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The Ultimate "Die Hard" Collection

I usually leave the projects that have nothing to cap to Scoopy, but am making an exception. Next Tuesday is not a banner week for films with nudity, but is nevertheless a very good week for DVD releases, including three Dario Argento special double feature editions, The Best of Benny Hill, And the Ultimate Die Hard Collection. When I saw ultimate in the title, I was skeptical, but with a double CD presentation of each of the three films in the trilogy for only $60.00, I took a chance. They were not kidding when they said ultimate.

The Ultimate Die Hard Collection is a terrific bargain. The main DVD of Die Hard has an audio commentary that is among the most interesting I have heard, and has a subtitle commentary from tech folks that is also excellent. There is too much info in either to do them both at once, so you need to invest 6 hours in the first CD alone, 2 for the film, and 2 for each commentary. And, after 6 hours, you have not even started the special features disk, which includes alternate endings, the complete script, deleted scenes and bloopers, advertising, trailers, and some of the most interesting technical footage I have seen yet.

In one sequence, they compare the anamorphic version to a center shot 4/3 version and a pan and scan 4/3 version. We have all seen how much information is lost in converting widescreen to 4/3, but this short shows what the prejudice against letterboxing does cinematically to the film as no still comparison could do. First, to convert to 4/3 from anamorphic, they enlarge the frame, which cuts the resolution nearly in half, and makes the images grainy and fuzzy. Second, the center justified 4/3 version was unwatchable, missing nearly all of the frame's dramatic content. The pan and scan version made logical sense, and conveyed most of the plot information, but added (simulated) camera motion not intended by the director, such that the entire mood of the scene was altered.

In another sequence, they use the angle feature of DVDs to show multiple camera shots of the same scene. I found it interesting that in two of the three cases, they used multiple cameras shooting from the same angle but with different lenses (which are identified at the bottom of the frame) to get establishing shots, action shots, and inserts all at once. You are able to switch at will among the different versions. It is obvious that no one angle would work for the entire scene.

There are interactive CD features on both disks as well that I have not yet explored, including one that supposedly lets you re-edit the film. All three films seem to have the same extensive treatment. Even though Die Hard is my personal favorite of the pure action genre, I found myself thinking that there are other films far more deserving of this treatment, but the special features say so much about the process of film making that it almost doesn't matter which film they did it with. I haven't started on the other two films yet, as I doubt that Funhouse readers would understand a two week gap in my imaging, but I wanted to let you know before this set is released and sells out that it is everything it claims to be.

"Malèna" (2000)

Malèna (2000) is being released on region 1 DVD next week, and I had my copy in hand yesterday when I read the excellent review by ICMS. I moved it to the top of the queue, and thanks to ICMS, had a very enjoyable day. This film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paridiso) is really three films in one, and any of the three would have made a fine film. It is an historical drama, covering WWII from Mussolini's declaration of war in 1941 through the American liberation in a small Sicilian town. Second, it is the story of a young woman whose husband is fighting in Africa and has moved into the same village. Third, it is a coming of age/loss of innocence story about a young man.

I, and several other reviewers thought the film was really about the woman, but my favorite critic, Berardinelli, saw the coming of age story as the main plot, and awarded three stars. After watching a short but informative making of featurette, I found the director agrees with Berardinelli. Ebert, like his review of Erin Brockovich where he only saw Robert's cleavage and said that totally ruined the film panned this one because the camera stared at Monica Bellucci's body parts. As in Brockovich, where the real person used her cleavage anytime it gave her an advantage, the focus here on body parts was not gratuitous. We are seeing the story through the eyes of an adolescent boy. The camera does what he would, or, for that matter, almost any man who didn't think he was being watched would do.

The history aspect of the film is interesting, in that the remote village people have a simplistic view of what is happening. First, they are ecstatic that Mussolini is finally promoting Italian nationalism, and life doesn't change much locally. The mood begins to change as food and goods become scarcer, and friends die in combat. Life is much worse during German occupation, then they feel free again with American liberation.

The story of the title character, Malèna (Monica Bellucci), is, for me, at least 50% of the value of the film. Malèna is living without a man, and is seen as a threat by every woman in town, who, riddled with poor self image, are afraid Malèna will steal their men. In all fairness, Malèna is something of a flirt, and certainly knows what effect she has on men, and the men and boys of the town certainly notice her, but she is faithful to her husband, and is pretty much alone as she is ostracized by the women of the town. When her husband is reported killed in action, the paranoia of the women reaches new heights, as do the hopes of the men. After a suitable mourning period, she starts accepting visits from a single soldier her age. After the second visit, he is accosted by the married dentist, who threatens him if he doesn't leave his "fiancée" Malèna alone.

