Oct 22, 2022

"Vanishing on 7th Street": One of the Biggest Bombs in Cinema History

Vanishing on 7th Street
 showed up on my Hulu recommendations. The trailer depicted everyone in the world disappearing except for Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, the Love Interest, and her young son.  Wait -- two guys, one girl.  Will the one who doesn't get the girl be coded as gay?   I'm interested in mysterious disappearances, so I'll give it a shot.

Scene 1: John Leguizamo is working as a film projector, wearing one of those miner's headlamps so he can work in the dark.  He is reading about mysterious disapparances through history, like the lost colony of Roanoke, which left the clue "Croatoan."  What a coincidence! He leaves his booth to demonstate that he's not gay by flirting with a girl, then returns.  Suddenly the power goes out!  He stumbles out into the movie lobby -- no one around, just piles of clothes.  Everyone was zapped away naked.  Is it the Rapture?  A collision with a parallel world?  A joke?  "Alan Funt's going to pop out any minute," he says, a reference only viewers over age 70 will catch. 

A cute security guard (Arthur Cartwright) was also Left Behind.  He and John walk through the mall with flashlights, but suddenly he vanishes, too, leaving only clothes.  Too bad we don't see them naked as they zap away.

Scene 2:  Love Interest wandering through a hospital where everyone has also vanished, leaving clothes.  A man was left behind in the midst of surgery, his chest open.  He awakens -- and vanishes!

Scene 3: Hayden Christensen awakens in his bed in a room full of Valentine's Day stuff, red candles flickering, and calls for his girlfriend/wife to establish that he's not gay. She's gone. A picture tells us who they are: a news team, Paige and Luke.  Ok, a heterosexual-only post-Apocalypse.  Darn!  I'll keep watching on the off chance that other survivors will be gay-coded.   Besides, the mysterious disappearances...

He notices that the power is out, and his cell phone isn't working.  Wouldn't they continue to work automatically, for a while?  Nevertheless, he puts on his snazzy business suit and walks down the 1,000 stairs to the lobby of his snazzy building, and into the street.  Piles of clothes and crashed cars everywhere!  An airplane falls out of the sky behind him. It's been flying on auto-pilot since last night?  

Scene 4:  Into the news office.  Wait -- Luke was celebrating Valentine's Day, but there's Christmas stuff everywhere, and it's warm enough to go outside without a coat, in Detroit. What month is this?  He calls for girlfriend Paige, and heads to her office -- we zoom in to a picture of Paige, her husband, and her kid.  So she was having an affair with Luke.

He looks through his desk and finds a photo of him with his ex-girlfriend or dead wife, and gets all verklempt.  Everyone in the world has vanished, and you're bothered by a photo of an ex?   We see a shadow gradually enveloping the photo.  Stylistic effect, or is something taking all of the images of humans, too?

Scene 5:  72 hours later, night.  A person jogging with a flashlight, face hidden by a hoodie.  A shadowy being lurks by a hot dog stand, but dissipates. They take  refuge in a car and start to drink, when a man accosts them: "I need a light!  All I have is a cigarette lighter!"   Jogger ignores him, and he is vanished by one of the shadowy beings.

Jogger scavenges in the cars for food and weapons -- try a grocery store, dude.  A little girl survivor stares at them.  They jog to Sonny's Bar on 7th Street, where the lights are still on.  No one inside, just piles of clothes, some carefully arranged, not at all like they would look if you zapped out of them.

Scene 6:
Surprise!  The jogger is Luke!  How is that a surprise?   He gets drunk while looking at the bar photos of atom bombs exploding.  Weird bar decor.  He follows a noise into the basement -- full of survivalist supplies -- and is accosted by James (Jacob Latimore), a young boy with a gun. 

After some posturing, he explains that his mother worked as a bartender here, so she knew about the survivalist supplies.  She's out now, investigating a light in a church nearby. Were you trying to attract survivors by leaving the lights on?  If so, why the gun?

