Relax, It's Just Sex (1998)

We had a clip from this last week, and that motivated me to rent it.

It turns out that the Cynda Williams nudity is pretty much the entire attraction of this movie. Essentially, it's one of those "modern relationship" movies which thinks it can get by on small talk alone. A repertory company of young actors plays a diverse group of friends who struggle to understand each other's sexuality. The group includes gay males, lesbians, and straight couples - each combination including all sorts of racial mixes. The entire movie consists of people sitting around and discussing their sex lives or having very brief sexual interludes.

Given the assortment of quirky eccentric characters, I think it is supposed to be a comedy, but it includes a lot of elements that are extremely heavy-handed by comedy standards. One gay guy responds to gay-bashing by overpowering and raping his male heterosexual tormenter. That'll sell some tickets, eh?

It's rated 7.0 at IMDb. God knows why. It should be in the 5.5 range.

Anyway, here's Cynda Williams. (Zipped .wmv of two brief sex scenes with Lori Petty, but no nudity from Lori.) Collages follow. The first collage is from a scene with Serena Scott-Thomas, which lasts about one frame.

Cynda Williams


Junked (1999)

This film was reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle on November 12, 2004 because it was playing at two theaters in the bay area. Anything weird about that? Look at the film's date! Lensed in 1998, shown at one film festival in 1999, Junked made its grand theatrical appearance five years later.

The Chronicle was not entirely enthusiastic.

"Junked is a vile film about vile people, with vile acting, vile writing, vile direction and a score by Kurt Weill. OK, leave off that last part. It's a low-budget 77 minutes made up mostly of scenes showing criminal low-lives cursing at each other, as caught by a wildly shaking camera. It's almost unwatchable. "

I don't quite agree with that review. I have a real problem with the word "almost." To illustrate my point, I offer exhibit A, an actual frame captured from the film and shown below without any modification:


The plot revolves around a street hustler who tries to go straight to save himself and his kid sister from a life of drugs, prostitution and degradation.  This crime drama was allegedly "inspired by actual events." There's no indication what those events might have been, but surely one of them was the big bang, which gave birth to the physical universe, and without which this fine film might never have been made.

Much of the film takes place in a derelict warehouse, specifically in a room with shattered windows, graffiti-painted walls, and an old mattress in the center. It's basically a play with one set and four characters who hang out and debate about what they should do. Their concept of debate is that any argument is won by the person who speaks the loudest. A lot like "Crossfire." They spend so much time waiting for things to happen that Godot would get bored. In fact, I think Godot showed up and decided to seek some livelier action.

Bad movie. The Chronicle had it right. It could not be much worse. Bad sound editing. Overacting. Weak direction. Weak script. Bad DVD barely above VHS quality, if at all. No features, not anamorphically enhanced.

The only possible reasons to watch this film are the following:

1) Thomas Jane and Jordan Ladd have become fairly big stars since this was lensed, and you may be curious about their pre-fame efforts. The writer/director of this film originally wrote it as a play in which Jane played the lead role, a street hustler named Switch. When the play was converted to a screenplay, Jane continued to play the role he had originated. Switch is a bi-sexual ... a switch-hitter, get it? Interestingly, Jane broke through as another switch hitter, playing Mickey Mantle in 61*.

2) Jordan shows her bum for a few frames, walks around in her underwear, and provides a few very impressive downblouse looks at her cleavage.

Jordan Ladd film clip. (Zipped .wmv)

Jordan Ladd


Miscellaneous film clips:

These are LC's film clips which match up with his collages from Dorm Daze 2, which we saw a couple of days ago:




Dallas City Council looks into banning baggy pants.

Elvis Presley, obese, and all fucked-up on drugs

URL says it all:

Franklin Roosevelt action figure. Well, I certainly had a mistaken image of FDR! Who would have dreamed he looked exactly like the Quaker Oats guy.

How The Blair Witch Project should have ended

Very funny stuff. How Superman Should Have Ended


Richard Dawson loses his composure on Family Feud

Afghanistan is responsible for 92% of the world's heroin production. It creates more than the entire world can actually consume. Mission accomplished.

Caught with the Microphone On, a look back at previous on-air mishaps.

Man, EVERYONE has a MySpace page these days.

