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Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2007!
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The Tampa Film Review for September  by Nolan Canova and Chris Woods
"3:10 To Yuma"  by Mike Smith
Movie Premiere: Secrets of a Medicine Man Documentary  by Andy Lalino
Book Review: Rant by Chuck Palahniuk  by Lisa Ciurro
Reviewing the Reviewer: The Bob Ross Story  by Paul Guzzo
Loose In Las Vegas: Ray Steckler Update  by ED Tucker
Ocean's 14 .... Barry Bonds .... Sid Won't be There .... No Shadow Puppets This Year .... She Was So Drunk (How Drunk Was She?) .... Bond. James Bond .... Whatever Happened To -- ? Chapter 28: George Dzunda  by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 391  (Vol. 8, No. 38). This edition is for the week of September 17--23, 2007.

The Tampa Film Review for September

by Nolan B. Canova and Chris Woods

Nolan here. Chris Woods will be my co-reviewer for this outing of TFR. Two for the price of one! (Fellow TFR movie reviewer Terence Nuzum did not attend tonight's screening.)

Chris, his friend Zach, and I managed to make it to the International Bazaar, the site of the monthly fest, by about five of eight. Not quite enough time to get in the proverbial quick cigarette, but hey, the show must go on -- and on time.

This TFR had a pretty big turnout for what could be called a routine show (that is, no special premieres or club outings). A lot of new faces seemed to be in the audience which is always a good thing. That means the word is finally getting out.

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.
Chris Woods' reviews will be in Deep Purple.

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

If last month's theme was "kids in films", this month's seemed to be "prophetic nightmares" or "suddenly he awoke and it was all a dream". I'm on record as saying I usually bristle at the latter approach unless it's handled with originality which is almost always isn't. Tonight, however, were some very pleasant surprises.
By the way, Paul says that the apparent "theme nights" we've been experiencing are a coincidence of topics and they are not planned that way. Interesting, then, that so many films submitted over the past few months have so many similar subjects.

Here we go....

A Grain of Salt by Anjey Motek:   A twisted story of a man given another chance to avenge his own death in an action-packed thriller.

Nolan: This one seemed to quite literally start with a BANG as a man (Clifford J. Cespedes) answers his doorbell only to get shot to death. He "awakes" from this state only to re-experience this scenario, this time with an added twist. After the third "awakening", he begins to plan his counter-attack. Over the course of the story, we discover this is a mob hit being played out over and over, but with a different ending as our "victim" develops his strategy and inches closer to victory at each outing.
   If you're thinking this is a very darkly-themed Groundhog Day, you'd be in the ballpark. But I found the top-drawer talent involved made this an engrossing and very entertaining film. The script, the acting, the photography, the direction are all great, and I was very impressed overall. The director of photography, Greg Baldi (also responsible for the super-tight editing), has himself had films play at TFR before (including last month's Time Warp). Very Highly Recommended and my vote for Film of the Night.
Chris: Very well done short film that was shot in a 24p mode to give it a film look. Great editing, cool story, and good acting. I enjoyed the way the scenes played out towards the beginning. It did kind of slow down just a bit in the middle. Every time the man dies he would start all over again in the same scenario but with more knowledge on what is waiting for him. Well, the first few times had a great rhythm, but there was one where the man didn’t die for a while and it lost its rhythm. But then it picked up towards the end and was back on track. Over all it was good action-packed film. Recommended .

Concienga by Brent Harvey and Dimitri Deos:   John wakes up realizing his fiancée is missing, a phone call changes everything. There is a surprise around every corner, His time is limited to either save her or lose her.

Nolan: Our hero, John (Brent Harvey), awakes to his answering machine and the voice of his finacée, Sarah (Mikayla Park), repeatedly asking, "if not now...when?" John jumps up and runs out only to get smacked in the nose by a total stranger who says, "She's not out here!" He runs back in to call 911, but a sinister voice on the other end sets up a meeting between John and Sarah. He packs a pistol, but it seems to do him no good -- on the way to the meeting, he keeps getting hit in the face by the same dark stranger who appears out of nowhere, goading him on. He arrives at the scene and encounters a weird mob hit of some kind on his girlfriend that ends on a tragic note. Then John awoke and discovered it was only a dream. This is normally where I diss the whole thing as a cliché and move on, but, in all honesty, I can't do that. John's nightmare has taught him a lesson about a girl he nearly dumped and he sets out to make it right.
   I'm a complete sucker for a compelling screenplay with a sweet ending and this is one of them. I liked the acting and directing very much. Effective mood music and photography top it off. Fortunately, I was able to meet Brent Harvey at tonight's TFR and tell him personally. Highly Recommended.
Chris: Another action-packed film with lots of cool quick-cut editing and a glowing, dream-like atmosphere. The lead character John tries to save his fiancée but around every corner his unknown adversaries meet him with a stunning punch to the face. Cool little film where the pace stayed strong throughout. Recommended.

