Sunday

Two modest straight-to-vids today, but both quite competent, and both with some pretty decent nudity.

Keep Your Distance (2005)

This is a character-based thriller filmed entirely in Louisville, Kentucky.

I know that "character-based thriller" sounds like kind of a contradiction in terms, but it's not such a bad idea at all. On the surface there is a mystery, there are some red herrings here and there, and there are a few situations where people seem to threaten violence, but there is no actual violence at all and the resolution of the mystery is not really even part of the film's primary appeal.

"So it's a thriller that isn't thrilling? That must suck."

Amazingly not. The main characters are written well, as human beings rather than archetypes, and they are acted by the kind of performers adroit at unaffected realism. There are no gun-waving bad-asses and there's very little wild posturing. There's no role for Samuel L. Jackson or Christopher Walken. Gil Bellows and Jennifer Westfeldt are the leads, and they both do an excellent job at being "just folks" from the suburban middle class.

The two characters just happen to run into one another one day at Louisville Downs, and something motivates them to stay in touch even though they are both deeply involved with others. Westfeldt plays a hard-working sales rep who turns down a marriage proposal on DiamondVision at the track. As she races from the arena in mortification, the object of curiosity from everyone at the track who had just been booing her image on the giant screen, she is almost hit by a car. Bellows comes to the rescue. He plays a gentle, good-hearted local radio personality.

The actual mystery takes place in Bellows's life. He gets a mysterious letter, which includes a cryptic message and a hotel room key. It smells of his wife's perfume, so he buys some flowers and heads to the motel. His wife is there all right, but ... um ... she wasn't expecting him. The mystery of the film centers around the identity and motivation of the author of the cryptic note. The humanity of the film centers around the two separate storylines about the main characters' love relationships. The film follows the progress of Westfeldt's relationship with the man whose proposal she refused, as well as Bellows's relationship with his unfaithful wife. Westfeldt and Bellows help one another out, and trust one another's advice, because neither has any self-interest in the other's life, so their advice can be trusted to be objective.

More cryptic notes follow, but I never really cared much about who was sending them to Bellows or why. The element of the film that held my attention was the development of the male/female friendship between the two main characters, and that was strengthened by the fact that they are both nice people who seem to deserve better hands than life is dealing them. The audience is encouraged to wonder if they might eventually come together as lovers.

The writer/director filmed many, many different endings to the film, and they're all on the DVD, so I guess I can't really spoil anything. No matter what scenario you envision, it's probably in one of those endings!

From our perspective, the best thing about the erotic side of the movie is that the cheating wife's lover is another woman - and a very foxy topless one at that, sexy Jenny McShane, playing a brunette for the one and only time that I can recall.

Here's the film's official site: http://www.distanceflick.com/. The writer director put his heart and soul into this project, and you have to love his passion for the project. He was making promotional appearances across the entire USA from last August until this April, and he documented all his travels on the website.

Here's Jenny McShane's official site: http://www.jennymcshane.com/

Here's the film's IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337656/. It's a 5.5.

Keep Your Distance is not Citizen Kane, and has some problems, but that 5.5 rating could be a bit higher. Even though there aren't really any thrills and the mystery is not especially engaging, I just kicked back and enjoyed watching it because it includes some interesting characters performed well, I was interested in their fate, and the story unfolds in from of some attractive views of Louisville. It's a very solid straight-to-vid, and the DVD is a good one: a full-length commentary, lots of deleted scenes (including more McShane nudity), some outtakes, several alternate endings, and a "behind the scenes" featurette.

Jenny McShane in the film (zipped .wmv). This film clip includes two scenes, a lesbian encounter and a subsequent threesome. The threesome is very long, and has very little nudity. Having thus warned you off a big download, let me add that it is kinda hot, even though it gets called off before it ever gets started.
more Jenny McShane in the deleted scenes (zipped .wmv)
an unknown in the deleted scenes (she can be seen in the McShane film clip of deleted footage.)

