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The Tampa Film Review for June áby Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum
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Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 377  (Vol. 8, No. 24). This edition is for the week of June 11--17, 2007.


The Tampa Film Review for June

by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum


Nolan here. With Chris Woods forced to sit out this TFR due to work schedule conflicts, I was fortunate to have Terence Nuzum accompany me as co-reviewer (and wheels) to this month's cinematic outing.

I don't say this very often, but this was a fairly normal trip to Ybor! No road blocks, detours, blinding rain storms (it was overcast, though), missed exits or car problems, we managed to make it to the International Bazaar, the site of the monthly fest, by about quarter to eight. Enough time to get in the proverbial quick cigarette and talk to the first few of the faithful to arrive. Those would count Lisa Ciurro, Rodrick Colbert, Jon Wolding and Jen Persons, Sean Michael Davis, John Matheny, Joel & Cathy Wynkoop, and, of course, the Brothers Guzzo, Paul & Pete.

Over the past several months, I've tried to come up with a TFR review color code for this page to help identify when a different reviewer "speaks" to the reader. Last month, I instituted a policy where the reviewer's name along with the color code will be used when the reviewer voice changes. That seems to work a little better so will stay.

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

Here we go...

THE BAIT Improve Group Performs Live. The opening to this month's TFR was a live performance of a local improv troupe called "BAIT" (Bay Area Improv Theater).
Nolan: The small crowd gathered at this month's TFR were scratching their heads -- yours truly among them -- as BAIT took the stage. This consisted of two guys and one girl who made up several quick comedy sketches using only two chairs as props. The Bus Stop, The Troubled Airline Passenger, and The Circus Monkey-Boy were three skits I remember off the top of my head. While they weren't awful, I question the wisdom of using valuable TFR time -- about 15 minutes or so -- on things such as this. Paul Guzzo told me later there was a bit of a communication breakdown between the owner of the Int'l Bazaar and him about what plan there was for BAIT. I grabbed one of their business cards in case I ever hear of anyone needing this. Not rated.
Terence: I dont think BAIT had any place here, but I understand it wasn't the Guzzo's decision it was The International Bazaar's. Not rated.

Ride to Live by D.J. Morrison: In 1988 Cole Beachum saw best friend killed on his motorcycle for nothing more than local glory. Fifteen years later he returns to share his childhood with his young son.
Nolan: I was amazed when I re-read the above plot synopsis before writing this review, because I didn't get any of that out of this film, allegedly based on a true story. All I can remember is the protagonist was a biker with some score to settle. He narrates with that low, husky, whiskey voice one would associate with this theme. "You mess with a man's family, you're asking for trouble" or some such thing. He rode long and hard across various terrains before catching up with, and beating the crap out of...who? We're not shown that, but it must've felt good, because our boy moves his act to the riverside to pensively sit and reflect on his deed. OK.
Terence: A totally confusing picture. The only thing I can glean out of is that a lot of it was metaphorical. How can this be a true story? Some guy says you have to race your cycle or your family dies? It was shot decently, especially the scene in the rapids, but the story-telling was lacking. Maybe it just went over my head. Decent.

Superhero Hotline by Ground Up Films (Jen Persons, Jon Wolding). When you're a Superhero and your super-powers suddenly conk out, who're you gonna call?
Nolan: For whatever reason, to me, Jon and Jen's films always have a special glow about them. Brighter, always well-shot, and with an infectious kind of optimism, even though many of their themes are quite dark. Well, "Superhero Hotline" is not dark, it's a comedy about a weird world where there is an agency you call when your powers of, say, invisibility, are at an ebb. Problem is, most of the calls are from deranged regular folks who only think they ever had powers, but don't really (think Ed Begley, Jr. from Amazon Women On The Moon). Our main girl who handles the calls (think Annie Potts from Ghostbusters) realizes this and makes her way through the calls as best she can, improvising when necessary. Only at the end does a truly empowered individual call. Good laughs, a crowd-pleaser (especially among fanboys). Very Good. Recommended.
Terence: Now this one could've been really, really really funny, but it ended up being OK. A lot of missed opportunities to spoof various powers failing the heroes. The Invisible Man gag was damn funny, if not a little expected, but skits like the X-ray vision and the Chameleon could've been a hell of a lot more inventive and funnier. Over all, though, it was enjoyable. Good.

