“BULLDOG”— Teen Angst

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“Bulldog”

Teen Angst

Amos Lassen

“Bulldog” is quite basically a look at how psychological abuse goes hand-in-hand neglect, alienation, and racism. It opens with Sean Kang moving into his new home in Bayside, Queens with his depressed and uncommunicative mother.

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Sean Kang (Vin Kridakorn) is a teen with a volatile personality. During his first day at a new school, he moves slowly and as the day passes we see him doing ordinary things like taking out the garbage. He also worries about his mother of whom he is especially protective.

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He seems to be an average “normal” kid until we see that he is filled with angst and frustration and this comes to us as the day passes (in just seventeen minutes). We soon understand that his father is not around and this has affected the family and caused the family’s seemingly constant moves from place to place.

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Since Sean is Asian he sometimes feels being discriminated against because of that and when that goes had in hand with the alienation that he feels and the pain from his father being gone, it is easy to understand how he has gotten to where he is. There is some hope seen at the end of the film but how this happens among all of the ill feelings is something of a surprise.

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This is not an easy subject to deal with and Benjamin Tran has made a fine filled that is filled with emotion. There is no sugarcoating here and we really see where Sean’s pain comes from.

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“Who Stole My Spear?: How to Be a Man in the 21st Century” by Tim Samuels— “What a Piece of Work is Man”

who stole my spear

Samuels, Tim. “Who Stole My Spear?: How to Be a Man in the 21st Century”, Random House UK , 2016).

“What a Piece of Work is Man”

Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a man? If you have then you know that it is not easy. Just consider that men make up 95% of FTSE CEOs yet 95% of the prison population and then ask why this is true.

Writer Tim Samuels looks at how men live and exist today and then asks the reader if this is the best, the most absurd or the most challenging time to be a man. Men’s bodies have not changed since the days of the cavemen yet the way we work is totally different. Today men have to deal with “corporate culture, lifelong commitment, rampant depression and crazy expectations to be a success at work and home”. Samuels answer this question with humor and brutal honesty as now both males and females ask what is considered normal and certainly want to know how man should be living in this modern world.

As we read we challenge what men and masculinity are all about. There is a great deal to think about while reading this and even more to think about once we close the covers. Samuels examines everything— “war, religion and pornography, to fatherhood and relationships”.

“Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity” by Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman— “Christianity is Inherently Queer”

queer virtue

Edman, Rev. Elizabeth M. “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity”, Beacon Press, 2016.

“Christianity is Inherently Queer”

Amos Lassen

At the very beginning of “Queer Virtue”, Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman writes that “LGBTQ people are a gift to the Church and have the potential to revitalize Christianity”. Edman is an openly lesbian Episcopal priest and professional advocate for LGBTQ justice and has spent her career struggling with the core tenets of her faith. She has reached the conclusion that her queer identity has taught her a great deal about how to be a good Christian than the church.

She says that Christianity, at its scriptural core, challenges its adherents to do away with false binaries that “pit people against one another”. Edman therefore maintains that Christianity is in no way hostile to queer people and that it is inherently queer in itself. By queering Christianity (“disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self”) can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. She moves past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” and gives us a bold alternative: “the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church”.

She further shows how the realities of queer life demand a response of high moral caliber and that queer experience should be celebrated as “inherently valuable, ethically virtuous, and illuminating the sacred”.

Edman takes us to the depths of Christianity as she examines its history, mission, and core theological premises. Using personal examples she shows that being queer can tell people about Christianity and will provide for productive interaction and community building. She shows just how to make this happen. Edman challenges us to look once again at spiritual interconnection, harmony, and progressive inclusion in modern religion.

Edman takes us back to the radical roots of faith, yet shows how relevant its teachings still are. She cites words that we are familiar with (“scandal,” “pride”, “queerness”) and asks us to reconsider their meanings based upon what she writes here. And she writes with elegance and style giving us a great deal to think about.

“HIRED TO KILL”— Not a Regular Fashion Shoot

hired poster

“Hired to Kill”

Not a Regular Fashion Shoot

Amos Lassen

 Quite basically, “Hired to Kill” is about a fashion photographer and seven models who travel to a South American island fortress, ostensibly to do a fashion shoot. In reality, the photographer is a mercenary and their job is to free an imprisoned rebel leader. Nico Mastorakis directed.

