Friday, August 30, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: Murder on Fire Island, Kissing Cousins and VelociPastor!


Summer may be coming to an end, but gay-interest releases in theaters and on home video are just heating up! Here's a rundown of new movies for which to keep an eye out...

In the sexy suspense-thriller Last Ferry (opening today at the Laemmle Music Hall cinema in Los Angeles and screening during Palm Springs' Cinema Diverse in September) a young gay lawyer, Joseph (played by the very cute Ramon Torres), arrives on Fire Island to explore his sexuality. Unfortunately for him, he ends up drugged and mugged, then becomes witness to a murder. A handsome stranger, Cameron (Sheldon Best), helps Joseph to safety and introduces him to his eclectic group of friends. Just when things are heating up between him and Cameron, Joseph discovers his savior may be friends with the killer. Their relationship becomes complicated, to say the least.

Written by Torres and directed by Jaki Bradley, Last Ferry explores a darker side of the east coast gay mecca than we usually see. But the movie isn’t without humor plus its chock full of hot guys of diverse ages, body types, ethnicities and even hair colors. It also offers some thoughtful reflections on the progress that’s been made by the LGBTQ community, as well as the tendency to be our own worst enemy at times.

I didn’t find this film’s ending to be completely satisfying but it is engrossing throughout. Alexa Wolf’s beautiful, off-season cinematography of Fire Island as well as a hip score by dance-jazz duo Wonderly (Jim Brunberg and Benjamin Landsverk) also make Last Ferry worth seeing and listening to.

Blending big-screen sexiness with a healthy dose of religion is the Brazilian drama Cousins. It is currently making the LGBTQ film festival rounds, including September's Cinema Diverse, and will open in Los Angeles for a weeklong run at the Laemmie Music Hall on November 1st. Young Lucas (Paulo Sousa) lives with his devout Catholic aunt, Lourdes, in a small country town. Up to now, life has been pretty simple and quiet. Things change, however, when his charitable aunt announces the arrival of another nephew, Mario (Thiago Cazado). Just out of jail, Mario's life has been anything but quiet. When their aunt goes out of town for a weekend, the boys are left to their own devices and things between them can't help but get interesting.

Sousa and Cazado are adorable (and frequently naked) as the love-struck relations. Of note, Cazado wrote Cousins and co-directed the film with Mauro Carvalho. I don't know anything about Cazado's personal life, but he fully and sensitively invests himself in his role as Mario. The movie's finale sends a refreshing message of acceptance, much to the hilarious consternation of the young woman who wants Lucas for herself. A definite gay crowd pleaser.

Rafael Gomes' 45 Days Away from You , new on DVD courtesy of Dekkoo Films and TLA Releasing, is as good as Cousins and similarly from Brazil. The lead character, a gay writer named Rafael in what is seemingly an autobiographical story, is grieving the unexpected breakup of a recent relationship and considers himself "the most inadequate person alive." He decides to pursue some distance and perspective by visiting an actress friend in London.

Over the 45 days of the film's title, Rafael (played by Rafael De Bona) ends up traveling to France, Portugal, Denmark and Argentina as well, gaining advice from various longtime friends in each locale. These include his straight but bromantic buddy Fabio as well as the gay, sexy Icaro. As Fabio thoughtfully ruminates, "Our biggest legacy may be the collection of our love stories."

Gomes' screenplay is well-written and philosophical throughout, with such additional bon mots as "a broken heart is a moving forest" and "I love you like no one is looking." The acting is great all-around, plus Dhyana Ma's location photography is gorgeous. 45 Days Away from You is a reflective winner.

Speaking of Argentina, that country's writer-director Marco Berger is back with The Blonde One, his latest romance between initially straight guys. This has become his patented bread and butter, as seen in such previous films as Plan B, Taekwondo and Hawaii. Unlike most of those, The Blonde One will be released theatrically in the US starting in LA on September 6th.

In the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Gabriel (the fair-haired boy of the title) has just moved in with his colleague, Juan. Shy and reserved, Gabo is reluctant to follow Juan's wandering hands and meaningful looks. Gabo also has a young daughter from a previous hetero dalliance. Besides, with a revolving door of female beauties streaming out of his bedroom Juan's machismo seems firmly in place. However, the attraction between the two men is undeniable. What starts out as a sexual relationship based on convenience of location, soon develops into the engrossing evolution of a tender and intimate relationship.

Berger's movies are defined by slow-building chemistry between his male leads. Unfortunately, this is even more protracted than usual in The Blonde One and the film's first half is dull as a result. It's a thoroughly predictable story but there's no denying the main actors' sexiness.

Not very gay but intentionally campy as all get out is The VelociPastor, now available for streaming and scheduled for DVD release on September 17th. Fr. Doug Jones (cute, often scantily-clad Gregory James Cohan) is a devoted young priest until he witnesses the murder of his parents. After receiving some questionable theological counsel, Fr. Doug travels to China. There, he is unexpectedly endowed with the power of "the dragon warrior" and becomes capable of turning into a justice-seeking dinosaur!

After returning to his Pennsylvania parish, the priest crosses paths with Carol (the very funny Alyssa Kempinski), a kind-hearted prostitute who remarks of her thwarted higher ambitions "there's a surprisingly low demand for hooker-doctor-lawyers." They gradually fall in love and team up to take down local criminals as well as battle a gang of Catholic ninjas (?) led by Doug's neglected brother. As the vengeful priest states, "I think God wants a lot of people dead."

Written, directed and edited by Brendan Steere with tongue firmly in cheek, The VelociPastor is a hoot. Complete with 1970's visual/filmmaking throwbacks, cheesy make-up and visual effects, a fun punk rock song score by various bands, and a perfectly laughable dinosaur costume, it is a low-brow must see for those into such things!

Reverend's Ratings:
Last Ferry: B
Cousins: B+
45 Days Away from You: B+
The Blonde One: C
The VelociPastor: B

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

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