Luke points out that people keep vanishing, so chances are Mom is not coming back.  They need to get out of the city.  What for?  Will the countryside be different?  And by the way, the sun is rising later and setting earlier every day.  Soon it will always be night.

Wait -- how can the shadow beings do that?  If they make the Earth spin more slowly, it would result in longer days and nights.  If they change the angle of the Earth's rotation, it would result in perpetual night in one hemisphere and perpetual day...did no one thnk this through?

A crazy lady comes in, searching for her baby (The Love Interest from Scene 2).  There's a gun on the pool table, but she doesn't see it until the idiot Luke says "Don't point that gun at me!"  Then she threatens to shoot them unless they give back her baby.

Scene 7:  Leguizamo from Scene 1 lying on the ground with a severe head injury.  Meanwhile, we flashback to Crazy Lady being a non-crazy doctor or nurse, smiling at the babies in maternity, sneaking out for a cigarette -- when the lights go out!  Then running home to check on the pile of clothes that was her husband, and the vanished baby. 

Got it -- the survivors all had other lights on when the power went out -- a headlamp, candles, a cigarette.  But the moment they are immersed in darkness, the shadow beings vanish them.

Back in the bar, Crazy Lady gets a drink of water and un-crazifies.  They hear Leguizamo calling for help, and go out to fetch him. 

The gang's all here, and identified as heterosexual except for the prepubescent James, so I'm out.  I'll just fast-forward to see if anything interesting happens.

 Beefcake: None.

Luke's Ex-Wife/Affair with Paige: What sounded like a major plot arc is never mentioned again. Why include it?

Explanation of What's Going On: No.

Finding a Way to Fight Back: No.

Heterosexism:  James meets a girl.  They ride off into the sunset together (so to speak).  Granted, she is only nine years old to his 12 1/2, but it still provides a heterosexist conclusion to an awful dreck of a movie.

Bomb: $22,000 in the U.S., $1,000,000 overseas, on a budget of $10,000,000.  Only to appear on recommendation lists on streaming services, to lure in unsuspecting Hayden Christensen fans.

My Grade: H (two grades lower than an F)

Prisma (Prism): Italian Teen-Dream Twins, One Gay/Nonbinary/Trans, and the Second A Series of the Season

, an Italian teen drama on Amazon Prime, features identical twins who "approach life in a very different way."  It's labeled LGBTQ, so here goes.  The episodes are named after colors: #1 is "Red."

Scene 1: A party in the town square. Andrea (Mattia Carrano, right) and his two buds are encouraging his twin brother, Marco (also Mattia),  to go talk to a girl he likes. That's quite a large cheering squad. He approaches in slow motion, while her hair blows in the wind, Girl of His Dreams-style.   The three buddies look on eagerly.  But before he can inch his way across the square, Dream Girl is called away. Opportunity lost! 

Scene 2: Later, at the bar, Andrea approaches Carola, the Girl of Marco's Dreams, and flirts with her -- as Marco!  Then he returns to his friends and reports that he has broken the ice for his brother.  This upsets Marco, who storms out.

Scene 3: Four months earlier. Andrea enters the very elegant house and sees smashed crystal and blood on the floor.  Something is wrong!  He rushes into the basement to find Marco with a torn and bleeding arm, nearly unconscious from blood loss. "We have to get you to the hospital!"  

Now:  Andrea comes home from the party, climbs into bed, and texts someone named "His Highness."  An online boyfriend?  Marco comes in, pouting, and insists that he apologize (some beefcake as he gets undressed). 

Plot dump; tomorrow they will be starting at separate schools, as Marco will be going to the next level, but Andrea is a screw-up and has to repeat the year. This is supposed to be LGBTQ-themed.  We've established that Marco is hetero. That leaves Andrea?

Scene 4: Breakfast with the twins' dad and preteen sister.  Andrea gets a phone call; Dad won't believe that it's from a friend: probably he's still dealing drugs. 

Andrea goes to his new school, and enters a classroom full of girls. The sole boy, Fabio (Vittorio Aisa),  aka Snuggles, is thrilled to see another boy.  Yeah, girls are gross.  Andre snubs him and sits by the window.  A girl comes in late. Andrea stares.

