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Film adaptation of the long-running telenovela, but with a lot more emphasis on the "tetas", 17 August 2016

Despite having a slightly different title, this seems to be a feature-film adaptation of the long-running Colombian telenovela "Sin Senos, No Hay Paraiso ("Without Breasts, There Is No Heaven"). The telenovela is much more well-known and popular in both Latin America and the US (where it is currently streaming on Netflix with English subtitles), but if you don't care for the never-ending, OTT melodrama of telenovela series and prefer a two-hour movie with a beginning, middle, and end, this might be the better way to go. (Also if you happen to be male and more interested in a lot of bared "tetas" than in soapy melodramatics. . .). This movie is similar to the telenovela in that it casts a number of VERY hot twenty-ish Columbian actresses from the middle and upper classes as younger teenage barrio-dwelling characters. So while it is an effective social commentary on the allure being a prostitute or drug moll holds for impoverished teenage colombianas, it ironically also glamorizes this same lifestyle quite a bit simply because the actresses involved are so attractive and sexually desirable.

The lead, Isabel Cristina Cadavid, is unbelievably sexy and adorable. She starts out as a uniformed schoolgirl (although she and her equally voluptuous friends look more like strippers dressed as schoolgirls). She then does a stint as bikini-clad beauty contestant. She draws the attention of local drug dealers and gets gang-raped, but continues to hang around these unsavory elements and is given as a "prize" to a major drug trafficker who has just gotten out of prison. She also has a nice-guy boyfriend on the side, even though both of them play around a lot with other people. And even though she has pretty much a perfect body to begin with, she is obsessed with getting a breast enlargement and "takes it out in trade" with the surgeon who performs the procedure. (Interestingly, the real actress seems to have gone through actual breast surgery for this movie unless these were very convincing special effects).

Unlike the telenovela, this movie does END, and you might suspect it's not going to end particularly well for a heroine who is often less-than-sympathetic and has pursued such an ill-advised lifestyle. It has an effective ending and it is a generally effective movie, even if a lot of the appeal admittedly is seeing Cadavid and her sexy friends half-naked or naked and involved in a various sexual situations.

Worth a look at least, 14 July 2016

I was interested to see this"faithful" Italian-made adaptation of the Marquis de Sades "Philosophy of the Boudoir" because, while I have seen several previous versions of this tale, they have pretty much all been directed by Eurocult/Eurooschlock director Jesus Franco (the best being the 1969 version with Marie Liljedahl, Maria Rohm, and Christopher Lee!). The Franco adaptations were all updated to the present day (circa the 1970's and 80's)and they leave out many of the principal interests of De Sade, namely his interest in libertine philosophy as well as libertine sex. The plot of "Philosophy" involves three jaded Sadean libertines--an older woman, her brother, and their foppish friend "Dolmance", who are "given" a naive young noble girl, Eugenie, by her father (who is a slavish lover of the libertine sister) in order to "educate" the young girl, both sexually and in their atheistic, libertine philosophy. This is actually the only version that focuses at all on the philosophizing, and it is naturally a lot less cinematically interesting than the sex.

Antonella Salvucci, who plays the female libertine, is very sexy and not a bad actress, but is not particularly well-suited for this role as she is probably not much older than 30 and not very believable as a jaded, older woman. Christian Stelluti, who plays a brother is a typical Italian pretty-boy who lacks the lust and wickedness to really make this role work. The actor who plays the bisexual "Dolmance", meanwhile, is flat-out annoying. He is more of a flaming, over-the-top homo stereotype than a believable bisexual and is only really effective in the sex scenes. (Perversely, Eugenie loses her "backdoor virginity" to the foppish Dolmance before she loses her actual virginity to the brother). He is as generally inappropriate in this role as Christopher Lee was in the 1969 Franco version, but for COMPLETELY opposite reasons.

