Cast: Jenna Haze, Tommy Gunn, Brianna Love, Talon, Courtney Cummz, Mick Blue, Shawna Lenee, Sarah Vandella, Jenner, Amy Ried, Evan Stone, Audrey Bitoni, Mark Davis
Shawna Lenee and Sarah Vandella
Length: 148:33 minutes
Date of Production: 1/22/2008 (box); 4/2/2008 (credits)
Extras: The best extra was the 35:57 minute long Behind the Scenes feature since it had so much to enjoy. There were photoshoots of the ladies, additional footage from the scenes where they were screwing, and interviews on a white couch. The only thing that cheesed me off about this one was how poorly the audio was set during the interviews; the cameraman sounding much louder than the ladies (which precluded cranking up the volume to accommodate). There was also a photogallery, a popshot compilation from the scenes, a true double sided DVD cover, and a slipcase to protect the DVD case (using the same covers).
Audio/Video Quality: Top Shelf was presented in a very appealing 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color as shot by director Sid Knox for Diabolic using the MPEG-2 codec for the standard definition release. The lighting was not always optimal but it generally limited the grain, video noise, and shadows other productions seem unable to get rid of far too often; the crotches again not as consistently well lit as they should have been. The composition of the shots weren't always completely flattering to the ladies but at least there was rarely any doubt about what was going on and where it was going; given the quality of the cast, this made it more enjoyable too. The fleshtones were generally accurate and the bitrate hovered in the low 4 Mbps area so it did not look bad at all. There were no compression artifacts and the visuals were generally handled pretty well here. The audio was presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital English using the standard 192 Kbps bitrate. The music was generic but the vocals; while plain as could be, could be heard in almost all cases; only slightly hollow at times when the ladies were making it clear their limits were being pushed. On a side note, the audio in the BTS feature was decidedly mixed in a poor way, the ladies difficult to hear during their interviews.
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Body of Review: Sid Knox is one of the directors at Diabolic these days, a number of his efforts drawing at least a modicum of critical acclaim as he finds his niche in the crowded field of gonzo porn. I haven't seen all of his titles to date but a friend suggested I would really appreciate his latest in the form of Top Shelf; a series of six vignettes starring some of the most heated gals in all of porn. My primary interest in the movie was due to the upcoming blu-ray edition but I would be misleading you if I said that names like Brianna Love, Jenna Haze, Shawna Lenee, and Courtney Cummz did not intrigue me even more. The concept of focusing on top talent is at times a curious one since each of us have our own short lists of who would qualify for the role but also since it then raises the point that if this is the big selling point, are the casts of the other titles by the company then suspect as having used weaker performers? All kidding aside, I think each of the ladies in the flick have shown plenty of skilled performances and while not all of them have been consistently top shelf hotties, the odds for this one to be really well done were quite high as far as I was concerned. The back cover said it like this: "The best of the best is here! The top whores in the business are getting down and dirty for your viewing pleasure. Six scenes filled with the super stars of smut! Featuring Brianna Love, Jenna Haze, Audrey Bitoni, Amy Ried, Courtney Cummz and more...this movie will surely live up to its name!" Here's a brief look at the scenes by cast and action, noting that no condoms were used for those still interested:
Scene One: Jenna Haze, the cute gal sitting on the couch (front cover; right hand side), was up first as a stressed out boss in need of some tension relief by studly Tommy Gunn. He took care of her needs ever so slowly as he rubbed her body in just the right way, giving her the "full treatment" as it were to assist her in putting a long day behind her. Foot fetish fans will rejoice that her dainty feet were given some attention too but as the couple kissed and caressed each other, Jenna made the movie to "forget about the massage" (albeit with someone in the background clearly discernable abound the 8 minute mark; an occurrence attentive folks will notice again in later scenes). Tommy went down on her with an emphasis on using his tongue, making Jenna purr at how good his mouth felt on her slick slit as she provided some fine dirty talk. I was not always a huge fan of Jenna's but she won me over fair and square thanks to scenes like this one, elevating her stature by means of giving a believably warm encounter. She reciprocated with an aggressive hummer/handjob that would have finished off most men, her sense of abandon reminding me that people have called her one of the best little cocksuckers in the entire industry for a reason. This led to the penetrative acts, her anal actions much more active than the vaginal (the camera moving around far too much for a single camera shoot). Jenna grinding her hips as she sat on the cock was pretty sweet too, the taste testing leading to her taking the load of population pudding to her kisser for swallowing. This wasn't her best work of recent months but it was definitely a solid way to start a show built on quality female performers.
