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WARREN LEWIS ("Black Rain" "The 13th Warrior") BRUNCH - HERE
Finally! I get some recognition for my work. I wrote the original script that sold to Charlize Theron's company then Dimension Films and finally is being filmed independently with a 20-30 million dollar budget but I've consistently been left out of press releases - until now. I couldn't think of a better actress than Reese for this.
Here's the article reprinted from Variety ~~ Mark Sevi
Witherspoon Untangles Devil's Knot For Atom Egoyan
No stranger to controversial subject matter, director Atom Egoyan stepped aboard Devil’s Knot, the dramatic interpretation of the West Memphis Three case back in August. Now he’s found the first of what promises to be a large ensemble cast: Reese Witherspoon.
Devil’s Knot is based on reporter Mara Levitt’s 2003 book, subtitled The True Story Of The West Memphis Three. In it, she followed the tangled, prolonged murder trial of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr, who served 17 years in prison before being released this past August. They were accused of killing three 8-year-old cub scouts found in a wooded area of Arkansas called Robin Hood Hills. While they’re now free, the judge didn’t allow them to seek compensation for the lost years.
Witherspoon will switch into drama mode to play Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims who initially thought they were guilty but as the case dragged on, came to believe they were innocent.
With a script originated by Mark Sevi and then re-written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, Egoyan plans to kick off shooting this coming summer.
James White for Empire Online (LINK)
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On Saturday the 28th screenwriter Warren Lewis ("Black Rain" "13th Warrior") regaled a group of 50 filmmakers and writers with stories about his life, career and opinions on the future of the industry he helped shape.
Warren is both 'old school' and new school. He harkens back to a different time when A-list movies were ubiquitous; where a writer could create something spec and sell it in a market filled with opportunities. But Warren hasn't kept still - he's moved with the times and adapted both his marketing and his writing to today's realities.
Talking unabashedly about his love affair with westerns, prominently mentioning "The Searchers" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" Warren discussed how all films owe allegiance to those epics of yesteryear. Although he's too young to have worked with some of the greats of that era like director John Ford and actors Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Lee Marvin, Warren parsed and deconstructed the times and the storylines of classics that shaped film and still resonate even 60+ years later.
"Black Rain," Warren's first notable film, sparkles with those classic sensibilities and continues to entertain and amaze - even to a recent showing in L.A. in a "real" theater with 70mm film stock. Not digital - film, with all its flaws and imperfections and gorgeous cinematographic scope.
Far from waxing nostalgic, Warren had the audience on the floor in laughter with unique takes on today's industry which he both loves and embraces, and is highly-amused by. He mentioned "twittering" at one point and didn't mean Twitter. He also talked about his current role as producer and how he is always looking for the one script that moves him as much as the films on which he cut his writing teeth.
Scriptwriter/producer Warren Lewis (IMDB) has worked on some of the biggest hits in Hollywood including "Black Rain" with Michael Douglas and "The 13th Warrior" starring Antonio Banderas.
He's a masterful writer and an engaging speaker and we've got him one on one!!
Join on us for an up-close and personal brunch with Warren in Fountain Valley as he discusses his career, writing tips, and the business of working in the Land of Holly and Wood - reserve your seat for brunch below.
WOW - a copy of Final Draft 8 will be given away to someone in attendance!
Date: Saturday, 09.28.2013
Location: Claim Jumper Restaurant Banquet Room
18050 Brookhurst Street Fountain Valley CA 92708 714.963.6711 (map)
Reservations recommended since seating is limited.
COST: (includes sit down breakfast burritos (3 choices) and coffee/beverage service)
Student:15.00 Valid Student I.D.'s checked at door.
09:30am-10:00am - check-in
10:00am-11:30am - Warren speaks
11:30am-12:15pm - lunch (included)
12:15pm-1:15pm - Q&A/Networking w/Warren
Note: Choose quantities of reservations at PayPal checkout.
Bacon & Egg Breakfast Burrito Warm flour tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, j
ack and cheddar cheese and hash browns. Served with salsa and fresh fruit
- or -
Vegetarian Breakfast Burrito Warm flour tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs,
bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, jack and cheddar cheese and hash browns. Served with salsa and fresh fruit
- or -
Smoked Ham, Egg & Cheese Sandwich Choice of grilled sourdough or whole wheat bread,
stuffed with scrambled eggs, smoked ham, cheddar cheese and tomato. Served with fresh fruit
Coffee and beverage service included
Blood Will Tell: For Immediate Release
Robert Rollins Pictures is pleased to announce in the Fall of 2014 director Robert Rollins will begin shooting his second feature film Blood Will Tell.
