Some movies focus so much on machismo that they inadvertently end up dripping with homoerotic tension. There are tons of movies that are just one make-out scene away from being a bromantic love story. It's ironic when mainstream movies aimed at gay audiences have leads with no romantic connection, when some movies about straight characters have sexual tension simply oozing off the screen. These "gay straight movies" provide an outlet for gay men looking for characters that resonate with them, a subtext of romantic relationships, and pure, unadulterated man candy.
Writer/director Michael Serrato created this viral video hit, “Rambo, But Gay” which is a musical retelling of the popular Sylvester Stallone classic Rambo. It’s an interesting take on the thin line between the overtly masculine and homoerotic. After all, Rambo spends most of the 1980s films half-naked and oiled up, so they are ripe for parody.
Here are my nominations for the 10 gayest straight movies of all time.
10. Fight Club
Edward Norton deals with his ennui by staring at a super cut-up Brad Pitt and forming a club where men fight shirtless in underground rooms. Helena Bonham Carter gives a great performance of a woman as a drag queen. Last but not least, a bleach-blond cherubic Jared Leto follows around Pitt and Norton.
9. The Covenant
Why not remake The Craft with boys in Speedos? A pre-Friday Night Lights Taylor Kitsch stars in a movie about the descendants of The Salem Witch Trials that happen to all be men. There’s a ton of time spent in the locker room and arguing about power.
Abs, briefs and awesome gold facial piercings pervade this cinematic comic book. From the looks of it, the war between Sparta and the Persian Empire would have ended if both kings just made out.
7. School Ties
Brendan Fraser gets into an exclusive prep school but he has a secret that he can’t let anyone know. It’s because he’s Jewish, but it does mirror what coming out would be like. It’s chock full of 1990s heartthrobs including Chris O’Donnell, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Cole Hauser. And thank you, filmmakers, for the gratuitous nude fight scene between Fraser and Damon.
6. Dude, Where’s My Car?
Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott have tons of bromantic chemistry. They spend the entire movie being chased by Nordic men in leather. The film also includes gratuitous Speedo and shirtless shots, Queer as Folk star Hal Sparks and an intense make-out scene.
5. Magic Mike
Channing Tatum attempts to make this a heartfelt biopic. Instead, it feels more like a campy romp. Matthew McConaughey spends most of the time shirtless and in short shorts, Cody Horn is the female lead with a boyish body and everyone wears a man-thong. Let's also not ignore the gratuitous use of The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men."
5. Staying Alive
A waxed and oiled up John Travolta channels Pat Benatar in this sequel to Saturday Night Fever. He looks like a member of The Village People in his costume and ends the movie with one of the more boyish of his love interests, Jamie Lee Curtis. (Note: we have never believed that rumor about the lovely Ms. Curtis.)
4. The Outsiders
Based on S.E. Hinton’s book about rival gangs, this movie features all the heartthrobs of its time. Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, and Matt Dillon all star in the film. C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio play best friends with a little too many sensitive and longing looks.
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The palpable chemistry between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), plus elves with hair extensions. What more is there to say?
Cruise as a money-hungry gigolo making cocktails. 'Nuff said.
1. Top Gun
This movie invented the genre. Tons of close talking about "riding your tail," a very butch Kelly McGillis, and three simple words - shirtless volleyball game.
Are there any you think should have made the list?
It happens all the time. A friend of yours decides to move out west to pursue other friendships. More profitable friendships—or sometimes ones that he thinks will earn him an Oscar. In any event, you’re left with a vacant spot in your friend group. So what do you do? Well, the natural and healthy thing to do is find someone who matches your friend’s general physicality to some satisfactory degree and hire him on to do everything and anything your friend would do if he was still around. Recasting. It’s a valuable tool.
Tthe above scenario is not quite the way things work in real life, but Hollywood has made this practice its second language. Time and time again, film sequels will lose actors from their original movies—perhaps to conflicts, financial issues, or lack of interest—and will be forced to recast. Sometimes, production invents a new character for the incoming actor or actress. Sometimes, the character remains the same…but just happens to look a little different this time around.
