Friday, April 30, 2010

TV Review: "Happy Town"

With "Lost" ending in 5 episodes, ABC has created yet another dark and enigmatic puzzler in "Happy Town."

Set in Haplin, Minnesota, "Happy Town" is sort of "Desperate Housewives," if it had been written by Stephen King. The story begins with the gruesome murder of the town's local perv and the arrival of Henley (Hostel II's Lauren German, looking like a young Milla Yovovich), who plans to open a candle shop in the town where her late mother once spent a lovely vacation - or so she says. Haplin was once plagued by a series of disappearances that lasted for 7 years, all attributed to the mysterious 'Magic Man,' who left no clues behind. But all has been quiet in Haplin for 5 years. That is until the murder and Henley's arrival.

Haplin's residents include the local sheriff ("Lost" alum, M.C. Gainey); his son Tommy (the ridiculously handsome Geoff Stults); Tommy's wife Rachel ("Dollhouse" doctor Amy Acker); pizza man Big Dave ("E.R." orderly Abraham Benrubi); bread factory owner John Haplin (Steven Weber) and town matriarch Peggy Haplin (the always amazing Frances Conroy). Throw in the mysterious Hollywood memoriabiliast Merritt Grieves (Sam Neill) and a host of character actors you are sure to recognize, and you have quite a cast.

I must admit, the pilot episode got me hooked, immediately. Who (or what) is the Magic Man? What's behind the mysterious halo-topped question mark graffittied all over town (and tattooed on Henley's shoulder)? Why is the third floor of the rooming house off limits? Who killed the perv and why? Who is Chloe and why does the sheriff's seemingly repressed memory of her drive him to chop off his own hand? Much like David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," "Happy Town" starts off with more questions than answers and introduces us to the unseemly side of a seemingly perfect American town. Your Uncle P, for one, can't wait to find out what's going on in Haplin, though I suspect it will be quite some time before we actually do so (if at all).

"Happy Town" airs on Wednesdays at 10 PM Eastern (check your local listings). **** (Four Stars out of Four).

More, anon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Broadway isn't known as "The Great Invalid" for nothing. Every time it seems that live theatre is about to gasp its last, some amazing show or other comes along and saves the day. Though these days, with ticket prices topping out at well-over $100 a pop, I'm amazed that people still go. When I go (and it's less-and-less these days), I make sure I visit the TKTS booth in Times Square. You can purchase left-over tickets for a fraction of their original price, as long as you're willing to stand in line and don't have your heart set on a particular show. I have rarely been disappointed by the selection of shows there and have seen many original casts for a lot less than I would have paid at the box office.

New musicals abound on Broadway this season, including the very well-reviewed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; the apparently disappointing The Addams Family and this season's standout; American Idiot, a musical based around the songs from the Green Day album of the same name (my friend Jonathan saw it on opening night and said it revolutionizes Musical Theatre).

Of course, every season also has its share of revivals and this year is no exception. The biggies this season are Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace") & Kristin Chenowith (Wicked; my beloved "Pushing Daisies") in Promises, Promises, the musical version of The Apartment with some rather well-known songs from Burt Bacharach and Hall David; Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury in Sondheim's 3/4 tempo love story, A Little Night Music and Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") in La Cage aux Folles. Of course, the latter really puzzles me, because of Grammer's right-wing politics (but then, Log Cabin Republicans puzzle me as well, but what do I know?).

When my sister was still in high school, I took her to see the touring company production of La Cage... in Philadelphia. The particulars of the cast escape me (and I'm too lazy to dig out my Playbill), but I do remember both of us loving it. It was her first time seeing a professional production of a musical, and I think that may have impressed her as much as anything, but it also showed the budding Born Again that being gay wasn't quite the horrific thing most so-called "Christians" are led to believe. Thankfully, that lesson carried over into her current dogma and even though we may disagree when it comes to religion, she is a firm believer in LGBT rights, and I love her even more for it.

But, I digress.

The point is that good Musical Theatre (like any art) is an examination of the one unwavering constant: The Human Condition. Young/Old; Gay/Straight; White Collar/Blue Collar; Rich/Poor... we all share our Humanity and the Joy, Love, Pain, Laughter, Tears and everything else that comes with being Human. And it is in that spirit that I share with you these clips (via) of the revivals of La Cage aux Folles and Promises, Promises. Enjoy.

More, anon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Gaga Gayest Things You'll See This Week

Funny, I don't remember Scott Hamilton ever calling anyone a "slore." According to the Urban Dictionary (and I'm just paraphrasing here), a slore is a combination of the words "slut" and "whore." Really? Did we need to combine those words into a new one? Weren't they descriptive enough on their own?

Of course, all this started with flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir not being asked to participate in Stars on Ice, or some such nonsense.

Does anyone really pay money to go to those stupid ice shows, anymore? I remember once as a kid being taken to see Disney on Ice and thinking it lame, even then. And as recently as 2000, my then-employer (an insane woman who would burst into tears at the mere mention of Tuesdays with Morrie) gave tickets for The Wizard of Oz on Ice to myself and another co-worker, which we gleefully attended as a total goof. My co-worker got totally wasted and spent the ride home screaming "I'm a flying monkey!" out the window of the car to every person we passed. As I recall, there was no mention of "slores" at either event.

You may remember that Johnny felt the organizers of the show passed on him because of his perceived sexuality, and publicly shared his feelings. Today, Weir's Olympic teammate, "straight" skater Evan Lysacek (pictured above, in the straightest skating costume ever) said Johnny was simply whining about his failure to be included because Stars on Ice only takes the "best of the best." To which Johnny responded in the most adult way anyone could expect a figure skater to do. He called Lysacek a 'slore.' Huh?

