Show

July/August Show

 

Reviews by Obie Espinosa, Jeff Katz & Gary Kramer

 

Cloudburst (DVD) 

Wolfe Video

2 Stars 

Out Canadian writer/director Thom Fitzgerald’s Cloudburst pairs Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple, and the two Oscar-winners are perfect for their roles. But while both ladies are no-nonsense, Fitzgerald gives them mostly foolish things to do. The plot has Stella (Dukakis) kidnapping Dot (Fricker) from an assisted-living facility in Maine that Dot’s uptight granddaughter Molly (Kristin Booth) deviously forced her into to separate the lovers. On the lam from the law, the old ladies head to Canada to get married to gain legal rights. Along the way, they meet Prentice (Ryan Doucette), a hunky hitchhiker who helps them. Cloudburst has some sweet moments regarding queer love and marriage, but all too often Fitzgerald goes for crudity with Stella’s salty talk, or nudity, as when Dot has an extended encounter with Prentice’s very naked father. Fitzgerald’s emphasis on broad, obvious humor distracts—and detracts—from what could have been a subtler and more poignant film. —GK

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side of Love (DVD) 

Ariztical

​1.5 Stars

Writer/producer/director/editor Jorge Ameer’s The Dark Side of Love concerns two estranged brothers—gay Julian and homophobic Michael—who reunite after the death of their mother. Michael brings home his druggie girlfriend, Chanel, while Julian is joined by Steven, a straight man he “wins” in a charity auction. While Chanel seduces Steven to verify his sexuality, Steven may be falling for Julian. Could that be why he asks his naked bedmate for a massage? Yet Ameer leaves it up to audiences to decide what the characters are thinking. Most viewers will wonder what Ameer and the actors were thinking. An explicit and gratuitous pre-credit sequence involves Michael getting sucked off by a stranger, while the most bizarre scene has Chanel using her tampon to cook (don’t ask!). There is also a head-scratching “twist” ending. The Dark Side of Love is watchable, but barely—given the dimness of the lighting, acting, writing, editing and direction. —GK

 

 

 

 

Lovelace (Theaters)

A Rob Epstein/Jeffrey Friedman Film

4 stars

Not quite Boogie Nights but equally nostalgic, Lovelace takes us into the world of adult film through the eyes of the industry’s most notorious name: Linda Lovelace. A fantastically diverse cast—including Sharon Stone, Bobby Cannavale, James Franco and Debi Mazar—does a superb job, but it’s the films two leads that will captivate. All is forgiven when it comes to the hideous Mamma Mia after seeing Amanda Seyfried mature before your very eyes in this gritty role, while Peter Sarsgaard manages to both masterfully entice and repulse within the brief 90-minute run time. There’s a lot of story crammed into a small package, which may have been better suited to include some breathing room, but it’s a fascinating story nonetheless. —JK

 

 

 

 

Austenland (Theaters)

Sony Pictures Classic

4.5 stars

Lit boys rejoice—you can love your Mr. Darcy out and proud, thanks in part to Jerusha Hess’ ridiculously cute Austenland. An ever-charming Keri Russell blows her savings on a trip to the English countryside to meet her own Mr. Darcy at a resort where all things revolve around Jane Austen. But unlike some of Austen’s novels, Austenland remains thoroughly entertaining—and witty—from beginning to end. A stellar cast featuring Jane Seymour and The New Normal’s Georgia King provide ample support to Russell as Jane Hayes, but as usual, it’s the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge who steals the show. As the affable Miss Elizabeth Charming, Coolidge turns the Regency on its head in what may be her funniest role since For Your Consideration. And an awesome ’80s-tastic soundtrack helps make this hilarious rom-com even more enjoyable. —OE

 

 

 

Bashment (DVD) 

Ariztical

​3.5 Stars

Bashment is an ambitious, overstuffed, but not ineffective film about a queer, white MC in the UK grappling with the aftermath of a violent incident that leaves his lover brain damaged. Writer/director Rikki Beadle-Blair asks many provocative questions about race and class, as well as masculinity, gender, and sexuality as victims confront their jailed attackers to find the source of the hate and rage. The ideas about forgiveness and bridging the gaps between black and white, gay and straight, even male and female are valid, although viewers will have to get past some wildly unrealistic transformations. Additionally, the characters’ thick accents, plus the film’s plot contrivances and staginess—Bashment is based on a play—can be straining. And while Beadle-Blair may cudgel viewers with loud, angry language, his mission here is to promote a new way of thinking about manners, racism, and homophobia—and for that he should be applauded. —GK

 

 

 

June Show

By Obie Espinosa, Christopher Jones, Jeff Katz & Gary M. Kramer

Twenty Feet From Stardom (Theaters)

RadiusTWC

4 stars

Lead singers beware: the true diva may be behind you. At least that’s what Morgan Neville’s exciting Twenty Feet From Stardom finds, as some of the iconic background voices from music’s biggest songs finally get their turn in the spotlight. Neville jumps around between decades and stories, covering the bumpy roads of such true stars as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer, who recount their years singing backup for the likes of Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Bette, Elton and more. The stories are compelling, but the music is the real gem of the film! Amazing footage from early Ike and Tina performances, studio sessions from the heyday of Phil Spector’s reign and priceless backstage gossip make Twenty Feet From Stardom any music lover’s must-see doc of the year. But this isn’t all old-school reminiscing: The doc also introduces a then-unknown phenom named Judith Hill, a former Michael Jackson backup singer who many may now recognize from her recent run on The Voice. Stardom not only paints of beautiful picture of true musical talent and intense drive and determination, but also the pitfalls of fame and an all-too-often unfair entertainment industry. —JK