Trailer to the Charlie Wall Documentary by Peter and Paul Guzzo.

Nolan: As part of their Ghosts of Ybor planned film series, Peter and Paul Guzzo are shooting a documentary about the life of influential and controversial mobster Charlie Wall who ran underground Bolita games (among other things) in Ybor City during the '30s and '40s before he was shot to death. Like everything else the Guzzo Bros do, this looks to be amazing. Expect authentic period sets and music.
Chris: Sneak peek at the Guzzo Brothers documentary on Ybor City gangster Charlie Wall. Looked very interesting and can’t wait to see the finished product. One thing that sticks out on the trailer is the reenactments that look awesome and have a classy old Hollywood vibe to them.

Andrea's Revenge by Joel D. Wynkoop: Horror author Andrea Dean van Scoyoc cannot rest in peace unless the menacing stranger who attended her funeral returns the book she wanted to be buried with.

Nolan: This is part of the Always Midnight Collection. Originally planned as a commercial for Andrea Dean van Scoyoc's book Michael, it was turned into a short film that's surprisingly good and very entertaining, primarily due to the onscreen antics of local B-movie madman Joel D. Wynkoop, who also wrote and directed the film.
    We arrive at Andrea's funeral (yes, she plays herself as the corpse). While solemn music plays in the background, the mourners slowly enter the room to pay their last respects. One stranger appears who seems to have nothing but mischief on his mind (Wynkoop, of course). After pestering everyone by poking and grumbling at them he eventually finds himself alone with Andrea. Remembering the preacher said she wanted to be buried with her book Michael, the stranger deliberately steals the book from the corpse and runs away. Outside the chapel, however, a grim surprise awaits to make him change his mind.
    One of the better Wynkoop productions with a sustained brisk pace and a good mixture of goth and humor. One interesting note is in the scene outside the funeral home when Wynkoop faces the temporarily resurrected Andrea (presumably offscreen, it stays on POV mode, we never see Andrea here). A neighbor's dog starts barking loud and uncontrollably and Wynkoop cleverly incorporates it into the scene (implying van Scoyoc is a dog-beast of some sort). Coincidentally, this scene also contains my only complaint, Wynkoop thrusts the book Michael towards the camera repeatedly to remind us this is -- or was -- a promotion. Nonetheless it is Highly Recommended.
Chris: A segment from the film Always Midnight which starts at a funeral for horror author Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc. Guests gather to pay their last respects to the author when an unsuspecting guest played by Joel D. Wynkoop, creeps into the funeral home with trouble on his mind. One of Andrea’s last wishes was to be buried with her novel “Michael”, but Wynkoop steals the book from her cold dead hands when everyone else has left. Great film, where the best thing about it is Wynkoop’s performance. Joel is always just pure entertainment. He’s a great comedic actor and also a great dramatic one as well. Also Joel wrote, produced, and directed the film and does a great job with the story and the other characters in the film. Highly Recommended.

Speaking the Word of Silence, produced and written by MaryAnn Balazs, directed by William B. Hein. Guy thought his life was almost picture perfect even though he had mental difficulties, but nothing meds wouldn't fix. Getting engaged to his girlfriend was a dream come true until it turned into a medicated nightmare.