Is this the best the US Olympic Figure Skating Team can do? Two bitchy queens calling each other names? If I wanted to hear that kind of nonsense, I'd watch re-runs of "Dynasty" on Hulu. At least I'd get some bitch-slapping, hair-pulling, fountain-fighting fun out of it. Oh - and just in case you were wondering about Johnny, this should put those nasty rumors to rest once and for all (via):

Of course, a love of Gaga doesn't automatically make you gay. Just ask the boys of the University of Omaha's acappella group 'On the Rocks.' This performance isn't gay at all (via):

Well, maybe it's a little gay. Okay, okay. It's a lot gay. But that doesn't mean the cubs prancing about the stage are gay. Well, not all of them. They are a talented bunch, though - I'll give them that.

More, anon.

Don't Stop Making Sense

I don't have HBO, mostly because I think it's outrageous to charge for movies I've already seen at least twice before they even reach the cable channel. And while I may not be able to see their original series in first run (and they honestly haven't had a great one since "Six Feet Under"), I know that I'll be able to see them eventually on DVD. Such is the case with Allen Ball's "True Blood."

Now, you may not find a bigger fan of the vampire genre than your Uncle P, but given the recent flood of "sparkling" vampires (oh, how I hate Stephanie Meyers), I have become rather disenchanted. But from what I have read and heard about "True Blood," I would probably enjoy it.

I'll probably rent the DVDs, eventually. I must admit that I am intrigued by both the concept and the apparently endless parade of naked male flesh on display, especially the beautiful Alexander Skarsgard, pictured to the right.

Skarsgard (son of Exorcist: The Beginning star, Stellan Skarsgard) recently gave an interview to People magazine, regarding his role on the show:

"Not only is Skarsgard spontaneous, he's also comfortable in his own skin – a good thing, considering the amount of nudity on True Blood. The actor says he doesn't mind removing his clothes, despite being teased about it occasionally by his five brothers and one sister. 'I'm not a prude at all,' he says. 'I shot a very, very graphic scene two days ago with a man. I am from Sweden, and it's different there. If it makes sense, I'll just do it. And to me, so far, it's made sense every single time I've got naked or made out on the show.'"

Wow! How many actors do you know who are comfortable enough in their own skins to make a statement like that? I know of one - my Dear D. In four of the six shows in which he has acted for me, D has played gay characters. He's taken abuse for it from both friends and co-workers, but has never wavered in his dedication to the roles. He's made out with two of his best friends on stage for me (The Altruists; Psycho Beach Party and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told) and even been naked for me (Most Fabulous) on stage. Much like Mr. Skarsgard, he knows that homosexuality is not abnormal, but just another facet of the human the Human Condition. His talents as an actor are nearly as extraordinary as his trust in me as a director and if I had my way, he'd be in every show I ever directed, for the rest of my life.

While we briefly appeared together in A View from the Bridge, we haven't had the opportunity to actually perform together on stage in a substantial way. I certainly hope we get the chance to do so, someday. He's an exceptionally talented and beautiful person, and while he's much younger than me, I still consider him among my best friends.

So what does all this rambling mean? Simply that I am happy to note that there are plenty of people out there who know that "gay" does NOT equal "evil" and that art is not only reflective of real life, but that it can also change people's minds about what is right and wrong. Honestly, I'm tired and coming off of a three-day sinus headache, so what do I know?

Watch for more Sordid Lives updates here, on the JTMF website and the JTMF blog. As for me, I'm tired!

Anyway, here's a sneak peak at the upcoming season of "True Blood:"

More, anon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Sometimes, even someone as loquacious as I am, has nothing to say.

I've seen no new movies or TV shows this week; I haven't been to the theatre; no new superhero has tickled my fancy (how old fashioned a term is that?) and no news story has jumped out at me. There have been no new ultra-gay videos to share; no outrageous behaviors to report on; no music videos that made me lose my mind.

This weekend was spent painting (it looks like it's going to take 4 coats of the yellow in my kitchen - yikes!) and grocery shopping. I don't know about you, but grocery shopping always leaves me feel like I've been beaten with a sock full of nickels. Between the old folks who leave their carts anywhere they please (as if they were only people in the store), and the jerks who spend what seems like hours contemplating the minutest details of the Rice-A-Roni they are planning on serving, it's almost like a battle zone.

My only solace lies in the fact that that Sordid Lives has its first read-through on Tuesday. The first read-through of a play holds so much promise. In the case of a JTMF show, the first read-through is often an indicator of how successful the show will be. If the cast spends as much time laughing as they do reading, then we've hit our mark. And what a cast I have to work with, this year. Six of the funniest, most talented women I know; my Dear D; Doug, who seems to have become the JTMF go-to guy for comic drag; the talented and enigmatic Glen and two gentlemen who I don't know well (but will, soon). This is the kind of cast that makes a director so happy to be a director.

"Why, Uncle P, you've had such a non-eventful weekend!" Yes. Yes, I have. And sometimes that's a good thing. Life is about to get rather hectic for me, and you may see a noticeable decrees in the number of my posts. As always with any show with which I am involved, such is the case. I'll keep you updated on Sordid Lives as well as any movies, plays and new TV shows I come across. And you can always catch up on JTMF activity on our blog (which means yours truly now maintains three blogs - God help me!). And you should also watch for the first JTMF YouTube video soon. I'll be posting it here (along with the usual nonsense), soon.

And once again, for someone with nothing to say, I've managed to write far more than I thought I would, tonight. I suppose that's the trouble with actors and directors - we always have something to say, even when we think we don't.

