Thursday, 31 December 2015

Whiplash (5 Stars)

This is a tale of passion and obsession. It's all about music. That's something that people can become passionate about. That's something that people can become obsessive about. When I was in school kids made fun of one another because of their tastes in music. Some of the kids capitulated and pretended to like what the others liked. Not me. I stood my ground. I never lied about what I liked.

When I was at school my favourite album was "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh" by Magma, but my tastes have shifted over the years. If you asked me today, December 31st 2015, what my favourite album is I would say "Master of Reality" by Black Sabbath. Two years ago I would probably have said "Irrlicht" by Klaus Schulze. If you ask me again next year I might say something else. At this point in my life I have more of a passion for live music than recorded music. The atmosphere and the spontaneity of live performances is much more exciting than listening to a polished studio recording at home.

The film is about two men who share a passion. One is Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), a music professor, the conductor of a music school jazz band, who dreams about finding a new Charlie Parker among his students. The other is Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a boy who has been drumming since childhood and dreams of becoming the next Buddy Rich.

The two clash from the beginning. The professor recognises Andrew's talent, but he doesn't show it. He exercises tough love, yelling at his smallest mistakes. He even promotes an inferior drummer over him in order to motivate him.

The unspoken love and respect between the two turns to hate. It became apparent to me today that the film follows the plot rules of romantic comedies, as ironic as that may seem. Andrew is the girl in the relationship. If you analyse the film carefully you'll see what I mean.

There's one thing I've noticed in my years of listening to music. In the 1970's, maybe into the 1980's, there were a lot of true virtuosos as drummers in rock groups. Their drumming was an integral part of the songs their groups performed, and during live concerts they usually performed drum solos. Examples are Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). Even the lesser skilled drummers of amateur bands felt the need to emulate the greats and insert at least a short drum solo into their concerts. That's changed today. Most of the drummers I know in rock groups today are what I call solid. They keep the rhythm, they support the rest of the group, but they don't stand out as musicians in their own right. If you want to hear a first rate drummer today you have to listen to jazz.

Incidentally, the last CD that I bought this year was "Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung" by Grausame Töchter. Let's see what my first CD in 2016 will be. I don't have any plans, yet.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (5 Stars)

I know I've seen this film before, but it was a long, long time ago. It must have been on television when I was still living with my parents. It's an old film, made in 1953, before I was born. That gives me a strange feeling, which might be shared by some of my readers. It seems somehow bizarre to see young, attractive people on screen, knowing that they're either dead or very old today.

Let's get the film's title out of the way first. "Gentlemen prefer blondes" is nonsensical in the context of the film. Jane Russell is a brunette, but she gets just as much male attention as her blonde co-star Marilyn Monroe. Do gentlemen really prefer blondes? I doubt it. It would be more accurate to say that gentlemen prefer women with big breasts, but that wouldn't be as catchy as a film title.

Marilyn Monroe made about 30 films in her career, of which I've only seen a few, maybe half a dozen. This is probably her most famous film, alongside "Some like it hot". Despite being an intelligent woman, at the peak of her career (in the 1950's) she was typecast as a dumb blonde. In fact, she's such a dumb blonde that her performances seem like a caricature. Even if Marilyn or someone like her lived today, I couldn't imagine her making films like these. We've become too politically correct. Misguided feminists would complain about the degrading portrayal of women, although I think that it's the men who are really stupid.

The film is about two showgirls, Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell). They're best friends, but their attitudes towards men are the exact opposite. Dorothy is attracted to men for their looks, whereas Lorelei is attracted to men for their wealth. It could be argued that they're both shallow, in different ways. Lorelei, for all her apparent lack of intelligence, is the smart one who knows how to manipulate men.

Lorelei has a millionaire boyfriend in New York, Gus. She plans to marry him in Paris, but his father doesn't allow him to travel with her and she goes ahead alone. On the ship she meets a rich old man, Francis Beekman, who owns a diamond mine. He's already married, but that doesn't matter to her, she just wants his money. She affectionately calls him Piggy. Lorelei doesn't need to go all the way to get what she wants. After dancing with him and hugging him she persuades Piggy to give her his wife's diamond tiara, telling the insurance company that it was stolen.

