Tag Archives: Romance

Book Review: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

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Rating: B-/ It’s attraction at first sight for Nathan, the sensitive new kid in town, and his somewhat older classmate Roy. Living across from Roy in a house rented out on Roy’s property, fifteen-year-old Nathan is the victim of incestuous advances from his drunken father, and discovers sexual pleasure for the first time in the arms of the quiet, intense Roy. Nathan starts hanging out with Roy and his friends every day, chubby scaredy-cat Randy and ultra-aggressive alpha male Burke. But, unknown to to them both, Nathan and Roy are headed for unthinkable tragedy, in the form of a jealous act of violence. Continue reading Book Review: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Rating: B/  This is the kind of movie you sort of have to be in the mood for; a slow-paced, low-key period piece with a vivid sense of time and place. The love story at the center of the film is endearing if nothing spectacular, but the excellent acting and instantly empathizeable heroine make it an enjoyable experience. It’s like a slice of life from days long since past. Continue reading Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Movie Review: October Gale (2014)

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Rating: C+/ If a strange man shows up in your house with a gunshot wound and a half-baked story, trust him unreservedly. He couldn’t possibly be a serial killer or a rapist, could he?

I don’t care what anybody says, Tim Roth makes any movie about 100% times better. His loquacious villain makes this movie, well, watchable. Patricia Clarkson is a wonderful actress, but even she can’t save October Gale from the gutter. Here she plays Helen, a recent widow who goes to her summer home for the first time after the death of her husband (played in flashbacks by Callum Keith Rennie.) Continue reading Movie Review: October Gale (2014)

Movie Review: Beyond the Lights (2014)

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Rating: B-/ Fame offers a thrill more potent than any drug,  but like a drug, it can also consume your life completely. This is the dilemma faced by Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw,) a beautiful mixed-race pop star pushed beyond endurance by her domineering white mother (Minnie Driver,.) Noni is famous primarily for making trashy pop-rap music videos with her musical partner/ sort of boyfriend Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly,) where the unlikely duo sings about booty and twerking while Noni leaves very little of her scantily clad body to the imagination. Continue reading Movie Review: Beyond the Lights (2014)

Boy Meets Girl (2014)

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As progressive as Boy Meets Girl might be for featuring a romance between a transsexual in the midst of making the transition from male to female and a young sexually ambivalent woman, it’s pretty much a bust in terms of pure filmmaking. I have to say, the Southern accents of the characters really threw me off. They were awful. However, the most dire thing about this movie is the way it presents it’s message with the force of a blunt sledgehammer. It’s a worthy message, one of inclusion and tolerance, but there’s a marked lack of subtlety in the way it’s delivered.

The film (a kind of ‘transsexual love triangle romantic comedy’ for the supposedly young and hip) involves Ricky (Michelle Hendley,) a young transgendered woman living in rural Kentucky who dreams of being a successful fashion designer. Ricky still has guy parts, and finds herself disenchanted with her romantic endeavors with men. Her lifelong friend and confidante is Robbie (Michael Welch,) a guy’s guy and womanizer with whom she owns a small coffee shop. When Ricky meets the Christian, wealthy, and very engaged Southern Belle Francesca (Alexandra Turshen,) the two buck expectations by becoming feverishly attracted to each other. But Francesca’s uber-masculine and homophobic marine fiance David (Michael Galante) looms over their chance at happiness.

Michelle Hendley is an actress who deserves a better movie. She’s fairly natural and actually pretty enchanting as Ricky. She’s really transgendered, so maybe that helps her relate to Ricky’s experience (although of course every trans person’s experience is different.) However, I can’t say the same for the other actors. Turshen is just so fake as Francesca, smiling madly and forcing her way through the entire film. As Robbie, Welch’s accent is dreadful, and although he steps up his game acting-wise about halfway through the movie, his very presence leaves a certifiable bad taste in one’s mouth.

