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Let’s take a look at some great Femme Fatale flix—you know the attractive, seductive woman who will ultimately bring disaster to a man (or men) that becomes involved with her. Our first look: The Last Seduction (1994) staring Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, and Bill Pullman.

When the discussion of Femme Fatale films came up the first movie we here at JPFmovies immediately thought of was The Last Seduction.  Many of you probably never heard of it because even though Fiorentino’s performance generated talk of an Oscar nomination, she was deemed ineligible because the film was shown on HBO before it was released into the theaters.  October Films and ITC Entertainment sued the Academy, but were unable to make Fiorentino eligible for a nomination.  So, the film went right from HBO to DVD—what a waste.

To say The Last Seduction is a neo-noir erotic thriller doesn’t do the film justice.  It is an outstanding example modernizing the traditional stereotype of the deadly women of classic fim noir that were generally disliked, detested, and sometimes hated by patriarchal society.  Here the Director and Fiorentino bring some of the enduring cultural images of the femme fatale while bestowing her with modern, distinguishing characteristics.

 

The film opens with, Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino) pressuring and scolding the salesmen in some boiler-room telemarketing office in New York City selling worthless coins.  She knows how to use the hard sell, close deals, and manage men with fear and degradation.  She runs a tight and ruthless ship.  After work, she races to her apartment to see if an important deal her medical school husband made selling $700,000 worth of pharmaceutical grade cocaine to some street thugs paid off.  It did, the husband (Bill Pullman) had to stuff the 700K in his jacket on the way home, After Bridget makes some rude remark to her husband, he gives her a pretty good smack across the face which seems to set the wheels of this tale of deceit in motion.

While her husband is taking a shower, Bridge to use a phrase from the Steve Miller Band “go on take the money and run.”  Naturally her husband is upset but does not seemed too surprised.

 On her way to Chicago, Bridget stops in a small town called Beston to gas up. It’s in a nearby bar that we – and Bridget – meet the film’s third principal character, Mike Swale (played to naive, lustful perfection by Peter Berg). In the bar, Bridget’s order is ignored by the bartender, and, instantly attracted to her dark good looks, Mike Swale gallantly steps in to help. Bridget, however, is not interested. “Could you leave?  Please?” she asks. “Well, I haven’t finished charming you yet,” Mike responds, to which Bridget retorts: “You haven’t started.” Still endeavoring to win Bridget’s heart – or some part of her – Mike informs her that he’s “hung like a horse.”  Perhaps wishing only to amuse herself, perhaps with other, more far-reaching plans in mind, Bridget asks to see for herself, unzips his pants right in the bar, and then fires off a series of questions: how many lovers has he had? Have any been prostitutes? Does he have his own place? Does it have indoor plumbing? Before long, the two are in Mike’s apartment.  He is now under her spell.

As the movie progresses, an evil disorder dwells deep within Bridget. She seems to scorn men. She uses men to her advantage, catching them, conquering them, and bending them to her will. She values money, power, and independence over relationships. She enjoys humiliating men, deriding them as ‘eunuchs,’ ‘Neanderthals,’ ‘maggots,’ and ‘sex objects.’ A trace of revenge lurks in Bridget’s behavior towards the opposite sex.

Bridget continues to exhibit her psychopathic behavior, cunning and naked ambition.  As the film progresses we see that Bridget Gregory, is total bitch. Hot, genius smart, kinky and slinky. Feline and ruthless. Politically incorrect chain smoker. New York City telemarketer/con artist. Catty call floor conniver. Rough Rider floor boss. And I mean all of that as a compliment.

Interesting enough we try to find a linkable character in the film but no one comes to this dance with clean hands.

We could go on for pages but there will be no spoilers here.  You need to make the time watch The Last Seduction, you are getting the JPFmovie seal of approval that it is worth watching.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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We here at JPFmovies didn’t know you could be “Less than Zero” until we re-watched the 1987 film classic starring Robert Downey Jr. Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz and James Spader.

When deciding what film to review next, the editorial board here at JPFmovies decided to follow our 1980s Brat Pack lead of the Breakfast Club with a far darker movie involving sex, money, drug abuse and well . . . It is a bit telling that Robert Downey Jr., was one of the stars of this film given his recurring substance abuse problems—After five years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab, and relapses, Downey, while incarcerated, had to be released from prison during the day to finish a film he was in the middle of making. He claims (and since 2001 there has been no evidence to the contrary) to have left his substance abuse problems behind. We here at JPFmovies sincerely hope he has beaten those demons down and out of his life. Well, enough of that, let’s get to the film.

