"The War Zone"

The War Zone (1999) was a film that deeply affected me when I did it shortly before its initial release. It is in the category of early projects in need of improvement. The film was just as powerful watching it again today. Here is what I said the first time I watched it.

"The entire time I have been working on the images, I have been trying to figure out how to express how powerful this film is. Perhaps the short message I sent to Scoopy moments after I watched it will do. 'I just finished watching The War Zone. It is easily the most devastating film I have ever scene, and is brilliant.' We are introduced to a family that has moved from London to the dreary outskirts of Devon. Mum is 11 months pregnant from the look of her, Dad is a caring father and easy-going, good-natured person. The daughter is 18, and has a body to incite lust in a stone. The brother is 16, missing his friends in London, and beginning to have strong sexual feelings. His sister's shape is not lost on him. Mom goes into labor, and the whole family drives her to the hospital. On the way, they roll the car. This intro presents a close family unit.

"As the film progresses, we discover that what appears to be a happy family is actually a "War Zone." I don't want to write a spoiler, but I will say the real topic in this film is incest, and what it really does to the family unit. For a more thorough plot description, and a great review that I agree with 100%, read the one by James Berardinelli. For another opinion with fewer spoilers, Roger Ebert also wrote a great review on this one.

"It has been two hours since I finished this film, and I am still emotionally shattered, as much from the way the story is told as the content. Incest is not a new subject in film, but you generally see an evil ogre and a sweet innocent. That makes the subject easy to understand, and gives us clear heroes and villains. In this film, there are no easy answers. First time director Tim Roth presents the story as something we experience. There is not one flat note in the entire film. The two leads are played brilliantly by first time actor Freddie Cunliffe and actress Lara Belmont. Each and every performance in the film is Oscar material. What a shame that the subject is too difficult for the Academy to consider. I usually advise you to rent or not rent a film. This time, the hot tip is buy."

Scoopy was also deeply affected by this film, so much so that he didn't really want to rewatch it to upgrade the images. IMDB readers have it at 7.4 of 10. It garnered several International awards and nominations, mostly for Roth and Lara Belmont. Belmont shows everything in several scenes. We also have breasts from Tilda Swinton, and Aisling O'Sullivan. It scored 85% positive at Rotten Tomatoes. This is one of those films that could not possibly be better, but will be deeply disturbing to many who watch it. Even though you will probably not enjoy it, you will be moved by it. This is a solid B.

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  • Aisling O'Sullivan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  • Lara Belmont (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33)
  • Tilda Swinton (1, 2)

    "Going All the Way"

    Going All the Way (1997) is a coming of age buddy movie. Unlike most, it does not take place in High School. Sonny (Jeremy Davies) is headed home to Indianapolis, Indiana after being discharged from the Army. It is 1954, and he spent the Korean War stateside in a public information office. He was one of the invisible people in High School, and his biggest claim to fame was being the photographer for the school newspaper. As he boards the train, he spots Gunner (Ben Afflick), his chest covered with campaign medals, returning home from Korea. Gunner had been the number one jock, and a social demi-God who was way out of Sonny's circle. Gunner "caught some shrapnel in the butt" and is returning home a hero.

    Sonny tried to hide from him, but Gunner spots him. The two find, surprisingly, that they now have the basis for a friendship. Gunner has become somewhat retrospective, and interested in understanding the world around him as a result of his travel. Gunner's mother is a swinging bachelor woman, while Sonny's parents are hyper religious. The two of them become inseparable. Gunner has any woman he wants. Sonny has a steady (Amy Locane) who he has sex with, but doesn't really want a life with her -- especially in Indiana. When he finally meets the girl of his dreams, Rose McGowan, he is very drunk, and can't get it up. The real conflict in the story is Gunner and Sonny's desire to expand their horizons and have great sex with fascinating women vs the religious atmosphere and family values in the midwest of 1954.

    Critics have this at 3 stars, while IMDB readers give it a 6.4/10, or about 2 1/2 stars. The film had a 2 week theatrical release. There are some inspired comedic moments in the film, such as when Sonny's mother brings home a born-again ex con to help him with his troubles, and both Afflick and Davies gave good performances. The women were there as objects/plot elements, and did not really have much to work with. I related to both Gunner and Sonny, and cared about the outcome, which kept me watching, but there was not enough pace or dramatic tension for me to call this a great film. Part of what did resonate with me was returning to home after being in the military and seeing the world. This is not a new theme. WW I had the hit song "HowYa Gonna Keep 'em, Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Pari'?" This was an early and strong Afflick effort.

