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Knight at the Movies: Don Jon; Blue Caprice; film/DVD notes
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times

This article shared 7951 times since Tue Sep 24, 2013
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Like a latter-day Tony Manero, Jon Martello struts through his local Brooklyn nightspot trolling for the crème de la crème of the single ladies. Jon's pumped-up body, baby-faced good looks and smooth patter rarely fail him and, among his awestruck pals, he's earned the nickname Don Jon.

Within his own world, Martello is king of the hill and he revels in neatly compartmentalizing the various aspects of his life which he prioritizes as follows: "My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my boys, my church—and my porn."

It's that last item that eventually threatens to overtake all the other aspects of Martello's life and is the basis of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut film as writer-director. Gordon-Levitt, who also stars has been noted for his ability to enact troubled characters—with his turn as the gay hustler, subjected to tremendous childhood sexual abuse, in Gregg Araki's 2004 Mysterious Skin, one of my favorites. With 500 Days of Summer the young actor broke through to the forefronts of indie films and has since made the leap to supporting parts in blockbuster flicks as well.

But it's in movies like the ribald but surprisingly endearing sex comedy Don Jon that Gordon-Levitt has connected best with audiences. To portray this cocky bantam rooster, the young actor has impressively increased his bulk. There's clearly not a gay bone in Don Jon's body (although the actor himself has recently deflected questions about his own sexuality in interviews) but no doubt, a lot of the appeal of the movie for gay audiences will be repeated shots of the actor's nearly naked physique.

Jon's enthusiasm for porn will also be familiar to gay men, young and old, who have been raised on finding immediate gratification via illicit copies of Playgirl stuffed under the mattress or trolling their favorite Internet sites. Jon's inability to find complete sexual gratification with one of his many partners becomes a huge issue when he meets his dream girl, the luscious Barbara Sugarman (hilariously played by Scarlett Johannson) and they start dating on a regular basis. His nagging mother, horndog dad and text-crazed sister (Glenne Headley, Tony Danza and Brie Larson, respectively) are happy for Jon but when Barbara discovers his porn addiction, all hell breaks loose.

All this is deftly presented and the repeated rituals of Jon's life are used to great comic effect. The stereotypical characters—so reminiscent of Jersey shore and Saturday Night Fever, with their "fuhgeddaboudit" accents and garish ensembles—are welcoming, familiar signposts for the audience. For a while, the picture is fleet-footed and trips along amiably in its dirty, sexy way but just as it starts to thin out the arrival of Julianne Moore's character—as Jon's fellow classmate at night school—wildly changes the tone of the picture. How her character relates with Jon and his world and vice versa takes the movie in an unexpected direction that is ultimately rather thoughtful.

Although Don Jon's last act shift in tone doesn't quite work (the shift is a little too abrupt and doesn't altogether mesh with the jokey, lickity split tone that has preceded it), Gordon-Levitt has nevertheless crafted an exceptionally welcoming audience-pleaser.

Briefly noted: Isaiah Washington, the actor who experienced a career meltdown after using anti-gay epitaphs while working on the TV show Grey's Anatomy, is attempting to reignite his foundering career with a couple of indie movies and a media campaign.

At least one of the films, Blue Caprice, is very good (I haven't seen the other) and is available on VOD and will be playing at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., beginning Sept. 27. It's the quietly chilling true-life story of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the young man from the Caribbean who Muhammad illegally brought to this country after becoming his father figure.

Under "father's" grotesque teachings, Malvo became an assassin who, at Muhammad's behest, murdered scores of innocent victims during a reign of terror in the Washington D.C. area in 2002. Washington and Tequan Richmond are particularly fine as the deranged pair in Alexandre Moors' debut feature film which is all the more horrific for its studied, calm approach. It's a tremendously creepy example of the banality of evil.

Film notes:

Now this is 3-D!: As regular readers of Knight at the Movies know, I'm not a big fan of 3-D but there are occasional exceptions to any rule and one of them—a big one—is the chance to see a film in the format from the 1950s when the 3-D craze first swept the nation. The 1954 movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, the cheesy but thrilling last entry in the Universal Studios monster pantheon, is just such an effort. The film is screening on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd., at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in 35mm complete with a pair of the original 3-D glasses.

As a bonus—and it's a big one—Julie Adams, star of the film, will be on hand at both screenings to discuss her role and career with author/film historian Foster Hirsch and Mitchell Danton, co-writer of her memoirs. Adams will also take photos with fans, sign autographs and copies of the book throughout the event with the first session scheduled for 1 p.m.

DVDs of note: Aleksandr's Price is the story of an illegal Russian immigrant in New York City who resorts to escorting to make ends meet, falling into a seamy world of drugs, pimps, creepy clients, etc. in the process. The film—which its darkly handsome star, Paul Maso, wrote and directed—was a gay-festival favorite and, in light of Russia's horrid anti-gay stance, has additional relevance. The movie is out on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures.

Before the hit musical and the Hollywood remake, there was the film that started it all: 1978's La Cage Aux Folles. The story focuses on the outrageous female impersonator Albin as well as his indulgent and ever-patient partner, club owner Renato, who have to pretend to be straight in order to win over the fiancée and parents of Renato's straight son. For me, director Edouard Molinaro's original film (in French) is still the most hilarious and charming version. The Criterion Collection has just released a restored edition in both Blu-ray and DVD versions that looks great and, as usual, they've added a bevy of special features including a new interview with the director. The disc also includes a 16-page booklet.

Speaking of 3-D—my favorite film of all time, 1939's fantasy extravaganza The Wizard of Oz, starring gay icon Judy Garland, is once again coming to home video in multiple editions (3-D, Blu-ray, DVD and digital streaming). Warner Bros. is packaging each of these versions with a myriad of special features (including a new, comprehensive making of documentary), and collector mementos. If you haven't yet gotten your fill of Oz (and, who has?), then you might want to upgrade to one of these new versions.

This article shared 7951 times since Tue Sep 24, 2013
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