March 26, 2007
NEW THIS WEEK:
I Think I Love My Wife
Investment banker Richard Cooper’s (Chris Rock) doldrums are more than just the seven-year itch – he and his wife, Brenda (Gina Torres), have fallen into a companionable but sexless relationship. So when seductive old pal Nikki (Kerry Washington) reappears in his life, the renewed friendship, fraught with sexual tension, creates such a distraction that it threatens his marriage and his job. There are laughs in this uneasy romantic comedy, but only for those who can get past Rock’s evident misogyny and a winking, prurient tone that borders on the sleazy. Torres is extremely sympathetic, and Steve Buscemi adds a hilarious turn as an office lothario. Sadly, neither quality applies to Rock or Washington or their vapid, self-absorbed, and above all, grating characters.
Kinsey Scale: 2 (A queer Saks employee inspires gay panic in Richard. At one point, Brenda is convinced that Richard is having an affair on the “down low” with Buscemi. Washington played lesbians in “She Hate Me” and “The Dead Girl.” Buscemi starred in the pioneering queer drama “Parting Glances” and had a role in “The Laramie Project.” Co-star Edward Herrmann appeared in “Factory Girl” and had a recurring role on “Oz.”)
When Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) wakes up one morning, she discovers that her husband (Julian McMahon) is dead, the victim of an auto accident. But when she wakes the next morning, he’s alive again. In fact, she neither has control over which day of the week she’s living in – one day it’s Saturday, the next it’s Wednesday – nor the ability to piece together the chronological puzzle of events that may be key to going back in time and saving her husband from doom. If that plot sounds too far-fetched to buy for 90 minutes, then it’s best if you sit out this wildly silly yet surprisingly daring bit of stern-faced entertainment. Bullock conveys exactly the right amount of petulance, confusion, and tentative grief the role requires, lending gravity to the outlandish proceedings. Viewers are advised to hang on and just roll with it.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (McMahon stars on the gay-created series “Nip/Tuck.” Co-star Nia Long played a hilariously grumpy lesbian in “The Broken Hearts Club.”)
ALSO IN THEATERS:
Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) invades Greece with an army of untold thousands, while Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) has a contingent of only 300 men. As the two forces battle on a Thermopylae mountain pass, Leonidas exhorts his few to vanquish the Persian hordes and save Greece, believing strategy and heart can beat superior numbers. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which was in turn inspired by history, this action adventure is visually breathtaking – with stunning cinematography and state-of-the-art special effects – and completely vapid. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is worse, and a literal-minded voiceover narration is both intrusive and dumb. The many battles provide the biggest letdown; action scenes that ought to be suspenseful and exciting are instead repetitive, cliched, and dull.
Kinsey Scale: 2 (A homophobic Leonidas is contemptuous of Athenian “boy lovers,” yet his own 300’s well-muscled bodies – clad only in capes, knee-high boots, and what looks like Speedos – suggest a homoerotic subtext that the film never explores. Xerxes’ concubines make more time with each other than they do with the Persian soldiers. Co-star Lena Headey played Piper Perabo’s lover in “Imagine Me & You.”)
Black Snake Moan
Blues-singing farmer Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds a young woman beaten in a ditch and intends to give her medical attention. He changes his mind when he discovers that the woman, nymphomaniac Rae (Christina Ricci), is the town slut, and he chains her to a radiator in his determination to rid her of wickedness. The set-up certainly is striking in writer/director Craig Brewer’s southern-fried melodrama – it’s also repellent, ridiculous, and offensive in its stereotyping of African-American men and objectification of women. Brewer unsuccessfully attempts to offset the prurience by emphasizing Lazarus’ piety, but what resonates is exactly how many ways Brewer finds to degrade Ricci. Jackson turns out to be a fine singer, but that pleasant surprise does not come close to atoning for this film’s sins.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (When Rae’s boyfriend – played by Justin Timberlake – returns unexpectedly after an early discharge from the service, someone suggests it is because he was caught with another man. Ricci has numerous queer credits, most prominently her role as Aileen Wuornos’ girlfriend in “Monster,” and her critically praised performance in “The Opposite of Sex.” Co-star S. Epatha Merkerson appeared in the miniseries “A Girl Thing.”)
Ambitious FBI man Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is transferred by the organization to spy on a veteran agent (Chris Cooper) suspected of selling national security secrets to other countries. O’Neill’s boss (Laura Linney) demands results, while his wife (Caroline Dhavernas) frets about his job’s secretive nature. Meanwhile, the young agent, as he closes in on his target, becomes increasingly disillusioned by the work he’s been assigned. This is a brooding and sometimes blackly comic film, based on a real case. Cooper is especially unnerving as the rogue, guilt-wracked agent. And as the fledgling spy, Phillippe is exactly the kind of blandly handsome actor required to play a man whose job it is not to be noticed, even as he does the most dangerous work of all.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Cooper’s character is a right-wing homophobe who makes antigay remarks. Phillippe played a gay teen on the daytime soap “One Life to Live.” Linney starred in the series of “Tales of the City” films, “The Laramie Project,” and “Kinsey.” Co-star Bruce Davison also has queer credits.)
Bridge to Terabithia
When Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) moves in next door to Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), the dreamy fifth-graders become fast friends. Bullied at school, they create their own kingdom in the woods behind their homes, which they dub Terabithia – a place filled with giants and other fantastic creatures the pair must battle. Based on Katherine Paterson’s 30-year-old, award-winning children’s novel, this family drama celebrates loyalty and friendship, while promoting individuality and creativity among kids. Terabithia and its many monsters come alive through the magic of CGI, but the special effects never distract from the human story. The schoolyard scenes where Leslie and Jesse dodge bullies are truthfully (and painfully) rendered. The two young actors are simply wonderful, bringing warmth, playfulness, and wonder to their roles.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Co-star Zooey Deschanel appeared in the barely seen, semi-queer comedy “Eulogy.” Director Gabor Csupo used to work on “The Simpsons.”)