All posts by Kent Hill

“I was just on my way out!” Remembering Voyage of the Rock Aliens with Michael Berryman by Kent Hill

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For those who were there…we can all remember a time when cynicism was nowhere to be found regarding our cinematic adventuring. Even during the age which saw the birth of the event picture; there were still fertile grounds from which material, attempting to ride the coattails of popular genre could grow into something that was more an mere homage. Indeed, it may very well have been just another amalgam of concepts, already witnessed by inquisitive travelers on the beaten track; the low-budget, video store self-fillers that are now, in some cases lost to history. Still, these movies were crafted with charm, professionalism and good intentions. No one sets out to make a bad movie, and the giants of the industry, no matter their field of expertise, all played in the same sandbox at one time or another – a pit rich with invention, ripe with interpretation and deep with heart.

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So we come to the splendid curiosity which is: Voyage of the Rock Aliens – which is at once a musical, comedy, adventure, romance which doesn’t scrimp on the flavors you know and love when it blitzes together, forming a cocktail of joyous absurdity.

In brief: A group of music loving aliens are traveling through the galaxy, exploring and researching different forms of life and rock ‘n’ roll. After their on-board A.I. robot companion, 1359 (voiced by none other than Peter Cullin) chills out to a music video, featuring one of the film’s main theme songs featuring star Pia Zadora and a character named Rain, played by Jermaine Jackson, who take on a band of biker-nun looking cats, only to end with Zadora leaving Jackson in the dust as she takes off on the horse she rode in on. (This completely bizarre segue almost gives the entire plot of the film away, but, since you probably haven’t seen it…you’re safe.)

The aliens decide to focus their attention on the planet Earth. Soon after entering our world they meet Dee Dee (Zadora) and her boyfriend Frankie (Nightbreed’s Craig Sheffer) and his band, The Pack. These cats are gang-bangers from the eighties trapped stylistically in the fifties, and there is no shortage of that era’s nostalgia which seems to blend easily with the techno-pop styling of the Rock Aliens…?

Mysteriously it all turns out well. Frankie doesn’t want his band singing without him, so it is odd that we never get to see how devastating a musical talent Frankie actually is “with” the band. He does however manage to snag  himself a solo, show-stopping number which shows us how much Frankie identifies with big cats (specifically a panther) – but I won’t spoil that one.

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It is a wild old tale, with all the talent and experience you could want both in front and behind the camera. For a film buried so deep in the 80’s VHS jungle, VOTRA had some impressive people working on it, for instance Director James Fargo had directed everyone from Chuck Norris (Forced Vengeance) to Clint Eastwood (Every which way but Loose); Gilbert Taylor was the director of photography on Star Wars and the film’s editor Malcolm Campbell worked with John Landis at the height of his powers. Yes everyone from Oscar winners (Ruth Gordon)  to horror film icons. That’s right, horror icons. The film stars the man who knows that the hills have eyes, Michael Berryman, as an escaping inmate from the Speelburgh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Simply known as Chainsaw, Berryman is an amazing screen presence with comedy, terror and a beautiful moment of tenderness at his command.

OKAY! So, if I haven’t tantalized your taste buds sufficiently to want to go and check this baby out, we have Chainsaw himself, Michael Berryman, who kindly offered me a fistful of remembrances of a movie I believe should be a cinematic audience sing-along spectacular of Rocky Horror proportions.

Some will look upon Rock Aliens as everything that was wrong with the eighties. But, instead of counting cinema sins why not, I challenge you, to embrace the warmth by the vintage hearth in which burns this vibrant flame, the quintessence of what our innocent youth saw as an excellent adventure…well before the music of Wyld Stallyns aligned the planets in universal harmony.

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KH: First allow me to thank you sir. It is gracious indeed for such an iconic performer of your calibre to grant us your time.

MB: A pleasure…

KH: So, you were once an inmate at the SPEELBERGH STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE?