Of course, the central role is the one of naive young heroine. Sara Sarti is very pretty both clothed and unclothed and she does a decent acting job, but she looks to be at least 25 and not appreciably younger than Salvucci's character, and she kind of overdoes it with the wide-eyed innocent act. Interestingly, in his most questionable adaption, "Eugenie" 1980, Jesus Franco cast an actual 14-year-old actress in this part, but that didn't work out too well either (don't expect to see a legitimate English-language release of that one anytime soon). Marie Liljedahl in the 1969 version was more of a happy medium--not as a good of actress as Sarti, but she at least LOOKED the part. But the best "Eugenie" was perhaps French actress Isild Lebesco in a fictional subplot of the French biopic "Sade", where she plays a Eugenie-like teenager from a noble family who the notorious historical figure HIMSELF is debauching both sexually and morally. As an actress, Sarti is second only to Le Besco in this role, but she is a very distant second.

Regardless, if you like your sexploitation strictly softcore with lots of pretty girls (and boys) and no small amount classy pretensions (and perhaps some small amount of genuine literary gravitas), this film is worth a look at least.

A bit boring, but with beautiful scenery and beautiful actresses, 14 July 2016

An ad executive (Anthony Steele) is looking for a new female face, or actually, uh, ass for his new blue jeans campaign. He spots a young girl in a co-ed sauna (who first sees from behind and mistakes for boy!). The girl (Annie Belle) encourages him and sexually teases him, even though she already has a husband/lover, and he becomes smitten with her, even though he already gets plenty of sex from other young models (poor guy!). After various erotic misadventures, he goes with her, her boyfriend, a photographer, and another model (Pam Grier--yes, THE Pam Grier) to a scenic island where they become stranded, and jealousy and passions erupt (. . .well, sort of).

This has some elements of an Italian giallo, but it's like one directed by David Hamilton. It has a very anemic plot and a lot of interludes with awful music (and also, to be fair, some good music). The cinematography is very beautiful, but the editing and the pacing is positively glacial. The director Luigi Scattini was a questionable talent, mostly known for documentary/mondo films like the ridiculous "Sweden Heaven or Hell". He did one quasi-giallo called "The Body" with beautiful African actress Zeuda Aruya, which I recall as being equally beautifully filmed and slightly more exciting than this one. Scattini probably wanted to film another beautiful actress of African origin in a "native" island setting, but American blaxploitation star Pam Grier is not nearly as good when she's not doing her own voice and she literally has nothing to do here, but run around in a bikini.

Anthony Steele was the husband of Anita Ekberg ("La Dolce Vita"), but HE was perhaps most famous for "The Story of O", a much more well-known, but equally insipid piece of 70's "erotica". His acting is limited, but he has a good look as a world-weary, ennui-filled older man left unsatisfied by years of sexual over-indulgence. The main strength of this movie, however, is Annie Belle, a beautiful French actress with a trademark bleach-blonde pixie cut and an absolutely PERFECT post-adolescent body. She appeared in any number of Italian exploitation films and softcore erotica during this era , even supposedly writing the screenplay for one of them (the "autobiographical" film "Blue Belle" aka "The End of Innocence"), even though she was only 18 or 19 years old at the height of career. She burned out quickly and largely disappeared, but she did leave quite a mark. Anyway, her frequent nude scenes were about the only thing keeping me awake sometimes. She is sexier all by herself than the gaggle of teenage Euro-models David Hamilton usually cast in his own to exercises of virtually plot less cinematography, largely because she could actually ACT a lot better than she was ever given credit for. This film is pretty slow-moving and boring , but it's always very nice to look at thanks to the beautiful scenery and beautiful actresses.

Patricia (1981)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
About what you'd expect, 8 July 2016

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who doesn't regularly watch brain-dead Euro-sex films (and won't know what they're in for), but by the standards of that generally dim-bulb genre this is pretty OK. It's directed by German sexpolitation director Hubert Frank, who did the superior "report"-film "Unfaithful Wives" and the memorable "Emmanuele" knock-off "Vanessa" (both currently available on legitimate DVD). It also features French actress Anne Parillaud, who later found mainstream success in movies like "La Femme Nikita" and "Innocent Blood". Even in her more "respectable" efforts, brunette beauty Parillaud managed to have full-frontal nude scenes, so naturally she has even MORE of them here.

Her character, of course, is a complete nit-wit, a spoiled heiress who brags to the media that she keeps in shape by "making love". Her father doesn't approve of her lifestyle and hires a handsome adventurer to lure her away from her no-good fiancée. But after he unexpectedly dies, leaving her his entire estate, she begins to suspect that one of her two paramours along with some members of her goofball family may be trying to kill her. . .

