Sunday, May 31, 2015

Monthly Wallpaper - June 2015: Queer Cinema



In celebration of Gay Pride month, Movie Dearest once again offers up a special calendar wallpaper for June paying tribute to some of the best in queer cinema.


The 2015 edition features such classic faves as Mädchen in Uniform, Outrageous!, Querelle and Score alongside more recent Dearie Award-winners as Blue is the Warmest Color, Dallas Buyers Club, I Love You Phillip Morris and Keep the Lights On.

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Reverend's Preview: Come Out to FilmOut



Tab Hunter, one of classic Hollywood’s golden boys, will take center stage during opening night of this year’s FilmOut. The 17th annual San Diego LGBT film festival runs May 29th-31st at the historic Observatory North Park Theatre.


The star of such memorable movies as Damn Yankees, Lust in the Dust and John Waters’ Polyester (the latter two with Divine), Hunter spent most of his career as a closeted gay man. He is now himself the subject of a revealing documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential. It will have its California premiere as this year’s opening night film. Hunter, now 83 but as handsome as ever, will be in attendance and is to be honored with FilmOut’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I had read his book and always thought it would make a fascinating documentary so I pitched him the idea,” director Jeffrey Schwarz told me. “Turns out Allan (Hunter’s partner) and Tab were already thinking about making a doc, and they thought I had the right sensibility for the project so they brought me on board.” Schwarz previously made such award-winning documentaries as I Am Divine and Vito.


Tab Hunter Confidential not only delves deeply into its subject’s life and career but illuminates the largely unspoken anti-gay policies of the film industry in the past. “I think (the documentary) is about the destructive nature of the closet, and how far we’ve come since the dark days of the 1950’s,” said Schwarz. “It will be eye-opening for younger audiences to learn about this period where if people found out you were gay it could literally destroy your reputation and livelihood.”

He continued: “The film is ultimately about how one can live an authentic life and journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance. Tab’s story is a conduit to explore these themes.” Schwarz’s doc paints Hunter as a truly inspiring figure. It will show at 7:30 pm on Friday, May 29th.


The screening will be followed by an opening night party at Claire de Lune’s Sunset Temple, directly across the street from the theatre. FilmOut 2015 will be bookended by the California premiere of I Am Michael on May 31st. Starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto, it tells the controversial true story of a gay activist, Michael Glatze, who strives to leave his homosexuality and boyfriend behind in his pursuit of Christianity. A closing night party will take place at West Coast Tavern.

More than 30 LGBT-themed feature films and shorts will be screened during the festival’s two days and three nights. Other standouts include the US premiere of Jess and James, a muy caliente look at two — possibly even three — young Argentinian men who fall in love, and the California premieres of "Girls Centerpiece" film In the Turn, which depicts a 10-year old transgender girl’s effort to join a roller derby team, and "Festival Spotlight" Game Face, a documentary about LGBT professional and aspiring athletes. Drown, an Australian drama centering on gay surfers, will serve as the fest’s "International Spotlight" feature.


Rage Monthly is proud to co-present Matt Riddlehoover’s Paternity Leave, the fest’s "Boys Centerpiece" film at 7:30 pm on Saturday, May 30th. In this satiric yet heartfelt comedy, a gay couple together for four years faces a historic challenge when one of them inexplicably becomes pregnant. Jacob York and Dante Cove’s Charlie David play the fathers-to-be, while hottie Chris Salvatore from the Eating Out series plays their open-minded doula, or “midwife.” It is well worth seeing and will be accompanied by two gay short films making their West Coast premieres: The Cream, from France, and the multinational co-production You. Me. Bathroom. Sex. Now.

Individual screening and event tickets range from $10.00-$25.00. For the full fest schedule and to purchase tickets or an all-access VIP pass, visit the FilmOut website.

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: A Memorial Day Quickie


 

As you read this, Reverend is en route to his hot homeland of Phoenix, Arizona to celebrate his 20th anniversary of ordained ministry. Can you believe it? This summer also marks my 19th year as a regularly published film & theatre critic. My, how time flies. While I don't have time to review them in full, two new releases are practically begging for gay attention this long holiday weekend.


Chocolate City, now playing in theaters nationwide, is a blaxploitative attempt to cash in on the Magic Mike craze. This story of a hot, well-intentioned college kid (played by the appealing Robert Ri'chard) who takes a job as a stripper to help support his cash-strapped mother (Vivica A. Fox) is both cliché-ridden and schizophrenic. On the one hand, it indulges its chiefly female and gay audience by ogling the toned, oiled up male cast members. One can easily tell the stripping pros from the amateurs among the cast, although Ri'chard's and Tyson Beckford's routines are quite good. On the other hand, though, Jean-Claude La Marre's film takes a condemnatory religious approach to its subjects, implying if not outright stating that stripping is of the Devil... at least when men are doing it. I'm shocked that a big studio like Paramount is distributing this obviously low-budget stinker.


Thankfully, Gaming in Color (now available on VOD) provides a nice counter-balance with its interesting documentary exploration of LGBTQ video game fans. First-time director Philip Jones and his "gaymer" subjects offer considerable insight into not only the strong community that has grown around the industry's limited LGBTQ offerings (notably Mass Effect 3, The Last of Us, Minecraft, Going Home, the Fable series and those produced by the Riot Games company) but what draws people in general to video games in the first place. Not being a player myself, I was intrigued by this film. It suffers a little from a predominantly talking head interview approach but is still worth checking out this Memorial Day weekend.

Reverend's Ratings:
Chocolate City: C-
Gaming in Color: B+

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Monster Mash


 

The Swiss surrealist painter/sculptor H.R. Giger, who passed away one year ago this month, won an Academy Award in 1979 for designing one of the most memorable big-screen monsters of all time. His nightmarish title "xenomorph" in 1979's Alien continues to inspire sequels, prequels and imitations today.


Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World, a new documentary, is now playing in Los Angeles and other select cities. It includes considerable footage of the artist (H.R. is short for Hans Ruedi) shot during his final months, when he was declining and sadly unable to walk or even speak without difficulty. Much of Belinda Sallin's film centers on Giger's preparations for a museum's retrospective of his work but this is interspersed with archival sequences of Giger at work during his earlier decades, including behind-the-scenes clips from the production of Alien.

Sallin takes a chiefly contemporary, first-hand look at Giger's life and work, with most insights provided by his intimate circle of friends and assistants. It isn't the liveliest approach but fans of the artist's unique bio-mechanical creatures and visions will eat it up.


Now out on DVD from TLA Releasing is a gay-themed vampire tale, Drink Me. Writer-director Daniel Mansfield takes full dramatic and visual advantage of his frequently naked cast of three: Chris Ellis-Stanton, Emmett Friel and Darren Munn. Friel and Munn play James and Andy, a longtime couple on the verge of getting married when a sexy stranger, Sebastian (Ellis-Stanton), first invades their dreams and then their home. Is Sebastian the serial killer who has been targeting their neighborhood? Is he really a vampire? Do we care? Not really, unfortunately. Despite some artful cinematography and the full-frontal nudity, there isn't much in Drink Me that hasn't been seen or done before. Stick with the seductive, polysexual bloodsuckers of Interview with the Vampire instead.

Reverend's Ratings:
Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World: B
Drink Me: C

Drink Me is now available on DVD:


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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Of Men, Machines, Girls & the Devil


 

The potential dangers to humanity presented by technological progress and artificial intelligence (AI) have been regularly depicted by cinema since practically the medium's birth, at least since 1927's Metropolis. My personal favorite in the genre is Steven Spielberg's aptly-titled A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), which is somewhat unique for its more compassionate approach to the subject. If anything, human beings are the villain in it.


AI may not be vilified but proves nevertheless cause for concern in the current sleeper hit Ex Machina. Smartly written and directed by Alex Garland (who previously wrote the screenplays for such bold if nihilistic thrillers as Never Let Me Go, Sunshine and 28 Days Later) the film is initially centered on a battle of wits between two men: robotics designer Nathan (Oscar Isaac, the long-respected actor who is set to break out big time commercially this next year between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the title villain in X-Men: Apocalypse) and a hapless computer coder in his employ, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson. recognizable as Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter series).


