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Dinner Party 3: Cocktales

Studio: Adam & Eve » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 11/3/04

XCritic's Advice: Recommended

GENRE: Straight Feature
DIRECTORS: Nicholas Steele
STARS: Carmen Luvana, Terri Summers, Lauren Phoenix, Dee, Summer Sweet, Lana Moore, Kimberley Kane, Dominica Leoni, Isabella, Lola, Lonnie, Stephen St. Croix, Evan Stone, Randy Spears, Cheyne Collins, Billy Glide, Mickey G, Joey Ray, Dale DeBone
LENGTH: 130 mins without bonus material

Should porn really try to be epic? Not in the heat and humping capacity per se, but in the visual scope and splendor of its presentation. Those who enjoy the more natural, naughty aspects of gonzo (which has a set of extremes all its own, by the way) scoff at the concept of opulent settings with overly made-up performers quietly and calming rimming each other's asses. While backdrop and art direction can elevate a sequence of double penetration beyond its basic, ballistic bonking, it really doesn't make the sin any sweeter. Some could argue with the concept, but beauty and grace seems to be the antithesis of the hardcore aesthetic. All this raises some serious questions: Should porking be so disgusting, so flagrantly down and dirty that you need to bathe in either tomato juice or a combination of caustic chemicals to cleanse your inner and outer aficionado? Can too much visual and designer flare create an atmosphere hostile to crotch keelhauling? The answer is a decided perhaps. Someone like Michael Ninn seems to find a way of mixing MTV video vibrancy with vaginal va-va-va-voom to make movies both artistically AND sexually satisfying. Same goes for Ninn protégé Laurent Sky, though even that auteur pushes the envelope of extremes in both creative and carnal capacities. But Nicholas Steele appears to have bitten off more than he can eschew with his statement to spectacle, Dinner Party 3: Cocktales. He's out to use various exotic ideals to feed his vignette-heavy vision. And his high definition, widescreen style just screams important 'cinema'. But good-looking nookie is not necessarily fiery flesh fun, something that this overblown DVD presentation proves in well-polished spades.

The DVD:
Dinner Party 3: Cocktales, is set up like a feature film, but is really nothing more than a Decalogue of depravity with a clothesline narrative binding it together. The good part about this approach is that it allows the audience a series of built-in breathers before the next sequence of subtle, show-off sharking arrives. Director Nicholas Steele is making a grand, high fashion statement here, an attempt to elevate the XXX movie out of the realm of the rote and rancid and into the arms of luxury. For the most part, he quasi-succeeds. It's hard to imagine a better looking adult entertainment, from the massive mansion setting to the use of imaginative conceits to recreate a music video shoot. Along the way we visit a atrium garden in Ancient Rome and a foggy European street. This is a movie with big ideas and still larger production values to promote them. Even the cast is a who's who of top-end porn performers. While the Jennas, the Jesses and the Janines are absent, there is a wealth of fine feminine flesh (and for all those who care, meaty macho meat) featured. All the pieces are therefore in place for hardcore on the histrionic level. All we have to do is push "play" on our handy remote and let the lavish lewdness begin.

But Dinner Party 3: Cocktales has performance 'issues'. At nearly two hours and 10 minutes, this movie is long. It feels big and broad, with languid takes and slow dolly/crane shots. There really is not much of a narrative structure, just the suggestion that Carmen's late husband held parties such as this and she is carrying on the carnal mantle. Characterization is kept to a minimum, for good or bad, and director Steele allows the natural charisma (or lack thereof) of the performances to rule their individual dimensionality. (For example, Randy Spears is playing an arrogant, disconnected asshole while Evan Stone amplifies the beefy befuddlement slant). As they are in most XXX titles, the actresses seem interchangeable and (with a couple of exceptions) non-descript. The result is a movie with a great outer coating of affluence and sumptuousness covering up a core of strident commonality. It is left up to the scenes, then, to advance or atrophy the smut. The best way to approach the porn in Dinner Party 3 is to scuttle the story (do we really care about the conspicuous animosity between onscreen couple Spears and Phoenix, or if St. Croix is some manner of international bon vivant) and focus on the fuck and suck in each sequence/vignette. But instead of recounting every cock knock and pussy pose, it's better to gauge if the grandeur of the moment matches up to the grinding of the mons. Let's start with:

