Saturday, July 25, 2009

Most Disturbing Movie I've Seen This Year -- Deadgirl

Check out my review of Deadgirl, hands down the most squirm inducing movie I've seen in I can't tell you how long.

It's getting mixed reviews, which I think is largely because it's so unpleasantly on the money about things most people really don't want to think about.
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Happy Birthday, Mai Tai!

I'm on vacation, and while that would spur some people to a veritable frenzy of blogging, it did the opposite to me. Just didn't feel like it. Partly that's because we've spent a lot of time on trains -- we did a three-day trip from NYC to Portland, OR; a 17-hour trip from Portland to San Francisco, and we're about to start the three-day trip back (by a diffrent route) -- and there's no wireless access on Amtrak. Except maybe the Northeast corridor; I could swear I've seen poeple working on their laptops on the Philadelphia to NYC Acela... on the other hand, maybe they're not online.

Anyway, the drought has been broken, because I can't resist celebrating the fact that the Mai Tai cocktail is 65 years old. Partly because I love all things tiki (except the too-sweet, too flaming cocktails, ironically enough), and partly because our hotel is right next to "Trader" Vic Alley. The mai tai was invented by "Trader" Vic Bergeron at the original Trader Vic's restaurannt and tiki bar in Oakland, just across the bridge from where we're staying.

Makes me glad that I paid a visit or two to the late, no-longer lamented Trader Vic's in Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, which closed its doors in 1989 because new owner Donald Trump thought it was tacky. Yes, you read that right: Donald Trump thought it was tacky... which it was, of course, but not as tacky as his hair. Not by a long shot. (Who knew there was a Trader Vic's in Dubai, by the way? I guess I was surprised because I made this erroneous assumption.)

Truth be told, I preferred Hawaii Kai, which took Polynesian-lounge tackiness to the next level. We're talking hula floor shows and a very angry dwarf doorman. Somewhere I have a photo of myself with my friend Greg Snead, snapped by a pretty girl in a plastic-grass skirt, who went from table to table with a gigantic old Polaroid and sold souvenir shots to tourists. If I can find it, I'll scan it and put it online. It's quite the artifact, both personal and in lost-New York terms, since Hawaii Kai was shuttered around the same time as the Plaza Trader Vic's. In fact, the whole building at 1638 Broadway, between 51st and 52nd Street was demolished, so Hawaii Kai is truly gone... as is the neighboring RKO movie theater where I saw Bug, which featured flaming, volcano-dwelling insects rather than flaming drinks in volcano-shaped containers. But that's another story, for another day.

Anyway, happy birthyday, Mai Tai -- you look marvelous! ("Trader" Vic Alley photo by Frank Lovece)
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Reviews on

Hi, all! I've been lax about posting links to my recent reviews, but I'm trying to do better.

Please take a look at my reviews of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Blood: The Last Vampire, Public Enemies and Jennifer Lynch's Surveillance and let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NY Times reports that porn movies have no plots: Stop the presses!

The New York Times is notoriously clueless when it comes to popular culture, but this is an all-time high. On July 7th, an article on the front page of the Business section (below the fold, to be sure, but front page nonetheless) declared that dirty movies don't offer much in the way of "narrative arcs." Say it ain't so!

Okay, I exaggerate the extent of the Times' obliviousness. Reporter Matt Richtel goes on to say that only three years ago, industry leaders like Vivid Entertainment were making feature-length erotic films with plot, while today almost half of their productions are just strings of hardcore sex scenes. Fair enough, I suppose, if you define plot very, very loosely. Even Vivid's Pirates, hailed as an adult-movie groundbreaker for its lavish production design and cheeky tale (born of the longtime industry practice of making movies, um.... inspired by mainstream hits) of warring pirates can't be said to have anything resembling narrative arcs. Actress Savanna Samson (Natalie Oliveros) is quoted lamenting that she "used to have dialogue," and recalling the days when she prepared assiduously for her roles in movies like Flasher because she took her acting seriously.

The fact is, if you want your porn with real plot you have to go back to the '70s, when much of the adult-movie community seriously believed that in the future, the line dividing smut and "real movies" would vanish, and that mainstream movie stars would do hardcore scenes when appropriate to the plot. Nearly 40 years later, explicit sex scenes have made their way into serious-minded movies like Leos Carax's Pola X (1999), Virginie Despentes' Baise-Moi (2000), Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004), Catherine Breillat's Romance (1999) and Anatomy of Hell (2004), both starring Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi, and Vincent Gallo's polarizing The Brown Bunny (2003). But you can't really call them mainstream, and the best Hollywood has come up with is the NC-17 rated Showgirls (1995), an instant camp classic.

On another note, the Times seems to love Savanna Samson. In addition to this piece, she was singled out in a report about the 2006 AVN Awards (which also discusses Pirates) and quoted in a 2007 piece about the problem with high-def porn (both by Richtel), the subject of a 2006 feature called Naked Came the Vintner, about her efforts to get into the winemaking business, and spotlighted in a 2005 piece article about Vivid's do-over of The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), in which Samson co-starred with Jenna Jameson. Ironically, Samson admits to having fast-forforwarded through the original because there was so much dialogue.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful, maybe: Nazi zombies in space and Gate remake

Hard on the heels of the Norwegian Nazi-zombies picture Dead Snow (right) comes word of another project that combines the undead and the Third Reich: The Finnish Iron Sky, which features Nazi zombies on the moon.

No, this isn't a joke. Well, actually it is. Sort of. Apparently the tone is tongue in cheek, which it would really have to be given that it's about zombified Nazis who escaped to the moon during WWII and are now plotting to come back to Earth and revive Hitler's grand plan. Oh, and it stars Udo Kier, whom I last saw playing a non-zombie Nazi in the Grindhouse trailer Werewolf Women of the SS. Yeah, I'm there.

And then there's the remake of The Gate, one of those odd little '80s horror pictures that I remember fondly without remebering much about it except that three kids (one played by Steven Dorff) accidentally open some kind of portal in a suburban backyard and unleash a horde of little demons. Loved the little demons Alex Winter (yes, the Lost Boys/Bill & Ted actor) is slated to direct and it's going to be in 3D. I'm intrigued.

So hey: Two things to kind of look forward to -- that's not bad!
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