Archive for the ‘Decade: 2010's’ Category

This Is Where I Leave You

March 7, 2023

Netflix just acquired the 2014 adult family angst film, This Is Where I Leave You starring a gigantic, recognizable cast including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, and Jane Fonda. This is mediocre Hollywood family drama at its tropiest best. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not very exciting. A couple of cast changes maybe? But I did make it through – all the way. It could have been so much better. But it is what it is. Maybe good for a streaming surfing Friday night or Sunday afternoon when you don’t really want to be challenged and aren’t in the mood for a cooking show. And if nothing else, it was amazing to see Jane Fonda play a ——- character – finally! No spoiler alerts here. Tame, tame, tame. 3 out of 5.

This Is Where I Leave You currently streams on Netflix.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

October 15, 2022

Based on the 2012 tinsel town tell-all, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2018) follows Scotty Bowers in his later years (90+) as he reminisces on his post-WWII life acting as a sort of sweet pimp to the stars. The book and documentary have a polarizing effect on the public. There are people who laugh at the absurdity of Scotty telling tales after all these stars are dead and gone. And there are other reasonable people who feel like it has to be true, simply because of the pressure the studio system put on its stars from the 40’s and beyond – they had to have some way of blowing off steam so to speak. Told with frankness and kindness, Scotty comes off as sort of a Mother Teresa of the Hollywood underground sex scene in the second half of the 20th Century. At first, I dismissed Scotty. Then I finally sat down and watched the documentary. There are so many threads of truth – Rock Hudson, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, I can’t help but think a lot of this must be true, even if it might also be embellished. The oddest part of the reveal was not the Hollywood name dropping. It was the idea that in his 60’s Scotty would marry a woman who had no idea of his past. He never told her about his past. And then when he publishes the book, she wants no part of it. She’s also obviously homophobic in one scene. Why would a man who is gay or fluid or bisexual marry someone who’s not accepting of LGBTQ folk? And why would Scotty keep that part of his life from her, if he indeed celebrated sexuality his entire adult life? He seems so gleeful about sex and his part in helping others, even as he remembers the best times of his life well into his 90’s. In some ways I suppose Scotty embraced the modern definition of the word queer long before this new generation. Whatever you believe or don’t believe, Scotty’s tale is a salacious, saucy story. Lots of fun. None of the sex stories made me cringe. His hoarding in multiple homes really made me cringe. But the truth to his sexcapades whether they are true, false, or what I believe – somewhere gloriously in-between do make you wonder about the rigidity of the Hollywood system, and the people who bought into it to work and become stars. Whatever you believe, there was a lot of hormones pinging. 3.5 out of 5.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood currently streams on Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Plex, PlutoTV, Tubi, and The Roku Channel.

All About Evil

October 1, 2022

Three years before Orange is the New Black premiered, and and nine years before Russian Doll stormed Netflix, Nathasha Lyonne starred in the B-movie horror flick, All About Evil along with Mink Stole, Cassandra Peterson, and Thomas Dekker. From Google,

A mousy woman inherits an old movie house and starts making a series of grisly shorts, but her fans do not realize that the murders in the films are all real.

Directed by Peaches Christ, the San Francisco drag persona of Josh Grinnel, All About Evil reminds me of early John Waters films with a bit more sophistication. 12 years later, the film has its Blu-ray remastered release. I realized early on, I am not the audience for this film. It’s campy, outrageous, revolting, silly, and most of all fun. If you’re in the mood for camp, B-movie horror, keep this one in mind as we move into the Halloween season. 2.9 out of 5 (that means I didn’t like it, but it’s a good representation of its genre).

All About Evil currently streams on The Roku Channel, Amazon Prime, Sling TV,and YouTube TV, and is available on Blu-ray disk from your public library.

A Discovery of Witches: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

August 19, 2022

Finally got around to watching the 2018 television adaptation, A Discovery of Witches from the `All Souls’ trilogy written by Deborah Harkness. Was hoping for lots of fun. I have been a huge witch fan my entire life starting with The Wizard of Oz, Bewitched and Salem Witch Trial papers in grade school (what an odd little Catholic boy I was) to Rosemary’s Baby, Buffy‘s Willow and Tara, and Eve’s Bayou. Unfortunately this series just didn’t take me to where I wanted to go. It had all the makings of a great story, but fell short. 2 out of 5. Next.

A Discovery of Witches currently streams on Roku Channel, Sling TV, and YouTube TV.

Downton Abbey (2019) (take 4)

August 1, 2022

All hail the first Downton film. Comfort food forever. This one feels-good anytime I pop the 4K disk into the player. Relax, and enjoy.

