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 [...]
Eight years ago, Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) were grieving over the loss of their son, Adam (Cameron Bright), and agreed to Dr. Richard Wells’ (Robert De Niro) proposal to clone the child. Now, as the new Adam ages and his behavior grows increasingly violent and erratic, the couple realizes that the cloning procedure at the Godsend Institute might have been the gateway to hell. This sci-fi thriller boasts an A-list cast and a slick, handsome production, but the ridiculous, cliche-ridden script offers few scares as it mixes and matches elements from better movies. De Niro sleepwalks, Romijn-Stamos demonstrates her ability to make her lower lip quiver, and only Kinnear gives a nuanced performance, as a man riven by guilt and grief.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos have both played queer characters. De Niro played a homophobe who learns a lesson in “Flawless.”)
Laws of Attraction
Audrey Miller (Julianne Moore) is a top Manhattan divorce attorney. In Movieland, that means she’s wound too tightly, wears her hair up most of the time, never dates men, and really needs some dude to come along and “loosen her up.” Enter Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan). He’ a divorce lawyer, too, but the scruffy, disorganized, and virile kind. The two find themselves on opposing sides in the courtroom, but because they fall into bed early on in the film – she was begging for it, dontcha know – they spend most of that court time fighting about their relationship. And that’s about it. This is the kind of unfunny comedy that paints heterosexual relationships with the broadest possible battle-of-the-very-traditional-sexes brush and substitutes wacky physical comedy for witty repartee. Its badly miscast stars – and unlucky audiences – deserve better.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Moore is a veteran of gay director Todd Haynes’ films “Far From Heaven” and “Safe.” Co-star Parker Posey, as a fashion designer who seeks a divorce from her cheating, rock-star husband, has been in numerous films with gay themes. And for the record, she’s the only actor in this film whose scenes are not cringe-inducing.)
Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), home-schooled in Africa her entire life, moves to America and quickly finds herself at what can only be described as Lord of the Flies High School, where the caste system is vicious. Simultaneously falling in with the “art weirdos” (read: queer kids) and the “Plastics” (rich, beautiful girls), she’s put up to the prank of infiltrating the latter to exact revenge on them for their years-long torment of kids lower on the social totem pole. The snag: in doing so, she finds herself craving their attention, acceptance, and access to cute boys. “Saturday Night Live” writer Tina Fey’s script is a dead-on attack of the uniquely horrible world of adolescent females, and it only suffers when forced to make nice in the third act. So while not the classic teen-angst comedy that was “Heathers” – where the revenge took on unapologetically murderous dimensions – it’s still a hilarious glimpse of high school hell.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 4 (Co-star Daniel Franzese plays the type of rebellious, chubby, high school gay boy you wish you had had the nerve to be, and co-star Lizzy Caplan is his comrade in popular-kid terrorism – a maybe-lesbian-maybe-not girl named Janis Ian. These two steal every scene they’re in, and if there were such a thing as artistic justice in Hollywood, they’d get their own queer “Ghost World”-esque sequel.)
Legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) leads the defense of an undermanned Alamo against Santa Anna’s (Emilio Echevarria) superior Mexican forces as Texas struggles for independence. Though aware of the impending slaughter, Gen. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) refuses to send reinforcements, willing to sacrifice the fortress for strategic advantage. This lengthy historical epic, based on the infamous 1836 battle, offers handsome production design, an A-list cast, and fine performances from Quaid and an overly made-up Thornton. Ultimately, though, the film falls flat, thanks to a poorly edited, badly shot climactic attack scene that occasionally resembles a video game and lacks suspense and emotional resonance. Echevarria provides further irritation as he transforms the formidable Santa Anna into a Snidely Whiplash-like cartoon villain.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (Houston’s favorite insult to fling is “catamite.” The vibe between Houston and his pal Jim Bowie – played by Jason Patric is fraught with homoerotic undertones, particularly in one intimate conversation where Houston begs Bowie to bring him the Alamo’s cannon. Quaid, Patric, and co-star Patrick Wilson have all played queer characters. Director John Lee Hancock wrote the screenplay for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”)
Connie and Carla
After witnessing a murder, Chicago lounge singers Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette) lam out for L.A., hiding in plain sight as drag queens so that they won’t have to give up their show-biz dreams. They quickly become West Hollywood stars, but when their pal Peaches’ (Stephen Spinella) straight brother, Jeff (David Duchovny), catches Connie’s eye, she begins to find cross-dressing a real “drag.” It is unbelievable that anyone would buy these women as transvestites, the story occasionally becomes bogged down in cloying sentimentality, and Vardalos’ latest screenwriting effort plays like “My Big, Fat Queer Sitcom.” For all of that, the movie is surprisingly fun, thanks to a ton of classic show tunes performed by an enthusiastic ensemble that is clearly having a ball.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 5 (Most of the characters are queer, and so is the milieu, even if Vardalos seems to have learned about it from watching “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “The Boys in the Band.” Out actors in the cast include “Angels in America” star Spinella and “M. Butterfly” star Alec Mapa. Collette and co-star Debbie Reynolds have appeared in queer-themed projects, while Duchovny played a tranny FBI agent on “Twin Peaks.”)
