Tag Archives: hollywood

Capsule film reviews: Four LGBT movies from the USA

‘Moonlight’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout.
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of A24.

“Moonlight” is a groundbreaking film — the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBT film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Can’t deny that. But, while “Moonlight” is a well-composed film with great acting, I can’t help feeling disappointed after months of buildup. As a film, it’s good, and I’m happy that it’s been so well-received by mainstream audiences because we do need more diverse representation in cinema. But as a gay film, it’s really nothing special. The plotline is predictable, and this story… it’s been done. Maybe not this artfully, but it’s definitely been done. It’s broken into three distinct chapters, which represent three stages of one man’s coming-of-age. “Little” shows Chiron’s (Alex Hibbert) childhood years, where he seeks refuge from school bullies and his drug addict mother (Naomie Harris) with a mentor (Mahershala Ali) who tells him that it’s okay if he’s gay. Next up is “Chiron,” which depicts Chiron’s (Ashton Sanders) teen years and the problems that amplify therein. Finally comes “Black,” which shows Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as a miraculously-ripped grown man who is still haunted by his first (probably only?) love. The movie I would have liked to see would focus on Chiron as an adult and really develop that character — a tough, intimidating drug dealer in Atlanta who has had just one sexual experience (with his high school crush, Kevin, years ago). Flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence could help flesh out his background, but a central narrative to come back to would have given the movie a lot more direction.

‘King Cobra’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Justin Kelly
Starring: Garrett Clayton, James Franco and Christian Slater
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I inexplicably was for this movie. Gay porn, murder, and an all-star cast including the cute male lead from Disney’s “Teen Beach Movie.” That’s all I need in entertainment, really. “King Cobra” is based on the true story of Brent Corrigan (aka. Sean Paul Lockhart), played in the film by the dreamy Garret Clayton. Corrigan is infamous for his successful career in gay porn that began when he was well underage. (Spot the Brent Corrigan reference in my review of “Schoolboy Crush” here!) “King Cobra” chronicles Corrigan’s ascent to pornstardom and his struggles to escape from the grasp of the Cobra Video studio and its lecherous owner Bryan Kocis (called “Stephen” in the film and portrayed unnervingly by Christian Slater). When Stephen refuses to let Corrigan out of his contract, rivals from another porn studio (Keegan Allen of “Pretty Little Liars” fame and James Franco) plot to do whatever it takes to get Stephen out of the way so Corrigan can perform with them. I would say this movie is about 85 percent gay porn, 10 percent murder and 5 percent plot development, which is the perfect equation for any movie. It’s campy and creepy, and if you’re into that, you should definitely watch “King Cobra.”

‘Tangerine’
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rating: R for strong and disturbing sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, and drug use.
Grade: A+

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“Tangerine” is phenomenal, and it’s just the kind of offbeat buddy/revenge comedy we totally needed in our lives. The film received major buzz following its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival because the entire thing was (amazingly) filmed using only iPhones — particularly impressive considering how cool the cinematography is and how well it captures this Hollywood neighborhood. But even more remarkable is the engaging storyline. “Tangerine” follows two trans women who work the streets near the iconic Santa Monica and Highland Donut Time shop: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh out of prison and on the hunt for her cheating boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who just needs to make it to her big singing gig at Hamburger Mary’s that night. The day’s adventure is thoroughly entertaining, and the glimpse into the lives, friendships and relationships of the characters is really wonderful. I even equally enjoyed the subplot that follows Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a married Armenian cab driver and frequent customer of Alexandra’s. Other background characters are portrayed by real-life Instagram stars and Viners found online by director Sean Baker (a lot of the film’s kinetic soundtrack was sourced from Vine and SoundCloud as well). In the end, “Tangerine” is a compelling film that proves big-budget frills aren’t necessary when you have charismatic characters and a unique story to tell.

‘Blackbird’
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Starring: Julian Walker, Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug use – all involving teens.
Grade: D+

Photo courtesy of KBiz Entertainment and Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions.