Nolan: This is highly-stylized film and with no dialogue it could almost double as a music video with the right soundtack. I had to watch this a few times to get it to sink in. Guy (Wolfgang Weber) awaits the arrival of his girlfriend (Danika Harris) to show her a ring and propose. He's very high-strung and apparently addicted to prescription meds to get him through the day, he pops pills every few seconds, it seems. Well, Sara shows up and evidently accepts his proposal. Everything's OK. Or is it? We switch to some atmospheric and gritty black & white photography as Sara packs her bags to leave (at first viewing, I thought she was simply leaving for a business trip or something. I finally caught a brief, sad exchange as she heads for the car that indicated she was leaving him). Well, Guy does what he always does and hits his meds -- hard. The pain of separation from Sara and his own mental fragility leads to higher doses of medication which, in turn, lead to a nightmare-like, and tragic, ending.
    I give this one points for inventive camerawork and imaginative staging. I like the actors, particularly Wolfgang Weber who really threw himself into this. His compulsive movements are almost dance-like in places. The bouncy, hand-held camera accentuates the anxiety. However, we've seen similar subjects at TFR many times before (break-up/pain/substance abuse/hallucinations/suicide), so the downbeat ending was evident a mile away. But for the editing, camerawork, and Weber, I'll give this one a Very Good / Recommended.
Chris: This was an awesome film all around. Cool story, excellent editing, great photography, good performances, etc. The film starts off with a couple sitting at a table, in a dreamy scene in color with classic Italian music playing. This part is shot very beautiful. Then it cuts to a gritty black and white scene of the man in his apartment having a mental breakdown of sorts. The mood has now changed. The music also keeps the movie going with each shot more gripping than the next. The film reminded me of an old 1960’s experimental film with its raw grittiness. The film also has a twisted ending that fits the film. MaryAnn Balaza and crew do an amazing job with this film and I would love to see more from this young filmmaker. Very Highly Recommended and Film of the Night.

Darkness, by Hank Hurst and Dave Grimaldi. Concept video combining comic art and animation by 4 Advanced Media Studios.

Nolan: A TOPCOW comic book brought to life by experimental animation techinques, basically. A Punisher-like vigilante invades a gangters' basement poker game with violent results.
    First shown years ago at the Coffeehouse Film Review, this is a cool film where the still drawings are lent movement through extensive panning and zooming while actors overdub what's in the comic panel's dialogue balloons. Throw in the soundtrack's rap/hip-hop and the mood is set. Some things, like cigarette smoke are genuinely animated, which contributes a weird ambience to the proceedings. Sort of equal parts Space Angel, Heavy Metal, and that MTV one I can't remember the name of. Highly recommended.
Chris: Cool animated film that has panels from a comic book come to life, so of speak. I’ve seen something similar like this in the documentary film Comic Book Confidential where they had segments where they took panels from different comics and used pans and zooms to go through them. They also had narration and sounds effects just like this cool little flick did. Worth watching. Highly Recommended.

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: Like last month, I introduced this entry personally. Last month we sampled Chapter 4 ("When Toilet Paper Rolls Find Out") through 12 ("I, Narrator"), this month we continue with Chapters 13 ("The Sci-Fi Breakfast") through 24 ("A Great Day").
    "The Sci-Fi Breakfast" shows how Todd defeats an invading flying saucer outside his window (the effects are charmingly home-spun, but effective). Later, what happens when an egg tries to commit suicide ("Egg-i-cide"). "A Great Day" is one of several very funny Langen themes that repeat through the feature that have slighly different twists and endings.
    Especially amazing is that Todd Langen made this feature completely 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 this month got a great reaction at TFR, lots of laughs. I actually had two people come up to me and ask where they could buy the DVD. Todd should be thrilled to hear that! Very Highly Recommended.
Chris: We saw some stories from this film last month, but this batch was much funnier than the last. Great little skits that featured a man with outer space outside his window and a flying saucer, he tries to take down the saucer by just cutting the string that holds it. Another features a story of a heartbroken egg that wants to commit suicide but just can’t get the job done. At the end his girl-egg-friend comes back to him and he has a change of heart, but then suddenly falls to his death and breaks into pieces. Many other funny skits as well through out the film. Highly Recommended.

"DARPA iXo" by Lou Dobbs, announced in promotional newsletters, was not shown tonight. This is the third time in a row!

"There's Always Hope" by David Hurd and Rod Grant could not be shown tonight. If memory serves, this is the DVD disc that would not play.

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

For the time being, I am discontinuing the Rockin' Sports Bar roll call section of these reviews (head count of those of us who show up at Ybor's Rockin' Sports Bar for the post-TFR party). By now you've got the idea that's where most of us go after TFR. I still encourage everyone to join us there. ---Nolan

"The Tampa Film Review for September" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova and Chris Woods.

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

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