Flashback to Andrea and the girl -- Nina -- dating, making out, cooking together.  Wait -- he has an arm injury.  Is this Marco?  I can't really tell them apart.  Then Andrea/Marco catches her in bed with another girl, and dumps her.  That must be the LGBTQ part.

Now he glares angrily at her. How dare she be enrolled in the same school as me?  

Scene 5:  Marco's Dream Girl complains about Andrea pretending to be his brother at the party last night.   "He's the worst...arrogant!" Uh-oh, that's a sure sign that she's into him.  She invites Andrea/Marco's Lesbian Ex  to hang out with her and her boyfriend, Daniele.  But no one else -- Boyfriend Daniele is so hot that she only trusts him around girls who don't like boys.

Scene 6:
Two bullies burst into the locker room, where Lucio (Pietro Sparvoli) is drawing a picture of a dick.  They film him and threaten to tell his sister (is this supposed to imply that he's gay?). then dance.  

The morose Marco interrupts them.   Wearing a swimsuit -- nice bulge.  They don't believe that he can still swim fast after his arm injury, so he offers to prove it.

Scene 7: 
 Marco and one of the bullies in a swim match.  Hey, it's Daniele (Lorenzo Zurzola), Dream Girl's boyfriend.  Small world.  OMG, an even more impressive bulge! Nice chest, too.  I can see why Dream Girl keeps him on a short leash. 

The swim coach yells at Marco -- he's not supposed to be swimming yet.  He's still recovering from his arm injury.

Scene 8:  Andrea walking through a marijuana greenhouse.  He offers to buy some plants for 210 euros, then texts His Highness about the deal. So a drug customer, not a boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Dream Girl Carola chats with Boyfriend Daniele.  He kisses her on the cheeks instead of the mouth, which upsets her, then rushes off.  Maybe Daniele is not into girls.  He was dancing with his fellow bully earlier.

Carola sees a newspaper article about Marco being a great swimmer, and thinks "Maybe I should give him a try.  After all, he likes girls."  She greets him as he passes: "I didn't know that you swam!"  Wait -- if her boyfriend is a swimmer, she must go to all the matches, so she must have heard his name a lot.  "So, want to make out?"

Scene 9:
Andrea going to a decrepit shack on the beach.  The heavily tattooed Vittorio (famous singer LXX Blood) invites him in.  "The others aren't here yet.  While we're waiting, do you want to make out?"  Just kidding -- he said "Want to listen to our new rap song?"

The "others" are Dream Girl's Boyfriend Daniele and his fellow bully, Ilo! 

 During the drug deal, they refer to Daniele's  online girlfriend, No One Knows Me Like, as a "munter" (ugly person).  So he's straight, just not into Dream Girl because of the Munter.   He counters: "She's sent me a lot of photos, but no face shots.  So how do you know that she is ugly?"  "Why else would she hide her face?" 

Five Months Earlier: Everyone at school chases Andrea down the hallway.  He ducks into the bathroom and flushes his marijuana down the toilet.  He's busted anyway, and fails the school year and has to repeat.  "Why do you need to make money this way?" the Headmaster asks.  Andrea won't answer.

Now: Andrea goes home and opens a package he got in the mail.  It contains a  a rather dowdy lady's dress. Somebody give this boy some fashion tips!  He puts it on and gazes longingly at himself in the mirror.   So he's selling drugs so he can afford lady's clothes?  Are they that expensive?

He takes a selfie, with his face blocked off, and sends it to...you guessed it..,Daniele, the boyfriend of his brother's Dream Girl!  He's the Munter, hiding his face so Daniele won't know that he's a boy, or a trans girl who hasn't transitioned yet.

Scene 10: The twins, their Dad, and three of Dad's friends watching a soccer match.  Women bustle around, offering cake and wine.  Marco texts Andrea and their two other friends that he talked to Dream Girl earlier.  

