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Scorpio Rising

Studio: Vivid » Review by Disco Dirge » Review Date: 6/14/05

XCritic's Advice: Skip It

GENRE: Straight Feature
DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas
STARS: Sunrise Adams, Charlotte Lee, Triana Michaels, Jennifer Luv, TJ Hart, Lisa Lee, Lisa Marie, Lucy Lee, Hailey Paige, Tyla Wynn, Chris Cannon, Steven St. Croix, Marco Duartor, Nick Manning, Jerry, Jean Val Jean, Vincent Vega, Trevor Zen,
LENGTH: 107mins

The auteur theory is a tricky one in the adult industry. Since this is a business built on breasts, bush, balls and boner anything that can make it more exotic and erotic is justified and glorified. But as gonzo has shown, fans frequently enjoy their suck and fuck without all the beautiful bells and wistful whistles. Indeed, too many softcore sentiments and you all but destroy the XXX elements that fuel your consumer confidence in the first place. Most porn aficionados prefer their porking without all the interfering straight feature facets like story, character and drama. Sex presented in too fancy a fashion will loose those who like it raw and unrefined. But with amateur and other outsider elements really pushing the limits of legitimacy, standard studios also understand that movies with big production values have their own fervent frequenters.

A good crafter of carnality can usually balance the two. Robbie D., Brad Armstrong, David Stanley and many others have managed the task with talent and tenacity. Sure, they've had their missteps, but they always put the poon first. Another usually reliable name is Paul Thomas. This lover of large budget lust is often seen as a dependable director, mixing sex and story with skill and sensitivity. Well, somebody must have spiked his Red Bull with idiot pills, because his latest onerous opus, Scorpio Rising, is just horrendous. Overstuffed with story and depleted of almost all its sex appeal, this is the last thing that porn fans are flocking to that is, adult entertainment that takes its narrative more seriously than its nookie.

The DVD:
Scorpio Rising tells us the story of a struggling artist played by Chris Cannon. He used to be a big deal, selling paintings left and right and living the 'only in the movies' manner of high life. But when his dealer tells him that 'washed up' would be a kind word for his career at this juncture, Chris gets desperate. Strapped for cash and wanting to please his hen-pecking wife, he gets a job as a male escort. At first, he avoids the sexual aspect of the service. But when he meets up with Sunrise Adams, he decides a diddle here and there won't really screw up his nuptials too much. Turns out Sunrise is married to Stephen St. Croix, a heroin addict muralist who can't finish his latest commission, amongst other, more biologically oriented jobs.

He pays Cannon to finish his canvas, and to finish off his wife as well. After a celebratory orgy, and another bout of bonking, St. Croix kills himself. Cannon, convinced he was the famed painters apprentice, prepares for the oncoming accolades. But Sunrise does to him what he's been doing to her all along. Destitute, and now on the road to divorce (spouse Jennifer Luv found out about his freelance fucking) Chris returns to painting...houses. But some friendly advice helps him recapture his muse, and he creates a sell-out show, inspired by his adventures in the love for sale trade.

At the beginning of this miserable movie there is very little sex. The story takes up a good 20 minutes of the initial running time. The ending, however, seems overloaded with lovin', scenes 5, 6 and 7 coming almost one after the other. The sequences are discussed individually so you can determine whether this plot heavy piece of petting floats your bawdiness boat. Or perhaps, it's all just a Titanic waste of time. We begin with:

Scene 1: Charlotte Lee, Triana Michaels
Plot Point: After another successful day of surveying the seashore for studs, our slutty Sapphos decide to celebrate with some snatch attacking.
Act Performed: Masturbation, Tit Sucking, Cunnilingus, Face Sitting, 69, Strap-On Doggy, Vaginal Vibrator Fu, Anal Vibrator Fu

Anyone whose read the Dirge's reviews knows that nothing puts him to sleep faster than gal on gal action. Not that lesbianism isn't a sometimes sexy-as-shit fantasy fulfillment, but it's just that most hardcore films fail to let the ladies love each other in explicit ecstasy. It's usually a lot of toys, some fine finger work, and a lump of lame lovey dovey douche dynamics. Well, believe it or not, director Thomas found a way to make this Sappho stuff even LESS sizzling. The girl grind goings-on in this scene are just boring, with very little passion offered up by our bejeweled babes. Instead, we start off with a real shaft snoozer of a sequence, one that doesn't bode well for the rest of Scorpio Rising's ribaldry. Score: 2 out of 10.

