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Today I made a shocking discovery: I realized that the last review posted was in late... August! Well, punctuality has never been numbered among my virtues :-). Actually, it's not all my fault (though I do tend to fall under long spells of inertia and sheer laziness now and then). One of the many implications of my recent move to England is the infernal netlag I have to deal with every time I use my paranoia account. This has simply made it impossible for me to participate in discussions, though I HAVE been reading the group. Furthermore, due to the difficulty of getting new porn in England (but note that I never said "impossibility" ;-)) I will be hereafter quite unable to review current releases while they're still "current". So, this is probably going to be the last review part for quite some while that is dominated by my usual whining about the suckiness of the two powerhouses, Vivid and VCA. Reviewed today are several new releases, mostly starring the delectable Juli Ashton. Two of these reviews (Cloud 9 and Pajama Party 3) have been previously posted on their own, but now it's time to put them in a proper Part.
One must give credit where credit is due. I never expected Derrick Lane to be much better than your average Bud Lee lamer when it came to direction. I only rented "Cloud 9" because my store was out of Julis. To my surprise, this Vivid production turned out to be a quite entertaining tape.
The usual merits one would expect from Vivid are there. The casting is excellent: Racquel Darrian is of course the big star, and is in every scene of the film; she's accompanied by the always lovely Felecia, Asia Carrera and Barbara Doll. There are only two blokes in the flick, the always welcome Steven St. Croix and, naturally, Derrick. From a technical point of view the production is also impeccable; not impressive but without flaws. One of the undeniable merits of Vivid productions is that we seldom get squalid sets. "Cloud 9" is shot in a nice looking house with a nice pool. The only thing I really resent is the dry ice, though in the context of this film it's justified.
Surprisingly, Derrick does an excellent job with the camera and his editor is -uncharacteristically- very patient. This is a far cry from the numerous 3 second cuts the latest PT productions suffered from; the editing is patient, giving the sex scenes a much needed continuity to offset the general -and expected- lack of heat.
This last comment really sums up the film's primary flaw: much as Derrick tries, the result is still very lukewarm. I now tend to agree with what Mike Paul recently said about Vivid films being shot on purpose with a detached air. There is no sweat here, no hint of the primal heat that is in fact sex. Racquel just lies there, looking beautiful to be sure, but boring nonetheless. Even the usually feisty Barbara Doll is subdued; being RAC'ed by a strap-on dildo doesn't change this one bit.
Still, the sex scenes are pleasing to the eye. Racquel opens the show by stripping and masturbating poolside - effectively a "Playboy" type shot. Not bad of course, since Racquel is indeed gorgeous, though she does sport a dumbass tattoo on her buttock (puke).
She then moves indoors and does a g-g-g with Felecia and Barbara Doll. This is quite a pretty sight but the girls are clearly under a tight rein and never really loosen up. There is some of that idiotic sucking on the strap-on - stupid! On the credit column of this scene is a fair bit of breast play and quite good movement by the girls. As I said: pretty sight, but never quite hot.
Derrick then does Asia while Racquel watches. I now know why I don't like Derrick: he looks like a freakin' Marine! He looks looks so fucking *bored* during the sex scenes: in the last scene when Asia and Racquel get it on while he lies next to them, he seemed ready to doze off. Eventually the girls turn their attentions to him and he still looks like a wooden indian.
This, I guess, is the real reason why people dislike Racquel's exclusivity when it comes to on-screen partners. Nobody (ok, *almost* nobody :-)) complained about Woody Long; our problem with Tony Montana was that he looked like the dude who's selling crack on the corner; Dave Cannon was actually a welcome sight (though I resented the fact that *he* screwed around while Bridgette only got to do him). If Derrick had some presence and didn't just look like Racquel's man-like dildo, people would whine less.
But I'm jumping ahead: Derrick's scene with Asia is fine: again a bit of breast play and the camera work is good. The same can be said of Racquel's eagerly awaited non-Derrick scene; however she *clearly* enjoys Derrick more. In her scene with Steven she's obviously earning a paycheck. In the final scene with Derrick and Asia, she actually cracks a smile (her only in the film).
