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Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2007!
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The Tampa Film Review for August  by Nolan Canova, Terence Nuzum, and Chris Woods
"The Invasion"  by Mike Smith
Birthday Bashers....Flash - Ahhh-Ah!  by Andy Lalino
Book Review: "Fangland" by John Marks  by Lisa Ciurro
DVD Review: “Godzilla Raids Again”  by ED Tucker
Missed Birthdays .... Musical Notes .... Poison Me Elmo .... Barry Bonds .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 27: Brad Sullivan  by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 386  (Vol. 8, No. 33). This edition is for the week of August 13--19, 2007.

The Tampa Film Review for August

by Nolan B. Canova, Terence Nuzum, and Chris Woods

Plus.....The Rockin' Sports Bar

Nolan here. Terence Nuzum and Chris Woods will be my co-reviewers for this outing of TFR. Three for the price of one! Fellow PCR staff writer William Moriaty was my ride to the event and movie-watching companion, but declined to write reviews for this issue. Chris Passinault was unable to attend TFR this month at all.

We managed to make it to the International Bazaar, the site of the monthly fest, by about quarter to eight. It would've been enough time to get in the proverbial quick cigarette had I remembered to bring any.

This TFR had the biggest turnout since The Quiet Place premiere back in January. Possibly all the kids who starred in tonight's movies, and their families, combined with a more-than-average population of FMPTA members can account for a lot of that.

The TFR review color code to help identify when a different reviewer "speaks" to the reader continues this issue.

All plot synopsises or general descriptions, usually written by Paul Guzzo (or myself if there's no description provided), will be in black.
Nolan Canova's reviews will be in Navy blue.
Terence Nuzum's reviews will be in Blood Red
Chris Woods' reviews will be in Deep Purple.

Our ratings sit at the end of our individual reviews and are in boldface.

If there was a theme tonight, it would be "kids in films". Lots of pre-teens starring in several of the movies, many of them already familiar faces. Here we go...

Versus by Weekend Film Crew, directed by Ben Rosa and Daniel Brienza:   Games of Rock, Papers, Scissors has never had stakes so high!

Nolan: Fun film about a rock-paper-scissors tournament among middle-schoolers, winner-take-all. The Weekend Film Crew never cease to amaze me on what they can do on a limited budget and short time. Long-time TFR fans may remember director Ben Rosa and young Austin Blay from Meet Pino. Very Good.
Terence: Fun little short comedy about a high school street tournament. The catch is is that the tournament is a paper, rock, scissors game. Good performances out of kids is hard to get but it succeeds well enough here. The kid playing the villian "the hand" is especially a trip. The filmmakers say it was shot during a tropical storm and after hearing the audio problems that mar the film somewhat I can believe it. Good.
Chris Woods: A cute little film about kids in a rock, paper, scissors competition. Great job from all child actors in the film. Lots of funny moments. Very well shot and put together. An awesome effort from the Weekend Film Crew. Looking forward to seeing their next film. Highly Recommended.

An Ande Morgan Music Video.   8-year old Ande Morgan stars in her own music video.

Nolan: TFR newcomer Ande Morgan covers a pop song by Carrie Underwood in a well-made music video that draws you into her world. She has such a comfortable style, it's easy to overlook the odd occasion when a sustained high note might go slightly flat. The 8-year-old singer-performer is very talented and a natural in front of the camera (she also had a acting part in Versus). Present in the audience this night, I tried to ask her who filmed this, but the poor thing was so shy and no doubt overwhelmed at the attention, she never got a word out. She and her dad(?) left the TFR soon after. Very Good.
Terence: If I used such words I guess I would call this "cute" or "adorable". The little girl, Ande, certainly eats up the scenery and is a natural in front of the camera. If she keeps her career in front of the camera up, I'm sure she'll have a good chance of having a future in music or acting ahead of her. Good.
Chris Woods: A music video from an eight-year-old girl was great. This girl is very talented and has a great singing voice. The video was very well done. Awesome editing and very good photography. I see good things for Ande in the future as a singer. Highly Recommended.

Begleiter by Dan Margules: Happy, an orphaned dog in search of a new master, finds his destiny with the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt and Eddie Haskell.

Nolan: Ahem...well, a dog changes owners, runs into Ken Osmond (casting Eddie Haskell of Leave it to Beaver is a surreal touch) at a booksigning. Goes into the ocean and walks back out a human. But still acts like a dog. Touches back with Ken Osmond. And rejoins his favorite owner. I must say it is shot and acted pretty well for what it is (the TFR projector is merciless on contrast, so I overlook odd exposure artifacts). But this is the third "man acts like a dog" movie I've seen in the past few months. Must be a fad catching on, but I don't get it. Decent.
Terence: Hmm, OK this one is kinda bizarre. It involves the actor who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver encouraging a dog to become human. Good cinematography but the story was a bit lame and weak. It's not quite clear where it should go. I'm not sure if it works as a comedy or as a moral tale. Good.
Chris Woods: This okay short film had its moments. Interesting story about a dog looking for a new owner and later on becomes a man. The dog hears different voices and does stupid stuff. The dog becomes the man and still acts like a dog. One of confessing parts of the film is in the beginning when the dog runs out of the house of a dead man. Was he owned by the dead man? Did his spirit go into to the dog? Not sure. There were a few slow parts in the film. Also the video was blown out in most parts. There is one part where you see the iris and color balance adjust for a second then it goes back to being blown off. Also, when the dog became the man, it seemed that the dog drowned in the ocean and came back to life as a guy. Still not sure about that one. One of the highlights of the film was a cameo from Ken “Eddie Haskell” Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame. Decent acting from the cast but the story had lots of holes in it. Fair..

