Written and directed by Jacob Tierney

Strand, opens May 21, Quad

Not the first gay version of the Dickens classic (and I’m not counting Oliver!), Twist focuses on the Artful Dodger—rechristened Dodge (Nick Stahl)—who recruits runaway Oliver (Joshua Close) off the Toronto streets to join his gang of hustler junkies. “He looks like a David,” Dodge tells Fagin the gentile pimp (Gary Farmer). Soon the two boys have their own private Idaho moment, but the emotionally crippled Dodge slams on the brakes. Shut out, Oliver pursues a kind, older john (Stephen McHattie), whose interest in the teen’s provenance hints at Dickens’s deus ex machina. First-timer Jacob Tierney reimagines Toronto as a drab wasteland (punctuated by the hustlers’ incongruously Gappy heroin-chic look) and his penchant for static wide shots renders Twist even bleaker. Stahl plays just one note: anguish. You know things are bad when the most interesting character, the menacing brute Bill Sykes, is never heard or seen on-screen. Jorge Morales


Written and directed by Reverge Anselmo

Samuel Goldwyn, opens May 21

To its credit, Reverge Anselmo’s Stateside presents a hard-to-read affect for its first hour, as drunk-driving prepster Mark Deloach (Jonathan Tucker) becomes a marine to avoid jail time, and falls for his booby-hatched victim’s schizophrenic roommate, onetime musician-actress Dori Lawrence (Rachael Leigh Cook). The heart-on-sleeve dialogue, often impressively ornate, gets a strange, distant delivery, for an intriguing disorientation just this side of bad acting. Anselmo nails a certain kind of early-’80s schoolroom detail, from toggle sweaters to that dreaded grammar enchiridion known as Warriner‘s. Mark’s passage through boot camp, under the watch of a harsh if purposeful Val Kilmer, is of similar anthropological interest. But Stateside‘s real-life frame allows the complexities of mental illness and military service to lose dramatic tension, resulting in a desultory home stretch of group therapy, tears, and reconciliation. Ed Park