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    Gay DVD Gift Guide

    garyThe holidays are upon us and you either want to give or receive, or just unwind by watching a GLBT video. Here are six suggestions.

    Writer/director Rob Williams’ delightfully naughty romantic mystery Out to Kill offers eye-candy galore. Justin Jaymes (the terrific Tom Goss) is first seen naked in the pool of his development, but he soon turns up dead in it. To get to the bottom of the killing, newcomer Jim Noble (Scott Sell) is hired by Gene (Rob Moretti) to investigate his murder. As Jim meets and interrogates the suspects, which include doctor Vic Barnaby (Mark Strano) among others, he is seduced, and perhaps in over his head. Out to Kill features a clever twist that will keep viewers intrigued as the crime is solved. Sell makes for a sexy private dick, and the film is filled with hunks who fill out their Speedos.

    filmIn the gay thriller The Dark Place, Keegan Dark (Blaise Embry) takes his boyfriend Wil (Timo Descamps) to his mother Celeste’s (Shannon Day) vineyard. Keegan has not seen his mother in years, so he is surprised to discover she has remarried Adrian (Andy Copeland) and that he has a stepbrother, Jake (Sean Paul Lockhart aka porn star Brent Corrigan, who keeps his pants on here). However, Keegan, who has a form of total recall, doesn’t quite trust the new men in his mother’s life; he suspects something nefarious is going on. As the various plot twists and turns unfold, The Dark Place is enjoyable, even if the film gets a bit ludicrous in the last reel.

    film2A scorching Mexican title is I Am Happiness on Earth by Julián Hernández, a filmmaker who eroticizes nude men like no other filmmaker. His camera practically caresses the actors’ bodies in this hypnotic film. This romantic drama boasts magnificent cinematography and highly sensual scenes as it chronicles a love triangle that features Emiliano (Hugo Catalán), a filmmaker, at its apex. Hernández’s distinctive style and uninhibited view of sexual desire (as well as sex itself) envelops viewers. The emotional power of the characters passionately expressing themselves as they experience longing, betrayal, and heartbreak is as palpable as the sexy bodies on display

    For something serious, Mark Thiedeman’s evocative, impressionistic drama, Last Summer concerns two teenage boys in Arkansas. Luke (Samuel Pettit) is in summer school, while his boyfriend, Jonah (Sean Rose), is about to head off to college. Thiedeman conveys the boys’ emotions through tangible images of their sneakers rubbing together, or the way they grasp hands, or even eat a sandwich. These delicate moments are fleeting as Jonah plans to leave for school, but like a series of snapshots, Luke hopes to preserve and remember Jonah. Thiedeman employs ambient, atmospheric sounds—including birds, rain and a train whistle—to heighten the unspoken emotions. The filmmaker also uses light and shadow as well as various reflections, to emphasize the elegiac mood. As Jonah and Luke express their sentiments about love and each other, they truly resonate. Last Summer is an extraordinary, beautifully realized film.

    For something extremely silly, The Gays is a crudely made comedy, full of crude content, and over-the-top antics. Alex Gay (the adorable Mike Russnak) talks about his queer family—trans Mom (Chris Tanner), Dad (Frank Holliday) and brother Tommy Flip Jorgensen)—to a stranger at a West Hollywood bar. This episodic comedy, which features everything from a bloody pussy board game to an Exorcist anal birth scene, has something to offend everyone. The humor stems mostly from wordplay and song parodies and less from “outrageous” behavior, such as forcing guys to have sex in a sling or perform blowjobs. While the film is amateur hour, it is also as camp as Christmas.

    For fans of “classic” cinema, Robert Altman’s justly celebrated film, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean has just been released on Blu-Ray. It is based on Ed Graczyk’s play about the twentieth reunion of a James Dean fan club that meets in Juanita’s (Sudie Bond) dime store. Sissy (Cher) and Mona (Sandy Dennis), among others are taken aback when Joanne (Karen Black), a stranger, arrives and forces everyone to confront the secrets and lies in their lives.film3

    Graczyk’s play is admittedly creaky, but the themes in the film about façades people present, the cult of celebrity/notoriety, as well as issues of shame and change still resonate. Much of the film’s power comes from director Robert Altman using the dime store’s mirror to “flashback” to 1955. It is a very effective cinematic device, and it keeps the film’s staginess from being claustrophobic. The acting is also impressive. Mona’s big monologue is riveting as spoken by Dennis. Cher’s performance masks the deep pain her character feels because things never quite turned out the way she hoped they would be. Black is indelible in the showiest role. The performances elevate the mediocre material.

    © 2014 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer