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 [...]
Vampire-slayer Blade (Wesley Snipes) reluctantly accepts help from his mentor’s daughter, Abigail (Jessica Biel), and her wisecracking pal Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds) when sibling bloodsuckers (Parker Posey and Callum Keith Rennie) summon Dracula (Dominic Purcell) – now known as Drake – to assassinate him. Someone should stick a stake through the heart of the “Blade” series, as this third installment’s attempt to graft humor onto horror fails to re-invigorate the franchise. Even nonstop action can’t prevent “ennui” from seeping in, as the special effects and Snipes’ martial-arts moves have become cliches. Most of the actors seem bored, the ultra-wooden Snipes most of all. The only comic relief is Reynolds, who gets the only decent lines and emerges from this fiasco with his dignity intact.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Aside from a couple of gay jokes, the movie completely misses the homoerotic potential of vampire legend. Snipes played gay in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.” Posey has appeared in numerous queer-interest films, while Rennie was bi-curious in “Last Night.” Co-star Natasha Lyonne played a lesbian in “But I’m a Cheerleader.”)
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the same big cast from “Ocean’s Eleven” embark on another crime spree. This time there are three separate heists and major complications in the form of a revenge-seeking Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia, the man who got robbed the first time around), a Europol agent (Catherine Zeta-Jones) with a past connection to the gang of merry crooks, and a French master thief (Vincent Cassel) toying with them all, seemingly for the sport of it. That’s a lot of directions to move in and a lot of characters to juggle, and while director Steven Soderbergh and his big group of movie stars seem to be having a ball, the finished product lacks some of the focused fizz of its predecessor. That doesn’t mean audiences won’t have a good time: these are attractive, charming people making a movie about nothing more important than how to steal millions – and they look great doing it.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Elliot Gould is back as the potbellied, gold-chain-sporting gay money man, although his queerness isn’t mentioned this time. Cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard co-stars, and lesbian actress Cherry Jones turns up in a small, pivotal role. Meanwhile, there are lots of other actors here with lots of gay and gay-related credits on their resumes, including Zeta-Jones, Brad Pitt, Jared Harris, and Matt Damon. Clooney executive-produced Todd Haynes’ “Far from Heaven.” )
After the Sunset
Max (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) are master thieves who like to steal expensive diamonds. After their final big heist, during which they are nearly captured by FBI guy Stan (Woody Harrelson), they retire to the islands and spend a lot of time getting undressed for each other. Then, coaxed into one last job, the pair once again run into Stan, who’s finally caught up with them, determined to bag his prey. This is a heist movie that wants to be sexy, sleek, and sophisticated, but ends up uninspired, overlong, lazily plotted, and dull. Director Brett Ratner doesn’t care about making his thieves roguishly likable or human; their bland moves are stolen without inspiration from the history of cinematic capers. It’s more than just disappointing that two sexy leads can’t create any sort of screen sizzle – it’s something approaching criminal.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s unexplained homosexual panic in a couple of scenes between Harrelson and Brosnan, who wind up sleeping in the same bed and, in another scene, have to – ew! – apply sunscreen to each other. It’s all played for laughs, but the inept storytelling makes it impossible to determine what’s really being laughed at – the characters’ own stupid homophobia or homosexuality itself. Meanwhile, Hayek – who played bisexual artist Frida Kahlo in “Frida” – should turn more than a few lesbian heads with her heaving cleavage, which threatens to burst out of her bra at every turn. Troy Garrity (“A Soldier’s Girl”) has a small part as a somewhat gay-acting bartender.)
