Directed, co-written by and starring Stephen Chow, as a sort of follow up to his 2001 film Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle follows a similar premise as the earlier film. In this marital arts comedy, which does feel like a musical in many parts, the idea is that kung fu masters can come in any guise and be found in the most unusual places.
This award winning film begins by showing the rise of the notorious Axe Gang and then moves to a suburb of Shanghai where the tiny township of Pig Sty is ruled with an iron fist by the landlord and his wife. Two con men who dream of joining the Axe Gang try to fool the locals into believing that they are gangsters from the notorious group.
After trying to force a barber into giving them free haircut as well as insisting that he pay them for protection, the hair cutter gets the landlady involved. She takes off a sandal and proceeds to beat Sing (Chow) pretty soundly. He warns her that he will call his brother Axe Gang members and throws a firecracker over a house.
The cracker hits a real Axe Gang member and Sing, after telling the leader that he is one of them, lets the gang take over. The landlady of Pig Sty departs rapidly and the head Axe man approaches the barber who says he is not afraid. As the gang head moves to kill the other man, something invisible hits him and he is knocked into a barrel. With his back broken he calls for backup.
The entire Axe Gang invade the town and three kung fu masters from the small township defeat the whole gang, the noodle cook, a shower curtain salesman and a handyman all save Pig Sty. The landlady tells them off and says the gang will not rest until they destroy the town and tells the three local heroes that they should leave. While she tells off the entire suburb, Sing and his friend Donut try to throw knives at her and they all end up sticking into Sing.
The two leave Pig Sty and Sing “heals” himself while the Axe Gang set out to destroy the small township. It is up to Sing, the landlord and the landlady to save the day and defeat the evil Axe Gang.
Kung Fu Hustle is easily one of the funniest martial arts films ever made. The action is on par with most Warner Bros Looney Tunes cartoons and is just as entertaining. From Sing ending up with three knives in his body, being bitten on the lips by two poisonous snakes and being chased for miles by the irate landlady to two supernatural assassins who use musical instruments to defeat their enemies, this film delights.
This movie is a homage to all martial arts film from China with many nods and winks to Bruce Lee, who helped to revolutionize the art of screen fighting in the cinema. The plot and story are wide ranging with many surprises along the way.
The film is on Netflix at the moment, but for those who despise subtitles, there are DVD copies of the film that have been dubbed. Kung Fu Hustle is a real 5 out of 5 stars for comedy and a record number of belly laughs, watch this one and prepare to be entertained. A cracking good film that does feel almost like a comedic martial arts musical.
The short documentary Island of Lemurs: Madagascar makes splendid use of Morgan Freeman who adds gravitas to this 39 minute 3D and IMAX gem. Ever since 2005 when the, then, 68 year-old actor narrated the award-winning feature length documentary March of the Penguins, Freeman has been lending his voice to other fact-based films.
Bryan Singer is stepping back from doing the publicity trail for X-Men: Days of Future Past because of his own personal scandal which could be titled Days of Sexual Past. Allegations have been made against the 48 year-old director/producer that back in the late 1990′s he “drugged and raped” a, then, 17 year-old male model and actor. Singer was not alone in this sexual charge of misbehavior, three other Hollywood glitterati have been named as well.
It looks like the upcoming Warner Bros blockbuster Superman vs Batman trades places with Peter Pan in terms of release dates. The new crossover film starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck was set to premiere July 17, 2015. Now it appears that date will see the release of Hugh Jackman film Pan, where the Wolverine star is rumored to appear as Blackbeard.
When I decided to leave the USAF, I tried to get a few samples of advertisements from my time with the Armed Forces Radio Network guys that I worked with in Holland. Unfortunately, all my old contacts were gone and I sat there cursing the fact that I had not taken up the offer of a “demo” tape when it was offered. Thinking that I would never need one, I told my friends at AFRN, “Thanks, but I’ll never use it guys.” The offer was left open so that I could change my mind. But the transient nature of the Armed Forces meant that the folks who’d offered had now transferred to bases new and I only knew one person moderately well.
When I called him, he hesitantly agreed to put together a demo tape within the current time parameters specified by the industry. “No problem.” He assured me, “We’ve got hours of adverts that you did for us.” He then rang off with promises to be back in touch as soon as he’d done the tape. The only problem was, it was against Air Force regulations to do demo tapes. All adverts done for the AFRN were USAF property and not to be used for personal gain. Everyone who worked at AFN though had a demo tape. The rules were cheerfully ignored by the troops who worked there.
Unfortunately the lad I was counting on chickened out and refused to do the tape. Whether it was because it was “illegal” or he could not match the parameters of the technical side of the tape, I’ll never know. He never got back in touch with me and when I rang, he was never in.
