Nolan here. I know it seems like we've got a LOT of reviewers this issue, but only Terence Nuzum and I were able to view the entire Tampa Film Review program this month. Due to schedule conflicts, Chrises Woods and Passinault were unable to stay at this month's event for its whole duration, so they'll review the movies they did see. Four critics for the price of one! (Kinda sorta.)
Fellow PCR columnist William Moriaty was my ride for this month's outing, and we made really good time getting down to the International Bazaar in Ybor, arriving about 7:35pm. Will dropped me off and went to go find parking and locate friend Denis Lebrun.
Plenty of time for the proverbial quick cigarette, but I decided to sneak a peek inside first to meet any early arrivals. I'd overlooked the possibility that Daniel Brienza's Film Network meeting might still be going on, so I stumbled onto that scene as it as winding down. Tampa Film Commissioner Lindsey Norris was seated on stage addressing the quietly attentive audience. I spied Paul Guzzo, Chris Passinault, Marcus Koch, Joe Davison, and of course, Dan Brienza in the audience. I went back outside and was soon joined by Paul, Marcus, Joe, Gene May (Damage Control) and the just-arriving Terence Nuzum. After a smoke and some quick catching-up, we all headed back inside.
Very good turn-out for this month's event, as has been the pattern for most of this year. If there was any disappointment at all, I'd say there weren't all that many Halloween-themed horror shorts, or at least previews from the upcoming Halloween Horror Picture Show as had been the practice over the past two years' October Reviews. A minor quibble though, as this month's selection of films was very, very good.
The TFR review color code to help identify when a different reviewer "speaks" to the reader:
All plot synopsises or general descriptions, usually written by Paul Guzzo (or myself if there's no description provided), will be in Black.
Nolan Canova's reviews will be in Navy Blue.
Terence Nuzum's reviews will be in Blood Red
Chris Passinault's reviews will be in Dark Aqua
Chris Woods' review will be in Deep Purple.
Our ratings sit at the end of our individual reviews and are in boldface.
Here we go....
No Show 2 by Damage Control, Inc: Sequel to last year's No Show, a collection of comedy shorts exhibited in the style of Saturday afternoon TV from the '60s and 70s (Think Amazon Women on the Moon or Kentucky Fried Movie channel-surfing motif). The movie for this outing was "Blow Me 2" about a homicidal maniac wielding a leaf-blower.
Nolan Canova: As a long-time fan of Damage Control, Inc., I couldn't be more pleased that this hard-working comedy group, after toiling several years in relative obscurity, have finally started to get the attention they deserve.
Last year's No Show was built around their rendition of a cheezy '40s sci-fi movie called Space Balls From Outer Space. This year, and in honor of Halloween, they're spotlighting an even cheezier offering, the '80s-era exploitation flick, Blow Me 2, about a leafblower-wielding serial killer.
This whole episode, of course, is their parody of local origination television, the way we remember it on Saturday afternoons decades ago. This variation, entitiled Popcorn and a Movie from good ol' WSUK, like No Show, is hosted by redneck/guitarist/singer/host El Camino Jerry. Jerry can't quite seem to remember what movie is playing, what year it was made, or who stars in it, but he's sure "y'all gonna like it!"
The commercials/infomercials/bumper spots are really what make this whole endeavor funny. Included are two spots I remember from previous Damage Control showings, "Mornin' Ohs" (about an orgasmic breakfast experience between a leprechaun and a sexy young lady), and the incomparable Jay Helwett's shilling of Nexoriatin, a drug that no one's quite sure the function of, but "it looks like candy" and "is not for everyone -- only kids and cool people."
The instant classic, however, was Allan Berebbi as a de-motivational speaker (think the anti-Tony Robbins) in the infomercial De-Motivate Your Way to Success. Our host explains that working hard and going the extra mile to attain successful status is only OK for suckers. What you want to do is nothing -- except try to make others around you fail. You'll look better and feel better! (Example: don't park your old Toyota next to a Porche -- park it next to a broken rickshaw, so you'll feel that much more successful.) This sequence alone is worth the proverbial price of admission and is, to me, a breakout character for Berebbi, comparable to Jay Hewlett's Attorney Moskowitz: each one can carry an entire movie, I think.
