Category: Movies

 

Mandy Kaplan (see sidebar) and Johnny Giacalone play a married couple experiencing the seven-year-itch – scratch that; seven-year-itch implies pining for new romantic partners. What these two have is more like “it’s-been-seven-years-and-nothing-about-you-lights-my-fire.”

After consulting with a marriage counselor, Nick and Willa embark on a 30-day program to spice up their love life. The program, however, is less Hallmark and more Hamster.com. Anyone game for anal sex?

 

 

Pros:  Although the film is raunchy, at heart it’s old fashioned and feel-good. The two leads are likable, which they pretty much have to be in a movie like this, and several of the supporting characters are a hoot. A few scenes are flat-out hilarious.

Cons:  The tone is often peculiar. 30 Nights mixes a Disney-movie sensibility with hard-core interludes. Sometimes this works because the contrast is so stark that it tickles. (Remember watching “June Cleaver” speak jive in Airplane!? Imagine June and Ward experimenting with anal sex, instead.) At other times this tonal juxtaposition just feels … off. I mean, golden showers in a feel-good comedy?

But there are several laugh-out-loud scenes, which is a tough find in 2019.   Grade:  B

 

 

Director: Tom Metz III  Cast: Mandy Kaplan, Johnny Giacalone, Dan Fogler, Katie Walder Release: 2018

 

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Walking Out

 

I have a weakness for movies like this one. You know: wilderness movies with hungry bears, or deep-sea movies with dead-eyed sharks. That’s because, unlike most sci-fi and horror films, these scary stories could really happen. To you. Or to me. Walking Out, in which a father and his teenage son encounter peril in the Montana mountains, does well with its survival elements. On the downside, although Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins are believable as dad and son, their on-screen chemistry left me a bit cold. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

**

 

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

 

Whenever a studio announces plans for a movie version of a beloved TV show, the hope, at least among fans of the series, is that the movie version will be bigger and better. Bigger budget = better experience. There is good news and bad news about Netflix’s two-hour revival of the classic Breaking Bad. The bad news?  The movie, which follows the trajectory of young Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the death of Walter White, is no better than the series. The good news? The movie is just as good as the series – and you don’t get any better than that. Release: 2019 Grade: A

 

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A Young Man with High Potential

 

Is it just me who finds it off-putting when a perfectly good suspense-drama finds it necessary to include a 10-minute sequence of graphic gore? Young Man concerns a social nerd/computer genius (Adam Ild Rohweder) who falls for a sexy girl (Paulina Galazka), then lets things get out of control and winds up running from the law – a cliché plot, for sure, yet suspenseful and well acted. But when Crime and Punishment veers into Blood Feast, it loses me. Release: 2018  Grade: B-

 

 

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A Simple Favor

Anna Kendrick does A Simple Favor.  Big mistake.  

 

I was beginning to despair of ever again seeing anything clever and funny, i.e. entertaining, in a Hollywood “comic thriller.” But then I saw A Simple Favor, which has it all: clever script, fast-paced direction, and engaging characters. Anna Kendrick is perfectly cast as a Susie Homemaker with a video blog who gets drawn into a murder investigation when her new “best friend,” a glamorous mystery woman (Blake Lively), goes missing.

At times the plot does get a bit far-fetched. I gave that a pass because of the top-notch cast and a tongue-in-cheek tone that works.  Release: 2018  Grade: A-

 

**

 

Personal Shopper

Pretty much how I felt while watching this film

 

A Simple Favor is a female-centric movie for everyone. Personal Shopper is, alas, a female-centric movie for diehard fans of Kristen Stewart only.

Stewart plays a celebrity’s assistant in Paris who grieves for her recently deceased twin brother. And grieves. And grieves. The first hour of the movie was intolerable: Kristen mopes, Kristen strips, Kristen engages in endless, pointless text messaging with a mystery man who might be her brother’s ghost. No, thank you. Release: 2017  Grade: D

 

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June is a short month. That’s my excuse for not finding a movie that interested me enough to warrant a typical two-paragraph review in short.

I tried, but there is such a sea of mediocrity out there in Streaming Land that … sigh. I can barely muster the enthusiasm to write a sentence or two about the films I did watch, much less an entire paragraph. To wit:

 

The Wolf’s Call (2019) – France tries to do a Tom Cruise action flick without Tom Cruise or much action. Not a great idea, France.  Grade: C

 

The Isle (2019) – Plenty of atmosphere in this period piece about ghostly possession. Howling winds, candlelit cabins, and gorgeous outdoor scenery – but nothing remotely scary.  Grade: C-

 

Murder Mystery (2019) – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston mingle with the beautiful people and try to find a killer. Sadly, Sandler and Aniston are no Nick and Nora Charles.  Grade: D

 

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The Perfection

 

Some movies seem to revel in insulting the audience’s intelligence. Moviegoers enjoy twists, so The Perfection doles out twist after twist – never mind that each one is more nonsensical than the last. Audiences also like sexy movie stars, so The Perfection includes a gratuitous lesbian sex scene between stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning. Last but not least, modern movie fans apparently can’t get enough gore and so – you guessed it – this movie has it in spades. Are we happy yet?

