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By |2015-08-01T09:00:00-04:00August 1st, 2015|Entertainment|


The four Bielski brothers evade the invading Nazis by escaping into Belarus’ forest where others fleeing the dawning Holocaust join them. The eldest Bielskis, Tuvia (Daniel Craig) and Zus (Liev Schreiber), become de-facto leaders of the community, until a rift develops as Tuvia concentrates on keeping the group safe while Zus becomes involved in violent resistance against the Germans. This lengthy, high-toned drama benefits from passionate, soulful turns from Craig and Schreiber, and also tells an intriguing story in this little-known chapter from World War II. But it never catches fire. The supporting characters are underwritten, the pacing is sluggish, and while the climax is strong on action, its reliance on coincidence robs it of credibility. What ought to be riveting is instead dramatically inert.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Craig’s breakthrough role was as a gay burglar who became artist Francis Bacon’s lover in “Love Is the Devil,” and he also played Perry Smith in the Truman Capote biopic “Infamous.” Among the co-stars, Jamie Bell was the titular “Billy Elliot,” gay actor Allan Corduner appeared in “De-Lovely,” and Jodhi May had a role in “Tipping the Velvet.”)

The Reader

In 1950s Berlin, Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) seduces 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross), then abruptly deserts him. He is stunned to see her again years later on trial, accused of Nazi atrocities. The affair and her crimes haunt him, emotionally stunting the now middle-aged lawyer (Ralph Fiennes). A glossy, would-be Oscar contender, to call this drama inept is an understatement. Fiennes is excellent, but his sensitive performance is wasted in the morass of stilted dialogue, overblown score, turgid pacing, and ridiculous love scenes. Both Winslet, sporting a terrible German accent, and the pallid, passionless Kross are miscast. Worst of all is the ludicrous oversimplification of what ought to be a complex, wrenching story of a postwar-era German confronting his country’s Holocaust past.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Winslet’s movie debut was in the Sapphic thriller “Heavenly Creatures.” Fiennes played an heiress’ gay butler in “Bernard and Doris.” Screenwriter David Hare and director Stephen Daldry previously collaborated on “The Hours.” Daldry married a woman a few years ago, but still identifies as gay, and among his other credits is “Billy Elliot.”)

Revolutionary Road

Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) has a decent 1950s office job and a lovely suburban home that he shares with his wife April (Kate Winslet) and their two beautiful children. The Wheelers are miserable, however, feeling that life has passed them by and that they’ve never lived up to their youthful ambitions. Unfortunately, “Revolutionary Road” firmly establishes both characters as unlikable, mediocre failures – the film begins with would-be actress April flopping in an amateur theatrical production – so it’s hard to get too worked up over their less-than-stellar lives. DiCaprio and Winslet give fine performances, except when they have to scream at each other, which happens in practically every other scene. Coming off best here – besides the art director and costume designer – is actor Michael Shannon; too bad he’s stuck with a cliched “sane crazy man” character. It’s not revolutionary, just repellent.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (DiCaprio played gay poet Arthur Rimbaud in “Total Eclipse,” while Winslet played a lesbian teenage killer in “Heavenly Creatures.”)


Bedtime Stories

Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) is a maintenance man in a luxury hotel slated for expansion. That expansion, however, will take place at the expense of his niece and nephew’s elementary school. With that bit of conflict as a backdrop, Skeeter begins weaving bedtime stories to his young relatives that wind up mirroring and shaping real-life daytime events. Will his stories help save the school, improve everyone’s life, and help Skeeter get the girl (Keri Russell)? Or will the greedy land developers rule the day? Your answer is in the Disney production stamp. As for your kids, they’ll never see it coming. And Sandler makes just enough dirty underpants jokes and delivers funny voices in sufficient quantity to keep them reasonably entertained. Let your low expectations be your guide.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Sandler played a straight man pretending to be gay in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” Co-stars Guy Pearce and Richard Griffiths played gay in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “The History Boys,” respectively.)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born as an old man and spends his life getting younger. Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the love of Benjamin’s life, ages in the normal sequence, so the two have separate adventures until they manage to meet in the middle. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novella has been adapted by Eric Roth, most famous for “Forrest Gump,” and “Button” takes more than its share of “Gump”-ian turns – from a naive hero making his way through life, to a doting mother spouting bromides about life’s unpredictability. Director David Fincher and his crew make “Button” look good, with the special-effects and makeup teams deserving special praise, but the movie lacks a heart. The central relationship has no heft outside of Pitt and Blanchett’s chemistry; it’s quite likely you’ll cry and then, hours later, forget you saw it.