Crude Macedonian King Philip (Val Kilmer) and smothering Olympias (Angelina Jolie) raise their son, Alexander (Colin Farrell), to follow in the footsteps of the Greek gods. When he inherits his father’s throne, Alexander takes those lessons to heart and builds an empire. Oliver Stone’s handsome but turgid epic is a complete disaster, with ineptly staged battles, ludicrous dialogue, and a clash of accents and acting styles. Alexander speechifies so much that he seems intent on boring his enemies to death, and the movie can never decide if he’s a tragic hero, a conflicted mama’s boy, or a wigged-out megalomaniac. It doesn’t help that Farrell’s attitude and hair extensions suggest a pompous, 21st-century rock star rather than a fourth-century-B.C. conqueror of the known world.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 3 (Stone shies away from exploring Alexander’s sexuality completely, reducing his passionate lifelong affair with boyhood friend Hephaistion – played by Jared Leto – to the occasional chaste hug and lots of longing glances. Alexander does share one hot kiss with the eunuch Bagoas, whom he later invites into his bed. Farrell played much more erotic scenes as a bisexual in the recent drama “A Home at the End of the World.” Co-stars Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, as well as openly bisexual Jolie, have all appeared in gay-themed films. Previous Stone films with queer subplots are the similarly bowdlerized “Midnight Express” and “JFK.”)
Hot Spanish director Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez) is intrigued when a stranger arrives claiming to be his boyhood friend Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal). Enrique is skeptical, but he’s moved enough by the story Ignacio brings him to want to make it his next film. That seems impossible when the two quarrel and Ignacio vanishes, leaving Enrique to solve the puzzle of what really became of his old chum. The brilliant Pedro Almodovar celebrates cinema and skewers the Catholic Church in this exuberant film noir that constantly doubles back on itself, piling on layer after layer of mystery. Martinez is terrific as the conflicted auteur, while Bernal makes a gorgeous “homme fatale.” It all adds up to a heady brew of suspense, black humor, and torrid sex.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 6 (This is Almodovar at his most sophisticated, but the film’s tone and some story elements are reminiscent of earlier films such as “Law of Desire” and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” The ultra-charismatic Bernal makes good on the homoerotic promise he showed in the Mexican coming-of-age drama “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” Martinez and co-star Javier Camara previously worked with Almodovar on “Talk to Her.”)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Perky Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) has long been one of love’s losers, but she’s finally found her soul mate in staid but sexy lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). That is, if her jealousy over his comely new colleague, Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett), doesn’t tear them apart and send Bridget back into the arms of her womanizing ex-beau, Daniel (Hugh Grant). This sequel begins six weeks after the popular “Bridget Jones’s Diary” ended and simply recycles much of the original’s plot, throwing in a cocaine bust and an unrequited crush for fresh color. The game cast charms, which makes the long stretches of tedium bearable, but there’s still plenty of time to ponder why this shallow, date- and weight-obsessed ditz should be a heroine for our age.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (Bridget has a new admirer in a fetching lesbian, and she still counts among her Greek chorus of friends an apparently neutered gay man. Firth, Grant, and co-star Gemma Jones have all appeared in queer-themed movies.)
Christmas with the Kranks
When the Kranks (Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis) learn that their adult daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), won’t be home for Christmas, they decide to skip the holidays and secretly take a cruise. This angers their tightly knit neighborhood of holiday busybodies, who take personal offense at the Kranks’ lack of decorations and holiday spirit. When a last-minute change of plans sends Blair home, both parents fly into a clock-beating tizzy to make Christmas happen without the kid’s knowledge. The plot makes no rational sense, and consists mostly of a series of painful slapstick moments involving fights over ham, falling down on ice, and freezing the neighbor’s cat. So beware – it’s a feel-good family film that could make even the nicest viewer “kranky.”
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 0 (No gay content, but co-star Patrick Breen plays the gay nanny on the TV series “Kevin Hill.”)
Alice (Natalie Portman) and Dan (Jude Law) and Anna (Julia Roberts) and Larry (Clive Owen) are inextricably linked by a series of chance meetings and clandestine sexual liaisons. The four come together and couple up in as many combinations as heterosexual convention will allow. Then they marry, cheat on each other, keep secrets, divorce, have post-divorce sex, rearrange alliances, and break up all over again in this study of modern straight relationships. The dialogue is sharp and often funny – not to mention frankly sexual – and the performances are solid, as likable movie stars engage in not so likable romantic betrayals. But in the end, there’s nothing to learn from these characters other than how not to have a happy relationship. Meanwhile, some gay audience members are likely to come away from the film even more convinced that straight people are a little crazy.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s a scene in which Dan pretends to be a woman in an Internet chat room and prank-seduces Larry online. Owen appeared in the film version of “Bent,” while Law co-starred in the gay-themed “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and played gay in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “Wilde.”)
