Saturday, July 31, 2010

Monthly Wallpaper - August 2010: 80's Hunks

It's hot outside, so this month's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper has gone back in time to a certain totally awesome decade to bring you a sizzling collection of cinematic 80's Hunks!

From dirty dancers to bulging barbarians, American gigolos to international adventurers, these are the men of August.

All you have to do is click on the picture above to enlarge it, then simply right click your mouse and select "Set as Background". (You can also save it to your computer and set it up from there if you prefer.) The size is 1024 x 768, but you can modify it if needed in your own photo-editing program.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Frankenschtick

I will always remember fondly the day in 1975 when my mother picked my brother and I up after school and unexpectedly took us to see Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. The now classic spoof of old Universal horror movies made us giggle uncontrollably then, and continues to make me and many other people laugh at the mere mention of it.

Brooks, in the wake of his huge success with turning The Producers into a stage musical, has done the same with Young Frankenstein. Though not as well received as its predecessor on Broadway, its current US tour seems off to a good start. The production just made its Los Angeles debut at the Pantages Theatre on Tuesday night.

The LA run features several performers from the original New York production, most notably two Tony Award winners: the always enjoyable Roger Bart (The Producers, TV's Desperate Housewives) as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the role Gene Wilder made famous in the film, and the physically imposing Shuler Hensley (Broadway's Tarzan and Jud Fry in the most recent revival of Oklahoma!) as his Monster. Both are thoroughly entertaining, and no less so than when they are recreating the movie's famous Master-Monster duet on Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Other effective, crowd-pleasing performances in the tour include those of Broadway regular Brad Oscar in the dual roles of Inspector Kemp and the Blind Hermit; Cory English as Frankenstein's devoted assistant, Igor; Joanna Glushak as Frau Blucher; and Anne Horak as Inga, the local Transylvania girl brought to life in the original film by Teri Garr. Unfortunately, the role of Elizabeth, Dr. Frankenstein's high society fiancée originally played by Madeline Kahn, wasn't as well-played or -sung by Beth Curry as the others (it may be worth noting that Megan Mullally also had difficulty with the part in New York).

It is equally to the show's benefit and its detriment that the book (co-penned by Brooks and Thomas Meehan) was adapted nearly verbatim from the original screenplay. The film's plot and best jokes — which are essentially all of them — have been retained and remain fresh, ensuring often-riotous audience laughter throughout; on the other hand, there is little in the show apart from the song score and a Starbucks reference that anyone who has viewed the Young Frankenstein movie hasn't seen or heard before. The horses still whinny in terror whenever Frau Blucher's name (which is synonymous with "glue factory") is pronounced, Castle Von Frankenstein's doors continue to sport their notable "knockers," and the Blind Hermit predictably sets the Monster's thumb on fire instead of his cigar. The musical is carried along more by familiarity with Brooks' schtick and nostalgia than anything original.

The songs, however, are a happy exception to this. The musically-gifted Brooks has actually improved on his score for The Producers with Young Frankenstein's more complex, beautifully orchestrated and (most importantly) very funny tunes. Highlights during the performance I attended included "Roll in the Hay," convincingly staged in a "horse"-drawn wagon; "Join the Family Business," a rousing chorus number that culminates in the on-stage assembly of a gigantic Frankenstein monster; and Frau Blucher's hilarious, S&M-tinged "He Vas My Boyfriend."

Young Frankenstein boasts more set changes than I can recall in a recent musical, especially for a touring company. Longtime designer Robin Wagner has done a masterful job, especially with Frankenstein's lab. The soaring, elaborate set includes working pullies and electric gadgetry as well as an operating table that rises to the rafters with the lead actors on it! Peter Kaczorowski's lighting effects and Jonathan Deans' sound design provide great support.

Susan Stroman, a double Tony-winner for her direction and choreography of The Producers, repeats those duties here but without as much success, especially in the dance department. Her dances are serviceable but not noteworthy, although a Russian-inspired segment during "Join the Family Business" and a "Puttin' on the Ritz" chorus line featuring oversized, taps-laden monster boots are impressive.

Brooks is reportedly working now on a musical version of Blazing Saddles. He's a brave man. Young Frankenstein has already shown that it is difficult to capture the same magic twice, let alone three times. If one is yearning, though, for an unquestionably entertaining evening of music and laughs, it's hard to beat Young Frankenstein.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Paid in Pleasure

A middle-aged, male escort and his younger, cross-dressing protégé are the unusual central characters in The Extra Man. Based on the novel by Jonathan Ames, the film opens this Friday in New York and on Friday, August 6 in the Los Angeles and San Francisco vicinities.