Blood Will Tell is a horror-tragedy. The hero, TracyMarch, is a neuroscientist searching for the cure for a rare blood disease that has killed one of his children and stricken the other. Cras Spem Ltd, Tracy’s employer, insists that he stop the blood project and switch back a marketable dementia drug. In a last ditch effort to save his son Tracy starts injecting himself with the drug. Once he has shown it is safe for humans he can do trial injections on his son.
However, the drug in not safe. Tracy pays little attention to the initial changes – increased strength, a sharpened sense of smell and preternatural hearing. To his growing horror he realizes that he has developed a taste, and then, a need for blood. Tracy’s compulsion drives him to desperate measures. Animal blood gives him little relief, so he is forced to hunt humans.
All of Tracy’s efforts to conceal his condition go horribly awry when a biohazard traps employees inside the Cras Spem Ltd building. During the lockdown Tracy’s hunger starts to escalate. When he learns the truth behind his drug’s failure, he loses all control. What follows is a literal blood bath. The wicked are butchered, but Tracy is too far gone to stop his killing. Standing in Tracy’s path is Lani Bergman, his co-worker and lover. Who will survive the final confrontation?
Blood Will Tell is about a blood drinker, but is far from a traditional vampire tale. There are no sparkles, no capes, no bats, no enlarged canines and no delicate neck nips. In spirit, Blood Will Tell is closer to “Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” than to “Dracula.” Tracy is not a demon or supernatural creature, but a man, terribly altered by science. His tragedy is that, in trying to do good, he has unleashed Hell.
Robert Rollins will direct Blood Will Tell from the original screenplay by Edward Fik and Robert Rollins; Craig Russom and Robert Rollins will produce; and Phil Martin is the movie’s director of photography. Tracy March will be played Grant Landry who was featured in "The Lair," "Real Heroes," "Better Half” and in Robert Rollins’ first feature film "Dream Country.”
When the Universe decided to create a nearly perfect physical specimen, It put together athlete/actor Jim Kelly. Born in 1946 in Paris, KY, Kelly's high school and college life was filled with organized athletics including basketball, football and various track and field sports. After his freshman year at University of Louisville, however, Kelly quit collegiate sports and pursued martial arts, specifically Shōrin-ryū Karate.
Kelly continued his karate studies all his life starting a dojo in the 70's in Long Beach, CA which at the time was a hotbed of martial arts activity. The fabled Long Beach Internationals, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014, started there and reached a peak in the late 60's and mid-70's with notables like Bruce Lee in attendance. Many martial artists worked in and around the area during the time that Kelly was redefining the sport by becoming one of the first African-American, world-recognized practitioners.
Kelly came into martial arts at a time when the U.S. was in turmoil. Black Power was in the hearts and on the minds of many young African-Americans and some of what manifested from that was using martial arts in a very martial way. Organizations like the Black Panthers (originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) used martial arts for physical training. In reflecting that mindset, a scene in the film that started Kelly's career, "Enter The Dragon," shows his dojo adorned with black power symbology; and as Kelly's character later walks home from his dojo, he is hassled by the 'Heat,' two (white) patrol cops who racially profile him and want him to cower. Kelly never cowered in film or life. It was all on his terms and in doing so, he created a legacy that stands today and will continue long after his death.
Films after "Enter the Dragon" came fast and furious for Kelly. Called "Blaxploitation" (or Blacksplotation) by the mainstream media, these B-movies showed African-American leads like Richard Roundtree, Pam Grier and Jim Kelly kicking ass and taking names like their white counterparts Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. Kelly's films like "Black Belt Jones" (1974) and "Three the Hard Way" (1974) (with Jim Brown and Fred Williamson) gave an entire generation of young African-Americans role models that looked and sounded like them but also combined an interest in the flying fists of the Far East. In the same way that early rap reflected the culture of the streets at the time, these movies showed a world we barely knew - "The Ghetto" and all its pain and anger. It was a dangerous place at times where desperation reigned, and violence came at you in several directions at once. It made sense to make yourself stronger by learning how to fight and Kelly led the pack in his films. Kelly looked like he could walk down any street and never be hassled. Interest grew on a national level for what gave him this type of confidence - namely, the martial arts. But the Ghetto was also a place of family, high moral values, and generational inspiration and Kelly strongly reflected that too.