 

 

Bad City (2004)

Bad City is another one that went straight to DVD. Well, more or less. I think it played in a few regional theaters under the name Dirty Work, or its even earlier title, Political Animal. It must have played somewhere in Chicago because Roger Ebert reviewed it, as did the reviewer from the Trib. Like Keep Your Distance, it is quite good for a straight-to-vid, but it could not be much different from Keep Your Distance. Where KYD is suburban and unthreatening, Bad City is dripping with urban menace. While KYD includes no violence, even from the armed people, Bad City implies that anyone could kill at any time. While the characters in KYD are all basically decent humans, even the antagonists, the characters in Bad City are all thoroughly corrupt, even the protagonists.

It's a very cynical Chicago crime drama. Two dirty cops are the closest the film comes to good guys. An assistant DA is running for the big job against his boss. He wants the two officers to solve a high-profile crime just before the election, and to give him the heads-up for the photo ops. He doesn't care if they really figure out who killed the murdered hooker, just that they solve it. The dutiful cops, always looking for an angle, figure that this could give them a DA in their pocket, so they round up one of the usual suspects, frame him, and lock him up. The same night they are caging their pigeon, the same assistant DA gets into a big fight with his alcoholic wife and kills her. Who does he call? The police? An ambulance? Ghostbusters? Not on your life. He calls his political consultant to plan the spin. The consultant does what I think any good consultant would do in this case, says "fuck spin, somebody else killed her, you are a grieving widower - your polls will go through the roof." The consultant advises his client to wrap his wife's body up, dump it in a slum somewhere, and make it look like it was done by someone else.

Done, and done.

Only one problem.

The DA makes it look like it was done by the same guy who killed the hooker. Unfortunately for him, the two cops were so efficient that they had already booked and locked up their patsy for that first crime at the time the assistant DA's wife became the second victim.

Oops.

You see the problem here? How does the DA get out of this one? His wife couldn't have been killed by that guy because he was locked up at the time of the murder. The DA can't admit that he framed the guy, and yet he can't very well blame him for the second, identical killing, and he can't blame a copycat because he duplicated details of the first killing which were never released to the public. Oh, he's in some deep doo-doo. So what's the plan? Well, you'll have to watch the movie to find that out. Meanwhile, you may remember that the guy in jail is just a patsy, and the real killer of the hooker is still out there. When the real baddie starts to fit into the plot, things get extremely complicated.

This isn't a film of earth-shattering significance, but I don't think you'll regret watching it if you get the chance. The director is quite competent, there is some offbeat casting, and there are some good performances. I especially liked Lance Reddick (of The Wire and CSI: Miami) as an intense, corrupt cop who really wants to be a good person, but is trapped in a bad situation of his own making. There are also plenty more sub-plots and twists that I haven't even touched on. My comments above don't spoil much of anything at all. In fact, I only described the set-up. It just keeps twisting, and people just keep trying to outmaneuver one another, so you shouldn't get bored!

 

Here's Meghan Maureen McDonough as the hooker who gets killed. Meghan Maureen McDonough? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that her family is probably Irish. (Zipped .wmv)

 

 

Third party videos:

The Hunger is really not the greatest film I've ever seen. It fact, it's downright unpleasant, but ... well, it's difficult to complain about a lesbian love scene between Catherine Deneuve and a young Susan Sarandon. (Movie House Review) So the film has that goin' for it, plus it's a Tony Scott film which always means "lots of style." I wrote in my review: "He's really a talented director, and he really put a lot of thought and work into that. But I hated the sumbitch. Chiaroscuro lighting, meticulous storyboarding, beautiful cinematography, artistic genius ... unwatchable movie."

Anyway, here's Ann Magnuson (zipped .avi) and the Susan Sarandon / Catherine Deneuve duo (two .avis in one zip file).

 

 

OTHER CRAP:

Educational film: How to talk like a pirate
PC World picks The 25 Worst Web Sites
  • In a surprising flourish of objectivity, they picked PCWorld.com as one of the 25 worst sites, and the author of the article named this particular article as a low point in the history of the internet.
  • Or not.
Where will you find mostly nekkid biker chicks? Chopperville U.S.A.

