Saturday, March 20, 2021

MD on IG: Enter the Dragon

As a hidden dragon freed by a crouching tiger of a heroine to help save their ancient land from a scary (and strikingly topical) plague in Disney's latest animated ethno-epic Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina joins the likes of Robin Williams' Genie and Dwayne Johnson's Maui as a magical sidekick that elevates the entire enterprise to a whole other level of whimsical lunacy. And if you were among those who longed in vain for Elsa to have a lady love interest in Frozen II, then you'll have a field day shipping Raya and her frenemy Namaari here; the slash fanfic practically writes itself.

MD Rating: 8/10

Raya and the Last Dragon is now playing in select theaters and also streaming on Disney+ via "Premiere Access" for an additional fee.  

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Monday, March 8, 2021

MD on IG: The Great Puppet Caper

From Disney to Roberto Benigni, Shrek to pornography ("It's not his nose that grows"), Carlo Collodi's no-strings marionette Pinocchio has made his fair share of film appearances. But none has been as faithful to the original tale or as uniquely surreal, yet charmingly matter-of-fact, as Matteo Garrone's recent, Italian language version. With a menagerie that includes a sleepy snail and a talkative tuna (and despite the repeat presence of Benigni, now playing Geppetto), the makeup artists are the real stars here; they will truly make you believe the boy is wood.

MD Rating: 7/10

Now available on home video and digital purchase/rental.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Reverend's Reviews: Three is a Magic Number

Readers of a certain age, like me, will surely remember the delightful Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons. One of their more memorable toons/songs was "Three is a Magic Number." It was actually the first Schoolhouse Rocks episode that aired, between such fave 1970's Saturday morning shows as Land of the Lost and Jabberjaw. And in the event you are too young to be familiar with it (God bless you), here it is:

Several recently-released movies seem out to prove that three can indeed be a magic number when it comes to romantic or sexual relationships. There were a couple of earlier big-screen stabs at polyamorous relationships, notably 1982's Summer Lovers (featuring a pre-stardom Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher) and 1994's more gay-friendly Threesome (featuring a pre-saved Stephen Baldwin). It took a few more decades, but trios and throuples of all varieties have definitely become their own genre! Here's my rundown of some of the newer entries:

Throuple (now streaming on Amazon Prime) centers on a straight couple vacationing in the Hawaiian islands who discover that their neighbors make up the titular, sexually-fluid trio. The vacationing guy, James (played by Jordan Turchin), becomes increasingly intrigued by the dynamics between the two very hot men and their female associate. James' more conservative partner Lexi (Ingrid Vollset) is threatened by the growing amount of time he spends with the neighbors. Another neighbor enters the scene and things take a very interesting turn involving an apparent murder. Throuple's script (written by Phillips Payson, who also directs, and Zoe Eisenberg) segues from "who's doing it" to "who dunnit." Both the direction and acting are amateurish in spots but it's hard to beat this film's eye candy plus its beautiful Hawaiian setting.


There is No "I" in Threesome (now streaming on HBO Max) is a first-person documentary by Jan Oliver Lucks that gets points for its tongue-in-cheek title. Jan and his fiancée Zoe were engaged to be married. In an ultimately unwise move, they mutually agreed to have an open relationship in the final months before their wedding. While Zoe is straight, Jan is bisexual. Zoe develops a relationship with a fellow actor named Tom, and the new pair decide to invite Jan to explore the possibility of a throuple between them. Sadly, things don't end well for at least one of them. As he recounts their experience, Jan becomes admirably vulnerable and applies an interesting twist to his filmmaking technique. However, the doc suffers from some dullness and repetition until this late-in-the-game revelation.


The One You Feed (now streaming on Amazon Prime) weaves a strange, time-tripping tale that ends up as a polyamorous/homoerotic horror flick. A nameless young man is attacked by an unseen creature while hiking in the desert. He is rescued by a hunky, also nameless stranger who takes the wounded man to a remote farmhouse he shares with a dominating, similarly nameless woman. She tends to the young man's wounds while the three of them gradually end up becoming sexually intertwined. The movie was directed by Drew Harwood, who co-wrote it with Gareth Koorzen. Both are actors who also play the male leads here, which adds an extra behind-the-scenes layer of intrigue. In press notes, they state that they set out to depict a love story free from labels. They succeeded, although their final film has some inexplicably bizarre elements like a repeated use of eggs, ant hills, incest and a lack of modern conveniences at the farmhouse. Rebecca Fraiser's impressively fierce performance as the cigar-smoking lady of the house is worth noting. The One You Feed is unusual but undeniably intriguing.

The best of these new releases is Show Me What You Got (now playing theatrically in select cities as well as available on demand at Level Forward Live). It marks the directorial debut of acclaimed cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko, who also shot the film in striking black and white. Marcello, the spoiled son of a famous Italian actor, has escaped his ex-girlfriend by fleeing to Los Angeles. He by chance meets Nassim, an aspiring actor originally from Tehran who also knows martial arts. Marcello asks Nassim to train him in martial arts and they end up becoming close friends. The pair then cross paths with Christine, a barista and animal rights activist who is grieving the recent death of her Italian-born grandfather. The trio take a beautifully-shot trip to Joshua Tree and end up becoming more intimately involved with one another. They commit to sharing "a life filled with support and no judgment" but things become complicated once they travel to Puglia, Italy to reckon with Marcello's father and pregnant ex-girlfriend. With its attractive, charismatic cast and energetic direction, this threesome film truly is magical.

Reverend's Ratings:
Throuple: B
There is No "I" in Threesome: C+
The One You Feed: B-
Show Me What You Got: B+

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