Scene 1: Carmen Luvana, Billy Glide
Setting: Kitchen
Fantasy Concept; Sex with a Dangerous Man
Sex Positions: Food Play, Cunnilingus, Blow Job, Ball Action, Straight, Doggy, $hot on Ass
The combination of Carmen and Billy should seem like a winner. Her persona reeks of seductive sexual sleaze and he's a muscular mannequin with a huge summer sausage. But unfortunately, looks and leanings do not always satisfying shark sequences make. Carmen reverts to her native tongue (a strange, strangled Spanglish) once Billy glides in her groin and the ethic epithets become distracting very quickly. Also, Ms. Luvana is not much of a reciprocator. Sure, she sucks cock, but when Mr. G puts the heat to the meat...to the muff, she simply lays back and blathers. The food facet is tossed aside too quickly and the pop appears to cum out of left field. Overall, this is a sequence stymied by issues outside the paltry positional parameters. Score: 4.5 out of 10

Scene 2: Lola, Evan Stone
Setting: An atmospheric street in Europe
Fantasy Concept: Sex with a Total Stranger
Sex Positions: Foreplay, Blow Job, Ball Action, Cunnilingus, Doggy, Straight, Sideways Cowgirl, $hot on Face and Mouth, Cum Kissing
Over the course of the last few months, Evan Stone has become a real favorite in the Dirge household. His elephantine nutsack aside, that devilish grin and gargantuan dicking style has elevated titles as diverse as Misty Beethoven: The Musical (where he actually sang exceptionally well) and Devil's Playground. He is a fine actor and a fresh, goofy presence in any porn he appears in. His scene with Lola, while filled with technical failings (underlit, faux fog, digital grain) does contain some excellent erotica. Far better than Scene 1, Lola launches into this sequence with equal abandon to her hung co-star and the results are red hot. Director Steele's desire to edit everything like he's had one too many six packs of Jolt cola undermines their action, though, leaving this portion of the pussy parade feeling more half empty than half full. Score: 6 out of 10

Scene 3: Kimberley Kane, Stephen St. Croix
Setting: A quite Roman garden at night
Fantasy Concept: Set in Ancient Rome
Sex Positions: Foreplay, Cock Cleaning, Super Slow Blow Job, Reverse Cowgirl, Doggy with Pile Driving, $hot All Over, Oral Clean Up
It has to be said that when Stephen St. Croix "pops", he REALLY lives up to the word. This guy launches a load into the production filming down the street when he finally finishes with Kim. Too bad that the scene itself seems undeserving of such a debauched dive-bombing. For every great thing about the pairing (Kim gives a sensual, slow sucking to Steve's shaft, the entire cock washing sequence) there are parts that just – pardon the pun – peter out (the rote reverse cowgirl). The Roman setting is inventive (even if Steve looks like a refugee from a community college version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in his tunic) and the overall ambience is excellent. But we're here for the humping, and nothing really special transpires once pecker meets poon. Score: 5 out of 10.

Scene 4: Terri Summers, Dale DeBone
Setting: A poolside video shoot
Fantasy Concept: Sex as a Rock Star
Sex Positions: Gratuitous Lip Syncing, Cunnilingus, Blow Job, Reverse Cowgirl, Doggy, $hot on Chest

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Here is an example where the cinematic style overshadows – nay, consumes whole – the entire erotic angle. Dale and Terri could be screwing at the top of the Empire State Building, sweating like a couple of steelworkers and all we would do is sit back and wonder how Steele managed to mimic the MTV rapper's delight music video vibe so perfectly. The song sucks baboon blowholes and without a lot of actors or extras, the concept of the clip seems cheap (no matter how pitch perfect it looks). As for the sex – well, the bling-bling bullshit of the camera concepts just kill it, outright. There are too many long shots, ancillary angles featuring fountains and a reliance on jackrabbit jump cutting to get us into the groove. This really is the definition of a music video – superfluous and easily interchangeable with any other action in the film. Score: 4.5 out of 10.