With this accusation against Malèna, she is hauled into court charged with home-wrecking. Her lawyer, a man so repulsive he is still single, gets her off, but demands sex as payment. The women of the town now refuse to even sell her food, and she is forced to trade sexual favors in exchange for scraps of bread and sugar. When the Germans occupy, she gives in completely, and sleeps with many of them. When the American liberators arrive, the women take advantage of the temporary lapse in authority to beat her nearly senseless in the public square, cut off all of her hair, and force her out of town. This is clearly not an act of misogyny, or hatred of women, but rather amazing cruelty born of the insecurity of the women of the town.

The main plot is a coming of age story of young Renato Amoroso (played by newcomer Giuseppe Sulfaro). As the film opens, he gets a new bike, and is allowed to join a group of older boys based on this new status symbol, in spite of the fact that he is still in knee pants (short pants short dick). They are the ones that point out Malèna to him, and he falls instantly in love. For those who doubt that a young boy can fall in love with on older woman, let me say that, at age 4, I fell completely and irrevocably in love with a young woman in her 20s who worked with my mother. She promised to wait for me to grow up and reach her age. If you are out there, Cora May, I still haven't forgiven you for not waiting for me 50 years ago. Renato skips school to follow her, spies in her window, steals a pair of her panties from the clothesline, and is otherwise completely absorbed by her.

The crush is shown humorously at first, but becomes more serious as the film progresses, and we see what is happening to Malèna through his eyes and ears. Renato knows that the accusations against her are lies as he spends much of his time watching through her window, but, of course, can't defend her. In one example of the humor, he is fantasizing about her (his fantasies are in B&W, and usually film homages), and bopping the bologna on a bed with old fashioned springs in the room above his parents. His father hears the springs, and yells "You are going to go blind." Does he stop? Of course not, but the fantasy immediately changes to one where he is blind, and lovingly caressing her face. Later, we see him sniffing the panties he stole. Then we see his father coming into his room the next morning and catching him wearing the black frilly panties over his head. The father calls him a pervert and starts hitting him, the mother decides that he is possessed by a devil, his sister asks if she can keep them because they are pretty, and mom burns them in the toilet.

Later in the film, it is decided that Renato is indeed possessed, but his father knows better, says that the women are all crazy, and that any boy with a dick "that big" needs a woman. The father takes him to a whore house. Renato states, in a letter that he doesn't have the nerve to deliver, that the only pure love is unrequited love, and indeed, in the closing narration, says that she is the only woman he has never forgotten.

Renato is the perfect plot device to follow what happens to Malèna, and Malèna is the perfect fantasy woman for Renato. Bellucci had to overcome the prejudice against models trying acting, but proved more than equal to the task. Tornatore actually wrote the script for her. He had the germs of the plot in his head for years, but meeting Bellucci, he realized he had his Malèna. As he has done with 6 of his 7 films, he brought composer Ennio Morricone onto the project before the script was finished. Morricone, who was nominated for an Oscar for his score, feels that Tornatore has a musical pace and feel to his directing, and the two are magic together.

Tornatore and DP Lajos Koltai (who also received an Oscar nomination) created visual magic. To illustrate, look at the first Morucci image. The left, or weak third of the image has several objects in sharp focus, balancing the frame. The strong, or right third of the image, shows Renato out of focus and staring at the center third. The room is bathed in red light, but the open door that Renato is staring through is lit with white light, and the hooker who most resembles Malèna is visible in the "white light of heaven," and is where he, and, because of the frame composition, we, are staring. I at first thought the red room was a post production filter, but the pink and white glow on the door show that it was done with lighting. So, based on framing and lighting, we realize that he is still in love with Malèna, and has found the hooker most like her to be with. In the middle image of the top strip, we see the boys watching Malèna as she walks down the street. A more usual approach would be a long tracking shot, 1st person POV, of her walking by. Tornatore chose to let us watch the boys watching her, even though it was a more difficult shot. In the top strip of the Bellucci images, you see her in a classic Botticelli pose.

In case you haven't been able to tell so far, I adored this film. All three elements work for me, the production values are award caliber (in an easier year, this would have been a strong contender for best foreign film, and did get a nomination for the Golden Globes), and the themes are fresh and fascinating. The film covers an amazing amount of ground for 92 minutes. The Italian version is 105 minutes, and, based on the ICMS review, I think some of those extra minutes are in the scene with the hooker. The Region 1 DVD has decent English subtitles, and the transfer is very good. This is a solid B, and would be even higher if there was a clean English dub version for those that can't do subtitles.

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  • Monica Bellucci (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
  • Elisa Morucci (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Hooker

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    The Hotel New Hampshire is a film which hoped to be an arty and literary film capable of being a crossover hit, ala American beauty or The World According to Garp. The book is written by the same author who wrote Garp and The Cider House Rules. He is one of those writers like Kurt Vonnegut who maintains a unique tone of his own, one which is somewhat surreal but can be carried into credibility by a skillful writer. It's damned hard to get that tone transferred to a movie. I thought they did OK. With an a-list cast headed by Jodie Foster, Rob Lowe (he was a-list then!), and Beau Bridges, they hoped to make boxoffice gold. Instead, they created an offbeat, literary, Kafkaesque film which was not so very far from what Irving intended. It has its moments.

