Monday, November 17, 2014

Betty White on AHS

From an offhand comment by a Facebook friend (Hi, Michelle!), came my latest 'thing.' Now hear me out on this one.

The incomparable Jessica Lange has already announced her departure from "American Horror Story," the anthology/repertory genre series that won her two Emmy Awards, after this season. 

America's Favorite Dirty Old Lady/Sweetheart has just learned that TVLand has cancelled her often quite hilarious sitcom "Hot In Cleveland." Yes, Lange has been the show's 'star,' but other company members (Sarah Paulson; Frances Conroy; Evan Peters; Lily Rabe) have been the backbones of many episodes and seasons. Who better to be the next Grand Dame of whatever nastiness Ryan Murphy and company have cooking for Season Five. It certainly wouldn't be her first foray into genre work. Remember her hilarious turn as a foul-mouthed farm widow in Lake Placid?

She'd fit right in with newer company members Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. I can see them as some sort malevolent troika of evil... deliciously camp and sickly twisted! 

And don't forget, a similar campaign got her a particularly hilarious gig hosting "Saturday Night Live:"

She's even hosted her own (rather lame) hidden camera show, "Off Their Rockers." Think 'Punk'd" meets Cocoon.

Surely Ryan Murphy knows the value of good publicity and ratings. So I am asking you to take to Twitter and Facebook and make the hashtag #BettyWhiteOnAHS trend hard! Let's get Betty another outrageous gig!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mini Reviews - "X-Men: Days of Future Past;" "Horns;" "Magic in the Moonlight."

One of the many benefits of traveling for my day job is the opportunity to catch up on films I missed in theaters at no additional expense to me. This past weekend's jaunt to San Francisco was no exception and I was able to see two newish movies while flying and a current release in my hotel room. 

First up, Alexandre Aja's take on Joe Hill's second novel, Horns. I read 'Horns' over a few nights while staying at my sister's a few years ago, and while I liked it a lot, I thought his first novel, 'Heart-Shaped Box' was better. (Hill, if you don't know, is the son of prolific genre novelist Stephen King, writing under his mother's maiden name). Ig Parrtish (Daniel Radcliffe) is accused of murdering his long-time love Merrin (Juno Temple). When he suddenly sprouts what appear to be demonic horns on his forehead, Ig finds those he encounters incapable of telling him anything but the worst secrets about themselves. Determined to find Merrin's true killer, Ig tears through his Pacific Northwest hometown, exposing the worst among it's residents, including his own family. Aja (High Tension; The Hills Have Eyes) displays his distinctive look in full, giving Horns a very in-your-face style. Radcliffe is impressive in the role, though some may find Harry Potter swearing and having sex a little off-putting. Supporting performances from James Remar; Kathleen Quinlan; Heather Grahame and David Morse are excellent, across the board, though Temple seemed a little flat in a role which consisted entirely of flashbacks. While some critics truly disliked Horns, I thought it a fairly faithful adaptation with some interesting FX and an hilarious comment on the secrets we all try to keep from one another. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Horns is rated 'R' for "sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use." 

Next was director Bryan Singer's newest entry in the franchise he created, X-Men: Days of Future Past. While I've always had issues with time-travel story lines, Singer manages to almost seamlessly combine the casts of both timelines in the series in a story revolving around a group of genetically-altered robots used to root out and destroy mutants. With a plot too convoluted to go into in a mini-review and Hugh Jackman's obviously aging Wolverine as a character who doesn't age, Days of Future Past somehow works, despite minimal appearances from the franchise's most famous members. "American Horror Story" cutie Evan Peters and "Game of  Thrones" alum Peter Dinklage join the growing number of terrific actors to appear in the franchise. Great FX and some complex performances from James McAvoy; Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence help make Days... one of the better entries in the franchise. *** 1/2 (Three and a Half Stars Out of Four). Rated 'PG-13' for "sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language."

Finally, comes prolific director Woody Allen's latest period piece, Magic in the Moonlight. Set mostly in the south of France in 1928, Magic... is the story of a magician and psychic debunker (Colin Firth) who is pressed by a friend and fellow magician (Simon McBurney) to reveal the fakery of an American medium (Emma Stone). What follows is a rather dull and predictable story in which Firth's character is fooled by and eventually falls in love with Stone's. Allen's oft-studied themes of religion and atheism are at the core, but it's nothing we haven't seen from him before. Supporting performances from Hamish Linklater; Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver and some lovely period costumes and set-pieces make the movie a bit more palatable, but I haven't seen an Allen film I've loved in a long time. There is really nothing new or interesting about Magic in the Moonlight and I think it may finally signal the call for the once-hilariously brilliant filmmaker to retire.  ** (Two Out of Four Stars) Magic in the Moonlight is rated PG-13 for " a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout."