Scene 5: Dominica Leoni, Randy Spears
Setting: An opulent Victorian parlor
Fantasy Concept: Sex with a Vampire
Sex Positions: Foreplay, Tit Play, Cunnilingus, Fanged Blow Job, Ball Action, reverse Cowgirl, Cowgirl, $hot on Face and Mouth
What is it with porn and vampires? Is it the whole oral aspect? The sucking? Blood as some manner of sperm substitute? Whatever the case may be, Spears has the right idea when he tells the table that his fantasy may make them laugh. Doing his best fearless Nosferatu nookie slayer routine, Spears and Leoni actually put on a decent drilling once all the faux-Stoker stuff is dealt with. While it may seem hostile to the notions of head, watching a woman blow a cock with fake fangs in her mouth is just a hoot. And once they ply the pork, the sequence turns steamy. Still, there is a daffy dimension that flusters the fuck fan. And besides, since he's fucking a member of the LIVING dead, is Spears engaging in necrophilia? Or just some manner of zombie stomping? Score: 5 out of 10

Scene 6: Lauren Phoenix, Cheyne Collins
Setting: A Hallway in the Mansion
Fantasy Concept: Sex with the Hired Help
Sex Positions: Stripping, Salad Tossing, Blow Job, Deep Throating, Doggy, Straight Pile Driver, $hot on Face, Oral Clean Up, Cum Kissing
Frankly, Lauren Phoenix has done better. A Helluva lot better. Just check out her work in Big Wet Asses #4. When this girl wants to rock the rod, she can do it with dirty delight. But Cheyne appears hampered by the circumstances – be it the hallway setting or the mostly vertical vamping that has to take place. As this is sex that is supposed to be off-the-cuff, secretive and quick, the scene shifts around far too wildly, with the aggressive nature seeming more like a result of the locale, not the lust. All that being said, this duo looks dynamite together and in the proper placement, could really electrify. In Dinner Party 3, they are just adequate. Score: 5.5 out of 10

Scene 7: Dee, Lana Moore, Mickey G
Setting: A Futuristic Interrogation Room
Fantasy Concept: Sex with some Extreme B&D issues
Sex Positions: Nipple Clamps, Tiny Torture Devices, Dueling Blow Jobs, Face Sitting, Blow Job, Reverse Cowgirl, Cunnilingus, Fingering, Toy Play, Male Ass Fucking, Strap-On Dildo Penetration, $hot with Butt Beads Removal.
You've got to give Mickey G credit. Sure, there are guys who eat cum on screen, let gals finger their sphincter and even pair up with another prick for a little two in one bush/butt breaming. But the Mickster takes one for the team, literally, as he lets Dee do HIS dumper with a fat purple prick. The pleasure/pain registering all over his face is a clear indication of the aura this scene wanted to create. It is one of the few times in filmed fucking where real reactions from all the performers are visible and direct. The result is a real pocket rocket of a sequence, a chance to see the artifice drop and some people just pounding away passionately. All sci-fi fusnickens aside, this is the best scene in the film. Score: 8 out of 10.

Scene 8: Isabella, Lonnie
Setting: A Dark Void
Fantasy Concept: Sex with a Psychedelic Sappho Sister
Sex Positions: Kissing, Touching, Cunnilingus, Grinding
Dude, break out the water pipe, fire up the Mary Jane briar and sit back, relax and let your libido float downstream. In either one of the most daring, or DUMB, scenes in the whole film, director Steele expands the dorm room dimensions of the black light as this same sex sequence goes fluorescent. Impressionistic, impersonal and impossible to decipher, our radiantly colored couple do lots of things that LOOK like gal-on-gal gladhanding. But unless you and Mr. Rorschach are tight with your insights, these ladies could simply be sharing shortbread recipes and we couldn't tell the difference. While the approach is unique (and occasionally startling in its visual compositions) this is just not XXX material. Call up Cinemax or Showtime and sell them this shit. Keep the body paints away from the porn Mr. Steele, and everything will be just fine. Score: 2 out of 10.

Scene 9: Summer Sweet, Joey Ray
Setting: A Calm, Tranquil Bedroom
Fantasy Concept: Sex in a Romantic Rendezvous
Sex Positions: Foreplay, Blow Job, Straight, Spoon, Cowgirl, Reverse Cowgirl, $hot on Vagina
To paraphrase Dexy's Midnight Runners, poor old Joey Ray. This meaty, merry man seems to have only one mode when it comes to XXX action, and as they say in the 'hood, it's slammin'. Once he gets into Summer's sweet spot, he's a one man jackhammer. He must think that cunt thrusting is measured in PSIs and RPMs, not EPM (erections per minute). Summer just goes with the fornication flow as she tries to keep up. The result is a standard sex scene, the Ray way. If you think Joey brings the naughty noise with girded gusto, you'll really like this sequence. It is one of the more beautifully shot and composed installments in the set. But if Joey's johnson jamming gets on your nerves, you may not enjoy the energetic eros. Score: 6 out of 10.

