September 19, 2017

Inter-racial Family Needs, from Sweet Sinner

★★★★☆

Time: 1:46, Director: Jacky St James, Date: 2016

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: IAFD

Cast: Sara Luvv (23yo), Tyler Nixon (29yo), Cherie DeVille (38yo), Tyler Knight (45yo), Rachel Midori (23yo), and Isiah Maxwell

Source: 1920x1080 MP4 downloaded from Sweet Sinner website

Pleasure ♀-, Passion ✓+, Balance

Review

Mia (Sara Luvv) has always lived with her father, but now he has died, and her step-father Doug (Tyler Knight) has invited her to live with him and her mother Tasha (Cherie DeVille). But Mia and Tasha have been estranged for years, and Tasha is none too happy about the whole arrangement. Doug and Mia form a strong bond—while drinking a bottle of wine, straight out of the bottle, that he gives her to welcome her into their home. He tries to be a father-figure, encouraging a reconciliation between Mia and Tasha. But when that doesn't go well, the temptation becomes too great. Things get worse when Paige (Rachel Midori), the finacĂ© of his son Quinn (Isaiah Maxewell), all but catches them in the act.

It's a pretty good story. Unfortunately, however, as with many of the Sweet Sinner movies, not much time at all is spent on it: less than 20 minutes.

The acting is generally pretty good, but there are places where it's not, usually in scenes involving Cherie DeVille. But Tyler Knight and Sara Luvv are excellent. The sex scenes are also reasonably good, but they often feel too long, largely due to a lack of variety in the sex. And, except in first scene, we didn't really sense much of a genuine connection between the performers.

James Avalon, who has been directing and shooting movies for Sweet Sinner since Nica Noelle left, was in charge of photography for this one. Overall, the photography is pretty good. Avalon's cameras tend to be quiet, i.e., not to move alot, and not to impose themselves onto the scene. For the most part, the shots are wide enough that we can see both of the performers, but the guy is sometimes out of frame, as happens so often. And there aren't a lot of shots here that are particularly striking. So, overall, we'd have to say that the camera work is better than in a lot of porn, but not particularly great.

September 18, 2017

Adventures With the Baumgartners, from Adam and Eve Pictures

★★★★☆

Time: 5:02, Director: Kay Brandt, Date: 2017

Screenshots: On our Tumblr here and here and here and here

On the web: IAFD

Cast: Anikka Albrite (29yo), Edyn Blair (29yo), A.J. Applegate (28yo), Sara Luvv (24yo), Katy Kiss (24yo), Ricky Johnson, Mick Blue (41yo), Xander Corvus (29yo), and Derrick Pierce (43yo)

Source: 1920×1080 MP4 downloaded from Gamelink

Pleasure ✔+, Passion ⚧-, Balance ✔+

Review

A sequel to Babysitting the Baumgartners, which we still regard as one of the best pornos we have ever seen, Adventures With the Baumbartners is also based on a novel by Selena Kitt. This one was released at about the same time as the movie and seems to have been written especially for it. It follows the continuing polyamorous adventures of Doc and Mrs B (Mick Blue and Anikka Albrite) and their young friends Ronnie and Gretchen (Sara Luvv and A.J. Applegate). Gretchen is now working as the the Baumgartners' nanny, and she and Ronnie are sharing an apartment—and a bed. But it is not clear exactly what sort of relationship they really have, and things get complicated when Ronnie starts to have feelings for her trainer at the gym, Vince (Xander Corvus).

That, to us, is the main story here, and it's one that might have made for a really good movie. Unfortunately, it isn't developed as much as it could have been, in large part because there are two other (far less interesting) storylines that are given almost as much attention. One concerns Mrs B's sexual interest in her friend Daphne (Edyn Blair) and Mrs B's introduction of Daphne to Doc, all eventually leading to a foursome with Daphne's husband Ari (Derrick Pierce). The other concerns Daphne's daughter Paige (Katy Kiss), who is all of eighteen and already has a very serious, and very open, relationship with her boyfriend Tyler (Ricky Johnson).

It's really too much to try to do in one movie. There are a lot of missing pieces. For example, Ari has apparently been 'away' for nearly three months, but there's only a very brief, and easy to miss, indication why. There's no discussion of his relationship with Daphne, of what he might think of her fucking Doc while he is away, or of how and why the four of them end up in bed together. It all just happens. But much of what we find erotic about this kind of the story is what's going on inside people's heads. There was tons of that in Babysitting the Baumgartners. There is very little of it here.

The exception is to be found in Gretchen's reaction to Ronnie's newfound interest in Vince. She's clearly worried. And here there was really a missed opportunity. What resolution we get comes when Gretchen arrives home unexpectedly and sees Ronnie and Vince in bed together—much as she and Ronnie had watched Paige and Tyler, from the same hallway, earlier in the movie. That time, she and Ronnie had fucked in the hall, trying to keep quiet. This time, shocked for a moment, Gretchen drops her pants and masturbates. It makes it seem as if we're in pornotopia, where (as Linda Williams puts it in her classic book Hardcore) all sexual problems have sexual solutions. And that's too bad. Kay Brandt's earlier film Safe Landings was in many ways about sexual problems that don't have sexual solutions, and that's a big part of what made it such a great movie.

If you read Kitt's novel, that's not at all how it is. We won't say just how Gretchen and Ronnie's relationship ends, since that's much of the story, and we don't want to ruin it. But, here in the film version, all that nuance is lost. We think, as we said above, that this is the unfortunate effect of trying to follow all three of the plotlines from the novel. It's just too much, and all of the stories suffer. The book does fill in the "missing pieces" we complained about above, and we recommend it highly. But you shouldn't have to read the book (let alone the `prequel' Christmas With the Baumgartners, which introduces Daphne and Ari) for the movie to make sense.

So we thought the story could have been handled a bit better. Or maybe we were just frustrated by the failure to do more with the opportunites the story presents to explore some really interesting questions.*

But this is porn, right? So what about the sex?

Unfortunately, it too is a mixed bag. There are some really wonderful scenes here. If you told us that A.J. Applegate and Sara Luvv were soulmates, we'd absolutely believe it. We have rarely seen any two people so throughly enjoy having sex together, and the way they look at each other, smile at each other, touch each other, is as heart-warming as it is groin-affecting. The second and third scenes, with just the two of them, are outstanding.

Indeed, if you told us Anikka Albrite and Mick Blue were soulmates, we'd probably believe that, too. But that would partly be on the strength of their performances in Babysitting the Baumgartners. They are not quite as good here.

The last scene, the foursome with Doc and Mrs B and Daphne and Ari, is a really pleasant surprise. These sorts of scenes too often end up being totally pornish. But not this one. It's playful and fun, and the way Mrs B sits back much of the time and just enjoys watching, while still staying in verbal and emotional contact with Doc, is very sexy in its own right.

The other seven (yes, seven) scenes are less successful. The main problem with many of them (such as the first and ninth) is just that they are too long. Some of the others (such as the fourth, sixth, and eighth) feature the sort of pornish dialogue and positions that make it difficult for us to suspend disbelief. And the seventh, a foursome with Ronnie, Gretchen, Paige, and Tyler, ended in a way that we found more than a little surprising because so stereotypically pornish.

The photography during the sex scenes is similarly inconsistent. Much of the time, it is fantastic. But it is less so in the scenes involving men. All of a sudden, one starts reguarly to see the sort of shot where the woman's body fills the frame and the man is reduced to a disembodied penis. These aren't nearly as frequent as they are in so much mainstream porn, but there are a lot more of them here than we'd prefer to see—and than we did see in Babysitting the Baumgartners and Safe Landings.

That said, the acting is generally strong. Edyn Blair and Ricky Jackson are very good in supporting roles, as is Katy Kiss, at least most of the time. (Xander Corvus and Derrick Pierce are much less in evidence but are good enough when they are around.) The stars, as we've already said, are Sara Luvv and A.J. Applegate, who are as good in the non-sexual parts of the movie as they are in the sexual parts, i.e., terrific. And we'd say something similar about Anikka Albrite and Mick Blue. They are very convincing as a couple, both sexually and just when talking to each other. We were particularly struck, this time, by Blue's ability to express sexual pleasure, in a believable way, and we don't just mean when he's having an orgasm. It's a strange thing that, in so many ways, men's sexual pleasure, especially non-orgasmic sexual pleasure, often seems to be afterthought in porn. But not with him.

