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BTL Staff
By | 2006-01-05T09:00:00-04:00 January 5th, 2006|Entertainment|
Just Out

Cheaper by the Dozen 2
When Tom Baker (Steve Martin) decides to take his plus-sized family on vacation, he runs into his old rival Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy). The Murtaughs have fewer children – a mere eight compared to the Bakers’ dozen – but they’re more dedicated to dominating everything they touch. And so the competition begins, all the way down to the tiniest of the 20 kids. It’s the kind of movie that will engage elementary-school-aged viewers (people fall down a lot and get involved in other physical mishaps) and won’t raise their parents’ boredom threshold too much. With its slight offering of truly funny moments, this is completely unnecessary viewing for anyone without a very short person in tow who needs 100 minutes of safe entertainment.

Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Martin appeared in “And the Band Played On,” and director Adam Shankman is openly gay.)

Fun with Dick and Jane
In this remake of the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda comedy, Dick (Jim Carrey) is a wealthy executive at Globodyne Corporation who loses his job when the CEO (Alec Baldwin) quits, taking 400 million dollars with him and bankrupting the company. Dick and his wife, Jane (Tea Leoni), quickly spend their savings and take up robbery as a way to pay the bills. But anyone who’s expecting piercing socioeconomic critique is advised to look away from the lame pile-up of unfunny gags and unfocused satire. This Bonnie and Clyde are only separated from Dick’s corrupt former boss by the means they use to accomplish the job. Their crimes aren’t about sticking it to The Man, but about making sure they remain pampered, mindlessly consuming suburbanites with a reliable housekeeper. Rooting for them is as pointless as Carrey’s irritating face-making and pratfalls.

Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (In one brief scene, Leoni and Carrey cross-dress as Sonny and Cher. In his early career, Carrey played gay characters in sketches on “In Living Color,” and was in the gay-themed TV movie “Doing Time on Maple Drive.” Leoni had a small part in the mildly lesbian-flavored “A League of Their Own.”)

Rumor Has It
Sarah (Jennifer Aniston) can’t resist looking up business mogul Beau (Kevin Costner) when she discovers that both her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) and her late mother slept with him, liaisons that served as inspiration for “The Graduate.” She understands the attraction when she meets the still handsome Beau and finds herself smitten, endangering her relationship with fiance Jeff (Mark Ruffalo). Misogyny colors every frame of this repellant romantic comedy, as director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Ted Griffin indulge in character assassination of their own heroine, portraying Sarah as neurotic, flighty, and whiny. There is no heat between Aniston and either man, and precious few laughs overall, save for those provided by old pro MacLaine, whose impeccable timing improves even the most puerile dialogue.

Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (There are a couple of mild gay-themed jokes. Aniston fell for a gay man in “The Object of My Affection,” Costner played the district attorney out to prove that the president was done in by killer queers in “JFK,” MacLaine played a teacher rumored to be a lesbian in “The Children’s Hour,” and Ruffalo appeared in “54.” Co-stars Kathy Bates, Richard Jenkins, and Mena Suvari also have queer-themed credits.)

Ongoing

Brokeback Mountain
Cowboys Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) fall into a passionate affair on Wyoming’s Brokeback Mountain in 1963, retreating back into straight lives at summer’s end. Finding that wives and children are no substitute for the soul mate they found in one another, they reunite in stolen moments over two decades, intent on recapturing the joy of that magical summer. Director Ang Lee has fashioned from Annie Proulx’s intimate short story a poignant and visually stunning epic romance limning a love that somehow survives despite the rigid social convention and internalized homophobia that threaten to smother it. Ledger and Gyllenhaal share a truly combustible chemistry, but it is Ledger’s heartbreaking performance as taciturn, repressed Ennis that transforms this drama from merely good to something great.

Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 6 (Even before this highly touted film hit theaters, conservative organs such as the Drudge Report have been busy trying to deny the existence of gay cowboys, despite the fact that members of Calgary Gay Rodeo Association served as technical advisers and appear in the film’s rodeo scenes. Lee’s breakthrough film in the United States was the queer-themed “The Wedding Banquet,” while co-star Michelle Williams made her name on the queer-friendly “Dawson’s Creek” and appeared in the lesbian comedy “But I’m a Cheerleader.”)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Four siblings discover a passage to the magical kingdom of Narnia tucked in the back of a closet. Perpetual winter grips the land ruled by the cruel White Witch (Tilda Swinton), but the children’s visit, coupled with lion king Aslan’s return, holds promise that spring might now arrive. Special effects and hard-charging action scenes trump storytelling in this heavy-handed adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ classic allegory. Swinton is perfect as the ice-hearted enchantress, a shining jewel in a movie that is otherwise mired in mediocrity. The book makes an awkward transformation to screen, providing many unintentional laughs along the way. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, for example, may be charming on the page, but rendered as talking animated animals on film, they are simply ridiculous.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Swinton was a close collaborator of the late queer director Derek Jarman and has appeared in many gay-themed films. Co-star Jim Broadbent appeared in “The Crying Game,” while animal characters are voiced by out actor Rupert Everett and “Kinsey” star Liam Neeson.)

The Family Stone
Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) is going home for the holidays with her fiance, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). She’s an uptight city gal with a severe bun and a cell phone that never stops ringing. The Stones, however, are well-to-do bohemian jerks who have forgotten how to be gracious to their houseguests. The movie consists of them exhibiting a bizarre behavioral combo of grooviness and evil, while Meredith comes unglued by it all. No one acts like a recognizable human being, as uncivil Christmas barbs turn to slapstick. Some third-act heart-warmth and tear-tugging cliches are thrown in to salvage the mess, but by then it’s way too late, and the movie has ruined Christmas – not for the characters, though; just for the audience.

Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 3 (A queer deaf son and his boyfriend are thrown into the mix; their job is to be one-dimensionally gay and adorable. Mulroney appeared in “Longtime Companion,” while Sarah Jessica Parker starred in the gay-favorite series “Sex and the City.” Gay director Thomas Bezucha also directed the far better 2001 movie “Big Eden.”)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) spreads evil in wizard-in-training Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) nightmares, dreams that may be prophetic. The 14-year-old has little time to consider the matter when he is chosen to compete in the TriWizard Tournament, an enchanted, Olympic-style contest that is fraught with danger. This adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s fourth Potter novel is also the darkest, as director Mike Newell sets an ominous tone from the opening scenes. It is an epic adventure that offers a full immersion into the wizards’ world, with impressive effects, fabulous settings, fantastic creatures, and a brave, heartbreakingly vulnerable hero in young Harry. But the movie’s fidelity to the book is also a liability, as familiarity with the novel is essential to completely grasping the story.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Among the film’s stars who have appeared in gay films or queer roles are Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson, and Timothy Spall. Screenwriter Steve Kloves scripted “Wonder Boys.”)

Just Friends
In high school, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) was a fat nerd, tormented by jocks. The popular guys were also cruel to Chris’ best friend, Jamie (Amy Smart), for whom he secretly pined. Fast forward 10 years, and Chris is a buff hot-guy with a successful music-industry career. When circumstances force him home for Christmas, he reunites with Jamie to try to woo her at last, but he has turned into the kind of jerk she knows all too well. Predictable wackiness ensues. But this mediocre comedy has a secret weapon – “Scary Movie” franchise regular Anna Faris plays a Paris Hilton-esque bimbo like she’s on a comedic search-and-destroy mission, almost single-handedly taking a forgettable teen-demographic product and infusing it with crazy, snarling life. Watch out for her.

Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (There are several instances where Chris is called gay or “homo” by his taunting younger brother. One scene includes a gay couple sharing an affectionate kiss at a weepie movie.)

King Kong
Movie director Carl Denham (Jack Black) travels to a remote South Seas island on location to finish the picture he’s making. There he and his crew discover a giant gorilla, in addition to some murderous natives and carnivorous dinosaurs. The big, hairy beast takes a liking to Denham’s lead actress, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), and Denham takes a liking to the idea of selling tickets to see the enormous simian he names “Kong,” the consequences only unknown to the youngest viewers of this thoroughly entertaining remake. The three-hour running time may seem off-putting at first, but “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson packs every minute with momentum and, once on the island, fantastic digitally enhanced adventure. The amazing animated creatures will keep you riveted, and the sad-eyed, love-struck Kong will break your heart.

Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Naomi Watts starred as a bisexual actress in “Mulholland Drive.”)

Memoirs of a Geisha
In the years before World War II, Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) is taken from poverty to work as a servant in a geisha house. She grows up there, is taught the life and rules of being a geisha, and eventually becomes the most celebrated and beautiful of them all. She has an intense rivalry with diva-geisha Hatsumomo (Gong Li), but her real downfall might be the forbidden love she feels for a man known as The Chairman (Ken Watanabe). This very old-fashioned movie aims right for the lush “Oriental” middle, which some audiences might find offensive – the dialogue in particular is stilted and strange, full of Hollywood ideas about how Asians speak broken English. But if looking at pretty people in pretty settings – and there is that in abundance – is all you need to be entertained, then this by-the-numbers melodrama will hit the spot.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Gay director Rob Marshall also directed “Chicago.”)

The Producers
Faded producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) cook up a recipe for creating a huge Broadway flop so that they can embezzle the excess financing. They secure the rights to “Springtime for Hitler,” a musical valentine to the Fuhrer, and hire tasteless director Roger De Bris (Gary Beach) and his tacky assistant Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart) to stage it. Mel Brooks’ award-winning, record-shattering Broadway musical comedy makes a mostly successful transition to the screen. Not all of the songs work within the context of a movie, and Uma Thurman is miscast as ingenue Ulla. But the rest of the cast in this gorgeous production is in top form; there are plenty of laughs, and best of all, Susan Stroman’s direction emphasizes her glorious choreography.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 3 (Lane and Beach are both openly gay. Ironically, Lane plays one of the few straights in the movie, which boasts a number of queer supporting characters, all stereotypical – but then, all the film’s characters are stereotypes of one sort or another. Lane, Broderick, Beach, Bart, and Thurman have all appeared in other queer-themed projects.)

Rent
This rock musical follows the intertwined lives of a group of early 1990s New York bohemians. Filmmaker Mark (Anthony Rapp), musician Roger (Adam Pascal), dancer Mimi (Rosario Dawson), and their artist friends struggle with poverty, artistic repression, addiction, and AIDS, while protecting each other from falling through the cracks of urban life. It’s an admirable picture of friends-as-family, but, culturally speaking, this adaptation of the hit Broadway show is already outdated. Today’s Manhattan has lost the grit it once had, and the “underground” lifestyle the musical celebrates has become mainstream thanks to the Internet. Only the earnestly felt themes of love and friendship survive Chris Columbus’ TV-movie-quality direction; and while those things may be all anyone needs to survive, they’re not enough to make the film feel truly alive.

Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 5 (Actor Anthony Rapp, as heterosexual character Mark, is openly gay, and the story is full of queer characters and content.)

Syriana
From Academy Award-winning writer/director Stephen Gaghan comes this deliberately paced thriller set against the corruption and intrigue of the oil industry. There are multiple storylines, the central and most emotionally resonant ones involving CIA operative Bob Barnes (George Clooney), who finally learns the unsettling truth about his life’s work, and a sellout energy analyst (Matt Damon) who grapples with profiting from his own son’s accidental death. There’s more: corporate lawyers facing moral quagmires, ruthless CEOs, and downtrodden Pakistani teens turning to fundamentalist Islam. The dense layers of storytelling can get tediously heavy at times, and audiences may wonder what the point is beyond knowing that big business is evil. Still, strongly moving performances from Damon and Clooney keep this ponderous political beast from feeling too much like a really depressing global civics lesson.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Clooney produced the gay-themed film “Far from Heaven.” Damon starred in the queer-themed “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” while co-star Jeffrey Wright played gay in “Angels in America,” and co-star William Hurt won an Oscar for playing gay in “Kiss of the Spider Woman”)

Transamerica
Pre-op transsexual Bree (Felicity Huffman) says nothing when teenage hustler Toby (Kevin Zegers) mistakes her for a Christian missionary, only offering him a ride across country. She neglects to mention that she is his biological father, and that she has sought him out at the insistence of her therapist, who refuses to sign off on her sex-reassignment surgery until she faces her past. Writer-director Duncan Tucker’s debut feature explores the relationship of those familial ties that bind in this melodramatic road movie that collapses into soap-opera cliche. At least, he cast well: Zegers is terrific, and Huffman is simply miraculous – a credible transsexual, yes, but much more as she reveals the hurt, loneliness, and longing beneath the surface of repressed Bree’s skin.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 6 (Though ultimately more interested in the parent-child relationship, this is also a coming-out movie of sorts, as Bree lives in a self-imposed closet. Director Tucker is gay and previously contributed to “Boys to Men,” an anthology of queer erotic short films. Huffman stars in the queer-friendly “Desperate Housewives,” and real-life transsexual Calpernia Addams – the subject of the Showtime movie “A Soldier’s Girl” – has a small role here.)

Walk the Line
Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) was country music’s original outlaw, so why does this biopic go down so smoothly? The answer may lie in the fact that it comes posthumously for The Man in Black – a time when goodwill toward his memory is exceptionally strong. Still, it’s full of real-life moments, solid performances (especially from Reese Witherspoon as June Carter), and energy to spare. The story of Cash’s rise and fall and rise again, from black-sheep son to swaggering, renegade country star to amphetamine addict to born-again Christian brims with life and humor, most notably in scenes between Phoenix and Witherspoon. But the rough edges have been sanded down to make the man who sang, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” maybe a little more cuddly than he actually was.

Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Witherspoon has a large gay following, thanks to the “Legally Blonde” franchise and to other films. Shelby Lynne, the Grammy-winning country artist who plays Cash’s mother, has a very devoted lesbian fan base.)

Yours, Mine, and Ours
Former high school sweethearts Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid), now a Coast Guard admiral, and Helen North (Rene Russo), a free-spirited purse designer, rekindle the flame at their class reunion. Both widowed, he has eight children and she has 10, so it seems natural to combine their broods, to the outrage of their kids. This relentlessly mediocre remake of a 40-year-old family comedy feels just that old, despite attempts to update the material with the addition of ethnically diverse adopted children and references to the Internet. Slapstick antics involving Frank and family pets generate some laughs, but the humor is otherwise weak. And if any one of the button-cute young actors has even a thimbleful of talent, it’s not evident amidst all the shameless mugging.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (One of Helen’s young sons is her chief advisor on the purse line, spinning fashion wisdom that suggests he is ready to join the team of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” To get under Frank’s skin, the older kids dress the two youngest boys as girls. Quaid received the best notices of his career and an Independent Spirit Award for playing the husband who tumbles out of his ’50s closet in “Far from Heaven.”)

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.