Slightly weaker spots include a "music video" of some hillbillies (related to El Camino Jerry, no doubt) singing "Shaving My Balls for Jesus". While I give it points for bravery, it wasn't nearly as effective (or memorable) as last year's "Sack Lickin'" by a similar group. I never was a big fan of "Mornin' Oh's", but someone at Damage Control must like it, 'cuz they keep trotting it out. And finally, one channel-surf brought us to a cheezy sci-fi movie, similar to Space Balls From Outer Space, but patterned after the '60s sit-com, My Three Sons. I got the joke, but I'm 52 years old. The predominantly under-40 audience was, unfortunately, left scratching their heads.
But, on the strength of Blow Me 2, Nexoriatin (even tho it's a repeat), and especially, De-Movtivate Your Way to Success, No Show 2 earns a Very Highly Recommended and my vote for Film of the Night.
Terence Nuzum: Damage Control's No Show sequel this time focusing on horror was pure non-stop laugh-a-minute brilliance. Easily the film of the night (and from me that's saying a lot considering I never put comedy up against serious dramatic efforts). Best segment and already a classic is the Demotivate Your Way To Success infomercial. Film of the Night.
Chris Passinault: They should have called this "No Show it 2 me again". There were several of the shorts that they had shown in the last package a few months back (July TFR), and they have not become better with time. This was kind of a remix package, where some of the tired oldies were mixed with a few new ones. Regardless, all of the shorts, except for one, had serious lighting and sound issues which detracted from the entertainment experience that the filmmakers were trying to deliver.
For this reviewer, the one segment that stood out and proved to be the most entertaining was the "Demotivate" one. Demotivate was a parody of an infomercial where this anti-motivational speaker puts a spin on perception. The piece was funny, and as I got into it I noticed that I recognized the actor from my University of Tampa days of 1993, when I was in school to learn television production. I forget his name, but he used to host a comics show on public access with this girl that I knew named Rosa. It's great to see him acting and doing comedy, and as an actor he does a decent job.
Going back to Demotivate, one thing that stood out was their excellent use of ariel footage of a flying view toward downtown Tampa. This one segment saved this collection, in my opinion.
I really am a fan of Damage Control's work, and they have done a ton of great material in the past. It's just that this compilation wasn't all that great for me.
To Damage Control: Please, please, please give us more films like last year's Santa VS Frosty (which I watched the other night on Tampa Bay Film's online film festival). In another reality, this should have been a compilation of comedy shorts of the same caliber as the this holiday classic. In this reality, it simply did not prove to be the case. FAIR.
Angel by Brent Harvey and Dimitri Neos: A lone woman finds herself being followed by a strange man. Though she runs, it isn't quite fast enough.
Nolan Canova: Similar in look and feel to Brent Harvey's offering of last month, Concienga, Angel represents another leap forward in terms of technique and payoff as far as the cinematography and acting.
Our heroine (Mundy Spears) seems to have escaped being killed in a car accident. Or has she? Seriously injured, she stumbles up one alley and down another looking for help, all the while being tailed by a dark stranger (Brent Harvey). Eventually, she is cornered and he reveals she's accomplished what she was sent here to do in this lifetime and it's "time to go". As the camera pulls back, we see the same young lady lying prostrate in front of the stopped car; she did not survive the accident.
I have to repeat that I'm a complete sucker for a compelling screenplay with a sweet ending and Brent Harvey has done it again. I liked the acting, directing, and camera work very much. Effective mood music caps it off. Very Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: Sporting camera work that equals the best shot of the TFR short Gunn Highway, this predictable little tale never falls to cliché because of the awesome opening scenario and intense camerwork. It's one of those that makes you feel like you are the main character, it's so powerful. Only complaint is that I wish it was longer. Highly Recommended.
Chris Passinault: This film was a pleasant surprise. I overheard the filmmaker tell Joe Davison and Marcus Koch (100 Tears) in the back row, where I was sitting, that this was filmed in Washington DC. This was a surprise, too, as the entire film looked like it had been shot on location in south Tampa's Hyde Park.
