Archive for the ‘Film Review Site’ Category

Reel Charlie Turns 9

August 26, 2018

Happy Anniversary to Reel Charlie who turns nine today. Way back when, I used to keep a word doc with an alpha list of my favorite films of all-time. That became my first post in 2009:

My Favorite Films Of All Time

From there it blossomed. Read Reel Charlie’s bio for a history of how I got here. The last line of the short bio still holds true, “Every time he publishes a new post, it reaffirms his love for film and television.”

Thanks for taking this journey with me. In these difficult times for the United States and the world, it’s nice to take a breather now and then. Film and television allow me to recharge for the fights ahead. XO and binge on!


Philip Morgan (Farley Granger) and Brandon Shaw (John Dall) in Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) #DynamicDuos @ClassicMovieHub @CitizenScreen

May 19, 2018

Classic movie blogs, Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub created a Dynamic Duos 2-day marathon for film bloggers interested in writing about perfect pairings in classic film. The only rule to keep it classic involved a selection from films made before 1970. Ready. Set. Go.

I chose Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rope (1948). The characters of Philip Morgan (Farley Granger) and Brandon Shaw (John Dall) create a deliciously evil couple. 70 years ago and with the Hays Code in high gear, filmmakers weren’t allowed to delve into many topics which didn’t promote traditional values. including homosexuality. Hitchcock managed to get around this in Rope, Strangers on a Train, and Rebecca by using smart, coded dialogue and alerting more observant viewers to certain undertones in the plot. Looking at Rope in 2018, it’s obvious Philip and Brandon are together. It’s hard to imagine anyone not noticing in 1948. But 70 years ago many people needed things spelled out. I love Hitchcock for messing with the censors’ heads and pushing the envelope as far as he could. I’ve seen Rope many times. Reel Charlie reviewed it back in 2014. For today’s focus on the boys, here is some of what I said,

Two young men who appear to be a couple kill a friend of theirs and then invite the deceased’s parents, girlfriend, and best friend over for a party while the body sits in a trunk in the living room. Joining the group is a former prep school teacher of the boys played by Jimmy Stewart who apparently taught Brandon (John Dall) and Granger’s Philip the Nietzschean (concept of) supermen whose superiority of intellect exempted them from laws that govern the rest of us. Rope’s original intent to induce fear into the audience by implying that too much education can lead to anarchy creates a wonderful camp aesthetic today. In the end, Hitchcock weaves a scary tale of suspense mixed with snarky, urban, intellect banter.

So that’s the plot, onto the delicious evilness. Brandon’s the obvious top in this relationship. He’s Manson to Philip’s Squeaky Fromme. Brandon remains calm, taking wicked pleasure in the victim’s family and friends who join the party. Philip’s a bundle of nerves which gets worse as the evening wears on. In fact it is Philip’s jitters which make Jimmy Stewart’s character Rupert begin to smell foul play. Brandon and Philip dance through the gathering becomes all the more diabolical since the audience knows the body’s in the trunk which doubles as an hors d’oeuvre table. Even the clueless maid realizes something is amiss. Farley Granger and John Dall play off each other magnificently. Granger’s innocence balances naturally against Dall’s effete aggression. Brandon is never happier than when he’s in control, orchestrating Philip and their guests. Rope could have easily been used to create a music video for Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. The boys’ fate appears doomed from the start. Appropriate use of the word boys since the characters really feel like immature kids playing grown-up. Only the part of being an adult they choose to emulate happens to be murder. What keeps the audience in suspense is how and when they will be discovered. Meanwhile we get to take an extravagant journey with two of the best dressed murderers ever portrayed on-screen.

Love Farley Granger and John Dall. Love Alfred Hitchcock. Love Rope. 5 out of 5.

Best of Reel Charlie 2017

December 31, 2017

Another year has flown by. So much has happened personally, nationally, and globally. It was a year I traveled twice to different parts of the country to celebrate with my biological family. It was a year I read more political articles than ever before. It was a year of change at work – saying goodbye to fantastic co-workers and hello to new ones. It was a year of meeting my third dog, Daisy who instantly transformed my life. I told my best friend and flatmate, “I am a better person when I have a dog in my life.” And it was definitely a year of watching, binging, revisiting, gasping, laughing, sobbing, and loving film and television. Here’s a rundown of what made me pay attention in literature, music, and media during 2017.

