Stonewall (2015)


Just another summer night on Christopher Street.

Just another summer night on Christopher Street.

(2015) True Life Drama (Roadside Attractions) Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Ron Perlman, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Caleb Landry Jones, Matt Craven, Joey King, Karl Glusman, David Cubitt, Andrea Frankle, Atticus Dean Mitchell, Richard Jutras, Otoja Abit, Rohan Mead, Ben Sullivan, Johnny Falcone, Vladimir Alexis, Kwasi Songui, Alan C. Peterson, Veronika Vernadskaya. Directed by Roland Emmerich

For the LBGT community, the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that took place following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn (a bar that catered to gay men and lesbians in an era when it was illegal to serve liquor to a homosexual) are a watershed moment, an event around which prompted real organization of gay rights activists.

In the late 1960s, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and was treated with electroshock therapy among other barbaric treatments. Gays were forbidden from working for the government, couldn’t get bank loans and were the targets of vicious beatings – often from the police.

Danny (Irvine), a young gay man from Indiana who has been kicked out of the house by his homophobic father (Cubitt) who also happens to be the high school football coach, has gone to New York City where he has a scholarship to Columbia University – if he can get his high school diploma and get his paperwork sent to the University. Dear old dad has no intention of helping his son, but his cowed mother (Frankle) is sympathetic and his little sister Phoebe (King) absolutely adores him and is very angry at her parents for the way they’ve treated their son.

Danny, having little money and nowhere to go, falls in with a group of gay street kids led by Ramon (Beauchamp), a hustler who turns tricks with middle class men who are firmly closeted, have wives and careers and occasionally beat the snot out of him. Ramon takes him in and fellow street kids Silent Paul (Sullivan), a Beatlephile, Orphan Annie (Jones) and Cong (Alexis) who is the most flamboyant of the bunch. He also attracts the eye of Trevor (Meyers), an activist who works for the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society. They believe in peaceful protest and non-violence while most of the street kids know that they will never get the attention of the straight society that way.

Most of them gather at the Stonewall Inn, a bar that is owned by the Mafia and managed by Ed Murphy (Perlman) who disdains the gay clientele but allows them to do pretty much what they want (the Mafia used the bar to blackmail wealthier gay clientele and made more money that way than from liquor but that’s not discussed in the film). Danny is a bit out of his element but soon grows to appreciate the more outgoing of his crew but there is tension between Ramon, who has fallen deeply in love with Danny, and Trevor to whom Danny is more attracted to.

Danny’s heart, however, belongs to Matt (Mitchell), the football player whom Danny was having furtive gay sex with and who threw Danny under the bus when they were discovered, prompting his ejection from school and home. Danny endures beatings from the cops and growing tensions between the now very jealous Ramon and Trevor, who may or may not be using Danny for his own devices, but those tensions are nothing compared to what was going on in the community and they would come to a head on a hot summer night in June 1969 when Detective Seymour Pine (Craven) made an ill-advised raid on the Stonewall.

Few people in the heterosexual community are all that aware of the Riots and their significance and the movie is the perfect opportunity to educate and inform. Unfortunately Emmerich, who is mostly known for his big sci-fi epics like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow decided to make a fictional account, using fictional characters mixed in with a few real ones like Pine and Marsha P. Johnson (Abit). Considering that there are plenty of those who were actual participants and observers who had some compelling stories to tell about the riots, it seems a bit of a waste.

&I had wondered why Emmerich didn’t use actual footage from the riots instead of recreated footage disguised as newsreels until I discovered that no footage exists of the riots and precious few photographs. I guess it’s hard for people of this modern society in which everything is documented to understand that news was covered by newspaper writers and photographers for the most part and to a lesser extent, television cameras and it was editors for newspapers and TV who determined what got covered and back then, a riot of gay people would tend to be given less attention (although it was front page news).

Beauchamp does a great job as Ramon/Ramona who wears his heart on his sleeve. There’s a heartbreaking moment after a client has badly beaten him where he confesses to Danny that this life is all he can hope for and that he expects that there will never be anything better for him. It’s a compelling performance and Beauchamp has a good shot at some better roles.

There is a lot of sexuality in this movie – a LOT – and the sex scenes are handled pretty much the same way you would see heterosexual sex scenes in a mainstream movie; kudos to Emmerich for treating the two equally. Of course, conservative Christians will likely lose their shit over it much as they did for Brokeback Mountain but that’s assuming that the movie makes any sort of cultural headway, which is not necessarily going to happen.

