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New Releases for Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All American Bikini Car Wash

Genre: Comedy

Directed by: Nimrod Zalmanowitz

Run time: 95 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: DVD

The Lowdown: It’s good to know that in the 33 years since I was becoming a teenager, movies – specifically direct-to-home video movies featuring horny teenagers – have not changed too much.

Back in my youth, I greedily rented dozens of titillating VHS titles such as “Hot Dog: The Movie,” “Hardbodies” and “Fraternity Vacation.” Often, those movies starred curvaceous female actresses who were not shy about disrobing frequently on camera with little need for narrative motivation.

My favorite was “Spring Break,” which featured 1982’s Penthouse Pet of the Year Corinne Alphen (whom I discovered while rifling through my father’s collection of, ahem, reading material, which he stashed in the bathroom closet) as the lead singer of a beach bar band who, if memory serves me correctly, never wore anything on-screen other than a skimpy bikini or a skintight bodysuit. The ultimate irony, however, was that, at least on-screen, Alphen’s character was actually a sweetheart good girl who just happened to be born with the body of a sinner. And the group of rowdy, randy spring breakers she meets at her concert are actually good guys more interested in finding girlfriends than one-night stands, although they weren’t opposed to a quick roll in the sand or surf.

“Spring Break” was more than just a babes and boobs exploitation flick. It also happened to be the follow-up film by director Sean S. Cunningham, who three years earlier had directed a little movie called “Friday the 13th.”

It’s story – what there was of it – concerned two nerdy friends who go to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break and end up sharing a room with two college studs who promise to introduce the late-bloomers to some seriously good times. From there, the foursome participate in a variety of wet T-shirt contests, drinking contests, concerts and more, all the while trying to hook up with girls. The fun is interrupted, however, when the stepfather of one of the nerds shows up with a building inspector, both of them intent on shutting down the foursome’s hotel and cutting short their beach week adventures.

Time travel forward to 2016 and suddenly I’m watching All American Bikini Car Wash, which basically follows almost the exact same blueprint as the softcore classics from my formative years, such as “Spring Break.”

Only, everything is not exactly the same. It’s different.

For one, the director of All American Bikini Car Wash is Nimrod Zalmanowitz and while this movie is his follow-up to a horror film, that horror film is “Paranormal Asylum” and not the debut of one of the most iconic slasher franchises ever created.

For another, several of the stars of “Spring Break” were actual known actors like Perry Lang, who was known for his roles in “1941,” “The Big Red One” and “Alligator.”

The lead character in All American Bikini Car Wash is Jack, who is played by Jack Cullison, who according to IMDb is best known for such direct-to-DVD films as “MILF” and “Celebrity Sex Tape.”

And while babes and boobs have definitely changed over the last three decades, the lasting appreciation of someone like Alphen and her smoldering beauty had more to do with the fact that she looked like an unobtainable centerfold but came across as down-to-Earth and approachable (at least on screen). Actresses like her have now been replaced with actresses like Scarlet Red, who plays Tori in All American Bikini Car Wash, and whose 50 IMDb credits include such memorable movies as “Invisible Centerfolds,” “An Erotic Tale of Ms. Dracula,” “Girls Gone Wild: Sweet 18,” and a bunch of adult titles I can’t list here. I’m sure Ms. Red is a super nice person, but on screen, she plays vapid blonde to the hilt with no hint at the irony, and while she’s definitely pretty, she looks like any other blonde actress on TV or in movies today.

Even the central plot – Jack has one week to prove to his professor that he can manage a profitable business in order to receive a passing grade, graduate college and satisfy his parents who are paying for his off-campus housing and car but keep trying to catch him partying instead of studying – is not necessarily different.

But in today’s world of over-privileged and apathetic millenials, Jack appears either oblivious to or bored with the revolving door of ridiculously hot women who want to have sex with him and he seems completely downtrodden when his buddies suggest he open up a bikini car wash and hire girls like Tori to wash cars in their bikinis so he can prove his mettle as a business entrepreneur.

Why would a college-age male scoff at such a suggestion? Because, you know, apparently hiring his hot friends and watching them wash cars in skimpy bikinis might require some effort on his part.

Man up, man!

Imagine if Joel Goodsen in “Risky Business” had felt the same way? His best buds and scores of horny classmates wouldn’t have enjoyed using Joel’s parent’s house as their personal bordello for one night while Joel interviewed with Princeton’s dean of admissions.

That’s not to imply that All American Bikini Car Wash is a bad movie. It’s not. In fact, it’s not any better or worse than most of the B-grade titles I loved to rent on VHS back in the day. It’s just…different.

Maybe this means I’m growing up or just older and less tolerant, but I found myself trying hard to muster a chuckle when the opening scene of All American Bikini Car Wash features Jack having sex with a buxom blonde who gets angry with him because he won’t stop texting mid-coitus. That’s not so much funny as it is deserving of an open-hand slap to Jack’s face for being an idiot. Dude, you’re in bed with a seriously hot chick. Put down your damn cell phone!

Much of the humor in All American Bikini Car Wash focuses on such self-centered exploits and features a cliché-ridden cast of young adult characters who don’t want to work, don’t want to go to class and, apparently, don’t want to focus on having sex with a hot blonde buxom babe because that means they might miss a tweet.