Grade: C+
Kinsey Scale: 2 (The cast includes Tilda Swinton, who was queer director Derek Jarman’s muse and who played men in “Orlando” and “Constantine”; Elias Koteas, who made out with James Spader in David Cronenberg’s “Crash”; and Jason Flemyng, who played a child abuser in the gay drama “Hollow Reed.” Blanchett was the object of Judi Dench’s desire in “Notes on a Scandal,” while Pitt starred in the not-gay-but-plenty-homoerotic “Fight Club.”)

The Day the Earth Stood Still

In this reworking of the classic 1950s sci-fi film, an alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) comes to Earth to warn of impending disaster. But this time the disaster isn’t nuclear, it’s environmental, and it’s going to happen soon. Only scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) will listen to Klaatu’s warning (even with a huge, military-disarming, defense robot by his side, no one believes this guy), and it’s a race against time to save the planet from certain destruction via a swarm of matter-devouring insects. Sound dumb? It is – a dopey, pointless remake of a film that didn’t need a makeover. Also sound entertaining? It’s that too, more or less. Just turn off your inner critic and watch the bugs do their digital-effects-generated thing.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Reeves played a bisexual hustler in “My Own Private Idaho.” Co-star Kathy Bates appeared in “Fried Green Tomatoes” and played a lesbian in “Primary Colors.”)


Certain that Father Flynn’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) liberal attitudes mask some major transgression, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is determined to rid her parish of the popular priest. When Sister James (Amy Adams) witnesses a seemingly furtive exchange between Flynn and an altar boy, it’s all the confirmation Sister Aloysius needs to confront the man. John Patrick Shanley adapts his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and does a marvelous job of opening up the drama and recreating a wintry New York City circa 1964. The three leads are terrific as they hash out the moral implications of Sister Aloysius’ accusations, but a poignant Viola Davis as the boy’s mother steals the movie as she makes plain the danger her gay son faces in a closeted, homophobic era.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 3 (In keeping with the era, the words “gay,” “homosexual,” and “pedophilia” are never uttered when Sister Aloysius starts making accusations about Father Flynn. Despite that ’60s era reticence, there is no mistaking what anyone is talking about. Hoffman won an Oscar for playing the titular gay writer in “Capote,” and also appeared in “Boogie Nights,” “Flawless,” and” Strangers with Candy.” Streep has appeared in a number of films with gay themes or characters, most notably “Angels in America” and “The Hours.” Adams had roles in Charles Busch’s “Psycho Beach Party” and in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”)

Four Christmases

Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a fun-loving couple whose greatest pleasure at Christmas is to ignore their awful families and go vacation at various tropical resorts. But when weather grounds their flight, they decide to visit each of their divorced parents, one by one. What ensues is supposed to be comedy but merely serves as a reminder that sometimes, rotten families simply shouldn’t come together, no matter what holiday it happens to be. This being Hollywood, however, this particular rotten batch of relatives winds up softening and learning lessons about love and Christmas and all that other fake Santa nonsense. Do yourself a favor and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” instead. At least that one’s hokey and adorable instead of grating and obnoxious.

Grade: D
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Witherspoon’s character is revealed to have had an unwitting teenage romance with a lesbian friend. Reese also starred in what has become a modern gay-adjacent comedy classic, “Legally Blonde.” Co-star Sissy Spacek appeared in “A Home At The End of The World.” Meanwhile, co-star Kristin Chenoweth is on the “Wicked”/”Pushing Daisies”-inspired fast track to gay icon status with every passing year.)

