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40 posts categorized "MOVIE REVIEW"

Apr 09 2017
Drawn That Way: A Review Of The Film TOM OF FINLAND Comments (0)

Tom of Finland Physique PictorialAn example of Tom of Finland's early work (Image via Physique Pictorial)

I'm a fan of the art of Touko Laaksonen, so the new film Tom of Finland — Teaser-trailer-tom-of-finland-696x464his professional name as an erotic-art illustrator — was so far up my alley it was practically parked in my garage.

Laaksonen was born in Finland and served in WWII, going on to become a successful ad man thanks to his skill with the pencil. Inspired by mental images of laborers and even by the tight uniforms of the Nazis (with whom he did not sympathize politically), he drew unflinching scenes of muscular macho men engaged in sexual abandon, or merely showing off their assets, dripping with libidinous tension.

He kept his drawings under wraps, learning the hard way (having them stolen, being arrested, facing condemnation) that what he saw as natural was a cause for great alarm in his neck of the woods, and, in fact, most everywhere.

In this new biopic— which has been called Finland's first on gay male love — the story of Touko (played with superb empathy by Pekka Strang) is fleshed out in a compelling, visually stylish and achingly emotional way by acclaimed director Dome Karukoski.

Tom-of-finlandTouko & Nipa — a love story (This and all other images via Protagonist Pictures, unless noted)

Tom of Finland beautifully illustrates Touko's gay awakening, captures the excitement and danger of his sexual trysts and flawlessly conveys the non-monogamous love he finds with a stunning young partner, Nipa (Lauri Tilkanen, who looks like the Garrett Clayton of Finland). Finagling a romance with Nipa aka Veli, also the object of Tom's spinster sister's (Jessica Grabowsky) affection, is portrayed adroitly.

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Mar 03 2017
Hicks Nix Dix Pix: Alabama Drive-In (1) Still Exists, (2) Rejects BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Over Gay LeFou Comments (0)

Lefou-gay-1488572042(Image via Disney)

This is unreal, but an Alabama drive-in's owners have canceled a screening of Beauty and the Beast because it ain't right with God.

Entertainment Weekly reports the Henagar Drive-In posted on Facebook that they were sick of companies that continually force their views on us, and absurdly asserted:

If we can not take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it. If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.

God or Jesus, either one.

These are the people who think liberals live in a bubble?

Here's the post if you feel like goober-trolling:

Meanwhile, Cosmo, which has a lot of great, incisive writing lately, says that director Bill Condon probably goofed by talking about his film's “exclusively gay moment” with LeFou lusting after Gaston — in the words of writer Eliza Thompson, “Disney's first out gay character failed.”

She writes:

... all the chatter seems like nothing but an attempt to add liberal cred to a film without actually doing the work to make it progressive. Beauty and the Beast, a movie that weaves a love story out of forced isolation, could certainly benefit from some updating, but this “exclusively gay moment” doesn’t quite get it done.

Entertainment Weekly gives the film B-.

Dec 28 2016
6-PACK — Chris Pratt Would Eat No Fat + George Michael's Legacy + Trump 2nd Most Admired Man In The U.S. + Carrie Fisher's Shooting Star + Coffee Break + RIP Heat Miser! Comments (0)

Shirtless-Chris-Pratt-Pictures(Image via Columbia Pictures)

WIDGETChris Pratt offers his bare buns (Work Unfriendly) in Passengers, which — if you read the reviews — might be the film's sole saving grace.

WIDGETShould George Michael be honored as “a filthy gay fucker?” His boyfriend at the time of his death has a big mouth.

WIDGETSomehow, Trump came in second when Americans were asked who their most admired man is. You can guess #1. Hillary was top female.

WIDGETRe-experience Carrie Fisher's epic Madonna Q&A. Fans honor Carrie with belated star on Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 11.01.46 AMLet's toast Paul Lynde! (Image via Maxwell House/General Foods)

WIDGETRemembering that time Paul Lynde was straight for pay.