MB: Yes, I was a patient at Speelbergh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  I had been a wood-cutter and chainsaw expert for many years before this film. Nobody knew this until I spoke up when I am to saw around one of the aliens. There was a 4×8 sheet of sheetrock between me and the other actor. He was to stand still while a real chainsaw cut around him.  I was asked to perform this feet. I refused. I told my director that if the actor moved, he could be fatally harmed. I asked that we use a green screen. The actor was ok with a chainsaw cutting around him through plasterboard. No way was I going to do this. So, they had a grip/prop manager do the sawing. Now I watched as he assembled a 4 cubic inch chainsaw and as he prepared to start the engine, I told him: ‘Do not pull the lanyard. If you do, the chain will jump from the bar, wrap around your wrist and sever your hand…you have put the chain on backwards!’ He then asked me to fix this mess. I secured the chain and wished him good luck as I walked over to the camera to witness an amazingly dangerous stunt. It was successful and we moved on.

KH: If you can recall, what did you think of Edward Gold’s script when you first read it?

MB: Edward Gold wrote a script that was, in my observation, a straight forward comedy/musical. I read it and found the references to E.T. and such to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor. This film was designed to entertain, help you laugh, and the entire family could enjoy a great experience.

KH: You were just on your way out. I have had the privilege of having a former co-star of yours as a guest, Vernon Wells. When I spoke to Vernon, we talked about how (for a time) he hated the fact that he was type-cast. When Voyage of the Rock Aliens came along and you were tapped for the role of Chainsaw, were you content to play the part knowing you were perhaps cast as Vernon had been to be merely an incarnation of former characters?

MB: I was unaware of Vernon’s type casting…however, since I was in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, it seemed to fit that I play Chainsaw. I found it to be fun.

KH: You pass beneath the window of Academy Award winner Ruth Gordon after a Schwarzenegger Commando-style shopping spree for guns and grenades and such with Wallace Merck’s Breather, did you get to meet or chill out with Ms. Gordon or any other members of the eclectic cast?

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MB: I found Ruth Gordon to be an honest and total professional actor. She had the moxy that she was known for. It was sweet to watch her as our sheriff.

KH: Tell us about your battle with the Lake Creature?

MB: The battle with the Lake creature was simple, as I had to cut his tip off and then bubbles emerged…sweet and child-like.

KH: In the midst of the music and mayhem, you have a rather poignant and touching scene with Alison La Placa’s Diane in which she helps you fix your beloved chainsaw. It is capped with a moment of smouldering intensity on your behalf when you say, “For me,” allowing her to be the one to fire up the chainsaw following her service?

MB: Alison was a delight to work with during that scene…we had a sweet time with it. Chainsaw moved on and he leaves his ‘Excalibur’ behind! The passage through the portal expressed a positive exchange with her character and mine. We both made the decision to have her fire up the saw and discover a new beginning for us both. She was joy to work with.

KH: Do you think Diane and Chainsaw lived happily ever after, there relationship evolved after the two of you went for that walk?

MB: Of course, Chainsaw and Diane lived happily…forever!!       

KH: If you have any fond remembrances of tales from production, what would they be?

MB: One day we were at Stone Mountain. Pia’s husband arrived in a Bentley and had her try on 2 different mink stoles…some people mumbled about this but I saw her and him to be in an honest exchange…it was no one’s business but their’s. I found Pia to be a true professional and hard worker. She had no attitude or ego to complicate the day’s work. I was pleased to watch her performance. The shoot was a delight in every way.

KH: Thank you Mr. Berryman. From this fan of yours and the gloriously, toe-tapping, insane splendour that is Voyage of the Rock Aliens…I thank you again.

MB: Kent…Great memories! …Stay safe.

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The Cinema of Solimon by Kent Hill

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There is a filmmaker working in Hollywood right now, who is out to show the big boys that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movies you want to make.Shahin Sean Solimon is the man behind the movement. Together with his talented group of like-minded artists, he is forging new waves to achieve epic results without the big budget price tag.

“If I inspire some thirteen year old kid somewhere to pursue his or her dreams as I have, no matter what the nay-sayers say, I’ve done my job.”