Williams and Browning play star cellists who encounter a terrifying virus while on a trip to Shanghai—or so it seems.  So far, so good; the movie looked great and there was genuine tension. But then the far-fetched twists began, so that by the end of the story The Perfection was anything but.  Release: 2019  Grade: D+

 

Logan Browning’s ass is the only thing approaching “perfection”

 

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We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet.  They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Blood Paradise.

Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.

 

Blood Paradise

 

 

Imagine you’re a Swedish actress. Your director-husband looks like a Greek god, and you resemble a younger version of Melania Trump (you are both former models). But you don’t have a lot of cash at your disposal. What do you do for work?

If you’re statuesque beauty Andrea Winter, you make a low-budget horror-comedy on the family farm in north Sweden. And you recruit your non-actor parents and brother to play pivotal roles. Oh, and you produce, co-write, score, edit and star in it.

We’re going to do something a bit unusual here. We’re going to write not one, but two reviews; one of Blood Paradise itself, and one of the film’s main attraction: Andrea Winter Wahlgren.

 

The Movie

 

 

Novelist Robin Richards has writer’s block and decides that a change of scenery might be the fix she needs. So she moves into a farmhouse in rural Sweden. There is just one problem: The locals are a peculiar lot. Very peculiar, including a poker-faced farmer (Winter’s real-life father) who makes mysterious trips into a nearby outbuilding; her “biggest fan,” an odd-looking fellow who sidelines as a Peeping Tom; and a gruff neighbor who enjoys playing with guns (Winter’s real-life brother).

When Robin’s boyfriend (Patrick von Barkenberg) shows up on the farm, things take a nasty turn.

The premise of Blood Paradise isn’t bad. At first, I was reminded of Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone: a female novelist moves to the country and fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue. But the comedy part of Blood Paradise is, unfortunately, dropped pretty quickly, and the horror that remains is fairly pedestrian stuff.

You’ve seen this story before. The phones don’t work. The locals are more odd than ominous.

But the farmstead is attractive, and so is …

 

The Farmer’s Daughter

 

 

By now, it’s become something of a cliché: A European actor will do extensive nudity, American audiences will be (a bit) shocked by said nudity, and the actor will state that, where she (usually a she) comes from, nudity is commonplace and “natural.”

Why is something considered so natural in parts of Europe thought of as more sexual — and naughty — across the pond? Is it a hangover from the prudish Puritans? Or are the Europeans bullshitting us?

In the YouTube clip below, Andrea answers a fan’s question about the nudity in Blood Paradise:

 

 

Either way, it’s not your everyday movie in which a fetching daughter scampers about in the buff in scenes with her real-life male relatives.

The Grouch did the following e-mail interview with Winter:

 

 

The Grouch:  Thanks for doing this interview. At the beginning of Blood Paradise, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – would it be mostly comedy, mostly horror, or a mix of the two? I thought the story might be influenced by, say, Romancing the Stone, in which an attractive novelist with writer’s block travels to some far-flung location and winds up in a wild, comedic adventure. But by the end of your movie, it was quite clearly more in line with movies like Psycho or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What was your intent in making this movie?

Andrea Winter:  Our intent was to make a movie that was both fun and scary but in an artistic way. I see a lot of new independent horror films that have a lot of comedy and they’re really scary, but I don’t see many that are artistic. I didn’t just want to make another horror film just to make one. I consider myself as much of an artist as a filmmaker and it was important to me that our movie was as beautiful as it was scary. I also consider myself a vintage horror snob and we were very inspired by old horror films. Maybe that’s why our film turned out the way it did.

Grouch:  I watched an interview with you and the film’s director, which was quite illuminating. What was it like working with family members? Did they inhibit your work in any way? Also, what was their (family members) reaction to the finished product?

Winter:  It was truly fantastic working with my family members. They were so professional and sometimes I actually forgot they were my family members. I’ve always wanted to put them in a movie. They’re all such natural born actors. Our dinner parties are quite interesting. It’s incredible. I believe (and hope) they are proud of the movie. Of course I don’t think they have much of a choice but to tell me that they like it, since we’re family.