Lorelei's fiancé Gus is a fool, but he isn't a complete fool. Or maybe he is. He hires a private detective to observe her on the ship and in Paris. When he sees the photos of her in an embrace with Piggy he breaks off the engagement. Soon after he changes his mind and travels to Paris to marry her, because he loves her anyway. Lorelei loves him, for the time being at least. He's a millionaire, a perfect catch for her. The film ends with the wedding, but what would have happened in the sequel? If Gus lost all his money in the stock market Lorelei would have looked for a new Piggy to give her what she wanted.

Incidentally, for all her naivety Dorothy is also aware of the power of Woman. Speaking to Lorelei about the detective she says, "If we can't empty his pockets between us we're not worthy of the name woman".

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Poker House (4 Stars)

"You lock the door on me, I lock the door on you".

There's one thing I'm curious about in this film. I know it takes place in the far distant past, 1976, but were 14-year-olds really allowed to drive?

The film was written and directed by the actress Lori Petty, based on her own life. It tells the story of a single day in her life in 1976, when she was 14. This was probably the most important day in her life, because it's the day when she was raped by her mother's pimp.

Lori (called Agnes in the film) and her two sisters lived with their mother in a whorehouse in Iowa. They had to care for themselves, because their mother was always high on drink or drugs, usually both. Effectively, Agnes was the replacement mother for her two younger sisters. Despite her responsibility at home, she excelled at school, getting straight A's in all subjects.

This is a sad, depressing film. It's life. Life isn't always pleasant. On the positive side, let this be an example for the people who blame the way they turn out on their childhood. Lori Petty had an awful childhood, but she turned out to be a highly educated and successful woman.

P. S. In England the film was renamed "Behind closed doors".

General: Top Films of 2015

This is something I haven't done in previous years, but I was prompted by a recent conversation with a friend. What were the 10 best new films of 2015? To qualify for inclusion in the list I have to have seen a film in the cinema this year. Maybe that's a bit unfair, because there are excellent foreign films that are never shown in UK cinemas, or at least not in Birmingham where I live. I've been told that London has more underground cinemas. Apart from that, if I'm ever sick in bed and don't go to the cinema for a few weeks a first class film might be omitted. That wasn't the case this year. I've been going to the cinema regularly all year round, and I don't believe I've missed anything that would deserve inclusion.

As is typical for me, it's a very subjective list. I've included the films that speak to me. If I feel an inner resonance from a film that makes it more memorable than everything else I've seem, it's in the list.

1. Ip Man 3

I only saw this a few days ago, and it was a last minute addition to the top 10 list that I had already made a few days before Christmas. Apart from Bollywood films it's very rare for Birmingham cinemas to show foreign films.

2. The Walk

Believe it or not, I almost didn't go to see this film in the cinema. It was shown only as IMAX in my regular cinema, Cineworld, and I've always considered IMAX to be overrated. It's not worth the additional price for the ticket. Sure, it's a bigger screen, but I can get just as much out of a smaller screen if I sit closer to the front.

3. Big Game

This was the surprise hit of the year. I went to see it because it starred Samuel L. Jackson, one of my favourite actors, but the overall quality is astounding. It's a relatively small budget film that puffs up its chest and yells to everyone, "Hey, I'm big budget!"

4. Whiplash

This is generally considered to be a 2014 film, but it wasn't released until 2015 in the UK. It's a film with a plot that sounds boring, but when people sit down and watch it they're amazed.

5. Steve Jobs

I didn't give this film a full five star rating when I reviewed it. That was probably a mistake. As a minimalist work of art this is a masterpiece.

6. Birdman

This was another 2014 film that wasn't shown in the UK until 2015. As you probably know it won the Academy Award for best film and best director. More than anything the cinematography, the long shots, impressed me.

7. Unfriended

This was doubtlessly the most original film of the year. It invented its own genre, and so far nobody has dared imitate it, with the exception of Internet parodies. If I read one more review where it's called a "found footage" film I'll scream. Those critics just don't get it.

8. Love & Mercy

This was another surprisingly good film. Surprising to me, that is. I've never been a fan of the Beach Boys, but the heart-rending story of Brian Wilson touched me deeply.

9. Ex Machina

This is the only science fiction film that's made it into my top 10 list. It's a very low-key drama, but fascinating throughout.