A recent advocate of the recasting strategy is Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. The film is a follow-up to Journey to the Center of the Earth, which starred Brendan Fraser in the leading role. The new film replaces Fraser with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, pitting the wrestler-turned-actor alongside returning player Josh Hutcherson to deliver a family-friendly adventure story.
Of course, the Journey films are just one of many franchises to employ this move. So, the question is: does it work? And, more importantly, what does it say about our society and its devaluation of human beings into expendable and interchangeable tools? Just kidding—nobody cares about that.
More often than not, when major actors are replaced in follow-up films, the results are disappointing. As much as I love Julianne Moore—which is an amount that has bordered on “prohibited by law”—nobody can say that her performance as Clarice Starling in the 2001 film Hannibal lived up to that of Jodie Foster in the 1991 predecessor, The Silence of the Lambs.
There are countless examples. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight. Omar Epps replaced Wesley Snipes in Major League II. Elisabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells in the second and third Back to the Future films (as did Jeffrey Weisman for Crispin Glover…but we weren’t supposed to notice that). And in a much anticipated example, Mark Ruffalo will take on Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk, a role previously embodied Edward Norton, for the upcoming Avengers movie. The Griswold kids are practically shape-shifting aliens.
These replacements manifest varying degrees of positivity. Some people preferred Gyllenhaal’s Rachel Dawes to the character originated by Holmes. Plenty look forward to this new, interesting Ruffalo Hulk. There are plenty who thought Jamie Kennedy totally blew Jim Carrey out of the water with Son of the Mask. So although the whole idea of casting replacement is instinctively met with revulsion in the eyes of the audiences, good things do come from the practice.
For one thing, we are opened up to different interpretations of the same character. Every cinematic Joker we’ve seen has brought something new—something outstanding and lasting. Imagine a world where Sean Connery may still be the iconic James Bond, but Lazenby, Moore and Dalton each infused the character with something new—competing with one another for many individuals’ personal choice of the 007 portrayer. And if you’re going to tell me that Cuba Gooding, Jr., didn’t revolutionize the character of Charlie Hinton in Daddy Day Camp, then we’re just living in two different worlds.
And sequel replacement doesn’t restrict the growth of story to the availability of actors. Actors are notorious for always being involved in other movies, Sudanese expeditions, or medical malpractice lawsuits. So, should a character or story that was always intended for further examination suffer because their original portrayer is suddenly unavailable? Fortunately, we have the old saying: “The show must go on.” Call in the understudy.
I’m sure that we’d all rather see the actors who helped us get to know our favorite characters continue to play them as long as they shall be depicted on screen. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. But the desire to keep these stories going is a good thing. Continued artistic expression despite casting setbacks should be considered a triumph. New interpretations should not be rejected outright. I say, recast everybody!
…except Surf Ninjas. You leave Surf Ninjas alone, Hollywood.
Much as I enjoyed X-Men: First Class Fox’s exuberant prequel/reboot (preboot?) of the fabled Marvel Comics series I was a bit disoriented by its opening sequence in which a Mengele-esque Nazi scientist played by Kevin Bacon attempts to coax a terrified young Erik Lensherr a death camp inmate into demonstrating his newly discovered mutant powers. As the interaction transpires the camera does something odd: It remains static holding its gaze on the characters’ faces affording us the rare treat of being able to scrutinize their expressions without the distraction of rapid-fire cuts or circling dollies or palsy-cams or any of the other myriad tools preferred by Hollywood’s increasingly ADD-addled action directors.
Restraint? In a comic book film? Strange but true. Even stranger is that it comes courtesy of director Matthew Vaughn whose previous comic book adaptation Kick-Ass was so over-adrenalized it should have come with a complimentary shot of insulin. Here Vaughn shows greater confidence in his material his actors and most admirably his audience letting the story hold sway unhindered by gimmicky enhancements. First Class is hardly a throwback mind you – it features all of CGI accoutrements one expects from a proper summer blockbuster – but it has a stylish retro sensibility to it that is as refreshing as it is unexpected.