No Thanks by Cliff Gephart and Sean Michael Davis. A trippy, short comedy about one family's nightmarish Thanksgiving get-together.
Nolan: As I recall, this was one of the entries to the local "48-Hour Film Project" so by necessity was shot very quickly. That said, the always insanely-talented ensemble of Gephart-Davis regular players pull off a great script in record time. To me, that trumps any minor shortcomings in technical execution. It doesn't compare to Davis' magnificent Pawn'd, but it wasn't designed to. The actors' onscreen chemistry is what really works for me here, and with the dependable anchor of Brett Rice in the lead role, you can't lose. A moving ending counters the earlier hilarity with an embedded message. Very Good. Recommended.
Terence: My little eye spies that someone has been watching Mulholland Drive too many times. If not, then it's a damn weird coincidence. The whole fantasy-reality being linked to objects on a table in a depressed, down-and-out individual's apartment is exactly what Mulholland Drive did. On a technical level, it also wasn't up to Davis' previous masterwork of comedy, Pawn'd. It does contain some good comedy situations, however. Fair

Oneiric by Nadia Sarmova: O-ne-'rik dares to explore the various levels of discrimination prevalent in today's society and the extraordinary ability children have to recognize and overturn adults' jaded perspectives and teachings.
Nolan: I liked this one very much, lots of messages, as a black boy and white girl, both grammar-school age, find friendship despite some adults' objections. Very short film, nicely shot and acted, not too preachy. Highly Recommended.
Terence: OK, first off, the point of this film has a great and universal message about racism, but -- and I repeat, but -- it offers no new scenarios on the subject, nor any new solutions and just sits there because of it. The direction was stellar even though it had misplaced music video closeups and over-dramatic reactions from the actors. Which would be perfectly suited to a music video if this is what that was. Then again, it might have been since there really was no dialogue. I'm a little confused at its intention. It was directed by a female director, which by the way, is something that Tampa film scene seems to be lacking. Good.

Mr. Bubbs by Stars North Films: A stranger picks the wrong girl to kidnap one bright, sunny day in suburbia.
Nolan: This one caught me off-guard as it starts very brightly, then gets very dark very fast as an innocent little girl is approached by a middle-aged man who wants her to come over to his car for some candy. If you're thinking "child-molester" you'd be right. Only problem is the little girl comes with an invisible monster friend called "Mr. Bubbs". When the girl insists "Mr. Bubbs" tag along for the ride, the stranger is only too happy to comply. When the girl is predictably trapped in the car and the kidnapper's intentions become clear, "Mr. Bubbs" becomes very, very angry! Very Highly Recommended.
Terence: Wow! Now this is what it should be all about. The TFR. Daring. Original. Controversial. But most of all, entertaining. I can't begin to explain how fucked up that is in a film that comes off like a slightly more gory PG-13, that the main villain is a child molester! Not to mention that it was shot at Disney's Celebration Suburb Community. It's like Barney the Dinosaur on crack! God bless these filmmakers. And they understand it's not the gore that makes the movie disturbing or edgy, it's the screwed-up mixing of genres and conventions. Brilliant. Film of the Night.

Carbon Copy by Agustin Almonte: A woman meets her double.
Nolan: An effective little shocker. An attractive young woman answers the door only to find her sinister double there, aiming a gun at her. The immediate implication is she's going to replaced by the double. She tries to run and tries to call out but nothing seems to work. Finally she looks out the door and her double seems to have vanished. Or has she? I liked very much the B&W photography, obviously making the most of existing light situations. I might've brightened and lingered over the first shot of answering the door to sell the idea this was a clone. It's a little dark and quick and many people might've missed that pivotal point. I like the music soundtrack and the annoying sound of the door buzzer (haha). What I didn't like is the all-too-frequently used cop-out ending of is-this-a-dream-or-isn't-it. It's rarely used with any originality in the last 50 years, I have to dock points over that, sorry. On the clever side: save money on special effects -- hire twins! Which is what you did with the fetching Aliki and Ilana Makrides. Well done on that one, Agustin! Good.
Terence: Obviously a made-just-for-fun-one-weekend type film, it nevertheless makes its point short and sweet and not too bad for being what it is. The doppelganger can be the most creepy of all horror ideas if done right. Here, the filmmaker seemed to go more for a sci-fi/Twilight Zone angle in the end. Decent.

Flushed Up: (Title approximately correct. Filmmaker left with the disc, don't have a production name or credits). Tale of two flamboyant concierges.
Nolan: Pretty funny. Wish I had an opportunity to see it again, but I didn't get the disc. I did recognize Larry Bukovey from Marivamax's RISK as one of the two main actors. This may have been another 48-Hour Film Project entry. Good.
Terence: This was actually pretty damn funny if not a little too goofy. The actors playing the bathroom heroes are quite funny in their roles and seem to have tried really hard to make it believable charaterizations. I actually wouldn't mind seeing more of these characters' adventures. Good.

