Tag Archives: Cliffhanger

SLY KINDA GUY: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEFAN CHAPOVSKIY BY KENT HILL

There have been many a cinematic sensation born out of heart, passion and YouTube.

I think back on films like Sandy Collora’s Batman: Dead End and David Sandberg’s Kung Fury. The doors that opened to these filmmakers responsible for bold and daring exercises in bringing everything they’ve ever wanted to see on the big screen to it…no holds barred!

Now another movie-making warrior has appeared on the horizon. His name, Stefan Chapovskiy with his 80s action opus, WAR GENE. The prospect of such a film receiving a grand treatment, particularly in this era of remakes and reboots, would be a welcome breath of fresh air on top of a blistering, high-octane, action roller-coaster that makes a strong claim to be a smorgasbord of everything that was right, good and true about the action cinema that flourished until Hollywood decided the way ahead would be to stick all of its action heroes in tights.

So, ever curious to shed light on the movers and the shakers in the indie cinema world, I reached out to Stefan, hoping to learn more about the man who kinda looks like Sly, while uncovering a man driven by his passionate need to create and being in possession of the same skill-set that made the man who shares his visage, astronomically successful and a Hollywood staple.

KH: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

SC: Well, I was born in USSR in 1977 (oh God, I feel like a dinosaur now, I mean that was a completely different era). My family lived modestly but mother always tried to give me all she had, first and foremost, a thirst for knowledge, for self-development. I learned to read rather early and liked to draw some characters and scenes from my favorite books. This gave a lot of good material for my imagination and sometimes I wrote my own stories. Later sport also came into my life : swimming, athletics, martial arts(mainly taekwondo) and finally, bodybuilding(I’d like to clarify, I’m 100% natural athlete and don’t use any pharmacologic drugs (anabolic steroids, HGH or something like this). Thus, even today, when I am who I am (former winner of California natural bodybuilding and fitness championships, personal trainer, founder/president of Natural Bodybuilding Federation in Russia, actor, writer, producer, director, world traveler, husband and father) – I work out and read books almost every day. But, as you have probably guessed, there was a third element of my becoming as a creator. I’m talking about movies.

KH: When did you fall in love with movies?

SC: It’s hard to say…I guess everyone, especially at a young age, loves movies. The question is, what kind of emotions do you prefer? For example, I remember my age when I liked a horror movies. But definitely, if we’re talking about «fall in love», my favorite genre is action. No matter, what mix( action + drama , action + adventure/sci-fi/historical/etc.). That’s what motivated me most of all. But if in my childhood, after seeing Spartacus(1960) or 7 Samurai(1954), I was making a swords and fought with the neighbor kids, after seeng Bruce Lee movies I started in martial arts. Finally, one day I saw the movie Rambo 2 and it is not an exaggeration to say that this day completely changed my life : from my start in bodybuilding and military service (for 2 years, so now I am a former sergeant), to film schools in Russia, St. Petersburg and later, USA, Los Angeles.

KH: Were like so many of the cinematic giants of our time and took to making films early?

SC: Actually, no, I made my first project pretty late, when I was 34. But for sure I always felt that desire to create, by any means : painting ( I’m pretty good at it), or writing, photography or music, posing and scene choreography…you know, my coming to film-making was just a matter of time. I’d say I accumulated those preconditions for years.

KH: After film school, tell us about your quest to get yourself and your vision to the big screen?

SC: In my case, film schools were not a determining factor, because I’ve been involved with the acting since my childhood. My mother and uncle had a theater education, so I’ve acted on stage during my school years. Later, since 2001, I started to play in movies but after several years of playing stereotype characters(gangsters or bodyguards, because of my emphasized bodybuilding image in those years), I realized that I want to progress further. As I said before, I started thinking about my own projects. And idea of the War Gene movie it’s something where I can embody all my best skills : as a writer, actor, director, concept-artist, etc. But most importantly, this project is the greatest opportunity to express my love, my passion to the 80’s action movies that created me.

KH: WAR GENE is an impressive exercise in genre mash-up…was that what it was always intended to be?

