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LA FLORIDIANA
The History of Aviation in Florida Part Four: The Pioneers, Barnstormers, World-Beaters and Patron Saints of Florida Aviation
 by Will Moriaty

THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEWS
LOTR: Return of the King
by Mike Smith
"The Last Samurai"  by Mike Smith

COUCH POTATO
BattleStar Melodramatica
 by Vinnie Blesi

SPLASH PAGE
Not Your Average Joe....Slush Pile....Weird Crap on Ebay
 by Brandon Jones

CREATURE'S CORNER
Saints & Sinners 4....Comics
 by John Lewis

MIKE'S RANT
Happy Trails....Screening Ban, Take 3....Battlestar Galactica, Redux....LOTR: Return of the King
 by Mike Smith

LETTERS
Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fourth calendar year!
Number 194  (Vol. 4, No. 50). This edition is for the week of December 8--14, 2003.

Saints and Sinners 4
Not too many still pics this time, I spent most of the night in the theater. Out in the lobby I did get some video interviews which are being edited presently.
CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE
First-time producers, Creature Productions, featuring some of our PCR writers: from left: John Lewis, Marc Reynolds, yours truly, Ashley Lauren, and Phil Frank.
On the right is Steve Barton, aka, "Uncle Creepy" of Fangoria.com and Horrorchannel.com. A genuine surprise to me, I found him to be an extremely open and honest, friendly individual and excellent host. A credit to crazed fandom.
Later in the night I caught up with Simon Lynx (middle) and Chris Woods (right) of ICON Film Studios. These guys are my heroes. Their Digital-8/Final Cut Pro epics never cease to command attention. Expect great things from this duo.
Of course it wouldn't be a Renegade Film Festival without multiple award-winner (and PCR writer!) Andy Lalino bringing something "Filthy" to the table. This night brought a behind-the-scenes look at his pic. Another hero of local filmmaking
I seized another rare opportunity to get three PCR writers together in one shot which is much harder to do than you'd think. From left, John Lewis, Nolan Canova, and Brandon Jones.
  It was my intention to get more pictures and interviews of newcomers to the Fest, but lightning-fast introductions, a tight show schedule, and hasty departures made it particularly difficult to time.

"Once more into the breach"......I've said it before and I'll say it again. Nothing feels more like "abandon all hope all ye who enter" than to pass through the doors of the colorful State Theater in downtown St. Pete to attend a Renegade Film Festival. It's dark, it's noisy, it's underground-feeling, and it's got a wet bar. This is where a lot of rock concerts are held. This is the permanent home of the Renegade Film Festival.

Not to say the other fests are crap, far from it, much has been written on their important and generous contributions to the community (most notably the multi-day Tambay Film Fest last written up by me in PCR 162.) I guess what attracts me to the Renegade show is it's headed up by, well, fanboys. Not just movie fans. Fanboys. Very important distinction.

The Saints & Sinners film festival, as it has come to be called, is organized by Renegade Films, comprised of Kerry Hogan, Porl Denicolo, and president Rick Danford. Long-time PCR readers may remember the video interview I did with Mr. Danford on the cheesily-shot first World of Nolan episode first uploaded to the web last August.

So...armed with my digital still and movie cameras I set out last Saturday to attend the fourth installment of this venture. Accompanying me, like last time, was Gustavo Perez, Florida actor and PCR photographer.

Here we go...
First, "Uncle Creepy", aka, Steve Barton, the message-board moderator from Fangoria.com and Horrorchannel.com, introduced himself and announced each movie. He'd call out the producer's name and welcome them to the stage to introduce their respective films. He was good at getting the best out of all participants, and helped smooth nervous and awkward moments. I really liked Steve, and I'm glad I got to interview him in a tape segment you'll see later. (His business card bears the image of the old Warren magazine's Uncle Creepy, which Steve uses because he loves the character; he has also applied for the trademark!)

"Robbery 101".  Arch-Angel Films. Well, it wouldn't be a Renegade Film Fest without some minor technical glitch and the projector showing this film started decidedly blue on us (the balcony projector seemed fine), but we were assured the problem would be corrected.
We move into a story of several angry and disenfrachised youths on the cusp of planning a bank-robbery spree to avenge the death of a loved one, specifically the father of one of the boys. Upon learning this, a local shock-video news reporter goes deep undercover to videotape the boys' every move figuring this could be her career-defining tape. Unfortunately things don't go as planned and, all involved learn they were in way over their heads.
This is, by design, a very ugly film, full of profanity and vulgarity, dark themes and uncomfortable moments. On this level the filmmakers succeeded. Unfortunately, I and the audience got a little bored with the over-the-top language and action way before the climax and admittedly satisfying surprise ending and funny epilogue. Cut about another 20 minutes off this and you might have something.

"Eddie, My Love".  El Gato Productions. The color from the projector was back to normal for this film. "Eddie, My Love" is one of those vignettes that works well because it doesn't tax the viewer (especially after Robbery 101) and is only one joke or one scene long--very short short! After a woman complains to her mother about missing her "Eddie" very much, and we emote along with her for several heart-tugging minutes, we find out who Eddie is when he leaps into her arms. Funny and charming with a good punch-line.
El Gato Productions was represented at the Third Reneade Festival with "Till Death Do Us Part", to which I gave a middlin' review due to the predictable plot and subpar video and sound quality. If it's any consolation to El Gato's Sondro Overholser, I liked "Eddie, My Love" WAY better! Well done.

"The Bathroom Trap".  Yitibit Films. Filmed with a 16mm Eclair, The Bathroom Trap is more or less a man's obsessing, in a stream-of-conscious monologue, about his stall-mates in a public bathroom and we're eavesdropping. Finally concentrating his reverie on one occupant who never seems to move, he turns his thoughts more inward. Beautifully shot film, interesting angles.

"End of the Line".  Lantern Productions. A fisherman hooks an old-fashioned hourglass onto the peer he's fishing from, but is always conscientious to turn it over before the hourglass runs out. One time he doesn't make it, with dire results. The hourglass is found later by a boy and his father out fishing in the same area.
This is the kind of film I used to love on TV's "Night Gallery"--vignette-ish, with both a twist ending and quasi-cliff-hanger epilogue ending. This film was made for a contest of some sort in only a couple days. (You guys are heroes, man, that's awesome.) The young man playing the little boy at the film's end was sitting in the audience right behind me while this was showing!

"Silent But Deadly".  Rice Power Productions. A struggling stree-mime, down on his luck, suddenly discovers his "imaginary mime props" (like bouncing balls, etc.) have real world properties! After being rudely thrown out of a convenience store for vagrancy, the mime returns to try out his finger--as a gun. The mime never says a word, but the actor conveys the emotions well through the makeup. Nicely acted, directed and edited.
Rice Power Productions was at the third Renegade Festival with "Super Jack". Like "Silent" it had a surreal plot twist and I gave it a pretty good review even tho it weirded me out. "Silent But Deadly" is a much more accessible film for all audience types.

"Permanent Job".  Creature Productions. Very last-minute entry not listed on the S&S website and mistakenly listed on the theater program as "The Phone Call" (a subsequent Creature Production), "Permanent Job" finds three out of four young male friends getting together for their usual weekly card game, when the fourth, Tom, now a corporate manager of some sort, arrives. Initially happy to see him, contempt starts to grow as the members squabble about the virtues of bottom-feeder-but-free-as-a-bird status to their friend's obvious changed higher-income existence---but is it for the better? This worsens as "Mr. Corp", Tom, keeps looking at the clock which bolsters their argument he's a schedule slave. As nerves become frazzled, Tom begins getting dizzy and blacking out. Suddenly, the true price he has paid for his "permanent job" is made shockingly clear. Nicely photographed and edited. Quickly paced.
The film lists 4 producers and the direction is credited to John Lewis, who also writes for this e-zine. Lest anyone think I'm biased in his favor, I'll let you know now I was initially very skeptical of John's having it in him as a director, I had to see it for myself. Kudos also to the talented and dedicated crew behind Creature Productions.

"Ghost Hunters: Point of Contact".  Parrot Bay Entertainment. If I remember this right, "Ghost Hunters" was meant to be a one-hour TV pilot of sorts with this as its first episode. The influences here are obvious as a little bit of "X-Files" mixed with a LOT of "The Sentinel". The star of the show is even a dead-ringer for Sentinel star Richard Burgi! The protagonist has the ability to "see" ghosts. Drama continues as he deals with what's revealed thereon. Spends way too much time building atmosphere, which it has buckets and buckets of, and it is beautifully shot but needs work on picking up the pace--a lot. Also, this disc seemed to suffer much from MPEG-2 artifacting. Noticable on many entries this year, likely due to the increased size of the Festival screen, it's particularly noticable on dark backgrounds with gradiated tones like "Ghost Hunters".