This movie is… really not what I was expecting. With stars like Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington topping the bill and a strong story to work with about a gay black teenager growing up in Baptist Mississippi, I expected “Blackbird” to be a solid and impressive melodrama. Much to my surprise, it’s actually quite goofy. Campy, even. Which is — at times — enjoyable (I liked the high school drama club preparing to present a gay version of “Romeo & Juliet”), but — at times — very stupid. Julian Walker is not at all convincing or compelling in the lead role of Randy, and Kevin Allesee as Randy’s older love interest Marshall gives me the creeps every time he appears onscreen. The strange subplot about Randy’s missing younger sister is unnecessary and seems added on as an ill-conceived afterthought. But worst of all, the entire film is spoiled in the final moments when Randy dreams up a “vision” that tells him the exact details of the entire rest of his life. Whose idea was it to end the movie like that? Because it’s absolutely terrible. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like “Blackbird” was a really wasted opportunity.

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Capsule film reviews: Four horror movies from 2016

‘The Invitation’
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

In “The Invitation,” Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) drive deep into the Hollywood Hills to attend a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) at the house Will and Eden used to share. The party is the first time any of their friends have seen them in two years — Will and Eden divorced following the accidental death of their son, and Eden left to join a grief support group in Mexico, where she met David. Throughout the course of the evening, Will becomes increasingly disturbed being back in the house he once shared with a happy family that is no more, and he also begins to grow suspicious of Eden and David, who try to share with the group their new spiritual philosophies that have helped them overcome grief. I like how “The Invitation” slowly turns up the suspense and leaves the audience unsure if there is really something sinister behind Eden’s cultish white dress and David’s calm demeanor, or if it’s just Will suffering from a mental breakdown when confronted with his past. It’s sufficiently creepy and even a bit thoughtful. All-in-all, “The Invitation” is a pretty good thriller.

‘The Neon Demon’
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone and Bella Heathcote
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language.
Grade: B

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Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios, Broad Green Pictures, Scanbox Entertainment and The Jokers.

“The Neon Demon” is the most talked-about and most polarizing horror movie of the year. For the most part, I really liked it. Kind of a tired story: Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a young girl from a small town hoping to make it big as a model in Hollywood, but Hollywood is, unfortunately, full of Illuminati and lesbian necrophiliacs. It’s a higher budget version of 2014’s “Starry Eyes,” which is a much better film, plot-wise. But don’t come to “The Neon Demon” for the plot: come for the artistic visuals, evil female leads and the always excellent Jena Malone who steals the show as Jesse’s eerily too nice, there’s-gotta-be-something-wrong-with-her mentor Ruby. My main issue with “The Neon Demon” is the weird casting of Elle Fanning as the lead — she’s not charismatic enough to propel the movie on her own, and she’s cute, but the very embodiment of natural beauty? Eh. At least the costumes are fabulous.

‘Train to Busan’
Release Date: July 20, 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an and Jung Yu-mi
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A+

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Photo courtesy of Next Entertainment World.

“Train to Busan” is one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen in a long while. The Korean horror film expertly showcases comedic moments, high tension, family drama, romance and truly frightening zombie shots. It’s an excellent movie and one of the best horror films of the year. The story follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), an absentee father whose focus on his business has crippled his relationship with his 9-year-old daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). For her birthday, all Su-an wants is to be reunited with her estranged mother, so Seok-woo begrudgingly agrees to accompany her on the high-speed KTX ride from Seoul to Busan. Unfortunately, the train departs just as the country begins to deteriorate into a zombie apocalypse. Only Busan, the country’s southern port city, is safe, and the survivors must fight to get the train to its final destination. The intense zombie action scenes are top tier (my favorite is a stop in Daejeon where the passengers are faced with a horde of zombie soldiers in military uniform charging up the stairs), but where “Train to Busan” really got me is with its heart. The evolving father-daughter dynamic will suck you in, and the supporting characters are all so compelling. “Train to Busan” is not to be missed.

‘31’
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2016
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell and Meg Foster
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Grade: B-

31

Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

As a diehard Rob Zombie fan, I enjoyed “31” and was pleased to find it more straightforward and accessible than Zombie’s last release, 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” “31” follows a group of carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween 1976 and told by three strangers that they will be entered into a game called 31. During the game, they will have 12 hours to escape from a maze-like warehouse of rooms while various clowns will be sent to torture and kill them. The plot isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but Zombie’s characterizations are always the most entertaining. His villains are excellent, particularly Malcolm McDowell as Father Murder, an aristocrat in a powdered wig who oversees the proceedings and announces the carnies’ odds for survival over a loudspeaker, and Richard Brake as Doom-Head, the final and most effective obstacle in the gang’s way of survival. As always, Sheri Moon Zombie is a badass and a delight, and I love that she’s still the ultimate scream queen, wielding chainsaws in barely-there crop tops at 46.

