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Movies: Sequel Double Feature - ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2’ And ’22 Jump Street’

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BY JOSEPH EHRMAN-DUPRE

Bigger and better must have been on Dreamworks’ mind as they produced How to Train Your Dragon 2, an emotionally rich follow-up to the 2010 original. The new film takes on many of the themes of the last — loyalty and self-worth to name two — and heightens the stakes. The result is a sequel which builds upon the last for the better, adding characters and action but never losing its emotional center.

Dragon1That center rests upon the shoulders and wings of a boy, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless (right). We catch up with the pair free-wheeling in the sky; it has been five years since Hiccup lost his leg in a battle between humans and dragons. No longer to be feared, everyone in Hiccup’s hometown of Berk has a winged-pet of their own, including Astrid (America Ferrera), Hiccup’s girlfriend. 

Back on the ground Hiccup is dealing with news that his father, and Berk’s chief, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), would like for his son to follow in his powerful footsteps. Domestic drama gets put on hold, however, when Astrid and Hiccup run into a crew of professional dragon trappers capturing a horde for Drago Bloodvist’s (Djimon Honsou) dragon army. Determined to convince Drago that dragons are to be loved and respected, not captured and used for human power, Hiccup sets off to find him only to be found himself, by the mysterious Valka (Cate Blanchett, below left).

Dragon2To say more about the relationships between Hiccup, Stoick, Valka’s origins, and the lovable Toothless would be a disservice, but their experiences facing the dragon army of Drago and a new Godzilla-sized threat known as the Alpha form a deep, and often dark, emotional core of the film. At its heart is the notion of power and two opposing views: that it must be captured, and that it must be earned. Suffice it to say that every character comes out changed by what happens and, were we not in an animated universe, therapy would be a must. I was surrounded by children in the theater and while none of them seemed particularly frightened, the moral burden placed on Hiccup by a late-in-the-game twist was undeniably disturbing. 

Like many recent animated studio efforts, then, this is a film for adults as much as (or possibly more than) for younger audiences. However, all viewers will enjoy the lush, colorful animation and flying sequences. Two moments in particular, a dragon-hopping aerial ballet and Valka’s initial appearance through the clouds, combined the mystical pathos and ease of the best Miyazaki films with the furthest reaches of animation technology. Cate Blanchett’s phenomenal voiceover work adds aural stimulation as well, and makes for a tear-jerking moment or two. It all combines to make a sequel which expands upon the world and mythology of dragons while keeping the drama human in the utmost.  

Dragon4*It should be noted that the film has slight intimations of damsel-in-distress gender politics (all the more noticeable after the girl-power Frozen phenomenon) and Drago, an embodiment of pure evil, is problematically the only character of color (voiced by the only actor of color). Of particular representational note for Towleroad readers, though, is the possibility of a gay character in Stoick’s sidekick, Gobber (Craig Ferguson, right). Entertainment Weekly recently asked the film’s openly gay writer/director Dean DeBlois about a scene involving a marital argument in which Gobber remarks “This is why I never married. This and one other reason":

Ferguson ad-libbed the second part of the line, and director Dean DeBlois chose to keep it in. “The nice thing that Craig brought to it is, it’s such a hand-off line that I think for the older members of the audience, it’ll take them a moment to realize, like, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’” says DeBlois. “And then you’re moving on. [The movie] treats it like normalcy, and that’s what I really like about it. Because I’m a gay man, and I don’t draw attention to myself for that reason. It’s just a fact of who I am, and the way the world is, and it’s nice to treat it as just a passing notion that isn’t something that people have to get so up in arms about. I think it makes people chuckle, and in every test screening we’ve had, it’s always gone over really well. I know there are probably a few people whose feathers it will ruffle, but you can’t worry too much about that...”

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is in theaters now.

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Though HTTYD2 merely hints at homosexuality, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 22 Jump Street, starring odd-ball couple Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, revels in it. Not explicitly, of course, and none of the characters say that they are in fact gay. However, this very funny, very self-aware comedy nearly perfects the art of the bromance.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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'Father of the Bride 3' to Feature Gay Wedding

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Father of the Bride 3, for which Steve Martin will return if negotiations prove successful, will feature a gay plot, Nikki Finke reports:

The twist in this threequel is that Little Matty is now 29 and gay and getting married to a Navy SEAL’s son.  Father of the bride George is "thunderstruck and speechless" and has problems with the whole gay thing. So wife Nina kicks him out of the house, according to the pitch which Disney loved. Shyer is writing it with Marc Klein, David Hoberman producing again. "It’s a timely idea," my source said. "I told Charles I just hope it goes forward before gay stops trending…"


Must See Movie: An Interview With the Director of 'Test'

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An amazing dance sequence from "Test" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


ChrisMasonJohnsonTEST may sound like a generic title but the fine new gay indie by that name is anything but. Chris Mason Johnson’s Test follows Frankie (Scott Marlowe) a young gay dancer in San Francisco in 1985. He's the troupe's new understudy. He’s learning a dance he might never get to perform. The threat of AIDS looms large — a female dancer worries about the sweat from her gay partner and reminders are everywhere (papers, graffiti, whispered dialogue). It’s not just the dance; Frankie’s beginning a life he might never get to live. 

