Until Death

If you don't pay much attention to non-theatrical movies, you may have missed the fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme is experiencing something of a career revival. His career is taking the exact opposite path from our favorite pudgy paladin, Steven Seagal. While Seagal's post-theatrical career has been a steady stream of worthless dreck, interrupted only by an occasional foray into mediocrity, Van Damme's recent movies have been the best of his career!

  1. (7.46) - Sinav (2006)
  2. (5.98) - Narco (2004)
  3. (5.93) - Until Death (2007)
  4. (5.79) - Bloodsport (1988)
  5. (5.58) - In Hell (2003)
  6. (5.40) - Timecop (1994)
  7. (5.39) - Hard Target (1993)
  8. (5.38) - Wake of Death (2004)
  9. (5.27) - The Hard Corps (2006)
  10. (5.20) - Universal Soldier (1992)
  11. (5.18) - Second in Command (2006)
  12. (5.10) - Sudden Death (1995)
  13. (5.10) - Kickboxer (1989/I)
  14. (5.09) - Lionheart (1990)
  15. (4.90) - Replicant (2001)
  16. (4.82) - Rue barbare (1984)
  17. (4.80) - Maximum Risk (1996)
  18. (4.80) - Death Warrant (1990)
  19. (4.70) - Nowhere to Run (1993)
  20. (4.51) - Breakin' (1984)
  21. (4.50) - Legionnaire (1998)
  22. (4.40) - Double Impact (1991)
  23. (4.40) - The Quest (1996)
  24. (4.21) - The Order (2001)
  25. (4.12) - Inferno (1999/II)
  26. (4.11) - No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)
  27. (4.11) - Cyborg (1989)
  28. (3.81) - Knock Off (1998)
  29. (3.81) - Double Team (1997)
  30. (3.61) - Monaco Forever (1984)
  31. (3.14) - Derailed (2002)
  32. (3.02) - Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)
  33. (3.01) - Street Fighter (1994)
  34. (2.87) - Black Eagle (1988)

His last really poor movie was Derailed in 2002. Since then he has made seven films, and they are seven of the top eleven in his filmography.

Granted, that was not a high hurdle to clear.

I haven't seen any of the other six, but Until Death is absolutely a watchable movie. Jean-Claude plays a real bastard of a cop. He's a junkie and a drunk. He's a disheveled slob. He abuses women. He has no loyalty to his fellow officers. He treats his partner like shit. He seems to have no friends, and no gentle feelings left. His life changes dramatically when an attack by his crooked ex-partner (the ever world-weary Stephen Rea) leaves him in a coma. When he awakes, after several months without booze or junk, he is suddenly able to see what an asshole he has become, and starts out to make things right.

The film is not without its problems. The first is character development. The behavior and dialogue of Van Damme's screen wife indicates that he used to be a good guy, and not too long ago. After the coma he becomes a good guy again. What is not clear to me is how and why he became such a prick so fast. Another problem is that Van Damme doesn't really do any ass-kicking with his fists or feet. He takes out his antagonists with handguns, which makes him the same as any other screen cop, and makes an observer wonder why they hired Van Damme in the first place.

The second half of the film, after he turns from a Belgian Battler to a Belgian Waffler, righting all the world's wrongs and virtually rebuilding all the Hurricane Katrina damage with his bare hands, is not as much fun. In fact it's downright routine. There are some hackneyed "passage of time" montages showing Rea taking over the New Orleans mobs, then Van Damme does more good works than Mother Theresa and Jimmy Carter combined. Finally he gets even with Rea in an improbable face-off in which Jean-Claude and one sixty-year-old fat guy manage to defeat the entire criminal underworld of Louisiana in a warehouse shoot-out.

Notwithstanding those matters, the first half of this film, with Van Damme as a total prick, is atmospheric and interesting, and the middle-aged Van Damme surprises us all by making an excellent antihero.

Here's the film clip of Jean-Claude and Julia Horvath.


"Serie Rose"

This French series, which aspired to combine Masterpiece Theater pretensions with soft-core erotica, attracted some of the legends of Eurotica to write and direct. Walerian Borowczyk, director of The Beast and Immoral Tales, found it to be precisely the kind of material he loved, and contributed five episodes. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the series to the world was Penelope Cruz, who got her first acting job and performed her first screen nudity in the episode Elle et lui, which was first aired March 22, 1991. Her figure was spectacular.

Here are the film clips of Penelope Cruz's first screen nudity.


Texas Lightning

I haven't watched it yet, but as far as I can see, this cheapie had no merit at all except that it offered your one and only chance to see Marcia Brady's naughty bits.

 Marcia, Marcia, it's always Marcia. Why never any naked pictures of Jan?

Here is the film clip of Maureen McCormick's only screen nudity.

Here are some screen grabs from Mr. Skin:



Two of Monica's recent topless appearances:

Napoleon & Me (2006) film clip
Agents Secrets (2004) film clip





* Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

* White asterisk: expanded format.

* Blue asterisk: not mine.

No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.








