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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)
DISNEY, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, SONY WOW HUGE CINEMACON CROWDS
CAPTAIN AMERICA, STAR WARS, SPIDERMAN,& LASER PROJECTION BIG HITS
OCSCREENWRITERS SCORES EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH IVAN REITMAN
The story on Wednesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, was the size of the crowds that had come from all over the world to preview the upcoming films from Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures, meet and hear director Christopher Nolan discuss filmmaking, screenwriting, and the current state of movies, and as a bonanza, see the first laser projector, (only costing $120,000) present movies with the brightest colors and picture ever seen, accompanied by Dolby Atmos sound which blows away anything else, and brings you right into the picture.
Perhaps, though, the most notable thing was how screenplays have been uplifted and the bar has been raised, as filmmakers want every area to be beyond perfect and screenwriting has taken a prime seat.
Disney began the day providing a special breakfast treat for everyone when Angelina Jolie stepped out before the crowd to discuss her project for Disney, “Maleficent,” which will hit theatres for Memorial Day Weekend, and what a weekend that will be. Jolie is magnificent as the evil queen of “Sleeping Beauty” and the backstory of what happened to turn her into the mean antagonist most foul that makes Lady Macbeth look like a saint. This is one masterpiece of film, and Jolie is just brilliant in the role. The story is superb, and only Disney could pull this story off so well without becoming caught in the web of the original animated feature. Mark this one down as a definite yes.
The lineup for Disney is big, and kicks off in a few weeks with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This one is also from a great screenplay, with Steve Rogers battling the demons of living in the present, and, so appropriate for the current moment in world events because he must battle a Soviet agent called The Winter Soldier. The last CA was a blast, this one takes us where we have not gone with this character, rich in depth, story, and great sideplots.
Disney wouldn’t be Disney without animation, and has “Planes, Fire, and Rescue,” a spinnoff from “Cars.” Disney also reboots “Cinderella,” with a live-action film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Winslett, Hayley Atwell, and Helena Bonham Carter, and this is also no child’s play but a stunning and great story written by Chris Weitz.
Another film screened was the Jon Hamm starer, “Million Dollar Arm,” just in time for the baseball season to begin, with a great story of a slightly out there sports agent who plots to get some Indian cricket players into the big leagues.
And “Big Hero 6,” is Marvel’s first project at Disney and what a project it is. Disney Animation did the work on this homage to big screen heroes in a story where the government recruits a young robotic prodigy to enlist the help of six friends to all become crimefighters and defend the world’s biggest city from a gang of very nefarious criminals.
UNIVERSAL HAS A HUGE RELEASE SCHEDULE FOR SUMMER AND FALL BUT KEVIN COSTNER STEALS THE SHOW IN LIONSGATE’S “DRAFT DAY”
What a great second day at CinemaCon 2014. Universal Studios has a huge lineup of diverse film, and Universal has been on a roll, and with the upcoming slate, will continue that roll through this year. And Lionsgate with director Ivan Reitman at the helm brought out a film that established Kevin Costner as one of the best actors of our age, as well as giving us a film set against a sports backdrop that will literally take your breath away.
Universal Distribution President, Nikki Rocco, presented their lineup and the stars to a jam-packed Coliseum Theatre at Caesar’s Palace of industry people and media from throughout the world.
Universal screened Neighbors in its entirety, and footage from Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West; The Purge: Anarchy; Fast & Furious 7, with a great tribute to Paul Walker; the James Brown bio pic – Get on Up; Fifty Shades of Grey; the great sequel, Dumb and Dumber To; the animated Minions, which is a spin-off from the hugely successful Despicable Me; Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken; Luc Besson’s Lucy, which stars Scarlett Johansson.
“Neighbors” stars Seth Rogen and Zac Effron and is a bawdy comedy that had industry insiders roaring and this will be big for Universal, as it is in the model of “Ted” and just as funny, if not funnier.
Seth MacFarlane the creator of “Ted” was up next with his “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” which is a hilarious take off on many of the western dramas of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, and has a great group of stars carrying it off.
First, a disclaimer. I don't like "Dexter" but I did rabidly follow "Sopranos." In general, I like supremely flawed anti-heroes. My issue with "Dexter" is the conceit of trying to convince people that a serial killer can be an instrument of justice in any way, shape or form. Both Dexter and Tony Soprano are sociopaths but no one is pretending Tony isn't anything else. The idea that this grand experiment of Dexter's father channeling his son's murderous urges just left me cold (so to speak.) I watched the first season with growing malaise and when it ended, so did my watching of it.