Scene 10: Carmen Luvana, Terri Summers, Lauren Phoenix, Dee, Summer Sweet, Stephen St. Croix, Randy Spears, Evan Stone
Setting: The Living Room
Fantasy Concept: Sex with EVERYONE
Sex Positions: Come On, It's an Orgy!
How does one rate a free-for-all? It's like criticizing chaos. Is it fair to point out the shot selection when you've got eight of the most professional pole polishers and piston providers around going full bore bonking for your benefit? Is it wrong to point out how the Stone/Dee coupling comes across as far more heated than the St. Croix/Summer situation? Spears and Phoenix finally get down to business, but it looks like Lauren has long since given up on the project, going through the motions just to make it to the end. While the crane shot toward the finale does illuminate the actual hardcore happening going on with a kind of pompous zest, there is still a pedestrian quality to this pounding that is hard to shake. Though it's hard to pinpoint the reason for it, Dinner Party 3 may be guilty of having the first passive all-out sex spectacle in the history of adult entertainment. Score: 6 out of 10.

In the end, why Dinner Party 3 is not more erotic is totally up for grabs. The performers here are all excellent at the elementals of hardcore, and Steele almost never ruins a randy moment with queer camera angles or over-stylized strangeness. Aside from the bong hit black light poster routine posing as a certified lesbianism lark, and the VH-1 version of shark, the rest of the risqué material is straightforward and salient. There is no overt weirdness (Spears Van Helsing aside) and even the full-out fetish section is handled with a perfectly evenhanded touch. Perhaps it is all in the missed and/or wasted opportunities. Why bring on more than a dozen of the most potent and passionate porn stars just to let them languish in dialogue heavy scenes (indeed, the party set up takes more time than several of the individual sequences)? And then, they only get a single showcase each? Why are the ancillary fuck extras here? Couldn't a way have been found so that each party guest becomes a paramour in fantasyland? Wouldn't that be better than girding the cast list with faux-famous names? The scripting is superficial, the acting more than wooden (lead actress Carman Luvana is so accent affected it ruins any attempt at naturalism) and the overall tone is tepid, not tantalizing. Clearly, the epic nature of the approach ended up stifling the sizzle in Dinner Party 3. While it is a marvelous looking movie, it fails to deliver any dick/dame dynamite.

The Video:
Touted as being one of the first forays by porn into the world of widescreen HD dimensions, the transfer for Dinner Party 3 is fine, but not without its failings. Steele has a wonderful gift for composition and framing, but there is not a lot he can do about compression grain or flaring brightness (though the gritty look to Evan's Euro-scene was supposedly created on purpose). For most of the movie, the image is exceptional. And there are times when you forget you are watching an adult movie and actually get the feel of a big budget Hollywood production. Make no mistake about it; Dinner Party 3 looks great. But it is not the faultless, pristine production you expect from the hyperbole hoisted on this film.

The Audio:
One of the best aspects of Dinner Party 3 is the sound. Steele uses very evocative music throughout, and there is an attempt at giving us a little sampling of surround sonics during the table scenes. The Dolby Digital Stereo has excellent separation, nice depth and a real clarity and crispness. Dialogue is easily understandable and nuances are effortlessly deciphered. From a purely technical standpoint, this is one of the better digital offerings on the market.

The Extras:
The opulent aspects of the film are transposed to the DVD in what has to be one of the most outwardly impressive packaging of a porn title ever. From the hard cardboard disc case (which opens up in a tri-fold manner to expose two DVDs and a recipe/scrapbook) to a second disc worth of bonus materials, this is one impressive offering (Heck, there are even rhinestones behind the plastic disc holders). On Disc 1, the sole extra is a commentary track from director Steele and cinematographer/co-writer John Noz Muka. As is the pattern with most porn narratives, our hosts quiet down whenever the hardcore starts up, and there is an irritating mix of backslapping and background at play during their friendly, fun exchange. They discuss each of the characters' personality (an element actually missing from the script itself) and hint at issues that occurred during production (Steele claims that the biggest blooper in 16 years happened while making this movie). They marvel over the location and the talent of their performers. They discuss, at length, the safety precautions taken to properly protect their showplace. Though it appears to be edited (Steele and Noz Muka tend to start sentences one way that finish in another sonic fashion) it is a nice addition to this film's facets.

