DVD of the Week – LGBT Weekly http://lgbtweekly.com Tue, 30 Aug 2016 20:07:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Women He’s Undressed http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/08/18/women-hes-undressed/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/08/18/women-hes-undressed/#respond Thu, 18 Aug 2016 16:00:29 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=73184

Orry-Kelly

dvd of the week

Orry-Kelly won three Oscars for costume design, including for Some Like It Hot and An American In Paris. He designed the costumes for Auntie Mame, Casablanca, 42 Street and several of Bette Davis’ most iconic roles: Jezibel, Dark Victor, and The Letter. This career makes him important, but he was also an out gay man in Hollywood in its most repressive homophobic time. And until recently, few knew that he had been Cary Grant’s live-in boyfriend at the beginning of their careers. So, wow. Gillian Armstrong’s documentary on Orry-Kelly does a great job of teaching this art and film history, using extensive and well-edited archival footage and a wildly impressive set of interviews with people like famed costume designers Ann Roth, Coleen Atwood, Catherine Martin and Michael Wilkensen and two of the surviving actresses he dressed, Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury.

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The Boss http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/08/04/the-boss/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/08/04/the-boss/#respond Thu, 04 Aug 2016 15:01:24 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=72818

The Boss

dvd of the week

Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, who is some sort of combination of Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Leona Helmsley. She talks folksy, but she is ruthless. After a stint in jail for fraud, she emerges penniless and friendless. So, she camps out at the home of her former long-suffering assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) and plans her comeback. The Boss is silly, slight and ultimately forgettable but it features three or four scenes that are comedy gold and make the film worth the price of a rental. One scene probably made the Girl Scouts of America apoplectic.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/07/07/whiskey-tango-foxtrot/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/07/07/whiskey-tango-foxtrot/#respond Thu, 07 Jul 2016 16:52:50 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=71958

Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

dvd of the week

Continuing their string of damn fine moderately budgeted comedies –I Love You, Philip Morris, Crazy Stupid Love, and Focus – Glenn Ficarra and John Requa turned Kim Baker’s Afghanistan foreign correspondence memoir into a fantastic vehicle for Tina Fey and her deeply satisfying trademarked feminist comedy. Fey plays Kim, a bored and unfulfilled TV reporter whose sudden arrival in the dangerous world of war reporting leads to personal growth, ethical dilemmas and redemption. Fey is, as always, Tina Fey, but while she is of course hilarious and clumsy as Fey/Kim, she’s also gutsy and reckless and smart. Christopher Abbott (from Girls) is unrecognizable and brilliant as Fahim, Kim’s conflicted translator and fixer. Martin Freeman is her crass Scottish love interest, and Margo Robbie is Kim’s much more experienced best buddy.

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Midnight Special http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/06/23/midnight-special/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/06/23/midnight-special/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:00:47 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=71594

Midnight Special

dvd of the week

Jeff Nichols’ low-budget science fiction thriller was met with some ecstatic reviews when it was released a few months ago. They were hyperbolic, because the film isn’t as smart or deep as many claimed it was, but it’s worth watching for the acting and Nichols’ taught direction. Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is a boy with weird, dangerous powers who has grown up on the compound of a Texan cult. When the cult’s leaders conclude he is a prophet of some sort, the boy’s father Roy (Michael Shannon) runs away with the assistance of his friend Lucas (Joel Egerton). The film is a nonstop, almost breathless series of chases peppered with shoot outs and meteor showers. Shannon is, per usual, extraordinary in his desperation and dedication. Nichols clearly had little money for large special effects, but he gets a great deal of thrills from cheap but smartly placed explosions of light and sound.

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Zootopia http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/06/09/zootopia/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/06/09/zootopia/#respond Thu, 09 Jun 2016 15:24:04 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=71172

Zootopia

dvd of the week

Kids’ movies tend to have rather clear lessons for their viewers, whether about friendship bonds (Toy Story), emotional regulation (Inside Out), or rebellion (Brave), but few have been as a politically blunt as Zootopia, a parable of race relationships about as obvious in its messaging as The Crucible or 1984. It was criticized as being an animated Crash, but the politics are much more clearly progressive even if Disney’s animated film unfortunately seems to reduce white people to vegetarian animals like bunnies and sheep and black and brown people to meat-eating predators like tigers and foxes. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the multispecies city of Zooptopia’s first rabbit police officer. Stereotyped as meek and dumb, she gets no help from the police force when she investigates the strange disappearances of predators, so she teams up with a sly fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). The film plays out like a classic LA noir film, though much, much funnier.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/05/26/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/05/26/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies/#respond Thu, 26 May 2016 18:52:25 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=70843

Jess Radomska in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

dvd of the week

Burr Steers’ adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s rewriting of Jane Austen’s great 19th century novel Pride and Prejudice as a zombie apocalypse love story is delightfully silly. It is exactly the same story as Austen’s novel except that everyone is also fighting zombies in addition to falling in love while making errors of etiquette. Downton Abbey’s Lily James is the iconic proto-feminist Elizabeth Bennet and Sam Riley is dour but deeply ethical Mr. Darcy. The love story is handled as well as any Pride and Prejudice adaption has; James and Riley are perfectly cast. The zombie killing action is more amusing like Zombieland than terrifying like The Walking Dead, which is appropriate considering the story’s conceit. Not remotely high art, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is still highly entertaining.

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Deadpool http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/05/12/deadpool/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/05/12/deadpool/#respond Thu, 12 May 2016 19:03:09 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=70452

Ryan Reynolds and Stefan Kapicic in Deadpool

dvd of the week

Deadpool is a raunchy, hyper and hilariously violent anti-hero’s tale about a wise-cracking, super-powered mercenary seeking revenge and redemption. Based on one of the edgiest characters in Marvel’s X-Men universe, the film both panders to the basest sensibilities of the young men who make up the lion’s share of comic book fans and mercilessly mocks superhero story conventions. It’s hardly a work of genius, but it’s a satisfying and very funny piece of popcorn entertainment. The plot isn’t all that important: The joy of the film is Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Wade Wilson, better known as Deadpool. The comic character was actually based on Reynolds, so the casting is, well, perfect. Reynolds delivers Wade’s filthy, twisted and obscure jokes with precision and irony. He breaks the fourth wall as often as he breaks the bad guys’ bones. It’s fun and ridiculous and thoroughly enjoyable.

