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Under The Skin, The Stag, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 20 Feet From Stardom


April 2014

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Michael J. Willett, Paul Iacono, Megan Mullally
Although it makes Mean Girls look like a profound meditation on the American high-school experience, Darren Stein’s teen-com gets an A+ simply for bringing the gay to this clueless world, where G.B.F.s typically serve as adorable props. When closeted Brent Van Camp (Iacono) inadvertendly outs his best friend Tanner (Willett), the latter becomes a target for bullying jocks and Northgate High’s reigning queen bees, who vye to bag him as a trendsetting accessory. Helium-voiced Mullally is a hoot as Mama Van Camp, trying to coax her son out of the closet, and amidst the tsunami of snarky text-speak and candycoloured fashions, there’s some infectious humour and stereotype busting. A tidy-up of the messy script and tighter rein on the performances might have pushed G.B.F. into being a very good high-school film as opposed to just an okay one, but with its heart in the right place and positive gay messaging, it feels churlish resisting G.B.F.’s frothy charms.

Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Krystof Hadek
Music-vid and commercials maestro Jonathan Glazer has only made three features but they’re all doozies. After Sexy Beast and his Nicole Kidman-starrer Birth comes Under The Skin, by far Glazer’s creepiest film yet; a spare, atmospheric chiller in which Scarlett Johansson’s alien seductress patrols the streets of Glasgow luring horny single men to a disturbing fate. The haunting imagery and Johansson’s methodical turn make for an intoxicating combo that does, indeed, get under your skin.

Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Peter McDonald
This Irish comedy dispatches a merry band of Dublin metrosexuals into the woods for a decidedly unraunchy bachelor-party weekend, only to have their peaceful plans wrecked by the arrival of the bride’s monstrously macho brother ‘The Animal’. Queer-friendly credentials aplenty here: there’s a gay couple in the group, plus out Irish actor Andrew Scott gets to show off his loveable side in the role of best man Davin after all that compellingly demented Cumberbatch-baiting as Moriarty in Sherlock.

Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law
Ralph Fiennes heads up Wes Anderson’s latest project as a fabled concierge at the titular chocolate-box establishment, whose penchant for the hotel’s wrinklier female guests lands him in boiling water when one of the batty madams (Swinton) is murdered. Set in a fictional 1930s' Europe on the verge of war, this is typical of Anderson’s Marmite-y work in that the cast is vast, the faces familiar, the story madcap and the world fanciful. There’s plenty of Bavarian yodelling, too.

Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer
Backing singers get their due in this celebratory documentary, which shines a spotlight on a few of these behind-the-mic mega-talents and sketches out their extraordinary contributions to pop and rock music as well as their failed efforts. Touching on civil rights, the birth of rock n’ roll and music-biz misogyny, it’s too much to squeeze into one film, but listening to these (mostly) women gracefully tell their stories delivers a whole heap of satisfaction.

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