What exactly was Eli Roth hoping to accomplish with Knock Knock? Awkward softcore porn? Crude exploitation? Trashy home invasion potboiler? Hard Candy-esque moral revenge fantasy? That Ana De Armas looks good in a blond dye job? Well I hate to break it to him but if it was any or all of the above, none of it works and this is just a hollow, misdirected, tasteless bit of pond scum trying to pass itself off as a thriller and I feel sorry for poor Keanu Reeves having to wade through the gauntlet of what has to be the worst film he’s ever graced his angelic presence with. He plays an upper middle class family man whose wife and kids go on a long weekend trip so he can stay home and get some work done. He’s keeping it mellow on a super rainy night until two unstable, whack-job gutter hoes (Ana De Armas and Lorenza Izzo) show up at his door under the pretence of being lost and insinuate their way into first his house, then his shower and eventually his bed, and you can guess where things spiral from there. These are two seriously disturbed, dangerous and fucked up individuals and both actresses are terrifically intense and deranged, while Reeves holds his end up nicely with a difficult role, the editing, photography, music and splashes of dark humour do what they can but to what purpose does the film work towards, and when it gets there, is it worth it? Not so much. If Roth has set out to convince us that the tables can be turned and men can be just as coerced, preyed upon, shamed and ruined by the other sex as women can by them then he’s somewhat succeeded in showing us a turn of events like that at a primal level, but any attempts at theme or subtext are buried or lost in translation and what could have been something of a message movie ends up simply being ‘two crazy bitches torturing Keanu Reeves for just over ninety minutes.’ There’s a haphazard attempt at *something* deeper involving words written on a mirror in lipstick and Armas going postal about something that seems like an event from her past but neither thread is explored or followed up on. I don’t even know whether to call this a missed opportunity or not because I can’t even tell if Roth set out trying to achieve anything of substance or just didn’t bother at all and deliberately aimed for below the audience’s belt. Also I didn’t buy that Keanu ‘John Wick’ Reeves could be physically outmatched to that extent by two college age chicks, but that’s the least of this film’s issues. There’s something to this idea on paper but it’s nowhere to be found in this film, which is simply an ugly, pointless fucking waste of time.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
So they chose a dark haired, American Keanu Reeves to play John Constantine instead of some sassy blonde British Sting doppelgänger, big whoop. I mean if that really cheeses you off as a fan of the comics to the point where you can’t enjoy this wonderful film then fair enough. This iteration of Constantine makes its decided departure from source material and opts to give us a gorgeous dark LA Noir fantasy full of striking imagery, genuinely frightening set pieces, intense character work from a host of cool actors and a slick, oily visual feel that accentuates the supernatural tone beautifully. Keanu is basically an icon of cool, between The Matrix and recently introducing John Wick to the world this guy is kind of a cultural talisman of epic genre films and for me this stands with the best. Constantine is an exorcist, detective, damned soul, chain smoker, extreme ghostbuster and all around cynical badass, here solving a mystery with biblical implications relating to an LAPD officer (Rachel Weisz), her ill fated clairvoyant twin sister (also Weisz) and a fearsome series of events that could spell the end of the world. John has allies in snarky cab driver Chaz (Shia Leboeuf in his ‘back in the day’ phase), mysterious club magnate and sorcerer Papa Midnite (Djimon Hounsou), eccentric entomologist Beeman (Max Baker), hard drinking clergyman Father Hennessy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and demonic concubine Ellie (Michelle Monaghan). He’s up against some gnarly foes of this world and others including nasty hellhound Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale channelling Harvey Dent), a possessed Mexican immigrant (Jesse Ramirez), the treacherous Angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton in mercurial androgynous mode) and big baddie Lucifer himself played by a kooky, darkly dapper Peter Stormare in what has to be one of the coolest and most captivating portrayals of the devil cinema has to offer. Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, The Hunger Games) has big budget, flashy effects sensibilities and while there is a fair amount of visual sizzle and large scale spectacle here the tone is often one of suffocating darkness, unseen dread creeping down narrow hallways stifling both light and space, eerie close quarters settings and a claustrophobic aesthetic that refracts the hellish elements of this story into the forefront brilliantly. John’s trip to hell with assistance from a cat is one stunner of a sequence, as is his explosively violent, gory n’ gooey showdown with Balthazar and an opening exorcism that launches a full length mirror, demon trapped inside, onto an LA street in broad daylight. His flippant confrontation with Stormare’s Satan has to be my favourite scene though, it’s such a classy, stylish, well acted and creepy-funny bit that caps off this story not with a huge bombastic action sequence but rather a clipped, ironic and altogether biting exchange of dialogue between these two great actors, who would go on to have another priceless little Easter egg scene together in John Wick 2. So say what you will about this film and I hear ya with legitimate grievances regarding fealty to the comics but that don’t bother me, I love this dark, unique, creepy, baroque jewel of a film too much. Great stuff.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The story of Al Leong is not an uncommon Hollywood story in this respect: he is a face you’ve seen, but probably have no knowledge of his name, his explosive talent, his devotion to his craft and the incredible legacy he has built through the movies we all cherish. So, if you fall into that category, then you probably don’t know the man behind the face of our favorite Henchman – you probably don’t know Al Leong…? Well ladies and boys…you’ve come to the movies at the most opportune time in cinema history, because, friendly neighborhood filmmaker and nice guy all-round, Vito Trabucco, has assembled for your inquisitive, movie-loving minds this beautifully human, lovingly detailed, star-studded valentine. That candy-chomping terrorist that decided taking on The Willis was a good idea; that screaming Wing Kong Hatchet Man in the service of the ancient evil of Lo Pan – and the man who very nearly conquered most of the known world of his day…and who loves Twinkies for the excellent sugar rush…!