Kill Her, Arnold by Joel D. Wynkoop: A mentally-disturbed man hears voices that command him to kill his wife to prevent a world take-over by vampires.
Nolan: Wynkoop strikes again with another of his hilarious patented crazyman scenarios, this one previously seen at last month's Tampa Giant Comic Con. Just when Joel's missus (played by the real-life Mrs. Wynkoop, Cathy Holseybrook) calms him to the point of serenity, he hears those loud voices in his head that order him to "Kill Her! Kill Her, Arnold!" and he goes psycho again. Occasionally, he can see them talking to him. One of them is played by local lo-budget indie legend Gustavo Perez in one of his greatest-ever, over-the-top performances, very funny. Seeing these two chew up the scenery is always a treat. The immensely talented Ed Walker, Jr. as the therapist helps keep the film grounded when he's on. However, the flat home-video look of the movie, the scenes of a nearly-nude Wynkoop (and at around 250 pounds, there's a LOT of Wynkoop) rolling around in bed, sexual references (lots of breast feel-ups) that caused discomfort with kids present at the TFR, and the redundancy of basically the same "voices/psycho" scene played out over and over and over, Joel lost what audience he had about halfway through. There are few bigger Joel D. Wynkoop fans than me, and much of Kill Her, Arnold is genuinely very funny, but at 30 minutes, this was just too much and too late for this crowd who'd been watching fast-moving artsy short films all night. Kill her, Arnold went over much better at the Comic Con where the competition hadn't set the bar so high. Definitely Recommended for Wynkoop Fans.
Terence: God bless those few who throw abandon to the wind, shoot the shit, and fart in everyone's general direction. John Waters is one of those people and now with Kill Her, Arnold, Wynkoop joins the ranks, even if briefly. This film is really, really, really hard to describe. I'm going to give the plot in one sentence, a la beat style, free-form writing (for those literary-inclined, think William Burroughs)...OK, here it goes. Crazy man has visions of various strangers, including a Bela Lugosi crazed Cuban (Gus Perez in one of his all-time best performances) and grannies from hell who want that his wife will bang demons and aliens which will cause the world to be taken over by vampires. Yeah, it's that brilliant. One of the most amazing pieces of local trash slop cinema ever to grace the Bay area's screens. With added bonus of Wynkoop in undies! Yeah, it's jawdroppingly and utterly revoltingly amazing. This kind of thing and TFRs non-censorship is what makes it all worthwhile. Where would we be without stuff like this? You can only sit so through so many high art and well-made and award-winning films before you realize...that isn't what it's about. It's about making what you want and getting reactions, good or bad. Let's hope the TFR never legitimizes and cuts stuff like this out. Great.

Chasing Jamie 2, The Return of Byron by StacenJ: After spending five years locked away in a mental institution. Byron Mays escapes to seek his revenge on the girl he once loved. The past is forgotten is Jamie's mind, so she thinks. Jamie has a new life, new friends, and a new love interest. Byron discovers that Jamie's boyfriend is not what he seems. Chris (Jamie's boyfriend) is an abusive alcoholic. Now Byron has to make the difficult decision of putting his personal feelings aside to make the wrong things right or finish what he started five years ago.
Nolan: That extensive recap pretty much says it all. All I can add is it's shot well and well-acted. Very melodramatic, maybe more than necessary, but it is supposed to be a dark tale. I don't remember ever seeing Part 1, so I'm kind of at a disadvantage in that I can't say if this is a worthy sequel or not. Not a lot of audience left by this time of night (BAIT and Kill Her, Arnold ran it long), so Byron didn't play to very many of us, unfortunately. But, it was Very Good.
Terence: I'm a bit handicapped here on reviewing this one as I never saw part one, so I'll just review the technical side. The director, who if I remember correctly plays Byron, also did a good job of keeping the story moving and shooting in available lighting locations without it being unwatchable. He's a little too nice-looking to ever completely seem threatening as Byron but I have no basis as I didnt see the first one. The characterizations were pretty good. Pretty deep drama for a beginning filmmaker. That's not easy to pull off, but it worked. Good.
    A brief note on this month's TFR experience. As I said already, I dont think BAIT had any place there. Also I feel, actually I have felt for a long time, that TFR needs a little more organization. Why not programs? Or at least let the audience know how long each segment is going to be before you show it. If that's 'cus filmmakers sometimes just walk into the TFR at the last minute with stuff they want to "squeeze in there" then that's not right. If you keep adding to the time frame, people are likely to leave earlier and that sucks for the guy whose film plays last. Finally, figure out what light switches are which and what remote does what. Sorry if that seems aimed at Paul, folks, it's not his fault per se, he's a busy guy, but maybe delegate it. Like have a sort of projectionist if you will for the night. It'll run more smoothly. Overall, though, I am just glad a venue like TFR exists at all, but there is always room for improvement.


A Message Board thread has been started on this topic. Please feel free to post your thoughts.


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The Rockin' Sports Bar
Low turn-out at our current post-TFR Ybor watering hole this night. Corey Castellano and his brother-in-law Mike Kolacsky, Lisa Ciurro, Rodrick Colbert and yours truly made up the population of our two tables.


Hooters Sunday
MUCH better turn-out at our Sunday gathering place, last weekend at the Hooters on Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa. Will Moriaty, Marcus Koch, Joe Davison, Chris Woods, Paul Guzzo, Joel & Cathy Wynkoop, and yours truly squeezed into our regular hexagonal(?) table for libations and loquaciousness! Highlight: a near screaming match between Joe Davison and Joel D. Wynkoop on how much to prepare for a role, and how much input the director has to characterization. Incredible! The more they drank the better it got. Sorry now I didn't even bring a still camera. I'd LOVE to have that exchange on video.



"The Tampa Film Review for June" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ę2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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