So once again we have survived.

Interviews with Isaac Florentine, Scott Adkins, Larnell Stovall

florentineThis guy Conor from Dublin wrote to me about The Wireless Express Show, a podcast he does, where it just so happens he has interviewed a few of our favorite voices in the DTV action renaissance. I highly recommend the episode where Conor and his co-host interview Isaac Florentine and then Scott Adkins. Florentine talks alot about his influences and about UNDISPUTED III, and reveals alot of interesting tidbits (like why UNDISPUTED II and III each almost but not quite played theatrically, how they made Adkins and Jai White appear to be close to the same size, how hard it was to make Adkins look like a bad guy).

Both Wireless Express hosts are big on the post-action issue and like to ask these guys their opinions on shakycam and quick cuts. Adkins’ response is especially interesting, having actually worked with Paul Greengrass. He also gives a surprising answer to “what is your favorite fight scene?” that most of you will enjoy.

An arguably even better interview is with Larnell Stovall, the fight choreographer for UNDISPUTED III. He gives some great insights into the art of choreography, how many action movies are ruined in post-production, and gets kind of worked up talking about the shakycams since it’s his hard work at stake.

Conor also recommended his interviews with Bey Logan and Johnny Tri Nguyen, so I look forward to listening to those too.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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26 Responses to “Interviews with Isaac Florentine, Scott Adkins, Larnell Stovall”

  1. Usually I don’t listen to podcasts. For any reason I prefer to read instead of listen, but I might make an exception for these.

  2. CJ, if you listen to the podcasts and tell your friends I will give up animation rights to the Wireless Express Show Microphone-Grabber character.

  3. So is that like, y’know, a guy who grabs Wireless Express Show Microphones and runs? Or a Wireless Express Show Microphone that grabs things?
    Anyway, I’m listening to it now and it’s maybe the 2nd best interview piece of 2010. (Sorry, but you can’t beat Ernest Borgnine’s interview on AICN from a few months ago. He’s Ernest Borgnine after all!)

  4. I haven’t listened to these interviews yet, but unless they have some awesome Bronson- and Eric Roberts-related anecdotes, the AV Club’s interview with Danny Trejo is still the best of the year, if not all time.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/danny-trejo,40541/

  5. Jesus, man, I know I kinda started it, but don’t force me to seriously put a ranking of the best interviews of the year together! :D

  6. I think Katie Couric interviewing Jon Stewart was very important and intelligent.

  7. Hmm, all this talk of other great interviews is cool and all, but I was really happiest when we were talking about me.

    Er, just kidding, I’ve gotta say the Danny Trejo interview blew me away. You know who else was awesome? Tim Olyphant in the AV Club http://www.avclub.com/articles/timothy-olyphant,39236/

    I will go check out that Ernest Borgnine interview now, I’m a huge fan of his.

    By the way, CJ – which interview did/are you listen(ing) to?
    If I had to pick a favourite I’d probably say Isaac Florentine, but I really enjoyed them all a great deal, some of the most fun I had this year was those interviews.

  8. Yeah, I was listening to Florentine & Adkins. Forgot to mention this.

  9. Oh, sweet, glad you like that one CJ.

    By the way Mr Majestyk, that’s my favourite Elmore Leonard novel. It was probably the tenth or twelfth book I read by him but it turned out to be my favourite and I’ve read again since.

  10. Conor: Really? That’s funny. I mean, I like the book, but it’s far from my favorite. Do you like that it’s a little leaner and more stoic than his other works? I tend to like the earlier stuff better, too, but I think SCHWAG might be my favorite for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. A great ending line goes a long way, maybe.

    Now that you mention it, MAJESTYK isn’t even my favorite Bronson movie, but it does have the best title. And I couldn’t very well call myself DEATH WISH 2, could I?

    Basically, I’m a big fraud, everybody. Sorry about that.

  11. You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head there, I love how neat and lean it is. I love the character too, he’s a little more hard-boiled than Elmore Leonard’s usual characters, but he still has that magnetism I associate with a Leonard hero. I love the juxtaposition too, between the incredibly feared mobster who doesn’t fully grasp how soft he’s become, and the melon farmer who never got soft at all.

