Nolan Canova here. This month's TFR was the first at the new location, The Cigar Warehouse Theater in Ybor City. The place is immense, the seats comfy, and the air-conditioning adequate. An artist gallery/showcase greets you upon entry which provides the appropriate initial ambience as you make your way to the back of the hall where TFR is held. There, in front of the impressive bandstand and walkway used for other events, sits the familiar TFR portable silver screen and projection equipment. There seemed to be enough seating for tonight's crowd (including over-stuffed easy-chairs at front, a welcome relief for ye humble editor's fragile condition), but TFR director Paul Guzzo made a public request for additional seat donations for future showings---the theater was filling quickly, and chronic standing-room-only conditions are certainly undesirable.
PCR staff writer, co-editor and co-moderator Terence Nuzum provided my transportation to Ybor City. We had no problem locating the Cigar Theater, which was helped by the familiar figure of Paul Guzzo standing outside greeting patrons. We were soon joined by Chris Woods and John Miller who will be reviewing the films with us this month. That's FOUR reviewers for the price of one, only the second time that's happened (last month was the first)!
Embarrassing aside: I had planned on taking pictures on this special night to share with Tampa film fans world-wide. While I packed the batteries separately, for some reason I forgot to bring the actual camera itself, leaving it on a window sill as I waited for Terence's arrival. When I relayed this to the group, John Miller offered the use of his disposable camera---which would've been great, except the camera apparently had been damaged by heat or moisture or both and didn't work. So....we got no photos, sorry. Hopefully, next month I'll plan ahead a little better and be able to take some snapshots. (Fortunately, my camera was still sitting on the window sill when I got home. Whew!)
To those new to the process of reviewing the films, all our reviews are bundled together under each movie title, and I've been using a color-coded system to help the reader differentiate when a reviewer's "voice" changes. To wit:
All movie titles and descriptions, usually written by Paul Guzzo (or myself if none is provided with advance publicity) will be in black with a yellow background.
Nolan Canova's reviews will be in Navy Blue
Terence Nuzum's reviews will be in Blood Red
Chris Woods' reviews will be in Deep Purple
John Miller's reviews will be in Hunter Green
All reviews finish with our critic's rating which sit at the end of our review and are in boldface.
Special thanks to Terence Nuzum for noting the exact order the films were exhibited. As stated here a few months ago, it's our policy to grant all reviewers the ability to "opt-out" of commenting on things like movie trailers and short previews which are promotional in nature, and therefore, awkward to judge and rate; also anything deeply conflicting with personal beliefs.
Here we go....
"Honey Delights" by David Hurd. Honey Delights is a club is owned by a retired mobster. The pilot follows Jarrod, an aspiring film writer, and his connection to Mia, one of the waitresses at the club.
Nolan Canova: Director David Hurd originally made a big splash at TFR with 2007's There's Always Hope, a film made with partner Rod Grant about a retired cop's influence on a young hoodlum. It got very positive reviews (mine was one of them) and was one of the top films of that year, in fact. I seem to remember some of his music videos between 2007 and now that were pretty decent, as well.
I'd like to know where that David Hurd went. Because, except for some really nice photography, Honey Delights doesn't work very well.
Announced as a TV series pilot, Honey Delights is a nightclub where the waitresses are also hirable as lingerie models (or consorts or both). An aspiring screenwriter, Jarod (Loren Lee), falls for one the the girls, Mia (Tamara Gilliam). Through interminably long scenes talking about nothing important (think Tarantino's Death Proof), we accept that Jarod's about to make a breakthrough on his film project. We finally arrive at the "climax" where Mia collapses as she's about to go out on a date with Jarod. She never recovers and dies on Jarod's arm as he's about to propose marriage. Months later, accepting an award for his film, he cites Mia as his inspiration.
The main problem I have is that the film seems much stronger at the beginning, with the decent script and attractive, largely African-American cast conversing at length about their lives and situations. The camera work and acting here is pretty good between the three main actors, particularly Jarod's buddy George (Steffon Vann), although the script doesn't seem to want to go anywhere. The female cast all seem borrowed from a porno movie and their acting chops are about level with that. About halfway through, the camera work gets worse, the editing choppy, and the acting uneven. The characters struggle to develop (particularly the women) so that by the end, Mia's mysterious death (From what? Who knows?) seems tragically understated and under-reacted to.