The cast of Less than Zero were part of the 1980s “Brat Pack”; however, this is hardly your typical Brat Pack film. It is much darker, grittier and tragic than any John Hughes film (i.e. Pretty in Pink and the like). Very loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name (note he was also author of American Psycho), Easton Ellis himself wasn’t too happy with this film at first, but he mentions that it has grown on him over the years. The book was much darker. Andrew McCarthy’s character “Clay,” as we shall see, was altered the most. In the book, Clay’s behavior was not as cut and dry as in the film. In the novel, Clay is a user as well, plus he is bisexual. The studio decided to eliminate both perspectives because they needed a character that audiences could sympathize with, and, in the book, Clay wasn’t the all American he is portrayed as in the film. Naturally, the studio went and changed Clay around to appease teenage Andrew McCarthy fans.

The film that was shot was far edgier than what ended up on screen. It was ultimately taken away from its director, denying Marek Kanievska the final cut. This is textbook behavior for a studio that gets nervous about selling a film with an edgy subject manner. Chicken shits! As anyone who follows JPFmovies knows, this is one of our biggest pet peeves, and we firmly believe that such a lack of courage is one of the main factors that has led to the collapse of American cinema.

The story begins with three rich, happy, wide-eyed teenagers graduating from high school. Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) is skipping college and starting “Tone Deaf Records,” a label financed by his wealthy father; Blair (Jami Gertz) is foregoing college to pursue a modeling career; and Clay (Andrew McCarthy) is heading out east to an unnamed ivy league school. The movie essentially takes place when Clay comes home for Christmas break. Upon Clay’s return, he finds that his high school girlfriend, Blair, has become addicted to cocaine and has been having sex with his high school best friend, Julian. Julian, whose life has really taken a turn for the worse, after his startup record company falls apart, has become a drug addict, cut off by his family for stealing to support his habit and reduced to homelessness. Julian is also being hassled by his dealer, an old classmate named Rip (James Spader), for a debt of $50,000 that he owes to him.

Clay’s relationship with Blair rekindles and Julian’s behavior becomes more unstable. His addiction is worsening and, since he does not have the money to pay off his debt, Rip forces him to become a male prostitute to work off the debt. After suffering through a night of withdrawal and hiding from Rip, Julian decides to quit and begs his father (Nicholas Pryor) to help him. He then tells Rip his plans for sobriety, which Rip does not believe; Rip forces Julian back into doing drugs and hooking. Clay finds Julian and rescues him; after a violent confrontation with Rip and his henchmen, Clay, Julian and Blair all escape in Clay’s awesome Corvette and they begin the long drive through the desert so Julian can attempt to achieve sobriety once and for all. However, the damage has already been done; the next morning Julian dies from heart failure in the car.

After Julian’s funeral, Clay and Blair are sitting on a cemetery bench reminiscing about him. Clay then tells Blair he is going back east and wants her to go with him, to which she agrees. We see the snapshot of the three of them at graduation—the last time all three of them were ever happy together. In our opinion, Blair is the worst actor in the film.

Less Than Zero is a wonderfully strange movie. It’s a beautiful looking film about some very ugly things. It deals with issues of drug abuse and empty lifestyles while the acting is so well done, the takes and compositions so great to look at. But for every beautiful scene in the film there is an equally dark nihilistic shot where we watch Julian experience the deep suffering that serious drug addiction can lead to: homelessness, desperation, lies and eventually the ultimate self-destruction: death.

When you watch this film, and we here at JPFmovies recommend that you do, be ready for a film with characters that you probably won’t like very much, selfish characters only looking out for their own personal satisfactions, especially given the evolution of the careers of these familiar faces we see today.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H Calls in Wall Street–Money Never Sleeps

Dr. H called in his thoughts on Wall Street–Money Never Sleeps. Here is his take:

Finally Oliver Stone’s magnum opus hits the theater (so far) with mixed reviews from the critics.

It is, in the final analysis, worth seeing for all the attention to detail Stone has put in. But like most of Oliver Stone’s movies, the movie for all of its visual and narrative brilliance has one flaw–it does not have a soul.

Shia LaBeouf is a wrong choice for the younger lead role–too green behind the ears. DiCaprio would have been a better choice.

Ditto for the female. Amy Adams would have been a better choice.

To understand the movie’s sub plots — and there are many — nothing less than an MBA or preferably a PHD in economics would suffice. There is just too much talk about hedge funds for my liking.