SC: Yes, that was a part of my strategy. The thing is, I wrote the War Gene synopsis a while ago, in 2017 and later, a full screenplay (actually I still re-writing some details but story line is completed). But after new experience during my visit to American Film Market, I realized that promo-trailer it’s a good way to show much more about your project and get some feed back faster. Moreover that is a perfect challenge for every aspiring director. Another temptation that finally convinced me to start the War Gene independent production was an understanding that I can, literally, go back to my favorite 80’s, but this time as a film character, not as a viewer. At the same time I expected that it will not be easy (even for experienced director) to reveal the all lines of War Gene story ( just imagine the elements : a war drama, psychological thriller, an action, sci-fi and adventure, several time lines : 1984 and the 60’s, Vietnam War – and all of this under the old school style cover, some sort of tribute to the 80’s epic movies. Add to that the necessity to meet several minutes length and very small budget, so …finally I decided to increase the duration. That’s why, as you can see now, War Gene has two different, in its structure, parts (except for an intro) – the first one looks more like a movie and the second is a classic trailer. According to my director’s vision, this way allows to immerse into the film atmosphere firstly, and then to see the all its genre diversity.

KH: Tell us about the film’s journey from your mind to the film the world can now see?

SC: Hmmm, it’s a long story… Well, I have to start with the main point – my initial motivation. As you can see from my previous answers, since my teenage years I was inspired by Hollywood action movie characters(as well as probably every guy of my generation). I have to say I grew up without a father but fortunately I found someone who has taken his place and became a role model for me for a long years.I’m talking about Sylvester Stallone and his characters, especially John Rambo. By a strange coincidence, when I got older, I started to look him, partly because of my gym workouts. When I came to USA I was surprised that many people told me about it. And for sure, I used it in my performances – as a bodybuilder, then as an actor on stage. Since 2010 I’ve been focused on idea to make a First Blood prequel, about the early years of John Rambo. I was lucky to meet Sly Stallone himself a few times, contacted to Millennium Films producers and even made(as director, producer and actor) a fan-art trailer Rambo 5 : The Beginning that reached over 7.5 million views on YouTube. Finally I was invited on the set of Rambo 5 that I consider some kind of the top of this story. But at that moment I realized that I can’t pursue that dream all my life…I became older and wiser. On the other hand I was (and still am) a “pure product” of the 80’s movies, its legacy. So I started to create my own project, using all my specific experience and skills. I wrote a new, original story and obtained copyright. Here is a log-line :

“1984, a team of rangers on a punitive expedition in Colombia jungle gets abducted by aliens. During the experiment, conducted on the space station, humans are forced to pass deadly tests, competing with warriors from other worlds. “

It was an idea to combine some typical elements of the 80’s action and sci-fi movies but in the new mix. So, in 2018 I started pre-production of the War Gene short movie. I did everything step by step and was learning on the fly. First of all, I calculated a film budget(going forward, I have to say I exceeded it on the stage of post-production because of visual effects). And I was lucky to get support from my old friend Paul from Florida with whom we have worked on the set of my fan-art project (Rambo 5 :The Beginning) in 2011. So, I made a storyboard, bought (and made) props and costumes, included some rare things like a real flak vest M69 used in Vietnam War. I assembled cast and crew, chose the locations and studio. And in March of 2019 we filmed it in Florida. It was really exciting for all of us, especially a night jungle scenes. I have to say, Gavin, our cinematographer, did a great job. But most of all I was pleased with that total old school atmosphere of military brotherhood…I’ll never forget it. During 2020 I did post-production in St. Peterburg, using a Russian VFX artists and young talented composer. We worked together long hours and Ruslan were listening all my ideas and music sketches(according to my vision, we tried to reconstruct some music styles of iconic film composers from the 80’s, especially Jerry Goldsmith and Basil Poledouris). As you can see, almost every scene, even very short, has its own music theme and the same time it’s in harmony with the next one. Such a brilliant job for that short independent film.

And a couple of words about an intro. Actually I have in mind just a one intro, inspired by typical for the 80’s dark opening scenes of sci-fi movies like The Thing(1982), Terminator(1984), Running Man (1987), Cyborg (1989), etc. I’d say the making of War Gene intro were the most difficult job, because we used the real (!) scorpion and mantis. By the way, for sure none of them were harmed( despite of the our movie where they both died – scorpion was “killed in action” by mantis and later mantis was crushed by my character, Sergeant Rabek, who suffering from insectophobia, due to the post traumatic stress disorder after his captivity in Vietnam camp in 1969. But finally, I added one more opening scene, from the beginning – I mean a real chronicle compilation from the different military conflicts of the second half of the 20th century (till 1984) : Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon, Rhodesia…I did it for more realistic atmosphere of the Cold War era when the our film takes place. And yes, I fully realized that the first intro(about 30 seconds of documentary)will scary off most of YouTube viewers…but, you know, at this level(short movie) it’s not about some profit…it’s about my director’s vision and creative expression.

KH: Like most indie filmmakers I have encountered, you haven’t let your limitations hamper the final product… Do you think ultimately, that is the key to success in the film industry, being bold?