Caleb is lured to Nathan's isolated, state-of-the-art retreat/research facility, where he is introduced to Ava. A revolutionary development in AI portrayed by the remarkable relative newcomer Alicia Vikander, Ava quickly seduces Caleb with her curiosity and deceptive innocence. He begins to plot how to liberate her from the manipulative, possibly alcoholic Nathan but, as the audience learns, things among this love triangle's players aren't exactly as they seem.

While I predicted Ex Machina's denouement, there is still plenty along the way to keep viewers guessing, intensely but enjoyably so. The small cast is excellent, with the often scantily-clad Isaac also busting some impressive dance moves in one sequence. Impressive too is Mark Digby's production design, a blend of natural (or at least natural-looking) elements and clinical-feeling futurism. Well-respected scientists including Stephen Hawking warn about the risks posed by AI, but Ex Machina is a speculative trip worth taking.


International City Theatre (ICT) of Long Beach, meanwhile, is currently offering a unique speculative journey in the opposite historical direction. Abigail/1702, now having its West Coast premiere through May 24th, re-introduces us to the chief witch-accuser of Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible. Set ten years after the hysteria that swept through Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and resulted in the hangings of 20 innocent people, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's play presents Abigail Williams, who has moved to the Boston area and re-named herself Ruth Meadows, as something of a healer desperate for forgiveness of her past sins.

She is living a guilt-ridden, solitary life when a smallpox-afflicted sailor shows up at her doorstep and asks for her help. His tenuous recovery provides the dramatic opportunity for Ruth/Abigail to reflect on her past. As she does so, however, she unwittingly reveals her true identity to her patient. It then isn't long before the Devil, with whom young Abigail consorted in the woods outside Salem, appears to collect the soul she promised him ten years earlier.


Although a prior knowledge of The Crucible isn't critical to appreciating the play, it helps. This is especially true when Abigail makes a penitential visit to Elizabeth Proctor, widow of the man with whom Abigail had an affair as a teenager and eventually betrayed as a witch. It is the play's strongest scene, beautifully performed by Jennifer Cannon as Ruth/Abigail and Michelle Holmes, and is even more resonant for those who have previously seen Miller's work performed (I especially recommend the 1996 film version starring an Oscar-nominated Joan Allen as Elizabeth).

Unfortunately, Abigail/1702's climactic showdown between its title character and Kevin Bailey's cocky Satan lacks punch. Whether this is the fault of the playwright or the director, ICT's usually reliable caryn desai, is hard to determine but more build-up or perhaps some stronger special effects might help. Still, the production makes for a potent night at the theatre overall.


Making a complete, 180-degree turn in both tone and medium, I must recommend the hilarious new DVD/VOD release First Period. This spoof of 1980's teen movies like those written and directed by the late John Hughes stars Brandon Alexander III (who also wrote the screenplay) and Dudley Beene, both in drag and great as high school rejects out to conquer the annual talent show. Funny cameos are provided by Judy Tenuta, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson and Jack Plotnick, while the James Spader-ish Leigh Wakeford and Michael Turchin (a.k.a. Mr. Lance Bass) have fun as closet-case villains. Don't miss it if you are, like me, a gay child of the 80's.

Reverend's Ratings:
Ex Machina: B+
Abigail/1702: B
First Period: B+

First Period is now available on DVD and Instant Streaming:


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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

MD Reviews: The NeverEnding Story



After six feature films and a butt-numbing total running time of over 17 hours, Peter Jackson's epically epic cinematic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Middle Earth sagas are finally complete with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. At least we think it's complete and, with the wistful end credit ballad "The Last Goodbye" closing out this third installment of the Hobbit trilogy, it sounds like Jackson means it. We hope.


Not that we haven't enjoyed these fantasy extravaganzas, but it was around the time of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's fourth or fifth ending that it was apparent that Jackson doesn't know how to quit while he's ahead. It's also since clear that, like James Cameron and George Lucas, no one will say "no" to Pete, least of all himself; just because you can make a three-hour-plus remake of King Kong doesn't mean you should.


The same can be said of the "super-sized" three part Hobbit-athon. The only reason this one single book was stretched out into three movies was financial: why settle for two ticket prices when you have three? Sprawling New Zealand landscapes and never-ending battle sequences, no matter how beautifully photographed or niftily computer animated, all start to feel the same without a real narrative purpose behind them. Furthermore, grafted on subplots — like the elf/dwarf romance between Lost's Evangeline Lilly and Being Human's Aidan Turner (the hunkiest dwarf, like, ever) — feel just like they are: tacked on to pad the running time.

