Jan 24, 2020

"October Faction": Elderly Dad, Gay Son, and Monsters

October Faction: "Monster hunters Fred and Delores tangle with evil -- and family drama."

IMDB specifies that Fred's family includes "a thrill killer, a witch, and a warlock."

Sounds like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Wizards of Waverly Place.  But the title card on Netflix looks creepy and atmospheric, reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's October Country. So I turn on the first episode.

Episode #1: "The Presidio."  Presumably they mean the Presidio in San Francisco.  Maybe there will be some location shots in the Castro.

Scene 1: An extremely elderly, dessicated man is talking on the telephone. I assume he's one of the monsters, maybe a vampire who hasn't had a blood infusion in awhile, like the Barnabas aging to his real 178 years on Dark Shadows.

A much younger woman -- his Renfrew? --  hugs him from behind, and smooches him -- very loud, theatrical, producing a literal "smooch" sound.

Ugh!  Intergenerational vampire-human heterosexism! Next!

Then I read an article about how the teenage son (played by Gabriel Darku, top photo) is "out and proud," so I give it another chance.

Scene 1: The extremely elderly, dessicated man is actually the monster hunter himself, Fred Allen (named after the 1940s radio star?) , played by J.C. MacKenzie, who is actually only 49.  Whoa, I would have guessed 97!  No doubt he'll be getting some age-regenerating treatment, or maybe touch up the portrait hidden in the attic.

Fred and his wife Delores (Tamara Taylor) work for a multinational monster-hunting initiative disguised as an insurance agency.    For the last few monthes they've been living in Osaka with their twin teenage children:

effervescent, pop-culture-quoting Geoff (pronounced "Jeff") and morose "life is unrelenting agony" Wednesday Addams Viv (Maggie Allen).

The phone call brought news of the death of Fred's father, Samuel (what was he, 150?), so the family must go back home to Barrington-on-Hudson (how old money is that?) for the funeral.

Scene 2: Ham-handed exposition in the car ("You're a straight-A student, but you find it difficult to relate to other people, and have no friends.").

Scene 3: They stop for gas and are angrily turned away.  "She isn't welcome here," the owner says, pointing to Delores.  I assume because she's a vampire or sentinel of dark forces or something -- no, she's black.  He doesn't sell gas to black people.  In New England in 2020?  Is that plausible?  It's not all about burning crosses, you know.  How about some nice subtle microaggressions?

Scene 4: Fred's ancestral home is an absurdly huge Gothic mansion, like Collinwood on steroids (yes, this show reminds me a lot of Dark Shadows)) , dank and gloomy, full of horrid, disquieting features like claw marks on the walls and a photograph of President George W. Bush (shudder) shaking hands with his father.

Seeing the old homestead, Fred flashes-back to the Roaring Twenties, or whenever he was a teenager (played by Charles Vandervaart).  He returns from visiting his brother Seth in the city, dazed, bloody, gun in hand, while his parents yell "What happened? Where is Seth?"

Scene 5:  Estate manager Sandra St. Clair (or something snooty like that) doesn't remember Delores from when they were both in high school; therefore, the show screams, she is racist, too.

Class of 1987: Delores must be about 50. I still think Fred is much older. He must have been about 80  when they married.

Scene 6:  Flashback to Fred's parents disapproving of his relationship with Delores because she's black...er, um, not good enough for the Presidio, which I assume is a mystical Skull-and-Bones Illuminati Trilateral Commission responsible for keeping Atlantis off the maps and Martians under wraps.

Scene 7: Back in the present, Fred and Delores start wrapping up the techno-weapons and surveillance equipment, uploading all of Dad's  intel to the New York office, and informing headquarters that Agent Samuel is dead.  The Boss re-assigns them to Oslo, where lots of hot-spots are opening.

Well, that was unexpected.  Apparently the Presidio is the monster-fighting club, and Dad was an agent, too.  Why does it need such top secret spy stuff?

I'm getting bored, so I fast-forward past:

Scene 8: Jawboning about Fred's "complex" relationship with Dad.
Scene 9: The funeral, all rich white people in suits.
Scene 10: At the post-funeral party, Delores runs into her best friend from high school.
Scene 11: Viv tries to break into the clique of snooty local teens, and is rebuffed; one guy rushes off in anger -- racism again?

I'm back for:

Scene 12: Nope.  He's Phil Mishra (Praneet Akilla), the future mayor's son.  Fred introduces them both to Geoff, and they're perfectly nice.  (Wait -- if they've been gone since 1987, how does Fred know Phil?)

