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"Hotel Rwanda"
 by Mike Smith

Class is In! "Student of the Unusual" - An Interview with Student Body President Terry Cronin!
 by Andy Lalino

Martin Luther King Day
 by Clayton Smith

The Not-So Astonishing X-Men....Punk Update....Movie Updates....Couple of Notes
 by Brandon Jones

King Kong 2005....Jim Warren On The Move....Football Prognosticator....Up This Week?
 by Matt Drinnenberg

Snow....Happy Birthday....Movie Notes....Oscar Time....Jaws: The Story, Part 2
 by Mike Smith

Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2005!
    Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our sixth calendar year!
    Number 252  (Vol. 6, No. 3). This edition is for the week of January 17--23, 2005.

 Space probe lands on Titan
 Condoleezza Rice replaces Colin Powell
 Schlockarama starts New Year with a bang
 Romeo Coffeehouse Film Review for January
 Stan Lee Wins Lawsuit Over Marvel

I realize it may have seemed like I miscounted science stories last week; the Huygens space probe that landed on Titan happened just after I had finalized much of the PCR. But it does deserve to be talked about.

The pictures that arrived from Saturn's largest moon are very exciting. I can hardly believe it's happening. I remember reading illustrated science books, decades ago, with artist's renderings of what the outer planets may look like up close and personal---now we're seeing them for real. It's an exciting time to be alive.

Saturn's moon Titan is only rivaled by Jupiter's moon Europa in scientific intrigue to a space exploration fan like myself. Titan is the largest of Saturn's 33 moons, is the second largest moon in the solar system (after Jupiter's Ganymede) and the only one known to have an atmosphere. It was discovered by Christiaan Huygens in 1655. It is larger than the planets Mercury and Pluto. Although it's less than half the size of earth, it has only a fraction of the mass (one-forty-fifth), but its highly toxic atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and argon is 1½ times that of earth. Although it's bigger than our moon, it has less gravity due to its mass. Kind of like a planet-size sponge. It has rivers and lakes, but wouldn't be good for surfing: the liquid is comprised of liquid methane and ethane which is kept that way by the planet's temperature which hovers around 292 degrees below zero!

Condoleezza Rice succeeds Colin Powell
At the center of one the most divisive wars in modern history stands Condoleezza Rice, major Bush war supporter, and now poised to take over the role of Secretary of State from Colin Powell. That this is happening right around Martin Luther King Day is not lost on the White House I'm sure. King would be very proud, wherever he is, to know he opened the door for so many blacks to gain so much power in the past few decades. That Condoleezza is the first black woman to take the post is an example of true American equality. However, my problems with Rice have nothing to do with her race or gender.

Protests from predictable sources over Rice's contributions as a national security advisor made for amusing television moments. I chuckled when former presidential candidate John Kerry, echoing the dissatisfaction with the Iraq war felt by many, mentioned the growing insurgency in Iraq. My favorite, though, was California Democrat Barbara Boxer assailing Rice over issues of loyalty over truth, implying Rice was basically Bush's disciple and too rigid, avoiding admitting any mistakes regarding Iraq. Rice vigorously defended herself, but the stigma of her crowing about the WMDs will be hard to get past for many of us.

No matter, her appointment is virtually assured (at this writing, the voting is not final).

The Presidential Inauguration. Today as I'm writing this supplemental entry (1-20-05), I just finished watching the presidential inauguration. Even though it reminds me Dubya won re-election, I can't help but be moved by the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony itself. Just real American stuff. The coverage only suffered from occasional and strange on-air bleeding of technical audio feeds, otherwise, the event proceeded flawlessly. Funniest moments (well, to me) were Arnold Schwarzeneger's impromptu interview where he side-stepped questions about running for president himself, and shots of John Kerry looking rather forlorn and farthest-back-row-seat-ish.

SCHLOCKARAMA Updates for 2005
With Schlockarama's co-founder William Moriaty off attending to pressing personal matters for the time being, our beloved Schlock section, with a sky-high standard that Will set, is receiving its first update in many months by its newest caretaker, Andy Lalino. And let me tell you, the updates are coming hard and heavy, I'm already way ahead, and I'm delighted and grateful Andy's so jazzed about this development.

Funnily, the first two posted for this year, Munster, Go Home and The Beast Must Die were not even originally targeted for Schlockarama by Andy, but for the Message Board, which is where I found them. They inspired me to propose the idea to William of shifting Andy's more elaborate "Blasts From The Past" Message Board antics over to Schlock to help update that section (not to mention permanently archive the reviews), and voila, here we are. I conferred with Andy over some minor formatting deals, so now his newest reviews are targeted for Schlockarama. I imagine films/videos that don't fit the Schlock definition (for example, old TV episodes) or where he simply may not have much to say will still be delivered to the Message Board's "Blast From The Past" section.

January's Coffeehouse Film Review Series Starts New Year Off With A Bang
And to think I almost didn't go! My usual Romeo Coffeehouse traveling companion, Gustavo Perez, called in sick due to extensive medical tests earlier in the day that left him feeling drained. Frantic, I searched the phone book for a replacement and managed to snag a ride with ICON's Chris and Simon who picked me up on the way over from St. Pete. Thanks, guys!

The evening's films were a marked improvement over some weaker earlier programs, and started the new year off with the proverbial "bang".

L-to-R: Joe Makowski ("Night Demons"), yours truly, and "Sacred Wedding" producer Val Todorov
L-to-R: Natali Ragan ("Sever"), yours truly, and Joe DiCanio. I don't feel quite so funny-looking when I pose with attractive young people like this.
The big man on campus, Roderick Colbert on right. Very tall, someone I can look up to (har har). Roderick is an academic advisor at USF and, I think, head of the film department.
Walter Romeo, left, amusingly observes Simon Lynx's pose for this "candid" shot.
Special effects whiz Jorge Gimenez (on left) talks with ICON's Chris Woods, likely about the night's showing of "Sever".
Also rather historical is all four of the night's films starred the same young actor, Jereme Badger. I was very slow to put this together until someone clued me in later. Jereme's quite the chameleon and it's easy to lose track of his role changes. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this angle, Jereme, who was in the audience right behind me, had left for the night and I didn't get his picture. Maybe next time.

In Memory of Jereme. Pete Guzzo of TOO Productions premiered his newest film -- shot entirely on a camera phone! Plot: Jereme just got dumped and the only way he can get his message across to his ex is with his camera phone. Starring Jereme Badger in what could be decribed as one of the most bi-polar performances ever! The cellphone camera only records for 20 seconds at a time, so as he's driving he hits "record" and either talks sweetly to the camera or yells obscenities like a maniac. Hard to tell how long between "takes", presumably enough for him to compose himself. This goes on and on until he passes out at the wheel and.....crashes? Dies? Since the film is entitled "In Memory of Jereme" you can figure that out. I congratulate Pete Guzzo on such a daring and original way to shoot a movie, and Jereme Badger on such a hysterically over-the-top performance.

Hieros Gamos (Sacred Wedding). Produced by Val Todorov and Antonia Provatas. It's not too often I freak out over a movie, but "Sacred Wedding" had more surprises than I was prepared for. Bulgarian subtitles, for openers. But more on that later. A group of young people arrive at a remote retreat in the woods after two of them just got married. Presumably, this is some sort of honeymoon stopover. Soon enough, the couple in question is making out on the forest floor next to a babbling brook. One of the group decides he wants some of the action (Jereme again) and forcefully horns in, leading to deadly results. Now here is where the filmmaker makes a statement (but almost lost me). There's a constant cutting back-and-forth between the action I described and another young group in the woods, dressed in war-paint (and very little else) and performing ritual ceremonies that seem sexual in nature. Only after multiple viewings (yes, I asked for the disc) was it more apparent that the two groups were played by the same actors, and this is probably about how our primitive, barbaric selves never change, especially when it comes to sex and violence. I asked the filmmaker Val Todorov if the subtitles were in Greek; he replied they were Bulgarian, which is where he was from. Also I mentioned that the exec producer, Antonia Provatas, was a liason at Tampa's public access where I worked for many years, and to please tell her I said "Hi".

Winning Bidder by Ali Imran Zaidi. Old friend Fred Zara was in the credits, I think as a cameraman. A regular Joe is set up to meet his dream girl by his best friend--only he doesn't realize this is happening. As I recall, the girl is in on it, too. A perfectly choreographed afternoon results in the two "bumping into each other". The guy is so inept at conversation I can see why he needs help, ha ha. Very entertaining entry, well made, good script, solid performances. Highly recommended.

Sever. ICON Film Studios. Ah, the ICON boys, Chris and Simon strike again. This was on the program as a "sneak preview", but it will repeat next month as a full-blown premiere. That's good, I need to take another look at it. Jereme Badger stars as a man so intent on finding his dream girl that his world becomes filled with confusing visions and delusions. Is she on the other side of the wall or not? Is that her across the street? Can she see me? Is she even really there? Who is the dark intruder who's watching us? Special visual effects and 3-D animation by ICON's Jorge Gimenez (also the Director of Photography on this shoot) enhance the disorienting nature of obsession and breakdown. The lovely and talented Natali Ragan plays the dream girl. I previously met her at the Halloween Horror Picture Show and I was delighted to see her again at this event. As on the big screen, she is just as much a cutie-patootie in real life.

And I must say Jereme Badger is getting to be someone to watch! Hard to believe he was the same guy who starred in all the night's features, through weight changes, hair changes, beard changes----we got a future DeNiro in the works here.

Sometime during the night, Paul Guzzo did me the singular honor of spotlighting me in the audience and publicly thanking me for my humble efforts in promoting the Coffeehouse film events. My pleasure, Paul, I intend to keep spreading the word as long as I have a keyboard and two fingers to type with!

It was also good to see Joe Makowski, Roderick Colbert, and Joe DiCanio (with girlfriend Rebecca--see I remembered your name this time) all in attendance.

The TOO Productions Coffeehouse Film Series plays the second Thursday of every month at the Romeo Studio Coffeehouse, 1515 7th Ave. in Ybor City. For information on submitting films (or anything else) contact paulguzzo@hotmail.com.

A special thanks to Chris Woods for his assistance in spell-checking actors' names for this article!

Stan Lee Wins Marvel-ous Lawsuit    From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK -- Stan Lee, the legendary comics publisher and super-hero hero creator who gifted Spider-Man with the powerful "spidey-sense," is feeling a tingling of his own...in his wallet.

A Manhattan federal judge ruled that Lee is entitled to a potential multimillion-dollar payday from Marvel Enterprises off profits generated by the company's television and movie productions _ particularly the box-office smash "Spider-Man," which earned more than $800 million worldwide, and its hugely successful sequel.

"It could be tens of millions of dollars," Howard Graff, attorney for Lee, said Wednesday. "That's no exaggeration."

The Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Lee was entitled to a 10 percent share of the profits generated since November 1998 by Marvel productions involving the company's characters, including those created by the prolific cartoonist.

"I am gratified by the judge's decision although, since I am deeply fond of Marvel and the people there, I sincerely regret that the situation had to come to this," Lee said in a statement.

Sweet's decision didn't mention a dollar figure, although Graff was anticipating a windfall since the ruling also included DVD sales and certain merchandise. "The court essentially ruled in our favor virtually across the board," Graff said. "This is a sweeping victory for Mr. Lee."

John Turitzin, general counsel for Marvel, promised an appeal. Turitzin noted that Sweet ruled Lee was not entitled to money from certain movie-based merchandise, and that the judge withheld judgment on money from joint-venture merchandise sales linked to the Spider-Man and Hulk movies.

"We intend to appeal those matter on which we did not prevail, and to continue to contest vigorously the claims on which the court did not rule," Turitzin said in a statement. The remaining issues could go before a jury if the two sides can't reach a settlement.

The lawsuit marks an acrimonious final chapter in the long and productive relationship between Marvel and Lee, who spent the last six decades working for the company. During a storied career, Lee created indelible Marvel fixtures such as the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four.

"Mr. Lee did not begin this lawsuit without a lot of thought and reservation," Graff said. "He was not pleased to do it. He was saddened by the fact that things came to the point where he had to actually start a lawsuit against Marvel."

The 82-year-old Lee filed suit in November 2002, claiming an agreement he had signed four years earlier entitled him to 10 percent of Marvel's haul from its television and movie productions, as well as merchandising deals.

He already earns a $1 million a year salary from Marvel as part of the agreement, but felt he was getting stiffed on additional income due him under the deal.

The money involved was substantial, particularly involving the Spider-Man and Hulk movies. Spider-Man earned $114.8 million on its opening weekend, with Marvel eventually collecting more than $50 million in profits. "The Hulk" earned more than $125 million in the United States alone.

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"Mike's Rant" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2005 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith    "Oddservations" is ©2005 by Andy Lalino    "Splash Page" is ©2005 by Brandon Jones    "The Ogre" is ©2005 by Clayton Smith      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova    
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