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Number 91 (Vol 2, No. 51).  This edition is for the week of December 17--23, 2001.
Season's Greetings!
"Lord of the Rings": movie fans' event of the year!

The wildly anticipated, much debated, and heavily promoted film adaptation of the first of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fable trilogy, "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", now a Peter Jackson film, explodes into theaters Wednesday, December 19th. Primary photography for the remaining two episodes is already complete and scheduled to be released over the next two Christmases.

This has been a very inconsistent year for fans of high-ticket fantasy cinema. "A.I" failed to live up to its 10-year-long hype. Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" I'm afraid to even bring up anymore. "Lara Croft" and "The Fantasy Within" were issued kudos for their computer animation and not much else. "Jurassic Park 3" fared much better than predicted. "Harry Potter" was a delightful holiday romp, but it was aimed primarily at children.
   The most shocking case of blown-opportunity was the failure to re-release the most obvious marketing-angle film for this particular year: "2001: A Space Odyssey". This should have been the year's biggest priority! Anyone have any idea why it didn't happen? It sure didn't show around here.

A group of us went to "Lord of the Rings" Wednesday, and likely most of you will follow thru the weekend, so I'm leaving this week's PCR open for LOTR feedback a few days longer than normal. I wrote this issue's main movie review myself, but there is other commentary also (See "Mike's Rant" and "Terence's Movie Meter" further down this issue). Check back that later in the week for any additional commentary.

Also, it would appear the same trailers played at all the theaters exhibiting "Rings". (Again, see "Mike's Rant", this issue, for the run-down on the trailers). There was an exception to his list: the trailer for "Scooby-Doo" did not play where we were.)

   A letter from a reader named "Leslie" reminded me I never published any follow-up news on the project to restore old videotapes of local horror-show host Dr. Paul Bearer. Well, here's the story...
   In one of Will Moriaty's most talked-about columns for "La Flordiana", that on local horror hosts, Will mentioned a collector he'd met in Plant City by the name of Russell McClellan, who came to own original broadcast videotapes from Channel 44's "Creature Feature". These were the real deal, obtained from Mrs. Dick Bennick, the late Dr.'s widow. Inside the boxes were notes handwritten by Dick Bennick himself. Russell (or "Rusty" as I call him now) was seeking help on transferring these old tapes to VHS for viewing and fan distribution. I called Rusty and thought, from their description, we were talking about 3/4-inch U-Matic tapes, commonly at use in many TV stations and, at the time, at use at Tampa's public access where I have a membership.
   It wasn't until I had the tapes in my hand that I saw they were not 3/4-inch tapes, but 1-inch broadcast format tapes from around 1989-1990. I couldn't do anything with them at public access. I then called the TV station up at the University of South Florida and told them the story. They seemed equipped to handle it, but it would be a little pricey. I explained this to Russell and we made a sort of loose agreement that we'd share the cost. About the time I was getting ready to transport the tapes to USF, September 11th happened...
   The University went into virtual lockdown. I repeatedly called my contact to no avail, the calls were not returned. About a month later, I returned the tapes to Rusty, apologizing I wasn't of more help. A few days later I got a call from the University, but told them I'd already returned the tapes. I called Rusty and gave him the main number of the station manager. That's the last I heard. Well, there are a couple brief postscripts...
   Postscript 1: Jacksonville-based collector, Ed Tucker (he's been in the Letters column before), has access to older tape machines and offered to help Russell with the transfer. Russell--for distance or whatever reasons--declined the offer.
   Postscript 2: Russell McClellan and his collection of Dr. Paul Bearer memorabilia will be seen in an upcoming Scary Monsters magazine, due out very soon.

STUMPER: When I wrote back to Leslie and explained the situation, she asked me the following: I'm also looking for the name of a show that came on late 70's/early 80's on Sunday morning that started with a close-up and fade away of the moon. Can you help?
   I replied that without more to go on, I'm pretty much stumped, but I'd publish her question so my staff of experts can take a crack at it. Anybody recognize this show?