Phil says "Swell party, huh?"  When was the last time anyone said "swell"?  1953?

Scene 13:  Fred and Delores head into town to buy more supplies for the post-funeral party.  At a grocery store, they smell sulfur and copper -- a monster is nearby!  And they don't have their monster-fighting gear! So they wing it.

The monster begs for his life: He used to be in advertising (figures).  He wrote the jingle for J Money's Pink Lemonade.  Plus he's got a wife. 

Right, I've heard that a thousand times.  Heterosexist garbage.  I got a wife, I'm worth something, let me go.

But Fred blasts him anyway, and Delores goes after the monster-wife.

Scene 14: Back at the mausoleum...um, I mean mansion..Viv tries to bond with the snooty teens by leading them in a seance to contact Dead Grandpa.

But they barely knew the business associate of their grandparents.  Couldn't she try for someone cool, like James Dean?

Scene 15:  In the kitchen, Geoff and Phil hook up.  I'm glad they didn't wait until episode #8 to out him.

But the blow job ends with the ghost of a 1950s teenager appears.  Seth, no doubt.  He's played by Donald MacLean Jr. (no relation to the guy who sang "American Pie") in all his square-jawed blond Harvard Yard beauty.

Scene 16:  As Viv continues the seance, a young woman with matted hair climbs out of the river.

That was unexpected.

In spite of the ham-handed exposition and grade-school racism-clobbering, there are some intriguing plot twists.  I'll probably keep watching.

Beefcake:  No one unbuttons a button.

Interesting Location Shots:  No.  I don't think they shot a single scene in the picturesque but racist New England town.

Gay Characters: Geoff and Phil.  Maybe Seth, but probably the dead girl is his girlfriend.

My grade:B.

Jan 23, 2020

Ok, Ok, Ok, Here's a Review of "Jet Boy"

An anonymous commentator is very insistent that I review Jet Boy (2001), like five requests so far. He is particularly insistent that I take a look at the star, Branden Nadon, whom he states is "Hot, hot, hot!"

I agree that the 33-year old Canadian actor is quite attractive, but....

Surely anonymous commentator doesn't mean that he was hot in Jet Boy, at age 14!

I do not find 14 year olds attractive. I did when I was 14, which is why there are posts on child actors and teen idols here.  I do not support or condone adult-child relationships.

So here's your review of Jet Boy:

14 year old Nathan lives in Toronto with his heroin-addict mother. He has a "normal" life, going to school and having friends, but he also helps support Mom by hustling in the park. His clients are usually adult men who perv on kids.

This is extremely delicate subject matter, because "guilt by association": if you watch it, film it, or even mention it, people will think you participate in it.  The actor hired to play Nathan's first client nearly ran off the set, until Branden took him aside and advised, "It's not real.  It's just a movie."  You'll jump at the opportunity to play a serial killer, but balk at playing a perv in a car?

When Mom dies of a heroin overdose, the authorities plan on sending him to foster car, so Nathan runs away.  He thinks that he might have a long-lost father in Vancouver. At a diner, he meets drug dealer Boom (Dylan Walsh), who has his own reasons for wanting to leave town.  They go on the road together.

But Boom is not what he seems (Spoiler alert: he's an undercover cop working on busting a drug kingpin.)

Nathan tries to initiate sex with Boom, as the only relationships he knows are sexual, but Boom gently insists on being a father figure. He also introduce Nathan to his ex-girlfriend's son, a boy his own age to hang out with and maybe "like."

Of course, there are complications.  The two argue, Nathan runs away -- after all, he's never known an adult he could trust before.

He ends up on the streets of Vancouver, hustling again  (spoiler alert: Nathan has no father waiting for him; it was just a fantasy).

Then Boom tracks him down, determined to stay in his life, be a father, let him be a kid.

Excellent performances, and the Canadian locales are interesting, but still, the subject matter is rather too discomforting to make for a pleasant viewing experience.

And isn't it exactly the opposite of finding Branden "hot, hot, hot"?

There are several shirtless shots of the 14-year old Branden online.  I'm not going to post any of them.

Jan 22, 2020

Second Chance: Billy Gallo and Matthew Perry

Billy Gallo's most marketable feature was his sexy Brooklyn accent, followed closely by his pretty, androgynous face and impressively muscular physique, which he displayed every chance he got.

