Now Playing

BTL Staff
By | 2006-05-04T09:00:00-04:00 May 4th, 2006|Entertainment|

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.)

American Dreamz
U.S. President Staton’s (Dennis Quaid) popularity declines precipitously when the public confuses his newfound intellectual curiosity with mental illness. To boost his poll numbers, he agrees to appear on the “American Dreamz” talent show finale, in which ultra-ambitious vixen Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) squares off against recent Arab immigrant (and covert terrorist) Omer (Sam Golzari). Writer/director Paul Weitz gleefully aims this broad satire at an array of targets that include President Bush, “American Idol,” and al Qaeda. His approach is scattershot, and the characters are uniformly thin (and sometimes offensive), but despite that, there are plenty of laughs. The entire cast is terrific, but best of all is Hugh Grant in a role he was born to play as a smarmy, contemptuous, Simon Cowell-like TV host.
Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 3 (The movie is unclear on where show-tune-loving Omer’s sexuality lies, but his American cousin Iqbal – played by Tony Yalda – is a stereotypical queen. Quaid was the closeted husband in “Far from Heaven,” Moore appeared in “Saved,” and one of Grant’s earliest notable roles was in James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Maurice.” Co-stars Marcia Gay Harden, Jennifer Coolidge, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Willem Dafoe all have gay-themed credits.)

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)

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.”)

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.”)

Friends with Money
Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is a depressed, pot-smoking maid, obsessed with her married ex-boyfriend. Her three best friends (Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand) are rich, successful, in relationships of varying happiness, and concerned about the well-being of their less-moneyed friend. Should they simply give her money? Fix her up with a nice guy? Let her fend for herself? Director Nicole Holofcener follows the four women as they navigate the well-to-do neighborhoods of Los Angeles, talking about their lives (they also talk about each other when one’s not around) in this smart, funny exploration of friendship dynamics. It’s a witty, warm-hearted comedy of manners that ignores the obvious bling-centered approach to the portrayal of rich folk in most films, and focuses instead on the self-absorption, petty grievances, and universal fears that afflict the haves “and” the have-nots.
Grade: A-
Kinsey Scale: 2 (There’s a subplot about McDormand’s seemingly gay husband – played by Simon McBurney – that’s handled with intelligence and humor. Aniston starred in “The Object of My Affection,” and was a regular on queer-friendly “Friends.” McDormand played a nominally bisexual character in “Laurel Canyon,” while Cusack’s character had a gay fiance in “In & Out.” Keener had a lesbian affair in “Your Friends & Neighbors” and, by implication, in “Being John Malkovich,” and she portrayed”reclusive writer Harper Lee in “Capote.”)

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.”)

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.)

Kinky Boots
Shoe manufacturer Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) is on the verge of shuttering his failing factory when a chance encounter with drag chanteuse Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) inspires him to give the business another chance. Though it scandalizes his homophobic staff, Charlie intends to save their jobs by hiring Lola as a consultant and creating a line of sexy stilettos designed specifically for men. Humor, romance, and sentimentality blend uneasily in this feel-good British comedy. The factory workers are mostly stereotypes, and a climactic, ill-conceived argument between Charlie and Lola nearly derails the entire movie. But Lola’s cabaret act more than balances out those weaknesses. Ejiofor is simply incandescent as he combines sensuality, soul, and sass in what ought to be a star-making performance.
Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 4 (Part of the film takes place in the gay nightclub where Lola performs, and an entire troupe of drag queens are on hand for a Milan fashion show. The movie also uses the factory workers’ homophobia to drive home a lesson about tolerance and acceptance, but it is so reticent on the subject of Lola’s own sex life that it could use that lesson itself. Ejiofor previously appeared in Spike Lee’s lesbian drama, “She Hate Me.” Co-star Linda Bassett had a role in the “The Hours.”)

Lucky Number Slevin
Mistaken for a missing buddy, unlucky Slevin (Josh Hartnett) finds himself in a race for survival when he is caught in a war between mobsters The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Adding to his woes, the police are tailing him and a hit man, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), has him in his crosshairs. This bloody, cliched thriller offers a collection of offensive stereotypes, lackluster performances, and enough hairpin twists to qualify as convoluted, but then undercuts itself with a seemingly endless denouement in which every single plot turn is explained in excruciating detail. Perky Lucy Liu as Slevin’s new girlfriend who turns sleuth to try save her man’s miserable hide is charming and funny, the movie’s one saving grace.
Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 2 (Among those noxious stereotypes is a gay character, that of The Rabbi’s son. Kingsley had a role in the queer love story “Maurice,” co-star Stanley Tucci executive-produced the coming-of-age drama “The Mudge Boy,” and Liu has appeared in a number of queer-friendly movies and shared a kiss with Calista Flockhart when their characters explored their sapphic sides on “Ally McBeal.” Director Paul McGuigan previously helmed the homoerotic crime drama “Gangster No. 1.”)