More, anon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Retro Review: "The World's End"

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg round out their "Cornetto* Trilogy" (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are the first two) with their take on Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, The World's End.

Desperate to reconnect to his youthful adventures, Gary (Pegg) talks four old mates into recreating and actually finishing the "Golden Mile" pub-crawl they attempted 23 years ago. 12 pubs in one night, ending at The World's End. But when they return to the town they grew up in, something is... off. None of the regular pub owners seem to recognize them and it looks as if they keep passing the same people on the street over and over again. Joined by pals Peter (Eddie Marsan); Steven (Paddy Considine); Oliver (Martin Freeman); Andy (Nick Frost) and eventually Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), Gary is determined to relive the best night of his life, despite the decidedly weird goings on in their home town. And as difficult as dredging up the past may be for all of them, what's happening in their small village is much worse.

Pegg's and Wright's script spends the first act on somewhat slow but amusing (and important) exposition before it's gets to the meat of the story, (SPOILER ALERT) which ultimately involves an alien plot to pacify the citizens of Earth so they might join an inter-galactic coalition of some kind. The performances across the board are excellent (who knew Frost could move like that?) and the FX are terrific. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and even more moments of quiet humor. Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye) and "The Strain" alum David Bradley both lend their talents in supporting roles and the ubiquitous Bill Nighy is on hand for some very funny voice-over work at the end.

While certainly better than Hot Fuzz, The World's End still can't hold a candle to the brilliantly funny first film, Shaun of the Dead, though it echoes many of the same themes and locales while completing the triumvirate of Horror, Action and Sci-Fi in a mostly satisfying way (and including a rather hilarious fence joke which appears in all three films).

*** (Three Out of Four Stars). The World's End is rated 'R' for "for pervasive language including sexual references." 

*BTW - Cornetto is a British Ice Cream cone brand, featured in all three movies.

And here are the trailers for the first two films in the trilogy:

I hope to watch all three in a row, some day...

More, anon.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Disgustings, or The Gayest D-Bags You'll See This Week

Drew Droege and Jordan Firstman
Writer/Director/Star Jordan Firstman's short The Disgustings spends time with the kind of gay men we all know... and hopefully avoid: Elitist haters who pretend to be above everyone else and who can take no real joy in life. 

Co-starring and co-written by Drew Droege (best known for his hilarious YouTube videos where he parodies Indie actress Chloe Sevigny), The Disgustings is a dead-on look at the kind of narcissistic, self-hating gay men we've all encountered (and wanted to smash in their faces with a trendy cocktail). Judgmental, crass and completely unaware, Jordan and Drew hit every note about what is wrong with modern gay culture in this biting satire.

The Disgustings from jordan firstman on Vimeo.

Hilarious and sad at the same time, yes? Uncle P (as have many of you, I'm sure) has met his fair share of guys like this. It's no wonder they're taking selfies alone. I hope I never wind up as one of these sad queens who hate everyone and everything, just because I hate myself (which I don't). Thankfully, some exceptionally good friends, my amazing sister and some very affirming recent experiences (does Uncle P have a new Beau? Stay tuned to find out...) have convinced me that no matter how cynical and jaded I may become, I will never be as awful as these two. If you see yourself in this movie, don't bother to look me up. And get some help, bitch.You need it.

More, anon.
Uncle P

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Retro Review: "John Carpenter's 'The Ward'"

Genre great John Carpenter made his mark with the original Halloween and has since made some of the most memorable genre films of all time, including Christine; They Live; his amazing remake of The Thing and the very campy Big Trouble in Little China, among others. This 2010 effort from the now 68 year old director, unfortunately can't hold a candle his previous work.

Amber Heard plays Kristin, a teen girl found standing outside a farmhouse to which she set fire, and with no memory of anything before that. She is taken to a special ward of the local mental hospital where Dr. Stringer ("Fringe" and "Sherlock Holmes" villain Jared Harris) is testing a new kind of therapy on a group of similarly-aged teen girls, each with their own disassociative disorders.  Kristin moves into the room formerly occupied by Tammy, who in a prologue appears to have been murdered by some malevolent entity.