Maybe I missed it in Gurd's announcement, but this seems more like a "preview" made of outtakes of the full-length feature than a complete stand-alone episode of anything. Notable cameos by area favorites Brent Harvey and Robert Elfstrom are largely wasted. Distressingly similar to a porno flick without the sex scenes, Not Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: This was really, really trying my patience. A terribly predictable script, conservative acting, basic pedestrian camera angles and, of course, the idea that that was entirely the intention. The director, David Hurd, who is competent, if not inspiring, announced that this was a pilot for a TV series, so he was sticking to a formula. Just not my thing. The acting also seemed sluggish and phoned-in. Even TFR favorite Rob Elfstrom dropped the ball. Poor (not technically, but everywhere else).
Chris Woods: Not sure what to make of this film. My question throughout the whole thing was “What is this movie about?” All I got from it was a screenwriter that was dating this girl who might be a model or a hooker (it was never really explained). The guy’s script is about to become a movie, then his girlfriend dies very suddenly. Months later he wins an award for his film and dedicates it to her, The End. There’s never any explanation for anything in this film. We have no idea why the girlfriend died and it seems the boyfriend doesn’t really care. There were also tons of long dialogue scenes that were about nothing and the acting was really bad. Also, there are scenes that kind of start and just cut off. Production-wise, the film is shot with a good camera, but there’s a lot of editing mistakes throughout. Just very poor character development and poor story-telling. Not Recommended.
John Miller: As a regular film this movie has almost nothing to offer. Dry dialogue and choppy editing make this unstylish effort difficult to sit through. However, it did have nice camera work, sharp actors and a story revolving around a jazzy club. Unfortunately, the execution on what could have been a very enjoyable short is uninspiring and dull. Not sure what exactly went wrong here. The creators should take this film as a lesson learned and move forward. Poor.
"Plastic Pizza" and "Ticket Trap" by John Matheny: Two Public Service Announcements as short comedy sketches illustrating the pitfalls of unwise use of credit cards.
Nolan Canova: I think John Matheny is having a much better year for films. I liked these two PSAs, cautionary tales of what using credit cards actually costs you. In the first segment, a party-goer calls in a pizza, only to discover that with all applicable charges the bill comes to $800! When asked why, the pizza boss describes that's what the pizza will cost after joining other charges on a credit card (especially one that's slow to pay off). In the second segment, two girls try to order tickets for a vacation getaway, only to get the same outrageous charges and explanation from the bored ticket clerk. Effective message and delivery. The pizza boss is a stand-out. Very good.
Terence Nuzum: Not reviewed
Chris Woods: Not reviewed
John Miller: Interesting PSA's about the shadiness of credit cards. Good perfomances all around, my favorite being the greasy pizza guy. I hope to see that character with his own movie one day. Good
"Bleeding Love" music video by Johnny Watson
Nolan Canova: For those who remember his "Linkin Park" video, Johnny Watson strikes again with another well done black-and-white piece. I liked the girl singer, loved the song, good photography and performance. I think I recognize the beach-side boardwalk featured, but not positive. Very good.
Terence Nuzum: Not reviewed
Chris Woods: A decent music video. A few cool shots of a girl walking around a park/beach area but not a lot of variety in the shots. I also believe the song wasn’t original and the girl was just lip-syncing. Decent.
John Miller: Not reviewed
"The Last One" by Garrett Brown Stop-motion claymation about a slacker who gets into in a horrific car crash and wakes to a surreal world where all perception is skewed.
Nolan Canova: When Paul Guzzo first told me there was going to be a claymation short at this month's TFR, I groaned, especially when I learned it was going to be by the same young man who underwhelmed me with his entry to this year's Gasparilla Film Festival, Murray's Law: A Trilogy of Disaster, a poorly-done, but aptly-named major disappointment that somehow got by the show screeners. (The disc I saw didn't even have an audio track.) When I asked for details about the filmmaker, I was told something like, "I dunno, some kid...teenager, I think." Great. How much different could his kid's new film be, I thought.
