Mini Movie Review (DORIAN GRAY)

The 2009 movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY was very good. Simply titled DORIAN GRAY, the production diverges from the book in places but the overall essence of Wilde’s story is retained. Ben Barnes superbly portrays the hedonistic Dorian Gray. Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton seems to believably savor the role of Dorian’s cynical, bad influence mentor. The entire British cast is, not surprisingly, excellent.

The beautiful cinematography, period piece costumes, haunting lighting and camera filtering made me feel like I was entering a different world and time. Well-thought-out and crafted films, such as this, have such an intended effect.

I appreciated the overt homoeroticism in places. This probably at least somewhat reflects the more recently published, unexpurgated version of Wilde’s 1890 masterpiece. I have yet to read this more complete one the author had originally written and now very much want to. Despite the somewhat needlessly heavy-handed, clunky climax, overall, I was emotionally moved at times and effectively low-grade creeped out by this generally enthralling work of cinema. 


I just finished reading Scarlett St. Clair’s erotic fantasy romance KING OF BATTLE AND BLOOD, which was a lot of fun and even— surprisingly— emotionally moving in a few places. I liked the author’s creative way of having vampire and human societies existing side by side and even mingling together. I only care to read about vampires on occasion. But, this written rendering of them was interesting, particularly of the leading male character. The heroine, who is human/mortal and narrates the story, is a kick ass warrior princess who becomes a gutsy queen. This book is very lesbian and gay affirming, and witch affirming as well.

Hardcore conservative Christians will want to stay away from this deliciously naughty page turner.

Movie Review (THE BATMAN)

Earlier this past week, I watched THE BATMAN, released a few months ago, for free at home. This was a pleasant surprise. HBO Max made it available this way for a brief promotional period, or so it seemed. Now, the movie appears to be permanently available to stream for free. I don’t know what factors into certain blockbusters becoming free to view far sooner than others. I thought I’d be having to wait for a good while longer before maybe paying $5.99 to view this impressive, engrossing production, a price I would have gladly paid.

I did not at all care for Ben Affleck’s anemic, tired-looking corporate executive portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne in a recent handful of DC Films, so the more elegant and mysterious Pattinson stepping into this superhero role was welcomed by me. THE BATMAN takes place relatively early in the Caped-crusader’s masked vigilante career. Pattinson plays dark and brooding extremely well, so he is excellent as the title character, a billionaire traumatized as a child from losing his parents during a violent robbery. I appreciated how this seminal event is not shown in flashback on screen, but simply referenced in dialogue and print. Batman’s origin story has already been well covered in earlier movies.

Zoe Kravitz plays Selina Kyle, who does not yet go by Catwoman in this screenplay. She is effectively written as sympathetic yet morally vague/gray, which I found believable. And she is svelte and beautiful. However, Kravitz is no match to Pattinson’s gritty gravitas, coming across as rather girlish in tone of voice and lacking in rough depth next to him. Perhaps that is intended. I grew up with watching the witty and mature-sounding Julie Newmar portraying Catwoman for two seasons of the 1960s campy show BATMAN, followed then by Eartha Kitt in that iconic role for the show’s third and final season. And while I think Julie Newmar reigns as the best on-screen portrayal of Catwoman ever, Eartha Kitt comes in as a close second, with her own unique feline moves and sultry woman’s voice. Alas, dear Ms. Kravitz had big shoes to fill, at least for myself and probably many other viewers who are, say, at least over forty. And while, perhaps, Kravitz plays a younger, less seasoned/roughed up by life Catwoman (to be) than her lovely predecessors, I have a hard time imagining Kravitz evolving to someone with a deeper, more nuanced voice, even more slinky and seductive moves, and a jaded yet humorous perspective on life. It is hard to believe that Kravitz and Newmar were pretty close in age while portraying Catwoman in their respective eras. Kravitz comes across as, well, an annoyed adolescent rather than smoldering, dangerous, and seductive like Catwoman should naturally be and Newmar and Kitt conveyed so well. But, enough with these comparisons. I’ll wait and see if Kravitz can bring more edgy maturity to the archetypal part, even though she likely will still not quite measure up to Newmar or Kitt.