10. Royal Night Out

I was unsure until the last minute whether to include this. It's a pseudo-true story, based on a real event about which almost nobody knows anything.

What's remarkable when I look through my list is that I haven't included any comedies. I love comedies! In past years there would have been comedies, if I'd been making lists. My favourite comedians, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, haven't been on top form this year. There are also no Marvel films, which there definitely would have been in a 2014 list.

Please, readers, leave comments on what you think should or shouldn't be in my list. Better still, leave your personal top 10 lists in the comments section.

Before writing this post I decided to look at the top 10 film lists on other web sites, and they're awful. I don't mean that the lists are awful, the sites are awful. They're all packed full with ads that slow down the page load times. Computers are much faster than they were when I first started using the Internet in 1995, but for every speed increase web designers find a way to compensate with junk that slows down pages. The problem is that so many writers, even amateur bloggers like myself, want to earn money from what they write. They do this by packing their pages full of ads that nobody wants to see. This ruins their pages. Just look at the minimal purity of my blog. The only "ads" are links to Amazon in the sidebar, and as non-scripted links they don't slow down page load times at all.

Many of the top 10 film lists are a paper chain of links over 10 different pages. Apologists might say that this is to build up suspense, but that's just a lame excuse. The truth is that they want 10 pages of ads, so that they earn 10 times as much for ad clicks. That's disgusting. What happened to journalistic integrity? I consider my site to be an example of what all film review sites should look like.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Guest (4 Stars)

Is the guest really here to help, as the poster says? If that were the case it would be a boring film. When he arrives it seems like he's come to help, but I'm sure that even viewers who didn't watch the trailer can guess that he isn't as benevolent as he pretends to be.

Maybe "pretends" is the wrong word. David Collins really is benevolent when he arrives at the Petersen household to give them a message from their dead son Caleb. He sees it as his duty to Caleb, his best friend in the armed forces, to look after the family. The trouble is that his main priority is self-preservation. When the teenage daughter Anna begins to find out his secrets he does whatever he can to prevent her succeeding.

Questions are left open in the film. It's obvious that this is deliberate, in order to prepare for a sequel, but the film wasn't successful enough to justify a sequel. That's a shame. Dan Stevens is marvellous as the mysterious guest, fully convincing whether he's being friendly or violent. His charm wins over both the family and the viewers.

An important part of the film is the soundtrack. From beginning to end it features amazing electronic music from the 1980's and 1990's, in particular songs by DAF and Front 242. It was difficult for me not to sit tapping my feet while I was watching the film.

Off-Topic: Kindle Paperwhite

On December 26th, after years of hesitation, I decided to order my first Kindle from Amazon. This was a tough decision for me to make, because I've loved the feel and smell of paper for years, but I finally took the plunge into the world of electronic reading, partly influenced by the cheap sales prices for Amazon's end-of-year sales.

One of the other reasons for my decision is my recent experience when moving home. I have boxes and boxes of books. They're now crammed into a small storage room, still in their boxes. They're so heavy. The trouble is my attitude to books, compared to other forms of entertainment media.

Music (CD's) -- Every CD I have ever bought has been listened to countless times.

Films (Blu-ray/DVD) -- I only buy a film on disc if I intend to watch it at least twice. I watch my favourite films a lot more often.

Books -- I rarely read a book more than once. Even my favourite book, "The Final Programme" by Michael Moorcock, has only ever been read twice. Occasionally I plan to re-read a book, but I rarely do it.

Looking at this comparison, it doesn't seem worth buying books, does it? I buy a book, read it once, then keep it in a box for years? That hardly sounds worth it. I could solve the problem by borrowing books from a library, or by giving books away after reading them. Maybe I should give away all the books in my boxes, but it gives me a bad feeling in my stomach. Even though I'll probably never read them again I can't help asking What If.

An electronic reader is a good solution, at least for new books that I haven't read yet. They don't take up space after they've been used. There's also a price advantage. Many of the books on my to-read list (which I've only delayed buying because I don't have the space for new books) are either free or very cheap.

I decided to buy an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite for a few reasons. It's the e-reader with the highest screen resolution, 300 dpi. It also has the longest battery life, running for weeks on a single charge. This is in contrast to other e-readers which are really only modified computer tablets and carry the ballast of a full power-hungry operating system.