Scene 2: Jennifer Luv, Chris Cannon
Plot Point: In order to throw his wife off the scent of his growing loser-dom, our hero humps the stuffing out of her.
Act Performed: Cabaret, Salad Tossing, Cunnilingus, Blow Job, Mish, Doggy, Pile Driver, $hot on Ass

Chris Cannon has become very annoying over the last few months. He's gone from a dependable stunt cock to a 'trying too got-damn hard' thespian that wants to emote when he should simply be shoveling cock. Jennifer's jack-me body work aside, this is a very dull, derivative scene with the characters actually stopping to TALK to each other before getting on to the rest of the ramrodding. The position choices are meager and the filmmaking is flawed, revealing very little in the penetration department. Also, the sequence seems short, more or less a throwaway moment. And that is something that most adult movies would never dare deliver. Sex is the reason we sit through these scenarios. It should not be a secondary element. Score: 4.5 out of 10.

Scene 3: TJ Hart, Vincent Vega
Plot Point: While "escorting" a woman to her boudoir, Vincent violates as many protocols and orifices as he can.
Act Performed: Foot Action, Cunnilingus, Fingering, Blow Job, Doggy, Anal, $hot on Stomach

Vincent, doing his best impression of a potbellied toothpick, is about as appealing as an undercooked corndog, and his supposedly hot scene with long toothed talent TJ is pretty pathetic. The couple copulates with all the sizzle of a cold compress and the occasional shots of Ms. Hart's wrinkled mug don't make matters any better. When they finally start to fucking, its like watching a tree branch breech a bunch of dried-up dough. Naturally, this leads to more nookie nausea than most porn mavens prefer. Besides, the lack of correctly colorful cinematics renders TJ and Vincent's vitals a very dark, very unappetizing color of bloody maroon. Ewww...Score: 2.5 out of 10.

Scene 4: Sunrise Adams, Chris Cannon
Plot Point: Proving he too can violate the escort code, Chris copulates with the sizzling Sunrise.

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Act Performed:Blow Job, Spooning, Reverse Cowgirl, Doggy, $hot on Ass

The best scene in the set, and it is all because of Sunrise's substantial sex appeal. While she does sort of resemble a blow-up doll with just the slightest glimmer of personality, at least she can hold her own with the high hard one. Again, the scene is scuttled so Stephen St. Croix can do his jaded junkie artist routine. Someone needs to sit director Thomas down and explain to him that there is nothing sensual or erotic about conversational coitus interruptus. Still, by the time Chris is ready to scream his semen all over Ms. Adams ass (Mr. Cannon has gotten very vocal in his new, diva persona) we're more or less satisfied that we've seen a semi-steamy sequence of XXX eroticism. Score: 5 out of 10.

Scene 5: Lisa Lee, Lisa Marie, Lucy Lee, Hailey Paige, Tyla Wynn, Steven St. Croix, Marco Duartor, Nick Manning, Jerry, Jean Val Jean
Plot Point: In order to make her artist husband happy, Sunrise throws an orgy.
Act Performed: Blow Jobs o'Plenty, Cunnilingus-o-rama, Face Fucking, Tongue Fucking, Doggy, Mish, 69, Reverse Cowgirl, Pile Driver, Hand Job, Anal Doggy, Anal Reverse Cowgirl, $hots on Face, Mouth, Head and Chest, Snowballing

Free-for-alls are NEVER fun, as the orgy dynamic does two distinct things to the fuck and suck. First, when you've got 10 people pounding away, but only one camera to catch it all, you are definitely going to miss most of the action. All you can capture are snippets of sex, occasional moments of meat to mons (or mouth) glory holing. The rest of the time, the lens is like a little lost child looking for its mother in a downtown department store. Secondly, and most importantly, good pornography provides a sense of passion between the performers that overcomes the 'going through the motions' mindset we most closely associate with the adult industry. A group grope only emphasizes the rote and routine nature of the stroking. Couples not completely in frame don't give it their all, and those in front of the viewfinder sometimes fail to recognize the cue to crank up the copulation. Our frig fiasco here contains some mighty memorable names in the ball and joint business. By the time the sequence is over, however, you'll just want to forget the whole flaccid thing. Score: 2 out of 10.

Scene 6: TJ Hart, Cherokee, Trevor Zen, Vincent Vega
Plot Point: Vincent wants TJ to marry him, but he soon learns that she's been playing him for a high priced sucker all along.
Act Performed: Cunnilingus, Fingering, Foot Play, Tit Sucking, Blow Job, Ball Action, Toy Action, Doggy, Cowgirl, Push Up Face Fucking, $hot on Chest and Mouth, Two Girl Oral Clean-Up

What's worse than Vincent and TJ in ANOTHER scene? The addition of the dumpy and puffy Trevor Zen into the sullied skin sequencing. With tattoos taut against his overfed middle-aged midsection and a hairline that redefines receding, our second shafter is so stocky and staid that he might as well be a very poorly carved piece of suet. The sometimes sizzling Cherokee is wasted here, given nothing more to do than to show her back not her BACKSIDE, mind you and swish that mighty mane of black hair. When Vincent breaks down and starts weeping like a woman, it's the first authentic moment of "pussy" we get in the whole film. Thomas ought to be ashamed of such a scene. It does none of the performers proud, and makes many a male audience 'member' inverted in disgust. Score: 2 out of 10.