Letterman's Top Ten Signs You Had a Bad Summer
  • You said, "Bora Bora" but travel agent heard, "Tora Bora"
  • Barry Manilow kicked your ass at the Emmys
  • You started dating Paris Hilton after she gave up sex

A great old commercial. Who is the master at Ball Buster?

One more from "rollerblade bottle tune guy," a little Mozart this time.

The trailer for Stomp The Yard
  • After the death of his brother, an expert street dancer goes to Georgia to attend Truth University. But his efforts to get an education and woo the girl he likes are sidelined when he joins in his fraternity's effort to win a step dancing competition.

Aniston settles invasive photo lawsuit
  • The 37-year-old actress sued Peter Brandt in December 2005, claiming he invaded her privacy by using a telephoto lens to photograph her inside her home when she was topless or partly dressed. She did a pretty good job of damage control. I don't believe I've ever seen those pictures.

Cuba's Castro on TV with Venezuela's Chavez.
  • Chavez may never leave his TV sidekick job to go back and run his own country. After all, look how that worked out for Andy Richter.

Daily Box Office for Friday, September 1, 2006
  • The numbers are unimpressive because the Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the weakest frames of the year.
  • Backed by glowing reviews, and appealing to young males with a crazy, high-energy concept, the thriller Crank took the #1 spot on Friday.
  • Jason Statham is emerging as the king of Labor Day. Last year, another of his over-the-top thrillers, Transporter 2, topped the holiday weekend.
  • Two other movies with good reviews, Little Miss Sunshine and The Illusionist, continued their climbs up the ranks to finish 4-5.
  • Last week's champ, Invincible, held fairly strong at #2, despite facing down three new releases.
  • Then there were the other new entries. Nicolas Cage is an actor who loves to take risks. Many of his offbeat projects, like The Lord of War and Adaptation, have turned out well despite minimal box office appeal, but The Wicker Man just proved to be a complete embarrassment in every way. The critically reviled (13% good reviews) remake took the #3 spot, and earned Cage a spate of ridicule in the process.
  • The even more harshly maligned Crossover (0% good reviews) finished far down the list as predicted. Crossover did suprise some experts with a higher "per screen" average than Wicker.

Hubble captures a rare eclipse on Uranus

Diver takes ironing to new depths
  • Not only does she iron under water, but she irons her t-shirts!

Slashdot discussion: Pluto is Making a Comeback



Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Brazil (1985)

Brazil takes place in an Orwellian dystopia where bureaucracy rules. The story centers on the life and dreams of a minor clerk working in the information storage ministry. His mother, who spends her life getting plastic surgery, has connections, and tries to get him promoted to Information Retrieval, but he has no ambition until he literally meets the girl of his dreams (Kim Greist), and needs a better job to access stored data on her.

In case you have just recently arrived on the planet, Brazil is rated 8.0 at IMDb, number 233 in the top 250 of all time. It won numerous awards, including two BAFTAs, and was nominated for two Oscars. The film had been released and was doing well in Europe, but Universal Studios, which owned the US distribution, felt it wasn't commercial enough for a North American run, and was demanding changes before they would release it. The huge problem was that they wanted a happy Hollywood ending, and they wanted it in a film short enough to be shown twice per night per theater. Writer/director Terry Gilliam was contractually obligated to deliver a 125-minute film, but also had final cut rights. Had he simply shortened the film, there would have been no fight, but he felt that the 142 minute version was correct, as demonstrated by its worldwide acceptance, and elected to fight for his version.

I do not blame Mr. Gilliam for fighting so hard for his cut. I can't imagine how this film could be any better. The details of this amazing film defy description. I am told that some people don't get it, and there were usually walkouts in the theaters, but that many people adore it. Put me solidly in the second group. Gilliam's vision of an oppressive bureaucracy ruled by excess information gathering would have resonated with me at any time in history, but seems especially pertinent given the current administration's penchant for illegal eavesdropping, and illegal arrest and incarceration.  Even though the film themes are serious, the film itself is wonderfully entertaining, and all 142 minutes are densely packed with layer upon layer of ideas. For anyone wondering about the title, it was taken from a potential opening that was never filmed in which Gilliam planned to trace the creation of a monumental report from cutting down a forest of trees to making the paper, through the printing process, to the final document ... a dissertation on saving the rain forests!

The centerpiece of Criterion's three-disk set is a pristine transfer of the full 142 minute version, just as Gilliam conceived and delivered it. The set not only includes the director's cut but also a TV version created by Universal that gives the film a happy ending, dubbed the "Love Conquers All" version. There is also an entire disk of special features, including the history of the battle between Gilliam and Universal.