Apropos of nothing, I'll leave you with this bit of 70's nostalgia from one of my childhood favorite Game Shows, The Match Game featuring the Flavor of the Decade, Ms. Betty White. Why? Because it made me laugh. And will hopefully do the same for you:

By the way, Q was the first non-Equity actress to play Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst, which led to her Equity membership and the job she now holds as VP of a company which specializes in industrial films and live presentations for the pharmaceutical industry. If you didn't blink, you may have caught me in one of their vids.

Wow! For someone with nothing to say, I guess I said plenty.

More, anon.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Even before I knew I would spend my life playing make-believe in front of paying audiences, I loved movies. One of the few things I can thank my father for... Ironically, it was Dad who introduced me to the first male I would fall in love with, King Kong. And as I discovered more great horror films, I started to appreciate the artistry that went into creating the special effects. And in particular, the makeup and masks.

When I was younger, I collected a few extraordinary pieces from here and there (and still have one or two). Lord knows I've made my fair share, mostly for Shakespearean shows (And I do still have Benedick's; Beatrice's; Romeo's and Juliet's). The most elaborate mask I ever made was for the first production of The Tempest I did, in college. I was playing Gonzalo in what was a ridiculous Persian-themed production. The director, knowing I was unhappy, thought he'd cheer me up and asked me to design Caliban's makeup and one of Ariel's masks. I did the best I could withe the stupendously bad Creature from the Black Lagoon body suit and headpiece they gave the poor fellow playing Caliban, so I was sort of forced to go reptilian with the make-up. But I managed to insert a private joke into the design of Ariel's mask - a live-action Easter Egg, if you will. I modeled it after David Lee Roth's cover for Eat 'Em and Smile. No one got it until the high school matinees. And the poor director couldn't understand why every high school matinee audience laughed at that scene, when no one else had.

And my sweet K gave me the mask you see me wearing in my profile. It is truly an extraordinary work of Venetian craftsmanship and the only mask I display in my living room. Above my desk here in the home office, is a lovely wood-carved mask of the Serene Buddha, given to me by my sister. The simple lines and natural wood color variations are in perfect compliment to the subject matter, and looking at it helps to remind me that calm and clear can see you through just about anything.

Masks have been around as long as humans have. Like Theatre itself, masks were first (and in many places still are) made for use in religious ceremonies. In Ancient Greece, actors wore gigantic masks with megaphones built in, so the huge audiences could hear what they were saying and clearly see the expressions on their faces. Pagan religions in ancient Europe used masks to evade evil spirits (a holdover to the modern holiday of Halloween), and during the Black Plague, people wore "Plague Masks" in hopes of fooling the disease into thinking they were birds, which did not contract the plague. For centuries, masks have allowed revelers in Venice to be anonymously wicked during Carnival, in the weeks leading up to Lent.

In modern genre films, there are probably two legendary masks of note: Darth Vader and Michael Meyers. By now we all know that Michael Meyers' mask was a store-bought Captain Kirk mask. That's right - it's Shatner. The costumer widened the eye-holes a bit, painted the whole thing white and teased the hell out of the hair, et voila! An icon is born. As for Vader, while I'm sure George Lucas had a pretty good idea of what he wanted (back when he was sane, at least), it was up to Oscar-winning costume designer John Mollo to create the iconic black geo-head we've all come to know and love.

So, what brings on all this talk of masks, you may well be asking (and even if you're not, I'm going to tell you). Today (I think on CNN) I came across this story about Conrad Zdzierak, a Polish national who used a very expensive silicone mask to disguise himself as a black man while robbing banks and pharmacies. He bought the mask, known as The Player, from SPFXMasks where it retails for $689.00. Zdzierak was known as "The Hairless Robber." If you'll note in SFPX's description of The Player: "The Player mask does NOT come with hair or eyebrows unless ordered custom."

Here's a video of SPFX's $789.00 "Lucifer" mask:

Impressive, aren't they?

Masked bandits are nothing new. A bandanna and a Colt 45 were de riguer for 19th century robbers. Of course, if I were a really smart criminal, I wouldn't be using a product I bought off the Internet to disguise myself. I can't imagine there are very many folks out there buying $700 to $800 masks, online. Is it any wonder they caught this guy? I guess he was maybe a little smarter than these guys, but still. Masks can disguise many things, but stupid always seems to make itself known.

And on that note, I leave you with this:

I won't go into the concept of personal masks, for this post. Of course, that doesn't preclude a future post on the subject. For now, I'll just say how much I love the right masks in the right situations, and leave it at that.

More, anon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

International House of Horrors

Mmmmm... unexplained Halloween pancakes!

This post is actually about foreign films. Or, more explicitly, foreign Horror movies. Hence, the "International" which led to the bad pun, which resulted in a picture of a rather skillfully poured skull and jack-o-lantern pancakes, even though this post has has nothing to do with Halloween.

See, that rambling nonsense above is either my own pathetic attempt at Stream-of-Consciousness; an excuse to post a seemingly random picture which has no significance other than as a very bad pun; or proof that I got the keys from the night guard after I slipped a week's worth of my sedatives into his coffee all those years ago... Huh? What? Oh... sorry.

Anyway, I've been coming across more and more clips and trailers for Horror from Europe, Asia and elsewhere that looks as intriguing as (and often more original and interesting than) almost anything Americans are making (Sam Raimi or Michael Dougherty, not withstanding). This post started thanks to a link sent to me by my buddy Sean down in D.C. of a short French horror film (which you can see as the Zombie Clip of the Week on this week's Zombie Zone). So I'd like to share some trailers you may or may not have seen, for movies of which you may or may not have heard.

