Can a suicidal gay Proust scholar save a dying family? Plus many more DVD reviews and previews.
The nation’s leading Proust scholar, Frank (Steve Carell), recently rescued from a suicide attempt, is greeted at the hospital by his sister (Toni Colette) who is running late. “I’m so glad you’re still here,” she says. The dry Frank replies, “Well, that makes one of us.”
The stoic academe is taken to her wretchedly fractured family. Dad (Greg Kinnear) is flailing at his motivational success program. Grandpa (Alan Arkin) has a heroin addiction. Son Dwayne (Paul Dano), a fierce Nietsche devotee, has taken a vow of silence to help him attain a goal and to distance himself from the crazy fam. Olive (Abigail Breslin) is consumed with desire to win the “Little Miss Sunshine” children’s beauty pageant. While supportive of Olive’s dream, the family is so overflowing with problems—neuroses, financial crises, book deals in the making—they can hardly slather her with all the attention she needs to reach her goal. So grandpa continues to coach Olive when he’s not on junk, and the troubled family packs into a VW van and sets for the pageant in faraway California.
A sterling ensemble cast with two brilliant young up-and-comers brings life to this witty and hilariously quirky comedy. Arkin (Slums of Beverly Hills), Collette (Connie and Carla), Kinnear (As Good as It Gets), Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Office), Dano (The Girl Next Door), and the adorable Breslin have a chemistry that makes the viewer feel this is a real family at odds and not just a comic misadventure.
2006. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. From Fox Home Entertainment (www.foxhome.com). — Review: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Boys Life — TheComplete Collection
Five DVDs holding a total of 20 short films make for a thorough compilation of stories of gay life, love, and liberation. Coming out, coming of age, the trials, tribulations, and joys of being gay fill this box set. From Strand Releasing (www.StrandReleasing.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
“What is sexy?” A slew of pop icons and porn stars’ responses are varied, deeply fascinating, and engaging. For Margaret Cho, it’s “an unconsciousness about what’s sexy about yourself.” An experimental film, the entire feature-length doc is a montage of still images set to the subjects’ responses played back on the director’s answering machine. 2006. Directed by Steve Balderson. From Dikenga Films (www.DIKENGA.com). — Review: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Another Gay Movie
In the spirit of so many playful parody romps, four teenaged gay friends make a pact to lose their virginity by summer’s end. Masochistic teachers, naked celebs, and a quiche rather than an apple pie (since quiche is, after all, the mythological manna of gay men) complicate the lads’ plans to get laid. (Look for appearances by Graham Norton and Scott “Buddy Cole” Thompson.) 2006. Directed by Todd Stephens, co-written by Stephens and Tim Kaltenecker. From TLA Releasing (www.tlareleasing.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Angel’s kicked out and made homeless. What to do? Join the army like his dad insists? Work at the dot.com a guy from career day told him about? Whatever he does, his mentor Nicole’s advice is to become someone other than the kid his dad has grown to despise. 2005. Co-written and directed by Jim McKay. FYI: One of Angel’s friend, Jamie (Jon Norman Schneider), with whom he cuts class, is a transvestite. From HBO Home Video (www.HBOHomeVideo.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Agnes & His Brothers
These three brothers have little in common. One is a sex-addicted librarian, one is an up-and-coming politician whose listless wife and wise-ass son are destroying the family, and one is a transgendered woman who cannot live up to her boyfriend’s expectations of domesticity. Is there a connection between their eccentric father and their relationship woes? 2004. Written and directed by Oskar Roehler. German with English subtitles. From First Run Features (www.firstrunfeatures.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Independent lesbian filmmaker Monika Treut’s works are notorious for exploring the outer limits of female sexuality and behavior. This collection includes Treut classics, Dr. Paglia, Bondage, Max, Didn’t Do It for Love, and Annie (Sprinkle, not the cute orphan musical). Bonus features include an introduction by, as well as an interview with, Treut. From First Run Features (www.firstsrunfeatures.com). — Preview: Nancy Ford
Ever wonder if trannies dream of tarted-up sheep? A narcoleptic pre-op transvestite longs to lose those last 20 centimeters (eight inches) of cumbersome masculinity and finally become a bona fide transsexual. In her dreams, elaborate song and dance numbers unfold wherein she is the diva du jour. 2005. Written and directed by Ramon Salazar. Spanish with English subtitles. From TLA Releasing (www.tlareleasing.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
A little hard to follow, this sexually charged techno-thriller finds a female Tunisian hacker hijacking the airwaves of France and Northern Africa. A woman working for French Intelligence seeks the source of the political messages bombarding people’s TVs. This cat-and-mouse tale made history as being the first film directed by a woman, portraying modern-day women in North Africa. 2003. Written and directed by Nadia El Fani. Farsi and French with English subtitles. From Cinema Libre Studio (www.cinemalibrestudio.com). — Review: Eric A.T. Dieckman
A collection of seven new gay short films, Straight Boys tells the story of Ben, who’s in love with his straight college roommate. Tumbleweed Town (made six years before Brokeback Mountain) is an animated yarn about a hitchhiker looking for love in the Texas desert. In Available Men, two men meet the wrong guys for a blind date. From Wolfe Video (1-800-GET-WOLFE or www.wolfevideo.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
Little Britain: Complete Series Three
Matt Lucas (openly gay) and David Walliams (openly straight) play myriad characters that are amusing, enchanting, endearing, hysterical, and frightful all at the same time in the cult-fave they once described as mini-sitcoms. There’s the Welshman, Dafydd (played by Lucas), who’s convinced he’s “the only gay in the village.” There’s Emily Howard (played by Walliams), Old Haven’s most unconvincing transvestite. And who can forget Bubbles De Vere (Lucas again), Hill Grange Health Spa’s rotund nudist? From BBC Worldwide Americas (www.bbcamericashop.com or 800/216-1BBC). — Review: Eric A.T. Dieckman
So NoTORIous: The Complete Series
Besides Beverly Hills 90201, Tori Spelling is known for her starring role in the best-titled Lifetime movie ever (Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?) and her ugly family feud with mother Candy following the death of mogul father Aaron. Her short-lived VH1 series, So NoTORIous, in which Spelling plays a zany, self-deprecating version of her public image, merits another look. Especially DVD-worthy: an episode in which Tori and her gay best friend get involved with a show biz-loving L.A. cult and a closeted action-movie star. From VH1 Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment (www.paramounthomeentertainment.com). — Review: Tim Brookover
Dr. Katz Professional Therapist: Season Two
Sandra Bernhard guest stars in an episode of this animated series, described as the “squiggle-vision” approach to animation. Bernhard does what she does best — talk about herself so endlessly in self-exploration that psychologist Katz cannot get in a single word. Other guests include Joy Behar (The View). From Comedy Central (www.comedycentral.com). —Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman