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"Batman Begins"
 by Mike Smith

Cronenberg Heaven, Part 1: Long Live the New Flesh
 by Vinnie Blesi

"The Longest Yard"...."Mr. And Mrs. Smith
 by John Lewis

MJ....Passing On....Jaws: The Story, Part 21
 by Mike Smith

Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2005!
    Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our sixth calendar year!
    Number 273  (Vol. 6, No. 24). This edition is for the week of June 13--19, 2005.

Jackson Over, Batman Begins

  • Aruba Tainted by Case of Missing Girl
  • Romeo Coffeehouse Film Review for June
  • Michael Jackson was found not guilty on all 14 counts of child molestation, ending one of the most sensational and media-saturated trials in history.

    While even one or two members of the jury found it irresistable to confess to the press afterwards the feeling Jackson may have molested a boy or two sometime in his past, the fact remains the prosecution could not present a compelling case this time.

    Complicating matters for D.A. Sneddon was the fact that the family pressing charges had a history of grifting and a notorious penchant for using the boy's illness (cancer) to shake down celebrities for money. When money wasn't forthcoming, veiled threats were.

    The biggest irony was that this case mushroomed from a TV documentary that was designed to improve Jackson's image. Instead, it backfired terribly after a scene where he is shown holding his accuser's hand and describing sleeping with young boys as "sweet and innocent".

    It was only after Jackson noticed the family was having a little too good a time at his expense (that had nothing to do with the boy's welfare) that the story gets a little murky. Supposedly, he was trying to get them out of his Neverland Ranch compound, and the boy's mother, incensed at being "cut off", convinced her son to accuse Jasckon of molestation in retaliation. (This is in direct contrast to her testimony that they were "held captive".) Thanks to the child abuse witch-hunts of the '80s, every grifter worth their fake IDs knows this is hot-button prosecution material with resultant stigmas that are virtually impossible to erase. Of course, Michael Jackson always left himself wide open to such a fate, having children over to sleep in his bed, and it was a matter of time before this happened.

    Well, I guess it bears noting that the accusation did happen once before, back in 1993, same charges, same prosecutor, different family, but with a very familiar motive: money. That time Jackson settled out of court for somewhere between $15 and 20 million. It is my opinion that, weakened cash flow notwithstanding, he would've bought this family off, too, except he learned the first time back in '93 that he'd look incredibly guilty by doing so. Since his career is on the rocks, he couldn't afford this much bad press, and the gamble would be on a "not guilty" verdict. Which he got. Wonderful.

    Finally, Jackson's wised up about having kids over for sleepovers (his attorney said there'll be no more of that). As a sad, gaunt and badly shaken Michael Jackson left the courthouse a free man, I can't help but wonder what he will decide about needy kids, his own compulsions, and the fate of Neverland Ranch.

    And I wonder who cancer boy's family will attempt to shake down next. Post your thoughts on the Message Board.

    Batman Begins
    As I write these words early Wednesday, June 15th, I am mere hours away from seeing the premiere of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. All the buzz has me totally sold on this being the Batman I always wanted to see (long-time readers are aware I was never taken with any previous Batman, including having problems with Tim Burton's episodes). I will definitely have something to say about it after I've seen it. For now, we can enjoy Mike Smith's take on it in This Week's Movie Review.

    Will Aruba Ever Be The Same?
    I first heard of it in a Beach Boys song, that started with "Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I wanna take ya...".

    The island paradise of Aruba may never be the same after the past two weeks' events revolving around missing teenager, Natalee Holloway. On a five-day, post-graduation holiday, the 18-year-old Alabama honors student went missing May 30th after spending a night in the company of three young men and encountering two security guards. Of those suspects, nearly all have alibis and have been released. Natalee's mother, Betty Holloway Twitty, 44, said in an AP interview that she believed the security guards were innocent, while the three young men knew what happened and should be pressed to tell the truth. An early "leak" where supposedly one of the young men told authorities "something bad happened" to Natalee and indicated he knew where the body was has been denied by investigators, but spurred renewed vigor among the isalnd residents and tourists in the search.

    Holloway Twitty said if she does not see results soon, she might start to believe that authorities are trying to protect the young men, as she's learned one or some of them had relatives in law enforcement.

    Romeo Coffeehouse Film Review for June
    CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. Pictures will open in a new window
    Gus Perez stands proudly with his Mike Chomick hand-drawn poster for "Light of Blood" in one hand and "William Moriaty's Florida" book in the other.
    Yours truly on left standing with Mr. and Mrs. Jack Barrett (Night of the Living Dead, Light of Blood).
    Light of Blood group shot.
    L - R, Essie, Gus Perez, Kevin Bangos, Joel D. Wynkoop, Cathy Holseybrook.
    L - R, William Moriaty (his first visit to the Romeo Coffeehouse), wildman Joel D. Wynkoop, and yours truly.
    Looking more like a day-glo mug shot at the pizza parlor is Ivan Ilerraza (left) and myself.
    The pizza encounter with (L - R) William Moriaty, Gus Perez, Essie, Alexa, Kristin, and musician Michael Silverman. I would've been sitting next to him but gave up my seat to get this picture!
    The Guzzo Brothers have brought us well over a year's worth of the best film talent Tampa has to offer through the Romeo Coffeehouse Film Review series. They always say they will play anything they are given, and every event I've attended (nearly all of them) has produced a mixture of talents both great and small. The film program is usually comprised of a series of short films, with "features" measuring no more than an hour in duration. And usually that's a good idea, since the fidgety Coffeehouse crowd's attention span is measured in cups of coffee. To my knowledge, the Guzzos have never taken up an entire night with a single 90-minute feature.

    Last week, the tradition was broken with the Coffeehouse's first showing of one full-length feature. I knew it would be a test of patience for those of us used to a more rapid-fire program, but I never dreamed my patience would be tested to the limits as it was last Thursday night with the showing of Gus Perez's video home movie, "Light of Blood", a piece of horror-schlock filmmaking that, except for a couple notable performances, was so incredibly inept in its execution, that it was spontaneously re-described as a comedy because otherwise it would be too embarrassing to sit through and watch amongst other producer/directors whose films have graced this establishment before. Oh yeah, William Moriaty and I helped with some camera work waaaay early on in this production, just a couple of scenes (Will also cameo'd), so our names are in the end credits (woo-hoo!)

    "Light of Blood" Gus Perez Productions
    Does anyone remember an old reliable sit-com gag, used time and time again, where some students attempt to put together a serious play, but due to malfunctioning props, forgotten lines, falling sets, missed cues, etc., the "serious" play hit the review columns the next day as a "smash comedy"? That's where "Light of Blood" lives. The problem is two years ago it started out as a serious homage to '50s horror movies. Add into the mix a badly-fitting wolf costume, foreign accents that are anything but (the actors are supposed to be portraying Cubans, Russians, and Germans, but they have a hell of a time trying to sustain the accents), audio recorded in horrible conditions, and a wild mix of acting talents and you have "Light of Blood". But Gus Perez is such a simple sweetheart it's hard to slag him too hard for trying to piece together his first movie.

    To read an extremely thorough and kind review of "Light of Blood", including the complete cast and crew listings, please see La Floridiana, PCR #268.

    On a secret military installation on the island of Cuba in the '50s (or '80s or '90s, depending on when you ask Gus), scientists (Michael Chomick and the always entertaining Mark Nash) are experimenting with a strength formula that they hope will make a "super-soldier" out of an ordinary man. The product seems to work on chimps. Now all they need is a human test subject.

    Cuban secret agent Tony Luna (Gus Perez) is imprisoned and scheduled for execution (little tryst with a superior's wifey didn't go over too well), then given a second chance at life by choosing an injection of the top secret experimental serum. The serum initially produces great feelings of robust stamina, but eventually turns Tony into a Werewolf at unpredictable times. After the first transformation, Tony runs out onto the streets of Habana (actual footage from Cuba taken on a family vacation), then returning to the installation, runs into another about-to-be victim of the innoculation, Fritz (one of several memorable performances by cult legend Joel D. Wynkoop). Here I quote Joel-as-Fritz's completely improvised lines from William Moriaty's excellent review:

    "I hate da dok-tahs! Where ees Tony?!" (Then approached by one of two black doctors) "Ooohhh --- choc-oh-laht dok-tah! I like you too choc-oh-laht dok-tah! Freetz like you! Tony! Where eez Tony?! I don't like dees! Do not!" (Fritz is approached by the senior doctor played here by "Night of the Living Dead" alum Jack Barrett) "Who are you, Frankenstein? Fritz no like you, get way from me, Frank'shtein! Fritz then gets the shot and announces to the world... "Freetz feels different! Freetz feels strong! Freetz feels power! Freetz feels goot! Freetz feels….STRONG!"

    Scenes featuring Fritz training Tony in martial arts must be seen to be believed. And to its credit, "Light of Blood" does feature many werewolf-on-the-attack scenes. To Will and I a surprise standout among the actors was Demolition Comics owner William Insignares as one of the two CIA agents who capture Luna. That boy may well have a future in acting! Veteran actor David Vogel was perfectly fine as the detective, but could've used better direction from Gus. Award for the best German accent goes to Kevin Bangos, with a close follow-up by Rebecca Holycross (herself a darn fine actor). Best attack/death scenes was one of the girl scientists, but I don't have her name handy at this time, sorry.

    Terence Nuzum would like to go on record as saying for all its faults, the "Light of Blood" screenplay moves right along with few "dead" spots. I would agree with the screenplay part, but the final product has many scenes that seemed to go unnecessarily long.

    Special behind-the-scenes notes: The authentic footage from Cuba was recorded on Hi-8 video during a Perez family visit. The two scenes recorded at Ballast Point Park and Picnic Island I shot myself with a Sony Digital-8 and gave the tape to Gus. (Now I know how it holds up to projection!) The remainder was shot, I believe, on a Canon XL-1 that Gus borrowed. Amazingly, editor John Methany was able to intercut such disparate footage pretty convincingly. Originally, Gus's idea was to basically remake "I Was A Teenage Werewolf", but in a Cuban location. The whole "super-soldier" conspiracy idea was mine (shock shock), which I offered him on the way to the Picnic Island shoot.

    Obvious bloopers: Although Gus touted this story as happening in the late '50s, execution proved far trickier as modern cars were evident, even in the Cuba footage. An opening scene featured an airliner that didn't exist until 1985. The best and funniest were scenes with Michael Chomick---wearing a mid-back-length pony-tail(!)---sitting next to a post-1995 era desktop computer! After being roundly criticized for these foibles, Gus now re-describes the story as happening in "either the '80s or '90s". Some close-ups of the werewolf's hands show a glove-type apparatus.

    Unfortunately for Thursday night's patrons, the already horrible audio present on the disc was made unbearably worse by malfunctioning sound equipment and at least half the movie's soundtrack was simply unintelligible. Then to add insult to injury, the disc itself went down and another disc had to be found.

    To call it a "cult classic" (as Gus's hand-drawn poster suggests) might be a bit premature. But I've seen stranger things happen. Since about half the filmmakers in the audience left before it was over, only the stalwart few among us who toughed it out will ever know for sure.

    After recovering from "Light of Blood", Will, Gus, Essie (Gus's girlfriend), myself, and actor Ivan Ilerraza (the priest), went across the street for pizza. Ivan was carrying Gus's bag full of "South Shore News" copies with Gus's article in it. After settling in, William and I got to know Russian-born Essie (fascinating girl), who conversed about life between our two countries; and we met some charming folks who were between destinations, namely Michael Silverman (who likes to spell his name Myhquell for some reason) from Salt Lake City, Utah, and his friends Alexa and Kristin. We had a most stimulating discussion about a lot of things, in particular music. Michael shared with me his website, and gave me a CD of his songs he described as "folk-technic", that I intend to digitize and share some of with y'all one of these days soon.

    Although I was on top of my brother's June 13th birthday announcement in last week's issue, I neglected to recall former PCR contributor and "2004 punk squad" member Dylan "The Drow" Jones' birthday is the same day---June 13th! Dylan turned 23 years old on Monday. Happy Birthday, kiddo, and many happy returns.

    Please consider making a donation to help support Crazed Fanboy! Click on the "donate" link below and give whatever you can. I sincerely thank you for any and all consideration.---Nolan
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    "Mike's Rant" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2005 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith    "Asian Film Update" is ©2005 by Peter Card    "Chiller Cinema" is ©2005 by Drew Reiber    "Creature's Corner" is ©2005 by John Lewis      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova    
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