First up, from France is la Horde, a movie I know I've mentioned at least once. This Tarantino-inspired movie starts out as what looks like a bad-ass caper movie and quickly degenerates into a bad-ass zombie movie. Check it out:

Damn! It's Die Hard or Live Dead!* Dawn of the Living Dead Dozen? Zombie Fiction? Okay, I'll stop. It sort of looks awesome, doesn't it? No word on a U.S. release...

i09 linked to this haunting post-apocalyptic gem from Israeli film student Dan Sachar. When It Will Be Silent is both achingly beautiful and heart-breaking. I can't wait to see what he does with a budget.

When it Will Be Silent (כשיהיה דומם) from Dan Sachar on Vimeo.

Mutants is yet another French zombie flick that hasn't seen U.S. release, which makes me sad because this trailer makes Mutants look awesome, as well. There are no subtitles here, but you really don't need them. You know the drill, by now.


Spanish director Juame Balaguero picks up where his original left off in [Rec]2, as a tactical team enters the building to take on the rabid zombies inside:

The sequel to Quarantine, the serviceable American remake of [Rec], is going in a different direction, taking place at an airport, I believe I read.

Here's a film about which I know nothing, but looks slick as all get out. The trailer for Thai horror film 9 Wat (Secret Sunday) has an almost Lynch-like vibe to it, contrasting and combining the mundane with the surreal most effectively:

Literally translated, "9 Wat" is "9 Temples" in English, so I really don't understand why the American title is Secret Sunday. Did the distributors think Americans are so stupid we would think 9 Temples was a religious picture?

Of course, it goes the other way around, and we will soon have the American version of 2008's Best Horror Movie. Let Me In stars Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass); Richard Jenkins (The Visitor; "Six Feet Under") and the curiously hot Elias Koteas (Shutter Island; The Thin Red Line). Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), Let Me In has the challenge of translating a very effective Norwegian horror film into very effective American horror film. If Moretz is as good as she was in Kick-Ass, then I have hope. Here's the trailer for the original:

Interestingly, the newly revived British House of Horror, Hammer, is listed as the film's distributor, so it may be just a little less American than we thought...

I'm sure there are plenty more, and I'll report the ones that look interesting to me (as if you care what interests me - honestly, the gall of us bloggers to assume you actually care about our opinions). I think I'm overdue for a Forgotten Gems tomorrow night, on a film I came across while researching this post (yes, believe it or not, I do research stuff before talking about it).

More, anon.

* I hereby claim that title now and forever, by the way... I can see Bruce Willis taking on a horde of hungry zombie gang-members now...

Oh, and by the way... Hogjaw.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Miss the Weekly World News

I honestly miss this bastion of misinformation, fabrication and outrageous lies. There was something profanely comforting in its nonsense. Q's favorite WWN headline is "22 Devil Babies Born with Tails!" I tried to find a link to it, but have been so far unsuccessful. And I will admit, it's a good one. My all time favorite got turned into a very funny and very successful Off Broadway musical. I actually used the original Bat Boy edition as a prop in my production of the female version of The Odd Couple. It got a laugh every night. A cheap laugh, but a laugh, nonetheless. Not too long after that show closed, a co-worker bought me a Bat Boy T-shirt for my birthday and I was forever hooked on the nonsense the insane geniuses at WWN came up with, week after week for 27 years. Of course, I just adore Bat Boy: The Musical, which has some of the funniest lyrics ever (and which I must someday direct) is one of the funniest, cleverest and poignant shows I have ever seen. The tunes (with one exception in Act II) are snappy and hummable and the script is a perfect re-fictionalization of WWN's story about a strange boy found underground.

Which got me wondering what other WWN headlines would make a good musical? Here's a few actual WWN headlines I like and the plots of the musicals I imagine for them:

"How to Tell if Your Guardian Angel is Gay" -- Troubled teen rock star Brooklyn (Miley Cyrus in her stage debut) counts on her gay BFF Chad (Justin Bieber), for everything, but soon finds herself falling in love with him. When it's revealed at the end of Act I that Chad is actually Brooklyn's Guardian Angel and therefore sexless, her father (has-been Borscht Belt comedian Moishe "Buppie" Moskowitz, -- Robin Williams in a tour-de-force performance), finally approves of one of his daughter's boyfriends. Musical numbers include: "My Sassy Gay BFF;" "The Mouse Ate My Soul" and "No Wonder You're So Pretty!"

"Merman Caught in South Pacific" -- Caught! is the tale of an icy cryptozoologist (Sutton Foster) looking for the missing link in Fiji. When she accidentally snares merman Azreal (Hugh Jackman) in her nets, she's forced to admit there are things even science can't explain. Meanwhile an underhanded tabloid journalist (David Hyde Pierce) begins stalking the doc and her Piscean lover in the hopes of capturing Azreal "in full fin." Yes, It's Splash, but who cares? This is Broadway. F*ck Hollywood (we already do, anyway). Songs include: "Cryptozoologicalexpealidocius;" "(I Go to) Rio" and "You Swam Into My Heart."

"Farmer Shoots 23-Lb Grasshopper" -- Beginning of the End is a period story of intrepid 1950's journalist Audrey Aims (Audra McDonald) who stumbles upon a story of about giant grasshoppers created accidentally as part of radiation experiments on a local Illinois farm. She soon meets Ed Wainwright (Brian Stokes Mitchell), who explains how the grasshoppers got into a silo filled with radioactive wheat. Together, they must find a way to stop the giant grasshoppers, while keeping their unbridled passion for one another in check. Songs include: "I Smell a Scoop;" "The Radioactive Rag" and "Chicago's Full of Bugs This Time of Year."