WIDGETGeorge S. Irving, comic actor who won the Tony for the Debbie Reynolds production of Irene, dies @ 94. You'll recall his voice from 1974's The Year Without a Santa Claus, in which he played Heat Miser:

Oct 21 2016
Teen Breach Movie: A Review Of KING COBRA & Inside The NYC Premiere Comments (0)

DSC00732Christian Slater and writer/director Justin Kelly (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Last night was the NYC premiere of the skin-soaked thriller King Cobra, writer/director Justin Kelly's take on the gruesome 2007 murder of porn impresario Bryan Kocis at the hands of rivals Joe Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra, all over the right to use then-newcummer Brent Corrigan in a video.

DSC00736 editHunting Season's Jake Manabat, Marc Sinoway & Tyler French (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

DSC00734Sinoway, Misha Osherovich, yours truly & Andrew Glaszek (Image courtesy of Matthew Rettenmund)

The premiere, at IFC Center, attracted Kelly; Christian Slater (who stars as Kocis); Younger star Nico Tortorella (whose sexual orientation would make a great thriller in its own right, IMO); Hunting Season stars Marc Sinoway, Jake Manabat and Tyler French; History actor Misha Osherovich; photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Undetectable and Hustling actor Andrew Glaszek (who years from now will be known as the “It” ginger of NYC); and more.

Following the screening and a lively Q&A (somebody asked Slater if he would try gay porn if he could start his career over), the after-party was held at the Cock, a dive bar that even other dive bars would sneak into to avoid being seen. Which Unnamed means it's tacky, sleazy fun.

Hey, it wasn't the first time in history a star and his director left a screening and headed straight for Cock.

It was great to connect with the other attendees (no, not a euphemism), and to congratulate Slater on a fine performance. I also shook hands with Kelly after having been a disembodied voice on an intercom during a recent Q&A session with the gay media. (Coming.) I fear he hates me because I asked him why he's attracted to non-rah! rah! gay subject matter, considering the fact that King Cobra follows his debut, 2015's I Am Michael, about the XY publisher who went from gay activist to ex-gay activist. It was meant as a compliment.

I wish I could be more complimentary about his earnest King Cobra, but the film is uneven and, like Kocsis, fatally flawed. Then again, like Corrigan, it has an undeniable watchability.

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Sep 25 2016
Brookner: The Movie — A Review Of UNCLE HOWARD Comments (0)

For some odd reason, the PR for the film asked for no screengrabs from the film to be used. I've never had that request in 20+ years of reviewing films, but that's why the post is no longer very illustrated. Usually, creative screengrabs and even GIFs decorate Internet reviews of films, both supplied and created. I personally don't think screengrabs make people less likely to see this film; quite the opposite. But there you have it.—Ed.

Uncle Howard, Aaron Brookner's poetic, intimate documentary about his search for his late uncle's life's work, is coming to the New York Film Festival (Sunday, October 9, 5:30 p.m., Bruno Walter Auditorium; Monday, October 10, 9 p.m., Francesca Beale Theater) ahead of a November 18 release.

The film makes poignant use of home movies, old newspaper clippings and Aaron's interviews with various artists who worked with his uncle, who died of AIDS before the release of his first major movie, the star-studded curiosity Bloodhounds of Broadway, in 1989.

Unspecified-2(Image via Obscured Pictures)

Most effectively, he repurposes pieces of his uncle's Burroughs: The Movie (1983) and its attendant outtakes as well as behind-the-scenes footage from Bloodhounds (several lovely Madonna passages) and Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1987) to help convey a sense of his uncle's determined brilliance and to impart that contagious feeling of excitement when things thought lost are found intact.

All the more interesting that it is found intact in Williams S. Burroughs's legendary bunker.

Howard Brookner's family is given as much screen time as his lover, the writer Brad Gooch, whose handsomeness and youth are intact decades after Brookner's was relegated to existing only on film, and this allows the film to be more personal than a simple reassessment of a budding filmmaker's prowess might have been.