"Call Doctor Or Die".  Interlude Films. I met one of the filmmakers of this film out in the lobby but didn't have a chance to do an interview or get pictures. I must not've seen much of the movie either, because my notes are scant, but I seem to remember it was shot B&W as a sort of a dream sequence did-it-happen-did-it-not sort of thing that ties directly into a terrifying urban legend concerning organ removal by theft. Very creepy.

"Flatline Blues".  Film Germane. I was enthusiastic when I first saw the very recognizable film leader that preceeds Super-8 films! A series of shot pieces of film, connected by this leader, that I think was supposed to convey the thoughts of a small girl. I didn't jive on that too well, but the pacing and that wonderful film texture made it worth the sit!

"Animal Grappler 1 & 2".  David M. Smith. This take-off on "Crocodile Hunter" was a BIG audience favorite and it's easy to see why. Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin is such a natural target to begin with! Spoofed here as "Animal Grappler", this version is named Erwin Marlin, a Canadian native complete with "beauty, eh?" accent. We're given two episodes, back to back, that show how this version deals with capturing footage of wild animals!
Produced by the Smiths, a husband and wife team, also creators of the film's outstanding computer-generated effects. Mr. Smith's brother Darryl (no, he doesn't have another brother Darryl) took on the role of the Grappler. He was sitting in the row behind me in the audience as well. Later in the program, Darryl got up on stage and introduced a bit as "Animal Grappler". A total scream and highly recommended.

"Run".  IKO Productions. One of those great short shockers with the twist-ending punch-line. A very beautiful female jogger thinks nothing of jogging down dark streets late at night wearing nothing but a tank-top and shorts. Naturally, some creep in the bushes is always going to try something. But he picked on the wrong girl this time! Shock ending in the best vein of "Tale From the Crypt/Night Gallery".

"To Live Is To Die".  ICON Film Studios. Long-time PCR/CF readers may remember my short video interview with Chris Woods and Simon Lynx of ICON Film in my first crudely-made World of Nolan episode. In that, they mentioned working on "To Live Is To Die". We see the results here.
Simon Lynx stars as a writer/dreamer who sits under a tree and starts to write. We are transported to a writing class where all the students are asked to convey life experiences through their writing. One girl seems to be central in taking this in and evaluating it. When it's the girl's turn, the professor and all the students mock and humiliate her after her reading. She runs from the class distraught. The writer/dreamer is shown in romantic scenes with the girl, but she is inconsolable. Finally, the offscreen voice of the girl meshes with the writer/dreamer's voice; he closes his book and leaves the tree. Was she real?
Written by Simon Lynx and directed by Chris Woods, shot on Digital-8 and edited with Final Cut Pro. ICON Films is the very essence of the independent filmmaker---no money, but lots of talent, heart, and hands-on ability. Hope I got the essence of your story right, Simon.

"Pigeon Death".  CATCOM Studios. I wish I could've personally met the director, Jesse Jonas, not just because his movie is a howl, but for the introduction he gave before the movie. On stage from behind orange-tinted sunglasses: (Hissing, slow, measured, very dark and angry) "This...is a story...about my people. And the oppression...they have suffered...at your hands. (Leans into the mic, in almost a loud whisper) ...FUCK YOU."  Jesus, you could hear my belly-laugh a mile away. Probably the best laugh I had all night.
Pigeon Death is a series of nonsense interviews taken on the street about what would you do if piegons attacked you. Or that pigeons ARE attacking, what are you going to do? Or something like that. The answers are mixed with special audio effects that repeat, stutter, tongue-tie, and pitch control the man-in-the-street answers until we are about to pee in our pants. Hysterical. Jesse, well done, I looked for you afterward, wanted to get a pic, but you left. Maybe next time.

"Behind The 9". Behind the Nine Productions. When I started this movie I was a small lad in school. Coming from a poor family I had to drop out of school and take a job to support my family. About halfway through this movie, I got married had children and became successful as a convenience store manager. Later in the movie, say around the third act, I developed back problems and had to retire early. Near the movie's end I broke out the scrapbook to show my grandkids what my life was like DURING THE F*&%KING LIFETIME IT TOOK TO SIT THROUGH THIS MOVIE!!!!! This was the longest hour and a half--yes, just an hour and a half--I have ever spent watching a movie. Pity, lots of talent here, obviously the production had money. Shot of High-Def tape (one of about three done that way), this beautiful but slooowwwwww-moving drama follows high-roller billiards in an exclusive club or private residence with underground, mob-like overtones. The goal is the last one left will win a briefcase full of cash. Along the way are some nice tense dramatic moments, fairly interesting characters and the performances are all fine, I'm not sure why it seemed to drag so much. I think it's when all the characters are getting more tired and drunker they move more slowly. After an agonzing 90 minutes we finally have a winner--and a couple dead bodies to juice it up a bit. Knock about 30 minutes off this, you might have something.

