(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reverend's Reviews: Boyfriends, Beats and a Beautiful Darling

Tales of romance fittingly dominate this month's new releases on home video, but a documentary about a transgender member of Andy Warhol's "Factory" and a Bollywood-inspired comedy are also worth noting.

Now available on DVDand Video On Demand from TLA is the sexy Finding Me: Truth. A sequel to 2009's Finding Me, it continues to chronicle the romantic successes and failures of a tight-knit group of African-American men and women in New York. The players include Faybien (Raymartell Moore), a young gay man pining for his ex-boyfriend, Lonnie (Derrick L. Briggs); the bisexual Greg, who is carrying on simultaneous relationships with a man and Tammy, the cousin of bf Amera. Attention-hogging Amera, meanwhile, suspects her boyfriend Gabe of cheating on her. And then there is Jay (the late Maurice Murrell, to whom the film is dedicated), Greg's effeminate but buff roommate who is romantically involved with a drug-dealing, bisexual gangbanger.

Filmmaker Roger S. Omeus's technique (he wrote, directed and edited both Finding Me films) has definitely improved, but with such a tight focus on a relatively small cast of characters the drama remains insular and fairly predictable. Still, the characters are likable and well-played, and the cast members attractive. Reverend's Rating : B

What Happens Next, being released on DVDFebruary 7th by Wolfe Video, is a romantic-comedy that explores the budding relationship between two very different men who meet on a park bench. Paul (played by Jon Lindstrom of the long-running soap opera As the World Turns) is a wealthy man in his mid-50's who has just sold his business and retired. Believing himself to be straight but never married, Paul is surprised to find himself attracted to the openly gay and much younger Andy (cute newcomer Chris Murrah). They gradually fall in love, much to the chagrin of Paul's overbearing sister, Elise. Elise is played by the always enjoyable Wendie Malick from TV's Hot in Cleveland and Just Shoot Me.

While the script of What Happens Next -- written and directed by Jay Arnold -- has a pleasing retro sensibility, it is often hard to swallow Paul's plight from today's gay perspective. He is so unaware of his homosexuality initially that Andy seems to be wasting his and the audience's time for the first half of the movie. The performances are good but Paul's too-cute puppy steals the show whenever she appears.  Reverend's Rating: B-

Candy Darling, a popular devotee of artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol during his late-1960's heyday, was born James L. Slattery and was known as "Jimmy" to his family and childhood friends. It wasn't long after Slattery became an adult that he underwent hormone therapy and emerged as the first trans superstar. She inspired Lou Reed's popular songs "(Take a) Walk on the Wild Side" and "Candy Says," and gay great Tennessee Williams created a leading role for her in one of his final plays, Small Craft Warnings.

James Rasin's new documentary Beautiful Darling, out this week from Corinth Films, is an eye-opening account of Darling's unique life and career. It incorporates considerable archival footage of Darling and Warhol as well as Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Kim Novak, plus modern-day interviews with such offbeat luminaries as John Waters, Julie Newmar, Holly Woodlawn and Fran Lebowitz. Actress Chloe Sevigny is also on hand to read excerpts from Darling's diary and other writings.

Unfortunately, the film includes a little too much of Darling's friend and confidante, Jeremiah Newton, who also served as one of the doc's producers. While undeniably caring toward Darling and her legacy, the movie threatens to become more about him than its main subject whenever he appears. Despite this flaw, Beautiful Darling is well worth watching.  Reverend's Rating: B+

I love the genre of fun and funky Indian musicals dubbed "Bollywood." Bollywood Beats, available on DVDthis week, is an enjoyable homage courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures. It is written, directed and partly choreographed by out filmmaker Mehul Shah, who also plays a gay teenager in the movie.

While primarily the story of Raj (dreamy Sachin Bhatt), an aspiring professional dancer, Bollywood Beats features a supporting team of housewives, science geeks and retired women whom Raj helps to discover their own dance abilities. Raj also takes Vincent (Shah) under his wings when the young gay man is kicked out of his home by his homophobic father. This ragtag bunch starts performing at weddings and community events, and soon find themselves contestants in a major dance competition.

The highly enjoyable movie features some great dance numbers, especially its climactic, stylistically impressive "Bollywood through the Ages" sequence. Shah is still developing as a filmmaker and it shows in the film's rough edges but he is definitely a talent to watch, gay or otherwise.  Reverend's Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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