As the movie begins, Louis Ives (Paul Dano, of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood) is being fired from his teaching position. Ives, who is devoted to 1920's literature and fears himself "unlovable," takes advantage of his unexpected freedom and moves to Manhattan to pursue a writing career. Fortunately, he not only finds a job quickly but also discovers a bevy of "tranny" bars wherein he hopes to indulge his fondness for wearing women's clothing.

Ives also secures himself a room in the residence of Henry Harrison (the irrepressible Kevin Kline), a failed playwright turned companion to wealthy, older women. To call Harrison "eccentric" would be an understatement. He proudly — and loudly — boasts of his disdain for sex, kissing, recycling, homeless people and feminism, while cherishing dancing and his Christmas ornament collection. After imposing a "no fornication" rule on Ives upon moving in, Harrison begins introducing the young man to his clients. Harrison insists he is not a gigolo but rather "an extra man" or "walker" for lonely women who don't return his attentions with money. Rather, he is "paid in pleasure" via dinners in high-end restaurants, nights at the opera and the use of beachfront vacation homes.

Some of the women become suspicious of Harrison's interest in Ives. As one of them, played by the always welcome Celia Weston, tells Ives: "People suspect Henry is a homosexual. He was in the theatre. Theatre types need to be a little homosexual so they can feel things more deeply." Also, Ives' age-appropriate co-worker, Mary (a nice, light turn by Katie Holmes), on whom he is crushing notes "Maybe he's in love with you" when Ives tells her of Harrison's kindness toward him. Meanwhile, Ives undertakes his own sexual exploration with the help of a spank-happy dominatrix (Patti D'Arbanville) and a women's makeover artist.

Chief among The Extra Man's numerous attributes is its excellent cast. Kline, harking back to his wackier characterizations in such offbeat 80's movies as The Pirates of Penzance and A Fish Called Wanda, is a delight. Dano more than holds his own against Kline as the hopelessly romantic Ives, who would have been more at-home in his skin during the 1920's. In addition to Weston and D'Arbanville, stage icon Marian Seldes appears as another of Harrison's lady friends and gives a lovely, more comical-than-usual performance. Only John C. Reilly, as a former roommate of Harrison's, seems off-key, which is amplified (literally) by his decision to speak in a higher octave.

Adapted from the book and co-directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who previously made The Nanny Diaries and the excellent American Splendor, The Extra Man has its more outré moments but is in general an enjoyable, pitch-perfect celebration of non-conformity.

Reverend's Rating: B+

UPDATE: The Extra Man is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reel Thoughts: The Cult of Showgirls

Few movies inspire such love and hate as Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 “morality tale”-slash-camp classic, Showgirls. Now you can recreate the fun in your own home with the brand new 15th Anniversary "Sinsational" Blu-ray, featuring hilarious extras like pole dancing lessons and a commentary by superfan David Schmader entitled "The Greatest Movie Ever Made".

Showgirls is the story of Nomi Malone, played by Elizabeth Berkley in a manner that can best be summed up as “petulant slut”. Nomi hitches a ride to Las Vegas packing a switchblade and a dream. “I’m a dancer,” she tells the first of many men who’ll use and abuse her on her rise to the top; or rather, the sort of sad, middling pinnacle that is headlining a Vegas topless review at a casino that has since been demolished.

Faster than you can lose at the craps table, Nomi is robbed and left with nowhere to go, until she meets and nearly vomits on sweet Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), a costumer for Goddess, the “hit” show at the Stardust. Molly lets her crash at her trailer, where the two bond over their love of chips and tacky nails, and soon Molly introduces Nomi to the reigning Queen of Vegas, predatory lesbian Cristal Conners (played deliciously by Gina Gershon, who is the only actor who knows what kind of movie she’s in).

Like a naked All About Eve, Nomi uses her inexplicable irresistibility to become Cristal’s understudy and then her replacement. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched Berkley and Gershon spar at Spago over who’s a whore and which of them liked eating Doggie Chow more.