Angel, at first, looked to be a charming story about a man pursuing a woman that he had beaten, and this is what I believe the filmmaker intended to lead the audience into believing. (Spoilers ahead) What it turned out to be was that the woman had been fatally wounded by a car, which had hit her in an intersection. Bloodied and not knowing that she had died, her spirit rushed about looking for someone to help her. The man pursuing her turned out to be an angel. Once confronted, the woman cried to the angel that she was not ready to die. Finally, she accepted what had happened to her, and the angel took her to heaven.
Well filmed in a gritty style that inspired emotion through skilled camera work, which served to enhance the delivery by the actors, Angel is an excellent film which is a joy to watch. Highly Recommended.
A Pumpkin Story by Derek Miner. Derek Miner of the SunScreen Film Festival submitted this student film about a pumpkin trying to escape being made into a Jack-O-Lantern.
Nolan Canova: Shot during his student years on S-VHS, this simple comedic offering is what it is: a hand-crafted attempt to animate a pumpkin running away from a knife-wielding boy, represented most of the time by a POV camera. The pumpkin loses. Competently made and the story flowed well. Mercifully short, but entertaining enough. Good.
Terence Nuzum: Thank God we had someone submit a film in honor of this month's great Holiday, Halloween. I was counting on the Guzzos to pick horror shorts!!! They dropped the ball this month. I honestly was waiting for the horror movies. Whatever. This short was good enough and had a fun ending that picked up the ball the Guzzos dropped. Good.
Chris Passinault: This film was appropriate for this Halloween season, but that is about it. Oh, where do I begin?
This is one of the most poorly shot films that I have ever seen. It makes the experimental “The Bench And The Lamp Post” film that we reviewed a few months back (July TFR) look brilliant in comparison. THE FILM LOOKED AS IF IT WAS SHOT ON A 1980's VHS CAMCORDER. Was this shot on VHS tape?
Lighting and sound? What lighting and sound? The lighting washed with sun glare and the colors were muted. The sound was muddy. The production values here made the Damage Control Show 2 compilation look like a Blue Ray feature with Dolby Surround sound from Lucas Films LTD.
This aside, though, the film itself wasn't half bad. It was fun and entertaining, to a point. At least you could watch it, which is something that you cannot say for many indie film features done here in Tampa as recently as a few years back.
OK, you have this pumpkin who is sentient, or rather more animal than vegetable. The pumpkin has eyes and a mouth drawn on it with a marker for what looks like to be carving guides. He (?) can move about on his own by rolling. Anyway, this man wants to carve him, and the pumpkin tries to get away. I can relate to that. When I go to a doctor, I certainly don't want the pain. Anyway, the film turns into a silly chase where the man pursues the Pumpkin while wielding a large knife.
During this chase, many things could have happened to make this entertaining. The man could have tripped and fell on his knife, with the pumpkin rolling back around to gloat. The man could have accidently slashed a bystander with the knife, spinning the focus on the man having to explain why he was running around with a knife. Was he really chasing a sentient pumpkin, or is he some crazed psychopath attacking people? This premise would have made this film great, even with the poor production values, but it is time to go back to the premise of what happened.
Man chasing pumpkin. Pumpkin evades man and hides in weird places where he could not possibly roll, perhaps making this pumpkin the great pumpkin from those old Charley Brown Halloween specials that we used to watch while our parents covered us with sheets and cut our holes for our eyes. That's another story for another time, however.
The man finally catches little pumpkin. Does he carve it? NO! The man instead veers clear of the drawn eyes and mouth and begins to stab the pumpkin with his knife. After killing the pumpkin, he walks away, his urge to kill quenched. Alrighty now. Just what in the hell was the point of this film?
Why didn't he carve the pumpkin? Isn't this why he tried to use a knife on the pumpkin in the first place? At this point, he should have pinned the pumpkin down. The camera should have got a tight shot on the hand on the blade, cutting through the flesh of the pumpkin. They could have used sound for effect here, doing Foley work with cantaloupes (for that hollow, husky sound like they used in the movie Psycho). They could have also scraped metal against a stressed piece of steel, making a screeching sound which could have been mixed into the sounds of cutting. The pumpkin could have been shrieking with the cuts, and it would have been a very effective scene. Enough, though. The ending kind of sucked. What really was the point of this? The thrill of the chase? What I really wanted was that pumpkin to grow a mouth with sharp teeth and go on the offensive, the hunter becoming the prey.