The first substance abuse film I can recall is Days of Wine and Roses. Besides a theme song that has become a standard, it fairly accurately portrayed alcohol addiction, and, true to life, didn't have a happy ending. The Rose showed the decline of a popular singer due to drugs and booze, and pretty much explained why we lost Janis Joplin at an early age. Clean and Sober added a little humor to the story, making it an entertaining watch.

And so on.

It was Sid and Nancy that caused me to reach tilt on this genre. I get it already. Given the consistently high IMDb scores and the huge number of people who still enjoy recreational drug use, there must still be a vast audience for the "drugs suck" genre. As for me, it is a struggle to watch them now.

Candy is about a young couple. She has ambitions of being an artist, he thinks of himself as a poet, and they are very much in love -- with heroin. The two care more about the next fix than each other, they lose everything, their health deteriorates, she starts turning tricks, he steals what he can. This film carefully touches all bases, and ends with the startling conclusion that drugs suck. If that is a surprise to you, by all means see this film. It is well acted; Abbie Cornish has lovely breasts which she shows in several scenes; and you will like most of the characters, despite their addictions. However, if you are like me and have already learned that drugs suck from film after film, there is nothing new here for you.

IMDb readers say 7.0, and the film won several awards and nominations.

This is a C, a very solid film, but not one I am happy to have seen.

Abbie Cornish shows breasts in several scenes.









Echo Park

Today the Time Machine goes back to 1986 for a kind of fun-to-watch movie which starred Susan Dey,  probably best known today for her six years on "L.A. Law," but then famous as a member of the Partridge Family. Here Susan gives us a lot of tease, some cleavage, underwear, pokies and a little bit of bare tit.






Cosma Shiva Hagen, part 2:

Schuld und Liebe


Cosma Shiva Hagen







Notes and collages

Carnal Knowledge, Part 4









Jen Araki on last week's episode of The Sopranos

Here's a film clip of song #2 of the prolific nudity in 9 Songs

Here are Marvin's collages of Gunilla af Halmstad in Mazurka, matching up with the two film clips we saw in earlier editions.

Two from Fur. Nicole Kidman...     .. and Gwendolyn Bucci
Two non-nudes. Skeletor Spice at LA airport
and Hilary Duff surfing






The Comedy Wire

ABC is planning a sweeps month "20/20" in which alleged DC madam Pamela Martin will discuss her client list that many powerful men have been trying to suppress.  Martin claims she ran a legit escort service and didn't offer sex, but the scandal already claimed its first casualty.  Randall L. Tobias, the married, 65-year-old director of U.S.
Foreign Assistance under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, resigned Friday after his name was revealed to be on Martin's phone records.  He said there was "no sex," and he'd just hired a couple of
girls to give him a massage.  He also admitted he'd used another service "with Central American gals" for massages.  He previously directed the White House's AIDS relief program, where he promoted abstinence and required grant recipients to swear they oppose prostitution.

*  They had to swear that they only paid for massages.

The Ellsworth American newspaper reports that Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, bought one of those environmentally-correct compact fluorescent light bulbs that can save up to $180 in energy per year.  As she was screwing it in, it slipped and broke on the floor.  She called Home Depot to ask how to clean it up, since she knew it contained mercury.  They sent her to state environmental officials, who tested the room and told her it was over six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter.  They sent her to an environmental clean-up
firm, which sealed off the room in plastic and gave her a "low-ball" estimate of $2,000.  The good news is that she'll recoup that in energy savings if the replacement CFL bulb lasts 11 years. 
*  So the big difference between incandescent and CFL bulbs is that the CFL bulb screws you. 

This week, over 2,000 scientists who are part of the U.N.'s much-ballyhooed IPCC group on climate change will put forth proposals to help stop global warming. They will include producing more biofuel by planting more high-yield genetically-modified crops and reducing gas and coal emissions by building a lot more nuclear power plants. 

*  Also, we need to protect the arctic ice floes by clubbing more baby seals. 

Sony is under fire for a party in Athens to launch the very bloody new video game, "God of War II."  There were actors dressed as characters from Greek mythology, topless girls feeding grapes to guests, and a still-warm headless goat.  Guests were invited to reach inside its carcass to eat offal from its stomach, and to compete in an offal-eating contest.  Sony apologized after sickening photos hit the media.  But that didn't mollify critics of violent video games or animal lovers.  One British politician called it "stupid and completely unjustified" ever to slaughter an animal just for a party to promote a

*  Goats should be protected by the nanny state.

* If they ever throw a party to relaunch "Frogger," remind me not to eat the hors d'oeuvres.

 Newsweek reports that in the upcoming "Simpsons" movie, Homer dares Bart to ride his skateboard naked through Springfield, and the scene ends with a brief flash of Bart's "little part."  They say this could make it the first Hollywood film to show full-frontal male nudity and not get an R-rating.

*  Unless the MPAA board decides to have a cow, man.

*  It just looks like somebody finally did eat his shorts. 

NASA scientists report that Mars has warmed 0.5 degrees Celsius since the 1970s, and the heating is happening so fast, Mars could lose its southern ice cap.

* See?  Our SUVs are even making MARS get warmer!