In fact were it not for all of its superhuman characters one might not be able to tell that it’s based on a comic book. Whilst devising an approach suitable for his film’s early ‘60s Cold War setting Vaughn a Brit clearly found inspiration in his country’s most enduring film franchise. First Class bears far more in common with The Spy Who Loved Me than with any of the previous X-Men installments or any other comic book flicks for that matter and is all the better because of it.
Playing Vaughn’s Stromberg is Bacon whose character has graduated from death camp atrocitier to swaggering supervillain in the intervening years since the war’s end. Ensconced in his underwater lair aboard a well-appointed submarine Sebastian Shaw as he has re-christened himself (only in the comic book world does a fugitive Nazi war criminal choose an alias with the initials “S.S.”) is secretly conspiring to ignite a fatal MAD-provoking nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.
No Bond-inspired film would be complete without a dose of benign sexism embodied ably by Mad Men’s January Jones in the role of Shaw’s right-hand woman Emma Frost. A mutant who can read minds and manifest diamond-plated armor Emma’s greatest gift the filmmakers make abundantly clear is her superhuman rack which when activated turns her into a walking honey trap no soldier or government official can resist. (It’s also the movie's most potent marketing weapon.)
Even our hero Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has got a bit of 007’s DNA in him. Cheeky rakish given to funneling beers and hitting on Oxford co-eds McAvoy’s Xavier is a far cry from Patrick Stewart’s stuffy avuncular version of the character. Though his mutant telepathic abilities are highly developed his human intuition isn’t as he scarcely notices the insecurity metastasizing in his adopted sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) a blue-skinned shape-shifter in desperate need of validation.
She eventually finds that validation in Lensherr (played as an adult by Michael Fassbender) whose cynical view of humanity bred by prolonged exposure to its more sinister aspects places him at odds with Xavier’s vision of peaceful co-existence between mutants and their unenhanced counterparts. Nevertheless Xavier and Lensherr become fast friends and they agree to collaborate in the recruitment and training of a clandestine force of superhumans capable of stopping Shaw. Shortly thereafter the first-ever mutant all-star team is born.
Anyone vaguely familiar with the comic book knows how this relationship turns out. But Vaughn’s fresh approach to the characters and their underlying motivations helps ameliorate some of the predictability of film’s plot and its inevitable resolution. Like Batman Begins First Class is bound to pursue a pre-determined outcome but it makes brief detours here and there that refresh the franchise without jeopardizing its sacred canon. Vaughn takes great care to appease the film's fanboy base without alienating the broader audience. Though I couldn’t care a whit about Torso-Beam Boy Winged Stripper Girl or a handful of other extraneous characters devotees of the comics will no doubt rejoice in the screen time allotted to their respective backstories.
