Not Throwing Away The Shot (Stage Thoughts: Shooting Star, Hudson Theater)

Screenshot-277-e1558969206901I could go all ‘critic’ on ‘Shooting Star,’ the ‘revealing new musical’ playing at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles. Written by Florian Klein (known in the gay adult industry as hans Berlin,’ the show is, to be frank, on the bland side, and that is maddening because the gay porn industry is supposed to be scintillating and sexy in and of itself. And since this is a musical, I would have to say that the songs (by Thomas Zaufke with lyrics by Erik Ransom) should really be better. Looking at this on the surface level, it really is a bore.

But thank God the direction by Michael Bello lifts everything up. And the cast, led by Taubert Nadalini (as Taylor Trent) is top notch so the show makes for an enjoyable evening.  Nadalini’s voice soars, even as he sings some pretty insipid lyrics. You don’t care, because he has charm to spare, and has sizzling chemistry with Nathan Mohebi, who plays Jesse Apollo. Bello’s directorial touch is mostly light, probably because he know there’s not much meat to the story (your typical farm boy to porn star tale) that there’s no sense extracting juice from something bone-dry. You will recognize a lot of talent on stage (My fave was Carson Robinette, who plays JR Andrews, ‘America’s Most Famous Bottom’) so everything else will be forgiven. Plus, they all look legitimate-stage ready, so really, what’s the harm? Check pretensions at the door, and I bet you will have an orgasm watching this.

Always, Maybe (Movie Thoughts: Always Be My Maybe)

p15586359_p_v8_aaA couple of minutes into Nahnatchka Khan’s  ‘Always Be My Baby,’ I groaned to myself.  Sure, I m a sucker for romantic comedies, but I thoroughly disliked the two main characters here, Sasha and Marcus (Ali Wong and Randall Park) who I know are meant to fall in love. I mean. why would I root for them to do that when I don’t even like them? I despise those type A over-achieving people like Wong’s Sasha, and Park’s slacker bro dude was just as annoying I thought. But I have to credit the actors, especially Park, who gives the character more depth than what’s written (probably because the actors also wrote the screenplay)  And I have to admit, the characters grew on me, especially Marcus. He even says that he cannot leave his father because he needs to take care of him – and that’s a very Asian thing, by the way. Eventually, I gave in to the romance – they have good enough chemistry and there were several Asian-specific touches that I related to. And Keanu Reeves does a hilarious cameo playing himself – that alone in my opinion is worth a watch. I do have to say that I am really liking the fact that Netflix is investing in a lot of these romantic comedies, and this one is a little more adult than their earlier ones. I can only encourage and celebrate.

Can We Talk? (Film Thoughts: Late Night)

Late Night - PosterNisha Ganatra’s ‘Late Night’  is not the most original film in any year – it’s a retread of the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ formula – but it is a lot of fun and has charm to spare, and I instantly liked it. Written by Mindy Kaling, (I never warmed up to her until now) it showcases one of our great living legends – Emma Thompson – and she doesn’t have to do much to run away with the film.

Or at the very least, Thompson makes it look easy. Even though the character is really just a variation of Miranda Priestly, Thompson makes it sizzle, and she give it more depth than how it was written. She plays Kathryn Newbury, a late night talk show host whose program has gone stale. This is probably because her writing staff is comprised of all the same people – white males all straight except for a token gay. To change this, the show hires Molly (Kaling) and well, you can probably guess what happens next. But it doesn’t matter, because Thompson and Kaling spar off each other marvelously, and the quick pacing makes you ignore holes in the plot. It’s all formula, but it works because of that. and it’s a timely message, if a bit too heavy handed, especially towards the end. Still, it’s frothy summer fun, even if it is still cold in Los Angeles.

From Way Up Here, It’s Crystal Clear (Movie Thoughts: Aladdin)

AladdinThe 2019 live action ‘Aladdin’ was mostly fun. It had some thrilling moment, just enough romance, and generally, a good time. And I still wondered if that was enough. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled about seeing this, but the screening times fit, and I had some spots in my AMC A List reservations, so sure why not. After the movie, I felt like I wanted more. I felt it needed some more – something inspired, something new. I mean, it already had something blue, and for the record, I thought Will Smith did a good job of making the role his, and not a copy of Robin Williams, even if, at times, he is reciting the exact same line. They added some things here – a generic song from Pasek & Paul that tried to mirror ‘Let It Go’ – and most of those things did not add much to the movie. The best bits about this were the ones from the original. So I ask myself, does this movie have a reason for existing? The original is still there, and will still be enjoyed by millions more, so I chuck this only to one thing – greed.

