February 27th, 2014

SKINAMAX-A-PALOOZA: ADAM AND EVE DOUBLE FEATURE

SEXPRESSO (2013) **

Vincent (Rocco Reed) is a petulant widower runs his dead wife’s coffee shop in honor of her memory. A cute customer (Andy San Dimas) hears about his sad story and gets a crush on him. After she catches her boyfriend cheating on her with Alexis Texas, she then proceeds to profess her love to Vincent.

Sexpresso is one of those edited-for-cable XXX flicks from leading adult novelty manufacturer Adam and Eve. Since it’s aimed squarely at couples (or more accurately, women), it’s not a lot of fun. The emphasis is on characters and romance, so the stuff in between the sex scenes is pretty dull. (It plays like a bad soap opera or something.) Throughout the film’s 76 minute running time there are only four Guy on Girl scenes (an average of a sex scene every 19 minutes), and none of them are particularly good.

The performers do what they can with their limited range. They look hot while they’re naked, but they’re not nearly capable enough in the acting department to make their characters seem believable. I could just write this off and say, “Well, we don’t need good acting in a porno”. However, take a look at a lot of the porn actors from the ‘70s. (Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley, Jamie Gillis, just to name a few.) They were able to create memorable characters in far worst plots than this. I’m not saying the actors in this movie are bad per se. It’s just that they don’t have the chops necessary to sell the plight of their characters. (Plus, it’s hard to make Reed’s flashback sex scene featuring his dead wife “sexy”, if you know what I mean.)

FATHER KNOWS BREAST (2013) ***

A young dude tries to encourage his rich widower father to go out and find someone new. He winds up going to an S & M club and hooking up with a hot young harlot. Of course, she just so happens to be his son’s girlfriend and naturally, complications arise.

Well, if I was still giving out Video Vacuum Awards for 2013, Father Knows Breast would’ve certainly won for Best Title. It would’ve probably been in the running for Best Skinamax Film too. Hilarious title aside, it’s actually one of the better Skinamax flicks I’ve seen recently. It has a simple, yet effective storyline. And since most of the sex scenes hinge on the story and the characters (instead of just being gratuitously thrown in), they work a lot better.

Unlike Sexpresso, the characters are built up in fun ways. Instead of moping around and talking about his dead wife like the guy in Sexpresso, this widower goes out and bangs hot chicks. This is the kind of character we the audience can root for.

Another way Father Knows Breast is different than most Hardcore-Films-Re-edited-For-Late-Night-Cable, is that it features quite a lot of sex scenes. Most of these deals only have about four or five sex scenes in them, but Father Knows Breast has seven Guy on Girl scenes in its 82 minute running time. That means there’s a sex scene every 12 minutes, which is much better than most of its ilk.

The women are all very hot, but they are also very energetic and vocal, which makes all the difference. And the sex scenes are for the most part, solid. Some are pretty fun, like in the scenes involving blindfolds and food. And some are pretty steamy, like the scene in the S & M club where India Summer gets pummeled in a sex swing. Sure, a couple of the sex scenes drag on a bit too long (like the first scene). But overall, Father Knows Breast is the best Edited-For-Cable-XXX-Film I’ve seen since Witches are Bitches (yes, that’s a real movie).

Well folks, that’s going to wrap things up for Skinamax-A-Palooza. Next month, I’ll be doing a month-long Director’s Spotlight, showcasing films from over a dozen of the world’s top directors. See you then!

DRIVE THRU (2007) **

A killer clown mascot from “Hella Burger” stalks and slashes teenagers. A rocker chick (Leighton Meester) and her boyfriend (Nicolas D’Agosto) start getting weird messages from an Ouija board and their Magic 8 Balls. Pretty soon, the killer comes after them too.

I think if Drive Thru was just your traditional slasher flick with a fast food mascot as the killer, it would’ve worked better. The supernatural elements are clunky at best and are by far the worst aspects of the film. And the killer’s Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired backstory doesn’t work at all.

The killer is kinda weak too and he makes lame wisecracks like, “Fries are up!” and “Say cheese!” He sticks a dude’s face into the deep fryer, decapitates another guy, and sticks an axe in one guy’s head. Too bad a lot of the gore scenes are ruined by a lot of fake looking effects. In particular, the potentially cool head-in-the-microwave scene is ruined by some truly shoddy CGI.

Meester is sexy and feisty and the spunky heroine. She definitely looks hot in her punk rocker get-up and makes for an ideal Final Girl. Her performance is easily the best thing Drive Thru has going for it. There’s also a cameo by Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock as a fast food employee, but the idea of having a cameo by Morgan Spurlock as a fast food employee is better in theory than in execution.

Meester and D’Agosto were also in the much more effective Inside together.

AKA: Drive Thru: Fast Food Kills. AKA: Burger Kill. AKA: Death Burger.

GANGSTER SQUAD (2013) ***

It’s 1949 and the notorious gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is eliminating his competition in Los Angeles in hopes of being the only bookmaker on the west coast. The Chief of Police (Nick Nolte) gets Sergeant O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to put together an elite squad that will work without police jurisdiction to bust up Cohen’s rackets. Things get complicated when O’Mara’s right hand man (Ryan Gosling) starts up a love affair with Cohen’s moll (Emma Stone).

Directed by Ruben (Zombieland) Fleischer, Gangster Squad plays like a flashier version of Mulholland Falls (and Crime Story). Fleischer delivers a lot of solid shootouts that are pretty bloody and shows that he has a lot of offer as an action director. There are also a few choice gory moments too (like when Penn says, “You know the drill!” and then proceeds to use an electric drill on a guy’s skull).