"Redneck Aliens Take Over Trailer Park" -- The songs of Lynyrd Skynyrd are interwoven into this story of a boy who always felt "different" and the magical extraterrestrials who reveal to him his alien birthright. Free-Bird Jones (Cheyenne Jackson) must come to terms with his mother's lies and his father's probe, before accepting his place among his own people and the love of Carmen (Jennifer Lopez), the one woman who doesn't care that he's only half-human. Songs include "Sweet Home Alabama;" "Freebird" and "Double Trouble Double-Wide."

What Weekly World News story would you like to see as a musical? You know how I love comments.

More, anon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cannibalism and The Gayest Thing You'll Ever See?

Your Uncle P is not exactly a young man. I've been some very interesting places and I've seen some very interesting things and met some very interesting people. And I've been some really, really gay places and met some really, really gay people and seen some really, really gay things. But in all my years; in all the places I've been; of all the people I've met and all the things I've seen, the image to your right is undoubtedly the single gayest image you and I will ever see.* Think about it.

Here's this half-naked muscle cub, sneering at us in a see-through plastic and feather unicorn costume. Perhaps (like the title character in in Virginia Woolf's Orlando or Gregor Samsa), Lisa Frank woke up one morning to find herself transformed into the 33 year-old art director of a gay greeting card company. Most likely, there are just some really odd folks out there, gay and straight - and any and everything in-between - who churn out all sorts of fetish-related images. Though how someone knows there is such a fetish as gay unicorn housekeepers, is beyond my ken.

I found the image at HomoShame, of course.

And now on to the promised Cannibalism, shall we? Well, that may be a bit of a Weekly World News kind of tease, because this is really a story posted all over (but I saw it first here), about a typo in a cook book in Australia, in which one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" as ingredients. The publisher recalled existing stock and offered replacement copies, but no one took them up on the offer (I know I sure wouldn't).

Now, before I say what I have to say about this incident, trust me when I tell you no one is more committed to equality for everyone, everywhere, than I am. But if you are so sensitive that an obvious typo (which appears only once among dozens of recipes in which "pepper" is spelled correctly) rattles your chains, you need to get a life. People in Islamic countries are being executed for being gay (that, and for witchcraft). Millions die every day from AIDS, while millions more are infected, every day. True suffering and oppression is all around us, and you have nothing better to do than complain about a typo in a cookbook which only sold 5000 copies? I hate whoever made this an issue, and you should, too. If you can't laugh at something like this, you're taking life way too seriously. Might I suggest celebrating tomorrow's date in the traditional manner? You'll feel ever so much better.

And if that doesn't work, then here's a trailer for a movie which will no doubt foment anti-science creationists while exciting Sci-Fi nerds all over; the Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley monster flick, Splice:

No idea what that has to do with anything else here, tonight, but I've been reading about this movie for a while and am excited to see that it finally has a release date.

More, anon.

*In case you're wondering, str8t readers, this image is actually way gayer than gay pron, because half those boys are gay4pay with habits... er, uh... I mean... uh, families to support. It's even gayer, in fact, than my friend Doug's twirling (and trust me, that's pretty damned gay).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: "Kick-Ass"

Shh! Dear D and I had intended to see a show together, which neither of us really wanted to see, but sort of should, for various reasons. But knowing it would have been painful (and those we cared about who were in it would forgive us), we went with "Plan B" and went to see Kick-Ass, instead.

Dave Lisewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical teenager, trying to figure things out by deliberately remaining anonymous. He hangs with his two nerdy buddies, Marty and Todd (Clark Duke and Evan Peters). They eat lunch together, go to the comic-book store together and even get get mugged together... a lot. Dave wonders why no one has ever tried to be a superhero in real-life* before, and after the umpteenth mugging, Dave orders a wet suit from Amazon and assembles himself a rather amateurish (not to mention garish) green and yellow superhero costume. He practices jumping, rolling and kicking and eventually goes out to stop crime... and promptly ends up in the hospital, near death. But almost like the "Six Million-Dollar Man," Dave is brought back from the brink and somewhat (thanks to what happened), "improved." I don't want to spoil it for you, so that's all the origin story you get from me.

As all this is happening, Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) is training his 11 year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz) on how to take a shot while wearing body armor, shoot guns and wield knives, blades and ninja stars with deadly accuracy.

18 months later, Dave takes up the costume again, determined to be the guy who gives a damn, Not only is he victorious in his next attempt, but he's recorded on several cell-phones, resulting in a the biggest YouTube viral video, ever. Kick-ass immediately becomes a star with 16,000 MySpace friends. Dave is also crushing on Katie (doe-eyed Lyndsy Fonseca), a girl who thinks he's her sassy gay BFF. When Katie tells Dave that she's afraid to tell a creep named Rasul to leave her alone, Kick-Ass shows up to deliver the message for her; once again finding himself in just a little over his head. But at the last second, a purple-haired child in a mask, cape and plaid pleated skirt takes out the entire bunch of very bad men. Hit-Girl is a very foul-mouthed assassin, with skills that both amaze and terrify Dave. She introduces herself, and her father, Big Daddy, a guy who wears as close to a Batman costume as possible, without infringing on copyright. Unfortunately for Dave, Rasul and his pals worked for dangerous Mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who issues a hit on the person he thinks is responsible: our hero, Kick-Ass.