A truly bizarre review of a truly bizarre movie: JasonRivera.com reviews Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter.

Ichiro steals 33rd consecutive base to set the American League record
  • (The major league record is 44!)

Forty complete episodes of Penn & Teller's Bullshit!

Rice surprises Texas by showing up for the game
  • Oh, well, it was a home game, so I guess they really had to make an appearance. As it turns out, they would have gained more yards on the ground by sticking to their original plan of a forfeit.

Number two Notre Dame gets destroyed in South Bend, looks more like the Fightin' French
  • Michigan scored 34 in the first half! They scored 26 before Notre Dame could make a first down!
  • Michigan held the Irish to four yards total rushing in 17 attempts, and 4.9 yards per pass .
  • The Irish managed to convert only 2 of 14 third downs.
  • The Wolverines forced Notre Dame into two fumbles and three interceptions. Two of those five plays ended in a Wolverine touchdown.

Kudos to my main man, Borat: Borat - 100% positive reviews
  • "One of the funniest films ever made. Yes, ever."
  • "Uproariously funny."
  • "One of the funniest, most outrageous films of the year."
  • "Hundreds of hardened press and industry types cracked up hysterically, many while simultaneously cringing with their hands half covering their eyes at the first full Toronto International Film Festival screening. The woman next to me was crying with laughter. When was the last time you walked out of the theater physically worn out from both laughing and being continually surprised by the lengths the filmmakers went to to shock you? This is one of those films."
  • "Sacha Baron Cohen might be a satirist on par with Swift and anyone else who makes the deflation of societal ugliness his main target in life."

I just noticed that The Covenant finished with 2% positive reviews.
  • Of course that isn't the lowest ever bacause Benigni's Pinocchio and other films have stayed at zero, but it may be the worst ever for a film to reach #1 at the box office.

All The King's Men - 0% positive reviews

Soriano becomes the 4th player ever to reach the 40-40 club

Thomas puts a Big Hurt on the White Sox
  • You have probably forgotten that The Hurt started the season with a pathetic 21-for-118. At the end of the May 20 game, his season's nadir, he was hitting .178, slugging .373. He sat out the next game, then started the season for real with two dingers. Steadily gathering momentum, he hit .333 in August, and is hitting .345 so far in September, with a slugging average of .818

'Bella,' a romantic drama by Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde, was the surprise winner of the top award at the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday"

"Mnemonics: Your Dear Friend"

Kidder, Downey, and Heche - Private Investigators
  • The detectives who specialize in aimless, lunatic trespassing.

Rejected ideas for Iron Man's movie armor.

Anna Nicole Smith hires "celebrity death consultant"
  • I think I've finally found what I want to be when I grow up. I've just enrolled in UCLA's school of celebrity death consultation.

Say "Brian De Palma." Let the Fighting Start.

Study shows: Teens are moody because their brains are undeveloped. Same logic also applies to Sean Penn.

Don't put jumper leads on nipples, say experts
  • How much fuckin' expertise do you need to reach that conclusion? And exactly which subject do you need to be an expert in? Anatomy? Auto repair? Or can one go to school specifically to study the appropriate body parts for jumper cables?

Coming soon has three new clips from Employee of the Month, the new lowbrow comedy with Jessica Simpson.

A clip from School For Scoundrels, the comedy with Bad Santa and Napoleon Dynamite.

A clip from the new Tenacious D movie
  • Comedians/musicians Jack Black and Kyle Gass bring their infamous rock duo Tenacious D to the big screen in the comedy "Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny." The film tells the story of how "The D" became the self-proclaimed greatest band on earth and is being directed by Liam Lynch.

Daily Box Office for Friday, September 15, 2006
  • It was better than last Friday's disaster, but not much better.
  • The new releases took the top four spots, but are running below expectations except for The Last Kiss, for which the expectations left a bar too low to shimmy under.
  • The picture was no rosier for the top carry-overs. Last week's top two (Hollywoodland and The Covenant) dropped more than 50% from last Friday

Beyonce Knowles in a low-cut and see-through dress

Moslems launch violent protests over Pope's comments linking Islam and violence
  • I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Arabic has no word for "irony"

Princeton University tells you how to steal votes

 

 

US Terror Alert Stepped Up To New Highest Level: Election-Time Purple

Popeye Deathly Ill After Eating Tainted Spinach

Guy Richie's "Snatch," as performed by toys.