The film’s cynical take on the highs and lows of fame could be viewed as a sublime satire of women behaving the way men who know nothing about women think they do, if not for a truly awful and vicious rape scene toward the end. Shmader wisely advises you to fast forward through it, like he does when he presents his cinematic master classes on Showgirls across the country. Despite all the degradations Nomi endures (including her uproariously awful stint as a lap dancer at the Cheetah, a “Gentleman’s Club”), she leaves Las Vegas with her dignity, switchblade and a newfound self-awareness. Los Angeles, look out!

Why has Showgirls cast such a rhinestone-studded spell over lovers of camp and others? I asked numerous notable people for their opinions as to why Showgirls has become the Citizen Kane of trash cinema, and also asked them to share their favorite Showgirls moments or lines.

“Gosh, Showgirls,” replied Charles Busch, celebrated star and playwright of Die Mommie Die! and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. “You know, I've never actually seen it. Isn't that wild? I'm better versed on Lady of Burlesque with Barbara Stanwyck.”

Ron May, talented actor/director of numerous Arizona stage hits admitted, “Oh. My. God. Showgirls. It's ridiculous how much I love that movie. It's so deliciously awful. I think the only movie I laugh at as hard as I do that movie is Congo ... with Tim Curry and the talking monkeys.” He also divulged that he’s desperately tried to snag the rights to a “Sock Puppet Showgirls” that happened in New York a few years back. “Even though I have no idea if it's even any good or not.” He also highly recommends the blog Nomi Malone Can Read.

Joshua Grannell, the inspired filmmaker who hosts Midnight Mass screenings in San Francisco as his alter ego Peaches Christ, took time from promoting the cross-country tour for his outrageous new horror comedy, All About Evil (co-starring Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole and Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson) to say: “My favorite thing about Showgirls is how totally committed the movie and everyone in it was to making it so extreme,” Grannell explained. “It's an extreme movie in every way, and I love it for that. I think it succeeds because it's so relentless and so much fun. It's colorful, outrageous, bizarre, hilarious, depraved, and provides for a wonderful group viewing.

Grannell, who is hosting a giant Showgirls event on August 7 in San Francisco, continues: "I think my favorite part of our Midnight Mass show is always the "Free Lap-dances With Every Large Popcorn". It's just so appalling and wrong watching an audience full of Showgirls fanatics get grinded on by drag freaks, monsters and lap-dancing mutants. And I also love bursting out of that volcano naked! That's a tradition at our show, and there's something so liberating about erupting onto stage that way.”

Zachary Jackson, host of Zack Attack Camp Cinema at the MADCAP Theaters, is a more sincere lover of Nomi and her pals. His favorite moment? “Nomi is sitting on the hood of her car above the flashing Flamingo sign — eating a hamburger nonetheless — overlooking the Las Vegas strip during sunset,” he explained, “The scene lasts less than a minute, but I don’t know… there’s something beautiful about it.”

Actress Angelica Howland wasn’t so enamored of Berkley’s mastication prowess. “My favorite part is when Elizabeth Berkley can't even eat a hamburger like a believable human being and then she throws the hamburger wrapper into the alley like she is tossing flowers into the air... cuz, well you know... littering is über-beautiful and outrageously sexy. My second favorite part is when she is thrashing around on Kyle McLaughlin's junk in the pool and he's barely able to hold on to her. The look on his face is hilarious — like, 'What the hell?! This gigantic, naked, Saved by the Bell psycho is gonna freakin' break my back and drown me!'”

The pool scene, complete with neon palm trees and spitting dolphin fountains was the stand-out scene for most people I interviewed, but the grand, gaudy grotesquery of the faux show Goddess ranks right behind. Many a backstage tale has made it to the screen, but no other feature exploding volcanoes, garlic-eating monkeys flinging poop on stage and a sassy showgirl berating the costumer with bon mots like “Molly, they're going to see a smiling snatch if you don't fix this g-string.”

Hard to believe, but Showgirls was primed to be a huge, groundbreaking event. Madonna was sought for Gershon’s role, and Drew Barrymore was the first pick for Nomi. Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Jenny McCarthy, Pamela Anderson and Finola Hughes all auditioned. Joe Eszterhas received an unheard-of two million dollars for his script.

Showgirls was the first big budget NC-17 film — and a highly anticipated release,” Jackson explained. “When it opened in theaters in 1995, it tanked. The reviews were beyond harsh and it practically destroyed Berkley’s career. The idea of paving the way for a new line of controversial adult filmmaking was brilliant; however the execution of Showgirls put a swift end to that concept.”