The Enlightenment
Enlightenment 3:1

Ok, I've had it with Drew's column, "Wake Up and Smell the Comics", being the only source of comic information in the PCR. Besides, shouldn't his column be more aptly titled "Wake Up and Pay the Corporations"? Why does Drew so urgently push all these mainstream superhero comics on us. No independents. The independent comics should get the money and the publicity--not Marvel, not DC. They already have it. Well, it could be argued that their comics have top writers on them now, and theirs are much more mature, well-written stories. But, c'mon, they are still superhero comics and always will be. You can inject as much maturity as you want into Superman or Batman, but after awhile, you have to laugh at how ridiculous that is considering these guys wear tights!

Yeah, I buy some of the mainstream comics being put out, including DC and Marvel, but I would never say that they hold a torch to half of what's being put out through indie/underground companies. The art is better---no perfection here, which is part of the charm and personality of them. The stories are more personal, not hampered down by pre-exisiting continuity and they are not rushed for a monthly deadline. Huh? What? I don't get to read an issue every month like Batman? No, sorry fanboy nerds. But great things come to those who wait while manufactured tripe comes to the impatient. I've been reading Batman since 1989--trust me, I can wait if I had to. The comics I'm talking about are pure, unabashed art. And it is time to awaken any fool who may be relying solely on Drew "sold my soul to Marvel" Reiber's advice.

But I digress...and I don't solely aim this at Drew. It's just in the past few weeks things have transpired that I felt the need to show some support once again to the underground (and please if any jerk is reading this and thinks that it's cool to call things "underground" in a trendy way, stop reading now! Go and read your wannabe underground stuff like "Transmetropolitan").

The following underground/independant comics & companies I mention below are not glossy, they are not mass-produced, leading to the fact that they have no deadline and they are worth the money. Far above any Marvel or DC comic out there, I promise you. unless you want to read the continuing, repetitious adventures of Superman and Batman, or The Flash or Green Lantern or Spider-Man or....Oh, I could go on. But the "Tirade" is dead, so I won't go on, but the enlightenment to follow hopefully will open your eyes to artists and writers that aren't in it for the money or fame. They do it for the reason all great artists do it. Expression!!! I cannot urge more strongly how rewarding it will be to go this week and pick up an issue of, say, "Eightball" than Batman or Spiderman. Anyway, brace yourself--the enlightment has arrived.

I will section-off the following into companies and creators. (Note: this is not representative of all underground/indie comics out there nor does it claim to be a comprehensive list of the creators' works.)

I'll start with the Valhalla of all underground/indie comic companies. They have the best writers and artists in the entire industry, hands-down, no challenge. They usually showcase artists and books who are of the counter-counter culture/Gen-X scene. But in no way are they clichéd or inaccessible to other age groups.


Creator and artist of the popular HATE comic/mag. Haven't read this one, but Daniel Clowes collaborated a couple of times, so it's worth checking out. Defined by its sarcastic and ironic humor.

Ah, the great Burns, his inking has no equal; not even the Kirby-era "Thor" can compare:
Big BabyBig Baby -- Follows the adventures of an odd young man whose fear of the dark and hyperactive imagination proves to be all too real. Loads of creepy 50's sci-fi type horrors. Just listen to the titles: "Teen Plague" "Curse of the Molemen" "The Blood Club". Black HoleBlackhole -- This is Burns' current series. A sexually transmitted plague haunts students at a Seattle high school causing strange conditions in its victims. The main character, Rob, grows a tiny mouth in his throat that spits out cyptic messages.
El BorbahEl Borbah -- This is a great one. El Borbah is a detective in a Mexican wrestling outfit who lives solely on junk food and beer and then goes off to fight monsters and mad scientists.

Clowes! The Great Almighty. The undisputed champion of underground comics. This man has single-handedly understood everything it takes to make a great comic book. Humor, surrealism, drama, & action. I can't say enough, believe me. His work connects with me like no other. I will go as far as to say he is the greatest writer currently working. I mean "writer" as in comics and novels. Only Neil Gaiman holds a torch and barely:
EightballEightball --It all started here. Ghost World, David Boring, Lloyd Llewllyn, like a velvet glove cast in iron, Dan Pussey, and all those wacky back-up stories. Caricature --Collects some of the backup stories from Eightball and other odds and ends. All the stories are linked in content as a reflection on life through outsider characters. (My people, I've found my people!)
Ghost WorldGhost World --Ah, Ghost World. The movie is great, but the book is a holy masterpeice. It follows two outcast young women as they cope with growing up and the disintegration of the society they knew. It's about the struggle to not accept change for the worse and holding on to the past of our childhood. This speaks not only to disaffected youths, but to all ages. A must have. This book connects with me more than any other I've read. The main characters, Enid and Rebecca, more-or-less act like me and my friends. They talk like us, act like us, except with the obvious difference being that they are girls. But it's not so much about gender as it touches every outcast who ever hated high school. If you thought that it was cooler hanging out at your local comic or record shop than going to parties, than this book is for you.