Sure, it's always great to see Ian McKellen in full wizard drag, and who could pass up Cate Blanchett going all J-horror on some bad guys. But this adventure of "there and back again" surely would have played better if Jackson and company hadn't gone "back again" so many times.

MD Rating: C+

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is now available 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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Reverend's Preview: Summer Movies Especially for Us


 

Hollywood’s mega-budget summer movie season is underway with the blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and company take on a seemingly invincible artificial intelligence (played by the ever-quirky James Spader) out to wipe humankind off the map. It might not be every gay man’s cup of tea but those of us with a fondness for men in leather, latex and/or tights likely lined up this past weekend to check out these superheroes in action.


Studio execs historically skew their summer offerings toward kids and teens out of school but they also know that reaching the widest possible audience, including LGBT viewers, can only make them more money. In light of this, I’ve taken the liberty of classifying a number of promising upcoming releases within several gay sub-genres. Please note release dates are subject to change.


Good Guys vs. Naughty Boys:
Several other heroes will be on screen battling adversaries of various stripes. Dreamy Paul Rudd stars as Ant-Man (July 17), who is able to become more powerful as he shrinks to the size of an insect. Marvel’s Fantastic Four (August 7) return to the big screen with an all new, ethnically diverse cast. The D Train (May 8) caused a stir at Sundance earlier this year with its depiction of a hookup between a bisexual movie star played by James Marsden and the nebbishy former high school classmate (Jack Black) desperate to lure him back for their class’s 20th reunion. And although they are rivals, there are hints of bromance in the big screen version of TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14) between hunks Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Russian spy Ilya Kuryakin. Iconic, post-apocalyptic 80’s antihero Mad Max returns in Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15), with Tom Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson against not only freaky mutants but a fierce femme fatale played by Charlize Theron. And George Clooney goes back to the future in Disney's Tomorrowland.


Bears and Other Critters:
The walking, trash-talking teddy bear (voiced by Seth McFarlane) and best bud Mark Wahlberg return for Ted 2 (June 26), in which Ted must fight the legal system in order to have a baby with his human wife. If you prefer your beasts tall and scaly, Jurassic World (June 12) looks to be a spectacular reboot of the dinosaur series starring buff Chris Pratt as their overwhelmed keeper. Max (June 26), meanwhile, is the true, tear-jerking story of a heroic military dog who is adopted by a family grieving the loss of their son in Afghanistan. Aardman Animation returns to the silver screen with Shaun the Sheep Movie (August 7), and those wacky yellow whatsits from Despicable Me get their own movie, appropriately titled Minions (July 10).


Funny Girls:
Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15) will mark the musical-comedy return of the Barden Bellas, the a cappella singing sensation that includes cast members Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). Melissa McCarthy headlines the hilarious-looking Spy (June 5) as a dowdy CIA secretary who is tasked with taking down a villain after more experienced agents fail. Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck (July 17) has a lot of buzz from early screenings and stars Amy Schumer as a commitment-averse writer who finds herself falling for the subject of one of her articles, played by SNL vet Bill Hader. Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara are the odd couple at the center of Hot Pursuit (May 8) in which they play, respectively, an uptight police officer and a drug lord’s wife who find themselves on the run from said drug lord. Last but not least, Lily Tomlin is the title character of Grandma (August 21), who happens to be a lesbian enlisted by her unexpectedly pregnant granddaughter to help raise money for an abortion.


Drama Queens:
We all know them and this summer’s releases are chock full of ‘em. Inside Out (June 19) is the latest Disney-Pixar production and features the animated embodiments of an 11-year old girl’s rampant emotions in the wake of her family’s move to a new city. The film’s great voice cast includes Amy Poehler, Kyle MacLachlan, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader (he’s everywhere). The more serious but crowd-pleasing Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (June 12) won both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award at January’s Sundance Film Festival for its sensitive yet funny take on the plight of a terminally-ill teenager. Infinitely Polar Bear (June 19) stars cuddly gay fave Mark Ruffalo as a man with bipolar disorder who suddenly gets custody of his two daughters. Ruffalo could well garner another Oscar nomination for his performance in this reality-based drama. Out writer-director François Ozon’s new film The New Girlfriend (August 8) focuses on a woman dealing with the death of her best friend, which takes an unusual turn when she discovers her late friend’s husband is transsexual. And an entire family confronts supernatural drama galore when their young daughter is kidnapped by vengeful spirits in Poltergeist (May 22), a high-tech revisioning of the 1982 hit. They’re baa-aack!


