With a trajectory no one could chart, the man whose name means 'cool breeze over the mountains' has managed to stay relevant for 4 decades, regularly coming back with projects that go on to be major franchises and cult favourites. Starring in movies that interest him personally, Keanu long gave up on picking roles that critics and audiences alike expected to see him in...if at all.
BILL & TED
Some might put Bill & Ted straight into stoner comedy territory, but with its heart in a good place and with a semi-covert, but superseding narrative about the importance of education and destiny, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) was more than a zany adventure. Full of facts, figures and phrases that immediately entered the lexicon zeitgeist, Keanu played 'Ted' (Theodore Logan) one half of a duo that weren't ever going to be known for their academic contributions to society, but were destined to build the founding one through the power of their music. A sequel in the form of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey followed 2 years later, but whereas the original was made for only $6,500,000 and grossed a significantly high revenue of $40,500,000, it's follow up was made for over 3 and a bit times as much ($20,000,000) and only grossed $38,000,000. At the time of writing, a sequel; Bill & Ted Face The Music is currently being shot and this time around sees Bill & Ted in their middle age phase, needing to write a song, that will save the entire universe. I'm not sure if the term 'mid-life crisis' is an understatement in their new bogus adventure, but I'm sure they won't let us down.
In 1999, one of the most original films of 20th century was released - just as we were about to leave it. Making its debut in cinemas at the end of the century came The Matrix, a movie that did not just wow audiences with its high story concepts, but received universal praise for its well executed action sequences and its kinetic originality too. Introducing the world to "Bullet Time" (time slice photography), The Matrix would be the first film to have this particular type of CGI employed, which for about the next decade would have other films (whether they really needed it or not) copying in abundance. The Matrix and its two main sequels saw Keanu play Neo; a chosen-one figure who is suppose to start a revolution against a race of machines that have waged war on humans and plunged the Earth into a dystopian future. From birth, humans are kept in check by plugging them into a virtual reality matrix, where they think they are conducting normal lives. In reality; most humans are living a fake simulated existence, whilst also being used as 'batteries' to power the machine world. The Matrix was made for $63,000,000 and grossed $463,517,383, The Matrix: Reloaded and the last in the trilogy The Matrix: Revolutions were made back-to-back for $150,000,000. Reloaded earned a whopping $742,128,461 and Revolutions grossed $427,343,298. For the first film, Keanu was paid $10,000,000 and received 10% of the movies overall gross. For the second and third films he was paid $15,000,000 per film and received 15% of the overall gross for each film. All in all, he made around $256,000,000 over the course of the trilogy.
Much like The Matrix, nobody knew who or what John Wick was until they actually saw it and of course most were pleasantly surprised. On the face of it (via the trailer) the story looked like your bog standard action revenge thriller. The story didn't come from a comic or a book and so there was no previous knowledge of who this legendary badass was and would become in popular culture. What made the films so popular was the stunt team's dedication to making every move of assault both technically and artistically a feast for the eyes. And it was a nice change from seeing the current dominance of Filipino techniques being overused in films by characters such as Jason Bourne. The methods of attack and defence being bigger and more flamboyant, it was a real visual contrast to see the likes of Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo and Gun-fu so expertly brought to the forefront. The original film was followed with another 2 chapters and a fourth movie has been announced, its release date set for 2021. John Wick was made for $20,000,000 and grossed $88,761,661, John Wick: Chapter 2 was made for $40,000,000 and earned $171,539,887 and John Wick: Parabellum was financed for $75,000,000 and made $321,162,659.
Keanu Reeves is an actor with a fantastic memory and a willingness to push his physicality to correctly portray a character. His one fight scene in The Matrix: Reloaded against the multiple 'Smiths' had more moves in it than the entire first movie. Also appearing on stage as Hamlet (a serious memory undertaking too), Keanu has never been shy about appearing in period pieces and can be seen in films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and Little Buddha (1993). Reeves has shown his versatility appearing in films that you might not expect to see him in and is also happy to not be the lead. Then of course there are his other genre defying, iconic action films, such as Point Break (1991), Speed (1994) and Constantine (2005), which were also reviewed and watched to commercial and critical acclaim. Keanu Reeves' legacy in the acting world is that he remains versatile, open and is willing to take chances despite any label given to him. Other notable films include: The Devil's Advocate (1997), Street Kings (2008) and The Gift (2000).
With the third instalment of the popular John Wick series currently doing the rounds and with a fourth film having already been announced, we thought it was time to share the gospel of director John Woo, an auteur whose personal style changed the way that action stories were told and shot. So unique was his delivery of balletic mayhem, that his vision officially became categorised as "Heroic Bloodshed" the reason that such films as "The Raid" and "John Wick" exist today.
