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By |2006-04-13T09:00:00-04:00April 13th, 2006|Entertainment|
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Adam & Steve
Adam (Craig Chester) and Steve (Malcolm Gets) meet in the late ’80s, and their one-night stand ends disastrously. But 15 years later they meet again, don’t recognize each other, and fall in love. What follows is a relationship comedy that crosses the boundaries of sexual orientation – Parker Posey and Chris Kattan play the straight roommates who fall in love themselves – as well as of good taste, with John Waters-esque antics involving bodily fluids, gay bashers, and accident-prone family members definitely crossing lines not seen in recent gay romantic fare. It’s a low-budget indie and it shows, but it’s blessed with a sense of absurdity that keeps it on the winning path. Sweet and light, it’s the anti-_Brokeback Mountain_ for gay audiences who want a happy ending.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 6 (Chester and Gets are both openly gay. The main cast members have multiple queer film and TV credits to their names. Co-star Sally Kirkland is bisexual.)

ATL
Seventeen-year-old Rashad (Tip Harris) lives in Atlanta with his janitor uncle (Mykelti Williamson) and trouble-prone younger brother Ant (Evan Ross). He dreams of making art, but fears his future will involve working as a janitor, too. Meanwhile, his friends are at their own crossroads, stepping tentatively into adulthood while committing themselves most fully to having a good time. It’s a sweetly affectionate African-American coming-of-age film, like an updated _Boyz n the Hood_ minus most of the guns, drugs, violence, and hard L.A. gangsta posturing. And while it meanders a bit too much for its own good, and the dialogue is so full of “dirty South” slang as to be impenetrable at times, it’s refreshing to see a teen-centric film that isn’t solely about well-to-do white kids and their romantic misadventures.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 0 (No queer content or cast with gay-related credits)

Basic Instinct 2
Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), having already murdered everyone she could skewer with her ice pick in San Francisco, relocates to London – Michael Douglas’ character from the 1992 original is nowhere to be found – where she surrounds herself with other strategically connected people who mysteriously wind up killed in various kinky situations. Enter renowned psychiatrist Michael Glass (David Morrissey). Catherine tangles him in her web of lurid and abrasive sex games as the corpses pile up and the audience gets more and more bored with the plodding pace and Stone’s “naughty” routine. It’s one thing to vamp it up for the story’s sake; it’s quite another to bulldoze your way through an entire film with no other agenda in mind than proving you’re still “hot.” This is a next chapter that never needed to be written.

Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 2 (Stone’s character is only nominally bisexual in this film, as though moving from San Francisco took the lesbian out of her. Stone played gay in _If These Walls Could Talk 2_, and co-star David Thewlis portrayed queer writer Paul Verlaine in the film _Total Eclipse_.)

Ice Age: The Meltdown
The title says it all, as melting glaciers threaten to drown the prehistoric critters, sending wooly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano), saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) searching for higher ground. Along the way, Manny gets a happy surprise when he meets comely Ellie (Queen Latifah) and discovers that he is not the last of his breed. Luckily, Scrat (Chris Wedge), the saber-tooth squirrel, makes a return appearance in this animated sequel and provides pratfall-laden comic relief as he hunts for the acorn that is always just beyond his grasp. Otherwise, for a movie aimed at children, this is pretty dire. The apocalyptic, all-too-timely story is tasteless, and the humor tends to have all the buoyancy of a lead balloon.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Leguizamo has participated in a number of queer-themed projects, including Todd Haynes’ _Poison_ and the drag comedy _To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar_. Latifah played a lesbian in the crime drama _Set It Off_ and received an Oscar nomination for her role in _Chicago_.)

Ongoing

Aquamarine
When best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna “JoJo” Levesque) discover a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) in their beach club’s swimming pool, their destinies change forever. Hailey, soon to move away for the sake of her mother’s new job, learns that Aqua can grant her wish to stay put – if both Claire and Hailey can introduce her to true terrestrial love with a hunky lifeguard (Jake McDorman). Although not a sophisticated film, it is sweet and well-intentioned; and while some parents may not like the “snare a boyfriend” plot line, the overall moral revolves around commitment and friendship. Much like _The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants_, this is a lovable fantasy that young girls will devour wholeheartedly.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (The movie spends more than a little time objectifying blond, cute McDorman, emphasizing his “dreaminess” with lots of slow-motion shots. And there’s a line of dialogue in the film about him being the object of desire for lots of girls and at least a few boys, too.)

Brick
High school loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) turns teen gumshoe after his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) goes missing. His investigation leads him into Emily’s murky social world, which includes high-society pal Laura (Nora Zehetner), dense, thuggish new boyfriend Dode (Noah Segan), and local drug lord The Pin (Lukas Haas) – who just happens to be missing one brick of heroin. First-time writer-director Rian Johnson ingeniously weds the hardboiled universe of Dashiell Hammett to that of the typical high school to create one of the best teen comedies in years. The blend of terse, 1940s-style dialogue, intense action, and black humor – all set in sunny suburbia – is irresistible, as is the film’s attractive cast. In particular, Gordon-Levitt’s turn as an adolescent Sam Spade is perfection.

Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 1 (Gordon-Levitt starred in _Mysterious Skin_, played a gay teen in a guest shot on _That ’70s Show_, and appeared in the queer romance _Latter Days_. Haas had roles as a queer teenage hustler in _Johns_ and a bisexual musician in _Last Days_. Co-star Noah Fleiss was in _The Laramie Project_, while Meagan Good starred in the lesbian teen comedy _D.E.B.S._)

Eight Below
Due to an impending storm, Gerry Shepherd (Paul Walker), a trail guide in the frozen Antarctic, is forced to evacuate the ice station where he works, leaving behind his team of eight loyal sled dogs. When the huge blizzard prohibits a return trip to rescue the animals, they have to survive on their own for months. What follows is two movies in one: the movie in which eight beautiful, heroic dog actors express more love and tenderness than most human thespians can conjure up, and then the movie in which the human characters fail to evoke any such emotion. The latter mars an otherwise stirring update on Disney’s _The Incredible Journey_, but the canine stars are more than able to carry the film home all by themselves.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 0 (No queer content or cast credits.)

Failure to Launch
Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) lives at home and lets his parents (Kathy Bates, Terry Bradshaw) cook, clean, and do his laundry while he dates a series of women he has no intention of settling down with. Enter Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), hired by Mom and Dad to woo Tripp long enough to get him to move out of the house. But what do you know – these two bland, attractive people find themselves falling in love in this safe, predictable, only mildly amusing comedy. It’s the kind of film whose plot wouldn’t even exist if the main characters all sat down and had one simple conversation that included the words, “It’s time for you to move out, son.” But those are the sorts of chats that never happen in movies like this, which substitute wacky schemes, misunderstandings, and slapstick injuries for real human comedy.

Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Both McConaughey and co-star Bradley Cooper spend some time in the movie shirtless. Parker is an alum of the very gay-friendly _Sex and the City_ . Bates co-starred in the somewhat-lesbian-themed _Fried Green Tomatoes_ and played a lesbian in _Primary Colors_.)

Inside Man
After bank robbers take hostages, NYPD detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is called upon to negotiate their release. Complicating his job are professional fixer Madeline White (Jodie Foster), who is conducting a private negotiation on the bank president’s behalf, and lead robber Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), who Frazier quickly realizes has more on his mind than simple theft. Spike Lee’s latest joint is far more effective when it concentrates on the characters and on capturing the flavor of New York than when it tries to be a suspense thriller – especially since the outcome of the robbery is never in doubt. But while it is overlong, it is also slyly humorous and visually stylish, and the three leads and their large supporting cast are riveting.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Washington co-starred in _Philadelphia_, and Owen appeared in _Bent_. Co-stars with queer credits include Chiwetel Ejiofor, who previously collaborated with Lee on the ridiculous lesbian drama _She Hate Me_; Peter Frechette, who played gay on _Northern Exposure_ and _Profiler_; Christopher Plummer, who portrayed a gay man’s estranged father in _Ararat_; and Willem Dafoe, star of the homoerotic _Auto Focus_ and queer-themed _Shadow of the Vampire_. And then, of course, there’s Foster, the focus of much queer speculation.)

Madea’s Family Reunion
Madea (writer-director Tyler Perry in drag) has even more troubles with her family in this second in a planned series of films about the southern grandma. Her nieces have love woes – one can’t trust men, the other has an abusive fiance – and Madea finds herself saddled with a court-ordered foster child in her home. The solution? Folksy, homespun wisdom doled out in sound bites; loony, ranting comedy monologues; and, when all else fails, physical violence. In fact, by the time the reunion of the title rolls around – with head-scratch-inducing cameos from Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou – Madea has gone upside the head of most of the people in the film. But she does it in the name of the Lord and common sense, so it’s, you know, cute. To someone, anyway.

Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (No queer content, but Perry spends much of the film in drag, as he did in _Diary of a Mad Black Woman_, the first film in this series.)

The Pink Panther
French soccer coach Yves Gluant (Jason Statham) is murdered on the field, and his ring containing the legendary Pink Panther diamond stolen. Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) promotes bumbling gendarme Jacques Clouseau (Steve Martin) and assigns him to the case to deflect attention from the real investigation that Dreyfus himself is conducting. At least that is the plan. This thin reinvention of a classic ’60s comedy offers an assortment of mild chuckles, one brilliant scene involving a human _trompe d’oeil_, and superb performances from Martin, Kline, and Jean Reno as Clouseau’s partner. The rest of the cast is mostly wooden and too many gags fail, but there are compensations, namely a wonderful animated title sequence and Clive Owen in a cameo as a suave secret agent.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (There is some understated gay panic when Clouseau and his partner have to share a bed. Martin appeared in the AIDS drama _And the Band Played On_ and has written gay characters into some of his screenplays, including _L.A. Story_ and _Bowfinger_. Kline played queer characters in _De-Lovely_ and _In & Out_. Owen appeared in _Bent_, and co-star Henry Czerny had roles in _Further Tales of the City_ and the lesbian romance _When Night Is Falling_.)

The Shaggy Dog
Ambitious Los Angeles assistant district attorney Dave Douglas (Tim Allen) suddenly finds himself chasing cats and wagging his tail – the bite from a sheepdog with altered DNA transforms him into a pooch for hours at a stretch, a recurring condition that threatens his job and his marriage. Allen’s talent for slapstick energizes this special-effects-heavy family comedy, which is at its best when the human Douglas adopts the familiar traits of a dog. When an actual canine takes Allen’s place, enabling Douglas to eavesdrop on his wife, Rebecca (Kristin Davis), and two adolescent children, the movie takes an unfortunate, maudlin turn. Douglas’ discovery that his family sees him as neglectful drowns the initial good humor in a sea of soap-opera suds.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Davis starred in the gay friendly _Sex and the City_ and had a guest spot on _Will and Grace_. Co-star Robert Downey Jr. played a queer character in _Wonder Boys_ and made out with Val Kilmer in _Kiss Kiss Bang Bang_. Sean Pyfrom has a recurring role as a gay teen on _Desperate Housewives_, and Philip Baker Hall played the cuckolded husband to Charles Busch’s scheming, faded chanteuse in _Die, Mommie, Die!_.)

She’s the Man
When her school drops soccer, Viola (Amanda Bynes) disguises herself as her brother, Sebastian (James Kirk), and makes the team at his boarding school. But she quickly develops a crush on her new teammate (and roommate), Duke (Channing Tatum), who is in love with Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who falls for “Sebastian.” This gender-bending teen comedy may have been inspired by Shakespeare’s _Twelfth Night_, but there are no traces left of the Bard’s wit. Instead, what it offers is a vapid compendium of teen-movie cliches and stereotyped characters. Bynes is a lovely girl, but based on this performance, her acting skills appear to be nonexistent, and when she is in Sebastian mode, she is downright excruciating.

Grade: F Kinsey Scale: 2 (The subtext is frankly homoerotic – or would be if there was anything erotic about the movie; but for all the daisy chains of crushes, it is curiously devoid of heat. Also, Viola’s pal Paul – the character, played by Jonathan Sadowski, who makes her over into Sebastian – seems like he might be gay, but the movie is careful to neuter him. Co-star Alex Breckenridge appeared in the lesbian comedy _D.E.B.S._)

16 Blocks
An easy assignment escorting jailed grand jury witness Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to court becomes explosive for burnt-out, alcoholic New York cop Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) when it turns out Bunker’s testimony will expose corruption in the department. Crooked cops gunning for Bunker expect Mosley’s cooperation, but he isn’t in an agreeable mood.
The pace never slackens in this action/buddy movie hybrid, in spite of the fact that -confined to a 16-block area of clogged Manhattan streets – the ensuing chase is necessarily a slow one. The amiable chemistry between Willis and Def provides a real boost to a rather routine story, but Willis’ empathetic portrayal of this self-loathing, derelict lawman struggling to regain his humanity is the real star of the show.

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 0 (There is heavy male bonding going on between Mosley and Bunker, but of a distinctly nonsexual variety.)

Thank You for Smoking
Spin doctor Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) relishes his job putting a happy face on Big Tobacco; so shameless is he in downplaying the dangers of cigarettes that not even a cancer victim’s sad testimony can deter him from his mission. But when seductive investigative reporter Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) loosens his normally guarded tongue, even he can’t spin the resulting expose. Based on Christopher Buckley’s 1994 novel, Jason Reitman’s debut comedy is often very funny as it skewers targets ranging from business to politics to Hollywood, and it benefits from Eckhart’s brilliant performance as the cheerfully conniving Naylor. As sharp as the satire is, it still reeks of must, dated by a tobacco-industry target where spin long ago took a backseat to legal settlements.

Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Eckhart starred in _Your Friends and Neighbors_, which had a lesbian subplot, while Holmes appeared in _Wonder Boys_. Among their co-stars with queer credits, Maria Bello played actor Bob Crane’s wife in the homoerotic _Auto Focus_; David Koechner’s ostensibly straight sports reporter seemed to have a crush on the title character in _Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy_; William H. Macy was a gay lawman in _Happy, Texas_; and _Kim Dickens_ plays lesbian brothel madam Joanie on _Deadwood_.)

V for Vendetta
V (Hugo Weaving) is a mask-wearing revolutionary hellbent on destroying the religious-fascist state that is England of The Future. By his side is Evey (Natalie Portman), a young woman manipulated into aligning herself with him, eventually becoming his right-hand woman. V is quite the antihero, performing what most people would call despicable, terroristic acts to further his ends. But by the logic of this movie, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s not a logic that would work well in real life, of course, and the film itself is pompous and boldly silly at times; but it’s that weirdo, gung-ho attitude that carries it and makes it a fun revenge fantasy, whether you truly believe in its message or not.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 3 (There are queer plot threads throughout the film, as part of the religious state’s agenda is the eradication of homosexuals. In addition, many of the cast members – including Weaving, Stephen Rea, and Rupert Graves – have been in queer-themed movies in the past. Co-star Stephen Fry is openly gay, and co-writer Larry Wachowski is, by all accounts, in the process of transitioning to female.)

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.