"Fearless," the story of China's martial arts master Huo Yuanjia, is actually called "Jet Li's Fearless" - and so it is. Without the multi-talented Li the film would be much, much less than it is. This was also supposedly Li's swan song - his last wushu film but I would never take that seriously given how many actors have an almost genetic need to be on stage and Li's martial arts skills are masterful still. And in fact, he's done several more films that involve him as a martial artist since that pronouncement in 2006. Part of what was going through his mind at the time might be gathered from this essay on his website: HERE
Li, (real name: Li Lianjie) who was a martial arts prodigy and became a national champion in China, has always been a gold standard of martial arts acting and abilities. He's the real thing. He moves with lethal grace and seems as comfortable in his skin as any man or woman alive. His fights always seem real (until they put a wire on him and fly him across rooftops) - a result of his training with the Beijing Wushu Team which trains and does demonstrations at demonic speed and ferocity.
Li had his American film debut in "Lethal Weapon 4" in 1998 but he was already a star in Asia from his first film in 1982. From the age of eight, he trained in wushu, a Chinese style of martial arts with roots in kung fu. As part of the insanely good Bejiing Wushu Team (as was martial arts superstar Donnie Yen,) Li won dozens of medals and awards as a young man and migrated to film stardom in film series such as "Shaolin Temple" and "Once Upon a Time In China" which details the life of Master Wong Fei Hung.
Li is a deeply spiritual man which leads no doubt to his uncanny ability to seemingly be above everything happening in a film role and yet be entirely engaged.
As in the role of Huo Yuanjia, the wushu master in this film.
"Fearless" is a (very loose) examination of the life of Huo Yuanjia, a martial artist who fought foreigners in staged bouts for the national pride of China at a time when the British and Americans were changing the country's cultural identity and had proclaimed on more than one occasion that China wasn't significant as culture or people. This was just after the Boxer Rebellion (1901) and before the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. Although the film doesn't necessarily point to either of these events specifically, it does play up the malaise affecting China during this time and implies that Yuanjia's bouts restored the pride of the nation to a point where China was able to establish itself as a republic. It does seem obvious enough that the filmmakers felt that Yuanjia had a lot to do with becoming a polarizing force for the nationalism that led to China finally throwing off the growing foreign imperialism at the time.
Yeoh and Rothrock - Girls with guns! Oh, yes, Madam!
"Yes, Madam" AKA "Police Assassins" is a ground-breaking 1985 Hong Kong film staring two stalwarts of martial arts filmmaking. Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock who were in their 20's at the time, portray police detectives from different worlds: Yeoh from Hong Kong and Rothrock from Scotland Yard.
In a buddy-cop teaming that smacks of brilliance, the dark-haired beauty (who was a former Miss World Malaysia) and the perky, blond American (a karate forms champion at the time) team up to bring down a bad guy, Mr. Tin (James Tien) who is seeking a microfilm document that will prove he is guilty of murder and conspiracy.
Okay, another not-so-complicated story but one which reaps bounties of fun.
The film was produced by legendary filmmaker Sammo Hung (what isn't in Southeast Asia?) and it's fast, furious and, as mentioned, fun, which is a hallmark of a lot of Hong Kong films made by Hung and his producing partners. As is his habit, Hung also has a small part playing the "old man" (sifu) to three losers who are trying to get enough money to get him to a proper home by various illicit means which becomes dangerous as Mr. Tin and their efforts become intertwined.
"Yes, Madam" refers to Michelle Yeoh's title as police captain (like the Brits who call their female DCI's 'Mum' - as in The Queen Mum.) In the opening scene, she single-handedly stops an armored car robbery by kicking, punching and shooting all the bad guys. In a few cuts you can see it's not Yeoh doing all the stunt work but she always did in subsequent films using her ballet training and physical prowess to great effect. This was her first major role as a lead actress and it rocketed her to the stratosphere of film where she still thrives today as a legit actress and martial arts actress. She's had major roles in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" "Tomorrow Never Dies" "Memoirs of a Geisha" and as the voice of Soothsayer in "Kung Fu Panda II."
"Yes, Madam" was also Rothrock's big break. This, her third film but first major role, showed her martial arts prowess - and her natural beauty (and kickin' bod) did the rest to make her a go-to action girl when someone needed the real deal. After "Yes, Madam" Rothrock did several more Hong Kong actioners before becoming the American equivalent of Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone. It's led to a film career of 50+ features plus hundreds of public appearances all over the world.
