Feb 26, 2022

"Pan": Transphobic Prequel to the "Peter Pan" Mythos


Last night for Movie Night we saw Pan (2015), a rehash of the Peter Pan mythos in which Peter and Captain Hook are friends.  It was...not good.

We begin with the interminable adventures of 12-year old Peter (Levi Miller, left, recent photo)  and his bff Nibs (Lewis MacDougall), residents of a horribly chched Victorian orphanage in London during the World War II blitz.  All of the evil, abusive nuns have masculine names -- director Joe Wright really dislikes androgyny. 

Peter and Nibs wonder why boys keep disappearing in the middle of the night -- turns out that pirates are dropping through the roof and abducting them, with no one noticing their screams.  One night they get Peter and the other boys, but Nibs escapes: "Friends forever!" Peter calls.  So the movie will end with the now grown-up Nibs adopting Peter?

The pirate ship flies through space to what is apparently a gas giant planet, with bubbles of water and air containing Earth-style habitats: an intriguing feature that is never developed.  One of the habitats contains Neverland, where Blackbeard -- yes, the real-life pirate who died in 1716 -- channels Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and leads the  kidnapped orphans in Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  Where are Joel and the bots when you need them?

He and his crew of evil drag queens -- director Joe Wright really, really hates androgyny -- have kidnapped thousands of orphans from all over the world and various historic eras to work in his mines. Why orphans?   They're mining for fairy dust, or pixum, because Blackbeard needs it to continue to stay alive.


Peter meets an adult orphan, Hook (Garrett Hedlund, channeling Han Solo but dressed as Indiana Jones).  He's been working in the mines "forever."  Different historic eras -- could Hook be the adult Nibs?

They escape with the help of Sam Smiegal, aka Smee, a devious, sneaky, underhanded South Asian stereotype named after Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, and head into Neverland, where Peter will fulfill an "ancient prophecy": the Chosen One, a boy who can fly, will kill Blackbeard and liberate the fairies. Just how long has Blackbeard been mining in Neverland?

But first they have to stop in a Native village and meet Tiger Lily, their white leader (Rooney Mara channeling Princess Leia).  Hook drools and pants, while Tiger Lily calls him "arrogant" (that is, sexy).  All three escape together, so they can meet a giant crocodile (foreshadowing) and some mermaids (more panting and drooling).  And on to Tinkerbell.

More boring, nonsensical stuff happens, mostly about Peter struggling to embrace his Chosen One destiny and determining that his mother is dead (although she narrates the first scene). 

 

I'm still trying to figure out why Blackbeard the Pirate from the 17th century is singing a Nirvana song from the 1990s with some orphans abducted from 1943.    Later he sings "Blitzkreig Bop," from 1976, which has nothing to do with the Blitzkreig of World War II.

We end up with Hook, Tiger Lily, and Peter flying back to London to pick up Nibs and returning to Neverland.  Peter and Nibs hold hands and yell "Friends forever," so there's some gay subtext amid all of Hook's drooling and panting.  But not enough for this movie to be worthwhile.

Left: Nonso Anosie, one of the non-drag queen pirates.

"When I'm 64": A Football Hooligan Comes Out during his Golden Years


 


When I'm 64: Two men of a certain age discover that they want the same things from their golden years: adventure.  Could there be a gay subtext in a geriatric buddy bond?

Scene 1: Am I watching an Amazon preview?  This doesn't seem at all the same movie.  The elderly Ray (Paul Freeman) enters a bar, and is greeted by a group of gangsters discussing past violence.  About 20 of them rush out to chase someone -- a rival gang member?  -- screaming and brandishing bats.   Ray and his mate Billy "One Punch" join them, but can't run well because of their age.  They discuss retiring from the hired thug business, but they're needed.  

(Left: not the right Paul Freeman, but who cares?)

They meet the rival gang in the street, and there's a gigantic brawl, everyone punching and kicking and beating each other.  The police in riot gear intervene.  

Cut to Jim at a swimming pool by himself, on the high dive. He's afraid to jump, but he promised himself that he would try new things before he dies.  Whew, I needed a break after all that violence.

Scene 2:  Ray and his friends at lunch, discussing the battle.  It wasn't like the old days -- then, there was some real bloodshed!  And we used to be able to smoke and drink all we wanted.  Now we have to watch our diets.  Plot dump: it's been eight year since Ray's wife died.  There's always a dead wife, but this time I'll give it a pass because Ray is old.   And he works as a taxi driver.


Cut to Jim (Alun Armstrong), who is retiring from his job as Latin teacher at a boys' school at the "ripe old age of 65."  Plot dump: he's been there his whole life, since the War (what war was Britain fighting in 1982?)    After an assembly in his honor, he heads out, and is picked up by his cab -- driven by Ray!  He has Ray drive him to a medical clinic.