And that's the real problem with Vivid. No, it's not the abscence of anals and heavy raunch: it's the fact that people look like mannequins. A few moans from Asia or Ashlyn's valiant effort to keep on dirty talking in her features won't save the day. Vivid product urgently needs smiles, laughter, heat and sweat. They claim they make "couples" porn. This is not how couples behave in bed, lying around looking pretty. People smile, laugh, sweat and say nice things (or dirty talk if you're into that :-)) to one another. A silent lay is a bad lay. A dry (i.e. no sweat) lay is no better than jerking off.
Rating: 2.85. Derrick has made a fine effort that shows respect towards the customer. I appreciate that. If he can now unshackle himself from the typical Vivid formula and he'll surely crack 3.00 next time around.
My pleasant Vivid experiences continued with "Hawaii", a rather cheap video effort by Tony English starring Chasey Lain, Dyanna Lauren, Asia Carrera, J.R. Carrington, Marc Wallice, Colt Steel and Felecia among others. This a very uncharacteristic Vivid effort - indeed, with the exception of the spectacularly attractive, if plasticised, leading ladies that seem to be a given in their productions, this effort is exactly the opposite of what we've come to expect from them in recent years. For once the sex scenes are long and patiently shot, with the action getting at moments very hot. On the other hand there are no real pretensions of a plot and technical aspects are very poor.
The reason for the unsatisfactory technical quality of the video may have been the great proportion of scenes filmed outdoors. Normally of course that would be a huge plus, since I'm both very fond of such scenes and very frustrated at their scarcity. Unfortunately, the video quality here leaves a lot to be desired; the lighting in particular is very harsh and even blots out bits of the image at moments. However, all this can be forgiven: at least when they put the word "Hawaii" on the boxcover they bother to go to a beach though I could not say if this beach was Californian or Hawaiian) and film the bloody thing there, instead of the cheap motel indoor surroundings we suffer in normal porn. Score one for honesty and Vivid! :-)
I will be less patient though with the sheer idiocy of the plot. Chasey and Dyanna are lead strippers in Marc Wallice's show. The show goes on the road in Hawaii and is housed in Asia's joint there. Meanwhile Colt -Dyanna's bf-- cheats on her with Chasey. She finds out. We yawn. I understand all the limitations that output, budget and timetable put on the imaginations of porn screenwriters nowadays. What I can't understand though is why they bother after all and so make an ass out of themselves; personally I would prefer a light, fluffy beach romp a la Svetlana than the umpteenth Vivid rendition of the personal lives of a bunch of strippers. Don't get me wrong; I *like* strippers; God knows how much money they've made out of me the last couple of years :-). But I don't care about their personal life, not any more than I care about the personal life of my barber or any other professional I deal with in my life. Why Vivid believes that this is such a great fantasy with its customers (witness the "Blonde Justice" series for example) is completely beyond me.
But enough with the grumbling. As I said in the beginning, "Hawaii" prides itself of some very nice sex scenes the highlight of which are the three b-g featuring the main stars. Chasey's scene is the most visually stunning, Asia's the least imaginative in position selection and general rythm. My personal favourite was, of course, Dyanna's scene with Colt Steele. I like Dyanna a lot, despite the boobjob, despite her rather lifeless performances. I don't know why; I like a lot of women I probably shouldn't :-). In any case, this scene is a must see for Dyanna fans, crowned as it is by a most excellent anal sequence, long and well-captured (most of the camera work is from above and 3/4 behind which is by far the best angle for doggy anal -- in itself the second best anal position). Personally I enjoy watching Dyanna's rare anal scenes *immensely*; not so much for the rarity, but mainly because of the perfect image she projects of mild *discomfort*. I have elsewhere explained what I look for in an anal scene, and let me repeat once more: it's what I call the "mild domination" factor I look for even in real life sex. Not leather or whip stuff, and certainly NOT pain -- just a slight submission on the part of the lady. Since porn is a visual medium and it's therefore very difficult to capture these real life nuances effectively, things like apparent discomfort in anal scenes are the closest I can get to my pet perversion. Different strokes for different folks I guess -- most other people like facials; I don't :-).