SC: Success in the film industry…I’d say, success in your own soul much more important. It makes you HAPPY in your life, what could be better? Of course, to be a world-famous filmmaker it’s just great. But, by my opinion, you shouldn’t try to do it because of popularity or financial profit only. For 99% this direction will makes you dissapointed. But if you do it according to your soul, your passion, your creative ambitions – I salute you, this is a way to the happy life. Not for everyone, but for “creators” – it’s undoubtedly.

KH: The scale of your canvas and your ingenuity have seen WAR GENE explode as an inspired beginning to a larger work…is that the trajectory, or do you plan further, smaller films to further develop your craft?

SC: War Gene project is something I have to develop nearest years. My main goal now is to find a suitable production film company and make a feature film. Even 3 years ago, at the American Film Market 2017, during my first presentation of War Gene (at that time as a short synopsis and several concept arts), I attracted interest of several independent film companies. But I took a pause because I’d like to get the larger scale and worthy budget for this movie. Now I have a screenplay and short promo movie/trailer, so we’ll see…I say more, I already have a synopsis of War Gene 2, in case of success with the first part. Thereby, my nearest years is going to be very interesting and productive, I believe. The same time I admit some probability to make a couple of new short movies in War Gene cinematic universe – like I said I have a lot of material as a creator and really happy to work with it.

KH: I’m excited to see where you go next after such an audacious debut… I for one will be looking forward to the next movie you bring to fruition?

SC: Thank you, Kent! By the way, feel free to reach me if James Cameron will call you soon and ask for my contact info 😉 Ok, seriously, I appreciate the opportunity to tell more about my story. I’m always open for a new ideas and proposals. Everyone can contact me on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/stefan.chapovskiy   and Instagram Stefan Chapovskiy (@stefanchapovskiy) . to see what’s new in my life. My big Hello and best wishes to your readers , take care and keep in touch!

The Unsung Hero by Kent Hill

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It is always a delight indeed to sit down with the director of one of my favorite movies. Steve Carver (Big Bad Mama, Lone Wolf McQuade), acclaimed filmmaker and photographic artist extraordinaire has given us all, not only great cinema, but now his first book, Western Portraits: The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen (Edition Olms, 2019). Rendered in evocative tones reminiscent of Edward Sheriff Curtis’s immortal images, the stylized photographs in Western Portraits capture the allure and mystique of the Old West, complete with authentic costuming, weaponry and settings. Among the subjects who posed for the book are the popular actors Karl Malden, David Carradine, R. G. Armstrong, Stefanie Powers, L. Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and 77 others.

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From the epic feature film to the TV series and serial, this coffee table book puts the story of character actors and the significance of their memorable roles into an entertaining perspective. Appealing at once to lovers of classic cinema, Western history aficionados, writers, scholars and collectors of nostalgia and fine art photography, Western Portraits of Great Character Actors: The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen will awaken movie memories in people’s hearts while introducing others to the amazing work of these acting artists, serving as a record of the best of the Hollywood Western.

With collaborators C. Courtney Joyner – a writer whose first major output was a string of more than 25 movie screenplays beginning with The Offspring starring Vincent Price, and Prison directed by Renny Harlin. His novels include the new fantasy-adventure Nemo Rising and the Shotgun Western series, which have both been optioned for television – and Roger Corman – Legendary film director-producer – who contributed the foreword for Western Portraits alongside Joyner’s crafted series of insightful essays to accompany the photographs.

He learnt the art of story-boarding from the great Alfred Hitchcock, he learnt to make pasta with Sergio Leone, and has directed the man we remember as the American Ninja. Steve is so full of stories I hope his next book is definitely an autobiography, but in the meantime we have this glorious work to sit and marvel at. Some of the greatest character actors of all time (that have also been my guests, in the persons of Tim Thomerson and Fred Williamson) take center stage in a book the is the ultimate amalgamation of fine art and Hollywood yesteryear.

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Brooklyn native Steve Carver studied photography at the University of Buffalo and Washington University in St. Louis. He pursued a formal education in film-making at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, also participating in the Directors Guild of America’s apprenticeship program. Prolific motion picture producer Roger Corman hired Carver to direct four movies, including Big Bad Mama. Carver also directed American action star Chuck Norris in An Eye for an Eye and Lone Wolf McQuade.

20,000 Leagues of Cinema and Literature: An Interview with C. Courtney Joyner by Kent Hill

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C. Courtney Joyner is a successful writer/director/novelist. He was a zombie in a Romero movie, he hangs out with L.Q. Jones and Tim Thomerson, he was once roommates with Renny Harlin and made the breakfasts while Harlin got the girls. It makes me think of Steve Coogan’s line from Ruby Sparks, “how do I go back in time and be him.”