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Brian Thompson is Frank Ryan, a mercenary. One day, Thomas (George Kennedy) a government guy contacts him with a new mission: to free (or kill) an imprisoned rebel leader in order to create a revolution in the little republic of Cypra. The president of this banana republic is Michael Bartos (Oliver Reed), a guy with a big moustache and an even bigger appétit for women! Ryan goes under-cover as a gay fashion designer and his team of five female mercenaries is ready to kill.

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Mastorakis delivers a very stylish and slick production which has great cinematography by Andreas Bellis. Once it begins there is a lot of action. There are lots of slow-mo, explosions and a high body count (with lots of blood). Brian Thompson is wonderful with weapons and kills with charm and talent.

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The last half hour is the best, with all its action and mayhem and Oliver Reed is fun to see as the obese dictator. There is even a gay kiss between Ryan and Reed in order to prove that he is a gay man.

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As a mercenary, Frank Ryan he plays by his own rules. But when Thomas approaches him with a new assignment but he is wary. His assignment is to travel to the small country of Cypra and rescue a political prisoner named Rallis (Jose Ferrer). But in order to do this, he must pretend to be a gay fashion designer and have a retinue of seven fashion models. These aren’t ordinary women, they’re all specially trained in the fighting arts. The only real obstacle standing in their way is the president of Cypra, Michael Bartos and his boys.

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Co-written by Kirk Ellis, “Hired to Kill” is a well paced but very by-the-book thriller with few surprises, most of the twists would be quite easy to predict for anyone who has seen a few other genre films.. A few interesting themes do crop up during the storyline, particularly the idea that George Kennedy’s character is controlling revolutions for the highest bidder, but nothing is really developed here and even the one unpredicted twist late on that seems to pose quite a dilemma is left unresolved and simply forgotten by the rather simplistic ending.

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Brand new 2K restoration of the film, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original Stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio Commentary with editor Barry Zetlin
Hired to Direct – a brand new interview with director Nico Mastorakis on the making of Hired to Kill
Undercover Mercenary – a brand new interview with star Brian Thompson
Original Theatrical Trailer
Stills Gallery
Original Screenplay, entitled Freedom or Death (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver

“AS YOU ARE”— Angst and Sexual Identity

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“As You Are”

Angst and Sexual Identity

Amos Lassen

Set in the early 1990’s, “As You Are” is the story of a relationship between three teenagers. That friendship is chronicled through disparate memories brought on by a police investigation. Two young, grungy men, Jack (Owen Campbell) and Mark (Charlie Heaton) meet when their parents so the same. Up until then, Jack had been a loner and Mark was quite a rebel who smoked pot and had problems with authority figures. Mark is the son of Jack’s mother’s (Mary Stuart Masterson) boyfriend, Tom (Scott Cohen). The two boys immediately connect and see that they are both passionate about music. Together they explore the world around them and enjoy getting buzzed with their friend Sarah (Amandla Sternberg). 

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Unexpectedly, Mark and Jack’s close bond becomes sexual. The comfort they found with each other becomes physical intimacy that begins with their sharing a kiss or laying on each other delicately. Their friendship is fractured when their parents split up causing the boys’ unspoken intimacy to simply hang and wait for the next move.

“As You Are” is quite an accomplishment for director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. This is first feature film and it something of a mystery and at first we do not realize what we are seeing apart from an early shot of two people walking in the forest, followed by a gunshot. We wait to see what this is all about and this tension holds us as the film moves forward.

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We hear the news of Kurt Cobain’s death over a car radio just as the central character does and we feel his anger, pain and solitude, the themes that are reflected in many of Cobain’s songs. This announcement also lets us know the time the movie takes place and echoes the themes that we see here.

The film also looks at the “confused tangle of friendship, love and desire with atmosphere, intimacy and a lingering sense of outsider yearning”. Owen Campbell’s Jack is a skateboarding high school loner who doesn’t fit any of the approved small-town molds and he is played with a quiet need that is hard to show. As Mark, the rebellious son of a macho disciplinarian, Charlie Heaton’s shows a dangerous charisma and vulnerability. often evokes the young River Phoenix. Amandla Stenberg’s Sarah shows an understated fragility as the trio’s most grounded member. We watch the two boys as they attempt to comprehend their feelings for each other. Both are in desperate need of guidance and understanding from their elders but they only get hostility and narrow-mindedness. We see what it is like when people are unable to expressive themselves and say what they mean.