This movie very much resembles "Vanessa". Instead of being spanked by nuns as Olivia Pascal is in that film, Parillaud's character at one point is chased half-naked through a monestary by horny monks and then hides topless in a confessional booth (much to the consternation of the father-confessor). There's also a similar incest thing going on with her family. Like "Vanessa", "Patrizia" has an extended and completely gratuitous lesbian scene with a blonde female cousin (named "Pussy"), who in turn has sex with another male cousin while someone is trying to drown "Patizia" in the surf. There's lots of other madcap adventures as Patricia gets rides by flashing her breasts, flies around in a stolen helicopter, and helps members of her family finance a hilariously cheap-ass sword-and-sandals movie. Of course, the whole thing is dumb as hell and mostly just an excuse to bare acres of female flesh (and no small amount of male flesh), but what else would you expect from movies like this. . ?

Umberto Lenzi's, um, unusual follow-up to "Cannibal Ferox", 8 July 2016

Umberto Lenzi is perhaps most (in)famous for "Cannibal Ferox", a film that is not good maybe, but is certainly memorably brutal. This movie seems to have a similar plot with two Euro-idiots deciding to tour a Third World jungle where they encounter both a primitive tribe and vicious ruby smugglers. However, they also meet a lone teenage white girl (Sabrina Siani), who is living there for no apparent reason, and the movie becomes instead a throwback to the late 60's "female Tarzan" movies like "Luana", "Samoa", or "Tarzana". Although it was apparently filmed partly in the Dominican Republic (rather than a European zoo), this movie resembles the contemporary cheap-jack Eurocine/Jess Franco productions ("Cannibals", "Diamonds of Kilimanjaro") much more than it does the Italian cannibal epics. The "locals" seem to be a strange mixture of African and Asian, while I strongly suspect many of the "natives" are really white Europeans in grease-paint. To make matters worse, this is actually a comedy. Italian comedies are really an acquired taste (not unlike huffing paint thinner), but even by the standards of that inferior genre, this is pretty inferior.

Lenzi was fairly proficient at gialli and police thrillers (i.e. "So Sweet, So Perverse", "Almost Human"), but he demonstrates no aptitude whatsoever for screwball comedy. The male characters are all incredibly annoying, but it's hard to know whether to blame the Italian actors or the talentless idiots responsible for dubbing them into English. Then there's barely legal Euro-model Sabrina Siani, who had a great body, but absolutely no idea how to use it. It wasn't that she was a bad actress so much as that she was simply NOT an actress. She never really made any attempt to act, just letting her pert young breasts and her post-adolescent derrière do it all for her. Unlike someone like Edwige Fenech, who was a genuinely talented actress, or Gloria Guida, who was definitely serviceable, Siani doesn't manage to pull off either funny OR sexy here. Her body is the only thing she (or this entire movie) has going for it.

If you're tempted to see this, I would recommend instead Franco's "Cannibals" (also with Siani) or "Diamonds of Kilimanjaro" (with Katja Bienert). Both movies are much more unintentionally funny than this movie is intentionally, and most of the annoying cast in those gets devoured by bloodthirsty cannibals.

No Mercy and No Future, 5 July 2016

This is an interesting and often harrowing film about the travails of a female mental patient. Although she is from a comfortable, wealthy family, "Veronika" (Elisabeth Stepanek) suffers from religious delusions and terrifying hallucinations and finds herself constantly taken advantage of by various men. The genesis of the movie is supposedly a letter the real-life character wrote to the director, asking him "to tell her story". This is not some nice, tidy TV movie on the subject of mental illness though. It does not offer any easy resolutions (as the chilling English-language title suggests). The hallucinatory imagery is strong, and the heroine's various suicide attempts and institutionalizations are played for maximum effect. There are also several strong sex scenes like when she has a sexual encounter with a dim-witted Ghananian immigrant she just met after having a recent abortion and she starts bleeding all over the place, which neither partner really reacts to. Anyway, don't ever expect to ever see this one on the Lifetime Channel!

