(*homocinematically inclined)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Reverend's Reviews: Landis Ho!


Writer-director John Landis was responsible for some of the best and most popular movie comedies of the late 20th century, among them Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Coming to America and An American Werewolf in London. Together with his wife, Oscar-nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman (Raiders of the Lost Ark), he is also responsible for a son born in 1985: Max Landis. After a successful screenwriting career, Max is making his feature film directorial debut this weekend with Me Him Her, a refreshingly irreverent LGBT-themed comedy. It is now playing in Los Angeles and New York City.

The thoroughly-Hollywood Brendan (knowingly played by Australian actor Luke Bracey) is star of the top-rated TV series Hard Evidence, which hilariously co-stars Haley Joel Osment as his nemesis. Tired of living a closeted life, gay Brendan invites his BFF Cory (Dustin Milligan, who can currently be seen as Ted on TV's Schitt's Creek) to visit from Ohio and help him through the coming out process. Cory is initially more than willing to help out but things get complicated once he falls in love with the seemingly-lesbian Gabbi (Emily Meade, who played Aimee on season one of The Leftovers). When Brendan is outed by a tabloid newscaster played by The Talking Dead's Chris Hardwick before he can come out on his own terms, all concerned have to deal with their perceptions of themselves and one another.

Landis' screenplay is not without its predictable moments and stereotypical elements but he writes and directs with a modern, no-nonsense sensibility that many recent indie LGBT movies have lacked. He has also assembled an excellent cast of both up and comers like those previously mentioned and admired veterans including Geena Davis, Scott Bakula and Casey Wilson of the late lamented Happy Endings, not to mention Osment's cat-loving turn. Angela Sarafyan is also a standout as Gabbi's non-committal yet possessive ex-girlfriend. Credit also must be paid to Ross Riege for his colorful cinematography and Joe Landauer's snappy editing. Landis Jr. clearly has an eye for talent and a satire-leaning ear for contemporary relationships. Me Him Her is a polyamorous winner.

The Blue Hour, now available on home video from Strand Releasing, starts out promisingly but gets mired down in largely incomprehensible supernatural shenanigans. Thai filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana casts attractive leads Atthaphan Poonsawas and Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang as Tam and Phum, respectively. Tam, bullied both at school and at home for being gay, meets Phum at the local haunted swimming pool(?) and a tender romance commences. It isn't long, however, before Tam becomes plagued by gruesome visions of dead family members and the swimming building's former regulars.

The director ultimately seems to be paying excessive homage to The Walking Dead even if that zombie drama doesn't have quite as many male cast members in Speedos on display (which is a pity). Cinematographers Chaiyapruek Chalermpornpanich and Kamolpam Ngiwtong do capture some arresting images, especially the film's final shots, but the plot becomes frustratingly tedious.

Reverend's Ratings:
Me Him Her: B+
The Blue Hour: C-

The Blue Hour is now available on DVD:

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

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