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Alongside the coming of age story is a mystery about somebody’s supposed death. Every once and a while we see Detective Erickson (John Scurti) interrogating another character connected to the case. At first, the audience thinks that they know exactly were this subplot is going but the film cleverly keeps us guessing, however, working up to a harrowing climax and a final destination many won’t anticipate. We deal equally with finding acceptance. and the importance of communication. It’s never made completely clear is Jack and Mark are gay. That’s largely because neither boy feels safe discussing their feelings with each other or anyone else. Since nobody listens to their desires for supervision, Jack and Mark set out on a rocky road that appears bound to end in tragedy.

“MR. PREDICTABLE”— An Israeli Romantic Comedy

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“MR. PREDICTABLE”

An Israeli Romantic Comedy

Amos Lassen

Adi’s father died when Adi was five years old. Before his death, his father made his son that he would be a good boy, help his mother and be responsible.

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Adi kept his promise: he helped more than enough at home, at kindergarten, at school, in the military, in his marriage and he became the most thoughtful man you can imagine. In reality, Adi became a “sucker” who was exploited by his mother, his wife, his son, his boss and nearly everyone he ever met.

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This changes when Adi meets Natalia – a sweet, young, wild dog walker who entices Adi into a life full of emotions, passion and romance. Now Adi has to choose between love and reason, between dreams and reality and between Natalia and his family. To find out what he does, you will have to see the film.

THE GOD CELLS”— Harvesting Stem Cells

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“THE GOD CELLS”

Harvesting Stem Cells

Amos Lassen

“The God Cells” looks at one of the most controversial and polarizing subjects facing mankind today: the harvesting of stem cells from aborted fetuses to be used for therapeutic use. In the United States, this clinical practice fetal stem cell therapy is illegal in the United States, yet research toward seeking FDA-approval has been underway now for more than a decade.

Scientific advances coupled with consumer demand has proven that stem cell therapy is the wave of the future, and will change the face of medicine. We are taken on a journey by following those who are seeking fetal stem cell therapy abroad as they avoid the roadblocks in the United States. 

The technology of harvesting stem cells faces enormous religious opposition, but commercial and regulatory agencies wish to slow down the approval process for fetal stem cells due to profit and market reasons thus creating an atmosphere for a seemingly insurmountable dilemma. The documentary follows patients from all walks of life who sought fetal stem cells for a variety of reasons that include Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Lupus and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. We see and hear interviews with some of the patients’ doctors, who were once highly skeptical, but now stand stunned by the full remissions their patients have achieved due to fetal stem cells. 

The film looks at the issues of religious conflict, scientific controversy, and a message that could bring down the pharmaceutical industry itself: because any patient with any ailment can seek this therapy; and any group with the proper resources can provide it. The film provides hope for those who once thought their declining health situation was hopeless. 

Sometimes a scientific discovery enters society that is both controversial and directly conflicts with both the currently held scientific beliefs and the profit structure of that system within the medical industry as this does. This film shows just how important it is for us to be aware of the situation.

“THE PGW: PROFESSIONAL GAY WRESTLING: SEASON ONE”— On and Off the Mat

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“The PGW: Professional Gay Wrestling: Season One”

On and Off the Mat

Amos Lassen

“The PGW: Professional Gay Wrestling” is the FIRST All-Gay Pro Wrestling Federation Series that acknowledges and represents openly gay men (and possibly Lesbians) in pro wrestling and sports entertainment! It is modeled after the classic late-night wrestling shows of the 70’s and 80’s. You might consider this a very gay version of the WWE! Season one is made up of six episodes of two matches with interviews and filmed story-lines that contain soap opera style plots and sub-plots. The series is at times outrageous and dramatic both I and out of the ring. There are none of the typical pro wrestling stereotypes. Instead, we get gay issues, representation, humor, drama and visibility in each half hour episode. For whatever reason, gay men seem to be drawn to professional wrestling yet they have been rejected by it and often openly laughed at. For some, I think it probably has to do with the formation of gay identity and sexual awakening (although I cannot find a reason for this) and with the PGW they are allowed the openness that was not always there.