The Imperial Verdict: I have no problem in recommending this flick as a good, solid rental. It is one of the best bets one can have, taking into account the overall quality of porn nowadays. It could even be worth a purchase if found in a sale, or promotion deal (like the "2 for $20" I used to take advantage of in Philadelphia). Staunch Dyanna fans might even go for the full price - but only just.
Before we quit Vivid for today, let us concern ourselves with an older offering. "Sex 2" by Paul Thomas might put off the unwary who confuse it with Michael Ninn's despicable offering of the same title. If so, they will certainly miss out on a most delightful piece of high budget porn. Films like that are the main reason I'm SO patient with PT. Just when he begins to suck too much, I come across something like this and I forgive him again.
The usual Vivid merits are all present once again. The film quality, lighting and decor are flawless. The plot (Mike Horner being nervous about his ability to date pretty girls and eventually getting to do THREE of them) is very cute and certainly stands out on its own, though this is techincally a sequel. And, of course, the cast can barely get any better: PJ Sparxx (back when she was slim, natural and did men), Nikki Dial, Christy Canyon and Crystal Wilder in perhaps her most beautiful ever. Indeed, she looks so luminous in this film that she handily overshadows her co-stars. I have always been extremely fond of Ms. Wilder's feline smile and boundless enthusiasm, so much as to give her one of those rare Imperial pardons For Insulting Nature (i.e. getting a gross boobjob), but here she is simply too good to be true. Her RAC with real life partner Terry Thomas simply left me breatless and in the final sequence where Mike Horner tries to sexually accommodate Nikki and Christy as well as Crystal without either finding out, I found myself ... FF'ing the Nikki and Christy bits so I could get to see Ms. Wilder in all her glory!
That last sequence is the highlight of the show as well. Eventually Mike, not being able to keep up with all three girls in separate rooms, confesses his trickery and as "punishment" (oh, how nice punishments are in porn :-)) gets to do all three simultaneously. This scene is unfortunately a bit rushed, something that could be said for all sex scenes in this flick (including the one between PJ and Rocco). However, for once the *anticipation* and buildup in a porn movie is SO good that it's impossible to grumble too much about camera angles, scene continuity and position selection. Indeed this ability to tittilate by buildup rather than explicit sex was one of the main attributes of the Golden Age films. This statement should make PT feel very proud of himself.
Rating: 3.10 and my recommendations.
On to VCA. Jim Holliday's latest load of bollocks, proves that he has absolutely no idea what the hell he's doing when he sits on the director's chair. He may be a decent porn historian ("World famous" says the box - sure, they told us all about him in high school :-)) and he sure knows more trivia than me, but he can't direct for toffee. He sucks. He is apparently well meaning in that he gets huge casts of good stars (e.g. all those "Nurses" disasters) and he gets those grandiose plans of showing group scenes, and hot stuff and all that, but in practice he destroys it. "Pajama Party-X, part 3: Girls' Night In" is a showcase of how he blunders and squanders the good cast (which here includes the scrumptious Juli Ashton, a smiling -there's a shock- Sunset Thomas, as well as Kylie Ireland and Rebecca Bardoux.
