Monday, March 30, 2015

MD Reviews: Grumpy Old Men


Oscar sure loves his villains, especially in the Supporting Actor category. Such recent winners as Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa and Heath Ledger as The Joker certainly proves this, and this past year was no different, with the gold going to J.K. Simmons for his mesmerizingly manipulative performance as Terence Fletcher in the equally engrossing Best Picture nominee Whiplash. His victory is even more impressive considering (unlike his predecessors) he wasn't playing a psychotic murderer but a college music teacher... albeit a really, really mean college music teacher.

It's to writer/director Damien Chazelle's credit that we don't just see Fletcher's nasty side; there are hints that below all the abusiveness (a folding chair or two is hurled, for example) there is a reasonable human being, one that even has a reasonably logical explanation for his questionable behavior. The hero of the piece, Andrew (Miles Teller, holding his own opposite Simmons), is an aspiring drummer who finds himself the bullseye for Fletcher's wrath once he joins his school's jazz ensemble. Fletcher brings out the best and worst in Andrew, both artistically and morally, and their battles (ironically for the same goal) make Whiplash (named for one of the musical pieces heard in the film) as taut and tension-filled as any thriller.

While the Supporting Actor nominee in The Judge could only be called the villain of the film in the broadest sense, he does represent another popular character type in the category: the disgruntled daddy. Robert Duvall (whose nomination here makes him the oldest Supporting Actor nominee in Academy Award history) plays the curmudgeonly title character of a small town who is arrested for murder and must rely on his estranged son, a hot shot big city lawyer played by Robert Downey Jr. (in perhaps his most mature performance to date) to represent him.

A tad overlong and predictable, The Judge is nevertheless a compelling courtroom/dysfunctional family drama thanks to the two R.D.s, both at the top of their game. Their scenes together, especially as the story progresses and the characters' lifelong walls begin to fall, anchor the film and make its missteps (such as a bizarre subplot involving Vera Farmiga as a former flame — and possible baby momma — of Downey's character) easier to take.

There are some villains, like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and Daniel Day Lewis as Bill the Butcher, who can't be contained within the supporting category and find themselves Best Actor nominees. Such is the case with Steve Carell as creepy philanthropist/obsessive wrestling enthusiast John du Pont in the based-on-a-true-story sports drama Foxcatcher. An heir to the du Pont family fortune, John du Pont is mainly, infamously known for his inexplicable murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo, who was the one nominated as Best Supporting Actor). Foxcatcher (the title is taken from the sporting facility located on the du Pont family estate) focuses on the events leading up to the tragedy, beginning with du Pont's taking David's younger brother, fellow Olympian Mark (a brutish Channing Tatum) under his wing.

A lot of effort (and time in the makeup chair) was spent to make Carell into du Pont, strange considering du Pont is hardly a recognizable historical figure... and in the end, Carell doesn't look much like the real du Pont anyway. As directed by Capote's Bennett Miller (who somehow nabbed a Best Director nod despite a lack of Best Picture recognition in a field of up to ten contenders), Foxcatcher is lugubriously paced and, despite some strong if a bit oddly-pitched performances, ends up as pointless as the death of David Schultz.

MD Ratings:
Whiplash: A
The Judge: B-
Foxcatcher: C-

Whiplash, The Judge and Foxcatcher are now all available on DVD and Blu-ray:

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Its a Trans' & Dog's Life


One of the more remarkable depictions to date of a transgender person's journey, Sophie Hyde's 52 Tuesdays, is opening this weekend at the Quad Cinema in New York City. It is also newly available for viewing on demand via Fandor. Hyde, an Australian, won the Best Director-World Cinema Dramatic award at January's Sundance Film Festival for her achievement here.

Billed as "Boyhood meets Transparent" but compressed from 12 years to one, we encounter James (beautifully played by gender non-conforming actor Del Herbert-Jane) during weekly sessions with his therapist as well as interactions with his struggling family members. You see, James is in the process of transitioning from female to male with varying degrees of support from his 16-year old daughter, Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), Billie's father and educators, and others.

While she publicly vocalizes an unwavering acceptance of her mother-to-father's endeavor, Billie secretly begins to act out in inappropriate ways. She experiments sexually with a coupled young man and woman, going so far as to record their encounters on her camera phone. All hell breaks loose for all concerned once this is discovered. As 52 Tuesdays makes crystal clear, transgender conflicts don't only impact the individual experiencing them within him/herself but those people closest to them. As James pointedly remarks to Billie at one point, "Its not just about the physical."

Sensitively written by Hyde and Matthew Cormack and naturalistically performed by an excellent cast of non-professional actors, the film explores numerous issues related to gender, sexuality, parenting and family life. It also raises big philosophical questions (literally) including "What is an authentic life?" and "How do you know what really matters?" If these aren't thought-provoking enough, Hyde incorporates news footage of concurrent real-world events (with global warming a particular concern) that places the intimate story within a much larger context. Make a date with 52 Tuesdays.

Also opening today in NYC before rolling out in Los Angeles on April 3rd and then nationally is White God, winner of the Un Certain Regard jury prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. This parable about abandoned and abused dogs who organize to terrorize the Hungarian populace serves as an effective metaphor for political tensions in Europe past and present.

In Kornel Mundruczo's film, all dogs of mixed-breed heritage have been deemed unfit and their owners must pay a hefty fine to keep them. Those dogs whose owners are unwilling or unable to pay are rounded up and sent to shelters to await their fate. Any parallels to Naziism, social engineering, concentration camps and ethnic cleansing are wholly intended.

Young Lili (Zsofia Psotta) makes the innocent mistake of visiting her divorced, dog-intolerant father with her beloved mixed-breed Hagen in tow just as the new law takes effect. Her father acquiesces to Lili's tearful pleadings not to turn Hagen over to the authorities by dumping him on the street to fend for himself. Hagen falls in with a pack of fellow strays but, despite their best and cinematically exciting efforts to avoid it, they are eventually captured. He is then adopted by an unsavory man who trains him for underground dogfights (fortunately, most of the film's brutality takes place off camera). Such abuse plants the seeds of revolution in Hagen and hundreds of other dogs who come to accept him as their leader.

White God suffers at times from a scattershot tone, being cute and comedic one moment, dark and disturbing the next, and is occasionally too overt or preachy with its metaphorical approach. Its marauding former pets and unresolved ending, though, reminded me most of Hitchcock's The Birds. That's certainly not a bad film to aspire to while crafting a needed cautionary tale.

Reverend's Ratings:
52 Tuesdays: B+
White God: B

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Cinderella with a Wine Chaser


Cinderella is all over the place nowadays. The kindhearted but neglected stepdaughter/stepsister who ultimately triumphs with a little help from her fairy godmother currently stars in the #1 movie in the US that bears her name, and she recently played a significant role in the hit movie version of the stage musical Into the Woods. If that wasn't enough, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella made its Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in 2013 after being limited to three television productions since the 1950's.

The R&H stage version is now touring nationally and just parked its magical carriage at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre through April 26th. Magical turns out to be an apt description of the production, thanks not only to its evocative woodland setting (complete with charming fox and raccoon puppets) but primarily due to a number of instant, on-stage costume changes that deservedly drew both gasps and rousing applause from the opening night audience. The fox and raccoon also transform impressively into Cinderella's human coachmen, played respectively by the athletic Adrian Arrieta and Blakely Slaybaugh.

Out playwright and screenwriter Douglas Carter Beane (Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed, The Nance) has revised Oscar Hammerstein II's original book to such an extent that Beane receives a "new book by" credit. His new vision of Cinderella as a feminist who considers social reform a higher objective than marrying the prince will likely startle those most familiar with her Disney incarnations past and present. However, Beane actually drew from Charles Perrault's original story — written in 1697 but inspired by versions of the tale that date back over 2,000 years — while also injecting his trademark, lighthearted snark.