After ringing around, I find a studio that will do a proper master tape (reel to reel) that can then be transferred to a DAT tape which was the required format at the time. Great; now I just have to script a demo. My then wife suggests that I do my cartoon voices. I am amazed that she thought of it. I had been doing the Warner’s characters for years; Yosemite Sam, Bugs Bunny, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, et al. I had never thought of using those for a demo tape.
I write the script, rehearse it (a lot) and head to the studio for the master taping. The two guys who run the (now defunct) studio are into pot in a big way and the spliff-smoke invades every nook and cranny of the studio. The only place it does not drift into is the sound-proof booth where I sit safe from the intoxicating fumes. We start taping and after a few suggestions by the guys on how to spruce up the demo, we are done.
I then have my master DAT and reel to reel so I now need to find someone who will do a mass reproduction of the master. I find a cockney transfer from London in Ipswich. He is short, round and has a pony tail that reaches the top of his bum. His name is Pat. He agrees to reproduce my tapes for a decent price. I drop the masters off and pick them up the next day.
I am now the proud owner of about 30 demo tapes. I send them to everyone who I think might be interested. Pat told me about a company just up the road in Norwich that, at that time, did all the radio advertisements for all the Midland’s and East Anglia. I send them a demo.
In the meantime my next door neighbour’s mother (who works for the Ipswich Evening Star newspaper) asks if she can interview me about me getting out of the USAF and my demo tape. During the photo shoot and interview I tell about how I went to school with the then President Bill Clinton’s first cousin. I also mentioned that my brother had met him several times and President Clinton personally asked my brother to head up the Democratic committee at the university he attended.
Not surprisingly that was the key feature of the interview in the next day’s issue. A picture of yours truly graced the front page and my “story” was on page three with a double spread layout. Not too shabby I thought. I still have a copy (or two) of that issue, sadly it is in my ex-wife’s attic and I will probably never see it again. I was very excited and pleased, I’d been in the paper before, but never on my own and definitely hadn’t had my picture featured on page one.
I sat back and waited for the phone to ring. It did, just once. It was the company from Norwich asking if I would like to come up and do another demo tape for them. We worked out a mutually advantageous time and that was that. I arrived on the appointed day and from the moment I spoke to the receptionist; I knew things were not going to go well.
I gave my name and who I was supposed to see. She consulted her list and responded that I was not on it; at least I was not on it to see the “big guy” who’d called me. I was to see another producer. Okay, I thought, no problem. He’ll know what to do.
I met the chap (nice guy but as dull as dishwater) and as I went into the recording booth and he went into the sound booth I still had the feeling that something was not right. “Okay,” he said. “Just pick up one of the scripts in front of you there and we’ll start.”
I glanced down and there were three scripts in front of me: one was a travelogue piece about Malaysia; another was an advertisement for used cars and the third was a sort of “training film” narration. Okay, no problem. As we tested sound levels and I adjusted the microphone; I asked, “What voice do you want?”
“Uh, what voice do you want? Bugs, Elmer, Daffy Duck which one?”
He stood looking at me blankly. He turned and looked at the engineer in the booth with him and they had a quick conference. Looking back at me he said, “I don’t know what you’re on about.”
I was dumbfounded. “Have you heard my demo tape?”
“No. I was just assigned your taping this morning. We going to see how well you can take direction and how “warm” you sound on tape.”
I looked back at him and said the obvious, “So you don’t know what I do then.”
The answer was no and we went on to tape the three scripts three different ways: once in a mid-Atlantic accent; once in an English accent and once in my “native” accent; we finished and I thanked them for their time and left. I only spoke to them once more when after six weeks of silence I rang and talked to the “Big Guy” again. They didn’t have anything for me at the moment and they would be in touch.
I then got a call from a small recording company in Ipswich. The company did in-flight entertainment for British Airways. As the school holidays were coming up in a few months time, they thought I’d be perfect to work with the then well-known children’s television presenter Andi Peters. I’d go to London and meet Andi and we’d rehearse the script. I volunteered to help write the script for no extra pay, I just wanted a writing credit. They agreed and while the contracts were being worked up there was only one other thing to sort out.
All the Warner’s cartoon characters are copyrighted, even their voices. So the company had to present their proposal to the Warner Bros. Legal department for approval. After a week of negotiations, the answer was a resounding no. Even though Warner’s loved my impressions of their stellar cartoon characters, the lack of script control and the fact that they were using an actor already to redo voices made it a no-go.
The company head was despondent and despite an offer by me and the script writer they’d hired to come up with original characters for the show, he dropped the entire idea. I was gutted. Once again I’d gotten within reach of the brass ring; I could see the damned thing in front of me, only to have it yanked tantalizingly out of reach…again.
Strike three and you’re out!
I’ve got to thank Christopher over at True Mister Six with his suggestion that I revisit my “acting” days again. After thinking long and hard, I realised that I’d not written about the above events yet. Thanks mate!
I also need to thank everyone else who gave suggestions and responded in such a positive (and at times amusing) way. Thank guys, I hope you enjoy this “special” 5-0-0 blog-post.