Couch Trip

M. Butterfly
Warner Home Video 

Released in 1993, M. Butterfly was the most commercially viable project David Cronenberg had directed, save perhaps for The Fly. The story seemed almost too prestigious for a director born of cult-horror ethos — a Vietnam-era period piece, based on a renowned play, starring Jeremy Irons as a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese opera singer harboring dark secrets. But things are hardly what they seem, as Irons' oblivious imperialist so pitifully finds out in an identity twist that is all-too-familiar territory for the director of Dead Ringers. Unfortunately, the story is riddled with plot holes too glaring to overlook, revelations that all but contradict visuals we've already seen. The points raised about culture and gender in Irons' character's fantasy of Western domination and female subjugation are laudable, but they would have had more impact if the film containing them made any sense. Still, it's worth sticking around for the classic Grand Guignol climax; it's no more plausible than anything preceding it, but at least Cronenberg is more in his sicko element, and he even concedes some of the film's weaknesses in this DVD's only supplemental interview. —John Thomason

Dark Sky Films

Nobody likes it when you brag unless you're a movie. Just check the box cover of any DVD and there, plastered back to front, is the hyperbole: "From the producers of …" or "A film by …" or "From the mind that brought us. …" It's the lazy man's way of establishing a flick's cinematic family tree. And really, why bother learning obscure movie connections when all you have to do is read the box cover. Duh! Having said that, Shiver is a lovely example of cinematic name-dropping en Español. With references to Pan's Labyrinth (an Oscar winner), The Orphanage (a brilliant frighter) and The Devil's Backbone (another great frighter), this Spanish indie reads like a winner. 

Anyway, it begins with teen loner Santi, who's severely allergic to the sun. He and his caring mom move to a remote northern village where less sunlight allows him to attend school by day and maybe avoid getting fucked with by peers. Area livestock suddenly dies as do a few local yahoos — including one of Santi's classmates. Not surprisingly, this pale new boy — who also owns large canines — is suspect numero uno. Soon Santi crosses the murderous creature (what else would it be?) and gets all Scooby Doo to clear his name and solve the mystery. Is it a vampire? A werewolf? Maybe it's the chupacabra? If only it were so simple. Instead, writer-director Isidro Ortiz stuffs the plot with orphans, missionaries, car crashes, feral children and spousal abuse. None of it makes much sense, of course, even in the world of horror where logic is as scarce as a virginal camp counselor. And that's something Shiver won't be bragging about on its box cover anytime soon. —Paul Knoll

A Jihad for Love
First Run Pictures

With the California Supreme Court's recent decision to not overturn Proposition 8, a number of more hyperbolic commentators took the opportunity to compare the continued commingling of religion, public policy and sexual orientation to the oppression faced by gays and lesbians living in predominantly Muslim countries. While one certainly doesn't want to minimize just how disturbing the motivations behind (and portent of) Prop 8 were, one only needs to watch A Jihad for Love  to know that we have a long way — a very long way — to go before our fundamentalist nutballs begin to look like the Arab world's fundamentalist nutballs. Director Parvez Sharma takes the discussion to its most effective forum: the way these laws work on real folk. By looking at the day-to-day lives of 16 different people who are wrestling with their faith, the laws of their land and the fact that they're gay, Sharma not only emphasizes the deleterious impacts of legislated morality, but also the sheer normalcy of her subjects. In a dozen different countries, these 16 people all struggle with many of the same issues — exclusion, oppression, confusion — but they're all so utterly unremarkable as subjects that the intolerance they face seems that much more bizarre. While the brisk running time of A Jihad for Love doesn't allow Sharma to paint a full picture of any of his subjects, quantity more than makes up for quality in this case. —Jason Ferguson

Rico the Destroyer
Jules Jordan Video

First of all, the title of this impressive two-disc set is not entirely accurate. In a good way. While Rico is the owner-operator of a massive johnson that appears capable of destroying many things — fine china, large anthills, the egos of lesser-endowed men — but the crew of game beauties who host the "mighty Afro-meat challenge" are anything but destroyed. 

In fact, they all seem passionately invigorated by their encounters with said schwanz. And what a batch of lookers they are: Dana DeArmond, Kiera King, Adrianna Nicole, Bobbi Starr, Andi Anderson and the outrageously stunning Aletta Ocean. Speaking of Ms. Ocean, she could easily be the younger (and, thankfully, sluttier) sister of Angelina Jolie. Model-gorgeous she is, and enthusiastically accommodates Rico's frightening appendage in any orifice. And dude's no fickle man. Or is he? Either way, the scene is one for the classic filth vaults.

Diminutive blond fox Andi Anderson takes on the big man in a delirious session, riding his chocolate tally-whacker down the proverbial Hershey highway so long you'd swear she's getting frequent-driver miles. And if her face were a candy bank, well, let's just say it's open for creamy deposits. 

Power skank Adrianna Nicole channels her version of self-respect into a searing bout with Rico, an interracial coupling that fans of sexual integration won't want to miss. In a whopping 4 hours and 20 minutes, with informative behind-the-scenes extras, randy Rico and his no-holes-barred-harem give the adult lover a reason to believe in the beauty of destruction. —Fern Lebott

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