Man I could write for days of the films, television and memories that have and still are the fabric formed of my love of storytelling…..of which Al Leong is an indelible part. Join us as Vito and I wax political, poetical and even romantically about the cinema that is part of the wonderful life . . . of our favorite Henchman…
What’s your favourite movie version of Dracula? For me its always been Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish, eccentric, audacious and full bodied telling of Bram Stoker’s book, brought to life fiercely and passionately by Gary Oldman in what has to be one of his best works. This may be an unpopular choice among the older generation of folks who love this story/character but the old black and whites just don’t do it for me like this one does. Lugosi and Lee had their day but in my eyes Oldman freshness and innovation in his headlong portrait of supernatural evil ravaged by centuries old heartbreak, a romantic angle that wasn’t in the book or most previous adaptations of it but adds a dimension the story never knew it needed.
Coppola makes production design the star of this beauty, beginning with a fearsome prologue showing Oldman’s Transylvanian knight and how the man became a dark prince of vampires, before shifting the action to Victorian London. Dracula is searching for the spirit of his long dead wife who just happens to have been reincarnated as Mina Harker (Winona Ryder). People start turning up dead all over town though and Mina’s friend Lucy (Sadie Frost in an uncelebrated encore performance) has restless dreams, waking night terrors and finally goes full on vamp. This prompts the arrival of Anthony Hopkins’ hilariously blustery, borderline senile Abraham Van Helsing and the beginning of a bloody fight to save Mina, her husband Jonathan (Yes Keanu Reeves tried on a British accent but we’re not discussing that here) and most of London.
Stoker’s book is mostly made up of journal entries, letters and other written correspondence and as such the film has an episodic pace to it, but what really makes it flow are costume design, music and the wonderful performances from the varied, eclectic cast. Oldman is sensational and can almost be said to play multiple characters because of how different each manifestation of Dracula is. He finds sadistic evil in the character and accents it with love that still simmers on the back burner, spinning the character into something, dare we say, sympathetic. Ryder is terrific, her doe eyed naïveté suiting the gradually emerging horror nicely. Other excellent work comes from Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Monica Bellucci, Billy Campbell and Tom Waits in a deranged showstopper of a turn as the lunatic Renfield. Costume designer Eiko Ishioka outdoes herself here with the kind of work that begs for Blu Ray action, showing Dracula in several getups from creepy old Count to full on From Dusk Till Dawn style monster, Oldman embodying each one with grace and style. Composer Wojciech Kilar turns in a portentous rumble of a score that fires up the baroque horror elements but also finds the aching romantic notes in the eye of the orchestral hurricane.
My favourite scene of the film isn’t even in the realm of horror; Dracula and Mina share a moment together with one of his wolves who he has momentarily tamed. She strokes the beasts fur in awe while he looks at her in mournful adoration and quietly says “He likes you.” Oldman finds wonderful opposites to the character in this moment and becomes something so much more than the campy monster that Hollywood has envisioned this character as before. There’s a gentle tenderness to this scene and it’s contradictory elements like that that make it stand out and accent the horror with immediacy. Masterpiece.
Alexander Nevsky – мой друг суперзвезда. What can I tell you? He is a dynamic performer with a physically commanding presence. He is a champion bodybuilder. He is a writer, director and producer whose films I find not only entertaining, but also made in a fashion which speaks to my love of the great action movies from the 80’s.