This Feeling Inside (Film Thoughts: Rocketman)

Rocketman-poster-2Elton John is a Rock Superstar, but my appreciation of him came later. My 70s music focused more on that other homosexual – Barry Manilow. But of course much later on, I started listening to Elton John’s music, and have a deep appreciation for his artistry. Then comes ‘Rocketman,’ his biopic. I had been looking forward to this, primarily because I was very disappointed with the Freddy Mercury one, and perhaps I may be in the minority on that one.

The good news – ‘Rocketman’ is better, even if it is sort of by the same Director, Dexter Fletcher. (He finished the last three week of shooting after Bryan Singer left)  It is certainly more creative, and the story more soulful, as opposed to BoRhap’s by-the-numbers storytelling. It is not a musical in the strictest definition, not even jukebox style. The songs don’t try to tell the story, although it sometimes does, but never feel shoehorned in the moment. The pace is fantastic, although I thought that at its length (a hairline north of two hours) it should have covered more.  And I wished there was more depth to the story, but I guess the film covers a very specific part of John’s early to mid life.

But all this quibble is drowned by Taron Egerton’s fantastic turn as Elton John. It is fully committed, and he gets to the core of the singer – he captures everything about the singer, even and up to his singing voice (Egerton sings all the vocals)  Very rarely does an actor capture a character’s soul, and Egerton nails that here. And I must also mention the great chemistry he has with Jamie Bell, who plays Bernie Taupin. Richard Madden does fine with his one-dimensional role, and much has been said about their sex scene – it’s chaste and inoffensive by any standard – you can take your Grandma to see this and she won’t even blink.

But above all, the movie is a lot of fun. I found myself remembering how much I appreciated the music. This may not be the most ideal Elton John bio pic for me, but it will more than suffice.

Not Since Annie Hall (Film Thoughts: Benjamin/The Tomorrow Man)

1451168Oh we all love neurotic characters on film, don’t we? I have recently saw two with neurosis between younger and older characters on film, and as I say, “not since Annie Hall…”

From UK comes ‘Benjamin,’ starring Colin Morgan as the title character. Benjamin is young and nervous. He is a filmmaker who enjoyed success on his first film and is suffering from a (self-inflicted) Sophomore Slump. he is int he middle of releasing his film when he falls in love with a French musician Noah (Phenix Brossard) and he feels his life crumbling – or perhaps finally he is finally in the cusp of, gulp, happiness? Written and Directed by Simon Atwell, this film has all the elements of what I love most: it has a love story, it is intelligently written, it is bittersweet, and it is set in my favorite city London. And it feels like ‘real’ London, with real Londoners. There is a scene here where after Benjamin meets Noah, he becomes a bumbling fool, and I can so relate to that, and I can so relate to Benjamin’s mixture of despair and hope when he feels love. There’s that nagging feeling in you that all this will turn to shit, but of course, there is that hope that this may actually be the one. I loved every minute of this film.

Tomorrow-Man-600x889I wish I could say that I enjoyed the neurosis in ‘The Tomorrow Man,’ Noble Jones’ film about senior citizens in love. There’s a lot of tenderness here that I love, and I adore the fact that there is a film that exists where love between two people ‘on the wrong side of sixty’ is explored. But the flaws of the characters, meant to make them more human, kind of scared me. John Lithgow’s Ed seems mostly creepy (he has a garage full of canned food and supplies that is meant to save him from impending doom) though I liked Blythe Danner’s hoarder character of Ronnie a little better, but maybe because for me Danner could do no wrong. I still left the theater in a  more positive note, carrying with me its central love story, and maybe wondering if love could still prevail in spite of all our own (hopefully milder) neurosis.

What Are You Looking At (Television Thoughts: POSE S02 E01)

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Pose is back, and I am happy.

I bet a lot of people – myself included – never thought it would get a second season, but here it is, and it is more assured, more confident. The first season was a little timid, but this time around, it definitely has a more vocal voice. and that is a good thing. The timeline moves forward to 1990 and here these characters are, on the summer that Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ hits it big. I remember that time specifically, it is the start of a very tumultuous year for me, but I came out of it better, and with a great understanding of who I was then. The AIDS crisis is in full swing at this point, but the big difference between the 80s and this period is that there is a lot more awareness – and people are getting fed up and starting to fight. There is a scene in the premiere that got to me, and that is when they go to the ACT=UP meeting. It was very realistic – it is at the basement of the LGBT Center, and it looks very similar (albeit cleaner) than how it was. And I remember ACT-UP meeting were very scary to me – their anger petrified me, but at the same time I was in awe of them – their bravery overwhelmed me. I was a young and didn’t know how to deal with myself, much less join a movement. I was too scared to be myself totally and to be with them. Pray Tell would probably label me a coward, just like he did Elektra.

And that is probably what will make this season more compelling for me. This era was the start of a big change in my life, and as I watch these characters’ stories, I bet I will see myself in all of them.