Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
Tommy Stovall's assured debut, Wolfgang Peterson's IMAX-tacular remake which emphasizes the FX
As Hate Crime begins, the exciting debut from out writer-director-producer Tommy Stovall, the handsome, dark haired Robbie
(Seth Peterson) and his blonde partner Trey (Brian J. Smith, in his screen debut) have been together for six years. They seem to
have it all—they’re classic examples of a Guppie couple with good jobs, a healthy love life, and their share of problems. Trey’s
convinced Robbie to have a commitment ceremony and is harping on kids – something his mother Barbara (Cindy Pickett) would
love. But Robbie’s not sure what the need is for the former and is far from the idea of the latter. The couple live on one of those
nice, tree shaded suburban streets near a park convenient for nightly walks with their dog Phoebe, get along well with their neighbors
and are especially close with one of them, the feisty-funny Kathleen (Lin Shaye).
Things change almost immediately, however, when the hulking (but hunky) Chris (Chad Donella) moves in next door. From the
moment he figures out that his new neighbors are gay he seems to seethe with hatred. Chris’ homophobia is quickly reinforced
when it’s revealed that he’s the son of a stern, fundamentalist preacher, Jerry (Bruce Davison) who shares his views. Things escalate
during a chance encounter between Robbie and Chris who spews out the usual racist “you’re going to hell faggot, read your Bible,
watch your back” nonsense. Not long after, during Phoebe’s nightly walk, Trey is attacked in the park and dies.
Naturally, Robbie implicates Chris who has a seemingly airtight alibi provided by his protective but suspicious mother (Susan
Blakely). The police chief prefers Robbie as a suspect (though a female officer isn’t so sure) and doesn’t seem in any hurry to find
the murderer. Robbie’s grief now turned to rage, he determines to mete out justice to the real killer and the picture moves from a
moving drama to a gripping thriller, very much in the style of In the Bedroom.
The insidiousness of hate crimes inflicted on the GLBT community, ever more prevalent as Republicans have openly appealed to the
fears of their conservative base, are dealt with in very human terms in Stovall’s movie. His script resonates with small but telling
details about the normalcy of the gay couple – the uncle playing computer games with the nephew, the best friend reminding Robbie
about a lunch date, the sister asking about a brother’s commitment ring – while contrasting this normalcy with the resentment and
bigotry in the attitudes of the rigid but supposedly “loving” religious conservatives and the quick resolve to violence and indifference
to hate rhetoric that exists in such intolerance.
The director is also helped by his cinematographer Ian Ellis, an evocative but unobtrusive music score by Ebony Tay (who also sings
a beautiful song over the end credits), and especially by an expert cast of familiar faces beginning with Peterson (from TV’s
“Providence”) whose affable charm is believably turned into helpless rage. The amazing Davison, the soul of compassion 16 years
ago (and Oscar nominated) in the gay themed Longtime Companion, and familiar for Hollywood’s repeated use of him as a villain,
plays yet another one here. But Davison manages to give the character a few shadings. Shaye and Pickett as Trey’s mother are
both compelling as well.
Stovall’s assured and very entertaining picture has been making the rounds of the GLBT festival circuit the last year (it played here
at Reeling in November) and winning a lot of well deserved praise. Enough praise to warrant a theatrical release this week at the
Chicago's Landmark Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark). The film opens a one week run beginning with a benefit screening for
the Gay Liberation Network (formerly the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network) on Thursday at 7pm. Seth Peterson, Tommy Stovall and the
film’s music composer, singer-songwriter Ebony Tay (who will perform), will be in attendance. A Q&A with audience members follows
the screening. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Landmark’s box office, at Specialty Video (3221 N. Broadway or 5307 N.
Clark) or by phoning 773-509-4949. www.landmarktheatres.com
Everything about Poseidon, the remake of a certain 1972 junk food disaster movie that stands at the summit of Mt. Camp, is
sleeker, bigger, crisper and brighter than the original. Beginning with the ship itself – instead of a couple of decks, we have six or
seven, as our zippy little prologue shows us in quick detail. There’s no Christmas tree in the ballroom to climb after the rogue wave
hits but there are gigantic chandeliers aplenty (rented from the warehouse that stores all the Phantom of the Opera leftovers?) – and
lots more besides. “Boy is this gonna be fun when it flips!” I thought to myself in giddy anticipation and it certainly is. In this
version we get to see all those levels going topsy-turvy, a flash fire take out half the crew, drownings galore, and the passengers
tumbling head over heels on every deck. But without many characters to focus on before or during this expert moment of special
effects, it has the effect of happening in a vacuum. One appreciates the accomplishment but it doesn’t resonate.
Unlike its progenitor, there’s no Red Buttons as a nebbish haberdasher, no cleavage barring, tough talking Stella Stevens bickering
with Ernest Borgnine in his pink tuxedo shirt, no hot pants wearing Carol Lynley warbling “there’s got to be a morning after,” and
saddest, no corpulent Shelley Winters complaining, “A fat lady can’t climb.” There are still junky characters galore – headed by the
suave Paul Newman look-a-like Josh Lucas as a professional gambler – enough to satisfy every moviegoers taste – including Richard
Dreyfuss (returning to open seas 30 years after Jaws) as a gay Jew who wears a big diamond stud in his ear and exclaims “Oy!”
when he sees the rogue wave a comin’.
There is also, I am happy to report, plenty of dumb dumb dialogue (Immigrant stowaway to young ingénue: I feel like I know your
dad. Young ingénue: He was mayor of New York for a while when I was a kid. Immigrant stowaway: Cool). But this Poseidon
doesn't waste much time on tinny asides or character back story, front story or in-between story. This is a Wolfgang (Airforce One,
The Perfect Storm, Troy) Peterson movie where action reigns supreme and pacing is all. He does not dawdle and one reaches the end
of the line much faster than all those decks – and the expected twists and turns – would have predicted. Though this Poseidon is a
quick, fun start to the summer movie action regatta it does not seem as likely a bet for camp enshrinement that its predecessor has
become 30 years on. Nor is it likely to inspire parody musicals like the brilliant one that David Cerda penned for Chicago's Hand Bag
Productions a few years back.
But who knows? When I sat in back of the theatre in 1972 (in the smoking section!) and watched The Poseidon Adventure for the first
time there was nothing funny or campy about it either. That only came years later – a lot of “morning afters” later.
Additional Note: I booked passage on a return voyage when the film was given an advance screening at the local IMAX. I
STRONGLY recommend seeing the film in this venue as the special effects, the best thing about this remake, are stunning on the
giant IMAX screen. A truly IMAX-tacular experience!
Expanded Edition of 5-10-06 Knight at the Movies/Windy City Times Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.