I can't review the product in detail, because I only received it yesterday. The only book I've read so far is the "Kindle Paperwhite User's Guide", and I have to say that it was a pleasant experience. I felt no eye strain, which is a common bias against e-readers. I already know what the first book is that I want to read, so I might write more when I've read it. This is a new experience for me. But don't worry, readers, I shan't read so much that I don't have time to watch films.

Daddy's Home (3½ Stars)

"Most of what Dads do is take shit. It's what we do".

"Daddy's home" is a film that deals with a very serious subject in a comical manner. Will Ferrell plays Brad Whitaker, a hard-working radio executive, an all-round good guy. He marries Sara, a divorcee with two children. Sara was abandoned by her first husband, Dusty, because he wasn't willing to take responsibility. Dusty was a bad boy who liked to party hard. To sum things up, Sara's first husband was Mr. Excitement, and her second husband is Mr. Responsibility.

Sara is happy with Brad. There may have been a time in her life when she preferred Dusty, but now that she has children her priorities have shifted. She doesn't want a man who parties every day, she wants a man who will drive her children to and from school and other events.

Now Dusty comes back to visit his children. He does love them, even though it's too much of a hassle driving them around. Dusty's first impression of Brad is that he isn't good enough for his children and ex-wife. He pretends to be friendly, but he's secretly scheming to drive Brad away and win Sara back. As for the children, they love Dusty most as their real father.

That's the crux of the matter. It's something that every man who marries a woman with children has to deal with. In almost all cases children love their real father more than their step-father. It's natural. The step-father can never take first place in their hearts however much he tries. The best he can do is come a close second.

As already mentioned, this is a comedy. We see both men trying to be something they aren't. Dusty tries to take responsibility, but he isn't mature enough to succeed. Brad tries to impress his children by being as wild as Dusty, and he just makes a fool of himself in the process. Apart from that, Brad's attempts at being wild alienate his wife, because she doesn't want a man like that.

As a comedy, the film is packed with jokes that veer between slapstick and farce. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the humour, but mostly I was left cold. Maybe the subject matter is something that's difficult to laugh at? I'm not sure. Overall I was more impressed by Mark Wahlberg's serious acting than Will Ferrell's comedy performance.

Monday, 28 December 2015

In the Heart of the Sea (4 Stars)

This is the true story that inspired the famous American novel "Moby Dick". Following the style of 10th Century novellas, it begins in 1850, but most of the story takes place in 1820.

The author Herman Melville visits an inn owned by Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last remaining survivor of the Essex, a whaleship that was lost at sea. Nickerson has never told the story of the ship to anyone, so Melville offers him a large bribe. Not even this can persuade Nickerson, racked by guilt over what happened, but Nickerson's wife insists that he should take the money.

In 1820 the Essex sailed to sea to kill whales for oil. At that time whales were the soul source of the oil that was used for home and street lighting. The most experienced sailor was Owen Chase (Christ Hemsworth), but another man, George Pollard, was picked as captain because of his family connections. That was the journey's first mistake. When lives are at stake an inexperienced man shouldn't be put in charge.

After mishaps on the voyage the Essex finally finds a large school of whales, but their attempts to kill a large white whale lead to their ship being sunk, hundreds of miles from land. They escape in lifeboats, but the whale follows them. When the food runs out the men have to resort to desperate measures to survive, including cannibalism.

This is a visually spectacular film. There are first class performances by all the actors, but Brendan Gleeson stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Scream 3 (5 Stars)

This is the final film in the Scream trilogy. As is usual in the third part of a trilogy, "All bets are off". Nothing that we think we knew after watching the first two parts is certain. New secrets are uncovered that contradict everything.

As such, this is the film that neatly wraps up the story. We don't need a fourth instalment, and we definitely don't need a TV series. "Scream 3" reveals everything that we need to know.

The End.

Scream 2 (5 Stars)

After watching "I know what you did last summer" and "I still know what you did last summer" two days ago I've decided to continue with the teen slasher theme for this Christmas. If you can't watch horror films at Christmas, when can you watch them?

In my opinion, the time from 1996 to 2000 was the pinnacle of horror films. In those five years the best five horror films of all time were made, all of them teen slasher movies, and nothing since has even come close. That's the two aforementioned films and the Scream trilogy.