Marley & Me

Reporter John Grogan (Owen Wilson) buys his wife Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) a Golden Labrador puppy, hoping the dog will distract her from her desire to start a family. The pooch, Marley, is a rambunctious animal impervious to attempts to train him. But the Grogans love him, and he is on hand for the birth of three children, John’s ascendance as a columnist, Jennifer’s postpartum depression, and John’s midlife crisis. Based on the real-life Grogan’s best-selling memoir, the drama’s episodic structure works against it. This is less a movie than a series of strung-together anecdotes with no real point. Wilson and Aniston share little chemistry, the humor is pitched at sitcom level, and a tear-inducing climax that ought to be poignant feels instead like shameless manipulation.

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Wilson starred in the metrosexual comedy “Zoolander.” Aniston starred in “The Object of My Affection,” as a woman who falls for her gay roommate, and on the gay-friendly “Friends.” Co-star Kathleen Turner was John Waters’ titular “Serial Mom.” Co-star Alan Arkin appeared in “Little Miss Sunshine” and on episode of “Will & Grace.” Co-screenwriter Don Roos is gay and is the writer/director of “The Opposite of Sex” and “Happy Endings.”)


After moving to San Francisco’s Castro District in 1972, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) finds his true calling in gay activism and politics. He wins a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors in 1977, allying himself with Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber), but evokes rage in homophobic supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin). Thirty years after White’s assassination of Milk and Moscone, Gus Van Sant offers a warmhearted, moving biopic of the ebullient gay rights pioneer. A buoyant, charismatic Penn heads up a peerless cast and delivers a career-best performance in a riveting, atmospheric drama that emphasizes both the public politician who led the fight to beat back an initiative that would have barred gay teachers from California classrooms, and the private man and his romantic travails.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 6 (In addition to the subject matter, queer talent abounds in this production. Director Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black are gay, as are Garber and co-stars Stephen Spinella and Denis O’Hare, who ironically plays homophobic California State Senator John Briggs. Current San Francisco Supervisor and California Assemblyman-elect Tom Ammiano plays himself as he was 30 years ago, a teacher in danger in losing his job. Milk friend and AIDS quilt creator Cleve Jones – played as a young man in the film by Emile Hirsch – appears in a cameo role. Cast members with queer credits in other films and on stage include Penn, Brolin, Garber, Hirsch, Spinella, O’Hare, Diego Luna, James Franco, Alison Pill, and Joseph Cross.)

Quantum of Solace

Secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) discovers that an evil enterprise out to control scarce natural resources is also responsible for his girlfriend’s death. Seeking revenge, he targets the group and its leader Dominic Greene (Matthieu Amalric), going rogue after boss M. (Judi Dench) orders him to stand down. The latest installment in the globetrotting franchise offers Craig’s potent cocktail of robust athleticism, rakish charm, and rugged good looks, but little else. The mediocrity begins with a wafer-thin plot, a bland villain, and boring Bond girls Camille (Olga Kurylenko) and Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) who generate little heat with the spy. Worst of all is director Marc Forster’s frantic editing as he slices and dices action scenes as if they were rock videos, destroying all suspense.

Grade: C

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Craig played painter Francis Bacon’s lover in “Love is the Devil,” appeared in the homoerotic “Enduring Love,” and was killer Perry Smith in “Infamous.” Dench was the lesbian teacher in “Notes on a Scandal” and also had a role in “Tea with Mussolini.” Among the co-stars, Jeffrey Wright was Belize in “Angels in America,” while David Harbour was in “Kinsey” and “Brokeback Mountain.”)

