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BTL Staff
By | 2006-06-29T09:00:00-04:00 June 29th, 2006|Entertainment|
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Workaholic architect Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) thinks he has resolved his career-vs.-family conflict when his new universal remote control allows him to manipulate time. But then the device begins fast-forwarding on its own, and he misses out on some of his life’s most significant moments. Predictable and derivative, what begins as a comedy evolves into a mawkish melodrama that delivers a heavy-handed lesson on the importance of putting family first. It is also offensive, thanks to Sandler’s churlish performance, the racist stereotyping of Michael’s Arab and Japanese clients, and the sexist, one-dimensional portrayal of virtually every female character. Only a charming and funny Christopher Walken provides some bright moments as the remote salesman hiding a private agenda.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Walken boast several queer credits, including “Illuminata,” in which he played a gay theater critic. Co-star Kate Beckinsale worked with gay director John Schlesinger on “Cold Comfort Farm,” and had roles in “Laurel Canyon” and “The Last Days of Disco”; Jennifer Coolidge played a lesbian in “Best in Show,” appeared in the queer comic thriller “Testosterone,” and co-starred in the “Legally Blonde” movies; and David Hasselhoff poked fun at himself for John Waters in “A Dirty Shame.”)

Waist Deep

O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is a second-strike ex-con trying to make good and raise his young son alone. A car-jacking-turned-kidnapping separates O2 from the boy, and he turns to street hustler Coco (Meagan Good) for help in finding those responsible. A $100,000 ransom turns the pair into a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde as they rob other criminals – and a few banks – in a desperate attempt to save the child’s life. It’s a rough, gritty ride with plenty of humor and thoroughly engaging, if cheap, action thrills. Yet as the movie speeds up and careens toward what seems like its inevitable ending, a maddeningly false move that screams “test audience” pops up and ruins an otherwise satisfying urban thriller. Escape the theater before the last moments and it’ll feel like entertainment money well spent.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Good starred in “D.E.B.S.” Co-star Kimora Lee Simmons is the fashion designer of the Baby Phat line and a former judge on “America’s Next Top Model.”)

ALSO IN THEATERS:

An Inconvenient Truth

When Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the controversial 2000 presidential election, he did not retreat from public life, but instead went on tour. He hit the lecture circuit, delivering a slideshow on global warming and its disastrous, potentially apocalyptic effects. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim melds large chunks of Gore’s road show with biographical snippets that reveal the roots of the man’s passionate commitment. Perhaps what is most surprising in this straightforward documentary is that the politician with a reputation for being stiff and long-winded comes across as neither. Far from dry, Gore’s presentation is lively, engaging, and witty. Even though the situation he describes is dire, he remains upbeat and assured in his conviction that solutions exist to turn it around.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 0 (Nothing queer here.)

A Prairie Home Companion

Folksy G.K. (Garrison Keillor) hosts another episode of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” with special guests: singing sisters Yolanda (Meryl Streep) and Rhonda Johnson (Lily Tomlin) and cowboy duo Dusty (Woody Harrelson) and Lefty (John C. Reilly). But beneath the convivial atmosphere, tension mounts with the certainty that this is “PHC”‘s final show. Director Robert Altman teams with screenwriter Keillor to create this kaleidoscopic, congenial take on the beloved National Public Radio series. Longtime fans will cherish this behind-the-scenes glimpse, shot on “PHC”‘s real-life stage and featuring many of the show’s regulars. Harrelson and Reilly are hilariously coarse, Keillor is dryly witty and a tad aloof, and Streep and Tomlin steal the movie as the sibling chanteuses who love to spin their memories into stories.

Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 2 (Several of Altman’s films, including “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” “Dr. T and the Women,” and “Gosford Park,” have featured queer characters. Tomlin is openly lesbian and has a number of gay-themed projects on her resume. Among the film’s stars with queer credits are Streep, Harrelson, Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Maya Rudolph, Marylouise Burke, and Allen Garfield.)

The Break-Up

Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) are breaking up. Unfortunately, they co-own their very valuable apartment, and neither wants to be the first to move out. So they stay and torment one another with dirty dishes, disinterest, and dates with other people, missing each other more and more with every passing day. It’s not as predictable as you may think, and it’s got more than its share of funny lines, but what’s missing is a sense of ingenuity, a novel approach to the death of romance. Worse, the scenes between Vaughn and his favorite on-screen mate,”Swingers” star Jon Favreau, constantly threaten to turn the movie into the story of their hilarious friendship, rather than one about a couple on the rocks.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 2 (There are two hilarious gay supporting characters played by Justin Long and John Michael Higgins, and queer director Peyton Reed is at the reins. Co-star Joey Lauren Adams played a lesbian in “Chasing Amy,” while co-star Judy Davis was in the lesbian-themed “Gaudi Afternoon” and “Serving in Silence,” and played gay icon Judy Garland in “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows: .)

Cars

Arrogant race car Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) lands in jail in tiny Radiator Springs. Sentenced to repave the highway, the lonely roadster begins to warm to the townsfolk, including cute Porsche Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) and Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), a suspiciously speedy 1951 Hudson Hornet. But the novelty of friendship may not be enough to compete with the lure of fame awaiting Lightning at California’s Piston Cup race. Set along old Route 66, Pixar’s latest animated adventure offers astonishing southwestern landscapes and a big heart that beats with the piston-propelled rhythm of an internal combustion engine. The cars themselves are a little bland, but the voices are pitch-perfect and the vistas breathtaking in this funny, moving family film and loving homage to America’s Mother Road.

Grade: A-
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Wilson played a metrosexual male model in “Zoolander” and has starred in several vaguely homoerotic buddy pictures, including last year’s smash “The Wedding Crashers.” Newman has had his share of homoerotic roles as well, appearing in the Gore Vidal adaptation “The Left Handed Gun” and “Hud.” He also had a long association with Tennessee Williams, starring in the writer’s work on stage and screen, including as the closeted Brick in the bowdlerized 1958 film adaptation of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Co-stars with queer credits include Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Paul Dooley, Katherine Helmond, John Ratzenberger, Jeremy Piven, Richard Kind, and Edie McClurg.)

The Da Vinci Code

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), an expert in decoding symbols, finds himself caught up in a murder mystery. After a man is killed inside the Louvre museum and clues are discovered in Da Vinci’s paintings, Langdon and French cryptologist Sophie Leveu (Audrey Tautou) follow the puzzling trail that leads to a secret religious society connected to the Catholic Church. As the mystery is slowly decoded, they learn that the answer lies in a secret that could destroy Christianity entirely. And “slow” is the operative word here. This 150-minute film plods along like a thorough but not-all-that-enthusiastic detective. And as it nears its fairly predictable climax, the script retreats and attempts to placate those audience members who might find the fictional conspiracy theory offensive, losing the courage of its convictions with a misguided attempt to be all things to all people.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Tom Hanks played a gay man in “Philadelphia” and made a name for himself early in his career dressing in drag on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies.” Co-star Ian McKellen is openly gay and has played gay characters in several films. Co-star Alfred Molina played gay in “Prick Up Your Ears.”)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is a teenage troublemaker shipped off to Japan to avoid a stay in juvenile detention. Naturally he falls in with the high-speed racing crowd, a flashily dressed bunch of Japanese kids who “drift” (i.e., drive cars sideways around tight curves) through underground parking garages in illegal races. And when Sean crosses a young racer with ties to organized crime, the superfluous plot threatens to sink what is essentially a movie about driving cars very fast and crashing them in spectacular fashion. It’s never deep, but it’s also never boring, just a loud, good-looking tribute to speed and destruction for audiences unconcerned with having a “meaningful” time at the movies. It’s summer. Why not?

Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Steeped in testosterone, this movie can’t help but occasionally fall into the kind of “Top Gun”-esque homoerotic camp that afflicts all films featuring attractive, glowering young men. But otherwise, there’s no specific queer content.)

The Lake House

A lakeside home holds a time-shifting mystery after Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) moves and leaves a welcoming message for the next tenant. Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) finds her missive all right – only he lived in the house before her. The couple communicates through notes left in the mailbox, and they begin to fall in love, but time and circumstance may keep them from ever meeting. Bullock and Reeves are likable actors with terrific chemistry – no small feat when they share few scenes together – and their charisma goes a long way toward making this romantic trifle sizzle. The story is preposterous, the supporting characters are mostly stick figures, and scenes tend to run too long, but the stars are so amiable that it scarcely matters.

Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Reeves played a bisexual hustler in Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho,” collaborated with the director again in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” and has other gay-themed projects to his credit on both stage and screen. Bullock’s two “Miss Congeniality” movies had queer content. Among co-stars with queer credits are Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Dylan Walsh, and Shoreh Aghdashloo.)

