Haute couturier is the subject of Dior and I, opening in Berkeley on April 23

Sometimes, when the choices are limited and a deadline looms, I’m compelled to review films that just don’t appeal to me. Are you a romantic comedy? Your meet cute and final reel clinch are an insult to my intelligence. A western? This town ain’t big enough for the both of us. A biopic? I’d rather read the book.

“But wait”, you say, “I remember the time you gave biopic X an excellent review!”, and it’s true: I’ve frequently enjoyed or appreciated films I didn’t expect to enjoy or appreciate. With
Dior and I (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, April 23), however, I got exactly what I feared I’d get: a commercial disguised as a documentary.

Haute couturier Christian Dior was, according to the film, a revolutionary, and prior to his premature death in 1957 truly did change the world of women’s fashion. Despite the film’s best efforts to convince me otherwise, however, his life simply wasn’t very interesting: while he designed some beautiful garments, there’s simply not enough (ahem) material here to sustain a feature length documentary.

Which probably explains why director Frédéric Tcheng chose to add a contemporary ‘reality show’ twist to his film. We’re introduced to Raf, a Belgian designer who’s taking over the workshop, and to the hilariously lab-coated assistants who will work for him. Will they break new ground in the world of design, or will their latest frocks crash on the catwalk?

If a pompously narrated Francophone version of “Project Runway” sounds like your thing, you’ll probably get a kick out of Dior and I. Until someone makes a film about Mary Quant or Emilio Pucci, however, I’m steering clear of any future fashion house documentaries.

Kung Fu Killer tells the story of Mo, a police martial arts instructor imprisoned for causing the accidental death of a trainee
Kung Fu Killer tells the story of Mo, a police martial arts instructor imprisoned for causing the accidental death of a trainee

If you’re willing to drive across the bridge, San Francisco’s Four Star Theatre will be hosting a recent Hong Kong-lensed crime drama from director Teddy Chan (Bodyguards and Assassins). Not to be confused with 2008’s David Carradine/Daryl Hannah potboiler of the same name, Kung Fu Killer (Yi ge ren de wu lin) tells the story of Mo, a police martial arts instructor (what do you mean, Berkeley PD doesn’t have one?) imprisoned for causing the accidental death of a trainee.

Played by genre veteran Donnie Yen – still trim, fit and handsome at 51 – Mo finds his services once again required by the Force when a serial killer starts murdering an assortment of martial arts champions. Winning a temporary release to assist female Inspector Sum (Charlie Yeung) with the investigation, Mo soon finds his own life threatened by the (less than mysterious) villain.

The film is both hugely entertaining and utterly ridiculous (and would have been more accurately and colorfully entitled Killer with a Club Foot), but did you know that prisoners in Hong Kong wear brown short-sleeved shirts and shorts? Kung Fu Killer features a prison brawl that looks for all the world like a cage match for UPS drivers. Along with a fight staged atop a giant skeleton, its reason enough for you to ante up a sawbuck.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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Freelancer John Seal is Berkeleyside’s film critic. A movie connoisseur with a penchant for natty hats who lives in Oakland, John writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box...