An Event Breakdown by Helen Ripley of ActionMovieFreak.com
Actionfest: The Film Festival With A Body Count. April 15-18, 2010—And about damn time! An action movie festival with Chuck Norris as the first lifetime achievement honoree. 3 days, 26 movies, pinch me I’m dreaming!
It was all about action, 12-14 hours a day—an action fan’s dream. Beginning Thursday night (the world premier of “Centurion” was the first showing), and continuing all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You could watch just one movie for $10, or, watch the most possible (16 out of 26) for $65 (about $4 each). The weekend included 2 free stunt shows and 3 panels, as well as the farewell party/awards ceremony. Attending everything with a VIP pass was a steal at $100! It was SO worth it even if you had to travel to get there.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
It’s Chuck Norris. That’s my answer. You know the rest. (A week later, nads are still pumped!)
[THE BODY COUNT]
Chuck Norris, Aaron Norris, PLUS They had a lot of stuntmen there: “Rocket Man” Kinnie Gibson, Aaron Norris (he’s a Director as was a stuntman), Jeff Habberstad (who recently finished work on “The Last Airbender”), Paul Weston, Mark De Alessandro (Sylvestor Stallone’s stunt double), Jet Li’s stunt double, and Trevor Habberstad (Jeff’s son and also a stuntman who worked the 3-D “My Bloody Valentine”), and a few other stuntmen in the audience (not part of the panel), Randy Fife, and some whose names I did not catch.
Action star Marko Zaror (on the right) was there all weekend promoting his film “Mandrill” as well as “Undisputed III: Redemption” in which he played the villain. Zaror, the star of “Kiltro” and “Mirageman” charmed everyone and was happy to answer questions and pose for pictures. Undisputed II and III Director Isaac Florentine was also there, along with Larnell Stovall, the UIII Stunt Coordinator, and along with Marko Zaror they stayed for a Q&A after UIII. Mr. Florentine was eloquent as a speaker on “The Art of the 2nd Unit” Panel.
Everything was kicked up to a whole other level when Chuck Norris appeared on Sunday. He spoke to the crowd at the stunt show, participated in “The Stunts of Chuck Norris” Panel, and reflected on:
•Training with Bruce Lee (how they met and came to work together in “Return of the Dragon”, for which there was largely no choreography, they just sparred)
•What it was like working with his brother Director Aaron Norris (also his stunt double early on in their careers) who blew part of Chuck’s nose off when he was placed to close to exploding squid bags.
•Growing up without a father, Mr. Norris said his heroes were John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Having served in the Air Force in Korea after high school, he visited the troops in Iraq twice and shook 15,000-20,000 hands each visit!
•His favorite action movie is . . . “Hero” starring Jet Li.
Chuck Norris was honored by the attendance of Sheree Wilson and Judson Mills from the cast of “Walker: Texas Ranger”, and a host of men who doubled for him and choreographed his stunt work throughout his career. They were described as a “brotherhood”, “honorable men”, a group of “unsung heroes”, and surprisingly, over his career, aside from having a piece of his nose blown off, Chuck Norris broke his nose twice and his hand once. I’d say they took pretty good care of him given how much time he spent in action movies and TV (1969-2005).
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Without a doubt, it had to be (THE GOD’S HONEST TRUTH) in a Chuck Norris movie. How fitting! As part of the Festival they showed “Code of Silence” and “Braddock: Missing in Action III” on the big screen. In Code of Silence there is a Robocop-like police mini-tank weapon. Chuck uses it to blow a bad guy off a guard tower. It was devastating and spectacular and got the greatest audience reaction of the whole weekend.
Here in the AOBG Kill Count (#2) although the clip doesn’t do the element of surprise justice.
[flashvideo filename=videos/CodeOfSilenceKillCount2009.wmv.FLV /]
It’s always better when it’s unexpected.
