Screen Queen: My Own Private Idaho, Magic Mike 2

By Chris Azzopardi

My Own Private Idaho

Two years before a drug overdose ended River Phoenix's life in 1993, the dreamboat poeticized a tortured gay street hustler with gutting sorrow in out director Gus Van Sant's groundbreaking queer-cinema classic, "My Own Private Idaho." The actor's piercing eyes and windblown hair were as aesthetically pleasing as Van Sant's languidly shot rural landscapes. The quiet countryside, the time-lapsing clouds. But it's Phoenix's lonely, lived-in performance that, to this day, and especially among those in the LGBT community with intensely emotional connections to the film, is heralded as a spellbinding turn for the then-21-year-old actor. As Mike Waters, he is broken and lost. His mother is gone. The man he loves doesn't love him. And exacerbating his crippled state is his long battle with narcolepsy. Searching for his mother - and himself - Mike sets off on the road with another gay hustler, Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves, also impressive). Their companionship unfolds both beautifully and tragically, most memorably amidst the crackling of a campfire and the sound of a heart breaking. Thanks to Criterion Collection, the Blu-ray debut of "My Own Private Idaho" includes a candid conversation with Van Sant and fellow filmmaker Todd Haynes focusing on various elements of the film and its enduring impact as one of the earliest "New Queer Cinema Movement" films. Also included are a lengthy documentary, an interview with Phoenix's sister Rain and an extensive booklet featuring archival interviews.

Inside Out

Oh, emotions. Those crazy, complicated things that occupy our messy minds - they have lives of their own, don't they? In Pixar's moving new-classic "Inside Out," they even have names: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Since birth, they've occupied Riley's noggin, overseeing every life-changing evolution as she faces those difficult tween years. You know the ones. And during those years, the film's emotions react to a variety of Riley's new surroundings as the once-newborn kisses her youth goodbye and faces her inevitable growing pains. This is a cute, colorful, emotional film - one of Pixar's best. Kids will adore it. It makes important assertions, like, without Sadness we couldn't fully appreciate Joy. But the film resonates on a different, deeper level for adults - for anyone missing that special imaginary friend who embodied childhood innocence. The ones wishing they were still pulling their little red wagon. In those nostalgic memory-laden moments, we are all Riley, and we are all experiencing the full range of misty-eyed emotions as we reflect on letting go and growing up. Among the Blu-ray's two-disc extras: "Lava," the sweet short about two lovestruck volcanos, hand-drawn deleted scenes with commentary, and interviews with voice actresses Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and the wonderful-as-Sadness Phyllis Smith.

Magic Mike 2

Butt floss was sexy before the jockstrap out-sexied it, but the '90s are dead and Sisqo is not popular anymore. So, let's retire the thong, OK? The skivvies the "Magic Mike 2" men don around their you-know-whats in Channing Tatum's cinematic gift to the world should not be a thing. This is an important detail because this is a movie about men who dry hump metal poles. What conceals their bits is a supporting character. And the stripping itself - wait, what stripping? There's hot-and-heavy dancing, to that song "Pony"... in a workshop... with a saw, but rarely do clothes come off. Rarely is there nudity. THIS IS A STRIPPING MOVIE AND THE PEOPLE WANT NAKEDNESS. But whatever. If you have high expectations for "Magic Mike 2," just stick to Sean Cody. This is not your movie. But if you want Joe Manganiello, as Big Dick Richie, giving a not-having-it store clerk a good time with his trusty Cheetos and a bottle of water? Matt Bomer's overdone hippy-dippy character, Ken, sexing up the stage as he sings D'Angelo? The whole hot herd voguing at a drag club? Then get those $20s out. Behind the scenes, we get to meet one very lucky choreographer. Channing Tatum grinds her. You know, just another day on the job.

The Gift

New home. Happy couple. Dog. Shower. In "The Gift," you know inevitable stranger danger looms just around the twisted and twisty corner, each shot a setup for the messy fallout. When Gordo (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote and directed the film) comes into the picture, creepily stopping by unannounced with presents, it's only a matter of time before things go awry. Another shower scene. The dog again. When weird stuff starts happening, Gordo's former classmate, Simon (an intensely serious Jason Bateman), tries to keep his distance, but one by one, the gifts keep coming; Simon's too-nice wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall), though, is charmed by Gordo's weirdness... and the gifts. For a while, anyway. As Gordo's motives become clear, the characters come undone, challenging our initial perceptions and then smashing them to smithereens. The movie's mind bends make Edgerton's film a top-notch thriller, toying with your expectations all the way through that doozy of an ending. It wraps with the highest caliber of '90s-thriller, leave-you-speechless crazy, messing with your mind as much as your moral compass. "The Gift," in all its demented deliciousness, certainly is a gift. Extras include a wisely-changed alternate ending, some deleted scenes and an Edgerton commentary.

