Diablo Guardian

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"Lip Service"

s2e3, 1920x1080

Anna Skellern, Natasha O'Keeffe, Alana Hood, Carlotta Morelli

Men, Women & Children


Tori Black

and Shane Lynch are topless.

Elena Kampouris

and Olivia Crocicchia are both in their underwear.

Spanish Judges


Valeria Golino film clip (sample below)

Scoop's notes:

The judges are a pair of antique dueling pistols for which the characters in this film kill and are killed. If that sounds too much like "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," think so no more. The similar set-ups are just a coincidence. The movies have nothing else in common.

This is basically a one-room, five-character play, in which Matthew Lillard plays a con man, a cruel shark who comes into the life of some small time crooks who unknowingly possess an immense treasure worth million of dollars. Lillard gets the ear of the small timers one-by-one, in each case planting seeds of doubt in the ears of each listener about his partners. Lillard schemes up new splits and new deals, pitting each of them against the others, all the while planning to kill them all and take everything.

The only really interesting and clever element of the film is that Lillard's descriptions of incidents in his life are accompanied by visuals of what really happened, generating some dramatic irony, and   showing the audience that he is lying, although the other characters do not know it.   

Dominik Garcia-Lorido in Desolation (2017) in 1080hd

Asia Argento and Moran Atias in Mother of Tears (2007) in 1080hd



The Golden Age for Dario Argento films was 1975-1982. During that era the Italian master of horror wrote and directed his best films, including the first two-thirds of a horror trilogy about ancient witch covens.  The first of the two, Suspiria, is often regarded as Argento's masterpiece. Argento never finished the trilogy - until now, 27 years later.

The relocation of some ancient graves unearths a mysterious urn which is shipped to the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome. Two of the museum's employees open the urn, to their eternal regret, since the act of doing so unleashes potent ancient witchcraft - the last remaining sister of the three great witches from the 13th century: the mother of sighs, the mother of fuckers, and the mother of tears.

Maybe I forgot one or two of their names.

At any rate, if movies have taught us nothing else over the years, it is that mankind cannot combat ancient superstitions with knowledge and science. Only one thing is effective for such a purpose - other ancient superstitions. Bearing that in mind, it is quite convenient for mankind that one of the two museum employees who open the evil urn, Asia Argento (Dario's daughter), is the only remaining descendant of the ancient good witches who have battled the ancient evil witches throughout eight long centuries of history. It goes without saying that she is not aware that she is mankind's last and greatest hope or that she has great hidden reserves of magic. Fortunately, her dead mother is still around to advise her from time to time in the form of an Obi-Wan Kenobi style of apparition and/or "voice in her head." The part of Obi-Mom is played by Daria Argento, Asia's real biological mother.

Use the force, Asia!

Well, actually, now that I think about it, it wasn't really that convenient that Asia was the one who opened the urn, because even though our girl stands alone against the unlimited minions of the sorceress, she never actually uses any of those untapped magical powers she is supposed to have, except to elude some policemen who are pursuing her as a murder suspect, apparently in another movie being filmed nearby. When Asia finally meets Weepin' Mommy face-to-face, she easily runs the witch through with an old spike, even though the witch is protected by her infinite mystical powers and is surrounded by hundreds of her lackeys.

It just goes to show that ancient evil isn't really all it's cracked up to be. It's about as effective as ancient television programming. Just think of the 13th century as the Dumont Network of evil.

I guess you're not supposed to pay attention to the inconsistent plot, the bad acting, the silly dialogue, or the incredibly bad CGI in this film, but rather to concentrate on the things that Dario did well in the film, like the spooky cinematic tours of the haunted nocturnal urban streets, or Asia's crawl through the hidden world of catacombs and sewers beneath the city. That was indeed very atmospheric, but man does not live on atmosphere alone.

He needs nudity as well.

There is plenty of that. The Red-hot Sobbin' Momma does full frontal nudity, complete with shaved crotch and breast implants, features which were mandatory in the 13th century. Asia Argento shows her chest in a completely unnecessary shower scene. Silvia Rubino shows her chest when she is killed by some ancient evil dude for no particular reason other than that she is the lesbian lover of another woman who tries to help Asia escape. Now that I consider it, I guess that's all the justification really required by the minions of unspeakable ancient evil. Various and assorted other women show their breasts and occasional flashes of more in Ancient Evil Orgies, Ancient Evil Killing Sprees, and Ancient Evil Anonymous meetings (for those trying to kick their dependence on ancient evil).

Unlike many Dario Argento fans, I have liked some of his recent efforts, like Sleepless, Jenifer, and Do You Like Hitchcock?, but I just didn't find enough good elements in this one to compensate for all its glaring problems. Despite some plusses, it's a weak effort overall.

Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette (2006) in 1080hd

This film provoked the most irrational critical response since Troy. In fact, it is worthwhile to contrast the critical reactions to the two movies. Troy was often criticized for being too historically accurate. It treated the ancient gods as bullshit, but bullshit the Greeks genuinely believed in, so events could be influenced by the mortals' belief in those gods, but could not be influenced by their actual intervention. In other words, the film basically asked "what set of real events could have inspired Homer's mythological reconstruction?" Many critics missed the entire point and responded as if the film's creators had somehow forgotten to include the gods. On the other extreme, Marie Antoinette received the opposite reaction. Its critics responded to it as if it were supposed to be a history lecture at Cambridge, and caviled about every miniscule historical detail which the film misstated. I guess there's no pleasing them. A film cannot be either too accurate or too inaccurate. It works like the porridge at the three bears' house. It must be "just right."

Just as they did with Troy, the critics seemed to charge naively ahead in the assumption that the screenwriter of Marie Antoinette (Sophia Coppola, who also directed) simply got all the facts wrong. That, of course, is crap. She knew the facts. She researched the script. She based the film on a work written by the esteemed historian Lady Antonia Fraser. To the extent that Marie Antoinette's real words are known, Coppola used them. And she was undoubtedly well aware that her story was merely the frivolous prologue to Antoinette's life rather than the dramatic meat of her story, which occurred after the royals were forced from Versailles. It's a safe bet that when Coppola decided which part of the story to tell, and when she changed the known facts, she was aware what she was doing, and did so for a purpose. I have no problem with that in theory because the facts sometimes get in the way of a greater truth. My problem with the script is that I couldn't figure out why she made the changes.

Start with the doggie incident. History has recorded that when 14-year-old Antoinette traveled from Austria to France, she was forced to surrender all of her Austrian possessions, including every stitch of her clothing. She had to undress in front of her new ladies-in-waiting and get redressed in French clothes. She was even asked to surrender her beloved pooch, but after much negotiation between the French and Austrian delegations, she was finally allowed to keep the dog. It seems to me that Coppola had an excellent opportunity here. Imagine various and assorted stuffy ambassadors, nobles, and protocol officers debating for hours, furiously negotiating terms and demanding concessions, and ultimately deciding the very fate of nations over a puppy. That could have been a very entertaining scene. Could have been, but wasn't, because Coppola decided to change the story so that Antoinette was forced to surrender her pet, crying, but ultimately conceding when told that she could have all the French dogs she wanted. Now why, I am wondering, did Ms Coppola think that was better than the true story?

Another example. The film shows Marie Antoinette saying courageously that she must stay at Versailles alongside her husband when all the nobles were fleeing the besieged palace. In real life, her bags and the children's bags were packed and she was waiting for her husband's permission to leave. It was Louis who decided that the family should remain at Versailles. This is a key fact in French history, because Louis's decision to force his family to remain was one that he regretted intensely, and one which would cause great suffering for all the people he loved. Antoinette's desire to leave was not cowardice, but just good common sense, a characteristic which her husband famously lacked. (She was not lacking in bravery, as all her future actions demonstrated.) Point one here is that I'm not sure why Coppola wanted a different spin in this scene. Point two is that this particular interpretation angered many people. The French people reacted to some of these intrinsic changes as Americans might react if a French movie version of George Washington wanted to chicken out at Valley Forge but was forced at gunpoint to tough it out. A patriotic American might get away with that, just as a good Frenchwoman might have slipped this version of Marie Antoinette past the Cannes audience without being deluged by a cascade of catcalls. But there are just some things an outsider can't mess with or, worded another way, white people can't use the "n" word.

I couldn't remember whether the real Marie Antoinette actually took on any lovers, so I checked it out and there doesn't seem to be any truth to it. Oh, there were plenty of rumors. If there is any nasty rumor which can be circulated about any human being, there is probably a version of that rumor about Marie Antoinette. Some of her more notorious demonstrations of wastrel behavior spurred an entire cottage industry of exaggerations and lampoons of the most vicious and salacious kind. Some of them were based at least partly on fact, some of them were negative "spins" of the facts, and others were just outright fabrication. The rumors of her sexual appetite seem to be in the latter category. I could find no justification for any claim that she was unfaithful to her husband, and I can see no purpose to Coppola's having given weight to the unsupported rumors.