    Some of the lighting and photography was very nice, and long, clear topless scenes from Locane and McGowan are a real plus. Every man will find some elements of the story that strike a familiar note. The DVD transfer quality is very good, and contains loads of extras including nearly an hour of deleted scenes (which deserved to be deleted), and a directors commentary. This is in the C to C- range. It was not without problems, but was a worthy effort from first time director Mark Pellington who got the author of the original novel, Dan Wakefield, to write the screen play.

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  • Amy Locane (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31)
  • Rose McGowan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Charlize Theron tribute in honor of her Best Actress victory:

    Reindeer Games (2000):

    Quick tell me what The Manchurian Candidate and Reindeer Games have in common. I know what you wiseacres are thinking - "um ... they both have English titles?". Well, believe it or not, they both have the same director. John Frankenheimer directed The Manchurian Candidate when he was 32, Reindeer Games when he was 70. He died recently (2002), shortly after putting together a Director's Cut of Reindeer Games.

    A director's cut of Reindeer Games?

    1939 is often remembered as the year when it all came together for the movie industry on the theatrical side, as Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, and Wizard of Oz were all made within a few months of each other. 

    2001 should be remembered as a similarly important time for the DVD side of the business, since it reached maturity at last with the issue of the director's cut of Reindeer Games.

    Actually, I did like the movie much better the second time around, and some of the reasons were related to the additional footage:

    1. Gary Sinese's psychopathic character came up with some truly vivid violence which was grotesque, and unnecessarily cruel, but nonetheless represented good development of his character.

    2. There was more Charlize Theron nudity in the expanded sex scene.

    3. The director's cut includes a lot of humor which was cut from the theatrical release. A real big chunk of Dennis Farina's character was chopped from the theatrical version. I'm guessing that they cut this material because it was very silly, and didn't really fit in with the tone of the movie. Farina played a casino boss whose remote little casino was going broke because of his bad ideas, and the director's cut fleshed those ideas out. I suppose this material did provide an unnecessary and irrelevant  distraction from the main thrust of the movie, and its tone was dissonant in the context of the film, but I enjoyed that comic relief material more than the serious material it was providing relief from.

    Reindeer Games is one of those noir films where everyone double-crosses everyone else, and you aren't supposed to guess who's really in control. The critics generally despise it, centering on four points: (1) the plot twists are surprising only because they come from so far out in left field (2) Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron lack credibility as hardened criminals (3) it is a very strident, loud, unpleasant movie (4) the violence seems unnecessarily copious and psychotic without being clever in any way, thus failing to justify its own. Maybe so. Those points are generally valid, and I can't really argue that Reindeer Games is a good movie, but it's not the stinker than some people claimed. I enjoyed it in the category of a leisurely watch which is worth a quick look when you can't sleep, especially if you already paid for the cable channel. There were about a zillion switcheroos that I did guess, but I didn't guess the final surprise, so I guess it wasn't so bad as a light entertainment with some of the guilty pleasure one derives from a twisty noir. Perhaps the film is not really good enough to have merited a theatrical release, but it's about on a par with a good hyphen movie. (Straight-to-vid or made-for-cable.)

    I wonder how the movie would have worked with George Clooney instead of Ben Affleck. The harshness of the film is compounded by the fact that Ben Affleck is inherently aloof. The film needed a more approachable, genial presence to draw in some audience involvement. I think if the lead character had been more sympathetic, the film might have been audience-friendly enough to work.

    The one thing I found completely irritating in the script was the constant use of the ol' James Bond exposition cliché of "well, since you're going to die, I may as well tell tie you up and tell you the whole plot". That scriptwriting ploy is hard to accept when it happens even once per film, but this script seemed to use it seven or eight hundred times, to explain every aspect of the plot, like a voice-over.  Affleck would walk up to a makeshift lemonade stand, hold a gun to the little kid's head, and say "OK, I don't have five cents for that lemonade, but this roscoe says I'm headin' to Citrus City. Oh, and by the way I'm going to pretend to that girl over there that I'm my late cellmate, because she's never seen him, so he could be anyone."  Affleck himself spent about half the film tied up or otherwise immobilized, listening to plot exposition.