Monique Parent, the gorgeous redheaded actress best known for roles in erotic films like The Witches of Breastwick and Blood Scarab, as well as the new horror film, The Perfect House, related her disappointment. “I only saw Showgirls once, when it first came out. I really, really expected it to be a good film and wanted it to be a good film. As an actor who has appeared in many films with little or no clothing, I hate the fact that most people seem to believe that nudity in a film means it's bad or that only bad movies have nudity. I really wanted Showgirls to be the movie that proved that theory wrong. To be a film that showed beautiful women fully nude and still had strong writing and strong acting.

"But frankly, I hated it. I felt that Elizabeth Berkeley's character ran the gamut of acting emotions from A to B. Not even her fault. That's how the movie was written, as best I can remember. I still believe a film can feature beautiful people fully nude and be a really good movie at the same time. But Showgirls is not it.”

What really sends Showgirls into the stratosphere of camp, though, is the dialogue, the glorious, mind-bendingly vulgar lines that people can’t stop quoting, from Cristal’s signature “Hi darlin’” and Nomi’s thudding endorsement “It doesn’t suck” to the aggressively unfunny stand-up comedy of Henrietta “Mamma” Bazoom (Lin Tucci). Here are the lines that inspire these notable Showgirls fans. Feel free to add your own.

Phillip Fazio (New York actor and director): Cristal: "I'm gettin' a little too old for that whorey look."

Kirby Holt (writer/creator of Movie Dearest): Al (Robert Davi) to former lap-dancer Nomi: "It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."

Matthew Harris (actor and drag performer Rhianna Matthews): Cristal: "I want my nipples to press, but I don’t want them to look like they’re levitatin'."

Scott Pierce (actor and Snatch creator Pandora LeStange) Cristal: "We're all whores, honey."

Jimmy Asimenios (actor): Henrietta Bazoom: "Goddamn it! You're the only one who could get my tits poppin' right!"

Buddy Early (performer/former editor, Echo Magazine): Nomi, showing off her new dress: "I bought it at Ver-sayce!"

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reverend’s Interview: Puttin’ on the Ritz with Young Frankenstein

After the Broadway musical of his Oscar-winning movie The Producers won a record number of Tony Awards, comedy legend Mel Brooks naturally turned to another of his beloved films for adaptation. Young Frankenstein, though not as successful as its predecessor, is now on tour and making its southern California premiere. It will run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood from July 27-August 8 before moving to the Orange County Performing Arts Center September 12-25.

The 1974 movie and 2007 musical both owe their inspiration to Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel, Frankenstein. However, there is little that is serious or scary in Brooks’ version. Young Frankenstein finds the mad scientist’s grandson, an esteemed New York brain surgeon, comically trying to live down his family’s reputation. He famously goes so far as to pronounce his name “Fraunkensteen.” Alas, he unwittingly finds himself in Transylvania and soon resumes the traditional family business of re-animating corpses.

I recently spoke with Stephen Carrasco, an out member of the touring company’s ensemble, about the production.

“I’m having a blast,” Carrasco said of his stint with the tour, which began in August of 2009. “It’s such a great show, and I love making people laugh every night.” He mentioned how much he is looking forward to spending time in southern California.

A “triple threat” who acts, sings and dances, the 26-year old Carrasco grew up outside Lansing, Michigan. He moved to New York in 2006, shortly after his college graduation, and soon found himself on Broadway in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

“I love to work and love being in the ensemble; that’s what I do well,” Carrasco said. “I’d like to do a couple more Broadway shows and would then love to assistant-choreograph a show.”

Young Frankenstein did not receive a warm welcome upon its New York opening despite the involvement of the creative team behind The Producers: songwriter Brooks, director-choreographer Susan Stroman, and co-writer Thomas Meehan. It was an enormously expensive production that became the first Broadway show to raise ticket prices to $125.

I asked Carrasco about the musical’s less-than-stellar reputation. “If you look at Broadway critics’ reviews over the last two years, they are really harsh” he replied. “They expect every show to be a Pulitzer Prize-winner. This isn’t a show to think about, but just to sit back and enjoy and have fun.”