Another problem is the matter of the fiance. David is made into the biggest a-hole possible for most of the movie; just an over-the-top racist, homophobe, and judgmental prick to justify Ricky and Francesca sleeping with each other. Nothing that comes out of David’s mouth seems genuine, it just seems so artificial. Granted, there are bullies and generally awful people in this world, but shouldn’t they be portrayed in movies as people played by capable actors and not one-dimensional cartoons? Of course, after Ricky and Francesca break it off David has a big-time road to Damascus, in other words, exactly when the plot requires him to.

The characters in Boy Meets Girl are caricature-like and shallow. Francesca’s the daughter of a rich politician (Christopher McHale,) and the moment we meet him he’s bitching about Obama to his wealthy Republican friends, just to show us how conservative he is and how out of her element Ricky is. As if fiscal beliefs and values about gender identity and sexual preference have jack shit to do about each other. This movie is just too one-dimensional and too strident in it’s attempts to be cute. Nothing comes off as being real or genuine. The characters sound like extensions of an inexperienced script writer trying to send a message. And the revelation about Galante’s character halfway through the film? Just… don’t. Did they pick this one out of Gay Movie Cliches 101? That’s just lazy script-writing. Boy Meets Girl has a decent idea, but in the end, it’s just another God darn failed opportunity of a concept  that could have been great

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Free Fall (2013)

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That awkward moment when you realize a woman’s touch just can’t compare to the caress of your bosom cop buddy.

Free Fall as been described as the ‘German Brokeback Mountain,’ a comparison that will have movie fans cheering and homophobes running for the hills. I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain for years (not since I was twelve or thirteen) but I remember I had a problem with not finding the characters very likable. Free Fall suffers from a same issue, but not to the same extent, and unlike Brokeback Mountain, which is a straight-out tragedy, Free Fall has a dark but redemptive quality to it, and features a realistic but somewhat hopeful and satisfying ending. The actors show enormous potential, and while the characters are often infuriating, they’re also authentic, and their motivations ring alarmingly true throughout.

Marc (Hanno Koffler) is a fresh-faced young cop-in-training whose wife Bettina (Katharina Schüttler) is pregnant, and whose interfering parents are living right next door and are getting a little too involved with the couple’s lives. In the police academy, Marc is paired up with his new roommate Kay (Max Riemelt) and they get into a testosterone-fueled scuffle almost immediately after meeting one another, but reconcile shortly thereafter. Marc is not a particularly great runner, so he and Kay practice by taking jogs together in the woods. One day on one of their excursions together Kay kisses Marc, and Marc reacts with predictable surprise and disgust. But there was something about the kiss; something that makes Marc (who previously never considered himself to be nothing other than a typical, heterosexual man) experience something he’s never felt, something that makes him crave more. And Marc can only disguise his feelings for so long…

I always feel bad for the wives in films like these. In Katharina Schüttler as Bettina we have a strong and determined actress, but due to a script that doesn’t emphasize much on it’s female players her character comes off a little flat. Her main role is to pry (where were you tonight, Marc? What are you playing at, Marc?) and fret while her swollen belly and innocent features give her a kind but vulnerable look. She never really comes into her own or displays any interesting personality traits. Which brings us to the romance between Kay and Marc.

Kay and Marc are both very flawed characters at times, which makes for a fairly interesting dynamic. While Kay tends to be a little aggressive and interferes with Marc’s life, Marc can be appallingly cagey and disloyal, refusing to acknowledge what he is even to the expense of protecting Kay from prejudiced bullies on the work force. The main big bad bully in question is Gregor Limpinski (Senja Lacher,) a somewhat stereotypical but also unfortunately fairly true-to-life sexed-up misogynist and homophobe struggling under the weight of his own machismo. When Kay is discovered to have been going to a gay club, the bullying begins, and Marc doesn’t find the strength to stand up for his lover at the expense of his own reputation til the very end.

Kay and Marc have kind of an aggressive sexually charged thing going, pushing each other  and delivering some rough in the throes of passion. Marc has feelings both ways and even enjoys sex with his wife to some extent, but Kay provides him with an experience he never could have thought he’d find so weirdly irresistible. But considering his emotional dishonesty and considerable disloyalty to Kay, it’s a pretty good bet that the relationship will never get past it’s trial period. It’s kind of surprising that Kay puts in the time and energy. Although their relationship isn’t healthy by a long shot, the men actually have good chemistry and a highly potent sense of eroticism going on between them.

