Film/DVD

A Pothead, a Priest, and a Porn Addict

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‘Outing Riley.’ Plus ‘ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway.’ And Classic Celluloid looks at Barbara Stanwick, Burt Lancaster, and four leading ladies.

‘Outing Riley’ explores coming out in a family way

OutingRileyFor his sophomore effort Outing Riley, Pete Jones takes the lead role as the closeted gay brother in a working-class Irish-Catholic family. No stranger to controversy, Jones won the first HBO Project Greenlight reality series with a risky script pitting Catholicism and Judaism against each other in a young Catholic boy’s effort to assure a front-row seat in heaven. Jones did not come off well in the edited versions of the Greenlight series. If there were any instances of whining, temper, or self-pity that did not make it into the finished version of HBO’s version of Survivor, it was only because the program was “edited to fit in the time allotted.” The result was nonetheless a win for Jones as he turned his script into his first feature film, Stolen Summer.

Having survived the Project Greenlight crucible, Pete Jones writes, directs, and stars as Bobby Riley in a surprisingly lighthearted look at the consequences of coming out in a decidedly homophobic family environment. Aided by a sympathetic sister Maggie (Julie R. Pearl), Bobby struggles with his other siblings, a pothead (Nathan Fillion), a priest, and a classically inappropriate porn addict. (Mad TV ‘s Michael McDonald plays his boyfriend.)

Distinguishing Outing Riley from the ever-growing body of coming-out films is the absence of anguish and the straight nature of the film’s writer/director. Perhaps due to the absence of parents in the film, but more likely the absence of a real life experience, Riley’s coming out is more lark than work. The result, though, is not shallow or false, but touching and fun.

2004. From Wolfe Video (www.wolfevideo.com or 1800-GET-WOLFE).

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Broadway Bound
‘ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway’

ShowBusinessNothing in my limited experience of Broadway prepared me for the pain and pleasure of watching four musicals (Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline, or Change, and Taboo) from the 2004 Broadway season go from production to Tony Award ceremony. Although we know who the winners and losers are going in, none of the drama is diminished by this foreknowledge, as the characters are fascinating and our access universal. Foolishly agreeing to be interviewed is a gaggle of New York’s theater critics. They do not come off well. Comparing the sarcastic, self-absorbed Michael Riedel of the New York Post with the sweet-suffering Euan Morton of Taboo is enough to make me rethink this whole criticism business. • From Liberation Entertainment (www.libent.com) and Genius Products. — Review: J.S.

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Tough Gals, Sinewy Muscles, Virginia Mayo…AND MEG RYAN?

Classic celluloid addicts will find much to obsess over in new DVD collections, particularly one devoted to a Hollywood legend who was a very tough lady, and another devoted to an athletic hunk who could swashbuckle and act when Virginia Mayo wasn’t getting in his way….

BStanwyckIn The Sewing Circle, a 1995 book about Hollywood’s “secret” lesbians, author Axel Madsen says of Barbara Stanwyck: “This intensely private, most closeted of independent actresses was a woman of dogged calculation and repressed emotions, at once tough and vulnerable, earthy, instinctive, and sarcastic.” That’s quite a handful of adjectives, but most of them (including maybe “closeted”) will seem appropriate as you view the contents of Barbara Stanwyck: The Signature Collection. The set contains a good (if not exactly signature) sampling of the actress’ film work ranging from 1935’s Annie Oakley to 1954’s Executive Suite. Other titles include My Reputation (1946), East Side, West Side (1949), To Please a Lady (1950), and Jeopardy (1953). Miss Stanwyck is well-matched in the macho department by costars Clark Gable, William Holden, and Ralph Meeker, and there’s at least one future First Lady among the female supporting players, namely Nancy Davis (Reagan), who turns up in 1949’s East Side, West Sid e….

Burt Lancaster began his showbiz career as a circus acrobat, and his athletic prowess was very much on display in some of his early films, notably The Flame and The Arrow (1950), Jim Thorpe—All American (1951), South Sea Woman (1953), and His Majesty O’Keefe (1954), all of which are available in the new Burt Lancaster: The Signature Collection. You also get 1973’s Executive Action, which Leonard Maltin rates “BOMB” in his movie guide. If you prefer muscles and Virginia Mayo over conspiracy theories, stick with the earlier films….

LeadingLadiesLeading Ladies Collection Volume 2 offers a bouquet of entertaining if not exactly classic films starring Joanne Woodward, Sandy Dennis, Susan Hayward, Diane Keaton, Jacqueline Bissett, and Candice Bergen. Alas, it appears they held the Mayo for a later release. Titles herein include I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966), Up the Down Staircase (1967), Rich and Famous (1981), and Shoot the Moon (1982). Can you match the actresses to the films? I’ll give you one hint: Up the Down Staircase sounds like a Diane Keaton film, but really isn’t. Also, can you guess which of these films was the last to be directed by legendary gay director George Cukor and also featured the film debut of Meg Ryan? These and other cosmic mysteries are easily solved by spending a few hours with these girls as they devour scenery, costars, and, in one or two cases, the known universe. … All available from Warner Home Video (www.warnerhome video.com). — Review: Jack Varsi

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