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    Monday, 10 March 2014 10:50

    Allan Holzman Brunch Event Review

    Written by

    c-c-cut movieOn 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.

    A clear indication of this is Allan's continuing professorship at USC Film School where he teaches editing to eager film students.

    Another clear sign of Allan's scope are his awards.  Emmys, Peabodys and Eddys - all sit on Allan's shelf.  While working in the industry for decades can be a measure of success, being given awards by your peers is icing on a cake made from tens of thousands of hours of hard, sweaty work.  Some of the stories Allan told about his run-ins with producers, directors, etc. were familiar to me but as a screenwriter our work is typically finished once the story meetings are.  Allan's work and frustrations run from pre- to post-production and sometimes beyond as he has been/is scapegoated after the fact by directors or producers who make wrong decisions and then blame the post-production process.

    As new OCSWA member Kevin McCarthy said, "That man's life is a study in frustration and tenacity.  And he doesn't seem jaded about it.  He still has a ton of excitement and joy for making movies.  A real inspirational guy.  I'm going home and write."

    Agreed.  Allan's stuttering alone could have sunk him if he had given up.  He is famously quoted as saying to Roger Corman after Corman told him he would never be a director because he stuttered: "I don't stutter as much when I'm in charge."  Add to this the years of abuse that anyone in the film community has to suffer and that would stop most.  Not Allan.  He still is proactive in his pursuit of film in his capacity as a cinema polyglot.  Not only is he finishing movies on TV legend Sheldon Leonard and filmmaker Francois Truffaut but his book "Celluloid Wars" is coming out soon.  And he's got two features in various stages of production.

    final draft

    Allan also spoke freely of some personal challenges he has had to overcome including sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle when he was six.  He ties this horrible event to the fact that afterwards he became a stutterer.  Thankfully, he's found a way to overcome both the memory of that abuse and his stuttering.

    For more information on Allan's book please use the contact form on this website (HERE) and we will happily forward your information to Mr. Holzman.

    A deeply-felt thanks to Final Draft for continuing its support of OC Screenwriters and allowing us to be able to give away a copy of their industry-standard writing software at our events.

    The Claim Jumper Banquet Room in Fountain Valley provided a great venue for this well-attended event.  Hopefully OCSWA will continue to be able to tap this great quality of guests for future events.

    Tuesday, 25 March 2014 10:48

    House of Cards Collapses

    Written by

    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. 

    When HoC came out I was entranced.  It almost lost me when Underwood talked directly to the camera while he was putting the dog hit by a car out of its misery, but I got used to it and grew to, well not enjoy it, but at least accept it.  It's true to the British series on which it's based in that sense and it's okay to know Frank Underwood through his 4th Wall exchanges.  

    I loved the political machinations Underwood engaged in.  Loved his twisty mind.  Relished his and his wife, Claire's, played by the still stunning Robin Wright, self-serving conniving ways.  And of course, thoroughly enjoyed the Kate Mara character's relationship with Frank and their stumbling paths through the dark hallways of Washington with us eagerly following close behind.

    This was political thriller at its best at times.

    The Swedish series "Borgen" has a similar motif of peeking behind the walls of power at all the various machinations of government.  This is real drama in my mind - what better?  Power, sex, desperation ...all the things that Shakespeare wrote so eloquently about in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Ambition writ large on the tapestries of the power-hungry worlds that we have always inhabited and been fascinated by.

    And, for the first seven or so episodes, the storylines were purely that - naked ambitions.  Sex used as coin and as weapon.  Money.  Power thwarted and recast into even more powerful weapons of greed and hubris.  

    Doug Stamper (actor Michael Kelly) was creepy but he wasn't a murderer.  He made you disappear with a handful of cash and a veiled threat - as did most of the characters.  Kate Mara used her fine mind and even finer body to hook and reel in the men she wanted for her own gains.  Frank Underwood prodded and blackmailed to right the wrong he had been summarily handed in the first ep when he was passed over for VP.

    All good.  All fun in a dirty-little-secrets way.

    Then Underwood killed Peter.

    I balked at this but at least he did it almost apologetically.  He closed the garage door on a running car and oh no!  Peter passed away quietly.  I didn't love it, but I felt like the way it was done, there'd be lots of angst in Underwood's life.  It would haunt him - "out, damned spot!"  He'd come close to telling Claire but wouldn't quite make it.  Zoe would wonder why he couldn't finish his sexual act with her.  Stamper would begin to suspect and do misguided things to cover it up.  The secret would gnaw at Frank Underwood's soul, make his food tasteless, turn his wine into bitter vinegar.  I imagined Peter would haunt him.  Show up in window reflections, on TVs that had gone to test patterns, etc.

    Yeah.  Not so much.

    I'm a writer and I know decisions are made all time that people don't agree with in a script or a series.  One such would be the recent revelation in "The Good Wife" that they killed off a major character. Damnit!  But I digress.  I get that there's a vision forward and it involves making decisions that not everyone will embrace.