And getting the job done is exactly what Shahin has been doing.  Beginning with his first feature Djinn, Based on ancient middle eastern fairy tales written thousands of years ago, and passed down from generation to generation, Shahin crafted luscious, fantastical realms along with a pure and moving tale love and destiny.

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With his second film he took it to the next level, conjuring the days of high adventure and summoning cinema which brings to mind the heady days of Ray Harryhausen with: Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. When the Sultan’s first born is taken by an evil sorcerer, Sinbad is tasked with traveling to a desert of magic and creatures to save her. Add into this the talents of Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation), who offered his distinct vocal styling as the films narrator.

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Now, for the next big thing. In his third feature Nebulous Dark, Shahin is tackling the sci-fi and post-apocalyptic genres with one mighty stroke. It is yet another epic waiting in the wings from Solimon, who used the production, not just to make an awesome movie, but to continue to hone and harsness the ever-growing cache of cinematic artistry he has at his disposal.

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There seems to be no end to his creativity or his ability to realize his visions. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with this talented filmmaker who is, without a doubt, taking the bull by the horns and making the movies he wants to make.

“My inspiration as an artist is not about money, or fame…but about trying to project imagination, show a different perspective of life, and simply entertain.”

And entertaining us is what he has done and will, I believe, continue to do.

for more on the Cinema of Solimon, follow this link:

https://shahin-sean-solimon.com/

SYLVAIN DESPRETZ: Los Ángeles by Kent Hill

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I don’t profess to be anything except a guy who really loves his movies. So I was, needless to say, humbled when Sylvain Despretz, illustrator extraordinaire and Hollywood veteran, asked for my opinion on his new book Los Ángeles .

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The thoughts (abridged) I rendered unto him are as follows:

“Right off the bat I concede we have a very similar taste in movies, beginning on the opening page where you count James Mason among your idols. You have a free-flowing narrative style here – mixed in with a little distain for certain elements of ‘The Industry’. Yet there, embedded in your frankness, and if you know the lyrics to Billy Joel’s Piano Man, you strike me in predicament alone, to be like John the bartender; sure that he could be a movie star . . . if he could get out of this place.

So in that I feel your journey is unique – in the sense that you have been surrounded by the business, yet are melancholic, purely because you are no different than any other kid who wanted to run off and join the circus – you longed to be a lion tamer – you wanted to be a director.

Still I can’t wait to see this all come together. As I read your words I heard your voice and am reminded of great quotes from the towers of their fields from days past. Well, two in particular. One I heard Peter Guber say: “Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.” And the other comes from Harrison Ellenshaw,  “Shakespeare never had a word processor . . . and now we word processors we have no Shakespeare’s.” Your life is extraordinary and the tapestry upon which your weave this tale is rich in texture and bold in attack.”

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Los Ángeles is a book that is much about one man’s love of cinema as it is his adventures in the screen trade. It might get personal, and it does…in the best sense. This separates it from the generic ‘greatest hits’ compilations which would merely be satisfied showing you only the art from the films and pictures of the movie masters Sylvain has been privileged to rub shoulders with.

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But this is not a film book. It’s about art, life, and loving movies so deeply you feel them at the source of everything that inspires one to create. Sylvain and I always have the most engaging and complex conversations, which are always nice to have with like-minded cineastes, especially when we share a similar perspective on what great films are and how they touch us.

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Life like cinema is about a series of moments. We all know the films we like, still, when asked, we find ourselves recounting the scenes which really spoke to us. Robert Altman once told his wife about his first viewing on David Lean’s A Brief Encounter. She recalled that, though Altman was initially just casually watching the movie, by the end, he had fallen in love with the films leading lady, Celia Johnson, and was utterly moved by the story unfurled.

Thus is the power of cinema, and the heart of Sylvain Despretz’s Los Ángeles.