Stacey Evans Morgan is a fifteen-year, seasoned veteran of television writing and producing. With her brother, Bentley Kyle Evans, she's carved a niche out as a go-to writer and producer. She's also independently developing new shows at hers and her brother's production company. She also puts on (with her brother) a series of two day seminars to impart some of that hard-earned wisdom for people interested in breaking into television.
And she still looks and enthusiastically acts like she's in college.
On Saturday, June 15th, Stacey came to the SCWA (www.ocwriters.com) meeting to talk to a group of hungry-to-learn writers of all stripes. To say she was a smashing success would be an understatement. She entralled us.
Stacey actually began writing out of college. Like a lot of us who found ourselves wanting to be writers, rather than choosing a path seemingly set for her, Stacey chose her own. She interned for a few shows and then started writing spec. Her credits are extensive and include stints with "The Parkers" "House of Payne" and "Meet The Browns." She's also contributed quite a bit of writing work to her current show "Love That Girl" on which she is a co-exec producer and which has been nominated for several NAACP Image Awards. A new show "Family Time" is in the works.
Stacey is knowledgeable and cautionary without being cynical. Too many people in this business who've achieved her level of success have a hard scab over their egos - not Stacey. She's open, honest to a fault, and still exudes the joy of what attracted her to this business in the first place. She was a ball of energy that transitioned from one subject to another seamlessly, always in control of mer message.
Her talk was filled with funny anecdotes that carried interesting and solid lessons in how to make it in the fast-paced world of TV production. She mentioned recently finishing a stint of filming 13 eps in 14 days - unheard of! And her well-conceived Powerpoint presentation echoed her verbal points about the breakneck pace of TV production and what is necessary to make it in the biz
It's easy to dismiss the 1989 "Bloodfist" as being only a re-packaged version of Jean Claude Van Damme's wildly successful "Bloodsport." Critics weren't overwhelming in their praise of the film. No one really thought much of it at the time.
In similar fashion, its star, "The Flash That Will Not Last" was a tag given to kickboxing phenom Don "The Dragon" Wilson when he first started his professional fighting career.
"Bloodfist" spurned an astounding eight (EIGHT!) sequels and Don Wilson is still going strong, even rumored at the age of 58 to be considering resurrecting his professional kickboxing career.
So much for experts and expectations.
"Bloodfist" is similar to "Bloodsport" in that it features a winner-take-all battle, called The Red Fist Tournament , that the lead character has to win. Van Damme's movie is for the honor of his adopted father and Wilson's is about the murder of his brother which he seeks to revenge.
Wilson's character heads to Manilla to find answers as to how his half-brother died after winning a fight that the brother was supposed to lose by arrangement (unknown to everyone, the fix was in.) The trail leads him to a school where the fighters compete to win a cash prize. Wilson, after picking up a trainer (the fantastic Joe Mari Avellana) - who was also his brother's trainer (hint, hint) begins to work long hours to get into shape to fight such foes as Billy Blanks (Black Rose,) Rob Kaman (Raton,) and the ferocious Cris Aquilar (Chin Woo) - all real life martial artists and competition champs.
He meets a hot babe (Riley Bowman,) sorta-kinda falls in love (or at least lust,) fights various matches, discovers his brother's killer and wins the competition against last year's winner Chin Woo.. Familiar sure, but we're never going to be that impressed with the stories in these films - they are what they are - vehicles to get to what's important - the martial arts and the central character.
“[Spaghetti westerns] fuse the operatic and film melodrama, producing a highly affective style that ranges from the expression of rage at blatant and ubiquitous violence, disgust in the contemplation of monumental aspirations to power, and elegiac mourning in the face of death.” – Marcia Landy, “Which Way is America?”: Americanism and the Italian Western.
The western has long symbolized American ideals of rebirth, freedom and justice in the American frontier. Westerns capture the ideals of the American character and harken back an agrarian era that wasn’t complicated by the stresses of modern society. These films have developed their own rules that can be used to classify films with similar trappings in the western genre. In 1964, Italian director Sergio Leone introduced the world to the sub genre of westerns that would be known as spaghetti westerns with the release of A Fistful of Dollars (1964).