Having made those points let me say that Marie Antoinette is original, and is actually a thoughtful film. It is an attempt to portray how Antoinette became whatever she was, and to offer that portrayal from Marie's own perspective. She came to France as a 14-year-old girl, the youngest of eleven daughters of the empress of Austria, and she had never known life outside the court and her own family. She was immediately taken to Versailles and placed inside another completely cloistered, shallow, and self-contained environment, one even more lavish than the one she had left. Exactly how would we expect her to turn out? The same as any of our own daughters would turn out in the same situation. She became exactly what her environment made her. Coppola determined that the best way to show us what the experience was like for her was to portray it in completely modern terms. What would happen if Kirsten Dunst, a sweet and casual all-American girly girl who has grown up in her own sheltered world, were suddenly transported to the 18th century and made queen of a country where everyone lived in ornate palaces, abided by rigid protocol, and spoke with stuffy English accents? There would be pressures and pleasures, boredom, frustration, and loneliness. And there would be no way out. It would be almost exactly like the experience that Marie Antoinette had when she came to France from Austria. Dunst was basically playing herself reacting as she would react in the situations Marie was in. That wasn't bad acting on Kiki's part. This portrayal is precisely the one Dunst was hired to deliver. It was her task not to recreate Marie Antoinette at Versailles, but to show Kirsten Dunst at Versailles, to demonstrate vicariously to a modern female what it would be like if she, the viewer, were transported to Versailles and made queen. It's a fantasy film. The film is not supposed to be like Becket, filled with hand-wringing rhetoric about morality and politics, but rather more like The Wizard of Oz, or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In order to make the points resonate deep within modern audiences, Kiki plays a thoroughly modern woman/child, and the action is backed by modern pop tunes.

Does all that work? Well, critics could not have been much more divided, but I think so. The film held my attention from start to finish. It looks great, and it gives off the right vibe. I think the pop music is perfect because it's the kind of music Marie Antoinette would listen to if she were alive today. It isn't possible to put modern audiences in Marie's shoes by using the kind of music she actually liked, because that music sounds to modern ears like the kind of music a bearded 60-year-old professor would like, and that would present a "wrong" Marie to modern audiences, even if it is technically accurate. This is what I meant about the facts getting in the way of the truth. In terms of the score, Coppola made a good and daring choice. I understand Marie Antoinette better after having watched this movie and having thought about its ideas. I got a better feel for the character  than I ever did from any "legitimate" history - the film triggered one of those cartoon light bulbs that means "Oh, I get it." That's a good thing, isn't it? Isn't that one of the reasons we love movies? I know the script has altered some facts, and I'm not really sure why, but on balance I can see exactly what it Coppola trying to accomplish, and my verdict is that she succeeded.

Melanie Lynskey and Anne Dudek in Park (2006) in 1080hd

Park was an unreleased film which made the rounds at a more than few film festivals (18), to mixed reactions. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, I would say it's the comedy version of Crash. The one-word titles are complementary. Both are ensemble pieces about a short period in Los Angeles; both involve interweaving and interconnected stories. One is about crashed cars, the tragic side of life; the other about parked cars, the comic side.

There are five vehicles parked in an obscure hilltop park overlooking L.A. It's not much of a park at all, basically just dirt roads, scrub brush, and few dried-out picnic tables, but it has a great advantage for Angelenos who know about it. It's just about the only place in the metropolitan area where one can escape from the modern world. There are no strip malls, no conveniences, no gangs. It's a place where people go to get away from other people. The five vehicles are: (1) a small car with a young woman driver who has come there to kill herself; (2) a pet grooming truck with a shy, nerdy driver and his sexy partner, upon whom he has a predictable crush; (3) a smarmy lawyer who has come there for a sexual assignation with the sexy pet groomer, unbeknownst to her shy partner; (4) the lawyer's wife and her friend, who are spying on the unfaithful lawyer, intending to teach him a lesson; (5) four young people who have come to eat lunch, which the men would like to do naked.

The film starts out quirky, but makes a major tone shift near the middle, switching from a cynical black comedy with offbeat characters to a sentimental rom-com with typical situation comedy dialogue and predictable romantic couplings with happy endings. I suppose the soft-hearted denouements were meant to increase audience appeal, and the strategy seems to have worked since Park won the audience award at two festivals. That's usually a sign of some marketability, but the film was never able to negotiate a theatrical run.

Charlize Theron in Reindeer Games (2000) in 1080hd

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 despised 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 existence.

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 top-notch hyphen movie (straight-to-vid or made-for-cable).

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 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 beautiful girl over there that I'm my late cellmate, because she's never seen him, so he could be anyone."

Quick -  tell me what The Manchurian Candidate and Reindeer Games have in common. I know what you wiseacres are thinking - "um ... they are both movies with 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 shortly after putting together a Director's Cut of Reindeer Games. You are undoubtedly thinking, "A director's cut of Reindeer Games? Wow. This is huge!" Indeed. Not merely huge, but epochal. An industry milestone. 1939 is often remembered as the year when it all came together for the movie industry, a time when movies like Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz were all greenlighted and released 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 a director's cut of Reindeer Games. Now we know why DVD was invented to begin with.