    For other favourites, too many to count I guess but I’ve been really amazed at how much I’ve enjoyed his modern stuff like Tishomingo Blues and The Hot Kid. I really love Cuba Libre too.

    The movie of Mr Majestyk isn’t so amazing, I tend to agree. I kind of like Charles Bronson more than I like most of his movies, really.

  12. That’s pretty true, actually. I love Bronson a lot more than I love most of his movies. You have to judge them on a different criteria than normal movies, the most pressing one being: Is Bronson in it? If so, then it’s automatically better than a movie that doesn’t have Bronson in it, despite any other shortcomings in plot, acting, filmatism, etc. Having Bronson in a movie is kind of cheating, now that you mention it.

  13. I agree. If Charles Bronson movies had come around in the days of internet culture and MMOs, people would have talked about how Bronson was an inherent balance issue and horribly overpowered.

  14. I literally could not watch Death Wish 2. The rape scene started so I scrolled ahead on my DVD, and then it was still going on, so I scrolled ahead again, it was still going so I turned the movie off and never bothered to watch 4 or 5. (Saw 3 before 2, but have never gone back to any but the original since).

  15. Connor – I’ve got a nice long drive through the snow to do on xmas eve and am looking forward to spending the time going over your podcasts.

  16. Hey MikeOutWest,

    That’s a really nice message to get, thanks man! Hope you enjoy them, have a great drive and a great xmas.

  17. Thanks everyone for the kind messages, and thanks Vern for the link. Hope everyone enjoys the interviews!

  18. Great interview links! Thanks Vern. I find Issac and his colleagues very inspiring. It was great to hear a logical discussion about the depressing state of Hollywood’s so called ‘action’ scenes.

    Aside from the obvious action films that suffer from ruining their action scenes (particularly hand-to-hand fights) from shaky-cam and awful editing (The Bourne Trilogy, Quantum of Solace) it was great to hear Mr Florentine talk about something I’ve always felt: which is that Gladiator could have been so much more had the action scenes been shot wider, without all the playing around with shutter speeds and so on… that effect does work well in some instances (like Saving Private Ryan) but it’s so inappropriate for a film about the spectacle of fighting, which is what being in the colosseum is all about! Those people in the seats came here to watch that fight, and so did I! But I could fuckin make it out. It’s so deeply, deeply frustrating. Especially when a veteran like Ridley makes all the surrounding dramatic scenes so damn good.

    These guys (Florentine, Adkins, Stovall) also mention how all these huge Hollywood ‘action’ films aren’t really action films if you can’t see the frickin action! I’m a huge fan of Batman Begins and I accept the concept that Batman comes out of nowhere and then disappears like a shadow during his fights, but that still doesn’t have to equal unintelligible fight scenes.

    Like Florentine says, most directors don’t DIRECT fight scenes, they COVER them. Pros like Mr Florentine who respect the art of fighting, film it properly and then let the fight choreographer into the edit suit to help cut it … because who else (other than hopefully the director and actors) knows the fight-scene as intimately as the fight choreographer!? And any film-fan knows that the edit can ruin a perfectly great scene (and sometimes save a poorly filmed scene too … sometimes).

    Anyway, yeah, really great to hear this stuff being discussed by a group of guys making low-budget, quickly shot films that simply DESTROY the shitty action found in the majority of today’s large-budgeted ‘action’ films.

    Hooray for this crew and I can’t wait to see their next films.

  19. P.S. And thanks to you Wireless Express show guys. I’ve ‘liked’ you on Facebook and will definitely be listening to more of you. Great stuff. Cheers.

  20. Hey Larry,

    I really enjoyed your response and I couldn’t agree more about Batman Begins. I really like the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but sometimes I wonder if Christopher Nolan is just totally disinterested in action?

    Even Inception, I loved the movie but I only liked one action scene in it, the hotel hallway fight (Won’t say more to avoid spoilers).

    Oh, and thanks for the Facebook “like”, we’re hoping to get above 100 as our own Wireless Express Show Christmas miracle.