    So, onto Season Two.  Anticipating Frank Underwood walking the West Wing, twiddling with the country's temperament, ducking nosey reporters getting too close, betrayal on betrayal ahead and the guilt of the damned...oh, the joy and fun we'd have.

    And then Underwood pushes Zoe Barnes in front of a train in the first episode of Season Two and that was it for me.

    I am not following a fucking serial killer who is pretending to be interesting.  Interesting is turning the entire House around using threats and blackmail and a twisty mind - not murder.  And not by Frank Underwood. Especially since his actions over Season One and Season Two imply that he has no absolutely no conscience about this.  At all.  

    And that Frank would be so bloody stupid as to murder in potentially full view of anyone in that subway tunnel.  No.  Frank simply would not do that.  I will not tolerate his acting that stupidly and without regard.  This is not his way.  Any idiot can kill; how many can manipulate the way that Frank Underwood does?  Damned few.  And yet the series heads thought that this fascinating character should suddenly become a blatant, bald killer would make us embrace Frank's story even more?  A major miscalculation on their part, in my opinion.

    Look, Stamper's different.  He'd do it.  I could accept it from him.  But really?  The next vice-president of the United States, a man a heartbeat away from running this country, engages in the most crude form of control anyone can imagine?  Are we now watching the son of Satan, Damien, from "The Omen" in a reboot?

    What are we to assume?  That Frank's done this before?  That somehow this psychopath has managed to hide these proclivities for his entire career?  He must have done it if he did it with such equanimity before but I won't have it.  I won't invest time in a TV series that embraces the least common denominator and resorts to this crude form of murder to solve or enhance story lines.
     
    "Borgen" didn't do it and I remained stuck to that series.  The "West Wing" did political machinations brilliantly without a hint of violence.  "House of Cards" could have been sooooo good.  And yet, it isn't because it does the silliest thing I've seen in many years - make the VP of the United States a cold-blooded, serial murderer.  Yes, yes, I know, there are all these rumors about this politician and that and conspiracy theories as to how some people in Washington died but not Frank Underwood.  Not this amazingly crafted, well-acted role.  Why?  Why did the series producers have to go there?

    So, HoC, goodbye.  I won't be continuing on past S02E01.  It was grand while it lasted but the gorgeous blonde at the bar glimpsed at a distance turned out to be a hooker with bad plastic surgery up close.   This is "jumping the shark" right off the bat and for me, it's unrepairable.

    Maybe someday, some American TV show will do this kind of thing without resorting to the lure of the lowest baseness.  Maybe I'll even write it.  I'm actually a big fan of baseness but not this low and not in political dramas of this type.  Really, Hollywood, you can trust us to continue to follow a series without killing someone every ten episodes.  We all understand what it means not to achieve a goal and die inside.  That should be good enough for at least one television series. If you want a shining example of this watch the movie "Notes On A Scandal" or better yet "Borgen."  Only one death there and it was from a heart attack after sex (Yes!)

    Perhaps it was also the way that Underwood gloated about this murder that turned me off.  The implication is that he is anti-Christ in nature.  He challenges God in a church, then talks to the audience in such a way to imply that he is Devil incarnate.  In an episode of the brilliant "West Wing" President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) called out God in a church and even put a cigarette out on the sacred house's floor to show his disdain for the so-called order in the Universe that demands a good person be killed arbitrarily.  He was furious that God had taken a friend of his.  This was a powerful moment in the storyline but it didn't involve smarmy and gloating faces in a mirror telling us "welcome back."  Ugh.  Just thinking of that moment in HoC makes me shake my head.

    Death is fine; murder is okay if it's done with consequences - turning your central character into Dexter or Damien just doesn't serve anyone well at all.  The murderous rages that Frank Underwood engage in make this show like the ABC adult dramas like "Revenge" and "Scandal."  Good shows, well-executed certainly but melodrama levels below what I was hoping would be "House of Cards." 

    It all might be entertaining but it's also cheap, ugly and wholly disrespects the viewing audience.

    Sunday, 09 February 2014 10:02

    Allan Holzman Brunch

    Written by

    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!

    Choose status:

     

    WOW - a copy of Final Draft 8 will be given away to someone in attendance!

    Date: Saturday, 03.08.2014
    Times: 9:30am-1:30pm

    Location: Claim Jumper Restaurant Banquet Room
    18050 Brookhurst Street Fountain Valley CA 92708 714.963.6711 (map)

    Reservations recommended since seating is limited.


    Non-Student: 20:00

    Student:15.00 Valid Student I.D.'s checked at door.

    FORMAT:
    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
    1:30pm end

    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.

     

    Sunday, 12 January 2014 09:37

    Killer Women

    Written by

    killer womenShe'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.