Though Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) wasn’t the first spaghetti western, it was the most popular and successful at its time and introduced new trappings to the orthodoxy of the western genre. Even though some critics lauded Leone’s revisions to the genre as contributing to “the death of the western,” American filmmakers like Sam Peckingpah, George Roy Hill, and Richard Brooks have since adopted Leone’s western style into their cinematic explorations of the American west. “Though largely associated internationally with Leone, Italian westerns were also made by such filmmakers as Sergio Corbucci, Sergio Sollima, and Damiani Valerii.”
Leone was born in Naples in 1929 into a cinema family. His father was a silent film director and his mother was an actress. Leone began his film career in the 1940s as an assistant director and began directing his own films in the 1950s. “Leone himself has cited the importance of such films as Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Shane, and Vera Cruz to his own work.” The 1960s were a time of globalization and Leone decided to make his own brand of westerns to comment on what was going on in the contemporary world by revisiting the American past.
When audiences first watched A Fistful of Dollars (1964), they were introduced to a new kind of hero. Heroes in the classic westerns portrayed by John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper had resembled mystic knights. Western heroes in classic westerns like the Ringo Kid in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) were driven by a sense of justice the audience clearly understood. The new western hero known as the man with no name, ruggedly portrayed by Clint Eastwood, resembled something entirely different. This hero had ambiguous moral agendas and only seemed to be driven by the want of money. In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the nameless gunslinger plays both sides of the warring groups in town and pits them against each other. As the film plays out, the audience learns that the man with no name does have a sense of justice and loyalty, but that loyalty is only devoted for those who he considers innocent or who befriend him.
"Bloodsport" was released in 1988. 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the movie that made the lead actor, Jean Claude Van Damme (The Muscles from Brussels,) a star. It tells the 'true' story of martial artist Frank Dux who was the first westerner to win the 'Kumite' a bloody no-holds-barred fight that took place in 'Hong Kong.'
Why am I putting everything in quotes? Because there is no end of controversy to this film even 25 years later.
- Was Frank Dux, the source material for this story, the real thing both as a martial artist and a military hero?
- Was Van Damme a real martial artist or just a talented dancer and gymnast with some martial arts moves?
- Did the Kumite, the fight with no rules and where death was possible, even exist?
Honestly, does it really matter?
At the age of 28 at the time, Van Damme was supremely handsome, built like a god, able to spin and kick with apparent power and elegance, and could do a full split, even able to support himself fully extended between two chairs. If you've never seen Van Damme do this, you have got to YouTube it and check it out. There's a small image later on in this article from the movie with him doing this.
Van Damme had done 4 films before "Bloodsport" and has done 42 since, including a recent turn in "The Expendables II" staring a lot of aging action stars. And he still looks convincing good kicking and fighting although his face does show wear from years of hard living.
It was 1993 and I was just starting my film career. An executive who I had met at a different production company and now worked at Paramount Films called me in to talk about an idea that I had pitched to her a few months previous. Her plan was to use my pitch to capture the heart of an elusive actor named Brandon Lee who had done a few B-movie actioneers and was primed for takeoff to the A-List. She thought my concept would help facilitate that ascension.
Perhaps it would have but Brandon decided against my project and did "The Crow" instead. Unfortunately.
Brandon had undeniable charisma and talent. He hadn't done much in the way of weighty dramatic roles but he lit up the screen when he was on it. And his martial arts skills were real and unique. He wasn't perhaps as talented as his amazing father, Bruce Lee, but he had a different focus in life that Bruce didn't necessarily have.
To Brandon, serious acting was the goal. He studied it, went to school for it. He told me in our meeting that was just the two of us in the exec's Paramount office, that he wasn't interested in action roles anymore. He wanted more from his acting. He had already done several films and some TV and was hungry to prove to everyone that he needed to be taken seriously as an actor. He wanted to be Robert Deniro.
In person, he was gracious and funny - a guy you could really like despite all the trappings of his celebrity. That was definitely part of his draw as an actor - he came across that same way on screen, even when he was playing a role. The meeting we had was quiet and personal - just two young men talking about a lot of things, film being only one of the subjects. We chatted about martial arts, his father, literature - a lot that had nothing to do with the purpose of why we were given the exec's office to use. He told me he wanted to do Hamlet. That he hadn't even spoken English until he was eight and he considered the Bard to be a personal challenge. He smiled broadly at that as if processing some internal joke. It made me laugh to see him so amused, and even though he was basically saying no to my pitch, I was thrilled to sit and just talk to him.
What is the heart of a martial arts film? Is it the fighting? The art, the skill set? The stunts? The (at times) brutal violence? Yes, to a large extent the reasons we watch these films is because we are either a fan or a practitioner of the art and these movies come with their own set of rules and mythos that the genre demands. And we seek out.