(Left: Alun Armstrong, back in the day.  Were we ever that young?)



Scene 3:
Ray washing his car.  Whoops -- his last fare left his jacket, and his Bucket List ("see the world; fall in love").   Cut to Sunday brunch with Ray and his bickering, unpleasant children and grandchildren: Chiefly his son, Little Ray (Jason Flemying), who is married to Kaz.  There's also a daughter and son-in-law, who barely appear again; I can't find them in the IMDB. 

The argument appears to be about Ray adamantly opposing his grandson's admission to Harrow, an elite private school: he''ll forget his working-class roots, turn posh, and learn to hate his grandpa

Scene 4: Ray tracks down Jim at the medical clinic, where he's just gotten a nose job, returns the jacket, and gives him his business card, in case he needs a cab when he's released.  Got a little crush on the wanker?  But I thought you hated the posh lot.

Cut to Ray babysitting while his son and daughter in law pop down to the village for a ruby.  Son suggests that he's too old for the taxi game, and should retire.  Growl, growl, I'm not old!  Later, Ray is at the pub, playing pool with his mates, thinking about his immanent death. Do old people really ruminate on their mortality a lot?  

Suddenly his phone rings.  It's Jim, wanting a ride.  Overjoyed, he springs up and rushes to his car.  

 Scene 5:  Picking up Jim.  They discuss his plan to see the world, starting with Botswana.  But first a couple of weeks with his father -- who is lying on the ground!  They call for an ambulance (free in Britain, $4,000 in America).

Cut to Ray bringing coffee to Jim in hospital.   After sitting with him a bit, Ray goes to visit his grandson.  But Kaz won't let him due to his involvement in the battle in Scene 1: "You're a hooligan again?  If Harrow finds out, they'll drop him from the program!"  A little harsh, innit?  

Scene 6:  Ray picks up Jim at the hospital and brings him home.  Whoops, he forgot  his bag.  Got to go back and return it to him.  Jim, starting to notice the attention, asks Ray to give him driving lessons, but Ray refuses.  (you expect him to leave things in the back of your cab forever?).

Scene 7:  Ray in bed when his grandson drops by to talk about the family squabbles; "I'm not supposed to see you."  

Scene 8:  Ray drops in on Jim in the midst of painting a room (in a tie? without taking anything out of the room first?).  He's so inept that Ray offers to do it.  They have tea.  It seems obvious that working-class Ray is interested in elite, sophisticated Jim.  I'll be awfully upset if either of them gets a girlfriend.

Suddenly Ray asks "Are you a loofter?"  A variant of poofter?  The word is not in any dictionary of British slang.  Jim isn't sure, but "I think I might be." He's not sure, at the age of 65, after 40 years of teaching Latin?  The ancient Romans knew that gay people exist!  Ray is shocked, but he continues drinking his tea.  

Ray and his wife used to have Chinese food every Wednesday.  He hasn't had any since she died, and Jim has never had it, so...

Scene 9:  Chinese restaurant.  Aww...their first date.  

Scene 10: Eager for a change, Jim shaves his moustache and burns all his clothes.  Ray comes by to take him shopping for a new wardrobe.  By the way, you complement someone's outfit by saying "mintos," to which they should respond "not many."  

Uh-oh, Jim grabs Ray's hand.  The homophobe grimaces and rushes in to attack, but stops himself and just rushes away.   He forgets to pay for his new clothes, but rushes out anyway.  

Scene 11: Back home, Little Ray and Kaz wonder where Ray has been the last few weeks, and why he has new clothes.  He must have a girlfriend who's grifting him.  Grr -- of course not!  He storms out.

Scene 12: Jim calls to apologize. "It's ok...just a misunderstanding."  They have a lengthy conversation that seems to last all day.  By nightfall Ray reveals that when he was young, a boy kissed him...and he liked it.  


Scene 13:
They kiss, then take off their clothes.  (Bare chests, no nudity).  Neither has any idea what else to do -- so Jim hasn't been with anyone before?

Dating montage.   They decide to tell Ray's family that they're in a relationship during the big party coming up.

Scene 14:  Little Ray sees the two eating dinner, and is overcome with homophobia: "It's disgusting, sick, horrible!"  Kaz: "Was your relationship with my mother a lie?"  Wait --I thought Kaz was the daughter-in-law, married to Ray's son?   

Ray denies it: "Being gay is disgusting! We were just celebrating beating up a gay person."  He calls and breaks up with Jim.  

Scene 15: Ray being depressed and breaking things.  