    Some pilots roar, then sink; some gasp for air then get better as the show goes and some get canceled right after despite what they do.   Based on the weak showing, this show might not have a chance - it needed more of everything except music video segments.  I contrast this pilot with "Justified" starring Timothy Oliphant.  The character sucked you in, as did KW, but the storyline was much stronger 

    and the characters much more interesting.  It grew and grew.  It felt fresh initially because it dealt with a segment of the population we hadn't seen much of - rural mountain people - and a lawman who seemed to be a throwback to the gunslingers of old who talked slow and drew that pistol of his lightning fast  Unfortunately for KW, none of that uniqueness is apparent in the pilot.  Helfer's character isn't all that interesting yet and the bad guys/girls are magazine cutouts.

    A bright spot in the KW character firmament is Helfer's boss played by Alex Fernandez.  Although he's not introduced in any sort of proper manner, he makes an impression immediately.  Too bad they didn't focus on him and his relationship with Helfer a bit more.  It reminded me favorably of "The Bridge" and the Diane Kruger/Ted Levine relationship which saved that show when it fell upon TV tropes that went nowhere.

    Part of the problem here is that this is series TV in the modern era.  Producers no longer trust their audiences to stick around so some of the introductions are cut short, some not at all.  You're expected to jump aboard the throbbing music-video train and toe-tap your brain into accepting everything that's shown to you without establishing a relationship first.  The tap dance, however, is difficult to balance and when not balanced properly, it leads to confusion, lack of engagement and a sense that you're missing something.

    Helfer is magnificent.  Has always been.  She alone makes this show worth the investment in time.  And I really do believe that in the limited run this series has (8 episodes) it can and will find its beat and be better.

    In any case, I'm watching it and if it doesn't get better then at least I hope it won't get worse.

    "Killer Women" is on ABC on Tuesday nights.  It's good enough for you to check it out.

    Friday, 10 January 2014 10:34

    Feral Feature Announced!

    Written by

    "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."

    Written by Mark Sevi ("Pterodactyl" "Arachnid" "Devil's Knot",) the scifi-horror film follows a group of teens who were born carrying tendencies and differences in DNA that disenfranchise them, and which manifests suddenly in physical and mentally disturbing ways.
     
    Uber-violent with deep themes of alienation and the fundamental nature of violence, the film marks a collaboration between a "dream team" production group who were gathered from professional backgrounds in graphic novels, comics, horror films and photography.
     
    "Feral" will be directed by cinematographer Ryan Amendt. This will be his first feature film as a director although Amendt has worked on many productions in other capacities. It will be produced by Mark Sevi, Victor Phan, Ryan Amendt, Jeff Blaxland, and Rudy Garcia as an independent feature for SyFy Channel and/or A&E.
     
    The script is currently undergoing pre-production revisions. Preliminary storyboards, promotional materials, and budgets are being developed for potential investors. Production is expected to begin in 2014 with locations on and around in Orange County, California.  Visit the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/feralfeature) and website (http://www.feralfeature.com) for more information on the
    background, production, and press and investor packages.
     
    About Torture Chamber Productions:
    The production company was founded in 2006 by Victor Phan, Ryan Amendt and Clark Jones
    in Fullerton, CA. They produce horror films and thrillers while also creating graphic novels
    for its clients. 
     
    ###
     
    Download this release in PDF: HERE
    Wednesday, 16 October 2013 14:51

    12 Years A Slave

    Written by
    12 years a slave

    THIS ARTICLE NOMINATED FOR AN EDITORIAL AWARD by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER!  
    Congrats, OC Screenwriters Board Member and contributor, Lorenzo Porricelli!!

    “12 Years a Slave” is perhaps the most important film produced since we began watching “motion pictures” in the penny slots on boardwalks, carnivals, and city emporiums in the 1880’s.  It is based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northrop, a free man from Saratoga, New York, who was tricked, captured and made a slave for twelve horrendous years. Northrop is played by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor in a performance done with such magnificence it removes the actor from the role, for what is memorable is the depth of character and the story his work tells us of a terrible human experience.  
     
    Movies are entertainment first, entertainment that provides two hours of escape from our lives and allows us to enter the lives of characters on the big screen. Movies involve us in the adventure of the story and the ramifications of issues raised, whether comedy or drama, just as those first penny slots involved its first viewers in the real life and death battle of a cobra and a mongoose. 
     
    However, there are some movies since film began that have been epic in meaning and revelation of the human experience. From “Birth of a Nation” to “Schindler’s List,” and more, these films have been important films because they affected and/or changed or challenged generations of mindset on issues, i.e., the Ku Klux Klan in “Birth of a Nation,” and the Holocaust in “Schindler’s List.” Both films took us past what the public had settled as the comfortable mindset on those subjects, a mindset that didn’t disrupt our then present-day lives, and those films forced us to make moral decisions on life and death questions.  
     