Truth is we are the same in many instances. We’re just on different sides of the globe and one of us is in the big leagues while the other is at the scratch and sniff end of the business. But we both love movies and fantastic adventures. We both wrote to the filmmakers we loved long before the director became celebrity. We both longed for more info from behind the scenes – long before such material was in abundance.

He grew up in Pittsburgh, the son of a doctor and a reporter. He came of age in the glory days of monster movies and adventure fiction. Then he headed west and after college it wasn’t long before his writing caught the attention of producers and thus a career was spawned.

Spending those early years working with Charles Band and his company, Empire, Joyner was prolific, and soon the writer became a director. All the while he was working on a dream project, a work we all have in us, that he was fighting to bring into the light.

It was a love of Jules Verne and the “what if” type scenario that gave birth to the early version of the story that would become his current masterwork Nemo Rising; a long-awaited sequel, if you will, to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

His story would go through several incarnations before finally reaching the form into which it has now solidified. Swirling around him were big blockbuster versions which never quite surfaced. Names like Fincher and Singer and stars like Will Smith were linked to these big dollar deals.

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Unfortunately even Joyner’s long-form TV version came close, but didn’t get handed a cigar. So at a friend’s insistence he wrote the book and his publisher, in spite of the property being linked at that time to a screen version that fell apart, agreed to still put the book out.

Thus Joyner’s Nemo has risen and at last we can, for now, revel in it’s existence. I believe it is only a matter of time before it shall acquire enough interest – and the new major playing field – the field of series television may yet be the staging ground for Courtney’s long-suffering tribute to the genius of Verne and the thrilling enigma of a character known as Captain Nemo.

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Long have I waited to chat with him and it was well worth the wait. So, here now I present my interview with the man that director Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers, Robin and Marion, Superman II)  once mistook for a girl that was eagerly interested in film.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . C. Courtney Joyner.

 

The Way of the Samurai Cop: An Interview with Matthew Karedas (Hannon) by Kent Hill

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You’re all familiar with the concept “so bad, it’s good” I’m guessing? If you’re not then I’m here to tell you that there is a thriving sub-genre enjoying the hell out of life just beyond the fringes of your current viewing tastes. Now, some might say that these are the lands where bad films go to die – but I say it is not so. You just have to look a little harder, you have to look with better eyes than the ones in your head that only see the mainstream and everything that floats down it. Remember shit rolls down hill too.

And you’ll be told that films like Space Mutiny, Troll 2 and The Room are only enjoyed by small minded juveniles that still think farts are funny. You’ll be told to stick with the cinema of the Golden Age, heck even the Silver Age – but what ever you do – stay away from the counterfeit Peso Age.

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If these are the voices that dictate your viewing pleasure then you best take off. This story ain’t for you. The cinema of Amir Shervan (top) and Gregory Hatanaka (bottom) is beyond your realm of understanding. For these guys play in the sandbox where bad is beautiful and lunacy equals legendary. These are the men who created the Samurai Cop.

In 1991 a ex-Stallone body guard and a trained New York actor strapped on the guns and a bad wig and took their place in cinema history. The film was Shervan’s tribute, some might say, to the American action film. What he made had bad acting, stilted action, a whole lot of tits, ass and Robert Z’Dar, blended with a mighty helping of stupid courage.

Then – just like that – the film vanished, along with its star.

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Cut to 25 years later and a new filmmaker, inspired by the newly uncovered brilliance of Samurai Cop, decides to get the old band back together and make a sequel. Only problem being . . . the Samurai Cop is missing, presumed dead.

But Matthew Karedas (formerly Hannon) was just chillin’. He’d grown tired of jumping through Hollywood’s hoops and so, he got a real job and took the time to raise his young family. It was one of Matt’s daughters that saw the word on the web of her father’s supposed death and told him he should post word – tell the world the Samurai Cop Lives!

So he did, and the rest dear friends is history. Samurai Cop 2 : Deadly Vengeance was released around the world to adoring fans and took its long-awaited seat beside the awesome original. Nearly all the cast returned, along with some new faces. One genius stroke was the casting of fellow “so bad, it’s good” megastar Tommy Wiseau (The Room). The meeting of Karedas (Hannon) and Wiseau on screen being equaled only by the scene from Michael Mann’s Heat, which saw the powerhouses of Pacino and De Niro square off.