Mr. Norris also said in the Panel that the fight scene on top of the train in this movie was really him and the stunt work he’s proudest of.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Actionfest delivered Manliness onscreen and major DudeSweat off! And how!! While the festival was manly (nothing could be more so), I would have to say that a good number of the badge-holding attendees did seem gay. I had this idea that many more action stars would show up without being announced, or that beefy manly types with arm candy would be the typical attendee. Was I wrong! The typical badge-holding attendee was a 20-40 something white male, wearing pants falling off, with a beard and a too-much-time-indoors pallor from working on their websites.
Although the badge-holding attendees might have fallen short in the machismo category (it seemed like maybe 40% were actually gay “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”), they were clearly die-hard action fans. (Now doesn’t that give that expression new meaning? Nobody died . . . ) DudeSweat came in the form of the stuntmen who were there. In the panels and at the show, it was all “You’re the greatest!” “No, you’re greatest!” and hugging and back slapping. The whole ‘brotherhood’ aspect and the genuine sweetness of the affection the stunt group felt for one another could bring a tear to your eye. I guess part of it was that Chuck Norris is such an action movie legend that he has moved into an upper realm to become a caricature of the ageless bad ass. To see/hear the man himself at 70 brought home his humanity, and the idea is that he’s just a guy who loved martial arts and ended up in the movies. That doesn’t do him justice though. His whole life has been all about being a hero, onscreen and off. The culmination of the festival in honoring him “No, he’s the greatest” felt like a group hug for Chuck Norris from everyone attending.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
I think I was one of 3 girls there (not counting the women who worked at the theater or on the Festival). (I don’t have a beard, my ass is Bahamian so my pants stay up, and I made sure I got a sunburn before I went so it wouldn’t seem like I never leave the house although I love working on my website so I hardly ever do.) When I met Tom Quinn, Senior VP of Magnolia Pictures, he was a little in shock and said he was expecting me to be a 24-year-old guy. I wouldn’t say anything about Actionfest was anti-vagina but we sure weren’t represented in the attendees (although the female count did go up considerably during the stunt shows). Overall women were represented well in the movies shown. As an ultra-feminist, I had no complaints.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The Epic Moment was seeing Chuck Norris.
The Best One-Liner—For me this was a tie:
The first was when Paul Gibson (whose career is too impressive to try to summarize here) reflected on working on “The Spy Who Loved Me” and recalled the stuntman who did the ski jump/Union Jack parachute scene and what the Director said about it: “If he thinks he can do it, we’ll shoot it.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaEU_A405zA
The second was when Chuck Norris (reflecting on the Academy Awards never honoring stunts or stunt men) said he’d been to the Oscars and even though he’s a voting member of the Academy, it’s “The boringest thing you’ve even been to in your life.” LOL
[THE MORAL OF THE FESTIVAL]
And what did you miss?? Well, I don’t want to make you feel bad but Actionfest 2010 was a celebration of the genre from the very first preview on YouTube through to the Awards ceremony/celebration at the end. We were pumped up for the next movie each time by the amazingly knowledgeable action genre super fan and Actionfest Festival Director Matthew Kiernan. He couldn’t be in all places at the same time, but it sure felt like he tried. His unflagging enthusiasm was contagious. If you love watching action movies, it was like gorging on a buffet. In between movies, we hung out in the “VIP lounge” upstairs (with sofa chairs and beer and wine and free hors d’oeuvres) watching Chuck Norris movies (“The Delta Force”, “Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection”) or “Undisputed II: Last Man Standing”. As if that wasn’t fun enough, there were 2 Stunt Shows (they added a second one on Sunday), 2 Panels, and several Q & A sessions. Everyone at Carolina Cinemas and Magnolia Pictures, as well as the Panelists, stars, and directors were all approachable and ready to share their love of the genre. The moral of the Festival is “The love of action movies knows no boundaries.” The movies represented a wide range of countries. Actionfest will probably be four times as big next year. I suspect the honoree will be the largest part of the draw, but depending on which movie(s) is/are released around that time, it might also feature more action stars.
This first Actionfest was special, like a family, next year, it might seem like an all-out family reunion in a park that is too small for the picnic.