In this adaptation of Stephen King’s latest novel, four friends (Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, and Damian Lewis) meet for their annual hunting trip. They share a psychic bond forged when, as children, they saved a mentally handicapped boy from bullies. Now, their weekend is disrupted by aliens who take over human hosts. Can these special men stop the evil extraterrestrials, or will an insane soldier stop them first? The first half of the film sets an eerie mood, and the actors do their best with some very weak dialogue. Unfortunately, the second half slides from creepy into ridiculous, with the tension collapsing into a not-so-suspenseful chase and a final confrontation so absurd it ruins the whole movie retroactively.
Grade C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (The male bonding here is doggedly straight. Lee’s character flirted with bisexuality – sort of – in “Chasing Amy.”)
Piglet’s Big Movie
In this animated film based on the stories of British writer A.A. Milne, Pooh, Rabbit, Eeyore, and Tigger search the Hundred Acre Wood for Piglet, whom they fear may be in great danger because of his small stature. As they comb the forest, growing more and more worried about their friend, they reminisce about all the heroic actions that their missing pal has performed in the past. “Piglet’s Big Movie” could be described in much the same way as Pooh: silly, willy-nilly, and stuffed with fluff. But like the fabled honey-hunting bear, it has its heart in the right place. Carly Simon provides the film’s songs, giving it a touch of maturity.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s nothing even remotely gay about these animals. But Christopher Robin is still one of the most “delicate” of Disney’s ‘toons.)
Tommy Lee Jones is back in “Fugitive” territory in this brutally violent thriller about L.T. (Jones), a tracker called in by the FBI to snare Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), the special-forces-assassin-turned-serial-killer whom he trained in the art of murder. Bloody military service transforms Hallam into a remorseless psychopath who preys on Oregon hunters. Only L.T., the mentor who anticipates his former pupil’s every move, can stop him. This preposterous drama wastes the formidable talents of the Oscar-winning Jones and Del Toro on thinly sketched characters, while its flamboyant mayhem resembles a live-action “Roadrunner” cartoon. The beautiful, bedroom-eyed Del Toro, together with Caleb Deschanel’s luminous cinematography of the woodsy Pacific Northwest, provide plenty of eye candy, but not enough to redeem this incoherent mess.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 2 (The intimacy of the pursuit and the emphasis on hand-to-hand combat deliver a strong dose of homoeroticism. Director William Friedkin previously directed the equally ludicrous “Cruising” and the film adaptation of Mart Crowley’s landmark play, “The Boys in the Band.” Jones was gay Dallas businessman and accused Kennedy assassination conspirator Clay Shaw in “JFK.”)
Agent Cody Banks
Frankie Muniz is CIA agent Cody Banks, part of a specially trained group of covert kids recruited to go places where adults can’t. Banks’ mission? Woo the daughter (Hilary Duff) of a scientist (Martin Donovan) and keep bad guys bent on world destruction from hijacking the good doctor’s experiments. Banks succeeds – through lots of impossible snowboarding, a mini jet-pack/helicopter, and the help of mentor agent Ronica Miles (Angie Harmon). And while this teen Bond barely has a license to drive, much less one to kill, it doesn’t deter him from kicking butt when he needs to. This is the kind of good, silly movie you can take the kids to and maybe even enjoy yourself. Mission accomplished.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (Lesbian moms out for a kiddie matinee should find Harmon’s cleavage-maximizing outfits pleasantly distracting. Donovan played gay in “The Opposite of Sex” and “Hollow Reed.”)
Bend It Like Beckham
All that 18-year-old Londoner Jess Bhamra (Parminder K. Nagra) wants to do is play soccer like her hero, Manchester United’s David Beckham. Over her deeply traditional, Indian immigrant parents’ objections, Jess joins a local girls’ team with new pal Jules (Keira Knightley), but soon discovers there’s a price to pay for following her dreams. Stereotypes abound, the film’s outcome is never in doubt, and the story is hardly original, seemingly derived from equal parts of “Billy Elliot” and “East Is East.” But this frothy, culture-clash comedy still manages to score with some well-timed laughs, superbly staged soccer sequences, and the strong, spirited Jess at its sunny center.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 3 (One character is gay, though closeted, and confesses to his own crush on Jess’ idol, Beckham. After overhearing an argument between Jess and Jules, Jules’ mother mistakenly assumes the girls are lovers and develops an interest in soccer to show her support. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who plays the team’s coach and Jess’ love interest, was the bisexual David Bowie-like glam rock star in Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine,” and Rupert Everett’s lover in “B. Monkey.” Director Gurinder Chadha’s most recent film, “What’s Cooking,” featured a lesbian couple in its multicultural Thanksgiving stew.)