David Boring --Follows the adventures of young David Boring and his obsession with one girl who comes into his life--she fakes her love and then leaves. He searches her down only to find that she has done it before to others. In his adventures, he is shot in the head by an angry lover of the girl and accused of murder all under the backdrop of a bio-warfare Armageddon.

The grandaddy of all those who followed. It all wouldn't exist without him. Bow down pay homage, scum:

Robert Crumb
   Complete R. Crumb comics vol. 1-10 -- Collects all the Crumb comics, including Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural.

Love and RocketsLove and Rockets: Complete Collections -- With the new L&R series out now, you might want to check these out. While I've never read any of these myself, I plan to, and recommend them for the art alone.

Creator of the excellent Sock Monkey series, Millionaire draws and writes in the style of an early turn-of-the-century comic strip, but somehow manages to give it a twisted edge, all the while remaining authentic to its roots.
Maakies --Comic strip collection by Millionaire which spawned Sock Monkey.

This company has a good reputation only rivaled by Fantagraphics.
OpticOptic Nerve - Adrain Tomines' Gen-X-styled anthology on everyday events and problems. From girl trouble to friends against friends. he makes the mundane seem dramatic. Think: a serious Eightball. PalookavillePalookaville -- Written and drawn by Seth, this comic is defined by its art (obviously inspired by New Yorker magazine's caricatres of the 40's and 50's) and its meditations on the meaning of life.

Somnambulo -- Continues in the tradtion of the famous Mexican-wrestler movies of the 50's and 60's with a film noir edge.

LenoreLenore -- The creation of writer/artist Roman Dirge, Lenore is a little girl who is dead. Her friends are other dead things to whom she does morbid things. She also is occasionally visited by Taxidermy, a stuffed deer in a dress suit who claims he "has a condition".

   There, now that you have been enlightened, don't bother to read "Wake Up and Pay the Rich Guys"---go to your local comic store and buy comics! Yes, comics! As in "art" not as in "entertainment". Yes, go spend money on true art, not the "Marvel Fund for the editor-in-chief's new mansion". Most of the artists I mention above have gotten propostions by Marvel and DC, but refused to cash in for fame or compromise. That's why all the Ed Brubakers, Larry Hamas, and MacFarlanes in the world will never equal one Daniel Clowes. Because these artists do it for the right reason. Do you really think they would be making diddley-squat money if they didn't? They purposely draw the way they do, write the way they do to remove themselves from the cash box of the big companies. Sure, it may seem as if my reviews are one-sided and that I possess these comics alone or that the Ghost World comparison to my own life was too much for anyone but me to get into. I was trying to show a point. That's how these comics work: while Batman speaks to millions, one of these will speak only to you. Look and you will find one that you identify with, this I promise.

So, if that's not enough motivation for you or you would rather read someone else's take on someone else's original creation, than by all means I encourage you to pick up your X-Men or Green Arrow comic, because frankly, you don't deserve better. No arguments. Bottom line.

Please feel free to attack me, all comic nerds. Because, frankly, you read comics written by assholes who, for the most part, were too dull to create their own creations or would rather live in a nice house than sleep on the street to create great art.

