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24 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Screwed (John Wynn, 2013)

I swear I already wrote a review of this movie, but I can't find it anywhere. Oh, well, let's try it again.

When it comes to what is now known as the "late night comedy", which is basically the eighties teen sex comedy but with older protagonists, the main problem is that they tend to be rom-coms with an added softcore component. The caveat here should be obvious; you mess it up and you end up with the worst parts of rom-com and the worst parts of softcore with none of the good stuff. While Screwed is not a perfect movie by any means, Wynn (turning in his first feature) and screenwriter Eric Rogers (Futurama) come up with some inventive and fun ways to get around those pitfalls while turning in a cute movie that's actually sort of intelligent.

Plot: Will (Resolution's Kurt David Anderson), at the beginning of the movie, seems to have it good, though not good enough that he's not selling the prize of his comic book collection to get the scratch for an engagement ring. He's about to pop the question to Jen (The 40-Year-Old Virgin's Brianna Brown), his girlfriend of eighteen months... until he gets to her house and walks in on her with another guy. During the ensuing fight, she reveals that Will is a terrible lover, and he gets confirmation of this from every former squeeze he can track down. It's at this point that we find out that the rest of Will's life is just about as messed up as his love life. His crazy father (The Amazing Spider-Man's Kevin McCorkle) has moved in with him but is still stalking his wife, boss Ryan (I Am That Girl's Matt Ferrucci) is a sexist pig who hits on any woman who comes into the low-rent party supply store where Will works while dreaming of being a comic book writer, a dream encouraged by his best friend Nathan (Georgia Rule's Nathan Moore), an illustrator. While returning some adult videos for his dad, he stumbles upon a videocassette that guarantees to turn him into one of the world's legendary lovers as long as he follows its rules. Desperate to win Jen back, he gives it a go, but then immediately meets Emma (Movie 43's Julie McNiven), a girl-next-door type who works at a doggie day care near the party supply store. The attraction between the two is obvious, but is Will smart enough to realize it, and can he keep his tape-ordered extracurricular activities a secret from both of his paramours?

The good, though I will say that judging by some of the user reviews I've read, YMMV on whether these are good points: the filmmakers avoided both the softcore and the rom-com pitfalls. They avoided the softcore pitfalls by keeping the movie almost entirely nudity-free (there are a few bare-butt shots). This has proven... somewhat unpopular with viewers of the film who have reviewed it online. But it served its purpose well: the absence of T&(almost)A challenges film viewers to focus on the story and characters. In a sex comedy, that's almost courting disaster...unless you know you have the skills. This script does. A lot of the minor characters are disturbingly hilarious; Will's father is ridiculous, and the family who run the video rental place are the source of many of the movie's most uncomfortable laughs. The major characters, on the other hand, are generally well-drawn. (Jen is the exception; I assumed this was a conscious decision, though I wouldn't necessarily say it was a good one.)

The bad things are a little more distressing, though again, YMMV. I know a number of people like Ryan. None of them are in any way funny, and neither is he. There's also one character-breaking joke that is mean-spirited in the extreme (you'll know it when you get to it) and completely blows Will's character, albeit temporarily. It's also predictable, but I tried not to take off for that one. After all, what was the last rom-com you saw that wasn't?

None of the bad things are enough for me to say you shouldn't see this. Go into it with no expectations, turn your brain off, and have a good time. ** 1/2

I'm Not Jesus Mommy

I'm Not Jesus Mommy

27 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm Not Jesus Mommy (Vaughn Juares, 2010)

For the first third or so of its length, save some subpar acting, I'm Not Jesus Mommy is an intriguing little low-budget movie that, on many levels, makes perfect sense. Kimberly Gabriel (Bridget McGrath in her first feature), an obstetrician, is haunted by her own inability to conceive. When maverick researcher Roger Gibson (Living Arrangements' Charles Hubbell) approaches her with a fat government contract and some snake oil about human cloning, she resists at first, but eventually sees the opportunity in light of her own ulterior motives. The obvious question becomes: how far will a woman go to have a baby?

Then we skip forward seven years, and everything goes to hell. Earth is locked in the middle of a new ice age. The streets are dangerous, there is little food to go around, and Roger, Roger's sister, Kimberly, and Kimberly's son David are holed up in a small apartment, only going out when absolutely necessary to procure food. The entire remainder of the film takes place in that apartment.

Sounds promising, no? And perhaps in the right hands, the final two-thirds of the movie could have been turned into the kind of tense sci-fi thriller that Vaughn Juares obviously intended this to be. But, and isn't there always a "but" after a statement like that?, it...isn't. I'm not entirely sure how to put this tactfully, so I'll go with "I'm not Jesus Mommy rivals The Room for moments of unintentional hilarity." One-room dramas live and die based on the quality of the actors involved, so the "some subpar acting" of the first third, which you can gloss over with everything else going on, takes center stage. Add in a script that leaves out just a little too much to be impressionist and never avoids cliché-in fact, runs headlong into it as often as possible-and you've got something that ends up being a chore to sit through. Don't hit play on this one unless you have prepared yourself for an overdose of cheese. *

Dark Feed

Dark Feed

27 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Dark Feed (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, 2013)

I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to give Dark Feed a go. I mean, it was kind of doomed from the start. But still, I figured there might still be a touch of meat left on those old bones. And I still believe that, somewhere, there might be. It is not to be found here, however.