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The Revenant http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/04/28/the-revenant/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/04/28/the-revenant/#respond Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:05:31 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=70086

dvd of the week

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

The Revenant, a ruthless and bombastic tale of revenge in the cold western American frontier, is focused on a man battling nature, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass trying to survive alone while severely wounded in the cold, snowy mountains; he dreams and hallucinates memories of his dead Pawnee wife and their son. He is trying to find Tom Hardy’s searing, deliciously evil John Fitzgerald, a motor-mouth sociopath who, among other wretched acts, had abandoned Glass to die after the rest of their hunting party had (rather bizarrely) left Fitzgerald to care for him. Meanwhile, a band of Arikara Indians is hunting down the white men who kidnapped their chief’s daughter. The violence, whether inflicted by men, bears, and nature, is maybe excessive, but is definitely totalizing. Alejandro Iñárritu and his genius cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki both won Oscars, as they did with last year’s Best Picture winner Birdman. The Revenant is epic, taciturn, and classic in both its visuals and themes, and its brutality is only surpassed by its beauty. DiCaprio finally won his Oscar partly for suffering so much for the role, but mostly for embodying a mythical American individuality, determination, and masculinity that may be aging but is still beloved by the kind of people who are Academy members.

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Sisters http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/31/sisters/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/31/sisters/#respond Thu, 31 Mar 2016 17:31:35 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=69369

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters

dvd of the week

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are as great a comedy team as any, and whether on Saturday Night Live, hosting the Golden Globes, or in the silly Baby Mama (2008), their easy connection and thrilling repartee is pure joy to watch. In Sisters, they again play opposites, though in a switch, Poehler is the more uptight Maura and Fey is Kate, the messy one who keeps screwing up. They meet up in Orlando to visit their parents, who have decided, very much against the wishes of their daughters, to sell the family home. Maura and Kate are tasked with sorting through their belongings; this leads to nostalgia and the ill-advised idea to throw one last blow out party with their now much older high school friends. Hilarity ensues under the direction of Jason Moore, with Poehler and Fey adlibbing a lot of absurd, often filthy jokes. The film is ridiculous, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable as the bastard child of Animal House and The Big Chill.

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Brooklyn http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/17/brooklyn/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/17/brooklyn/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 21:00:58 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=68986

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

dvd of the week

An assured and stunning Saoirse Ronan is Eilis, who leaves stifling small town Ireland for expansive and exciting Brooklyn in the early 1950s. She falls in love with an Italian-American plumber (Emery Cohen, in a star-making performance) but then returns home after a death in the family, suddenly unsure where she belongs. An intimate but universal immigrant’s story, Brooklyn expresses the conflicts, joys and promise of leaving home. Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Toibin’s novel is seamless, and he was nominated for an Oscar, as was Ronan and the film as a whole.

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Creed http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/03/creed/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/03/03/creed/#respond Thu, 03 Mar 2016 16:45:15 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=68673

Michael P. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed

dvd of the week

Ryan Coogler’s Rocky sequel-cum-reboot turns Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) into the trainer and Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son Donny (Michael P. Jordan) into the boxer with something to prove. The plot is a by-the-numbers boxing movie, but Stallone’s seventh turn as Rocky Balboa is arguably his best, and Michael P. Jordan is again sterling, this time as the young man with anger management problems and a chip on his shoulder. Coogler pulls out these phenomenal performances and repurposes the Rocky tropes perfectly, using the Philadelphia landscape, fight choreography and the iconic music in surprising and thrilling ways. Except for Stallone’s performance, the film was frustratingly snubbed by the Oscars, making it one of the reasons #OscarsSoWhite was created.

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Steve Jobs http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/02/18/steve-jobs/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/02/18/steve-jobs/#respond Thu, 18 Feb 2016 16:53:32 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=68282

Seth Rogen and Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

dvd of the week

Michael Fassbender was nominated for an Oscar playing Apple founder Steve Jobs, who is on screen at virtually every moment in the film written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle. Few of his dialogue partners – played by Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, among others – are ever on screen with each other. It feels very much like a beautifully filmed play; intense and cerebral but also claustrophobic. It is the series of one-on-one conversations that both tell us Jobs’ biographical details and show us his relationships with colleagues, friends and family, explaining his drive, his genius and his failures as a friend and father.

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Bridge of Spies http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/02/04/bridge-of-spies/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/02/04/bridge-of-spies/#respond Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:35:11 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=67900

Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and Billy Magnussen in Bridge of Spies

dvd of the week

Steven Spielberg’s by-the-numbers spy suspense film stars Tom Hanks as James Donovan, a respected lawyer who is assigned to defend a Soviet spy in the late 1950s. Despite occasionally violent opposition to his treating Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) as deserving of due process and legal assistance, Donovan soldiers forth, the pinnacle of ethical goodness. When he’s asked to negotiate the trade of Abel for the pilot of a downed U-2 spy plane and a grad student arrested in East Berlin, Donovan must cross the Iron Curtain and uses his wits to do the right thing. The film is impeccably made, taut and beautifully filmed with great performances from Hanks and Rylance. It’s fun, but it’s also easy and a bit obvious, and perhaps not quite worth of being nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

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Ant-Man http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/12/10/ant-man/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/12/10/ant-man/#respond Thu, 10 Dec 2015 17:36:20 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=66441

Paul Rudd in Ant-Man

dvd of the week

Surprising to many, Ant-Man, the movie about one of the Marvel Universe’s more minor characters that went through a tortured development, turned out to be a damn fine film, much more enjoyable and coherent than the massively hyped Avengers: Age of Ultron. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a thief with a heart of gold and an engineering degree, who is recruited by brilliant and aging scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to don the shrinking Ant-Man suit and stop the evil Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from using the shrinking formula as a military weapon. The action is fun and light, mostly because it involves being tiny and riding ants like a cowboy, and the dialogue is delightful, especially as delivered by Rudd, one of our most likable comic actors. Michael Pena, playing Lang’s criminal associate and friend Luis, steals all of his scenes with his speedy, weird stories and hilarious double-takes.

