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Viewer Discretion

Studio: Vivid » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 2/8/05

XCritic's Advice: Watch It Online

GENRE: Straight Feature
DIRECTOR: David Stanley
STARS: Malezia, Nicole Sheridan, Kim Chambers, Stephanie Swift, Eric Masterson, Evan Stone, Chris Cannon, Voodoo, Grant Michaels
LENGTH: 80 mins without bonus material

Sometimes, a porn director can go too far. No, not in the realm of the risquι. There are still probably nookie notches unknown to normal man that adult auteurs can plum and plunder. Even with the enormous growth of the gonzo industry, and the availability of fuck features from around the world, it is impossible to say that every aspect of ass tapping or cunt cleaving has been explored and expanded upon. The area we are discussing, however, is the amphitheater of artistic irreverence. For over a decade now, since the advent of cheap movie making technology, the simple smut peddler has been perusing the often unobtainable goal of giving his (or her) gratuity a meaningful mainstream sheen. Hoping to mimic Hollywood, and in return, bring a little respectability to their craft, the creator of carnality is faced with a difficult challenge – balancing the facets of the straight feature with the requirements of a good old fashioned dick and dumper diorama.

Somewhere along the line, director David Stanley lost track of his frequently successful formula. He used to be able to perfectly proffer porn against pratfalls and make both sizzle with spunk and specificity. Movies like The Contestants and Bare Stage are expert examples of his unusual abilities. But with his recent release, Viewer Discretion, something got incredibly lost in the translation. What once seemed funny is now forced. What once was inventive is now irritating. And worst of all, what once seemed steamy and sizzling is now about as erotic as a trip to the dentists. Stanley once was able to have the knack and knew how to use it. But Viewer Discretion is a sad state of sexual affairs. Instead of providing the proper pandering that we all know and love, Dave falls in love with his lens and the consequences are almost catastrophic.

The DVD:
Set up to resemble a channel surfing television viewing experience, Viewer Discretion is desperate to be wacky, irreverent and fun. Using the additional premise of one particular program as the foundation for all the fucking (it is called Film Forum and features someone named Professor Irving R. Lexington – played by Big Tasty? – as our host) each scene then becomes a clip shown by the faux foreign fop (Tasty tries, but barely manages a meaningful British brogue). Naturally, part of the humor derives from the notion that this unsuspecting bloke goes goofy when he seen porn, not classic cinema, play out before his beleaguered eyes. But Stanley quickly drops that dynamic for a more pampered perv motif. Lexington looses it several times throughout the course of Viewer Discretion and how you respond to his ridiculous rants will indicate how much fun you have with this chaotic couch potato poon fest.

Interspersed between the scenes are several scripted skits (oddball commercials that usually make little sense) and clips from other hardcore films, sans sex naturally. The result is a kind of mindless mishmash, and anything for a laugh lark that never really coheres into something salient. Part of the problem with Stanley's approach is that he is so busy recreating reality – in this case, a really risquι TV channel and the movie types featured as part of the presentation - that he forgets to focus on the fucking. This is perhaps why Viewer Discretion is so disjointed – and why very little of it works at all. To see the impact of the peculiarities of this approach on the porn, we need to review each sequence separately, to witness firsthand how too much monkeying around can effect the more important monkey business:

Scene 1: Malezia, Eric Masterson
Using a sometimes inventive, sometimes irritating silent film style for the scene, Malezia and Eric play scandalous lovers in a sort of turn of the century take-off called "The Breath of the Sun". After lots of eyelash battling and broad gestures, they get down to a little Le Grind as Mal makes for the meat. She sucks on Eric's terse tent pole with glee, and he gives a big satisfied grin to the camera throughout. Next the positions pop up, each one handled in both sped up and real time tenets. Doggy, reverse cowgirl and cowgirl are explored before Mr. Masterson unloads his man mustard. Beating his boner to the point of popping, he explodes and delivers the dong drippings all over Malezia's ass.

Emblematic as to what will be wrong – and only partially right – about this entire set, Stanley starts us off with the hand-cranked rapid-fire farcical fun of early 20th century movie sex. He is so in love with the image of Masterson and Malezia porking away in their old fashioned swimming suits that he often forgets to focus on the frig. Sure, we see the penetration, but it is now part of a pantomime, a put-on meant to be more mocking that amazing. Neither actor looks particularly good in sepia tones and the attention to detail makes this nickelodeon nonsense very dry. This is the first strike against Viewer Discretion and it sadly won't be the last. Score: 4 out of 10.

