Thursday, February 5, 2015

(Almost) Ask Me a Question: Lionheart & Only the Strong

Just one more day before I take off and head to Austin for Lionheart on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, Texas! I've never really spent time in Texas, let alone Austin or been to an Alamo so it's going to be an awesome weekend. I did walk past one in Kansas City one time and nearly went there for a mystery Van Damme triple feature and sneak preview of The Expendables II. The Alamo chain was started back in 1997 by Tim and Karrie League as a second-run theater serving up food and drinks. Their following grew and by 2001, the Leagues got into first-run films with a four theater location along with repertory programming and special events with writers, directors and stars. Loyal patrons are dubbed the Alamo Crowd and the chain has a strict no talking or texting policy. You may have heard about it in 2011 when the chain used the voicemail of a disgruntled kicked out goer as a hilarious PSA. People, man. The Leagues sold the brand in 2004 but remain heavily involved and there are now 11 locations around Texas with additional franchises in Virgina, Michigan, Colorado, New York and Missouri with new theaters under construction in Los Angeles, California as well as Arizona and Nebraska. Today, arms of the Drafthouse release films, hold festivals and this year their own convention dedicated to art.

Austin has been growing exponentially these last few years with a reported 150 people moving there a day. Chalk it up to a diverse population of cultured and open minded music and arts loving, keeping it weird peeps. Apparently Austin is known as the live music capital of the world with something like 1700 venues and festivals including SXSW and Austin City Limits. Food wise I'm always hearing about people waiting in line for hours to get a plate of award winning barbeque. While I love me some charred and slow cooked meat, I won't have time to waste a chunk of my day for it. Luckily we did a bit of a BBQ tour tasting in Kansas City. Probably not the same thing but ya know, go read a food online journal then.

So Sunday, February 8th, Lionheart now screens at 7:00PM followed by Only the Strong at 10:00PM. Writer/Director Sheldon Lettich will be appearing after both films for Q&A. A veteran of the Marines and AFI, Lettich got his start helping fellow students write and direct short films before realizing he could do a better job himself. His scripts got him in with Cannon films for Bloodsport before developing Double Impact and taking the project when the mini-studio went bust. After meeting future collaborator Jean-Claude Van Damme on Bloodsport, the two became fast friends and when the duo co-wrote Lionheart, it was JCVD who believed in Lettich and went to bat for him to direct. The low budget street fighting flick would be picked up by Universal and gross a very healthy $24 million at the US box office in 1990 and far outgrossing Van Damme's previous efforts like Cyborg, Kickboxer and Death Warrant. With his profile and box office clout growing, Van Damme and Lettich were provided 3x the budget of Lionheart for follow up  Double Impact. Lettich would go on to work with Van Damme as a writer and or director on The Quest, Legionnaire, The Order, Second in Command and The Hard Corps. His military background, writing style and eye for action would see team up with physical onscreen heroes Sylvester Stallone, Mark Dacascos, Daniel Bernhardt and Dolph Lundgren through the years as well as work on an aborted live action G.I. Joe movie. Besides his catalog of fan favorites, Lettich co-wrote the upcoming dogs of war tale Max with friend Boaz Yakin, writer and director of flicks like Now You See Me, Safe, Remember the Titans, The Punisher and Fresh. Warner Brothers is releasing this upcoming August.

As Sheldon had plenty of great stories for our Van Damme Triple Dip of Double Impact and Bloodsport, I'm looking forward to hearing about his experience on Lionheart and seeing it on the big screen for the first time. Let's get weirdcool!

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