Category: Movies

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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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, Abduction 101.

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.

 

Abduction 101

 

 

I suppose that if I’m an aspiring actress or model stuck in Portland, Oregon, and some French director asks me to star in his low-budget horror movie, I might jump at the opportunity. I suppose I might.

And so we have Abduction 101, a Portland-filmed indie starring four Portland babes. It’s the kind of schlock that gave birth to Joe Bob Briggs (remember him?); the kind of movie that gave oxygen to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Director Robin Entreinger’s movie stars beauty-pageant contestant Brianna Shewbert Rouse (who’s not bad), Portland model Luna Labelle (who’s quite fetching), and an actress named Adrienne Stone* (who is very, very naked. So naked, in fact, that her prolonged exposure won “Best Nudity Scene” at the Independent Horror Movie Awards).

 

“Best Nudity Scene” — hey, who are we to argue?

 

But I digress. The plot of Abduction 101, not that it matters, is about three cute girls who decide to investigate their mysterious neighbors in the woods. They intend to film the neighbors, who are not expected to object to this invasion of their privacy because, as one of the girls says repeatedly, “all of us are so fucking hot.”

But uh-oh. Turns out the neighbors must have seen Alien 3, in which Sigourney Weaver got impregnated by a creature, and now enjoy doing the same sort of thing to unsuspecting people – like snoopy neighbor girls who are so fucking hot. That’s the plot.

Watching Abduction 101 is at times an endurance test. Any shot that might last five seconds in a better movie will drag on for 30 seconds in this one. A scene that goes on for a minute in another flick will be stretched to five minutes here. In fact, the whole movie feels like filler between the opening 15 minutes, in which Entreinger’s camera lustfully scans the girls’ bodies, to the midpoint, which features the famous nude scene, to the blessed relief of an ending.

 

Three “fucking hot” girls

 

And yet … I shouldn’t complain. In the “Me Too” era, I’m glad that they still make outright exploitation like this. Someone needs to carry on the tradition of Joe Bob Briggs. And Portland models need the work.      Grade:  You Don’t Want to Know

 

Directors: Robin Entreinger, Steve Noir  Cast: Brianna Shewbert Rouse, Luna Labelle, Adrienne Stone, Nixi Oblivion, Kayla Kilby Release: 2019

 

*It’s possible that the naked actress is actually called “Nixi Oblivion.” It’s impossible to know based on the incomplete credits. Maybe that’s intentional?

 

The Girls of ‘Abduction 101’

 

.                        

 

 

Brianna Shewbert Rouse

 

It must be frustrating when your leading lady won’t get naked for your horror movie. What’s a French director to do? In this case, he dresses Brianna in tight pants and bikinis and then zooms in on her butt. A lot.  

 

Above at far right, Brianna in a beauty contest

 

Kayla Kilby

 

Kayla has a small part in Abduction 101, basically just a fight scene near the end of the movie. She gets killed (below). Looks like she isn’t wearing panties. Judging from the modeling photos that follow, that seems to be a recurring theme.

 

 

 

Luna Labelle

 

Inexplicably, Luna, who had no issues with doing full-frontal and full-rear nudity in the modeling photos below, does not appear naked in Abduction 101. We can only guess that this oversight was due to the directors being unaware of the photos.

 

 

 

 

Adrienne Stone (we think)

 

Last but not least, we bring you Adrienne Stone. Unless it’s Nixi Oblivion. We’re going to go with Adrienne Stone. Whoever she is, she was quite the good sport and was no doubt most responsible for the movie’s “Best Nudity Scene” honor.

Also, the fact that she allowed some actor to fondle her boobs and let Entreinger’s camera peek between her legs probably had something to do with it.

 

 

Abduction 101 is now available on Amazon Prime. Click here to watch the trailer.

 

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The Monster

grouchyeditor.com Monster

 

It’s a simple title and a simple story, but sometimes that’s all you need. The Monster, in which a troubled mother and her 10-year-old daughter are terrorized by a creature in the woods, owes a debt to similar filmssubstitute the creature in Alien for the rabid dog in Cujo, and you have the gist of it — but what’s a pleasant surprise is the relationship between mom and her kid. Believe it or not, they seem both real and intelligent. In a horror movie. Go figure. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

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Game Night

 

These days, Hollywood has a difficult time making what used to be called the “screwball comedy.” In the past, screwball characters were lovably goofy as they bumbled and stumbled through silly plots. Think Bringing Up Baby. Today, the main characters in this kind of farce aren’t merely goofy; they tend to be borderline psychotic.

