Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
Septemeber 1st, 200

Cup of My Blood

Directed by Lance Catania
108 mins

Well, this one's a doozy, folks...the first advance look you're getting from me at a non-Asylum title that wasn't sent to me direct from the director.

And "Cup of my Blood" is definitely a wonder, I'll tell you that.

So what we have here is the story of Jack Fender, a bitter, sorrowful wreck of a porn photographer that's down on his luck...until he manages to get a hold of the Holy Grail.

Yeah, I know...weird. Normally you don't just GET the Grail, you have to go hunt it up. That's been the way it's been in movies from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" to the Monty Python "Holy Grail" for years upon years. And this time, it just falls right into the lap of a guy who shoots porn stills for a living.

Nifty, no?

Anyway, Jack's got to keep the Grail safe from the Generic Forces of Evil and get it to somebody who's apparently supposed to have it.

And let me tell you, I hope to God above that MTI manages to engineer its completed editions better than its screener copies. The seven second mark is proof of just how shoddy this is--I can't even read the entire title crawl. The text is so large that it just overlaps the edge of my screen, and I've got a nice twenty seven incher.

Check out the hilarity at the five minute twenty five second mark as the computer, eerily reminiscent of a scene from the DC Vertigo comic "Transmetropolitan" decides it wants some porn. And when our hero shuts the computer down, not seconds later, the computer decides it will not be daunted and brings back the porn.

What do you do in a situation like that? Call tech support? An exorcist? Frankly, neither sounds all that good--think about it.

You: "Hello, Tech Support? My computer won't stop downloading porn. I shut it off but it just turns right back on again."

Tech Support Guy, laughing: "Umm...just don't give it your credit card number."

You: "Hello, Father O'Shaughnessy? My computer won't stop downloading porn. I shut it off but it just turns right back on again."

Father O' Shaughnessy: "My child, you're a pervert and a liar. Say five thousand hail marys and call me in the morning."

Now here's an interesting little bit. Around the fifteen minute mark, some techie who runs a web porn site is going to start rambling, much in the way Laurence Fishburne did in "The Matrix", about how systems are watching you and suchlike. But pause at the sixteen minute forty second mark and zoom on that screen with the text. A poorly spelled message comes out that actually comes full circle to the topic before it. It reads:

"The system is here to do the theings (sic) the man has not be n (sic) able to do in his shoert (sic) time here on earth."

It's a thinker!

And check out the freaky little scene that hits at seventeen minutes fifty eight seconds! It's an excellent example and an excellent use of the old standard, the jump scene.

More comedy hits at twenty six minutes, fifty seconds. If you don't laugh, then I weep for your sense of humor.

At twenty nine minutes even, I have to pause and give them a word of kudos. They quote Luke 15:10 out of the Bible and get it right. Rare in direct to video--so often the Bible is some throwaway source document that characters quote from haphazardly, not bothering to get it right. When they DO get it right, I have to mention it out of respect.

Here's the good news. Everything I just said, as random and haphazard as it sounds, combines together to mean just one thing--this is pretty good stuff. The first half hour is just going to amaze you. It certainly amazed me, and at this point, I'm one jaded individual. I can spot crap from a mile away. I know when lousy special effects are being forced down my throat. And make no mistake--this is a solid title with lots of suspenseful elements, lots of freaky moments, a deep and involved storyline, and even some comic relief.

The ending is a vicious, bloody beatdown that pretty much manages to tie up every loose end in the movie. It's surprisingly good.

The special features include 16:9 widescreen format, cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, special menus, Spanish subtitles, and trailers for several different movies that I don't know the titles of because MTI didn't bother to tell me what they were.

All in all, "Cup of My Blood," though it looks trite and exploitative at first glance, turns out to be a solid entry in direct to video. Fans of "The Da Vinci Code" and any movie involving the Holy Grail are probably going to be pretty satisfied with this.

Ice Queen

92 mins

The old aphorism about exposed actresses early on holds (mostly) true in an upcoming release from MTI Home Video, "Ice Queen."

So what we have here is the story of the archeological find of the century--a woman sealed in a big block of amber found in the Amazon rain forest. Naturally, women sealed in amber aren't the normal kind of thing to find, so this one's special for one reason or another.

And when they follow it up with a wet t-shirt contest at a ski resort, well, you have to wonder--what ARE we going to be faced with for the next eighty minutes? You know the rule, folks...better than ninety percent of the time, if you see an actress exposed within the first ten minutes, the rest of the film will, inevitably, suck out loud.

But then, there's more plot! Our Amazon amber woman is getting shipped to a ski patrol outpost...near the resort.

Ohhhh boy, I think we see where THIS is going.

Naturally, Something Goes Wrong and the plane crashes, causing an avalance that engulfs the lodge and a handful of survivors. They're running out of air, there's a homicidal cold-powered devil witch woman thing after them, and plenty of nudity which is a surprise in an environment like this.

I have to admit, I'm a little concerned. This is a plot that's eerily familiar on several fronts. Lots of science fiction has started out like this, with alien-things in faulty containment tanks getting out and slaughtering every human being around them.

First off, kudos for the opening three minutes. That firefight looks pretty authentic by my measures...I certainly can't spot the wires on this one.

And anti-kudos for the "skiing from the avalanche" sequence around twenty five minutes for having the skier and the avalanche in the same shot for less than ten whole seconds. Surely we can use a blue screen a LITTLE better than this, MTI.

You'll notice also that, at twenty eight minutes and twenty two seconds, the arm is already detached when the Ice Queen pulls it away from the pilot's body. And twenty eight minutes thirty nine seconds, that cloud of steam in front of the guy's's not terribly convincing.

It's also never adequately explained as to why the Ice Queen suddenly goes from hot chick to twisted evil monstrousity when she cools off.

And yet, almost the last hour is this "Poseidon Adventure" in snow, and I can't help but be amused by the parallels. The building is even upside down, as evidenced by the bolted down furniture.

At least, until the forty six minute forty eight second mark, where two of our female leads have a catfight. Then I'm amused but in a much more wry sort of way. They're trapped in a ski lodge under fifty billion metric tons of snow--something like HALF A MOUNTAIN, the building is literally upside down, and they're having a hair-pulling catfight because the male lead has been philandering around and these are the two ladies in question.

Talk about having your priorities in order.

But then something amazing happens around the forty nine minute mark. A cell phone call actually GETS THROUGH. I can't believe it. One of the most immutable new laws of horror fiction and there it is, shattered like the windows at the lodge. Of course, the operator on the other end doesn't believe a word of it, but's pretty much a law that cell phone calls do NOT get through.

The ending features one of the biggest "What the?" moments of the film as our Ice Queen gets hot for the cold guys. I know, it's a lousy pun, but it's apt. She displays arousal when everyone's freezing. And then, from there, we go right to the standard "use the monster's one major weakness to kill it" strategy.

The special features include full screen and wide screen formats as selectable options, cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, interactive menus, Spanish subtitles, and trailers for a bunch of movies whose titles I don't know because once again MTI didn't bother to tell me.

All in all, not bad. Though "Ice Queen" suffers from some predictability in its plot, it develops some minor innovations that put it at a cut slightly above mediocre. It's worth a rental, and you'll probably enjoy it to some degree.