Thursday, April 23, 2015


FoxcatcherThe Gist: The heir to one of the wealthiest families in America sees it as his duty to the country and history to sponsor the best American wrestler in order to help him compete and win on the world stage.  Mark Schultz, a former Olympic gold medalist, will be his first champion, establishing the legitimacy of Team Foxcatcher.

Aided in no small part by impressive makeup prosthesis, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo give us great performances, but we shouldn’t forget Channing Tatum, who proves he can act on top of looking good.  Carell also proves he can do drama as easily as comedy.

The Bottom Line: Aside from the performances there wasn’t much here for me to cheer about.  The movie is very slow (which isn’t necessarily bad) and a bit too long, but the director is skilled at creating a sense of foreboding.  The passing grade is really only earned by the shocking ending that I never saw coming.

Grade: 6

Monday, April 20, 2015


WeekendThe Gist: A chance encounter late at night in a club brings Russell and Glen together. Their one-night stand, however, turns into something deeper when the morning comes and the two men, now clean and sober, start knowing each other better.  The mutual attraction is evident to both, but their radically different lives and dispositions toward society in general will prove to be problematic.

The Bottom Line: Weekend is a very honest and unabashed look at friendship, gay life, gay men’s place in society and how the latter affects them, and a love story that’s both sweet and sexy.  The direction is clear, unobtrusive, and competent and the actors do a very good job.  This is the kind of gay-themed movie I wish they made more of.

Grade: 9

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville HorrorThe Gist: A family moves into a big old house that was on the market below value because of the gruesome murders that happened in it a year earlier.  Unfortunately for them, the bargain comes with a generous helping of evil spirits.

I was looking forward to watching The Amityville Horror’s remake because I liked the original, I’m often curious to see the results when Hollywood tinkers with acclaimed works of the past, and because Ryan Reynolds is too handsome not to watch a movie he stars in Winking smile.

I’m happy to report that this remake is not only as good as the classic but it’s even better as far as the timeline goes.  In the original, things happen way too fast for the audience to buy into them, but the sequel is more stretched out, making it all more believable.

I’m also happy to report that Ryan Reynolds is as gorgeous as ever, provides a lot of eye candy, and that this is the movie his famous pictures bare chested wielding an ax come from.

The Bottom Line: A rare case when the new version of a movie holds up and even improves upon the more rushed original.  It has some good scares and is overall entertaining.

Grade: 7

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gone Girl

Gone GirlThe Gist: The sudden disappearance of a woman from her home ends up enveloping her husband, parents, and townsfolk into a media frenzy, all the while the investigation gets more tangled up as time goes by.

I’m a big David Fincher fan and this is another example of his great talent.  Gone Girl is a terrific movie that keeps you on edge and fully interested from beginning to end.  Its many twists make you go “aha” more than once.

I actually find it hard to believe that this movie didn’t get a Best Picture nomination.  Rosamund Pike did get nominated though and she does a fantastic job of portraying the scorned wife.

The Bottom Line: Gone Girl is a great thriller, well written, well paced, well acted, and totally satisfying.  Very much recommended.

Grade: 9

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blade Trinity

Blade TrinityThe Gist: The vampires, in their effort to exert dominion over humanity and Earth, awaken the father of all vampires, Dracula himself.  Blade still stands in their way and this time he’s joined by a group of vampire hunters who call themselves the Nightstalkers.

Third time ain’t the charm for Blade.  Blade Trinity barely manages to match the original in entertainment value.  Sure the visual effects have improved, but ultimately the level of slapstick dooms the threequel.

Jessica Biel plays a good badass and the incredibly hunky Ryan Reynolds brings the eye candy and the laughs.  Snipes does his thing and Dominic Purcell as the most famous vampire of all time is believable, though not terrifying as other Draculas have been.

The Bottom Line: I watched this chapter of the Blade series because I had seen the first two, because the second one was better than the first, and because there wasn’t another one after this one (at least yet).  Ultimately, it doesn’t really make the grade, and it’s mostly for the ardent fans.

Grade: 5

Blade II

Blade 2The Gist: A genetic mutation is responsible for the rise of the Reaper, a vampire stronger than normal and with an insatiable thirst for blood.  The Reaper attacks both humans and vampires and his victims turn into reapers themselves, thereby quickly multiplying.  Blade is summoned by the Vampire Council to help their elite team of fighters contain the new threat, which risks to completely wipe out both vampires and humans.

Proving his mettle, director Guillermo del Toro is able to mold a Blade story that actually improves upon its predecessor.

The production values are much greater and the product feels overall better put together.  By now Snipes has become Blade and identifies with the character very well.

The Bottom Line: While you don’t really need to see Blade in order to understand the goings on of Blade II, the main characters are introduced in the former, so I’d watch them in order.  This sequel is an ever so slight improvement though, so unless you despise Blade you will enjoy Blade II.

Grade: 6


BladeThe Gist: Blade, a hybrid human-vampire who can walk in the sun, hates his vampire side and all vampires and is on a quest to kill as many as he can.  His meeting with Deacon Frost, who dreams of ruling the vampires and enslave the human race, will prove decisive.

I don’t know the comic book this character comes from but given the vampire theme, which I like very much, I decided to give it a try.

The end result is pretty much what I was expecting, a very forgettable movie that barely manages to be lightly entertaining.

And yet, I can’t give it a passing grade because I found the production values, including the visual effects, a little lacking.  And the acting comes across as pretty campy, especially Wesley Snipes’, even though perhaps that’s how the character is written in the comics and they wanted to maintain that vibe.

The Bottom Line: Don’t expect too much and you won’t be too disappointed.  Watch it at your own risk.

Grade: 5

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameThe Gist: During World War II Alan Turing, a brilliant British mathematician, is tasked with a top secret mission: break Enigma, the supposedly unbreakable code used by the Germans for all their communications.

One of the best movies of 2014 for sure and one of the best I’ve ever seen, for its production values, acting, costumes, sets, and screenplay, but also for the the story itself, which really leaves an indelible mark.

I knew something about Alan Turing but I certainly wasn’t aware of the breadth of his genius and of the limitations society placed on people like him at the time.

Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely brilliant in this role.

The Bottom Line: The Imitation Game is a fantastic movie because it’s a great story and because it’s so well made.  A must see.

Grade: 9


LookingLooking looked like a promising new comedy from HBO centered around three gay man living in San Francisco dealing with their everyday struggles.

The show has now been canceled, a bit unexpectedly, and a special TV movie will be produced to give the fans some kind of closure that couldn’t be worked in time into the second season (like I said, the cancellation was quite unexpected).

Was I a fan of Looking or did I just watch it for the eye candy and to support a gay themed show on the biggest cable player out there?  I’d say sort of, yes(!!), and yes.

Looking was never a show I was super excited to see.  In fact, the episodes often collected virtual dust on the DVR before we got to them.

Still, it was a laudable effort and a fairly enjoyable show but it obviously could have been so much more, hence failing to attract a large enough audience to get renewed.

In Looking there are mainly three characters, Patrick, Dom, and Agustín.  Patrick is the cute, fairly naïve, doe-eyed guy, with a stable job who’s looking for a long-term relationship and doesn’t really care for casual sex.  Dom is the experienced gay man who’s become a bit jaded as far as real-love is concerned and is trying to do something with his life that would make it worth getting up in the morning.  Agustín is the would-be artist who is very open-minded about trying out new things, even if they end up messing up his relationships.

A whole cast of supporting characters swirls around them and everyone does a good job with the material at hand.  I guess ultimately the blame should fall on the scripts themselves and the aversion to taking more chances and being more transgressive.

Let’s hope another gay themed show will be produced soon because they definitely have their place in helping educating society about our lives.

Grade: Season 1 & 2: 6

Monday, April 06, 2015

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark ThirtyThe Gist: After the attacks on September 11, 2001, a manhunt to capture or kill Osama bin Laden got underway.  The woman behind it never let her guard down, until she zeroed in on his hideout, and a Navy S.E.A.L.s team finished the job on May 6, 2011.

Another compelling film from Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty was deservedly nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Unfortunately, Ms. Bigelow herself, like Ben Affleck that same year, was bizarrely left out of the Best Director race.

It’s unfortunate because Bigelow had won in 2010 for directing The Hurt Locker, but I liked this movie a lot more.

Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but she was never really able to overcome the goodwill that swept Jennifer Lawrence to victory that year for Silver Linings Playbook.

The Bottom Line: A must watch because it’s a great movie on its own and because it’s a likely fairly accurate account of one of the most important events in our lifetimes.

Grade: 8

Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)

Layout 1The Gist: Tommaso’s plans to come out to his family and tell them he doesn’t want to run the family business are thrown in disarray when his older brother makes his own unexpected announcement.

