Anchor Bay's February '11 Releases
Cactus (February 7/11)
Written and directed by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan, Cactus follows Travis McMahon's John as he abducts David Lyons' Eli and drives off into the desert for reasons that initially remain vague - with the film subsequently detailing the pair's exploits on a barren stretch of highway. There's little doubt that Cactus opens with a fair degree of promise, as Carrucan establishes an atmosphere of palpable grittiness that's heightened by the strong performances (and also by Bryan Brown's all-too-brief appearance as an offbeat police officer). The unapologetically plotless vibe is, as a result, not as problematic as one might've anticipated, with the compelling nature of the central mystery - ie why has Eli been kidnapped? - sustaining the viewer's interest even through the movie's overtly uneventful stretches. It's only as the film crawls into its almost oppressively spare midsection that Cactus begins to test one's patience, as Carrucan simply goes too far in emphasizing mood and ambiance over exposition and dialogue - although, to be fair, the filmmaker does offer up an impressively suspenseful sequence involving a hapless truck driver and The Wiggles. The movie's place as a lamentably misguided piece of work is cemented with the inclusion of a last-minute twist that's more confusing than anything else, and there's ultimately no getting around the fact that Cactus feels like a short that's been awkwardly expanded to feature length.
Wild Cherry (February 9/11)
Oppressively routine from start to finish, Wild Cherry follows a trio of high schoolers (Tania Raymonde's Helen, Rumer Willis' Katlyn, and Kristin Cavallari's Trish) as they discover that several football players have been keeping a "bang book" charting their sexual conquests - with the girls' subsequent decision to deny their boyfriends sex triggering a series of juvenile and over-the-top interludes. Director Dana Lustig and screenwriter Chris Charney are clearly looking to put their own female-centric spin on American Pie, as the film, for the most part, features an ongoing emphasis on the protagonists' raunchy exploits - with problems ensuing as it becomes clear that virtually none of the movie's characters have been developed beyond their most superficial attributes. As such, the film's admittedly talented cast is left floundering amidst a field of eye-rollingly unfunny gross-out gags and jokes - although Rob Schneider, of all people, does manage to deliver a surprisingly compelling (and subdued) performance as Helen's concerned dad. The interminable atmosphere is exacerbated by the movie's lamentable (and total) lack of laughs, with Lustig's increasingly desperate efforts at wringing laughs from Charney's puerile screenplay reflected in the film's preponderance of aggressively obnoxious comedic set pieces (ie the girls are treated to a profanity-laced sex lesson from their freespirited teacher). And just when it seems as though things can't possibly get any worse, Lustig offers up an astonishingly wrongheaded sequence in which several teenagers are accidentally served ice cubes made out of a pal's semen - which effectively (and definitively) cements Wild Cherry's place as an irrelevant, flat-out worthless waste of time.