Monday, November 29, 2010

Raped to Death in "Someone's Knocking at the Door"

Movie: Someone’s Knocking at the Door

The images in each frame captivate, and each character is a junky. But they’re really medical students. Errr... something sounds incongruous there, right? But director Chad Ferrin weaves a tale so far out, then beautifully piece them together like a harmonizing tapestry of psychedelia – and we have a work that defies genre!

Here are ingredients to this scrumptious broth: A junky gets raped to death (“… by a phallus 15 inches long that perforated his colon”). Soon thereafter, his mates follow suit! You bet, everyone that croaks gets “raped” – guy or girl! Then we get a flashback of these sex-crazed med students – they uncover a video and sound recording of a bungled hypnosis experiment which involved a pair of schizophrenic serial killers. Add a dash of a hallucinogen to the broth. The film is absolutely entertaining and mortifying. Some scenes are in fact too disturbing.

Moreover, the film’s cast is easy on the eyes: Noah Segan, Andrea Rueda, Jon Budinoff, Silvia Spross, and Jordan Lawson (who gets to lie down “dead” and naked through most of his screen time)!

With lots of sex and naked bodies, you somehow wonder if Russ Meyer had a hand in the film production!

Noah Segan is a naughty med student.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

TV Series Spotlight: Gravity - Laughing Death Away

It's odd when a television series follows the lives of suicide survivors, then take their stories as little bits of comedic pages. In fact, Ivan Sergei's Robert Collingsworth opens the series with a funny piece. He is a famous ophthalmologist (paparazzis follow him around) who drove his Mercedes off the Palisades cliff, then miraculously landed on the swimming pool of a gay cruise ship. On the other hand, Krysten Ritter's Lily Champagne sells make up for New York's elite, and we don't quite understand (as of its 2nd episode) what exactly prompted her to OD with codeine. The show's co-creator and director, Eric Schaeffer plays the eccentric Detective Miller who unfortunately isn't as funny as he should be.

One of the characters in "Gravity" - which I find isn't a very viable title; "Suicide for Dummies" should have been used instead, as earlier planned - is a James Franco-lookalike - Seth Numrich. Heck I was gonna say James Dean. While it was earlier easy to dismiss him as just another pretty face, a quick google reveals Seth as quite the thespian. He has done several plays, and he's quite the Broadway (and off-Broadway) luminary, playing, among other roles, Achilles for Charles Mees' Iphigenia. Did he come from Julliard? How I wish I could go back to NY and just theater-hop for one whole month!

"Gravity" ran for 2 months before it was cancelled on June 30, 2010.

Ivan Sergei kills himself by landing on the pool of a gay cruise ship.

Krysten Ritter's cooky character defies description.

Seth Numrich is Achilles in Charles Mees' Iphigenia.

Seth Numrich at the premier of his Off-Broadway play, "Slipping".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Billy Zane & Joel Torre Take on the Aswangs in "Surviving Evil"

It was a bit surprised to find this title, Terence Daw's "Surviving Evil" which follows the adventures of a documentary team as they head on to the jungles of a mysterious island - "Mayaman Island, in the Visayas seas" to film the famed Isarog Tribe. Sure, they've heard of the folk tales about the "aswangs" - described as vampire-like creatures who feed on human flesh and drink human blood. They live on trees; they fear fire, and cannot go underground. Their method of reproduction by incorporating their souls with the fetus in pregnant women.

Billy Zane stars is the documentary show's star Seb. On board this journey are Seb's crew: camera man Dex (Colin Moss), his lady producer, a P.A./gf (Christina Cole), an entomologist Cecilia/Chill (Natalie Jackson Mendoza) and a local tour guide Joey (Joel Torre) - who has an ulterior motive, other than providing professional tourist service!