Spy

See big woman run. See big woman fall. See big woman try to hop a fence and fail. So funny, right? ... No? Uninspired weight-centric punchlines have been the bread and butter of Melissa McCarthy's IMDB after her "Bridesmaids" breakthrough in 2011, cheapening the actress' natural comic instincts. But leave your Melissa McCarthy hate at the door. "Spy" is a game-changer for McCarthy skeptics, as Paul Feig's sharply scripted comedy gives the actress her best big-screen role yet. Fine with just blending in, McCarthy's Susan Cooper is a frumpy middle-aged CIA analyst with a schoolgirl crush on her hunky partner, Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When she's compelled to step in, Cooper puts on her brave belt and goes undercover, disguising herself in some really hideous costumes, one of which, she jokes, resembles a "homophobic aunt." Laughs don't let up, especially during two of the film's funniest scenes - one on a plane, another at a fancy restaurant - involving McCarthy and her "Bridesmaids" co-star Rose Byrne, who plays Susan's diva-haired nemesis Rayna Boyanov. Luckily, there's no shortage of supplements, with bloopers, alternate scenes, character-centric features, a making-of and extended scenes. The best? Watching Byrne hold it together while McCarthy goes on a wine ramble.

Also Out

Cinderella (2015)

Anyone still grappling with the fact that Angelina Jolie turned Maleficent into a wounded saint in the dreadful film of the same name, fear not. "Cinderella" at least remains faithful to its source, and Cate Blanchett knows not to screw with an evil icon. As the stepmother, Blanchett is masterfully torturous, while the lovable Lily James, as Cinderella, imbues authenticity as she channels the film's two constants: courage and kindness. Helena Bonham Carter also stars, radiating the winsome aura of the Fairy Godmother, "bippity boppity boo" and all. This live-action take on the legendary 1950 "Cinderella" is handsomely rendered and lovingly retold, and if that and Blanchett still aren't doing it for you, there's always the magic happening in the prince's pants. The "Frozen Fever" short is included among a slight collection of extras.

Pitch Perfect 2

Crushed it? Not quite. Even Rebel Wilson, who returns to steal scenes from her co-stars as Fat Amy, can't give this off-pitch sequel enough of that Rebel Wilson-y ridiculousness for the film to achieve the same novel flair of the original. Wilson is fine and funny enough, but the script doesn't hit many high notes. The Aussie fave's only truly die-from-laughing scene? A cheesy showstopper wherein she belts Pat Benatar's "We Belong" on a boat; it ends with a make-out session, a parody of every big, goopy rom-com climax. As for the rest of the Barden Bellas, they're vying for another title, they do "Cups" by the campfire (awww), a new girl joins, Anna Kendrick moves up in the world, the end. When does the third one come out again? Among a plentiful heap of special features: a behind-the-scenes feature with director Elizabeth Banks.

Aladdin

It's true - there won't ever be another "friend like him." As the Genie, Robin Williams wasn't just the wish-making magic behind one of Disney's classics - he was the big, beating heart. Williams' Genie is still one of Disney's most celebrated sidekicks, boosting the fun factor to extremes (even doing drag) as he grants a misunderstood street criminal, Aladdin, three wishes. Naturally, there's a pretty girl, Jasmine. Aladdin pines for her, they sing a song ("A Whole New World" is just as sweet as you remember it), and it's all so enchanting. Supplements include several Genie-centric features, as filmmakers reflect on Williams' "warmth."

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

How's this for a time warp: It's been 40 years since newlyweds Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick) stumbled upon a transvestite scientist's sex chamber in the film version of the 1973 London-produced musical romp. And talk about a "hello from the other side" - things get weird. A queer cast of freewheeling fishnet-clad eccentrics spice up the otherwise spice-less lives of Janet and Brad - and anyone else needing to let their guard and girdle down. Can't get enough of the cult classic's delicious tastelessness? With a feature on the shadow cast craze, along with from-the-vault extras like outtakes and a sing-along (as if you don't already know it by heart), the Blu-ray will rock your world.

Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.
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