(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: British Invasion

The British are coming, but this time they aren't sporting redcoats and muskets. Instead, they have Rupert Everett in drag and two hot, female singer-songwriters in their arsenal. Having sampled this assortment, I predict the Brits will have a better run in the colonies in 2010 than they did 230+ years ago!

First up is the DVD release today of the delightful St. Trinian's, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. One of the highest-grossing independent British films of all time, it features the openly gay Everett and an all-star cast of gay faves including Colin Firth (the current A Single Man), Stephen Fry (Wilde) and Toby Jones, who played Truman in that "other" Capote biopic, Infamous. In addition, British comedian Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) disguises himself in one scene as a flamboyantly gay count.

Everett actually plays two roles in St. Trinian's: the dotty Camilla Fritton, martini-swilling headmistress of the title high school for girls, and her conniving brother. Mr. Fritton has just enrolled his daughter, Annabelle (Talulah Riley), at St. Trinian's, where she is quickly set upon by the school's assortment of troubled teens. These include the Emos (short for "emotionally unstable," Goth-looking girls), the Posh Totty sorority of spoiled pretty girls, and the Chavs, an entrepreneurial clique of multi-ethnic young ladies who have developed, among other things, designer tampons.

St. Trinian's poor reputation draws the attention of Britain's new Minister of Education, who is played by Firth. Intent on shutting the bankrupt, under-achieving school down, the minister's plans are complicated by his romantic history with Camilla as well as the students' scheme to raise money to save their school ... by stealing and selling Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting. Or, as one of the dimmer girls incredulously inquires, "We're going to steal Scarlett Johansson?"

Indeed, that 2003 movie (which starred Firth in addition to Johansson) and a host of other contemporary British films serve as fodder for some of the best lines and jokes in St. Trinian's. When Ms. Fritton and Firth's Education Minister meet and recognize each other, they declare of their prior relationship, "It was another time, another country." This references the acclaimed 1984 film Another Country, in which they co-starred and Everett played a homosexual spy. St. Trinian's script also includes witty jabs at the Harry Potter series, among other targets.

The movie is based on a series of comical drawings, "The Girls of St. Trinian's," by Ronald Searle, which were previously adapted into successful British film series in the 1950's and 60's. This new, randier version is directed and produced by Oliver Parker, who was behind the recent hit films of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. With its great cast, funny script and rockin' soundtrack, you definitely ought to check it out.

Corinne Bailey Rae and V.V. Brown are the armed-and-dangerous chanteuses "crossing the pond" to the US. Bailey Rae burst onto the international music scene in 2006 with her pop-rock, self-titled debut album. The CD topped the UK charts in its first week of release and sold nearly 2 million copies in the states. It was also nominated for three 2007 Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Life dealt Bailey Rae a considerable setback while preparing her follow up, The Sea, which is out today on EMI's Capitol Records. The singer's husband, Jason Rae, died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008. He was 31 years old. An article on Bailey Rae in the January 22, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly details her loss and struggle to overcome it.

The Sea is a more melancholy, jazz-leaning recording than her debut, but it is a gorgeous achievement both lyrically and sonically. Bailey Rae wrote most of the songs herself, with collaborators on three of them. "Are You Here" and "I'd Do It All Again" are standouts, and I like "The Blackest Lily" and "Love's On Its Way" a lot as well. I anticipate more Grammy nominations for this album, and they won't be out of sympathy.

Take equal parts Amy Winehouse and Pink, throw in a jigger of Crystal Waters, shake, pour and top with a dollop of Shirley Bassey, and you'll begin to approximate the musical stylings of newcomer V.V. Brown. This Brit's first CD, Travelling Like the Light, won't be released in the US until March 16. However, it will be available for purchase as an iTunes exclusive for six weeks beginning February 2. It is, in a word, FABULOUS, and I'm so grateful to my PR friend Ryan in NYC for introducing me to V.V. and forwarding an advance copy of her CD on to me.

Brown's songs are decidedly retro, sampling 1940's jitterbug, 50's doo-wop and early 90's techno, among other genres. Virtually all of her tunes will make you want to dance and bring a smile to your face simultaneously. My personal favorites are "Shark in the Water," "Bottles," "I Love You" and the title track.

Both V.V. Brown and Corrine Bailey Rae are currently touring certain US cities, so be on the lookout for them should they invade a club near you. And buy their CDs, damn it! The Queen will thank you.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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