THE CINEMA OF HEROIC BLOODSHED
The third film in Warner Bros' Monsterverse stable of Kaiju (strange beast) films has hit our shores and our skies and is set to go all-out with some epic battles! This time, Godzilla is pitted against a rogues' gallery of deadly destroyers, each with their own reputation for mass destruction.
GODZILLA - THE INTROVERT
When it comes to monster movies, a clear and visible personality in the beasts has always been a key element to my enjoyment. I have always appreciated Peter Jackson's adaptation of "King Kong" (2005) and likewise certain dinosaur depictions from the "Jurassic Park" franchise, as whether it was shown through a raw, primal instinct (usually hunger related) or akin to that of a devious human being with a personal agenda, seeing the deliberate motivations and communication of these creatures, is part of what distinguishes these films from just being expensive B-movies. In the western portrayals of "Godzilla", I have never really seen the same detail placed in its character. Godzilla for the most part has always been this evasive, slow to see, slow to rise, mass force of nature, that appeared for uninspired fights and then disappeared. The commercially successful 1998 version doesn't even bare mentioning and even though it made $379,000,000 from its $140,000,000 budget, it is probably the reason that it took 16 years for a Godzilla movie to be seen on the big screen again.
THE MONSTER RECAP - GODZILLA (2014)
In 2014, "Godzilla" the first of the Monsterverse films was released. The story centered around the emergence of ancient creatures that had been dormant and underground for many years and then due to nuclear disturbances created by the current surface dwellers - humans, they are awakened and quickly go about causing all manner of major havoc. Their natural prey in the form of Godzilla, would apparently always arise in synchronicity, in order to take them out and preserve the Earth, but the humans finding themselves stuck in the middle of epic battles, with massive collateral damage, formed a secret organisation; Monarch in order to investigate and protect mankind. Monarch is what links all the films in the Monsterverse together...
THE MONSTER RECAP - KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)
Following on from Godzilla; "Kong: Skull Island" (2017) is set in the 1970s and sees a team of soldiers, scientists, one mercenary and one wartime photographer, take on a mission to a new island, accidentally discovered by roving satellites. Led by a high ranking Monarch official, the trip is disguised as a mapping expedition, but really it is an exploration for unseen phenomena in the realm of giant creatures. What the team soon realise, is that in abundance, Skull Island births giant creatures, friendly and otherwise. Whereas "Godzilla" was dark and moody, "Kong: Skull Island" is a much more bright, fun and energetic film.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS...
Between the fight and devastation left by Godzilla vs MUTO in the movie that kick-started the Monsterverse, the whole world is now aware of the existence of monsters, that have been nicknamed "Titans". The Monarch group is now under investigation for its role in the whole saga and are on the verge of being shut down by governmental powers, though the verdict on what to actually do with the beasts is yet to be delivered, as Godzilla did defend mankind. Away from the tribunal, there is an escalating monster fever beyond Godzilla's existence, as the Monarch group and an opposing rouge mercenary organisation are all dedicated to awakening more titans. Both working with radically different agendas, the mercenaries' wish; is to restore the natural balance of the Earth...you know, the scenario where humans get wiped the hell out and nature can once again grow and thrive in city spaces. Their plan is to release all the titans steadily, one by one, as for some strange reason, they think that subtle annihilation is somehow better than straight out utter termination, but the best laid plans and all that jazz...
With a budget of $200million dollars on the line, one would think at this point in cinematic knowhow, that all the best efforts would go into making sure that audiences would be left with something memorable. But in "G:KOTM", the plot is immediately convoluted and messy and the personal motives of characters constantly changing...changing like they hadn't really thought out the consequences of their cataclysmic global machinations. The biggest draw for any creature feature is obviously the monsters and so I am annoyed at the repeated frustration, that most of the film and the fights take place at night or in dark spaces. Why is this? Why can't we see the creatures during a sunny day, with clear blue skies like in the King Kong films? And to compound this element, the camera work is too often, shot so close to the monster action, that I'm sure that half my brain had to reroute power, just to be able to make out what the hell was happening on screen. Also, amongst the monsters there is very little colour variation, we are subject to dark browns, dark greens and dark brownish reds, I know it's not suppose to be "My Little Pony" but that's as exotic as it gets.
