Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper: January 2014 - 2013: The Year in Film

Ring out the old and ring in the new with January's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper salute to 2013: The Year in Film!

From the depths of space to the Deep South, our cinematic celebration of the past year stars Mr. Gatsby and Mr. Disney, French lesbians and a transgender Texan, the Man of Steel and a man of snow. Start 2014 off right with the best of 2013!

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Coal in My Stocking

Silver bells and golden statuettes are ringing throughout Hollywood this week before Christmas, primarily thanks to the film critics’ group awards announced thus far. Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle have been the big winners, with Spike Jonze’s Her and Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine also receiving numerous laurels.

Alas, in looking back over 2013’s movie and home video releases as well as current award hopefuls, not everything appears jolly and bright. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the industry’s lesser offerings:

Adore (now available on Blu-ray and DVD): A gorgeous-looking movie about gorgeous people. Unfortunately, it is constructed on a ridiculously improbable and just plain tacky plot about two middle-aged, lifelong friends (played by fine actresses Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who knowingly enter into sexual relationships with one another’s young adult sons. That said affairs go on for more than two years, even after the boys have moved away and developed other romantic interests, only adds to the implausibility. Amazingly, the screenplay was adapted by Oscar winner Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) from a novel by Nobel Prize-winning writer Doris Lessing. Everyone associated with this film save actors Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville, who play the women’s sons, and cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne would probably do well to scrape this off their resum├ęs.

Nebraska (now playing in theaters): While we’re on the subject of implausible plots, this movie also wins my personal award for the most overrated movie of 2013. An obvious throwback to late 1960’s-early 1970’s films featuring gruff yet ultimately lovable characters such as Scarecrow and Midnight Cowboy (and even shot in stark black & white), Nebraska spins a relentlessly heart-tugging tale of a grown son (a nice dramatic turn by SNL alum Will Forte) who accompanies his befuddled father (veteran actor Bruce Dern) on a pointless quest to claim a million-dollar prize promised in a marketing ploy. The now elderly Dern has inexplicably been winning accolades for playing… an elderly Bruce Dern. I am a great admirer of director Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways) but it seems clear that Payne’s best films are those he also has a hand in writing, unlike this one. While Nebraska isn’t a bad movie, it also isn’t a legitimate awards contender.

Lone Survivor (opening December 25th in Los Angeles and New York): Its ad campaign assures us that this film was “based on true acts of courage,” which is all well and good. When said acts primarily involve SEAL team members indiscriminately shooting, getting shot at and literally rolling down a mountain to their deaths during a failed 2005 mission in Afghanistan, however, they sadly seem more foolhardy than courageous. To me, the real heart of Lone Survivor is the friendly relationship that develops between its title character (played by Mark Wahlberg) and an Afghan father and son who hide him from the Taliban at great risk to themselves. This sequence, though, is only given about 30 minutes of screen time, which seems especially negligent when compared to the 60 minutes of bloody mayhem that precede it. Reliable director Peter Berg; a great all-male cast that also includes Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana; and spectacular photography by Tobias A. Schliessler are compromised by Berg’s excessively action-leaning screenplay.

The Rooftop (now available on home video and VOD): Taiwanese actor Jay Chou, best known in the US as Kato in 2011’s The Green Hornet, wrote the script and songs for as well as directed this ambitious, visually elaborate but pretty juvenile musical. Chou also stars as Gao (a.k.a. “Wax”), a happy-go-lucky guy who runs afoul of some nasty gangsters with his rooftop-dwelling friends. Playing somewhat like a comedic Asian version of Rent if it were directed by the flamboyant Baz Luhrmann, the film is entertaining in spots (gay viewers shouldn’t miss a musical number/fight scene that takes place in a men’s bathhouse) but goes on far too long. Also, while Chou’s music is good his lyrics are pretty bad, although it is possible their real meaning got lost in the translation to English subtitles. God knows there are worse movies out there though.

Watch here for my choices of the best films of 2013 after the holidays. Reverend and everyone at Movie Dearest wish our readers a very merry Christmas!

Reverend’s Ratings:
Adore: C-
Nebraska: C
Lone Survivor: C
The Rooftop: C+

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reverend’s Review & Preview: The Steward of Neverland

Brian Dennehy is best known to moviegoers for his tough-guy appearances in such 1980’s blockbusters as First Blood, Cocoon, Best Seller, F/X and its sequel, and one of my personal favorites, Legal Eagles. However, he is an accomplished stage actor and has won two Tony Awards for his riveting turns on Broadway in the classics Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Dennehy is currently treading the boards of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He stars as Thomas Dunne in Sebastian Barry’s 1995 play The Steward of Christendom, which opened Sunday and closes on January 5th, and his performance is a beautifully modulated tour de force.

The real-life Dunne was Barry’s Irish great-grandfather. A policeman as well as staunch Catholic, he rose to chief of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in the early 20th century only to see his standing disintegrate amidst the early years of Ireland’s Protestant vs. Catholic “troubles.”

The Steward of Christendom, set primarily in 1932, finds an older Dunne saddled with dementia and subsequently confined to a sanitarium. His three daughters are geographically scattered, and we learn that Dunne’s sole son was killed in combat during World War I. Daughter Annie (a fine, nuanced turn by Abby Wilde) serves as one of the old man’s few temporal visitors.

At nearly three hours in length, much of which is comprised of Dunne’s life-spanning monologues, the play is challenging but ultimately rewarding. Barry’s script threatens to bite off more than it can chew when dealing with Ireland’s tempestuous political-religious history, but Dennehy and accomplished director Steven Robman ensure the production stays dramatically and emotionally grounded by keeping their focus firmly on Dunne. Also noteworthy are Kevin Depinet’s stark yet versatile set design and Jason H. Thompson’s evocative projections, including some breathtakingly holographic blades of grass.