Scene 2: Malezia, Evan Stone
It's time for another twisted take on the titty and taint as Stanley gives us his version of French New Wave wantonness. Malezia, wearing a blond wig and a perfect look of Parisian ennui on her face, meets up with the always wacky Evan Stone to erect a little Eiffel action all her own. Evan starts the shark with a helping of foot and toe action. He sucks bunion and licks arches with the best of them. Ripping his ho's hose and getting right down into the dirty bits, Mr. Stone then fondles his femme fatale's carnal canyons (both front and back door, thank you) and gets his gal all gushy and wet. She responds with a lunch of log, slurping her man's mighty baguette with aplomb. After a sequence of barely seen 69, we move into the plook parameters. There is some dog and a few moments of mish before Evan backs out and delivers a portion of pud pate directly into Malezia's mouth. She savors the spunk, boner appetite style.

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Again, Stanley has a halfway decent thing going. He is doing his best to create atmosphere and mood, serving the needs of his genre joking as well as the hardcore. But the problem becomes one of art over ass, mise-en-scene against sin on meat. Sadly, the sex comes up short again. The biggest problem here is that the camera is way too busy as the director digs for the most awkward, obtuse angles to preserve his point of view. But this means that the XXX content takes a tired backseat to all the black and white weirdness, and that is never conducive to decent donkey dunking. Score: 4 out of 10.

Scene 3: Malezia, Chris Cannon
In what is probably the best REALIZED sequence of TV fakery in this entire film, Malezia makes her third and final appearance, this time as a carpenter, along with hunky handyman Chris Cannon, to put the XXX back into the fix-it show (take THAT, Paige Davis!). Gauging the power of his tool, Mel munches on man member for a while, enjoying the powerful possibilities of Chris' generous jackhammer. Once the oral is out of the way, it's directly into some mish mining, as Cannon crams cock into cunt with artisan-like skill. We then groove to the spoon (with the added element of a vibrator to Ms. M's personal privates) before a good pumping of crotch calk gets laid down along our attractive apprentice's foot and leg.

You start to see a pattern here – uninspired sex inside a rather inventive package. Though Cannon and his co-star sound positively STUPID attempting British accents (porn stars can only fake so much, Mr. Stanley), they sure look the tawdry trading spaces part. But with the lack of any fiery or forceful fucking, and the skimpy serving of positions, this scene feels more like a rehearsal. It's like preparation for something more sensational than the substandard smut we see here. Score: 4 out of 10.

Scene 4: Nicole Sheridan, Voodoo
It's time to welcome the Mutt and Jeff of pussy pounding as the wonderfully wacky Nicole Sheridan and her diminutive Don, that master of the wise-acre persona Voodoo, explore yet another of the couple's certified carnal comedy scenes. While they are borrowing a bit from the casting coach conceits of Bare Stage, this is still some funny - and some ferocious fucking - stuff. It is by far the best sex scene overall in the film. After awarding the poor, wayward starlet a new career (adult actress) and a brand new name (the hilariously dopey 'Jenna Vaginason') the pair start porking. And they make jokes all the way through. That's right, whether she's sucking on a cock or taking it reverse cowgirl style, Nicole quips away. Not to be outdone, Voodoo volleys with his own outrageous statements.

Naturally, all this talking and taunting takes away from the fucking, but with Voodoo and Nicole, it is hard to hamper the heat. Starting with the ball action BJ that degenerates into a forceful face fucking, our plucky paramours give mish, doggy and the old backwards bull riding a run through before moving onto the money moment. Voodoo paints the pussy with Onan oils as he unleashes his load all over Nicole's snatch and stomach. Thanks to the talent of the performers involved, and the fact that Stanley doesn't dork up the action with too many of his artistic antics, this intense interpersonal dipsticking between our real life lovers makes for some mighty fine fun. While a little of the ribald repartee goes a very, VERY long way, Nicole and her hilarious hubby make it work. On a side note – this is announced as a MUSICAL, yet we never once hear any song or dance. What gives? Score: 7 out of 10.

