Joanne Cachapero: $360,000 and five hours later — it's an understatement to say that "Upload" is ambitious.
Gram Ponante: I heard it was $375,000. They could have made a whole other theoretical movie with the theoretical difference! I guess it depends on whose press release you're reading.
JC: And because of the massive scale and epic proportions, it was hard to know what to expect from "Upload." I think when there is this kind of budget, a developed storyline and all kinds of special effects, there's always gonna be a tendency to make comparisons to a "real" Hollywood movie.
GP: And that is the bane of any porn filmmaker who aspires to something more than the "$15,000 kind of porn," which "Upload" director Eli Cross has said was a request that bedeviled him before he started making blockbusters for SexZ. Anyone who gets too big for his britches risks the slings and arrows of reviewers and, more importantly, consumers who might get disappointed when the simple porno they were expecting turns into something that tries to transcend it. If a big-budget and/or high-concept porn auteur can't walk the line between adult material that pleases everyone and a movie that would be at home on basic cable but for the cumshots, I think he shouldn't try, because anything in the middle is "Good – for a porn," or "Why'd they have to mess up those great sex scenes with that MySpace blogger's attempt at a manifesto?" Why "Upload" works is because the sex and the story are interdependent, even though the plot is compelling without the sex. And the sex isn't of the variety currently in fashion in big-budget porns that hinges on empty pornic catchphrases like "sexual obsession," "darkest desires," and "empowerment."
JC: You can see that "Upload" borrows quite a bit from "The Matrix" trilogy, "Minority Report" and other futuristic thrillers. So, after several hours, I started to wonder what a porno could be like if you did it like a real Hollywood production — if you took the time to develop the screenplay, had the rehearsals, had access to different sets and locations, ramped up the wardrobe and art direction, had a year to shoot it and a multimillion-dollar budget — what could you do with an adult movie then? I think the one and only time anyone ever even tried was with 1979's Penthouse triple-X classic "Caligula," which actually starred big-name actors like Sir John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole and Malcolm McDowell.
GP: It was the Gielgud movie of the summer.
JC: "Upload" comes as close as you can to having that mainstream look and feel, but what is it really? A blockbuster porno epic with a good story. The acting is pretty good for performers (Eva Angelina, Hillary Scott and Derrick Pierce) who otherwise wouldn't be delivering much scripted dialogue. The lighting is beautiful and thankfully cancels out some of the problems inherent with videos shot in hi-def (like ingrown hairs and pimples — yuck!). The sets are not elaborate, but easily create the atmosphere for this moody, sci-fi detective story.
GP: I liked that the sparse sets made sense to the story rather than the budget.
JC: But because of the five-hour running time, you're gonna have to make some choices. Either fast-forward through the dramatic parts to take in the 12 sizzling sex scenes. Or, forget about the sex and just go from one dramatic scene to the next. Granted, the movie wouldn't make any sense without some of the sex because it's integral to the plot — on the other hand, the movie makes perfect sense if you just watch the sex scenes because then it just turns into a jam-packed, beautifully shot, ultra-hardcore fuckfest with great performers.
GP: If I were physically able to jerk off to porn that wasn't actually happening on top of me, I would have blown a load to the script. At one point Alex Sanders says to Julie Night, "Get it wet or I'll shove it in you dry." I say this all the time, whether to the arresting officer, clergy, the sweet Sikh lady at 7-Eleven, or you, Jo Jo, and I have to tell you that I appreciate good writing.
JC: But I have a hard time believing anyone is going to spend five hours watching the movie in its entirety; it's the kind of video you need to devote a whole weekend to, as I did, without even looking at any of the extras (though they did sound interesting — I guess there's a sock puppet parody).
GP: Kylie Ireland is a sock genius.
JC: And unlike a lot of features, I wouldn't call this a couples' flick. There's way too much cool guy stuff in it. The special effects are fucking awesome, dude. I hope that someone sends Steve Jobs a copy at Apple so that he can jerk off to it and then figure out how to engineer the incredibly fucking cool see-through, stand-up, holographic computers so that I can have one for Christmas next year. Then there's the interrogation scene where Hillary Scott gets X-rayed right before she gets fisted by Flick Shagwell (which is a whole different kind of special effect). And there also are a couple of fight sequences, particularly one between Angelina and Scott, where Scott is in this cool cyberwarrior armor and she kicks Angelina's ass.
GP: All right. That scene was not as well realized as I would have liked it to be. But it was fun seeing Angelina in "Girlfight" mode, getting tossed around meatily.
JC: Angelina plays a rough, hardboiled federal agent, and you wouldn't want to mess with her because she might kick your ass or fuck you to death. Or both.
GP: "I will fuck you to death" is also something I like to say to people. I put it on my Christmas cards and in the "Occupation" field of my quarterly tax returns.
JC: In the Director's Cut, the sex scenes are full of frantic, extreme, ultra-aggressive hyper sex complete with fisting, DPs, throat gagging and face-slapping that may not appeal to some female viewers, unless they're also depraved sluts like me. The regular edition of "Upload" might be a better choice for "date night' with the fiancée, but I love it when the girls are filthy-dirty and really mean it.
GP: I do, too. People are so fake in Hollywood.
JC: So, if the ultimate test of a porno movie is whether or not it gets you off, I had my own little date night with an equally perverted friend and his 73-inch HDTV. The first scene with Angelina, Evan Stone and Sandra Romain was stimulating. Romain is so fucking nasty-hot in an exotic Eastern European way. It was deliciously dirty. The next scene, which is a jailhouse gangbang with Hillary Scott, Marco Banderas, Jenner, Brian Surewood, Tee Reel and Alec Knight, was all it took to really get the action going. I was getting turned on by the whole gangbang fantasy thing, and my friend was getting turned on by me getting turned on by the gangbang — and then we were both completely turned on.
GP: Stop talking now, Jo Jo. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
JC: After that, we watched a little more, but were in no shape to watch another 3½ hours worth. The next night, I watched the second disc, and found that the plot actually picked up quite a bit as it built toward the dramatic climax. The basic plot of Angelina and Pierce being government agents, pursuing Scott who holds the key to a global terrorist threat in a "sim chip," which plugs into a brain-linked USB port in the back of everyone's neck. Scott is a "sim slut" and a "chip junkie" that records all her sexual experiences and memories on the chip so that she can relive them over and over, and there is a subplot involving her former lover, who programmed the chip with its deadly purpose. Pierce is the good cop to Angelina's sociopathic bad cop, and he has some subplot action with "girlfriend" Trina Michaels. Their lovemaking scene gives the sex scenes in the movie a little variety.
GP: I really liked his noirish fantasy sequence with Eva and Kylie Ireland. Other than the Julie Night scene, that was the biggest treat in the movie for me.
JC: Angelina, one hot gonzo mamacita, gets to show off her acting skills throughout. She tells the story in flashbacks and she looks like she's having the most fun when the story gets physical. In a crazy as hell orgy scene where it seems like there are 20 performers grinding all over Hades, Angelina performs her first DP, and it's intense. I think the "Upload" Director's Cut is a musthave for any porn collector, because it's one of the first of what might become the next wave of adult movies. Private just put out a spy thriller with the blockbuster "Jason Colt," Ninn Worx_SR is shooting its next historical epic "The Four," and Wicked has always carried the feature torch and had some fun with "Operation: Desert Stormy." Seems like the video side of the porn world is getting ready to give fans what you can't get on a small online screen — really big adult entertainment that's going to look great on your expensive home theater.