Having listened to the original cast recording repeatedly over the last two years, I can attest that Young Frankenstein has much to recommend it musically. The songs are both funnier and more accomplished than those in The Producers, with such movie-inspired titles as “Roll in the Hay,” “Transylvania Mania” and “Please Don’t Touch Me.” The creepy house servant Frau Blucher, immortalized in the film by Cloris Leachman, sings “He Vas My Boyfriend,” and the Irving Berlin classic “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is naturally included in the stage version.

What’s more, contemporary Broadway stars Roger Bart, Shuler Hensley and Brad Oscar are headlining the tour. Bart and Hensley are re-creating their roles from the original production as, respectively, Frederick Frankenstein and the Monster. Bart is also well known for playing numerous gay roles over the years, including the flamboyant Carmen Ghia in The Producers (both on stage and in the 2005 movie version) and one-half of the gay couple in the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives. Oscar, who succeeded Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock in The Producers on Broadway, plays the wacky, one-armed Inspector Kemp.

As Carrasco noted, “It goes to show who Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman are; they can really bring out the pros.”

Carrasco also believes Young Frankenstein holds special appeal for GLBT theatergoers. “Ok, I’m going to go along with some stereotypes here, but there’s a lot of T&A in the show. It’s also a huge, lavish musical. I’m gay and I love that!”

“Also,” he continued, “gay and lesbian people are more liberal and know better than most how to sit back and enjoy life.”

On that note, Carrasco shared that he is “very single, and I love being single on tour.” If you hang around the stage door after a performance of Young Frankenstein, you may get the chance to meet this talented and attractive young performer.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the official website of Young Frankenstein.

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

MD Poll: All About Heath

From his Academy Award nominated turn in the classic Brokeback Mountain to his Oscar-winning role in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was never afraid to take chances.

And now it is your chance to pick your favorite of his film performances by placing your vote in the MD Poll located in the right hand side bar. Results will be revealed on August 21.

UPDATE: This poll is now closed; click here for the results, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

MD Poll: Hey, Howdy, Hey!

Movie Dearest readers showed their support for their local sheriff, voting Woody their favorite Toy Story character in the latest MD Poll.

Woody's pals Rex and Jessie placed high as well, netting 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. See the comments section below for the complete results.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Dream On

We all dream. Men and women do, children do, even animals do. It has even been said that we would die if we didn't dream, our brains so overloaded with unprocessed thoughts and experiences that they would take a detrimental, physical toll.

As my colleague here at Movie Dearest, Neil Cohen, has already pointed out in his recent review of Christopher Nolan's new sci-fi mind-bender Inception, previous movies have introduced and played with the concept of entering the dreams of others. None of them, though, has depicted the human dreamscape as effectively and provocatively as Nolan.

Nolan needs little introduction as the methodical writer-director of such intelligent and entertaining contemporary classics as Memento and The Dark Knight. With Inception, he has crafted the best, most believable entry to date in an inherently imaginative genre. From the film's opening sequence — in which the action careens wildly from a third-world village under siege to a lavish party thrown by a Japanese tycoon (played by Ken Watanabe) — to its haunting final shot, Inception holds and rewards the attention of alert viewers.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom (short for Dominick) Cobb, the leader of a crack team of "extractors" who are paid well by rival business and political leaders to drug the competition and steal their best, subconsciously inspired ideas. Watanabe's character, however, charges the group with the never-before-tried task of implanting an idea in the mind of his chief competitor's son and heir. This process is referred to as "inception."

From there, Nolan's seamless script twists and turns as it introduces other characters (including Cobb's father, played by Michael Caine, and an architectural student winningly portrayed by Juno's Ellen Page), explores multiple levels of consciousness, and uses impressive visual effects to literally turn reality in on itself. While I would love to read what a psychologist or dream analyst makes of Inception, it perfectly reflected my experience of the surreal figures and action that normally occur in recognizable settings within my dreams.

Of course, one is led to wonder throughout Inception exactly which characters' dreams are being played out, or if the whole movie might be a dream. This brain-teasing on the part of Nolan and his excellent cast (which also boasts great turns by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and the long-MIA Tom Berenger) never feels manipulative, gratefully. Rather, it feels natural, even organic given the subject matter. I detected enjoyably intentional nods to James Bond adventures, especially during the team's invasion of a snow-covered fortress in the mountains. Composer Hans Zimmer often seems to be knowingly channeling Bond score stalwart, John Barry.