Actually, to drop the cheesy irony, I did like the movie much better the second time around, and some of the reasons were related to the additional footage in the director's cut:

  • Gary Sinese's psychopathic character came up with some truly vivid violence which was grotesque, and unnecessarily cruel, but nonetheless represented worthwhile development of his character.
  • There was more Charlize Theron nudity in the expanded sex scene.
  • The director's cut includes a lot of humor which was cut from the theatrical release. A 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. The director's cut fleshed out those ideas. I can see why the scenes had been cut. This material represented an unnecessary and irrelevant distraction from the main thrust of the movie, and it dragged on too long to be effective simply as comic relief. On the other hand, I enjoyed that comic relief more than the serious material it was providing relief from, so I approve its restoration.
One last thought:

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.

Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings Of The Dove (1997) in 1080hd

A very strong package. Novel by Henry James, exquisite photography, spectacular locales in England and Venice, a beautiful star, good acting and an unusually explicit nude scene.

It is possible to argue that this is an outstanding movie, although it received only limp support from the Academy. Helena Bonham Carter was nominated as Best Actress, and the writer was nominated for best adaptation from another medium. The film was nominated for best cinematography and costume design, but not for best art direction, which was a criminal omission. The attention to detail in the sets is spectacular, so finely crafted that even the shades of blue are co-ordinated from scene to scene.   

I suppose the film was hurt by the same thing that kept me from enjoying it completely. It's a slow-paced, Victorian costume drama. On the surface it looks like a Merchant-Ivory snoozefest. But it's not, nor is it a chick-flick weeper (men and women score it identically at IMDb). It's a complex psychological study, and worth owning.

Here's the premise. Kate is in dire financial straits. Her mother is dead and her dad is a penniless derelict. Her mother was born into a rich family, but threw it all away for love. Kate now has the opportunity to return to society, if she heeds the advice and matchmaking recommendations of her wealthy aunt. Only one problem. Kate, like her mother, is already in love with a man who doesn't care about material possessions. This particular man is not a pauper, exactly, but an intelligent, crusading newspaper reporter, kind of a fin de siecle Ralph Nader.

There is one way that she can have both love and money. She concocts a plan in which her beloved reporter will seduce a dying American heiress with no real family. If the plan works, the heiress dies, leaves her money to the reporter, and the reporter marries Kate. That all sounds good except that Kate comes to love the heiress, who is not merely pathetic because of her health, but is a truly loving and kind person. Meanwhile, the newspaper reporter falls in love with the heiress for real.

This should work out anyway, at least by modern standards. I mean, so what? Despite the fact that Kate manipulates the reporter first into then out of the heiress' bed, the American girl leaves her fortune to him anyway. But these are not modern characters. The reporter says he will never take the money, and will marry Kate only if she'll do it without the cash. Kate responds that she'll do it without the cash if reporter boy can swear he still isn't in love with the memory of the heiress as his one true love. He can't.

The James characters are complex. If she can't have both, Kate doesn't know whether she wants the money or the man's heart, and her vacillation causes some twists along the way, including her betrayal of her own plan. If she had not caused the heiress to find out about the plan at one point, she would have ended up with the man and the money, although the man would still have had the American's love in his heart. Again, that's no big deal by modern standards. We now accept the reality of people having loved others besides ourselves. And modern women would probably prefer a husband who has loved another so nobly and purely over one who proved to be nothing more than a scheming co-conspirator. But this novel was written in 1902, and it was then believable that Kate would derail her own plan because she needed to be his one and only true love. The turn of the century was also the turn of these attitudes into modern ones. If the story took place 25 years earlier, in 1877, a plot like Kate's would be considered utterly diabolical. James probably could not even have published the story at that time. On the other hand, if the story took place 25 years later, in flapper-era 1927, the sophisticated readers would have wondered, as we do, why the hell Kate screwed up her own plan. But Kate does not belong to either of those eras, she's trapped between Victorian conventionalism and modern pragmatism, and her muddled motivations make perfect sense in that context.

I think the most interesting part of the story is that everybody probably really knows what everyone else is doing, and it doesn't really matter. The American heiress probably knew that the whole thing was a set-up from the start, certainly before she was told, and even after she found out for sure, she still left the guy all her money. She might have halted the deception if she thought the two of them were heartless cons who didn't care a fig for her, but she sensed that the two schemers really loved her in spite of the con, so she more or less let it happen. Why not? She was getting exactly what she wanted out of the deal anyway. She could not have scripted it better for herself. So all three characters left the unpleasant side of their arrangement largely unremarked, and pretended that everything was as it seemed to be.

At least for a while.

Ingrid Pitt and Andrea Lawrence (et al) in Countess Dracula (1971) in 1080hd



Demi Lovato