Seven Pounds

Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS agent with so many secrets that to explain even one of them in a review would result in an avalanche of spoilers. It’s sufficient to know that his secrets drive him to embark on an exceptionally elaborate scheme to change the lives of seven strangers for the better, in particular a young, dying artist named Emily (Rosario Dawson). That the plot exists in a space that allows Smith’s character to go about his cryptic business unquestioned isn’t the point. The “fun” in this self-serious bit of Oscar bait is in figuring out his mystery and seeing how his various plans come together. And though Smith is obviously shooting for an acting nomination, Dawson’s effortless charm is enough to engage the audience and keep her leading man from straining too hard; you never knew seven pounds of something could be so heavy.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Smith played gay in “Six Degrees of Separation,” and Dawson starred in the film version of the gay-themed “Rent.” Co-star Woody Harrelson played gay in “The Walker,” and had a recurring role on “Will & Grace.”)

Slumdog Millionaire

As he verges on winning the Indian edition of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel) is accused of cheating, since no one believes an ignorant “slumdog” could possibly know the trivia quiz’s answers. To clear himself, Jamal weaves the tale of his impoverished life and of knowledge gained during a harsh “education” on Mumbai’s streets. Danny Boyle’s virtuoso drama is both intimate and epic, Jamal’s life paralleling the great changes that have transformed Mumbai during India’s economic rise. Patel is terrifically moving and so are the two non-professionals who play Jamal at seven and 12. Gorgeously shot, energetically edited, and graced by a wonderful closing sequence that pays homage to Bollywood cinema, this is a heartwarming, irresistible tale of survival, romance, and transcendence.

Grade: A

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Patel played the best friend to a gay teenager on the British comedy drama series “Skins.”)

The Tale of Despereaux

Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick) is a brave little mouse living in a king’s castle. Banished for his un-mouselike behavior, he befriends both a rat (Dustin Hoffman) and a princess (Emma Watson) before having to put his innate bravery to use when the kingdom needs saving. And in a world of brash, sarcastic, CG-animated, talking-animal movies, the gentle charms of this one far outweigh the problem of occasionally ponderous storytelling. If anything, the change of pace (this mouse is more like the literate Belle of “Beauty and The Beast” than the manic creatures of “Madagascar”) and the beautiful, old-world-painting quality of the animation are refreshing and will be surprisingly pleasing to both kids and parents. It’s no “Ratatouille,” but it’s still entirely warm and satisfying.

Grade: B+
Kinsey Scale: 1 (The large, all-star voice cast includes a number of actors who’ve played gay characters or have starred in gay-themed films, such as Broderick, Hoffman, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, and Stanley Tucci.)


Disgusted by World War II and what has become of Germany, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) leads a 1944 conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The plot appears to succeed, but it is a race against time for Stauffenberg and his allies to take control of the government before the Gestapo does. To director Bryan Singer’s credit, he keeps this fact-based thriller’s action moving at a fast pace, even if the drama never generates much suspense. The conspirators’ motives are never really clear, and the characters are mostly caricatures. Despite a heavyweight supporting cast that includes Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy, the focus is almost completely on the all-American Cruise, who is simply not credible in the role of a Nazi, disillusioned or otherwise.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Singer is gay, and Cruise starred in “Interview with the Vampire.” Nighy appeared in “Enduring Love” and “Notes on a Scandal,” while Branagh starred in and directed “Peter’s Friends.” Among co-stars with queer credits are Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Kevin McNally, Jamie Parker, Tom Hollander, and Eddie Izzard.)

Yes Man

Carl (Jim Carrey), still nursing his wounds from a breakup three years after the fact, hating his job, and withdrawn from his friends, stumbles into a self-help seminar where he learns a new philosophy: say “yes” to everything. When he decides to try this approach, he finds a new girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel), a social life, and job satisfaction. Of course, there are unexpected unpleasant surprises as well. If not, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, just a lot of small happy endings. Now, does Jim Carrey act as though he were flying solo and overdo it sometimes? Yes. Is the story completely predictable? Yes. But is the seemingly unflappable Deschanel charming enough to counteract Carrey’s occasionally shopworn antics and a script bubbling over with romantic comedy cliches? Yes. And will you laugh in spite of it all? Yes.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Co-star Terence Stamp played gay in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Co-star Fionnula Flanagan appeared in “Transamerica.”)

About the Author:

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