The Bottom Line: Ferzan Ozpetek is one of my favorite Italian directors.  His movies are always the right amalgam of laughs and tears, and their originality is undeniable.  Mine Vaganti fits that description perfectly.  A good cast overall is outshone by Ilaria Occhini, who’s absolutely brilliant.

Grade: 9

Torn Curtain

Torn CurtainThe Gist: An American scientist suddenly announces he’s defeating to the USSR.  His shocked fiancé, dumbfounded, decides to follow him to figure out why.  The reason will turn out to be unexpected, suspenseful, and thrilling.

The Bottom Line: One of Hitchcock’s best in my opinion.  Torn Curtain’s plot twists keep you firmly on the edge of your seat and the suspense is positively palpable.  Oh, and Paul Newman is totally handsome.

Grade: 9

Friday, April 03, 2015


LincolnThe Gist: President Lincoln struggles, even with some in his own cabinet, on the best way (or even on whether) to end slavery in America while the Civil War ravages the country.

Spielberg’s masterful biographical portrayal of one of America’s most famous and beloved presidents showcases amazing production design, costumes, makeup, and cinematography.  A beautiful score by John Williams tops it off, although it’s the performances that really make the movie.

Chiefly, Lincoln wouldn’t be as good if it weren’t for Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal, so heartfelt, both gentle and fierce.  Day-Lewis garnered his third Best Actor Oscar for the role and deservedly so.

On that note, how come no one was complaining that Day-Lewis had already won twice and it would be unfair or inappropriate to hand him another Oscar?  After all, just the previous year Meryl Streep was finally handed her long-awaited third statuette for her turn in The Iron Lady, but not before a big controversy about whether or not Oscar statuettes should be “hoarded” by some individuals.  This all smells of misogyny if you ask me.

The Bottom Line: Lincoln is a very good biographical movie about a timeless historical figure made with the utmost care by one of our most accomplished directors and showcasing the talents of one of our greatest actors.

Grade: 8


ArgoThe Gist: A CIA operative sets up a fake but elaborate movie production to be filmed in Iran to help evacuate 6 American citizens who went into hiding after the American embassy was stormed by insurgents.

I knew nothing about these events until this movie was made and it’s incredible to find out the details.  This is the kind of film that if it weren’t based on a true story you’d think it was too far fetched.

The movie was hailed by both public and critics and won a slew of awards.  Alas, Ben Affleck, its star and director, was inexplicably left out of the Best Director Oscar race, which likely helped the movie take home top honors in 2013.

The Bottom Line: Argo is, in my opinion, a masterpiece.  Affleck has now repeatedly proven to be a very promising director and this movie will be a tough act for him to follow.  Do not miss it.

Grade: 10


MarnieThe Gist: Marnie is a beautiful woman who uses her looks to get a job, rob the company, disappear, change her appearance and identity, and repeat the process all over again.  One day, an employer catches her and her life changes forever.

The Bottom Line: Not one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces, but definitely a very good movie.  Tippi Hedren is magnificent in the role of the femme fatale and Sean Connery, who never struck me as a great actor, is average but definitely super good looking in his younger years.

Grade: 8

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

PHF80jQXj8MDIN_1_mThe Gist: Our group of resourceful animals, still trying to get back home to their zoo in New York City, find themselves traveling through Europe where the best way to not attract attention is by joining a traveling circus.  Unfortunately, they’re relentlessly pursued by a feisty Animal Control official who’s determined to capture Alex, the lion, for her personal collection.

The Bottom Line: Madagascar 3 is a funny and engaging animated movie that does the franchise good by not letting us down.  Still, it’s not particularly memorable.

Grade: 6


FlightThe Gist: A seasoned pilot ably lands a crashing plane.  Unfortunately, he’s also an alcoholic, and the investigation into the accident might end up terminating his career and landing him in jail.

Flight is expertly carried by Denzel Washington, who was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and deservedly so.

The plane crash is one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.

The Bottom Line: A very good drama that deals with how the devils within us sometimes make us turn to drugs or alcohol just to be able to deal with them.  A very good movie and a great performance.

Grade: 8

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Battlestar Galactica Blood & ChromeThe Gist: A young Bill Adama has just joined the fleet to help fight the Cylons.  When an assignment takes his freighter on a secret mission, a grisly discovery is made.

Blood & Chrome was produced in the aftermath of the huge success of Battlestar Galactica, in the likely hopes of possibly recapturing its magic and its huge audience.