Bringing Down the House
In this over-the-top film about the hazards of Internet dating, uptight lawyer Peter (Steve Martin) ventures online in search of a refined woman to help him get over his ex-wife (Jean Smart). Believing he’s found just the person in Charlene (Queen Latifah), he arranges a face-to-face, only to discover she’s actually a sassy prison escapee looking for representation, not romance. With Charlene’s mere presence causing chaos for Peter both at home and at work, he reluctantly agrees to help the vociferous homegirl, who returns the favor by taking some of the starch out of Peter’s buttoned-up life. Nothing unexpected comes from this odd-couple pairing, but it’s highly amusing nonetheless, thanks largely to Latifah’s unrestrained performance and hilarious supporting turns from Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, and Betty White.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 3 (Latifah, Oscar-nominated for her role as butch prison matron Mama Morton in “Chicago,” played the militant lesbian ringleader of a group of female bank robbers in “Set It Off.” Martin appeared in TV’s “And the Band Played On” and was a woman in a man’s body in “All of Me.” Levy was in the homo-tinged ensemble comedies “Best in Show” and “Waiting for Guffman.” Smart was in the long-running TV gay fave “Designing Women,” while White appeared in the similarly beloved “The Golden Girls.” Missi Pyle, seen here as Peter’s gold-digging ex-sister-in-law, was in the gay romantic comedy “Trick.”)
Bob Fosse’s shrewd satire of crime as entertainment makes a stunning transition from the stage to the multiplex in a big-screen version overflowing with razzle-dazzle. Director-choreographer Rob Marshall doesn’t attempt to reinvent the movie-musical genre; instead, he wisely allows the cunning story and sizzling score to thrill viewers. When mousy chorine Roxy (Renee Zellweger) lands in the slammer for killing her boyfriend, she sees an opportunity to finally make it as a vaudeville star, much to the chagrin of the reigning cellblock celebrity, Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The breathtaking musical numbers, which take place in Roxy’s imagination, seamlessly juxtapose the stark reality of prison life with the vivid theatricality of Prohibition-era jazz halls. Both leading ladies deliver outstanding performances, but, with a deliciously smarmy turn as sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, it’s Richard Gere who repeatedly stops the show.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 3 (Singing, dancing, showtunes … there’s nothing quite as gay as an old-fashioned musical. This one was produced by openly gay duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who brought us “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.” Several cast members have appeared in gay-themed projects, including Gere, Christine Baranski, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, and the original Velma, Chita Rivera, who turns up here in a brief cameo.)
Cradle 2 the Grave
Martial arts dynamo Jet Li teams with rapper DMX in this exceptionally convoluted urban kung fu caper. Li, whose dramatic range consists of exactly one facial expression, plays Su, a Taiwanese government agent looking for the precious “black diamonds” recently pilfered by professional thief Tony (DMX) and now in the hands of a powerful crime lord. When a brutal arms dealer subsequently kidnaps Tony’s daughter, he grudgingly joins forces with Su to track her – and the jewels – down. Those looking for competent storytelling will want to steer clear of this flick, but anyone seeking an intense adrenaline rush shouldn’t be disappointed. As proven by the frenzy of fights and fireworks on display, with a big enough budget, filmmakers can make even the worst script look good onscreen. In the end, though, it’s nothing more than cinematic bling-bling.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Early on, a run-in with a gay security guard during a heist results in an impromptu homo impersonation by a jewel thief. But after that, the action is strictly hetero.)