Early films from American filmmakers revolved around almost comic book types of martial artists. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way - they were fun, albeit unbelievable. The main characters were more traditional in style and approach and rarely were these men the 'bad guy' - they most certainly were not street thugs who ended up in jail from beating a man to death like the central character in "Confessions of a Pit Fighter."
As the martial arts in movies evolved so did the storytelling. Inner journeys became more common. Regret, though, in the form of a wasted life and the toll a life of brutality can take weren't foremost in those journeys. Director, writer, producer, stunt coordinator and actor Art Camacho plays out that theme writ small and tight in the mean streets of East L.A. where the elegance of life is razor thin and violence in many forms is your daily reality.
Hector Echavarria, a true martial arts master in many forms, plays Eddie Castillo, a man who is almost an unbeatable street fighter with feet and fists that devastate and punish and a jaw that can take massive amounts of abuse. These aren't the sanctioned fights of "Warrior" - they aren't even inside an underground fight club. They take place wherever there's an empty lot and a ring demarcated by tricked out cars and motorcycles driven by men every bit as badass as the fighters they are betting on. Castillo fights, wins, f*cks and goes home to a small apartment where he and his younger brother live.
During one fight, Echavarria's character kills a man with his bare fists and his younger brother (Ricardo Medina) witnesses it. Unknown at the time, this has a major impact on younger bro. Castillo goes to prison where he is beaten constantly by the guards until he fights for them, and brutalized further by the life style that's even worse than the mean streets he grew up on.
Some actors are defined by a film; some define it. "Ong Bak" would be nothing without Tony Jaa. He definitely defines it - and in turn, it defined him in 2003 as the next BIG THING in martial arts actors.
If you haven't seen Tony Jaa before prepare to be mindblown. He is a marvel, at times appearing to be beyond human. This 2003 film was his breakout film - it made him a superstar.
He is probably the most incredible martial arts actors, perhaps ever. His idol, Jackie Chan, is of course the standard by which all the rest of these lithe, leaping, kicking and punching amazeoids are measured, but Jaa has more raw power and tight skills and that gives him a slight edge on my scorecard.
"Ong Bak" proves that Jaa is superhuman - especially since the entire film was done without wires or CGI - it's all sweat, muscle and training. The martial discipline, of course, is Muay Thai with a liberal dose of gymnastics, and although Jaa has other martial arts training (including Aikido) it's Muay Thai that his fighting most closely manifests. In "Ong Bak" his magnificent skills are put to simply amazing extremes as action scene after action scene plays out - but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.
Jaa, a man of few words whether because he's in character or because he chose to be that way, plays a Buddhist priest-candidate from a small village in Thailand. In the insanely impressive opening scene, he is the one who reaches the top of this humongous tree, leaping from limb to limb like a Capuchin monkey, to claim the flag. This gives him a special blessing from Ong Bak, an ancient Buddha statue. Why it's called that is never clear and really who cares? Point is, it is the fountain of all blessing and good fortune for this poor village. When a Bangkok lowlife steals the head thinking he can get some cash for it the village is devastated certain that bad fortune will continue to visit them. Wells have dried, crops have failed and many of the young people have fled to the big city to survive.
Jaa volunteers to go get the head to restore the village's luck, and that's how he becomes Ong Bak, Thai Warrior.
Stunning. Final impression.
I'll get to the movie that closed the 14th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival on Thursday night but first let me tell you what really impressed me: it was that my guests were knocked out by the ending festivities at the Regency Lido Theater.
Scott McMenamin (VicePresident of Sales) and Alejandro Seri (IMDB) (Educational Marketing Director) from Final Draft (yes, that Final Draft) came down from L.A. to enjoy the festivities that started with a D.J. saying "Hit It!" as the sun went down and was still going strong when I left around 1:00am.
Festival CEO Gregg Schwenk (who also teaches locally) and his staff and volunteers are to be congratulated on this year's festival in general which, as I've mentioned in a previous article, was smooth and impressive. But Gregg and his people also know how to throw a party as was evidenced by the mouth-dropping, stunned look by my guests as they arrived at Lido Village.
Scott, in his role as VP of Sales for Final Draft, has been to the film festival at Cannes and Sundance several times and Alejandro has traveled the world for the company that produces the seminal writing tool of all professional screenwriters. Both said they were "blown away" by the closing night ceremonies which featured a dozen or so food vendors, adult drink vendors, and a sound/light system that had to have awakened the dolphins in the bay. I felt like I was at a really expensive rave and from the reactions of not only the people around us but Scott and Alejandro, that feeling was shared.