The one thing that did kind of annoy me is that I wasn't sure at times if the character was supposed to be a paranoid schizophrenic or a crazed nymphomaniac. This often reminded of the 70's Christine Lindberg exploitation film "Anite, Swedish Nymph" (which I suspect was later an inspiration for Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac"). It's not surprising a pretty female schizophrenic would get taken advantage of sexually, but it's sometimes a bit much here. It's not hard to believe someone suffering from religious delusions might think a paraplegic she meets is Jesus Christ,for instance, but would she then turn around and give him a bj on an elevator five minutes later? (Who does THAT after meeting "Jesus"?) Her promiscuity is not treated in an exploitative manner by any means, and the actress Stepanek gives a very brave performance, spending much of the movie spiritually, emotionally, or physically naked, but they do perhaps play up the lurid sex angle too much for a serious movie.

Still, overall, this is an effective movie with strong imagery and powerful performances. I would recommend it.

Basically a Russian porno parody of a great novel, 4 July 2016

In 1957 Vladimir Nabokov wrote "Lolita", which is now regarded by many as the second greatest English-language novel of the 20th century (after "The Great Gatsby"). But Nabokov was also Russian emigrant, who was a very well-regarded novelist in his own country and his own language before he was chased out of Russia by the Communists and out of Europe by the Nazis. English-language filmmakers have struggled to adapt his brilliant but controversial novel over the years. The great Stanley Kubrick was not entirely successful, and the hack Adrian Lyne probably shouldn't have tried. So it seems encouraging that Russia might attempt to reclaim a native son and one of the great Russian authors by doing their own adaptation of "Lolita". This movie unfortunately though is pretty much a travesty.

I have to cast around to find anything good to say about this. It does put back in the sex that the earlier adaptations were (understandably) quite coy and circumspect about, but the problem is it takes out pretty much everything else and turns the whole thing into basically a softcore porn film. The whole narrative of the book is largely dispensed with so that it is reduced to just a ridiculous sex fantasy about a male lodger who comes to room with a widow and her young daughter and has a whole lot of sex with both of them. The end.

Before anyone gets too worked up though, the young "Lolita" in this version (called "Alice" here) is not the 12-year-old girl in the novel or even the more mature 15-year-old actresses that played the part in the two movies (Sue Lyon and Dominique Swain). The actress here, Valeria Nemchenko, when she loses her pig tails and baby-doll dresses, is obviously about 20, so this is not so much unwholesome as it is just, boring and pointless. Yeah, Nemchenko is quite attractive, and most males probably won't mind watching her have sex, but she literally does so for at least 30 minutes of the running time. There are also some graphic sex scenes with the mother, Olga (Marina Zasimova), who unfortunately looks a lot more like Shelley Winters (from the Kubrick movie) than Melanie Griffith (from the Lyne). And suffice, it to say that, like with most softcore porn, once the sex scenes start they just don't stop right up until the ending, which is both unbelievable and unbelievably stupid. This is pretty much just a porno parody of the great novel.

6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
It's 3AM, do you know who your kids are doing?, 28 June 2016

With even theatrical French films being largely financed by television these days, it's perhaps not surprising so much modern French cinema is devoted to "social problem" films like this. Although this is allegedly based on a true story, I don't know that middle-class teenagers engaging in wild sex orgies is really all that widespread of social problem even in France (although I'm sure a lot of horny male teenagers probably WISH it was a widespread social problem). More likely this was a "man-bites-dog" story that got attention from the French media because it was UNUSUAL, not because it was necessarily typical of what a lot of French teens are up to these days.

Still, if this were an American film, it would undoubtedly be either much more alarmist or much more exploitative (or perhaps both in the case of something like Larry Clark's "Kids"). This film, however, remains fairly non-judgmental and realistic. Its three protagonists--a shy male musician and two girls who get played by the same smooth-talking "player"--are realistic and sympathetic, even if the background given of their problems and their home-life doesn't really account for why they would become juvenile swingers. But I suppose teenagers don't necessarily need any more excuses to be sexually promiscuous than adults do.