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Tangerine http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/11/25/tangerine/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/11/25/tangerine/#respond Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:09 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=66036

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in Tangerine

dvd of the week

Tangerine, a masterpiece of LGBT cinema, is about one day in the lives of two transgender prostitutes in Hollywood. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) are about to share a celebratory donut – it’s Christmas Eve, and Sin-Dee has just gotten out of jail – when Alexandra accidentally blurts out that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her while she was away. Sean Baker, who conceived the film with Taylor and writer Chris Bergoch, is an auteur. He and his co-cinematographer Radium Cheung shot the whole film on iPhones, and while this is an amazing technical feat in and of itself, it’s the stunning compositions, saturated light and editing of the shots that are so gorgeous and innovative. Baker also directed trans newcomers Rodriguez and Taylor to award-worthy performances. The film is blisteringly funny and foul, but it is also moving, a paean to friendship and pride.

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Amy http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/11/12/amy/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/11/12/amy/#respond Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:21 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=65715

Amy Winehouse

dvd of the week

Amy, Asif Kapadia’s excellent and disturbing documentary about Amy Winehouse’s life, is composed entirely of home movies, television video and voice-over of interviewed friends and family. Chronically depressed as a teenager, which she blames on her parents’ divorce, she became bulimic and then self-medicated with alcohol and pot; when she was with eventual husband Blake Fielder, she added powder and crack cocaine, as well as heroin. Kapadia’s argument seems to be that the pressure of fame, along with the pressures of her parasitic father Mitch, profit-focused second manager Raye Cosbert and codependent husband Fielder, drew out the worst of Winehouse’s dark impulses. Kapadia skillfully edits the footage and the interviews, which include extensive commentary from her friends, compatriots and Fielder. Most of this is done without trickery, except for how he washes out the video of the paparazzi swarms to turn the camera flashes into near-white outs. The effect is haunting.

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Best of Enemies http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/29/best-of-enemies/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/29/best-of-enemies/#respond Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:32 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=65364

Gore Vidal and William Buckley in Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies, impeccably crafted by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, tells the story of the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. during the 1968 Republican and Democratic National Conventions. In order to create excitement for their coverage of the conventions, ABC decided to pit the two most entertaining political wits of their generation against each other. Buckley, the father of the modern conservative movement, ran the most influential rightwing magazine in the country, and his effete, WASP affect defined Ivy League country club Republicanism. He was witty, and as long as he wasn’t insulting you, very funny. Vidal was his perfect foil: An erudite bon vivant, he was Jackie Kennedy’s cousin, a barely closeted gay man (in 1968!), and the author of Myra Breckinridge, the scandalous, high-camp satirical novel about transsexuality.

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Magic Mike XXL http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/15/magic-mike-xxl-2/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/15/magic-mike-xxl-2/#respond Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:33 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=64987

Magic Mike XXL

dvd of the week

The sequel to Magic Mike, the movie about the surprisingly smart male stripper with a heart of gold, is as star and writer Channing Tatum promised, more what people expected from the original film. It’s not remotely dark, and there’s a lot more dancing, and that dancing is all about hot and nearly naked men scorching the screen. Everyone returns except for Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer: Tatum as Mike, Matt Bomer a beautiful Ken, Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie. The club has closed and they are out for their last big show at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. Mike persuades his old boss Rome, played by a scintillating Jada Pinkett Smith, to emcee the act, and they add Stephen ‘Twitch’ Boss (of So You Think You Can Dance) and Donald Glover to the mix. Tatum, Bomer and Smith look great, sound great, and clearly have a ball. You will too.

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Stonewall (1995) http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/01/stonewall-1995/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/01/stonewall-1995/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:16 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=64576

Stonewall 1995

dvd of the week

Nigel Finch’s low-budget 1995 adaptation of Martin Duberman’s novel about the Stonewall riots does not have the squeaky clean production values of Roland Emmerich’s mess, and the older film is not great. But it’s a better movie and yet it ostensibly has a similar plot. Frederick Weller is Matty, the white proxy, who arrives in New York City by bus and is immediately befriended by La Miranda, a drag queen played by a young Guillermo Diaz (now on Scandal). After they are both arrested at a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a mother queen named Bostonia (Duane Boutte) bails them out. The three each have their subplots – Matty joins the Mattachine Society, La Miranda gets drafted and Bostonia is having an affair with a closeted mobster – and everything comes to a head at the riots. Matty is a much edgier character than Danny, and this helps immensely, and La Miranda and Bostonia are given much deeper and broader roles than the queens have in the new Stonewall. Also, there are musical numbers, and that always helps.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/01/avengers-age-of-ultron/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/10/01/avengers-age-of-ultron/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:01:15 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=64574

Avengers: Age of Ultron

dvd and streaming

Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was one of the most successful films of all time, and it was also good. For the sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon has produced another greatly enjoyable piece of popcorn entertainment, one of the best episodes in the increasingly populated and complicated MCU storyline. The Avengers accidentally create Ultron (brilliantly voiced by James Spader), a wildly powerful AI-powered robot that beats the crap out of the Avengers before setting off to destroy humanity. He’s programmed to save the world, and its worst enemy is homo sapiens. The Avengers regroup to stop the misguided machine, and we get lots of action, a special effects bonanza, a bunch of good one-liners and hints of future film plots.

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Cinderella http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/09/17/cinderella/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/09/17/cinderella/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:24:36 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=64235

Lily James in Cinderella

dvd of the week

Sometimes, you have to do it straight. Sometimes you need to resist the temptation to change a classic. Cinderella, one of the most indelible of Western fairy tales, has been re-interpreted countless times since it first appeared in print in the 17th century, but mostly the story stays true to its origins: a wealthy girl is turned into a servant by a horrible stepmother and a fairy godmother helps the girl win the heart and hand of a charming prince. With Disney’s massively budgeted live action version of Cinderella, they didn’t stray more than a few inches from the source material. And the result is an instant classic, a gorgeous spectacle. Lily James is perfectly cast as a perfectly wholesome Ella who goes from rich daughter to chambermaid to the mysterious love of Prince Charming (Richard Madden).