What made them so good? Two names are connected with them more than any others. Wes Craven directed the three Scream films.

Kevin Williamson wrote the screenplay for the first two Scream films and "I know what you did last summer".

That doesn't mean that these two giants of cinema were solely responsible. Neither of them were involved with "I still know what you did last summer", but it was nevertheless a brilliant film. They reunited to make "Scream 4" in 2011 which was a very good film, but not up to the standard of the first three.

Wes Craven passed away last August. Kevin Williamson is still active, though mostly in television series, including "The Vampire Diaries". I'm hoping that a new film of similar brilliance will be made, with or without his participation.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Ip Man 3 (5 Stars)

I've been waiting to see this film for a long time. It must be at least six months since I first heard about it. Donnie Yen had been persuaded to make a third Ip Man film, despite his long resistance. He felt that he was too old to do the role justice, and he thought that "Ip Man 2" was so perfect that it shouldn't be spoilt by an inferior sequel.

The film was surrounded by controversy. It was announced that Bruce Lee would appear in the film as a CGI-generated character. This made fans groan, despite assurances that he would look completely genuine in the film, not like a cartoon character. The director Wilson Yip backed down at the last minute, and Bruce Lee was played by the actor Danny Chan who had already portrayed Bruce Lee in the TV series "The Legend of Bruce Lee".

Then the film was pushed into the cinemas so fast that I almost missed it. The official release date was set at January 16th, 2016, but my regular cinema, Cineworld, decided to screen it for two days only, on December 24th and 25th, 2015. Those are probably the worst possible dates for cinema screenings, but it wasn't a problem for someone like me who doesn't celebrate Christmas. I went to see it today.

Has Donnie Yen lost his magic at the age of 52? Is he past it? Based on the evidence of "Ip Man 3" the answer is a resounding No. He shows the same speed and agility as in the first two films. He's much more convincing as Ip Man than Tony Leung in "Grandmaster", which only has value as a stylishly beautiful film, not as a martial arts epic, because Tony Leung moves like a ballet dancer rather than a fighter.

The tone of "Ip Man 3" is more subdued and less xenophobic than the first two films. The first film was very anti-Japanese, and the second film very anti-English. It's true, "Ip Man 3" does talk about the foreign devils, which refers primarily to the English rulers, but it's not forced on the viewer to the same extent. I'm not sure about the nationality of Mike Tyson in the film. Yes, I know he's an American, but his character Frank might be supposed to be English. It's not so obvious.

In the film Frank is a property developer. He also makes money from people gambling on fights in his clubs. He's purchased all the buildings in an area he wants except for a school. Frank sends his thugs to put pressure on the headmaster to sell, but he doesn't reckon with the interference of Ip Man, whose son visits this school.

There are various sub-plots. The main one is the rivalry of another Wing Chun master called Cheung, whose loyalties are divided. His son also visits the same school, but he's a poor rickshaw puller who makes extra money by fighting in Frank's contests. He feels the need to prove to everyone, especially to his son, that he is the best Wing Chun fighter. Another sub-plot is the failing health of Ip Man's wife. And then there's Bruce Lee.

If anything, I was disappointed by the limited screen time of Bruce Lee. We never actually see him fight, even though Danny Chan is a skilled martial artist in his own right. We only see Bruce Lee teaching Ip Man how to dance in return for becoming his pupil. That's touching in its own way, but I would like to have seen him throw a few punches.

Even though this is the least historically accurate of all three Ip Man films, it's highly enjoyable. The martial arts battles are stunning, and the emotional episodes are moving. This is the best film I've seen in the cinema all year. I just regret that it's being shown on such ridiculous dates that most people will miss it.

I still know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

This film was made in 1998 and it's a sequel to the 1997 film, "I know what you did last summer". It unwrites the final scene of the first film, unless it was only a dream. I hate dream sequences in films. As a plot device they're weak. Something terrible happens, and then surprise! It wasn't real! "I still know what you did last summer" also opens with a dream sequence. Maybe I can forgive it just this once because it's at the beginning, and there are no more dreams later on. It doesn't disrupt things the way the dreams do in "Scream 3".

