Evan Serpick
May 09, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Kung Faux Vol. 1

Current Status
In Season
Wide Release Date

We gave it an A-

These days hip-hop nostalgia is in full swing: Pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc are heroes again, thanks to an onslaught of books, films, and albums that wax sentimental about hip-hop’s heady early days. (For Hova’s sake, even the hopelessly buffoonish Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has just been reissued on DVD.) So it’s no surprise that someone has chosen to release a new, updated DVD version of the seminal 1983 documentary STYLE WARS (Plexifilm, $27.95), which plunged deep into New York City’s burgeoning graffiti subculture. The film was first shown on the ever-educational PBS, and, not surprisingly, director Tony Silver’s fascination with inner-city art comes off a little stiff and academic. Still, it is heartwarming to recall a time when graffiti, break dancing, rapping, and DJ’ing were fresh, electrifying, even dangerous. It’s almost as much fun watching former New York City mayor Ed Koch decry subway vandalism as it is to see the trains gloriously vandalized. A-

For KUNG FAUX VOL. 1 (Tommy Boy Films, $19.99) the wacky, splice-happy filmmakers at Dubtitled Entertainment till the same soil that Woody Allen did with 1966’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, with similarly uneven results. The conceit — to have hip-hoppers like Jean Grae, Mr. Len, and Gang Starr’s Guru dub old kung fu movies in their own special slang — sounds like a slam dunk, and it’s realized through a combination of impressive quick-cut editing and funky graphic enhancement. Add to that a few choice grooves from Tommy Boy’s legendary back catalog. The first two episodes, ”Ill Master” and ”Boxcutta,” are filled with hysterical and clever infusions of gangsta-speak into the rough-and-tumble doings of mainland China. But as with Tiger Lily, it’s a one-note joke that, in this case, wears thin after a few too many ”Yo, dawg”s. Of course, this chopsocky stuff is directed at the doobie-toking dorm-room crowd, who’ll no doubt be checking their giggles just long enough to inhale.

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