[To listen to my previous chats with Alex on his films, click on these posters below]
I could go on or simply type you out a list of this man’s accomplishments, but I’m not going to. Because you see, the work and work ethic of Alex Nevsky speaks for itself. He is an extraordinary gentlemen who by diligence, persistence and focus has not only emerged as a national treasure in his Russian homeland, but also as an international superstar with a rise to prominence that can only by compared to another superstar, and Alex’s mentor and friend, the Austrian Oak himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And now the two, along with the legends of the Bodybuilder’s Olympian halls of honor, are featured together in the newest edition of:
3 More Reps: The Golden Age of Bodybuilding
Courtesy of Amazon:
Like pumping iron, it gives you an inside into the world of Joe Weider’s top bodybuilders and their training routines for the Mr. Olympia stage and their lives as bodybuilders in the golden age of bodybuilding. Enjoy first-hand interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger and learn more about your other favorite golden age bodybuilders like Frank Zane, Franco Columbu or Mike Mentzer, Tom Platz to name just a few. Read about the humble beginnings of Joe and Ben Weider the godfathers of the Bodybuilding industry and the Mr. Olympia contests. The author George Snyder’s name is practically synonymous with the health and weight training industry. He has been an integral force in the world of bodybuilding. He is the creator of the training camp concept and is also an innovative and highly successful promoter, having conceived and created both the highly publicized and popular Miss Olympia Contest and the Galaxy Competitions the first two milestones for women in the fitness world. In 1990, Snyder impacted the industry with the publication of his Freestyle books.
These books outlined the tenants of a program Snyder has created and perfected for over 40 years. Snyder has published freestyle Methods in some of his earlier books and magazines as well as in his recent magazines over the past 30 years. Snyder has been an active force in the world of strength training and physical culture for most of his life. He opened his first health club in 1965 and was the first progressive gym owner to allow women to train at his club. He organized and held the first bodybuilding training camps in the early 1970s and today contains a series of fitness training camps geared for women and men. Over the years he has authored several books on physical fitness and a veritable library of popular magazines. Today he is involved in several books and magazine publishing ventures, contest promotions, plus new product and program development as it pertains to Freestyle. Snyder has republished 3 More Reps!
This book is a must-own for collectors, enthusiasts and certainly aficionados of this sport which sees the transformation of ordinary men into Earthly Gods. It is an arena that has forged many an international icon, of which, my buddy Alex is certainly now finding himself among such lofty company.
3 More Reps is another pinnacle that Alex as secured in his ascendancy as he continues to walk with the titans, both on and off the big screen. From being a very skinny kid before changing his life completely, becoming Mr. Universe and starting career in Hollywood, it remains important for Alex to promote natural drug free bodybuilding and continue to inspire others. Which he never fails to do.
“Pop quiz, hotshot!!” Most action films are comprised of beats, wherein there are exciting sequences and then lulls in between to catch our breath and collect ourselves, but the beauty of Jan De Bont’s Speed is that as soon as the central premise is delivered to the narrative, pretty much every beat is action, the concept airtight in terms of any breathing room creeping in, and that’s one reason why I think it’s endured as a such a classic in the genre.
Dennis Hopper plays yet another wild eyed lunatic here, and it’s scary to think that his mad bomber Howard Payne was once a decorated LAPD officer. He’s now a very pissed off ex police officer who has gone psychotic and started blowing shit up all over the city, attracting the attention of daredevil super cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves). Howard gets elaborate when he decides to rig a city bus with a device that will blow it the fuck to bits of the driver slows down past fifty miles per hour, and from then on in the film barely stops to grab a coffee, take a piss or collect its thoughts. Howard masterminds the whole deal from a secret surveillance lab, Jack races to board the bus and defuse the bomb and intrepid civilian Annie (Sandra Bullock) takes over the wheel after the driver has a heart attack. Reeves and Hopper play off each other like flint and steel, it’s a hero villain smackdown for the ages between a rock steady officer of the law and a probably once great detective who has lost his mind but none of his wily nerve. Keanu and Sandra also have great romantic chemistry too but it’s underplayed and sort of seems natural, which isn’t always easy to pull off. Throw in Joe Morton, Beth Grant, Glenn Plummer, Alan Ruck, Hawthorne James, Richard Schiff, Veronica Cartwright and scene stealer Jeff Daniels as Keanu’s charismatic senior partner and you’ve got one hell of an ensemble.
This was one of the first R rated action cookouts I was allowed to see (hell, I think I even saw it before Die Hard) and it still blows my mind as much today as it did back then. The stunts and set pieces are all unbelievable and so kinetically explosive its a wonder that talented cinematographer Andrej Bartkowiak could keep his lenses following them. Everything with the bus on freeways and overpasses is extraordinary (that heart-stopping bridge gap!) but don’t even get me started on the balls out underground subway crash that blows the lid off any sound system it touches. A classic.