Scene 16: Jim shows up at the party to say goodbye: he's fallen in love, so now it's time for the next item on his bucket list, "see the world."  At the last moment, Ray decides to go with him.  

Beefcake: Jim in his underwear.

Brawl:  I think the battle in Scene 1 is about "football hooligans": fans of rival teams try to kill each other.   The deadliest battle in history, after El Salvador and Honduras played for the World Cup in 1969, lasted for 4 days and resulted in over 2,000 deaths.

Coming Out: I can see working-class Ray not knowing that he's bisexual, but Jim never figuring out that he's gay?  As a Latin teacher in London?  

Coming Out:  The "figuring it out" plotline is overused, but I've never seen it with old people before, except on Roseanne in the 1990s.

Homophobia:  This movie premiered in 2004, which may explain the homophobic reactions of the family.  No doubt they would be far more nonchalant about it today.

My Grade: B.  

Feb 25, 2022

February Doldrums, Part 2: Looking for Men on Netflix

 


A couple of days ago, I did my usual run of looking for gay subtexts or gay (male) characters on my streaming services, and came up empty.  Today I'm just looking for a male protagonist.  I don't even care if he has a dead wife; if the protagonist has a penis, I'm in.

Let's check the New Releases on Netflix. 

1. Inventing Anna.  Is Anna an entrepreneur or a con artist?

2. Don't Kill Me.  A girl and her bad boy boyfriend (Rocco Fasano) die of drug overdoses, and then she ends up alone in a zombie-vampire world.  .

3. Tall Girl 2.  A girl faces the horrible bullying that comes from being rich, intelligent, attractive, popular...and tall.


4. Feria
.  Two sisters in Spain discover that their dead parents belonged to a cult. Carlos Scholz (left) appears in eight episodes.

5. Chosen.  A girl investigates the mystery of a meteor that fell in Denmark.

6. Erax: Monstrous creatures cause trouble for a little girl and her aunt.

I swear, I'm not skipping anything except cartoons and documentaries. This is exactly the order in which they are displayed.

7. Through the Window.  A girl falls in love with the boy next door.

8. Devotion: A woman discovers that her husband is having an affair.


9. Home Team:
A coach who has been fired due to a real-life scandal coaches his sports-hating son in football. Male Protagonist!

I finally found one, but it's not something I would ever watch.  About football -- ugh -- starring Kevin James -- ugh -- and produced by Adam Sandler -- ugh. 

Is the football-hating son gay?  Only one review seems to think so, but it's behind a paywall.

10. Honey Girls.  Nuff said.

11. Fistful of Vengeance.  A female assassin.

12. In From the Cold.  An American single mom is exposed as a Russian spy.

13. Heart Shot.  Two girls in love.  Gay representation, but remember, I'm looking for testosterone.

14. Bigbug.  A future housewife must fight androids who stage a coups.

15. Countdown.  A nurse discovers that she has three days to live.


16. Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
  A boy with a limb difference is targeted by the Nazis during World War II. Male Protagonist.

The star, Knox Gibson, is a 14-year old amputee and diversity advocate.  Increasing the awareness of physical diversity is important, but I'm still not watching any movie about a kid targeted by Nazis.  Cast him in a movie where he's a regular high school kid solving a mystery.

17. My Best Friend Anne Frank.  Let me guess -- they both die in a  concentration camp?

18. FramedTwo bumbling tv technicians, played by the famous Sicilian comedy team Salvatore Ficarra and Valentino Picara,  stumble upon a murder.  Male Protagonists!  


19. Finding Ola.  She embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

20. Secrets of Summer.  A competitive wakeboarder at a resort in Argentina.  I already reviewed this.There are some cute guys hanging around, but the protagonist is female.

21. Love Tactics.  A rom-com from Turkey.

22. Transformers.  A 2007 movie misclassified as a "new release," with Shia LaBeouf and The Girl of His Dreams fighting those 1980s toys.  Male and female protagonists don't count.


23. Until Life Do Us Part
.  Not to be confused with the 2020 movie about two 70-year olds with a suicide pact, this is a tv series about a family of wedding planners in Brazil.  Diego Alfonso (left) is in there somewhere, but the protagonist is....a lady.  

24. Fishbowl Wives.  Women in unhappy marriages in Japan decide to cheat.

25. Love and Leashes.  A man and a woman in Korea decide to try S&M.  Male and female protagonists don't count.

26. I Am Georgina.  Of course you are.

27. Anne+: A queer girl moves from Amsterdam to Montreal in search of love.  Gay representation, but no penises.

The results: 3 of 27 had male protagonists.  11%.  The suits at Netflix must think that subscribers are all women in search of empowerment and heterosexual men in search of cheesecake.