Capsule film reviews: Four more horror movies from 2014

‘Starry Eyes’
Release Date: March 8, 2014
Director: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller and Noah Segan
Genre: Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A-

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Photo courtesy of Snowfort Pictures, Parallactic Pictures and Dark Sky Films.

This film borrows heavily from its predecessors: it’s got a bit of “Suspiria” (Alex Essoe, who stars as Sarah, even looks just like Jessica Harper) with a dash of “Eyes Wide Shut.” The body horror is exactly the same as 2013’s “Contracted,” which was itself borrowed from 2012’s “Thanatomorphose.” And yet I still really, really liked “Starry Eyes.” It follows Sarah’s struggles as a part-time waitress/aspiring actress living in Hollywood with a group of self-centered frenemies. She finally has some success at an audition run by an eerie-yet-powerful production company with strange Illuminati-esque ties that promises to “transform” her life — quite literally. “Starry Eyes” is pretty campy, and it’s great. At its core, it’s just a classic Hollywood story. How far are you willing to go for success? How much are you willing to sacrifice? How squeamish are you around maggots?

‘Oculus’
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites and Rory Cochrane
Genre: Horror
Rating: R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.
Grade: D

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Photo courtesy of Relativity Media.

The best line from this movie is, “Okay, what’s more likely: that you’re misremembering events from 11 years ago, or that the mirror eats dogs?” But, of course, the mirror really does eat dogs. It also manipulates people within its range to have vivid hallucinations that eventually cause them to commit horrifying deeds. In the case of “Oculus,” Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan) is convinced that the antique mirror her father (Rory Cochrane) had in his office when she was a child used its supernatural abilities to drive him crazy enough to murder her mother (Katee Sackhoff). It’s really such a stupid premise, I started to wonder if we’ve literally made a horror movie about everything and now there’s nothing left. It would have been much more interesting if Kaylie really was remembering incorrectly and her father was just an insane murderer of his own volition, but no. It was the mirror.

‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’
Release Date: Oct. 16, 2014
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Addison Timlin, Spencer Treat Clark and Travis Tope
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R for brutal violence, grisly images, strong sexual content, and language.
Grade: D

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Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures.

As a sequel/remake/ reboot of the 1976 classic slasher film, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” had a lot of room to play around with the story and the genre, but it really dropped the ball. The original is based on the true story of a masked serial killer who terrorized the small town Texarkana in the 1940s. The 2014 film picks up the story in the modern day with a return of the Phantom Killer at an annual Halloween screening of the movie at the local drive-in theater. I love meta horror, but “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” didn’t even try to do anything interesting with this reboot. With two horror powerhouses behind the production (Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story fame and Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions), I expected something more innovative. “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is just another straightforward slasher without any particularly exciting gory effects and the most ridiculously disappointing resolution imaginable. In fact, it was such a letdown it made me angry.

‘Horns’
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2014
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple and Max Minghella
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rating: R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use.
Grade: C

horns

Photo courtesy of Dimension Films and RADiUS-TWC.

The “Horns” script seemed quite true to Joe Hill’s novel, but there’s a lot going on that had to be condensed into a 120-minute film. I wish “Horns” had focused on the areas in which it excelled: black horror-comedy and religious satire. Unfortunately, it had to take a lot of time for scene-setting flashbacks, character-building romance and, y’know, plot-progressing twists and turns. It centers on Ig Perrish (played by Daniel Radcliffe, whom I love), a social pariah who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend Merrin (played by Juno Temple, whom I love). One day, he wakes up with horns sprouting from his forehead and psychic abilities to draw the truth out of people, which he uses to his advantage as he seeks out Merrin’s true killer. Also he can command snakes to do his bidding. There’s a lot going on, most of which is at least entertaining. But I really am sick of the compulsory rape scene in every horror movie.

Jeff Goldblum at the Rockwell Table & Stage

Another great picture: Jeff Goldblum performs with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

Sometimes, I wonder why I would ever want to leave LA. Such a night was when I made it out to the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz to see Jeff Goldblum play jazz with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra over cocktails. Only in Hollywood, folks.

More-or-less every Wednesday at 9 p.m., Jeff and his band perform a low-key concert at the Rockwell with Jeff simultaneously on piano and holding court with the audience, singing and shooting the breeze about movies.

On the night I attended, the band played standards like “Bye Bye Blackbird” and invited up a few guest performers, including a fantastic female vocalist who sang “It Had to Be You” with them.

In between songs, Jeff tools around on the piano and engages in conversation with the audience. Which is super awkward. I cannot emphasize enough how apparent the generation gap was here. I’m going to have to assume that the majority of the audience came out because they remember “Jurassic Park” fondly from their childhoods, because they were not familiar with the songs and struggled to keep up with Jeff’s references to classic movies. There was some sort of degrees-of-separation game going on, but the connection was not being made between Jeff’s contributions of films like “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and the audience shouting “Shia LaBeouf! ‘Harry Potter’!” Like I said: awkward for all of us.

If you want to attend, you can order tickets ahead of time, and you’ll get a guaranteed seat. Regular seats are $20, and VIP seats are $25 if you want to be all up in Jeff Goldblum’s face. Or, you can just swing by and hope there’s an open chair. This is what I did — and I scored one of the last stools available at the bar, which was a perfect spot from which to eat and watch the show. It was fate.

At the Rockwell, the cocktails all have fabulous names: The Rejected Suitor, for example, is made with honey scotch, blackberries, fresh mint and Cointreau. I ordered “Jim Got Down on His Knees” because that’s a great fucking name for a cocktail, and it sounded delicious: rosé, grape vodka and St. Germaine Elderflower. It was delicious, by the way, and all of the craft cocktails cost $12.

After watching plates of aromatic food pass by for a while, I decided I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to order something of my own. I went with one of the wood stone flatbreads ($15) — the forest mushroom, which is topped with wild mushrooms, white sauce and truffle oil. It was perfect.

The entire event is a classy, classic Hollywood experience, and I highly recommend it.

Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Rockwell Table & Stage
1714 N. Vermont Ave.
9 p.m. Wednesday
Entry is free; reserved tickets range from $20-25
For more information, visit www.rockwell-la.com.

My picks: Best brunch spots in Los Angeles

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The cobb omelette at Alcove Café and Bakery in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

The worst thing about breakfast is that it takes place so early in the day. Who even wakes up before noon? On a weekend? Not me. But if, by some strange twist of fate, you happen to find yourself both alert and hungry in the wee hours of the morning, there are some great breakfast and/or brunch spots in Los Angeles for you to check out.

Eat This Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood

I was already fond of this restaurant long before I managed to try the brunch, and, man, did that change everything. The truffle cheese and egg panini moved me. To put it into perspective: the first time I ordered this sandwich, I actually called someone on the phone afterwards to tell them that I’d just had the best breakfast of my life. Now I bring everyone there to drink bottomless mimosas with me. The sandwich is served on toasted sourdough bread and is made with fried eggs, truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and a balsamic glaze. It’s all served with seasoned roasted potatoes and a small cup of fruit. Wow! It’s magnificent.

Larchmont Bungalow
Neighborhood: Larchmont Village

Larchmont is the kind of cute neighborhood that gives off a “brunch” vibe all day long, you know? There’s a Sunday morning farmer’s market and streets lined with expensive, kitschy boutiques and cafes. And Larchmont Bungalow is the best place to brunch there. If you’re into extravagant dessert, you will be into their red and blue velvet pancakes, which are not pancakes as much as they are moist little cakes filled with cream cheese spread, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with walnuts. So indulgent. So good.

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The truffle cheese and egg panini at Eat This Café in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

Eggslut
Neighborhood: Downtown

If you find yourself cruising through Grand Central Market between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., it would be wise to stop by the Eggslut kiosk, where they serve up super deluxe egg-based breakfasts that you can eat at their counter or across the street at Pershing Square. The food rules. There’s the Fairfax: a sandwich on a brioche bun with soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo. And there’s the cheeseburger: wagyu beef, caramelized onions, pickles, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise and an over-medium egg on a brioche bun. This food will get all over you, and it will be worth it.