I found it quite engaging and certainly worth watching (it was certainly better developed than Caprica) but alas no series came out of it, which is unfortunate.  I loved Battlestar Galactica and was very sad when it ended.

The Bottom Line: This TV movie is well made, engrossing, and quite entertaining.  If you were a fan of the Galactica universe, don’t miss it.

Grade: 8

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Man of Steel

Man of SteelThe Gist: After living among humans in secret for decades, Kal-El, an alien sent to Earth as a baby and now known as Clark Kent, is forced to reveal his identity when a group of survivors of his kind threaten to overtake the planet.

Director Zack Snyder does a fantastic job of rebooting the Superman franchise.  After the (semi) misfire of Superman Returns (frankly, I enjoyed it, but it was widely panned and this one is undoubtedly much better), Man of Steel is a welcome addition to the Superman canon.

I have to actually particularly praise the screenwriter because Man of Steel manages to satisfactorily remake and merge the original Superman and Superman II storylines.  At the same time, it also more thoroughly (and believably) explains what happened to Kripton, to Kal-El/Clark Kent’s parents, why and how Kal-El was sent to Earth, the whole feud between General Zod and Jor-El, and much more.

As one would expect, the visual effect, sound, photography, costumes, and production design are all of the highest level.  The movie is really a visual feast.  And Henry Cavill in the title role is arguably the best eye candy anyone could have possibly hoped for.

The Bottom Line: Man of Steel is recommended viewing for all Superman fans, fans of the original movies, comic book fan-boys, sci-fi lovers, and viewers in general.  It’s a really good movie, very well made, and it never disappoints.

Grade: 8

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future PastThe Gist: The X-Men send Wolverine back in time to prevent an event that dooms them in the future and therefore change history.

Although I never read the comic book, I’m a huge X-Men fan.  I’ve watched all the movies (or I’m planning to anyway) and love them all, even the weaker ones.  And of course I love the whole concept of being cool precisely because one is different.

In X-Men: Days of Future Past the story starts out in the future, with the original batch of actors, and then swings back in time to their younger versions.

The back and forth is handled like clockwork, the script is captivating, the score perfect, the new characters are great, the visual effects stunning, and the costumes exquisite.

The Bottom Line: I really don’t have anything but praise for this new chapter in the X-Men canon, and can only hope that more of this caliber will follow it.

Grade: 8

Silent Running

Silent RunningThe Gist: In an unidentified future, enormous greenhouses floating in space hold what’s left of Earth’s flora.  A handful of astronauts are tasked with their care until they receive orders to blow them up and return home.

The Bottom Line: While the visual effects and sets do show their age Silent Running’s message is pretty much timeless and well told.  Bruce Dern does a very nice job of playing a man torn between following orders and doing what’s morally right.

Grade: 7


A great message from Ryan Amador:

Isn’t he adorable?!

Io Sono l'Amore (I Am Love)

Io Sono l'Amore (I Am Love)The Gist: A wealthy and powerful Italian family looks from the outside like it’s solid and enduring, but there are many hidden cracks in its façade.

Tilda Swinton is one of my favorite actresses and here she acts in Italian and Russian.  How’s that for versatility!  She’s fantastic.

Io Sono l’Amore is very well constructed in terms of photography, costumes, set decoration, and score.

The Bottom Line: Don’t be scared off by the subtitles and watch this Italian movie.  It is a real gem with a great cast and a wonderful story.

Grade: 8

American Hustle

American HustleThe Gist: An FBI agent with oversize dreams of bringing down the biggest bad guys he can get his hands on entraps a couple of con artists into helping him on his quest by using their talents in the game.

American Hustle is a rather brilliant film from one of the most promising American filmmakers to come on the scene in a while, David O. Russell.

The caper never stops turning the tables on the audience with inventive twists that keep the action going at a breakneck pace.  A decent amount of suspense helps tie it all together.

The cast is simply amazing.  Christian Bale and Amy Adams are absolutely stunning and Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner are great supporting players.

The Bottom Line: American Hustle is a movie I would recommend to everyone.  It’s entertaining and occasionally funny and it exudes talent in overwhelming waves.

Grade: 9

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

La Mission

La MissionThe Gist: A father and son live in San Francisco’s La Mission district, where being a Latino man means being tough and holding your own against other tough guys.  Their relationship and the district’s own acceptance will be put to the test when the father discovers that his son is gay.