Grouch:  It seems to be inherent to movies like this – in the horror genre – that sex or nudity is part of the formula. But it’s unusual, I think, for the lead actress doing the nude scenes, in this case you, to also be the producer, co-writer, co-editor, music, etc. Was it difficult being “the boss” and then taking your clothes off in front of cast and crew?

Winter:  I made fun of it a lot. I mean, it probably sounds like a nightmare, trying to run a production naked, right? But it wasn’t that weird, believe it or not. In Sweden nudity is quite normal and the director and the cinematographer are both German. I see completely naked people sunbathing in the parks in Berlin like it’s no big deal all the time. In Germany men and women go to the sauna in the gyms together, completely naked. It’s the north European way I guess.

Grouch:  What has been the general reaction to your movie? Also, what’s next for you?

Winter:  From what I’ve read and heard I feel like people either love or hate our movie. I guess some people don’t get it. I understand and respect that. We made this movie exactly how we wanted to make it. It’s not supposed to be taken that seriously, we want people to laugh and have a good time. Every time someone tells me that they like the film, or when I hear audiences laugh at certain parts of the film it’s all worth it.

Me and the director, Patrick von Barkenberg, are developing two new projects right now. One is a TV-show that we have been working on for a very long time. We are hoping to make it in the UK, but we’ll see what the response is. The other one is an independent movie that we are planning on filming in Northern Italy if everything works out. I’m very excited about both of them.

 

At this point, the reader has probably made up his or her mind about whether or not to watch Blood Paradise. Possibly, you are like our contributor Rip van Dinkle and are most intrigued by Andrea’s nude scenes. She was kind enough to drop a “hello” to Rip in the comments section of his “Playboy Interview”:

 

 

In turn, we asked Rip to write captions for the sexy screen captures below. Rip, we should add, is not exactly politically correct.

 

 

 

Rip: “This is the first nude scene. Like all of us, Andrea enjoys some quiet time in the tub. Unlike most of us, she’s worth watching.”

 

 

Rip: “The dude above is Andrea’s real-life partner. You might be looking at him sniffing her foot, but I’m looking at some pussy hair. Then again, I’m a dirty old man.”

 

 

Rip: “The guy above is Andrea’s real-life brother, watching his sister scamper naked in a field. I wonder if he got a boner. I’m sorry, but if that was my sister, I would still get a boner. I wonder if she wondered if he got a boner.”

 

 

Rip: “Andrea told an interviewer that the scene above was shot at dusk, and that mosquitoes were biting her everywhere. Apparently, even the bugs wanted a piece of ass.”

 

 

Rip: “Gee, I wonder what the guy above is peeking at. Could it be Andrea’s perfect butt cheeks?”

 

 

We end with this intriguing YouTube clip from the same appearance referenced above, in which von Barkenberg hints that the DVD (tentatively scheduled for release in July) might be even more revealing than the theatrical cut:

 

 

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The Meg

 

Popcorn movies like The Meg, in which a giant shark terrorizes people at an ocean research facility, used to be a lot more fun. Those older movies were also silly, of course, but they had a sort of careless charm. I’m thinking of flicks like Deep Blue Sea. These days, popcorn movies seem weighed down by conscientiousness. Does The Meg have a diverse cast? Check. Does it have Chinese stars to please the all-important Asian market? Check. Are there pricey special effects? You got it.

Sadly, last on the filmmaking checklist is any sense of originality or creativity. Instead, we get borrowed bits and pieces of superior movies, like Jaws and The Abyss and yes, even Deep Blue Sea. The good news? If your brain needs a rest, you needn’t bother following The Meg’s plot, because you’ve seen it all before. Release: 2018 Grade: C-

 

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We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet.  They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Terror 5.

Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.

 

Terror 5

 

 

Terror 5, produced in 2016 but just now getting a video release, is an Argentinean horror film that follows several story threads with one key theme: revenge. Revenge on bad teachers, revenge on corrupt politicians, revenge on mean-spirited “friends,” and revenge, apparently, on one very naked couple.

The movie is a bit incoherent – there are apocalyptic zombies on the loose; I’m not at all sure why — but it’s never boring.  This is the IMDB plot description:

 

Storyline

While most of the residents of a small Argentinian town attend a funeral procession following a tragic building collapse, the few who do not will face terrors of their own in this mashup of urban legends from brother- filmmakers Sebastián and Federico Rotstein. Think bondage, torture, zombies…and governmental corruption. Juan goes on a date with Sonia to a school where students get even with teachers. Luco and Paulo create an elaborate plan to swap girlfriends. Two lovers escape into a motel for a night of passion, while a group of friends enjoys a snuff film. As their primal urges distract them all, local officials are judged innocent of the neglect that caused the building collapse-and then the horror really begins.