We should also add a word about the sets, which are really great. It's a small thing, but the apartment that Ronnie and Gretchen share actually does look like the kind of apartment they might have: nice, but simple, and small. We really appreciate that sort of attention to detail, but that is sadly rare in porn. (No, amazingly enough, a nanny and a college student do not usually get to share a palatial waterfront condo.)

Overall, then, we have, somewhat reluctantly, to say that we found this movie a bit disappointing, though that may mostly be because it's so hard not to compare it to Babysitting the Baumgartners. Don't get us wrong. We enjoyed watching it. But it's five hours long, and, if we are going to devote that much time to a movie, we expect a lot in return. We didn't feel we got it this time.

If it were up to us, we'd have focused more on the story of Ronnie and Gretchen and dug into its complexities—and left out some of the rest, or saved it for another movie.


* Since we're reviewing the movie, not the book, we'll confine our remarks about the book to a footnote. We enjoyed the book, but we do wish there'd been a bit more exploration of Gretchen's feelings for Ronnie and how Ronnie does or does not reciprocate those feelings. A really glaring question is how each of them is thinking about hetero- and homo-romantic relationships. So often, it seems as if polyamory can be really hetero-normative, despite itself, with woman-woman relationships relegated to non-primary status. (The wonderful Letters to the Baumgartners does address some such issues.)

August 27, 2017

Masseuse 10, from Sweet Sinner

★★★☆☆

Time: 2:36, Director: James Avalon, Date: 2017

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: IAFD

Cast: Aidra Fox (22yo), Logan Pierce (26yo), Kiera Noir (23yo), James Deen (31yo), Marley Brinx (23yo), and Seth Gamble

Source: 1280×720 MP4 downloaded from the Mile High Media subscription site

Pleasure ✓+, Passion ✓+, Balance

Review

Sydney's massage business is focused on 'traditional' techniques, and now it seems they need to 'step it up'. So she goes to see Drew (James Deen), a friend of her colleague Reed (Seth Gamble), who describes Drew as "a bit weird", which is an understatement. But his techniques prove quite valuable to her business.

It's not much of a story, but it has some promise, and the acting is generally quite good (except when Marley Brinx is involved). A fair bit of time at the outset is spent developing the characters, and the story. We really appreciated the focus, in places, on the gentle sensuality of massage, which is presumably the point of this entire series. And it really is well done, even beautiful in places. Some of the massage sequences may go on a bit long, but, again, we suppose that's meant to be a feature of the series.

Unfortunately, the movie ends up being horribly disappointing. The first scene, with Aidra Fox and Logan Pierce, is excellent. The sex is convincing and hot as Sydney gives her first 'sensual' massage to a long-time client. Sadly, though, the other three scenes range from mediocre to bad. The third scene, with Marley Brinx and Seth Gamble, isn't terrible, but the premise is implausible, and she is a lot more passive than we would prefer. But that's where the decent stuff ends. The other two scenes, both of which 'feature' James Deen, are just bad. He's supposed to be some 'Zen massage guru', but the second scene, with Keira Noir, has nothing to do with massage and feels gratuitous. Moreover, Deen does almost nothing to stay in character and just assumes his usual porn persona. We could say much the same sort of thing about the last scene, with Aidra Fox.

We've watched little with Deen, on purpose, since Stoya's revelations, and, frankly, this movie served to remind us why we haven't missed him. When we first saw him—you could check our reviews—we were impressed by how much he seemed to care for his partner's pleasure. But after watching him more, we can see that he doesn't care about his partner. Not really. Oh, he definitely wants the women to cum, but it seems to have little to do with them. It's more to prove what a great lover he is. So his antics basically ruined the movie for us.

All that said, the first scene really is very good. Watch it and skip the rest.

There are some serious issues with the sound, too. There are times it is difficult to hear the voices. The camera work is generally very good, though, except in the third scene, when there are quite a few 'medical' shots, a lot more than we would have expected from Sweet Sinner.

This film was nominated for several 2017 XBiz awards, including Best Couples-Themed Release and Director of the Year in a Feature, for James Avalon. We'll hazard a guess that it doesn't take much for a movie to be nominated.

August 10, 2017

Gone, from Angie Rowntree and Sssh.com

★★★★★

Time: 33:23, Director: Angie Rowntree, Date: 2015

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: Official Site, IAFD, The Real Porn Wiki Leaks, Rich Moreland's Website

Cast: Madeline Blue and Gee Richards

Source: 1920×1080 downloaded from Sssh.com

Review

Todd, Rebecca's husband, is "gone", and she is in deep mourning. We do not find out what has happened until the end—and no, we will not tell you.

The film begins with romantic scenes of them together, going about their daily lives. Rebecca then recounts the beginning of their relationship—and how there came to be a dungeon in their basement. We watch them share New Year's Eve in bed together—once, and then again, through the years, the sex being relatively conventional. Todd then reappears, down in their dungeon, which she is unsuccessfully trying to make herself pack. It has been her dream to see him one more time, to make love to him one more time, and so she does. What happens at the end is extremely powerful and moving, and it allows her finally to move on.

The story is perhaps a bit on the corny side, but no more so than a lot of "romantic porn". And it is a deeply touching tribute to...well, make sure you watch through all the credits if you want to know to whom.

The sex scenes are wonderful, and the camera work is fantastic. The sex is shot intimately, but without the usual medical shots. We see plenty of both of them, too, and we are offered a real sense of the love they share, and how it is expressed through their love-making. But it is not a perfect film. The music is sometimes too loud, obscuring their own sounds. And there are places in which the acting is wooden, and just not very good.

Nonetheless, this movie pushes the boundaries of what porn can be, and even with its flaws it is a work of genius. Watch it.

July 19, 2017

It's Complicated, from Wicked Passions

★★★★☆

Time: 1:28, Director: Stormy Daniels, Date: 2016

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: Wicked B2B, IAFD

Cast: Gracie Glam (26yo), Ryan Driller (34yo), Brooke Banner (33yo), Eric Masterson (46yo), Yhivi (22yo), Michael Vegas, Olivia Austin (30yo), Steven St Croix (48yo), and Small Hands

Source: 1280×720 MP4 downloaded from Wicked Pictures subscription site

Pleasure ✓+, Passion ✓+, Balance

Review

Shauna (Gracie Glam) has a wicked crush on her old friend Brandon (Small Hands), though she has been biding her time with her fuck-buddy Will (Ryan Driller)---though he may not see it that way. When she gets an invitation to a cousin's wedding back in her home town, that gives her the opportunity to 'wow' Brandon. She enlists her friend Carrie (Brooke Banner) to help her, which of course means shopping and nails and the like, and in the end she invites Carrie to come with her to the wedding. We won't tell how it all works out. But there's something very, very sad that happens, as well as something very happy.

It's a pretty good story, and as usual with these movies a fair bit of time is devoted to it: almost half an hour, so about a third of the movie. There were a few things about it, though, that were a bit implausible, such as how the family of the bride could fail to know Shauna would be at the wedding. But the acting is generally very good. Steven St Croix is great in a small role as Shauna's crazy uncle—though we have grown tired of watching him have sex, the very same way, almost every single time.

And it is the sex scenes that bring the movie down. The first scene, with Gracie Glam and Ryan Driller, starts off great but fades toward the end. The second, in which Carrie has sex with her boss (Eric Masterson), feels gratuitous and too much like 'couples porn'. The third scene, with Yhivi and Michael Vegas, is at least amusing—the bride and groom fuck in the bathroom right before the wedding—but it isn't nearly as passionate, or hurried, as you'd expect given the story, and he tries too hard to stay out of the way of the camera. We won't even talk about the fourth scene.

The saving grace is the last scene, with Brooke Banner and Small Hands. It's as if all the passion that was missing from the earlier scenes somehow found its way into this one. It really is terrific.

The photography is a mixed bag. We loved how the first scene was shot, very simple and quiet. There are some really nice shots, too, for example, of their hands, tightly clasped, while he is eating her pussy. But there is also a long sequence where the camera is too tight on her and we hardly see him at all. And that's pretty typical for the whole movie. There are plenty of wider shots, but there are also more 'medical' shots, and more shots tight on the women, than we are used to seeing from Wicked Passions.