Born in 1966, he broke into show biz when Nunzio was being filmed near his house in Brooklyn, and he begged the director for a role.  He spent the mid-1980s played streetwise teenagers in Our Family Honor, The Fall Guy, and Hill Street Blues, but gay teens really began to take notice in the fall of 1987, when the 21-year old starred on the high-concept sitcom Second Chance (1987-88).

The premise: in 2011, Charles Russell (Kiel Martin) dies in a hovercraft accident (I'm sad that we don't have hovercrafts).  St. Peter decrees that since he made all the wrong decisions in life, he must go back to 1987 to mentor his teenage self.

Going undercover as a boarder named "Time," he instantly bonds with the teenage Chazz (pre-Friends Matthew Perry), and finds himself competing with Booch (Billy Gallo), Chazz's best friend who keeps trying to pull him over to the Dark Side.

The Dark Side wins.  It offers hugs from muscular guys in leather vests.  And apples.

Both Booch and Time are obviously smitten with Chazz, and can't keep their hands off him.  The overt homoromantic love triangle astonished gay teens -- and adults.  Everyone in West Hollywood watched, right after The Golden Girls on Saturday nights.

But the intended audience of heterosexual teens didn't.  Granted, the the younger-self crushing on older-self was sort of creepy, so after a few episodes Time vanished, and the series, renamed Boys will Be Boys, was about Booch and Chazz, who moved in together.  Adam Sadowsky and Demian Slade played their friends.

That didn't work either, so in spite of the gushing articles in teen magazines and the endless shirtless and semi-nude photo shoots, the series ended in July 1988.

Matthew Perry went on to fame in Friends.  Billy Gallo continued doing comedy, with recurring roles in Life Goes On and Who's the Boss, and guest shots on Married with Children and Can't Hurry Love, before re-inventing himself as a tough guy with a gay-subtext best friend or brother: Richard Griego in Against the Law (1997), Blair Singer in Fool's Gold (1997), Alexander de Hoyos on an episode of Air America (1999).

Today his production company, Brooklyn Bridge Productions, has released several award-winning crime dramas. He is married with children in real life.

Jan 20, 2020

"Medical Police": "Airplane" Meets "24" in Brazil

Driven pediatrician Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) and her goofball ex-boyfriend, cop turned brain surgeon Owen Maestro (Ron Huebel), work at the Children's Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil (where everyone speaks English all the time).

They are swept into the investigation of a virus outbreak that could be a bioterrorist attack, and accidentally become Medical Police.

I hate "comedies" set in hospitals.  Sorry, life-threatening diseases aren't funny,no matter how many wisecracks you make as you're digging around in someone's body cavity.  Besides, ex-romantic partners?  It's obvious they broke up just to Sam-and-Diane "will they or won't they" through the first season.

But I start watching because the plot synopses has them traveling to Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Latvia, Sudan, China, and Bhutan!  When was the last time you saw a street shot of Bhutan?

Later I discover that Zagreb, Croatia is filling in for most of those countries.

But I keep watching anyway because I am laughing out loud. This is the funniest show I have seen in years, not only in the wisecracks but in the sight gags and situations.

Retired cop now living in Shanghai and running a program to teach underprivileged Chinese kids the art of newspaper cartooning: "I gave up guns when I found out that they hurt people."
Lola: "You didn't know that guns hurt people?"
Retired cop:  "Not until I was shot.  I'm an experiential learner."

Searching for clues to the whereabouts of the mysterious Nicolai, they go to a club he frequents in Latvia. Lola approaches a random girl and asks "Does the name Nicolai mean anything to you?" She responds: "Of course.  It is the the Slavic variation of Nicholas, meaning 'Victorious Leader.'"

The show starts to bog down after Episode 5, when the original bioterrorism threat is averted and a new threat begins. Then the absurdity starts getting old, and there are far too many references to characters and situations from the precursor show Children's Hospital.  Plus they "will they or won't they?" gets a lot more screen time.   But it's a lot of fun up to "I'm going to marry that woman!"

Gay characters:  None identified, but there aren't a lot of references to romantic relationships.  The underground operative Goldfinch (Jason Schwartzman) says that he's getting married, but doesn't specify man or woman.  Maybe he's gay.

Beefcake: Quite a lot, actually.  There are two scenes in waterparks, and another in an senior citizen center where "scrapbooking parties" are actually sex parties.

Plus Owen with a (fake) erection.

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