Classic Queens:
The movie with the greatest gay cred this summer may be Mr. Holmes (July 17), which stars the out and knighted Ian McKellen as 93-year old Sherlock, out to solve one final mystery. It is helmed by gay writer-director Bill Condon, who made the terrific Dreamgirls and previously collaborated with McKellen on 1998’s Gods and Monsters. Right behind it is Saint Laurent (May 8), a biopic about the late, gay fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent during his 1960’s-1970’s heyday. Do I Sound Gay? (July 10) is an acclaimed documentary that explores whether or not there really is a “gay voice” with the help of George Takei and Margaret Cho, among others. And while Blythe Danner isn’t exactly a queen, the veteran actress’s performance as a widow who starts dating again in I’ll See You in My Dreams (May 15) is being talked about as Danner’s potential ticket to her first Oscar nomination.


Man Flesh:
What’s summer without scantily-clad men? Magic Mike XXL (July 1) will mark the return of Channing Tatum and his stripper pals, who are promising to show even more skin than they did in their 2012 predecessor. Time travel still requires nudity in Terminator Genisys (also July 1), with Jai Courtney the latest hottie to arrive from the future in an effort to stop judgment day. Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman reportedly go full frontal as they compare their endowments in the marital comedy The Overnight (June 19), while the still toned Tom Cruise gets shirtless and tied up in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (July 31). And though I don’t know if Dwayne Johnson goes topless in the disaster epic San Andreas (May 29), he seems to sport a form-fitting fire department t-shirt throughout.

No matter how you categorize them, this summer’s movies promise to be hot!

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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MD Reviews: The High and the Mighty


 

Earth's mightiest (and most attractive) heroes burst back on to the big screen this weekend with their second epic adventure Avengers: Age of Ultron. And with it the now-seemingly unstoppable juggernaut known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe lumbers on, with logic and coherence barely holding on. Like such previous fantasy sagas as the Harry Potter series and Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations, the longer these cash cow franchises run, the more cumbersome and convoluted they become.


The big bad this go-round is Ultron, the ultimate of artificial intelligences, accidentally created by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man, a.k.a. Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (a.k.a. the Hulk, a.k.a. Mark Ruffalo). Unleashed upon the world ostensibly to bring peace, Ultron (snarkily voiced by James Spader) deduces that the best way to do that is to eliminate all of mankind. Naturally, the Avengers have a problem with that, and leader Captain America (Chris Evans) calls for their mighty assemblage. In addition to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who must have had it in his contract to have a better role this time), three new heroes are on hand, not to mention a couple of sidekicks, a resurrected Nick Fury and SHIELD, and an endless, swarming horde of Ultron's killer robots. Needless to say, things get a little crowded.


But a cast of thousands isn't Age of Ultron's only misstep. With the first Avengers, director/co-writer Joss Whedon expertly mixed humor and action, creating a popcorn roller coaster that was equal parts fun and thrills. This time, however, the humor seems forced, especially an increasingly bad running gag about goodie-two-shoes Captain America. Subplots fare no better, most notably an odd, manufactured (and more than slightly sexist) romance between two of our heroes (no, sadly, not Cap and Thor). Near fatally of all, the film's pacing is seriously out of whack, jerking from one action set piece to another then screeching to a halt for a stilted batch of character development.

As is usually the case in the first-of-many-planned-sequels, Age of Ultron has a lot of threads leading into and out of it. That's understandable (to a point), what with all the projects Marvel is juggling; no fewer than 10 movies are already scheduled, from this summer's Ant-Man to the next two Avengers movies... in 2018 and 2019! Yet it is hard to get emotionally invested in a film like this that, even though it has all your favorite heroes (and then some), just feels like its all a big set up for the next one.

MD Rating: B-

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

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