Here are just some of the recent ( and forthcoming ) DVDs I've been recommending of late ( all naturally of, at least, cursory interest to queer audiences ) :
Pictured: Mad Men. The Mummy.
Recently in theaters:
—Penelope: This sweet little romantic comedy was unfairly overlooked by audiences. Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara and Reese Witherspoon ( who served as executive producer ) star in a literal fairy tale—the modern-day story of a young heiress born with a pig's snout who is cursed to remain alone until someone falls for her charms and ignores her unseemly nose. It's as rewarding as Enchanted, Ella Enchanted, Ever After or ... you get the picture. The disc includes a brief making-of featurette.
—Nim's Island: Two gay-audience favorites, Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, take backseats to Abigail Breslin in this energetic but whisper-thin kids' adventure ( set in the South Seas ) that borrows heavily from Home Alone and Jewel of the Nile. Foster plays an agoraphobic writer of children's adventure stories forced out of her comfort zone. For gay audiences, there's also some ironic gender subtext to contemplate as Foster once again walks off into the sunset with her leading man.
—The Ruins: From out director Carter Smith comes this gruesome but nifty little horror film that follows the ominous fate of two college-aged couples partying in Mexico who make the mistake of heading into the jungles to see a hidden temple ruin and find themselves trapped on top. Things literally heat up from there ( complete with plenty of shirtless musculature to gaze at ) . Though the last section of the film goes off track and favors gore over scares, the suspense holds for a long time.
—The Mummy: Both the Boris Karloff/1932 original and more recent Brendan Fraser remake ( and sequel ) are getting special-edition releases. The Karloff version is beautifully photographed, though it's slow-moving, and offers a typical bland leading man role for the charming, handsome David Manners, the late queer actor who had similar parts in Dracula and The Black Cat before retiring from movies. ( Manners later found contentment with a partner, and through work as an author and painter. )
—Dark City: The long-anticipated Director's Cut/Special Edition of this stylish 1998 cult sci-fi/horror favorite arrives, at long last. Rufus Sewell awakens naked in a bathtub and spends the rest of the film trying to piece together reality from fantasy, with help and/or interference from Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt. Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien plays one of the deadly, murderous 'dark men' in this visually unforgettable film. This edition is packed with bonus features.
TV on DVD:
—Mad Men, Season One: Here's another shout-out for the series that everyone's buzzing about—the psychologically dark soap opera about advertising executives in the early 1960s that has made an instant star out its sexy leading man, Jon Hamm. Season two has now begun and promises to further develop the storyline involving the closeted ad exec played by out actor Bryan Batt ( who will be featured in an upcoming Windy City Times interview ) .
—Dark Shadows, the Beginning, Vol. 5—The pre-vampire Barnabas Collins episodes continue in the world's first gothic soap opera ( which included several gay cast members ) . By this point ( January 1967 ) , the series was decidedly moving from its gothic base into the world of the supernatural, and this set features the first of many séances that would be held at the soap's main setting, Collinswood, the great estate perched high above the little Maine fishing village of Collinsport.
—The Tender Trap: Swingin' bachelor Frank Sinatra finds his lifestyle and love life interrupted when confronted with darling, marriage-minded innocent Debbie Reynolds in this sparkling 1955 film version of the Broadway comedy. It's available separately or as part of a Sinatra Golden Years Collection that also includes The Man with the Golden Arm, Some Came Running, None But the Brave and Marriage on the Rocks. Reynolds, who spoke with Windy City Times last year, is still going strong at 76 and appears in her delightful one-woman show this weekend, July 31-Aug. 3, at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. See www.drurylaneoakbrook.com .
—Tyrone Power Matinee Collection: The late bisexual star—one of the most handsome to grace the screen—is featured in another boxed set from his home studio, 20th Century Fox. A whopping 10 of the actor's films—ranging from the good to the forgettable—are included in this five-disc set.
—Glitterbox: Derek Jarman x 4: The late queer activist and artsy filmmaker made provocative shorts and films. Four of them—The Angelic Conversation, Caravaggio, Wittgenstein and Blue—are included in this lavish set. Along with the remastered films ( 1986's Caravaggio, Jarman's fanciful and endlessly creative re-telling of the gay artist's life is my favorite ) , the four-disc set includes a lavishly illustrated booklet that includes essays by friends of the late artist. Tilda Swinton, Oscar winner for Michael Clayton, and one of Jarman's muses, is included in several new featurettes included in the set. Bent artists and those with the artistic bent will find plenty to immerse themselves in here.
—Andre Techine 4-Film Collector's Edition: French queer director Techine, revered for his post-New Wave French films, is featured in this four-film collection that includes the gay favorite Wild Reeds. His 2007 film, the queer-themed The Witnesses is not in the collection but has also recently come out on DVD. Other movies in this collection include Hotel America, I Don't Kiss and My Favorite Season.
—The Curiosity of Chance: This is a sweet, gay, coming-of-age comedy that played the gay film-festival circuit.
Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitytimes.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter Web site, where there is also ordering information on my book of collected film reviews, Knight at the Movies 2004-2006.