Can a one-liner become an entire movie? The short answer is, no. The audience only laughs once. That’s the biggest flaw in Zack Birnbaum’s directorial debut, “And Now A Word From Our Sponsor,” which was screened for only the second time before a live audience yesterday at the Newport Beach film festival.
The film has dramatic, heartfelt moments which are salvaged mainly by good acting on the park of Parker Posey who plays Karen Hillridge, a hospital charity administrator whose relationship with her daughter Megan (Allie MacDonald) is strained by the loss of the family’s patriarch two years prior.
The story opens with heavy weight advertising icon Adan Kundle collapsing in front of a bank of televisions in an electronics store. He awakens in a hospital, alert and functional, but he speaks only in advertising slogans. When Adan opens the tray covering his hospital breakfast and sees a dry piece of toast and a single, hard boiled egg he remarks, “How do you handle a hungry man?”
Newport Beach Film Festival, 2013
Alive and thriving. I'm sure that's the message the Newport Beach Film Festival would love to hear shouted from the rooftops of The O.C. After a few dicey years with administration woes, venue problems, and less-than-wonderful film offerings, I found the festival this year to be robust and packed with films that mean something both critically and commercially.
Having expanded to The Triangle, the renovated Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, the buzz there where I picked up my press pass was incredible. The festival initially went there out of desperation last year because The Islands Theater in Newport Beach was undergoing a renovation and they needed a venue with a multiplex and some food options that was at least close to Newport Beach. This year, The Islands is back but The Triangle is also in its glory after several new shops and food places have transformed it into a truly great entertainment destination.
I was only able to attend my first event this year on Sunday and I chose to go to one of my favorite theaters, The Regency Lido, which is a single-venue theater with an actual balcony. The Lido is such a grand, old girl, the outside looking like a throwback to the days when theaters were edifices and not strip malls, but inside she's spanking new with a new screen, digital sound and digital projection that made the screenings pop.
Beside being my favorite venue to see anything, there were two other reasons I started my festival tour at The Lido: One, OCC (Orange Coast College) was doing its student films there, followed by the 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and two, Regency theater manager Lorenzo Porricelli.
Larry is old school. He makes you feel a part of any event even if if you're just walking around. When I arrived, he was passing out programs for the showing of the student films like some carny barker. He personally greeted dozens of people, many of whom he knew and who knew him. If the NBFF put him in charge of the whole show, this dynamic force of nature would probably increase attendance by 75% on his own!
When Vivian Brechner (Toni Alexander), a female version of Donald Bren, decides to develop a Casino in the tiny town of Fountain Springs, she must bulldoze their bowling alley which is the, "Only thing we’ve got" scream the fifty-two residents of this California desert backwater.
Brechner's dispatches her son, Alexander, (Tyler Strateman) to do her dirty work, and the town’s mayor, Dawson Dinwitty (Gary Austin) springs into action with the city council, which consists of one man, also the town’s bowling instructor, George Pandick, (Andrew Dickler).
Both men must vote in favor of the new Casino, so Brechner tries to buy Dinwitty’s vote by wining, dining, and cajoling him from her office in Fashion Island and the Big Canyon golf course.
Meanwhile, Alexander gets drunk with the “twin” sons of Fountain Bowl’s owner, Herman Pritzoff (Eric Halsz) and agrees to a bowling contest with a prize of $250,000, enough money for the Pritzoff’s to buy the land and save their bowling alley.
This plot engine runs out of gas quickly because the second act has no real narrative. Instead random characters and events are mixed and matched in a way that makes we wonder if a real movie might have been left on the cutting room floor (or if nothing at all was left on that floor.)
The result is a film filled with a lot of “shtick” that is sometimes funny, but more often tired and jaded. You end up feeling like you watched a very long, Saturday Night Live skit, and that’s probably because writer, producer, director Cherie Kerr is founder of the Orange County Crazies comedy-improvisation troupe.
How do say Occam’s Razor in French?
If you don’t know what that means in English, I’ll give you the simplest of definitions: It’s the simplest of solutions.
Occam’s Razor is a principle of parsimony and economy. It compels problem solvers to employ the easiest, most rational, reasonable solution.
