As always, thanks to the contributors to this week's set of reviews and citations at the links below, and to you readers; if I've missed your or someone else's review, please let me know in comments (as frequently, several more reviews are likely to be added over the course of the day)...thanks!
Bill Crider: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (trailer)
Brian Arnold: The New Monkees
Ed Gorman: The 25th Hour; The Three Stooges condemned by Catholic League President Bill Donohue
Evan Lewis: Rin-Tin-Tin in The Lightning Warrior
George Kelley: Bonnie Raitt Live at Montreaux 1977; Alexander McCall Smith
Iba Dawson: What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: James Hong; Jungle Queen "Chapter Nine: Death Watch"; Mayberry RFD "Palm Springs, Here We Are"
James Reasoner: The Sons of Hercules 1960s US tv package of Italian pepla (sword and sandal historical fantasies)
Jerry House: "Erin Hunter" (Victoria Holmes) talk and signing; The Five British Ladies of Mystery
John Charles: Fiend without a Face
Juri Nummelin: Blazing Magnum
Kate Laity: Dogcast 12
Libby Cudmore: Canned Laser
Marty McKee: Nichols; Android
Michael Shonk: City of Angels (1976 television)
Patti Abbott: Where the Boys Are (1960)
Prashant Trikannad: The Gods Must Be Crazy
Randy Johnson: Wings of the Morning
Rod Lott: The Clones of Bruce Lee
Ron Scheer: The Rare Breed
Sergio Angelini: The Case of the Curious Bride (1935 Perry Mason)
Scott Cupp: Attack the Block
Stacia Jones: The Week of Hong; Spectrum Culture
Steve Lewis: Held for Ransom; The Last Crooked Mile
Todd Mason: X (2011); please see below.
Yvette Banek: Plan B (2009)
X (2011, Australia)
IMDb titles list:
X Australia (original title)(and the one Sundance Channel uses)
Exit - A Night from Hell Germany (DVD title)
Synodos polyteleias Greece (DVD title)
X: Night of Vengeance International (imdb display title) (English title)
It's not a good idea, at this time, to title your film X...it's just too likely to get lost in the shuffle of X-Men films, of Malcolm X and even American History X or the xXx attempt at an explosion-movie franchise, to say nothing of X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes, only one of eleven "exact title matches" from around the world in IMDb. Even when your primary characters are prostitutes, one trying to retire from her high-end position and emigrate to Paris (the French capital, not the [fictional] Oz nor [real] Yank Parises), the other a teen fleeing her horrible domestic situation Up North and trying to become a street pro in what is apparently Sydney (though I don't think which Australian city it's set in is ever mentioned explicitly--no doubt it's obvious to Australians).
The improbably stage-named Viva Bianca (her family name is Skubiszewski, perhaps a tough sell on marquees) plays the veteran, Holly Rowe, about to turn 30 and having saved enough money to fulfill her dream, shared with her late mother who'd vacationed there with her once, of taking up permanent residence in France. Hanna Mangan Lawrence plays Shay, a 17-year-old whose mother has just died, giving Shay no reason to stick around in her small hometown, so attempting to make her way as a big-city prostitute somewhat improbably seems like a better alternative...she gets off the bus and immediately cuts her shirt as short as it can go. Holly has a few loose ends to tie up, such as a last dinner with her shady steady date, and a last good-paying outcall job...the latter requiring a brunette for the customer's request for troilism with Holly in the blond role. When her call to a dark-haired colleague actually helps cause serious repercussion (the first sign that this film isn't interested in anyone's happy ending), Holly is stuck for a partner, then sees Shay stalking away from being mugged by another street prostitute and her pimps/accomplices. The two link up. Things do not go well, even as the two women start to bond in the face of almost nonstop threat and betrayal, with the brief respite of meeting a friendly young cabbie who's also an aspiring stage magician, who takes an interest in Shay beyond her looks and vulnerability; she's not too sure she can trust him or herself, however.
The film works through rather familiar noirish twists and turns deftly, and even moreso manages to make the point, if it need be made again and why not, that prostitution can put the sex workers at an almost unique sort of risk, even if for a few, like Holly, it can also pay well. There are well-set passages in which Shay demonstrates her hard-won knowledge of how to take care of heroin junkies, or Holly does her best to negotiate their way out of the labyrinth they've found themselves in, increasingly protective of the teen she unwittingly dragged into this. Bianca and now Lawrence are both cast members of the current Spartacus series, wherein they both presumably show a lot more skin more regularly than they do here (I knew that I'd seen Bianca before, but couldn't place her), but I'd certainly watch Spartacus if it was up to the level of this film in terms of craft and storytelling. And, hey, there's a cuddly rabbit in the film, to help cut the qualified nihilism of writer/actor Belinda McClory and writer/director Jon Hewitt. An IFC Films release in the States, almost ironically it's playing on the Sundance Channel, instead. While, again, it's not the most original noir film of the decade, it's also not so common that a neo-noir be focused on its female characters, nor have as much solid grounding in some of its details. Joe Bob probably would say go try it.
This trailer "spoils" a bit more than I do above. Best to pop it out. (What Holly is shouting, if it isn't clear, is "Run!")
The official site (or at least the large poster image there) might be more Not Safe for Work than the images above. Next scheduled on the Sundance Channel (US) on 5 May.