The current stage heroine (beautifully played, sung and danced by Paige Faure) remains the virtual slave of her wicked stepmother, Madame (Fran Drescher of The Nanny fame having fun in the mostly non-singing role). Only one of Cinderella's stepsisters, though, truly mistreats her and even she turns out to be not all that bad. Meanwhile, a local revolutionary named Jean-Michel (David Andino) is rallying their fellow downtrodden to rise up against the recently-ascended Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones, who wins over viewers pretty much as soon as he appears) for abuses that are actually being engineered behind Topher's back by his prime minister. There is also a crazy old woman (the crowd-pleasing Kecia Lewis) in the vicinity who has a trick or two, or twenty, concealed under her beggar's rags.

Hammerstein's and Richard Rodgers' score has been significantly overhauled in addition to the book, with the addition of several songs that were written for but dropped from other of the pair's shows. When the tunes aren't unquestionably rapturous they are winningly comic (especially the act two opener, "Stepsister's Lament") and, unlike most show tunes written today, immediately memorable. I was struck during intermission by how many men were whistling or humming songs from act I while we were all in the restroom!

While the amazing visuals — chiefly William Ivey Long's Tony Award winning costumes and Anna Louizos' sets — are what most audience members will be talking about, director Mark Brokaw and choreographer Josh Rhodes deserve major credit for respecting the integrity of the classic score and largely letting the songs stand for themselves. They wisely resist adding excessive dance or "business" to their staging. The result is a lovely and, yes, truly magical night at the theatre.

Cinderella also has a featured part in Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's fairy tale-inspired Into the Woods, which was finally brought to the big screen in December after 27 years of cinematic gestation. Anna Kendrick perfectly embodied their more neurotic, indecisive depiction of the classic character.

Rob Marshall corralled a mostly terrific all-star cast for the film, which will be available on home video and VOD from Disney on March 24th. In addition to Kendrick, there is Meryl Streep as the Witch (for which she received a record-breaking 19th Academy Award nomination), Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife and James Corden as her husband, with Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullmann and Star Trek's Chris Pine in supporting roles. The weak link for both the cast and the film as a whole is Johnny Depp as the Wolf. His relatively brief appearance includes some amusing dancing and prancing but his singing voice has suffered since 2007's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, perhaps as a result of smoking. To make matters worse, Depp and costume designer Colleen Atwood chose to dress the Wolf in an anachronistic zoot suit that threatens the otherwise timeless quality and look of the film. Fortunately, the overall story survives and the movie is otherwise beautifully designed and photographed.

It is worth buying or renting Into the Woods to check out a new Sondheim song that was written and filmed but ultimately cut. Streep sings "She'll Be Back" as a soliloquy after her beloved Rapunzel has left her. The song and Streep's performance of it are fine (Sondheim likely would have received an Oscar nomination as well), and in introducing the scene Marshall describes the agonizing process of deciding to remove it from the finished movie. It is a worthy bonus for musical aficionados.

Those readers who are not musical or fairy tale fans, or those who just need a break from the current spate of musicals and fairy tales, can chase things down with the ten-hour Mondovino: The Series. Newly available on DVD courtesy of Icarus Films' KimStim Collection, it is an epic exploration of the personalities, politics and economics behind the world's billion-dollar wine industry. Director Jonathan Nossiter gained unfettered and sometimes unflattering access to wine makers around the world, including the frequently vilified Robert Mondavi and numerous members of his family.

Mondovino is insightful and entertaining, and wine connoisseurs will probably have a field day with it. But, as much of the footage was shot a decade or more ago, it feels somewhat dated; after all, Robert Mondavi passed away in 2008. Nossiter also serves as the series' often irritating cinematographer, overusing shaky hand-held camerawork and odd extreme close ups of his interview subjects. While Mondovino: The Series makes for rewarding viewing in some ways, you may feel the need for a stiff drink afterward.

Reverend's Ratings:
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella: A-
Into the Woods: B+
Mondovino: The Series: B-

Into the Woods and Mondovino: The Series are now available on Blu-ray and/or DVD:

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MD Reviews: Up in the Air

The Wind Rises, the final film from the legendary Academy Award winning director Hayao Miyazaki, is a fitting swan song for the recently retired master animator. Featuring themes of inspiration, innovation and the inevitable obsolescence of an art form, Miyazaki's choice of the brilliant Japanese airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi as his subject provides him with the perfect onscreen counterpart to tell his last cinematic story.