"Ant Muzak"  Channelcom. A mockumentary showing what looks like rock band Adam And the Ants from a period video romping in a supermarket. It's actually a recent piece by a band of lookalikes. The band goes shopping, hijinks ensue, they panic when they lose one of their drummers. Thought this was kind of dumb, don't even remember how it ended. Shockingly, it won Best Film (Saints) at the Festival. Sorry, I didn't get it.

"Farmer McAllister's Thinkin' Machine". Buckethead Productions. The hour-and-a-half I pissed away on "Behnd the 9" I wish I had back here. I was expecting a break before "Ant Muzak" but there was none, so I had to try to get an interview or two in in this short break, while I could, before any more filmmakers got out the door. While I got some good footage, I was unaware Farmer McAllister has started (I didn't hear a soundtrack starting up), plus it turned out to be very short. I wound up not seeing a single frame of it and I really wanted to see this one too, it sounded so cool.
From the Saints & Sinners website: "Red McAllister (J.D. Sutton) is nagged to the point of madness by his wife, Safron (Peg OíKeef). According to her, the only thing he can do right is piss. Fair enough. Most guys are pretty good at that as long as there isnít a toilet involved. Red wants to prove his worth, though, so he builds a robot. Thatís right, his ďThinkiní MachineĒ is a bona-fide android that looks like a child built it. Itís got a bucket for a head, a View-Master for eyes and a copper nozzle for a penis. Saffron is attracted to the faux penis, and thatís where the plot revelations end. To go further will absolutely ruin the film, and this is one case where you really donít want to know too much going in."
See? Sounds great doesn't it? Now if I had bailed on "9" like I should've done, I could've gotten more interviews and been back in time to see it. Live and learn. Anyway, learn more about it here: http://redsrobots.tripod.com. Oh, one more thing. THIS PICTURE WON BEST ACTOR AND ACTRESS at the Festival. Well...of course it did.

"Vanity Mirror".  Katie T. Damien. Excuse me, did I say I missed just the Farmer McAllister movie? I meant I missed that one and HALF of this one too! From what I saw, I remember it was beautifully shot, B&W, with scenes of an attractive young lady disfiguring herself in the mirror with a razor blade. Outstanding make-up effects, chillingly realistic. Unfortunately due to my being detained in the lobby (and detained by Behind the 9), I don't know what the point of this was. No info available on the S&S website OR producer Katie T. Damien's site at http://www.geocities.com/ktdamien/jkr.html. If anyone attended the Fest and wants to do a piece on Farmer McAllister and Vanity Mirror, feel free to do so, send it to me directly.

"Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Filthy".  Metropol Productions. Formerly known as "Tinker Wins" Productions. Well, hell, I gotta say it. It almost wouldn't be the same if there were no Andy Lalino and something "Filthy" playing at Renegade. In this "behind-the-screams", 11-minute documentary, filmmaker Chris Probst chronicles the production of the multi-award winning motion picture short and introduces the cast and crew that made "Filthy". Loaded with interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, excerpts from the movie, and special highlights of how the special effects were created. According to Andy, this will be included in the eventual DVD compilation, along with a blooper reel. Well done like everything Andy does, looks like it could go on Bravo or something and fit right in.

"Monkey's Paw".  Tribalfilm Entertainment. Now we're talkin'! Based on the 1902 novel, this story has been filmed many times, but I like this version very much. Produced in near-monochromatic muted colors for an aged, period look, with good costumes and sets and passable English accents (LOL). Only thing phony-looking were the men's lambchop sideburms which I haven't seen this poorly-applied since "Dark Shadows"; but like that Gothic TV ancestor, it's very easy to forgive in light of the above-par production.
A mysterious monkey's paw, ostensibly just an artifact/curiosity, like a rabbit's foot but grosser, is passed from its previous owner to a greedy newcomer with the warning that its powers to grant wishes must be dealt with with extreme caution. The greedy man seems to heed the warning, but predictably succumbs to desire. Wishing himself a tidy sum of money to pay off the mortgage is granted but only at the cost of his son's life. The Misses suggests wishing their son back from the grave. He resists at first, but gives in. There's a knock at the door. Is it him? The film ends. Creepy, atmospheric, good acting, well done.