“All Good Children” by Donna Ingram—- A Different World

all good children

Ingram, Donna. “All Good Children”, Lethe Press, 2016.

A Different World

Amos Lassen

Jordan Fontaine has been told by everyone not to about her “Liaison” that is coming for a visit. It seems that said liaison has the job of providing Jordan and her brothers (who are not human) with bodies has become an object of manipulation by someone else. Jordan does not yet know it but she will be pulled into a revolutionary coup in this world of women being bred like animals as a way to continue the race.

If this all seems quite foreign to you, it is because even after reading it, remains foreign and hard to understand to me. I understand that author Donna Ingram has written an alien invasion novel for young adults here but for whatever reason I just could not get into it. This is probably because I do not read science fiction and have always had a rough time with it. I finally realized that Jordan’s world is one in which children are drafted by Earth’s alien overlords to become either cattle or experimental subjects. When she and her brothers are selected, she begins a rigorous training program that leads her to come to terms with the horror around her. She will not accept this and lashes out to those above her and it was not until she became involved in somewhat dangerous activity that she is really able to fight back. Ingram writes about an apocalyptic world that is intense and even has aspects that we recognize in our own world today. This is a story about personal struggles and how to deal with that one does not want to be a part of.

 

“THE MISANDRISTS”— The Expected Unexpected from Bruce LaBruce

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“THE MISANDRISTS”

The Expected Unexpected from Bruce LaBruce

Amos Lassen

What I have always loved about Bruce Labruce’s film is that he surprises us every time and usually by daring to go where others dasn’t (it’s a good word). The word is out on his new film, “The Misandrists”, and we hear that it is a look at feminist rage with lesbian terrorists. The movie is currently being filmed in Berlin with plans to have it ready to be sold at the Cannes Film Festival, one of the biggest and most prestigious markets for new film.

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\ stars Susanne Sachsse, who has featured in several of LaBruce’s films, including “Raspberry Reich,” which I now understand is considered the prequel to “The Misandrists.”

“The Misandrists” are a “secret cell of feminist terrorists that is planning to liberate women, overthrow the patriarchy, and usher in a new female world order. The group is led by Big Mother (Sachsse), who operates a school for wayward girls in the countryside as a front for her terrorist cell.

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When a young man, a radical leftist, who is running from the police, happens upon this remote female stronghold, one of the girls takes pity on him and hides him in the basement. His presence eventually disrupts the household and reveals a number of unexpected secrets, as the film moves towards its climax”.

For those of you keeping count, this is Labruce’s10th feature film and is produced by Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion. “Bruce’s new film promises to be a fun and important commentary on feminism. In a new teaser trailer, we see that Labruce has been kidnapped and is at the mercy of the ruthless Female Liberation Army, a gang of lesbian feminist terrorists who make up the cast of his latest film. The film is meant to be a companion piece to “The Raspberry Reich”, a somewhat pornographic tale inspired by the Baader-Meinhof Gang of German leftists who held businessman Hanns Martin Schleyer captive in 1977.

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The movie’s plot “sounds like all your softcore, B-movie exploitation dreams come true (a countryside school for wayward girls is actually a front for the FLA terrorist cell, with the film’s climax revealing a new style of lesbian propaganda porn”.  LaBruce is tapping into the rage that women feel every day with this film. “It is something like “Big Momma’s House” but with more lesbian terrorism and less Martin Lawrence”.

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If you have seen his other films, you know that this isn’t BLaB’s first foray into the eccentric and bizarre. After starting in the queer punk zine scene in the 80s and debuting his first film in 1991, “No Skin Off My Ass”, (starring LaBruce himself as a lonely hairdresser who falls for a skinhead) his directorial work has blended pornography and art to cover everything from BDSM and prostitution to amputee fetishism and zombie sex. “The Raspberry Reich” was a satire of the radical left that followed a terrorist group coercing others into joining “the homosexual intifada,” which is coincidentally the same way we got recruited by the gay agenda.