I mention this because I'm not interested in following serial killers as my focal character, especially those who purport to be "understandable." A sociopath is not someone to root for. When, at the end of "Silence of the Lambs" Hannibal Lector said to Agent Starling "I have to go. I'm having a friend for dinner," and the camera then cut to the "evil" psychologist coming off the plane, people in the theater I was in clapped and cheered. I blanched and got nauseous at the idea of it. The filmmakers had so thoroughly convinced most in the audience that Hannibal was an appropriate instrument of justice that murdering and eating this vain man of a psychologist was desirable. Like I said, I was nauseous at the thought. You are too if you think it through.
While the distinction I see between Tony Soprano and Dexter may be slim, I do see it clearly. Kevin Spacey's character in "House of Cards" who is basically a sociopath at best, and as it's turning out, a serial killer at worst is not someone I want to celebrate for more than a few hours. Sure, I'd follow him if it was a shorter subject but the idea that he can kill with impunity anyone who thwarts his political plans makes me want to turn the show off and not continue after Season Two's opening ep. Which I did. This is not some gangster who grew up on the mean streets. This is a highly accomplished man who went to the best schools, has walked the halls of power with seeming grace and distinction for decades, and has attracted men and women of power and distinction to his causes. Sure, there's the religious fanatics who do the same things to weak-willed people And yeah, I know that a higher education doesn't guarantee that someone won't grow up sick and twisted. But Frank Underwood isn't a kid. If he had these tendencies, he's always had these tendencies and they would have manifested before this.
CINEMACON 2014 STARTS WITH A BIG BANG FROM PARAMOUNT
WORLD’S LARGEST CONVENTION OF FILM WORLD PACKS IT OUT IN LAS VEGAS
Hello to OC Screenwriters and our web followers around the country and to all the ships at sea.
Day One at CinemaCon 2014 in Las Vegas, where its been home for more than thirty years, kicked off at Caesar’s Palace, with a preview of the entire week and in addition to the film stars, the largest film convention in the world, with every major studio and producers, directors and stars attending from around the world, soon to be standard technological achievements in everything from cameras used in filming to advanced popcorn poppers was teased to an audience of more than 20,000.
Paramount lit the fireworks that started CinemaCon. The annual convention where theatre owners from all over the world gather in Las Vegas and meet and greet the stars and hear what product will be offered over the next six months from the studios, had Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Will Arnett delighting the huge crowd with story after story of their upcoming films for Paramount to be released by summer.
Paramount presented its product reel of glimpses from summer films that included Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hercules, and 3D SpongeBob.
One of the greatest influences in my life was by a gentleman named Rudi Fehr. He was not only my mentor, but was my dear friend. I first met Rudi in my freshman year at California Institute of the Arts, while attending his editing course. He must’ve seen something in that quiet, frightened and lonely boy I once was because he quickly took me under his wing and we became fast friends. Rudi had great patience. He would always listen attentively, never growing impatient with my constant chatter, never taking sides if I was having a disagreement with my parents and was always willing to give sagely advice when necessary.
Rudi is gone now, but there isn’t a day that passes for me without a thought of him, remembering him with a certain amount of magical awe. I have often spoken about the love and respect I have for Rudi, but I realize the unfortunate fact that nobody really knows about this incredible man. Therefore, to honor my dear friend I would like to share with my readers, the life of Rudi Fehr.
The life of Rudi Fehr is an incredibly rich story of an immigrant refugee. He rebuilt his livelihood in the United Statesand has left a cinematic legacy to the classic Hollywoodstudio era. Rudi joined Warner Bros in 1936 as a film editor until attaining producer status in 1952. In 1954, Rudi was elected to the board of governors of the Academyof Motion Pictures Artsand Sciences. After retiring from Warner Bros. in 1976, he returned in 1977 to supervise foreign language adaptations of the studio’s films for France, Germany, Italyand Spain. In 1980 Rudi joined Zoetrope Productions and worked with Frances Ford Coppola. He returned to the editing bench in 1984 to gain an Oscar nomination for John Huston’s black comedy Prizzi’s Honor.
A native of Berlin, Germany, Rudi was born on July 6, 1911and studied at the Lyceum Alpinum in Switzerland. “I really intended to be a diplomat,” Rudi once told me of his early years in Berlin, but, because of the Hitler regime and his ethnic background, it was not possible. So he studied music and wanted to be a symphony conductor.
Rudi’s father was a banker on the board of one of the leading German film combines, Tobis-Klangfilm. He arranged a job for his son to work as an apprentice film editor and within months Rudi was editing his first film, Der Schlemiel (1931). Rudi worked for the producer Sam Spiegel in Germany, then in Austriaand Englandafter the Nazis came to power.