Terence Nuzum
Viddywell Productions

La Floridiana by William Moriaty
The Paranormal in Florida.
A Search Plane Becomes the Searched;
Vanishing Ships
Part Four of a new five-part series.
by William Moriaty
In last week's edition of the NC PCR we discussed the legendary disappearance of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger aircraft that left from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station on a routine training mission. In this week's edition we discuss the sixth plane to disappear on December 5, 1945 in the Bermuda Triangle--a Martin Mariner flying boat sent to search for Flight 19!
The Lore:
   The last words from Flight 19 were at 5:25 P.M. when the mission's flight leader said the following to the Ft. Lauderdale tower "We seem to be lost.. have enough fuel for 75 more minutes of flying...can't tell whether over Atlantic or Gulf. Not sure, but think we are 75 miles northeast of the Banana River Naval Air Station (some 200 miles north of Miami---for the factual accounting of this incident, please read last week's NC PCR)".
   As the last report was received, Commander Howard S. Roberts, executive Ft. Lauderdale tower operator, immediately ordered a huge Martin Mariner PBM airboat with 13 crewman for an air-sea rescue of Flight 19. Ft. Lauderdale kept in constant touch with the Mariner, but after 7:30P.M. was unable to raise the plane by radio. The escort aircraft carrier U.S.S. Solomons, located off the shore of southwest Florida launched 30 fighter planes for the search, while every available British plane at Wind Wor Field in the Bahamas was put into the sky. The Third Air Force stationed at MacDill Army Air Base in Tampa, and the Airport Transport Command from Homestead Army Air Base joined in flying low over the Everglades in the search. In all 252 Navy planes, hundreds of Coast Guard and army planes and a fleet of surface vessels 150 miles out in the Atlantic all joined in on the fruitless search. Three hundred and eighty thousand square miles of sea, coast, land, and swamps produced not one shred of evidence that the 27 total crew from the six planes were still alive.
The Facts:
   The Martin Mariner was not sent until 7:27 P.M., a full two hours after the "last" transmission from Flight 19 as told in the legend, and at the same time that the Mariner, by the same Triangle lore, was said to have no longer been in contact with Ft. Lauderdale! The Mariner was not sent from Ft. Lauderdale, but from the Banana River Naval Air Station (present day Patrick Air Force Base), nearly 200 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale. The Mariner was reported by farmers in the Melbourne and Orlando area to have exploded in mid-air, about 23 minutes after take off, in stormy weather. This would be the exact true position of the aircraft at that time. The Mariner was known as "a flying gas tank" because of its unfortunate tendency to explode due to gas vapors (attributable to design flaws) if a crewman tried to sneak a smoke, or a spark of any type was ignited.
   Word reached Banana River NAS at 9:12 P.M. about the explosion, and officials there assumed that it was the Mariner since it failed to make its scheduled 8:30 P.M. position report that same evening.
Smoke on the Water--the S.S. Marine Sulphur Queen
The Lore:
   On the afternoon of Saturday, February 2, 1963, the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a T2-SE-A1 type tank vessel with 15, 260 tons of hot molten sulphur brimstone left Beaumont, Texas for Norfolk, Virginia. The ship was due in Virginia on February 7th.
   At 1:25 A.M. on February 4th, the bulk carrier reported its position near the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf, 200 miles off Key West in the Florida Straits. That was the last ever heard from the ship and its crew. The tanker did not show up in Norfolk as scheduled. As a result, authorities issued a search for the overdue vessel. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft were dispatched from Virginia southward to Florida and west to Louisiana.
   Miami's U.S. Weather Bureau reported that the ship's course would have taken it through a severe Atlantic storm with 35 mile-per-hour winds. Eight days after search operations began; not one shred of evidence of the giant ship could be found. On February 20, 1963, however, a Navy torpedo boat found a life-jacket marked "Sulphur Queen" 14 miles southeast of Key West. All told, the Navy ship and a Coast Guard cutter found an additional life jacket, seven life preservers, four life rings, and some pieces of the ship's name board.
   Even though some items were discovered, why were none of the bodies of the 39 crew found? Why were there no lifeboats, oil slick or floating sulphur found?
The Facts:
   A 500' long ship of this type was typically constructed with nine bulkheads. This was a converted ship, however, and all of the original nine bulkheads were removed and refitted with two massive bulkheads in order to allow for a more centralized, as well as unrestrained and unimpeded distribution of the molten sulphur load. The peril in this is quite simple. Bulkheads are designed to act as an interior defense to contain flooding from ocean waters in the event of the hull being torn open. In other words, if one bulkhead is breached, water can not escape into the remaining eight, which would afford the ship an enhanced ability to remain afloat.
   As a result of the lack of multiple bulkheads, if one of the two bulkheads were breached, the ship would literally break into two and sink exceptionally rapidly--so rapidly that a SOS transmission may not have been possible. The vortex created by the massive weight of the ship was sadly pull down everything with it to the bottom, leaving little surface evidence. What few crew may not have been pulled down to the ocean floor were most likely consumed by predating fish. As to what may have breached the ship's hull is speculative, but the element of rough seas and a volatile load undoubtedly play a major role in the cause of this tragic loss.
Bad Mojo on the Holidays--"Witchcraft" Pulls a Vanishing Act
The Lore:
The lightning-fast disappearance of the pleasure craft "Witchcraft" one mile off the coast of Miami demonstrates the rapid ability for the Bermuda Triangle to claim its own without warning. Don Burack, owner of the craft, and Father Pat Hogan, a guest, proceed eastward along the Government Cut to about one mile out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean to view the Christmas lights of Miami on the evening of December 24, 1967. Unexpectedly Burack notified the Coast Guard for help. He said he was near Buoy Number 7. Twenty minutes later the Coast Guard arrived. There was no sign of the boat or its crew. Paradoxically a Coast Guard spokesman said, "We presume they are missing, but not lost at sea."
The Facts:
   The disappearance of the Witchcraft occurred on December 22, 1967, not on Christmas Eve. Miami Herald, Friday, December 22, 1967, page 2:
   Miami Herald, Sunday, December 24, 1967, page B1: "Burdack radioed the Coast Guard Friday evening that the boat had become disabled about one mile off of Miami Beach.. Burdack was told (by the Coast Guard) to fire off a flare in about 20 minutes in order to guide a rescue boat to his location.The rescue crew never saw the flare and there was no further contact from the Witchcraft.. Stiff winds blowing from the north and northeast whipped the surface of the Atlantic into a carpet of foam against which a white boat like the Witchcraft would have been well camouflaged.."
   A search from Bimini to St. Augustine was conducted to no avail. Regardless, the undoubtedly powerless boat was at the nighttime mercy of rough seas. The boat could have easily been swamped. Finding a small boat at night under the conditions is aptly described above in the second Herald article. Lastly, there was no specific location ("Buoy Number 7") was mentioned by Burdack, and having no flare launched from his boat made rescue attempts even more difficult; also, the Coast Guard never made any statement concerning that the Witchcraft was "presumed missing--but not lost at sea."

