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THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Bad News Bears"
 by Mike Smith

ODDSERVATIONS
A Week of '40s Horror Comedies & More!...Jeff Goldblum In Town...."Masters of Horror" Gets Some Press....Bigmouths Strike Again
 by Andy Lalino

COUCH POTATO
Couch Potato Does Live 8....The Kids Just Want Their New Wave....Fall TV Sneak Preview
 by Vinnie Blesi

CREATURE'S CORNER
Lizards....Batman And Robin: The Boy Wonder....Jim Aparo
 by John Lewis

MATT'S RAIL
(Un)professional Athletes....NolanAid
 by Matt Drinnenberg

MIKE'S RANT
Scotty....The Line....Passing On....That Ain't Good English....Happy Birthday....Jaws: The Story, Part 26
 by Mike Smith
Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2005!
    Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our sixth calendar year!
Number 278  (Vol. 6, No. 29). This edition is for the week of July 18--24, 2005.

Supreme Court Shake-Up

Also...
  • James Doohan, "Scotty" of Star Trek, Dead at 85
  • Coffeehouse Film Reviews For July
    And...
  • NolanAid: My Birthday Plans For August
  • In a rarest-of-the-rare occasion when he may have done something right for a change, President George W. Bush has officially nominated 50-year-old appeallate court judge John G. Roberts to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor on the United States Supreme Court.

    While the Harvard-trained Judge Roberts is unquestionably a conservative, he drew little criticism from the Democrats as his integrity and track record seemed to speak of someone who'd uphold the Constitution as the law of the land and not "legislate from the bench".

    The pivotal seat occupied by O'Connor is seen by many as the all-important "swing vote" in many controversial decisions, most notably (thought certainly not exclusively) involving women's rights. A conservative judge in that position could undo some of the progress made in several social issues.

    In brief remarks, Roberts said he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court in a career as a private attorney and government lawyer. "I always got a lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps to argue a case before the court, and I don't think it was just from the nerves," he said.

    By "little criticism" from the Dems, I mean, "measured optimism", and I agree, but there are a few thorny issues ahead which beg caution.

    The most prickly matters consistently before the court currently are a woman's right to abortion (a perennial hot-topic now re-upped as a target--basically a women's rights law, but often linked with privacy issues as well), gay marriage rights/amendments/ordinances (though many states have outlawed gay marriage, it's still simmering in others), land rights (the recent outrage of the abuse of "eminent domain" where the Court ruled we basically have no property rights if, say, a Wal-Mart wants your land), and, for whoever's still counting this, marijuana legalization (alternately, "medical marijuana").

    The most oft-quoted indicator of where Roberts leans on the topic of abortion comes from two sources:

    Referring to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman's right to abortion, Roberts filed a brief with the Supreme Court while serving as deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. In the brief, Roberts said "Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled."

    Scary enough, but then it's tempered somewhat later by what he told senators during the 2003 confirmation hearings to his current post: that he would be guided by legal precedent. "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."

    Sounds a little too much like a begrudging nod toward the countless decisions that have upheld Roe, while biding his time until he could be the swing vote.

    In any event, this is not a done deal yet, the Senate must still approve the nomination. But now more than in a very long time, both sides of the debate will be watching this very closely.

    James Doohan, "Montgomery Scott", of Star Trek, Dies
    James Doohan who played chief engineer Mongomery Scott on the classic Star Trek series from the '60s has died of complications from Alzheimer's and pneumonia. He was 85. Doohan popularized the role of Scotty with an endearing Scottish accent learned years earlier from roles on radio. He's associated most famously with lines like "Beam me up, Scotty" usually uttered by Captain Kirk (William Shatner). Note: True fanboys know that line was never spoken, only inferred (similar to "Play it again, Sam" which was never spoken in Casablanca). The closest I remember was in Star Trek IV, when Shatner said "Scotty....beam me up!" But I digress...

    Mike Smith does his usual bang-up job with a nice obit and career overview of Jimmy Doohan's work in this week's Mike's Rant!

    Coffeehouse Reviews For July
    With Gus Perez still mad at me for last month's review of "Light of Blood", I had to draft Chris Woods for transportation, which he kindly delivered. Unfortunately, Chris had to work late that night so we rushed downtown (I didn't bring my camera, so no pictures this month) to the Romeo Coffeehouse, 1515 7th Ave. in Ybor City for our monthly fix of local independent movies. We wound up not seeing anything but the last few minutes of "Once Not Far From Home". However....Paul Guzzo was kind enough to lend me his copies of the night's program so I could do some reviews. Note: I don't normally have this kind of access to the movies, so my reviews are more in-depth than usual. Secondly, the only movie we saw a few minutes of was the only one I couldn't get a copy of as the filmmaker left with the disc. Oh well.

