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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"It's lucky you found us first. We are your first, right?"
DVD ReviewDirector Kari Skogland's Zebra Lounge begins with scattered fits of American Beauty-styled imagery and musical score elements, but instead of a dysfunctional marriage falling apart we are treated to a dysfunctional marriage working to come back together. Alan (Cameron Daddo), a sales manager vying for a VP slot, and Wendy (Brandy Ledford), a children's museum curator, are a married couple with a couple of kids struggling with a real lack of intimacy and closeness, and as an experiment designed to liven up their romantic life they make a joint decision to pick up a swingers magazine. That's the kind of marital logic that only works in the movies, I think. Before long Alan and Wendy have placed an ad and are receiving boxes of inquiries regarding potential liaisons. They finally settle on contacting Jack (Stephen Baldwin) and Louise (Kristy Swanson), an "experienced" swinger couple, and meet at the title bar which is apparently a hang-out for the more sexually liberated crowd. Jack and Louise, all black leather and low-cut tops, are the antithesis of the repressed, somewhat uptight suburbanism of Alan and Wendy, and of course the hot and lusty sparks fly right away. Can wanton swinger sex be far off? But at what price? It's obvious that Jack and Louise are a bit on the seedy side, and as the intimate relationship between the two couple progresses, it moves quickly from sexy to deadly as Alan and Wendy's lives are invaded against their will by their new acquaintances. Like all good "R" rated erotic thrillers, Skogland stages a handful of steamy bump and grind sex sequences that are full of artful posing and seductive moaning, but not much in the way of blatant skin. Brandy Ledford must have been the only cast member with the "Nudity Is OK" clause in her contract, because the other principals (ie, Kristy Swanson) only appear in varying stages of semi-undress. It should be mentioned that it's kind of ironic that former cinematic vampire slayer Swanson does have a love scene with Ledford that brought to mind fellow Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar's infamous lip lock in Cruel Intentions. Daddo and Ledford, despite being just a wee bit too good looking to not be falling all over each other, are likeable as the love lost couple. As Alan and Wendy, their fights and arguments played very naturally, as did their awkward, fumbling reactions to their first sexual encounter with Jack and Louise. I credit the screenplay by Claire and Monte Montgomery with supplying a nice range of realistic sounding dialogue and somewhat believable responses to some of the situations. Some of the plot contrivances seem a little forced, but the dialogue portion between Daddo and Ledford plays well.Baldwin and Swanson get top billing on the Zebra Lounge DVD cover art, and that is a bit misleading as the story is not really about them. The perpetually sleepy-eyed Baldwin, far removed from his portrayal of Barney Rubble, is a horny control freak who mumbles his lines with a stoner's glee, and seems to really enjoy disrupting other people's lives. Swanson oozes a heady dose of bad-girl sex appeal, but is vastly underused in this film, and merits depressingly little screen time. There is just excuse for that kind of abuse. She does get off a few killer lines of dialogue during a confrontation near the film's climax that really made me wish she had a few more meaty scenes.Admittedly much of the script, especially as it moves into the final act, becomes a variation on a rehash of a retread. Zebra Lounge veers sharply between erotic and thriller genres, and never really settles adequately on the components of one or the other enough to make for a fully satisfying experience.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar's inconsistent 1.85:1 image transfer suffers from a fair amount of grain and a color field that dips into being a little too red at times. When not overly grainy, much of the film looks OK, like a typical late-night made-for-cable movie looks. Nothing to write home about.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Here's another example of a pair of virtually identical sound mixes in 5.1 and 2.0 surround. Neither track boasts any type of extreme difference over the other. The good news is that both tracks are clean and distortion free, with dialogue always mixed clearly. Some subtle directional imaging is present at times, but nothing overly dramatic. Surrounds are used very little, if at all, and I didn't notice any significant rear channel cues on either the 5.1 or 2.0 mix.A Spanish 2.0 surround track is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsZebra Lounge haphazardly mixes sex and murder into a big pot, and pours out a mutated marital discovery tale that reinforces that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
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