Feud: Bette and Joan

July 27, 2022

I’ve been waiting five years to watch the Ryan Murphy limited series, Feud about the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Somehow the series got lost after it premiered on FX in 2017. I’ve been impatient ever since and finally Hulu picked it up. Jessica Lange disappears into Joan Crawford. I forgot what a great actress Susan Sarrandon is after her political meltdowns over the past few years. The two of them together are a tour de force of talent and emotion. Feud is the best combination of feel-good fun and outstanding acting. The rest of the cast also blew me away including:

Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland
Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich
Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner
Kiernan Shipka as B. D. Merrill
Jackie Hoffman stealing every scene she’s in as Mamacita
Dominic Burgess as Victor Buono
Sarah Paulson all too briefly as Geraldine Page
Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell
John Rubinstein as George Cukor
John Waters as William Castle
Cameron Dye as Don Bachardy

So many nods to gay men with Victor Buono and his crazy opening lines to Bette Davis, John Rubenstein as George Cukor, and Cameron Dye as Christopher Isherwood’s long term partner Don Bachardy who sketches Bette’s portrait towards the end of the series.

Feud packs a lot into each episode. Keep your phone handy to look up actors or directors you sort of know but need more background on. Jessica and Susan carry the show gorgeously. There’s not a weak note in the ten episodes. Murphy’s really got an eye and a pen for writing these incredible historical pieces on Old Hollywood. And think about it. The premise of much of the series revolves around Bette and Joan being in their mid to late 50’s and not being able to find decent work. Today Murphy hires all sorts of older female actresses proving that the prime of one’s life can be anytime, not just youth. Can’t get enough of the drama, the inside look, the glamour, the pain, and the triumph of Feud. 4.5 out of 5.

Feud: Bette and Joan currently streams on Hulu.

Reel Charlie Speaks – Episode 2: HIV AIDS Films

July 25, 2022

It took two months instead of one, but I am publishing the second Reel Charlie Speaks podcast. In Reel Charlie Speaks, I focus on a classic piece of work and discuss what it meant to me when I first discovered it and how it has stood the test of time. Today I reflect upon six HIV AIDS films from my list of the best HIV AIDS Films I’ve compiled over the years.

Read Reel Charlie film reviews on each of the titles discussed in this episode:
Adventures of Felix (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Before I Forget (currently not streaming in the U.S.)
Blue (streaming on Kanopy)
How to Survive a Plague (streaming on Amazon Prime and SlingTV)
Parting Glances (streaming on Plex, Amazon Prime, and Philo)
Zero Patience (streaming on The Criterion Channel)

See the full list of Reel Charlie’s HIV AIDS films.

Philip Bahr marching in ACT-UP demo. Kennebunkport, Maine. September 1, 1991. Screen grab from the film How to Survive a Plague

Coming up:
August 2022: Coming Out
September 2022: Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City


Jurassic World (2015) (take 2)

July 19, 2022

In anticipation of the new Jurassic 2022 film, I decided to go back and watch the 2015 film, the start of the second franchise. Read my updated review.


Memorial Day 2022

May 30, 2022

There are all types of films about war – the war itself, the aftermath, the consequences, those left behind. War after war after war. I hope we can achieve world peace in my lifetime. I have always thought that was attainable. I have to think it’s possible. What other way is there to live? Meanwhile, we honor and celebrate those who died in service with a variety of war-related films Reel Charlie gives high marks.

5 Broken Cameras
The Best Years of Our Lives
Good Morning Vietnam
Home Fires
The Hurt Locker
Joyeux Noel
Judgement at Nuremberg
Poster Girl/Iraq Paper Scissors
The Tilman Story

Americans in Bed

April 23, 2022

A 2013 documentary from HBO, Americans in Bed follows ten couples who talk about love, romance, sex, and all aspects of relationships. They are literally in bed together as the camera rolls. One couple’s young and broken up 26 times in several years, another couple’s been together for 71 years. There’s an African-American couple, a Muslim couple, a gay male couple, and a bisexual female couple. There’s also a polyamorous man and a former polyamorous women in two different relationships. Diversity’s where it’s at in this film. I watched about 2/3’s of Americans in Bed. I felt like it was as real as possible, but began wondering what was staged, how were the couples deciding to present themselves, and then I kept wondering who would still be together a few years after the taping. Ultimately it didn’t hold my attention for the duration. As with most real world couples, I felt happy for a few and perplexed as to why the others would bother staying together. 2 out of 5.

Americans in Bed currently streams on HBO Max.

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