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dvds of the week http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/09/03/dvds-of-the-week/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/09/03/dvds-of-the-week/#respond Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:48:21 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=63898

Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Abbey Lee in Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

This third sequel to the post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max is the best action film in years: jaw-dropping, bold, ambitious and thrilling. At the beginning of the new film, Max (now played by Tom Hardy, replacing Mel Gibson) is again a loner on the run in the barren wasteland left by a nuclear war. He’s captured by the more-or-less insane followers of a disfigured megalomaniacal water-hording warlord known an Immortan Joe, who is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. It is Miller’s visual storytelling, from the wrenching and dusty roller coaster chase scenes to the still moments of sometimes horrid desert beauty that feels totally new, even if it is clearly descended of Miller’s previous work.

The D Train

Jack Black plays Dan Landsman, the self-appointed chair of his high school’s 20th reunion committee. He is arrogant about his likability and popularity, and yet is neither likable nor popular. It’s more than trying too hard and it’s discomfiting; Black is obviously perfectly cast. One night he sees an advertisement for Banana Boat suntan lotion and it stars Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), the stud of Dan’s class of 1994. Despite the doubts of his wife Stacey (Kathryn Hahn), Dan gets it into his head that if he can get Oliver to come to the reunion, everyone else from the class will, too. Oliver was that popular. There’s some very funny bits, but the film seems to be an updated retread of Mike White’s Chuck & Buck. The D Train is worth seeing before re-watching that cult classic.

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54: The Director’s Cut http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/08/20/54-the-directors-cut/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/08/20/54-the-directors-cut/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:33 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=63412

Breckin Meyer and Ryan Phillippe in 54

dvd of the week

Mark Christopher’s 54 was an infamous bomb in 1998. Miramax had hired the young gay director to craft an ensemble piece about the fabulous and scandalous 1970s New York disco Studio 54. But when they saw his very gay film, they balked, forcing him to cut the homosexual sex and trim Mike Myer’s balls-out portrayal of owner Steve Rubell and ramp up the terrible heterosexual love story about Ryan Philippe’s Shane the bartender and Neve Campbell’s Julie the soap star. Nearly two decades later, the original cut of the film has made its way out of the underground and onto iTunes and Amazon. 54: The Director’s Cut still focuses on gorgeous and ambitious Jersey boy Shane, but it’s more about his friendship with two other lowly 54 employees, Greg (Breckin Meyer) and Anita (Salma Hayek), and their various struggles to succeed in a world of sex, drugs, money and disco.

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Clouds of Sils Maria http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/08/06/clouds-of-sils-maria/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/08/06/clouds-of-sils-maria/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:20:15 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=62954

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria

dvd of the week

Olivier Assayas wrote and directed this gorgeous and slyly cerebral backstage drama about aging actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) confronting her youth. In a play 20 years before, she became famous playing the ingénue who seduces an older woman, whose love and obsession drives her to suicide. Maria is asked to play the older woman in a revival (opposite Chloe Grace Moretz), and while she’s resistant, her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) persuades her. The subtly Sapphic interactions between the great veteran Binoche and an astonishingly confident Stewart (who won the French version of an Oscar for her performance) are enough to make the film compelling, but the film works as a whole, too, in an enigmatic, profound, and very French way.

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Ex Machina http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/07/09/ex-machina/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/07/09/ex-machina/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:10 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=62088

Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina

dvd of the week

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest to spend a week with reclusive, eccentric genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his estate in a nameless, northern mountain valley. Caleb, slight and pale and stereotypically nerdy, is perhaps more ill at ease by Nathan’s masculine aggression than his genius. He seems more comfortable with Ava, the android artificial intelligence that Nathan had brought Caleb to give the Turing Test, the procedure devised by Alan Turing to determine whether an intelligence is human or computerized. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is stunning, both for her beauty but also for her human qualities: surprise, humor, sadness, curiosity and love. Caleb is astonished and clearly infatuated, and then Ava tells Caleb not to trust anything Nathan says. Alex Garland, celebrated writer of the novels The Beach and The Tesseract and the films 28 Days Later and Sunshine, is making his directorial debut with Ex Machina, and it is a pretty stunning start.

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Transamerica http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/25/transamerica-2/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/25/transamerica-2/#respond Thu, 25 Jun 2015 19:14:17 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=61685

Transamerica

dvd of the week

Transamerica, one the best and most subversive movies about transgender issues ever made, starred Felicity Huffman as Bree in an epic performance that should have won her an Oscar in 2006. Bree is an anti-heroine – proud, angry, funny and dishonest. She is deeply flawed and secretly fragile. Without Huffman’s performance, Transamerica would just be a pretty good road movie. Bree is a week away from her sex-reassignment surgery when she gets a call from a kid in jail in New York who claims to be her son. Unaware that she even had a son, Bree flies from L.A., picks him up, tells him she’s a church-worker and drives him across the country. Her son Toby (Kevin Zegers) is screwed up – a hustler, a thief and a drug-user – and Bree does her best to help him fly straight, often ineffectively. Eventually, Toby discovers that Bree is both a transsexual and his father, but not before Bree is forced to deal with her own dysfunctional parents (an insane Fionnula Flanagan and an endearing Burt Young). Bree and Toby achieve their goals, but what they want is not what society wants of them. Rather, it is what will lead them to be happy, if only for a while. But they find each other and that solidarity is the film’s happy ending.

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Chappie http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/11/chappie/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/11/chappie/#respond Thu, 11 Jun 2015 17:52:43 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=61198

Dev Patel and Sharlto Copley in Chappie

dvd of the week

Probably because of how great Neil Blomkamp’s first film District 9 was, critics were nasty that his third Chappie wasn’t as good. But I can’t fathom the hatred of the film, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found politically astute. Like District 9, Chappie takes place in a near-future South Africa ravaged by poverty and crime – until incredibly effective robot police mostly end the crime wave. The designer of the robots, whiz kid Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), is not content with his success: He wants to take the robots further and give them artificial intelligence that includes free will, artistic judgement and complex emotions. Told not to bother, he works in secret; meanwhile, Deon’s rival engineer Vincent Moore (a mulleted Hugh Jackman) is determined to take down Deon and his robots, no matter the cost. Blomkamp’s writing and direction are pointed and thrilling, while the social commentary is perhaps too blunt. Still, I loved the film and it deserves a second chance.

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Focus http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/04/focus/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/06/04/focus/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:01:35 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=61000

BD Wong in Focus

dvd of the week

In the stylish and slight Focus, Will Smith plays Nicky, an extremely successful and absurdly smooth conman who meets a blonde seductress named Jess (Margot Robie) when she tries to con him and fails miserably. Jess asks Nicky to teach her to be a better con artist, and while he is resistant of developing any sort of relationship, he is clearly drawn to her. The plot follows one con after another, numerous fake-outs, and a lot of flirting. The twists are many, and I was surprised often by where writers-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (I Love You, Philip Morris and Crazy Stupid Love) take us. Smith is excellent as Nicky, and Robie is a delight as the smart, skillful, often hilarious, often tough bombshell. But the best performance in the film is BD Wong as Chinese gambler Liyuan, who Nicky battles at a turning point in the film. Liyuan’s smile is both endearing and sinister, and Wong energizes the film just when things seem to be getting dreary.

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Jupiter Ascending http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/28/jupiter-ascending/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/28/jupiter-ascending/#respond Thu, 28 May 2015 16:15:19 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=60721

Channing Tatum in Jupiter Ascending

dvd of the week

It’s hard to claim that the Wachowskis’ sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending is “good” but it’s certainly entertaining. Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant housekeeper who is actually the genetic reincarnation of one of the richest people in the universe. After her death, her children Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth), and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) have squabbled over her fortune and when they discover that she has reappeared as a clueless Earthling, they all send bounty hunters to get her – or kill her. One of those is Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). He reaches Jupiter first, just as all hell is breaking loose, and he convinces his former commander Stinger (Sean Bean) to help him protect Jupiter. The rest of the film is a series of chase sequences, super-heroic battles, double-crosses, myth-heavy back story monologues and jaw-dropping, occasionally hilarious, art direction.

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American Sniper http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/21/american-sniper/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/21/american-sniper/#respond Thu, 21 May 2015 16:00:34 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=60485

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

dvd of the week

Something about the wildly successful American Sniper struck a chord, and it’s not clear what. Pundits argued about its politics, about whether it was for or against the war in Iraq, whether the film is racist or just murderous, whether it’s true or not, whether or not it deserved to receive six Oscar nominations. I don’t think it is a great film, despite Clint Eastwood’s brisk and effective formalism as a director. The reason the film works is Bradley Cooper, who received his third acting Oscar nomination in three years for playing the most effective sniper in American military history Chris Kyle. This is by far Cooper’s greatest performance, and the first one that tamps down his naturally brilliant comedy. Cooper exudes a kind of Texan cowboy masculinity that we know better as myth but which still pops up in real people, and Chris Kyle was one of those people. Kyle is tortured by what he experienced in Iraq, and that torture is portrayed with agonizing fear and anxiety easily seen in Cooper’s expressive eyes and jerky head.

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Fifty Shades of Grey http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/14/fifty-shades-of-grey/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/14/fifty-shades-of-grey/#respond Thu, 14 May 2015 15:00:43 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=60263

Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

dvd of the week

Dakota Johnson is Anastasia Steele, a college senior who goes to interview Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), an insanely successful, absurdly hot and very young Seattle media tycoon who has been chosen as her commencement speaker. Obviously, they’re attracted to each other, but because Ana is not weird or crazy, she lets it all go. Christian, on the other hand, stalks her. Sometimes, it’s cute, like when he appears out of nowhere to save her from possible, but unlikely, date rape when she’s drunk. Other times, when he’s clearly broken into her apartment, it’s extremely creepy. Then it gets super weird when Christian reveals his interest in extreme BDSM, an extension of his disturbed mental state. That’s just only one of the offensive and weird plot points to 2015s most ridiculous hit film; it would be campy if it wasn’t terribly retrograde in its sexual politics.

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Still Alice http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/07/still-alice/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/05/07/still-alice/#respond Thu, 07 May 2015 16:56:35 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=59990

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

dvd of the week

In her Oscar-winning role, Julianne Moore is Alice Howland, a renowned professor of linguistics at Columbia University, married to a handsome and successful scientist named John (Alec Baldwin), and mother to three children, slightly petulant Ann (Kate Bosworth), bright and handsome Tom (Hunter Parrish) and struggling actress Lydia (Kristen Stewart). When she starts forgetting things, like her lectures or her keys or how to get home during a run or, worse for a linguistics scholar, her words, she goes to a neurologist, who seems at first not concerned, and then as the forgetting worsens, quite concerned. She keeps the problems hidden from John for a while until her doctor convinces Alice that, yes, this is early onset Alzheimer’s, and her cognitive functioning will only get worse. They then tell the children and, to make matters worse, tell them that this kind of Alzheimer’s is genetic, so they might get it too. As Alice’s condition worsens, the forgetting becomes constant, and the humiliations almost totalizing, you’ll probably be unable to stop from crying. Richard Glatzer and the late Wash Westmoreland, the gay couple who also wrote and directed Quinceañera and The Fluffer, do a great job with the source material, a pedantic novel by a neuroscientist, but I wish they’d done more to make it more than a dramatic clinical case study. It’s a stunningly well-acted, sensitively written, finely directed, full-of-prestige film that is almost unbearably sad.

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Selma http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/30/selma/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/30/selma/#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:07:04 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/30/selma/

Ralph Abernathy, Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo, Corey Reynolds, Tessa Thompson and C.T. Vivian in Selma

dvd of the week

The events in Selma, Ala., a town with a majority of black residents only 2 percent of whom could vote, helped force the Voting Rights Act into existence. One of 2014’s best films, Selma is about how that happened. Director Ana DuVernay’s work on Selma is tremendous, and it announces a major American filmmaker. Her recreations of well documented events are flawless, but so are her quieter, mostly fictionalized, scenes, such as those between Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) and between black maid Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) and Selma’s hideous voter registrar. The performances she pulled from her cast, in particular Ejogo, Winfrey and Oyelowo, are roundly wonderful. What the amazing Oyelowo does as King is to make a legendary and iconic hero into a man – a great, flawed, human man.