The Griddle Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood Hills

The line is long, and the portions are gigantic. I was completely prepared for everything to be huge, and it still surprised me how huge it really was. That’s how it goes at the Griddle Café: your plate will be overflowing with toppings. You roll with it. There are pages and pages of pancake options — they’re all served three to a plate, and they’re bigger than your head. Some of the choices are just amazing. The Black Magic pancakes are filled with crushed Oreos and topped with whipped cream and Oreo cookie pieces. The Red Velvet pancakes are topped with swirls of cream cheese icing. Mhm.

Alcove Café and Bakery
Neighborhood: Los Feliz

At Alcove, you place your order and pay inside, then find a server to seat you (preferably on the spacious outdoor patio on a lovely Los Angeles day). It’s a little stressful, and you occasionally have to wait 50 years to get up to the counter. But once you do, the food (and dessert!) is delicious. The cobb omelette is a truly fabulous piece of brunch art, stuffed with warm grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese and tomato and topped with large slices of avocado. The omelette itself is huge, but it also comes with a large portion of delicious rosemary potatoes and four slices of toast. I don’t even like toast, but I still finished mine because it came with butter and a tiny, personal-sized glass jar of strawberry jam. It’s adorable.

Blu Jam Café
Neighborhood: Fairfax

Blu Jam is another must-try brunch location in an area full of brunch locations. There’s a little something for everybody. If you’re into savory breakfast: order Kamil’s Breakfast, which is pan-roasted macaroni scrambled with eggs, smoked bacon, ham, garlic, chives and cheddar cheese. If you’re into sweet breakfast: order the crunchy French toast, which is egg brioche dipped in batter, rolled in crunchy corn flakes, grilled and topped with fresh fruit and vanilla bean sauce. If you’re me, order a California omelette, which has three eggs, smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

Album review: Gerard Way, ‘Hesitant Alien’

“Do you miss me? ‘Cause I miss you.”
— Gerard Way, ‘Action Cat’

gerard-way-2014-09-20

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Records/Reprise Records.

It’s been ten years since I spent my nights listening to “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” on a loop using my dial-up Internet connection. My Chemical Romance was a big thing for me. To say the least. In fact, when the band officially announced its separation in March 2013 coinciding with this year’s release of a greatest hits album, “May Death Never Stop You,” I received a number of consolation messages.

I’m okay now. (Trust me.)

But I still found myself waiting in line for five hours outside of the Hot Topic where former My Chem frontman Gerard Way was signing copies of his solo debut, “Hesitant Alien.” There, I made fast friends with my linemates, who ranged from a sophomore at Beverly Hills High School who came with his parents (but made them stand a distance away from us because embarrassing!) to a woman who has a five-year-old child of her own. Most of us are now in our 20s, wearing more color than we used to but still able to get a good harmony going as we sang “Welcome to the Black Parade” a cappella out back of the Hollywood & Highland Center. The MCRmy has grown up.

And the comic book nerd-cum-rockstar who helped us get through high school in one piece is now asserting himself as a solo artist: “Hesitant Alien” showcases what life is like for the now-37-year-old Gerard Way, who is more self-assured and stable but nonetheless a weird outsider.

If we’re being honest, My Chemical Romance was also more or less Gerard Way’s solo project all along. He just happened to be able to assemble a group of musicians who, bless their hearts, let him dress them up in silly outfits and played along with his grandiose visions of serial killers with Catholic guilt and Technicolor dystopias and personifications of death.

One of Gerard’s greatest strengths as an artist has always been his holistic thinking: each release arrives fully-formed, complete with a consistent and strong sense of setting, backstory and personality.

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My prized possessions. SCREAMfmLondon

“Hesitant Alien” is another well-rounded creation. The overall vibe is sort of that of a ‘70s glam rock group trying to predict what music would sound like in 2014. It’s all retro-futuristic with fuzzy modulation, music videos reminiscent of MTV’s 1980s debut era, and an obvious Britpop influence in lyrics that could have been penned by Blur or Pulp.

“No Shows” is by far the best track on the album. It is vibrant noise-pop perfected with slick, reverberating lyrics like, “Weak knees from the level, I’m sick from the treble, I’m your type of metal.” The instrumental breakdown near the end of the song is an excellent touch, and the song as a whole is a great representation of the direction taken on “Hesitant Alien.”

“Brother,” a slower track, offers some insight into the final days of My Chemical Romance. Backed by a rhythmic beat, echoing vocals and his own minimalistic piano accompaniment, Gerard sings, “Does anyone have the guts to shut me up? / ‘Cause I believe that every night / There’s a chance we can walk away.”

