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 |2004-02-26T09:00:00-05:00February 26th, 2004|Uncategorized|
Just Out

50 First Dates

Henry (Adam Sandler) is a veterinarian living in Hawaii whose sexual magnetism is so strong he has an endless string of romances with tourists. Then he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and falls for her and her only. The problem? She has short-term memory loss and can’t remember him from day to day, which forces them to meet in that cute movie way again and again for the rest of the film. Think “Groundhog Day.” Then think “Groundhog Day” without the humor. The weakest of weak, unfunny scripts (that includes cute kids, funny animal antics, bodily function slapstick, and cloying, forced heart-warmth) coupled with ham-fisted direction keeps Sandler and Barrymore freeze-dried through the entire film. It’ll be the 50 worst dates of the audience’s life.

Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 2 (In addition to the bisexuality of lead Barrymore, this film has several strange instances of thoughtless gay-themed humor. The silliest – and most offensive – involves character actor Lusia Strus as a very masculine bisexual woman whom Henry constantly mistakes for a man. Then there’s the issue of Henry’s sexuality: “King of Queens” star Kevin James makes a split-second cameo as a gay man who has had a romantic dalliance with Sandler. It’s a throwaway gag, but what it really means is that the male lead of this film is bi. Finally, fans of Samwise Gamgee will be happy to know that Sean Astin appears here as Barrymore’s bodybuilding brother, and is frequently shirtless and flexing his pecs. )

The Dreamers

When American expatriate Matthew (Michael Pitt) meets French siblings Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel) at a demonstration in front of Paris’ Cinematheque Francais, the three bond over their passion for movies. But a friendship that begins with the trio re-enacting their favorite scenes quickly evolves into a torrid romantic triangle as outside their apartment the city erupts into revolution. Bernardo Bertolucci’s steamy erotic drama, set against the backdrop of the events of May 1968, pays homage to his twin passions: cinema and the decade in which all manner of revolution – political, social, and sexual – burst forth. With masturbation, menstruation, and intimations of incest, the sex is sometimes raw, but the film retains a fable-like quality, and the lovely young cast is entrancing.

Grade: A Kinsey Report: 3 (The homoeroticism is intense. Though Matthew and Theo never make love, it is clear that they use Isabelle as a surrogate for one another. Pitt is building quite a career in queer-interest vehicles with this, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and “Murder by Numbers.” Bertolucci directed “The Sheltering Sky” and began his career as an assistant to pioneering queer director Pier Paolo Pasolini.)

Ongoing

Along Came Polly

Hidebound risk analyst Reuben (Ben Stiller) discovers that there is no insurance against heartbreak when his bride, Lisa (Debra Messing), leaves him for her scuba instructor (Hank Azaria) on their honeymoon. When Polly (Jennifer Aniston), a free-spirited former classmate, breezes back into Reuben’s life with all the subtlety of a hurricane, she upends his sterile world and melts his heart. Stiller’s sober goofiness contrasts well with Aniston’s warm earthiness, but these amiable performers are let down by a trite script that relies on flatulence, vomit, irritable bowel syndrome, and a blind ferret’s tendency to ram into walls for its humor. A roguish Bryan Brown as a base-jumping, shark-diving millionaire seeking life insurance provides this sophomoric comedy with one of its few bright spots.

Grade: C Kinsey Report: 1 (One of Polly’s friends is gay. Stiller, Messing, Azaria, Aniston, and co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman are all veterans of queer-themed projects.)

Barbershop 2: Back in Business

Calvin (Ice Cube) and his cutting crew return for this warmly enjoyable sequel, in which the emphasis is less on the plot than on the large cast’s human interaction. This time around, a developer trying to “regentrify” Chicago’s South Side opens a sleek salon – part of a national chain – that threatens to destroy the neighborhood’s independently owned businesses. However, Calvin and his band of stylists aren’t going out without a fight. Again, that’s just the plot; the real reason to see this movie is for the return of “Barbershop”‘s cast, notably Eve and the hilarious Cedric the Entertainer, whose mouthy, politically incorrect charm steals every scene. It’s a funny, welcome return to business as usual.

Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Queen Latifah has a small role as the beauty-shop owner next door – where her spin-off film, “Beauty Shop,” will be based. Troy Garrity, as barber Isaac, starred in the queer-themed “A Soldier’s Girl.”)