Blinded by toxic waste when he was a boy, lawyer Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) now puts his radioactivally enhanced remaining senses to use every night as Daredevil, a vigilante crime fighter in a red leather suit. This surprisingly joyless action flick has him wooing Elektra (Jennifer Garner), a hyper-defensive martial-arts expert, while squaring off against the psychotic Bullseye (Colin Farrell) and Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan), the city’s reigning crime boss. Numerous repetitive fight sequences, coming at breakneck speed and full of “Matrix”-style effects, murky lighting, and pounding metal, fail to fill in the script’s Grand Canyon-sized plot holes. Moreover, Affleck’s uncharismatic superhero has to be the most wooden one to ever traipse across the silver screen.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Affleck, seen shirtless more than once, clearly worked out for the role; too bad his leather suit is so unflatteringly baggy. Previously, he appeared in the queer-themed “Chasing Amy” and in gay director Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting.” Duncan played a character named “Gay Virgin” in the sketch-comedy film “The Underground Comedy Movie,” while sex-symbol sensation Farrell was in gay director Joel Schumacher’s “Tigerland.”)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Inspired by a co-worker’s bad luck with men, how-to columnist Andie (Kate Hudson) decides to write an article on common relationship-ending mistakes women make. As research, she seduces Benjamin (Matthew McConaughey), then uses a slew of off-putting tactics to try to get him to dump her within 10 days. Trouble is, Benjamin’s out to prove to his colleagues that he can make a woman fall in love with him in the same amount of time. Unintentionally – and hilariously – thwarting each other’s efforts at every turn, the two somehow manage to fall in love. Buoyed by breezy, heartfelt performances and tremendous onscreen chemistry between Hudson and McConaughey, this film is a terrific example of how to make people laugh.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (Benjamin and Andie visit a couples therapist, who suggests Benjamin might prefer men. Hudson locked lips with Liv Tyler as a bi-curious bride-to-be in “Dr. T & the Women,” while McConaughey’s early films included out screenwriter Don Roos’ “Boys on the Side” and queer director Joel Schumacher’s “A Time to Kill.”)
Uptight Harvard med-school grad Sam (Christian Bale) brings his equally uptight girlfriend, Alex (Kate Beckinsale), home to Los Angeles during his summer internship, where they think they’ll have his unconventional mom Jane’s house up in leafy Laurel Canyon all to themselves. But Jane (Frances McDormand) is producing a record for her bad-boy Brit lover (Alessandro Nivola), so the whole group has to co-exist uncomfortably in the searing L.A. heat. Things get tense when Alex becomes fascinated with Jane’s artistic lifestyle, and even more tense when she realizes the bisexual Jane has other talents besides producing albums. Meanwhile Sam is facing his own temptations, thanks to a seductive co-worker (Natascha McElhone). Sexy, thoughtful, and incredibly well-acted, the film takes what could very easily have been a one-dimensional look at a mother-son relationship and gives it both heart and soul.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 6 (The openly lesbian Cholodenko first made gay waves with her super-sexy 1998 film debut, “High Art.” The seduction of Miss Priss Beckinsale by the earth goddess McDormand couldn’t get much hotter. There’s a very steamy threeway during an evening swim, in which Nivola bares his lovely bum as the two women get sapphic. Bale played probing journalist Arthur Stuart in “Velvet Goldmine,” while Beckinsale made a name for herself in the campy and gay-friendly “Cold Comfort Farm.” Oscar-winning McDormand has played gay several times, including in “The Butcher’s Wife,” as a struggling lesbian shoe salesperson.)