A lot of work has been put into the effects - in fact the whole film, but per scene, there is usually something present to ruin the moment. The dialogue is clunky and corny and more than 3 times, it had the audience laughing in the wrong places. Then there are the motivations of characters, some of which change for no reason and some of which never made sense to begin with. Characters are being subjected to this mass apocalyptic, end of the world event and people are acting as if it's a mid level tornado. Characters are also quite happy to put themselves in proximity to the scariest beasts on Earth with no fear and are even brave enough to magnetise danger unto themselves with virtually with the same attitude. Lots of movement, does not mean that we are travelling in a coherent direction and because the layout of the story is scattered, incoherent direction is what you get. All I can say is some of the fighting, when you can actually see it is good, but I would say that this film is for die hard fans only, as for the most part the film just leaves a monster of a void.
The film is out now and the 4th in the series: King Kong Vs Godzilla is scheduled for a March 2020 release date.
With a career that spanned 70 years in both television and film, there was certainly plenty of opportunity for Sir Christopher Lee to accumulate more ties with franchises than any other actor. And though he started acting from a young age, it wasn't until 1947, one year after ending his service in the R.A.F. did he make his television debut in "Corridor Of Mirrors" .
It's noteworthy to mention that Lee’s first film for the Hammer horror studio was "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) in which he played Frankenstein’s monster with Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein. This first tango together would extend into another 19 appearances that would create a professional and personal life-long friendship. Lee first appeared as Count Dracula in the film "Dracula" aka ("Horror Of Dracula") in 1958 and Lee and the film were both lauded by critics and audiences. Amongst the pantheon of portrayals of the fanged one, Lee's performance in "Dracula" has been regarded as one of the better depictions, however, further outings as Dracula were not so well received by Lee himself and he is cited as saying that the writers seemed to come up with a variety of stories and then try to fit Dracula in them somewhere. Subsequent portrayals had him doing and saying very little and that must have been frustrating, as he went on to play Dracula another 9 times.
Sometimes an actor can belong to a character or a universe that aren’t officially connected by a studio or producer. Lee first became involved in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world of Sherlock in 1959 playing Sir Henry Baskerville in "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" which was also a Hammer production. Then Lee got to play the lead as Sherlock Holmes himself in a French-German production: "Sherlock Holmes & The Deadly Necklace" and then in 1970, Lee played Sherlock's smarter sibling Mycroft in "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" directed by veteran director Billy Wilder.
It is quite interesting to see how many characters Lee has played that are based on characters from books and Dr Fu Manchu from author Sax Rohmer is probably the unlikeliest on Lee's roster. In total, Lee made five films depicting the stoic criminal mastermind, the first of the series being "The Face Of Fu Manchu" (1965).
In 1973 Lee would appear in director Richard Lester’s "The Three Musketeers" as Rochefort. He would then reprise his role another two times in "The Four Musketeers" (1974) and "The Return Of The Musketeers" in 1989. There was a little bit of controversy surrounding his third outing, as Rochefort was supposedly killed in the first sequel.
LORD OF THE RINGS / THE HOBBIT
First playing the villainous version of Saruman in the LOTR trilogy, Lee reintroduced himself to generations of audiences seeing him do what he does best; playing a villain of grandeur who can switch from being somewhat charming and seducing to a quiet menace. On the flipside, we also saw him play the untainted version of the wizard, before he was corrupted by the big bad Sauron in The Hobbit films. Out of the 6 films he appeared in 5, "The Desolation Of Smaug" being the only one he was absent. The first trilogy grossed $2,918,000,000 and the prequel trilogy made $2,935.500,000. Lee also did voice work for the video game "Lord Of The Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth".
After only the first instalment of LOTR was released, Lee then appeared as the fallen Jedi Count Dooku in the prequel Star Wars films. If younger audiences didn’t know about the veteran actor circa 2000, they definitely knew about him now. Lee played Count Dooku twice in “Attack Of The Clones" (2002) and "Revenge Of The Sith" (2005). And once again, Lee provided voice work for the feature animation "Star Wars: The Clone Wars".
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee may just be the king of franchise kings, if we were to solely look at his roles and not the gross of the movies he has been in. What is more astounding, is that outside of these roles, his other non-franchise projects stand up on their own merits and some of them also belonged to other well known franchises. Most notably are the characters of Rasputin in "Rasputin The Mad Monk" (1966), as Kharis the Mummy in "The Mummy" (1959), as Francisco Scaramanga in James Bond "The Man With The Golden Gun" (1974) and as Lord Summerisle in "The Wicker Man" (1973). Sir Christopher Lee is credited as playing 208 roles...for film - not including TV roles and other media and so Sir Christopher Lee we salute you as a major Franchise King.
TDD, RC & IK talk: