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Number 46 (Vol 2, No. 6).  This edition is for the week of February 5--11, 2001.
X-Files: the return of Mulder(?), The return of Art Bell to late night radio.
The X-Files (episode 2-4-01)
After weeks of relentless hyping, Sunday night TV-viewers expecting to see the full-fledged return of Fox Mulder may have been a trifle disappointed that his appearances were relegated to a couple cameo spots. To prematurely turn away from this intriguing episode on account of that, tho, would have been a disservice to yourself.

I have always been uncomfortable with religiously-themed science-fiction/horror. I don't know, contradictory elements or something, usually fighting against a smooth story flow. There are some exceptions (like "Night Stalker"), but they're rare. Does anyone here besides me remember a "Night Gallery" episode featuring Richard "John-boy" Thomas as a "sin-eater"? I remember being extremely confused at this bizarre, yet apparently real, religious phenomenon. I just didn't get it. Well, if you "got it" you'd have been at home on last Sunday's X-Files.

In a rare episode totally without Gillian Anderson, special agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick in a virtual one-man show) is investigating a murder in a rural back-country area (and you know those are always great episodes), where the evidence points to Mulder having killed a man, but never reporting it.

Facing a whole town bent on keeping a dark secret (you know those are always great episodes), Doggett doggedly pursues one blind alley after another, finally having to face the possiblity that the strange behavior exhibited by the citizenry are manifestations of a bizarre religious cult-paranoid-of-outsiders-belief-system (and you know those are always...er... oh, never mind).

I kid, because X-Files has plumbed this rich vein so many times before. The unsettling part to me is I still get off on it! It's still great stuff. OK, back to the action. The "man" in question is the town's "sin-eater" (have we used up all the other religious-nut themes?). The town's people want to keep him around because he can effect miracle cures thru the process of "eating the disease"...absorbing it into his own system. Not exactly sin-eating, but, like I said before, I never really got that anyway. This creature apparently can't die, so needless to say, he looks pretty sick! Evidence begins to mount that Mulder did indeed try to kill this creature--but not to protect any townsfolk. John Doggett realizes this and attempts to rescue the creature from continued suffering. The sheriff's not so crazy about this idea, so a fatal shootout ensues. The "sin/disease eater" realizes Doggett's sacrifice. The last few minutes are a moving conclusion. A.D. Skinner (the always great Mitch Pillegi) appears to be encouraging a cover-up in this episode, which, for some reason, seems terribly uncharacteristic.

I recommend this episode with the caveat to hard-core fans that David Duchovny only appears in "flashback" scenes as the original murder case is investigated. Robert Patrick--is it me or is his accent getting ever more dis-dat-dese-doze New Yawkian? I'm assuming he's putting that on for the show, because I never heard him do that in other shows. Could be wrong. There's a nifty trailer for the upcoming "Lone Gunman" series during the show. Their logo is reminiscently "Charlie's Angels"-like to me. As if you could make three computer geeks into sexy action heroes. But, if anyone can, it's Chris Carter.

Art Bell in Tampa!Art Bell returns   (2-5-01)  Pictured at left is Art Bell attending the Super Bowl in Tampa last month! (Presumably snapped by Ramona Bell, this picture is circulating around the internet.)
Controversial late-night radio talk show host Art Bell "retired" for the second time last year about mid-April amid personal and legal entanglements, supposedly never to return. This time I believed him. Sometime late last year, The Premeire Radio Network realized they'd lost 20% of their listening audience and affiliates were dropping like flies (despite very worthy replacement hosts Mike Siegel, Ian Punnett, and Barbara Simpson). Desperate to reclaim their king-of-the-hill status, PRN made Bell an offer he couldn't refuse--to come back out of retirement, re-host the show and name any conditions. Refreshingly, a pay increase was not a condition. In fact, one of his conditions--namely to reduce the commercial load by half--guaranteed a pay cut. He didn't care. He demanded the show return to the 5-hour format of previous years (it had been 4 hours since even before he left). He'd be working more hours for less money. He didn't care. This guy is my hero.

Monday night show's first hour basically recapped what has been documented to death in other media, so I won't bore you with details here (his son's sexual molestation by a high school coach; unwarranted similar accusations directed back at Art; charges of racism; lawsuits flying like scud missiles over Iraq). After telling a story about one of his cats, we had to sit thru a long list of "Welcome back affiliate W___" radio call letters, seemingly endless--twice--before we finally got underway in the second hour with long-time favorite Bell guest Peter Davenport of the UFO Reporting Center in Seattle Washington.

The eyewitness sightings...There were two sets of storytellers each relating of a fascinating encounter with large, black flying triangles in remote areas. I'm sure you've all heard of triangle sightings: big as football fields, sometimes rimmed with lights, and hovering noiselessly over a remote area. Not so much flying as floating. And very, very black. One couple found theirs near a fairly busy highway (for a rural area) in Ohio, but at a different elevation (the object was low to the trees). The other couple--two guys who'd been out camping in Idaho--suddenly found their object directly over their campsite with no other warning than one of them decided to look up! His flashlight beam actually hit the bottom of it (he said it was only a couple hundred feet overhead) and he described a smooth, metal finish. Both objects had weird lighting effects of one sort or another. Both hovered long enough to scare the dickens out of everybody, then, as if the game was over, moved silently off over the horizon, mystifyingly leaving no more than a scant few witnesses. This was a memorable Art Bell show and I will continue to be a huge fan. But, I'd like to clarify something on a personal note...

Pardon my digression, but...One of my hobbies is UFOs/paranormal investigations/skeptical thought. I don't usually cover this kind of topic in the Review, because it's not really appropriate and I'm planning to do a more thorough job of it connected to my original homepage eventually. But for now, bear with me. In the world of Ufology, I'm not the world's biggest fan of sightings and/or abduction experience stories as evidence of alien visitation as they are notoriously personal, individual and unprovable affairs. I'm much more inclined to think the government is playing with our heads somehow. I'm constantly in trouble with Ufologists and skeptics because I remain on the fence about so many things. It's what I call "there's little absolute truth beyond personal belief systems". It's my personal mantra and no amount of screaming in my face by dogmatic extremists of any belief or religion can change my mind about that.

However, when someone who is obviously sincere, intelligent, credible and not out-to-make-a-buck starts telling a compelling close-encounter story, you gotta wonder. Monday night brought several guests to the fore who all had sightings of large black flying triangles. My former colleague at Public Access, Malcolm Hathorne, and I came to blows over this issue. I was convinced they were military stealth blimps of some sort with advanced propulsion. He was unshakable that they were alien craft. The sticky point--depending on who tells the story--is the part about sudden, unearthly, acceleration. Pivoting, instant 180-degree course changes and the like. I maintain that's where witnesses fumble the story and are not reporting correctly or we are underestimating the advanced propulsion available to the military thru "black budget" programs. He maintains that the witnesses are not misperceiving and these are alien craft capable of feats we are simply not capable of at this time. I am not saying there are no aliens here. I'm not saying they are here, either. The most important thing is to keep at it, keep asking the questions, keep researching...the truth is out there.

I do not intend to give blow-by-blow reviews of Art Bell shows in the Review. I made this one exception to acknowledge my excitement over his return and to relay my personal stance on Ufology to those who may have been wondering.

Canova show-biz news: Jim Stafford, Kent LaVoie (Lobo), Buddy, Joni and Bruce Canova reunite the "PolKats".. Deep back in the '60s, my father, Nolan, my uncle Bruce and a young upstart named Jim Stafford had a nightclub band together that was named in one of its incarnations "The Polk county PolKats". Jim left to make his mark on the world with hits such as "Spiders and Snakes", "The Wildwood Weed", and "My Girl Bill". Returning to his roots recently, he looked up my uncle Bruce, now over 80 years old (my father died in 1985), to reunite the PolKats with some very special guests of "local" persuasion, including my two cousins Buddy and Joni. (My invite was lost in the "black sheep" file, as usual. Heh heh...sigh.) My California cousin Joyce emailed me the relevant link (thanks again, Joyce) and you can read more about it and see pictures from the occasion by going to Dizzy Rambler Productions. When you get there, click on the picture of Jim Stafford (should still be there) and it'll take you to the article.
Dark Angel rocks. I absolutely love this show. I wish I could devote more space to it this issue, but I'm already pretty full. The new season is heating up fast and looks to take over the void left in me by Nowhere Man. And speaking of angels...
Digital Angel. Not so cool or fun. On the news tonight: a new biochip capable of tracking anyone anywhere in the world is being touted as the safe way to constantly track newborns and young children from being lost or kidnapped. (This marketing ploy was predicted years ago.) Marketed as "digital angel" it is at present worn on the wrist like a watch, but the company says it already has technology to make subdermal implants possible. Revelation, anyone?
Star Trek: Voyager. Just a reminder that this is the final season. Those who sweat over taping "final episodes" may want to start paying attention. Altho it has been in a slump for a couple years and is usually regarded as the "dark horse" Trek (personally, I reserved that for DS9), I have always been a big fan of the show. I will miss it.
XFL. Didn't catch it. Heard it was a cross between WWF wrestling and regular football. Been hearing about it all week, tho. Anyone care to comment on this new "sport"?
T.R.E.E. reminder.     The Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort, Inc.
Good friend Will Moriaty wishes to remind possible volunteers from the Tampa Bay area that the TREE planting at the Bell Creek Preserve in Riverview is this Saturday, February 11th. For detailed directions, please refer to the original announcement in issue #44 under "announcements". To directly contact Will, click here.  And I always like to encourage everyone to visit the TREE website.
Matt's monster-fan site has seen some revisions. The Masters of Horror, Matt Drinnenberg's tribute to Forrest J Ackerman, Famous Monsters Magazine and Universal Studio's classic monsters, among other things, has undergone extensive modifications and Matthew is justifiably quite proud. It features personal stories from Matt's life as a fan, a tribute to Forry page, and related links to other fan sites. I'm expecting to contribute an article on the roles of Bela Lugosi very soon--be on the lookout. So--if you haven't visited TMOF in a while, do so right away, (Caution: the site is graphics and java intensive, so if you're on a phone modem dial-up like myself, allow a couple minutes for the main homepage to completely download. It will be worth the wait.)
Steve Beasley, an old friend and movie-making colleague, has recently joined the net with a politically-themed website called the "Politics and Plunderings Ezine".  Steve and I have spent countless hours debating political issues and this is a way to channel all that debating energy--for him and me! (Yes, I probably will be contributing to his zine, too--whew!)
Corey Castellano, make-up FX superboy and major fan friend, is in town this week tending to some personal family matters and, fortunately, took time to give me a call. He filled in a few more details on his current flick shooting out in Arizona. Entitled "Arac Attack", it's a monster-spider movie (duh) and stars David Arquette (Scream, Call-ATT commercials), and Kari Wurher. Corey's never been one to remember lots of specific details about anything, so I'll pass along more info as I crowbar it out of him. So far, all I know is his contributions are expected to wrap about the first of March.
Post-pub note: I spoke with Corey again before he left for Arizona and here's some more on "Arac Attack": it's a Roland Emmerich-Dean Devlin production, Centropolis film for Warner Bros., medium-budget, and the director is Ellory Elkayem ("They Nest"). A sheriff must protect a town from a giant spider invasion. (Where have I heard that one before? Hee hee--love it already.) Release date is waxing and waning anywhere from Halloween to a year from now.---Nolan.

And now, I'm honored to re-introduce Brandon Herring, our guest movie critic of the week. ---Nolan.
"The Gift"     movie review by Brandon Herring
  Critic's rating: * * * *          (Movies are rated from one * to four **** stars)

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Gary Cole, Hilary Swank, Kim Dickens, Michael Jeter, J.K. Simmons.
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Running Time: 111 minutes
Rated R: violence, language, sexuality, nudity.

Movies that capture me from the opening titles do not exist much. The last movie to make me sit up and watch every single moment was 1999's "American Beauty". Of course, this year we had excellent movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Traffic", and now "The Gift".

"The Gift" is a horror thriller directed by film master Sam Raimi that is so moody, well acted, and well written that, in the end, it is a treat to watch. Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is a young woman in a small town, who is widowed and lives with her three young boys. She brings in the people of this town because she is a psychic, and she gives readings for people and they give her--as in her own words--"donations". Annie, of course, in this small town has a few enemies one of whom is Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves). He believes she is a witch and she told his wife Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) to leave him because he physically abuses her. Valerie, however, thinks of Annie as a friend as does the mentally unstable Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), who is oddly confused about having nightmares about a blue diamond. When Annie is called to her son's school after he is in a fight, she meets the principal Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear). She finds herself attracted to him. However, he is engaged to the young Jessica King (Katie Holmes). When Annie sees Wayne and Jessica together, she gets a bad feeling that overcomes her and sees an image that she will never forget. At a party she sees these two again, goes out to get some fresh air, and catches Jessica with wealthy lawyer David Duncan (Gary Cole). She doesn't disrupt the two, but learns of the disappearance of Jessica a few days later. The cops are drawn to Annie to try to help with her psychic abilities. As Annie is about to find out, there is a lot more to what lies beneath this disappearance.

Sam Raimi has done such a great job with "The Gift" that I am proud to name it one of my best films of 2000. The thing that stands out the most in the film however is the acting, and especially that of Cate Blanchett in the lead role. To me she gives the best female performance I have seen, and definitely deserves an Oscar Nomination for her role. She is a very beautiful actress in Hollywood, and it's nice to see her starring in good movies (Her last being "The Talented Mr. Ripley"). In the supporting roles Greg Kinnear gives a somewhat bland performance, and doesn't really suit his character. After his Oscar-nominated role in 1997's "As Good As It Gets", he hasn't had really many big roles. Keanu Reeves is not one of my favorite actors at all, but he gives it all he can, and, in the end, Keanu Reeves actually clocks in a great performance as a realistically scary man. Hilary Swank, fresh off her Oscar-winning role in 1999's best film, "Boys Don't Cry", gives yet another fantastic performance in a great but small role. Gary Cole, who is always good, gives a nice creepy performance as the rich lawyer. Next to Cate, however, I think Giovanni Ribisi gives the best performance in the movie as the mentally unstable Buddy, he gives it all he can and goes over the top in scenes and it works out great. Katie Holmes as the promiscuous Jessica is stellar in her performance, and shows she can do nudity in a non gratuitous style. Kim Dickens (Hollow Man) is nice in her small role also. The script written by Billy Bob Thorton (whom also starred in Sam's 1998 masterpiece, "A Simple Plan") is that of a great one. The dialogue is tightly written, and the twists and plot changes come fast and quick. The ending is especially surprising, and will leave a tear in your eye, and a smile on your face. Sam Raimi's direction puts so much atmosphere in the film, that at times you almost seem like you are a character in the film. For those fans of Raimi check out the car Cate Blanchett drives, a nice little homage to the "Evil Dead" series. "The Gift" is one of the best films of 2000, and one of my favorite thrillers in a long time. Everything in the movie stands out, from the acting, to the script, the direction, to the editing. I can't wait to watch this one again, its a winner!
1/26/01. ©2001 by Brandon Herring
Letters to the Editor
Mike's Rant   by Michael A. Smith.
Hey, pretty cool about Jim Stafford (Thanks, Mike! Readers, see "Quick Looks", above---N)..............I remember the first time I played "My Girl Bill" on a jukebox............my dad heard it and asked me "what kind of faggot song was I playing?" Jeesh! Well, not a lot this week but here goes:

Hello gang! How bout that XFL? Now I know why I work Saturday nights!
Citing "contract disputes," Peter Criss has been dumped from KISS. Currently touring in Japan and Australia on their "farewell" tour, the drummer will be replaced by Eric Singer, who was in the band from 1991-1996. No word on Vinnie Vincent's whereabouts, but sources say they overheard Gene Simmons tell Ace Frehley to "watch his ass!" (How bad does it have to be to get dumped from a freakin' FAREWELL tour?---N)

With nominations due next Tuesday, and as the reigning Pop Culture Review OSCAR Champ, I'm going to go on the line here and give my choices for Best Picture this year. They are: "Almost Famous", "Crouching, Tiger Hidden Dragon", "Erin Brockovich", "Gladiator" and "Traffic." I'll try to have my acting nominees ready early so Nolan can post them before the nominations come out. (Uhhh...Nolan needs to get to the video store!---N)

Once again, another famous athlete has been acquitted of charges against him. And, once again, the famous athlete has blamed the media for "crucifying" him instead of admitting his own faults. This week former Green Bay Packer Mark Chmura was acquitted on third-degree sexual assault and child enticement charges. For those not aware of the case, Chmura was arrested after the 17-year-old baby-sitter of his children accused him of sexually assaulting her at an after prom party held at a friend's home. Chmura spent the majority of his after trial press conference speaking about his spiritual awakening, for he is a spiritual man. I call Chmura a hypocrite because he refused to accompany his teammates to the White House to meet President Clinton after the Packers won the Super Bowl. He cited as his reason the Monica Lewinsky incident. Apparently, had President Clinton engaged in drinking with underage children while lounging in a hot tub in his underwear Chmura would have been first in line for a photo op! And the sad thing is, Chmura, like Ray Lewis before him, feels like he's done nothing wrong. When asked why he allowed himself to be at a party where kids were drinking, why he stripped to his underwear while playing drinking games with the girl............even why he didn't force her out of the bedroom he says she "followed" him into, Chmura dismissed the questions, saying they were "immaterial and irrelevant." A civil suit is in the works and Chmura will have to take the stand in his defense, which he did not do in the criminal case. I'm sure that soon some team in the NFL will give him a call and sign him to a big contract and he can get on with his life of hypocrisy. But one day he will have to answer the "irrelevant" questions, be it from his children or from the God he professes to serve. And I hope by then he has the right answers.

Well, gang, that's it for now. Have a great week!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2001 by Michael A. Smith.     All contents this page are ©2001 Nolan B. Canova

Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of  Nolan B. Canova, ©2001