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Studio: Vivid » Review by Don Houston » Review Date: 10/17/05

XCritic's Advice: Watch It Online


Vivid Entertainment

Genre: Feature

Director: Paul Thomas

Cast: Savanna Samson, Mikayla, Roxy Jezel, Trent Tesoro, Jay Huntington, Justin Magnum, Missy Monroe, Kurt Lockwood, Nick Jacobs, Reno

Length: 88 minutes

Date of Production: 4/29/2005

Extra's: Many of you appreciate the five extra scenes from previous Vivid releases although I have mixed feelings about them since I prefer content made exclusively for the release in hand (so to speak). This one had the usual three scenes of the star, Savanna Samson, and two older scenes of limited value. There was also a miniature biography of the starlet and two photogalleries but I preferred the Behind the Scenes feature by Ben Hoffman myself. It lasted 19.5 minutes and greatly assisted in identifying the male cast for me but seeing the cast and crew (primarily Paul Thomas himself) discuss their roles was interesting, especially since Paul explained the idea behind the dialogue-less script he offered them, the practice of "jump cutting", and other technical matters handled better in mainstream releases. There were trailers, the usual spam, and a double sided DVD cover too but the BTS and bonus scenes were the only things I think most guys care about.

Condoms: Yes

Audio/Video Quality: Freshness was presented in the same 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was shot in by director Paul Thomas for Vivid Interactive. The picture had a lot of grain and some minor video noise, owing mostly to lighting issues in some darker scenes. There was a bit of a problem with the camera keeping focus (I thought that's what editing was meant to remove), a lot of shadows, and some disturbing editing as well as some compression artifacts from time to time. The colors were mostly accurate and the outdoor work looked pretty good though yet not as clear as the Behind the Scenes feature shot by Ben Hoffman. The stereo English audio track was pretty fair with some of the music complimenting the scenes (detracting in others) and the vocals sounding slightly hollow and dubbed (at times).

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Body of Review: Paul Thomas has long had a following in porn; from his days in front of the camera to his modern work as a director for Vivid Entertainment. As a contract director, he makes a handful of larger budget movies on film in addition to scores of video releases under various names. Those video releases tend to look churned out on an assembly line more often than not but they provide the director with a fertile experimental testing ground to try out new things. Some of the time, those techniques work better than others, but most of the time they fall flat. Paul's latest video release, Freshness, was a curious mix of reality television style shooting in conjunction with a script containing no words; relying solely on the cast to improvise their "lines". Needless to say, unless he was going to work with some of the better equipped people with some acting experience, he might've done better to just offer a straight out gonzo by the way most of them reacted to one another. While the lines weren't as stilted as usual, they came off as weak drama far too often. Freshness seemed to be an attempt to offer couples something a bit stronger than Vivid is used to doing but the amalgamation of factors Paul experimented with never gelled as well as he seemed to wish for in the BTS feature by Ben Hoffman. Here's a look at the scenes by cast and action, noting that condoms were used but the weakness of most scenes had nothing to do with them:

Scene One: An Experiment: Savanna Samson, the hot New Yorker on the front DVD cover, was up first in a lesbian scene with sultry Mikayla in the first scene. Like several of the other scenes, care wasn't taken by the crew to avoid mirrors and or prevent their shadows from popping up at times but that's something I'm supposed to look for and the rest of you aren't. In any case, the gals looked good together as they kissed, danced, and otherwise got to know one another in a slightly clumsy scene on the couch. The action was fairly generic in terms of what they did (the usual oral, rubbing and toys) but I'm a fan of Savanna so I admit to liking it enough to watch twice. If you like a slower styled lesbian scene, this will work for you a little bit but the technical values limited the replay appeal of it (and Mikayla seemed to overact when getting head which didn't help matters any).

Scene Two: Cindy's Yard Party: Roxy Jezel, the well known gal from England, was up next outside with Trent Tesoro and Jay Huntington by the deck containing the covered hot tub. Her prancing about as she teased them was kind of interesting, leaving on only her stripper shoes and thong until the action really began. Her oral was okay but I've seen this gal light up the small screen previously so it came off as somewhat forced at times and the composition of the camera shots weakened it further. Jay was the alpha male this time, slapping her from time to time to prove it, but the trio seemed ill at ease for some reason as they appeared to lose their flow, especially on the bench once they moved away from the hot tub (maybe this was due to the jump cutting Thomas referred to during the BTS feature). She took the double pop shot well enough, savoring Jay's before Trent dribbled his out on her, but other than looking better than most of the other scenes in terms of clarity, it was kind of unfocused.

Scene Three: Bathing Beauty: Savanna Samson, looking fine as she took a bath in the sunken tub, was up next as she finally gave her character's husband, Justin Magnum, a bit of play. Her oral was slow and the kind you get from a gal to get you off her back but the camera cutting her head off most of the time (apparently, the bathroom was too small for this type of scene) was a nuisance. She did start to warm up to it (just before it was his turn to go down on her of course) but her strength was in how she rode him vaginally afterwards when they took the show to the bedroom. Most of the screwing was still in the cramped bathroom but it looked better in bed. It ended with a minor pop shot at the end and I admit that she looked fine.

Scene Four: Neighbors: Missy Monroe, another cornerstone in porn these days, was up next with Kurt Lockwood as Justin watched them from across the yard. The foreplay of the scene was actually pretty good this time although dine in a long shot as if from Justin's perspective (with stupid bird noises in need of editing at first). The action looked better after the oral since the camera became more intimate with the couple but this meant the obnoxious overuse of close-ups was bound to return (and it did). I give Missy credit for being able to do cartwheels on the lawn but this wasn't in her top twenty performances either as the couple made generic suburban heat with one another. Kurt ended it by rubbing out a load onto her chest with some post pop shot sucking but it wasn't what these two are capable of by a long shot.

Scene Five: Astrid's Sexual Appetite: Savanna Samson, Nick Jacobs, and Reno were up last in a scene that took place when she brought them home (just after Justin turned down Roxy). The sex was oral, vaginal, and some minor (though truly weak) anal on the couch but all the potential for passion and heat that Savanna has shown over the years, initially with Rocco Siffredi and later with numerous people at Vivid, seemed lost. Reno was as stiff as a board when boning her (and I'm not referring to his penis) and Nick seemed to want to be somewhere else; not a good sign when you're with someone as attractive as Savanna Samson. In all, it will appease the slavering fanboys but it was weaker than average for those of us who have seen more than a few pornos.

Summary: Freshness did indeed have some fresh angles to explore but I wish Paul would have tried to limit how many new things he put in a DVD if you catch my drift. The cast was generally full of potential given their body of work as a whole and the crew seemed to be a mixture of old and new that weren't always on the same page as one another. In general, I wanted to like this one a lot more than as one I'd tell you was worth a Rent It but truth be told, it fell flat so often that it appeared to me to be more worthy of a release I'd add in with something else as a bonus disc called "we tried something new and admit it didn't work out so well". Paul Thomas is a capable director when given the right elements to work with and a decent budget but unlike so many of the hungry directors on the scene these days, he doesn't seem to be as flexible in terms of recognizing something that doesn't work as readily. I appreciate his attempts at something "fresh", especially given the title of the movie, but it came off as "stale" since it didn't work very well. Oh well, I'm sure his next release will be better since he seems to pick up the ball immediately after dropping it if the past is any indicator of future performance.

You can email me with questions at Houstondon @ hotmail.com if you have any constructive criticism of the review too. :) Also you can follow me on twitter @HoustonDon

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