Hellbent: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

For gay horror fans, "Hellbent" is a dream come true. A killer is loose in West Hollywood, decapitating his gay victims, on the night of a huge Halloween carnival.

The film follows most of the traditional horror conventions: the killer who walks slowly yet always seems to catch his victims, sex leading you to an early death, and the lack of any real motivation for why the killings are happening in the first place.

The movie begins with a gay couple making out in a car near a park. We see silhouettes nearing the car while they pull their clothes off, but with not much room in the back of the car, one decides to hang his head out the window to give them more room. And just as his partner is pulling down his pants, instead of getting head he loses one. Roll title sequence.

In Her Line Of Fire: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"In Her Line Of Fire" finds Mariel Hemingway as a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the Vice President of the United States (David Keith). While en route to a diplomatic tour of Asia, their plane crashes in the South Pacific, leaving the survivors on a remote island where they are kidnapped by rebel soldiers that intend to sell the vice president to the highest bidder.

The movie is a taut, action-packed thriller. No gaping holes in the plot. The main issue is that for this story to work its magic on you, you really have to buy into the notion that it's a woman kicking all these guys' asses. That is the conceit of the story. If that seems empowering or makes you want to see the movie even more, then you're off to a good start. If your reaction is "So? She's a woman, and...?!" then there's a good chance it will seem like a formulaic movie with a woman playing the Stallone role. Maybe some people really are attracted to a movie where a tough, no-nonsense woman, aiming to teach rebel soldiers a lesson, straps on a huge

Queens: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

As Spain is about to wed its first gay couples ever, five women have to confront their pasts, presents, and prejudices before seeing their sons marry in "Queens," a glorious Almodovaresque film from Manuel Gomez Pereira. This Spanish film (with English subtitles) may be about gay sons getting married, but the headstrong matriarchs steal the show.

One mother has to confront the fact that her son is marrying the son of their gardener, who she's never even let set foot in their house for decades. Another comes a little too well packed from Buenos Aires, with her dog and no real plan to go home anytime soon. One is sexually compulsive in awkward situations and finds herself alone with her future son-in-law. One runs the hotel where all the gays are coming for the reception, but the chef (with whom she's having an affair) decides the whole kitchen is going on strike right before the reception. And, well, you get the idea...

Dante's Cove First Season: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Dante's Cove" is a sexy, gothic, campy soap opera that combines elements of Melrose Place, any horror movie involving centuries-old legends and spells, and Queer as Folk. Watching the first season on DVD (a second has already run on here! TV, and a third season has been ordered), my first impression is that watching this with a group of people would have definitely heightened the experience, primarily because it is the kind of movie that begs for people to cry out in disbelief, but at the same time it walks the line fine enough to pull off the whole crazy premise.

In a nutshell, a woman catches her groom-to-be having (graphic) sex with another man in the 1840s. Sadly for him, she has magical powers and sentences him to spend eternity in a sub-basement of the house chained up until some "handsome young man" kisses him. But then, she makes him look into the mirror to see that he is no longer the striking gay lothario he formerly was, but a wrinkled old coot with crazy-long grey hair. Somehow the inability of no one to find him there in the first place is now compounded by the fact that no one would want to kiss him anyway? But this isn't the kind of show where you sit around and dwell on these things for too long.

Poster Boy: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Poster Boy" tries to be so many things, you end up wishing it just picked one thing and stuck with it. The movie is about a closeted gay son of a powerful right-wing Senator up for re-election. His father wants him to introduce him at a campaign stop at the son's school. The son has kept a low profile there and doesn't want to be associated with the campaign. Another guy hooks up with the senator's son and decides to out him at the event. And the movie is told with the framing device of the son finally telling a newspaper reporter the whole story of what happened leading up to the father's speech on campus.

Reading that, it sounds like a pretty decent movie, so let's drill down a little further. First of all, let's examine the framing device. Four months after a political scandal, the son is going to tell his story to the press? In politics, there's no such thing as four months for something like this. It would be an entire non-story at this point. The other thing, we have a reporter from a fictional San Francisco newspaper who seems to not get the gist of homosexuality, telling him he's a handsome boy, didn't he even try to hook up with some of the co-eds on campus?

Before The Fall: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

I'm not exactly sure how to review "Before The Fall," a German film about a young boxer who is trained in an elite German school during World War II. Part of the problem was that is was on my stack of gay DVDs to review for Oasis, so I went in with some expectations... primarily, that it has something to do with being gay. So, let me be clear up front, there is no gay content in the movie. Nein!

That said, it was a very well put-together story about friendship and standing up for what you believe in, as well as showing how easy it is for fascism to spread unchecked. (A message that is still, sadly, needed.)

The primary story is of a young boxer that comes from a poor family. Someone sees him box and asks him to box for the German military academy, so against his parents' wishes (they are opposed to the Nazis) he goes to the school.

Transparent: Book Review

By Jeff Walsh

In Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (read excerpt), Cris Beam delivers a compelling glance into the transgender underbelly of Los Angeles, where primarily black and Latina trans girls (biological boys who identify as female) struggle with their identity, their families, their lack of money, and ultimately themselves as they pursue what to them feels natural.