Feb 24, 2022

Hap and Leonard: Gay, Black, and Angry in East Texas

I would never in a million years have believed  that Joe R. Lansdale, a writer and martial arts expert who grew up in Gladewater, East Texas and now lives in Nacogdoches, East Texas, would have written a series of novels about two buddies who solve mysteries.

In East Texas. While driving a pickup truck, drinking beer, voting Republican, and listening to Dwight Yoakum and Patsy Cline.

 And one of them is gay.  And not even a swish.

The duo consistso of:

Hap Collins, a working class  guff who served time in prison in the 1960s due to refusing to go to Vietnam.  He's been working at odd jobs, drinking heavily, and pursuing an off-and-on relationship with girlfriend Brett Sawyer ever since.

Leonard Pine, a Vietnam vet, lives with Hap or sometimes Hap-and-Brett, or when he comes into money, Hap lives with him. He's gay and black and very angry. His anger issues cause trouble with his relationships and jobs.

Recently Lansdale discussed why he decided to make Leonard gay: while he was fiddling with the characters, there was a series of murders of gay men across East Texas (wait -- there are gay men in East Texas?), and people generally dismissed them: "it's what they deserved for being gay."  Lansdale had a lot of gay friends, and he was furious.

He had already created the character of Leonard as a tough, angry black man, so why not add being gay to the mix?:  He met a lot of tough, aggressive gay men through his martial arts work, yet all you saw on movies and tv were swishy queens.  Leonard would be unique.

The two first appeared in Savage Season (1990), the cover of which shows a big-breasted woman pointing a gun at you, suggesting that the intended audience is definitely not gay men.   Hap is now 40 years old.  His ex-wife Trudy shows up and enlists the duo to retrive some bank-robbery money from a riverbed.  Her radical leftist group wants to use it to save the whales or something. 

Hap and Leonard are both Republicans, by the way, so they find liberal causes ridiculous.

A gay black Republican!  Leonard must cause quite a stir at GOP meetings.


In Mucho Mojo (1994), Leonard's homophobic uncle dies, and while cleaning out his house, the duo finds a dead child wrapped in child porn buried under the floorboards. They discover that at the time of a local fun festival every year, a child always vanishes.  The book won the British Fantasy Award.



In Two Bear Mambo (1995), Leonard sets fire to a crack house, again, and the duo ends up sparring with the Ku Klux Klan in Florida.  And, finally, Leonard gets a boyfriend, Raul.

In Bad Chili (1997), Raul dumps Leonard for a biker named Horse Dick, who is murdered.  Leonard, of course, is the prime suspect.  Then Raul is murdered, too, and the Duo run afoul of a gangster who sells videotapes of gay-bashing to interested homophobes.

 There are eight more novels, three novellas, and three short story collections. The most recent, The Elephant of Surprise (2019), Leonard has a boyfriend, a cop named Pookie, but he's out of town during the adventure involving rescuing a girl.

Three seasons of a Hap and Leonard tv series, covering the first three novels, are now streaming on Netflix.  James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams star.

In the first episode, Leonard's gayness is referenced frequently.  Hap is asked if they are married, the homophobic uncle makes homophobic jibes, the duo locker-room flirts, and so on.  Leonard's boyfriend Raul (Enrique Murciano) is in the cast list for later.

It's still set in East Texas.

Feb 23, 2022

The February Doldrums: Five Streaming Services, and Nothing But Boys Meeting Girls

Did you ever have a morning where nothing went right?  It's 4:00 am, and I'm doing my usual run-through of Amazon, Netflix, Disney+,  Hulu, and Vudu,  looking for something with gay characters, gay subtexts, or at least some beefcake.

Amazon:

 One Step Behind the Seraphim.  Who wouldn't want to see a Romanian movie about students at a conservative Orthodox seminary?  Romania ranks #25 of 27 European countries on LGBT rights, and 75% of the population oppose same-sex marriage, so there won't be any gay characters.  But an all-boy school -- there must be some gay subtexts.

Scene 1: Gabriel (Stefan Iancu) and his parents walk through all of the corridors of the school to the courtyard, where they join other parents and new students for morning prayer.  The parents introduce him to a boy -- gay subtext time.  Nope -- the boy insults Gabriel for being at the bottom of his class, and moves on.  

I'll just fast-forward.  Whoops -- halfway through Gabriel gets a girlfriend.  They have sex; her naked body is on display. And it's not just "you're trying to have sex to prove that you're straight": they have a long romance.  Next!