    12 Years a Slave” presents the absolute truth of slavery’s work - the humiliation and murder of the body, mind, spirit, and soul of the slave. Its portrayal of the sick minds and perverted bodies of slave owners(they couldn’t have possibly possessed a soul) is the true story of a brutality that shames mankind. It is a film where the lack of humanity in the minds, words, and actions of slave owners and slave sellers at that time, the common white Southerners, is displayed in their treatment of black people as animals and beasts, and worse. 
     
    And in spite of its most atrocious horror, it is entertaining first, endearing us to the characters, and forcing us to go along for the most riveting, cruel journey we have ever experienced with a film, and possibly in our lives, as these people we come to love are abused beyond imagination, and we sit with disbelief, hoping for escape, for help, for even a minute of peace for the people we meet – for they are that first – people - people who become slaves. And we watch their lives drained of life by the mean, sadistic lifestyle of the pre-Civil War South, with not a minute lived without drama and fear. There were no good masters.  
     
    The film is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northrop, the free man who led a rather middle class life in Saratoga, N.Y., a man who owned a home, had a wife and two children, and who played the violin professionally. That was until two con men tricked him into joining their musical troupe for a few weeks, and used that to lure him to Washington DC, where they sold him to a slaver. And from there, the story goes to several plantations, from horror to horror, from story to story, and reveals the absolute viciousness of both the men and women who owned slaves. 
     
    Yet with all the repulsion of the actions in this story, from verbal abuse beyond description, to whippings to rape to murder to lynching, we feel these things but don’t see the actual blows most of the time. But the way the scenes of misery are shot, from raising an arm with a blunt club, to the sound of wood breaking on a woman or man’s head, we don’t realize we haven’t seen it,  we believe we have seen it because we felt it the shocking horror of the abuse in our imagination, and more importantly, in our spirit. 

    cast and crew

    The man who brought this to the screen, director Steve McQueen, is a black man from Amsterdam; an American director could not have done this without the salacious episodes necessary for such a film in America. And while the violence is perhaps the most horrendous in film history, and committed against women and children as well as men, it is hardly salacious, but is in fact so truthful and horrifying that the viewer is stunned and shocked, and that is the intent of the director and actors and screenwriter – to share the horror of perhaps the worst episode of human degradation and death in world history. That is a large statement, but the Holocaust, as awful, sick, and perverted as it was, had 6 million victims, American slavery had numbers far beyond that. But more than that, it forces us to feel, to know, to cry, to hurt, for there is no escape from the awful truth, because it is a story we live through - barely. 
     
    McQueen, who speaks with a British accent, said that when he discovered the book by Northrop he read it and his first thought was it had to be made into a movie. But his second thought was that people everywhere knew of the “Diary of Anne Frank,” yet no one he sought out had heard of “!2 Years a Slave.” McQueen felt it was just as important, because it shared the experience of when it was so fresh in Northrop’s mind. 
     
    And McQueen made this film in what I would call a grand literary style, like “Grand Hotel,” and “On the Waterfront,” so classy, so big, with ideas and themes beyond our known human experience. It is one of those perfect films, where every piece he directed comes together with flawless precision – from the screenplay, to the actors being magnificently intense, to the vehicle of our journey   - the cinematographer’s lens - perhaps the most important piece in any film. McQueen’s direction to the cinematographer was to force us along for the uncomfortable trip, and we are expecting to be released from the brutality at every new scene, until finally the lens wears down our hope, just as we see happen quickly to so many characters in the film – slaves - becoming attached to us in body and soul. It is an enrapturing experience and a pin could be heard dropping on the theatre floor. 

    Lupita Nyang'o

    The film’s music is by Oscar winner, Hans Zimmer, with both a score and songs that make the journey an unconditional experience that possesses us, haunts us, and Zimmer builds the tension and pain of every scene with his edgy work, as the score brings to us the realization that the music of the times was an entertainment for the whites, but a sad escape for slaves, sung during hard work, death, and hopes to be with the Lord. 
     
    The cinematography is by Sean Bobbitt. And how effective are his shots, shots that linger in scenes when the horror of the moment is over, but he won’t allow us to move on, he leaves us there, swamped in the truth, forced to face and accept it. Brilliant is his reasoning. His method makes the story so powerful, intense, horrible, unbelievable, tragic - all at once - with his nuanced shots that capture the essence of the souls of the characters as well as the depth of cruelty in slavery and the misery of the sweaty existence in the South.  
     
    The acting is beyond first class – I would give everyone in the film an Oscar. We are first introduced to a person we probably do not want to travel with, Solomon Northrup, as portrayed so magnificently by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has played leads in movies as varied as “Redbelt,” “2012,” and “Amistad.” Here, he portrays Northrop at first as slightly too refined, which was admitted to proudly by Northrup in his memoir.  That slight affectation makes his fall from all that is good and beautiful so much more abject and profound. His fear and his disbelief are so well acted, I believe any of us would have the same reactions if that was our life, and it was happening to us – there is no moment where we can disagree with his character – or any other for that matter. 
     