Books (links to Goodreads)

It was another great year of reading thanks once again to Goodreads for keeping me focused, my Genre Circle at work for keeping me open, and my Kindle Paperwhite for making it fun to obsess over books. I read 38 books this year. My perfect reads were:

Christodora by Tim Murphy – something about this heartbreaking book that keeps me remembering. Not an easy read but essential for those who lived through or want to understand the ripples of the AIDS epidemic in NYC over the decades.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling – finally I read the prince.
Hell & High Water (THIRDS #1) by Charlie Cochet – there’s two races in this future-forward book at the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron otherwise known as the THIRDS. Dex rejected from his former position has to prove himself once again worthy of a good life.
Hold Tight by Christopher Bram – Bram strikes gold with this historical drama set in WWII NYC at a male brothel in Manhattan. Protagonist Hank Fayette begs to be made into a big screen adaptation. Written in 1989, one of my favorites this year.
Lay Your Sleeping Head: A Henry Rios Mystery by Michael Nava – a re-imagining of Nava’s first Henry Rios novel, The Little Death making it bolder, sexier and grittier than 30 years ago. A home run.
Love Is Love by Marc Andreyk – comic artists come together  to honor the victims of the Orlando massacre. Essential.
My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 (Otouto no Otto #1) by Gengoroh Tagame – beautiful graphic novel about an American visiting his late husband’s family in Japan.
Seed by David Eye – my good friend David published his first full-length poetry collection. Personal and profound.
Sunburn by Laura Lippman – I may not have liked either of the main characters much, but I loved reading Lippman’s fascinating take on their lives. New Noir.
Thorn in my Side by Mary Quinn – Mary Quinn published her first novel during her senior year in high school! Lovely YA fairy tale realness.
Triad Soul (Triad Blood #2) by Nathan Burgoine – Nathan continues the beautiful supernatural gay male thrupple fun with  Luc, Anders, and Curtis—vampire, demon, and wizard.
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell – debut novel worth investigating. Heartbreaking.
Witches of London – Lars (Witches of London #1) by Aleksandr Voinov – loved this supernatural story about the Pagan/Wiccan power of love. HEA for these two men.
Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce – crazy ass graphic novel about a big bear of a man who lives with too many cats, pines over the lead singer of a queercore punk band, and uses his body hair to make little dolls. Essential.

Music (links to artist websites)

I continue to ignore most new music. Spotify, TuneIn, Mixcloud, SoundCloud, Pandora, and Retro Soul Radio keep me tuned to the classics. I happily wallow in my disco paradise. Meanwhile I did love a couple of new albums:
Bright Light Bright Light: Cinematography 2: Back in the Habit – especially Causing a Commotion.
Erasure – World Be Gone – especially the title track.
Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All – gorgeous music from a beautiful, talented man.
SuperFruit – Future Friends – let’s get real… the album I had on repeat most this Fall at the gym was the sin-tilatingly sexy Future Friends from Superfruit. Every song is fabulous, but the title track slays me.

Movies (links to Reel Charlie’s review from 2017)

13th – essential history lesson
50 Shades of Gay – quirky British documentary presented by Rupert Everett
Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King – outstanding stand-up
I Am Not Your Negro – an immediate classic
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You – the king of television speaks
O.J.: Made in America – worth every minute
Second Chance Dogs – rescue dogs rule
Strike a Pose – Madonna’s queer, dancers of color from the ’90 Blond Ambition tour reunite
The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin
– the man, the mouse, the story, the life so far

Feature Films:
20th Century Women – women rule
Get Out – crazy good horror film that’s really about race in America
Hidden Figures – women of color history lesson
If We Took a Holiday (short) – fabulous Madonna inspired short film
In a Heartbeat (short) – beautiful animated film about two boys in love
Julieta – Almodovar continues to be my favorite living director
King Charles III – fascinating and risk-taking look at a possible near-future
Loving – gorgeously understated film about real life
Manchester By the Sea – loved, loved, loved this film
Mudbound – where did this come from? Netflix hits it out of the park
Okja – magical
Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo – sexy, real, Paris, men in lust and maybe love
Victoria and Abdul
– the Queen and her Munshi

Older Films for the first time:
The Brother from Another Planet – early John Sayles tackles sci-fi
Desk Set
– Tracy and Hepburn and computers in ’57
– another John Sayles beauty
The Little Foxes – Bette Davis perfection
Matewan – John Sayles perfection
Murder on the Orient Express (2010) – love this British version from a few years ago

Take Two (watching beloved films again):
The Best Years of Our Lives – OMG, I love this film
Clue – always the best laughs
Donnie Darko – Sparkle Motion
Frozen River – Melissa Leo stellar
The Heiress – Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift magic
Lone Star – John Sayles masterpiece
Lovely & Amazing – mothers and daughters
Maurice – my favorite film of all-time
A Star is Born – Streisand and Kristofferson perfect casting
Sunshine State – John Sayles nails it
Suspect – Cher
Victor Victoria – a perfect film
The Way, Way Back – thoughtful, introspective, hysterical

