Okay, I know some people think wasting valuable disc space on trailers when Robby, Nick and Joey could be offering up those Behind the Scenes features only reviewers seem to watch, interviews, Easter Eggs, and dozens of other possible extras that other companies routinely use to enhance a DVD release but doing so would involve a concept called creativity and another called extra work. It's far easier for them to simply "cut & paste" the same old extras (and it costs nothing too). That said, there was an audio commentary on this volume of the series with the advertising going so far as to suggest that the "comedy is in the commentary". I have long asked for commentaries on DVDs, listening to them as I wrote up reviews or did other chores around the house. The best commentaries in porn have come from cranky old Jim Holliday (may he rest in peace), humorous Jonathan Morgan, Brad Armstrong, Nic Andrews, and a limited handful of others. What set(s) them apart was how they spent most of the time discussing the movie at hand (and I choose that word with care) and providing anecdotes while adding value with actual humor. This one greatly benefited from the addition of the Montel voice (Joey Pulgadas) "in character" as he came up with almost all of the funny lines. Robby seemed a bit too willing to spend his time making gay jokes or ragging on me (with a couple of admitedly well placed shots) and Nick seemed exceptionally bitter in most of his rants. So in this case, "Montel" should get a bonus for adding value while the other two should get a reprimand for wasting the opportunity to provide comedy that would prove funny to the audience. Just as a number of people have pointed out that the series has been digressing over time to a kind of mean spirited sort of humor (calling Melanie Jagger a "pig", screwing with Tommy Gunn over a pop shot, suggesting that Joey Ray, Eric Masterson, and Scott Nails were gay, and other stuff that is hit or miss), the commentary, while flattering, spent more time with Robby and Nick trying to convince the audience how great they were (and as a fan of much of Robby's work, I wish he were accurate here concerning the series). Oh well, at least they got their personal demons off their chests, even if they weakened Montel's material.
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Audio/Video Quality: Jack's Playground 28 was presented in the series standard 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen as shot by director Robby D. for Digital Playground. Unlike Jack's Playground 27 that was promoted heavily as being shot in HD, this one seemed more in tune with the visual quality of the format though it didn't achieve the "crystal clear pussy" espoused by Montel (I assume his identity being that of Joey Pulgadas given the way it was finally presented). Still, the lighting was closer to the grainy work done by lower end companies than the flat lighting typically associated with Red Light District (as but one example). Keeping in mind that the lower the lighting, the lower the picture quality (HD or no HD) in a video shoot, most of the problems this time (in that regard at least) were limited to the crotch area where the shadows ran rampant. Personally, I like seeing which hole is being plundered and I like to see it in the "crystal clear pussy" fashion but this is a personal preference that some of you may not care about as much. The composition of the shots was also a bit mixed in that anyone looking at the movie will routinely see the screen filled with chopped off body parts, as though the cameraman was unable to keep up with a stationary couple screwing on a stationary couch or bed. Perhaps some of that has to do with the abundant use of ultra close-ups or maybe it was poor planning, but other than looking like a single camera product (think low end production quality folks) it just fails to capture the heat of scenes as easily. Thankfully, good editing can save the day under such circumstances and I will be happy to report such quality whenever it starts taking place in the series. Consider that even on the commentary the jerky editing was mentioned (like during the transitional period on the Katsumi scene) so I can't help but point out the limitations of the picture when those making it do so too. The good news is that none of the "Celeste bullshit" slow motion was used in the movie as Robby put it in the commentary. I've never liked that type of thing, contrary to the statements made in the commentary, although I recognize that a lot of other people (primarily women) love it-hence my ratings of it in the past. I guess reading is not one of the skills Robby and Nick picked up when they were younger but I'll type this really slowly for them so a friend can help them with the bigger words. The audio was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital English but the format was mostly added in later during post production by the sound of it. The vocals were okay and the same old "cut & paste" music was employed as in previous editions. The one exception to this was the ending montage where the music all came seemed to come out of the left side of the surround dynamic while Montel's talking came out of the right side.
Note: It should be noted that the design of the series is to come across as an amateurish attempt at porn. Essentially, this means that the flaws are incorporated on purpose, even to the point where the look of the show has devolved over time rather than improved as a true amateur would in real life. I know the trio responsible for making the show are among the most capable and talented guys in the world of porn but the flawed premise sometimes drags them down too much for my personal tastes.