Nacho Libre

Nacho (Jack Black) is a cook in a Mexican monastery and helps care for the orphans who live there. But he harbors a secret ambition of becoming a “luchador” – a masked wrestler – a dream he attempts to turn into a reality after he forms a tag team with fierce, rail-thin Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez). This woeful comedy is nearly as flabby as Black’s pitiful pectoral muscles, consisting mainly of flatulence jokes and sight gags involving the woefully out-of-shape Black poured into tights, as he pretends to wrestle a variety of opponents, from dwarfs to bruisers built like cement mixers. The humor is not merely weak; director Jared Hess and his co-screenwriters also overstuff their script with racist stereotypes.

Grade: D
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Black appeared in an episode of “Will & Grace.” Among producer/co-screenwriter Mike White’s queer credits is “Chuck & Buck,” which he co-wrote and starred in. He is also openly bisexual and the son of gay activist minister Mel White.)

The Omen

Six-year-old Damien ( Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is the son of Satan. He barely speaks, but he knows how to glare demonically. His human parents (Julia Stiles, Liev Schrieber) are unaware of this, even as bizarre tragedies and mysterious deaths surround Damien’s every move. Enter a literal Nanny from Hell (Mia Farrow), who helps orchestrate Damien’s silent-but-deadly antics, and the pair seems like an unstoppable force in this remake of the 1976 original. Another unstoppable force is this movie’s unintentional humor. Not up to the task of being genuinely scary, it succeeds only as histrionic horror camp (with some gruesome gore thrown in to appease its target audience) and as a strange bedfellow to “The Da Vinci Code”‘s Catholic-bashing. And for true horror fans, that’s just not evil enough.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Schrieber played a drag queen in the ’90s comedy “Mixed Nuts.” Co-star David Thewlis played the poet Verlaine in “Total Eclipse.”)

Over the Hedge

Rascally raccoon RJ (voice of Bruce Willis) has one week to replace Vincent the bear’s (Nick Nolte) destroyed stash of junk food or it’s curtains. The ring-tailed creature cons a group of foraging animals – including Verne (Garry Shandling), a suspicious turtle; Hammy (Steve Carell), a dim-witted squirrel; and Ozzie (William Shatner), a fearful opossum – into helping him raid suburban kitchens, putting them in jeopardy when the exterminator comes to call. This lively animated feature scores exceptionally well-cast voices, effervescent songs, and a script full of both verbal and visual wit. The animals are adorable, even the homicidal bear, who will captivate the kids. But the movie’s real charm lies in its deft satire of suburbia and the less savory aspects of human eating habits.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Nolte played bisexual writer Neal Cassady in “Heart Beat” and has starred in a couple of Merchant/Ivory Films, while Carell played Uncle Arthur in “Bewitched.” Co-stars with queer credits include Wanda Sykes, Catherine O’Hara, and Allison Janney.)

Wordplay

It’s a documentary about people obsessed with crossword puzzles. And by the looks of it, every smart, funny, accomplished person in public life harbors a fetish for the puzzle in the Sunday edition of the “New York Times.” The film’s main wordplayer, “Times” puzzle editor Will Shortz, created a national championship that attracts hundreds of participants – including a top-ranking gay man – for one frenzied weekend a year, and the 2005 event is chronicled from start to finish with appropriate visual wit and style. Sprinkled liberally through this etymologist’s delight are interviews with puzzle-lovers Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, the Indigo Girls, Ken Burns, and Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, all declaring their devotion to the most difficult mind-game around.

Grade: A-
Kinsey Scale: 2 (In addition to a featured interview with the Indigo Girls, the documentary shows the championship-contending gay man from Florida, Trip Payne, at home with his partner. Their relationship is treated matter-of-factly, without comment.)

X-Men: The Last Stand

It’s Magneto (Ian McKellen) versus Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as the mutants take sides in a battle over a “cure” for mutations in this third “X-Men” installment. As science finds a solution for the genetic differences and super-powers associated with being a mutant, factions of the X-Men find themselves locked in a war with “homo sapiens” and within their own ranks. It’s a fun ride – the fight sequences in particular are spectacular – with enough nods to X-Men lore to satisfy the comic book’s devoted fan base. And for those who’ve never seen the previous chapters or turned a single page of the original Marvel comic, the movie is a relatively easy-to-follow primer on all things “X.”

Grade: B
Kinsey Scale: 3 (Technically, there is no gay content in the film. However, the character of The Beast – played here by Kelsey Grammer – is gay in the comic book. Meanwhile, the entire story can be read as an allegory about gay persecution and efforts to “cure” people who don’t view themselves as sick. McKellen is openly gay and has played gay in films several times, while Jackman portrayed Peter Allen on Broadway in “The Boy from Oz.” Co-star Patrick Stewart played gay in “Jeffrey.”)

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.