Big Fish

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) has spent his entire adult life running from his father, Edward (Albert Finney), and the old man’s fanciful yarns of adventure, circus feats, and daring deeds. When he finds out that his dad is dying, William returns home to try to separate fact from fiction in a last-ditch attempt at reconciliation. While some of the fantasy sequences are witty and colorful, director Tim Burton’s attempt at blending whimsy with domestic drama mostly grates. Finney’s Edward comes across as a blowhard endlessly repeating the same stories, while Crudup’s frigid performance renders William a heartless bore. As young Edward, the normally charismatic Ewan McGregor tries in vain to breathe life into a tissue-thin role, but comes across as little more than a cartoon.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Finney and McGregor have both played queer characters, while Burton directed the 1993 camp classic, “Ed Wood.” Co-star Steve Buscemi’s breakthrough role was in the pioneering AIDS drama “Parting Glances.”)

The Butterfly Effect

Evan (Ashton Kutcher) has more than a few problems. He has blackouts that eliminate painful memories, but learns that he can control them and then time-travel in order to undo the unpleasant events. Unfortunately, his life has been so chock-full of those ugly scenes (his dad tried to kill him, his neighbor is a pedophile, and his friends are guilty of voluntary manslaughter) that just when he fixes one wrong, more dreadful consequences pop up in its place. In fact, this wacky, terrible, yet never dull movie throws so much violence, abuse, misery, drug addiction, prison sex, amputation, and Kutcher hairstyle-changing at the audience that it becomes giddily laughable the more serious it gets. Feel free to talk back to the screen.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (There are two strange gay moments in this film, one when Kutcher’s horrible childhood friend calls someone a “faggot,” and the other when Kutcher himself, stuck in prison and desperate to be protected, offers oral sex to a pair of neo-Nazis. Yes, really. Kutcher also made out with Seann William Scott in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”)

Catch That Kid

When 12-year-old Maddy’s (Kristen Stewart) father, Tom (Sam Robards), needs a $250,000 operation to avoid permanent paralysis, she springs into action to raise the cash. While her mother (Jennifer Beals) works to install a bank’s high-tech security system, Maddy and her friends Austin (Corbin Bleu) and Gus (Max Thieriot) plan to use Maddy’s inside knowledge to rob the bank. A go-cart chase and a sweet romantic triangle among the three best pals feature in this children’s action adventure that pre-teens on down will appreciate for its kid-empowerment fantasy and likable young stars. Parents, on the other hand, might want to check out what else is playing at the multiplex, or risk the boredom of a predictable, simplistic story and overly broad supporting characters.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Beals stars in TV’s “The L Word,” while co-star Stark Sands was last seen being seduced by Jason Priestley in “Die, Mommie, Die.” Co-star Michael Des Barres played one of Martin Mull’s boyfriends on “Roseanne.”)

Cold Mountain

North Carolina laborer Inman (Jude Law) and minister’s daughter Ada (Nicole Kidman) fall in love but barely have time for a first kiss before the Civil War breaks out. Unable to bear their separation, Inman deserts the Confederacy in order to make a peril-filled journey home to his beloved. Meanwhile, back on Cold Mountain, the now-orphaned Ada struggles to maintain her farm with the help of blunt-spoken hand Ruby (Renee Zellweger). Law and Kidman make a gorgeous couple, and they are well-supported by a large, excellent cast. But this intimate, romantic drama is ill-served by writer/director Anthony Minghella’s tedious attempt at fashioning a sweeping epic, and the lack of political and social implications within a Civil War story renders the film curiously antiseptic.

Grade: B Kinsey Report: 1 (Minghella, Law, Kidman, Zellweger, and co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eileen Atkins, Charlie Hunnam, Jena Malone, and Ethan Suplee have all participated in queer-themed projects.)

The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) reach the end of their journey in this, the final and best installment of the trilogy. The story? It’s a long, complicated one, but, in a sentence, two little hobbits are sent on a mission to save the world from the terrible, destructive power of The Ring. In this chapter, their attempt to destroy it at Mount Doom is the catalyst for a gigantic battle between Good and Evil for the future of Middle Earth – a fight in which the spectacular special effects never crowd out the heart-wrenching emotional climax. It’s a perfectly balanced epic, one that will thrill you for its entire 200-minute running time. So take an afternoon off, settle in, and enjoy this holiday treat.

Grade: A+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (Sir Ian McKellen plays Gandalf, and fellow cast members Liv Tyler and Hugo Weaving have played gay. However, the gayest thing about this trilogy has been the ongoing subtext of a deep love affair between hobbits Frodo and Sam. No, it’s not queer in any explicit way, but the intimacy they share is so strong that in any other film it would find its denouement in a climactic kiss.)