First off he hypes. OK, I agree, Juli Ashton is absolutely adorable. She is so cute it almost brings tears to the eyes. She's also in the industry for less than a year. WE will decide whether she's the next huge star, Mr. Holliday, not you. After the bubbly lass is off the shot (damn! :-)) Pompous Jim starts blabbing and blabbing and blabbing. SHUT UP! BTW his beard dye job is so bad it looks as if he used shoe polish. There; I made my mean remark :-)
The "plot" is centered around some sort of lame "live" call-in cable show. Stupid. The sex scenes are terrible. They are mostly g-g of the latest type, i.e. grossly fake boobs (Sunset's look awaful) and dumbass dildos. The camera work is so poor we only get to see a bunch of limbs. Even when there is a good shot the camera never lingers on (the typical orgy mishap), and to top it off the editing is perhaps second only to "Nymphette Does Hollywood" in sheer incompetence. The scenes that suffer mostly from this are the two promising b-g's. Juli's scene with Cal Jammer starts well enough. Juli looks smashing in her cute dress, and breathtaking out of it. Cal takes his time, has a little fun with her breasts and eventually settles down to cunnilingus. Juli smiles throughout and almost cracks up a couple of times - what's the joke, honey? (unless she was ticklish :-)). BTW has anybody else noticed how very *red* her pussy is? Oh well, drooling again. Anyway, from the moment poor Juli starts sucking, the editor takes a speed trip: the rest of the scene (BJ, doggie, missionary -no anal :-() takes about 90 seconds of which 70 on the extreme closup. 90 freaking seconds. Are you kidding me?
Rebecca Bardoux's b-g scene follows the same infernal script. It starts well enough with a lot of breast play (despite the fake boobs, this is always a plus) and then the editor steps on the accelrator again. 15 seconds of Rebecca on the RAC (no vaginal sex at all), then cumshot. End of scene.
To add insult to injury, Sunset and Jon Dough SIMULATE sex for about 20 seconds. Ummm, Jim, it said "Rated X" on the box...as in hardcore. Just reminding you.
I will not go into this particular piece of excrement any further. A waste of time, money, talent and a very nice boxcover :-). The only good thing that has come of this disaster is that I can go back to hating VCA with no remorse :-). I saw 4 good films of theirs in a row and I almost forgot that this is the company that split with Leslie, brought us Ninn and has hired Bud Lamer.
Rating: 0.85. If Juli was absent this would be a resounding 0.00.
"Attitude" is Jon Dough's directorial effort and indeed we seem to get a lot of it for no substance. Jon Dough has come to embody all that I hate in 90s big budget porn. He has no talent and yet overacts, he's wooden AND slimy (there's some feat!), and he seems to be in every bleeding feature, not to mention the inexplicable and repeated accolades he receives from the industry. I mean, his name now carries an automatic "do not rent" connotation in my upcoming rental lists, almost reaching TT Boy in sheer repulsiveness. And it's NOT his latest grungy look I resent nor the macho image. Tom Byron is grungy looking, but at least he seems honest about his sliminess (plus he hasn't won Best Actor for it :-)); Rocco plays macho but I actually like him (though he can go overboard now and then).
As for directorial merit, Jon's inaugural effort is Michael bloody Ninn in disguise. Enough said. The plot is stupid and annoying: Jon is some sort of barman with supernatural (?!) powers who gets to insult his clients (male and female) before he shuttles them off to some lame fantasy setup in which they realize their inadequacy (and, presumably, his superiority). The talents of Juli Ashton, Vanessa Chase and other pretty ladies are thus wasted in this latest inane, unerotic and poorly shot VCA imitation of MTV. If this is the porn of the 90s, I'm sorry I wasn't born 20 years earlier (which I am, but that's another story :-)).
Rating: 0.35. Avoid.
Since I mentioned Ninn above, I think this is a suitable moment to consider his latest piece of indefenisibly hyped up crap: "Latex". As expected, it swept virtually all the major AVN awards and as expected it is horrid. I'll grant that there are some merits in the picture, mainly of a techincal nature (the special effects *are* exceptional for a porno, though the multiple TV decor has already been used in too many movies -SEX, DMJ5 and now this- and is getting old). But Jon bloody Dough getting best...actor for giving his umpteenth rendition of the slightly wacky, pseudomacho grunge lord? Oh well.