The performances here are all-terrific. Everyone gets it, playing their parts truthfully, despite the absurdity of it all. The adorable Johnson makes his American film debut (though a quick glance at his IMDb profile lists a slew of credits in the U.K.) and gives a funny, charming and intelligent performance as Dave/Kick-Ass. Moretz (500 Days of Summer; Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is nothing short of amazing as Mindy/Hit-Girl and it's funny, rather than shocking when she uses words Uncle P only uses when he's alone in the car, all while she is brutally slicing and dicing bad guys without a hint of remorse or fear. Most surprising is Cage, finally playing a superhero (even if it's not the one he wanted to). He's just terrific, channeling Adam West's version of Batman without an iota of irony, making his performance all that much funnier. Strong (Sherlock Holmes) is once again the perfect villain and his interpretation of an immoral, ruthless New York Mob boss is dead-on, though not without its own moments of hilarity. I do hope Strong isn't forever typecast, because I'd love to see him as a heroic lead, someday. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad's McLovin) is hilarious as Red Mist, a 'manufactured ' superhero with ulterior motives and the beautiful Omari Hardwick displays the right amount of intensity as the cop who knows everybody's secrets.

Director Matthew Vaughn (2007's amazing and underrated Stardust) has obviously studied the works of action directors who have come before, and he delivers some of the most exciting (if exceptionally violent) action-sequences since the Wachowski brothers. Paying homage to Peckinpah; Tarentino; Scorcese; McTiernan; Nolan and more, Vaughn doesn't cheat with a million quick-cuts that turn every action sequence into a headache-inducing blur. Instead, he lets the camera linger over the outrageous bodily harm being done and the copious amount of blood being spilled. The ridiculously over-the-top violence here is hardly gratuitous, but rather part of the joke -- it's so outrageous, the only possible reaction is laughter. The script (by Vaughn and his Stardust co-writer Jane Goldman), is both hilarious and insightful, simultaneously spoofing and embracing the superhero genre much more successfully than films like Mystery Men.

D agreed we had made the better choice, especially since he saw his first trailer for the upcoming testosterone-palooza, The Expendables. He actually grabbed my arm in excitement - if there's one boy who's gay for Stallone (and Franco, but that's for later) - it's D. And he will be the first to admit it (though he also told me he's curious about Ellen... go figure). I'll be seeing it with him, of course. But only because it also stars the action star I am totally gay for (don't even...).

Here's the NSFW-language ridden Red Band trailer for Kick-Ass:

Admittedly, Kick-Ass is not a movie for everyone. Some will be put-off by it's offensive language and excessive violence, but they'll be missing the point. Children should most definitely be kept from seeing this film. There are few things that make your Uncle P angrier than seeing children at an age-inappropriate movie. Of course, all that having been said, D and I both had such a good time, Kick-Ass is the first official contender for my Top Ten of '10.

Finally, a movie that lives up to its title. Kick-Ass does indeed, kick ass. ****(Four Stars) Kick-Ass is rated R for Adult Language; Extreme Violence and Sexual Situations.

*As a side note, there are in fact, some real people who dress up in costumes and 'fight crime,' though that's for a post all it's own. Remind me, will you?

More, anon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Fox Duality Conundrum

I'm at a loss to explain the disparity between the quality of the Fox Network's Entertainment division and the utter failure of the Fox Network's News division.

The Entertainment Division has brilliantly derisive comedy in the form of shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, smart Sci-Fi like Fringe and progressive musical dramas like Glee; while the Fox News Division has regressive morons like Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly 'reporting' and commenting on current events.

I can only assume that Fox owner Rupert Murdoch is some sort of evil genius like Ernst Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger or Dr. Evil.

Honestly, it makes Uncle P crazier than he already is.

Lord knows I loves me some Family Guy and Fringe (even my mother adores Stewie Griffin), but just the sound of Bill O'Reilly's voice can send me into an almost epileptic fit. Fox News' anti-Obama, anti-gay and anti-progressive diatribes make me want to puke, while their mostly pro-gay, anti-establishment shows like Glee and Fringe make me want to shout "Yes!" every time I see them. Of course, this disparity between the two divisions makes my head want to explode in a dichotomous maelstrom of confusion. And how's that for a sentence that would cause a genius like Bill O'Reilly to run for his dictionary?

I can only imagine that the smarter folks working at the Fox Network hate their jobs, while "brainiacs" like Glen Beck and Greta Van Susteren must wonder how they became household names espousing ideals and principles left over from the 1950's.

I will continue to watch Fox's Entertainment programing, because it's usually quite good. But I will also feel guilty about it because their News programing is so crapulent. What kind of progressive gay man does that make me? I suppose a confused one, at best.

Help me, Anderson Cooper. You're my only hope!

More, anon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shakespeare's Black Comedy

I have been invited to propose up to 3 plays to direct for my Alma Mater's ACT (All College Theatre) company. I chose a modern work (Paul Rudnick's Valhalla), a mid-century thriller (Maxwell Anderson's Bad Seed) and what most scholars agree is probably Shakespeare's first play, Titus Andronicus.

Titus Andronicus details the story of a Roman General (the titular Titus) who is returning from war with the Goths, to find Rome in the midst of political turmoil as two brothers vie for the throne. After losing 15 of his 18 sons in battle, Titus has captured the Goth Queen Tamora; her Moorish adviser Aaron and her three sons, whom he presents to the new Emperor, Saturninus. As punishment for his own sons' deaths at the hands of the Goths, Titus has Tamora's oldest son killed. But Saturninus immediately becomes smitten with Tamora and marries her, pardoning the Queen and her two remaining sons. Tamora and Aaron quickly plot their own revenge against Titus, killing two of his three remaining sons. Meanwhile Tamora has become pregnant by Aaron. Aaron, a truly Machiavellian villain, plots with her to kill two of Titus's sons in what is meant to look like a hunting accident (thy fall into a tiger pit). She then sends her remaining sons to rape Titus' daughter, Lavinia. To make sure Lavinia can't ID the perps. they cut out her tongue and cut off her hands so she cannot say or write who defiled her. But the plucky Lavinia picks up a stick in her stumps and writes Tamora's sons' names in the dirt. Titus then captures Tamora's sons and kills them; cuts them up and bakes them in a pie which he then force-feeds to Tamora and Saturninus. In true Shakespearean tragedy style, everybody dies at the end.