This is far from being a masterful work, but what drew me in is the reference to the Philippines' rich folk lores involving aswangs and balete trees. But what bewildered me was where they filmed the movie: not in the Philippines! The jungle scenes were shot in Durban, South Africa and Epping Forest (misspelled "Forrest" at the credits). Pinay-Australian Natalie Jackson Mendoza registers beautifully (like she did in the British suspense film, "The Descent"). At one scene, she was asked to sing a local song - "Bakya Mo, Neneng" - while sitting in front of a bonfire! And how she marveled everyone with her bell-like voice. Truly a Pinay artist, everyone should hear this very short number! Atta girl, Natalie! In another scene (where she walked along the shore with pretty boy Colin), she comments about her university degree, "Not all Filipinas are maids or nannies, contrary to popular belief!" Two points from me! Some of us are walking princesses! LOL

Joel Torre had to fly to London and Durban to film his scenes. Lucky guy! The good news is, his role was a substantial character. He provides the side story (rendering the whole narrative a bit murky, since it strays away from where its audience should have focused their attention on). Besides, aren't we tired of the lure of the Yamashita Treasures? Bury it forever or let's leave that to the brain-impaired, sex-starved boys of "Santuaryo".

Well, we were prepared for the eventual carnage to take place, but you'd be surprised to learn who survived. Give me a holler and I'll whisper. ;->

Billy Zane is Sebastian Beazley.

Natalie Mendoza sings "Bakya Mo, Neneng" with her Lea Salonga voice. The closing credit features a song called "Alone Again" which was composed (with Eliot Kennedy) and sang. Would have made a great "Mary Jane Parker" in the musical "Spider-Man".


Colin Moss is a popular media personality in South Africa where he was based (in Durban). He "presented" (that's "hosting" to us mortals) several seasons of a reality talent show called "Idols" (seasons 2,3 and 4) and "Fear Factor (South Africa)" season 1. With brown hair, green eyes, and that irresistible masculine beauty, no amount of roughing up his looks could hide how delectable he is in "Surviving Evil".

Be still, my beating cardiac muscles. LOL

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Simon Pearce's "Shank" - Sexual Confusion in the Uncompromising Coming-of-Age Film

Cal is an 18 year old thug who runs around with his violently wayward friends, sniffing coke, beating the anonymous guy on the streets of Bristol, smashing cars and vandalizing walls. But Cal is having feelings he couldn't share with his best mate Jonno (Tom Bott). So on the side, he meets up with strangers for sex. He gets off being filmed while being sodomized. Once the deed is done, he scurries off, but not before he mauls them bloodied! One day, he rescues a visiting French student Olivier, and he falls from Jonno's grace! Suddenly, his life is turned upside down! But he soon reluctantly embraces his feelings toward Olivier. But their lives are in peril from one pissed off Jonno!

Cal is played by newcomer Wayne Virgo who's too handsome, it was hard to take my eyes off the screen. But that's bonus! Simon Pearce's film is an uncompromising slice of British life that deals with violence and acceptance. Some scenes are exceedingly graphic, it isn't an easy watch. But with its searing honesty, "Shank" (which is slang for "knife") takes the cake for being one of the most compelling works we've seen this year! Released 2009, "Shank" enjoys a main stream quality of film making that has to be seen by every one who loves great cinema - straight or gay!

Words of warning: violent, sexually graphic scenes, frontal nudity! Lots of it!

Wayne Virgo is a working chef!

Here are excerpts from's interview with Wayne Virgo:

Tell me a little about Shank. What can we expect?
Shank is a coming of age film where a gang member, Cal, is getting new feelings in life that he can't share with anyone until someone comes into his life. You can expect to be shocked and amazed by what the story holds.

So what was it that drew you to the film?
What drew me to the film was the lead role. [Laughs]. It was my first film and I don't think anyone would dream of giving up the chance to play such a demanding role in a film.

What does the title mean?
The title means knife or blade.

Tell us a little about your character in Shank.
Cal is an average lad who likes to hang out in a gang, take drugs and party. He has his own secret - he's gay - and hanging around with the people he does, he can't afford to let it slip, until someone he fancies is on the end of Jonno's knuckles. This is where Cal's life changes, experiencing new feelings in different places.