Flight is a common factor in much of Miyazaki's work, from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to Kiki's Delivery Service, and The Wind Rises brings it full circle, to the literal creation of flight. The film tells the true story of Horikoshi from his schoolboy youth to his engineering triumph, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane (used during World War II against the Allies... best not to dwell too much on that). Along the way there is an ultimately tragic tale of lost love found that becomes the heart of the film and provides its most bittersweet moments.

A biopic is an unusual genre for animation, thus (save for a few dreamlike meetings between our protagonist and his fantasy mentor, Italian aviation genius Giovanni Battista Caproni) the film is naturally devoid of any of Miyazaki's typical magical elements. And while that omission makes The Wind Rises his most accessible for those of us unfamiliar with Japanese lore and culture, it doesn't mean it lacks any of Miyazaki's beloved trademark artistic style. There's plenty of his gorgeous sky- and landscapes, as well as his intricately detailed flying machines that are somehow simple and complex at the same time.

For a complete flight of fantasy from Studio Ghibli (the animation house that Miyazaki built) one need to look no further than The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata (My Neighbors the Yamadas).

Magically "born" in the middle of a bamboo patch, the little princess is adopted by a hardworking farmer and his patient wife. Considered a "gift from heaven", the new father builds a castle for his new daughter so she can be the princess he feels she is destined to become. But the newly-christened Princess Kaguya would rather frolic and play, even though she grows more beautiful — and displays more magical talents — day by day.

A recent Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature (as was The Wind Rises last year), Princess Kaguya is steeped in Japanese folklore, often to the point of confusion for us westerners. Nevertheless, this is a Tale beautifully told through a rougher hand drawn style reminiscent of ancient water color drawings.

MD Ratings:
The Wind Rises: B+
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: B-

The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya are both available now on DVD and Blu-ray:

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Hoffmann & Madonna


Flush from the international success of their 1948 dance fantasy The Red Shoes, longtime co-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger turned their attention to a cinematic adaptation of The Tales of Hoffman, Jacques Offenbach's classic opera. The 1951 result was also highly acclaimed and nominated for two Academy Awards for its stunning sets and costumes but fell into relative obscurity.

Now, however, moviegoers have an opportunity to discover The Tales of Hoffmann anew thanks to a gorgeous digital restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese, who counts it as one of the films that inspired him most as a young director, and Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker (who is Powell's widow). They found and restored 8 minutes of previously cut footage to the movie, which begins limited engagements today at Cinefamily in Los Angeles and New York City's Film Forum.

While thoroughly cinematic as only Powell and Pressburger could conjure — featuring their trademark dream-like sequences, use of superimposed images and extensive overhead camera shots — their Tales of Hoffmann also proves to be one of the few grand-scale productions of an opera on film. Opera lovers who aren't regular film attendees owe it to themselves to check the restoration out.

The plot is relatively simple. A poet named Hoffmann recounts to his drinking buddies three personal stories of love found and quickly lost, even as a sinister rival plots to steal the latest object of Hoffmann's affection out from under him. Each tale is elaborately sung (though not always convincingly lip-synched), designed and staged. One involves a robotic puppet-woman and magic glasses, another a courtesan who connives with the devil to steal men's souls, and the last centers on the dying daughter of a celebrated composer.

The Tales of Hoffmann isn't quite as well-executed nor as haunting as such practically perfect Pressburger-Powell productions as The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. In addition to the sometimes barely attempted lip-synching, the actors' credits at the start of each individual tale are excessive as is a newly discovered curtain-call epilogue. Nevertheless it is a fun, wittily directed and technically impressive achievement, with numerous added ballet interludes for their Red Shoes star Moira Shearer. Although the restored version may soon be available on Blu-ray, don't miss the chance to catch it or any other of the directors' works for that matter on the big screen.

She isn't quite as vintage as The Tales of Hoffmann but pop singer/provocateur Madonna is pushing 60. It is therefore a bit tiresome and potentially even disturbing that she is pretty much doing the same thing she's been doing for the last 30+ years on her new release Rebel Heart (now available for download and on CD). Whereas her spiritual descendant Lady Gaga has seen the wisdom of mixing things up with show tunes and Tony Bennett duets while still in her 20's, Madonna continues to recycle the same dance grooves, Catholic imagery and sexual allusions she has used since at least 1984's Like a Virgin.