Facing eviction from their university-owned residence, Mitch (Luke Wilson), Beanie (Vince Vaughn), and Frank (Will Ferrell) find a legal loophole that allows them to keep their place by starting a fraternity – even though they’re not college students. Before long, they’ve established a veritable Animal House, raising the ire of the malevolent college dean (Jeremy Piven), who vows to put an end to their monkey business. Laughs come only at the expense of taste in this unabashedly lowbrow romp, thanks largely to Ferrell’s nonstop buffoonery and Vaughn’s irrepressible sarcasm. While the antics are unquestionably juvenile, they’re also irresistibly funny. Just be sure to check your brain at the box office when buying your ticket; with a character list that includes “Gang-Bang Guy,” “Naked Woman,” and “K-Y Jelly Girl,” you’re not gonna need it.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 4 (As in many horndog-male-bonding comedies, homoeroticism abounds. The first joke in the movie includes the word “faggot.” Ferrell, who at one point tongue-kisses Seann William Scott, spends much of his time naked, although the effect is purely comical. Andy Dick appears briefly as the ultra-femme instructor of “The Art of the Blowjob.” Wilson appeared in gay faves “Charlie’s Angels” and “Legally Blonde”; Ferrell was a sensitive cop in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”; and Vaughn was the ultimate mama’s boy, Norman Bates, in gay director Gus Van Sant’s remake of “Psycho.” Piven was a regular on the pioneering gay sitcom “Ellen.”)
Horror icon David Cronenberg once again spins a frightening yarn, this time tackling the terror of schizophrenia. Prematurely released from a residential psychiatric hospital, Spider (Ralph Fiennes) lands in an austere East London halfway house run by the stern Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave). Both guided and hindered by memory, Spider trespasses on the row house of his youth, where as a boy (Bradley Hall) his shifting perceptions of his alluring mum (Miranda Richardson), adulterous dad (Gabriel Byrne), and a cheeky prostitute from the nearby pub ended in tragedy. Only Fiennes could craft indecipherable Cockney mumblings – as suggested in the brilliant screenplay Patrick McGrath adapted from his own novel – into an Oscar-worthy performance of mental illness. This haunting, compassionate film shocks on its way both into and out of a beautiful mind.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Count Laszlo de Almasy, whom Fiennes portrayed to heterosexual perfection in “The English Patient,” was, in fact, gay. Cronenberg directed William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” and “M. Butterfly,” about a diplomat and his cross-dressing lover. Twice Oscar-nominated Richardson played an IRA thug in “The Crying Game,” and in “The Hours” was Bloomsburian Vanessa Bell. Redgrave starred as a lesbian in the TV movie of Rita Mae Brown’s “My Two Loves”; here, as Mrs. Wilkinson, she strikingly resembles the housekeeper she played opposite Ian McKellen in “Gods and Monsters.”)
Tears of the Sun
This ode to military machismo, from director Antoine Fuqua, often comes off as little more than jingoistic propaganda. Bruce Willis plays Lt. A.K. Waters, a laughably stoic Navy SEAL sent to “extract” bosomy American doctor Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) from a war-torn area of Nigeria, where she has been volunteering. When Dr. Kendricks refuses to leave her charges behind, Waters initially refuses to alter the mission, then abruptly – and inexplicably – changes his mind. Thus begins a predictable trek to safety, with the one-dimensional U.S. “good guys” and the ludicrously helpless native “victims” being dogged by cardboard-cutout African rebel “evildoers” every step of the way. Amid rockets glaring and bombs bursting in air, the simplistic message that emerges is that, unquestionably, only America can save the world.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s absolutely no asking or telling going on in this military flick. In “The Jackal,” Willis’ hitman character kissed then killed a gay man. Bellucci appeared in “Irreversible,” which opened with the vicious beating of a presumably gay man inside a hellish S/M club called The Rectum. Tom Skerritt, seen briefly as a commanding officer, was in gay fave “Steel Magnolias.”)
Harassed office worker Willard (Crispin Glover, in a role tailored to his oddball persona) trains the hordes of rats that infest the basement of the gothic house he shares with his sickly mother. Led by king rat “Big Ben,” Willard’s pets exact his revenge, most graphically on his tormenting boss. This update of the 1971 cult hit mixes humor and horror, with director Glen Morgan offering inside jokes (the original Willard, Bruce Davison, looms in a painting) and playful homages to Hitchcock. But ultimately, not even the stars of the movie – the vermin, both real and computer-generated – can elevate it beyond a curiosity.
Grade: C Kinsey scale: 1 (Laura Harring, who plays Willard’s love interest, and Jackie Burroughs, seen here as Willard’s mom, both have gay-character resumes. Davison garnered an Oscar nomination playing gay in “Longtime Companion.” The relationship between Willard and his mother spoofs “Psycho.”)