    The acting is brilliant, from Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Comberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Dineen Taylor, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, even Brad Pitt, who also was one of the film’s producers, and many more in roles so small and so varied but such essential roles that paint the portrait of hate in America that is still with us and has not been fully resolved by the national conscience.  They all appear so natural in their roles even through the shocking words they speak, but truthful to the standards of the times. The belief that slavery ended in 1865 is a lie, a subjective myth. Slavery’s ramifications and animosities are still with us, and the reflection of those ideas portrayed by these actors surely is as recognizable as the hate that still burns in America, disguised in self-righteous pontificates, who claim to save America by denying compassion to the poor. 
     
    But while every actor is magnificent, the work of first time film actress, Lupita Nyong’o will shock you, knock you out, there are not words to describe the power and beauty of her performance as she portrays Patsey, a slave woman used and abused and beaten and raped at will by an owner. She begs Ejiofor’s character to hold her head under water till she can no longer breath as she is too much a coward to do it herself as an escape from the life as chattel, a scene that births within us a battle of emotions – a sorrow for her and great anger within that has grown through the course of the film to a hatred for these awful “masters.”  Nyong’o’s work alone is worth the price of admission, and if she doesn’t receive an Oscar for her work, the system is not worth having. Nyong’o can take you along on a moment of useless laughs with a neighboring black woman who has married the slave owner, to extreme pain from her master’s brutality,  and she does it in a brief second with a glance, her eyes so dead, her simple statement of a woman without hope, reluctantly existing.
     
    The screenplay is by John Ridley, an author who has written several bestselling novels in addition to screenplays, including “Red Tails” and Oliver Stone’s “U Turn”.  He took Solomon’s book and wrote it into a story that could be filmed and yet rush at us like a knife stabbing our hearts with the absolute misery and condemnation of what happened to Northrop. Ridley’s beautiful choice of words and actions, so aptly carried through by the actors, the music, cinematography, set design, every aspect of the film, all work off his script that has brought to us again the importance of the word “slavery,” a word long hidden and put on our national back shelf. Ridley is brilliant in his use of dialogue, perhaps even spectacular.  His characters are real and what they speak and do is truth in not only that time but in this day also.  For in this time of politicians who seek to deprive people of voting rights, of food stamps, of obtaining work visas, and whose lack of depth is seen in their shallow slogans of hate on FoxNews, it is a time for America to choose right or wrong – what is right is moral, and anything else is evil, it was true then, it is true now – truth doesn’t die, truth doesn’t lie.
     
    Effective and cutting is Ridley’s display of how slave owners preached the gospel to slaves, and then beat them, raped them, murdered them, subjected them to all manner of abuse, and yet claimed to be Christians.  Slavery happened in a time in our country’s history and cost us millions of lives in the Civil War, but the issues of slavery have never died, and Ted Cruz types and his ilk in the Tea Party, are those that espouse slavery – albeit not in physical entrapment, but of another kind, and just as horrible – a degradation of humans, reducing them to items on a budget line. And they shout the words of Christ, forgetting so easily he stated that what we do to the least we do to him.
     
    If I sound as if I merely liked the movie that is hardly the truth - the truth is that this movie will touch the core of your being, if you let it, it will give you a beautiful story inhabited by people we love and hate. But when the film ends, its truth has come too close to abandon it in a movie theatre, and it needs to be shouted from our hearts, and lived in our walk, for darkness and hate is upon this world again, there is no safe place, and it is our time, our moment, to challenge evil and stand for what is moral and good and compassionate and right, and to prove love conquers all.   
    Saturday, 28 September 2013 18:34

    Warren Lewis Brunch - Review

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    Comment on this or any article welcome on our Facebook Page HERE.

    warren lewis brunch

    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. 

    The room was upbeat and energetic due in no small part to Warren's incredible sense of humor, sense of the absurd, and at varying times, his true, unabashed love of the industry he's worked in for over 25 years.   His anecdote about his father and his first VCR clearly showed the power and ability of this superb storyteller.  He was, in all ways, a perfect speaker for the people hungry to hear the how, whys and whens of this business of film because he had a foot in the past but spanned the present and had an eye to the future.

    The audience ranged from octogenarians to teens in high school and from amateur to professionals.  The smiles on everyone's face told the story the way a good film does - with non-verbal cues.   No one was ever un-amused or uniformed by Warren's presentation.

    We hope to continue to bring these types of events to our membership but to a great degree it's up to the membership to support and spread the word.  We hope to do 6-7 per year starting in 2014 but we also are planning one more for 2013 - in October/November.

    Many thanks to the OC Screenwriters membership and it's board of directors:  Lorenzo Porricelli, Victor Phan, Toby Wallwork, Robert Rollins and Joe Becker for helping make this a great event.

    And a huge thank you to all who took time out of their busy schedule to attend, network, and hear a fun and informative speaker.