So, how similar are you to him?
I'm pretty similar to Cal - we have the same things in common, hanging about the streets, partying and really just chilling.

I’ve seen some sexy images from the film, do you mind getting your kit off onscreen?
When I first got my kit off, I was a little bit embarrassed but I knew exactly what was needed for the scenes. I stepped up to the mark as an actor and accepted what was needed.

There are some great sex scenes in the film. Are they quite as sterile as actors make out?
I'm not really sure because seeing it on screen looked and felt completely different than on set.

How did you go about filming the sex scenes – what’s the process?
We had rehearsals beforehand, so knowing what was needed out of the scene was the key point. But when we were on set, we went over and over what was needed until we were comfortable then took the shots. I was comfortable with it all and just got on with it.

How do you feel about the fact that there’s going to be a lot of guys lusting after you?
I'm flattered, but as long as they enjoyed it, I'm happy.

What would you say is your best asset and if you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?
My best asset has gotta be my cheeky smile. One thing I would change about my body is to gain some weight.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
The most challenging scene has got to be the sex scene because it was weird getting it on with a bloke and being naked. I was taken out my comfort zone but I'm really pleased it went down so well.

What about a scene or moment that you’re most proud of?
I'm really proud of the rape scene because it was so brutal and shocking. Seeing my mum's reaction to that scene, I knew we got what we wanted.

Finish the sentence: A good night out starts with….?
A good night out starts with a beer.

And it ends with…?
A stranger in bed.

What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve ever done?
I broke a bouncer's car window with a pushbike and ended up in court.

What comes first for you: sex or love?
A bit of both, but if I had to pick, sex.

What do you think is the secret of a good relationship?

What has been your greatest discovery online?
My greatest discovery on line has gotta be Facebook - I don't really go online that much.

And finally, what’s next for you?
Hopefully more film or TV work, but at the moment, my job as a chef and getting money.

Gang leader Jonno played by the dangerously gorgeous Tom Bott.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Film Master Spotlight: Michaelangelo Antonioni's "The Red Desert"

Watching Michaelangelo Antonioni's "The Red Desert" isn't an easy endeavor, an experience shared even by some of the other famed directors who watch his movies, like Orson Welles, who isn't fond of Antonioni's use of the long take: "I don't like to dwell on things. It's one of the reasons I'm so bored with Antonioni - the belief that, because a shot is good, it's going to get better if you keep looking at it. He gives you a full shot of somebody walking down a road. And you think, 'Well, he's not going to carry that woman all the way up that road." These days, we refer to them as real-time film making, a technique employed mostly by art-house directors like Nur Bilge Ceylan ("Uzak"), Tsai Ming Liang ("What Time Is It Over There", "The Skywalk is Gone") and even Jeffrey Jeturian in films like "Kubrador".

In the film, psychologically unstable housewife Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is grieving over an illness she believes would ultimately kill her. She doesn't tell her husband of her worries, but he knows nevertheless. And a new acquaintance, an engineer Zeller (Richard Harris) who's bound for Patagonia (an Argentine town, which is a take-off point en route the South Pole) to build factories, is waiting on the wings before Giulina finally accedes to an affair.

Giuliana's struggles are comprehensively documented amidst the backdrop of industrial pollution coming from factories emitting yellow fumes; rivers filled with sludges and refuse; cargo ships hoisting quarantine flags, etc. The initial picture painted is one bleak city (Ravenna); mud, cold, rain and low lying fog. But as soon as Antonioni lurches into Giuliana's gradual association with Zeller, the director's penchant for playing with colors came through, as this was the director's first foray into color cinema, and he had a field day playing with his saturated reds, and blues, and greens. Earlier critics refer to this as "exploiting color as a significant expressive element".