Still, the nut jobs in Game Night — a group of clueless suburbanites obsessed with party games — are fairly amusing, and their dialogue is often witty. And if there’s a better character actor out there than Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Fargo, Black Mirror), I’d like to know who it is. Release: 2018 Grade: B

 

**

 

Murder on the Orient Express

 

I like actor Kenneth Branagh, but he isn’t my favorite “Hercule Poirot.” That would be David Suchet. And I enjoyed director Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, but it isn’t my favorite interpretation of Agatha Christie’s famous mystery. That would be Suchet’s television version or, possibly, the 1974 movie with Albert Finney. 

Outside of some spectacular (often computer-generated) scenery, the latest film doesn’t offer much new, but so what? Some stories are like comfort food; no matter how many times you’ve had it, and as long as they don’t change the ingredients, eventually you come back for more.  Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

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De Palma

 

It’s probably not cool to praise director Brian De Palma in the “Me Too” era. De Palma took shots for alleged misogyny and violence against women (in his films, mind you) long before anyone had heard of Harvey Weinstein. To hell with that criticism. If I want vanilla at the movies, I’ll go see a boring superhero flick.

De Palma, like the man he’s often compared to, Alfred Hitchcock, was above all a master craftsman. His obsessive attention to detail, along with a firm grasp of what looks great on film (yes, including the naked ladies), allowed him to shine in the 1980s. My only complaint about this documentary, in which De Palma discusses each of his films chronologically, is that it’s much too short. Release: 2016 Grade: A-

 

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I’ve always felt that the most underutilized weapon in the horror-filmmaker’s arsenal is the soundtrack. By that I do not mean the startling din that accompanies “jump scares” in too many fright flicks. In the typical horror movie, ample care is devoted to atmospheric visuals and special effects. But the soundtrack is usually relegated to secondary status.

When filmmakers do give sound its due, the results can be chilling: the ticking clock and howling wind in Black Christmas, the pitter-patter of alien footsteps on a ceiling in Signs.

So kudos to director John Krasinski and company for understanding the value of sound – or in this movie, the lack of it – to building suspense.

Krasinski co-stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt as the parents in a family of five struggling to survive an alien invasion. The aliens are blind, but they have super-sensitive hearing. The scattered humans who still exist do so only because they’ve mastered the art of absolute silence. This is no easy feat when there are young kids in the family, and when every snapped twig can mean instant annihilation.

 

 

Early on we learn that mom is pregnant. This instills a sense of foreboding because at some point there will be a baby. When every stifled sneeze is a potential death sentence, what will happen when the infant begins to cry?

A Quiet Place gets a high grade because it has several prolonged, agonizingly tense scenes, and that’s a special thing. My grade would be higher but the script is marred by inconsistencies. Sometimes the monsters come at the drop of a pin. Other times a loud bang doesn’t seem to interest them.  Also, once a family member discovers an effective alien repellent, why not use it more often?     Grade: B+

 

 

Director:  John Krasinski  Cast:  Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom  Release:  2018

 

 

Watch the Trailer:

 

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Cam

 

I am not particularly tech-savvy (surprise!), and I’ve never been a webcam girl (gasp!), but despite these handicaps, I recognize a good cautionary tale about technology when I see one. Cam, in which a sex worker’s (Madeline Brewer) online identity gets hijacked by a mysterious doppelganger, is like Black Mirror with boobs. Some of the computer-related details might or might not be accurate, but that hardly matters to an ignorant Luddite like me. Release: 2018 Grade: B+

 

 

**

 

Crooked House

 

So you’re adapting an Agatha Christie novel for film, something that’s been done, oh, maybe 500 times. Also problematic: This Christie whodunit, Crooked House, has no Hercule Poirot, no Miss Marple – just a cast of shady suspects. So how do you make your movie stand out?

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner does it by emphasizing showy visuals and hammy performances from veterans like Glenn Close and Gillian Anderson. The actors do not disappoint, and the movie is certainly watchable. But it’s not all that memorable, either.   Release: 2017  Grade: B-

 

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Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

 

Hedy Lamarr: Was she a typical story from Hollywood’s “golden age,” a self-centered actress who succumbed to drugs, vanity, and other trappings of wealth and celebrity? Hedy Lamarr: Was she the (unacknowledged) inventor of a groundbreaking military technology called “frequency hopping”? Was she the victim of shallow, sexist male contemporaries?

Answer: Probably all of the above. Lamarr was a fascinating woman, but this documentary reminds me why books are usually better suited to subjects like her. Lamarr’s life was simply too complicated, too interesting, to be captured in an 88-minute film.    Release: 2017   Grade: B

 

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