Scene Two: Brianna Love, the cute babe sitting on the couch in the middle (wearing a white shirt), was up next as a working girl waking up and preparing to get an early start on the day. She got out of bed to provide some nice tease footage in the shower, the all natural gal parading her great ass in an all too short montage before dressing herself to the chagrin of Talon. He was helping her with her skirt when he made it clear that he wanted to help her in a completely different manner, the couple kissing and Brianna climbing back into bed to paw his growing erection. She did what comes naturally and started giving him head, bobbing her head as she wrapped her lips so effectively around the pecker. Talon looked a bit worrisome here, the circles under his eyes making it clear he needed a LOT more rest, but he began getting rough with her and she seemed to respond without too much distain. She then climbed onto his dick to actively ride it in her pussy and ass, the lack of Talon orally servicing her not surprising (and only lowering the score a little bit for me). Brianna did some taste testing and Talon did his best to maintain a full erection, rubbing out his wad of sperm on her stomach before they discussed price.
Scene Three: Courtney Cummz, the former contract cutie sitting on the left side of the couch (on the cover) was up next as she introduced Mick Blue to her exclusive country club over drinks (only 124 members) in a living room setting. She wore a loose white top and black booty shorts as she pointed out she'd be his personal hostess; leading to the sex that you knew would take place. They kissed and he stroked her leg, Courtney unbuttoning his suit and her shirt to provide greater access to each other. She liked his thick cock and slobbed the knob moderately well before he got some titty play; the couple boning like they owned each other immediately afterwards. She was quite an active rider for most of the scene, rubbing her own asshole as if to prepare it for penetration. Sadly, her perfect pucker went un-perforated even as Mick held her hands behind her back; making me wonder what was going on since she is well known for her anal antics (meaning when she does a scene without anal, something is wrong). The scene ended when he rubbed out a load of semen to her mouth, Courtney teasing him some more as she swallowed the "yummy" substance down.
Scene Four: Shawna Lenee, one of the cutest newcomers to porn in recent times, and busty Sarah Vandella, were up next with moper Jenner, after the two ladies flirted up a storm before he went to work. The lesbian tryst between the ladies was interrupted after he came back unexpectedly, Sarah pointing out how annoying he was. Shawna took an uncharacteristically active role in eating out Sarah on the bed and I would have been happier if they skipped Jenner's reappearance altogether but he stayed out of the way for enough of the action (going down on Shawna who was otherwise occupied with Sarah's crotch). The ladies took turns getting some vaginal loving but Sarah was content to provide ear candy as she sat on the youthful hotty's face more than anything. As a new fan of Shawna's, I appreciated her part in the scene but the penetrative sex was so passive that it weakened the effort substantially; neither gal showing much enthusiasm for Jenner's rod (except in a single position). The ending load came far too fast though and the gals clamped down so tightly that Jenner felt obligated to open their eyes after the facial.
Scene Five: Amy Ried, the curvy young lady standing on the left side of the cover, was up next playing a bitch that berated the mighty Evan Stone for not doing housework while she was out at work earning the bacon. The audio was distorted here but it was amusing how she gave him the "work work work" speech and he deflected it by saying he'd make her "very happy" instead. In porn, that means he will be slowly undressing her and going down on her at length, Amy showing little initial interest in how he was working her box over until he finally won her over with his charms. She gave him an energetic hummer in return, leading to the "dirty girl" spreading her legs for him to dive between with his nearly fully turgid cock, assistance by the titty fuck helping him drill her the way she wanted to be drilled. Amy looked great here (of course) but she took her time actively riding him vaginally until she was on top of his lap. This was another vaginal-only ride and that was fine by me except that she was in "performance-mode" for most of the scene, weakening the scene for me even though Evan really unleashed his seed all over her chest.
Scene Six: Audrey Bitoni, the implanted gonzo gal seen standing in the background of the front cover on the right side, was up last with aging lothario, Mark Davis. She was spilling out of her sexy little outfit to give him a "present" while his wife was somewhere inside the house, Audrey's outer layer revealing a tiny bra and thong ensemble that worked nicely for her when her scars weren't showing. Mark spent a considerable amount of the short scene eating her out front and back, leading to an okay blowjob by Audrey. The hummer was actually the best part of her act though; the back yard patio adding to the possibility of being discovered as well as some natural lighting helping out. She rode best when on top of him, her ass cheeks rippling as she bounced, but it was almost as if she was dedicated to the quickie and was trying to milk him dry too early; his load hitting her face and chest (mostly chest). In some ways then, this scene appeared almost an after thought compared to the mapped out action of the rest of the movie so your mileage may vary.
Summary: Top Shelf by director Sid Knox for Diabolic showed yet again some of the potential I have mentioned in past movies but despite having a very good cast of ladies, not all of them brought their "A" game performances; at least partially because of the men they were stuck working with. Don't get me wrong, even the weakest scene of the bunch had some modest stroke value and a few of the scenes were really heated, but I don't think Sid is quite ready to consistently pull a rabbit out of a hat when it comes to his ability to get the best out of the cast so I rated this one as a healthy Recommended. In short, Top Shelf earned a spot on my top shelf, a place I go on occasion to pick a porno for personal pleasure but I think future volumes of this proposed series will have to build on what took place here to reach the heights I would like to see from the director. Oh, and while I have yet to see it, I hear the Blu-Ray version of the movie looked a lot better but the sound is still reportedly in need of polishing up so I hope to bring you the unvarnished truth if I can get a copy to review.
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