Check out Brad Gooch's memoir here!

Unspecified-1Director Aaron Brookner with Brad Gooch, Howard Brookner's partner (Image via Obscured Pictures)

There is regret in Uncle Howard, but also hope, and encouragement, and love. Howard Brookner at one point mourns the loss of his elderly grandfather in a video diary, noting that the death would've been far sadder had it involved a young person. And yet when he was about to die, he had words of wisdom that inform his nephew's touching portrait: However short or long, live your life doing what you want.

Jul 21 2016
Broad Comedy: AB FAB Still Totally Works Comments (0)

Unnamed(Image via Fox Searchlight/BBC Films)

If you want to support women-anchored movies, the better way to do it than white-knuckling your way through Ghostbusters while insisting IT'S FUNNY! is to to go see Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. It actually is consistently funny, and the women are doing something far more feminist than fighting ghosts—they're mocking other women and all the rest of us for the shallow self-involvement that consumes our culture.

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Jul 10 2016
Be Afraid ... Be Very Afraid: The New GHOSTBUSTERS Is a Cringe-Worthy, Empty, Unfunny Stab At A Girl-Powered Resurrection Comments (0)

I wasn't offended when it was announced that Ghostbusters, an '80s fave but hardly Citizen Kane, would be remade with a female cast. With Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones—with Chris Hemsworth and cameos by most of the original cast tossed in—how could it be anything but fun?

It is anything but fun.

The film is ineptly directed by Paul Feig with a distractingly off-the-mark tone, is terribly witless, is charmless (except in rare flashes) and contains Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.51.03 PM mostly phoned-in performances. You almost expect a scene to catch Wiig and McCarthy hitting their marks after quickly exiting cash machines, where they're ogling all the loot they made for doing nothing but their most boilerplate schtick.

Jones is irritatingly one-note. Her undercooked Eddie Anderson/Mantan Moreland routine is painfully dated. I like her as an actress and I think she would be an excellent lead, given a multi-dimensional role, but she wasn't given a lead or that type of role here.

McKinnon fares best, making her goofy scientist character just offbeat enough to occasionally elicit an unexpected and all-too-rare laugh.

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Apr 15 2016
Dancers From The Dance: A Review Of STRIKE A POSE Comments (0)

Unnamed(Collage by Matthew Rettenmund)


I was 21 when Madonna's Blond Ambition World Tour came to Chicago. I semi-slept out with my friend John in the freezing cold, scoring eighth-row seats the old-fashioned way: Luck.

We knew a lot about the show from the underground fan network that existed, courtesy of the USPS, prior to the Internet, and via foreign magazines that had published shots from the tour's opening in Japan. When I spotted some of Madonna's (gay!!!) dancers in the Water Tower, I followed them around a bit, coveting their tour jackets. We knew their names: Oliver Crumes (rumored to be having an affair with Madonna), Slam Gauwloos, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, Gabriel Trupin, Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez.

John and I traveled to the venue on one of the nights before our show, the last in the area. Doing reconnaissance, we spied on the intoxicatingly well-stocked merch booths and even had a close encounter with Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's famous publicist. I asked if she was Liz Rosenberg. Yes. Can I have your autograph? Mine? No.

We left.

The morning of our show, I received a note from a friend at my dorm expressing sympathy over the gig's unexpected cancelation. I had not heard, and was devastated when I confirmed that Madonna had indeed canceled. My friend didn't believe me when I phoned him. I can still remember the haunted denial in his voice.

He never saw the show, and I had to train home to Michigan and buy a horrible scalped seat just so I could say I'd been there in person. It was worth it, as the tour was a work of art more powerful to me than anything I'd seen in a museum ... and I like museums.

MadonnaTruth_096PyxurzLuis, Slam & Jose in a scene from Truth or Dare (Image via Miramax)

A year later, Truth or Dare came out. It was the ultimate Madonna product and project, a film that in many ways both cemented her place in world popular culture as an icon, and that also, conversely, demystified her so successfully that she's never truly returned to the giddy heights of a moment when people craved to know so much about her that a documentary on her tour and touring company became the highest-grossing documentary of all time. (It is currently #17 on that list.)

I will never forget sitting in the theater, watching Truth or Dare. Every frame was giving me what I wanted—more information about Madonna, straight from the source. Unlike with films—Dick Tracy or Who's That Girl—there was no padding, just a full-on Madonna smorgasbord. It was like her celebrity pap smear, an R-rated X-ray.

I can't completely explain the feeling, but I recall feeling, well, stupid after the movie ended. It is a brilliant film, but it also reminded me at every turn that (1) I probably cared too much about Madonna, and (2) Madonna wasn't really as mysterious as previous music videos and photo shoots had hinted. I decided I would cool off on collecting Madonnabilia for a while.

Instead, I doubled down and wrote a book about her and haven't looked back.

Truth or Dare remains a cunning piece of entertainment, one that influenced legions of fans in a variety of ways, not least of which to embrace their sexualities and sexual identities, a side effect attributable less to Madonna than to her film's curation of her dancers' personal stories. Their names aren't on the movie poster, but they should be, because Madonna's dancers were a huge part of both the film's truth and its daring.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 6.35.08 PMCarlton Wilborn in a scene from Strike a Pose (Image by Ester Gould & Reijer Zwaan)


Twenty-five years after the release of Truth or Dare, Dutch filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan have ballsily reassembled Madonna's troupe of dancers to find out what happened to them in the intervening years, providing the results in their documentary Strike a Pose, which is currently playing the Tribeca Film Festival and seeking theatrical distribution.

The film—funny, moody, melodramatic, revealing—nimbly piggy-backs on the notoriety of Madonna and Truth or Dare while establishing its own identity. Madonna is the sun, but the dancers are the planets explored in what becomes a universal commentary on the folly of youth, the power of dance and the fact that sometimes, when people disagree, nobody is 100% right.

Madonna-luisLuis is ready to makeup (Image by Ester Gould & Reijer Zwaan)

Following the release of Truth or Dare, three of Madonna's dancers sued her; Oliver and Kevin sought more money, claiming their agreement to be filmed was never with the understanding that it was for a feature, of which they'd be such a large part, while Gabriel claimed he was additionally wronged when Madonna insisted on including a scene of him kissing Slam in the film, which effectively outed him to his family before he was ready. The suit was withdrawn and settled for an undisclosed amount in October 1994. The tumult from the lawsuit is beautifully and fairly explored in the film, including touching scenes of Gabriel's still-grieving mother recalling her son's death from AIDS on December 15, 1995, just over a year after the lawsuit was resolved.

Other than the lawsuit, even big-time Madonna fans are probably in the dark as to what the boys—now men—have been up to since 1991. Strike a Pose reveals their struggles—with drug addiction, with HIV and (even more so) HIV stigma, with chasing the heady success they tasted on tour with Madonna—but also presents them as more than entertaining support. In Strike a Pose, the dancers' lives are fleshed out to include how they make a living, with whom they are in love, what they do for fun. In short, this new documentary presents them less as vessels for button-pushing and topic-addressing and more as human beings. 

It says something that Madonna's lack of participation in this project is never missed, although her visage is revisited via clips from the '90s. The subjects are sensationally forthcoming, but the filmmakers never sensationalize the material. It's like the opposite of reality TV because it has so much reality.

In Truth or Dare, the boys—without even seeing the big picture—helped Madonna express herself. In Strike a Pose, it's their turn to articulately express their own selves, and these are six selves to which a large number of gay men around their age and younger will relate.

Don't miss it, because while beauty's where you find it, it helps if you're seeking it out.

Catch Strike a Pose at the Tribeca Film Festival tonight, on 4/16, on 4/18 or on 4/24.


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