Category: Books, Movies, TV & Web

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’

 

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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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by Bryan Gruley

 

A 15-year-old autistic boy goes missing and his parents receive cryptic texts and e-mails, including an apparent ransom demand.

Bleak Harbor was just … average; not terrible, but certainly nothing special. There is a lot of texting and hacking and computer sleuthing, which I suppose modernizes the plot, but this is a story we’ve read many times before. There is, of course, a “big twist” near the end. Alas, the unexpected turn isn’t particularly credible.

 

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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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by Charles Krauthammer

 

I used to watch Charles Krauthammer spar with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News and be reminded of Dr. Strangelove, the wheelchair-bound, hawkish lunatic from Stanley Kubrick’s movie. I thought of Krauthammer as a conservative villain. Problem is, that’s about as much as I thought of the psychiatrist turned political pundit; I certainly didn’t listen to what he had to say. That was my mistake.

I still don’t agree with everything he has to say in Things That Matter, a collection of his essays from the 1980s until 2014. But I respect his opinions, whether about domestic policy, international issues or, well, his love of chess. Krauthammer’s essays are sprinkled with wit and, yes, wisdom. The man did his homework.

As might be expected from a conservative columnist, there is much criticism of Obama in the book. My guess is that, were this book more current (Krauthammer died in June), he would also deploy his rapier wit against our current president.

I wish he was still around to appear on cable news. If nothing else, his calm demeanor would be a welcome respite from all of the shrieking hysterics.

 

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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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by Jefferson Farjeon

 

A gathering of upper-crust Brits and their servants fall under suspicion when foul play interrupts a weekend retreat. This 1936 whodunit is pretty much what you’d expect, if what you expect is an English country-house murder mystery with Agatha Christie DNA in its bones. Farjeon is no Dame Agatha, but a few of his characters – in particular an acerbic journalist named Bultin – are amusing.

 

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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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