    Sunday, 01 September 2013 00:00

    Blood Will Tell

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    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.

    robert rollins pictures logoBlood 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.”

    Monday, 01 July 2013 09:23

    Jim Kelly - Exit The Dragon

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    jim kellyWhen 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.

    There were action films and martial arts films before Kelly but none of them had leads who were as accomplished as Kelly and were African-American.  Kelly looked so good because he was the real deal winning several tournaments and training in many sports.  No actor at that time possessed his balletic power.  When he spun into a backkick, it was a kick you could believe in.  It wasn't the silly 'karate chops' of the James Bond films or the endless punches of any actioneer but rather a true martial warrior's execution.  He kicked, punched and moved like no other black man of that time.  And no one combined Kelly's  stature (he was 6'2",) his remarkable swagger - or that insane 'fro of his.  His language was the lingua franca of his culture - the vernacular of the 70's street dude who had spent his youth running into and from trouble but had then had found an outlet for his furious energy in karate.

    jim kelley, enter the dragonThe anger and pain Kelly experienced in his early life found control and mastery in the dojo.  There, under the guidance of many masters, he began to understand the importance of being able to mitigate his emotions, to channel those emotions in a positive way.  And by showing others by example his way, by being an African-American with mad karate skills, he inspired generations to become martial artists and to emulate the man who exuded quiet confidence but would kick your butt if you acted wrong.  Kelly was just so superfly; all quiet cool and frosty with a white-hot core of physical skills.

    Kaiso Shawn Cephas, Soke of American Shorinji-te and CEO of Warrior-Priest Productions said of Kelly: "My father, Willard Cephas, is my martial arts role model and hero, but actors like Jim Kelly were our (the young black community) superheroes.  They did things we only dreamed of, drove cars (like souped-up Ferraris) we'd never seen before.  The idea of an African-American being the star of a movie - and being an accomplished martial artist - made us believe we could also do just about anything with our lives."

    kelly, saxonKelly continued his multi-genre, race-breaking barrier ways by becoming ranked as number 2 in senior men's doubles rankings and reaching the state's top ten in senior men's singles in tennis!  This was in 1975 at the height of his prowess and it showed just how incredible a physical specimen he was but also, at a time when the 'face' of professional tennis was mostly white men, he shattered that color barrier.

    You cannot under-estimate Kelly's contributions.  Like a lot of innovators he was the perfect man at a perfect time.  There were more famous, more accomplished actors but there was no one who combined Kelly's unique skill set.  He was young, beautiful, and badass but practiced a quiet calm and inner confidence that completely destroyed the stereotypes.  At a time when many of filmdom's villains were gangsta African-Americans here was a man who was the antitheses - he was/is a superb, positive role model and hero for generations of young men and women.

    As he told Mr. Han in "Enter The Dragon" - "Man, you come right out of a comic book"  - Kelly indeed did.  But in all the positive, affirming ways that make those imaginary heroes so inspirational to us.

    My article on "Enter The Dragon," which was the first of this martial arts film series I did, is HERE - the review talks about Kelly and his contributions to that film.  

    But if you want to remember Jim Kelly, head to Netflix or Amazon and watch some of his movies.  And be inspired all over again.

    Jim Kelly Filmography:

    Melinda (1972)
    Enter the Dragon (1973) as Williams
    Black Belt Jones (1974) as Black Belt Jones
    Three the Hard Way (1974) as Mister Keyes
    Golden Needles (1974)
    Take a Hard Ride (1975) as Kashtok
    Hot Potato (1976) as Jones
    Black Samurai (1977) as Robert Sand
    The Tattoo Connection (a.k.a. E yu tou hei sha xing, Black Belt Jones 2) (1978)
    Death Dimension (1978)
    The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1981)
    One Down, Two To Go (1982)
    Stranglehold (1994)
    Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered and Shafted (2004)
    Afro Ninja Destiny (2009)
    Afro Ninja (2009)


    Tuesday, 25 June 2013 07:47

    Fearless

    Written by

    fearless"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.

    fearlessThe film opens non-linearly at an epic bout late in Yuanjia's life.  Yuanjia must fight with fists, sword, and spear/pike and defeat all of his opponents to be declared winner.  One against four doesn't seem fair but this is the deal. Now Yuanjia has to face his last opponent, a Japanese karate master named Tanaka (actor Nakamura Shidō II.)  

    At the start of this bout, the film then flashes back to when Yuanjia was a child.

    As a young boy, Yuanjia worships his father's martial arts skills.  Banners proclaiming the elder master's successes adorn the walls of Yuanjia's ancestral home.  Yuanjia is so smitten with the idea of becoming the world's greatest fighter that he convinces a childhood friend, actor Dong Yong, to do his homework for him so he can practice wushu.

     Yuanjia also picks fights (and loses) with other young boys as he proclaims his father's wushu is best. 

