Into the Woods


Creating no-budget films can be a frustrating experience. You have to live with the reality that the final product is not going to look the way you have imagined it in your dreams. Ennio Morricone and John Williams are not going to beat down your door and beg to write your score. Cate Blanchett and Leo DiCaprio aren't going to donate their time to help you fulfill your dream. Industrial Light and Magic is not going to be creating your effects. Christopher Rouse is not going to appear on your doorstep looking for editing work. Caleb Deschanel is not going to volunteer to be your cinematographer, and even if he did, you couldn't afford his crew of lighting and other technical experts.

That does not necessarily stop you from making an entertaining and watchable film. The key is to create a script that can minimize your liabilities.

  • Since you are working with actors of limited range and your sound will be imperfect at best, you need to tell the story with a minimum of words, and cover up bad ambient sound with a score whenever possible.
  • You absolutely must not create any elements that would require special effects, costumes or make-up because nothing looks worse than grade-z ghosts, splatter, and monsters.
  • Forget period pieces and locate your story today, because it costs a lot of money to get period details right.
  • If you locate every scene outdoors in natural light in the real world, your images will look as good as anyone else's.
  • Make you story short and to the point. Long movies get that way because authors want to develop dimensional characters or deliver clever dialogue. You can't spend a lot of time on character development because your amateur actors won't be able to handle the nuances, and they'll ruin your genius dialogue with bad delivery. Plot, on the other hand, is almost actor-proof. Create a good one and have it drive quickly to the point.
  • Finally, there are certain things that contribute to the marketability of your product and are free. One of the most useful is nudity. It is axiomatic that a genre film with a naked women in the woods will sell more DVDs than one with a clothed woman, and the nudity also saves on the costume budget.

Phil Herman, the auteur of Into The Woods, followed most of the rules above and delivered a pretty good little movie that kept me away from the remote.

Post-credits, Nancy Feliciano finds herself in a deserted building somewhere on a remote beach. She is stark naked and has no memory of why she is there or how she got there. She assembles a piecemeal outfit and goes walking through the wilderness. At various times she finds care packages, messages, ringing cell phones, and other items planted by an unseen tormenter, the cat to her mouse. She walks for what seems like days and then realizes that she seems to be covering the very same routes she has already covered. She seems to be trapped on some kind of a cosmic treadmill. As the film tells her story, it gradually cuts away from the main storyline to more and more flashbacks, based upon the premise that they represent her memory's gradual return.

If I reveal much more, I'll be spoiling the film's value, which lies in the explanation of the identity of her tormentor, her location, and the reason she is in this predicament.

If you look at the film clips and promotional stills, which center around a naked Nancy Feliciano, you may derive the idea that it's some kind of bondage film, or even torture porn. It is not. It it essentially a psychological drama. There is a good reason why she is naked, once you understand the storyteller's POV. There is also a good reason why some details seem surreal or illogical. Remember that it is a plot-driven mystery film, sort of a Twilight Zone with tits, and the illogical will eventually seem appropriate.

My comparison to the Twilight Zone was not made casually. One of Rod Serling's favorite plot devices was the terror of isolation - the loneliness of being the only one on earth, or the only one of your species or your time, for example. Nancy Feliciano basically finds herself in that situation. She wanders through the woods forever, sees no other living person, and seems to cover the same ground again and again. Later she is in a car driving through city streets, and experiences the same phenomenon: she sees the same completely deserted streets again and again.

I think the ultimate explanation may even surprise you.

Is it a great movie? No, and it can be very clumsy at times. But sometimes the distance between a great film like Memento and a modest effort like this can be smaller than you expect. In fact, if Hollywood bought this script and re-made it with professionals, featuring (let's say) Jessica Biel naked for most of the film, it might be damned good! I would pay to see it.


Nancy Feliciano film clips. There is much more nudity, but this gives you the idea.

Stills here:\intothewoods\index.htm



This Beautiful City


The title is ironic, at least on one level. While the film's version of Toronto does indeed look quite beautiful in its way, from the glittering skyscrapers to the funky forgotten corners, the film is essentially about the negative effects of modern city life. For the rich couple in the richly appointed condo, the city life is turning him into a shallow snob and her into a frustrated hausfrau who endures his condescension. For the poor junkies on the streets below, life forces them into ever lower levels of degradation. For the cop who connects the other characters, every day promises additional disappointments in the behavior of his fellow urbanites.

The film begins with the rich woman falling or jumping from her balcony to the streets below. She lives, but never does say whether she fell or jumped.

I guess you can tell it's the feel-good comedy of the year!

It's yet another one of those "urban lives are interdependent .. and yet totally suck" movies mined from the same general vein as Crash, except that it substitutes Toronto for LA and class for race.

As home-grown fare, it was reasonably well received at the Toronto film festival last year, and has won several awards at minor film festivals, but faint praise on the second tier festival circuit represents the zenith of its potential. Despite some good acting and cinematography, it's too depressing to be a mainstream film, and too mundane to attract an arthouse audience. I found it to be both tedious and depressing, and I can handle one or the other, but not both.

The nudity, however, is not bad at all!

These clips were made by Deep at Sea, who had finished his clips earlier tonight before I watched the film. Since mine would have been identical quality from the same source, I chose not to duplicate his efforts.



  • * 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.











Gene Hackman plays a boring owner of a hardware store, a man who always drives at or below the speed limit, and has not earned the love and respect of his college-aged son, Matt Dillon, who wants to be a race car driver. Mom is headed to Europe on vacation, and dad has chosen to stay home and work. Then Hackman gets a call in the middle of the night from his wife's tour director. She is missing. Father and son head to France, and everything changes in the airport, where we discover that Hackman is actually a former CIA agent, and his wife has been kidnapped. Dillon gets surprise after surprise as he learns exactly who and what his father is, and the two bond trying to find and rescue mom.

Hackman was Hackman, which is always a good thing, and the dual plot of kidnap and father/son bonding seemed interesting enough, but the film seemed a little schizo, and I found Dillon more than a little irritating. The film also seems a little long for the amount of plot and, worst of all, I guessed the ending less than halfway through the film.

Bottom line: it is mediocre, and clears even that low hurdle only because of Gene Hackman. Critics and IMDB voters agree. IMDb readers say 5.8, and the minor critical reviews listed were lukewarm.

Dillon, thinking with his dick, gets together with Ilona Grubel, who shows her breasts.












Sin City


Robert Rodriguez at the top of his game. I wonder if he will ever use any of that talent to make more ambitious movies. This movie, by the way, is rated in the top 100 of all time and received exactly zero Oscar noms, not even one for the Mickster's bravado comeback performance as Marv.

As usual, all Aesthete's film clips are in glorious 1920x1080 resolution.

Jessica Alba clips (No nudity. Sigh.) Samples below.

Jaime King clips. Samples below.







This section will present Defoe's film clips to accompany Charlie's collages, which are found on his own site.

Today's entry: Clara Ponsot in Le Silence de l'Epervier








Dangerous Invitation


Angel Cassidy








enter the DragonScan

Perverse Lea










Monique Dupree in Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned

Zoe Lee in Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned


Film Clips

Charlize Theron is topless in the Italian trailer for The Burning Plain (sample right)
Kathrin Spielvogel in Muxmaeuschenstill  (sample right)
Florence Thomassin in Mesrine L'instinct de Mort

Gabriela Canudas in Otilia Rauda

Morgan Fairchild in Redheaded Stranger

Joanna ter Steege tickles the taco in Tot Ziens