The 19 tracks on the deluxe edition CD I listened to are bookended by her two best new songs, the opening "Living for Love" and the closing, confessional title track. In fact, the album's most memorable and revealing tunes are those that are more personal, such as "HeartBreak City" and "Joan of Arc". But too many others reek of the been there, heard that and seem like Madonna is trying to replicate her past triumphs (she even samples "Vogue" in the middle of one song). She also uses the term "bitch" repeatedly and derogatorily on no less than three tracks. I wanted to yell back, "Bitch, give it a rest!" In fact, I may have done so while listening in the privacy of my car.

To her credit, Madonna is still in good voice and from most reports continues to deliver great live performances, cape-tripping gaffes aside. I just wish she would do something/anything musically to surprise her longtime fans, including myself, while she still has the chance.

Reverend's Ratings:
The Tales of Hoffmann: A-
Rebel Heart: C

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reverend's Report: LGBT Web Series On the Rise


The proliferation of screens on our iPhones, smart phones, tablets and laptops as well as shortened attention spans has led to an explosion of video storytelling through the Internet. One doesn’t even have to own a TV today to watch quality drama and comedy series, and many are found exclusively on websites like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu rather than the major television networks.

A large number of these current web series feature LGBT characters (notably Transparent, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black) and there are even more that are primarily geared toward our community. Freed from the constraints of network TV, LGBT filmmakers have found the Internet a more accessible and less expensive storytelling environment that viewers around the world can tune in to any time.

Individual web series episodes range from just a few minutes to the more traditional half hour. Shorter running times without commercials make it possible for viewers to keep up with their favorite series during lunch and bathroom breaks at work or school, while riding the bus or train, or even while in bed before falling asleep. We live in an increasingly web series-fueled entertainment world!

In addition to Old Dogs & New Tricks (see our interview of actor Bruce L. Hart), here’s a quick rundown of the newest, best and/or most popular LGBT web series:

  • Where the Bears Are: Currently prepping its 4th season, this funny and sexy hit has been described as “The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote with big, gay, hairy men!” Main trio Reggie, Wood and Nelson solve crimes in their LA neighborhood like a hirsute Scooby Doo gang. Plus: the frequently shirtless Hot Toddy (Ian Parks)!

  • What’s Your Emergency: Out talent Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) directs a promising comedy set in an utterly inept 911 call center in fictional (or is it?) Hell, Michigan. It features a barely in-the-closet gay staffer as well as pretty boy Bart, who is frequently shirtless and even in his undies in episode 3.

  • Eastsiders: One of the more serious offerings, this Silver Lake-set drama follows the aftermath of Cal (played by Kit Williamson, who also created the series) discovering that his partner Thom has been cheating on him. The ramifications spill out to their friends and neighbors. The first season was recently released as a feature film on DVD and web season 2 is in the works.

  • Mentor: Actor-comedian Jason Stuart makes his directorial debut with this autobiographical series in the vein of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Middle aged, gay and desperate for a hit, Stuart takes matters into his own hands with the help of a hot young wannabe comedian (Paul Elia) and former Baywatch babe Alexandra Paul.

  • Go-Go Boy Interrupted: My personal favorite out of the bunch, it follows the hilarious, weekly misadventures of clueless gay club dancer Danny, played by the too cute Jimmy Fowlie. In addition to the abundance of hot man-flesh on display, the series features awesome appearances by funny man Drew Droege (who also stars in the Looking web spoof Not Looking) and Lynne Stewart, Miss Yvonne herself from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

  • Darwin: From gay fave actress-producer Carrie Preston (True Blood) comes a comedy about Leo Darwin, a Master Life Coach whose life is falling apart. Given to garden references in his counseling, Leo encourages his new (and only) client to name what vegetable he is. When he responds “a tomato,” he explains “people think they’re a vegetable but technically they’re a fruit.” ‘Nuff said.