Three things are of note in La Mission.  One is the very promising Jeremy Ray Valdez, who plays Benjamin Bratt’s gay son.  He’s a very good actor and shows a lot of promise.  Bratt is excellent too, by the way.

The second is the movie’s musical score, which benefited from the direct involvement of the real-life Che Rivera and is so perfectly tailored to the many important moments in the movie that it becomes its very own character.

The third is the grace and seriousness with which the filmmakers approached a theme as delicate as open homosexuality in a hyper-masculine environment like the Latino heavily-patriarchal community.

The Bottom Line: La Mission is a really good movie for the three reason highlighted above and it really deserves to be watched.  You won’t regret it.

Grade: 8

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesThe Gist: A virus created in a lab ends up causing a worldwide pandemic that nearly wipes out the human race.  The apes, immune to the virus, have grown in numbers and settled in the forest north of San Francisco.  Meanwhile, a group of human survivors have regrouped in the city and need to restart a hydroelectric dam located in the forest.  The simian-human encounter won’t go very smoothly.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s very successful prequel to the whole Apes’ canon Rise of the Planet of the Apes and it keeps the banner flying high in my opinion.

The script is well developed, the story makes perfect sense within the canon (and on its own), the cast, both human and simian, is spot on, and the visual effects are something to behold.

I really do feel like at some point Andy Serkis should get some kind of real recognition for his amazing work giving life to all these amazing creatures.  For instance, there was a time when special Oscars were handed out to artists in the industry, like Judy Garland and Shirley Temple (Juvenile Awards), or Walt Disney (an Honorary Award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).  After playing Gollum, King Kong, and Caesar, among others, and always making them feel as alive and real as any human character on the screen, he should get a special kind of Oscar.

The Bottom Line: If you like the Apes canon or are into sci-fi, then this movie is a must see.  It’s entertaining and well made.

Grade: 8


NASHVILLE - Swedish PosterThe Gist: A most variegated cast of characters populates this mosaic of a movie.  Their courses intercept, merge, or clash with one another until the dramatic finale.

I’m a longtime Robert Altman fan, and Nashville is considered one of his masterpieces, so I decided to watch it, but I was disappointed.

I like Altman’s style of jamming a sprawling cast into a film, and he’s a master at keeping all of his actors in line, but this movie just didn’t grab me.  I wasn’t enthused and I was only occasionally entertained.

The script actually felt a bit stretched at times (the movie is quite long) and some scenes even very convenient.

The Bottom Line: If you’re an Altman fan you probably owe it to yourself to check this out.  You might end up loving it like many people have, but for me it was too long, a bit boring, and not really engaging.  I’m giving it a 6 simply because in spite of its age and its drawbacks, it still shows longevity and artistry.

Grade: 6

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers ClubThe Gist: In the early years of AIDS, when the disease was still viewed as the curse of gay men, a straight, tough man is diagnosed and given only a few months to live.  Refusing to accept this fate, he’ll do all it takes to stay alive, finding an unlikely ally in the gay community.

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both won the Oscar for their performances, on top of many other awards and accolades.  They both deserved it all, given the amazing work on display here.

The Bottom Line: Dallas Buyers Club is a very powerful movie that underlines how an already ostracized gay community was virtually forgotten by the authorities and taken advantage by big pharma when it came to facing an epidemic that seemed to only affect that segment of society.  Watch it.

Grade: 8

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead 5Season 5 of The Walking Dead, one of my absolute favorite shows of all time, started out fantastic, slowed down to an unsettling halt, and finally set the stage for a whole new chapter.

The group gets mostly reunited in Terminus, but things aren’t looking good.  Thanks to a very resourceful Carol, they succeed in escaping, albeit bloodily.  At least Rick has now finally firmly re-embraced is position as leader of his people.

A makeshift police force in Atlanta will test our heroes but an even bigger threat is still following them relentlessly.  Finally on their way to Washington, our survivors will be approached by a new community.

This show never ceases to amaze me.  Even when it slowed down in Alexandria, it was only for the purpose to rebuild the customary tension.

Grade – Season 5: 9

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead 4Season 4 of The Walking Dead keeps the adrenaline level amped up.

After the disastrous Woodbury experience, the group settles into a seemingly quieter existence in the prison, until a viral infection brings back fear and death.

We also have not seen the last of the Governor, who goes through a dark moment before finding himself again and plotting his vengeance.

When the group is forced to abandon the safety of the prison, they head towards Terminus, in the hopes that it might be a safe haven.

Grade – Season 4: 9