Body of Review: "Concieved, written, produced, edited and shot by Joey Pulgadas & Cousin Nick P." (spelling left intact) the Jack's Playground series has been well received in large part although even some of the most ass kissing reviewers in the world have pointed out numerous flaws with it too. The director of the series is the talented Robby D. who has taken the premise of a guy lying to women by stating he would use them in music videos if they'd fuck on camera. While a flimsy premise that is rarely exploited fully for the comedy aspects, I have rated it as recommended or higher about half the times I've seen it; an excellent ratio that few others have kept up with. A quick look at those reviews shows it to be a roller coaster ride (which I've seen used by others, including Robby himself) on several levels but the most consistent flaw of the show is that it tends to be really short (most gonzo these days, even gonzo like this, runs about 140+ minutes long), unlike the companion series Teen America which has provided far greater value for the same retail price. If anyone out there prefers to get less porn for the same amount of money, I have yet to meet them in all my years reviewing porn. So, with all that original, uncut and unpasted commentary over with, here's a look at the latest volume in the long running series; Jack's Playground 28: The Special Issue.
The show was lighter than average in terms of the comedy aspects, something that may appeal to you more than it did for me. This one had none of the solo scenes past volumes had to offer and that meant there were none of the newer, fresher performers the series has used in the past. I have mixed feelings about the lack of such scenes because they are almost always hit or complete miss with little middle ground. This meant that there were five complete sex scenes, a lot for the show, but notable for the inclusion of lovely contract star Teagan Presley. The relative weakness of the commentary track aside, the scenes were not the best the series has to offer but it was well worth a look nonetheless. I guess Robby's comment that the commentary was included largely as a means to allow Nick P. to vent made a lot of sense but if given a choice between a funny commentary or one like this, I'll take funny every time. Here's a look at the scenes included, noting that Teagan's used a condom but otherwise it wasn't an issue:
Scene One: Katsumi, arguably a powerful force in terms of heated performances all over the place in porn for the last few years, was located on the left hand side of the front DVD cover looking as good as ever. Upset over her breakup with Lee Stone (they played a couple previously in the series), she came to Robby for comfort but found herself sucking off Scott Nails on the couch instead. Now it would probably be overly analytical to point out that the apartment couch setting has been over used in the series, reminding one of the long running Ed Powers series if nothing else, but this kind of "cut and paste" approach is common in lower grade porn and that's what Robby seems to be emulating here. Granted, Katsumi could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch and rarely turns in a bad scene but this wasn't her best work; for that kind of thing, go look up a "real" gonzo show like Katsumi's Dirty Deeds or Who Fucked Rocco?. Scott did an okay job with her but compared to some of his competition, he was found lacking as he tasted her, fucked her pussy and boned that butt of hers. For her part, she wasn't particularly energetic in most positions and having seen her tear up the screen in so many other movies, I guess I'm just jaded at the lack of quality here. Still, fans of hers will like it and porn watchers will appreciate the casting of someone used to true gonzo movies as a means of instilling more heat than usual. As a gamble, I give them some credit even if it didn't pay off all that well. The scene ended with Scott rubbing out a load to her tongue and mouth, swallowing some of it.
The comedy bit between the scenes was a commercial for "hot man love" starring Eric Masterson on a toilet. It wasn't nearly as funny as last episode's bit with Gram and Roger, the original Cody Law bit, or some of the Montel jokes from the past but it was worth a smile.
Scene Two: Terri Summers, the gal with the Eddy Wulfgang Munster hairdo on the middle of the front DVD cover, was up next as she teased the camera in the generic setting. Marco Duato, playing a singer but looking plenty like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was her partner as he sang his way into her heart and his dick into her mouth. She had pretty eyes and an okay body but I was mainly interested in her sexual skills. Her oral might work on the customers of your generic strip club where guys pay for a happy ending but compared to Katsumi, she was found lacking. The vaginal romp afterwards proved to be a similar case where it might work for someone that's been out to sea for awhile but was otherwise far too mechanical a ride to elevate my interest. For most of the scene, she was passive and had him do all the work, lowering the heat if you look at it objectively. If I were to get overly analytical, I'd point out how poor the camera work and editing were but I'll just offer this advice to those in charge of that kind of thing here; go rent a few gonzo releases from Erik Everhard, Mike John, or perhaps a dozen others to see what you're doing wrong. The pop shot was again a standard rubbed out shot to the face but the scene lacked chemistry and enough energy to make a difference.
There was no comedy scene between the scenes this time.
Scene Three: Poppy Morgan, a 21 year old Brit with an attractive face and decent body, began the next scene by blowing Scott Nails in bed. The artwork looked like it came from one of those weekly auctions advertised on late night television (probably shot in a generic motel room) as did the rest of the setting but she proved frisky enough here. She actually got out of bed and put on her purple shorts that lifted and separated her ass cheeks which weren't bad for a white gal. The oral here showed that she's a talented fellatrix but it didn't last very long and the highlight was her ball sucking (which is getting to be fairly rare outside of a Brother Love video). He started boning her pussy but this was another case where she seemed to be overacting and all too willing to let him do the work. Thankfully, she turned it around when she was on top to net out a fairly good performance. The scene ended as expected with the formulaic facial but she didn't appear to swallow a drop. It wasn't a bad scene but again, if you've seen her in one of her better scenes, it simply doesn't compare all that favorably.
