Its hard for a foreign film to do well in the United States market. First they have to get a distribution agreement from a domestic organization, then rely on that distributor to market their film in such a way that it attracts cinemas and audiences. Writer-director-actor Stephen Chow managed to get a US release trifecta with “Shaolin Soccer” (2002), “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004), and “CJ7” (2008). Of these, “Kung Fu Hustle” was perhaps the biggest success, playing in nearly 3,000 screens across the united states.
“Kung Fu Hustle” is a comedy, action movie, self reflection, and love story set in 1940s China. Chow delivers his message clearly and entertainingly, ensuring through his triple duties that focus is never lost. The cast is ever entertaining and believable, even in cartoon-like moments that pepper the film. The action is high-wire flying mixed with Bruce Lee inspired choreography. Of interest to American audiences are the references to a number of films including “Top Hat” (1935) and “The Shining” (1980) which add a deeper understanding to the feeling of a scene.
Whether you watch the dubbed or subtitled version, this film really demands your attention or you may lose your place. But stop and pay attention, you may just find yourself laughing and smiling at the realization that you’re not so different from Stephen Chow.
I love off-beat comedy – especially those that involve one of my favorite B list actors. Near the top of my list would be Bruce Campbell of “Evil Dead” fame. Every time I catch one of his films I can’t help but smile, even when there is not plot and everyone around him is groan-worthy.
Thankfully, in the 2002 comedy “Bubba Ho-tep” the story can stand on its own. Campbell plays an elderly Elvis who teams up with John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) to stop a cursed Egyptian soul-eater from overtaking their retirement home. Their performances are well-rounded and are complimented by the supporting cast. The script is a highlight: quirky and full of quotable one liners yet never strays from the plot. While the story is fairly predictable, it doesn’t matter because you’re just along for the ride.
I had put the DVD in yesterday for a little background noise and found myself sitting on the floor laughing. When a film does that it’s definitely worthy of a little attention.
With so many movie genres and over 100 years of feature film production, there are a number of bad films floating around out there. This is exactly what I expected when I picked up a cheap DVD copy of “Horror Express” (1972). I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
“Horror Express” was a Spain/UK co-production starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as anthropologists who end up entangled in something greater than they ever expected. The story is something between “The Thing” (1982) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974). Cushing and Lee are both charming, but it’s Telly Savalas who steals the show with his portrayal of a intelligent and unruly Russian officer. It wasn’t the best film, and won’t be making any of my top ten lists, but I’ll watch it again just to appreciate what can be accomplished with a good base story and steady acting.
The print used for my transfer was in sad shape, but it seems that they did a minor restoration last year for its blu-ray release. There’s a lot of power in a cult following.