There is really no need to go into great detail (I'm sorry Jamal, that's my style :-)) since Cristophe has written a very nice and detailed review of his own. I, of course, disagree with him in virtually everything, but great minds don't have to agree in *everything* :-). I find the plot not stupid as such but certainly not properly addressed, not with bleedin' Jon Dough and Tyffany Million competing for the Ham Of The Year award. I felt really sorry for Veronica Hart (as classy and talented as ever) by far the best thing in the movie - and it's not even a sex part!
The sex is the only -slightly- redeeming quality of the flick. For once there are a lot of buttfucks here: Sunset Thomas, Juli Ashton, Tyffany Million plus a Jeanna Fine DP. But the editing once again blows it with it's billion cuts, and the director doesn't help either with his stupid camera twists and extreme closeup. The Jeanna Fine DP is like it never happened: one doesn't get to see anything apart from a bunch of -RAPIDLY alternating of course- closeups of the face and butt. I just feel sorry for the girls who went through the whole ordeal of fleet enema-lube-anal poking for nothing. Even when Ninn refrains from the closeup, the anal is from the missionary and -of course- very little is visible. Waste of Resources (TM).
Have the VCA girls thought about a strike? :-)
"Latex" IS better than "Sex" - but that doesn't say much. Rating 0.70, mainly on the merit of the buttfucks and the clever joke (as I saw it, it probably wasn't meant in jest but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) with Sunset Thomas fake cum "facial" in the end.
VCA offerings are not all bad. "Pubic Access" is decent, if bland, mainly on the strength of Juli Ashton yet again. Where would VCA be without this angel? Jon Dough yet again, as obnoxious as ever, but at least this time he's overshadowed by the king of porn kitch, the Hedge himself (non-sex as I remember). The duo pretend to be in charge of a public access TV show that features porn stars as its guests and fucking as its main attraction. Hey, I've come across sillier premises! The vignettes are ok with Juli as expected being the highlight. Rather surprisingly she doesn't do anal but we'll forgive her I think :-).
Harmless little flick. Recommended for Juli fans only. Rating: 2.25
"The Scarlet Woman" is one of those few Juli Ashton flicks before she went exclusive for VCA. Director has written a very nice step by step review so again I don't need to go into great detail (so sue me Jamal! :-)).
Along with Juli star Barbara Doll and Kirsty Waay - which is nice, Rachel Love -which is indifferent, and Bunny Bleu -which is horrible and sad (for we haven't forgotten the athletic, slim, sweet and NATURAL Bunny of the 80s). The plot is rather silly but not particularly horrid: TT Boy is a -most convincingly- repulsive mayor who wants to oppress poor Juli for her anal habits. O the moral conflicts of porn plots! :-) Our mayor has a nice French wife (Barbara Doll, whom, as I've said before, I like a lot and fuck them viruses) and an even nicer prenuptial agreement to get his dick sucked 5 times a day. Nice outdoor BJ. Barb also has sex with Steven St. Croix for no real reason (RAC included of course); again for no real reason Kirsty Waay does TT Boy, and afterwards Tom Byron and Rachel Love (outdoors scene). All very nice sex scenes, Kirsty Waay definetely stealing the show for the moment with her girl-next-door looks and FLAT chest (now sadly RIP as I hear -the chest, not Kirsty).
Decidedly LESS nice is Bunny Bleu's g-g with Juli. There are some things I can't bear to watch even with Juli being a part. Finally, we get back to the plot, with Juli being branded with wearing a scarlet A as a humiliation for her tastes. Naturally such a state of affairs can't last for long in a porno, and soon Juli is plunged into a hot and dirty scene with Marc Wallice and Tom Byron. For those who are in the know, the name "Marc Wallice" should by itself warn you as to what this scene contains.
Since this is Juli's only DP with human dicks (she's done dick-and-dildo DP in DMJ5) and the action is well captured, "Scarlet Woman" is a must rent only because of that. But the rest of the scenes (with the exception of hapless Bunny Bleu) are also very nice, and the occasional outdoor shots are most welcome frills as well. I wouldn't go as far as to buy the thing, but I would not think twice about renting it.