In one of the most indescribable turnarounds/comebacks I've ever known in my entire life, 16-year-old Garrett Brown has gone from a clumsy Will Vinton wannabe to groundbreaking visonary in just one film! If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it myself. That he's only 16 years old makes my head spin.
Our "hero" Steve is a slacker/stoner who comes home only when he needs money. He shows up for dinner one night, and mom and dad cringe at his worthlessness and lack of ambition. After a brief argument with his parents, our boy leaves, gets into his car and tears out into the world only to get in a horrific car accident. Rescued and taken in by a seemingly compassionate doctor, Steve's "treatment" results in severe disfigurement to his face. Stunned that he may not ever be able to rejoin the world, he joins the doctor's "family" who consists of two others, like himself, who've been victimized by the doctor/madman. Discovering he's slowly becoming a prisoner, he makes a desperate move to save himself: he finds a gun and makes his way out into the world---but what world awaits him reveals the final shock.
The amazing thing is, technically, there are some crude things about the execution of the animation that remind me of Murray's Law. Many animation scenes are fairly jerky. His clay characters are, at best, very rough representations of anything human. He incorporates store-bought action-figures into the same scenes as the hand-made claymation figures. This shouldn't work---and yet, the weird thing is it all works incredibly well anyway!! Why?
The story and script are great. The backgrounds and set pieces are actually very meticulously detailed and scaled. The voice-overs are horrifying and amusing at the same time. (Favorite line, freak-brother to Steve as they lie in bed together, say it like The Elephant Man: "I.....love......you....Steve!") The music appropriate. The lighting and camera angles are similar to what I'd expect from someone at a pro level! The story and pacing are excellent, the weirdness draws you in and doesn't let go until the last frame.
In some ways, he's already sailed ahead of filmmakers years--or decades--his senior. Like I said, makes my head spin. Garrett Brown has joined the ranks of the young-people-to-watch in the Bay area. I was honored to meet Garrett and his mother at TFR and was able to convey my excitement in person. I look very much forward to anything this young man produces from here on. And, oh yes, for whatever it's worth, all is forgiven for Murray's Law!
A disturbing piece of outré horror cinema on every level, and an example of the best that TFR has discovered, I give The Last One my Highest Recommendation, Film of the Night, and one of the Top 10 Films Ever To Play TFR.
Terence Nuzum: The Last One (or as I like to call it, Everything That's Right About TFR) is a stop-motion claymation horror film that defies words. I'm not one to overly praise something, so when I say this is the shit, I mean it's the shit. Sporting ideas, camera angles, and mood that blew everything away at this month's TFR and maybe ever. Definitely in the same league as Gunn Highway. The director and animator is only 16, but he has already shut down half of TFR's competition some of which are men way into their 40s. Why more TFR entries can't be original like this and less like a shot at a TV show or distribution deal is a sad question. Sometimes it takes someone with a untarnished artistic vision to remind us that we should be making movies from our hearts and not for cash and fame. If I'm wrong and everyone is making films they truly love, then maybe filmmakers here have less creative talent than once thought. This kid, though, is either going somewhere or he will leave this as his sole masterpiece, but either way, for him it's a win-win situation. Film of the Night.
Chris Woods: This has to be one of the best films to play in CFR/TFR’s history. An excellent clay animation short done by 16-year-old director, Garrett Brown. Most of the film features all characters created by clay, a few are action-figures. Animation on all the figures is amazing. But not only is there great animation, there’s also a great twisted story with very strange and awesome characters. The story really takes a weird twist when the lead character is injured in a car accident. He is rescued by a so-called doctor that saves his life but is left with his face disfigured. (One of the best parts of the film is when his face is revealed.) The doctor also has two other patients there who are deformed and call him "father". The lead character is asked to stay with them but realizes how sick and twisted they are and wants to leave but the doctor won’t let him escape.
There are so many great things about this film. The voices to the characters are very creepy. The whole atmosphere and the mood just pull you into the story. The small miniature sets give a great dark and gritting feel and almost feel like the place is real and at full size. The film is shot on video but at most times looks like it is shot on Super-8 or 16mm. And the lighting is excellent. One shot that comes to mind is a spotlight on a gun that is set on a platform, the way the reflection off the gun and the complete darkness that surrounds it was just awesome. At 16, this filmmaker has a lot of promise and look forward to see his next film. This is a must see! Very Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.