At birth, Ella of Frell (Anne Hathaway) is given a backhanded gift from a rogue fairy (Vivica Fox): the curse of perfect obedience. Although she does her best to keep her problem a secret, Ella eventually comes under the control of an evil stepsister and a corrupt king (Cary Elwes) who wants to use her against his own nephew, the prince (Hugh Dancy). Complicating matters is that Ella falls in love with the prince while simultaneously trying to save the kingdom from the unjust laws of its wicked ruler. Because “Ella Enchanted” is essentially a children’s film, it’s a safe bet that everything works out in the end; but this sweet-natured movie, in spite of some weak characterizations (there are simply too many characters to do them all justice), bad special effects, and poorly planned musical numbers, still manages to charm. Thank Hathaway for that – her winning, likable heroine is the sweetest part of this sometimes run-of-the-mill fantasy.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Gay director Tommy O’Haver knows how to throw in what lots of gay men like: eye-candy visuals – with a hot prince as a centerpiece – and a couple of pop-song-appropriating musical numbers, a la “Moulin Rouge.” As for the cast, co-star Joanna Lumley is a veteran of “Absolutely Fabulous,” and Minnie Driver has a recurring role on “Will & Grace.”)
Discovered as an infant by Allied soldiers during a World War II raid on a Nazi paranormal operation, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) grows up to be a red-skinned, cat-loving, Baby Ruth-chomping FBI operative, complete with horns and tail. When Professor Broom (John Hurt), his adoptive father, is murdered, Hellboy travels to Russia in search of the killer and comes face to face with his origins and his apparently apocalyptic destiny. The story is silly and the villains are cliched, but Guillermo Del Toro directs this atmospheric, comic-book-inspired adventure yarn with great verve, nicely balancing impressive special effects with near nonstop action and welcome bursts of humor. Best of all is Perlman, who infuses the heroic, sardonic, and otherworldly creature with warm humanity.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Perlman appeared in the gay-themed comedy “Happy, Texas,” while Hurt has essayed a number of memorable queer characters, including Quentin Crisp in “The Naked Civil Servant.” Co-star Selma Blair made her screen debut in “In & Out.”)
Kill Bill: Vol. 2
The Bride (Uma Thurman) returns in this final chapter (perhaps – director Quentin Tarantino’s already talking about a third volume) of the blood-drenched revenge fantasy about a wronged woman on a rampage. But the second part doesn’t pack the maniacal wallop of the first. In place of the earlier film’s frenzied blood orgy come the answers to the questions “Vol. 1” dangled in front of the audience but shrugged off in its quest to have the highest body count in film history. Backstory involving The Bride’s kung-fu training and a couple of unexpected plot twists keep things interesting, as does Tarantino’s constant need to display his love for and ability to stylishly rip off the movies that influenced him. Just be prepared for long waits between savage sword fights.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Thurman starred in Gus Van Sant’s “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”)
Man on Fire
John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a burned-out, alcoholic counterterrorism veteran who takes a job as bodyguard for a 9-year-old girl (Dakota Fanning) in kidnap-plagued Mexico. But this strange film can’t decide whether it wants to be the story of a downcast man redeemed by contact with a child who loves him, or a standard-issue Hollywood revenge flick with extra helpings of graphic violence. As soon as the audience wraps its collective mind around Washington’s moody performance and Fanning’s poised-beyond-her-years personality (and impending kidnapping), the tone abruptly changes and bodies start getting mowed down. The unlikely pairing of a veteran Oscar winner and a whip-smart little girl makes the first half of the movie completely watchable; yet a “Walking Tall”/”Punisher”-style vigilante bloodbath makes the second half a big, yawning anticlimax.
Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Washington is now somewhat notorious for his career advice – which went something like this: never kiss another man onscreen – to a young Will Smith, just as that actor was preparing to play gay in “Six Degrees of Separation.” Washington went on to star in “Philadelphia.” Supporting cast member Mickey Rourke played a drag queen in the little-seen indie film “Animal Factory,” and co-star Radha Mitchell played a lesbian in “High Art.”)
The Passion of the Christ
After months of controversy, Mel Gibson’s retelling of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ (Jim Caviezel) arrives with all the subtlety of a hammer blow. Gibson displays a connoisseur’s eye for torture in this brutally violent, sometimes stomach-turning affair, with excruciating images ranging from flagellation to nails being driven into flesh. With the emphasis on death rather than resurrection, this is far darker than most biblical dramas, and Gibson’s view of humanity – here in the guise of bloodthirsty Jews and psychopathic Romans – could scarcely be more misanthropic. It is hard to imagine what the apparently devout Gibson was thinking in mounting this handsome, but dismal production, which is not a celebration of Christ’s life, but a numbing dirge.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 0 (There is no sexual content of any kind – hetero, homo, or otherwise.)
When an FBI sting results in the death of the son of mob boss Howard Saint (John Travolta), he orders G-man Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) and his entire family killed. Surviving the assault, Castle – armed with an arsenal of guns, bombs, and even land mines – declares war on Saint’s organization. The plot of this Marvel-comic-inspired movie is a mishmash of elements stolen from other vigilante films, and Jane’s vapid hero fails to generate any empathy. Worst of all is the film’s nasty tone, as director Jonathan Hensleigh revels in each act of ever-escalating brutality. The real punishment is the one delivered to viewers who have to sit through two-plus hours of sadism disguised as entertainment.
Grade: F Kinsey Scale: 2 (As he did 17 years ago in “No Way Out,” Will Patton plays a loyal and cruel closet case. Castle’s next-door neighbors appear to be a gay couple. Jane, as well as co-stars Roy Scheider, Laura Harring, and Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, have all played queer characters.)
13 Going on 30
Disappointed when the cool kids desert her 13th birthday party, Jenna Rink (Christa Allen) makes a wish to be “30, flirty, and thriving.” In the morning, Jenna (now played by Jennifer Garner) wakes up to find herself morphed into a highly successful Manhattan magazine editor, but with the emotions of her teenage self and no memory of the last 17 years. This romantic comedy adds a fresh twist to a well-worn plot by adding a backstory that covers those missing years, as Jenna realizes that her accomplishments and popularity came at a terrible price. The comely Garner displays a charming flair for sometimes boisterously physical humor that is well-matched by Mark Ruffalo as an old friend who never quite got over an adolescent crush.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Andy Serkis plays Jenna’s gay boss. Ruffalo appeared in “54,” and co-star Joe Grifasi had a recurring role on the queer sitcom “Some of My Best Friends.”)
When Chris Vaughn (The Rock) returns home to his small Washington town after eight years in the military, he discovers that everything has been turned upside down by a spoiled, rich lumber heir (Neil McDonough). The mill is closed, a corrupt casino is the town’s new biggest employer, sweet hometown girls have become strippers, and drugs are sold to kids on street corners. Even the cops are in on it. This means, of course, that The Rock and his two-by-four of justice have some skulls to crack open in the name of decency. Guns are fired, too, of course – it wouldn’t be a revenge fantasy without them – but they’re not nearly as visually appealing as the big man swinging his manly piece of wood. However, what is especially appealing about this sloppy, steroidal bit of reactionary nonsense is its length: it may be all dumb rage, but at least it only lasts about 80 minutes.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 2 (Well, first there’s that piece of wood. Then there’s The Rock with no shirt on. Then there’s that close-up Rock crotch shot. Then there’s the presence of Johnny Knoxville – formerly of the wickedly funny and consistently homoerotic “Jackass” TV series and film – as the quippy best friend who softens The Rock’s all-man, all-the-time stance. Isn’t it funny how movies about male anger and the triumph of the metaphoric penis turn out to be gayer than movies with actual gay characters?)