There is just so much of the frantic New York pace you can take then you start feeling dizzy. My recommendation is wait for the DVD — the editor’s cut, not the director’s.

For what it’s worth. Dr. H.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Business of Movie Theaters–Helps to Explain the Crap

I found this article by Edward J. Epstein who wrote a book on the economics of the movie business:

Once upon a time, movie studios and movie theaters were in the same business. The studios made films for theater chains that they either owned or controlled, and they harvested almost all their revenue from ticket sales. Then, in 1948, the government forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters. Nowadays, the two are in very different businesses. Theater chains, in fact, are in three different businesses.

First, they are in the fast-food business, selling popcorn, soda, and other snacks. This is an extremely profitable operation in which the theaters do not split the proceeds with the studios (as they do with ticket sales). Popcorn, for example, because of the immense amount of popped bulk produced from a relatively small amount of kernels—the ratio is as high as 60:1—yields more than 90 cents of profit on every dollar of popcorn sold. It also serves to make customers thirsty for sodas, another high-margin product (supplied to most theater chains by Coca-Cola, which makes lucrative deals with theater owners in return for their exclusive “pouring” of its products). One theater chain executive went so far as to describe the cup holder mounted on each seat, which allows customers to park their soda while returning to the concession stand for more popcorn, as “the most important technological innovation since sound.” He also credited the extra salt added into the buttery topping on popcorn as the “secret” to extending the popcorn-soda-popcorn cycle throughout the movie. For this type of business, theater owners don’t benefit from movies with gripping or complex plots, since that would keep potential popcorn customers in their seats. “We are really in the business of people moving,” Thomas W. Stephenson Jr., who then headed Hollywood Theaters, told me. “The more people we move past the popcorn, the more money we make.”

Second, theater chains are in the movie exhibition business. Here they are partners with the studios. Although every deal is different, the theaters and the studios generally wind up splitting the take from the box office roughly 50-50. But, unlike the popcorn bonanza, the theaters’ expenses eat up a large part of their exhibition share. They pay all the costs necessary to maintain the auditoriums, which includes ushers, cleaning staffs, projectionists to keep the movies in focus, and the regular replacement of projector bulbs that cost more than $1,000 each. The way they can squeeze out more profits from this business is to cut expenses to the bare minimum. Not uncommonly, theater owners delay changing projector bulbs even if they do not produce the specified level of brightness on screen. Or, rather than using a separate projectionist for each film, multiplexes use one projectionist to service up to eight movies, an economy of scale that saves seven salaries. While these projectionists are able to change reels for one film while other movies go unattended, this practice runs the risk that the other films might momentarily snag in the projector and get burnt by the lamp. To prevent such costly mishaps, projectionists slightly expand the gap between the gate that supports the film and the lamp, even though this puts a film slightly out of focus. This is often considered an acceptable trade-off to the financially pressed chains. “I’ve never heard a teenager complain about PQ [picture quality],” one movie chain executive said. “If they find it too dark, they still have the concession stand.”

Third, the theaters are in the advertising business. They sell on-screen ads. And some advertisers are paying more than $50,000 per screen annually, especially to theaters willing to pump up the volume to near ear-shattering level so that seated customers will pay attention. Since there are virtually no costs involved in showing ads, the proceeds go directly to the theater chains’ bottom lines. But to fit paid advertising into the gap between showings, multiplexes have to cut down on the length of the studios’ coming attractions (which are free advertising), a decision that hardly pleases studios. (Often, getting the coming attractions shown involves the studios “leveraging our goodwill,” as one studio executive explained. The studios will threaten to hold back a popcorn movie, such as the new Harry Potter or Star Wars sequels, unless the chain agrees to play a full reel of trailers.)

To keep their people-moving enterprise going, theater owners prefer movies whose length does not exceed 128 minutes. If a movie runs longer than that, and the theater owners do not want to sacrifice their on-screen advertising time, they will reduce the number of their evening audience “turns” or showings from three to two, which means that 33 percent fewer people pass their popcorn stands. Even so, if a long movie promises to bring in a big enough audience—a promise King Kong made but did not deliver—the theaters will play it. Indeed, the ultimate test for the popcorn economy is: Will a movie attract enough consumers of buckets of popcorn and soda to justify turning over multiple screens to it? Theater owners know that the popcorn audience is mainly teens. And, since the observation of teen test audiences over many years has demonstrated that they prefer action to dialogue, expect a salty, supersize portion of amusement-park movies this year.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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