Next Week: Surviving witnesses will give their accounts of events that happened to them while plying the sea and skies of the Bermuda Triangle in the fifth and final Chapter in next week's NC PCR. Have a most joyous Holiday Season, and don't go lookin' at any Christmas lights unless they're on dry land!

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
          Movie review by Nolan B. Canova          * * * *  out of  * * * * stars

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monagham, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, and Christopher Lee.
Screenplay: Frances Walsh
Based on the original book-- "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien
Director:  Peter Jackson
Running Time:  183 minutes
Rated:  PG-13 for intense action/violence and scary images.

I'll say this right off to save you some time, and you can quote me: this is quite likely the finest fanatsy film ever made. The casting is great. The acting is great. The music is great. The make-up is great. The scenery is great. And the special effects are off the freaking scale. From the opening moments of the ring's being forged by the evil Sauron, to the introduction of Hobbits and their homeland to the climactic--and epic-scale battle scenes, every frame of this film is dead-on from the heart.

I, myself, have never been a big reader of fantasy-in-print (I think I read/skimmed through "The Hobbit" in the '80s), but I'm a BIG fan of it on the big and small screen. Of course, like nearly everyone even remotely connected to this genre, I saw the Rankin-Bass "Lord of the Rings" cartoons in the '70s. And I was among the first to sit through Ralph Bakshi's noble-yet-futile attempt at a higher-dimensional cartoon version in the '80s. The Tolkien "Rings" trilogy, "Fellowship of the Ring", The Two Towers" and "Return of the King" had all but the most resourceful in Hollywood walk off in total disgust and frustration at the "unfilmability" of the novels.

