Saturday, December 10, 2011
Reel Thoughts: GLBT DVDs for X-mas
Into the Lion’s Den(QC Cinema /Breaking Glass Pictures):
Into the Lion’s Den is a gripping and graphic gay take on exploitation horror films like Hostel and Vacancy where unsuspecting travelers are lured into a deadly trap. Bored by the West Hollywood gay scene, three buddies, jaded Johnny (Jesse Archer), sweet Michael (Ronnie Kroell) and naïve Ted (Kristen-Alexzander Griffith) decide to drive cross country to New York City. Johnny uses the latest technology on his phone to arrange sex hook-ups, like one with a sexy gas station attendant (porn star Jake Steel), much to Michael and Ted’s annoyance. Reaching Amish country, nerves are getting frayed and the boys end up at a sleazy motel that Norman Bates would love. Even in the middle of nowhere, however, as soon as Johnny gets a signal, he gets another instant message from a man with a hot torso photo inviting Johnny to a bar called The Lion’s Den. After convincing his unsuspecting pals to go with him, they find that the ominously-named bar is a redneck haven with no sign of a gay nightlife.
What happens next plunges the trio into a depraved scene right out of a Saw movie with a sexual twist. Director Dan Lantz pulls no punches either in the sexy early scene at the gas station or in the dungeon scenes later in the film. This approach gives the film a realistic feeling that will make you think twice before meeting someone over the internet. Archer gives another good performance as a past-his-prime party boy, and the handsome Kroell (Eating Out: Drama Camp) is suitably hunky. Griffith is the weak link in the cast, and his monologue at the end of the film is unintentionally funny. Despite some cheesy acting and low budget production values, Into the Lion’s Den is a taut and entertaining thriller for any fans of exploitation movies.
Envisioned as a My Dinner With Andre-style film about two estranged band members reuniting after many years, Trigger turned out to be female lead Tracy Wright’s brave final film before she succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Wright and Molly Parker play the two former members of Trigger, a popular Canadian alternative rock band. After a dramatic fight the band broke up, but now the two women will have to reunite for a benefit concert. Vic (Wright) and Kat (Parker) meet in a restaurant and, like My Dinner With Andre, the two spend the evening talking and confronting old demons. If you are not up for a film rooted in dialogue instead of action, you won’t want to pull this Trigger.
Hold Your Peace(QC Cinema):
The bad thing about LGBT films is that because they are for a niche audience, sometimes bad acting and even worse writing pops up without warning, ruining an otherwise great premise. As far as a gift goes, Hold Your Peace is the perfect lump of coal to drop in some deserving ex’s stocking!
Riding a wave of films dealing with same-sex marriage, Hold Your Peace tells the story of Aiden (Chad Ford), a hapless single guy who is invited to be the best man at his ex-boyfriend’s commitment ceremony. What’s a guy to do? Why, bring his gal pal’s vacuous twink friend and pass him off as your boyfriend, of course. But, what could have been an entertaining premise full of great potential is done in by poor casting and a ridiculous ending that has to be seen to be believed. Despite its shortcomings, Hold Your Peace manages to raise a lot of interesting conflicts that everyone can relate to, such as how to deal with unresolved feelings for your ex, and what to do when his new boyfriend is gorgeous and apparently perfect.
Of the cast, only Blair Dickens as Forrest, the new beau, comes off as natural and engaging. Ford has no charisma and looks constipated throughout of the film, and handsome Tyler Brockington as Max the ex is so wooden, IKEA could build a bookshelf out of him. Scott Higgins, as the flamboyant Lance a.k.a. Brick, is the worst actor of all, taking a stereotypical role and making it worse with terrible line readings and a smarmy presence. You will wonder if writer/director Wade McDonald ran out of film when, after a long lead up to the nuptials, the film is wrapped up in a jaw-dropping ten seconds at the end. Hold Your Peace will definitely make you hold your nose.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.