Then Andrea texts His Highness -- Daniele -- to ask how he liked the photos.  "Fine, but I still want a face shot.  How can I be sure that you're not messing with me? You could be a pervert" (The Italian is: maniac).  "Give me a face shot in two minutes, or I'll block you and report your profile."

What to do?  Andrea sneaks into the bathroom and calls the LGBTQ Helpline, but they're closed.  So he sends a photo of his ex-girlfriend.  Daniele is satisfied.  The end.

Beefcake: Lots of hunky guys in swimsuits.

Other Sights: Exteriors of Latina, about 70 km south of Rome.

Heterosexism: Surprisingly little.  No locker room chatter about boobs.

LGBTQ Characters: 
 Andrea: trans, nonbinary, or a femme gay boy into drag, and interested in Daniele, who seems to like guys. Andrea/Marco's lesbian ex.  Maybe Lucio, who draws dicks on the wall of the boys' locker room.  Plus one of the twins' friends is rather femme, but how will he ever find the time for a centric plotline?

Character Overload:  Marco and Andrea, their two buds, the Dream Girl, the Lesbian Ex-Girlfriend, Daniele, his fellow bully, the head drug buyer, Lucio, two Mean Girls.  You need a diagram to keep all of the connections straight.  Plus seven of the eight episodes feature Leo Rivosecchi as Andrea's confidant from the LGBTQ Help Line.

My Grade A-

Update: Andrea comes out to friends and his dad, but we never hear the conversation, so we don't know his gender identity.  Does he end up with Daniele?  Also unclear.  But we do get a good shot of Daniele's bare butt.

Oct 21, 2022

Beefcake and Bonding in British Boys' Annuals

From the 1930s through the 1980s, British boys spent Christmas day unwrapping and reading "annuals," thick hardback books with stories and pictures derived from weekly story papers: Hotspur, Champion, Knockout, Perfect Book for Boys, Best Book for Boys, dozens of titles.

There were also annuals for girls and children, but the boys' annuals were notable for two reasons.

1. Shirtless and semi-nude covers and interior illustrations.  Hundreds of muscular teenage boys and men on display, many more than in the American adventure boys series.

They were playing sports, camping, fighting monsters. They were alone and in pairs.  Their muscles glistened in the Christmas firelight.

2. The stories inside did not involve the dating, romances, and overall girl-craziness that obsessed American teen stories in the 1950s and 1960s. They were about boys meeting, being rescued by, and establishing permanent relations with other boys and men.

For instance, in a story in Monster Book for Boys ("monster" means "big"), sixteen-year old Keith is living quietly on a farm in Devon, longing for “companionship and fun,” when he stumbles upon Count Max Von Staubnitz, “a pleasant-looking, rather dandified young man" (i.e., he's gay).  

After an acquaintanceship lasting less than five minutes, the Count invites Keith to come along on his quest to retrieve a secret formula from enemy agents, resulting in many last-minute rescues and many opportunities to praise Keith’s “youthful muscles” and “muscles like steel" (i.e., he thinks that Keith is hot).  Then, when the crisis is resolved, the Count, blushing and stammering like a shy schoolboy, invites Keith to live on his estate in Central Europe (i.e., he wants a permanent partner, not just a fling). 

Unfortunately, you couldn't get them in the United States, so I didn't know that they existed until I was grown up and browsing on ebay.

But gay British boys certainly had an advantage.  While their American cousins were making do with comic book advertisements and Jolly Green Giant commercials, they could gaze at the real deal.

Oct 18, 2022

The Top Ten Hunks of "The Walking Dead," Final Season


I gave up on The Walking Dead around Season 9, when the communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside, established by survivors of the zombie apocalypse and various human baddies, were threatened by yet another weird demagogue.  In Season 11, they appear to be running afoul of the Commonwealth, an Ohio community of 40,000 that has retained many aspects of life before, like coffee shops and Halloween celebrations.  Of course, it's totalitarian.  And there's a bevy of new hunks in the cast.

Bear in mind that I have never heard of any of these actors, and a keyword search on Google Images often yields other people.  Don't cry if a photo doesn't really depict your best friend; not one reader in a thousand will know the difference, and beefcake is beefcake.

