Meet Monica Velour (2010)

We’ve had retired assassins (Red), retired adventurers (Up) and retired pugilists (The Wrestler), why not a retired porn star? Meet Monica Velour offers one such wonder in the form of a chain-smoking, alcoholic Kim Cattrall, who scrapes off the Sex And The City gloss for a brave and brazen turn as the titular has-been.

She’s the insatiable crush-object of porn-mad teen Tobe (Dustin Ingram), who’s collected all of Velour’s racy ’80s memorabilia, and leaps at the chance to meet her at a seedy strip show. Driving there in his hot dog van (don’t ask), Tobe finds Velour now a miserable creature with fading looks, desperate for a second chance. Deciding to help her, Tobe discovers that Velour’s being stalked by her bully ex-husband, with whom she’s locked in a custody battle over their young daughter.

Attempting to fuse quirky Indie peculiarities (the sweary grandpa, the hapless, geeky teenager) with a grown-up drama about wilting beauty and human struggle, director Keith Bearden’s feature debut is a bit of a mixed bag. To its credit, that blend works better than it should. There are subtle notes being tinkled throughout (including an interesting though empty suggestion that Tobe’s obsession with the older Velour stems from the fact that he misses his dead mother), while Cattrall’s jaded victim is clearly deserving of her own movie.

It’s almost a shame that Velour’s gritty B-plot relies so heavily on Tobe’s rom-com A-plot. Tobe’s cheesy quest for confidence might speak to a few Peter Pan syndrome sufferers, but it’s Velour’s sad, down-trodden existence that has the most universal appeal, echoing the plight of Marisa Tomei’s down on her luck stripper in The Wrestler. This is far from perfect, then, but as a brilliantly bold departure for Cattrall alone, it’s worth giving a chance. 3/5

Via Out In The City

Bridesmaids (2011)

Weddings get a bad rep at the movies. Thankfully, any concerns that Bridesmaids would stumble down the same desolate aisle as the likes of Bride Wars and Runaway Bride are quickly dispelled in its opening moments. As Kristen Wiig thrashes around in bed with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, then spars with roomie Matt Lucas before getting catty with her engaged BFF’s snooty new BFF, it’s clear that Bridesmaids is no Sex And The City 3.

For a start, it has Wiig. As Annie, she’s miserable in the wake of her business’ bankruptcy – but Annie’s life is further complicated when best friend Lillian (Maya Rudlph) gets engaged and asks her to be maid of honour. Making that nearly impossible is Lillian’s prissy new moneyed friend Helen (Rose Byrne), who competes with her for the bride’s attention/affection in the run up to the big day.

Unlike the glut of Hollywood comedies that rev out of the holding bay before quickly running low on fuel, Bridesmaids is the gasser that just keeps going, getting progressively funnier, wilder and more delightfully disgraceful as its journeys ever onward. It’s undeniably Wiig’s show, and the Saturday Night Live actress is more than up to the task, gluing together a string of increasingly hilarious set pieces that include a calamitous dress-fitting session and a riotous plane journey to Vegas. But the secondary characters are more than frosty cake bunting, eliciting big laughs courtesy of shrewd characterisation and some truly devilish gags.

Add to that an ending straight out of a John Hughes movie, replete with frilly frocks and nostalgia-laced pop anthem, and Bridesmaids is as near a perfect summer comedy as we’re ever likely to get. People will call it the female Hangover, but Bridesmaids is better than reductive comparisons. Messy, rude, warm and laugh-out-loud funny, it earns every one of your jubilant cackles. 4/5

Via Out In The City

Ron Livingston – "At least Berger left a note!"

Do you have any theme park experience?
No. I did play Captain Crunch for a couple of weeks with Jon Favreau. That’s how we met, playing Captain Crunch for a Quaker Oats ad campaign.

Do you know what PC load letter means?
It means the paper tray on the computer’s empty and needs to be loaded with letter sized paper. That’s what I made up! I don’t know for sure.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship?
Yes, and I’m not still in it. I think they very rarely work out; they either turn into short distance relationships or into even longer distance relationships.