There are a handful of moments when Vaughn’s ambitions exceed his effects budget but for the most part he proves a dexterous purveyor of popcorn theatrics. Some of the best bits including a spectacular sequence in which an anchor tears through the deck of a luxury yacht have been spoiled by the film’s trailers but they still impress when writ large on the big screen. And there are a few surprises in First Class that remain thankfully unspoiled. Better see it quick before the next ad campaign debuts.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
We all know Adolf Hitler did not die as a result of an organized assassination plot against him but this fact does not hinder the enjoyment of watching how that attempt by members of his own Nazi command plays out. Reminiscent of great ‘60s WWII conspiracy thrillers such as 36 Hours and Night of the Generals this film centers on the actions of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) a loyal German officer who nevertheless is horrified by what he sees Hitler doing to his country and is determined to find a way to stop him. In 1942 he tries to persuade senior commanders to overthrow Hitler and later in 1943 while recovering from combat injuries he joins the German Resistance a secretive anti-Hitler group comprised of several men in the highest ranks on the inside. Using Hitler’s own contingency plan labeled Operation Valkyrie to prop up the government should he die this group puts their assassination and take over plan in motion. As the eye patch-wearing SS colonel Tom Cruise is excellent. He comfortably manages to get to the heart of Stauffenberg and portray a man who clearly loves his country and feels it’s a patriotic duty to stop the madness. Wisely Cruise (who produced through his United Artists studio) surrounds himself with actors of the first stripe. Among those supporting the mission are: Kenneth Branagh in a relatively brief turn as an German officer; Bill Nighy as one of von Stauffenberg’s closest allies in the venture; and Eddie Izzard as a communications specialist charged with cutting Hitler’s contact to the rest of Germany. There’s also superb work from Terence Stamp as another high-ranking conspirator and the always great Tom Wilkinson as career officer Fredrick Fromm who seems to be playing all sides despite appearing to be a stern supporter of the Fuhrer. And as Stauffenberg’s loyal wife Carice van Houten (Black Book) looks lovely and hits just the right notes as her husband’s sounding board. Although he has guided big popcorn pictures such as Superman Returns and X-Mens director Bryan Singer has also given us intense thrillers like the Oscar winning Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. So the command he shows in turning out this nifty thriller should come as no surprise. Clearly Singer knows how to grab hold of an audience and keep them on the edge of their seats -- no easy trick here since the outcome is never in doubt. He keeps this going like a speeding train ratcheting up the suspense at every turn and focusing his camera directly into the eyes and sweat of these courageous conspirators. Valkyrie is a pulse-pounding heart-racing excitement from start to finish.
Shedding many of those trappings that make a James Bond movie well a James Bond movie Quantum of Solace is really the first sequel ever in the long-running series. While it’s always exciting something gets seriously shaken and stirred in the translation. Picking up exactly where the brilliant Casino Royale left off we see Bond (Daniel Craig) trying to get to the bottom of why his love Vesper Lynd had to die jumping right into the first of many MANY chases as he traverses six countries. Still on rogue patrol Bond then inadvertently meets the crafty and gorgeous Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who introduces Bond to the evil Dominic Green (Mathieu Amalric) the head of an eco-phony stealth operation angling for some prime desert land while financing a crooked Bolivian general’s planned coup. With the ever resourceful M (Judi Dench) trying to keep him in line at all times Bond must put his revenge plans on hold as he crosses paths not only with Greene and his fake pro-environment front but also the intriguing and mysterious group known as Quantum. In this outing Daniel Craig -- leaner and meaner than any previous Bond -- really becomes a man of single-minded determination and grit. He’s less like the James Bond we know and love and more a humorless killing machine like Jason Bourne (those two should really get together). Still Craig is such a compelling actor that we are with him all the way even if he doesn’t go for the suave Bond moves. Olga Kurylenko is a great foil but not totally in the tradition of a Bond girl. A later encounter with Gemma Arterton as a British agent in Bolivia does however briefly recall the heyday of Goldfinger. Judi Dench has taken the perfunctory role of M and turned it into a full-blown supporting role. Her dry wit and take-no-prisoners attitude is welcomed every time she shows up on screen. French star Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) doesn’t really pull off his villainous alter-ego ecologist while Jeffrey Wright is pretty much wasted as U.S. agent Felix Leiter. At least Giancarlo Giannini returns for some nice moments with his Craig. Although they usually leave the challenging job of steering the Bond ship to an English director oddly this time the baton was handed to Marc Forster known more for his intimate dramas such as Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball. His grip on the action sequences is secure but he never really seems to have a handle on what distinguishes this legendary movie spy from everyone else. There’s a reason Bond has survived as a screen icon for almost half a century but the sort of workman-like filmmaking Forster displays here does not represent 007’s finest hour. It’s almost like the producers had a checklist: car chase on winding roads; boat chase; airplane chase; rooftop chase -- all check. Quantum of Solace is definitely worth checking out however. I mean it IS Bond and we wait for these movies on bated breath. Just maybe next time a little less Bourne please.