Television (including limited series):
American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson – couldn’t believe how riveting this was
Atypical: Season 1 – sophisticated family drama
Big Little Lies: Season 1 – OMG, this is so addictive
Bloodline: Season 3 – goodbye Rayburns, you’re as fucked up as I always thought you were
Broadchurch: Season 3 – say “Miller” with a David Tennant accent three times fast.
Chelsea: Season 2 goodbye and good luck. go get ’em Chelsea!
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1 – genius storytelling with original songs
Dear White People: Season 1 – on-point smarty pants angry love letter
Deep Water – scary, exceptional drama
The Detectorists: Season 1 and 2 – love these nerds
Downton Abbey: Season 4, 5 and 6 – it always comes back to the Crawleys, Blu-ray heaven thank you Peris
Fargo: Season 1 and 2 – scary as the original 
The Five – such a great cast, hipster mystery
The Fosters: Season 4 and 5 – love my Fosters
Golden Girls: Season 1 – four originals, they broke the mold
The Great British Baking Show: Season 2 (U.K. Series 4), and 4 – sugar and camaraderie
Home Fires: Season 1, and 2 – such a surprise, outstanding
L.A. Law: Season 3 – still hooked after all these years
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 1 – a star is born
Mindhunter: Season 1 – scary without being bloody
The Night Of – it could happen to anyone
The OA: Season 1 – perfect blend of mystery and mystical
One Day at a Time (2017): Season 1 – a delightful reboot
Orange is the New Black: Season 5 – still the Queen
Ozark: Season 1 – not always believable but who cares… it’s scary as shit and stars Laura Linney
Prime Suspect Tennison: Season 1 – I can’t believe they made this prequel work – delicious
Rectify: Season 4 – the end of Daniel’s sad story
Red Oaks: Season 3 – great sleeper comedy
Riverdale: Season 1 – OMG, I’m completely hooked
Sense8: Season 2 – please don’t end this beautiful world experience
Shetland: Seasons 1-3 – great Scottish mysteries
Transparent: Season 1, 2, 3, and 4 – Try not to get worried Mappa
Treme: Season 1, 2, 3, and 4 – revisiting a beautiful series
True Blood: Season 7: The Final Season – the best sexy scary funny comfort food ever


What were your favorites in 2017?

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I love reviewing film and television on Reel Charlie. Looking forward to Year Nine in 2018.


What Was the Best Downton Abbey Christmas episode? (Heroes and Heartbreakers)

December 25, 2017

Naz Keynejad over at Heroes and Heartbreakers reviews every Downton Abbey Christmas episode. Beginning with Season 1 which never officially had a Christmas episode and ending at the #1 spot with Season 2’s final episode which reveals Daisy’s connection with her father in-law, Thomas’ treachery over Isis, Bates’ guilty verdict, Rosamond’s indecent suitor, and finally, finally Mary and Matthew’s proposal – the one that actually got them to the finish line.

Hat tip to my dear friends Nina and Joe who spoiled me this year with a surprise of the complete series on Blu-ray. I watched this episode tonight, Christmas 2017 with great joy. The audio flaunted power as well as the stunning visual detail in the video – smoke in the fireplace, the black shadow of Bates in prison, the place settings after the hunt, and the depth of the snowflakes as Mary says yes to Matthew. Blu-ray continues to astound me making Downton Abbey sparkle.

See the full reviews over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

13 Essential LGBT Indies From the Post-‘Brokeback Mountain’ Era (Indiewire)

July 22, 2017

Good mainstream list of LGBT indies (I’d question a few of these titles being called “indies”) released after the success of Brokeback Mountain in 2005. Reel Charlie agrees with the following films from Indiewire’s list,

A Single Man
I Killed My Mother
Laurence Anyways
Stranger by the Lake
The Kids are All Right

Missing from the list in order of release date 2006 –
Ha-Buah (The Bubble)
Avant que j’oublie (Before I Forget)

Clapham Junction
Itty Bitty Titty Committee
Were the World Mine
Hollywood je t’aime
Contracorriente (Undertow)
Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats)
Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)
I Do
Mommy is Coming
Freier Fall (Free Fall)
Interior.Leather Bar.
Reaching for the Moon
The Way He Looks
Holding the Man
Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo

Remember these are indie films, so Milk doesn’t qualify for this list.
Does not include documentaries.
Culled from Wikipedia lists.

Read the full article on Indiewire.

Bruce C. Kingsley: 1942 – 2017

July 4, 2017

Back in my Alternative Video days, one of the favorite parts of my job was interacting with all the interesting customers who came through our doors. In particular, the weekends were swamped with NYC residents stopping by on their way to their mountain homes. Two men, Bruce Kingsley and John Laub came in nearly every week and always checked out the most interesting films. We had some great conversations during their brief stops each week. Sadly, John died in 2005 while they were still coming to the Catskills. When I left for grad school in 2006, Bruce brought a delicious homemade soup to the gathering. I always felt bad about not staying in touch more with Bruce. We were Facebook friends who never saw each other after my going-away party.