Other standout tracks include “Maya the Psychic,” “Action Cat” and “Juarez” (“I can’t swim, don’t rub it in,” Gerard reminds us on the latter in a weirdly catchy hook). On “Millions,” Gerard’s younger brother and former My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey features as a backup vocalist.

Altogether, “Hesitant Alien” is a solid album and a sign that Gerard made the right move in going solo. There are a few skippable tracks (“The Bureau,” “How It’s Going to Be,” etc.), but they all work together well regardless.

Had My Chemical Romance not released 2010’s “Danger Days” and had instead released the “Conventional Weapons” EP as a formal album (as they should have), “Hesitant Alien” would seem like a completely separate musical style from Gerard’s work with the band. However, as it is, it seems like a natural continuation of the music he’s created in the past and is an easy transition to accept.

Onwards and upwards, Gerard. Unleash the fucking bats. Again.

Gerard Way
Hesitant Alien
Release Date: Sept. 30
Genre: Alternative Rock
Grade: B

Film review: ‘Tusk’ (#WalrusYes)

TUSK

Justin Long and Michael Parks star in Kevin Smith’s “Tusk.” Photo courtesy of A24 Films.

Here’s the bottom line: “Tusk” kind of blows. But. I understand why it blows, and I even appreciate that it blows.

I attended a screening of the film at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood, after which director Kevin Smith explained and giggled about his latest horror-comedy.

I’ll try to keep it brief about the actual movie, because the actual movie is not really the point of this movie. The story follows an obnoxious podcaster, Wallace (Justin Long), who travels from Los Angeles to Manitoba, Canada in search of a subject for his next broadcast. He meets with Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a retired adventurer who is looking for a lodger to share his isolated mansion. Howe begins telling fantastic stories of his various journeys until one thing leads to another and it becomes clear that he intends to butcher Wallace, sew him into a suit made of human skin and make him live as Howe’s personal walrus companion, Mr. Tusk. You know how these things happen.

There are a handful of laugh-out-loud funny scenes, but “Tusk” never really gets creepy enough. I was expecting special effects makeup artist Robert Kurtzman’s Leatherface-style walrus suit to be pretty disturbing, but it was just a disappointment.

“Tusk” features some amazing collaborations with other artists, though. Parks is excellent throughout the film. He is equal parts dignified and unhinged, and he appears to take the role incredibly seriously, which is a feat in itself. Johnny Depp appears as French-Canadian private investigator Guy Lapointe, and both Depp’s and Smith’s teenage daughters make cameos as convenience store clerks, which is cute. The icing on the cake is the soundtrack, which includes Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” (of course), as well as a maudlin closing track recorded for the film by former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.

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Director Kevin Smith speaks at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood after a screening of his horror-comedy “Tusk.” SCREAMfmLondon

So, no, the movie “Tusk” is not very good. Like, at all. Not at all. I don’t really have any desire to ever watch it again. But the story behind it is interesting, electrifying and inspirational.

The tale of “Tusk” began a little more than a year ago during an episode of SModcast, the podcast that Smith hosts with his friend Scott Mosier. It starts with an offhanded observation that a joke real estate listing sounds like the premise for a horror movie and turns into about an hour of speculation and laughter about what that horror movie would look like. And now here we are with the fully-realized thing in our actual midst.

It’s not very often that someone happens to record and broadcast the exact moment they conceptualize what will go on to become a major motion picture. With “Tusk,” Smith makes the filmmaking process completely transparent, from the original inspiration to the fleshing out of a plot, through production and culminating with a finished product. He shows the audience that creating isn’t such a difficult process: you too can turn a stupid idea into a stupid reality if you work hard enough at it.

The overall message to take away from “Tusk” is that you should have faith in your stupid ideas. Bring them to fruition. Who cares if other people think they suck? That’s fine. At least you did something you wanted to do. Lots of things suck, and some of them could be yours if you set your mind to it.

I didn’t even like the movie, but I still left the theater feeling incredibly excited about all the stupid dreams I have to pursue. As Kevin Smith told us during his Q&A session, we’re all going to die. Might as well make a goofy horror movie with your friends. Why not?

‘Tusk’
Release Date:
Sept. 19, 2014
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror
Rating: R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content.
Grade: D+