While the events in Titus Andronicus are most like inspired by the works of the Roman poets Ovid and Seneca, the plot is so outrageous and gory, most Shakespearean companies avoid it like the plague. Personally, I think it's perfect fodder for a black comedy and have proposed it as such for TCNJ's ACT.

Happily, I'm not the only director to think so. Julie Taymor's delirious 1999 adaptation, starring Anthony Hopkins; Jessica Lange; Alan Cumming; Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Angus MacFadyen is a hilarious mix of periods, styles and over-the-top gore, resulting in one of the best Shakespearean films ever made. I cannot wait for her upcoming adaptation of The Tempest, starring Dame Helen Mirran as Prospera (Hmmmm... might I have a special interest in this film?). Anyway, here's the trailer for her version of Titus:

Of course, Bad Seed has also been adapted twice. Once as theatrical film starring most of the Broadway cast and again as an updated TV movie. Either way, it remains a creepy thriller about a child who may well be a serial killer.

The last play I proposed was Paul Rudnick's Valhalla, which details the similarities between a young gay man in 1940's Texas and mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. It's both touching and comedic in a way which I cannot imagine would translate to film.

Honestly, I don't care which of the three the ACT board picks, as long as they pick one. The current crop of young actors at TCNJ have proven (through several recent productions I have seen there) that they are not only talented, but fearless, and I would be both honored and privileged to direct them.

More, anon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

John Cusack Is a Freak

I've always liked John Cusack. I love Say Anything with its iconic scene of Cusack holding a boom box over his head, playing Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes' in an effort to win back the girl he loves. So romantic. Or his hilarious turn as a hitman attending his high school reunion in Grosse Point Blank (which also features a bravura performance from his equally talented sister, Joan). Then there's the brilliant insanity of Being John Malkovich and the almost scary version of Stephen King's 1408. And let's not forget Sixteen Candles or the completely hilarious Better Off Dead ("...and to drink... Peru!"). Currently (and, I think, sadly) he is starring in Hot Tub Time Machine, a movie I have no intention of ever seeing, even when it shows up for free on TBS in about 3 months.

Anyway, Cusack is also currently a guest blogger on BoingBoing, the Science/Sci-Fi/Steampunk/Free -Speech/Arts-and-Crafts/Gadgets/Bananas/Whatever-the-Hell-They-Feel-Like-Posting-About blog run by Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow. Today, Mr. Cusack posted the video I am about to share with you.

If you have seen Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and thought he must have been smoking some primo ganga while making it, I can't even imagine what you will think about Czech animator Jan Svankmejer's take on Lewis Carroll's seminal work of nonsense incarnate. As a long-time Alice aficionado (I once wrote a play called "Through a Looking Glass, Darkly"), I am always excited to find new takes on Reverend Dodgson's allegorical and politically satirical fairy tale. Svankmejer's disturbing stop-motion/live action short is nothing less than brilliant, though as insane as anyone can imagine:

Cusack also links to another Svankmejer short, Meat Love. I'll leave it to you to form your own opinion:

As if I needed another reason to love Cusack, his taste in bizarro filmmaking only cements my admiration of him further (Hot Tub Time Machine not withstanding).

Interestingly, BoingBoing contributor Mark Fraunfelder also posted this piece about the British Library's online version of Carroll's original manuscript, which is available for your perusal and delight, for free. As you may well imagine, Uncle P is ecstatic about this link. Despite owning several versions of both Alice books (including "The Annotated Alice"), this is the first time I've been able to actually see the original book in his own handwriting, complete with his original illustrations. Nonsense just doesn't get better than this.

If you aren't familiar with Mr. Cusack's or Reverend Dodgson's works, I highly suggest you go to Netflix and/or your local library, posthaste. I promise you will be disappointed by neither. And just as a side note, the best concert I ever attended was Peter Gabriel's in the late 80's. I believe my sister will also attest to that fact.

More, anon.

More, anon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Gayest Bears You'll See This Week

Just a quick caveat - this entire post may be NSFW. Don't say you weren't warned.

As a card-carrying, big ole hairy Gay Bear, I couldn't help but find the video below both entertaining and so very gay.

I can my hear my straight readers now: "What's a gay bear?" Normally, I'd say "Look it up, bitch!" But I'm feeling generous tonight. For those who are still completely clueless, you can read the rather superficial description at Wikipedia. But Bears are so much more than that. I, for one, usually hate plaid flannel and try to be as fashion-forward as possible. Sadly, the fashion industry for men seems to be right in line with the fashion industry for women in designing clothes for those who are either terminally thin or impossibly perfect. Personally, I'm much more comfortable in vertical stripes.

To your Uncle P, 'Bear Culture' seems all too caught up in creating a separatist group of gay men, rather than embracing the total LGBT community. Bears are stereotypically known for their predilection for plaid; leather; work boots and crew cuts. Indeed, there are even sub-groups within the Bear community. There are "Daddies," "Cubs," and even "Otters" (usually hairless young men who are attracted to older, hirsute guys ). There are Bear Clubs, Bear Bars and even Bear Campgrounds, where socially masculine gay men are free to express their sexuality without recrimination.