1. Michael James Shaw (top photo)
as Michael Mercer, a general in the Commonwealth militia.  Hey, they have last names now.  For nine seasons, they went with first names only, and struggled to not repeat among the hundreds of named characters.

2. Josh Hamilton as Lance Hornsby, the deputy governor of the Communwealth, and no doubt a snively villain.

3. Jackson Pace
as Gage (see what I mean about struggling not to repeat names)?  He's a resident of Alexandria (one of the good guys) who is upset over the death of his friends in the Whisperer War.

Whisperers were humans who lived among the zombies and wanted to kill all the humans who didn't.

4. Gustavo Gomez,
who apparently likes girls, as Marco, a supply runner at Hilltop (another of the good guy colonies).

5. Okea Eme-Akwari as Elijah, leader of the Wardens, who used to wander around, helping communities.  Then they joined Alexandria.

6. James Devoti as Cole, one of the Wardens.

7. Jacob Young as Deaver, one of the Reapers, a religious-type cult that preys on communities, rushing in, killing everyone, and taking their supplies.

8. Alex Meraz as Brandon, another Reaper

9. Ian Anthony Dale as Tomi, a resident of the Commonwealth, and the long-lost brother of Yumiko from Alexandria.

10. Cameron Roberts as Tyler, a soldier for the Commonwealth who was dishonorably discharged.

I'm only halfway through the "Commonwealth" cast list, and there's still another community to go.  The Walking Dead hires a lot of hunks.

Oct 16, 2022

"Holy Family": Finally, a Netflix TV Series Gets an "A"


Holy Family (Sagrada Familia), on Netflix, has an icon of two men about to kiss.  I wonder if some algorithm creates these icons just for my demographic. 

Scene 1: A woman giving birth in Melilla, Spain, November 1997  -- caesarian, with blood.  A young man and woman come in to see the baby, and turn into a stained glass window of "The Holy Family"

Scene 2: Madrid, November 1999.  A woman lecturing on the Venus of Willendorf, a 20,000 year old figure of a pregnant woman: "It wasn't a fertility symbol, it was a mother.  Mothers are our protectors.  They have an everlasting bond with their children."  She continues to lecture on the power of mothers' love, while we see several mothers  driving, walking with a baby carriage, unloading a truck, and so on. Finally she calls out Aitana for wearing headphones.  Aitana explains that the lecture is completely irrelevant to the class -- in filmmaking!  

The professor continues with her rant: "How many of you want to be mothers?"  Every girl raises her hand -- except Altana.  

Scene 3: In the park, three mothers (black-hair, blond hair, Afro-Spanish) are discussing the first birthday party of Blondie's kid.  Wait -- he was born in November 1997.  He would be two years old, not one.  Aitana arrives; time to go.  She complains about their lack of a social life, but Blondie points out that her brother had a great social life back in Barcelona --- and you know what happened to him!

Uh-oh, I think the baby is Aitana's.  Blondie is just pretending to be the mother.

Scene 4: Blondie is in her studio, working on a stained glass window, when the phone rings.  She brings a tray of food to a secret room and gives it to a young man -- Abel.  Why can't we see his face?   He wants to know why she locked the door.  "Because you can't go out in the daytime.  Night is much safer."  Why?  Is he a vampire?  Is he the baby's father, and Blondie is hiding the evidence of incest?

Scene 5:  Black-haired woman -- Blanca -- introduces herself and her not-all-there preteen son Lorenzo to the new neighbor, Catarina -- also a mother, with a 4-month old baby -- and her hunky husband Germán (Alex Garcia, top photo). She invites them for coffee and offers to introduce them to her friends.  Social networks form very quickly in Spain.

Scene 6:  The baby is crying.  Aitana and Blondie argue over whether to call him Nico or Hugo.  "In this house, he's Hugo!" Blondie exclaims. Then Aitana criticizes her for throwing him a party.  "Blanca insisted.  I had to say yes to avoid looking suspicious." The mystery thickens.  "By the way, it's night, so you can let Abel out."