On Friday, I learned of Bruce’s death. He died in the most remarkable way – of a sudden heart attack while attending the Provincetown Film Festival on Friday June 16, 2017. Bruce’s obituary can only be described as celebratory. May we all live life to the fullest savoring what we truly hold dear in this world. Bruce was a true keeper of the arts and a film aficionado, patron, and historian. His obituary tells the tale of his beautiful life and loves. From SaukValley,

For the past 13 years, Kingsley, who resided in New York, was an active member of the Boston-based Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, where he was a film reviewer and where he had been on the organization’s board of directors for the last 8 years. In New York, Kingsley, with Arnold Himelstein, ran Talking Pictures, a film-appreciation course offered at Penn South Senior Center in Chelsea. For the past decade, Kingsley also sponsored a popular movie night in his apartment, screening classic films every Monday for a loyal following. Kingsley’s film work also included serving as chief researcher on Richard Alleman’s “The Movie Lover’s Guide to New York” and “The Movie Lover’s Guide to Hollywood.”

Read the full obituary in SaukValley.
Thank you Bruce for your kindness over the years.


The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century So Far (New York Times)

June 11, 2017

These film lists, even by film critics are riddled with issues. But they can still be fun to ponder, gleefully clap over, or scream at. Out of the 25 Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott from the New York Times featured, I loved:

Inside Out
Hurt Locker

Above title links are Reel Charlie reviews.

What about you?
Check out the list at NYTimes.





Steve Hayes: Tired Old Queen at the Movies – Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (YouTube)

May 2, 2017

Steve Hayes, our favorite classic film lover is back with a video review of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. So much fun made me put the DVD on hold from the library right away. Thanks Steve! From  Steve Hayes’ Tired Old Queen at the Movies YouTube Channel,

It’s a creepy time down South when Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, Mary Astor, Victor Buono and Oscar nominated Agnes Moorehead team up In “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, Robert Aldrich’s fabulous follow-up to “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?’. With this entry, the legendary feud between Davis and Joan Crawford continued. Joan Crawford was originally cast, but was replaced by de Havilland early in the proceedings, the back story of which is almost as good as the film. The movie is a murderous, macabre and magnificent entertainment from an impeccable line up of pros. Don’t miss it!

Watch Steve Hayes, Tired Old Queen at the Movies review Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte on YouTube.


March 24, 2017

From Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film,

This past Sunday, the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film bestowed its Trudy awards among a dozen films at its annual awards ceremony, held at Harvard Square’s Brattle Theater. However, of those 12 films only one was a multiple winner, Barry Jenkins’ MOONLIGHT, which came away with four Trudies: Best Movie, Best Director, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Supporting Actor, for Mahershala Ali’s memorable performance.

The rest of the night’s awards included surprises, first-timers and local favorites. In the acting categories, France’s Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress for a riveting take-no-prisoners performance in ELLE, while Joel Edgerton was a surprise Best Actor winner for his moving portrayal of quiet civil rights pioneer in LOVING. Newcomer Lily Gladstone won her Best Supporting Actress Trudy for her taciturn, open faced Rancher in Kelly Reichardt’s CERTAIN WOMEN.

See Chlortudis’ website for all the winners! And congratuations. 
Reel Charlie is an out-of-state member of Chlotrudis.

Birthday Reflections (2016)

November 16, 2016

feelgoodI’m feeling particularly reflective this year because of the election. I struggle over not wanting to post drivel on Reel Charlie – possibly insulting those of us who still wade through intense emotions over the outcome and uncertainty of the next four years. I continue to be filled with a myriad of feelings which change throughout the day. Anxiety leads to anger, fear, hurt, confusion, compulsion, and hopelessness. I’m not really a glass half empty kind of guy – at least when I put my mind to it. So I end up finding hope in something at some point. Given the gravity of the situation, it’s a good thing I haven’t brushed this off and ignored the severity.

But we must take breaks. We must refuel and catch our breath. Film can be a much-needed relief from the pressures of our current reality. So my happy birthday to me this year is a reminder for all of us to watch more feel-good movies. And to that end, I give you Time Out’s list of the 25 best feel-good films on Netflix posted last month. My personal favorites include,

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Legally Blonde (2001)
Chocolat (2001)
Mermaids (1990)
The Dish (2000)

Read the full article and see the list of all 25 films.
Share your go-to feel-goods in the comments section.
And yes after I refuel, I’m ready to continue to fight for justice and equality.

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