Netflix:

UFO: Aspiring musician Deniz falls for a rough motorcyclist.  Deniz is a boy's name, and the motorcyclist must be a boy, too.  But this is a tv series from Turkey, so how could it be a gay romance?  And what does it have to do with UFOs?  

Before I commit to watching -- and having it stuck on my "keep watching" list for the rest of my life -- I conduct some research.  It's difficult because there are any number of movies and tv shows about UFOs set in Turkey, but finally I find the "rough motorcyclist," played by Mert Ramazan Demir, and UFO (2022):

"A four part docu-series exploring our fascination with UFOs."  Huh?  Sounds like a completely different series, but it has the motorcyclist and aspiring musician characters.  Deniz is a girl.


Hulu

The King's Man: "As the world's most dangerous authoritarians and criminals plot destruction, one man forms a spy network to stave off evil."  I don't think they know what "authoritarian" means.  The head spy is played by Ralph Fiennes; there are three men and a woman on his team.  Action-adventure movies almost never have gay characters except for villains, but maybe there are gay subtexts.

The Trailer: Matthew Goode and Djimon Hounsou wrestling with their shirts off.  Also a submarine, World War I, and Rasputin.  It must be set in the early 20th century.  I'll give it a try.

Scene 1: A concentration camp AND a dying wife.  Two absolute deal breakers.  

Reviews: Rasputin is portrayed as gay, and as a deranged, deviant "pervert." A dead wife and extreme homophobia.  Next! 


Disney Plus

Free Guy: A bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers that he is actually a background character in a video game, and decides to change the rules to make himself the hero.  Sounds like The Truman Show.  1,000 to 1 he wins The Girl of His Dreams.

Trailer:  It must be odd to live in a world where car chases and exploding buildings are happening all the time, and your bank gets robbed every day.  

But once he decided to become a hero, he partners with The Girl/  "Is that a glock in your pocket?" she asks, assuming that he is aroused.  "No, it's two glocks."  Ugh!  


Vudu

A last resort -- you don't subscribe, you pay for each movie or tv series separately.

All American Homecoming: A drama set around the HBCU experfience at a fictional college.  I just found out what "homecoming" is: not the last game of the season, a game where alumni are invited "home."  HBCU must have something to do with homecoming festivities.  Yawn.  But there's bound to be some football hunks wandering around the locker room.

Only one episode has dropped so far, with plotlines about one girl trying to "live life on her own terms," another being haunted by her past, and a boy (Peyton Alex Smith) and his coach being thrown "a curve ball" as they try to revitalize the team.  Surely that means a gay player. 

Nope: the curve ball is a threat by admin. to scrap the baseball team.

Turns out that HBCU means "historically black colleges and universities," so one would expect some African-American beefcake, right?  None in the trailer.  But the boy and the girl do fall in love.

It's 5:30 am.  I'm out.  

Feb 22, 2022

Netflix's New "Halloween" Remake: Will a 2022 Michael Myers Be Gay-Positive?

 

A remake of the psycho-slasher classic Halloween (1978) just dropped on Netflix.  The original was heteronormative, but lacked the homophobic slurs common to most 1970s movies.  Since this is a Netflix production, and 2022, I expect a decrease in heteronormativity: maybe some gay teens being slashed along with the horny heterosexuals.  

The 10-year old Michael, a chubby boy with long scraggly hair, is growing up in a hovel, with a squabbling, abusive, foul-mouthed family: a mom who works at a strip club (yes, we see her performing), a stepdad who calls him a "queer" and transgender (both extreme insults), a teenage  sister who accuses him of having sex with his pet rat.  

At school, the bullies also call him various homophobic slurs and accuse his mother of sucking cock.  When he defends himself against the "horrifying accusations," Michael is the one who gets in trouble, naturally.  Also he kills small animals, which is an actual early warning sign of a future serial killer.  (His Stepdad disagrees; he thinks that killing small animals means that Michael is gay.) 

School psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, who has long scraggly hair, suggests institutionalization.  The threat of being locked up plus the constant abuse makes Michael "snap": he puts on a clown mask, and beats the head bully (Daryl Sabara) to death. 



 Then he asks his Mom and sister to take him trick-or-treating for Halloween, but Mom has to work at the strip club (we get a lo--oo--ooo--ng look), and Sis has to have sex with her boyfriend Steven (another lo-oo-ooo-ng look at her breasts).  We also see Boyfriend with the mask that Michael will use for his adult rampage.  

Michael goes trick or treating by himself, eats candy, and then kills Stepdad, Boyfriend (who hasn't actually abused him), and Sister (after a lo-oo-ooo-ng look at her bare butt).  Mom, her hookup, and his baby brother get to live.

Everybody in this movie has long, stringy hair.  The director obviously has a stringiness fetish.