On Saturday, OC Screenwriters was thrilled to present filmmaker Allan Holzman (credits) at a brunch that included a movie and a fantastic Q&A afterwards.
Allan played his documentary on his life called "C-C-Cut" which details his journey through both the film world and his personal world as a stuttering director. Afterwards Allan spoke for another 1.5 hours on that film and his process. As a 'slash' - writer/director/producer/editor/etc (Emmy/Eddy/Peabody Award-winning, no less) - Allan's information was amazingly diverse and comprehensive. His 30+ years in the trenches of all things film made for an encyclopedic presentation of how to succeed in a business that counts winners in terms of hits, not necessarily longetivity and quality.
Allan has had all in copious amounts.
As his movie and later he pointed out, Allan started with Roger Corman, the low-budget uber-producer, who has turned out many of Hollywood's biggest names. The Q&A after the film covered even more of Allan's journey and insights as he talked about his struggles to stop his stuttering while pursuing a lifelong love of cinema.
One of the things you quickly learn about Allan is that he is a true student of film. He speaks with equal veracity on "Attack of the Crab Monsters" and Truffaut's "400 Blows." Nothing seemingly has escaped his notice from the world of film but more to the point, he's absorbed and learned from all these sources and is able to then transmit that knowledge into self-deprecating and hilarious anecdotes but also in deeply held convictions about how to make a movie.
Two-time Emmy Award®-winning Director/Producer/Editor Allan Holzman (IMDB) has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood (beside his) including:
Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Roger Corman and James Horner, among others!
He will be screening his award-winning film, C-C-Cut and talking about his upcoming book "Celluloid Wars" (sample chapter)
His latest video used to honor legendary guitarist Todd Rundgren at the recent Gibson Les Paul Awards is embeded below or view on YouTube here!
Allan is hot, hot, hot and we've got him one on one!!!
Join on us for an up-close and personal brunch with Allan in Fountain Valley as he discusses his career, film tips, and the business of working in the Land of Holly and Wood - reserve your seat for brunch below.
Seats limited so tickets at the door may not be possible. RESERVE NOW!
WOW - a copy of Final Draft 8 will be given away to someone in attendance!
Date: Saturday, 03.08.2014
Location: Claim Jumper Restaurant Banquet Room
18050 Brookhurst Street Fountain Valley CA 92708 714.963.6711 (map)
Reservations recommended since seating is limited.
Student:15.00 Valid Student I.D.'s checked at door.
09:30am-10:00am - check-in
10:00am-11:30am - Allan shows his film
11:30am-1:15pm - lunch (included) and Q&A with Allan
Note: Choose quantities of reservations at PayPal checkout.
(includes lunch, 1/2 sandwich and salad - choice of Turkey, Chicken or Tuna and coffee/beverage service)
Order taken at banquet room. Veggie option available.
She's sexy, sassy, and kicks ass. What's not to like? And in the case of Tricia Helfer, there is absolutely nothing not to like. She's all of those things and a bag of chips.
Coming from her sexy/scary stint as a uber-hot Cyclon in "Battlestar Galactica" Helfer infuses this new series with a much needed edge. Not the kind of edge like in "The Shield" or even "Prison Break" but an all-over edge that gives you a reason to come back because she is writ large on the small screen in all manners and her presence is about all that elevates the somewhat-tired storylines.
Premise: Here's a cop who goes after criminals - female criminals. Focus on the X-chromosome segment of the bad-guys, uh, girl population. Throw in the physically believable, and acting capable Helfer, a taste of sexism in the cop ranks that she has to deal with, a bit of secret spousal abuse (sorta unbelievable,) promote as (another very attractive woman) Sofia Vergara's ("Modern Family") production company (based on an Argentine series) and mix.
The first ep shows another hot woman (getting the focus here?) in a red dress walking to a church (to the wonderful Mavericks "Come Unto Me") who then enters and shoots the bride, blowing her brains all over her groom. Good opening. Goes nowhere. Cartels, chase scenes, kidnappings in Mexico...zzzzzzz. All pretty standard fare, really. Not that it's bad - it isn't. It's just not as good as it could have been or could be.
"FERAL" - SCIFI-HORROR FEATURE FILM IN PRE-PRODUCTION
LOS ANGELES - L.A.-based Torture Chamber Productions is currently in pre-production for the feature film titled "Feral."
THIS ARTICLE NOMINATED FOR AN EDITORIAL AWARD by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER!
Congrats, OC Screenwriters Board Member and contributor, Lorenzo Porricelli!!
Comment on this or any article welcome on our Facebook Page HERE.
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.