Friday, November 22, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: International Tour

Several new theatrical and home video releases this week illustrate how small the world is becoming when it comes to GLBT inclusion and our common struggles.

Our travels begin here in the USA with Geography Club, playing in Los Angeles theaters starting today. Adapted from Brent Hartinger’s popular YA book, it features a group of GLBT high school students who form an underground support group advertised as the “Geography Club.” Figuring they are safe because no one would be interested in such a topic, they are surprised when their school’s football star (Cameron Deane Stewart, who was also recently seen in Pitch Perfect) begins to attend their meetings and even more surprised when he admits to being gay.

While the lead performances are pretty amateurish, the movie benefits from a terrific supporting cast that includes Glee’s Alex Newell, Scott Bakula, Hairspray’s Nikki Blonsky and the hilarious Ana Gasteyer, perfectly cast as the school’s off-kilter sex ed teacher. Current high school students will likely find the film relatable and enjoyable, but I felt old watching it and so will probably anyone of voting age and above. It skews young to the exclusion of virtually everyone other than die-hard fans of its adult cast members. Still, I highly recommend it for the 18 and under crowd.

Those in the central Philippines have endured tragic, epic devastation the last two weeks. The Filipino gay horror-comedy Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings, now available on DVDfrom Ariztical, offers a much-needed sunny look at the island nation and its GLBT inhabitants. Remington (Martin Escudero) had an unfortunate habit as a child of publicly pronouncing as gay anyone who appeared to him to be so. One day, he offended an ill-natured drag queen who subsequently placed a curse of retribution on the lad: as Remington approaches adulthood, he will himself turn gay. The change begins slowly at first, but soon Remington is in full (though admittedly stereotypical) homosexual mode. He shaves his body hair, wears form-fitting t-shirts and jeans, sashays and gets his groove on in the street and — horror of horrors — becomes well spoken. Projecting gay-Remington’s subtitles in pink is another over the top but amusing touch.

In the ultimate case of bad timing, Remington’s transformation gets underway just as a serial killer targeting GLBT people is stalking the city. It isn’t long before murdered drag queens are rising from the dead and the city’s all-female police force is under siege. Despite its low budget, the film also features fun visual effects and accomplished zombie makeup, as well as some lovely cinematography of Philippine countrysides and the sexiest séance ever put on celluloid/digital. The talented Escudero makes his character’s plight both funny and poignant, the latter so most especially during the movie’s finale when someone must choose to sacrifice their heterosexuality so Remington can become straight again. Director and co-writer Jade Castro proves himself an international talent to watch despite this film’s sometimes rough edges and moments of questionable humor.

We next journey to rural Mexico for Peyote, what I consider the best film in this bunch. It is an authentic, sexy look at two disparate souls gradually drawn together. Pablo (Joe Diazzi) is an attractive but geeky teenager who is introduced making a sci-fi movie in his kitchen with vegetable protagonists. He is also in the process of arranging a hookup online with his presumed girlfriend but ultimately hesitates to commit. Frustrated, he takes to the street and crosses paths with the hot, slightly older and definitely worldlier Marco (Carlos Luque).

Since Pablo rebuffs Marco’s initial efforts at flirtation, he invites Pablo to take a road trip with him to the desert town of Real de Catorce in search of hallucinogenic peyote. Pablo agrees so long as he can document their trip on his camera. The peyote proves elusive but the young men learn much about themselves and one another, especially once it gets late and they have to spend the night together. The chemistry and sensuality between Luque and Diazzi are palpable but are used in service of a truly human story by Omar Flores Sarabia, whose impressive directorial debut this is. Peyote just had its world premiere at last month’s Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in New Mexico but is already available on DVDand VOD from Breaking Glass Pictures. Be among the first to discover it.

Our international tour this week ends in Spain and neighboring Portugal, the settings for Tiago Leao’s disappointing Longing Nights (Noches de Espera). It is also available now on DVDfrom Breaking Glass. Trying way too hard to be provocative, Leao cuts between four different stories involving frustrating relationships and/or unrequited love. The most interesting of the main characters is Aitana, a transgender prostitute who subjects herself to all manner of abuse from men before she finds comfort from an unlikely source. Otherwise, there’s a straight couple where the man is a drug dealer, a pretty but dull gay couple struggling with one’s refusal to become monogamous, and a lesbian couple where one partner also refuses to settle down sexually.

There’s lots of graphic sex on digitally-shot display, raw and real but not pretty. Virtually all of it has been seen and done before in better films, with the exception of Aitana’s affecting storyline. If you must watch Longing Nights, concentrate on her scenes and fast forward through the rest. Oh well, three good stops out of four when traveling isn’t too bad.

Reverend’s Ratings:
Geography Club: B+ (for teens)/C+ (for adults)
Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings: B
Peyote: B+
Longing Nights: C-

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

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