In the sanitarium, which has no other patients, Michael claims to remember nothing of the murders (How do they know he did it?  Maybe Boyfriend killed Sister and Stepdad, and then Michael killed him in self defense.) He spends his time eating cereal, making masks, and evading Dr. Loomis's questions.  Eventually he stops talking, or making any sound, except when he screams while attacking the staff.  At least the girl-boobs and homophobic slurs stop.


Fast forward 15 years.  Mom is dead. and  25-year old Michael (Tyler Mane, left, but unrecognizable)  is still non-verbal and violent, and still obsessed with making masks.  He still has long, straggly hair (barbers have not been invented in this world).  Dr. Loomis, his only friend, is leaving to go on tour for his new book, The Devil's Eyes: The Michael Myers Story, where he claims that all psychopaths are psycho-killers.  Actually, the term is not used anymore, but people with psychotic disorders, about 2% of the population, rarely commit violent acts.  And most serial killers are not psychotic.  You'd think that a psychiatrist would know that.

So Michael bursts his chains, kills some guards, and breaks out of the sanitarium.     


He heads home to Haddonfield, Illinois, to kill a new generation of heterosexual sex-obsessed teenagers with the same names as characters in the original movie.  Played by actors such as Skyler Gisondo (above) as Tommy, and Max Van Ville (left) as Paul.

No gay characters, tons of homophobic slurs, Daryl Sabara is a teenager, and Skyler Gisondo is a little kid.  What's going on?

I didn't realize that there have been many, many movies about Michael Myers.  The latest, Halloween Kills (2018), features a gay couple among Michael's victims (he's not committing a hate crime; he'll kill anyone regardless of sexual identity).  

But this particular Halloween premiered in 2007!  15 years ago!  And it was directed by Rob Zombie, who is apparently obsessed with long, straggly hair, women's boobs, and homophobic slurs.

Wait -- Netflix claimed that it was a new release, which means one of its own productions, premiering in 2022!   I was tricked into watching about 1/3rd of a disgusting piece of boobs-and-queers-obsessed bull crap with a brazen lie!  I'm tempted to cancel my subscription altogether.  
 
My Grade: F- for the movie, F*2 for the deception.

Feb 21, 2022

"Wu Assassins": The Chosen One must Battle the Dark Lords While Fighting Off Cougars

 


Wu Assassins, on Netflix: "An unassuming San Francisco chef" discovers that he is the Chosen One.  Amid all the martial arts action, the trailer shows a girl-on-girl kiss.  I'm more interested in finding out if "unassuming chef" Kai (Iko Uwais) has a heteronormative primary plot: Chosen One Gets the Girl.  And whether he takes his shirt off.

Prologue: San Francisco, Today.  In a dingy apartment hallway, Kai saves an elderly man from some assassins with five minutes of martial arts.  The man asks "Who are you?"  Kai: "I'm a chef."

Scene 1: Yesterday.  Kai is busily chopping vegetables in the restaurant kitchen.  It looks like French nouvelle cuisine, but the staff and patrons are all Cantonese.  His enterprising buddy assures the audience that he's heterosexual, then asks him to quit and buy a food truck (this is a step up from nouvelle cuisine?).  Kai doesn't want to. 

One of the cooks accidentally put peanuts in a dish, so  Manager Tommy drags him out for the customers to yell at and beat up. Kai tries to intervene, but Manager Tommy explains that they are Triad (a Chinese secret society involved in drugs, gun-running, and human trafficking).  Their head is the Dragon Lord, Uncle Six.

Scene 2: Exterior shot of Chinatown as Kai heads home to his dingy by-the-week hotel.  He brings food to the elderly Mr. Young across the hall, and in return gets yuet guk yuen (chrysanthemum tea) for "stagnation": he's stalled in a dead-end chef job; why doesn't he buy a food truck?  Ok, I thought he was constipated. 

Scene 3:  Exterior shots of Chinatown, morning.  Jenny gets coffee, greets everyone in the neighborhood, and heads to work at the restaurant (plot dump; she's the co-owner; Manager Tommy is her brother)..  

The door is ajar; it's been trashed.  Manager Tommy is lying on the floor, bleeding.  He explains that Kai insulted Uncle Six..  So Tommy got beat up?  Jenny wants to call the police or something, but Manager Tommy won't hear of it.


Scene 4: 
 Uncle Six (Byron Mann, left) and his goons arrive at the docks, where two muscular, hooded guys are tied up in their underwear (one black, one Hispanic).  He talks about Little Pete, the first Dragon Lord of Chinatown, who was willing to do anything necessary to protect his territory.  Similarly, Alex McCullough should stay out of his business.  Then he shoots them. Well, at least we got some beefcake.

