The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Middle-aged stock clerk Andy’s (Steve Carell) work buddies vow to hook him up with a woman after they make the shocking discovery that he has never had sex. There is only one hitch in their plan: They may all be experienced, but they are far bigger idiots than shy, action-figure-collecting Andy is when it comes to the opposite sex. This randy, occasionally uproarious comedy is far sweeter than it has any right to be, thanks to Carell’s amiable presence and a warm performance by Catherine Keener as the girl of Andy’s dreams. But when it comes to his friends, there is a nasty undercurrent of misogyny and homophobia that isn’t just grating and unfunny; it’s a boring, epic slog of cheap jokes and sexual panic.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 2 (When Andy’s friends first realize he’s never slept with a woman, they initially assume he’s gay, and they continually question each other’s sexual orientation. There is also an incident involving a transsexual hooker. Keener was bisexual in “Your Friends and Neighbors,” while supporting players Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, and Elizabeth Banks have all appeared in queer-themed projects.)
Nervous flyer Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) meets a man named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) on a flight from Dallas to Miami. It seems like a chance encounter, until he kidnaps her mid-flight, threatening to have her father (Brian Cox) killed if she doesn’t assist in the murder of the director of homeland security (Jack Scalia). In this borderline-schlocky popcorn thriller, director Wes Craven borrows more than a few elements from his own “Scream” franchise to move things along. And while the plot doesn’t really hold up to questioning, sharp performances from McAdams and Murphy keep the tense, claustrophobic action from crashing. Sitting in coach just got a little scarier.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Cox played a gay pedophile in “L.I.E.” Suzie Plakson, who appears here as a flight attendant, had a recurring role as a lesbian doctor on “Mad About You.”)
Tiny teenage pigeon Valiant (voice of Ewan McGregor) makes up for his diminutive size with courage and heart. In the darkest hours of World War II, he joins the Royal Homing Pigeon Service and soon finds himself behind enemy lines, fighting bloodthirsty Nazi falcons and being entrusted with a message vital to the war effort. This cartoon import, released under the Disney banner as a kids’ movie, lampoons the British reputation for keeping a stiff upper lip, as well as every war film cliche from the past 60 years. Grown-ups, particularly film buffs and Anglophiles, will delight in the satirical humor and witty vocal performances. In contrast, the comedy will sail right over most children’s heads, though many will enjoy the colorful animation and the occasional flatulence joke.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (McGregor and co-stars Tim Curry and John Hurt have all played gay and/or bisexual characters. Co-star Jim Broadbent appeared in “The Crying Game,” while John Cleese had a recurring role on “Will & Grace.”)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is a poor boy who dreams of finding a gold ticket in a bar of Wonka chocolate. When he becomes the fifth child in the world to do so, Charlie earns the right to enter Willy Wonka’s (Johnny Depp) factory for a bizarre tour, along with the other four winners, who are all spoiled brats. Once inside, the badly behaved kids are the victims of elaborate, and deserved, comeuppances, while the oddball Wonka looks on, dismissive and amused at the same time. This is a respectful, energetic, and visually spectacular remake, and Depp’s stubbornly bizarre take on the character of Wonka makes Gene Wilder’s 1971 performance seem downright cuddly. That resolute weirdness may unsettle parents, but kids – whose tolerance for the bizarre usually outpaces that of adults – will understand that it’s all part of the strange candy-centric fun.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Johnny Depp played transvestite director Ed Wood in “Ed Wood” and a transgendered Cuban convict in “Before Night Falls.”)
A cosmic storm alters the DNA of four scientists and their benefactor, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). While team leader Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) tries to figure out how to undo the transformations that have rendered them all superpower-endowed mutants, an embittered Von Doom plots to destroy the quartet. This comic-book-inspired summer blockbuster wanna-be can never decide whether it’s an action movie or a melodrama. Adrenalin-pumped, well-staged action sequences – such as one where the Brooklyn Bridge is nearly destroyed – alternate with lame scenes, better suited to a soap opera, of Richards and ex-girlfriend Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) endlessly discussing their feelings. Special effects and mutant makeup are impressive, but the cast – except for the lively McMahon – is more forgettable than fantastic.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (In one scene, Richards extols Von Doom’s virtues to the point where his friend Ben – played by Michael Chiklis – says, “Maybe you should date him then.” Gruffudd appeared in “Wilde,” while co-star Kerry Washington was in Spike Lee’s lesbian-themed drama, “She Hate Me.”)
The Mercer brothers (Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund) return to their rundown Detroit neighborhood to bury their saintly adoptive mother who was gunned down under mysterious circumstances. Their collective street sense leads them on the trail of a crime boss and the corrupt city officials and police officers that do his bidding. Each step of the way, the four brutish brothers uncover pieces of the puzzle and leave a trail of corpses in their wake. It’s street justice, the unsubtle movie kind that demands unquestioning acceptance and bloodlust-filled cheers from the audience. In other words, if a complex story about how real human beings might grapple with genuine evil is what you’re after, you’re buying a ticket to the wrong movie. Stop asking sissy questions and bring on the revenge!
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (In “Boogie Nights,” Wahlberg played a porn star, and the film dealt with minor gay themes. But the real queer interest in this movie is the way director John Singleton – as he does in all his films – includes healthy doses of gay-baiting among his hard-as-nails male characters; every creative way to call a man gay “except” the use of the word “faggot” is employed here.)
The Great Raid
In the waning days of World War II, Allied forces prepare to retake the Philippines. Knowing that the Japanese will kill their prisoners rather than free them, high command orders an elite squad, led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Benjamin Bratt), on a possible suicide mission to liberate the POW camp at Cabanatuan. Based on an actual event, this action-adventure yarn is epic in scope and resolutely old-fashioned in its execution, with an emphasis on the transcendent heroism of ordinary people. Director John Dahl struggles to balance three separate storylines – the raid, the POWs’ growing desperation, and the civilian resistance in Manila – at the cost of suspense. And there are so many characters that it can be hard to keep track of them all.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Bratt and co-star James Franco both received the best notices of their careers for playing famed bisexuals – Bratt starred as “Short Eyes” playwright Miguel Pinero in “Pinero,” while Franco essayed the title role in “James Dean.” Bratt also appeared in the Madonna-Rupert Everett comedy, “The Next Best Thing.” Co-stars with queer-themed credits include Joseph Fiennes and Marton Csokas.)
March of the Penguins
The penguins of Antarctica are a tough bunch, as evidenced in this gorgeously shot, sometimes majestically moving, and sometimes inappropriately anthropomorphic and melodramatic documentary. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, doing his best Voice of All Wisdom, the story involves the mating rituals and baby-making habits of the birds – with just a touch too much “Circle Of Life” horror when hungry seals make their entrance. But it’s as stunning to look at as the last crowd-pleasing bird doc, “Winged Migration,” and just as emotionally compelling. Penguins, after all, make up in adorability what they lack in flying skills, so audiences will find they’re already on the side of these plucky yet frozen creatures, who maintain a kind of gorgeous dignity even sub-zero temperatures can’t shake.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (The already-documented same-sex mating behavior exhibited by some penguins isn’t gone into here, but the interesting gender-role switch that occurs once eggs are laid is. The male penguin makes the nest and tends to the egg after the female produces it. Meanwhile, she goes off in search of food.)
Must Love Dogs
One ghastly blind date follows another for recently divorced teacher Sarah (Diane Lane) after her busybody sister (Elizabeth Perkins) adds her profile to an Internet matchmaking site. Sarah finally clicks with Web date Jake (John Cusack), only to find another amorous possibility closer to home in Bobby (Dermot Mulroney), a student’s father. Frequent, superfluous detours into the lives of Sarah’s large family only serve to underline how thin the story actually is. Not only that, but the whole enterprise is predictable and overly familiar, little more than a pastiche of seemingly every romantic comedy made in the past 20 years. That the movie manages to provide a pleasant – if ultimately unmemorable – diversion is thanks to the always-radiant Lane and to Cusack’s goofy, awkward charm.