Hey, if I had a sentient pumpkin which was capable of self-locomotion, I would give up my plan to carve it up. I'd sell it for research and use the money to buy good filmmaking equipment so I wouldn't ever make a film with these production values. People for the ethical treatment of living things be damned, I would sell that sentient pumpkin to science and profit at it's expense as the exploiter of sentient vegetables.
Then again, a pumpkin is already dying once it has been plucked from the vine. Carve, carve away, ye murderers of pumpkin. POOR, and Worst Film of the Night.
Soulidium - Trapped, directed by Marcus Koch, produced by Joe Davison: Music video. Song featured on the Saw 4 soundtrack, video featured on the DVD and will be on MTV.
Nolan Canova: Heavy/Death metal video featuring some great performances and nightmarish visions care of 100 Tears genius and make-up wiz Marcus Koch. Shot on much of the same equipment as 100 Tears, yet looks amazingly more advanced or something. This video is absolutely MTV-ready (if that means anything anymore). Marcus is soooo ready for the big time. Oh, and the music's great, too, but I've always been a rivet-head. Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: Marcus Koch's 100 Tears follow-up (of sorts) on a technical level makes up for any of 100 Tears visual shortcomings. A truly professional-looking effort that is only marred by the fact that it's Saw and the band is really bland. This will be on the Saw 4 DVD and on MTV as I understand it. This might make Marcus the first of Tampa's local directors to have "made it to the big time", as they say. Highly Recommeded.
Chris Passinault: Wow. Wow. Wow again. Marcus Koch and Joe Davison are on a roll here. After the brilliant 100 Tears, they follow up with an awesome music video, for a great band, with savagely effective art direction.
This video combines heavy metal with gothic / horror imagery. The singer looked demon-possessed, and it was very effective for what they were going for.
Camera work, audio, and production values are professional and top-notch. This video would be at home on MTV or VH1, and it would hang with the best of them.
Oh, and I did tell Joe Davison that this music video was, in boiled-down essence, what The Quiet Place should have been. Runner Up for Film of the Night.
Liquid Funk - Stop Da Ignorance, directed and edited by E. Haase. Hard-rock/funk video with a message.
Nolan Canova: Colorful, fast-paced video with a message about racism. I like the music and I'm usually not a big fan of rock/funk. The band's appearance and music has a distinctly Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe. The video had a retro feel and I mean that in a good way. Another winner from Eric Haase! Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: My first reaction was "this band is damn good what happened to them?". Aside from the music the video is top of the line and easily could have fit on MTV in the early '90s. I'm not sure when it was made, but it has that era's feel. Good.
Chris Passinault: Another well-done music video for a band, this video had a video within a video effect as a television show was parodied and framed a conventional music band sing-along.
Camera work was outstanding. I commented to Joe Davison, who was seated beside me, that they obviously used a crane for all of the overhead angles that they used. The music rocked, too. The people responsible for this are very talented, and ones to watch, especially after finding out that this was shot in a single day. Highly Recommended.
Al-Vi-Ne-Al, by Zeke Lever and Georger Tsalickis. The Lord of Ice and Lord of Fire engage in an epic battle with the salvation of the human race hanging in the balance. But this war will not be won with weapons, but esoterically and spiritually.
Nolan Canova: This is a different kind of filmmaking altogether. Incredible imagery, imaginative camera work, meticulous editing, layers of meaning and a meandering theme basically having to do with crime and punishment, justice and oppression, world politics, secret governments and the battle for our souls. I particularly like how Lady Justice seems to gain her sight over the course of the film. Fire and Ice battle across time in a final sequence that keeps you riveted, even if you're barely keeping up (like me). Not for everybody, but for pretty groundbreaking visuals and a creating a sense of awe-inspiring mythos, I can't help but give it a Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: Beautifully shot and constructed art film that has two figures, one representing freedom and one representing complacency (I'm guessing) of the human spirit. The symbols represented by characters are pretty cool. For instance, Justice is blindfolded and resides in the courthouse and the villain of the piece is the corrupted government represnted by an elderly man in black. I followed the whole thing all the way through till the end battle resolution, and then, somehow, it lost me. I hate to say that, because I am the guy who understands Eraserhead and yet it just escaped me. Either way, this film is not to be missed. Recommended.