Scene 5: Kim Chambers, Stephanie Swift, Grant Michaels
Our final sequence is a strange three-way revolving around what appears to be a Little Bo-Peep/Nursery Rhyme rhythm (the credits list both female characters as such). As with any group grope, the sexual dynamics are mixed and rather hard to follow. This is especially true with two gals and a guy. When there is more cock, there are less crazy combinations (after all, the dick has got to go somewhere). This scene also has the odd element of Grant in a COW suit – though Bo-Peep is definitely a sheep kind of lady – and this brave bit of bizarreness almost makes up for the rather routine hardcore we witness.

Our shepherding sluts begin the balling with a trip to Connie the linguists, and the licking is lovely. Then Mr. Moo walks in, and the gals go right for the faux udders. That's right, it's time to do the XXX version of Tom Green as our teat toddling troubadours substitute plastic costume for cock. Eventually, peter makes an appearance and the dueling head begins. A glass dildo arrives and is also put to good use. Our trio traipses through doggy, scissors (with complimentary cunt licking) mish (with faux phallus friggin') and the various V to M permutations before Grant gives up his groin grog. He provides a heaping helping to one of the gals, and she selfishly keeps it for herself. Since Stanley backs off the bullshit here and simply lets the sex play out (true, he is still in love with the far too extreme close-up), this scene seems to sizzle more than others. The erotica is ripe and the combination of performers works well. While it can't match Scene 4 for hardcore, it still does a better XXX job of selling the sin than some of the other material presented. Score 6 out of 10.

It's hard to fault Stanley for trying to inject some invention into the adult industry. For the most part, sex films are either homemade horrors loaded with gonzo lewdness, or over-important art house happenings where style smoothers the sex to within a good inch of its effectiveness. So trying to balance style with substance is always a tough thing. He has done it well in the past (Bare Stage, for example, is an excellent example of artifice with ass play) and with all the potential the premise for Viewer Discretion has, one should expect nothing less here. But the results are too radical, too wrapped up in the comedy and the craziness to get the flesh fan to care. The first two scenes practically dismiss the XXX aspects of the sequence outright to focus on lighting, sets, props and presence. While Scenes 4 and 5 try to salvage this strangeness, we are still stuck functioning under Stanley's flawed format. There is no crime in trying to recreate beloved genre types, or for paying homage to cinematic heroes from the past. But Viewer Discretion is too slapdash to be satire, too insular to be interesting and too arch to be arousing. David Stanley has done better work in the past. And here's assuming he'll return to form again. But anyone thinking they will come to Viewer Discretion and witness the wonders of wantonness with wackiness will be sadly mistake. This is a great big letdown, all around.

The Video:
Utilizing a digital video to film technology (actually, the image is manipulated to make the camcorder look like Kodachrome) the 1.33:1 full screen transfer here is clean and crisp. The color correction is excellent, rendering the skin tones realistic and detailed. The switch to black and white and other artistic elements is smooth and the overall atmosphere is one of hokey Hollywood gone homemade. Stanley's visionary flair is apparent in every frame of Viewer Discretion. Too bad that the truly cinematic image undermines instead of supports the porn.

The Audio:
Stanley continues his cut-up routine with his choices of musical scoring for his scenes. A sequence can start off with some subtle, sensual music and instantaneously move into an all out bump and grind. Jaunty jazz shifts into straight ahead techno, and rock can roll over into orchestration in a downbeat. The Dolby Digital Stereo captures all this crazed cacophony very well, in addition to making sure the dialogue is crisp and clear. While there is very little mood enhancing ambience to the sonic horizons here (most of the spatial feeling is flat, not fully realized), Viewer Discretion still offers a hilarious amount of auditory artifice, rounding out the riotous nature of this production quite well. It is perhaps the best aspect of the entire DVD.

The Extras:
Vivid's titles are usually loaded for bear, and Viewer Discretion is no exception. Once you get past all the merchandising (web site info, phone sex and toy ads), movie mania (a collection of four trailers) and the usual mediocrities (positions room, galleries, bios) we are treated to a decent Behind the Scenes featurette and a collection of bonus scenes. As for the additional sex sequences, here is a rundown:

Bonus Scene 1: Malezia, Rick Patrick
From: Cinema Obscura (2004)
Directed by David Stanley
Acts Performed: Blowjob, Reverse Cowgirl, Straight Anal (with vibrator to clit accent) $hot on EVERYTHING!
At 10 minutes a pop, the bonus bonanza starts on a sour note. While the addition of the electronic stimulator is both a bonus and a curse, the rest of the sex – YES, even the anal – is very routine. Score: 3 out of 10