When I started reading the book, my impression was it was going to be a non-fiction book in the tradition sense, where Beam becomes a fly on the wall, like a nature documentarian observing her subjects from a close enough distance to know their essence but not affect their natural patterns. This isn't that book. Beam herself refers to it as a memoir, to dispel any notions otherwise. From the very beginning, Beam plants herself in the book, first as a volunteer teacher at a run-down school for gay youth in Los Angeles, and through the book as a gatherer of their stories, their mentor, friend, and ultimately, one of the girls' foster mother.

Shock To The System: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

In "Shock to the System" (out this week on DVD), Chad Allen plays gay detective Donald Strachey in a noir murder mystery set against the backdrop of a gay "reparative" therapy program, and the crazy part is, it's actually an enjoyable, well-written, worthwhile movie.

I'm not sure why, but whenever I would see books like this in the gay bookstore with jacket copy exclaiming thrillers being solved by gay and lesbian detectives, well, I pretty much thought it was silly and a subgenre I really didn't want to know anything more about. I mean, what does being a gay detective bring to the picture exactly?

So, when I got the review DVD for this movie from Here! films, the second Donald Strachey movie at that (after 2005's Third Man Out), I was hesitant. My hesitancy didn't last long.

Looking out...

A regular feature that wraps up news items found elsewhere on the web about LGBTQ youth (and some additional randomness):

Win a signed copy of Alex Sanchez's Getting It!

This seems like one of our rarer contests, since Alex lives in Thailand, but if you want to win your very own signed copy of Getting It, the latest book by Alex Sanchez, the author of the Rainbow Boys trilogy, this is your chance.

Contest winners...

Here are the winners of last week's contest:

Robin De Jesus Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Like many people, I first saw Robin De Jesus when he played the lead role in the movie Camp, which continues to be one of my favorite gay movies. The movie features teens dealing with their emotions, crushes, and sexualities at a summer camp that puts on different plays and musicals the whole time. I felt that he was the heart of the movie, and beautifully captured the awkwardness of that age.

Since that time, I've kept tabs on Robin, seeing if he's in any shows whenever I'm planning to go to New York City and such. This past trip, when I saw the Rent theater, for a moment, I wondered if he was still in the company, but I already had tickets for other shows.

The day before I flew back west to San Francisco, Robin posted a bulletin on MySpace that previews for the new show he's in were starting the following day, so while I was landing in Oakland, he was performing in "In The Heights" at the first preview. The show opens tonight Off-Broadway (Break a leg tonight, Robin!) and sounds like a fun night out at the theater. I'll let you know in a few months.

Getting It: Book Review

In Getting It, Alex Sanchez delivers a poignant story about Carlos Amoroso, a 15-year-old boy who feels that life is passing him by. Unlike his friends, he's still a virgin. Even worse, he hasn't even kissed a girl. And the girl he wants to kiss most, the girl of his dreams doesn't even know he exists.

But when Carlos happens to sees Queer Eye on television, he gets an idea: if he asks Sal, the boy at school everyone says is gay, to give him a makeover, maybe the girl will finally notice him. Just as long as no one sees him talking to Sal and gets the wrong idea. Sal agrees to do it, as long as Carlos pays him and helps him start a GSA at their high school.

Sanchez really captures the awkwardness of adolescence in this light, quick read. Carlos and his friends speak with a shorthand and familiarity that pulls you right into their world and paints them all with a caring and humanity underneath all their hormonal sex talk. The story lets Carlos explore his negative and uncomfortable thoughts on homosexuality, as he slowly becomes friends with Sal.

Rainbow Boys: Book Review

By Jeff Walsh

It was strange to read Alex Sanchez's debut novel "Rainbow Boys" for the first time, knowing it had recently been banned from a summer reading list for its sexual content. Part of me had that at the back of my mind, wondering when it was going to get all hot and heavy… and then I hit the last page, wondering what I missed. It was a copy from the library, so maybe someone tore all the sex scenes out?

I should know by now that even implied sex between two teenaged boys is still too much for a lot of people to handle, but this is just a great book showing people in the early stages of accepting their sexuality taking their first awkward steps forward.

The three main characters are in their senior year of high school. Jason Carillo is the jock who decided to attend a gay youth group after talking to someone on a teen hotline. At the meeting, he sees two classmates (everyone's big fear when attending a local meeting for the first time), Kyle Meeks and Nelson Glassman. Jason isn't as surprised to see Nelson there, since he is called "Nelly" at school, and is flamboyant. But Kyle? That's a whole different story.

Legally Blonde: Pre-Broadway Review

By Jeff Walsh

With an opening song entitled "Omigod You Guys," Legally Blonde: The Musical clearly establishes itself as the latest offering in the trend of popular movies being turned into Broadway musicals. Whether or not you think that's a good idea overall, the real question is whether it will be the next Hairspray or The Wedding Singer? The Producers or High Fidelity?

But, having just gone to the show's opening night in San Francisco, two months before it opens on Broadway (it plays at the Golden Gate Theatre through February 24, details here), the show was certainly a crowd-pleaser. As much as I love to go to the theater to watch an emotional journey, learn about myself, and watch characters make breakthroughs that speak to the universal truths that we all know, well... that kind of expectation would make this show lethally bland. Besides, who would expect anything like that from Legally Blonde?! Duh!

The source material itself was a breezy movie starring Reese Witherspoon that sold itself largely on the spirit of her character and the way Witherspoon sold it so convincingly.

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