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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Kung Fu Hustle

Last night was the world premiere (!) of Stephen Chow's latest film Kung Fu Hustle, at the Toronto International Film Festival. And it kicks Shaolin Soccer out of the park.

Set in the 1930s, Chow plays a wanna-be bad guy (although his heart isn't really in it) who gets involved in a war between the dreaded Axe Gang (dancing, hatchet-welding hoods) and a local slum, Pig Sty Alley (which just happens to be full of martial-arts masters). Much incredible mayhem ensures, choreographed by Yung Wo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Iron Monkey) and Sammo Hung (too many films to mention).

Chow embraces every kung-fu movie cliche out there and takes them to limit, while throwing in homages to everything from Loony Tunes to the Matrix. And he doesn't stint on the other characters either. Long stretches of the movie are Chow-less, but you're having so much fun with The Landlady, The Landlord, The Tailor, etc., that it's the icing on the cake when he appears again.

The look of the movie is great. Chow obviously had a lot more money to work with than for Shaolin Soccer, and he spent it wisely to re-create China in the 30s. The subtitling is well done as well. Studios are all finally learning that white subtitles have to have black outlines so they don't disappear into light backgrounds, something fansubbers have known from the start.

Stephen Chow couldn't make the showing (awww...) but two of the actresses did and they said a few words, and that was fun. Ryerson Theatre was completely packed.

There's no official release date yet, but if Sony screws this up the way Miramax did for Shaolin Soccer it really will be unforgivable.