 

 

 

Call Me Kuchu (Theaters)

Cinedigm/Cat & Dogs

5 stars

While it took the murder of Ugandan gay rights leader David Kato for most of the world to wake up to the incredible injustices being put forth by that government, filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall had already been on the ground for nearly a year, working to highlight the incredibly brave work of a small but might group of LGBT people. David’s 2011 death would of course be a turning point, but as Call Me Kuchu brilliantly shows, the fight for human rights was already well underway. The documentary takes viewers into the courtrooms, hideouts and, yes, funeral, where Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill and the country’s other controversial anti-gay measures hit hardest. Some interviews, like that of the managing editor of the Rolling Stone newspaper—the paper which published the names, photos and address of “known homosexuals”—will infuriate, while moments like the joyous scene at the unofficial Miss Kuchu 2010/2011 pageant will inspire. It’s the filmmakers’ ability to walk that fine line in emotional, fair storytelling that makes Kuchu such a standout. —OE

 

 

Men to Kiss (DVD)

TLA

3.5 stars

This genial German comedy—featuring many of the same cast members from Alex and Leo reprising their roles from that film—has Tobi (Udo Lutz) and Ernie (Frank Christian Marx) hitting a snag in their relationship when Ernie’s BFF Uta (Alexandra Starnitzky) pays a visit. While the film is about the animosity between friends and lovers, the comedy is farcical with Tobi and his pals plotting against Uta, and vice versa. There are some cute gags, and some fun courtesy of Tobi’s mother (played by a man in drag), however by the time this slight romantic comedy reaches its climax it’s more maddening than madcap. Still, Marx is so adorable it makes sense why folks would fight over him. —GK

 

 

The OUT List (TV)

HBO

5 stars

Gaylebrities: Our prominent LGBT celebrity leaders in the entertainment, business and sports worlds representing LGBT life. We love them and often we think we know them, but the The Out List, a documentary film by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, proves that we all truly have no idea. In poignant and personal interviews, this film examines the trials and triumps of some of our favorite and most beloved stars by asking them the questions we wish we all could: Why was Neil Patrick Harris afraid of being gay and why does he believe his children don’t need both male and female parents? How did Wanda Sykes resolve her personal conflict between homosexuality and religion? What does Dustin Lance Black think about being labeled a gay filmmaker? During a month where we celebrate LGBT Pride; we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a decision on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act; and we mark the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, this brilliant film couldn’t come at a more perfect time. —CJ

 

 

May Show Reviews

Don’t waste your time with Rotten Tomatoes when you’ve got the Instinct eye right here. Our Show reviews have found a new home online; and trust that we’re just as opinionated as ever! Get the scoop on Struck By Lightening, Turtle Hill, Brooklyn and more and find out if these releases are worth the investment.

 

The Visitor (DVD) 

TLA 

2 stars 

 

 

The Visitor is a slight drama about Cibrail, an attractive patrolman, meeting—and falling for—his girlfriend Christine’s cute cousin, Marco. The guys go jogging together, and Cibrail often spies on the scantily clad Marco at night. Before long, he cannot resist his attraction, and eventually joins the handsome stranger in a shower for sex. But nothing much is ever said by the two men about their desires, which makes them rather enigmatic. Writer/director Tor Iben insists on zooming his DV lens in on the characters to create meaning from the silence, but it’s a technique as sloppy as the film’s choppy editing. The Visitor features odd inserts of Berlin’s Pride parade, and would-be sexy assignations seem to be cut down (or cut out completely) from something a bit more explicit and interesting. It’s shoddy filmmaking that distracts from a sweet coming out story. —GK

 

 

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

Will Pork Productions and Brownpenny Films

2 stars

 

 

Will is having a pretty crappy 30th birthday. What is supposed to be a party with friends turns into the day he’s outed to his sister, finds out his boyfriend cheated and continually gets ragged on for smoking. Unfortunately viewers of Turtle Hill, Brooklyn are likely to be feeling equally low by the end as the material (and overacting) tends to drag on. With more than a fair share of random, unnecessary moments and a never-ending parade of party guests ringing door bells, Turtle Hill can, at times, seem a bit unpolished. It’s a little film that ambitiously attempts to cover a wide spectrum of topics—from gay Republicans to open relationships—but more often than not the jumping around is just plain distracting. This party in Turtle Hill may be one to rethink RSVPing to. —OE

 

Struck by Lightning (DVD) 

Tribeca Film

3.5 stars

 

 

For ambitious, overachieving (and apparently asexual) teenager Carson Phillips (Glee’s Chris Colfer, who also penned the screenplay), high school is hell. President of the newspaper and writer’s club, he can’t get anyone to submit to his publications—until he blackmails several fellow students into contributing to his literary magazine. Struck by Lightning boasts some witty lines and nice messages about living in the moment as well as points why outsider teens should not wallow in clichés and self-pity. But this slim film feels like it ends just when it is getting started. This may be because of a lengthy subplot involving Carson’s parents (the terrific Alison Janney and Dermot Mulroney) working out their own screwed up lives. At least “it” girl Rebel Wilson gets some choice comic moments as Carson’s best friend to generate laughs among the angst. —GK