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: Joe Bell
We first fell for this family drama at TIFF 2020 where it debuted under a different title. Joe Bell tells the true-life story of the titular family man (played by Mark Whalberg) on a crusade to end teen bullying by walking across the United States. His son Jadin (Reid Miller) accompanies him, offering commentary both colorful and combative. Flashbacks reveal why: Joe has never quite taken to the idea of a gay son, even if he puts up a front of support. When tragedy shatters the family, Joe suddenly must face his own prejudices as a father.
Joe Bell succeeds as a drama largely thanks to the sensitive direction of Renaldo Marcus Green, working from a quiet screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (adapters of Brokeback Mountain). Wahlberg delivers a credible performance as an All-American everyman wrestling with his own notions of masculinity and culture while Connie Britton does well with a moving performance as Joe’s wife Lola. The real star here, though, is Miller, who gives a nuanced and powerful performance in a difficult role (in fact, one of his scenes had to be trimmed after TIFF, as it was considered too disturbing). Joe Bell understands the positions of queer kids and their dads, and pleads for a world where parents can do more than just tolerate them. They can love them too.
In theatres July 23.
The Hilarity: Tig Notaro – Drawn
Continuing a triumphant run that has seen her conquer both television (in Star Trek: Discovery) and action films (in Army of the Dead), lesbian comedienne Tig Notaro returns to stand up in her most hysterical special to date. Drawn combines bits from a catalog of Notaro’s stage comedy into a single, all-animated special. As directed by Greg Franklin, the show also uses a variety of animation styles (drawn, NickToons, stop motion, Pixar) to recount envision stories and observations from Notaro’s life. That includes bits about Kool-Aid man, road trips and Eddie Van Halen that had us in stitches. As with all Notaro’s work, a dark undercurrent of pain gives birth to hilarious comedy; not since Richard Pryor has a comic so metabolized tragedy into nonstop laughter. Our favorite bit: a true story about wisdom teeth removal that had us laughing so hard we had to rewind it to make sure we caught the whole thing. 2021 may well prove to be the Year of Tig Notaro, and we’re 100% cool with that.
Streams on HBO Max July 24.
The End of Innocence: Masters of the Universe – Revelation
Ironic gay icon He-Man returns to screens this week in Revelation, a continuation of the original Masters of the Universe cartoon that began back in 1983. That said, be warned: this is not your childhood fantasy.
Revelation picks up not long after the original series left off, with the villainous Skeletor (voiced here by Mark Hamill) launching another attack to conquer Castle Grayskull. Prince Adam/He-Man intervenes to save the day, though this time, he only manages pyrrhic victory: the magic of Grayskull is lost, turning the planet Eternia into an apocalyptic wasteland. Thus begins a quest by He-Man’s friend Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Skeletor’s right-hand woman Evil-Lyn (Lena Heady) to rescue Eternia before it’s too late.
As produced by professional geek Kevin Smith, Masters of the Universe: Revelation dishes up a rich, exciting story, albeit a dour and violent one. We mean that as an observation more than a critique: some fans will, no doubt, love the darker story, while it will leave others wondering how a property for children got so morose. Smith and his writers—especially Tim Sheridan, who contributes the most sensitive and inspired script of the season—don’t hold back when it comes to character deaths, maiming or disease. A clean reboot might have made all this a bit easier to swallow, as well as offered more leeway toward diversifying and reimagining the characters. We also wish the show would have taken a cue from the excellent She-Ra reboot, which didn’t hesitate to queerify the story. Those thoughts aside, we have to applaud the boldness of the show, as well as the excellent voice cast, led by gay favs Gellar & Heady. We’re still not sure how to feel about Revelation overall, though it did impress us with its story and leave us wanting more. It also made us wonder when we can expect Care Bears Battle Meth Addition and Rainbow Brite: Pandemic in Rainbowland.
Streams on Netflix July 23.
The Quickie: Senior Prom
This delightful short film streams on PBS created by lesbian filmmakers director Luisa Conlon and producer Jessica Chermayeff. Senior Prom follows a group of LGBTQ seniors living in Los Angeles who finally have the chance to attend the prom they never had as openly queer people. The seniors in question recount life in the pre-Stonewall closet, offer their memories of fighting for LGBTQ rights, and offer their perspectives on the state of queer equality today. Most of all, they get a chance to celebrate as themselves, dance with same-sex crushes and enjoy a victory lap for a hard-fought life. It does our heart well to see these older folks living happy and free. They more than deserve it.
Streams on PBS.com
The 24-Hour Exclusive: X. ARI’s Anja
Queer songstress X. ARI drops her new EP this week: Anja. And, in a delightful twist, we here at Queerty have landed the full album on a special, 24-hour exclusive stream. Dedicated to hear current girlfriend, the album channels the sound of Imagine Dragons, Goldfrapp, The Breeders, Miley Cyrus and P!nk into radio-ready pop tracks teeming with sensitive, homoerotic lyrics. For X. ARI, the album represents a love letter to her gal pal as well as the broader queer community, in which she has always felt at home. It’s also a coming-out story of sorts—her first music dealing with her own sexual fluidity. Given her strong vocals and rock star attitude, we’re happy to have her on the team.
Streams exclusively on Queerty July 22. Full EP available for purchase July 23.
The Sip: Army of the Dead
In honor of Ms. Notaro’s winning year, and her acclaimed role in Army of the Dead, we offer up this week’s libation: the Army of the Dead. Sweet and savory, we recommend drinking it in moderation–this one is bound to have you feeling zombified.
- 1 1/4 oz. whiskey
- 5 oz. coconut soda
- lemon wheel and mint sprig
Mix whiskey and soda in a highball glass over ice. Add lemon and mint as a garnish.