#11-December '99

    I knew that, due to family and other personal commitments many of our regularly attending members would not be able to make it to the gathering that we had during Thanksgiving weekend. I assumed that we'd have a tiny but spirited get together. I was wrong. We had the pleasure of seeing many of our seldom-seen members--folks who've had other obligations on the last Saturday of the month but managed to cut a slice from their busy lives to come by. I won't name all of them but at least one mysterious figure deserves special mention--we had the pleasure of the company of Ms. Leith J. Lomakin and her mother, Dorothy. Leith joined us last July, sight unseen, based on a piece in the Sunpapers. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that Leith fits in perfectly with us. We're looking forward to having Leith and Dorothy join us again soon.
    Special thanks go to the stalwart Dave Henderson for climbing out of his sick bed to open the doors and grease the works to make the meeting happen (WOW). Similar thanks go out to Joe Plempel for last minute pinch-hitting on getting a lively panel discussion cooking (see below for why Joe had to step in), and Cindy Collins for sharing some "Ripping" good movies with us. Special apologies go out to everyone present at the meeting who wondered what the devil ever happened to me. I arrived nearly ninety minutes late. Just like 17 million other people, we figured that if we left early from North Jersey we'd beat the holiday rush. What should have been a 3 1/2 drive became a 6 hour crawl. So with a car still loaded down with luggage and whatnots from my wife's family, I dropped my wife off in front of Jerry Pleines' house in Overlea, where he allowed us to ditch her van for the weekend, and I sped like a demon to the meeting (hitting every red light and slow poke along the way). Sorry for the delayed arrival.

    Welcome to a face familiar to many of us--Kevin Flynn joined us at our November meeting. For those of you who want to keep your rosters updated Kevin's email address is:

    As mentioned in the last issue, we say so long to Jennifer and Howard Gostin. By the time you read this they'll be rooting through boxes in their new home. Once again, for those of you keeping your rosters current:

    Get well wishes go to Sue Feder. As many of you have heard, Sue had a reoccurrence of cancer. She's currently undergoing treatment. Please take the time to drop an email:

    Barry Murphy had to miss the last meeting because of a family crisis. His mother-in-law has become gravely ill. Our thoughts are with the Skipper and his family. We hope that everything turns out all right.
    Charlie Wittig has had to once again discover that sobering truth that faces all of us. Time marches on, and takes pieces of our youth with it. The bending, stretching and lifting that would have bothered us either not at all or very little once, become more significant later. Ask Charlie's elbows. As a consequence of his recent move, his tendentious is flaming through his arms. Charlie's going to need a round of cortisone shots. Hey Charlie, do want to arm wrestle? It will give me the illusion that I'm still a young bull (on second thought, even with tendentious you still might beat me, forget it).

    Our December meeting will be held on Saturday December 18th at 6:00 P.M.(PLEASE NOTE THE DATE CHANGE DUE TO THE HOLIDAYS) at the church hall behind the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church located at 8848 BelAir Road. Take Baltimore Beltway exit 32 north on Belair Road. Turn left onto Joppa Road. Immediately past the miniature golf course turn left into the parking lot. If you miss it there are ample turn-around opportunities. If you get stuck call 410-598-8005. That's Dave Henderson's cell phone. He'll talk you in.
    Our December meeting will feature a much anticipated panel discussion on classic serials by Mr. Barry Murphy and films from our man in Broomall (Pa.), Mr. Gary Roberson. There are a few other things happening for December. See below.

    This is sometimes called a "Yankee Swap." Participation is strictly voluntary. Bring in a movie related gift valued at $10-$15. We draw numbers. As we go up through the numbers each participant can draw from the stack of wrapped presents or can grab a gift from someone who has already opened a present. The person missing a present has the option of doing the same. I've done this before where, after a gift has been grabbed twice it's "retired." It makes it move a shade faster. We'll talk about it at the meeting.

    The November meeting was marked with a lot of lively discussion about our new calendar. For those of you who haven't been keeping up with the action,  we'll be doing a special year 2000 calendar that will show movie-related dates
and anniversaries, club meeting dates and some other items of interest throughout the year. If you want a calendar please notify me either with hitting "reply" on your e-mail, or by calling me at 410-788-4086. I'm not sure if we can do it, but we'll try to have the calendars ready by 12/18. The cost is $12.95 (if you'd like to throw in extra for the club, go ahead). We won't be ordering extra calendars so please let me know promptly if you want one.