Inception also reminded me in spots of the very effective, Martin Scorsese-directed thriller Shutter Island released earlier this year, and not just because DiCaprio stars in both films. Both play with their characters' and audiences' perceptions of reality and sanity, as well as the mental toll that loss and grief can take. Shutter Island also benefited from a game, top-notch cast and crew.

Many critics are passionately, even vociferously, divided over Inception. It's been a while, though, since the critical community has had a large-scale debate over a movie. I think this isn't only a testament to Inception's high profile but to Nolan's complex, visionary achievement. See it, and feel free to weigh in here with your own reactions. Like dreams, movies can linger and haunt long after they're over.

Reverend's Rating: A

UPDATE: Inception is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reel Thoughts Interview: Mark Ruffalo & Josh Hutcherson, Boys on the Side

“People really like the film,” actor Mark Ruffalo said regarding The Kids Are All Right. “Beats the hell out of pushing a stinker up the hill, which I’ve had to do.” Ruffalo, who also starred in Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island this year, plays Paul, the freewheeling restaurant owner who discovers that he’s a sperm donor dad eighteen years later. His is the most difficult role, since he becomes an interloper into the seemingly happy home of Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), and his fate is far from certain thereafter.

Ruffalo loves Paul’s journey. “He’s someone who lives his life completely by his own rules and is very comfortable with himself and most of his life is set up for his own pleasure. And then, he just comes apart at the seams from this interaction he has with this family. I think he realizes that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be without someone to share it with.”

The handsome star joked that he wished he had been a donor back in the day. “At $60.00 a pop, I could have used the money. I wasted a lot of talent back then,” he laughed.

At seventeen, Josh Hutcherson already has a couple of solid hits under his belt (The Bridge to Terabithia, Journey to the Center of the Earth), but the best is yet to come. He plays the C. Thomas Howell character in the Red Dawn remake and is set to take over the lead duties in the Journey sequel (Brendan Fraser is not returning). The Kentucky native seems to have a level head about his rising success, and was especially excited to work on The Kids Are All Right.

“The script was incredible,” he explained, adding that he had a real connection with Lisa Cholodenko, the writer/director. “It was so real and so natural I thought their relationships and the dynamic between the characters was something that I had never seen before in a script.”

Despite the spacey name, Hutcherson loved the character of Laser. “He was such a real kid. As a teenager, he's at the point in his life where he's trying to figure out who he is and how he fits in to the world, and who are his friends. And, what his relationship is to his family. Being a teenager myself I can definitely relate to that.”

Hutcherson also didn’t care that the parents were same-sex. “This is Laser's family. I don't think that 'family' is necessarily defined by a mom and a dad. I think it can be whoever is around you who loves you and is there for you and cares for you and raises you. I think that Laser's parents have done a really good job of raising him. For me, there wasn't any extra preparing because they were a same-sex couple. One of the really cool things about the story is that it wasn’t focusing on the fact they were a same-sex couple but that it was really a story about a family.”

It is Laser who pushes his sister (played by Mia Wasikowska) to contact their donor father, and Hutcherson understands why. “I think it's something that Laser's been thinking about for a while just out of curiosity and wants to know what that's like, to have a dad around. I don't think he necessarily needs to have a father figure but I think he wants a guy he can hang out with; a lot of people in life, not just with lesbian families, don't have fathers and they have that yearning to know what that's like.”

Of course, when Laser first meets Paul, “He has this idea of what he's going to be like in his head and when he sees he's kind of this free spirited, kind of Los Feliz/Silverlake guy, it's not exactly what Laser was expecting.”

And what mothers! Hutcherson admitted that before he met Moore and Bening, he was a little nervous and intimidated. “I thought, “How am I going to act compared to these guys, and even Mia and Mark are both insanely good actors. And then when I met them, they were all so down to earth, such real people. And Julianne and Annette, they're moms, and so for me to pretend they were my moms, was not hard at all.”

UPDATE: The Kids Are All Right is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Dream a Little Dream

Films about dreams have been good (Dreamscape), bad (In Dreams) and ugly (the Freddy Krueger oeuvre), but few directors have devised a dream world as regimented as Christopher Nolan’s in Inception. Although well acted and full of stunning visuals and creativity, Inception’s dream worlds are depressingly familiar. The characters, except for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb, are sketchy and under-developed, and even Cobb is a variation of Leo's character in Shutter Island. The unlimited potential of fantasy scenarios is somewhat wasted by Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay.