It's probably not a coincidence that there are a lot more French films about middle-class teenage or college students who become prostitutes ("Student Services", "Young and Beautiful") or all decide to get pregnant ("17 Filles") or engage in sex orgies like this then there are about teenagers who do their homework, generally listen to their parents, and are focused on getting into a good university. Still, this film is not nearly as exploitative as it COULD be. There is a fair amount of nudity (actually more male than female), but it's not all that shocking since all the actors look at least five years too old to actually BE teenagers. (They're all pretty attractive too in the naturalistic French way). Still, I miss the more old-style French films that are more arty and/or literary and personal and are focused on singular characters as opposed to "real", but frankly also quite boring, people.

La puce (1999)
The debut film of the remarkable French actress Isild Lebesco, 27 June 2016

This thesis film (a long "short" at 40 some minutes) by actress/director Emmanuelle Bercort is startling UNoriginal in concept as far French cinema goes. A bratty 14-year-old girl meets an older man while on vacation at the beach. Later they hook up in his Parisian apartment, and after several false starts, he "makes her a woman". Even given that this was directed by a female and told decidedly from the point of view of the girl still makes this stereotypically French. Gallic feminist director Catherine Breillet has pretty much made this exact film at least three times with "Une Vrai Jeune Fille", "36 Fillete", and "To My Sister (Fat Girl)". At least Bercort can't be considered guilty of holding any double-standards since she also later directed and starred in the feature "Clement" where she herself plays a middle-aged woman who seduces a teenage boy.

The cinematography of this film is interesting. It's shot on highly de-saturated color stock that almost approaches black and white at times. Visually the beach scenes at the beginning of the film are stronger than the bulk of the film that takes place in a cramped Paris apartment. But the most interesting part of the film, both visually and otherwise, is the amazing and beautiful young French actress Isild Le Besco. Isild is the less famous younger sister of director/actress Maiwenn Le Besco, who married Luc Besson as a teenager, and though she's principally a middle-aged director nowadays, still seems to send male film critics into paroxysms of lust, even at press conferences for her films. Well, more people really ought get a load of her SISTER, who has equally exotic, but strangely different, looks (Maiwenn looks like a voluptuous man-eater, Isild like a shy, sensitive girl next door) and an absolutely stunning body that, unlike her older sister, she has not been the least bit shy about showing off every centimeter of in her movies. She was only about 16 or 17 in this (her debut) role, but she is pretty much the Platonic ideal of the pretty, sexually precocious teenage girl. And watching her character get slowly deflowered, even in a tame and arty short with only brief nudity, is really memorable.

Of course, Le Besco's assured ACTING even at this young age is also quite impressive. She doesn't come across so much as an emerging talent as an already formidable one that has seemingly sprung fully-formed from the womb. This was Bercourt's debut film and calling-card as a director, but it is Isild Lebesco who really owns it.

Horsehead (2014)
Not an entirely unpleasant way to pass 90 minutes, 27 June 2016

This phantasmagorical French horror movie is about a young college student who is dealing with troubling memories of her past by studying Freud and experimenting with "lucid dreaming". When her maternal grandmother dies, she joins her mother in her grandparent's country estate where she uses her lucid dreaming skills to uncover dark family secrets.

This film somewhat reminded me of the Walerian Borowzyk film "La Bete", but without the shocking imagery or nearly as strong of a grasp of Freudian surrealism. The "Horsehead" monster that haunts the dreams of the heroine may be the literal embodiment of a "nightmare" (or "cauchemare" in French), but horses are such magnificent and beautiful animals that it's hard to make them look too frightening or threatening. The weird imagery and occasionally effective atmosphere of this film is somewhat of a throwback to an earlier era, and it is refreshing in an age where "horror" is often synonymous with tons of gory effects, "torture porn", and shot-on-video "found-footage" bullsh*t. But the images, while pretty and colorful, are a little pedestrian and frankly just not all scary.

The movie does get a lot of mileage out of pretty, young French actress Lily-Fleur Pointeaux. I think at least half the audience will be very favorably disposed to scenes where she luxuriates in a bathtub with her magnificent breasts bobbing and glistening (bobbing and glistening. . .). But she also does a decent job carrying the principal weight of this movie, especially considering I've only previously seen her in small supporting roles in films like "Ma Premiere Pas" and "We Need a Vacation".

This film could have used some stronger and perhaps more shocking imagery like "La Bete" or the more recent French/Belgian film "Amer", but it's not an entirely unpleasant way to pass 90 minutes.

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