    Some more excited discussion arose over naming the names of our favorites. The consensus was that anyone who'd like to participate should write two lists, our 10 favorite science fiction films, and our 10 favorite horror films. They could be from any era, any country, well known or obscure. We'll publish that in January. Either e-mail me ( or mail it to:

    David Willard
    354 Greenlow Road
    Catonsville, Md. 21228.

    Starting in January you'll see a new monthly column in "The ICS Files" called "Get To Know Me!" Each month we'll be profiling a different individual (or couple) that we may see at meetings but we may not know much about. The column will give us a chance to get a little better acquainted with one another. Fortunately, one of the people who like the idea was Jeff Barker. Since I'm running alphabetically through the membership, we'll all get to know Jeff a little better next month.

    Many of you have shared my experience, having your young minds formed around the words and dreams of Ray Bradbury. If he'd written nothing more than The Martian Chronicles, that might have been enough to catapult him to the realm of science fiction legend forever. But his distinguished body of works stretches for great distances in the field of imaginative fiction. So when we hear that, on November 6th, a blood clot has left him temporarily (we hope) paralyzed on the right side, an intimate piece of our lives is suddenly at risk. He is aware and talking and at the moment his prognosis looks good. We hope that Mr. Bradbury makes a full and speedy recovery.

    Science fiction publisher Baen is now offering a special subscription service on line. For $10 a month you can read electronic downloads of their newest novels three months before they appear on store shelves. They offer names like Lois McMaster Bujold, David Drake, Eric Flint and David Weber. Check them out at

    New Sci-Fi acquisitions. The Sci-Fi Channel has picked up the rebroadcast rights to "Brimstone" and "Prey." Look for them in December. . . .God save me! ABC has ordered a pilot called "Holmes & Watson." A modern day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve crimes on California's Venice Beach. So will Professor Moriarity play like the bad surfer dude? Maybe Irene Adler will be a bitchin' surf bunny, and Inspector Lestrade will be with the beach patrol. Jeez! . . . Voyager mission continues. Kate Mulgrew has signed on to star in at least one more season of Voyager. . . . Speaking of Voyager--John DeLancie, who plays the omnipotent character "Q," will be popping up on the good ship Voyager some time later this season. . . ."Babylon 5" meets "The X-Files?" A single sentence ran in the  November 16th issue of The Cleveland Plain Dealer that's caused a lot of speculation. The story was that J. Michael Stracynski (creator and producer of "Babylon 5") and Chris Carter (best known as the creator and producer of "The X-Files") have been hired by CBS to create a new drama. When asked Stracynski responded cryptically, "There's nothing I can say about this at this time . . . all I can say for now is that it is and isn't what it seems." All right, everyone clear on that? Good. Then explain it to me!. . . Fox committed to "The X-Files." According to an interview in the L.A. Times, the new chairman of the Fox Entertainment Group, Sandy Grushaw, stated that another "X-Files" season is high priority. One of Chris Carter's complaints is that the suits at Fox ignore his show. We'll see if this changes anything. . . . Speaking of Fox on Sundays: if you're fond of "Futurama" at 8:30, you might want to take January to write your own "Futurama" stories. They're yanking it on January 9th. It won't be back until February 6th. They're breaking in another show at that time slot.

    Nickelodeon has high hopes for the new "Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" series from Steve Oedekerk (creator of Ace Ventura). It will tell the story of Jimmy, his robot, his pals and their mission to save the world. Jimmy is described as (a potentially caustic) blend of Dennis the Menace and Jim Carrey. "Jimmy Neutron" will be illustrated using Toy Story-like 3-D animated graphics. They're placing the intended series on an unusual track. Next year "Jimmy Neutron" will be an online computer game and a series of shorts. In 2001 they'll be a full-fledged feature film. Finally, in 2002, they'll be a "Jimmy Neutron television series on Nickelodeon.

    In 1924 a epic motion picture was released by the Goldwyn Company. It was Erich von Stroheim's 8 hour masterpiece based on the Frank Norris novel, McTeague. Von Stroheim was ordered to cut. He edited it down to 4 hours. While production was underway Goldwyn became Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The new studio boss, Louis B. Mayer, hired Irving Thalberg to bring in a more acceptable running time. The 24 reels were whittled down to 10, with a running time of 2 hours. All of the longer prints were destroyed. The newly shrunk film was retitled Greed. Von Stroheim never saw it. Audiences weren't merely indifferent. They hated it. Along with Intolerance, Greed became the biggest and most expensive flop of the silent era. Legends sprung up about the quality of the original film and how this emaciated skeleton was its merest shadow. Now, 75 years later, Turner Classic Movies offers as complete a restoration as possible of this lost film. Using newly discovered stills of the missing footage, producer Rick Schmidlin has restored the movie back to its 4 hour version. The restored Greed will air on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, December 5th at 8P.M. to 12:30 A.M., and again at 12:30 A.M. to 4:40 A.M.

