The Dog (2013)

Movie – In 1972 John Wojtowicz held up a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn in order, he said, to get money to pay for his wife Eddie’s sex change operation. Through the course of the day he argued with the police, ordered a pizza and tipped several thousand dollars for it, drew so much attention that local news switched from Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign to cover the story, and eventually got what he wanted – almost $250,000 and Eddie on a plane to Denmark. Unfortunately you’d have to pay actual money to stream Dog Day Afternoon, the Oscar-winning Al Pacino movie about this iconic moment in gay history, but you can watch The Dog, the documentary about the real John Wojtowicz, on Hoopla.

As documentaries do, The Dog takes this unconventional but ultimately optimistic Robin Hood love story and complicates it. John only rarely refers to Liz Eden (neé Eddie) as “she,” which is increasingly uncomfortable the better we get to know her, and Liz describes how John threatened to kill her when she left him. John himself admits to being a controlling, alpha-male chauvinist. And yet you can see how he had a string of wives, legal and common-law, male and female. He’s charismatic and compelling, even at his most pathetic: out of prison, living with his mother, his only source of income posing for photos wearing a shirt that reads “I Robbed This Bank.” He adores his mother and dotes on his disabled younger brother. You don’t want to like the guy, but you almost can’t help it.

This is a great documentary about a fascinating person – not a good person by any means, but a fascinating one – who somehow managed to upstage the entire New York City gay community in being flashy and outrageous.

[Content warnings for frank and explicit discussions of sexuality, period-typical slurs and transphobia, and plenty of working-class-Brooklyn-typical foul language]

Parasite (2019)

Cover image for Kisaengch'ung = ParasiteFilm- By now you’ve heard of Parasite, the South Korean film that won four statuettes at the 2020 Academy Awards, in addition to numerous other accolades throughout the 2019-2020 awards season. In addition to Bong Joon-ho won winning the Oscar for Best Director, Parasite became the first film in a foreign language to snag the Oscar for Best Picture. Parasite focuses on two families whose financial situations are extreme opposites. The Kim family are all  unemployed and live in a semi-basement, scraping by, making their living folding pizza boxes for a local restaurant. The wealthy Park family, live in a beautiful home and can afford hired help, such as a housemaid, chauffeur and private tutors for their children. By a stroke of good luck, an educated friend of Ki-woo (son in the Kim family) recommends him an English tutor job for the Park’s teenage daughter, Da-hye. From there, through deception and intricate planning, each member of the Kim family gains employment within the Park family, while keeping their familial ties a secret. Everything goes smoothly…for a while, at least. To say more would spoil a film full of twists and startling revelations.

Parasite is successful, nail-biting work of suspense and a reflection on the gulf between the “haves” and “have-nots,” a theme that feels as relevant here in the United States, as it does in South Korea. There are moments of humor and discomfort throughout the film which will no doubt speak to audiences all over the world. As Bong Joon-ho said at the Golden Globes: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Parasite is definitely one of those films.

Missing A Wedding This Summer?

DVDs and eVideos – The pandemic upended many happy couples’ would-be nuptials this summer. If you are staying indoors to beat the heat, check out one of our wedding movies guaranteed to make you laugh and cry. While dramatizations will never replace the experience of witnessing friends and loved ones exchange vows at a wedding, or commitment, ceremony they do provide much-needed escape and entertainment from the stresses of every day life, especially during these times.

Rivalry and romance between college friends set the tone for The Best Man Holiday; Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are forced to reconcile with life’s realities after getting married in Love Is Strange; adventures of love abound Chicago-style in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Best Friend’s Wedding; love goes international to Greece in Mama Mia and Ireland in Leap Year; it’s all about the fun in Bride Wars and Bridesmaids; things heat up in Miami for Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in The Bird Cage, and life gets apocalyptic for Kristen Dunst in Melancholia.

An Italian-style reunion stirs up trouble in Kiss The Bride. One of the partners of a Manhattan is forced into a marriage of convenience in The Wedding Banquet, directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, Gemini Man). Both films are available on Hoolpla.

The Green Mile (1999)

DVD – The Green Mile is outstanding. Released in 1999 some would say it’s an oldie, but it’s definitely a goodie. Based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, the movie is full of varying emotions.