The Rodman Dam Murders by the FMPTA, directed by Jerry Alan: A short film based on the true events of a murder case in which Randy Jones (who is currently on death row at Stark) murdered two innocent teenagers at the Rodman Dam near Palatka.

Nolan: Based on a true Florida crime story involving teen rape and murder, you'd think this would be a riveting excursion. I like the actors very much, especially young Austin Blay (there's that name again), and newcomer Jason Shoopak (who plays Randy Jones). But, except for some promising scenes at the very beginning, the FMPTA's trademark flat lighting, mixed with Jerry Alan's uninspired direction manage to diminish their contributions. Ed Walker, Jr., normally amazing, is simply not given enough to do. I LOVE Jerry Alan as an actor (his role in 100 Tears is devastating), so he needs to stay in front of the camera, not behind it so much. This is, however, arguably -- if incrementally -- the best of the three Florida Motion Picture and Television Association's presentations at TFR in recent memory. The unforgivably bad The Survivors' Club and A Ludicrous Tale haunted me as the almost-there-but-not-quite interrogation scene in Rodman Dam ground the picture to an absolute halt with pregnant pauses and stilted line deliveries while we linger over the over-abundant headroom in the shot (another trademark). Frustrating when you think of what Ed, Jason, and Austin could've delivered under better circumstances. OK for what it is, but can't enthusiastically recommend.
Terence: OK, so it starts out as an improvement over the FMPTA's A Ludicrous Tale, but then falls flat and ultimately doesn't get any higher rating. The acting is so-so. The great Ed Walker, Jr. is completely wasted in his scene. The only film I have seen him be not up-to-par in. I'll blame that on the script and director. Jerry Alan's direction is hard to even critique because he was the cameraman on Matheny's A Ludicrous Tale and yet both movies look the same. The same flat lighting. The same large amounts of headroom for no good reason, etc. I can only think then that Ludicrous Tale's lighting and shot problems can be attributed to Alan since I have finally seen a film directed by him and it looks the same. Then again, all FMPTA's films look the same. All uniform. They need to learn to experiment more and break out of the traditional lighting scheme or else they are going to fall by the wayside of the others who are pushing the envelope and boundries of what film as art can be. Poor.
Chris Woods: The FMPTA is at it again. (Remember The Survivors' Club?) A film about a little boy that burns his family alive and molest other kids and his babysitter, grows up and murders two teenagers. I just have to say this film was pretty bad. The story was not executed well. Bad editing and bad lighting. Best thing about the whole thing was a shot where one of the teens is shot in the head, that effect was pretty good. The acting on the other hand, well, I seen better acting in a Herschell Gordon Lewis film. But I thought Austin Blay who played the killer as the boy was very good and the young actor who played the killer at 18, Jason Shoopak, was pretty good. One of the best actors in the area, Ed Walker Jr. was so under used in this film. Ed is an awesome actor and should have been used better in the film. Wasn’t Walker’s fault, he should have been directed better, that’s all. The interrogation scenes just slow down to a complete stop and never started back up again. Not Recommended..

Editor's note, post facto: A note from John Matheny clarified that the movie A Ludicrous Tale, referenced above, was not produced by the FMPTA. John Matheny did that movie totally independent of the FMPTA. ---Nolan

Time Warp, by Greg Baldi. A package arrives at the door with a surprise inside.

Nolan: Two friends/roommates (Greg Baldi, Emaad Jamil) are vegging in front of the TV when a package arrives at the door. Inside is a strange watch. Pressing it explodes the boys into the past where they're still watching TV with their previous selves. This has all the earmarks of a quick one-afternoon shoot to show off some recently-learned effects tricks. I will admit, the effect of the "four" of them together is well done. But the existing lighting and frat-boy acting scream "home video". It's OK for what it is.
Terence: Tired little romp through time with two frat boys. Decent enough camerawork but the acting was uninspired as was the premise. There is so much you can do with time travel and comedy guys. Decent.
Chris Woods: Very Bill & Ted-ish quick little film, decent film for a first-timer, but they still have leaps and bounds to go to be a successful filmmaker. Fair.