The characters and situations presented in this film are fairly realistic, with a genuine vibe and minimal melodrama or blatant tearjerking. Marc’s lack of likability is a  bit of a problem. It seems Marc, while not a bad person at heart, has a knack for hurting the people in his life and evading his own moral responsibilities. Free Fall isn’t one of the all-time great gay films (and it’s plot has a bit of a sense of the old been-there-done-that) but it is, as they say, ‘well-done’ and features good performances across the board.

Marc’s sexual ambiguity is another interesting aspect in an all around effective film- can you be a lover of both men and women but show a preference for one at a time considerably after adolescence? Marc’s story is a warning for all those people who make assumptions about their preferences and their part in the bigger picture too early in life, and discover that they made all the wrong decisions. Most people know whether they like men or women from the time they learn to masturbate. For some, it’s harder. Marc reminds us of that, and tells a pretty good story in the process.

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People Places Things (2015)

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Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) is a socially awkward graphic novelist and a native New Zealander living in New York whose world caves in the day of his twin daughters (Audria and Gia Gadsby)’s fifth birthday parties, when he heads upstairs during the festivities and catches his longtime girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allyne) banging her pudgy, affable lover Gary (Michael Chernus)

One year to the day, and Will is still feeling majorly bluesey in the wake of his big break-up. Reluctantly allowed to see his girls on weekends, Will is teaching graphic art at a local college but really doesn’t have his heart in it, preferring instead to immaturely lecture his students on why life, and people in general, totally sucks. Kat (Jessica Williams,) a blunt but good-natured student introduces the lonely Will to her attractive divorcee mother Diane (Regina Hall,) and after a rocky start sparks begin to fly.

However, Will still has feelings for his moody, fickle, and completely exasperating ex, who’s having doubts about her marriage to the girlfriend-stealing Gary, and Will must choose to get over his bitterness and self-doubt and find out how to best serve the interests of not only him, but also his daughters, and ultimately move on.

“People Places Things” is one of those little movies that has completely flown under the radar, and unless, of course, you have a soft spot for the Kiwi funnyman Jemaine Clement, you’re likely to go your whole life without hearing about it. This is a shame, because “People Places Things” is good and true in a way that few American films aspire to be. Will is a very believable character, sometimes delightful, sometimes infuriating, I found myself dubbing him a ‘loser’ over his immaturity and unprofessionalism and at the same time admiring his undeniable love for his kids and his creative spark.

This movie should be called ‘When Nerdy College Professors With Too Much Knowledge and Not Enough People Skills Fall in Love.’ The humor in “People Places Things” is not as much of the ‘laugh-til-you-cry’ variety and more wry, subtle, and oddly relatable, there are no huge happenings in this film and we don’t hold that against it in the least. There is a refreshing lack grand comic misunderstandings in the arguments between Will and his love interest, Diane, they are all messy disagreements that not only very often happen in the real world, they do, every day.

When Will and Diane first have dinner together, Diane callously dismisses graphic novels as an art form. This understandably miffs Will, it is important in a developing relationship for someone to care about the things we’re passionate about, or at least try to understand why we like them. They part on less-than-friendly terms, and the viewer patiently waits for their lives  to converge again, because, hey, maybe these two could have something here. After all, the majority of movie lovers start out on relatively shaky grounds.

The actors do an outstanding job with the material they’re given, and that includes the two child actresses, whose performances are smooth and unforced. They share a genuine comfortableness with Clement, a naturalism that makes us believe they are kin. Jemaine Clement plays a man for whom social skills do not come naturally without the over-the-top ‘geek’ theatrics of popular television programs like The Big Bang Theory and Chuck. He played a similarly awkward protagonist in Eagle Vs. Shark, but his Will is infinitely more relatable and more sympathetic than Eagle…‘s creepy, maladjusted Jarrod.

People Places Things is one of the relatively ‘small’ films that get ignored yearly in favor of bigger, more robust productions. For a bit of wry real-life observational humor, don’t let this charming little comedy pass you by.’

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