Paul Dano plays the Riddler, a long-time arch villain of Batman’s. He is completely unlike Jim Carrey’s sexy and hilariously campy portrayal of this previously seen character in 1995’s very fun BATMAN FOREVER. In THE BATMAN, Dano and screenwriters Matt Reeves and Peter Craig make Riddler a comparatively more realistic obsessed and hyper sociopath. He posts on the Internet, garnering a devoted following, as he kills off Gotham City’s corrupt government leaders. Dano brings much thought and passion into the role. He effectively matches Pattinson’s quiet, often seething intensity.

The rest of the cast is generally stellar, with the exception of Andy Serkis as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s devoted butler and assistant. He is solidly competent in the role but lacking a seasoned British elegance that others, namely Alan Napier, Michael Gough, and Jeremy Irons all brought to the part in previous incarnations. I think the creators were going for a younger Michael Caine kind of portrayal, with Caine and Serkis having a more working class English accent and style, which is fine, of course, but not the Alfred I grew up watching. To me, Alfred’s calm, measured, dignified demeanor adds a beautiful juxtaposition and complementarity to Batman’s more physical, hard-edged presence. This dynamic is lost between Serkis’ more earthy version of Alfred and Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne. Ah, well, ’tis a relatively minor area of lack in an otherwise solidly good work of cinema.

Batman is in ruthless, tough detective mode against a backdrop of a dark and dreary, crime-ridden metropolis, very much clearly inspired by 1930s through 1950s film noir genre productions. The sets, often enhanced by LED backgrounds, are largely made up of impressively high, foreboding buildings from a bygone era, influenced by the Art Deco style, still in fashion when the BATMAN comic debuted in 1939. Like Batman and Selina Kyle themselves, many of the sets are darkly beautiful, intermittently placed against expansive skylines, high rooflines, and claustrophobic interiors and exteriors (such as an outdoor train station). Much of the movie takes place at night, though daytime scenes are dimly lit or filtered. One cannot help but to feel a mix of overwhelm, constraint, and isolation that the characters experience in this grim world of THE BATMAN. Rain is initially used to set up the movie’s dreary mood while Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman dourly narrates an introduction. Kurt Cobain’s haunting recording of “Something in the Way” is effectively used twice in the movie, which boasts an incredible original musical score that I can only describe as powerfully suspenseful and beautifully intense.

The story of long-time political corruption and massive citizen neglect, which the Riddler destructively works at uncovering in Gotham and Batman comes to discover there, fits America’s and much of the world’s current political situation. Things are falling apart and new vision and leadership are desperately needed. As depressed as Pattison’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is, he holds onto hope and steadily begins to heal from his past, a human work in progress like, hopefully, we all should strive to be.

My Life’s Work, In Brief

I know all too well what it’s like to survive sexual and mental-emotional predation, which saps the spirit at its core. Far too many of us in the world have endured such abuse in one (or more) form or another. It is my life’s work to help others leave and heal from predatory behaving people, avoid falling into exhibiting such toxic behaviors then often learned from said individuals, and live lives more filled with peace, love, joy and healthy reciprocal relationships. So mote it be!


SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (released in December of 2021) is the latest installment of Marvel Studios’ and Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man series, within and part of a larger arc of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The movie has been one of the most financially successful (make of that what you will) mainstream studio productions to date. British pretty boy actor Tom Holland continues to portray American high school student Peter Parker/Spider-Man with a sunny disposition and wholesome sincerity that I appreciate. His enthusiasm, emotional sensitivity, and well-meaning naivete come through again, with the actress Zendaya (Holland’s real life girlfriend) affirming these qualities of his through her role as Michelle Jones-Watson (mainly called MJ), Parker’s love interest. For my taste, the on-hand funny quips to criminals and police officers could have been laid on even thicker by Holland’s Parker to better match Stan Lee’s comic book character creation’s way of speaking that I remember fondly reading while a child in the 1970s. But, I’m not complaining. Holland is so naturally adorable, offering up the lightest movie portrayal of the daring web-slinger in comparison to his two predecessors, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. And in such a historical time of social upheaval and chaos, this unique screen presence of grounded, sincere, yet bubbly lightness is exactly what I need for good, fun cinematic escape. Let other tights-wearing crimefighters, such as Batman and Wolverine, be the dark tortured souls. Spidey is a likable, innocent-hearted, fun-loving kid– even though and in spite of experiencing more than his share of loss and alienation. Refreshing.

This latest Spider-Man story, which picks up right where its 2019 prequel SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME leaves off, is largely unremarkable and formulaic. In order to clear his name from being both exposed to the world as Spider-Man and wrongly slandered for murder and other misdeeds by the recently defeated criminal Quentin Beck (Jacob Gyllenhaal), Peter Parker enlists the help of the mighty sorcerer superhero Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). As has occurred in many science fiction/fantasy films and TV shows, the big plot device is to change the past somehow so that the present and future are different for the protagonist and, by extension, everyone else. Often, for example, a time machine of some sort is used or a divine being, such as an angel (think of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which still gets aired on TV around Christmastime, I imagine), steps in and uses magic. In this case, it’s the impatient and authority-wielding Dr. Strange who is to be that convenient change agent via having all people forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man– with a few exceptions. The spell Dr. Strange casts gets bungled because of Peter’s repeatedly interrupting him to fine-tune/modify his request. There are some cute, mildly amusing exchanges between Spidey and Dr. Strange, eliciting associations in our own lives so many of us viewers have of witnessing an older, condescending authority figure chastising a younger underling. In any case, this bungling mysteriously opens portals of two other universes between them and the one in which Tom Holland’s Peter Parker exists, thereby introducing us the audience to the “multiverse.” That’s where the fun begins, particularly when the two other Peter Parkers/Spider-Mans show up.

I had vaguely heard that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles in this movie, but, honestly, I wasn’t sure. Five actors also reprise their super villain roles from earlier Spider-Man movies, making this latest show a reunion fest of sorts. Maguire’s quiet and pensive Peter Parker of three Spider-Man movies between 2002 and 2007 gets to dialogue with Garfield’s especially insecure and comparatively less defined but more overtly sorrowful Parker. These two men’s brief exchange shortly before the final fight scenes against the powerful antagonists had me smiling and laughing, such as when Maguire’s Parker repeatedly tells Garfield’s that he is “amazing,” a blatant reference to the latter actor’s starring in two “Amazing Spider-Man” films in 2012 and 2014. Such self consciousness of writing whereby a movie acknowledges and jokes about itself can be witty and clever or fall flat. Fortunately, the decent script writing in this instance and terrific, tongue-in-cheek delivery by Maguire and Garfield make for great entertainment and some moments of uniqueness in an otherwise cliche-filled story. Those handful of minutes– along with other brief, funny bits of dialogue and warm affection expressed between the three Peters — wonderfully stand out within a nearly two-and-a half-hour film. However, and in addition, the sweet, heart-felt chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya elicited my inner romantic, which cast a pleasant feel-good mood over this generally routine spectacle of action cinema. Finally, worth mentioning among the mind-numbing handful of CGI-enhanced super villains, Willem Dafoe adds a big dose of fun camp as the sinister, over-the-top Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. His demonic, dramatic face is fabulously Medieval.

I’m glad I waited to rent the movie to stream on my TV instead of needlessly raising my anxiety over risking Covid-19 exposure to watch it on a big screen. This was not that great a movie by any means. But, then, no movie is worth me going through such extra stress these days. Besides, I paused it often to take assorted breaks. As I age, I more appreciate the practical control that comes with having a remote on hand over passively watching moving pictures on a large screen, all encompassing that that so often is. For something lost, there’s something else gained.

Running Away No Longer

It’s become so clear to me how I’ve spent much of my life running away– avoiding, escaping, surviving. Now, more and more, I’m committed to arriving and being present in the good life I’ve co-created with a wonderful husband in a safe, cozy home, and from within a relatively healthy body I continue to learn to better care for. Life is good. There’s no need to run anymore.

Mini Movie Review (GERONTOPHILIA)

Queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce’s quirky and sexy indie movie GERONTOPHILIA (2013) stars the beautiful, sensual Pier-Gabriel Lajoie as Lake, a French Canadian in his late teens who is sexually attracted to elderly men. I was not expecting much, so felt pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this cinema gem of sweetness. Lake and his stylin’, old queen love interest, Marvin Peabody (Walter Borden), meet in a nursing home. They soon exude a believable emotional chemistry. I cared for both of them.

There is one disturbing dream sequence that left me wondering what LaBruce and his cowriter of the screenplay (Daniel Allen Cox) were thinking, but it did not taint my feelings for the characters.

The acting quality by many of the supporting cast members leaves much to be desired. However, this did not damage the production’s overall effectiveness for me, thanks to the sincere and compelling portrayals by Lajoie and Borden and the mostly succinct, riveting storyline.

If you like off-beat films about love and the human condition, this might be of interest to watch.