Films with names as long as this are a nightmare for film reviewers. Let's shorten the name to Iskwydls. Actually, that sounds like a plural, so I'll drop the final S and call it Iskwydl. That looks too much like the name of a Welsh heavy metal band, so I'll spell it Iskwiddle. Much better! And I'll call the previous film Ikwiddle, or better still Ickwiddle.

Is Iskwiddle as good as Ickwiddle? My gut feeling tells me Yes, despite logical reasons for it not to be. The psychological thriller trait of the film is missing, because it's obvious to everyone from early on who the killer is. Even the attempt to shift blame onto the creepy housekeeper Estes doesn't bring it back. Only the new characters suspect Estes. Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), as the only member of the original cast on the island, never ceases to blame the fisherman Ben Willis for the killings.

Julie's new friends from college, Karla and Tyrell, are shallow, but that makes them perfect for the film. Isn't it the shallow college kids who always get killed first? I almost applauded when Tyrell was finally killed. He deserved it. (Oops, was that a spoiler?)

The film does have one fatal flaw in the cinematography. I'm sure it was done deliberately, but I can't imagine why. All the teenagers have unnaturally smooth faces. There's not a single blemish, not a mark, not a spot, nothing. When I had a small television set 10 years ago it didn't bother me, but now that I have a 42" flatscreen TV it looks unnatural. I never saw the film in the cinema, but I can imagine the effect is even greater on a giant screen. The only explanation I can imagine is that the director/cinematographer wanted a bigger contrast between the teenagers and the older people in the film. But why? Ickwiddle didn't do it, so why should Iskwiddle?

I was sad that there was never a third film. Iskwiddle ends on a cliff-hanger, which would have had to be unwritten first, but that's happened before. All a dream, right? It's too late now. Any attempt to continue or reboot the Ickwiddle series at this late date would be a disaster. We need a new, high quality teen slasher franchise. Any ideas?

I know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

In November I published and reviewed a list of my 30 films to watch before you die. You can find a list of the 30 films in chronological order in this post (or in the sidebar, if you're reading my blog on a PC). I mentioned a couple of times that it wasn't the list of my 30 favourite films. They were all films that I love, they were all 5-star films, but not necessarily what I consider to be the films I enjoy the most. I omitted a few of my favourite films from the list to make room for films that I consider to be important viewing for film fans. This is an example. It's definitely in my top 20 favourite films, maybe even the top 10. I consider it to be the best horror film ever made, but I omitted it to make room for the more original "Scream".

That isn't to say that "I know what you did last summer" isn't original. It follows the set pattern of slasher movies, i.e. an unstoppable killer working his way up from the minor characters to the major characters (of whom usually only one survives for the sequel), but it also has aspects of a psychological thriller. Throughout the film nobody knows who the killer is, and the friends suspect one another.

The film has some gore, but not too much. It's a perfect balance between suspense and gore. The jumps in the film aren't as artificial as in more recent films. It's a film that makes you sit on the edge of your seat from the beginning to the end. This is all backed up by the astoundingly perfect performance of the four young actors in the main roles. Sarah Michelle Gellar made the film after filming the first season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Jennifer Love Hewitt had already had some success as a child actress, but this was her breakthrough role as an adult (or at least a late teenager).

During the making of this film Sarah Michelle Gellar met Freddie Prinze Jr, who she married three years later in 2000. They've been together ever since. Who says that Hollywood marriages don't last?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros (4 Stars)

This is the 23rd film in the Medina Collection, made in 2009. It stars Christine Nguyen as Dr. Jones, an adventurer working in partnership with the CIA. She has to find the Temple of Eros before her enemy, Evilla Cruella (Heather Vandeven) finds it. The temple contains a mystical tiara, and whoever wears it will become the Queen of Moronica. I wonder if this is the same kingdom as Moronico, which we see in "Erotic Dreams of Jeannie" and some of the other early Medina films.

The mission isn't as easy as it sounds. The temple is guarded by a prehistoric monster.

But Christine Nguyen never gives up. Don't argue with a girl with a gun.

Ted Newsom is head of the CIA, still sporting a very manly beard.

But that's all that's manly about him. He's a closet drag queen. He puts on his prettiest dress and steals the tiara for himself. That's a sight I never want to see again. On the other hand, he doesn't look as bad as Heather Vandeven when she takes off her clothes and reveals her hideous scars to the world.