Considering that this is a movie about such a significant event in the gay community, the filmmakers including writer Jon Robin Baitz, a respected playwright, seem to promote gay stereotypes almost to absurd heights. Yes, there were plenty of drag queens back then and there were those who were lisping, mincing fairies who gave birth to the stereotype, but we get little sense of who these people are other than those stereotypes. Also, using the very uptight, whitebread Danny as more or less your audience surrogate is almost insulting and watching him go from zero to radical in the space of about 30 seconds is downright jarring and outright unbelievable. If you’re going to pander to stereotypes, may as well go all the way with it.

I’m really overrating this movie to a large degree because I think that the story is an important one. There is certainly a great movie to be made about the Riots but this isn’t it. It’s a squandered opportunity but I’m still recommending it because at least you get the sense of how oppressed the gay community was back then and how far they have come since. That much is worth the price of admission alone.

REASONS TO GO: A story that needs to be told. Some good performances, particularly from Beauchamp. Sex scenes handled with sensitivity.
REASONS TO STAY: Going fictional was a tactical error. Plays up gay stereotypes.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of sex and sexual content, some drug use, plenty of foul language and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  The riots took place on June 28, 1969 and lasted several nights instead of just the one indicated by the film.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/25/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 9% positive reviews. Metacritic: 32/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Selma
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Black Mass

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New Releases for the Week of September 25, 2015


Hotel Transylvania 2HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2

(Columbia) Starring the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Mel Brooks. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

The Hotel Transylvania, once a refuge where monsters got away from it all, has now opened its doors to humans. After all, proprietor Dracula has a human son-in-law, right? And he also has a half-human half-vampire grandson, and therein lies the problem. His beloved daughter Mavis is becoming infatuated with the human world and is proposing to live in it and her son has shown absolutely no vampire traits whatsoever. Drac reasons that if her son is a vampire, Mavis might stay so that he can learn what it means to be a vampire. As every attempt to make his powers develop fails, Dracula will have to resort to the one thing he didn’t want to have to do in a desperate attempt to keep his daughter close at hand – seek the help of his father, Vlad who is none too happy about the invasion of humans into the world of monsters.

See the trailer and a promo here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard  (Opens Thursday)
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some scary images, action and rude humor)

The Green Inferno

(Blumhouse Tilt) Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton. A group of student activists travel from New York City to the Amazon, hell-bent on saving the rainforest. In the eternal tradition of “no good deed goes unpunished” they soon discover that they are not alone and that presence in the rainforest is hungry. From master horror director Eli Roth.

See the trailer, a featurette and a promo here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R  (for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use)

The Intern

(Warner Brothers) Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm. A 70-year-old widower finds that he just isn’t suited for retirement; he decides to get back into the workforce by getting a senior internship at a fashion company. The company’s founder and CEO is at first skeptical of what her new intern brings to the table before discovering that he is a far greater resource than she ever thought possible.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content and brief strong language)

Pawn Sacrifice

(Bleecker Street) Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, Lily Rabe. At one time, Bobby Fisher was a household name in the western world. He was America’s chess prodigy, perhaps the only one who was realistically able to compete against the Russians who dominated the game back in the day. However, Fisher had a whole bus full of demons haunting his every move and the higher the pressure was, the more bizarre his behavior became. Fisher walked a tightwire between genius and madness and would eventually fall off, turning from prodigy to legend.

See the trailer, interviews, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Downtown Disney, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking)

Stonewall

(Roadside Attractions) Jeremy Irvine, Jonny Beauchamp, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ron Perlman. I will probably use this in the review (to be published tomorrow) but the Stonewall Riots of 1969 for the LGBT community has a very similar emotional resonance as Selma does for the African-American community. This is a fictionalized version of events with a young naive gay man coming to Christopher Street in New York City, then the center of gay activity basically in the country. He observes directly the violence directed at gays by the police, the institutional repression of gays and the marginalization. Joining a crew of street kids, he searches for his own identity while rejecting the labels put on him by the rest of the world. In the meantime, caught between two different worlds, his frustration and resentment grows until it boils over on one fateful night. An unusual turn of styles for director Roland Emmerich, who is better known for big budget sci-fi extravaganzas.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug use)

Turbo Kid

(Epic) Munro Chambers, Lawrence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright. In an alternative future where the world ended in 1997, the Kid, a comic book-obsessed scavenger trying to survive in the Wasteland, meets up with a beautiful but mysterious young girl. They try to lay low but eventually run afoul of the sadistic self-proclaimed ruler of the Wasteland. Now The Kid will have to become the hero he’s always dreamed of, armed only with an ancient weapon and blind faith. Could be a cult classic one day.