The events depicted in River’s Edge are strange, disturbing, morbid, compelling, darkly humorous and may at first seem farcical or something removed from reality. However, the film is set in any one of the thousands of small, poorer towns this continent has to offer, and the youth portrayed here are probably not that far from truths existing out there, especially when you consider the unsettling fact that this is based on a true story, and not even that loosely either. One day a maladjusted high school teen named Samson (Daniel Roebuck) strangles his girlfriend for no particular reason than she was ‘talking shit.’ He leaves her body on the banks of the river and proceeds to brag to classmates back in town of the deed, seemingly in no hurry to keep it a secret. When he brings his friends back to show them the body, reactions range from stoned amusement to vague unrest, but none of the appropriate horror or shock. Deranged speed freak Layne (Crispin Glover) simply pokes the corpse with a stick and decides that all of them should inexplicably keep it a secret and protect Samson. Only Keanu Reeves’s Matt seems to show a flicker of conscience, providing dissent in the ranks while dealing with a psychotic younger brother (Near Dark’s Joshua Miller). To make matters more complicated and a lot weirder, local oddball drug dealer Feck (Dennis Hopper, right off of Blue Velvet and still half crazy) gets involved too, a piece of work who carries around a sex doll he calls Ellie and apparently once killed a girl himself. Ione Skye and Roxana Zal are great as others in their group who make a half hearted attempt to be the voice of reason but can’t quite bring themselves to defy Layne’s logic. “He had his reasons,” Glover snarls in a performance so over the top and cartoonish that it almost defies description. He’s a terminally weird dude who has a habit of elongating his vowels and twitching like a marmot in heat until he almost becomes something inhuman and reaches a plane of acting all he is own. Roebuck’s Samson is a fat, unpleasant and scary individual whose aloof nature spirals into a very dark place that mirrors events for their whole group, his arc is not a pretty thing to see. Hopper goes certifiably nuts here, a Nam vet and ex biker who has clearly lost his mind but the actor lets the perfect amount of emotional truth into his performance right where it counts, it’s another great work in his canon. This is a difficult and distressing film, but it finds the pitch black humour in its premise too. All of the teens we see here are hooked on booze and drugs right out of the gate, including the twelve year old kid. “Where do my children go at night?” laments Reeves’s mother. The answer might come from looking in the mirror, or that’s too harsh a prognosis, then simply around them at the quality of life in such a forgotten place. Samson may indeed be a budding psychopath, but at the time his reasons for killing his girl seemed as if there was no better, or rather more interesting thing to do, and in fact after he did it his first order of business was to stroll into the local convenience for a beer as if he just got off work. Idle hands are indeed the devil’s work, spurred on by circumstance and setting. These kids might not have turned out so bad in another life, but the one they were dealt has made quick work of them, and it’s most discomforting and somehow mesmerizing to see it play out. Great film.
Keanu Reeves can somehow make almost any story, no matter how ridiculous, seem sober and coherent, but Johnny Mnemonic kind of takes the cake. A weird, messy, hyperactive fusion of classical cyber punk elements and 90’s B movie sensibilities (Ice T cements that vibe early on) it’s not a good film but certainly an interesting one that makes a loony impression. Reeves is Johnny, a data courier in a world of trafficked information stored in people’s brains, wanted by all sorts of undesirables including the Yakuza, surrounded by a a throbbing underground rock soundtrack and more cacophonous screensaver special effects than The Lawnmower Man. Reeves looks slick as ever and treats the material with due diligence, but the best and most effective performance comes from Dolph Lundgren as an aggressive freak dubbed the Street Preacher, a platitude spouting baddie who is endlessly fun to watch and stands as one of the actor’s best and most idiosyncratic creations. Henry ‘scream my lines’ Rollins cements the rock vibe as a weirdo doctor who tinkers with Johnny’s brain some, Dina Meyer plays his sidekick and pseudo love interest, and watch for Udo Kier as a corrupt diva of a nightclub owner. This film is fun enough from some angles, but for a SciFi film revolving around intel stored in one’s brain, the whole thing is pretty fucking brainless. There’s cool exposition detailing how Johnny needs to wipe certain chunks of memory like his childhood to make room for more bytes of black market info, but it’s never really shown how this affects his character. The whole thing is a blast of arbitrary, technicolour sound and fury that doesn’t really sit still long enough to think much on what it’s about, which is fine I suppose if all you want is fireworks. I will give it props for some inventive production design and gorgeous costumes though, but too little too late. One scene in particular kind of sums it all up, with Johnny having a full on emotional meltdown temper tantrum in some back alley over the fact that he doesn’t get to spend nights in a five star hotel with top class hookers. One could almost see his exasperation mirroring Reeves at having to play part in something so silly as this. Chill out Keanu, only four more years to go until you headline one of the best, most influential science fiction films ever made.