That’s definitely different than the horny teenager movies I grew up watching.

The best and funniest part about the opening scene was not Jack, but the blonde, who confidently dismounts following his third phone check and announces that she wants a man who appreciates her for being her and since that’s not Jack, she’s going to go home to her new personal massager because that’s more fulfilling. You go, girl! That actually makes you smarter than the sum total of every male stereotype ever in the entire oeuvre of the horny teenage exploitation sub-genre.

So what did I learn watching All American Bikini Car Wash?

Thankfully, I learned there’s still a market for movies meant solely to tempt and torture maturing adolescents, which is great news, because some of these films will likely mark the pivotal turning point in some young man’s life.

And I learned that I’m no longer the target demographic for these movies, but that’s OK too. I can still appreciate the best and most boobtastic films from the genre that defined my maturation from action figures and comic books to real-life, flesh and blood girls.

OK, OK, I still love action figures and comic books, but my wife is ever-so-generous in allowing me these few staples from my childhood, so we’re all good.

That being said, while there may be an audience for All American Bikini Car Wash among older males like me in their 40s who fondly remember the classics, this is likely a title best reserved for guys 23 and younger who have yet to know the burden of revolving debt and a 9-to-5 job.

That’s not bad, either. Like I said, it’s just different.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – Gratuitous. Gore – No.

Drug use – Yes.

Bad Guys/Killers – Parents who don’t understand.

Buy/Rent – Rent it.

Midnight Special (Warner Bros., 111 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Jeff Nichols made one of my all-time favorite films, 2011’s “Take Shelter.” It was a striking, deeply affecting treatise about what it means to be a man protecting your family wrapped inside a wonderfully tense thriller about a possible end-times storm approaching. The final shot is just damn chilling. His latest film, Midnight Special, mines similar territory to the same effective, if not quite as satisfying, conclusion. Nichols reteams once again with Michael Shannon, his go-to male muse, once again playing a father trying to protect his child – only this time, the stakes are much higher. Shannon’s son has been raised by a religious cult that believes the boy will lead them all to a better world. The boy has powers, you see, which I won’t spoil here, other than to say they are impressively original and, as staged by Nichols in both tightly-framed scenes and wide scenic landscapes, effectively jaw-dropping. The movie begins midway through the father and son’s journey to reach a specific set of coordinates by a specific time and date. Along for the ride is Joel Edgerton as a family friend willing to put his life on the line to protect this special boy. In hot pursuit is both the federal government and a pair of assassins dispatched by the cult. Nichols’ calling card, of sorts, is his refusal to offer direct answers to the central conflicts in his films. He wants to challenge his audience to form their own interpretations, and that’s a respectable and commendable goal. Midnight Special, however, could have used just one or two moments of pure exposition to help guide viewers on their journey to personally sorting through the myriad of religious and extraterrestrial themes and explanations. It also would have helped better explain how this special child came to be born to average ordinary parents. When did he develop powers? How did they get involved in the cult? When it all culminates in a big showdown, Nichols use of special effects is tempered by his focus on the human impact, but the effects are pretty damn good. Nichols’ focus on people means Midnight Special ends much quieter than it began. I can see where many viewers might feel jilted or utterly confused. In fact, I had to seek out an interview with Nichols where he actually offered an in-depth explanation of the ending and why he chose to take the route he did. Did it help improve or even justify my personal feelings about Midnight Special? To a degree, yes. But I still can’t help but wish he had gone full-blown “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

The Midnight After (Well Go USA, 121 minutes, Unrated, DVD): This apocalyptic import plays like the Chinese version of Stephen King’s “The Langoliers” – the made-for-TV version. Despite a few artistic flourishes, The Midnight After is a muddled mess of conflicting ambitions. On one hand, it wants to be an end-of-the-world thriller about 17 disparate individuals who happen to all board the same public bus at the same time that some sort of end-times event happens. On the other hand, it seems to want to be a political thriller in disguise, using its apocalyptic analogy to mirror the end of Hong Kong’s sovereign status before it transferred back to Chinese rule. Neither storyline works particularly well.

The Wave (Magnolia Pictures, 105 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Originally released as “Bølgen,” this Norwegian disaster flick about a tsunami that swamps a small coastal village is proof that American audiences aren’t the only ones who like to see things go boom in a big, bad way. The Wave is smart, visually dazzling filmmaking that effectively generates tension without resorting to the same tired clichés as U.S. disaster films. OK, all right, there are a few plot contrivances – such as the son who decides to go skateboarding in the empty subterranean basement while wearing headphones so he has no idea that all hell is breaking loose above-ground – but they don’t distract from the lean and focused story that eschews over-the-top action set pieces and zeroes in instead on taunt, tightly-confined claustrophobia. Directed by Roar Uthaug, who helmed the amazing 2006 slasher homage “Cold Prey” and who is on deck to direct the Lara Croft reboot “Tomb Raider” to be released in 2017, The Wave is definitely worth checking out.

Also Available:

The Brothers Grimsby

The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses


Going Away

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


Workaholics: Season Six

How to Get Away with Murder: The Complete Second Season

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