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ENTERTAINMENT ONE

MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Mark A. Altman, Steven Kriozere
Cast:
Tanit Phoenix, Various
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
From the creators of "Femme Fatales" Magazine comes a new late-night anthology series about powerful, sexy and dangerous women. In each of the stand-alone episodes, women find extraordinary ways of coping with their problems, channeling their survival instincts and bringing out their inner guile. The show is inspired by and styled in the tradition of pulp stories, film noir and graphic novels, and takes place in contemporary settings. Each episode is introduced by a mysterious and enigmatic host Lilith, played by Tanit Phoenix, and features different casts and storylines, some of which are intertwined.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 392 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/29/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries for All 14 Episodes
• Four Featurettes
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• “White Flowers” Director’s Cut
• Blooper Reel
• Photo Gallery
• “Help Me, Rhonda” Isolated Music Score


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 29, 2013)

Cable series Femme Fatales offers an anthology series that concentrates on “dangerous women who find extraordinary ways of coping with their problems, channeling their survival instincts and bringing out their inner guile.” And since it aired on “Skinemax”, one should expect copious amounts of nudity – I’m in!

We’ll look at all 14 of Season One’s half-hour episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD’s liner notes.

The White Flower: “Two bank robbers (William Gregory Lee and Geoff Meed) hole up in a dilapidated hotel, waiting to divide their loot with a mob boss, when they fall prey to an unscrupulous femme fatale (Tina Casciani). Now one of the crooks must confront his worst fears.”

By coincidence, I just happened to see Tanit Phoenix in the abysmal Death Race 3, where her beauty was one of the only positive elements. Alas, Phoenix barely appears here; she’s the series’ hostess, and she removes no clothes in her brief turn. Maybe that’ll change in future episodes, as she reprises her role in all 14 – hope springs eternal!

On the more positive side, other women do doff their duds, and those results become quite enjoyable. The episode itself lacks much of a story; we’re basically holed up with the crooks without a ton of tension, as the only compelling concern – other than whether or not Phoenix will get naked – comes from our vague desire to find out Jimmy’s fears of white flowers. Still, while not a strong narrative, it keeps us interested enough to stick with it; “Flower” offers a decent launch to the series.

Something Like Murder: “In the tradition of classic film noirs like Double Indemnity and Body Heat, Darla MacKendrick (Anya Monzikova) conspires to murder her older, dull, wealthy husband (Ian Gregory) with her lover, Beth Oates (Carlee Baker). But once they’ve collected the ‘ransom’, the double-cross begins.”

Two episodes into Femme Fatales, I think we can tell how the series will work: it’ll feature threadbare stories that exist mainly to feature some soft-core porn. Speaking for myself, I heartily approve, as the action so far seems pretty, um, stimulating. Girl-on-girl massage? Works for me!

As for the rest of “Murder”, it’s less compelling. We find a mildly interesting story saddled by spotty execution and awkward acting. Well, at least the nudity quotient satisfies.

Behind Locked Doors, Part One: “It’s All About Eve in prison when a troubled Hollywood starlet finds herself behind bars after mowing down a family of German tourists. Now she must use all her acting skills to survive by manipulating her fellow inmates as well as the warden (Paul Mazursky).”

When I review two-part episodes, I save my comments until the conclusion.

Behind Locked Doors, Part Two: “Kacey Rivers (Kit Willesee) and prison guard Rafe (Will Poston) grow closer as Lacey attempts to plot her release from incarceration at Cuesta Verde Wommen’s Correctional Facility.”

“Doors” hits its creative peak in its first few minutes, as it uses the tabloid TV format for a funny look at the life of its Lindsay Lohan-esque lead. After that, it turns into a fairly standard “women behind bars” flick, though it’s still the best episode so far, especially when the machinations go kooky in Part Two. Add in Mazursky’s delightful turn as the warden and this turns into a pretty solid show.

Speed Date: “After Hours meets La Femme Nikita when geeky video game designer Kevin Freeman (Reggie Hayes) creates an alter ego for his online dating profile and winds up on the run with a female assassin (Daphne Duplaix) who kills for the mysterious Raven (Isaiah Mustafa).”

While the prior shows provided some cynical humor, “Date” – with the goofy Kevin – offers the most obvious comedy to date. That’s a nice change of pace and it turns this into the most enjoyable show so far. Despite a long Eyes Wide Shut-style sequence, it’s the least erotic we’ve gotten, but it compensates with an entertaining ride.

Bad Medicine: “When a gorgeous hard-working nurse (Christine Donlon) learns that her boyfriend (Scott Bailey) has been cheating on her, she’s devastated. But her evening goes from bad to worse when an injured gangbanger (Robert LaSardo) takes her hostage.”

Perhaps to make up for the relative lack of naughtiness in “Speed Date”, “Medicine” launches with a graphic sex scene. That’s pretty much the highlight here, as the rest of “Medicine” lacks much to make it interesting for the majority of its running time; even a sex scene toward the end because we’re forced to look at LaSardo’s absurdly tattooed torso. Throw in a lackluster finale and this is the weakest episode in a while.

Girls Gone Dead: “In need of fast cash, a group of sorority girls agree to have themselves filmed for a raunchy home video series by infamous entrepreneur Jay Roma (Charlie O’Connell), but it turns out their true motives are far more sinister.”

In terms of story, “Dead” bounces back a bit after the mediocre “Medicine”. It’s a friskier concept that evolves in a surprisingly dramatic manner. Unfortunately, it hearkens back to “Speed Date” in the relative absence of steamy content; even a girl-on-girl-on-girl scene works better in concept than in execution. Still, it’s a good episode that goes dark in a compelling way.

Till Death Do Us Part: “Six hours before her wedding, a woman (Jordan Madley) wakes up next to a dead male stripper (Jon Fleming) at her bachelorette party with no memory of how he got there.”

Here we get a Femme Fatales take on The Hangover, though with a darker tone, of course. Not that it lacks humor, as it tosses in its own wackiness, but no one dies in Hangover, so that makes it different. We see too much of the stripper’s unit, but the program itself creates an intriguing, fun mystery.

Help Me, Rhonda: “The serenity of an isolated mountain cottage is shattered when gangsters show up at the home of Camille Gardner (Ana Alexander) looking for her missing husband Eddie.”

“Rhonda” does something clever, as it offers a prequel of sorts; we already met Camille as an inmate in “Behind Locker Doors”. It also gives us some much-needed steamy action between Camille and Rhonda (Crystal Allen). Unfortunately, beyond the cool tie-in with the earlier show and the hot girl-on-girl scene, the rest of the program lacks much to make it zing. It’s one of the weaker episodes.

The Clinic: “Given only three months to live, an unsuspecting man’s (Daniel Bess) persuaded by his doctor (Angus Scrimm) and girlfriend (Stacy Stas) to seek experimental treatment at a clinic in Mexico.”

The presence of Scrimm – best known for his role in Phantasm - lets us know there’ll be something dark and spooky at work here. In that vein, “Clinic” delivers a decent experience. The lead character’s something of a dud and the episode telegraphs some of its conceits, but it still manages to develop a reasonably involving tale.

Haunted: “The paranormal investigators of Fright Finders, a second-rate cable television series, are recruited by a famous psychic to investigate mysterious murders in an allegedly haunted house where they come face-to-face with the ultimate femme fatale.”

What I learned from “Haunted”: apparently flappers from the 1920s had breast implants! Yeah, I know that it’s tough to find 21st century actresses who haven’t gone under the knife – I’d bet at least half of the Femme Fatales babes sport silicon – but you’d think they’d manage to locate one for a little historical verisimilitude.

Even without these quibbles, “Haunted” delivers a tepid experience. The horror scenes lack impact, and the sex sequences fail to muster much heat. This ends up as one of the year’s weaker shows.

Angel and Demons: “Two police detectives desperately search for a serial killer known as the Grim Reaper who stalks another victim on the mean streets of Cuesta Verde… but the killer’s identity is not what it seems.”

I tend to find serial killer stories to be interesting, but “Demons” lacks much heft. It follows a predictable path and throws out a lame – and easily foreseen – “twist” at the end in an attempt to shake up the action. It becomes a fairly ineffective show.

Visions: Part One: “A phony mentalist (Marc Crumpton) murders his beautiful assistant (Jasmine Waltz) and then begins to have real visions and embarks on a plan to exploit his newfound gift for material gain with the help of his beautiful new apprentice (Stacy Stas).”

As mentioned earlier, I’ll save my comments until we get to the episode’s conclusion.

Visions: Part Two: “Mentalist Foster Prentiss attempts to blackmail two women with the dark secrets he’s learned about them only to have the tables turned when they unearth his dark secret.”

I’ll give “Visions” credit for this: it offers a fun way to finish Season One. It brings back a slew of characters from earlier episodes and kinda sorta ties together the whole year. The main plot is a little lackluster, but the show still completes the season on a positive note.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus A-

Femme Fatales appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the limitations of SD-DVD, I thought the episodes looked quite good.

Colors varied a lot due to the mix of styles featured in these programs. Expect a wide range of tints and palettes across all 14 shows. These could’ve been more vibrant, but they remained pretty peppy and full. Blacks were fairly deep and dense, while low-light shots – of which we found plenty in these neo-noir programs – delivered reasonable clarity.

Sharpness was positive. Some wider shots delivered mild softness, but that was expected given the SD-DVD format. Overall definition seemed solid, without notable fuzzines. Jagged edges and shimmering remained minor, and edge haloes were also modest. No source flaws appeared in these programs. All of this seemed good enough for a “B+”.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Femme Fatales, those elements also varied due to the nature of the episodes. When the programs tended toward action, the mixes used the various speakers in a reasonably positive way, as they boasted gunfire and cars in the side/rear channels.

These components didn’t add a ton to the proceedings, though, as most of the time the series stayed with music and general ambience. That was fine, as I wouldn’t expect more from a low-budget cable series.

Audio quality was decent. Music seemed rinky-dink, but that was mostly due to the cheap synthesizer sound featured; the scores were adequate given those restrictions. Effects tended to be reasonably concise and accurate, while speech – which sounded to be heavily looped – came across with fair clarity. Nothing here excelled, but the audio was perfectly acceptable for a series such as this.

Femme Fatales comes with plenty of extras, and we start with audio commentaries for all 14 episodes. Here’s who pops up along the way:

“The White Flower”: series co-creator/executive producer Mark A. Altman, executive producer David E. Williams and director Michael Hurst

“Something Like Murder”: Altman and Williams

“Behind Locked Doors, Part One”: Altman, Williams and executive producer/co-creator Steve Kriozere

“Behind Locked Doors, Part Two”: Altman, Williams and Kriozere

“Speed Date”: Altman, Kriozere and actor Reginald C. Hayes

“Bad Medicine”: Kriozere and actors Christine Donlon and Scott Bailey

“Girls Gone Dead”: Altman, Kriozere, and actors Dean Haglund, Catherine Annette and Madison Dylan

“Till Death Do Us Part”: Altman, Kriozere, Williams and actor Jordan Madley

“Help Me, Rhonda”: Altman, composer Joe Kramer and actor Ana Alexander

“The Clinic”: Altman, Kriozere, Williams, and unit production manager Aaron Ratner

“Haunted”: Altman, Kriozere, and actor Tiffany Brouwer

“Angel and Demons”: Altman, Williams, and Hurst

“Visions: Part One”: Altman, Kriozere, Annette and actor Marc Crumpton

“Visions: Part Two”: Altman, Kriozere, Crumpton, Annette and Dylan

Topics vary somewhat across all 14 tracks, but most touch on similar issues. We learn about story/script/character choices, sets, locations and production design, cast and performances, the series’ use of sex and violence, music and editing, visual effects, influences and inspirations, and other subjects.

Overall, these are fairly consistent commentaries. Some fare better than others, but they tend to be reasonably similar. Expect a lot of praise along the way, but not so much that it becomes a turn-off.

Genuinely fascinating details don’t often appear, but we do get a generally good overview of the shows and their creation. “Clinic” might be the most interesting of the bunch due to that episode’s troubled history; it was the first program shot and encountered more difficulties than the others. All of the tracks are worth a listen for fans, though.