The movie is pretty much all flash though. There isn’t a whole lot of heart here underneath the film’s steely exterior. However, Penn delivers one of his most electric performances in some time. Although he is handicapped by some poor prosthetics, Penn nevertheless is a lot of fun to watch as the seething, volatile Cohen. And Brolin puts in a good no-nonsense turn as our dutiful hero. The rest of the Gangster Squad are well cast (Robert Patrick, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Pena), although none of them ever really become characters we care about.

But while the flick is entertaining, it’s not exactly engrossing. The scenes between Gosling and Stone in particular fall flat. Even though their romantic subplot sorta fizzles, whenever the bullets are flying and Penn is erupting, Gangster Squad is good, if disposable fun.

STEPHEN SOMMERS DOUBLE FEATURE

THE MUMMY (1999) *** ½

Stephen Sommers remade The Mummy into more of a special effects-laden Indiana Jones-style adventure than an out-and-out horror movie. When it first came out many people griped about this, but being a fan of Sommers’ Deep Rising, I approached it with an open mind. Because of that, I found myself enjoying it more than most. I mean you’re not ever going to top Boris Karloff, so you might as well go in the opposite direction with it.

Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is a mousy librarian who gets a rugged soldier named Rick (Brendan Fraser) to travel to a lost city in Egypt to find the ancient Book of the Dead. Of course, the accidentally awaken the mummy of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) who goes around plucking out people’s organs to rejuvenate himself. He then plans to resurrect his girlfriend by sacrificing Evelyn and it’s up to Rick to save her.

Sommers does a fine job on the action sequences. He keeps a nice balance between the laughs and thrills and finds time to interject an occasional icky moment into the otherwise lightweight proceedings. But just because the movie is lightweight, doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

The prologue is easily the best part of The Mummy. I liked how the main pharaoh intricately painted up his hot wife so he could tell if anyone had touched her. And the scenes of Imhotep’s mummification are pretty cool. They cut out his tongue, wrap him up in bandages, and shove him into a coffin full of scarabs. This sequence represents some of the best stuff Sommers ever did.

The cast is game and their tongue in cheek approach matches Sommers’ handling of the material. Brendan Fraser is a likeable goofball hero and gives one of his best performances. Rachel Weisz is equally great as the sexy, but clumsy librarian, and John Hannah is pretty funny as her drunken brother. Arnold Vosloo is quite menacing as Imhotep and Kevin J. O’Connor gets some laughs as his cowardly sidekick.

Of all the action sequences, I think Fraser’s battle with the mummy army was the best. (The mummy soldiers sort of have a Harryhausen kind of quality about them.) Sure, some of the CGI is a bit chintzy (like when the scarab gets under the one guy’s skin), but it still looks way better than the crap that was passed off as “effects” in The Mummy Returns. Speaking of which, the less said about the sequels the better (although the spin-off, The Scorpion King was a lot of fun).

VAN HELSING (2004) ** ½

After directing two big budget Mummy movies for Universal, Stephen Sommers returned with another flick featuring new versions of their other big classics monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. The idea is that Van Helsing wasn’t just the old scholarly dude we knew from Dracula. In his younger days, he was a dashing monster hunter that looked like Hugh Jackman who worked to exterminate creatures of the night for the Vatican. This isn’t the worst idea in the world, but the new incarnations of the monsters are pretty shitty.

Basically, Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) coerces Frankenstein into creating his Creature (Shuler Hensley) so he can sustain life for his CGI bat-babies. Van Helsing is sent by the Vatican to go to Transylvania and track the Count down and stop him. Along the way, he teams up with a sexy gypsy girl (Kate Beckinsale, trading in on her Underworld image), gets bitten by The Wolf Man and has to get the curse lifted by killing Dracula.

Van Helsing had potential, but it suffers from one of the weakest Draculas in screen history. Roxburgh is awful and looks more like bitchy antiques deal than the most notorious bloodsucker of all time. Every time he comes on screen, the movie just stops dead in his tracks thanks to his terrible performance. And they went a little overboard making the Creature a pathetic creation and not necessarily a “monster”. In doing so, he sorta gets lost in the shuffle. The Wolf Man isn’t bad, although the CGI could’ve been a tad better.

Part of the fun of The Mummy was the fact that it didn’t ape the original films and tried to do its own thing. With Van Helsing, Sommers is often directly referencing the old Universal films (like the black and white prologue), so the comparisons are pretty unavoidable. In fact, the further Sommers gets away from the classic iterations of the monsters, the more successful he is. (I liked the bit where Dracula kept his bat-baby offspring in snot cocoons.)

And yes, there are some good moments here. The opening scene where Van Helsing tries to trap Mr. Hyde is kinda funny, piss poor CGI notwithstanding. And I liked the part where he gets outfitted with weapons by a Q-like monk. Probably the best scene in the film comes when he fights off a trio of Dracula’s sexy gargoyle wives with a rapid-fire crossbow. But after that, it’s pretty much all downhill from there.

Jackman makes a serviceable Van Helsing. He’s not great, but he needed SOMETHING to do in between X-Men movies. Kate Beckinsale fares a bit better. Dressed like a dominatrix pirate, she is ungodly sexy in this movie, and just looking at her kinda takes the sting out of the crappier moments of the flick.

Overall, it’s a helluva lot better than The Mummy Returns.