 

One of the bright spots is actress Cecilia Cartasegna as “Gabriela,” a young woman who, after having sweaty, angry sex with her boyfriend, learns that their motel rendezvous is not as private as she had thought.

We e-mail interviewed Cecilia about her role in the film. (English is not her first language, but we thought her occasional grammatical slips were cute, so we left them in):

 

 

Cecilia Cartasegna

 

Grouch:  I thought you were very good in the film. I’d say that your character, Gabriela, and the man in the Joker makeup were probably the most memorable. Thank you for doing this short interview.

Cecilia:  Thank you! I love this movie.

Grouch:  The main theme of the movie seems to be justice: Revenge on corrupt politicians, revenge on cruel friends, and revenge on bad teachers. [Spoiler Alert!] But why were Gabriela and Hernan killed? What was their sin?

Cecilia:  I think their death was not about any sin, was a symptom of the horror in society.  No one is safe anywhere! Not even on the most intimate moment. Every character in this movie in deeply human and a sinner though. Every character is either corrupt, or coward or unjust, greedy. This two do not enjoy sex, it is awkward and bumpy.  They are both being used. I don’t think they even like each other. 

 

Above, Cecilia with actor Julian Larquier, who seems to be enjoying his work

 

Grouch:  It was ironic the way the men in masks were watching you have sex from behind the mirror, while at the same time the audience is watching you on a movie screen. How do you feel about an audience seeing you in such intimate scenes?

Cecilia:  This wasn’t my first intimate scene, usually nudity doesn’t ashamed me. But the first time I saw the movie was at a festival in Mar del Plata, on spring, it was chilly but nice weather. When the movie ended and we went up front for the Q&A, I took my friend’s sweater and I put it in on, the biggest sweater ever!  There is a look people have when they just saw you naked and it was a big audience…

Grouch:  The sex between you and your boyfriend seemed very realistic. Was it simulated or real?

Cecilia:  Julian Larquier is an awesome partner and we talked a lot because we were worried about the reality in the scene. It is really disappointing when while seeing a movie you notice the actors uncomfortable, the sheets carefully and strategically covering the bodies. We try to make it seems real. But it wasn’t. There was many days of shooting for that scene, no one last that long and no one should. Sorry to brake the illusion. 

Grouch:  Was it difficult to do so much of your scenes without clothes?

Cecilia:  It was difficult to stay focused, it was a situational scene, so the acting was about the situation. There was not an emotional story to perform. A small part of me was always thinking “you are naked, you are naked, you are naked.” 

Grouch:  What’s next for you? Any more horror movies? Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Cecilia:  I love horror movies! When the story that is told is fantasy, the acting must expand and other tools became necessary because even though it is not real must feel real for the viewers.

Now it is at post production “To Kill the Dragon” directed by Jimena Monteoliva. It is like a faery tale nightmare. It is my second movie with her. The first one was “Clementina” a psychological thriller filled with ghost and blood.

I hope there are many genre films in my future. I would love to shoot all over the world. This is a big moment for genre.

 

**

 

Let’s face it: A good number of you readers have no intention of ever watching Terror 5. It’s a low-budget, subtitled horror movie with a confusing plot and cheesy special effects.

You probably do, however, want to see more of saucy Ms. Cartasegna in her birthday suit. So here are a few more screen captures and, better yet, a seven-minute clip of the actress’s nude scenes in the movie:

 

“There is a look people have when they just saw you naked, and it was a big audience.”

 

Here is the movie clip:

 

 

Finally, we should mention that at the end of our interview, we had a request for Cecilia. We told her that contributor Rip van Dinkle is a fan, and would she leave a comment for him at one of our small-penis-pageant stories? We sent her this link … and never heard back.

 

 

Said a dejected Rip (pictured above): “It’s too bad. I guess she didn’t like what she saw in the story, assuming she read it. It’s a shame because I think we have something in common: She has diminuto tetas, and I have diminuto pene. And we both have spectacular butts.”

 

Well … he’s half right:

 

 

 

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Long Lost

 

A young man receives an invitation to visit his long-lost half-brother at his posh country house — but there are nasty surprises in store for the family reunion.

Long Lost is a decent enough erotic thriller marred by an unconvincing twist ending. A movie twist, if it’s to be a good one, has just two requirements: It has to be surprising, and it should be at least somewhat plausible. Long Lost’s big reveal is certainly unexpected. But is it realistic? Not really.

Still, the movie is entertaining thanks to an intense, creepy turn from actor Nicholas Tucci (above), who personifies a cliché that I am loath to use but that fits perfectly here: toxic masculinity. Release: 2019 Grade: C+

 

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