Scene 7: Hunky  Germán, jogging at night, collides with the skateboarding Abel, knocking him over.  He helps him up.  They gaze at each other -- love at first sight?  But then Abel gets back on his skateboard and leaves without speaking.

At home, Germán goes through a filing cabinet and retrieves a packet of photos -- of Abel, only younger, with long hair!  So the family is hiding, and German's been looking for them?  

Scene 8:
Blondie flashing back to being trapped inside a burning car. Cut to Aitana in a class on Soviet cinema. Suddenly she rushes out, goes to the auditorium, and obsessively plays the piano.  A piano prodigy in her old life, but not allowed now? A young man (maybe Alvaro Rico?) watches.  She's so good, why isn't she studying music?  She rushes away without answering.   

Scene 9:  At lunch, the three mothers discuss the birthday party.  Now Blondie has to hold it at her house!  The new neighbor, Catarina, joins them, and insults Blondie by thinking that she is the baby's grandmother.  "No, I'm his mother."  Then Aitana, introduced as the au pair.  I thought she was Blondie's daughter.  Maybe they are lying?

Scene 10:  Blondie and Aitana going through newspapers, looking for something, and discussing how the new neighbor is going to be trouble: "I don't trust her."

Scene 11: The Afro-Spanish woman, Alicia, and her husband, Pedro, worried because his letter hasn't arrived yet.  She said something earlier about her husband getting new job, so they're moving? Maybe he hasn't gotten the offer yet?

Meanwhile, Aitana returns to the auditorium, where the young man from Scene 8 -- Marcos --  is playing the piano.   He invites her to a party on Saturday, but she has the baby's birthday party that day.  "Oh, did I say Saturday?  I meant Friday."  Sneaky!

Scene 12:
Abel (Ivan Pellicer?) asleep in his room/cell.  Aitana comes in to play on his computer.  He calls her "Sis."  Whew -- he's not the baby's father.  Or maybe he is. 

"Mom won't let me out during the day.  She's still mad about what happened in Barcelona."  Did he kill somebody?  Then Aitana tells him about a film they saw in class, where people at a dinner party are trapped by some unseen force and can't leave. 

Cut to the birthday party: four moms, two babies (Blondie's and Catarina's), the not-all-there Lorenzo, Aitana, and two husbands (German and Pedro) 

Lorenzo chases a soccer ball into the basement, and ends up at the doorway of Abel's room/cell.  He can hear someone inside, and yells "Who's in there?"  Abel doesn't answer, of course.

Scene 13: Flashback to Melilla, Spain, June, 1999. A woman drops her baby off with the au pair, who takes it strolling.  Suddenly a pickpocket grabs her purse, and she yells at him, taking her eyes off the baby for an instant -- and it's gone.  Hey, I think the pickpocket was in on the baby-kidnapping scam.

Wait -- the "present" is November 1999.  Blondie has a kidnapped baby!  German and his wife must be detectives trying to track him down!

Scene 14:  German jogging at night while Abel skateboards. They chat.  German flirts; Abel is reticent.  Is German trying to get intel, or is he really interested? 

Scene 15:  Back home, Caterina tells German that they're going to need to keep the baby for a few more weeks.  Detectives!  I knew it!   She tries to kiss him, but he moves away -- "No need anymore.  We're done. We've found them all."  He pastes a new name to a board: Gloria (Blondie), Julia, Mariana (Aitana).  Wait -- is Julia Abel?

Meanwhile, the family, Blondie, Aitana, and Abel, sits down to dinner.

Beefcake: None.  

Other Sights:
A lot of exteriors of Madrid.

Gay Characters: Definitely German: he refuses to kiss his "wife," and seems more interested in Abel than his detective work would warrant.  Probably Abel, unless he's Julia in boy disguise. 

Mysteries: Blondie and her crew obviously stole the baby, but why does that require Aitana to not play the piano?  Why is Abel locked up?  What happened in Barcelona? If Abel isn't Julia, then who is she?

My Grade: A.

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