Scene 5:  At the police station, a blond woman (the one kissing in the trailer) listens to a news report about the gang-style executions.  Plot dump about Alex McCullough: European gang lord, moved to San Francisco six months ago, is impinging on Triad territory.  His henchman Grishna Babakov, even recruiting Triad member Lu Xin.  No wonder Uncle Six is so upset!  Why is a Russian mobster named Alex McCullough?  



The blond woman is Inspector Gavin, borrowed from Vice.  She speaks fluent Russian, so she's going to infiltrate the Alex Cullough gang. Wow, check out Bendix,  the muscle man in the back row (Paul Lazenby), who disapproves of working with a woman.  She counters: "the only thing you got on me is a smaller dick."  He just appears in this episode.

Scene 6:  Kai working in a food truck (he was helping out at the nouvelle cuisine restaurant; this is his full time job).   A customer named Hannah drops by to  flirt and order the dragon shrimp.  His enterprising friend drops by to criticize him for working in a food truck.  Wait -- didn't you want him to work in one yesterday?  They discuss Manager Tommy getting beat up by the Triad.  

Friend: "They're not going to let this go.  You need to protect yourself."  He just tried to intervene when he saw a guy getting beat up.  He didn't even know they were Triad.  Who cares?

Scene 7:  Quitting time.  Just as Kai prepares to drive the food truck home, some Triad goons appear with baseball bats.  Kai beats them off and drives away.  A woman is lying in the street. Not injured -- she was waiting for him!  How did she know he would come by at that exact moment, and not 1,000 other cars?

She gives him the Monk Piece, a glowing piece of metal that "holds the power of 1,000 monks."  Suddenly Kai is zapped to Medieval China! Five armored warriors conjure a water-dragon, which  tries to python Kai to death.   I was wondering when the paranormal stuff would start.  It's started!  

The lady rescues him -- so this was all a cautionary tale?  -- and gives him a long, involved plot dump.  The gist: He's the Chosen One, aka the Wu Assassin, who must kill the five Dark Lords threatening the world.  Each controls an elemental power:  Earth, Water, Metal, Wood, and Fire.  What about Air?  

Scene 8:  Kai awakens on a hospital gurney.  He's had an accident.  Was it all a dream?  But when he looks in the mirror, an ancient Chinese monk looks back!  

Jenny the restaurant co-owner from Scene 3 comes to pick him up, and drives him home, yelling about the peanut thing from Scene 1.   Is she his girlfriend, friend, or aunt?  She looks much older than him...oh, she grabs his hand.  Cougar girlfriend.  No, he pulls his hand away.  Cougar with an unrequited crush.  Mr. Young from aross the hall offers an aphorism: "There's no friendship wihtout love, and no love without friendship."


Scene 9: 
 Lu Xin (Lewis Tan, left), who moved from the Triad to the Russian gang,  flirting with the waitress at a diner. Inspector Gavin from Scene 5 stops by to ask for a job. Gross -- she's eating his french fries and drinking his water!  He rejects her. 

Cut to Kai having coffee.  Still in Chinatown.  Don't you ever go to the Castro?  It's only 10 Muni stops away.  He stops in a temple to pray.  Uncle Six drops in and asks why, since his mother was Muslim, he comes to a Confucian temple so often.  "You taught me."  Wait -- Uncle Six is Kai's foster father?  Then why is the Triad after him?  

Uncle Six brings him to an empty store that could be turned into a restaurant, and offers it to him.  Kai refuses: "I don't need your help."  Uncle Six: "But I brought you to America and raised you as my son."  

Scene 10: The restaurant, busy night.  Manager Tommy and Jenny arguing.  He needs $1,200 to pay his rent; he promises not to use it for drugs.  Isn't he the co-owner of the restaurant?  She hands it over -- in cash.  "You'd better not be fucking with me."  Language, girl!

Scene 11: Kai taking a cable car home. Hey, other people see an ancient Chinese monk, too.  Replay of the fight from Scene 1, except this time he is zapped to the afterlife, where the lady orders him to "Kill them!"  I thought he just had to kill the Dragon Lords.  Does he have to kill every single henchman?

Scene 12: Manager Tommy shooting up heroin, Lu Xin deciding to hire Inspector Gavin after all, Jenny at an underground fight club, Uncle Six yelling at his henchmen for screwing up.  "You were supposed to kill my adopted son, whom I offered a restaurant earlier today!"  He blasts them with fire; they dissolve into ashes. He's one of the Dark Lords! Was this supposed to be a big reveal?  It seems obvious.

