June 13-19, 2002
No Telling/Wendigo (Fri., June 14, 9:30 p.m., $10, Hoyt's Cinemas, Route 38 and Route 70, Pennsauken, N.J., 856-910-2340, www.exhumedfilms.com) Like a mad scientist toiling in the back room of a video store, Larry Fessenden hacks up the best bits from the history of horror movies and assembles them into new, unrecognizable beasts that shuffle along on their own curious courses. It should be interesting to see what Exhumed Films' splatter-centric audience makes of Fessenden's creations, which flirt with convention but reserve their right to see other genres.
No Telling (1991) is a somewhat ungainly hybrid. Though the link between Fessenden's environmental/animal rights concerns and his Frankenstein-inspired plot line shouldn't be a stretch, the movie somehow manages to be both heavy-handed and incoherent. Though canny camera work and creepy sound effectively set a free-floating mood, uneven acting and speechifying dialogue make for some rough going. With notable similarities to Fessenden's most recent (and much more accomplished) film, Wendigo (which enjoyed a brief theatrical run a while back), No Telling takes its protagonists, a metropolitan couple with an unsteady marriage, to a house in the country, where he's carrying on unsavory animal experiments in a backyard laboratory, while she carries on with the good-looking eco-activist who's trying to sell the local farmers on sustainable agriculture. You could come up with all kinds of reasons to link environmentalism and animal rights activism, but No Telling doesn't present any of them -- they're just generically lumped together. Fessenden shoots his exposition well -- check out the dinner table scene, where the camera swish-pans between debaters, accompanied by a burst of cricket chirps -- but there's no pretense of a real argument: It's clear from the beginning that the scientist is just there to be knocked off his pedestal. (The real Dr. Frankenstein was a lot more sympathetic.) If you go, make sure to stay until the end, and not just because Fessenden will be taking questions in between screenings. Watch No Telling's credits closely for an expanded disclaimer that ponders "whether animals humanely be asked to appear in films at all" and a list of environmentally correct sponsors that opens with an exhortation for "filmmakers to be conscientious in the wasteful business of making movies." Proceeds for the evening go to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic.
Scribe Weekend (Thu., June 13 and Fri., June 14, 7 p.m., Sat., June 15, 6 p.m., $5, Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., 215-569-9700, www.princemusictheater.org) Scribe Video Center kicks off its 20th-anniversary bash with premieres of four new works produced in conjunction with their community-oriented workshop programs. Thursday night features Willa Cofield's The Brick School Legacy, a history of the pioneering institution which provided education for African-Americans in segregated North Carolina. Friday pairs two sports-themed works: Sharon Barr's Stickball and Memories of the Street and David Block's Brian's Run, which examines an inspiring high school athlete's influence on one West Chester community. Saturday brings 1199-25, Maida Cassandra Odom and Heshimu Jaramogi's portrait of a quarter-century in the life of Local 1199C of the National Union of Health Care Employees.
Lo-Fi Landscapes (Sun., June 16, 7 p.m., Prince Music Theater) All the way from Chicago to your town, filmmakers Bill Brown and Thomas Comerford bring their program of experimental films investigating our relationship to place and technology, and how one affects the other. Comerford uses deliberately downscale technology -- pinhole cameras, "found or homemade" sound equipment -- to craft dense, brief explorations (often narrated in foreign languages) which confound as much as they explain. Brown's more whimsical work will appeal to fans of Termite TV, with its mixture of reflective technique and off-kilter humor. Confederation Park peers down from north of the border, observing how, for example, conflicting sentiments about French-Canadian independence are played out in the scratched-out foreign language instructions on hand-dryers. (English instructions are scratched out in Quebec, French instructions elsewhere.) Buffalo Common spends most of its time in North Dakota, where nuclear missile silos are being decommissioned as quietly as they were built. Like a tour guide with no fixed route, Brown encourages you to see the sights wherever you are, even if it's nothing more than a rusting hulk by the side of the road.
Philadelphia Stories (Tuesdays at 9 p.m., WYBE-TV Channel 35, http://www.wybe.org/programs/phillystories/season2.htm) WYBE's hourlong weekly showcase of the region's most interesting filmmakers has unfortunately already begun its second season, the start of which we missed due to the station's bewildering failure to publicize its most valuable resource. Catch up with this week's installment, which includes Ken Winiker's John Lumia: Unauthorized, a profile of the Amputation Nation mastermind, and Wendy Weinberg's The Art of Activism, which profiles sculptors, painters, dancers and puppet-makers who have made politics their art.
Mr. Show: The Complete First and Second Seasons ($34.98 DVD) How do you explain the Holy Grail to an unbeliever? If you're a fan of Mr. Show, the unspeakably brilliant sketch comedy show masterminded by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk which aired for four seasons on HBO, you've suffered through this long-promised two-DVD set's numerous postponements, delays and near-derailings, the most recent of which occurred when New Line Cinema shelved the planned released of the Mr. Show movie, Run Ronnie Run, thus sabotaging the plan to piggyback on the movie's publicity. Luckily, at least the first act of Waiting for Bob and David has come to a close. The 10 episodes are presented here, fully endowed with running pass-the-beer audio commentary -- by Cross, Odenkirk and most of the series' major players -- along with the hilarious best-of produced before the start of the show's fourth season.
To a certain extent, the show's still finding its voices in the earliest episodes -- topical parodies, like that of an accused pope fleeing, OJ-style, down the freeway, are only slightly funnier than they'd be on Saturday Night Live. But that's followed immediately by one of the show's most inspired bits, an explanation of "Imminent Death Syndrome," whose sufferers appear to be on the brink of death (but are really perfectly healthy) for years, and are thus inexplicably rewarded for the most meager of accomplishments. Noted sufferers include Juliette Lewis, Siegfried and Roy, and "Quentin Tarantino -- the actor, not the director." Generally speaking, the further out they go, the more they succeed. Watch for appearances by Ben Stiller, Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Silverman, Alyssa Milano (in the audience) and a pre-intolerable Jack Black.
Erratum: The venues and nights for the Lawn Chair Drive-In were listed incorrectly in last week's summer movie preview. The correct lineup: Mondays on the Promenade in Burlington, N.J.; Tuesdays in West Chester's Marshall Square Park; Wednesdays in Liberty Lands Park, Third and Poplar streets.