The “problem” or premise of “Fly Me to the Moon” is this:
Isabelle, a beautiful, young, Parisian bride-to-be, played deftly by Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds), must somehow beat a family curse wherein first marriages end in disaster and the second is destined for eternal bliss.
Isabelle’s eleventh-hour solution to this “problem” is to marry a shill in Denmark and divorce him the same day, thus beating the curse and living happily ever after with her young, dentist fiancé, Pierre (Robert Plagnol).
When the shill is a no show, Isabelle latches onto a hapless travel writer, Jean-Yves played with great comic rhythm by Danny Boon (Welcome To The Sticks). Jean-Yves is en-route from Paris to Kenya via Copenhagen. That travel routing sums up the fictional world created by Director Pascal Chaumeil (Heartbreaker) in this film: screwball.
When Isabelle buys a first class ticket to Kenya at the last minute so she can convince Jean-Yves to marry her, it’s hard to ask yourself why she doesn’t stay in Denmark, find another, local schmuck and pay him the money to complete her “perfect plan.”
But then there’s no movie. And in my view the basic premise or “log line” of a movie is something you know in advance. So if you’re of a mind to say, “A curse on first marriages? How silly. Running off to Denmark to create a paper marriage. That’s a perfect plan? How ridiculous.” Then don’t go into the theater in first place.
“The essence of how Pixar started was in let’s figure it out and try something different.” – Jerome Ranft, Pixar Animation Studios
Blood. In amazing amounts and frequency.
That's one of the lasting impressions of this movie penned by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, produced by Joel Silver, and the Wachowskis, and directed by James McTeigue.
Starring Korean pop star Rain, this story of a ninja turned against his adopted martial family (Ozunu clan) and actively working to stop his fellow ninjas from committing assassination for 100 pounds of gold (a holdover from ancient times) this movie starts in massive amounts of blood, decapitation and amputation, and ends in rivers of blood, decapitation and amputation with a lot of the same in-between.
Video game. That's your second thought and impression. With all the good and bad that engenders.
Ultra-violent and dark. In all ways including a lot of barely-seen fights that are too dark to appreciate properly, and hand-held cameras that jerk the action from one black shadow to another.
And then finally, well-executed and impressive in spots with fight scenes every bit as good as anything ever filmed.
Rain, the lead actor, would remind you of an Asian version Justin Bieber. A huge pop star in Korea, like Bieber he seems too slight and ethereal to play an assassin. But even as preternaturally beautiful as he is for a man, underneath that slight-looking frame he is buffed and cut to within a microslice of human body perfection. This and his real martial arts training allows him to be totally believable as Raizo, who as a young boy is kidnapped and brutally trained to be the best of the best in ninja assassination.
No one would confuse "The Octagon" with say, "The Godfather." It is what it is. A "B-movie" from the 80's starring a martial-artist turned actor. It features decent action, some decent themes and a horrible voice over that supposedly conveys the main character's internal thoughts.
It's too easy to dismiss these films as being just expired, stinky cheese - relics of a film milieu that we have hopefully left behind us as we move into the brave new worlds of Uncanny Valley CGI and 3D over-the-top actioneers that look like giant, gorgeously executed video games.
Of course, there are those die-hard fans who see no disconnect in these films and rabidly declare them as revolutionary - which to some extent they were. At the time, there wasn't anything like "The Octagon" gracing American movie screens and big action was nascent at best in any form let alone martial arts.
I try not to go to either end of the spectrum. I do laugh inadvertently at the bad dialog, plot devices or action but I also realize that it was 30+ years ago and these movies are going to look creaky no matter what, even as they were also creating legends like Chuck Norris. I mean, put any 1980 Buick on the screen and you're suddenly wondering how anything that big ever functioned (the term 'bulgemobile' comes to mind.) Nevermind that the fashion, haircuts, and insanely tight pants they all wore including our hero, Mr. Chuck Norris, looks like something from a bad porn film. As expressed, it is what it is.
Norris' movie career took off with his villainous appearance in Bruce Lee's "Way Of The Dragon." Lee liked to pit two different styles against each other and in Way it's basically Korean/American-style karate vs Chinese Kung Fu. The opponents couldn't have looked any different with the slight (but ripped) Lee rocking his black Chinese button-up outfit and the burly, red-haired (and hairy!) Norris in a traditional white gi. After the epic nine minute battle, Norris is defeated and Lee heads away, dusting his black jacket off as if it was another day at the office and not this incredible fight to the death. The scene furthered Lee's legend and created a new one in Norris.