Mr. Young, in an ambulance, is still seeing the ancient Chinese monk.  He asks "Who are you?"  "I'm the Wu Assassin."


Beefcake: 
Just the thugs who get killed.

Gay Characters: No one expresses any heterosexual interest except for the two women who flirt with Kai, and Kai's best friend (unnamed, not listed in the IMDB).  But no one expresses any same-sex interest, either. 

Family:  Uncle Six raised Kai and wants to give him a restaurant, but he also wants to kill him over the peanut incident.

Food Trucks: Sometimes working on a food truck is Kai's goal in life, and sometimes it's a dead end.

Manager Tommy: Sometimes an extremely competent manager of a five-star nouvelle cuisine restaurant, sometimes a drugged-out screw up.

Religion: One moment Kai is like "I don't have time for your Confucian nonsense," and the next, he's praying in a Confucian temple.

My Grade: C+

Feb 20, 2022

"In Time": The Ten Minutes of Gay Teases Will Cost You Two Hours

 


In Time
 (2011) evokes a far-future world (with 1990s technology) where aging stops at age 25.  Then you die, unless you can acquire more time.  Jobs pay you in time (e.g., two days for eight hours), and commodities cost units of time (ten minutes for a couple of coffee, an hour for a bus ride).  

You pay or give away time by clasping the person's forearm; there are no security codes of any sort, so any thug can grab you and steal time from your account, or even take it all and kill you. To make matters worse, the amount of time in your account is flashing on your forearm for anyone to see,   How would you like your total net worth visible to everyone, and available for anyone to take?  

There are several time zones based on income level; it costs a year to even enter New Greenwich, the realm of the super-rich, with their mansions and limousines and caviar dinner parties.  But Will (Justin Timberlake) lives in the Dayton Zone, a ghetto where people work long hours just to earn enough time to live another day (yes, I get the metaphor), and there are roving bands of thieves waiting to steal it from them.

Early on, Will's Mom (who of course is his age) tries to set him up with
a girl, but he protests "I don't have time for a girlfriend."  Yeah, I've heard that one before.  Could Will be gay?

After work in the dismal Metropolis factory, Will goes out with his...um buddy or boyfriend Borel  (a rather chunky Johny Galecki from The Big Bang Theory).  At a bar, they encounter the ultra-rich Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer, left), who is flashing time around and ignoring the fawning attention of girls who want to have sex with him in exchange for some hours.  So, he's gay, too?




Flashing big wads of time in the ghetto?  The guy will get killed!  Sure enoough, gang leader Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) and his goons burst in.  Will rushes to the rescue, grabs Hamilton by the arm (by the arm? how romantic!), and takes him to a deserted loft, where they can hide out until morning. Wait -- a boy rescuing a boy instead of a girl?  Unexpected, and hot!  This is going to be a gay romance, with Will and Hamilton taking down the evil empire!

They spend the night together. -- on separate couches, unfortunately.  Hamilton explains that he's 105 years old, and tired of living forever; he was trying to commit suicide by theft (why not give all your time to a charity?).  Also, the system is rigged.  Everybody can't live forever, or there'd be no room for them all.  So the bourgeosie increase the cost of living faster than worker wages; the rich get richer and the poor die.  Workers of the world, unite!  You have nothing to lose but your chains.

In the morning, while Will is still asleep, Hamilton gifts him with a hundred years, then uses his remaining minutes to hide, so Will won't be able to give the years back, and he can die.  Boo!  I thought these guys were going to work together, a gay couple, or at least a gay subtext buddy-bond couple.

Will gambles his newfound century into milennia, then settles down in New Greenwich to take down the evil empire by himself.  Well, not exactly.  As he struts by, The Girl, who looks like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction,  stares at him in open-jawed shock, as if she never thought about sex before but now can't wait to tear off Will's clothes.  The Most Beautiful Man in the World!  Finally she's found the meaning of life -- to stare into His eyes -- or at His crotch -- forever.   Apparently she's a fan of NSYNC, Justin Timberlake's old boy band.


At least they turn the Girl of His Dreams cliche over, letting the girl instead of the boy dissolve into the a pool of hormones.  Unfortunately, once actress Amanda Seyfried mastered the "sex epiphany" look, she decided to use it every time she sees Will, regardless of the situation.

And why does her rather heavy makeup never fade, even after days on the lam, first as hostage and then as girlfriend?

As you can probably guess, after the first ten minutes of gay teases, the movie devolved into a horribly cliched, heterosexist "boy and girl work togethe to take down the evil corporation" plot, and I lost interest.

Even Johnny Galecki the BFF acts like Will's boyfriend for 10 minutes, then turns around and has a wife and kid at home.  Ha-ha, made you think that gay people exist!

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