Chris Passinault: This was not a film. It was an experienced delivered to the audience in the vessel of a film. If you ever get the chance to see it, please take the time to watch it at least three times. It will take the average person at least three viewings to get all of the meaning of this masterpiece.
I'm not saying that this is the best film that I have ever seen. It's not. It is one of the best local indie films that I have seen, however.
The filmmakers described to the audience that this was an experimental film with a lot of mythological imagery of many elements. This, of course, is what I gleaned from the back row, as it is very hard to hear film introductions at the Tampa Film Review. At any rate, they were right, if I did hear them correctly.
There is a lot of meaning and depth to this musical video. A lot of imagery. A lot of cool camera work and excellent post production effects. I really loved the 180 degree camera pans around the actors, smooth at first, and then sped up as they dropped-frames in editing. Awesome, awesome stuff.
One meaning that I obtained from viewing this film was "justice is no longer blind". See it with this in mind, and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Film of the Night.
At this time, PCR reviewer Chris Passinault had to leave for work, but fellow PCR reviewer Chris Woods arrived at TFR from work! Mr. Woods will fill in the third review for our final film.
There's Always Hope, David Hurd and Rod Grant: A kid into the wrong scene, and on the run, is forced to deal with his past and his future when he unexpectedly finds himself in the wrong house at the wrong time confronting a cop.
Nolan Canova: After gathering our thoughts after that last film (whew!), we were ready for this simple morality play and cautionary tale. Director David Hurd crafts a story about a young burglar on the run from police who enters the a house of a cop (the gate was left open). The cop, alerted by the noise, comes downstairs armed and ready to shoot, but so is the crooked kid. The veteran officer has obviously seen this kind of action and successfully talks the situation down from critical to manageable. A touching epilogue shows the older cop really cared about the young man's future and takes a hand in encouraging his reform.
The obvious stand-out performance here is John Sullivan as the veteran cop. Amazingly convincing and draws you in. Brian Milhoan is the young burglar who exudes just enough vulnerability to make you believe he could change. Other notable performances are Arnesti Vogia (the kid's partner in crime), and Azarette Gonzalez (as the officer's wife). Two "lazy bum" donut-eating cops are well-played for comic relief by Dustin Daley and Nicholas Naylor. Screenplay writer Rod Grant cameos as a jail guard.
If I had to fault this film with anything, it might be that the "staircase" scene (the initial confrontation) goes on a bit too long. Otherwise, an easy view. Highly Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: OK, I'm gonna admit this one suprised me. Usually, these morality tale feel-good movies come off so schmaltzy it makes you want to vomit on the entire TFR audience. But not this one. Somehow it remains rooted in real situations that make it plausible. The message, too, isn't one of religious persuasion or high-handed morality, it's simply a decent well-meaning tale of one cop who gives a troubled kid a second chance with no strings attached. I later found out that this is based on a true incident. The acting ranged from decent to really good. The actor playing the retired cop handles the dramatic lines amazingly well, where otherwise it could have sounded hammy. So, major props to his acting skill. Overall, not my type of film, but a good effort overall. Good.
Chris Woods: Great short film by David Hurd and Rod Grant. A very good character-driven piece. The actor who played the older cop did an excellent job. Kind of reminded me of Alan Arkin; not his look, but his acting style, which was very good. The two other police officers going to the scene of the crime were good as comic relief. Also, it was very cool that they got to use a real prison cell for the film. All-in-all it was a very well done movie. Highly Recommended.
"Ink Washed" by Ryan Cook, announced in promotional newsletters as playing tonight, was not shown because the disc would not play. I couldn't get it to play at home, either.
"Intuitive Mind" by Michael McCourt, announced in promotional newsletters as playing tonight, was not shown. No further information available.
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"The Tampa Film Review for October" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova, Terence Nuzum, Chris Passinault, and Chris Woods.
All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.