See the trailer and an interview here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (playing midnight on Friday and Saturday nights only)
Genre: Retro Apocalyptic Sci-Fi
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: NR

Pick of the Litter – September 2015


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Everest

Everest

(Universal) Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke. In 1996, it was a busy season for mountaineers both professional and amateur out to summit the highest mountain on the planet – Mt. Everest in Nepal. Competing professional guide teams were leading their clients to the summit. On May 10, it was unusually busy as 34 climbers were attempting to summit the South Face at once. Delays due to ropes not being set up ahead of time as well as bottlenecks led to summiting taking place well after the cutoff time for a safe descent to Camp IV. When a blizzard hit, many climbers were caught in the open in conditions that were not survivable. The fatalities due to the blizzard would be the most for a single day on Everest until 20 years later. Journalist Jon Krakauer who was on one of the two main teams summiting that day, wrote a book about his experiences; this movie is based on that book. September 25

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Steve Jobs The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

(Magnolia) Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bob Belleville, Chrisann Brennan. The late Steve Jobs is in many ways the embodiment of a tech baron; driven, exacting, inspiring and innovative, Jobs led Apple to the forefront of the personal computer revolution, and after having been ousted from his own company, returned to lead it to the forefront of the personal device revolution. Apple’s gadgets from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad have revolutionized the way we interact with technology, for better or for worse. Yet the man who was the face of Apple wasn’t always a nice man; he was capable of great cruelty, deception and megalomaniacal behavior. He wasn’t a saint, he wasn’t a demon but somewhere in between and while the director of this documentary, Oscar winner Alex Gibney, has his own ideas of who Steve Jobs was, there is no doubt that his company has made an impact on the lives of each and every person reading this now. September 4

Coming Home

Coming Home

(Sony Classics) Gong Li, Chen Daoming, Zhang Huiwen, Guo Tao. During China’s Cultural Revolution, untold numbers of Chinese were arrested for a variety of offenses, significant and otherwise, real or imagined. Lu was one of those arrested; years later, when he is finally released, he eagerly returns home to his beloved wife Feng only to discover to his horror that she no longer remembers him, yet she still misses her darling husband Lu. He is forced to play a role in order to remain close to his wife, wondering if he will be forever sentenced to a different kind of exile. Director Zhang Yimou is one of the greatest ever produced by China; he creates works of extraordinary beauty and emotion and this looks no different. September 9

Durak

Durak

(Olive) Sergey Artsybashev, Nina Antyukhova, Pyotr Barancheev, Nikolay Bendera. The simple plumber in a run-down dormitory turned apartment building discovers that the structural integrity of the old highrise has been compromised and the building is on the verge of collapse within hours. He must evacuate the building – but the corrupt bureaucrats who allowed the apartments to fall into such a state of disrepair would rather see 800 people perish than their own reputations be besmirched. This award winning Russian film details the reality of life in the post-Soviet Russia. September 16

About Ray

About Ray

(Weinstein) Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan. I don’t think any movie being released this month could be this timeless. Ray is a teen transgender transitioning from his female birth body into his new male identity. His family is managing to cope more or less but his estranged birth father refusing to sign the paperwork that will allow Ray to have the surgery he needs. Could be an award contender later on this year. September 18

The Reflektor Tapes

The Reflektor Tapes

(Arts Alliance) Win Butler, Regine Chassagne. Arcade Fire is one of the world’s most honored and respected bands. Their most recent album, Reflektor was by all measures one of their most popular and most creative albums. Their live shows on the Reflektor tour were a triumph of image and showmanship, hearkening back to some of the most memorable shows of rock’s bygone eras. Recorded around the world, we are given access and insight into the process that the band employs to create their music and unique stage show. This is a must-see not only for fans of the band but for anyone who loves great music and great spectacle. Here in Orlando, it will be playing downtown at the Cobb Plaza Cinema Cafe. September 23

99 Homes

99 Homes

(Broad Green) Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown. Desperation can make strange bedfellows of us all. When a man is evicted from his home by a greedy realtor, he is literally willing to do anything to get his home back – including working for the realtor evicting other families from their homes. Searing performances by Garfield, Shannon and Dern look to make this not only timely from a political and social standpoint but one of those movies that is going to make an impression on the film buff community. September 25

Stonewall

Stonewall

(Roadside Attractions) Jeremy Irvine, Ron Perlman, Joey King, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Roland Emmerich is better known for big massive loud popcorn movies, not the sort of films that end up on this series, but here he is. Of late his movies have been met with some derision, so this is going to be an important movie for him. The subject is the Stonewall Riots, an event which has as much emotional resonance to the LGBT community as the Selma march has to the African-American community. It deserves a movie equally as somber and uplifting as Selma was; I just hope that this has the same reverence. September 25