Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
The Brothers Grimm
Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jacob Grimm (Heath Ledger) earn good coin as con men, roaming the 19th-century German countryside and pretending to vanquish demons. Their stagecraft is impressive, but useless in a confrontation with the ghostly Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci), yet with the authorities closing in, the siblings have little choice but to enjoin her in battle. Terry Gilliam’s delightfully wacky fantasy allows him free reign to unleash his astonishing imagination as he re-creates scenes from some of the Grimms’ beloved fairy tales – among them “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” and “Sleeping Beauty” – while the director’s visual brilliance is well-matched by Ehren Kruger’s witty screenplay. The sense of fun seems to have infected the large ensemble cast who appear to having the time of their lives.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 1 (Damon has worked extensively with queer director Gus Van Sant, and has appeared on an episode of “Will & Grace,” while Bellucci appeared in the lesbian-themed “She Hate Me” and the homophobic revenge drama “Irreversible.” Co-star Jonathan Pryce played gay writer Lytton Strachey in “Carrington” and has inhabited the role of “Cabaret”‘s flamboyant Emcee on stage.)
The Constant Gardener
Stationed in Nairobi, British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is content to putter in his garden, while his firebrand wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), agitates for Kenya’s poor. His complacency shatters when she is murdered, and he plunges into a nightmarish investigation into her death. Based on John LeCarre’s novel, this romantic thriller is as moving as it is suspenseful. Shooting on location in Kenya, director Fernando Meirelles captures the startling contrast between the unimaginable poverty of Nairobi’s ghetto and the posh lives of the diplomatic corps. The story, told in flashback, is an angry indictment of the way governments and multinational corporations exploit the Third World, but the politics never obscure a love story made all the more real by Fiennes and Weisz’s sensational chemistry.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 1 (A plot point revolves around a supporting character who is assumed to be straight, but is later revealed to be gay. Weisz had a small role in the queer WWII drama “Bent.”)
Model Brier Tucket (Pell James) has sworn off musicians, so even though she is smitten, she rejects sensitive singer-songwriter Luke Falcon (Steven Strait). Instead, she and best pal Clea (Ashlee Simpson) cook up a consolation prize to mend his broken heart by creating a media stir designed to make him a star. This romantic musical slathers on the cliches, starting with names and a plot that sound like soap-opera cast-offs. James and Strait are vapid, pretty, and too wooden to be convincing as besotted would-be lovers or to take advantage of the humor inherent in the absurd set-up. With the doll-like Simpson, a cornball script, and plenty of anachronistic, ’80s-style rock anthems, this could have been a camp classic. Instead, it’s deadly serious and seriously dull.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (When Brier doesn’t immediately tumble for Luke, someone wonders if she and Clea are lovers. Supporting players Kip Pardue, Fisher Stevens, Shannyn Sossamon, Lori Heuring, and Peter Weller have all been in queer-themed films. Co-star Carrie Fisher was married to gay agent Bryan Lourd and the experience apparently inspired part of her novel “The Best Awful.”)
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.”)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.”)
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.”)
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.”)
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.”)