Antonioni's spare style and purposeless characters are on full view here, as well as his predilection to tackling issues related to factories and industrialism. I do not envy Monica Vitti's position, as it couldn't be fun portraying Giuliana, although I could be wrong. Some actresses welcome such tediousness. As a spectator, I sure didn't, except her scenes with Richard Harris who, as a younger man was suave and dashing. There was always an undeniable sexual tension between them, as early as when they were introduced by Giuliana's husband.

But watching Antonioni has undeniable rewards too. While he paints a gloomy picture of Ravenna, he pans his camera all over a city that has seemingly overtaken nature. The shipyard looks derelict, encumbered by a fog thick with pollutants. The roads a viscous sludge of muck, and people are getting sick from mere breathing of its air. It speaks of a world unviable to life. And this realization is echoed in the tormented Giuliana who looks at her world like doom's day waiting to happen. Zeller remarked about her dilemma: "You wonder how to look at; I wonder how to live" as he's never experienced happiness, thus he keeps moving from one place to another. In Giuliana's musings about her condition, he finally told her: You think about it too much." My point exactly.

"The Red Desert" is considered as Antonioni's "4th" part of his popular "Incommunicability" trilogy: L'Avventura (The Adventure), La Notte, and L'Eclisse (The Eclipse).

Monica Vitti was Antonioni's lover (and cinematic muse) for most of the actress-director's professional lives.

Michaelangelo Antonioni was born from a rich family, but he always favored the middle class as well as his poverty-stricken neighbors.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TV Series on Spotlight: Happy Town

A few months ago, I wrote about some TV series that I was able to view in the privacy of my luxurious room (wink wink), at my own appointed time. It was a video, not a scheduled TV program. When the series' fans got hold of what I wrote, they started questioning why I got the series so late (TV series was eventually cancelled). I was gonna reply to the thread but decided against it. Those idiots actually forgot that I write about stuff, old and new; that it was really immaterial when exactly I was able to get hold of the series! Heck, I can watch re-runs of say, Lee Majors' "Six Million Dollar Man" and write about them now, what the donkey's ass do they care if I wasn't even born then?

This is a personal blogsite, not an up-to-date review of current tv shows shown in the U.S. This is after all the Philippines, home of "major, major" beauty queens. Some nincompoops need reminding.

It's rural America, a small town called Haplin in the back roads of Minnesota. Its people are on edge one day when they learn of a gruesome murder by the pond. A man was bludgeoned with a rail nail, drilling a round hole through his skull. Then whispers soon spread: Is this the work of the "Magic Man"?

Twelve years ago, a serial kidnapper they call Magic Man (as his techniques seem to border on the mystical) began abducting 1 town folk every year for 7 years. Then it abruptly stopped! So the reluctant new sheriff Tommy Conroy (Geoff Stults) has his hands full. Meanwhile, there is a brewing fight between 2 families. The first one owns the big baking factory up the hill. The 2nd family "governs" the town. But each of their teenagers seem to be falling in love with each other - a "Romeo and Juliet" type of romance that have them pretending in public that they despise each other. One night, the girl witnesses the aforementioned crime, but she couldn't say her piece for it would uncover her secret tryst with her Romeo (Ben Schnetzer as Andrew Haplin). And who the heck is Henley (who we learned is the same girl named Chloe in the 2nd episode)? And why was she forbidden to check out the 3rd floor? And what was that ghastly dagger for, the one she found inside the room?

So far, it has taken my interest, and I shall try to extricate the mysteries that this town holds. After all, I read that it was cancelled, but was able to wrap its story on its 8th and last episode.

Geoff Stults as reluctant new sheriff Tommy Conroy

When you're looking like that... ooohlala!

Stults is "October Road"

The Stults brothers: Geoff and George! How do they make them both gorgeous? Let's ask the heavens?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Luchino Visconti and Burt Lancaster Make an Interesting "Conversation Piece"

Would the professor like to join the fun? asked Laetia.

What is an Italian Film Retrospective without a Visconti?

