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Posts Tagged ‘” “The Boys in the Band’

Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer

“THE BOYS IN THE BAND” My rating: B (Now on Netflix)

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Gotta be honest…the first half hour or so of Netflix’s “The Boys in the Band” is not terribly promising.

Based on Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking 1968 play (it was first filmed in 1970), this new version pretty much sticks to the original script.

In doing so Joe Mantello’s film clumsily displays its theatrical roots, not just in its claustrophobic single setting but also in the dialogue-heavy way it tells us (rather than shows us) what its characters and their predicament are all about. Especially in the early going the talk seems forced and artificial in its efforts to set up the situation.

But once it kicks in, once all the celebrants to a gay man’s birthday party in late-60s NYC show up and start interacting, “Boys…” finds its voice and its power.

What’s really driven home here is the realization that while the conditions under which gay people live have improved over the last 50 years, the human condition pretty much remains the same.

Here’s the setup: Michael (Jim Parsons), a witty and somewhat dictatorial fellow, has invited several of his closest friends to his apartment (Greenwich Village?) for a birthday celebration. Over the course of an increasingly drunken evening they will thrash out relationships, hopes, dreams and fears.

The birthday boy is Harold (Zacharay Quinto), pock-marked, cynical and carrying a substantial load of self-loathing.

Larry (Andrew Rannells) and Hank (Tuc Watkins) are a couple…at least for now. Randy Larry has a wandering eye (and other body parts), while staid Hank — who has an ex-wife and a couple of kids — takes comfort in monogamy.

Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington) is a black man who, before the evening is over, will erupt over Michael’s barely-disguised race baiting. (more…)

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Liev Schreiber as boxer Chuck Wepner

“CHUCK” My rating: B

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Watching a familiar actor utterly lose him/herself in a role is one of the deep pleasures of moviegoing.

Liev Schreiber makes that transformation in “Chuck.” But then so do Naomi Watts (a.k.a. Mrs. Schreiber), Elizabeth Moss, Ron Perlman and Jim Gaffigan.

The subject of director Philippe Falardeau’s bracing little film (the screenplay is credited to Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl, Michael  Cristofer and Schreiber) is Chuck Wepner, the  New Jersey club fighter known affectionately/sardonically as the “Bayonne Bleeder” for his willingness to be beaten to a pulp.  (In fact, “Chuck’s” original title was “The Bleeder.” Wish they’d stuck with it.)

In 1975 the virtually unknown Wepner got a crack at taking away Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight belt in a bout conceived and advertised by promoter Don King as a blatant racial  confrontation.

Werner’s fight strategy was pretty simple: “I could’t hit  him. I figured I’d wear him down with my face.”

Wepner didn’t win, but he lasted for more than 14 bloody rounds against the world’s best, sending the champ to the mat once and losing by a TKO with only 19 seconds left in the fight.

Out in Hollywood a struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone was so inspired by Wepner’s David-and-Goliath story that he wrote a screenplay called “Rocky.”

“Chuck” isn’t really a boxing film. Rather, it is simultaneously a fact-based yarn about the ever-widening fallout from the Ali-Wepner fight and a character study of a Palooka whose a brief brush with fame went straight to his head.

Schreiber’s Chuck, who narrates his story, is by most accounts a pretty average guy. He worked as a nightclub bouncer and as a debt collector for a loan shark, though his heart wasn’t in it. (“I was never good at roughing guys up. Too nice.”)

His wife Phyllis (Moss) is the family breadwinner, thanks to her gig with the U.S. Post Office. Chuck shows his appreciation by writing heartfelt doggerel about her virtues.

Eventually an admirer lands Chuck a liquor distributorship.  It’s an OK living, but it provides way too many opportunities to hang around bars and pick up other women. (It also provides an opportunity for a soundtrack filled with disco hits.)

The Ali fight provides Chuck with bragging rights and celebrity status.  Once “Rocky” becomes an Oscar-winning phenomenon, everyone assumes he must have sold his story to the  movies for big bucks.  In fact, Chuck didn’t earn a cent off the film.

(more…)

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Get your tickets and gird your loins.

GayFest is upon us.

That’s the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival of Kansas City, for the uninitiated, and it gets underway Friday, June 24 at the Tivoli Theatre in Westport.

I’ve been able to pre-screen several of this year’s titles; what follows is one guy’s picks of the best of the fest: (more…)

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