Scene 7: Sunrise Adams, Stephen St. Croix
Plot Point: Celebrating the completion of a mural, Stephen and Sunrise rock the canvas Casbah.
Act Performed: Cunnilingus, Blow Job, Reverse Cowgirl, Doggy, Mish, $hot on Belly

Again, Sunrise ALMOST saves the day. Stephen, whose obviously been visiting the same Senior Citizen all-you-can-eat buffet that Trevor frequents, is up to his love handles in hot blond poon, and the best he can do is huff and puff like an emphysema patient. Sunset tries to sell it in the range riding position, but once Mr. St. Croix's gut flops over her fetlocks, the Eros is all but eradicated. Seven scenes are about four too many for this movie, especially when they are as bland and basic as this one here. Score: 3 out of 10.

There are three major missteps made by director Thomas with this film, aspects of anti-entertainment that just can't be overlooked. First and foremost is the filmmaking. Trying to make an actual MOVIE is fine in this digital day and age, and there is nothing wrong with utilizing celluloid to give your gratuity more gravitas. But for fuck's sake, hire a goddamn cinematographer that understands things like FOCUS PULLING, ADEQUATE LIGHTING, AND COLOR CORRECTION. NOTHING about the visuals here is inviting. Several scenes are downright indecipherable, faces and forms so badly blurred that you'd never know they were part of the foreground.

Secondly, Thomas relies on a script that has far more story than sex. There are more scenes of people talking, endless musical montages and far too much narrative nonsense to legitimately call this a porno. Its really a bad made-for-cable crapfest with added hardcore. And that's another auxiliary issue. Back in the day, we used to make fun of movies that seemed to randomly toss in the XXX content - characters finding all manner of misguided ways to suggest or step into the shuck and jive. The same happens in Scorpio Rising. Instead of the standard interpersonal celebration, people just pork. Escort service finds a new guy? The gals get all goofy with each other. Chris Cannon goes on a successful pay date? He comes home and humps the wife. Nothing makes logical, or even common sense. Nothing flows together.

And this brings us to the final flaw the lack of any visible or viable chemistry between the actors. Usually, fuck films can fool you. Give us a good-looking lady, a decent dick machine and a nice combination of close-ups and medium shots and we're in the booty bumping groove right along with the cast. But here, Thomas obvious hired talent without a single sensual bone in their balling bodies. They all look lovely well, ALMOST all and appear professional. But they just can't generate the basic body heat needed for hardcore. They're like porn puppets, monkey lovin' marionettes without a lick of lust between them. The result is a movie so monotonous, so lacking in the fundamentals of frig film fun that you can't help but reject it out right. Scorpio Rising is one of the worst straight features the Dirge has ever seen for both cinematic and carnal reasons.

The Video:
Just awful the worst filmmaking ever in a major adult studio release. To repeat the problems picked apart before: the movie is consistently out of focus; the fleshtones are off by more than a country mile; the overall ambience here is dark and dreary; the lighting is lousy; and the camera suggests several inept chimps learning how to handle a tripod while simultaneously picking their chiggers. As a result, the 1.33:1 full screen image is a debacle and a half. Maybe the Dirge's DVD was poorly mastered, or perhaps Thomas should stick to the digital format. Whatever the case may be, you'll find nothing visually appealing about this pathetic project.

The Audio:
You can also add in awful audio to the list of lamentable tech trip-ups that are part of Scorpio Rising. Music cues aside (almost all of which are nice and nuanced) there are moments when dialogue drops out completely, and other times when the sounds are battling the science for aural supremacy (there is a lot of hiss and flutter in some of the scenes). The result is something as irritating in its auditory elements as its video vileness.

The Extras:
Vivid's titles are usually loaded for bear, and Scorpio Rising is no exception. Once we 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, the remote-ready added footage feature, which allows you to view more sex at different angles, and a collection of bonus scenes. The Making-Of material is sort of interesting, since it gives us a chance to see Thomas in action. He seems decent enough, and tends to talk like he knows what he's doing. The rest of the time is spent yakking with the cast, many of which can't wait to tell the camera their most intimate secrets (Vincent Vega discusses his recent bout of dysentery how lovely) The actors all seem comfortable on the set, and the overall mood is upbeat and fun. You definitely can't say that for all porn productions. Since the added footage is for scenes that more or less suck to begin with, getting more mediocre bang for the buck is no big deal. About the only aspect that saves this set are the additional sex sequences. For what's included as part of the package, here is a rundown:

Bonus Scene 1: Sunrise Adams, Jennifer Luv
From: Over Her Head (2004)
Director: Paul Thomas
Acts Performed: Fondling, Tit Play, Cabaret, Lap Dance, Cunnilingus, Salad Tossing, Kissing, Fingering, 69, Tongue V to M

It's never a good sign when your bonus features dig into the seemingly bottomless well of gal/gal gratuity and serve up another boring broad bump and grind. Sunrise and Jennifer do look nice together, and their long form finale of full on 69 does provide a small amount of sizzle. But once again, we are missing the meat, or at least some indication that this is something more than just foolish fantasy fulfillment. Score: 3 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 2: Sunrise Adams, Lola
From: Sentenced (2004)
Director: Chi Chi LaRue
Acts Performed: Tit Play, Grinding, Fingering, Cunnilingus, Face Sitting, Tongue Fucking, Tongue V to M, Salad Tossing, 69, Foot Action, Foot Fucking, Foot V to M

Once again, we are treated to a bonus balling which is babes only. Thankfully, Lola likes it rough, and this jacks up the johnson enjoyment ten-fold. It's especially to erotic to watch the way this brazen brunette sizes up Sunrise before snacking on her snatch. The foot follies are also a lot of fun, since they seem so bizarre and yet so completely within the confines of the carnality. Score: 5 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 3: Sunrise Adams, Evan Stone
From: Wrong Girl (2004)
Director: Chuck Lords
Acts Performed: Strip Tease, Cabaret, Masturbation, Cunnilingus, Blow Job, Teabagging, Reverse Tit Fucking, Spooning, Fingering, Mish, Pile Driver, $hot on Tits

The best scene on the entire DVD has less to do with the casting (Sunrise and Evan look like a Harlequin Romance cover gone hardcore here) and more about Chuck Lords' confident direction. He lets the camera linger instead of jumping all around. He captures the couple in complete abandon; very few of his setups feeling staged or faked. The end result is something fiery, with great chemistry between the cast. Score: 6 out of 10

Bonus Scene 4: Renee LaRue, Michael J. Cox
From: Shakespeare Revealed (2001)
Director: Ren Savant
Acts Performed: Kissing, Blow Job, Tit Play, Tit Fucking, Cunnilingus, Spooning, Cowgirl, Reverse Cowgirl, $hot on Vagina

Renee and Michael are a very average looking couple and, as a result, they produce a rather poor session of poon. He is more or less a meat puppet, generating minor masculine mania. Ms. LaRue looks like she is doing most of the work, and her obvious aggression feels incredibly strained. In the end, its a few flailing fucks before Mr. Cox is ready to rock. His meager member moisture illustrates this scene's shittiness pretty well. Score: 3.5 out of 10.

Bonus Scene 5: Taylor St. Croix, Mark Davis
From: The Watcher 12 (2000)
Director: Robbie D.
Acts Performed: Blow Job, Kissing, Deep Throating, 69, Cunnilingus, Salad Tossing, Mish, Anal Fingering, Straight Anal, Standing Anal, Anal Cowgirl, Anald Reverse Cowgirl, Anal Spooning, Anal Pile Driver, $hot on Face/Chest, Oral Clean-up

Robbie D. and Mark Davis usually produce some very potent porn. This almost all anal segment from the Watcher series is another fine example of this generalization. Mark takes control from the moment Taylor tastes his tool, and he doesn't stop until he's spilled his seed all over her face. The anal is electric, and really helps amp the arousal. The only downside is the kooky camerawork. There are occasional jump cuts to a "voyeur-cam" that breaks up the brazenness of the scene with its black and white bullspit. Boo! Score: 5 out of 10.

Final Thoughts:
No one is saying that porn can't be pretty. Neither is this an outright dismissal of all so-called filmmakers who want to fashion their fuck fiestas into cinematic extravaganzas. When done right, when XXX meets standard straight feature fare, you satisfy both the general and the niche markets. But Scorpio Rising is so irritating, so inept and inconsequential, especially in the one place it should be smoking (read: the SEX) that it's not worth your time or effort. One the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, this mediocrity scores a sad 3 out of 10 and is definitely worth skipping. Only Sunrise Adams fans, saddened by her rumored retirement, might want to check out this bland ball bonanza. Couples will find nothing to complain about here. They also won't find anything to aid their marital misgivings either. Therefore, a Cohabitation Certification is awarded, but totally unnecessary. Paul Thomas has done better, and his movies have definitely LOOKED better (from a technical standpoint) than this aural and visual atrocity. The only thing getting a 'rise' here will be your level of aggravation and anger. <

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