All the remaining extras pop up on DVD Three. Four featurettes appear: “Creating Femme Fatales” (13:32), “Shooting Femme Fatales” (29:55), “Making Love: Anatomy of a Sex Scene” (15:22) and “San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Panel” (44:27). Across these, we hear from Altman, Kriozere, Williams, Annette, Bailey, Madley, Hurst, Donlon, Hayes, Dylan, Brouwer, Alexander, Crumpton, Haglund, executive producer Mark Gottwald, directors Greg Pritikin, Robert Meyer Burnett and Darin Scott, sound designer Michael McDonald, and actors Ashley Hamilton, Nikki Griffin, Stacy Stas, Robin Sydney, Robert LaSardo, William Gregory Lee, Tina Casciani, Stephanie Daniels, Isaiah Mustafa, Charlie O’Connell, Melissa Paulo, Anya Mozikova, Paul Green, Jasmine Waltz, Carlee Baker, Tammy Felice, Ashley Noel, Scheana Marie, Joel Rush, Shani Pride, Leilani Sarelle, Kristen DeLuca, Adam Huss, Betsy Rue, Jeff Fahey, Vivica Fox, Kyle Gass and Robert Picardo.

We learn about the series’ roots, development and influences, the series’ style and some story/character notes, episode specifics, cast and performances, sets and locations, shooting sex/nude scenes, and a few other areas.

“Creating”, “Shooting” and “Making” all follow similar lines, and they’re consistently informative. Of course, some material from the commentaries reappears across them, but they still give us a lot of useful material and turn into interesting programs.

Unfortunately, the “Panel” becomes less compelling. Its first two-thirds manage to be rather content-free, as it feels like we get little more than introductions to participants – apparently everyone who ever had anything to do with the series was in the audience – and praise. The last 15 minutes or so get into an audience Q&A, and those moments give us a few decent details, but overall, the “Panel” is a dud. At least the three other programs work well.

11 Deleted and Alternate Scenes run a total of 37 minutes, 25 seconds. These accompany six episodes: “The White Flower” (two sequences), “Something Like Murder” (two), “Bad Medicine” (one), “The Clinic” (two), “Angel & Demons” (one) and “Visions” (three).

Most of these offer brief extensions to existing scenes or outtakes. For instance, the “Visions” bits simply show us what Stas had to go through to endure the cold pool. None of the segments offer anything interesting in terms of character or story moments.

That doesn’t make them worthless, though. The two longest sequences come from “Hands On” (“Something Like Murder” - 7:49) and “Jay Roma’s Crazy Chixx” (“Visions” – 15:21). Neither tells us anything new, but both offer copious amounts of nudity, so I suspect fans of the series will enjoy them.

By the way, although we get no commentary for the scenes, we do find text blurbs that precede all of the segments. Those notes tell us why the clips got the boot.

Next comes a Director’s Cut of “The White Flower”. It goes for 19 minutes, 42 seconds and shows a black and white version of the show. It also edits some sequences and creates a somewhat tighter take on the episode. It’s more story-based, but that’s because it axes a lot of nudity. Less nudity is a bad thing, so I prefer the aired “Flower”.

We can watch the “White Flower” DC with or without commentary from Altman and Hurst. They tell us a few elements of the episode’s shoot but concentrate on changes made for the DC. Though they occasionally repeat themselves, they give us a good overview of the alterations.

We also find an isolated music track for “Help Me, Rhonda”. With a running time of 19 minutes, 42 seconds it literally offers audio with nothing else; it doesn’t accompany the episode itself. That’s a weird choice, but if you want to hear the music on its own, it’s one way to do so.

A Blooper Reel occupies five minutes. It shows a standard collection of goofs and giggles, though we do get to hear Darin Scott’s unusual method of providing direction right before he yells action. That element amuses, but the rest is pretty typical stuff.

Next we locate a Photo Gallery. This running montage goes for two minutes, 44 seconds and shows 54 pictures. Most of these come from various episodes, but we also get some promotional and behind the scenes shots. Nonetheless, we don’t see much of interest.

Finally, Femme Fatales Previews gets into three subdomains. We get “Bumpers” (six minutes, four seconds), a “Home Video Promo” (2:07) and a “Season One Sizzle Preview Reel” (2:56). The “Bumpers” provide previews for upcoming episodes, while the “Home Video Promo” tries to sell us the DVD we already own. Finally, “Reel” creates a form of trailer that delivers short shots from each episode. None of these are particularly compelling, but they’re good to have in the interest of completeness.

While not a consistently strong series, Femme Fatales proves to be more entertaining than I expected. It mixes a bunch of different genres to create a generally enjoyable collection of episodes. The DVDs provide very good picture, acceptable audio and a broad, informative collection of bonus materials. This ends up as a nice release for a fun series.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main