    Attention thespionic wannabes. Lucasfilms may want to offer you a starring role in their next excuse to merchandise action figures--episode II of Star Wars. If you are (or look) 19, you're male and you resemble Jake Lloyd send your photo and resume' to Lucasfilm Ltd.; c/o Robin Gurland; P.O. Box 2009; San Rafael, Ca. 94912. Be prepared to spend next summer in Australia.

    Dimension Films is starting a new line of films under the banner, "Wes Craven Presents . . . ." The first entry in the series will be Dracula 2000, directed by Patrick Lussier. It will (as you might surmise by the title) be set in the present. Production starts early next year for release in October. Can we have something other than Dracula pining for his reincarnated lover? Been there. Done that. A lot!

    As mentioned in an earlier issue, when Stanley Kubrick died he was preparing to make A.I. (artificial intelligence). He left behind an 80 page treatment. For the first time since Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg is writing a screenplay. This one's based on Kubrick's treatment. He's doing it while there's a lull in filming the science fiction film, Minority Report. He may hand the job off to another writer when filming resumes on his present project. It looks like Spielberg is dedicated to putting Kubrick's final vision on the screen.

    The animated feature, Princess Monoke, had been the highest grossing film in Japanese cinema history ($150 million) until its eventual eclipsing by Titanic. Miramax has acquired the rights to it and plans to open it in the States on "limited release" (usually New York and L.A.). Writer and comic legend Neil Gaiman wrote the English language screenplay for it. He said the movie was like Star Wars set in 14th century Japan, only more complex and realistic. So far it's earned only positive reviews. Bill Littman has found the movie playing at the Towson Commons.

    More than a quarter of a century ago June Foray (the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, aka "Rocky") started the Annie Awards, recognizing excellence in animation. The 27th Annies were just held. in L.A. In a field crowded with big commercial titans like A Bug's Life, Tarzan, The Prince of Egypt and South Park; the lowest grossing contender swept the day. Iron Giant (one of my favorite films of last summer) dominated 9 of 23 categories, including best animated feature, best character animation and best voice acting. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a try.

    The movie business is a very odd one. When a pitch is made, even a good one, there's no guarantee it'll be bought. When it's bought there's no certainty about it being turned into a script. When the story and screenplay are done, it may come to a grinding halt there (there are tractor trailer loads of projects stopped at this stage). It could easily snag and fall apart during pre-production with casting, location scouting, negotiations with financial sources, etc. If it goes into production it might not make it through. Once the shooting's done, it may snarl in editing or other post-production (such as Supernova reported on last issue). After the project is all complete, it may never get released. Or release only in Singapore. Or just cycle endlessly through the film festival circuit.
    This is all my way of saying don't get your hopes up, but Terminator 3 & 4 have been announced. Schwarzenneger and Cameron will probably (likely) be absent from the projects. The producers are Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna. Both projects are in their script phase at this point. For the moment, #3 will be set in (and released in) 2001. John Connor will emerge as a central character in the film. He'll have a Terminator as a companion. There will be a different type of machine as his adversary. The story will be the beginning of the war with Skynet. The 4th Terminator will be set in the aftermath of that war, and John Connor working to organize a human resistance to the machines. I'll keep you posted to the progress of these projects, if any.

    Artisan has hired four writers to enter a sort of writing contest. Each writer is writing a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. The best of the bunch will pe placed on a fast track into production. Artisan is full owner of the budding "Blair" franchise. They have not announced if they'll be involving Eduardo Sanchez or Daniel Myrick. They're the creators of the original movie.

    December 10th: The Green Mile. This is based on a six part series of short novels written by Stephen King. Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is the prison guard in charge of death row in the Cold Mountain Correctional Facility in 1935. His life is forever changed when he meets a giant gentle black man, John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan--"Bear" in Armageddon), in prison for the murder of twin sisters. The title comes from the stretch of green linoleum that leads from the cells to the electric chair.
    December 17th: The Bicentennial Man. Robin Williams stars as a domestic android serving a family over the course of 200 years. As generations come and go the android begins to exhibit emotions and yearns to be human. The movie also stars Sam Neill, Embeth Davitz and Oliver Platt.
    December 25th: Galaxy Quest. An alien race needs help. They've intercepted 1970's broadcasts of the tv show, "Galaxy Quest." The show features Captain Peter Quincey Taggert (Tim Allen) on the USEA Protector. The aliens have no concept of fiction. They think that the cast of the show can actually save them. The movie also features Sigorney Weaver and Tim Allen. If you've got access to a computer make sure to get over to the clever Dreamworks site. They've made it look like a fan site for a real show!

