Different Strokes: The Story Of Jack And Jill…And Jill (1997)

Thank you at least, British VHS distributors

Thank you at least, British VHS distributors

I appreciate none of you are quite as interested in this stuff as I am, but this represents a coming together of two strands of bad movie history. Representing Donald Farmer, who brought her into the world of ultra-cheap and ultra-poor erotic thrillers with “Compelling Evidence”, is Dana Plato; and directing this movie is Michael Paul Girard, whose previous work we’ve covered with “Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars” and “Getting Lucky”.

 

We’ve already talked about Plato’s sad life story in our “Compelling Evidence” review, but this was a couple of years further on, and it seems she was still as decent as she ever was – in other words, a reasonably competent sitcom actress who was completely out of practice. No sign of the problems that were apparently ravaging her at the time. Here, she’s Jill, a fashion mogul of some sort who’s coming to LA to get a series of shots done by Jack (Bentley “grandson of Robert” Mitchum), a famous photographer. He has a girlfriend, also called Jill (softcore star Landon Hall), Plato is a lesbian and zeroes in on Hall, they get involved, erotic shenanigans!

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That’s really all the plot you need. Or are given, for that matter. Where to start? Firstly, Jill’s pursuit of Jill just seems like a male fantasy of what these things are like, and so much of it is so abominably written and acted that it feels slightly sordid to be watching it. The stench of exploitation (of Plato’s fame for the title of the movie, for using a woman whose problems were common knowledge) is very strong. Girard went from a guy who was prepared to live in a van so he could afford to shoot his movies, to the worst sleaziest hack who was prepared to write and direct an erotic thriller starring a walking billboard for the problems with the use of child actors, in the space of a decade.

 

But then, why am I reviewing it? Literally the only reason anyone would find this movie today is because of its car-crash aspect, with a slight exception to someone who for reasons unknown was watching every Girard movie (we stopped at two, before this, because that second one was just beyond terrible). Honestly, that’s part of the reason I put it on too, so if you’re at all interested in the by-products of the sleazier, more dead-eyed side of Hollywood, then nothing I say is going to change your mind.

 

In terms of “sleazy”, I don’t even really mean the subject matter of the movie. Lots of perfectly fine ones have sex in them, and nudity, and lots of actresses who previously worked in sitcoms have done them. While they’re not usually my cup of tea, the erotic thriller is a broad church containing both great and awful work. I mean sleazy in the sense of exploitation – like this would have utterly disappeared forever without the presence of Plato, and the money that it made is more poorly earned. Perhaps I’m being over the top, and I am literally part of the problem, as at least some people reading this would have never heard of this piece of garbage without this review.

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So, to sum up, a thoroughly wretched movie which most definitely doesn’t even work on its own pathetically low level, and one for which I hope someone involved in the production felt some shame about. Ha, what am I talking about? This is the same industry which made “Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave”, which not only doesn’t have Bruce Lee in it (him being dead and all) but isn’t even about Bruce Lee! And that’s what I feel about “Different Strokes: Jack And Jill…And Jill”.

 

Rating: thumbs down and buried in the producer’s eyeball

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Trailer Trash: Nurse 3D

An eerie whistle opens the trailer for ‘Nurse 3D’, a film which from the evidence presented by this trailer can be defined as an erotic thriller in the ‘Single White Female’ / ‘Fatal Attraction’ mould. We see a group of proud nurses graduating from All Saints Nursing Corps. A perky blonde graduate called Danni (Katrina Bowden) introduces her new friend Abby (Paz De La Huerta, best known as Luzy Danziger from ‘Boardwalk Empire’) to her boyfriend Steve at her graduation party.

IT STARTED AS A FRIENDSHIP flashes across the screen in bold text BUT ONE NIGHT ***suspenseful pause*** BECAME AN OBSESSION. The trailer at this point titillates with some girl on girl action as Abby slips Danni a roofy and takes advantage of her.

Abby is a pouty, minxing seductress with a dark side. Familiar of her work from ‘Boardwalk Empire’, in which she essentially played a whore who spent most of her time undressed and talking in this cutesy Marilyn Monroe tone, De La Huerta seems to spend a significant amount of time in her underwear talking suggestively. De La Huerta has an ounce of acting charisma to deliver the killer lines, which at least presents some intrigue about her character.