As it has been written, so has it been done.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON Los Ángeles, VISIT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE HERE:

https://caurette.com/?fbclid=IwAR1Y5EdeVzKGdCZ1o2G-VExxykJR8ejEgEuphdnMHYkBiS7Frk2CbVHT5J8

“LET THE GIRL GO!” (PART 2): Remembering King of the Kickboxers with SHERRIE ROSE by Kent Hill

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The whole story of how I came to love King of the Kickboxers is something I am still working on. But what will say here dear reader is that I have of late been afforded greater insight into the making of the movie than I had ever hoped to obtain. For behind each of these movies are multitudes of individual artists and craftspeople that in many ways go to war to bring the images that we finally witness to the screen.

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I first contacted participating members of the Seasonal Film family when compiling my anthology Conquest of the Planet of the Tapes. Now most folks aren’t unaware of the Seasonal catalogue, but it has its place in cinema history – the golden age of the martial arts/action movie. One of the main players involved was a gentleman named Keith W. Strandberg who served as writer and producer on the films which began with the movie that brought Jean-Claude Van Damme into public consciousness: No Retreat, No Surrender.

In time, two films would continue the NRNS series in the form of Raging Thunder and Blood Brothers. In acknowledging these I sought the participation of martial arts legend Keith Vitali (star of Blood Brothers & Superfights) and Loren Avedon. Loren has close to a three decade long career as a martial artist and is a 5th Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do and 8th Dan black belt in Hap Ki Do. He received his big break when he was contacted by producer Roy Horan about a three picture deal with Seasonal. Aside from the NRNS series he would also star in the film King of the Kickboxers.

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Now I must be careful here not to go ballistic and write the whole story, however, once upon a time I found myself on an 18 day bus trip through the wilds of Indonesia. It was clear from the first day we had been royally screwed by the company who was coordinating the adventure and so we spent a majority of the trip on the bus. There were three video tapes on that bus to help pass the time. One was Speed, the second was Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, and the third was a film called King of the Kickboxers. It was fun, funny and had awesome fight sequences. Needless to say it quickly became the default movie on the bus and during the course of those 18 days I saw it many, many times.

So what is it about King of the Kicboxers that is, to me, so enduring? I suppose one could say that it was because of all the Hong Kong actioners and television (MONKEY every afternoon) I saw as a kid. KOTK, as with all the Seasonal productions, were among the first western audience films to employ the eastern style of filmmaking. Sure the reason for this is that they were co-productions and had American and international performers, but the way in which the productions were carried out and the methods employed during filming were right out pages of the eastern action movie play book. I guess the short answer is I just have a tremendous affection for straight to video movies like this. They came thick and fast once upon a time; lots of junk. Amongst all that product thought there were gems to be found. This was one such precious stone.

I recommend you take a look at KOTK before listening to the above interview, as I believe it will give you a better insight. But if you are already a fan of all films Seasonal and are like me, a devotee of KOTK, then press play above and listen along as the star of the show takes us behind the scenes of a movie that may have been forced upon me initially, but which now I watch over and over with both a warmth nostalgia and ever-increasing fondness.

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I was delighted to finally get in touch with Molly, the beautiful and multi-talented Sherrie Rose (who also appeared with Keith Vitali in NRNS 3: BLOOD BROTHERS), this time round to find out what filming the movie I find most glorious was like from the perspective of the girl Jake so adamantly insisted Khan LET GOOOOOOOOOOO!

I CARE, JACKSON!

SHERRIE ROSE

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She has starred in over 60 films and television shows and is best known for her starring role in the feature film Me and Will (1999) opposite Patrick Dempsey and showcasing the talents of Keanu Reeves and Seymour Cassel which she also co-produced, directed and wrote. The feature opened The Women in Film series for Sundance.

She has been involved with the creation, writing and development of 100’s projects from conception to distribution and accomplished the unprecedented feat of writing, directing, producing and starring in her own film and has sold numerous scripts as a writer and has been published in magazines and books.

She has a camaraderie with actors and directors which has allowed her to hire and work with such incredible talents as Jada Pinkett Smith and Billy Zane who acted with her in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), Mickey Rourke in the feature Out in Fifty (1999) that she co-produced, Jonathan Kaplan from The Accused (1988) with Jodie Foster that she acted in the feature _Unlawful Entry (1992)_ qv with fellow actor Ray Liotta and Michael Bay from Transformers (2007) that she worked with on commercials and music videos. She was entered for an Emmy Nomination for her role in the television series Tales from the Crypt (1989) opposite Yul Vazquez from Magic City (2012) that William Friedkin, from The Exorcist (1973) directed her in.

