Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a flippant music publicist who, in quick succession, becomes a father, a widower, and jobless. Moving home from Manhattan to New Jersey to live with his father (George Carlin) and raise his daughter (Raquel Castro), he discovers unexpected joy in parenthood and possible romance with video-store clerk Maya (Liv Tyler). And yes, “Jay and Silent Bob” fans, this is a movie from writer/director Kevin Smith, but don’t expect the perpetually stoned duo to show up. In fact, don’t expect to laugh as much either, as this stale, stifled bit of heartfelt warmth is an emphatic detour from Smith’s foul-mouthed, anything-goes, R-rated tradition. His intentions are honorable, but sweet-natured, PG-13-rated movies about daddies who love their little girls don’t suit this filmmaker, no matter how much of a family man he himself has become.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (Director Smith is nothing if not gay-inclusive. Every film he’s made has included a gay character or gay subject matter, most notably “Chasing Amy,” in which a hetero man – played by Affleck – falls in love with a lesbian. Tyler played a lesbian in “Dr. T and the Women”; co-star Jennifer Lopez was a wishy-washy lesbian in “Gigli”; and Carlin played a hitchhiker who offers gay sex for rides in Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”)
The Lady killers
The Coen Brothers reach for a new low in bad taste and find it in this virtually laugh-free comedy that trades on racism, noxious stereotypes, and infantile vulgarity. In this remake of a 1955 film, Tom Hanks plays Professor G.H. Dorr, an effete, logorrheic thief and head of a gang of morons who plan to rob a riverboat casino. When Dorr’s elderly landlady, Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall), stumbles onto their scheme, the race is on to rub her out before she can make good her threat to report them. It’s a toss-up as to which is more excruciating – the vile humor, or Hanks’ annoying, one-note performance, which is a cross between Colonel Sanders and Foghorn Leghorn. The gospel soundtrack is wonderful, but that hardly compensates for the rest of this empty-headed exercise.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hanks won his first Oscar for playing the gay, AIDS-afflicted lawyer in “Philadelphia.” Co-star J.K. Simmons was a regular on the queer-themed series “Oz.”)
Never Die Alone
A decade after fleeing New York with heroin belonging to crime boss Moon (Clifton Powell), drug dealer King David (DMX) returns to New York intending to start fresh. But his attempt to make amends goes violently wrong, trapping would-be journalist Paul (David Arquette) and Moon enforcer Mike (Michael Ealy) in the crosshairs of an escalating war. The body count is high in this gritty, profane crime drama that shows a brutal, soul-crushing world where even good deeds are likely to be met by a volley of bullets. This bloody tour of the urban underbelly may distress the faint of heart, but its seductively engrossing narrative, well-drawn characters, and electrifying performance by rapper-turned-actor DMX offer ample rewards amongst all the spatter.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Arquette played an impulsive, ill-fated hustler in the queer soaper “Johns,” while Ealy had a small role in “Kissing Jessica Stein.”)
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London
When his summer-camp counselor, Diaz (Keith Allen), absconds with mind-control software and intentions of ruling the world, 16-year-old CIA agent Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is sent to London to capture the renegade and retrieve the software. The assumption that Diaz is going to use the software on world leaders at an upcoming London summit adds urgency to Cody’s assignment, but he must first pass muster in disguise as a music prodigy. For all its many antics, this undemanding adventure comedy is on the dull side. But it will no doubt appeal to tweens with its kid-power theme, cute if annoyingly smug star, loads of slapstick-y action, and fantasy that a kid could do all this without clueless Mom and Dad ever finding out.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s no queer content whatsoever, though co-star Anna Chancellor appeared in the lesbian drama “Tipping the Velvet,” and co-star Cynthia Stevenson played one of the sisters in Todd Solondz’s “Happiness.”)
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
After the family of 15-year-old actress wanna-be Lola (Lindsay Lohan) moves from Manhattan to suburban New Jersey, she wins the lead in the school play over Carla (Megan Fox), the most popular girl in school. When Lola lies and claims she’s been invited to a party given by Sidarthur, the girls’ favorite rock band, scheming Carla plots her revenge. This wan teen comedy, the latest cinematic sausage cranked out of the Disney factory, suffers from weak humor, uninspired fantasy sequences, a mediocre and omnipresent soundtrack, and a bland and petulant heroine. Only Adam Garcia, very funny as Sidarthur’s drunken lead singer, Stu, rises above the indifferent material. Alas, his valiant performance amounts to little more than acameo – pure gold amidst 90 minutes of dross.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Garcia and co-stars Glenne Headly and Carol Kane have all made appearances in queer-themed films.)
Dawn of the Dead
The zombies have returned to the mall, just like in the gruesome 1979 cult original. And, like last time, it’s not the Mrs. Fields cookies they’re after in this wildly entertaining, terrifying jolt of a remake. America is in the middle of a bizarre plague, and the freshly dead corpses swarm the earth as zombies. Nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) and police officer Kenneth (VingRhames) decide to hide out in a massive shopping mall with a small band of survivors. One problem: everyone, including zombies, loves going to the mall. From the first frame, the suspense is relentless, the violence is over-the-top, and the sheer intensity is overwhelming (these zombies don’t trudge; they move fast and shriek like rabid animals). A more ferociously frightening movie isn’t likely to come along this year.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 1 (Polley appeared in the gay-themed indie films “The Event” and “The Hanging Garden,” while Rhames played a drag queen in the TV movie “Holiday Heart.”)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is grieving a breakup with his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), and seeking reconciliation, when he discovers that she has already undergone a procedure to have all her memories of their relationship erased from her mind. Distraught, he rushes to have the same procedure. Unfortunately, interference from the slacker technicians in charge (Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) creates havoc in Joel’s brain. In this black comedy about memory, heartbreak, and desire, the past collides with the present and the future, time collapses, and characters are trapped in repeating cycles of melancholy absurdity. Add to the mind-warp of a Charlie Kaufman script a visual style from French director Michel Gondry that continually tricks the eye with scruffy special effects designed to fade into the background and unsettle the viewer, and the result is a weird, sad, yet exhilarating film.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (No gay content here, but much of the cast has been gay on camera before. Carrey’s early career on the TV show “In Living Color” included playing the recurring character of an obnoxious ACT-UP demonstrator. Winslet has taken on lesbian/bisexual roles in films like “Heavenly Creatures” and “Iris.” Co-stars Jane Adams, David Cross, and Tom Wilkinson have all portrayed gay, lesbian, or transgendered characters in various projects.)
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 today, 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, forcedheart-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 avery 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 throw away 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 body building brother, and is frequently shirtless and flexing his pecs.)
In this action-adventure yarn, dissolute horseman Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) seeks redemption along the trail of a 3,000-mile Middle East endurance race that pits his mustang, Hidalgo, against a formidable field of Arabian thoroughbreds. With obstacles that include sabotage and sandstorms,the odds are against Hopkins even finishing the race. The gorgeous Mortensen’s features are so chiseled that he looks sculpted. Unfortunately,that statue-like quality extends to his performance, which is in stark contrast to that of his bright equine co-star. The overall effect is not unlike an episode of “Mr. Ed” cross-pollinated with “Lawrence of Arabia.” Although Omar Sharif is on hand to lend his dependably charming support,this tedious, ridiculous would-be epic further sinks into a morass of racism, with a host of stereotyped Muslim characters.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (The homoerotic “Lawrence of Arabia” made Sharif an international star. Co-stars J.K. Simmons and Malcolm McDowell have both appeared in queer-themed projects.)