    • Charlize Theron (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 7, 8)




    A .wmv file from Striplight

    A rare look at the seldom-seen, seldom-captured Salome.





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    • The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
    • If there is a white asterisk, it means that there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined there might be something else of interest.
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    • If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too ashamed to admit it.


    Words from Scoop.

    .avi's from Shiloh.

    .wmv files made by Scoop from Shiloh's .avi's.


    It's Moira Kelly day:


    Perhaps these tips will help if you have trouble with the codecs for these movies:

    Shiloh says:

    FYI when I hypercam vids to make the file size smaller I use DivX MPEG-4 Fast-Motion for the video compressor, then I use virtualdub to compress the audio. The properties for the vids says the video codec:  DivX Decoder Filter & audio codec:  Morgan Stream Switcher which I'm not familiar with. When I compress the audio with virtualdub I use MPEG Layer-3.  A friend of mine told me about compressing the audio about (6) mos. ago. Like I said previously, only been capping for a year & a half & I'm no expert. Hopefully this info will help members with the proper codecs for my vids.
    When I cap big brother's I use hypercam mostly & sdp & asfrecorder if the set up allows me. I stopped using camtasia cause the file sizes were always too big, could never figure out the process, over my head lol, plus it cost too much to buy in my opinion.

    A reader says:

    You mentioned that some users were having trouble with the videos on your site. There is a tool designed to determine what codec is needed for a video. Hope this is useful to you or your users.

    Scoop says:

    I made the .wmv versions of each video. The codecs for these: Windows Video V8, Windows Audio 9. The upside of these is that you know the codecs, and they'll play in the Windows Media Player. The downside is that they are slightly larger, and slightly lower quality.

    Graphic Response
    Two collages featuring nude scenes in the French movie "La Fille de d'Artagnan" (1994) aka "Revenge of the Musketeers" (1999)

    Be sure to pay Graphic Response a visit at his website.

    Oscar Stuff part 1

    'Caps and comments by Brainscan:

    Frankenstein Created Woman is a 1967 Hammer Production, with all the usual suspects called upon to give it their all. Story goes that a man is beheaded for a murder committed by a trio of rich fops (is there any other kind?). The unfortunate man's girlfriend returns from a trip abroad in time to witness the execution, which would be a tad too late to provide him with an alibi. Ya see he was boffing her at the time of the murder. She commits suicide by drowning and the local doc, by the name of Frankenstein, brings her body back to life with his (the dead man's) soul. Got it? What happens after that is revenge times three. The guilty trio is seduced by the newly beautified former corpse and then beaten to death with anything handy.

    This is crap. Lazy, formulaic movie-making at its worst. Cynical in its belief that horror fans will watch horror movies no matter how desultory the effort in making them. Imagine if Star Wars had been re-made that way. Oh wait, it was. Three frigging times. So far.

    And honestly, now, does anyone watch Hammer production things for any reason except to see the babes? There is only one in this movie. In fact, I think she is the only woman in the entire enterprise. She is Susan Denberg, Hefmate for August 1966. And while she does get the cleavage out there, front and center, she goes no further. Even in her pre-resurrected state, when she is lying naked next to the guy who would lose his head over her, she somehow manages to keep the goodies tucked under his arm or something. It was soooo disappointing. As they say in the south of France, "Merd, y'all."

    • Susan Denberg (1, 2)

    'Caps and comments by Dann:

    "Flesh and Bone"
    Excellent 1993 thriller serves up a bonus with early (brief) nudity by Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Ryan.

    A 12-year-old boy watches his thief father murder a family during a robbery-gone-bad. Only the baby is left alive. Thirty years later, the father turns to the son to help "tie up loose ends". Very worthwhile flick.

    'Caps and comments by Hankster:

    Today we return to one of my favorite subjects..."Babes in Bondage". Today the old time machine takes us back 24 years to 1980.

    Johanna Brushay made her screen debut in her first and last movie a notorious flick called "Don't Go in the House". She winds up chained from the ceiling stark naked and then cremated by her captor.

    I guess that was enough to make her seek another line of work.

    Crimson Ghost
    The Ghost takes a look at the 1976 sexploitation flick "The Great Texas Dynamite Chase". A Bonnie and Clyde/Thelma and Louise type flick about two chicks that go on a bank robbin' spree.