    Several years later Yuanjia's father is dead and he is head of the household.  His wife has died from illness but his mother and young daughter fill his life with joy.  He is carefree, treating the family business with seeming disdain and fighting all challengers in the town square - then drinking and partying afterward in his childhood friend's restaurant.  His goal is to never lose a fight and he is indeed undefeated except for one lone fighter (Qin Lei) who he has never challenged.  As his reputation grows, Yuanjia becomes increasingly arrogant and angry until he refuses to allow any disagreement with his wants and needs despite that his business is failing and he has no balance in his life.  He continues to seek the title of Master of Tianjin, the village from which he comes but the only opponent of note he hasn't fought is the man who was spared by Yuanjia's father years before, Qin Lei.  Yuanjia still harbors a resentment and anger toward Qin Lei and finds a reason to challenge him when Lei supposedly harms one of Yuanjia's students.

    The fight he picks with Qin Lei is epic and amazingly choreographed - as were all the fight scenes in this film including one on a platform thirty feet in the air.  Li's skills are still sharp and extensive.  He leaps, spins, kicks and punches like a man twenty-five years his junior.  In his forties when this film was made, he seems ageless - another reason why I can't see him retiring from this type of film anytime soon despite his claims to be done with wushu/martial arts films.

    Yaunjia batters and kills his opponent and in retribution, his family is then murdered by Quin Lei's godson.  This sends Yuanjia on a multi-year journey of anguished doubt and personal crises.  He ends up nearly dead in a mountain village, falls in love with a young blind girl named Moon (actress Betty Sun) - sort of - and returns to his ancestral home to begin his penance for killing Qin Lei.

    But the city of Tianjin, like all of China, has changed. It is now filled with foreigners who march through the streets and determine the rights of the citizens.  The Chinese men and women have been beaten down, told they are less than human, and controlled by the American, British and Japanese forces who covet their vast resources.  Li's character is determined to change all that through a series of fights with these foreigners and also by establishing the Chin Woo Athletic Association (originally, The Jing Wu Athletic Society) in Shanghai which will train Chinese fighters in the wushu way, promoting Chinese nationalism.

    In the last epic battle, the one that opens the film, Li must face his last opponent, the Karate master Tanaka who is shown as having both skills and honor.  The Japanese fighter's manager, however, isn't so honorable and poisons Yuinjia during the bout to guarantee a win.  Dying, throwing up blood, Li's character insists on finishing and although he apparently loses the bout because he is too weakened to continue, the Japanese fighter declares him the winner.  "I know it in my heart," he says.

    Yuanjia's death (basically) propels China into the events that become the establishment of the Republic of China and although dead, his spirit goes back to the mountain village to be with the woman who renewed his soul and with whom he fell in love.  

    Fade out on happy, smiling (ghostly) Yuanjia and Moon.

    So, a dramatic story, insanely good martial arts, compelling historical events, and characters who grow and change - all hallmarks of a good film.  And indeed, "Fearless" is considered to be a strong contender for one of the top ten martial arts films ever made.

    The problem is, not a lot of it is true.  Which was not really a problem for me, but was apparently for the family of Yuanjia who sued the filmmakers after the film was released.

    fearlessA lot of Yuanjia's history detailed in this film is just false.  He wasn't middle class, his family was never murdered (just ask his direct descendants) sending him on a sojourn of personal crises, and some of the sequence's of how the Sports Club were established were just a product of the writers' (two of them) imagination.  There was no soul-searching sojourn and no beautiful, blind woman who restored his spirits.  Yuanjia's death was somewhat mysterious but it didn't happen at a bout like the one in the film and there was only rumor that the Japanese had anything to do with it.  Yuanjia suffered from childhood illnesses (in the movie it's severe asthma) - it's likely that that had something to do with his death, and not some surreptitiously substituted poisoned tea.  Also, some of the fights with Western opponents just never happened for one reason or another, and there is no way that Yuanjia fought four opponents at one time for all the marbles.

    Of course, not knowing the history behind this seminal character, I bought into all of it without reservation.  But I guess it would be like someone writing a history of an inspirational American athlete like Jesse Owen and making him white and from the Hamptons.  If accuracy is a determiner then this films fails.  If spirit is the goal then this film is certainly successful and inspirational and tells a tale of the times when China rose from a country-wide malaise to become a superpower when superpowers were measured not by nukes but by people and national pride. 

    "Fearless" is a solid and entertaining film.  If you compare it to most martial arts films, it shines above most.  A few like "Ip Man" made years after and considered to be in that small club of important martial arts films, also stand out as being about something more than fighting and surely were inspired by this movie.  Through martial arts, these men (and women) find pursuits and goals beyond themselves, putting aside their egos and fighting for a reason beyond that ego.  That's a great story to tell and one that is uniquely Asian (although the idea of inspirational athletes certainly is not.)