About an hour into the show, we were treated to a replay of the Cody Law commercial, enhanced with a tiny bit from a Paola Rey scene involving the flip flopping eye patch for a while back. Too bad there wasn't anything original with him in it.
Scene Four: McKenzie Lee, a busty gal I wouldn't kick out of bed with a cute English accent and nice ass, was up next as she fussed at the guys for not using her in their music videos (even though she paid the price to get in). Her partner was Scott Nails (I wonder if he gave Robby a group rate discount or something off to the side to get so much work here) and they went at it on the generic couch after a brief encounter on the stairs that made little sense (as pointed out by Robby). Her blowjob was the slow, sultry kind rather than the powerful face fuck style all in vogue these days but I'm sure it felt as good as it looked with her veins popping out of her neck. Scott went right to drilling her ass, albeit slowly, where he did all the work in doggy style. This led to her actually working his shaft when placed on top, where she cheated on the ATM by wiping his dick clean with her right hand. I was surprised that Robby didn't have her do it all again but maybe he figured it'd get lost in the editing process like so much else has in the past. Anyway, she went back to sitting on his cock but lost all of her energy as he did the pumping this time, spanking her as he hammered away at it. She sucked the tip clean (without the wipe this time) but the rest of the scene was definitely by the numbers as she played with his ejaculate to a probably envious Robby.
The comedy routine between the scenes was another gay man love commercial but this time skewering Scott Nails.
Scene Five: Teagan Presley, easily the top five reasons for getting this DVD all by herself, earned her spot on the front DVD cover (on the right hand side if you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years) by playing a gas station attendant with Eric Masterson. I've not always been a supporter of hers although her early days in scenes for gonzo companies have proven to hold up better than I originally thought (she truly gets better with time, like most women do when it comes to sexual skills). The setting was a cramped bathroom stall that didn't allow Robby much room to work with. This caused a variety of technical issues that a well lit bedroom, blanket on a lawn, or million other settings he could have used but I appreciated that he did the best that he could with it (even providing a quasi-POV style during some of the blowjob action). She played with his average sized shaft very nicely as sucked, licked, and otherwise worked him over (although she was obviously distracted by moving her eyes back and forth between Eric and the camera too much). I liked seeing her lovely ass as he took her from behind (in the pussy) but the camera work failed more this time since pointing UP towards the lights has the effect of washing out (and silhouetting) the darker areas of the scene; which are inevitably the genital area that all the fans are looking at. I was kind of surprised that he wore a condom here but that was probably for reasons centering on Teagan's medical condition at the time this was shot). In all then, while this wasn't Teagan's best scene in the last year, but given the amount of material she's worked in being so limited, I couldn't help but like it (regardless of the technical people dropping the ball).
Summary: Jack's Playground 28 was worth a rating of Rent It for me. The length of the scenes, the mixed quality of the action, and the lack of decent extras weren't enough to outweigh a moderate improvement in technical values (keep in mind that flaws are greatly exaggerated by projection televisions that so many fans watch porn on these days that regardless of the self serving "our quality is excellent" comments by Nick and Robby, it needs to be an area worked on). For me, I enjoyed the commentary since it proved that people at production companies read reviews, or at least skim over them enough to make ill-founded comments based on the written word. In the sense that I must've hit more than a couple of nerves, I appreciate the folks at Digital Playground for leaving the commentary as it was recorded (even though I'm told it was all done as a joke; I'm familiar enough with human nature to read between the lines) though it's pretty bold to blame the messenger rather than the one making the movie. The series is still in need of revitalization since it routinely comes across about as interesting as a moving picture equivalent of a "cut & paste hack job" but check it out along with Jack's Playground 25, Jack's Playground 11, Jack's Playground 10, and Jack's Playground 26 to see why they work better.
Note to Robby D., Nick P., and others associated with the Jack's Playground series: I spent extra time "over analyzing" the release to address some of the comments made in the commentary track. I know it's easier to rely on the often unconditionally favorable press than to simply accept a more balanced view but as one of the few people without a financial stake in the sale of your product; it probably makes more sense to read the entire review (and those you reference) and send an email about any perceived inadequacies with the review(s) than let it all build up and vent in a commentary track. You all have too much potential to improve what you make than to waste time in a defensive position. Oh, and I still think all three of you are great at what you do, even when you're busting my nuts over what I've written (it's a guy thing, I know).
---- 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