By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Before we beat off, let's talk about an offbeat, low budget flick my girlfriend asked me to watch. (She's not sold on the ones with money shots.) Hal Hartley's 1994 romantic-thriller Amateur cast famous Frenchie Isabelle Huppert, who plays a former nun who goes nympho and pens pornographic stories, opposite Martin Donovan, a meanie porno producer/arms dealer with amnesia. Donovan's character got pushed out a window by his fed-up skinema star wife, forgot he was an asshole, and turned soft. The nun probably went hardcore 'cause she needed a new habit. (I'm punning here on habit, a term for religious garb. LOL!) Moral is, there are no moralsnot monolithic, unchanging ones anyhow. This week, I put snarky air quotes around the whole notion of sex-for-sale amateurism. These three videos explore our collective virgin-whore hang-up, except without the virgin part.
Jack's Playground Volume 1 (Digital Playground) bills itself as "the first unrated, uncensored reality series." Actually, it's triple-X and about as realistic as your average episode of Alf. ("Yo Kate, where do you keep the casserole dishes? The cat won't fit in the toaster!") This is a classic "amateur" flick in new emperor's clothes. Only innocent buyers, unfamiliar with known actresses like Loni, could possibly be convinced the starlets are wifeys-next-door. But Jack's either halfhearted or big-brained: His deceit is so transparent, it's as true as one's view through a pane of glass. (A dirty pane of glass? Perhaps.)
(There's one particularly egregious cheat: I reviewed Volume 1 because the six to eight more Jack's since made were sent to me with it, and the cover of this one features Penny, a fresh-and-clean pigtailed 19-year-old that my reviewerly instincts told me held more stroke potential than your average nursing home resident. This is admittedly a personal gripe, but every lady here fucksKatya Kassin even takes it up the asswhile Penny Lame just rubs one out. Isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing?)
Appealing to the peeping Tom-Dick-Harry in each of us, Jack pretends to be a loser named Jack who pretends to be a music video director named Jack. This composite jack-ass invites women up to his bachelor pad or into a hotel room for an audition. Similar movies that you download from the interweb usually draw tension from the sense that the wannabe pinups feel pressured and even cornered; this is where Hollywood dynamics become problematic. Jack's attemptssprinkled with canned handclaps for pulled-off panties, scolding calls from his dad, and visits from "Cock-Blocker Eric," comic whiz and actual starleave little doubt as to what's about to happen and how, but are much more pleasant to watch on a metaphysical level.
Basically, just as the gal's unzipping Jack, Eric or another buddy drops in and seduces her. Katja Kassin plays a German au pair pulled off the beach who rubs an entire bottle of complimentary hotel lotion on her ass and tits; later, a dead ringer for one of Bellevue's wicked hot bartenders rips her stockings for easy entry. Loni wakes up with Jack in bed after a drunken encounter he can't remember (his cam shows their feet wiggling on the comforter). Eric shows up, refuses rather unfunnily to eat her out, then blows his wad just as she's about to ("Keep pumping, I wanna cum ... fuck!"); still, she gracefully asks Jack, "Can I taste your friend?" and Eric obliges, jerking onto her face. If only there were volumes of Loni's Playground.
Jack's lively and fun; Jim Powers is dead serious. His Filthy Things (JM) flirts with porn's Lynchian, self-conscious side, but his sex scenes quickly sweep away the niceties. The first performance I could do without: Crystal-Ray, a wavy blond, is hog-tied and ball-gagged in a man's power-tool-strewn bathroom. We watch in first-person as he pushes open the door and watches her moan for mercy, then leaves her there while imagining what it'd be like to give her one. S/M = fantasy, fair enough, but why put her there apparently against her will?
It gets better, though no less extreme. Flick Shagwell, accused by a hobo wearing a "Jesus Hates You" T-shirt of being a "whore of Babylon" and "sodomizer" fulfills her destiny when a well-dressed man enters her empty mansion (hubby's away on biz) and blindfolds her. "What do you mean you didn't send someone here to fuck me?" Flick, quickly losing the afterglow, asks her husband. Dun dun dun! Things get dumb-dumb-dumb when Hailey hears a scary computer-filtered voice give her specific instructions for a fantasy, in which she blows excellent bubbles on some guy's dick; in a surprising and strangely welcome ending, she jerks the voice's owner onto her chest. (Not as unbelievable as you might imagine Ted Nugent used his talk-box for the same purpose throughout the '70s!)
Finally, I hereby upgrade Julie Knight to Julie Queen, for her blowjob technique, an amateurish version of Belladonna and Ashley Blue's sloppy-buckets suck-off. She rounds off Filthy Things with the what's possibly the most disgusting scene I've witnessed, going all the way down on a dude until she pukes on the groundthen licks it up as he unceremoniously drops into her ass. Meanwhile, Gypsy Woman's (VCA) glamorous newbie Dana Vespoli could get by on her dark, big-lips-and-ass looks alone, but here she manages to civilize and sensualize Kurt Lockwood, a relatively handsome and therefore sometimes piggish leading stud. Dana and her "lesbian" Gypsy partner (they never share a scene) rob informal johns with Kurt's help, then clean out Kurt himself. Amateurs play professionals and vice-versa. And so, to Ms. Vespoli, I say: Get thee to a nunnery!
Digital Playground, 21115 Devonshire Street #304, Chatsworth, CA 91311, digitalplayground.com
JM, 9730 Variel Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311, jerkoffzone.com
VCA, 9650 DeSoto Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311, vcapictures.com