What follows is probably the most un-Carpenter-like Carpenter film ever made. Filled with cliches and genre tropes, this 1966-set 'ghost' movie ends up being little more than a pseudo-psychological thriller ala Identity and Shutter Island, though both of those movies are superior in almost every way. There are some terrific performances by the young cast, which includes Mamie Gummer; Danielle Panabaker; Laura-Leigh and Lyndsey Fonseca, all of whom have appeared on plenty of prime-time dramas and assorted smaller films, and all of whom manage to create interesting - if not exactly original - characters. The script by Michael & Shawn Rasmussen is both clunky and derivative, and I am surprised Carpenter agreed to do it. Proof that even if you've got it, you don't get to keep it.

Want to have a John Carpenter Halloween movie festival? Watch the 5 films mentioned in the first paragraph of this review and avoid this stinker like Vampires. *(One Out of Four Stars). The Ward  is rated 'R' for "violence and disturbing images." It is currently playing on Cinemax and Cinemax OnDemand, should you wish to waste 89 minutes.

More, anon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Mitzi Ruhlman in Yardbird
I love finding new works from new filmmakers. While Australian director Michael Spiccia's 2012 short Yardbird may not exactly be new, it's relatively new to the States, having played at last year's Tribecca Film Festival. I had never heard of it, but thanks to the good folks over at Neatorama, I discovered it today.

Written by Julius Avery, Yardbird is about a young girl named Ruby, who lives with her father on a remote Australian junkyard. After saving a cat from being tortured by a trio of young thugs, Ruby and her father find themselves under attack. Unfortunately for the chief instigator, Ruby is... special. Taking cues from Stephen King's "Carrie" and employing some extraordinary SFX, Yardbird should be a lesson to all those who would be bullies. You never know who you're screwing with, so don't screw with anyone. 

Ruhlman, in a silent role, gives an extraordinary performance for such a young actor. Without saying a single word, she manages to convey every thought and emotion she's experiencing simply by letting us read her exceptionally expressive face. A remarkable short film by a team from which I hope to see more. Take 11 minutes to watch Yardbird. You won't regret it (a few NSFW F-bombs):

Yardbird from Bridle Path Films on Vimeo.

Not exactly a horror film (though certainly containing elements of the genre), Yardbird is a perfect example of the power of 'quiet' film making. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I and hope you'll share it. It certainly deserves to be seen.

More, anon.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

National Coming Out Day

So today was National Coming Out Day.  I hope lots of folks did and are the happier for it, as am I. And while it's all well and good that we have an official "Coming Out Day," for many of us, coming out isn't or wasn't a one day deal. 

For Uncle P, the process started with a few High School Theatre girl friends, claiming then (and through much of college) that I was Bisexual, knowing full well that wasn't true in the least. Of course, Uncle P came of age at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, adding additional stigma to being a young gay man. And while all through my 20's and early 30's I had my fun, it wasn't until I went into therapy that I was able to not just come out to myself, but to to my immediate family. I was going to tell my mother on "Come Out with Ellen" day, but chose to do so a week before, steeling myself with a drink or three, first. She cried, not because I was gay, but because I had been afraid to tell her. Eventually, I started expressing to her which men I found attractive on the TV shows we both watched and we would have small conversations about why and whether or not we found the same guys attractive. She loved my long ago ex, Ric and encouraged me to find someone right up until she went into the hospital for the last time. 

I told my sister that same year, on the last night of my once-annual October trip to Florida. She was neither shocked nor upset, though embarrassed at having used the "F" word, earlier in the day (something that almost stopped me from telling her). To this day, she continues to not only be my BFF (I love you K & Q, but you know...) and a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, including Marriage Equality. I feel so lucky to have her on my side, especially given the stories we all know about families abandoning their LGBT members. And while there are still a few elderly family members (my Aunt and Mom's Aunt and Uncle, among them) who don't know - and as far as I am concerned, don't need to know - most of my cousins and few aunts and uncles know. And that's fine. They are all mostly liberal and accepting. And if not, the hell with them. I have reached the age where I truly don't give a rat's ass what you think about me.

For me, coming out was a long, drawn-out process which took many years. As I am sure it was and will continue to be for many gay people. But as more and more of us make ourselves visible, it will be easier and easier for those who come after us. Eventually (hopefully), 'coming out' won't be something anyone needs to worry about. Am I too optimistic about a Roddenberryesque Utopia where the whole word gets it? How  I would love a peek into the future a hundred or so years from now. I can only hope the smart folks win.

In celebration of Coming Out, here's the trailer for my favorite gay rom-com and sweet coming out story, Big Eden:

And here's a very affirming music video about Coming Out:

Own yourself. Love yourself. Be yourself!

Sending you love and support! Come out, come out, whoever you are! Know that there are many people who love and support you! I'm here if you need an ear.

More, anon.