This is a B, one of the great ones.


Scoop's note: Here are my comments from the review I wrote of the 3-disk Criterion edition when it first came out back in 1999.

If you know a little bit about this movie, you know that Terry Gilliam had to fight for more than a year to get this film released in the USA at all. He even took out ads in the trades saying things like "where is my movie?" He fought for the full 142 minute version which was shown in Europe. The studio had prepared a 94 minute version that they preferred. The studio hated the bleak ending which was so totally emotionally unsatisfying. Gilliam argued that it would be plumb stupid to have a happy ending in a movie about a dehumanized bureaucratic society. His whole point was that the individual was submerged in the society, and it couldn't follow from the script that one little bureaucrat could somehow triumph over an institutionalized behemoth. He could only fantasize about it.

In my opinion, Universal should simply have swallowed their pride and treated this film as a prestige product. We live in a world full of copycats and formulae, so when geniuses like Gilliam come along, we have to give them the freedom to realize their visions, and we must nurture them. Sometimes they may miss the mark, but we still need them, and film studios need those occasional uncommercial Oscar-winners to give some artistic credibility to their otherwise businesslike endeavors.

Eventually, Gilliam managed to negotiate 131 minute compromise and the film was released to an unenthusiastic reception. It grossed only $9 million, Roger Ebert gave it only two stars, and the BAFTA committee gave it only two technical nominations. Yet this is a movie now considered a 20th century masterpiece of the imagination, on a par with Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."  In my article on the worst Oscar winners, I noted that Brazil got one of the all-time hose jobs from Oscar. It is now rated 8.0, but was not even nominated for Best Picture, despite the fact that the winner that year was the lowest-rated film ever to win the Best Picture Oscar!!! (Out of Africa, 6.7)

Whatever your opinion, you must concede that "Brazil" is a unique film from an imaginative genius. Gilliam's original vision was to extend a view of the future as seen from the past. Remember all of those "Popular Science" magazines in the 40s and 50s which pictured the world we would someday live in? If not, imagine their world, absorbed by Bauhaus and Art Deco, ruled over by Stalin and Hitler, then imagine how the people of that time would imagine life today. They would take the trends of the day, both political and artistic, and extend them. Gilliam held this concept quite consistently throughout, detouring only to deliver the occasional smirk based on knowing how it really did turn out.

Jonathan Pryce stars as the insignificant bureaucrat whose only happy moments occur in the flights of his imagination, in which he soars like an angel and battles various symbols of the State Behemoth. Pryce was stirring, but my favorite character was Robert DeNiro's "terrorist." In a world that requires hundreds of forms to be filled out before anything can happen, DeNiro is a HVAC man who intercepts calls to the official state repair agency, then answers the calls promptly and simply fixes things. That's it. That's his act of rebellion - he fixes things without requiring any paperwork. Then he slides into the night on high-wire cables, like Spiderman. Needless to say, the State considers him highly dangerous.

Brazil is a visual masterpiece, no question about it, and there are moments and concepts I like very much, but the pacing is much too slow and the humor much too obvious for my taste. The whole schtick of the Monty Python troupe really came down to carrying all points out ad nauseum. As you know, sometimes that could be very funny, and sometimes it was just guys acting silly after the joke was already over. There is a lot of the latter here, in my opinion. I admire Brazil, but I wouldn't watch it over and over again, despite its brilliant conceptualization and design.

The Criterion collection 3-DVD set of "Brazil" is a tremendous addition to the collection of any film buff. First of all, it includes the entire 142 minute cut that Terry Gilliam wanted. In addition, it includes all of the usual bells and whistles, plus:

  • The studio's ludicrous 94 minute cut
  • A full-length commentary
  • "The production notebook," featuring the screenwriter, composer and designers.
  • "What is Brazil" - a funny 30 minute film made on the set.
  • "The Battle of Brazil" - a documentary of Gilliam's battles against the studio.



Kim Greist shows buns and a hint of breast, as well as a good see-through near the end of the film.






Lindsay Lohan - Again? How often does this girl go to the beach? She must own the all-time record for most time in the sun for a freckly chick.

Consuelo de Haviland in Dancing Machine. She is the woman who did the sexy reverse spread-eagle scene in The Unbearable Lightness of Being