    Once Not Far From Home. Director: Ben Van Hook, written by Todd Thompson and starring Erik Per Sullivan from Malcolm in the Middle. A dramatic story about a curious little boy, a beautiful young girl, and a mysterious old house that holds the secret to their love and fate. A captivating, thought-provoking tale that proves true love really does last forever. - 18 minutes

    Due to Chris's and my late arrival all we saw was the last 6 or 7 minutes of what looked to be an absolutely charming vehicle with a gorgeous musical soundtrack---a soundtrack that taken away would've completely changed the movie. It was tied into every emotion seen onscreen.

    That's about all I got out of the few minutes I had with it and the filmmaker left with the disc so I don't have a copy. But it looked terrific.

    Sitting Vigil. Hocus Focus Productions (Jason Liquori). ---12 minutes. A young girl, Samantha, (Skyler Anderson) suffering from a terminal illness faces death near midnight while her aunt Mia (Melissa Morse from Dark Rose: The 700-Year Itch) struggles to save her from the Grimm Reaper's clutches.

    I love director Jason Liquori to death, everybody knows that, so it kills me to have to say this, but this is not one of his stronger efforts.

    First, the good news. The idea itself is great, as all of Jason's ideas are, the script is not bad, and the performances by all the actors are good. Young Skyler Anderson spends most of the time in bed in a near-coma, but when she awakens to DEATH at the crack of midnight, she lets out a terrifying scream that threw me out of my chair. It was terrific, I had to re-run it! To borrow a cliché, if she wanted to, she could be a future "scream queen".

    Priscilla Dubas as Samantha's mom lends the sympathetic quality the film needs and her sincere qualities are conveyed well.

    Melissa Morse has the lion's share of the kick-butt duties when she shows up to personally...yes, personally....perform a martial arts show-down with DEATH himself when he arrives. These scenes are the most endearingly Hocus Focus-like, with the fight choreography exhibiting that dream-like cross between a comic book version and a fan film version of kung-fu Jason has employed in the past.

    The sharpness of the movie is quite good, with (I believe) the Panasonic 100XA 24P camera doing the image capturing, so there's a nice filmlook to the video.

    Now for the bad news. On a technical level this film is all over the map. There is something weird going on with the letterboxing---some scenes are letterboxed (16:9), some are not (4:3). The letterboxed scenes (which are most of them) look like they've been "squished" down to achieve that look when they'd rather be 4:3. This also affects the final credits where text runs off the edge of the screen.

    While the audio levels are fairly consistent, the audio clarity is not. Some dialogue is garbled at a distance and lost in room echo. One interesting scene, a close-up of a radio, features the voice-over of director Jason Liquori himself as the newscaster, which is cool.

    One blooper occurs during a scene inside the car when Aunt Mia is on her cellphone. While passing street lights are convincingly suggested by reflection (likely by stage effects), I swear there is an unmoving bright light reflected on the driver's side window---I'm guessing it is a camera light.

    The biggest blooper of all is an on-set movie light on a stand, barn doors and all, in full view in nearly all the bedroom scenes! Was this the only place they could put the "practical"? It's right next to the girl's bed! I'm guessing Jason hoped the audience would either not notice or figure this was a new fashion in bedroom furniture. (Woops! Looks like it's the latter. See Jason's response at the end of this review. Behind-the-times-Nolan)

    One blooper that really doesn't count is the title "Sitting Vigil" is misspelled "Sittitng Vigil" in the DVD's menu splash page.

    Enjoyable enough and brief enough to overlook some of its foibles, but not a serious contender in the Hocus Focus library.

    Jason Liquori responds to this review.

    Back to the Machine. Freewalker Films (Damien Kincannon). ---10 minutes. Ah yes, a video that's not afraid to look like a video. I never thought I'd say this, but with the obsession with "filmlook"-type vids out there, it's almost refreshing to see a, you know, video. (The key word here is "almost".) Director Damien Kincannon has been mentioned at least twice before in PCR, one of those times linked to young filmmaker Ben Waller's productions.

    Pony-tailed scientist Dr. Francis Kirsch has created something for a top-secret military project. That "something" has escaped. The base commander is not happy. They must recapture it or kill it before it is discovered.