    By the way, the movie review has a mini-picture-quiz. You might enjoy trying to identify two people who made their film debuts in this 1985 movie, looking very little like their current appearance.

    If yesterday's Hell Comes to Frogtown or Blood Surf are textbook illustrations of how to make a watchable grade b with a limited budget, Def-Con 4 will show you exactly how not to do it. Blow the budget on inessentials, almost no nudity, no humor.

    Undressed for Success is a nudie-cutie featuring posed situations from Asian Cult Cinema queen, Kei Mizutani. I don't know what I'm doing with a copy, but here are some samples. She's pretty enough, but the DVD is not very good quality and the exposure in not very explicit. It was worth it to snap off a few samples, but not worth investing the time for collages, and I recommend you avoid the product.

    Graphic Response
  • Irène Jacob, full frontal and full dorsal nudity from the semi-comedy spy movie..."Spy Games".

  • Lisha Snelgrove, the Canadian actress showing the goods in scenes from "Heaven's Tears" (1994). Breasts and bum are visible in a love scene and a masturbation scene.

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

  • Brainscan
    I wanted to post this whole mess o' page 3 girls for July 4th... British babes? Declaration of Independence? Get it? But here they are a couple of days late. Damn work is always getting in the way!
  • Ali Clements is a modern page 3 babe with a bum so firm you could bounce a quarter off of.

  • Belinda Charlton with classic cool and great features. (1, 2, 3)

  • And then there was Carla Fernandez, Spanish import to the third page, whole lot more welcome than the Armada.
    (1, 2, 3, 4)

  • Chrissy Molnar shows up next. She's the ice queen, with a tiny but really interesting body. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

  • A very different sort is classic Christie Lyons, sporting the kind of exuberant body that made a girl a page 3 babe in the 80's. (1, 2, 3)

  • Sticking with the classic formula of big boobs, big bum we give you Debbie Jordan.

  • And then we close with cult favorite, Coral Burton... first with a couple of real nice pics and then with the most revealing series of her that these eyes have seen. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

  • Whyscan's Revenge...
    After a long absence, one of our favourite Brits returns with a whole mess of stuff he gathered while surfing. Many of these are new to us, but not exactly hot off the press. He sent in over a 100 images, and we'll spread them out over the next few days. As always, thanks to the various imaging artists.

    The two Jordans....

  • Jordan Ladd. Cheryl Ladd's daughter looking oh so hot in a recent FHM appearance. (1, 2, 3, 4)

  • Jordan (Katie Price). With her "now 25% bigger" robo-hooters from the July issue of Front Magazine.
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

    A few comments from Whyscan...

    Regarding the topless pics of Ellen Green from "Next Stop, Greenwich Village" (1976) in the Saturday edition: Most people don't realize she has a nip slip in the alternate version of Little Shop Of Horrors.

    I obtained a copy of the recalled DVD that has "the legendary alternate ending" on it. In one of the extra scenes, she falls over and Seymour bends down and picks her up. Definite exposure.

    Not sure really about whether it is wise to vid cap it or make an MPG. If that version was recalled, it's a fair assumption nobody wants any of it turning up.

    I must admit I've never seen any pics from this scene on the web, which kind of makes it tempting to do so anyway.

  • RDO
    From "Girl on a Motorcycle".

    Talk about a hard film to cap. The nude scenes were all way to dark except the brief flash at the beginning. Given the pains they took to hide nipples in all the other scenes, I wonder if those may be stunt tits.

    Also, in the scene where she appears to be nude on the horse, she's really wearing flesh colored tights. You can see them if you single frame the rest of the shot. Oh well.

  • Marianne Faithfull (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

  • UC99
    All kinds of great nudity from the German flick, "Sei zärtlich, Pinguin" (1982). Breasts, bum, bush, and even a few male body parts as well.

  • Marie Colbin (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

  • Celeb Boob News
    Thanks to Pat Reeder at the Comedy Wire for pointing out this story.

    Here's a story you might find amusing, from Internet Movie Database News, the place where Hollywood boobs speak out.


  • Jordan Ladd Is A Breast Lover
    Sexy blonde actress Jordan Ladd is a self-confessed lover of breasts. The gorgeous daughter of Cheryl Ladd and granddaughter of Hollywood legend Alan Ladd sadly had her breasts reduced in 1993 when she was 18 because they were too big. She says, "They were massive. They defied gravity. I'm a small- framed person so they looked very strange on me. There was no hiding my boobs, it made me very uncomfortable every time I went out. But they came back a bit, they're not small and I'm really happy with them. I love boobs, I love to look at them and I love to talk about them."

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