Then Peter Jackson got a hold of it. I only really knew of him from some cheesey-but-cool splatter movies of the '80s and "The Frighteners" in the '90s. To be fair, I'm a little smokey on the details of how exactly "Rings" came to him, it is covered in other media, but for the record, and in one of those magical ways that some things just work out for the best, let's be GLAD it DID come to him.

For those who still don't know this legendary story of modern mythology, "Lord of the Rings", a novel released in 1954, is set in ancient times (I figured about 1000-1500 years ago, but a magazine recently stated it happens 5000 B.C.!), in a land called "Middle-Earth" (once again, I figured pre-Authurian England, but one of my associates maintains Tolkien was deliberately vague about that), where there are trolls and goblins and dwarves and wizards and HOBBITS. Hobbits are the noble little people we are concerned with, particularly one Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood).

The ring in question is the one forged by the dark lord Sauron in even-more-ancient times. It is powerful beyond measure and contains authority over a set of many other rings possessed by others in power. During a battle Sauron was slain (or so thought) and the ring became lost. Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins (of "The Hobbit" and played here by Ian Holm) found the ring by accident many years ago, but kept it secret. During a birthday party in his honor, he performs a literal disappearing act (one of the ring's properties is invisiblity), tipping off to wise and good wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) that the ring has been found. He knows the ring must be destroyed, but that can only be done in the fires of Mount Doom, where the ring was originally forged, in the heart of a dark, foreboding place called Mordor. Since the ring brings nearly instant corruption to all those who possess it (save for Bilbo, largely), it will take a special individual to carry this off. Frodo is drafted and the adventure begins. The Fellowship formed is the one which will accompany him to Mordor. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Pippin Took (Billy Boyd), Merry Brandybuck (Dominick Monaghan), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and best friend Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) are among the comrades-in-arms.

Chrisopher Lee plays Saruman the White, leader of the wizard's order. Liv Tyler as Arwen, an elf princess, is probably the most controversial character I've heard about from those who have read the books. Seems the production staff took some liberties with combining or restructuring characters and plot devices, hers most notably, BUT NOT to the movie's denigration. Cate Blanchett positively glows (haha) as the elf queen, Galadriel.

LOCATION. If I had to point to one stroke of genius over all else, it might be the choice of location. My God, where has New Zealand been all these years!? It IS Middle-Earth! Well, OK, it helps that new Zealand is Peter Jackson's home stomping ground ("Brain Dead", et.al.) and probably they came as a package deal, but what a lucky combination! Before my friend Steve Beasley made plans to move there to marry his internet sweetheart, I'd barely thought about NZ. Now, I'm positively jealous! Tho it's been written elsewhere, it bears repeating that since Hobbits live in holes in the ground or small hillsides, New Line Cinema sent a staff over to NZ a year earlier to..er...plant...the Hobbit's village so it would mature in time for filming! What attention to detail.

SETS. What atmosphere! CGI-assistance notwithstanding: giant ancient ruins with huge meandering stairways, some that lead nowhere anymore. Absolutely cavernous, mile-tall interior spaces. The two colossal statues striding the river. Rivendell. Mordor. Mount Doom. At odd times during the movie, I kept thinking "what if Ray Harryhausen had had access to this technology when he made 'Jason and the Argonauts', 'Clash of the Titans', or any of the Sinbad movies?" How different they would have been. Not that time has been all that unkind to them. Believe it or not, I may be alone here, but I see Harryhausen's footprints all over the place.

When I first exited the theater, I thought the film might be perceived as too slow-moving in places for fans of high-action pictures. But, so far, I've been wrong. Everyone got a kick out of it. So, needless to say, I can recommend "The Lord of the Rings" without reservation.

...and Terence Nuzum had this to say:

Terence's Movie Meter

Mike's Rant

Hello gang! Hobbits and wizards and elves................oh my! Shall we begin?

