Despite rumors of its demise, Chinatown's Music Palace continues to offer counterprogramming to Hollywood blockbusters. One of the last five Chinese movie houses in North America, it has been screening double features of Hong Kong movies since the early '60s. And though attendance at the 700-seat theater has plummeted over the years mostly due to a drastic recession in the Hong Kong film industry and an audience preference for Hollywood and Japanese fare the Music Palace's summer lineup promises one of the liveliest, if most erratically programmed, moviegoing alternatives in town.
Among current HK hits and coming releases expected to show up this summer, the most eagerly anticipated is A Man Called Hero by the makers of last year's special-effects extravaganza The Stormriders. This hurtling mass of CGI, melodrama, and acrobatic fight scenes is set in a reimagined ancient China, and stars pretty boy Dior Cheng and Yuen Biao (who's known as "Jackie Chan's little brother") as brooding, flying heroes with good hair and troubled pasts.
Produced by Jackie Chan, action ace Benny Chan's Gen-X Cops is a cops versus hoods thriller starring four hot young things, and already has a sequel in the works. Columbia Pictures has purchased the American rights for a fall release, but it will most likely show up at the Music Palace in June or July.
The reigning king of bad taste, Wong Jing is writing, directing, or producing half the movies coming out in Hong Kong this summer, including the gambling action comedy Conman in Vegas starring pop star Andy Lau. Wong's longtime association with producer, actor, and alleged head of the Sun Yee On triad Charles Heung has allowed Conman in Vegas to be the first movie ever shot inside Caesar's Palace.
Hong Kong isn't starved for art, though. Derek Yee, who crafts studies of people in extremis, is releasing his first film in three years, The Truth About Jane and Sam. And Ann Hui's Ordinary Heroes is a generational drama about political activists.
Nobody does the lip-quivering love story better than Hong Kong. The coming months will see the premieres of AIDS Heart, My Heart Will Go On, Tempting Heart, and Love Will Tear Us Apart (fresh from Cannes). Jackie Chan's latest, an escapist comedy of manners called Gorgeous, is almost totally devoid of action, casting Hong Kong's favorite son as a recycling tycoon wooing Hsu Chi, Hong Kong's ubiquitous sex kitten.
If all this seems a little too restrained, actor-director Danny Lee (of John Woo's The Killer) is back with another of his meticulous police procedurals, Four People Gang: Not Enough Money To Spend, starring himself and Jackie Chan's bodyguard, Ken Lo. Also promising: Gigolo of Chinese Hollywood, a Wong Jingproduced comedy that follows a group of talentless actors who film a porno to make a buck. Mistaken for art, their inept flesh flick becomes a hit. It stars Eric Tsang and the irresistibly named Emotion Cheung.
The Music Palace's, and Hong Kong's, release schedules shift like Saharan sands. Check the mostly accurate members.aol.com/hkfilms or call the box office at 925-4971. The Music Palace is located on the southeast corner of Hester and Bowery. All double features are $6.
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