Now Playing

By |2008-11-06T09:00:00-05:00November 6th, 2008|Entertainment|
NEW THIS WEEK

Changeling

In 1928 Pasadena, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) returns home to find her 9-year-old son Walter missing. Months later, LAPD police captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) announces that the child has been found – only Christine insists the boy is not Walter. Jones refuses to reopen Walter’s case and starts a vicious campaign against Christine when she raises a public fuss. Director Clint Eastwood has done a masterful job in re-creating the era, from Christine’s Marcel wave to telephone operators on roller skates. Some risible dialogue aside, Eastwood has created an effective, affecting drama that is part suspenseful thriller, part tearjerker. And he has handed Jolie quite a gift with her best role since her Oscar-winning turn in “Girl, Interrupted” – as the grieving but determined mother, she is absolutely stunning. A-

Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (In her younger days, Jolie was open about her bisexuality. She played a lesbian supermodel in “Gia” and appeared in “Alexander.” Among the co-stars, John Malkovich had roles in “Shadow of the Vampire” and “The Libertine”; Amy Ryan appeared in “Capote”; and gay actor Denis O’Hare played a recurring character on “Brother & Sisters,” and took part in “The Anniversary Party,” “Heights,” and “Milk,” as well as the plays “Cabaret” and “Take Me Out.” Eastwood previously made “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”)

What Just Happened?

Hollywood producer Ben (Robert De Niro) may be rich and powerful, but he’s got problems: He has to make a temperamental British director (Michael Wincott) change the ending of the new Sean Penn movie in time for the Cannes Film Festival, while convincing Bruce Willis to shave off his beard and lose weight before the studio pulls the plug on their new project. Meanwhile, his most recent ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) is sleeping with his best friend (Stanley Tucci), and he’s getting no assistance whatsoever from a hard-as-nails studio executive (Catherine Keener). “What Just Happened?” is navel-gazing even by the standards of previous movies-about-moviemaking, and neither director Barry Levinson nor his talented cast will make you care about any of these spoiled, selfish rich people. Rent “The Player” instead. C-

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Based on this movie, you’d think there were no gay people in Hollywood, which everyone knows couldn’t be further from the truth. De Niro starred in “Flawless,” while Tucci played fairy godfather to Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Keener played bisexual in “Being John Malkovich,” and portrayed Harper Lee, the best friend of gay author Truman Capote, in “Capote.”)

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

When 20-somethings Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) find themselves falling behind on their rent and utility payments, they decide that desperate times call for desperate measures. The two go into the porn business with some seed money from one of Zack’s co-workers, and assemble a small but enthusiastic cast and crew. What the two lifelong platonic friends don’t see coming is that having sex for the first time – in front of a camera, no less – will change their relationship forever. Written and directed by the wonderfully profane Kevin Smith, “Zack and Miri” mines lots of humor from sexuality and the mechanics of naked filmmaking, but there’s a sweet side to the film, too. Rogen and Banks make a lovely couple who travel a very unusual path to romance. A-

Kinsey Scale: 4 (Zack and Miri are inspired to make smut after meeting gay porn star Brandon – played by the hilarious Justin Long – who is the boyfriend of former football jock and Miri’s teen crush Bobby – played by Brandon Routh, who’s funnier than you’d imagine – at their high school reunion. The fake gay porn titles Brandon mentions are both accurate and hysterical.)

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+

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

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

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

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

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+

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

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.