So, kick back with me now as we sit down with the Samurai Cop himself to learn about the past, chat about the future, shoot the breeze on the subjects of bad acting and equally bad wigs . . . and of course hear all about rubbing shoulders with Tommy Wiseau. Ladies and Gentlemen I proudly present . . . Matt Hannon (Karedas), The Samurai Cop.

The Puppet Master: An Interview with Kevin McTurk by Kent Hill

They say in the film business, never work with children or animals. Of course you may find yourself working with dinosaurs, aliens, lions, beast-people, scrunts, kothogas, ghosts, morlocks, Batman, Spiderman, Hellboy, kaijus, wolfmen, clones, cliffhangers, vampires, giant crocodiles, homicidal maniacs, killer sheep, Predators, cowboys and mysterious brides out to Kill Bill.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But that’s just some of the astounding creations and magnificent beasts that Kevin McTurk has encountered in his eclectic career in the realms of special effects.

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Working under the banners of legends like Stan Winston, Jim Henson and the new titans like Weta Workshop, Kevin has had his hand in erecting and simulating everything from the real world as he has from empires extraordinary. And, while I could have spent the entirety of our chat talking about his adventures working on the countless films, which are favourites of mine, he has in his CV, his impressive effects background is only part of the story.

For Kevin McTurk is a bold and visionary filmmaker in his own right. His puppet films, The Narrative of Victor Karloch, The Mill at Calder’s End and now The (forthcoming) Haunted Swordsman are exercises in capturing a style from a bygone era with modern filmmaking techniques. The results are beautiful, not only in their aesthetic quality, but in the level of excellence from the many different disciplines on display.

There is still time for you to join Kevin in his latest cinematic offering (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935772123/the-haunted-swordsman-a-ghost-story-puppet-film), and to listen in now to the man himself talk about his movies, influences and career.

I give you the talented Mr. McTurk.

Visit Kevin’s website for more: http://www.thespiritcabinet.com/

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Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger: A Review by Nate Hill

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Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger is to this day one the best and most exhilarating action films of the 1990’s. It’s big, bold and full of protein for lovers oft the genre. From the lively villain to the unbelievable stunts to the set pieces, it’s a tough package to beat. A stunning, vertigo inducing opener set high atop a snowy peak that ends in tragedy. A breathtaking airial heist carried out between two planes via cable wire. A whopper of a helicopter crash. Countless bone snapping, visceral hand to hand combat scenes. The list goes on. Sylvester Stallone puts his physique to great use as Gabe Walker, a rock climbing mountaineer guide who is accidentally responsible for the falling death of his best friend’s girlfriend. His buddy Hal (Michael Rooker) blames him no end, and he leaves in personal disgrace. Elsewhere, ruthless backstabbing psychopath Eric Qualen,  (John Lithgow) leads a team of dangerous mercenaries through aforementioned heist, plundering millions from a US treasury department plane and disappearing into the snowy desolation. Soon they come across Hal and a group of people touring the region, who are soon hostages. Word somehow gets out to Stallone and he’s back in business, out for redemption and then chance to brutally dispatch this gang of snow pirates. The action, refreshingly absent of digital gimmicks, packs one hell of a punch. Every fight scene feels breathless, dangerous and desperate. Every blow is thunderously felt, courtesy of director Harlin’s commitment to his work and the efforts of a stellar stunt team. Stallone isna beast and I forget that every time I haven’t seen him in a while. He’s almost as big as the mountains he scales here and each and every bad guy damn well finds this out. Rooker is as intense as he always is, love the guy. Lithgow is a freaking villain for the ages, in a role intended first for David Bowie, then Christopher Walken. I’m glad the ball ended up in his court, because he subsequently knocks it back out of the park with his cold blooded, deliciously evil performance. He makes Qualen so scary and merciless that even his own people get the jitters around him. There’s also work from Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Craig Fairbrass, Max Perlich, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, Don S. Davis, Bruce McGill and Janine Turner. This is just one of the finest action movies to ever swing into theatres or onto dvd. Brutal, scenic, adventurous, exciting, violent, snowy, just plain kick ass. If you don’t like this movie, you don’t like ice cream.

PTS Presents Director’s Chair with RENNY HARLIN

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RH Official PhotoPodcasting Them Softly is overwhelmingly excited to present a chat with veteran action director Renny Harlin, a man who needs very little introduction! Die Hard 2. Cliffhanger. The Long Kiss Goodnight. The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Deep Blue Sea. Cutthroat Island. Exorcist: The Beginning. And so many others. His latest action extravaganza, Skiptrace, stars Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville, and is set to explode into cinemas this summer. Listen as Nick and Frank try and contain their excitement, and Renny dishes on his incredible career and his newest cinematic offering — we hope you enjoy!