For tickets to this highly recommended production, visit the Center Theatre Group website.

Reverend’s Rating: B+

Also now having its Southern California premiere at the neighboring Ahmanson Theatre in LA is the recent Broadway hit Peter and the Starcatcher. Winner of five 2012 Tony Awards and adapted from a bestselling novel by Ridley Pearson and humorist Dave Barry (no relation to Steward of Christendom author Sebastian Barry), the play runs through January 12th.

There have been many unique interpretations of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of a boy who chooses to never grow up, since the character’s first appearance way back in 1902. Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby have flown in stage productions; Walt Disney made a beloved animated version in 1953; Robin Williams as Peter faced off against Dustin Hoffman as his title nemesis in Steven Spielberg’s big-budget movie Hook; and Peter is currently the main villain on TV’s Once Upon a Time. There is also the 2003 film Neverland, in which Peter is depicted as an androgynous teenager being pursued by a gay, leather-clad Captain Hook.

To this diverse lineage we can add Peter and the Starcatcher. Joey deBettencourt heads a cast of twelve talented actors portraying more than 100 characters in their pursuit of the timeless question “How did Peter Pan become the Boy Who Never Grew Up?” The production has been hailed as “a shimmering treasure,” “an inventive delight” and “the most exhilarating storytelling on Broadway in decades” by various critics.

Of special note, Peter and the Starcatcher is directed by gay Tony-winning actor Roger Rees. Rees will always be remembered by me and other theatre fans of my generation as the original Nicholas Nickleby in the 1981 Broadway production of Charles Dickens’ classic book, which was televised on PBS. He has also made memorable appearances in such movies as If Looks Could Kill (as the bad guy threatening a hot, frequently underwear-clad Richard Grieco), Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, as well as onstage more recently as Nathan Lane’s successor in the musical version of The Addams Family.

Rees’s longtime partner and husband since 2011, Rick Elice, adapted Peter and the Starcatcher for the stage. Elice was previously acclaimed as the writer of Broadway’s smash hit Jersey Boys (currently being turned into a movie by director Clint Eastwood) and as co-author of The Addams Family.

Set Designer Donyale Werle won the 2012 Tony Award for the Broadway production’s settings, which were nearly 100% constructed out of recycled materials. Werle also serves as a leader of the environment-friendly Broadway Green Alliance. For the current tour, each venue including the Ahmanson was invited to contribute reusable items that were then assembled into the tour’s stage-framing proscenium. Among the items donated by theatres across the US were wine corks, bottle caps, small children’s toys, used rope, old silverware and cooking utensils, and paper tubes of various sizes.

Don’t miss this unique chance to travel with Peter Pan and his friends to magical Neverland. For LA tickets or more information, visit the Center Theatre Group website.

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

MD Reviews: Private Parts

One thing about Patrick Moote, the title "character" of Unhung Hero: he may not be packing much penis-wise, but he sure has balls. After being humiliated in front of a sports arena-full of strangers when his girlfriend walks out on his "kiss cam" wedding proposal, the video goes viral, humiliating him further in front of a worldwide, schadenfreude-hungry internet audience. Adding insult to injury, she tells him that she doesn't want to marry him because of his small penis. Yikes. But instead of keeping that information to himself like most dudes would, Patrick, an aspiring actor and comedian, decides to "out" himself as genitally-impaired and sets out on a global journey, seeking the answer to the age-old question "does size matter?" while documenting it in cinema's first ever, ahem, "cockumentary".

During his quest, Patrick tries everything from pumps and pills to heavy weights dangling from his privates, traveling from San Francisco to Korea to Malaysia to learn of the myriad ways men have tried to maximize their members throughout history. Along the way, he seeks out the advice of medical professionals, condom makers, porn stars and "sexperts" like Annie Sprinkle and Dan Savage. Patrick even meets his polar opposite, Jonah Falcon, who reportedly boasts a 13.5" schlong.

Now available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, Unhung Hero does to a man's junk what Super Size Me did to junk food. That is, it makes its point in a highly entertaining way while still being informative, enlightening and even, well, uplifting.

From a guy with not enough dick to a man who literally never had one, Buck Angel is the subject of another Breaking Glass documentary available on DVD this week, Mr. Angel. For those who are not familiar with him, Buck Angel is unarguably the most successful transman in pornography, the pioneering self-proclaimed "Man With a Pussy". (Go ahead, Google him.)

Delving into his life as much as his career, Mr. Angel tells a familiar story of a tomboy growing up into a rebellious, drug abusing teenager, a girl who never fit in, even in her own body. A survivor of several suicide attempts, that tomboy became Buck Angel, finding empowerment through his gender expression both on and off camera. His an unconventional yet inspiring story (especially to young transmen), far from the narcisistic self-pity seen in another recent porn star doc, Sagat.

Through his constant struggles to get his DVDs to a wider audience, home life with his wife Elayne in Mexico and a health scare most men will never face, we get to know this Mr. Angel far more intimately then any of his X-rated efforts could ever accomplish.

MD Ratings:
Unhung Hero: B
Mr. Angel: B-

Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper - December 2013: Cars

Rev up your December with this month's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper salute to our favorite cinematic Cars!

These memorable movie machines can do it all: go back in time or under the sea, fight crime or transform into robots, take a family road trip or even fly. Some even have a mind of their own, whether good-natured (Herbie the Love Bug) or pure evil (Christine). From Ford Mustangs to Trans Ams to Aston Martins to the infamous "Pussy Wagon", this eclectic mix of autos have captured audiences imaginations over the years and satisfied our vicarious needs for speed.

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