    Jet Li is a marvel to watch in this and other of his films and is and has been a major star for decades.  My only hope is that he continues to display his enormous skills on screen and doesn't seriously retire.  He has been seen in several Chinese action films and, if course, "The Expendable" series but perhaps nothing in the depth (martial arts-wise) of "Fearless" since he made it.. 

    Li's vast filmography is available everywhere including this film on Netflix streaming.  

    For an extra, special treat check out the promotional video of the Beijing Wushu Team on Wikipedia - you can see where all that skill and mastery that Li displays in all of his films came from.  HERE


    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 09:16

    Yes, Madam: Yeoh and Rothrock

    Written by

    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.  

    I found out first hand what a rabid fan base Rothrock has.  One of the films I wrote, "Fast Getaway II" features Rothrock in a bad girl role that continues from the first Fast Getaway film.  The film company wanted to feature other actors so I wrote her part to reflect that.  The film is fun and actioney but Rothrock's fans took me to task for leaving her in a hotel room for a great portion of the film; although she did have a martial arts fight with her lover in the room in their underwear - that should count for something, right?  See the clip HERE.

    Yeoh and Rothrock are inspired casting.  Before "Lethal Weapon" these two characters were the Riggs and Murtaugh of Asia.  One blond, one dark haired; one Asian, one Caucasian; both with differing approaches to police work.  Rothrock's character prefers beating confessions out of suspects while Yeoh "Madam" is a kindler, gentler police woman.  According to Wikipedia, the producers were looking for an actor to play opposite Yeoh but wanted a male martial artist.  They contacted a demonstration team that included Rothrock and were so impressed by her stunning forms (and form!)  they hired her, changed the role, and the rest is Hong Kong film history.

    Their styles, martial arts-wise, were also different with Rothrock's power and precision being her hallmark and Yeoh's lithe grace showing her dancing and acrobatics skills.  Although neither at the time was necessarily a martial arts expert, both had mad skills that made their physical acting wholly believable.  Both have continued their training since this movie and I wouldn't want to face either in a ring.

    Hong Kong films like this, with female leads in action roles, are truly ground-breaking.  Western filmmakers didn't dip into this well of physical talent often enough in the 70's and 80's.  You had your Ripleys ("Alien") and your Princess Leias ("Star Wars") and the occasional "B" movie that featured the revenge-oriented girl or perhaps a black widow, but it was rare indeed to see women this gorgeous and this talented in martial skills on any screen in any venue.

    The flexibility in Hong Kong filmmaking is something to be admired and still lacking in our Western world.  To cast two waifish, beautiful women in traditionally male roles would have been unthinkable; and, for the most part, still is.  Name a female action star of Yeoh or Rothrock's stature - you really can't without starting with these two who have been reflecting those roles since the early 80's.

    This film shows a lot of what made Hong Kong moviemaking such a force.  Even though there are a lot of jokey fight scenes, they are brilliantly choreographed.   sammo hung jackie chanOne in particular in a tiny apartment shows the ingenuity of the filmmakers utilizing simply everything they could to create some awesome moments.  I'm always so impressed with these men and women who not only create these scenes but who have to act in them.  They are backbreaking at times and I can well imagine that a good medic on set is a necessity as the stunt men and women hurl themselves into space to land on objects that have no yield.  If you've ever watched a Jackie Chan film and stayed through the end credits, you can see outtakes of poor Jackie missing things, falling wrong, and even occasionally breaking a bone as he, like the industry he helped grow, lands on unbendable objects to entertain us.

    Although "Yes, Madam" launched seven other "In The Line Of Duty" films (two more with Yeoh) I'd love to see Rothrock and Yeoh revisits these roles today.  Everything else is being rebooted - this would be a great one to re-imagine. with these two reprising their roles years later.  Perhaps this time on American soil.  But please have Sammo Hung involved since he seems to be the glue that holds a lot of these funny actioners together.

    Women in martial arts films has opened the door to women in MMA these days.  Lisa King (the Black Widow) fights real bouts with other tough women.  There is no doubt that without the influence of these films, female fighters wouldn't exist.  Attitudes were changed, options explored because women like Yeoh and Rothrock showed that they were capable of holding their own, at least on the screen, with the bad boys of martial arts.  Like scifi films that inspired young men and women to become scientists and then go on to make real the wonders they had read about and saw, imagining female fighters on screen has led to them becoming real in the ring.

    I had to special order "Yes, Madam" from a vendor on Ebay - it's not widely available.  But with over a hundred films between them, Yeoh and Rothrock are everywhere to be found.  In fact, Amazon has tons of free offerings for all Hong Kong films if you have Amazon Prime.  But even if not, $1.99-$2.99 is cheap to experience these wonderful examples of a genre of film that we, as Americans, still don't do well - the exception, perhaps, being "Rush Hour (the first one.) 

    Here is a link to the ending fight scene in "Yes, Madam" which just leaves you breathless!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz-4WIFhA6U - it was almost thirty years ago and still nothing like it has been seen on American cinema screens.  

    Simply amazing.


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