The best movie of 2011 (and possibly the best "gay" movie ever by a straight filmmaker), "Beginners" has a way of staying with you long after it has faded from the screen. Written and directed by Mike Mills ("Thumbsucker"), it's based on his personal experience with his late father coming out as gay following the death of his wife. "Beginners" takes a non-traditional approach to telling a non-traditional story and succeeds on every level. It's the kind of movie that has the power to have you laughing out loud one moment and wiping tears of sadness from your eyes the next.
Among new DVD releases are selections that are destined to bring back fond cinematic memories.
Still in his zombie phase, following “Otto; or Up With Dead People,” gay Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce goes for the viewer’s throat (and other body parts) with the horror-porn “L.A. Zombie.” Emerging from the ocean, the titular zombie (muscular and tattoo-scalped porn star Francois Sagat), gets picked up by a guy (Rocco Giovanni) who crashes his vehicle into a pole and dies. The zombie has a pole of his own (so to speak) and utilizes it in an unusual way to revive the dead driver.
Mike Newell’s “Four Weddings and a Funeral” seemed cutting-edge when it was released in 1994. Not it just narrowly avoids feeling dated.
At the first of the movie’s four weddings, we meet the close group of friends who hold the movie together. It is at this wedding that lady-killer Charles, portrayed by Hugh Grant at his cuddly befuddled best, crosses paths with American wedding guest Carrie, played by Andie McDowell.
Not to be confused with the 2002 gay movie of the same name, Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip,” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as essentially themselves, is a hilarious, biting, semi-improvised road movie. It’s “My Dinner With Andre” in a Range Rover with English accents, as the fiercely competitive friends embark on a tour of inns and dining establishments in the north of England in order to do research for a magazine article.
An early touch of homophobia dissipates, and the laughs, most of which revolve around the duo trying to outdo each other with celebrity impressions, come fast and furious. Michael Caine is a particular favorite, and the two of them duke it out as dueling Caines. They also duet on Abba and Kate Bush tunes.
If you were utterly blown away by young gay French-Canadian filmmaker/writer/actor Xavier Dolan’s directorial debut “I Killed My Mother,” then you are certain to be happy to learn his talents are no fluke. His second movie “Heartbeats/Les amours imaginaires” is an equally original and engaging film.
The relationship of BFFs Marie, played by Monica Chokri, and Francis, a.k.a. Frankie (played by Dolan), is put to the test when they become involved in a potentially lethal romantic triangle with a self-satisfied blonde Adonis named Nicolas. Played by Niels Schneider, Nicolas is a country lad studying literature at McGill University and making his way in Montreal.
A throwback to classic ’70s horror pix such as "Burnt Offerings" and "The Exorcist," "Insidious" stars Patrick Wilson as teacher Josh, the patriarch of the Lambert clan. His wife Renai (Rose Byrne) is a music therapist and songwriter. Josh and Renai have two school-age sons and a baby daughter.
As the family unpacks and settles into their new home, unusual events begin to take place, culminating in son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falling off a ladder, hitting his head on the attic floor and slipping into a coma. Three months later Dalton is still comatose and more bizarre occurrences are taking place, including bloody handprints on bedsheets, strange voices and sounds emanating from the baby monitor, and men appearing on the front porch and in various rooms of the house.
Two new live-concert DVDs have arrived to give everyone the opportunity to fully experience Bette Midler and Cyndi Lauper in all of their talents.
The release of the unrated Blu-ray of “Straw Dogs” starring Dustin Hoffman comes just in time for the film’s 40th anniversary and just as the remake starring James Marsden is hitting theaters.
Bespectacled mathematician and pacifist David (Hoffman) returns to his British bride Amy’s (Susan George) countryside village to work on a book. Away from the protests and anti-war hubbub of America, David, who “never claimed to be one of the involved,” just wants to write.
Showman and schlock horror-meister William Castle is given his due in Jeffrey Schwarz’s respectful 2007 doc, which has arrived on DVD. Featuring marvelous vintage film footage and informative interviews with renaissance man John Waters, filmmakers Jon Landis and Joe Dante, film critic Leonard Maltin, Castle’s daughter Terry and Castle himself, "Spine Tingler!" is a frightfully fitting tribute.
Often described as the poor man’s Alfred Hitchcock, Castle was born in 1914 and orphaned at 11. A high school dropout who was addicted to applause and attracted to storytelling, Castle had chutzpah and liked to create controversy, beginning with the manipulation of the press.