While the general (i.e. 'Straight') community may not understand why there are so many LGBT sub-communities (and don't even get me started on that subject), those of us who find ourselves, whether we want to or not, part of one of those sub-communities, and understand all too well. Everyone, no matter what his or her sexual orientation may be, longs to be both unique and socially accepted. If that means defining oneself by physicality, then so be it. Personally, I find myself attracted to all sorts or people; gay or straight; hirsute or smooth; buff or sporting 'a few extra pounds.' In the end, it shouldn't matter who or what we love, but only that we do.

All that having been said, please enjoy this NSFW music video from Pixie Herculon (via):

Agree? Disagree? Want a date? Leave me a comment. You should know by now how much I love hearing from you.

More, anon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Life Less Sordid

Yesterday was a full day of theatre.

During the day, Uncle P presided over auditions for the JTMF production of Sordid Lives. Thank goodness I'm the kind of director who pre-casts as much as he can. Now, I can hear the screams of actors all over, decrying the practice, but every director worth his (or her) salt wants to use people he (or she) knows will give him (or her) the kind of performance he (or she) is looking for. (OK - enough of that. From now on, "he" will be the pronoun of choice, here. That's not meant to be sexist, but merely practical).

Anyway, a JTMF show is a rather unique animal, and we can afford to pick and choose most of our casts in advance. And truth be told, we look for shows which not only will appeal to our core audiences and reflect the values and sensibilities of what we are doing, but those that will also best utilize our core talent pool. And honestly, I don't know a director who reads a script without imagining actors he knows in roles. Thankfully, Sordid Lives is an almost perfect show for us. It has an LGBT theme; it's a comedy and it can be produced rather simply.

Personally, if I had my druthers, I would only do shows in which Dear D, K and Q have pivotal roles. In this case, all three were perfect, but only two were available. Still, as Meatloaf once crooned, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. So, I went to Plan B. What other actors did I know who were right? Thankfully, seven other talented folks were all available and actually excited to take part. So that left three roles left to fill. Sadly, of the several folks who made audition appointments, only three showed up. And of those three, only one was usable (and actually quite good). So, my producer and I and made a few phone calls, sent out a few emails and were able to fully cast the show by 5 PM. You can read the complete cast list by clicking on the link to the JTMF blog on the left hand side of your screen, should you be so interested. The bottom line is, I am thrilled with my cast and can't wait for our first read-thru on the 27th.

Feeling really good, K, Q, Dale and I met for dinner at a local favorite Italian place before heading off to see a most excellent student production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Q's and my alma mater. I knew very little about the show, but was pleasantly surprised by the production. Not only was the show hilarious, poignant and original; it was most excellently cast with a group of exceptionally talented students who pulled out all the stops and gave it their all.

Days like that tend to restore my faith in not only theatre, but the Arts in general.

Today, of course, was spent on more mundane matters like changing curtains, grocery shopping and doing laundry. But when the weather is as good as today's was, and the day before proves to be as fulfilling as yesterday was, it makes me think that perhaps the world isn't such a horrible place, after all.

I honestly hope all of you had as good a weekend as I did. I can only hope the rest of the week (month, year) will prove to be as satisfying.

More, anon.

Friday, April 9, 2010


News today that the Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor true-story gay prisoners flick I Love You Phillip Morris has been shelved indefinitely, got me thinking about other films I was sort of looking forward to seeing this year which may or may not reach theaters.

Every year, plenty of movies are made which never see the inside of a cineplex. Some are released direct to DVD; some are released in limited venues; some are released months or years after they were originally scheduled and some are never seen, ever. Why? Who knows. The reasons are as varied as you can imagine: legal squabbles; artistic disputes; studio politics, etc., etc. Sometimes it's just because the finished product is so bad, the studio would rather take the loss on production costs than spend the money promoting a film they know is going to bomb. Occasionally, these movies get a late January or February release, though that trend seems to be waning (to the relief of movie fans desperate for something decent to see in the late winter).

Here a few movies I was at least sort of interested in seeing, but may never get the chance to:

Season of the Witch

Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman and Christopher Lee star in this horror movie about a group of knights who are assigned to take a suspected witch to a remote abbey where she'll be exorcised or executed, depending on whether or not she is actually responsible for starting the Black Plague. The trailer lists a release date of March 19th, 2010, but I'm still waiting.


Christopher Egan (late of NBC's alt-history show "Kings") stars in this thriller about a young man being stalked by a girl who may or may not have supernatural powers. Both the trailer and IMDb list Crush as being released in 2009, though the trailer on YouTube is dated 2010. Who knows if we'll ever see it.

The Final

This tale of high school outcasts taking revenge on those who torment them was briefly released as part the 2010 AfterDark HorrorFest. Mark Donato of ABC Family's "Degrassi: The Next Generation" stars.


This Australian horror movie concerns a group of beautiful young campers (are there any other kind?) who encounter the spirit of a bloodthirsty ancient demon (is there any other kind?) while vacationing in the Outback.

So what movies have you been looking forward to seeing which may or may not reach a screen near you?

Tomorrow I am holding auditions for the remaining roles in the JTMF production of Del Shores' Sordid Lives, and later will be seeing the TCNJ production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical with which I am not at all familiar. But, I know several members of the cast (one of whom played Sabina in my production of The Skin of Our Teeth), so I am looking forward to it. Hopefully, I'll be home in time to post on The Zombie Zone.

I hope you have as interesting a weekend planned.

More, anon.