well, bleak.