Tricks and treats on DVD and Blu-ray

Written by Gregg Shapiro,
Staff writer
Friday, 21 October 2011 15:41

‘L.A. Zombie’

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.

'Four Weddings and a Funeral'

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 01 September 2011 19:14

Simon Callow and John Hannah portray a gay couple in Mike Newell's “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” – Photo: Courtesy

‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’

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.


Written by Gregg Shapiro Friday, 12 August 2011 09:52

Liana Liberato in David Schwimmer’s new flick “Trust.” – Photo: Courtesy


When it comes to being an actor/director, David Schwimmer is no Ben Affleck. But his latest film “Trust” shows signs of improvement.

Annie (Liana Liberato) is a 14-year-old high school student who wants to play on the volleyball team.  When she’s not texting, she’s making what she thinks are friends her own age in Internet chat rooms.

DVDiva: ‘Last Tango in Paris’, ‘Never Let Me Go’

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 30 June 2011 12:09
Last Tango in Paris

Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in “Last Tango In Paris.” – Photo: Courtesy

‘Last Tango in Paris’

With its Francis Bacon opening-credits artwork and its Gato Barbieri score, not to mention riveting performances by Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango In Paris” stands the test of time. Nearly 40 years since its release, the uncut version, now available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, may seem tamer today but it still has the power to shock.

Paul (Brando) is a middle-aged American whose wife committed suicide in the hotel owned by her family. Jeanne (Schneider) is a very young Parisian woman who meets Paul in an abandoned apartment. He’s been wandering the streets, mourning in his fashion. Jeanne is looking for a place to rent with her filmmaker boyfriend Tom (Jeanne-Pierre Leaud). In the apartment, Jeanne’s busy opening windows, while Paul’s avoiding the light like a vampire. After exchanging a few words, excluding their names (at his request), they have sex.

Happy heartbeats

Written by Gregg Shapiro,
Staff writer
Sunday, 02 October 2011 20:39

‘Heartbeats/Les amours imaginaires’

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.

Review: 'Insidious' basks in the bizarre

Written by Gregg Shapiro Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:28


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.

Love hurts, scars and wounds in ‘Blue Valentine’

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 28 July 2011 10:17
Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams fall in and out of love in “Blue Valentine.” – Photo: Courtesy

‘Blue Valentine’

Just like the song says, love hurts, scars, wounds and marks in Derek Cianfrance’s romantic tragedy “Blue Valentine.”

There’s little doubt that this married couple – house painter Dean (Ryan Gosling) and nurse Cindy (Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams) – love each other when we first encounter them at home with their young daughter Frankie. But the unmistakable cracks are beginning to show, especially after Cindy fails to lock the yard gate and the family dog Megan gets out and is hit by a car.

DVDiva: ‘The Kids In The Hall: The Complete Series’, ‘Drop Dead Diva’

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 16 June 2011 13:00
The Kids in the Hall

The Kids in the Hall – Photo: Courtesy

‘The Kids In The Hall: The Complete Series’

Breaking ground in ways that “Saturday Night Live” never dared, “The Kids in the Hall” not only had male stars playing female characters, but also put them in situations involving physical contact and kissing. While the gay humor was self-deprecating on occasion, it was never homophobic. That’s especially remarkable considering that the time period when they were working (1988-1995) included the height of AIDS hysteria in the entertainment industry.

Well-executed queer skits included the “Running Faggot” song, openly gay member Scott Thompson’s riff on the word “faggot,” the caped queen who prevents a gay bashing, the outing of Broadway actor Jerry, closeted TV star Tony picking up a hustler, the “Liza’s Party” movie, a couple of same-sex marriage bits and Thompson’s “gay home alone outfit.”

Two very different styles of 1971 film-making

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:30
Dustin Hoffman in “Straw Dogs”

Dustin Hoffman in “Straw Dogs” – Photo: Courtesy

‘Straw Dogs’

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.

Review: 'Spine Tingler!' is a frightfully fitting tribute

Written by Gregg Shapiro Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:09
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

“Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story.” – Photo: Courtesy

'Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story'

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.

DVDiva: ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’, ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 14 July 2011 10:21


‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’

Revenge-seeking, throat-slashing, eyeball-gouging eagles and vultures wreak havoc on a Northern California town in the name of warning humans about the dangers of climate change in writer/director James Nguyen’s low-budget, pseudo-romantic thriller “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.” Bad sound and editing, non-existent production values, video game-quality animation and amateur acting helped “Birdemic” achieve midnight-movie cult status. But there isn’t any time of day that’s appropriate to watch this disaster of a disaster flick.

Ambitious software salesman and start-up green technology businessman Rod (Alan Bagh) runs into former high school classmate Nathalie (Whitney Moore), a model whose fashion shoots take place in a strip-mall photo studio. As their romance blossoms, Mother Nature has a meltdown, leaving flocks of seagulls and crows dead on a San Jose highway and providing a heat wave in winter.

DVDiva: ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Tough Love’

Written by Gregg Shapiro Thursday, 02 June 2011 14:54

‘The King’s Speech’

Unjustly overlooked for an Oscar for his magnificent performance in Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” in 2009, Colin Firth was rewarded the following year for his portrayal of stammering King George VI in Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.”

The film begins in 1925, when a jittery Prince Albert (Firth) has to read a message from his father King George V (Michael Gambon) at Wembley Stadium. The plot follows his transformation into a more comfortable public speaker, thanks to the help of his wife (a restrained Helena Bonham Carter) and speech therapist Lionel Logue (a fantastic Geoffrey Rush).