Housewives From Another World (4 Stars)

This is the 24th film in the Medina Collection, made in 2009.

Yesterday one of my friends criticised me for reviewing so many erotic films recently. He wants me to get back to reviewing normal films. I'm sorry that he doesn't like my recent reviews, but at the same time I thank him for being a regular reader. It's only temporary. As soon as I've finished reviewing all 32 films in the Medina Collection I'll return to reviewing what he calls normal films. However, I'd like to defend my reviews. Erotic films, even pornographic films, can be of very high quality. Fred Olen Ray puts great care into making all his films. He has artistic integrity. I would also like to ask, if I don't review these films who will? I'm not aware of any other film site that has reviewed all 32 films in sequence. That was my intention when I started. I originally thought I would space them out and watch them over a period of two months or longer, but I've had such fun re-watching them that I'm progressing faster than expected, and I'll probably finish them by the first week of January. During this time I haven't been watching the Medina films exclusively. I've been going to the cinema to watch new films, and I've watched a few older films on disc, such as "Adaptation" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". I'll probably watch another few normal films before I finish. Wait and see.

Having said that, "Housewives from another world" does have two problems. The first is Tony Marino, shown here with Christine Nguyen. The Medina films are characterised by having first class actors. Unfortunately, that doesn't apply to Tony. Ever since the 19th film, "Bikini Royale", he's been a regular, and I have to ask why. He's almost as wooden in the delivery of his lines as Keanu Reeves. More than anything else, in the sex scenes Tony seems to be bored. First he looks at the woman he's with, then he looks left, then right, and he repeats these motions non-stop. Okay, it's only fake sex for the camera, but at least he could put a bit of effort into it.

The other problem is Heather Vandeven, who plays the lead role in this film but only appears in one other film in the collection. I've read that she was picked as the Penthouse Pet of the Year in 2007. How did that happen? As you can see from the photos, she has a beautiful face and figure, but there's something wrong with her that you can't see. She must have gone cheap and got a backstreet boob job, because the scars on her breasts are awful. They look so bad that I had to cringe every time she takes her clothes off. I don't mind women having breast implants, it's their body and they can do what they like, but when the results are this dreadful I have to yell No. I'm surprised that the make-up lady didn't put on cream to hide the scars. Heather looks nasty, and this film shows off her ugliness in full detail.

At least the other girls don't look so bad. Medina regulars Christine Nguyen and Rebecca Love have perfect breasts. Take my word for it. Christine should have been chosen as Penthouse Pet of the Century.

Ted Newsom has grown a beard since the last film. You might be wondering why I show so many photos of him. If you watched the films you would know. He always carries every scene he appears in. He's a magnificent actor, whether he plays straight or comic roles.

Now for a very brief plot summary. Scientist Frankie Cullen is developing a Deep Space Satellite. A remote alien race feels endangered, because this satellite would enable the warlike people of Earth to discover them. Three aliens compress their life essences into fragments of meteor rock, and they enclose themselves in a meteor that crashes on Earth near Frankie's house. After arriving they possess the bodies of the first three women who touch the meteor rock. They scheme to prevent Frankie's invention going into development.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Bikini Royale 2 (4 Stars)

This is the 22nd film in the Medina Collection, made in 2009. It's the third film starring Beverly Lynne in her signature role as Tanya X, the Girl from BIKINI. Have my readers been paying attention? Do you know what that means? It's the Bureau of International Knowledge, Intelligence and Nonstandard Investigations. Please remember that, because I'm not going to repeat myself again.

In this adventure a secret list of all CIA, FBI and BIKINI agents has been stolen and is being offered for sale in an escort agency. Tanya is sent in to infiltrate the operation. It's a hard job pretending to be a hooker, but she does the best she can. As a perk BIKINI allows her to keep the money she earns.

Ted Newsom returns as BIKINI's head inventor. He's every bit the equal of Q in the James Bond films. Among Ted's inventions is a rocket launcher disguised as a vibrator. "Always point it away from yourself when you turn it on". Good advice.

Twilight Vamps (4 Stars)

This is the 21st film in the Medina Collection, made in 2009. It repeats the theme of the 1986 film "Vamp": female vampires work in a strip club and use their male customers as food. It's a perfect way for vampires to operate discreetly. They're never suspected. After all, men don't tell their family and friends when they go to a strip club. They sneak into the club secretly, and if they don't return home nobody knows where they've been.

Here's a snapshot of the newspaper report about a dead body. You can click on the picture to enlarge it. The headline is "Bloodless body found in dumpster". The first sentence that follows it is, "In Afghanistan the military is moving away from targeting Al Qaeda in favor of stabilizing the country". What does that have to do with vampires? Nothing at all. Sloppy.

I have a question for my readers. Let's assume you find out that you're destined to die as the victim of a vampire. Who do you want to kill you?

A. Bela Lugosi

B. Christopher Lee

C. Christine Nguyen

Please leave me a comment with your vote. I've already cast the first vote for Christine, so the results so far are:

1. Christine Nguyen: 100%
2. Bela Lugosi: 0%
3. Christopher Lee: 0%

I look forward to hearing what my readers have to say.

Be honest. Could you resist?

Monday, 21 December 2015

Bikini Frankenstein (4 Stars)

This is the 20th film in the Medina Collection, made in 2009. It finally fulfils the promise made in "Bikini Airways" (2003) that "Bikini Frankenstein" would be coming soon. Here it is!

Dr. Victor Frankenstein is a professor at one of America's top universities. His theories about bringing the dead back to life cause him to be mocked by the students and his fellow professors alike. The final straw is when he's caught having sex with the dean's daughter, He's fired, and he has to return to Transylvania in disgrace.

As the Germans say, there can be Glück im Unglück. This is a Taoist principle that has become a figure of speech. It means, roughly translated, "Good things come from bad". Back in Transylvania the scientist can dedicate his whole time to his studies. Aided only by his faithful assistant Ingrid he's able to bring a dead hooker back to life. He takes her to America to show his old colleagues that they were wrong to laugh at him.

Victor Frankenstein presents his monster. She looks a lot better than Boris Karloff.

Most of the regular cast are missing from this film, but at least we see Ted Newsom as the dean.

And then there's the stunning Christine Nguyen as Victor's ex-girlfriend. She must be one of the most beautiful actresses who has ever lived.

Bikini Royale (4 Stars)

This is the 19th film in the Medina Collection, made in 2008. The title may sound like a reference to the famous Japanese film, "Battle Royale", bit it's actually a sequel to the 2006 film, "The Girl from BIKINI". Once more it stars Beverly Lynne as the secret agent Tanya X. Whereas the first film was primarily a spoof of "The Man from UNCLE", "Bikini Royale" parodies the early James Bond films. It even uses background music that heavily plagiarises the James Bond theme.

The fate of the world is in danger. An evil mastermind, Dr. Nyet, is attempting to buy nuclear weapons to hold the world to ransom. Dr. Nyet is a woman, of course, played by the 1990's B-Movie star Monique Parent. As I've pointed out in previous reviews, the evil masterminds in the Medina films are always women. Don't ask me why. That's a question for Fred Olen Ray's psycho-analyst.

Once more Tanya is aided in her mission by the CIA undercover agent Alexandre Boisvert. He's looking remarkably smart for a change.

Tanya's equipment is supplied by the BIKINI weapons expert, Ted Newsom. He's better known as a screenwriter, but he's an incredible actor who lightens up any film he appears in.

Evan Stone is an industrial tycoon. Initially he's suspected as one of the villains trying to sell nuclear weapons to Dr. Nyet.

But he's innocent. The real villain is his girlfriend, Nicole Sheridan. She seduced him and moved into his home to use him as a cover for her evil plans. I'm jealous. Why don't any sexy spies ever use me?

Christine Nguyen plays a small but significant part in the film. The nuclear weapons are going to be sold at Evan's house during a poker game that he's hosting. Someone is going to deliberately lose one million dollars to Nicole, the payment for the weapons. There will be several guests at the poker game, and nobody knows who the buyer is. The only way to identify him is that he will lose one million dollars. Tanya plans to disrupt the deal by taking part and also losing a million dollars. That's where Christine comes in. Christine is a poker expert, and she gives Tanya instructions on how to lose money at poker. I never realised it was that difficult. In the lessons Christine doesn't play with money, they play strip poker instead.

Beware, men! These women have bigger guns!