"Blood Shot".  Fine Lookin' Productions. A quirky Action / Horror / Comedy about a Vampire who works for the United States Government; CIA: Vampire Division. A tough Cop pursues, determined to rid the world of this evil blood sucker. When the Vampire is sent on a mission to annihilate a terrorist cell in Los Angeles, he must convince the Cop to join him in the fight against the greater evil; a warehouse full of terrorist scum.
I loved this film. Excellent performances, script, production design, direction, make-up, the works. If there were such a thing as a buddy-cop/vampire film, this is it!

"The Joke Explainer". Sunshinola Brand Motion Pictures. Basically, this guy can't help himself explaining even the simplest joke he hears on TV to his girlfriend who's so over it, she finally leaves him. That's it. Very simple, but well done, short and to the point.

"Inside Out". Sketchbook Productions. This was so cool. It's early in the morning in Big City, USA, and people are getting ready to face the world. A girl with an eye patch looks in the mirror and, through her voice-over, we hear her thoughts as she curses the world for judging her imperfection. In another part of the city, same thing is happening to a guy with a big ugly scar across his face---he's upset the world can't see past his scar. Both these people are otherwise attractive and about the same age. Both start out walking and, yes, fate has them bump into each other on the same street corner. As they stop momentarily to look at each other, what do you suppose they're thinking? Well, maybe not what you'd think! Funny and poignant take on the human condition.

"The Ghouls". Crappy World Films. This was the midnight show, the last movie to play and, without trying to sound cliché, they saved the best for last. Eric Hayes is a bottom-feeder shock-video reporter (there's that theme again) whose life depends on showing humanity at its ugliest using only his video camera and being at the right place at the right time. For whatever reason, life is currently on the skids for Eric. His old boss wants nothing to do with him and Eric and his girlfirend are having problems. One night, he thinks he sees what looks like a woman being raped. Typically, rather than help, he grabs his camera and runs over to tape it. What he stumbles on changes his life: the creatures are not raping her and not even human--they're ghouls, eating her alive! Unfortunately this career-jump-starting video can't be shown because he forgot to put a tape in the camera. Frustrated, Eric employs a one-time rival to help him go down into the alleys and catacombs of underground LA and document this small race of flesh-eating ghouls. Easier said than done.
This was the festival winner for horror, and it's easy to see why. Top-drawer production values, good tight script, terrifc performances, outstanding special-FX make-up (Eric's friend, thought dead is discovered underground alive---without his skin! Must be seen to be believed.) Even the end credits are an original production unto themselves.

The AWARDS ceremony preceeded "The Ghouls", so funnily, it won before we'd even seen it. Here are the winners in total:

Saints: (Drama/comedy/documentary)
Best Film: ANT MUZAK
Best Director: Ben Gregor, ANT MUZAK
Best Actor: J.D. Sutton, FARMER MCALLISTER'S THINKIN' MACHINE
Best Actress: Peg O'Keef, FARMER MCALLISTER'S THINKIN' MACHINE
Best Sound: Ruth Barret and Ruskin Williamson, ANT MUZAK
Best Cinematography: Fred Zara & Kurt Howland, INSIDE-OUT

Sinners: (Horror/lurid)
Best Film: THE GHOULS
Best Director: Rafael Gomez, ROBBERY 101
Best Actor: Michael Bailey Smith, BLOODSHOT
Best Actress: Dawn Smith, BEHIND THE NINE
Best Sound: Dietrich Johnston, BLOODSHOT
Best Cinematography: Marie Chao, BLOODSHOT

Rick and Company were nice enough to order pizza halfway through the festival, which was a welcome sight as I was starving by that time. It also gave me an opportunity to speak to "Uncle Creepy", as I said at the top of this article, and several other movers-and-shakers of the local film community. The video will be out as soon as I can put it together!

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"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2003 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    "Creature's Corner" is ©2003 by John Lewis    "Couch Potato Confessions" is ©2003 by Vinnie Blesi    "Murder on the Woo Woo Express" is ©2003 by Patty G. Henderson     All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova    
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