Howl — The landmark censorship trial surrounding Allen Ginsberg's masterwork is at the center of this compelling triptych from Academy Award-winning documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. For their first narrative feature the filmmakers interweave a trippy animated interpretation of the poem and a provocative glimpse into the personal life of the poet (a thoroughly believable James Franco), including hookups with fellow Beat icons Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Ginsberg's longtime partner, Peter Orlovsky.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — From the second Gordon Gekko retrieves his oversize 1988 cell phone while making his way out of prison, you get the sense this might just be Oliver Stone’s best work since the first Wall Street.Michael Douglas is still in fine form as the greedy Gekko, and Shia LaBeouf makes an able foil as Jake Moore, who is engaged to his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Oscar nominees Josh Brolin and Frank Langella and Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon provide able support.
You Again — Talk about your dream cast. Kristen Bell might be lovely, but forget about her and her high-school foil for a second. The real draw here is to see Sigourney Weaver lock horns with Jamie Lee Curtis ... and, in a surprise scene near the end, Betty White face off with Cloris Leachman. Though this film focuses a lot of its energy on women’s rivalries, it also brings together some of the strongest, most comically adept actresses in Hollywood for the type of showdown you’ll watch over again on DVD. Kristin Chenoweth cameos.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger — True to form, Woody Allen assembles some big names for his latest film, which also true to form offers an up-close look at relationships ... the good and the bad. Anthony Hopkins is Alfie, suddenly single after leaving his wife and trying to track down what’s become of his youth. His daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is smitten with a local art gallery owner (Antonio Banderas) while her husband (Josh Brolin) obsesses over a beautiful mystery woman (Freida Pinto). Shooting in London, Allen continues to reinvent himself as a decidedly American filmmaker heavily influenced by the sights and tastes of Europe.
Confessions by Liza Minnelli — An album of jazz standards from the veteran entertainer may not be a surprise, but the richness of Minnelli’s voice over the intimate arrangements is certainly a marvel. Accompanied by pianist Billy Stritch, Minnelli gently wrings fresh emotion out of such chestnuts as “I Got Lost in His Arms” and “This Heart of Mine.” For her ardent fans it’s the next best thing to sitting around the piano with the superstar, but it’s also Minnelli’s best studio album since 1989’s Results.
La Cage Aux Folles: New Broadway Cast Recording — Tony award-winner Douglas Hodge may not have the best voice, but his Albin in the remount of La Cage Aux Folles is a revelation, and his performance comes shining through on the cast recording. Kelsey Grammer holds his own as well and boasts a shockingly enjoyable baritone. The top-notch cast does justice to the catchy score, and as it does onstage, “The Best of Times” stands up as one of the great musical theater tunes of all time.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand — Nudity and graphic sex (much of it gay) may have been the initial draw to check out the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but what was billed as a guilty pleasure actually became one of the most visually appealing shows on television. With Andy Whitfield as the titular Spartacus and John Hannah and Lucy Lawless hamming it up as his evil owners, there’s certainly a camp appeal, but just try to not get sucked in. Of course, the mostly naked, ripped bodies don’t hurt, and the fact that so much gay sex happens among the gladiators is a treat. Whitfield, who had to leave the series after one season to seek treatment for cancer, is a huge star in the making.
Get Him to the Greek — Unexpected homoerotic tension between Jonah Hill and Russell Brand is but one of the more outrageously entertaining elements in this unbelievably raunchy spin-off from 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Hill stars as a lowly employee at a record label forced to fly to London to accompany an out-of-control rock star (Brand) to a concert in Los Angeles. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as Hill’s patient girlfriend and Damages’s Rose Byrne as Brand’s equally whacked-out rock star ex are memorable, but it’s Sean Combs, surprisingly, who steals the film with his raucous turn as an egomaniac music mogul.
Just Joan: A Joan Crawford Appreciation by Donna Marie Nowak — The author considers herself the ultimate Joan Crawford fan and has compiled what is surely the ultimate collection of just about everything imaginable related to Crawford. In a breezy, conversational style, Nowak offers an essay on Crawford's predominantly gay fan base and in-depth reviews of her films, television appearances, and biographies, debunks rumors (Crawford wasn't forced to dress in a car while making her final film, the no-budget camp classic Trog), and even creates trivia games and word puzzles focused on the star. (Bear Manor Media, $34.95)
Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone — The two-time Tony award-winning leading lady offers a thrilling, no-holds-barred trip through her incredible career, bookended by opening and closing nights of her triumph in Gypsy. LuPone pulls no punches as she recalls the tension-filled Evita tryouts (the demanding score wreaked havoc on LuPone's vocal cords, and she says the ghost of Eva Peron visited her three times) and her feud with her Life Goes On costar, and is particularly candid as she details her controversial firing from Sunset Boulevard by Andrew Lloyd Webber (she accuses Webber and his Really Useful company of sabotage and feeding negative rumors to the press). It's as juicy a memoir as fans would expect from the fiery and undeniably brilliant LuPone. (Crown Archetype, $25.99)