Diversity is an understatement when it comes to these new DVD releases!
by chris carpenter
Sexual Tension: Volatile (TLA Releasing)
Critic’s Rating: B
Talented Argentinian director Marco Berger (Plan B, Absent) and porn writer Marcelo Monaco deliver this compilation of six stories involving straight or questioning men who find themselves in steamy situations with another man.
The scenarios include a teen fantasizing about the tattoo artist working on him, a buddy teaching his overly-endowed friend how to make love to a woman without scaring her away, and a married man on vacation with his wife who develops a naked kinship with their innkeeper.
Most of the stories end with a frustrating lack of resolution, but this is intentional on the filmmakers’ part. However, the final short, “Workout,” is a satisfying mix of hot guys, muscle worship and flirtation set to a cheery music score.
The Wishmakers (Ariztical Entertainment)
Critic’s Rating: B-
A newly out, Jewish dancer from Ohio moves to West Hollywood in hopes of starting his new gay life. After making a wish for true love with his two best friends, he meets a cute fellow dancer with a secret or two.
David Grotell’s enjoyable film has a slight, sometimes strained plot but benefits from its four lead actors as well as supporting turns by Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland and “Chloe” YouTube sensation Drew Droege. Don’t miss the romantic, digitally-enhanced dance finale.
Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels (Breaking Glass/QC)
Critic’s Rating: C+
Angel Walker, aka Satan’s Angel, has ruled the burlesque scene in San Francisco for decades. A long-out lesbian, she also partied with The Doors and the Rat Pack in the 1960’s and toured with Bob Hope in the USO.
Josh Dragotta’s documentary gets the performer to dish about her experiences while showcasing her commitment to the art of burlesque. Walker’s brassy personality takes a bit of getting used to and I wish the film featured more serious discussion of Walker’s relationship with her devoted wife, Vic.
Still, it provides an insightful glimpse into a little-known life and industry.
Strange Frame (Wolfe Video)
Critic’s Rating: B
An undeniably stylish and ambitious animated sci-fi film. Set in the 28th century, it plays something like a lesbian version of Blade Runner or Total Recall as a rock musician/freedom fighter falls in love with a biologically-enhanced “debt slave” forced to work on a dangerous, other world.
The character animation is colorful but stiff and video game-like, which can be irritating, while the environments and backgrounds are often stunning.
It features a commendably diverse voice cast that includes Juliet Landau (Martin’s daughter), Claudia Christian, gay actor George Takei of Star Trek fame, Barney Miller’s Ron Glass and that “Sweet Transvestite” himself, Tim Curry.
Les Miserables (Universal Home Entertainment)
Critic’s Rating: B
There are riches and deficits to be found in Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper’s big-screen transfer of the beloved stage musical. Among its big-name cast members, Hugh Jackman shines as reformed convict Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway over-emotes but still makes a moving Fantine, and young newcomer Samantha Barks shines as the tragic Eponine.
(But then isn’t every character here pretty tragic?) Russell Crowe looks great as the law-revering policeman Javert but lacks vocal strength and Amanda Seyfried is one-note dramatically and musically as Cosette, while Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are simultaneously under-utilized and excessive as the comically villainous Thenardiers.
Hooper also relies too heavily on lavish digital scenery. Fortunately, the film’s weaknesses fail to diminish the power of Victor Hugo’s 150-year old saga of morality, grace, sacrifice and redemption, and the score’s best songs—generally well-performed in much-ballyhooed live recordings—highlight this all the more.