The lives of the guards on Death Row are the starting point of the movie. As time passes, they Cover image for The green mileacquire a new inmate- a tall, stocky man who is charged with the rape and murder of two young girls, appears to be uneducated, yet seems to have a mysterious and special gift. With this he is able to help others, including the guards. What happens during his time on the Green Mile and will he be exonerated before his execution?

Lead actor Tom Hanks is perfectly suited for his role as a Prison Guard. His body and facial expressions, aided by the script will have you crying until your eyes are too puffy to watch anymore. This movie has made me wonder about the reality of life on death row and whether there is a correlation to what inmates and guards do (or don’t), on a daily basis. The Green Mile can be summarized in these words: emotional and thought-provoking.

Pride Viewing

Movies – June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and to celebrate, here are some excellent documentaries you can watch to learn a little more about the community.

We Were Here – The AIDS crisis was the last great pandemic in the US, before the current crisis, but the stigma and prejudice associated with HIV left the full impact invisible to many people. This award-winning documentary interviews five individuals who played meaningful roles during the epidemic in San Francisco, including a political activist, a nurse, and a flower seller who supplied flowers to the overwhelming number of funerals.

(A)sexual – This documentary offers a personal look at asexuality, one of the lesser-known and most misunderstood orientations. What’s it like to be attracted to no one at all, when so much of society revolves around who you’re attracted to? What does sexual orientation really entail, anyway? If you’ve never encountered asexuality before, this can be an enlightening look at a concept you thought you already understood.

Before Stonewall/After Stonewall – These documentaries chronicle the history of the gay rights movement both before and after the seminal turning point, the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969. Made in 1984 and 1999 respectively, they’re now also historical documents in their own right, shedding light on just how far we’ve come in the last half a century.

All of these films can be streamed from Hoopla.

 

Columbus (2017)

Cover image for ColumbusMovieColumbus film centers around Jin (John Cho) who is stranded in Columbus, Indiana after his father, an scholar of architecture has fallen into a coma. Jin’s relationship with his father means that he knows a lot about architecture, but is at best ambivalent about the unique structures that populate Columbus. Casey (Halley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who works at the local library, who on the other hand, is fascinated by her hometown’s architecture and its place in history. Though their world experiences differ, the two meet by chance, and what develops is a relationship built on mutual dissatisfaction.

Director Kogonada utilizes the town’s architecture in each frame, letting the various buildings and structures inform his shots. The screenplay has a lot to say about architecture, and the way he balances these more informative aspects of the script with the emotionally resonant moments is masterful. Columbus is a character study of the town, as much as it is of Jin and Casey.

I was moved not only by what I saw on screen, but also by what was withheld from me as a viewer by the script and the editing. This is a film about two fragile people that never becomes maudlin or melodramatic and maintains its balance from beginning to end.

John Wick Series (2014-2019)

Movies – If you are looking for an action-packed movie with a dose of dark humor, look no further than the John Wick series starring Keanu Reeves. Reeve’s delightfully deadpan delivery coupled with the superb fighting sequence choreography sets this movie franchise apart from others.

The first film simply titled John Wick, gives us a glimpse into John Wick’s character, a “retired” shadow assassin grieving the death of his wife. Wick is soon pulled back into the shadowy fray when an envious young thug and his lackeys break into Wick’s residence to abscond with his ride, a pristine 1969 Boss 429. In the process of this ill-advised trespass, the thug callously kills Wick’s pet puppy, a parting gift from his beloved wife. The attack is the impetus behind the resurrection of Wick’s former persona “The Babayaga” and his relentless road to vengeance. Soon it becomes clear why the criminal underground is alight with fearful whispers at his return.

John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the tumultuous arc of our intrepid assassin. His trail of corpses leads the shadowy cabal of assassins and their rules-obsessed governors, the High Table, right to his doorstep. The High Table’s grip on John Wick is not easy to shake leaving him no choice but to take one last job. To complete the job Wick must break a number of important rules a big no-no in the eyes of the High Table. Naturally, when all the dust settles, Wick is designated excommunicado by the High Table. Wick is now persona non grata, stripped of all the rights and privileges offered to the rest of the cabal and with a hefty open contract on his head. Cue the storm of assassins trying to cash in on his demise.