Grade: B- Kinsey: 1 (Much like Lane’s character in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Sarah’s best friend is queer, this time a gay fellow teacher played by Brad Henke. Cusack starred in “Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil,” while Mulroney had roles in “Longtime Companion” and “Bastard Out of Carolina.” Co-stars Stockard Channing, Christopher Plummer, Ben Shenkman, and Patrick Fabian have all appeared in gay-themed projects.)
The Skeleton Key
Caroline (Kate Hudson), a hospice worker in atmosphere-soaked New Orleans, takes a job in a creaky old house caring for a stroke patient (John Hurt.) The old man’s wife (Gena Rowlands) tells Caroline about the scary local “hoodoo” religion, and Caroline eats it up, taking it upon herself to learn more about it and investigate the haunted house’s every groan. Naturally, with each step she takes into the dark, she finds supernatural intrigue, not to mention some skulls and dead animals in jars – standard-issue haunted house artifacts, but they’re all new to her, with each “frightening” discovery punctuated by a thunderclap. This is silly summer-movie slumming, not particularly scary or interesting, and even the surprise ending is by-the-numbers. But it’s fun to look and laugh at. Boo!
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hudson played a young woman who ditches her fiance for Liv Tyler in “Dr. T and the Women.” Co-star Peter Sarsgaard played gay in “Kinsey” and also co-starred in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Hurt played Quentin Crisp in “The Naked Civil Servant” and also played gay in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and “Love and Death on Long Island.”)
War of the Worlds
A sudden, thunder-less lightning storm signals an alien invasion, and giant, roving machines simultaneously emerge from underground, vaporizing or eating everyone in their paths. For divorced dad Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), the war is personal as he struggles to protect surly teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and young daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning). Imaginative special effects and John Williams’ thundering score abet director Steven Spielberg in creating a real sense of dread in this loose adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. Sadly, it all falls apart, thanks to a denouement that’s downright silly and three whiny main characters who invite more derision than sympathy. Spielberg further blows it by directing Fanning to shriek constantly at eardrum-threatening levels – and her shrill voice is far scarier than any man-eating extraterrestrial.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Fanning once played Ellen DeGeneres as a child on “The Ellen Show.” Co-stars Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto, Daniel Franzese, and Rick Gonzalez have all either played gay characters or appeared in queer-themed films. Screenwriter David Koepp co-wrote the homoerotic thriller “Apartment Zero.”)
Picking up women at strangers’ weddings is the favorite sport of lifelong pals John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn). An elaborate set of rules ensures sex with no strings, but John throws out the rulebook when he falls for comely bridesmaid Claire (Rachel McAdams), leaving a steamed Jeremy to fend off the advances of her voracious sister (Isla Fisher) and neurotic brother (Keir O’Donnell). Though it boasts a terrific supporting cast, including Christopher Walken as Claire’s imposing father, this brash, bawdy, quasi-romantic screwball comedy belongs to its stars. Humor that revels in vulgarity and political incorrectness might fall flat in less gifted hands, but Wilson’s dippy, stoner charm combined with Vaughn’s fast-talking, reptilian bonhomie creates an alchemy of hilarity that is impossible to resist.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (There is a distinct homoerotic vibe between John and Jeremy, which the movie studiously avoids exploring. Among Todd’s crosses to bear is a homophobic grandmother who enjoys baiting her family by railing against both her grandson and Eleanor Roosevelt at dinner. Wilson, Vaughn, and co-star Will Ferrell first appeared together in the metrosexual comedy “Zoolander.” Walken played a gay theater critic in “Illuminata” and also had roles in “The Stepford Wives” and the lesbian-themed “Wild Side.”)