Scary Movie 4
Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris) is back for another installment of this unapologetically silly parody franchise. This time she’s moved into the house from “The Grudge,” which just happens to sit next door to Tom Cruise’s “War of the Worlds” house. The aliens come, the dead “Grudge” boy makes several appearances, a Tom Cruise look-alike jumps up and down on Oprah’s couch, and Leslie Nielsen shows up as an intelligence-deprived president who ignores a national emergency because he’s engrossed in a children’s picture book. There are even a couple of gay cowboys singing Lionel Richie songs to each other. Does any of it make sense? No. Is it little more than a string of no-brow sketch-comedy bits? Yes. And is it funny? Occasionally. But with expectations this low, the few laughs it delivers make it almost feel like a success.
Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 2 (“Brokeback Mountain” – a film in which Faris had a small, but memorable, comic-relief role – is parodied in a way that will bother only the most easily offended queer audiences. Meanwhile, scenes that reference “The Village” also contain gay content. Co-star Simon Rex got his start as a nude model in “solo” porn for gay men.)

The Sentinel
Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) is a veteran Secret Service agent who took a bullet for Ronald Reagan and whose current job is to protect the latest president. Unfortunately for Garrison, he’s also being blackmailed for having an affair with the first lady “and” being framed in a rumored presidential assassination attempt. His longtime colleague-turned-enemy (Kiefer Sutherland) wants to see Garrison go down, but it will take the two of them to find out who’s truly behind the plot to kill the commander in chief. Getting to the real mastermind, however, is more work than this laborious, lead-footed political thriller is up to. The twist ending is telegraphed early on, the suspense is nonexistent, and the script is a worn-out rehash of all those “one man must stand alone” Harrison Ford movies. There should be a Secret Service to protect people from boring movies like this.
Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Douglas starred in the controversial queer-themed thriller “Basic Instinct,” and co-star Eva Longoria is a regular on the queer-created TV hit “Desperate Housewives.”)

Take the Lead
Manhattan dance instructor Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) does not call the police when he catches high school student Rock (Rob Brown) vandalizing his principal’s car. Instead, he visits the school and volunteers to teach troubled teens ballroom dancing. The kids greet his impeccable manners and old-school steps with contempt, but he perseveres, confident in the power of dance to turn lives around. This fact-based, inspirational drama blends heavy-handed melodrama with musical moments that wouldn’t be out of place in an extra-special episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” particularly when Banderas takes to the floor for a torrid tango. Pierre’s hokey, aphorism-laden dialogue is often laughable, and his delinquent students are mostly one-dimensional cliches; but the actors are charming, and their exuberant dance moves are irresistible.
Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Banderas became an international star through his roles in five of queer director Pedro Almodovar’s movies, and he played Tom Hanks’ lover in “Philadelphia.” Brown got his first big break when gay director Gus Van Sant cast him in “Finding Forrester.” Co-star Alfre Woodard is a regular on “Desperate Housewives,” and had a role in the lesbian-themed “What’s Cooking?.”)

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.)

The Wild
Samson (Kiefer Sutherland), a New York Zoo lion, delights in regaling his adolescent son Ryan (Greg Cipes) with tales of life in the wild. When the cub is accidentally shipped to Africa, Samson and his friends chase after him, forcing this King of the Beasts to admit the truth: he is completely domesticated and has no idea how to rescue his boy.
Sutherland’s mellow voice perfectly fits the floundering feline in this animated family fable. The computer-generated images often look sensational, particularly in scenes involving a pair of mischievous chameleons; and supporting characters – including a sardonic koala (Eddie Izzard) and an idiot anaconda (Richard Kind) – add welcome humor. But the story is derivative, and too often the movie forgoes levity for a dour, maudlin mood.
Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Transvestite comedian Izzard has appeared in the queer-themed “Shadow of the Vampire” and the cross-dressing comedy “All the Queen’s Men,” while Kind had roles in “Johns” and “The Producers.” Co-star Patrick Warburton played a recurring character on “Ellen,” and co-star Janeane Garofalo counts among her gay-themed projects roles in “Reality Bites” and “The Laramie Project.”)
�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������

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.