    Funny this is on the same night as a Jason Liquori film, because it has many plot elements similar to Jason's "Dinosoldier" online fiction series! The escaped "creature" appears to be a blue-green lizard-man of some sort, with pretty good make-up effects, although the camera never lingers long enough to get a good look. Presumably, it was designed to be a super-soldier or something (Yegads! Shades of Gus Perez's "Light of Blood"!)

    The musical soundtrack, performed by Damien Kincannon himself, is basically a one-man effort as Damien noodles some rock licks on a bass guitar---not bad, he's a good player! (Kind of reminds me of José Prendes' "Monster Man" where the entire soundtrack was one guy playing heavy metal guitar riffs!)

    All these comparisons are not meant to say that "Back to the Machine" is deliberately derivative, nor unenjoyable. It's a cool ride, with nice video and soundtrack, I just keep thinking I've seen it before.

    If this is Damien's first film, well done! As you get some more experience as a director and flex your muscles, the more obvious influences will fade and eventually be too subtle to catch.

    Wish by KSFilms. Director: Jose Cassella. ---12 minutes. A young professional woman (Lora Helm) feels trapped and frustrated by the daily routine of her life. One day she gets to break free from the reality and escape this world. Has her wish been fulfilled or is it all in her mind?

    Very little dialogue here, this is mostly told in dream-like imagery, the soundtrack serving to mesmerize the audience, and effectively so, into accepting that anything can happen. The muted colors, particularly the blue-cyan shift and desaturated reds scream the cold, sterile office/workplace atmosphere our heroine is so desperately bored and disgusted with. But the very beautiful Lora Helm is someone I can look at a loooong time, ha ha.

    One of the "WOW" films in the night's program mostly due to long-time film fans' presumption this amazing-looking movie was shot on film. In reality it was shot on HD video, 720P. It has been my observation that the video projection process enhances this; on a regular TV it's not quite so film-looking but it is amazing, nonetheless. This is in no small part due to Orlando-based director and cinematographer Jose Cassella who's been a music video and feature director for years. His experience shows: the expert lighting, the control over depth-of-field, the smooth camera moves, the aforementioned use of color, all very motion picture-like, it's no small wonder "Wish" is easy to accept as a film!

    Also noteworthy are some CGI(?) effects used to subtly distort some actors faces for a nightmarish effect (love to know how he did that), and the effective and appropriate musical soundtrack.

    If I had to fault this film for anything, it would be that the narrative concludes to what I consider to be the legendary cop-out ending. To see what I mean you'll just have to watch it (but long-time fans who know me know there's only one sort of ending I can't stand). In all fairness, in this context it works OK, but I think another ending would've been far more effective.

    All that notwithstanding, "Wish" is highly recommended.

    NolanAid: My Birthday Plans For August
    To all who have written expressing a desire to attend whatever birthday party I arrange for myself in the wake of the late, lamented NolanCon 2005, I thank you, and here is the only current plan going: At the Best Western Hotel where NolanCon was supposed to take place (1200 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa, FL), there is a bar and lounge situated between the hotel and the Durango Steakhouse, all accessible from the hotel lobby. On Saturday, August 13th, starting about 7:00pm, I am planning a get-together for everybody and anybody who missed out on the ground floor of NolanCon the first time, or just need a good excuse to get sh*t-faced drunk and hang out. This goes out to all the filmmakers, potential dealers, everybody.

    Anything like cake and blowing out the candles and stuff will likely be held in private earlier that day. I cannot afford to get another hotel conference room for any big show.

    The NolanAid part: All the contractual, legal, and financial issues regarding the hotel have been pretty much settled and former sponsor Neil McCurry has generously helped offset some of the debts I incurred (thanks Neil). I don't really care about gifts, please don't worry about it, I'd just like to see you all there. BUT.....it has been suggested I give an opportunity to everyone who was gonna get a table or gonna submit a film to take this time to make a monetary donation, via this PayPal button below, to help this Crazed Fanboy get through this difficult and expensive summer.

    Yes, it's the same "Donate" PayPal link found nearer the bottom of this webpage, but is usually ignored. It's a good and practical way to show your support for what I was...and am....trying to do. There is no fixed amount, you enter an amount of your choosing when you get to the PayPal page. Thanks!

    Of course I'm exempting my paid-link website sponsors who already help me to support this website!

    As an added incentive for donations, and a nod to NolanCon where all sponsors would've been published in a program book, I will run an ongoing list of all contributors to "Nolan's Birthday, the Big 5-0", aka, "NolanAid" (see top of current PCR/CF homepage).

    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    "Couch Potato Confessions" is ©2005 by Vinnie Blesi    "Oddservations" is ©2005 by Andy Lalino      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova    
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