She appeared in such hit show’s as the pilot episode of FX’s, Sons of Anarchy (2008) opposite Charlie Hunnam and Married… with Children (1987) with Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal and Miami Vice (1984).

She is an activist working with IFAW and other non-profit organizations concentrating on children, animals and the environment. She lives on a ranch with her son and their rescue animals.

HULK SMASH HUMOR: Lou Ferrigno & PERPS by Kent Hill

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Having had the good fortune of sampling the cinema of Tamas Nadas before, I found myself eagerly anticipating this little gem, PERPS; a fun-size belly laugh to shatter the silence of our isolation, during these pandemic days.

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It’s like a story you hear second-hand from a buddy around the water-cooler, a night of misadventures involving movies, marijuana and assorted scallywag behaviour. Now, I’ve been to the movies and gotten baked in the wake more than once, but, I never had me a buddy so in tune with the warrior ways as Mr. Nadas, and I’ve never had to talk my way out of the back of a cop car with a mentally degenerating officer at the wheel whose girl, it turns out, was stolen from him by none other than Lou Ferrigno, The Incredible Hulk or the mighty Hercules – whichever way your tastes run.

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That’s right ladies and gents, Lou Ferrigno is in this movie, HULK-SMASHING his way onto the stage with all the ferocity and presence that saw him become everything from Mr. Universe to the son of Zeus.

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Delighted I was to be gifted the opportunity to a fistful of questions to the mighty Ferrigno:

KH:  As a king of memorable cameos from Sharknado to HULK, what attracted you to walk on as yourself in PERPS?

LF: The storyline…and how no one messes with Lou Ferrigno.

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KH:  Tamas Nadas is a former guest, a great gentleman, talented filmmaker and martial artist; the production of this little gem must have been a blast?

LF: Tamas is great. He very easy to work with, and creates a freewheeling work environment with a fantastic attitude to exploring ideas whilst filming. If PERPS eventually became a series I would love to be involved.  Viewers will appreciate the comedic timing among the actors in this in this fine short film which wears entertaining its audience like one might wear their heart of their sleeve.

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KH:  COVID-19 has reshaped the world and will continue to do so in its wake; as an industry veteran, how do you see the future of production large and small on the other side?

LF: This virus has forced us to be more careful, bring more unity back into our lives and we will be able to move forward by simply being positive and lending support and attention to those areas this pandemic has found our way of life wanting.

KH:  I have saved a couple of questions for selfish reasons…because it’s not every day I get to ask the legendary Lou Ferrigno anything for that matter. I’ve always wanted to ask what filming Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules movies were like?

LF: Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules films were a blast. He brought out the best in the Hercules myth and character for me to portray. I have many fond and vivid memories of filming scenes among ancient ruins which made my job easier because I felt like I was there.

KH: Finally…I love Sinbad of the Seven Seas. You have a scene in the film where you convince the snakes in the dungeon to let you use them to tie together as a rope to escape… It’s a moment that lingers in my mind when I think of the movie; do you have any recollections of the moment or from making the picture in general?

LF: I loved doing a different version of Sinbad, and I always wanted to work with the director Enzo Castellari who shared my love for showing a comedic side to the legendary sailor.

KH: Thank you Lou, keep standing tall, stay safe, God bless.

LF: You too, Kent….stay safe.

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PERPS is out on YouTube now, starring the legend Lou Ferrigno (INSTANT DEATH, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) and martial artist Tamas Nadas (MILLENNIUM BUGS).

Before launching on YouTube, Alejandro Montoya Marin’s PERPS debuted at the Santa Fe Film Festival on February 16th, 2020 and won the best New Mexico film award.

With COVID-19 keeping everyone locked in, people need a tasty laugh, and it worked. Among the many highlights is a cheerful montage that makes the viewer laugh and fall off the chair.