I became a fan when I got hold of a copy of "Death in Venice" which was a curious piece to start Italian film appreciation with. The ponderous movie was bereft of spoken words, but the effect was like a gripping squeeze in the gut. Since then, there had been several great titles on my list: "Rocco and His Brothers", "The Leopard", his last film "The Innocent" (1976) and some other lesser known titles that I somehow managed to collect from travels overseas, as well as "pasalubongs" (gifts) from relatives living abroad. (Oh, yes, I made them know what I wanted every time. LOL)

As for Mr. Burt Lancaster, I have to admit that I am not such a huge fan, as he is more known for his "strong man" image; his muscles and the winning smile that took Deborah Kerr's breath away. But at the latter stage of his career, he would invest on non-studio films and accept projects from art directors (he did 2 for Visconti, and 1 for Bertolucci) at a film that doesn't come close to his Hollywood pay! One of these films is "Conversation Piece" (1974) which was filmed in Rome.

A retired professor (Burt Lancaster) who has taken sanctuary in a lavish Rome apartment (they call it "palazzo") where he is accompanied by his precious painting collection, books, and a housekeeper named Erminia. He is used to a life of solitude. One day, he finds a rude and insistent marchesa (an Italian noble woman), Madam Bianca Brumonti (Silvana Mangano) who forces him to agree to rent out the unused room just above his - only for a year. But within a day, he finds the rented flat disassembled. Furthermore, he gets to meet the marchesa's daughter Laetia and her boyfriend Stefano - and a young man named Konrad (Helmut Berger) who was to stay in the refurbished room above!

But the professor soon learns the price for such rental. He'd wake up in the wee hours from careless foots steps, fisticuffs, loud clanking sounds, and music turned up so loudly. He welcomed the people from hell! He found himself inexplicably involved in the lives of the strangest, rudest, most vulgar strangers. Konrad turned out to be the marchesa's paid lover - a "keptboy", who conveniently "played around" with the marchesa's daughter and her boyfriend. Madam Brumonti is wife of a rich right-leaning industrialist.

To the nameless professor, there was something intriguing about Konrad who knew his paintings, and classical music. But then, aren't all high-flying gigolos? As the professor (who was never named) got drawn to the frivolous lives of these people, he became aware of the sinister credentials of charming Konrad.

There are plenty of queries in the narrative structure of "Conversation Piece". For one, it must have been that era? Or Europe? But if a stranger insisted on renting out a room that isn't for rent, I'd have her arrested for trespassing! Or she gets a kick in the butt! An ex-soldier who was a doctor of science and a professor can't be easily pushed around by a spoiled histrionic bunch, can he? Yet despite all of their machinations, he would accommodate them; cleaning after their mess, their "blood", and even covering them up during a police investigation. Why such devotion to a thoughtless bunch?

Despite all the loose ties in the narrative, I was deeply engaged. As one of the characters said, "I don't like it, but it fascinates me!"

Moreover, the film is replete with enchanting lines; e.g. Re: solitude: "Crows fly in flocks, while the eagle soars alone!"

Austrian actor Helmut Berger eventually moved on to bigger Visconti films: "The Damned" and a titular role in "Ludwig". He became Visconti's lover in a relationship that lasted for 12 years! Visconti was said to view Berger as the epitome of a "demonic, insane and sexually perverted" man. As a matter of fact, Berger often portrayed anguished souls (like Konrad in "Conversation Piece") and similar sinister villains. There were moments in this film where Berger reminded me of an earlier Ewan McGregor ("The Pillow Book", "Trainspotting"), that decadent, exciting persona. As for Silvia Mangano, I find her too campy, too wired up. And I thought the madam didn't drink coffee? Aren't the rich schooled in the art of propriety or refinement?

Helmut Berger

Helmut Berger

Silvia Mangano

Luchino Visconti

Burt Lancaster with Deborah Kerr

Burt Lancaster's iconic still, "From Here to Eternity".