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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #284  (Vol. 6, No. 35) This edition is for the week of August 29--Sept 4, 2005.

Doors Closing and Doors Opening: Part Two
  by William Moriaty
"The Sound of Thunder"
  by Mike Smith
"Filthy" News .... Tampa Comic and Toy Convention....Oddservations Film Reviews: "Contact From Beyond", "The Incredible Comic Book Murder"
  by Andy Lalino
Tampa Bay Comic and Toy Convention....Hurricane Katrina
 by John Lewis
Judgement Day....Movie Notes....The Cable Guys....Sell Out....Passing On....Paging Major Healy....Photographic Memories....Jaws: The Story, Part 31
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2005
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Archives 2000
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

"Filthy" plays DragonCon & Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films, Gets Thumbs up from Film Threat

For those of you not quite sick yet of hearing about my horror featurette "Filthy", well, TA-DA - there's some more news!  "Filthy" will be screening at two notable film festivals this coming weekend: Atlanta's DragonCon Film Festival (part of the largest sci-fi/fantasy/horror/comics/gaming/anime conventions in the U.S.) and will also make its U.K. debut at The Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester (home of Joy Division, The Smiths, and New Order).  So please; if you are planning on attending these genre events or are in the area, please consider going and seeing "Filthy" on the big screen (or at least bigger than a typical TV screen...).

In another quick tidbit of "Filthy" news, it received a fantastic review on the popular indie film site Film Threat.  Critic Daulton Dickey wrote of "Filthy":

"...a family so twisted it makes Leatherface and crew look like Jehovah's Witnesses."  

"...tremendously creative violence"  

"...its creators are so ingenious that they manage to turn a clichéd idea into a fun and surprisingly engaging story."  

"The dialogue is the highlight of the script, and the performances are extremely high caliber—equaled by Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses"."  

For those who haven't seen "Filthy" - it's a "crazy family" horror film.  Many thanks to Daulton Dickey for the great review on Film Threat, and to the staff of the DragonCon F.F. and The Festival of Fantastic Films.  

Here's a link to the Film Threat piece:

Tampa Comic Book & Toy Convention 2005
Sunday became funday as my wife Sandy and I trekked 15 minutes over the Courtney Campbell Causeway to visit friend and "Filthy" star Sheri Lawrence at the Tampa Comic Book & Toy Convention, where she was screening a short film she wrote and produced: "Contact from Beyond" (see review below).  We arrived approximately at 11:30am, well in advance of the "Contact" screening, which was happening at noon (we later learned the screening was pushed back to 12:30pm).  Our first task was to track down friend and fellow PCR columnist John Lewis, who I knew was running the festival portion of the convention, which has steadily been growing in popularity over the months.  It was a bit of a challenge tracking John down at first, but finally we hooked up, and he invited me to screen "Filthy" as part of the festival, which I was more than happy to do.  "Filthy" ended up screening at 3:30pm.

The convention/festival had graciously given Sheri her own table (in an excellent location), where she got the opportunity to meet and greet fans and new turn-on's to "Contact...".  I spent most of the day planted next to her, answering questions pertaining to the filming of "Filthy".  

On our way in we ran into yet another "Filthy" star, John Biebrich, and our good friend and his better half, Jules Bartel.  John was voted  Tampa Bay's Best Actor in the 2004 Weekly Planet "Best of the Bay" competition, and Jules did an uber-amazing job as the Costume Designer for "Filthy".  Jules has since created costumes for several plays at the Gorilla Theater, and is continually in demand as a designer and seamstress.  Both John and Jules were present for the "Contact..." screening, which John starred in as well.  

Also on hand for the "Contact..." screening were Sheri's husband Larry, "Filthy" cameo star Shade Burnett (soon to be in the indie shocker "Vendetta"), and Joey Bassi, who appeared in Katherine Leis' "Perspective" (which also features Sheri Lawrence in a supporting role).  

With our contacts for "Contact..." gathered, we lurched into the screening room, ably executed by John Lewis' festival collaborators.  The audience seemed moved by Sheri's production, with sniffles being an oft-heard phenomenon.  I ran by Sheri the fact that she should sell Kleenex tissues at five cents a pop during screenings!  After the successful screening, my wife had to leave for work, then John asked if I would stay for a showing of Creature Productions latest terror tale "The Incredible Comic Book Murder".  I was more than happy to (for a review, see below).  

After the festival, John and Jules invited us out to lunch at Southwest Moe's on Spruce Street, so we downed some Tex-Mex there, then I returned to the fest to spend some more time at Sheri's table.  I wasn't able to peruse the dealer's room as much as I would have liked, however I'll remedy that next time.  I did get a chance to meet, again, Chris Orlando, who used to run a very cool horror shop a few stores down from the State Theater back when they were doing the once-popular Saints & Sinners film festivals.  Chris was also a classmate of my wife's at Dunedin High School.  

The day wound down at about 4pm, and we headed back to our Clearwater home.  Thanks to Sheri Lawrence and John Lewis for a great day out!  

Oddservations Indie Film Review: "Contact from Beyond"
I'd advise anyone to invest in a box of Kleenex before experiencing "Contact from Beyond", the latest short from Sheri's Paragon Motion Pictures production company.  The dramatic challenges of the screenplay, authored by Sheri Lawrence, is heavy stuff even for highly trained actors, and the cast of "Contact..." greets the task head-on with varying degrees of success.  

"Contact..." tells the story of Shannon Rayne (Schiara Matos), an exotically beautiful young woman who's hit with the grim news that she only has weeks to live.  She collects her friends at a local diner (The Paradise Restaurant in Safety Harbor, Florida), and drops the d-bomb.  They are understandably shaken, however things take a supernatural turn when Shannon suggests visiting a psychic medium to contact her deceased mother, who she believes can comfort her in the ultimate time of need.  All are agreeable, except for her grumbling boyfriend, Wayne (John Biebrich) who doesn't buy the whole occult thing.  We come to find that each character had some type of tragedy in their lives, and weren't able to say last goodbyes to loved ones that slipped prematurely into The Great Beyond.  The visit to the psychic will bring each of them face-to-face with their ultimate desire, and perhaps their ultimate fear.  

The short's best scene is the lengthy séance, presided over by an aged psychic (Noel Maree) reminiscent of Maria Ouspenskaya, the old Gypsy woman from "The Wolf Man".  Maree has the accent and look down very convincingly!  Each character takes their turn contacting a loved one, who manifest themselves in an eerie supernatural setting.  Each story is conveyed in tragic, highly emotional tones, which is sure to have a gut-wrenching effect on the viewer (get yer Kleenex here!  Only five cents!).  At the conclusion of the film, the inevitable occurs, with Shannon having, to borrow a line from "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence", "sowed a seed in all of us".  

For all the dramatic impact and mostly fine cast the production possessed, there were some obvious missed opportunities that eluded director Chris C. Conklin.  Conklin didn't seem to have a master plan, choosing weak angles (often shooting the most powerful scenes in profile) and settling for occasionally jerky camera movements.  Old standbys like Biebrich, Mark Nash, and Maree a director can put on auto pilot, however Conklin should have worked more closely with the female lead, finessing her performance and quieting her dialogue, especially when she reveals the malady to her friends at the diner -- a scene too boisterous and obtrusive.  Technical-wise, the film was passable, but could have been much improved during production.  

What the audience should and will focus on is the story and dramatic impact, which "Contact..." rightly possesses.  The film switches gears midway-through, and becomes less about Shannon's situation and more about Wayne, and the other people her inevitable death will effect.  In a sense she "dies" at the diner, with her friends getting a new life and a new chance breathed into them by her passing.  

Oddservations Indie Film Review: "The Incredible Comic Book Murder"
Creature Productions' latest horror venture may indeed be the first cinematic attempt at a storyline involving the elusive "Florida Skunk Ape" - a claim to fame that director John Lewis is most proud of!  TICBM is actually a blend of two stories: one involving the Skunk Ape, the other the murder of a comic book dealer.  Both are brought together in a frighteningly fun featurette that's best watched at the witching hour!  

Both halves of the story certainly set a mood and include bizarre characters.  There's a great scene in the woods where two guys are hot on the trail of the Skunk Ape -- until he finds them (cue "Skunk Ape POV").  I also liked the scary moment when the comic book dealer's girlfriend is asleep, and then hears a strum of a guitar, alerting her that someone's in the house!  One of the opening scenes looks like it was shot presumably at a previous Tampa Bay Comic Book & Toy convention's dealer room.  

The film's biggest attraction, IMO, is "Scary Gary", a funny, engaging horror host that walks the viewer through the short.  You know you're in for a good time when Gary slithers out of his coffin and begins cracking puns, just like the classic horror hosts did, but with a more modern twist.  Like the debut of Professor Paul Bearer II in the 2004 version of Creature Feature, Scary Gary is really good at his gig, and would actually be a great host to watch week after week, or in forthcoming Creature Productions DVD releases.  I think Creature Productions has a good thing going there.  Time to take it to the next level!

Sorry about last week's Oddservations
Lastly, I apologize about not having Oddservations to Nolan in time for the Wednesday publication.  Things got kind of busy and I was never able to catch up.  Hope I made up for it this week.

"Oddservations" is ©2005 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.