Editor's note, post facto: A note from Paul Guzzo clarified that the movie "Time Warp" was not Greg Baldi's "first" film, so Chris misunderstood that. In his introduction, Baldi, who has submitted work to TFR before, announced the film was simply a casual way to pass a few hours. ---Nolan

Gunn Highway, by Stefan Vino-Figueroa. (An earlier edition of this review listed "Stefan Abbott" as director, which was incorrect.) Looks can be deceiving. Just because someone looks one way on the outside, doesn’t mean they look the same on the inside.

Nolan: This entry came out of nowhere and knocked us out with pro lighting, pro acting, top-drawer camera-work, creative direction. Jeezis, everything. Rod L. Griffin, smoking a cigar, and Rich Boyd sit in a dark room chatting, trading dream stories, and the like, against a nearly black background. Doesn't sound like much so far, except that the caliber of their deliveries keeps you riveted. The "flashbacks" are hilarious, even surreal. As the show wears on, we discover these two men's destinies are very dark. I've seen Rod Griffin in movies before. He was OK. Here? He is AMAZING. Why? The lighting? The direction? Maybe. Maybe Rod was having an exceptional day. His buddy, Rich Boyd, is incredible, like out of an HBO special or something, but with a gritty quality. To me this had David Lynch written all over it, and I even asked the director, Stefan Vino-Figueroa about it afterwards. He said his hero was Stanley Kubrick. OK, good enough. Very Highly Recommended, Film of the Night, and One of the Top 10 Films Ever to Play at TFR
Terence: Wow! This came out of nowhere and hit like a semi truck. Top notch camerawork, lighting on a pro level, and acting that can't be beat. Almost a flawless film. The moral tale thingy was a bit thin and if they were going for statement on capital punishment then they didn't push it far enough. I suspect though that it's simply a self-explanatory tale which is brilliantly directed with a visual style in some scenes that has echoes of Wes Craven's dinner table sequence from Last House on The Left and the noirish nightmares of David Lynch's Blue Velvet. And while I haven't seen everything ever made locally, from what I have seen, this is hands down the best short film made locally. Film of the Night. Best Film of TFR ever!!
Chris Woods: All right, now this is a movie to see. A very creative film from new director Stefan Vino-Figueroa. The film is just awesome. Probably one of the best films that ever played at the TFR or (CFR). It was very well written and was a great example of a well done character piece. Vino-Figueroa knows how to direct his actors. Rod L. Griffin gives an amazing performance as a man on death row talking to another death row prisoner at their last hour. We witness Griffin become a superstar in front of our very eyes with this role. The other lead, Rich Boyd in the film gives an awesome performance. His best part is when he’s about to be executed and he speaks his last words. The other actors in the film, such as Rachael Lee, do great jobs as well. Some of the film had a great gritty look, kind of retro 70’s, which was cool. The cinematography was just beautiful and the lighting was top notch and best I’ve ever seen in any film period. Especially the scene where Rich Boyd walks in the room and about to be executed and the light is just glowing on him and around him is total darkness, that was very well done. The whole film was a well rounded great piece of art. I enjoyed it very much and can’t wait to see the next film from this talented filmmaker. Very Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.

Editor's note, post facto: Since this TFR, actor Rod L. Griffin has sent notice that he's changed his name to Rod Grant. ---Nolan

Excerpts from "The 42 Story House", by Todd W. Langen. A California TV writer and actor films 42 short stories and assembled them in a 90-minute package.

Nolan: I introduced this entry personally. I am in the process of writing up an "It Came From the PO Box" about it -- 'cuz that's where it came from -- and keep falling behind. But I wanted to expose the TFR audience to filmmaker Todd W. Langen. He is a TV writer whose credits include, among other things, The Wonder Years. I guess he was between jobs or something and decided to make this clever collection of 42 short shorts (one is literally two seconds long). Especially amazing is that he made the film all by himself. That is, he is the only actor, the only cameraman the only soundman -- well, you get the idea. I'm sure it was a lot of work and I think it paid off handsomely. The few skits shown got a great reaction at TFR, lots of laughs, and Paul recommended I bring the disc next time to play some more. Highly Recommended.
Terence: Enjoyable series of short skits -- looking forward to seeing more. Good.
Chris Woods: Short comedy skits from just has one man in goofy situations. The first few were funny, especially the skit with the toilet paper, that was hilarious. But, the others that were shown were not funny and got kind of old. But maybe some of the other skits are good as the toilet paper one. Good.

"DARPA iXo" by Lou Dobbs, announced in promotional newsletters, was not shown tonight.

Visit www.thetampafilmreview.com for more info on the Tampa Film Review.

The Rockin' Sports Bar                   
Pretty good turn-out at our current post-TFR Ybor watering hole this night. Paul Guzzo, Lisa Ciurro, Terence Nuzum, Chris Woods, Joel Wynkoop, John Methany, Joe Davison, Marcus Koch, Will Moriaty, Jennifer Moore, yours truly and several others I can't remember right now made up the population of our pushed-together tables. And Jagermeister was in supply!

"The Tampa Film Review for August" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova, Terence Nuzum, and Chris Woods.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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