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reverend's Interview: Caught in a Tangled Web


Bruce L. Hart has made quite a splash in the relatively new genre of web series. The accomplished actor, writer and producer, who hails from Michigan but currently lives in Long Beach, chatted with us recently about the vast array of LGBT-oriented shows to watch on the net. There's much more than just porn out there.

CC: Old Dogs & New Tricks has been one of the most successful gay-themed web series to date and your character, Nelson Van Eddy, is one of its most popular characters. How has the experience of it been for you?
BLH: Wow, it's true the series has really gotten a lot of attention. The show is heading into it's fourth and final season and the audience keeps increasing! I just feel so lucky to be playing Nelson. It was such a fluke that I snagged the role. I basically sent a fan letter to Leon Acord, the creator and star of the series, commending him on the thrust of the series featuring men over 40 and he suggested we meet. Following our meeting — wham!! I suddenly found myself playing the "frenemy" Nelson to his character Nathan. As an actor, I usually get cast as neurotic characters or "wishy washy" nice characters so it was a treat to stretch my acting wings and play Nelson. Honestly the reaction has been incredible and it has certainly opened the doors for me in terms of getting more attention and more acting work. And what a treat to get to marry Greg Louganis on the show and to have Rutanya Alda (Mommie Dearest) play my secretary!

CC: Are there other web series of which you have been a part? If so, how have those experiences compared with ODNT?
BLH: Old Dogs was my first web series and it's shot exactly like a broadcast TV series. All the ingredients are there just like a network show except the episodes are shorter because the theory is that audience members want shorter episodes to view on their computers, phones and ipads. I was previously on Boystown, which was a traditional full-length cable TV show. It had a successful run and now it's being re-packaged and edited down to be shown as a web series. I see no difference between a full-length series and a shorter format web series. They both have to comply with union regulations and they both have to ensure that they meet the production standards that today's more sophisticated audience demands. I do think it is incredibly interesting to see how traditional TV and Internet programming have essentially merged. Hulu now shows Old Dogs and most of the films I have appeared in are now available in streaming format. Boystown can currently be watched via iTunes and will soon be in a web series format. The worlds are colliding!

CC: As an actor, what would you say are the pros and cons of being in a web series versus a TV series or movie?
BLH: There are no cons as long as you are focusing on a quality product. Having done "mainstream" TV and films I find no difference in the production values of a web series. It's just a broader reach for the performer. I have fans in many different countries who have seen Old Dogs and New Tricks. It just blows me away. I think any actor needs to chart his/her career carefully and determine what vehicles work best for them. But I also think increasingly we are going to see more online entertainment, and a web series is an incredible way to reach millions of viewers.

CC: How would you characterize the current state of LGBT web series, either dramatically-speaking or in terms of overall quality?
BLH: Well, as a gay performer of "a certain age" I have to say I have seen many ups and downs in terms of how gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people have been depicted in the entertainment arena. I think we are now in one of the most incredible periods in history in terms of inclusion. I do hope that we eventually reach a point where gay entertainment doesn't have to "make a statement." It can sometimes be a huge burden to be a "role model" or to feel like we need to "represent." I think web series are really the cheerleader for the enlightened sexuality movement, and will help to usher in more positive and alternative images of gay, bi, lesbian and transgender people.

CC: Are there any other current web series you watch and would recommend?
BLH: Oh yes! I am such a fan of web shows! I recently appeared at a conference similar to Comic Con for web performers called "Hot in Palm Springs" and I was fortunate to meet so many web series stars. Definitely I love Where the Bears Are (I would kill to guest star on that show). Husbands is a hoot. And also Child of the 70s, which I am doing a cameo on this year. All of these shows along with Old Dogs and New Tricks are class acts and pull in a tremendous amount of viewers. And one of the awesome things is that we really don't compete with each other. The shows are unique and each of them offers something different for the viewers.