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect as I sat down for the 3-hour plus experience of "Lord of the Rings". I had seen the late-70's animated film, though I must admit I didn't remember much about it. And I confess to never having read the books. But I was definitely prepared for what I was about to see. From the opening prologue to the final battle, I was immediately drawn into the world director Peter Jackson has created from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Almost certain Oscar-winning photography (the film is almost a three-hour-long commercial for New Zealand tourism), drawn-out characters and some of the greatest effects I have ever seen are just the beginning of this adventure. With solid acting from Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Christopher Lee (who will also appear in the upcoming second episode of the "Star Wars" saga), Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Astin...........hell, the whole damn cast! It's obvious that they enjoyed being a part of this production, and that enjoyment shows on screen. Can't wait until next year at this time to write about "The Two Towers." Enjoy!

Holiday movies bring much-awaited previews to the next year's most promising films. Here are my thoughts on a few, as well as my urgency to see it, with 10 being URGENT:
   Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones:
 Looks to be much darker then "Phantom Menace," with so far the only sighting of Jar Jar Binks being a silent one. The romance between Anakin and Princess Amidala is obviously explored, as is the rift that begins to grow between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE IT SCORE: 9
 Much better trailer with a quick explanation of the story and great CGI shots of Spidey in action. Tobey McGuire still doesn't excite me as our hero (I would have preferred "American Beauty's" Wes Bentley), but Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane looks great. Especially in that clingy shirt in the rainstorm! Also great casting of Willem Defoe as the Green Goblin. CWTSIS: 8
The ads say, "from the writer and director of 'The Sixth Sense'," which is promising. Of course, he was also the writer/director of "Unbreakable," so you have to pause for a moment. Mel Gibson stars as a pastor who's faith is challenged when mysterious crop circles show up on his Pennsylvania farm. "I see scarecrows!" CWTSIS: 5
   Austin Powers in Goldmember:
 All I can say is "Groovy, baby!" A third go-round with our dentally-challenged super spy. The preview is hilarious, using a cast of midgets...........oops, little people, to re-enact the opening scene of the first "Powers" flick, a la "A Hard Day's Night." CWTSIS: 9  (I'm probably alone here, but I found the preview disturbing and exploitative. I didn't go for the trailer, but I'm sure the movie will be great.---N)
   The Scorpion King:  The Rock
obviously impressed somebody with his 15 mins in "The Mummy Returns." Now he has his own movie! Do you smell what he's cooking? CWTSIS: 2
   Blade 2:
 Probably would have helped if I saw "Blade." CWTSIS: 0
   Scooby Doo:  Zoinks...........he's CGI.
Extra point for making the audience think the preview is for another "Batman" flick. CWTSIS: 4

For the first year, the American Film Institute has chosen their picks for the 10 best films of the year. They will announce their choice on January 5. The cited films are: Shrek, Memento, A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Man Who Wasn't There, Monster's Ball, Moulin Rouge and Mullholland Drive.

AND THE WINNER IS................JAWS
OK, so I never got to hear those words when the Best Picture Oscar was given out. However, I am proud as punch to report that "Jaws" has inducted Tuesday into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, a collection that includes films deemed culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. Joining "Jaws" on this list this year are the original "Planet of the Apes," "The Sound of Music," "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein," "Hoosiers," "The Thing From Another World" and "National Lampoon's Animal House." Honest.

Congratulations to..................me! I recently found out that the promotion I did this past summer for "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider" placed fifth in the country in the national contest held by Paramount! Thank you. (Congratulations, Mike! You da man!---N)

Congratulations to this year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The Ramones, Talking Heads, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Isaac Hayes, Gene Pitney and Brenda Lee.
Sadly, Chubby Checker did not make the cut, finishing just behind David Soul in the voting.

Seymour Reit
, an author and illustrator who helped create Casper the Friendly Ghost, died recently at the age of 83.
Stuart Adamson
, lead singer and guitarist for the Scottish rock band Big Country, died Sunday in Honolulu of an apparent suicide. The band was best known for it's 1980's hits "In A Big Country" and "Fields of Fire."

Well, that's it for this week. Next week, I'll be saying my year-end thanks and listing my top 10 films of the year, as well as my favorite movie lines. Have a great holiday everyone!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2001 by Michael A. Smith     "La Floridiana" is ©2001 by William Moriaty    "The Enlightenment" is ©2001 by Terence Nuzum    The movie review of  "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is ©2001 by Nolan B. Canova    All contents this page are ©2001 by Nolan B. Canova.

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