    Sony and Panasonic have teamed up to create a special 24-frame progressive high-definition digital camera for Lucas- films. The 3 companies have labored over the project for a year and a half. This innovation in "filmless film making" will be used in the next 2 Star Wars movies.

    In R.A. Salvatore's new Star Wars novel, Vector Prime, everyone's favorite Wookie, Chewbacca, is killed. Well he may be gone but not forgotten. On January 19th Dark Horse comics will be releasing the first of a four issue series entitled "Star Wars: Chewbacca." Darko Macan has written ten short stories featuring Chewie that will stretch out over the series. The first will feature C-3PO and R2D2 interviewing Chewie's widow, Mallotobuck. The series will incorporate several characters from the movies.

    On the week of December 3rd, Star Wars I: Phantom Menace returns to theaters for one special week. All proceeds from the showing will be divided between 177 different charitable organizations. The screenings will take place in about 350 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

    There's something called a "zero-sum-game." That means that someone strolls off with all of the marbles while everyone else is left empty-handed. In the past, on these pages, we've looked at the ferocity of the mass market and how it threatens to devour the independently-owned video store forever. Well, what about movie theaters? Since 1950 they've been subjected to the creation of television, cable, satellite, video, DVD, downloadable film, and ever thing else that we've hearlded as great technological leaps. In a zero-sum-game world these guys should be standing along the roadsides with signs that read, "Will Exhibit For Food." So how are they doing?
    Just fine, thank you. Total theater admissions in the U.S. and Canada are up about 50% since 1990. Total dollars this year should hit or top $1.5 billion. Part of it has been from the rise of the multiplex, particularly premium facilities with stadium seating. Part of it is a demographic shift--after years of stagnation the number of teenagers (a prime target for theaters) has been increasing steadily since 1991. This trend is expected to continue through 2010. Finally, amazingingly, it's due to the presence of ancillary markets like video and pay-per-view. This keeps interests in movies high. A good example is Austin Powers. The first movie only brought in $53 million. The video has done well and developed a cult following. The sequel brought in $200 million.
    Theater owners have redefined themselves. Here's hoping that the rest of the entertainment business can follow their lead.

    As of November 1st of this year one station in each of the nations top 30 markets is to have been offering digital television (DTV) this year. Only two markets have missed, Orlando and Baltimore. Both have been granted extensions to May 1st, 2000. The roll out will be completed in 2006, when the analog signals cease and everything will be digital only. Currently digital televisions are running between $3,000 and $10,000. By year's end 120,000 homes will have one. By 2005 projections are for 20 million sets sold.

    Blockbuster.Com has signed a deal with AOL for cooperative ventures on line and in stores. Blockbuster will become the "premier" (though not exclusive) source of VHS, DVD's and video games for AOL's Entertainment Channel. AOL will receive significant in store promotions from Blockbuster and distribution of its new software as they become available. Blockbuster has been accused of being slow to embrace new technology. This will give them a significant presence in cyber space.

    At this writing its just rumors, but the word on the street is that there might be a merger coming between the largest (by a wide margin) video retailer, Blockbuster, and the second largest, Hollywood. The merged company would control over 50% of the video rental market. The down side to that, besides crushing mom & pop competitors, Blockbuster is now in a position to dictate content and theme. Does anyone else feel queasy about this? We may soon see how the FTC feels.