CC: You are often recognized for your role as Collin in the 2009 movie Homewrecker, which you also wrote and co-produced. What has that been like for you?
BLH: Homewrecker was such a treat to make. It played so many festivals including Gay Days Disney. It was based on a stage play that I also produced, so the fact that it eventually became a popular film still warms my heart. Just this week, I heard from a fan in Africa who raved about the film. It still blows my mind, being recognized for a film we shot six years ago. Not long ago, I was in New York City and someone came up to me on the street and asked me to take a photo with him because he was a fan. I guess that's the new version of an autograph! I was also told by a very young man that Homewrecker is the definitive "feel good" film for gay men who want a film where "love conquers all." There is also a private page on Facebook for fans of my character, Collin. Who would have ever thought this would happen?

CC: What's next for you? What are you working on now?
BLH: I just shot a TV movie intended for the BET channel called Love or Laughs and I did a pilot about the music industry playing a "mature" gay rapper, which was a blast! My own production company has a new film in development about a gay couple who has a daughter who is getting married. If it comes together, it will team me with Rebekah Kochan from the Eating Out films along with Peter Szeliga, who played my husband in Homewrecker. We also hope to work with Ann Walker from Sordid Lives. There is an awesome role for her in the film. And let's not forget it's pilot season! I have had several interesting meetings for new network and cable TV shows. Who knows? Maybe I will jump right into another series!

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Reverend's Preview: An International Film Feast at Cine Gay


Like a tamale or burrito filled with tasty things, so Cine Gay is the sweet filling within the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival. This year’s special showcase of LGBT films from Mexico, Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries will run March 12th-22nd at the AMC Fashion Valley 18 theater.

One gay-interest local premiere, Muerte en Buenos Aires (Death in Buenos Aires), will actually serve as one of the overall fest’s main Spotlight Films. Vividly set in the 1980’s, big hair and all, it stars Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life) as a detective and married family man who gets a little too interested in the cute male rookie assigned to an increasingly complex murder case. Let’s just say their investigation becomes very personal.

“We are truly excited to share the news of these selections for this year’s festival,” said Phillip Lorenzo, the fest’s Exhibitions Director. “(The films) represent diversity on all levels, including genre, nationality represented, and the range of emotions our audience will experience.”

The other Spotlight Films to be shown are the acclaimed Mexican horror film Visitantes, about a mother fighting to save her family from wrathful ghosts; Messi, Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia’s biography of soccer star Lionel Messi; and the romantic comedy Amor de mis Amores (Love of My Life).

While on the surface Amor de mis Amores appears to be your typical hetero affair, it has a decidedly queer sensibility. Writer-director Manolo Caro often seems to be paying homage to gay filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar with this zesty tale chock full of confused lovers, hot men and nuns in their underwear. The cast of characters also includes a trans club performer and a bipolar bartender. Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma even makes an appearance.

Making its San Diego debut as part of Cine Gay is the splendid and sexy Cuatro Lunas (Four Moons). Mexican filmmaker Sergio Tovar Velarde may have taken a cue from his countryman, Oscar-winning writer-director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman), in crafting this movie’s four interweaving gay stories. One involves two childhood friends, Adolfo and Leo, who reunite in college and become lovers. Other stories depict a longtime couple on the verge of breaking up, a young boy with a crush on his cousin, and an elderly poet obsessed with a gorgeous young hustler.

Additional LGBT features to be screened are Futuro Beach, in which a lifeguard falls for the partner of a man who drowned on his watch; La Visita (The Visit), about a long-absent son who returns home for his father’s funeral as a woman; Liz en Septiembre (Liz in September), starring Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy Returns) as a terminally-ill birthday girl dared by her friends to seduce another woman; and En la Gama de los Grises (In the Grayscale), about a husband who unexpectedly leaves his wife for a man.

The Cine Gay Showcase also features an LGBT short film program. Complete screening information and ticket sales can be accessed at Cine Gay website.

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

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Monthly Wallpaper: March 2015 - The Luck of the Irish

Celebrate the Luck of the Irish all month long with the Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper for March!

The Emerald Isle is more than leprechauns and shamrocks, it's also the setting for such cinematic greats as The Quiet Man, Barry Lyndon, My Left Foot and Once. But if it's leprechauns you want, try Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

All you have to do is click on the picture above to enlarge it, then simply right click your mouse and select "Set as Background". (You can also save it to your computer and set it up from there if you prefer.) The size is 1024 x 768, but you can modify it if needed in your own photo-editing program.