Cobb and his co-conspirator Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are high tech spies who “extract” corporate secrets from people’s dreams. After a botched assignment, their intended target Saito (Ken Watanabe) entices Cobb into “one last job” that will clear Cobb’s name and allow him to reunite with his children. The catch is that this time, they have to plant an idea into the mark’s mind, a very dangerous and complex process. Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) is the lone heir to a huge oil conglomerate, run by his cold and withholding father (Pete Postlethwaite). Cobb’s job is to convince Fischer Jr. to dismantle the corporation upon his father’s death. It requires planting the idea three levels down into Fischer’s psyche, which is, as you can imagine, very difficult, and is complicated by the fact that Cobb’s personal demons keep invading his dream worlds, including his wife, Mal, well-played by Marion Cotillard.

There is no denying that Nolan has created a fantastic world with Inception, and it is an incredibly dense narrative that requires absolute attention to follow. That makes the lack of imagination in the dream worlds that much more disheartening. The Los Angeles shoot-out scenes feel like a Bourne Identity retread, while the snowy fortress scenes feel like a standard issue James Bond knock-off. The dreamers are never in mortal danger, even if they are killed, so the suspense is somewhat muted.

Inception is leaps and bounds above typical summer dreck like Transformers. The cast is uniformly excellent (especially the hot Tom Hardy as the cool “forger” Eames), although Ellen Page is a little lightweight for her role. Still, when you consider where our dreams can take us, in the words of Eames, Inception “shouldn’t (have been) afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

UPDATE: Inception is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MD Contest Results: Chloe on DVD

Congratulations to David H. of Fayetteville, NC, the winner of our "Chloe on DVD" contest, sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment!

Chloe, the sexy thriller starring Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Thanks to all who entered!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reel Thoughts Interview: Back to Business for Lisa Cholodenko

It’s been eight years since Lisa Cholodenko directed the indie hit Laurel Canyon and a lot has changed. Despite the fact that Cholodenko, the out director and co-writer of the Sundance hit The Kids Are All Right, took time off to have a child with her girlfriend via artificial insemination, and even looks similar in hairstyle and glasses to Annette Bening in the film, she stresses that it is not autobiographical.

“Only as much as anyone else who’s been in a long term relationship and has a kid,” she remarked. “The idea of the film came about in doing all this research and thinking about sperm donors. You know, what that means and what that’s going to be like for my kid when he turns eighteen. He’s potentially going to reach out and find this person.”

“It feels mostly really positive and really appreciative and validating,” Cholodenko said, when asked how the GLBT community has taken to the film. “You know, there’s always people who are on the left of things and the right of things, and some people are kind of old school and say “Oh, why does she (Julianne Moore) go off with Mark Ruffalo.” And I just come back with, “If you want to see it a different way, I’ll come see your movie.”

“If anything, we did not want to be overtly political, and we thought it would be subversive to do it that way. This family is not on the far left, there aren’t rainbow flags, they weren’t ostracized. They were just like any other family in that socio-economic strata that are trying to raise kids with values.”

She and co-writer Stuart Blumberg (Keeping the Faith) thought, “Let’s put this family out there and not fetishize and not get all fussy that it’s a two mom family, and just really focus on the humanity in this and focus on the complications and humor in the dynamics of the relationship and find what’s universal here. That’s what’s going to be appealing and subversive about it.”

Another subversive element was the way Nic and Jules use 70’s gay male porn in their lovemaking, leading to a hilarious set of reveals. “It shows that sexuality is counterintuitive,” Cholodenko quipped. “Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to do it (for people).”

Cholodenko loved working with Blumberg, who brought not only a more commercial eye to the project, but also the personal insight of having been a sperm donor himself. He echoed his character Paul’s explanation of why he did it:  “It seemed a lot easier than giving blood.” He also felt good about helping people. He admitted that none of his possible donor offspring have looked him up … yet.

Blumberg worked to infuse humor into the film, but shared Cholodenko’s goal that it not be cheap. “Everything we did came from “What really happens? What feels real? Some of my favorite stuff to write was the literal description of (Nic) sitting down (after discovering Jules’ possible infidelity) and the blood rushes away and everything goes silent and you’re just trapped in this world where everyone is laughing and you just feel so alienated.”

UPDATE: The Kids Are All Right is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.