July 14, 2017

Lefty, from Sweetheart Video and Dana Vespoli

★★★★½

Time: 2:02, Director: Dana Vespoli, Date: 2016

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: IAFD

Cast: Alexis Texas (31yo), Dana Vespoli (44yo), Bree Daniels (25yo), Julia Ann (47yo), A.J. Applegate (27yo), and Dani Daniels (27yo)

Source: 1280×720 MP4 downloaded from the Mile High subscription site

Pleasure ♀, Passion ♀-

Review

Linda "Lefty" Lumaban (Dana Vespoli) is a successful boxer, so far undefeated, and Alexis Texas, playing herself, is her girlfriend. Now she has agreed to do another fight very soon after her last one, which does not necessarily make her coach, and father figure, Sully, happy. The day of that fight, though, he has a heart attack and dies—and she, very suddenly, retires, and vanishes.

Intrepid reporter Erin (Bree Daniels) decides to try to find Lefty and uncover her story. She gets an interview with Alexis Texas, after a stripshow, but has trouble finding Lefty herself until she gets a call from one of Lefty's old assistants. Erin eventually is able to talk to Lefty, and even tries to talk her into coming out of retirement, but she has no luck...or so she thinks. And she ends up with a great story when Lefty tells her some secrets from her past, and really opens up to her.

It is a really good story, as porn stories go, with more nuance than you might expect. And a good bit of time is spent on the story, nearly forty minutes. The acting is spotty. Alexis Texas should probably stick to fucking. But Bree Daniels and Julia Ann are both very good, as are some of the non-sex actors, for example, James Avalon, who makes a great boxing coach. The interview scene is especially good. And Dana Vespoli's performance is fantastic, with her award for Best Actress in an All-Girl release at the 2017 XBiz Awards being richly deserved. (The film itself was also nominated for All-Girl Release of the Year.)

As for the sex, the last scene, with Dana Vespoli and Bree Daniels, is excellent. It's intense, and yet it happens at a relaxed pace. The second scene, with Daniels and Julia Ann, is almost as good. It's really gentle at first, and they are very convincing as a couple. The first scene, with Vespoli and Alexis Texas, is also pretty good, but the third scene, with Texas, AJ Applegate, and Dani Daniels wasn't, and it felt a bit gratuitous in the context of the movie.

The camera work was very good throughout, and the sound problems we have often noted with Sweetheart Video, and Sweet Sinner, we largely absent.

July 11, 2017

The Proposal, from New Sensations Tales from the Heart

★★★★½

Time: 1:47, Director: Jacky St James, Date: 2016

Screenshots: On our Tumblr

On the web: New Sensations Catalog, IAFD

Cast: Adria Rae (20yo), Tyler Nixon (29yo), Gia Paige (26yo), Logan Pierce (25yo), Abella Danger (21yo), Ryan McLane, Stevie Foxx, and Derrick Pierce (42yo)

Source: 1920×1080 MP4s downloaded from the New Sensations subscription site

Pleasure ♀-, Passion ♀, Balance

Review

This was Jacky St James's last movie for New Sensations: She has since she left for Sweet Sinner. As with many of her other movies, The Proposal is a collection of four vignettes. These ones, obviously, are organized around marriage proposals—not all of them, surprisingly, successful. We enjoyed all of the stories, even if the last one was a bit too short.

The sex is reasonably natural and passionate, but there is not much variety. The best scene is probably the last one, with Stevie Foxx (a relative newcomer, in one of her first ten films, according to IAFD) and Derrick Pierce. There is just a great sense of connection between them, and Foxx really seems into the sex, without over-doing it, if you know what we mean.

The first scene, with Adria Rae and Tyler Nixon, is also very good. Some of the sequences go on a bit long, but there is a great sense of connection between them, again. And the third, with Abella Danger and Ryan McLane, is almost as good. They both act their parts very well, and there is some great eye-contact while they are making love. The second scene, however, with Gia Paige and Logan Pierce, is a bit of a disappointment. It's the least conventional of the stories, which we appreciated, but the sex is marred by her over-emphasizing her pleasure, so to speak.

The photography is reasonably well balanced, though we do lose the men a bit at times, especially, as usual, once they start fucking. And the choices of angles and shots are pretty conventional, though there are some nice close-ups of faces, especially in the third and fourth scenes. But there aren't any really great shots here.