Sunday, December 30, 2007


Slogan: "Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets."

Sting nude! Sting kissing men--on the lips!. Sting's wife's naked butt! Isn't that the recipe for successful drama? I used to think so. But even with a naked Theresa Russell and Alan Bates' impressive toupee, this period tale of manor house murder and drawing-room intrigue is not nearly as intriguing as the players think it is. One should be grateful for such Masterpiece Theater production values in the DTV world, and perhaps there's a metaphorical point being made about the human condition. But I think Sting is right when he sings in the closing credits, "This was never meant to be." FREEZE FRAME.

New Horizons
Slogan: "Thirsty for Justice, She'll Settle for Blood."

Vampirella is a simple concept. Basically, the costume carries the day. But in this "A Jim Wynorski Film," the distaff Drac must contend with such plot-hogging distractions as a top secret governmental vampire-hunting squad (including Van Helsing's son), competing generations of vampire tribes, synthetic blood, multiple locations (supposedly) around the world--including vampires with ray guns in rockets. And Roger Daltry. A rock star by night and Vlad, leader of the evil interstellar blood-suckers by day, Daltry seems to be doing a twitchy Adam Ant impression, with a worse backup band. The needless complications render everything bloodless, though Talisa Soto fills the suit fairly well, investing lines like "Only on this planet is vampirism a mockery of itself!" with the quiet dignity they deserve. The real mockery is encountering the sniggering John Landis in a pointless cameo. EJECT.

Slogan: "The Deadliest Undercurrent Is Desire."

When wrestlers and playmates meet the result is always...drama! A Roddy Piper vehicle--formerly "Rowdy" Roddy Piper when he was a professional wrestler--the Redford of the Ring has transformed into a fairly credible thespian, of the squint-acting school. But we know that eventually he will use his wrestling skills--windmills and pile-drivers--to save the day. This being "A Serge Rodnunsky Film," Roddy can't save the viewer from visual whiplash. Serge wrote, directed, and edited, the last credit necessary because his direction is so haphazard no one else could have made sense of the scattered images. Ultimately, neither could Serge. "Maybe the wind and the sea were playing strange tricks," says Roddy. No, that's poor camera placement. Tawny Kitaen, still fondly remembered for her saucy car hood dance in that Whitesnake video, is now cruelly relying on body doubles. Though I have sympathy for any production that must credit "Lookout" and "Lab Security," the bizarrely wrong-headed and unethical ending cannot be rewarded. EJECT.

Slogan: "We Really Shouldn't Do This But...We're Doing It Anyway."

You never saw this footage because, hard to believe, it is even more tedious than what aired. This tape is so "real" the naughty words are bleeped. Nothing is said about the real-world affair between Becky from the first series and one of the show's directors. (Becky always seemed too smart for the program. I hope she's put her life together. Rebecca: call.) All we see are lights and people falling over and witless castmembers yelling to be left alone. (Don't worry, soon enough your 15 minutes shall pass.) Two things are revealed: The banality of the cast and the skill of the editors. That the illusion of psychodrama can be constructed out of 70 hours of such drivel recorded each week is a testament to the evil genius of MTV's methodology. Despite brief flashes of New York Eric's behind and Miami Flora's breasts, I found the packaging more interesting: "This videocassette was manufactured to meet critical quality standards." Not mine, pal. EJECT.

Slogan: "Get Ready for Profits You Can't Escape!"

Not since radio's Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar has there been a drama about a hard-charging insurance actuary. Sadly, this film stars the non-charging Andrew McCarthy. When I had the privilege of observing the making of what became the very popular film, Weekend at Bernie's, I stood as close to Mr. McCarthy as I am to you--if we were standing very close together. The experience left me...nearly unaware that I was standing close to Andrew McCarthy. The focus-puller radiated stronger vibes. Combined with the fact that the fleshy ex-brat packer looks 10 years too young to be convincing as an aristocratic executive caught in a sprawling murder mystery makes this "A Danilo Bach Production" play as compellingly as if shot from a Blue Cross form. Poor Paul Sorvino tries to maintain some dignity. I think I would rather have watched him in the love scenes. EJECT.

Amazing Fantasy
Slogan: "Deformed. Devious. Depraved."

Hideous? Yes, in so many ways. And yet...I couldn't turn away. In part because Jacqueline Lovell is nude or semi-nude for most of the film. "I'm free, I'm proud. I'm woman," is how she dismisses her exhibitionistic exploitation. (Clearly an actress with more to offer than her delightful figure, Lovell should be getting all the roles meant for Kathleen Turner--when Kathleen Turner was hot.) The plot is absurd times 12: Rival collectors of "medical oddities" (that is slimy, bulbous puppets) vie to see whose oddities are odder. That these specimens are, by implication, deformed, aborted fetuses is not satisfactorily dealt with. Though sickening, what kept me glued was the wry performances, especially by Lovell and Jerry O'Donnell as a sarcastic detective, and the script's twisted lines like, "I, sir, am a gourmet of the unusual. You are merely a...gourmand!" The puppets cry. The puppets kill. Genius! PLAY.

Slogan: "And Africa Will Never Be the Same."

"I've never allowed myself to be seduced by the blandishments of illusion and false hope," says a biddy in Grave Indiscretion. Well I have, at least where Ernest P. Worrell is concerned. I keep rooting for the guy. Before everyone in America was reciting the trademark phrase, "KnowhatImean?," I was fortunate to view the original "Hey, Vern" commercials made for a local Tennessee retailer. 30-second classics of wide-angle comedy, they announced a fresh--if repulsive--face on the low-comedy scene. And really, what is the difference between Ace Ventura and Ernest? Jim Varney's face probably contains even more Silly Putty than Jim Carrey's. The difference is material. "It's always good to have the monkeys on your side," Ernest says here. The chimps are with ya, pal. It's the writer/director you need to watch out for. John Cherry has written and directed all the Ernest films, to increasingly meager effect. Filmed in Johannesburg, if you have an alcoholic toddler in your home, this may prove diverting. Otherwise, EJECT.

Next: Vegas, baby!

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