Bonus Scene 2: Malezia, Sophia, Jack Lawrence, Nick Manning
From: I Love This Business (2004)
Directed by Paul Thomas
Acts Performed: Cunnilingus, Salad Tossing, Blowjobs, Mish, Cowgirl, Pile Driver, Doggy, V to M, Straight Anal, Cowgirl with Nut Action, $hot on Cunt, $hot in Mouth
The two-on-two tandem tooling provided in this scene is actually pretty good. The actors throw off all pretense of politeness and just got down to the dirty boogie dimensions. Director Paul Thomas has a wonderful way with the camera, capturing the sex with sensational clarity. While there could have been more meat to these machinations (as stated before, all these extra scenes are short) the overall effect is very steamy. Score: 6 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 3: Kelsey, Eric Masterson, Steve Hatcher, Pat Myne
From: Hard Evidence, Part 2 (2001)
Directed by Robby D
Acts Performed: Foreplay, Blowjobs, Cunnilingus, Tit Fucking, Mish, $hot on Pussy x 2, $hot on Tits
In another orgy offering, we get three guys each getting a solo shot at Kelsey's crack. Only problem is – that's ALL we see. A little warm-up; three straight sex fucks; three middling money moments. Each man just stands around, waiting impatiently until they get a turn, and the lack of alternative positions makes this monotony a very dull dicking indeed. One comes to expect more from director Robby D. He usually brings a cleverness and a class to his porn. Unfortunately, this poon party has neither. Score: 3 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 4: Stormy, Dillion Day
From: Photo Club (2003)
Directed by Paul Thomas
Acts: Performed: Fondling, Blowjob, Tit Fuck, Cunnilingus, Salad Tossing, Intense Fingering, Reverse Cowgirl, Doggy, $hot in Mouth Looking like what the mainstream world imagines when they think of hardcore pornography (glamorous gal giving it to an oversized beefcake with a massive member) Stormy and Dillion put on quite an act for our marital aid pleasure. They have a great deal of chemistry and just look good together. The sex is balanced between oral and positional, and the passion is obvious between the pair. Had it been a little longer this would have been fantastic. As it is, it is merely the best of a bonanza of blah bonuses. Score: 7 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 5: Rebecca Bardoux, Tyce Bune
From: Swirl (2003)
Directed by David Stanley Acts Performed: Cunnilingus, Fingering, Blowjob, Reverse Cowgirl, Anal Pile Driver, Miniscule $hot in Mouth
Tyce looks WAY too old to be giving Rebecca a jump and the results have a kind of creepy, pedophilic vibe to them. Sure, some guys will get off on the barely legal logistics here, but others will simply see a much older man getting his jollies off with a 'far too fresh' lass. Tyce does know how to tap that tush though and his banging of the butthole is the best bit in the sequence. Otherwise, this is more creepy than carnal. Score: 4 out of 10.

As with most porn Making-Ofs, this peek Behind the Scenes contains more photo shoot footage and mindless mulling about than actual insight into a porn production. Malezia is very outspoken and talks throughout, though many of the things she has to say are rather self-serving (naturally, this is her starring vehicle). While we do witness director Stanley setting up some of his green screen process shots, and working through the comedy bits, this is more or less a very bland, boring publicity piece for the production, laced with a few hilarious bloopers and blunders to keep us mildly entertained.

Final Thoughts:
Since he has been such a major champion of his work in the past, this is going to be a very painful position for the Dirge to take - but Viewer Discretion warrants a RENTAL at best. The storyline is silly for silly's sake. The sex is constantly being undermined by the cinematic schisms created by director Stanley, and at a little less than 75 minutes, the value of the copulation content here is questionable. Indeed, between the balling and the ballyhoo, you get about 40 minutes of XXXc-stasy and 35 minutes of supposed mirth – not the best combination. While the overall DVD package rates a 6 out of 10 on the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, you will definitely find this to be a one hit lend/lease wonder. Couples will be pleased with its presentation, though, so a Cohabitation Certification is awarded. Proving that porn directors can indeed go overboard in their desire to dress up their diddling, Viewer Discretion is a disappointment. Sometimes, one can screw around with the screwing around a little too much. And as usual, the end product is pedestrian instead of penetrating.

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