He and his dancer friends are varying degrees of worried about AIDS and the topic of a new test for it keeps peppering the conversations. Will Frankie take it?

As it turns out you can make a 1985-set AIDS movie that doesn’t follow the typical beats. The dance environment gives Test a surprising visual appeal but, as the director (pictured left) reminds when we settle into our interview, it’s also not fully an AIDS movie in the way we think of them.

“Every other AIDS movie has been about death and dying, understandably. I think it’s safe to say that [Test] is about the fear of getting sick, it’s not about being sick. It’s just as much about dance as anything else.”

Queer cinema has seen better days so it’s a thrill to see an indie this fresh again that speaks so personally to the LGBT audience. Test is in the top 25 iTunes indie charts and the early success is well deserved.

Sex scenes, masculinity debates, and dancing AFTER THE JUMP

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The Men Of Joe Manganiello's 'La Bare' Show Us How To Body Roll: VIDEO

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Looking to bring a little Magic Mike into your life? Let the male dancers of La Bare in Dallas, Texas, show you how to roll your body like a pro.

The guys are the subject of a new documentary hitting theaters June 27. Produced and directed by True Blood and Magic Mike hunk Joe Manganiello, the film sheds light on the dancers' lives on and off the stage.

Check out their short, shirtless dance lesson, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "The Men Of Joe Manganiello's 'La Bare' Show Us How To Body Roll: VIDEO" »


Kansas GOP Congressional Candidate In Hot Water Over Appearance In LGBT-Themed Movie

Alan LaPolice (right) is challenging incumbent Representative Tim Huelskamp in the Hutchinson, Kansas republican primary, but a film role dredged up from his past has been seen as a source of controversy for some GOP Kansans. LaPolice played what he describes as a "homophobic bigot" in the 2008 release, "The Art of Being Straight." Now, while LaPolice defends his participation in the film, the news is shifting campaign politics toward issues of sexual orientation and away from the issues he believes are most important.

LaPoliceHutchNews.com reports:

“I am very concerned that a candidate for national office would be so out of touch with the deeply held beliefs of a great many Kansans,” said Dennis Blick, chairman of the board for Kansas Family Policy Council, Wichita.

“KFPC believes Kansans deserve candidates of the highest integrity committed to traditional Judeo-Christian values, which have been the bedrock of rural Kansas communities for generations,” Blick said in a press release Tuesday from the KFPC.

Phillip Cosby, director of the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, said in the release that it’s “highly inappropriate” to be “featured in a homosexual movie.”

While right-wing organizations are clearly hung up on the appearance itself (perhaps as some sort of endorsement), it is less clear if LaPolice fears that positive endorsement, or if his role (as a "bigot") is the problematic issue.

In an email response to The News, LaPolice wrote:

“I agree wholeheartedly that Kansans do indeed deserve a candidate of the highest integrity and I firmly believe that I offer this. I have clearly stated that anyone attempting to undermine my candidacy by fixating on a very small movie role from nearly 10 years ago would be guilty of small-minded bigotry and I hold to that. No Kansans are guilty of this.

“As I said, every Kansan I know can easily distinguish between movies and reality. I am concerned that individuals in leadership roles who claim to share my strong family values would confuse acting with advocacy,” he said.

Is the "small-minded bigotry" he refers to homophobia? Was his acting advocating for gay rights/representation, or for bigotry? The message is convoluted, but LaPolice, a straight man with three children, is up front about his 45-second role in the film, and its lack of relevance to his political campaign.

“I am in no way ashamed of anything from my past. I celebrate the strength of my character and every choice I have made for better or worse has made me the man I am today.” LaPolice wrote.

Photo via LaPolice's campaign website.


James Franco and Seth Rogen Have an 'Interview' with Kim Jong-un: VIDEO

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In The Interview, James Franco and Seth Rogen play bromantic tabloid reporters who score an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and travel to Pyongyang in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. But their plans change after the CIA recruits them to assassinate him.

Check out the new trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

The film is in theaters this fall.

Continue reading "James Franco and Seth Rogen Have an 'Interview' with Kim Jong-un: VIDEO" »


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