Disc 2 is where the vast majority of the extras reside. There is almost one hour of behind the scenes footage (frustratingly divided up into chapters that cannot be played all at once – ARGH!) highlighting how each vignette was created and filmed. We see director Steele roaming around the set, giving instructions and solving problems. Randy Spears giggles like a schoolgirl as Dominica Leoni puts the vampire bit on him ("It tickles" he titters). Dale DeBone gets sopping wet for his part in the 'video' shoot (said sequence was/is apparently Terri Summers first onscreen boy/girl encounter) and Mickey G seems to really enjoy the butt sex. While we don't get to hear much from the performers, the insight into the vastness of this production is interesting to observe. In addition, Adam and Eve includes some trailers, a gallery and those mandatory merchandising weblinks. We are also treated to two bonus scenes, both starring Christie Lee. We begin with:

Bonus Scene 1: Christie Lee, Steve Drake
From: Snow Job (1999)
Director: Unknown On a rather uncomfortable wooden couch, Christie and Steve exchange some dull dialogue before the grope and grab begins. Ms. Lee starts the sex by doing a little calm cabaret for her mate. He fondles her flesh folds and chest flaps before the oral sets in. Steve snacks on snatch, using fingers to further the fun. Christie takes a digit in her mouth to measure the pleasure she's having. After successfully blowing Steve back to life (he's a little droopy after his trip to Connie the Linguist) the duo dive into reverse cowgirl. They do a little dog before the perfunctory facial. Since this is called "never before seen footage" from Snow Job, you can consider this an 'outtake' instead of an actual sequence. The actors respond to off camera suggestions and sometimes stop in the middle of an act to adjust, or just rest. The video quality is terrible (there is lots of compression and pixelization problems here) and the result makes this mating seem more homemade than hot. Score: 3 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 2: Christie Lee, August, Cheyne Collins
From: Dinner Party 2: The Buffet (1999)
Director: Seymore Butts
Going for a little school girl/class jock vibe, August and Christie jump all over a supine Cheyne, slowly stripping and vamping for the camera. The gals go toe to twat for a while as Mr. C looks on, and when the ladies have enough of each other, they head for their hunky meat's member. There's some dueling head before the face sitting starts, with the whole thing de-evolving into a session of 69. Eventually, Christie clamps onto August's cunt as Cheyne takes her from behind. The bow-wow is fast and furious and leads to a switch-off as August takes it straight while Christie concentrates on her chest. There is some alternating V to M (Ms. Lee tasting August's savory sauce) and a little more pussy pummeling before the gals get into a numbers game. While they complete the 6-9 shuffle, Cheyne positions himself in Christie's backdoor and does the dog with relish. Naturally there is V to M. The sequence ends with a little cowgirl as Cheyne pops his carnal cork in the ladies shared shaft-slobbering faces. In many ways, this is the best SEX in the entire Dinner Party 3 box set. The threesome provides palpable heat and the humping is energetic and erotic. Had this been the dynamic used throughout DP3, it would have been a better film. Score: 8 out of 10.

Though it may seem massive (especially with the overdone nature of the packaging itself), the added content concepts of Dinner Party 3 are fairly basic. With a second disc utilized more for show than space (surely the HD transfer required additional space), the additions are nice, but not out of the ordinary for most adult entertainment companies.

Final Thoughts:
So, after all the complaining, all the finger pointing and flaw finding, The Dirge is about to hand down his horrid verdict – something in the range between skip it and shit, right? Wrong. Indeed, Dinner Party 3: Cocktales is getting a recommendation because there are probably more people in the audience that will find the fucking powerful instead of paltry. As Nicholas Steele is stunning them with extravagant eye candy, they will ignore the lack of characterization or the narrative inertia. When averaged out with tech specs and other critical factors, the Disco Dirge Peter Meter registers a decent 6 out of 10, so there is no way it is worthless. Beside, this is the perfect couples movie – nothing overly spicy with lots of sensuality and warm fuzzies. There is no way a Cohabitation Certification could be avoided. Consider Dinner Party 3 an antidote to over-the-top, completely raunchy fuck films out to make you sick and thick at the same time and you'll do just fine. Forget that hardcore should be somewhat seedy and enjoy the sequences that excel. Ignore the pompous pitch and concentrate on the pussy. Forget the gonzo title in your top draw and just think of this as a fashion shoot with rig frigging and you'll do just fine. Dinner Party 3 offers quite the impressive invitation. Unfortunately, the meal that Nicholas Steele and the gang presents is just too Goddamn gorgeous to fully satisfy...or arouse.

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