John Miller: I feel honored to have been in attendence to witness this masterpiece. Filmmaker Garrett Brown at just sixteen has fired a warning shot to everyone with a camera and a script that they need to step their games up. Way Up! This kid's whole approach is something new and fresh. It's as if Mr. Brown saw the fork in the road between honoring the glory days of the past and staying stuck in the staleness of the present, put the pedal to the metal and forged straight ahead, carving his own path. Film Of The Night.
UPDATE: Garrett Brown has made his wonderful film available on YouTube! It is in three parts due to YouTube's time/space constrictions, but well worth a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUXJjN7Fnm4 -- Nolan.
"The Way You Look Tonight" film trailer.
Nolan Canova: The woman in a picture frame on a nightstand starts talking to us about horrific murders in the neighborhood and the gruesome details found by examiners. Inserted shots imply there was mutilation, binding, and other assorted perversions directed at the victims before they were murdered. At the end, she stops to wonder what a noise was close by. Weird. But looks cool.
Terence Nuzum: Not reviewed
Chris Woods: Not reviewed
John Miller: Not reviewed
"Alarum" by Rick Danford, written by Krista Grotte. Enigma Films presents this special short film starring local actress and model Krista Grotte. The movie centers around a woman (Krista Grotte) who is dealing with an assortment of mental issues resulting from years of sexual abuse. When her defenses begin to break down she finds herself in a struggle for her very life.
Nolan Canova: A one-woman show that demonstrates model-actress Krista Grotte has truly arrived as a leading woman. In this starring role, she plays a woman on the edge of madness due to rampant physical and sexual abuse suffered as a child. She tries to have a normal life, but her demons are catching up with her. As her mental breakdown begins, her bedside alarm clock starts speaking to her, at first sympathetically, then more aggresively and finally abusively, a treatment she's always known. (The alarm clock voice is Joel D. Wynkoop with effects put on. Effective and scary. The clock's digital numbers pulse with every syllable.)
A really good film with a great message, effectively told. The only drawback is it seems to be the same scene over and over, the clock is yelling at Krista, she's holding her head, closing her eyes, and rocking back and forth trying to block the voice and retain her sanity. This is most of the movie.
There is a "false" ending where Krista appears to take things to a tragic degree to save herself, then a "real" ending that suggests it didn't happen. I would've ended it the first time, but maybe that's just me. The program ends with a music video that is not part of the official film, but an "extra" Krista wanted to show to the TFR audience. Very Good, Recommended.
Terence Nuzum: This film is both predictable and a revelation at the same time. The predictable part comes with the direction which is watchable enough but suffers from repetition of the same shots. You can only watch close-ups of the same actress and objects so many times before you simply start to drift off. While I understand the purpose of the repetition was to visualize the tension and madness of the main character it needn't be so padded. While I'm at it, the film could have been 10 minutes, easy. The story, while a serious issue, probably wasn't complemented best by having the comedic addition of a talking Wynkoop alarm clock which trivializes the subject matter. The revelation of the film, though, is what saves it and that revelation is that Krista Grotte can not only act but can carry a movie all by herself. I hate to make that sound like a backhanded compliment, but I'll be honest, in her past performances, I remember her being less than good. That might be because most of the directors just use her as a fashion plate. Danford, to his credit, gave her a chance and she shined. Good.
Chris Woods: This horror short that is written and stars Krista Grotte and directed by Rick Danford was an interesting film that had some cool parts but would have been a little bit better if some parts were cut and the film was shorter. Krista gives an excellent performance and carries the film. She plays the character very well which started off the victim but becomes a little twisted in the end. Joel D. Wynkoop’s voice makes an appearance and a big impact as he plays the voice coming from the alarm clock. An excellent performance from him as well. Great interaction between the two of them and they steal the show. It’s a well-put together film with some good editing and some good visual effects. But if the film were a little bit shorter it would be a lot better. At the end it just seemed like there was a lot of screaming going on and not enough story. There was also a scene that didn’t belong where it has Krista dancing in a club or something in some kind of flashback. Also had some issues on how it ended. (Don’t want to give it away, but it seemed to end, then come back and end again.) There was also this music video at the end of the film as well that they didn’t need. Again, the performances were good, an interesting story, but the film needed to be tightened up a bit. Decent.