John Wick 3: Parabellum directly follows the end of Chapter 2 and opens with a tense race against the clock as Wick struggles to reclaim his status from underneath the High Table. This third installment continues the world building from the first two films and it’s safe to say that the series’ overarching theme is actions always have consequences. As the film progresses, viewers are introduced to members of Wick’s past including his ruthlessly austere mentor–wonderfully portrayed by Anjelica Huston. The film’s final scene leaves us at the edge of our seats and wanting more. Worry not my fellow Wick fans, John Wick 4 will premiere in 2021!

Fans of Luc Besson will have a blast with this series. I know I did!

The Spirit of Christmas (2015)

Movie Perfect for the holidays and anytime you need a feel-good pick-me-up, The Spirit of Christmas is a keeper. It’s time for the holidays and why not?  I LOVE this movie! Slow romance, attractive leads, Christmas music, and a GHOST – what more can a viewer want? Actors Jen Lilly and Thomas Beaudoin are a match made in heaven, and star in other Hallmark/love stories–definitely worth the watch!

Kate is a bustling lawyer, a workaholic who never takes off for the holidays. This holiday season she has 3 weeks to appraise and sell the charming Hollysgrove Inn. It’s a time crunch, but Kate is up for the task. The only problem? The inn is haunted!  Luckily for Kate, she doesn’t believe in the paranormal, until she meets the ghastly Daniel Forsythe, a spirit who will stop at nothing to scare away appraisers who try to sell his home. Cursed to haunt the inn every Christmas, Daniel has never solved the mystery of his death, nor the reason for the curse befallen on him. The pair make a deal:  if, together they can solve the mystery of Daniels death and release him from his curse, Kate is free to finish her job and sell the inn.

Can this unlikely match  break the curse and set Daniel free before it’s too late? What else is at stake as Kate and Daniel grow closer?

Over The Hedge (2006)

Cover image for Over the hedgeDVD – What happens when an urban animal family hibernates for the winter in a big log surrounded by their lush and well-stocked forest, then wakes up to find this huge green monstrosity running down the middle of the forest as far as the eye can see? Pure panic ensues when they need to figure out what this thing is, why is it there, and how will they gather food because their forest has largely been torn down. Enter RJ the raccoon. He owes a big black bear a huge cart of human food and thinks he can get a gang to help him steal it all from the inhabitants of the new subdivision. Will they help him, will he make the deadline, will he learn and grow to know what it means to be part of a family?

I absolutely love Over The Hedge. Although it is animated (hello young ones!), there is plenty of adult humor throughout to make it entertaining for all. The animation, graphics, and insight of the natural behaviors of the animals is spot on. A superb cast of actors lend their voices to the film. Wanda Sykes as a skunk? This alone should make you want to watch this!

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Movie – If you like movies that are weird, but in a good way, and reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, then you will enjoy Bad Times at the El Royale. Set in 1969 near Lake Tahoe, the El Royale motor lodge used to be grand in its day. Unique that it is on the border of California and Nevada, the once austere lobby of the hotel has a line going down its center separating the two states. Something very bad happened there a decade ago and the seven strangers that randomly gather will be affected by those events.

A vacuum cleaner salesman, a Catholic priest, a Motown singer, and a hippie chick enter the lobby that appears to be deserted. After banging on an office door Miles, who is the manager and lone employee, emerges and assigns rooms based on the guest preferences – if they want to be in California or Nevada. (California rooms cost a little more.) When the priest requests a room, the hotel manager tries to discourage him by saying, “Father, this is no place for a priest.” Regardless, Father Daniel Flynn needs a place to spend the night. We already have a feeling that there is something sinister and creepy. As each guest begins settling into their room we begin learning their secrets and there is plenty of mystery. So far, I mentioned five characters. Who are the other two? You will have to find out for yourself. The film is very atmospheric and you feel like you have been transported back to the late ‘60s. There is also lots of great music from that era, including some Motown tunes which are belted out by the singer. This is a hard boiled thriller with lots of twists and turns. The storyline and stellar cast make for a fun viewing experience.

I also really enjoyed music, so I was very pleased that Hoopla has a soundtrack from the film.