Premise: a film crew rents an abandoned, and supposedly haunted, asylum for a bit. They move in, set up shop, and start filming a low-budget horror movie. But soon enough they discover that either they've got a psycho in their midst or the place really is haunted.

Sound familiar? It should if you've watched a few horror movies. This is a run-of-the-mill haunted house flick with the requisite bevy of attractive women and brainless men. There's one character who points to the Rasmussen brothers intending this as a satire of the movie industry (or perhaps just the big studio system), but if so, that message kind of got lost in the mix; it's certainly not done here as well as it is in, say, Golia's Killer Shrimps. I ended up feeling like if they'd puched the envelope anywhere at all in this movie, done one thing different than everyone else making low-budget DTV horror, I might have found something more to enjoy in it. Sadly, that was not the case. * 1/2

Porn Shoot Massacre

Porn Shoot Massacre

27 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Porn Shoot Massacre (Corbin Timbrook, 2009)

I am sure that, somehow, it is possible for Porn Shoot Massacre to have been a worse film than it is. I cannot think of one off the top of my head, but I am certain it exists. Don't believe me? I'd tell you to hit play and see for yourself,

Plot: Malfini (Bedazzled's Robert E. Ambrose), a mysterious director with very wealthy backers, is recruiting porn stars for a new movie. Seven of the biggest names in the business decide to give it a go. As each gets there, they discover that the set is nothing like they have ever worked on, and Malfini himself seems a little... off. Given the title of the film, I'm sure it wouldn't be a spoiler to tell you that porn is not what Malfini is intending to film...

Here's a bit of suspension of disbelief for you: Malfini's mustache and beard are just as fake as Son of Ghoul's, and yet no one seems to notice until halfway through the movie. If no one had noticed at all, I could have put it down to a special effects budget of zero. If everyone had noticed, they could have made it into a (bad, but still) running gag. Instead, they threw in the one girl who kind of notices something's up, but doesn't quite connect the dots. There's an obvious conclusion to be drawn that, taken to its logical conclusion, has some pretty dark things to say about disposable characters in slasher films and what the scriptwriters who utilize them think about said characters. Or it could have just been brainless stereotyping, your call. In either case, even had the movie had a shred of sympathy by that point, it would have lost it there. I won't go so far as to call it blatantly offensive, but it's braindead, manages neither chills nor laughs, and is likely to have you rooting for the killer right quick. 1/2



31 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Jeffrey (Christopher Ashley, 1995)
[originally posted 1Feb2002]

What a wonderful little film this is, easily one of the best releases of 1995. Unfortunately, it went almost unnoticed by everyone but a few stray critics and some hardcore Trekkies who were able to withstand the traumatization of witnessing Jean-Luc Picard running around behaving like a flaming queen. (One can easily imagine Patrick Stewart imitating Alan Rickman's immortal one-liner from Galaxy Quest: "I played Richard III...")

Jeffrey is a love story gone horribly awry in the best of ways. A young gay man named Jeffrey (Steven Weber, probably best-known for taking on the role of Jack Torrance in the recent miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining), obsessed with the spread of HIV, swears off sex, much to the horror of his best friend Sterling (Stewart). Needless to say, as soon as he decides this, he meets Mr. Right, a chap named Steven (Michael T. Weiss before his Pretender days). As we go through boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy-gets-boy-into-pickle, boy-gets-pickle-into-boy, we're treated to a number of sideshows in Jeffrey and Steve's fantasy lives (some of which are positively horrific; Jeffrey's imagining of how a phone conversation with his parents might go is the kind of thing recurring nightmares are made of), a twisted self-help guru (Sigourney Weaver) who tries to get Jeffrey over his fear of intimacy, some sidebars with Sterling and Sterling's AIDS-infected lover (the deliciously funny Bryan Batt), and various other pratfalls. The end result is hysterical in all the right places.

What struck the few people who noticed the film back in 1995 was the transplanting of the typical Hollywood slapstick-romance-forties-comedy framework onto a gay relationship; these days that's common enough we can forget about that angle. Today we look at it and are astounded at the number of bit players in this film who have gone on to stardom; Stewart and Weaver were the only really big names in the cast at the time, but since then Weiss, Camryn Manheim, Kathy Najimy, Ethan Phillips, and a host of others have all become recognizable faces. Either the casting director was a genius or the movie was simply a secretarial pool from which every major Hollywood agent has since drawn. Either way, it's a great film to play spot-the-future-star with, in addition to its many other fine qualities.

Very, very highly recommended in every way, shape, and form. **** 1/2

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