There seems to be a key origin story giveaway when somebody in the hospital says to Abby “You look really familiar. You look like my next door neighbour Sarah. They put her in Sunnyview Institute when she was just a kid”. Ok, so that’s why she’s a murderous psychopath. No curve balls, twists or revelations here then, but I wonder what the decision to include that information adds to the trailer since we can kinda guess Abby’s unhinged. It seems rather obvious. Does the trailer need to give away why?

I re-watched the slightly crudely edited trailer for ‘Fatal Attraction’ as some kind of comparison, and at least for the first minute of the trailer things are a little bit ambiguous. It isn’t until a screaming Glenn Close charges at somebody with a kitchen knife that we get to see any real hint of danger. What I’m saying is that there’s enough bait on the hook to keep the potential erotic thriller viewer interested, but not too much to give the whole plot of the film away. Less is more baby. Make us crave something.

Do I want to watch ‘Nurse 3D’?

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The Canyons (2013)

Scorsese’s screenwriter turned director, a literary zeitgeist brat packer, a porn star and Lindsay Lohan all combined to make a film. How did they get on? Not so well, in fact that’s quite an understatement and it probably won’t take me long to elaborate.

Bret Easton Ellis, writer of American Psycho and The Rules Of Attraction, teamed up with Paul Schrader (who’s no slouch with a pen himself with credits including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) to write and direct respectively, what they describe as a “pranky, noirish thriller” when actually the prank is on whoever watches this drivel and the only noir I could relate to was how black my soul felt for the 100 minutes of my life I gave to watching it and, believe me, there were no thrills whatsoever.

Porn star James Deen plays Christian, a snotty, spoiled film producer with a big house in Malibu and plenty of deep rooted personal issues while Lindsay Lohan plays his girlfriend, Tara who also happens to be working on one of the films he’s producing. Ryan, the lead in said film (played by Nolan Gerard Funk with as much gusto as chewing a grape), is having an affair with Tara and it’s only a matter of time before jealous and downright creepy Christian finds out.

I think the casting of a porn star as the lead was just about making a statement and nothing else as Deen swaggers about spouting his lines as if this is his first ever job but with an arrogance that implies he should be a ‘proper’ film regular and then comes his shoe-horned in nude scene (Great, a big, floppy, flaccid trouser snake flapping about, the perfect tonic to spice up such a meaningless odyssey through the lives of the pampered). Lohan is slightly better, she’s a mess but reads her lines with some competency. Oddly, Gus Van Sant plays Christian’s therapist. I have nothing more to say on that.

Nothing works, it looks terrible like a straight to DVD movie and it sounds like they bought the score off some industry paysite that produces jingles for small business ads. There’re also these infrequent odd camera shifts that are surely there to make sure you’re paying attention and not nodding off or looking at something more interesting like your leg hair pattern. Seriously, pointing the camera at crap actors reciting bland dialogue is not interesting in the slightest and random close ups of bubbles in a fizzy drink is not a good method of alleviating the crushing boredom.

I expected more from Ellis but this is a huge blot on his copy book. I can see the ‘bad things happen to horrible people in Hollywood’ angle he’s gone for like he’s wanted to recreate Mulholland Drive for instance but his script sags and wheezes like a deflating turd, there’s no suspense when there’s supposed to be and having slack actors doesn’t help. It’s as cheap and tacky as an episode of Hollyoaks and has the same sleazy soap-opera feel.

Schrader is equally as culpable. I’ve mentioned his poor camerawork but there’s also no drive or impulse from him, every frame is so basic and devoid of passion or life, there’s a murder scene and nothing changes; no faster editing and still no major different angles, not even any close-ups. This is the work of a very bored man, that or a man who should stick to writing.

I’m running out of things to say and I don’t want to dwell on The Canyons any more but at least it’s consistent across the board; the technical parts, acting and story are as vacuous, ugly, depressing and superficial as each other. I’d rather felch a hippo than sit through this again.

– Greg Foster

The Canyons on IMDB