Why is laughter the real medicine we need in times like these…?

PERPS is your answer…

“Have you ever heard of Ninjutsu, sir?”: An Interview with Sam Firstenberg by Kent Hill

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This book is a great achievement for the action film genre!
Isaac Florentine (Director, Undisputed 2)

The heart of the die-hard, ninja movie addict in me skipped a beat when I received word that I would be sitting down for a chat with the Godfather of the genre, Sam Firstenberg.

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Marco Siedelmann & Sam have compiled what I feel is a kind of splendid maelstrom of biography meets chronological history meets retrospective documentary the size of the phone books from the days of yore. To read it is to be immersed in warm, gooey, Cannon goodness. The question put simply…how can you resist?

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Indeed any resistance is futile when it comes to this true completest’s tome of not merely Firstenberg’s exciting, excessively driven, and beautifully enigmatic cinematic career, but it also runs side by side with accounts from the stars, the stunt men as well as many of his peers and collaborators.

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Sam Firstenberg is mostly recognized as one Cannon’s most important in-house directors during their outrageously successful heyday of the 1980’s. The journey of this interview collection starts even before he made his way to direct box office hits just like REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, BREAKIN’ II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, and AMERICAN NINJA, amongst others.

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The conversations in the book shed light on his origins and influences, including childhood memories, private biographical chapters, his years as a film student in Los Angeles, and his early work as an assistant director and technician for people like Menahem Golan, Charles Band, Ephraim Kishon, Boaz Davidson, and many more. The interviews are not chronological, but focus on every career-step, just as well as on every single movie Firstenberg ever directed until his retirement in 2002.

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His memories about all the projects he was involved in are packed with adventurous stories about ninjas and breakdancers, about directing action entertainment in exotic countries, and about working with numerous movie stars, among them Michael Dudikoff, Eric Roberts, John-Rhys Davies, Hulk Hogan, Grace Jones, Nick Cassavetes, Zachi Noy, Richard Roundtree, Steve James, Sho Kosugi, and many more.

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STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES is also a book about the early film industry in Israel, the Hollywood star system and the no longer existing mid-budget movies. It’s about the home video boom, about the ascension and the decline of Cannon, but it also discusses the rules and traditions of the industry. Other topics are the practical way a film was put together in that era, the technical changes through the years, the different film market situation compared to nowadays – and last, but not least, it’s an inside story about the early years of Nu Image and how Avi Lerner’s companies Nu Image and Millennium continued the spirit of Cannon, but under different circumstances and times.

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In the Trenches: Adventures in making high octane Hollywood movies with Cannon veteran Sam Firstenberg, is about the war all filmmakers fight, trying to bring about the seemingly impossible and mysterious aligning of the planets of both art and commerce that have created one of mankind’s contributions to the universe…the movies. Or in Sam’s case…ninja movies.

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The movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see by Kent Hill

Controversy sells right; the more shocking, obscene, the more worthy of the front page? Yet, when it comes to movies, people, it seems, are well defined in relation to their tastes. There are those with high-brows, that believe a spoonful of Marvel ain’t  gonna make the medicine go down – and nothing short of complete cinematic opulence will cut the mustard.

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Rene Perez makes B-movies. He makes no bones about it. But, that doesn’t mean his stories lack the depth of a celebrated filmmaker’s voice that many cineastes would site with greater reverence. Yes, his politics does hog a large portion of the spotlight in The Insurrection (see my review here), but it always shares the stage with his love and inquisitive nature with regards to character and the human condition. He is a storyteller intrigued by the grandest conflict, which is the one inside us all.

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The Insurrection is presently available all over the world via Vimeo, so there is no excuse not to see it. Unlike even the worst entries in his filmography, and as he has personally stated, The Insurrection has failed to find a distributor. One can almost hear the distant echo, carried on the thermals out of the heart of the now silent Dream Factory calling, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!” However, when you are such a self-sufficient artist, as is Mr. Perez, you are endowed with the ability to transcend barriers of the style and genre applied to the tale you are piecing together with pictures…and actually say something.