Miracle

Kurt Russell gives one of the finest performances of his career as Herb Brooks, the hard-driving coach who led the 1980 Team USA hockey team to improbable Olympic glory. It’s a Cinderella story played out against the Cold War, as the young, inexperienced Americans battle the seemingly invincible Soviet team to advance to the gold-medal round. This inspirational sports saga displays unexpected bite and depth as it presents an unvarnished portrait of Brooks as a driven, sometimes slave-driving, control freak whose motivational methods border on the cruel. Twenty-four years ago, Team USA performed one miracle in capturing Olympic gold. By resisting the urge to smooth a complicated man’s rough edges, Russell and this absorbing drama perform another.

Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 1 (Co-star Patricia Clarkson played a lesbian in “High Art” and appeared in the queer-themed “Far from Heaven.” Though presented in a nonsexual context, there’s plenty of intense physical contact among the beautiful boys of Team USA.)

Monster

Aileen Wuornos took the lives of seven men in the late 1980s while she drifted through Florida working as a highway prostitute. At first she murdered in self- defense, but, as she continued, she killed simply because of her increasing derangement. Her disturbing story highlights the plight of women who live in continuously violent situations. As Wuornos, Charlize Theron is impressive, attacking the role with an intensity she’s yet to display in the terrible movies in which she’s been cast. Christina Ricci is equally affecting as Selby Wall, Wuornos’ lover, her naivete in stark contrast to Wuornos’ darkness. But in spite of the memorable acting, the movie’s tone is wildly uneven, the script and direction making this little more than a very gruesome TV movie. Theron’s performance deserves better.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 6 (This fictionalized account suggests that Wuornos wasn’t strictly a lesbian, but simply responded to Selby’s affection. Whatever the facts of Wuornos’ identity, her sexual relationship with Selby is a central component of the film’s plot. Ricci has appeared in queer-themed films like “The Opposite of Sex,” “All Over the Guy,” and “The Laramie Project.”)

Mystic River

A top-of-the-line ensemble cast competes to see who can deliver the most over-the-top performance in this turgid drama about three childhood friends who reunite over a tragedy. When ex-con Jimmy’s (Sean Penn) daughter is murdered, his old pal Sean (Kevin Bacon), now a homicide detective, is called into investigate, while their former playmate Dave (Tim Robbins) – still fighting the demons of childhood sexual abuse – comes under suspicion for the crime. The film starts out promisingly, as director Clint Eastwood eerily limns the events leading to young Dave’s molestation; but it soon loses all suspense and dramatic tension, thanks to its too-slow pacing. Its greatest sins, though, are the contrived, coincidence-dependent plot, cliched dialogue, and ham-fisted performances.

Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Bacon, Penn, and co-stars Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Tom Guiry have all appeared in gay-themed movies. Eastwood made the queer true-crime drama “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”)

The Perfect Score

This teen comedy is a case of niche marketing run amok, offering little of interest to anyone on either side of the 16-to-18-year-old divide. Six college-bound high school students conspire to steal the answers to the SATs from testing headquarters in Princeton, but their poorly planned break-in leads each to rethink the wisdom of cheating. There is only enough hackneyed material here to cover a half-hour sitcom episode, but the screenwriters and director stretch it out to a torturous 90 minutes of bad dialogue, lame action, and thin, stereotyped characters. The young ensemble cast, which includes “Lost in Translation”‘s Scarlett Johansson, is attractive, but not nearly charming enough to make this failure of a movie bearable.

Grade: F Kinsey Report: 0 (Absolutely no gay content of any kind.)

You Got Served

David (Omari Grandberry) and El (Marques Houston) are childhood friends with dreams of making it in the entertainment world. To do so, they engage in weekly street dance “battles” where they regularly mop the floor with the competition. When a rival Orange County dance crew challenges and beats them in a financially draining competition, the local favorites are thrown into dangerous turmoil. Call it “Breakin’ 2004,” if you will. The cast is appealing – featuring members of hip-hop groups IMX and B2K – and the dancing is mind-blowing (and would be more so if the camera would hold still for more than a second at a time during the battle sequences). But the borderline-inept filmmaking (major plot conflicts simply disappear; characters die for no reason) does its best to cripple the talented dancers. The final score: Dance 10, Brains 3.

Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Lots of shirtless basketball playing happens when the guys aren’t dancing. And it is, for the most part, a male-dominated dance scene here, making the film’s lack of any gay content ring false. Jackee Harry and L’il Kim make cameo appearances.)

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.