After Thwarted Kidnapping Plans, Whitmer Calls for Unity

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 [...]

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By |2008-10-30T09:00:00-04:00October 30th, 2008|Entertainment|
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High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and his girlfriend Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) are about to graduate from East High, but they’ve got conflicts. Troy doesn’t know if he wants to play college basketball or to pursue a singing-and-dancing scholarship at Julliard, while Gabriella is torn between academics and starring in the senior show with Troy. And if those sound like the same conflicts in the original “High School Musical,” that’s because they are. From the plot to the familiar-sounding songs, everything in this big-screen sequel to the popular Disney Channel movies feels like a retread of what came before. Even drag queen icon Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) feels neutered and tamped-down in this disappointing threequel. If the earlier movies were pure cotton candy, this one’s a stale, hard Skittle. C

Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s nothing explicitly gay in this G-rated musical, but the character of Ryan Evans continues to be the most flamboyant dresser in all of teen-land, favoring asymmetrical argyle cardigans, tight pink pants, knee-high leather boots, and jazz hands a-flying.)

Pride and Glory

NYPD detective Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) steps into an impossible situation when he investigates the ambush murders of four officers who served with his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich) and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). What at first looks like an open-and-shut case against a drug dealer grows complicated with the realization that the dead men were dirty cops. Not even the addition of a subplot involving Francis’ cancer-stricken wife (Jennifer Ehle) can humanize the cardboard characters in this ugly excuse for a crime drama. Essentially a compendium of cliched situations, bad dialogue, and outsized brutality, it reaches its nadir in a scene where Jimmy threatens to burn an infant with a hot iron. This is not so much a movie as an assault on the senses. D

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Farrell starred in “Alexander” and “A Home at the End of the World.” Norton appeared in “Frida.” Ehle played a bisexual poet in “Possession” and Oscar Wilde’s wife in “Wilde.” Among the co-stars, Jon Voight’s breakthrough role was in “Midnight Cowboy,” while Rick Gonzalez appeared in “Laurel Canyon” and “What We Do Is Secret,” the biopic of late queer punk rocker Darby Crash.)

The Secret Life of Bees

Unhappy 14-year-old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) flees her abusive father (Paul Bettany) and South Carolina hometown with family housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) after the latter tangles with local racists. In nearby Tiburon, the pair finds refuge with beekeeper August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) and her sisters. Set in 1964, this handsome, warmhearted melodrama based on Sue Monk Kidd’s bestseller catalogs the racial injustice boiling over in the wake of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. At the same time, it never loses sight of the human story, as August and her siblings welcome these two damaged souls into their family, and in the process, help heal their psychic wounds. A glorious ensemble of awesome women delivers powerful performances that transcend the tale’s soap opera aspects. B+

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Fanning played a young Ellen DeGeneres in an episode of “The Ellen Show.” Hudson was in “Sex and the City.” Latifah was Oscar-nominated for “Chicago” and appeared in “Set It Off” and “Hairspray.” Among the co-stars, Alicia Keys played a lesbian hit woman in “Smokin’ Aces,” Paul Bettany had a small role in “Bent,” and Sophie Okonedo was in “Scenes of a Sexual Nature.”)

Synecdoche, New York

Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can’t stop the degeneration of his own body or the disintegration of his marriage to artist Adele (Catherine Keener). But he “can” control what happens on stage, so when he gets a fat MacArthur genius grant check, he creates a smaller, detailed recreation of his hometown of Schenectady, N.Y., one where he can call all the shots. This willfully, wonderfully strange directorial debut of acclaimed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is a dazzling and dizzying exploration of life and death, love and loss, and artists torn between narcissism and their search for the truth. The cast – Hoffman, Keener, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Samantha Morton, to name just a few – is uniformly extraordinary, and “Synecdoche”‘s deadpan humor and moving exploration of the human condition will stay with you long after the lights come up. A

Kinsey Scale: 4 (Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of legendary gay author Truman Capote in “Capote,” while Keener was nominated for her bisexual role in “Being John Malkovich,” also written by Kaufman, and Williams was nominated for playing the wife of a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.” “Synecdoche” also offers a lesbian subplot.)

ALSO IN THEATERS:

Body of Lies

CIA agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) does the dangerous, unglamorous groundwork in the war on terror, chasing down insurgents first in Iraq and then in Amman. While he’s often in perilous situations, it seems his biggest problem is the moronic bureaucrats in Washington who run roughshod over his delicate intelligence work, particularly Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), who spends nearly the entire movie talking and arguing with Ferris via cell phone. Ferris and Hoffman finally collaborate on a big plan – that’s perhaps the movie’s one good idea – to draw out an egotistical but elusive terrorist by turning an innocent Jordanian into what appears to be al Qaeda’s latest hotshot. Ultimately, however, all the car bombs and spy satellites never amount to anything compelling, and Crowe and DiCaprio seem like thespian functionaries in an overly long procedural cop show. Add it to the growing heap of Hollywood’s latest genre: Dull Iraq Movie. D+

City of Ember

Two hundred years after a catastrophe struck the earth, the only remaining humans live deep in the underground city of Ember, where a rapidly decaying infrastructure threatens to bring on a new apocalypse. Teenager Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) is determined to find a way to prevent the impending doom, and when his friend Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) discovers a box suggesting that a world exists outside the city, the two join forces to find it. The immense charm of Treadaway and Ronan, a mutant rat the size of a hippo, and a smirking Bill Murray’s dryly funny turn as Ember’s corrupt mayor are among the highlights of this offbeat, but heavy-handed children’s fantasy. This family movie otherwise disappoints with thinly drawn supporting characters, meager special effects, and a predictable story. C

Eagle Eye

A stranger’s voice on the phone warns slacker Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) that the FBI is after him, just as agents burst through his door. The same voice threatens to kill single-mom Rachel Holloman’s (Michelle Monaghan) son unless she does what she is told. The two are soon on the run together, the voice forcing them ever deeper into a violent conspiracy. This paranoid thriller begins with an arresting premise: that the government’s surveillance equipment, meant to monitor for terrorists, could be turned against ordinary American citizens. Unfortunately, the movie never pauses long enough from the frantic stew of car chases, explosions, and lavish special effects to fully explore those implications, morphing instead into a flabby, barely suspenseful, and depressingly routine action adventure. C

Max Payne

Max Payne (played by a stone-like Mark Wahlberg) is a cop whose wife and child have been murdered, their case grown cold. Obsessed with finding the killer and exacting revenge, he pores over every detail, alone in his need to find an answer. When new murders take place that provide the smallest hint of a clue, Payne is off on the hunt and realizes that a pharmaceutical company conspiracy may lie at the end of his journey. Along the way, a lot of people get harmed by-the-numbers – his last name isn’t a homonym for nothing – but the somewhat preposterous action and predictable outcome, from the on-cue vengeance to the easily seen “who” in the whodunit, is tarted up with attractive visuals like shadowy mood camerawork, a stark urban winter landscape, and bullet’s-eye views of doom. You’ll have seen it all before many times, but it still packs a good-looking, zeitgeist-y, somewhat anticorporate punch. B-

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

New Jersey high school student Nick (Michael Cera) makes mix CDs for his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) long after she’s dumped him. He doesn’t know that Tris’ sometime-friend Norah (Kat Dennings), who’s got ex-boyfriend troubles of her own, rescues the CDs from the trash for Nick’s perfect musical taste. And when Nick and Norah are accidentally thrown into each other’s lives on a typical teen excursion into New York City to see a band, they discover budding romance amidst chaotic surroundings, unreliable drunken friends, and emotional blackmail from exes. Call it “Sixteen Candles 2008,” as the premise of “one wacky night that changes everything” used by countless high school comedies gets a scruffy update. Meanwhile, the infusion of sweet, low-key charm and the underplayed comic talents of Cera and Dennings save it from being just another teen movie and make it cause for minor celebration. B

Nights in Rodanthe

Wife and mom Adrienne (Diane Lane) can’t decide whether or not to take back her estranged, philandering husband (Christopher Meloni). Troubled doctor Paul (Richard Gere) wants to face up to his mistakes and mend his broken relationship with his son (James Franco). When Adrienne and Paul meet – she’s running an inn for her vacationing friend, he’s the only guest – they brood, stare at the sea, and bond. And because they’re played by Diane Lane and Richard Gere, they have Earth-shattering sex and heal each other’s emotional wounds. Even if you’re a sucker for chick flicks and/or tearjerkers, “Nights in Rodanthe” is so over-the-top – they fall into each other’s arms as a hurricane hits! – that you’ll find it difficult to stifle the giggles. Lane delivers another great performance, but she’s too good for this material. C

W.

George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) fails upward to the U.S. presidency in Oliver Stone’s biographical drama. Striking out at everything but politics, this resentful son of a powerful father (James Cromwell) finds invading Iraq as a way to step out of the old man’s shadow. This plodding, not entirely unsympathetic portrait plays like an Oedipal tragedy, one that extracts a huge price from the entire country with the rush to war. Brolin’s multifaceted portrayal reveals a man with more ambition than brains, who overcompensates on a grand scale. The usual suspects are all here, including manipulative adviser Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and supercilious Vice President Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss). Thandie Newton adds comic relief with a broadly bizarre performance as National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. B-

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 27th anniversary.