Two Philadelphia-related stories

‘What Happens Next’ is sweet but not very funny

The Philadelphia-set “What Happens Next” begins with Paul Greco (Jon Lindstrom) retiring or, as he puts it, “cashing it all in after 30 years.” At his retirement party, his controlling sister Elise (Wendie Malick) presents him with a French bulldog puppy to give him something to do with all of his free time.

After naming the dog Mrs. Greco and hiring a perky dog trainer, Paul begins the new routine of taking the dog for a walk in Rittenhouse Square. It’s there he meets gay copywriter Andy (Chris Murrah), who is with his dog Bean. The unlikely duo strikes up a friendship and, before you can say “coming out party,” the notoriously single and sexless Paul finds himself attracted to Andy.  From there, the pair navigates the treacherous waters of sex, love and public displays of affection.

Uptight and conservative Elise thinks she has to come to terms with the lifestyle of her son Brian (Ariel Shafir). He’s coming out to her as an artist, but she suspects he’s also gay (he’s not). Andy’s best friend Roz (Natalia Cigliuti) just so happens to run the gallery where Brian is about to have his first big show. Andy is active in PFLAG, and there are times when “What Happens Next” feels like an extended promotional video for the organization.

Although sweet, “What Happens Next” is not funny or sexy enough to rank among the great gay romantic comedies of recent years, such as “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss” or “Adam & Steve.” DVD bonus features include a handful of deleted scenes and more.

This ‘Cardinal’ never takes flight

Philadelphia-based gay filmmaker Robert Gaston (“Open Cam,” “2 Minutes Later”) goes for a change of location with his latest film “The Flight of the Cardinal.” Set at a mountain lodge in North Carolina, “The Flight of the Cardinal” is Gaston’s take on the psychological thriller.

Grady (Ross Beschler), an actor-turned-innkeeper, is still trying to settle in to his new career and life in the country. His friends and co-investors in the lodge, Karen (Claire Bowerman), Rye (Jeremy Marr Williams) and Grady’s ex-boyfriend Andy (Matthew Montgomery), are coming from New York for a visit. Their visit is partly to check up on Grady after a suicide attempt and partly to check on their investment. They become concerned for Grady almost immediately, due to his erratic behavior and questionable health.

What they don’t know is that townie Beetle (David J. Bonner) is responsible. Under the guise of helping out at the lodge, Beetle has been messing with Grady’s meds, replacing his antidepressants with something else. Turns out, Beetle has a history of such behavior. Add to that his ability to manipulate every situation in his favor, and you have a trailer trash version of Eve Harrington.

Beetle isn’t helping out so much as he’s helping himself. As low budget thrillers go, this one has a few thrills, but some of the performances are questionable. DVD special features include a behind- the-scenes photo gallery, music video and more.

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