Has a bullet ever been fired at you?
Not that I’m aware of! If it did, it missed!

Would you break up with somebody using a post-it note?
Not at this point. At least Berger left a note! That’s probably one post-it note better than a lot of guys…

Via Total Film

Playing it straight

“How do you do it? It must be so difficult and hard for you to hug, kiss and make love to a heterosexual on camera when you are not straight.” It’s 2006, and Brokeback Mountain – with its brave hetero leads ‘going gay’ for their art and tenderly portraying a homosexual relationship – is primed for an awards coup de gra. A giant leap for widespread acceptance of homosexuality? Not in the eyes of comic actor Jerome Cleary, who ironically posed the above question and who couldn’t help wondering one thing… What about all the ‘brave’ gay actors playing straight?

Queer characters have been coming out of the media woodworks with gay abandon in recent years – no television show is complete without a camp sidekick, no film can function without a prancing poof sprinkling the fairy dust. A recent survey by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation discovered 83 gay, lesbian and transgender characters present on television at this very moment. The days of sweeping homos under the carpet is over – they’re here, they’re queer, they’re ordering a light beer. They’re also, more often than not, portrayed by straight actors – from Tom Hanks in Philadelphia to Sean Penn in Milk.

When it comes to gay actors walking the straight and narrow, though, there’s been a media silence akin to crickets sullenly chirping. Where is Rock Hudson’s kudos for his convincing rendering of a straight man in Pillow Talk? Or Cynthia Nixon’s applause for throwing herself (often literally) into steamy hetero sex scenes for Sex and the City?

It’s a question that is – finally – beginning to tremble on certain media lips (ahem). The New York Times recently stated that “for most gay actors, Hollywood is not a warm and fuzzy episode of Will & Grace.” So that while being gay is becoming more acceptable on the other side of the pond, gay actors are still asked “wrenching questions” about their place in the world of entertainment.

Gay actors playing straight parts is, of course, not a new thing. Poofs have treaded the boards, thesping their hearts out to strains of Shakespeare since the dawn of entertainment – we’re looking at you Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Yet, somehow, gay men butching it up for entertainment has always been viewed as somehow irrelevant, as if the level of performance involved in pretending to be straight is nothing compared to pretending to be gay. After all, argue the cynics, have we all not at some point in our lives been closeted and flexing butch-style in fear of social stigma?

Recent months have seen a turn in the gay-straight tide. A number of homosexual actors have followed the trend set by the likes of Portia de Rossi and Cynthia Nixon by coming out of the closet while playing high profile hetero roles. T R Knight of Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris and Jasika Nicole of new show Fringe have all stepped into the pink spotlight. Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman says that “we’ve gone from the revolution to the evolution”. With actors less afraid of coming out, what happens after the event?

‘Going gay’ in entertainment is still seen as the ultimate test of a straight actor’s dedication to thesping. The ultimate test for gay actors now will be if they can acquire ‘straight’ roles post-closet. As the New York Times noted, T R Knight and Neil Patrick Harris “landed the parts before they came out”. Where will it go from here? Watch this space.

Sex And The City OST

Artist: Various
Distributor: Decca

Soundtrack Rating:
4/5

Bubbly as a flute of Cristal (and just as frothy), the songs shepherding Carrie and co’s tangled love lives onto the big screen faithfully follow in the Fendi-steps of the series. Tracks from Kaskade and a remixed Nina Simone tap into the late-night raunch, while Fergie’s opening ‘Labels or Love’ riffs RnB-style on the show’s eponymous theme tune. Top dog, though, is India Arie, whose epic ‘Heart of the Matter’ segues into Bliss’ ‘Kissing’ to soul-rending effect. If the album’s first half is a cocktail of indie Gap ad sound-a-likes, it’s the second half that really takes things to town – featuring Al Green, Run DMC, and a surprisingly natty cover of Bee Gees’ ‘How Deep is Your Love’. Bowing out with a show-stopping movie-sized update of the opening theme, this is girly but Gucci-slick. Now, about that glass of Cristal…

Via Total Film