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Paddington http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/23/paddington/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/23/paddington/#respond Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:45:14 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/23/paddington/

Paddington

dvd of the week

The wondrous Paddington was freely adapted from the children’s book series by Michael Bond that began in 1958. Paddington is a rare intelligent talking bear from Darkest Peru, and in Paul King’s film, he sets off for London to find a new home after the forest where he lived with his aunt and uncle is destroyed. When he arrives, he stands in Paddington Station and hopes someone will take him in. The Brown family do, over the objections of father Henry (Hugh Bonneville) but with the great support of mother Mary (Sally Hawkins). While Paddington tries to fit into the world he doesn’t understand – with typical slapstick results – an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) is determined to stuff the poor bear and display him in a museum. This subplot is a little too similar to 101 Dalmatians, but the execution of the whole story is sweeter, smarter and much more charming. Hawkins is particularly wonderful as the wise and emotionally grounded mother, and Bonneville does a great curmudgeon. The kids, Madeleine Harris as Judy and Samuel Joslin as Jonathan, are both winning as well. And Ben Wishaw, the out gay actor best known as Q in the new James Bond films, does Paddington’s voice with perfect whimsy.

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Inherent Vice http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/16/inherent-vice/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/16/inherent-vice/#respond Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:42:53 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/16/inherent-vice/

Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

dvd of the week

Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry “Doc” Sportello, a pothead private investigator who works out of a doctor’s office near the beach in 1970s Los Angeles. He’s disheveled, confused, bumbling and occasionally philosophical. One day, his ex-lover, an ethereal blonde named Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston, serving hippie realness), appears out of nowhere and asks for him to help her escape a kidnapping and ransom scheme she’s entangled herself in with her new, married, real estate mogul boyfriend (Eric Roberts). The film is about the chaos, corruption, narcissism, ironies and aesthetics of Los Angeles in 1970s. Sometimes writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is channeling Altman, or Kubrick, or even Lynch, but even with those influences, Inherent Vice is an Anderson film, working wonderfully alongside Boogie Nights and Magnolia.

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Maps to the Stars http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/09/maps-to-the-stars/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/09/maps-to-the-stars/#respond Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:00:18 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/09/maps-to-the-stars/

Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars

dvd of the week

Barely released this winter, Maps to the Stars is Julianne Moore’s other great performance of 2014, and I think she’s better in this David Cronenberg movie about the darker side of Hollywood than in Still Alice, for which she won an Oscar. Moore is a needy, fading starlet trying to be cast playing her mother in a movie about the making of the movie that made her a star (yes, really). Her guru is Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), whose son is a child star just out of rehab (Evan Burd); he was driven there by, among other things, the trauma of a fire set by his now-missing sister. Mia Wasikowska is a celebrity-obsessed and scarred young woman who arrived in Los Angeles via bus and is quickly befriended by a handsome limo driver played by Robert Pattinson. The film is a bizarre fever dream, something of a cross between of Mulholland Drive and Magnolia but not remotely as skillful or deep as either of those classics. But Moore is so transcendently good, vulnerable and funny and tragic, it’s worth it.

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Interstellar http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/02/interstellar/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/02/interstellar/#respond Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:42:51 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/04/02/interstellar/

Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

dvd of the week

More divisive than any of Christopher Nolan’s films, Interstellar is a long, slow, brainy and, to me, enthralling and thrilling science fiction epic. In the near future, Earth is becoming inhospitable to life and a now-secret NASA is sending ships to parts of the galaxy to find a new home for the planet’s survivors. Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway are two of the astronauts, and they get much more than they bargain for in the far reaches of space. Nolan’s direction is grim but impeccable, the actors are at the top of their game and the film goes to weird, ponderous and odd places. Those hoping for Batman crossed with Star Wars were very upset that they got the grandson of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I was elated.

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Wild http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/26/wild/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/26/wild/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:36:55 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/26/wild/

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

dvd of the week

Reese Witherspoon is spectacular (and Oscar nominated) as Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir Wild is based on. The book is partly autobiography and partly the story of her six month trek of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Oregon. That she walked the trail isn’t as impressive – it’s been done by many people – as the fact that she walked it alone with very, very little hiking experience. The film and the book also explain why doing this is so powerfully cathartic to Cheryl; she has just extracted herself from a failed marriage, an addiction to heroin and some extravagantly self-destructive habits that seem to have been a failed coping mechanism to deal with the grief over losing her mother.

While Cheryl walks and hikes and gets blisters and nearly starves and narrowly escapes rape and hypothermia, her earlier life is shown in flashbacks, many of which feature a luminous Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother.

Director Jean-Marc Valée’s great work should be praised and rewarded, but Witherspoon and Dern are why the film is so moving. Cheryl’s experience, from grief to pride and from shame to redemption, is vast, and Witherspoon portrays the shifts, the details and ugly honesty of it all. Her versatility and charisma in this role remarkable; it’s much more impressive than the work in Walk the Line that actually got her an Oscar. Dern is even better. As Cheryl’s ridiculously cheerful mother – cheerful despite poverty, despite a violent husband, despite cancer – Dern is heroic and ecstatic and as beautiful as any of the nature beauty on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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The Imitation Game http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/19/the-imitation-game/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/19/the-imitation-game/#respond Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:08:31 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/19/the-imitation-game/

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

dvd of the week

Alan Turing was the gay British man who broke the Nazi codes during World War II and more or less invented the computer. Despite his key role in winning the war, Turing was arrested for his homosexuality and forced to undergo chemical castration to avoid prison; he killed himself after a year of horrible hormone therapy. The film based on his life rewrites history to make the story work for the camera, and you can be offended by Graham Moore’s Oscar-winning screenplay or you can go with the flow. If you do the latter, Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as his best friend and brief fiancée are delightful; he’s quirky and cold and confused and she’s aggressive and brilliant and kind. The film is handsomely directed by Morten Tyldum, and it is an engrossing experience, if an over-praised one.

