Give or Take

Whatever your entertainment needs, we got your back (and hopefully your mind) with Queerty’s weekly “Culture Club” column with some of the highlights of new releases, streaming shows, classics worth revisiting, and what to drink while you watch.

The Step Out: Death on the Nile

Director Kenneth Branagh, fresh off his Oscar nominations for Belfast returns to big-budget spectacle with this sequel to his Murder On the Orient Express remake. Death on the Nile sees Branagh return to the role of Agatha Christie’s inimitable detective Hercule Poirot. This time out, Poirot joins a Nile river cruise thrown by the wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot) and her new husband, Simon (Armie Hammer). Of course, as with all things Agatha Christie, someone ends up dead, everyone on the boat is a suspect leaving Poirot to solve the case.

Branagh knows how to do spectacle, and more so than even in his Orient Express, Death on the Nile relishes in exotic Egyptian landscapes of crumbling ruins, sand dunes, and 1920s decadence. Viewed on a big screen, it’s eye candy to match any recent superhero fare. Branagh also knows how to get the best out of his actors: Gadot, Tom Bateman, and Emma Mackey all sparkle here.

By now, Christie’s stories have been done to death (excuse the phrase) in movies and television, but Branagh along with writer Michael Green find a way to make this one feel fresh. A romance novelist in the original book becomes a Ma Rainey-like blues singer here, portrayed by Sophie Okonedo in a magnetic, glamorous performance. The movie also adds a healthy dose of romantic tension between Okonedo and Branagh’s characters, which makes the story oddly touching at times. Queer folk manage to get in on the action too in the form of clandestine gay lovers—we’ll not reveal who here, though when the pair get outed, we think you’ll agree they make a perfect couple. Suspenseful, chock with gorgeous vistas and a cast having a ball, we recommend the film to anyone needing a dose of Hollywood glamour, or just a palate cleanse to usual blockbuster fare.

In theaters February 11.

The Spotlight: Grown-ish

Disney+ sitcom Grown-ish has returned for a new season, and this week, we have a special reason to highlight the show. Queer actor Warren Egypt Franklin portrays Des, a genderfluid, queer classmate of Zoey (Yara Shahidi). Des also meets up with Jazz (Chloe Bailey) who wants to take their friendship to the next level. Of course, Jazz also has to feel comfortable dating someone who may show up in pants…or in a fine evening gown for a date. The producers and writers of Grown-ish deserve credit for the matter-of-fact way in which they address Des’ gender identity and personal style. Franklin deserves ample credit too, as he plays his role with sincerity and absence of self-consciousness. He also looks great in a dress, so there’s that.

Streams on Freeform February 11.

The Indie: Give or Take

This indie comedy from director/co-writer Paul Riccio and cowriter/star Jamie Efros arrives on streaming this week, sharing its quirky brand of humor with the masses. Martin (Efros) returns to his family home following the death of his estranged father, Ken. Apart from facing the friends and memories from a youth that feels distant, he also must face Ted (Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz), his late father’s boyfriend who is actually closer in age to Martin. The pair clash over who Ken was as a person—a distant, unemotional father who further alienated his son by coming out late in life? Or was he a misunderstood, loving man ashamed of his sexuality?

Oh, and amid all the domestic crazy, a manic real estate agent (Cheri Oteri) swoops in to persuade Martin to sell the house, which would leave Ted with nowhere to go.

Give or Take offers some big laughs and touching moments thanks in large part to a thoughtful script by Efros and Riccio, and to a terrific supporting performance from Butz. Oteri brings a hearty dose of hilarity too as her parasitic saleswoman, as does young Jaden Walman. Waldman plays a precocious neighbor boy that befriends Martin, and who teaches him how to use a recycle bin as a ISO tank. It’s a delightful character drama and showcase for the cast, which gives us enough reason to suggest you watch.

Opens in New York City and Los Angeles February 11. Available on VOD Feb. 22.

The Art House: The Other Me

Art house auteur David Lynch produced this most peculiar drama arriving on streaming this week. Jim Sturgess stars as Irakli, an architect diagnosed with a degenerative eye disorder. As his sight begins to fail, his marriage to Nutsa (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) hits the rocks, and he becomes ever more desperate. By chance, he meets Nino (Andreja Pejic) a stunning but enigmatic artist who never seems to have left her house. The two form an instant connection, which could very well cost Irakli his sanity…or save it.

Sturgess proves himself once again a dependable interesting actor, and Pejic, who is transgender in real life, gives a compelling, mysterious performance in her most significant role to date. That said, director Giga Agladze makes himself the real star here, using a surrealist mix of visuals to channel Irakli’s fading vision, and his strange attraction to Nino. Quiet but striking, ponderous but well-acted, fans of character dramas and visual symphonies should find plenty to enjoy here.

Available on VOD February 4.

The Legit: Dance on Camera

This week marks the 50th Anniversary of New York’s Dance on Camera festival, a compilation of movies that celebrate dancers and dancing. This year’s entries hail from lands as varied as Turkey, Romania and the US, though our interest piques on the festival’s closing night gala: a special 35mm screening of Bob Fosse’s masterpiece, Cabaret. For the uninformed, it’s not only one of the most innovative films of the 1970s (and features a megawatt performance from Liza Minnelli), but it’s also a film that celebrates queerness to its very core. Come for the dancing, stay for the Cabaret we say.

Runs Feb. 11-14 at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The Spin: Chanel & the Circus “Wake Up”

Revry debuts this experimental “visual album” from queer alt-rockers Chanel & the Circus this week, and not since Fall Out Boy’s The Young Blood Chronicles have we found this much reason to get excited about a concept album/musical film. The story—such as it is—follows a hospital patient (played by the band’s nonbinary lead singer, Chanel) on a hallucinatory journey exploring the nature of reality, love and self-acceptance. Using a wild mix of dancers, circus performers and some classic Los Angeles locations, the album/short film combines surrealism, camp and full-throated punk rock for a bizarre, eye-popping journey in and out of insanity. Our favorite track/scene: the blues-rock number “Baby I’m Yours” which channels 70s glam rock, Rocky Horror and Las Vegas burlesque into a wild, flirty anthem.

Streams February 4 on Revry at 7pm PST.

The Alternative: Revry’s Anti-Superbowl Marathon

Speaking of Revry, anyone wanting to avoid this weekend’s big game should check out the streamer’s comedy marathon, featuring the voices of some of the world’s most noteworthy LGBTQ comics. That includes

  • “Out on Stage” A comedy special hosted by gay standup star Zach Noe Towers;
  • “Gina Yashere: Laughing To America” A standup special featuring the brilliant comedy stylings of the Bob Hearts Abishola star;
  • “Trixie Mattel: Skinny Legend” The Drag Race star and folk musician takes to the stage with some of her own standup;
  • “Bob The Drag Queen: Live at Caroline’s” Another drag icon sharing his observations about life, sex, race and celebrity.

Begins at 1:30 PST on Revry.

The Sip: Hazelnut Espresso Martini

via Shutterstock

Our friends over at SKYY vodka suggested this week’s rather potent libation, a sweet, rich and flavorful cocktail bound to get you to sit up and feel buzzed. Since that’s exactly how we feel whenever watching the Super Bowl, that’s good enough for us.

  • 0.5 part Frangelico

  • 1.5 part SKYY Vodka

  • 1.5 parts Fresh Espresso

  • 0.25 parts Simple Syrup (1:1)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with fresh ice, shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into chilled coupe or martini glass, & garnish with (3) whole coffee beans.

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