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Notes From The Back Row

This week’s special: Chop-socky

If Quentin Tarantino, Jackie Chan, Wile E. Coyote and The RZA from Wu Tang Clan locked themselves in a room for a long weekend of eating acid, smoking bongs and writing a movie, Kung Fu Hustle , opening Friday, is pretty much what they’d come up with.

In actuality, Hustle is written and directed by Hong Kong film veteran Stephen Chow, who also stars as Sing, a 1930s wannabe gangster who, while trying to hustle a barber in Shanghai’s slummy Pig Sty Alley, ends up starting a war between the real Gangsters and the all-of-a-sudden-we’re-kung-fu-masters residents of Pig Sty Alley. Of course Sing gets entwined in the conflict and ends up becoming the Chosen One who must rise to the occasion and save the day by defeating the toughest warrior ever, The Beast.

Sounds a bit typical but in fact Kung Fu Hustle is anything but ordinary. It’s a mix of cartoony violence, choreographed dance numbers, goofy slapstick comedy, over the top computer effects and dozens of 1970s Hong Kong Kung Fu movie references. It’s a genre-bending romp of silliness yet Chow slips a dash of social significance underneath his flimsy storyline and numerous filmic references which he uses to make points about class and gender roles in China’s history, as well as the advantage of working together as a group. It’s a communist movie really, fitting since Hong Kong cinema was turned over to the Chinese in 1997. But fear not, mostly it’s a fun-filled romp that’s not going to change your outlook on life or unlock all the mysteries of love and commitment your girlfriend has been nagging you about lately. It’s simply a fun movie. So hit the footer a couple times and take the aforementioned girlfriend along to Kung Fu Hustle . Laughter, after all, is the best relationship therapist out there.

And speaking of laughter, Stephen Chow has another movie that’s wacky, weird, and even funnier than crazy-glueing loonies to a Vancouver sidewalk and watching people try to pick them up. It’s called Shaolin Soccer and it’s available on DVD right now. Basically Shaolin Soccer is a classic sports movie about a group of underdogs that must work as a team and overcome their individual demons in order to defeat the powerhouse opponent at the end. But it’s a Stephen Chow flick so it’s all a bit crazy and full of backflips, banana peels and people getting smashed in the head with bottles. Loads of physical comedy and great facial expressions make for lots of laughs and nothing beats watching middle-aged Asian men with comb-over hairdos smoke cigarettes and roundhouse kick the crap out of a soccer ball. Martial Arts and sports have a definite future. Imagine the hype for next year’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival if, along with 10 nights of savage drinking and partying, we could have the first ever Ninja Skateboard Showdown? That’d be worth checking out.

Speaking of the WSSF and also worth checking out are the eight finalists from this year’s Filmmaker Showdown. Chili and I basically justified every Whistlerite’s existence with Another Fine Day (filmed in one shot I might add), and Robjn Taylor stole the show using gravity (a free special effect available to everyone) to create some of the wackiest and most creative images I’ve ever seen. A perfect example of how creative thinking is a filmmaker’s best friend. I’m pretty sure there’s a showing of all the Filmmaker Showdown movies on Friday night at Dusty’s. If not, check out the Filmmaker Forum nights at Hub Internet in Creekside. Support local film and you’ll instantly be cooler. Unless you’re English, in which case you just need to learn how to tip.

AT VILLAGE 8 April 22-28: Kung Fu Hustle; The Interpreter; A Lot Like Love; Sahara; Fever Pitch; Amityville Horror; Sin City; Miss Congeniality 2; Robots.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE April 22-28: Beauty Shop.