Here with writer/producer/director/editor/composer/cinematographer Rene Perez and his astonishingly talented, beautiful and charismatically magnetic leading lady, Wilma Elles, we look a little deeper at the film Hollywood might not want you to see…but you should.

THE INSURRECTION IS AVAILABLE NOW!!!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW…

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IT’S ALSO AVAILABLE ON AMAZON FOR VIEWERS IN THE USA!!!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW…

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The Return of Director Richard Stanley: A Conversation on Color & Cage with Kent Hill

Right off the bat, I really wanted to give you a cool video interview. But, sadly, the bandwidth was being powered by a couple of mice on tiny treadmills. Everything looked fine. Skype said it was recording, the image was good.

Skip ahead to the next day. I saved the file, I opened it, I’m watching it and . . . damn! Not only did the picture freeze but the sound stopped recording. Luckily for both of us, I had my trusty digital recorder silently working at the same time.

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So fear not. Here is the complete video of my chat with Sir Richard (with the picture freezing part the way through and the sound shifting to my back-up recorder). The last time we talked, and Color was the topic, he threw me a little whistle. The whistle said the film was a go . . . but they were waiting. Who were they waiting for dear listener? Not for the second coming, Guffman or Godot. They were waiting on Cage. NICOLAS CAGE!

When the news of this broke I was like an alcoholic left unsupervised, tending the bar. It was an actor/director combination born on some faraway star. The culmination of two wildly original and esoteric forces of nature, one can scarcely perceive of such a collaboration ever, becoming a reality. Yet here it is, Color out of Space, H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite among his tales (so I have heard). Brought to the screen in an acid-trip-phantasmagoria of a ride into a world of pure nightmarish elegance and sublime terror. Helming this master-work is the man who the trailer even heralds with a title card: “The Return of Director Richard Stanley.” His glorious Malick-like return to the fray pairs Stanley with the apotheosis of a true, renaissance man, Nicolas Cage, in a role that seems almost tailored, not to the wild man or the meme, but to the Academy Award Winner, Nicolas Cage. A performer of greater depth and color, that some will forever deny him the credit of possessing.

With the current crisis and the film’s limited release in some regions, I will not spoil it for those who have not seen it. But, what I will say is the same thing, that has been echoed by my learned colleagues and film-loving friends around the world that have seen it, and that is go see it! It is already available in many territories on Blu-ray and DVD. And, don’t forget it’s streaming away as well. (click on poster below)

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So now, I, Kent Hill am proud to welcome back once again, a man of many colors (and Cage) . . . “The Return of Director Richard Stanley.”

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PAST THE POISON: A Look at Rene Perez’s THE INSURRECTION by Kent Hill

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Right off the bat, I like pictures that make you think. Nicholas Meyer once said that movies have the dreadful propensity of doing it all for you, leaving nothing for later like some greedy kid turned loose in a chocolate factory. In the era where everything old is new again – dusted off, repackaged and marketed to an audience for whom, the first time it was released, isn’t a part of their lexicon – it falls upon us to turn to those filmmakers working outside the mainstream; the place where stories that entertain, provoke thought, and evoke the magnitude of the how insurmountable power and the forces that wield it engulf us…constant willing victims that we are.

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Though Rene Perez (as he once told me) might be near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to cinematic voices in the tempest that is the modern day film industry, to me, he is a tirelessly, self-sufficient auteur. His pictures – while made for the VOD market (not unlike the VHS boom before it) and designed for the casual scroller in search of an evening’s mild amusement – are more than mere formulaic forays in genre.