Rental titles releasing 12/7: The New Rose Hotel is a near future sci-fi thriller from a William Gibson novel with Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Annabella Sciorra and Asia Argento. Things go terribly wrong ehan a prostitute (Argento) is hired by the bad guys (Walken and Dafoe) to seduce a potential kidnap victim for a major corporation. All accounts say this is a strange one from bad boy director Abel Ferrar. The DVD is available at $29.95. . . . The Deep Blue Sea features genetically altered smarty-pants sharks hammering the crap out of an aquatic research station. The movie contains a few interesting surprises that caused more than a few butts to leap out of their seats. . . . In the Woods is another one of those Blair wannabes. The box cites a review that screams "Creepier than The Blair Witch Project." Maybe it is. Or maybe the reviewer is. This little "fright fest" features two buddies whose lives are changed when they exhume the skeletal remains strange creature with a horned skull.
Rental title releasing 12/14: Teaching Mrs. Tingle releases today. The movie shows what happens when an unstoppable force (a bright young student with an "A" average) meets an unmovable object (the teacher from Hell determined to fail her). . . . The General's Daughter, with John Travolta, hits store shelves today. . . . Everybody likes candy for Christmas, right? Then what could be better than the release of this holiday classic, Candyman 3: Day of the Dead. Gather the whole family around the mirror and lead them in a chant of "Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, CA--uhhh." . . . Cold Hearts is set in a small New Jersey town is actually a haven for vampires. Unfortunately it's an uneasy haven--the vampires are at war! . . . In another unfortunate neighborhood, a serial killer makes himself at home, stalking his victims with a camcorder in Rage: Dark Reign Part II. He lovingly captures every moment of the kill. . . .
Rental titles releasing 12/21: Spike lee's film about fear and alienation in New York of the 70's, The Summer of Sam releases today. . . . Martial arts goddess Michelle Yeoh stars in today's release of Supercop 2 (and we're treated to an appearance by Jackie Chan). . . . The marketing for Cybercity exclaims "Before there was The Matrix there was . . . " this quicky feature from New Horizon Video. (Rowdy) Roddy Piper is an evil virtual prophet, C. Thomas Howell is out to stop him. . . . Dance With the Devil is sort of a Latino Natural Born Killers. Rosie Perez teams up with Romeo (Javier Bardem in his English language debut). He's a demon worshipper on an criminal errand around the border and in search of a human sacrifice for his dark deity. The movie's mostly in English with some Spanish segments with English subtitles. . . .

Rental titles releasing 12/28: Escape Velocity shows what happens when a well-meaning rescue ship picks up the wrong life pod. Patrick Bergin stars. . . . In Total Reality a team of soldiers are returned back in time 200 years to our era to hunt and terminate a war criminal from the future. . . . For those with a taste for low-budget erotic horror, you'll be thrilled to discover Portrait of the Soul. The plot "inspired by the writings of Oscar Wilde" tells the story of a beautiful young model who confesses to the photographer that she'd sell her soul to stay that lovely forever. Guess what happens. The movie boasts that it's "From the creator of the Emanuelle series." . . . Gee, I can't believe that the new Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Universal Soldier: The Return is already out on video! Oh, uh, wait a minute. I can believe that. No problemo! . . .

Sell through titles releasing 12/7: Disney is releasing the last two of their classic films today on DVD that were announced last August. They're issuing The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid on DVD for $34.95. They are not currently available on video. These titles will be available for 60 days and then will be placed on a 10 year moratorium. . . . Disney also releases Inspector Gadget today, with Matthew Broderick and Rupert Everett. The VHS is $24.99, and the DVD is $29.99. . . . The Matrix re-releases today at a new price of $14.95. This video has the 26 minutes of footage missing from the prior video and theatrical releases. . . .

Sell through titles releasing 12/21: A trio of Batman Beyond videos release today. Disappearing Inque, School Dayz and Tech Wars each run about 70 minutes and go for $12.95 each.

    With the prominence of animation in primetime television and feature films, good voice-over talent is tough to find. Mary Kay Bergman was one of the best. She did nearly all of the female voices on "South Park." She did various voices in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. Her work has extended to video games, commercials and cartoons too numerous to list. She was more than a voice. She was a great actress. So good that her co-workers, her friends and even her husband didn't know that behind her beauty and her flamboyant personality were depression and despair perfectly concealed. On November 11th, at the age of 38, Mary Kay Bergman's voice fell silent forever. She ended her life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She is survived by her husband, Dino Andrande. He has established a suicide prevention fund in her name with theSuicide Prevention Center in Culver City, Ca.


                                The New Rose Hotel, The Deep Blue Sea and
                                In the Woods releases today.
                                SELL THROUGH VIDEO- The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid,
                                Inspector Gadget and The Matrix release today

                                The Green Mile opens

                                Teaching Mrs. Tingle, The General's Daughter, Candyman 3: Day of the Dead.
                                Cold Hearts and Rage: Dark Reign Part II  release today

                                The Bicentennial Man opens

                                The Summer of Sam, Supercop 2, Cybercity and Dance With the Devil release today
                         SELL THROUGH VIDEO
                                Batman Beyond set releases today.

                                Galaxy Quest opens

                                Escape Velocity, Total Reality,Portrait of the Soul and
                                Universal Soldier: The Return release today.