The trailer for The Invisible, a supernatural thriller.
  • Justin Chatwin will play a young man who is attacked and left for dead, then finds himself in limbo, invisible to the living and racing against time to find his body before he truly perishes. The only person who may be able to save him is his attacker, a troubled girl (Margarita Levieva) on the run from the law.

The trailer for CODE NAME: THE CLEANER
  • Action comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" stars Cedric the Alleged Entertainer as Jake, a mild-mannered janitor with amnesia who gets himself comically entangled in a government conspiracy. Jake gets in over his head when he is duped into believing that he is an undercover agent who subconsciously holds a key piece of information that could expose an arms conspiracy involving the CIA and FBI. Co-starring Lucy Liu ("Charlie's Angels") and Nicollette Sheridan ("Desperate Housewives") directed by Les Mayfield ("Blue Streak"), "Code Name: The Cleaner" is scheduled for a Jan. 5, 2007 release.

At last, movies go for honesty in packaging!

Ah, celebrities. Is there nothing they don't know?

The original 'Star Trek' returns to TV with a digital facelift
  • "... digitally remastering all 79 episodes of the original series to enhance the show's 1960s-era visual effects with 21st-century computer-generated graphics."

Massive security flaw in Google Public Service Search makes for easy phishing

Spam fighter hit with $11.7 million judgment in U.S. Court, and ordered to stop blocking e360insight
  • Since they are a British organization in compliance with UK law, they have said they will ignore the ruling, and have invited the spammers to file their suit in the U.K., where they are considered criminals!
  • The best part of the U.S. lawsuit is that the district court has specifically ordered a British company to lie on their website! That may be some kind of new nadir in the history of American jurisprudence.

 

 

 

Movie Reviews:

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

 

Species (1995)

Species (1995) is a nudity classic that I somehow never got to in the past. Considering that it was Natasha Henstridge's first film, and that she was naked for much of the film, it is high time I took care of it!

An alien culture sent a recipe for a new DNS to merge with a human ovum, and the result was a rapidly growing humanoid (Michelle Williams) with some scary characteristics. The researchers, led by lead scientist Ben Kingsley, make the decision to terminate the experiment, but the experiment has other ideas and escapes. After a metamorphosis of sorts, she turns into Natasha Henstridge. Once Natasha makes her escape to LA, she is a woman with a mission. She wants to mate.

The scientists assemble an intrepid crew to prevent that and destroy her. The team's specialists include a hit man (Michael Madsen), an empath (Forest Whitaker), and two scientists (Marg Helgenberger and Alfred Molina).

The film has a great deal of CGI which was in its infancy at the time, but for me, the film works because of the cast. Each of the team had a very different personality and purpose. And then there's Henstridge naked throughout the film. Director Roger Donaldson wanted to make a sexy action/horror film, and succeeded. This is a C.

  • IMDb readers say 5.4. Ebert hated it at two stars, and Berardinelli found it watchable at 2.5 stars.
  • It was a big box office success ($60 million), and spawned two sequels.

 

Marg Helgenberger shows breasts briefly in a sex scene with Michael Madsen
Natasha Henstridge is completely nude much of the time
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martina Gedeck - Elementarteilchen
Karina Kraushaar in an episode of Klinik unter Palmen
Ludivine Sagnier in Water Drops on Burning Rocks
Nina Hoss in Das Madchen Rosemarie
Ramona Drews in Taff
Rita Russek in Wind from the Southeast
Sara Ulrich in Unter uns
Sophie Schuett in Schoene Witwen kuessen besser
 

 

Fanny Valette, La Petite Jerusalem

Elsa Zylberstein in La cloche a sonn

Elsa Zylberstein in La Petite Jeusalem

 

Lare Bottrell in Huff

Shoshannah Stern in an episode of Weeds