Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reverend’s Reviews: Odds & Ends

The current, quiet in-between time that bridges the end of summer, with its popcorn movies and overall warm-weather frivolity, and the start of the all too “serious” awards season affords me the opportunity to go through the pile of review-consideration media generously provided by zealous PR folks from coast to coast. Here’s what I’ve watched, listened to and/or read recently among new and upcoming releases…

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Eighth and Final Season (DVDavailable now): While the late series never grabbed me, my hopelessly-devoted partner was thrilled when this five disc farewell set arrived. I do recommend its bonus features, which include a “Finishing the Hat” episode commentary by series creator Marc Cherry (who deserves kudos for naming every episode after a Stephen Sondheim song title or phrase), deleted scenes and bloopers, and “I Guess This is Goodbye,” a series of honest and often moving reflections by various longtime cast members. Farewell, Wisteria Lane, at least until Cherry comes up with a reunion movie.

Del Shores: Sordid Confessions (DVDavailable now): Shores, the Southern-born son of a Baptist preacher, is beloved in the gay community for his play-turned-movie Sordid Lives (which also became a cable series) as well as Southern Baptist Sissies and writing for the American version of Queer as Folk. As a standup comedian, however, he doesn’t exhibit the satiric but good-natured aplomb that usually makes his written work so endearing. In Sordid Confessions, recorded in front of a live Dallas audience, he comes across as a wannabe Kathy Griffin and takes mean-spirited jabs at little people, the homeless, and now-conservative former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson. Skip this and wait for his upcoming movie Blues for Willadean (starring Beth Grant and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer) instead. Or even better, re-watch Sordid Lives.

Twisted Romance (DVDavailable now): Twisted is right. This sexually-charged, Spanish-language potboiler by Jose Celestino Campusano isn’t for everyone, but more adventurous gay viewers will find much to admire. These include its provocative plot about a broodingly attractive (or should that be attractively brooding?) teen who begins a relationship with a middle-aged, sexually abusive man; the brave lead performances of Oscar Genova and Nehuen Zapata; and the film’s gritty yet scenic Argentinian setting.

Virago’s Love Over Fear (CDavailable now). This second studio album by female indie-rock duo Virago (a.k.a. Amy Schindler and Maire Tashjian) alternates in tone between fierce anthems and more reflective songs inspired by Schindler’s fight against breast cancer. The collection is generally inspired and inspiring, especially the soulful “To Be With You” and the rowdy title track. Schindler sounds a bit too Melissa Etheridge-esque at times, but lesbian women and gay men alike are sure to enjoy it.

Zombie Cat (bookavailable October 1st from Skyhorse Publications). Yes, you read the title correctly. Just in time for Halloween comes this whimsically ghoulish, vividly illustrated tale by Isabel Atherton of a sweet housecat, Tiddles, who turns into an undead, flesh-eating beast after being bitten by an infected rodent. If The Walking Dead kept a pet instead of eating it, Tiddles would fit the bill perfectly. In the end, though, the kitty still just wants to be loved by his non-infected human, Jake. Despite occasional scenes of Tiddles chewing on entrails, older kids, teens and my fellow twisted adults will get a big kick out of Zombie Cat.

Barbra Streisand’s Release Me (albumavailable now on vinyl and October 9th on CD). While I haven’t yet finished listening to the advance press download of this 11-track compilation of never-before-released Streisand recordings from 1963 to the present, I’ve heard enough to know it’s a stunning must-have whether you are a Babs-aholic or not. Songs include showtunes "Home" (from The Wiz), "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" (from Finian’s Rainbow) and "Heather on the Hill" (from Brigadoon), as well as songs by Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman and Billie Holiday’s arranger, Ray Ellis.

And while I haven’t yet received it, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival in my mailbox of the world premiere cast recording of Carrie: The Musical. The notorious 1988 Broadway production never got a cast album, but a recordingof the recent off-Broadway revival (starring the fabulous Marin Mazzie as the tortured psychic teenager’s religious-fanatic mother) was just released September 25th through Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight Records. I’m so excited, I might just have to go put on my prom dress and pour fake pig blood all over myself!

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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