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Into the Woods http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/12/into-the-woods/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/12/into-the-woods/#respond Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:41:18 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/12/into-the-woods/

Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

dvd of the week

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods won all of the Tonys in 1988 that Phantom of the Opera did not: book of a musical, and music and lyrics. It’s beloved in a way that few musicals are because it is so often produced by regional and school theaters, partly because it’s fun, funny, beautiful and sneakily deep. This sturdy film version will only make the show more popular. The plot is actually absurdly complex, so I’ll just provide the basics. In fairy tale times (something like the Middle Ages), a Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) desperately are trying to have a child. It turns out the Baker was cursed to sterility by his neighbor the Witch (Meryl Streep) because his father pissed her off. In order for her to reverse the course, the Baker and his Wife need to find a red cloak (from Red Riding Hood, played by Lilla Crawford), a cow as white as snow (from Jack, of the beanstalk fame, played by Daniel Huttlestone), a golden slipper (from Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick), and hair as yellow as corn (from Rapunzel, played by Mackenzie Mauzy). They set off into the woods to find these items, and they find the items and the people who have them, all of whom are on their own quests for fulfillment. And they seem to find it. But a minute after you think they’re all going to live happily ever after, they don’t. Rob Marshall, who directed Chicago to its Best Picture Oscar, does a lovely job with the swirling, twirling story, the lush art direction and the fantastic cast. Blunt and Streep are particularly great, with Blunt playing the show’s most fully realized character with bright charm and Streep chewing scenery with a great, snide cackle. The film differs from the stage show in a few odd and unnecessary ways, and what is the entire second act of the show takes up 30 minutes in the movie. It’s rushed and occasionally confusing, but when it’s time to get to the moral and emotional climax, the movie succeeds.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/05/the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/05/the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1/#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:46:56 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/03/05/the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1/

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

dvd of the week

The third film in the dystopian sci-fi series about income inequality, political cynicism and young people turned into killers against their will, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, is based on one half of the third novel of Suzanne Clark’s trilogy. The second and final part will be released next November. While not as great as Catching Fire, which in itself was better than the first film, simply titled The Hunger Games, Mockingjay – Part 1 is a thrilling, unnerving, and expertly made set up for what is expected to be an explosive and what hopefully will be a fantastic finale to the series. I wish they’d not split the book in two and made the audience suffer such a horrific cliffhanger, but clearly the studio, Lionsgate, wanted to wring out as much cash as possible from the franchise. Francis Lawrence’s direction balances the science fiction action with scenes of more grounded emotional power, utilizing the extraordinary acting abilities of the cast that also include Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks (particularly hilarious this time), Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci and Natalie Dormer. Jennifer Lawrence (no relation to Francis) is given the biggest emotions to work with, and she goes big with them. However, I’m hoping than in Part 2, she does less crying and more ass-kicking.

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Foxcatcher http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/26/foxcatcher/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/26/foxcatcher/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:12:28 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/26/foxcatcher/

Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher

dvd of the week

Both Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) and his brother David (Mark Ruffalo) won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, and while David parlayed his fame to a coaching job, Mark is at loose ends, living alone and training with scowl. One day, out of the blue, Mark is asked to fly to Pennsylvania and meet John du Pont (Steve Carell) at his vast estate, Foxcatcher. Du Pont tells Mark that he wants to create a world-class wrestling training facility and help bring American back to greatness. Even though du Pont is clearly weird – awkward, snobbish, self-important, overly indulgent of alcohol – Mark is enamored by du Pont’s vision and decides to join him. They become very close, and then too close, and things sour when du Pont brings David to Foxcatcher to fix the problems Mark had created. And then things start going very badly. It’s hard to tell who made the film so starkly beautiful, the brilliant cinematographer Greig Fraser or Bennet Miller’s Oscar-nominated direction. But they are both at fault for making the film so icy and bleak, which works in many places but is a bit relentless after two hours. Carrell’s telegraphs crazy and desperate very well, but it’s also hammy and obvious. Tatum and Ruffalo, however, are brilliant. Ruffalo is always this good; everything he does on camera is sympathetic and believable. Tatum, who looks spectacular in a wrestling singlet but tempers the sexy with an awkward lumber, is surprisingly moving as a not-so-swift, very damaged athlete who just wants to win. I’d rather he got the Oscar nomination that Carrell campaigned for and received.

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Whiplash http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/19/whiplash/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/19/whiplash/#respond Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:37:11 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/19/whiplash/

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

dvd of the week

It’s hard to imagine a teacher worse than Terrence Fletcher, the jazz band leader at fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York who J.K. Simmons plays with terrifying, unpredictable, sadistic joy. Fletcher, something like a cross between a Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket and Delores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; foul-mouthed at times, falsely sweet at others, seemingly doing it all for good reasons, but quite possibly psychopathic. The student musicians allow him to reign over them like a mad king because he gets results, brilliant performances, competition wins and eventually, jobs with major bands and orchestras. Whiplash is the story of what happens when Fletcher adds promising, young jazz drummer Andrew (the most excellent Miles Teller) to the band and decides to torture him in order to make him great. It’s a weirdly discomfiting movie, because it does a better job of justifying torture than Zero Dark Thirty does. But like that brilliant thriller, Whiplash is also an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, a taut, exciting dual film with music as the weapons instead of guns.

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Birdman http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/12/birdman/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/12/birdman/#respond Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:04:44 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/12/birdman/

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in Birdman

dvd of the week

Innovative, hilarious, and moving, Birdman is a film about theater, film and actors, as well as regret, love, family, and, in a way, the meaning of life, and it soars. Michael Keaton is blockbuster star Riggan Thomas, who wants to earn respect by appearing on Broadway, so he writes, directs and stars in a stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. His recovering addict daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is his assistant, and his costar is lauded, but unhinged, method-actor Mike Shiner (Ed Norton). The film veers from slapstick comedy to melodrama, but the depiction of Riggan’s interior life makes the film wholly original. He has conversations with and sometimes becomes Birdman, the superhero he once played, and whether or not Riggan is crazy or actually super powered is never really made clear. But his depression and frustration and desire for relevance, to the world, to his daughter, and to his ex-wife, are all real. This is by far Keaton’s greatest performance, a true tour de force of versatility, believability and emotional honesty. Keaton has never had material like Birdman, and he’s never had a director like Alejandro González Iñárritu, who elicited an epic performance from Keaton and an equally brilliant performance from Norton, whose Mike is a caustic, hilarious, nutty Lothario of surprising depth.

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Nightcrawler http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/05/nightcrawler/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/05/nightcrawler/#respond Thu, 05 Feb 2015 16:02:32 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/02/05/nightcrawler/

dvd of the week

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Lewis Bloom, played by a balls-out brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal, is a nightcrawler, a freelance reporter who spends the nights wandering the city, waiting for a police scanner to announce a car crash or a murder that can be filmed and turned into the bloody local TV news. Pathologically ambitious, solicitous and aggressive, Lewis unnerves Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the news director of a low-rated Los Angeles morning show, but he also brings in great footage, which she craves. How he does it, and how he plays Nina is what makes Nightcrawler thrilling and more than a little bonkers. This is the first film directed by Dan Gilroy, who pulls out Gyllenhaal’s greatest performance to give us the best thriller of 2014. The two are inextricably connected, because it is Gyllenhaal’s unexpected actions and off-kilter affect that kept me on the edge of my seat and muttering “wow” over and over. Gilroy also handles the car chases and random violence on Los Angeles’s iconic streets with skill, evoking the LA noir of Drive and Heat. The film is disquieting and, even at its most fantastical, somewhat believable. Lewis may not exist, but the stories that he records for Nina’s broadcasts do. We’ve all seen them.

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The Drop http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/15/the-drop/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/15/the-drop/#respond Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:07:06 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/15/the-drop/

Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace in The Drop

dvd of the week

Tom Hardy is Bob, a slow-talking, seemingly sweet bartender, who finds an abandoned pit bull and nurses him back to health with Nadia, a wary woman with a past (Noomi Rapace). Bob works for Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his last role), who has made a series of terrible deals with Chechen thugs, including letting his bar serve as an occasional drop site for the night’s ill-gotten gains. Enter Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), Nadia’s ex, the dog’s original owner and a braggart murderer. As the four head to a collision, secrets are revealed and people are murdered. Gandolfini is doing a hard-luck version of Tony Soprano, but he does it wonderfully, especially with Dennis Lehane’s darkly hilarious lines. But the juicy center of the film is Hardy’s sexy, sweet and slightly creepy performance as Bob. It alone is reason to see The Drop.

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Gone Girl http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/08/gone-girl/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/08/gone-girl/#respond Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:37:35 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2015/01/08/gone-girl/

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

dvd of the week

David Fincher’s fantastic adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller about a missing woman and the husband who is accused of making her disappear was a huge hit this fall, and with good reason. Ben Affleck has never been better as an ethically challenged Midwestern man who desperately wants out of his marriage and may have taken extreme measures to do it, while Rosamund Pike is the missing woman, a stunning blonde snob who may be much more conniving than anyone could have imagined. The supporting cast – in particular Kim Dickens as a detective, Carrie Coon as Affleck’s sister, Tyler Perry as his media consultant and Neil Patrick Harris as Pike’s ex-boyfriend – is fantastic. Fincher’s taut scene-making, perfect pacing, chiaroscuro light and great use of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music make for a thrilling film experience, but Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel is the real star; the story is just insanely fun.

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Pride http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/24/pride/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/24/pride/#respond Wed, 24 Dec 2014 16:55:18 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/24/pride/

dvd of the week

In the somewhat tired genre of British movies that focus on plucky working class folks winning contests and defying mores (The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Brassed Off, etc.) the politics of class conflict are usually sublimated by the up-from-our-bootstraps plotlines. But while Pride, about a group of gay activists in London who set out to help striking miners in Wales in 1984, is firmly in that genre and suffers a bit for it, the film is actually about and never shies away from politics. The eager gay activists in London who decided to help the miners do so by raising money to give the strikers for food, clothing and other sundries. The activists – young gay socialist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), aging disco queen Jonathan Blake (Dominic West), college boy Joe (George McKay), lonely lesbian Steph (Faye Marsay), among others – raised a good sum of money for a group of striking miners in a randomly chosen town in Wales. When they tell the strike committee in that town about their work, they are warmly welcomed by town elders Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Hefina (Imelda Staunton) and plucky, young miner’s wife Siân James (Monica Dolan), but many of the other townspeople are threatened and threatening. Will they get along? Will they join forces in solidarity? Will everyone learn something about themselves? Will there be a dance sequence? If you’ve seen any of the movies in the genre, you can imagine what the answers to these questions are.

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Skeleton Twins http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/18/skeleton-twins/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/18/skeleton-twins/#respond Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:12:14 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/18/skeleton-twins/

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader in Skeleton Twins

dvd of the week

 

Skeleton Twins, a dark comedy about two siblings haunted by their father’s suicide and their own failure to love the right person, was one of Sundance’s big hits this year, and it deserved the hype. The film opens with Milo (Bill Hader) drunkenly attempting to commit suicide with a razor and a bathtub and his sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig), with whom he had not spoken in 10 years, getting the call from the hospital just before she is to take a handful of pills. Milo agrees to leave Los Angeles and come stay with her and her husband Lance (Luke Wilson) in upstate New York. Milo, a waiter and failed actor, is arch, sarcastic and gay, and he finds Maggie and Lance’s cutesy, weirdly earnest marriage eye-rollingly ridiculous. Maggie, an awkward dental hygienist who suffers her sadness in silence, is secretly taking birth control pills while Lance thinks they’re trying to get pregnant and taking classes to meet other men, to, it seems, feel something strong and wrong. While Maggie tries to keep it all together, Milo starts working for Lance and visiting an old boyfriend (Ty Burrell), who is very confused about his feelings for Milo. The action is split between Milo and Maggie’s messy searches for love and fulfilment and their haphazard reconciliation. They have hilarious bonding sessions (one of which includes the best use of a Starship song in four decades) and horrible fights, they reveal and resurface secrets and wounds, and they fumble toward epiphanies. The acting is splendid, but Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman’s screenplay is the real star of the film. But Johnson and Heyman balance the humor and pathos perfectly, Wiig and Hader the lines and the scenes to create something beautiful, surprising and moving.

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Guardians of the Galaxy http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/11/guardians-of-the-galaxy/ http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/11/guardians-of-the-galaxy/#respond Thu, 11 Dec 2014 21:25:32 +0000 http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/12/11/guardians-of-the-galaxy/

Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy

dvd of the week

Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s surprise megahit, is hugely entertaining. Our hero Star Lord – played by crazily hot, adorable and very funny Chris Pratt –is joined by the furry Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), hilariously taciturn and wooden Groot (Vin Diesel), a green lady named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and a super-literal muscleman Drax (Dave Bautista). Because of a lot of cosmic mythology too complex to explain here, they must break out of space jail and fight super-powered bad guys in order to save the galaxy or something like that. The pacing is breathless, and the cosmic, superheroic action – impressively directed by James Gunn almost entirely in CGI that is beautifully designed by Charles Wood and photographed by Ben Davis – is as thrilling as what Joss Whedon did in The Avengers or George Lucas did in the first Star Wars.

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