  21. Hey Larry, I really enjoyed your response and I couldn’t agree more about Batman Begins. I really like the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but sometimes I wonder if Christopher Nolan is just totally disinterested in action? Even Inception, I loved the movie but I only liked one action scene in it, the hotel hallway fight (Won’t say more to avoid spoilers). Oh, and thanks for the Facebook “like”, we’re hoping to get above 100 as our own Wireless Express Show Christmas miracle.

  22. Also, just heard my new favorite interview of the year. It’s about 3 1/2 hours long, so get some free time, then listen to Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman chat with Kevin Smith. It’s really great and gets REALLY personal. Hilarious and insightful.

    http://starfucking.smodcast.com/

  23. Wow, Isaac Florentine really got in the zone in that WirelessExpress interview. You could really tell when he mentioned “BBL” versus post-Fist of Fury action that he was talking about what he loves. His eyes lit up through the phone connection.

    The “king with no clothes” observation regarding the Greengrass Bourne was priceless. I counted the # of cuts in Bourne’s fight with the motorbike bomb guy up to when he finally kills him with the towel. I got above 40, I think, and there were maybe 3 shots that lasted longer than 2.5 seconds. What’s sad is, I think I sorta enjoyed the scene, enjoyed my jealousy that I’ve never killed a dude with a hand towel (I prefer a full-size towel when I weaponize it.), but then I wonder, “What could have been?” without all the cutting.

    It’d be an interesting exercise if someone with the time, inclination, & video software would cut up a scene from TOP HAT or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS in the Greengrass, post-action style. Cut to Astaire’s smile, close-up of a bending knee, cut to tapping toe, cut to Ginger Rogers doing a 360 twirl, but cut when she’s between 180 & 270 degrees of the twirl and show their arms locking, cut to hands separating, cut to medium shot of shiny shoes kicking air, cut to fancy dress fabric whirling in the air, etc.. How depressing would this be?

    Allow me to answer Conor’s “kind of nerdy question” and mention the awesome end fights in WHO AM I? as among my top favorite fight scenes. Even when they had to bloody cheat, Jackie Chan, the stuntmen, and the filmatists made sure we could see what was going on, that we knew left was left & right was right. At one point, one of the bad guys forces Jackie under some metal bars or something near the edge of the roof, and he continues throwing sweeps and midbody roundhouses. Physical constraints made the shot near-impossible. But did the filmatists rely on shitty editing and shakycam to convey the action? Hell no. THEY USED A FAKE LEG swung just offscreen to show 1 or 2 of the kicks & sweeps, and we clearly see Jackie react to them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQa7tlZZ_lM Check the 4 minute mark.

    It’s a small thing. It was probably unnecessary. The whole thing still would have been an amazing fight without the 1-2 kicks provided by prop. But they showed it. They didn’t hide anything. They have some stuff just out of frame. That’s not hiding. That’s commitment to great onscreen action. Operative word being “onscreen.”

    Anyway, good interviews.

  24. Hey Mouth,

    Thanks for listening. I couldn’t agree more about Fred Astaire/ Gene Kelly, I’ve often complained that dance is a legitimate film art but screen fighting (by that I mean the performance, the choreography and its filming and editing) is supposedly not.

    I know what you mean about the hand towel, I’m a huge fan of the deadly bathrobe method. In my experience a bathrobe can be used to reduce a 180 pound man to a sleepy mass that just wants to watch tv. That could just be my bathrobe though.

  25. I just listened to part of the Florentine / Adkins interview, and the Undisputed movies just jumped to the top of my must-see list.

    I’ve also got to vent some vicarious frustration about this post-action nonsense. One of my friends is a stunt man in Burbank, CA who lit himself on fire and jumped off of a ferry while a jeep flew into the air and landed in the water after him for Deja Vu. He told me about it a while ago, and then I get it on DVD, and then the scene is edited beyond recognition; I briefly see a guy on fire, a ferry and a jeep, but not all at the same time. Why bother putting stuntpersons at risk if the stunts aren’t even going to be shown?

    Hope that wasn’t off-topic; I’m working on the Stovall interview now.

  26. Hey Steven,
    It’s not off topic at all, I’m always glad to hear another film fan is pissed off about the post-action thing. The Larnell Stovall interview talks about it a lot. Thanks for listening, man.

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