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With The Insurrection, Perez comes out with all guns blazing, literally, but with the timeliness and the gravitas of the message he is projecting. Michael Paré (Eddie and The Cruisers, The Philadelphia Experiment) is a military veteran. Strong, determined, and not afraid to stand tall in the crossfire, yet burdened by regret for the life and family he neglected while serving in the line of duty. This makes him the ideal candidate as well as the only choice, and hope, for the magnetic Wilma Elles’ (Playing with Dolls: Havoc, The Fourth Horseman) Joan Schafer. More than your garden-variety whistle-blower, she is a part of the grand plan, a loyal servant of the ‘Ruling Class’. After securing Paré’s release from prison, Joan tasks the warhorse to keep her alive long enough to tell all – not just of her own private torment, but primarily of a plan that began long ago…to make slaves of us all. And it is for these bold words – how we are but pawns for the powerful, the hungry masses that heartily sup upon the most potent of elixirs supplied by the small glowing screens we carry in our pocket – that she is now targeted for termination by her former overseers. The first casualty, when war comes, is truth, and because of this truth…she must not be allowed to live.

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Schafer’s truth also encompasses the concept that we, the controlled masses, are victims of the promise, the carrot, dangled by the influential. She presents the fact that, no matter the microcosm of society in which we dwell, whether it be the real world or the one manufactured on that luminous rectangle that hangs before us in the darkened movie theatre – whether it be Romero’s Land of the Dead, Anderson’s Logan’s Run or Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel – the promise our own ivory tower, our place among the Gods, is far too alluring a bait…as opposed to love, family…life’s simple wonders.

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As parallel duels of words and weapons rage, you will be equally gripped the story unfolding as you will by Perez’s dynamic camera and fluid editing. These combine, serving as an absorbing delivery system for a tale of the price those who choose to stand alone against the rising tide of the media-saturated, cynical world that consumes us, ultimately pay. Paré’s steely gladiator projects authority through his silence; a strong accompanist to Elles’ articulate argument relating to how easy it has been, and how easy it still is, for the mighty to suppress any and all beneath them.

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It is a thought-provoking work of intensity and depth that we have before us with The Insurrection. In the tradition of action-thrillers like Peter Hyams’ Narrow Margin and Harold Becker’s Mercy Rising, Perez and his team bring us a splendid declaration of the courage it takes to fight for freedoms we, all too frequently, take for granted.

FOR MORE ON THE CINEMA OF RENE PEREZ VISIT:

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*shirt not included by Kent Hill

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In 1986 Matthias Hues came to Hollywood without a shirt . . . or, little more than the shirt on his back. And it is without a shirt that he has built a career that continues to not only grow, but evolve. Like his predecessors, peers and the now emerging class of action stars, the mantra has really become adapt, or fade away. But really…it has always been that way.

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Shirtless in Hollywood charts its course through the movie world that is at once bright and shining, as well as being dark and loathsome. Matthias has seen the incredible heights and the deep, lonely valleys which await everyone looking to get their hands on a slice of the pie of stardom. Through it all he has remained grounded. Warmed by those whom he trusts, sharpened by those with whom he has shared the screen, and tested by fame and fate at each and every turn.

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Matthias’s book is compelling because it is not merely a tale of the glamorous life of a movie star. Instead it is a very human story for which his memoir’s title carries a double meaning. He came with little but the shirt on his back and then set about forging a career out of his physical gifts, to the point where esteemed action director Craig R. Baxley said, “If anyone is going to take their shirt off, it’s going to be Matthias.”

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He has thrived alongside resident action men like Dolph Lundgren, Ralf Moeller, and Alex Nevsky. He has been mistaken for Fabio and a star of a film he wasn’t even in (Die Hard). He is a real salt-of-the-earth kinda guy, that hasn’t let it all go to his head and hasn’t let it all come crashing down as the cinematic landscape changes.

Matthias is still an imposing figure, and it was a thrill to chat once again with a Hollywood idol who I think is going to have a great resurgence – if indeed the project that he discussed with me gets off the ground.  Still, as much as he has overcome, Hues is man of quiet satisfaction who has found that real paradise does not exist between ‘action’ and ‘cut’. This huge Liam Neeson fan has gifted us all with his incredible tale and take on a business that can chew you up and spit you out . . . but only if you let it.

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Shirt on, or shirt off, I think Matthias Hues is a legend . . . so kick back and join us as we take it all off and dive into the memoir of a grand gentleman of the old school who’ll still tell you, “I come in peace.”

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