John Miller: I give the filmmakers a lot of credit for making a enjoyable film out of almost nothing. By nothing I mean one actor, one set and an alarm clock. To stretch something so minimal out for 20-plus minutes and keep it entertaining is quite the accomplishment. When the camera isn't pointed directly at her chest or buried up her crotch, actress Krista Grotte gives a impressive performance. My only complaint is that the message of the movie could have been handled a bit more creatively and not so much in our faces. Recommended.
"Something for the TFR" by Joel D. Wynkoop: Watch the hyped-up antics of a madman as he tries to prepare for the Tampa Film Review.
Nolan Canova: Put simply, this was a stroke of genius on Wynkoop's part: he didn't have anything ready for the TFR, so, the same afternoon, he put together a video about not having anything ready for the TFR! His patient wife, Cathy, follows him around as he desperately tries to figure out what he can do in the hours remaining. He picks up action-figures and starts a little battle, doing the voices himself. He picks up a model of the USS Enterprise and tries to re-live an episode of Star Trek. If he sees Cathy panning down to his hyperventilating, sweating face, he screams, "No, don't film me! Film them!" (Meaning the figures.) As he slowly has a nervous breakdown, he starts to despair that no one can help him and calls us by name, "Chris Woods! Chris Woods lives all the way in St. Pete! He can't help me!" Cathy mentions Terence Nuzum. "Terence?! Terence doesn't care about me!" Paul and I get mentioned as "understanding there wasn't time to prepare anything."
Joel inserted clips of his past movies like The Bite and Lost Faith. He wisely kept these to very short clips, 30 seconds or less. Any longer it would have slowed the pace of the film and ruined it with obvious self-promotion.
Favorite line: "Oh....I know I know. I can just give Paul a blank disc and blame that it won't play on his DVD player, then I'll say 'You broke my movie!'..."
Joel D. Wynkoop is at his absolute best when he's ad-libbing and this is all one-take ad-libbed stuff done just hours before showtime. The laughs came fast and hard and my ribs hurt afterwards. For sheer unadulterated manic craziness, Joel Wynkoop is unparalleled. Very Highly Recommended and One of The Best Comedies Ever To Play The TFR.
Terence Nuzum: A slice of pure comic brilliance. Wynkoop ad-libbing is something that needs to happen more often. The skit itself has every TFR in-joke imaginable that has been bantered about since its inception until now. From Paul not being able to work the DVD player to showing a clip of Gus Perez, to mentioning TFR reviewer (and ye humble editor) Nolan, and even Chris Woods, it was, without a doubt, for the CFR crowd's pleasure, but it seemed the rest of the audience liked it, too. The line "Terence! Terence doesn't care about me!" though, will not get you film of the night, Joel, but I will give ya....Good.
Chris Woods: This little short film was hilarious. Wynkoop is pure entertainment and an awesome performer. It had me laughing hysterically all the way through. I was even crying cause I was laughing so hard. A film that was shot in a matter of minutes by Joel and his wife Cathy that has Joel trying to put together a short for TFR to show that night. It was great and was also pretty much done in one take, only time they cut to something else is when they showed a few clips from Wynkoop’s films. One of the best parts is when Joel was doing voices to some action figures and Cathy panned the camera back to Joel and he starts screaming, “Don’t have the camera on me shoot the figures!”, something along the lines of that. But the whole piece was very funny and entertaining. Very Highly Recommend.
John Miller: When I first saw Joel's smiley mug plastered across the screen on what appeared to be a home video, I broke a sweat thinking the guy had finally cracked. Was I ever wrong. This video turned out to be a stroke of genius and Wynkoop at his absolute finest doing what he does best---Entertaining the shit out of everyone in the room! Joel's wife Cathy does an excellent job of narrating the chaos from behind the camera adding to the hilarity. Runner Up Film Of The Night.
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"The Tampa Film Review for July" is ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova, Terence Nuzum, Chris Woods, and John Miller.
All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.