Playwright J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), seeking inspiration to cure his writing slump, befriends a sickly widow (Kate Winslet) and her four grieving children. As they get to know each other, Barrie and the boys invent games revolving around pirates and other adventures. Flashy fantasy sequences take the audience into Barrie’s mind as he imagines these scenarios, all of which are eventually incorporated into his most famous play, “Peter Pan.” The film is meant to uplift by showing the transforming power of imagination and friendship. But in spite of Depp’s solid, subdued performance, the movie seems to force strong emotions rather than just let them happen. Emotional scenarios and their outcomes are set up early on and delivered later with a precision that eliminates the need for any audience investment – ironic for a film about the human need for imagination.
Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Depp played gay in “Before Night Falls” and starred in the John Waters film “Cry-Baby.” Winslet played an obsessive teenage lesbian in “Heavenly Creatures” and starred as the young, bisexual Iris Murdoch in “Iris.” Co-star Radha Mitchell played a lesbian in “High Art,” and Dustin Hoffman starred in the gender-bending “Tootsie.”)
Too many lawsuits spell the end of superheroes, exiling Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), aka Mr. Incredible, and wife Helen (Holly Hunter), aka Elastigirl, to life in the suburbs, where Bob works in insurance while Helen raises the kids. Frustrated by his empty life, Bob happily dons his old tights when a mysterious stranger seeks his services, and soon the whole family is pulled into the adventure. This frequently hilarious Disney/Pixar cartoon is best in its first half, where it gleefully lampoons pop culture and frivolous lawsuits, before it settles into a so-so James Bond-type parody. With plenty of gunplay and explosions, this is a family comedy with an edge that never quite conceals its conservative message trumpeting traditional nuclear family values.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 1 (On the small screen, Hunter played Billie Jean King in “When Billie Beat Bobbie” and Norma McCorvey in “Roe v. Wade.” Co-star Wallace Shawn appeared in the gay drama “Prick Up Your Ears,” while co-star Jason Lee was in the straight man’s lesbian-fantasy drama “Chasing Amy.”)
Having grown up in a sexually repressed household, Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) is clueless in his approach to intercourse on his wedding night with his beloved Clara (Laura Linney). Inspired by his own initial difficulties, this anthropologist of gull-wing wasps goes on to undertake the first major study of American sexuality, revelatory findings that still reverberate today. This engrossing, literate biopic tracks Kinsey’s personal life and professional growth, offering a window into his research methods and the controversy that nearly destroyed him. This is that rare film that satisfies as drama, history lesson, and romance, as writer/director Bill Condon artfully re-creates an era and its mindset. The performances are nothing short of magnificent, led by Neeson’s indelible turn as the naively determined researcher.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 4 (The film explores Kinsey’s bisexuality, offers a glimpse at World War II-era gay Chicago, and features a heartfelt testimonial from a gay character to Kinsey thanking him for his life-altering research. Condon is openly gay and previously made the queer-themed “Gods and Monsters,” and worked on the screenplay for “Chicago.” Supporting actors with gay material on their resumes include Lynn Redgrave, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Curry, John Lithgow, Dylan Baker, Veronica Cartwright, and Kathleen Chalfant.)
America’s founding fathers left behind arcane clues hinting that they had secreted a fabulous treasure. After spending a lifetime searching, Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is close to discovering the treasure’s location, but first he must stop his rival, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), and save the Declaration of Independence. This woeful excuse for an action-adventure film is even dumber than it sounds, with moronic dialogue, indifferent performances, and an obsession with freemasonry. The screenwriters miss a basic premise of the action movie, which is to cut to the chase, because too much exposition underlines the inanity of the story. And given the nature of the “treasure,” did they really mean to suggest that this nation’s founders were involved in a conspiracy to hide stolen antiquities?
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Co-stars Jon Voight and Sean Bean both appeared in gay-themed films made by gay directors, respectively, John Schlesinger’s “Midnight Cowboy” and Derek Jarman’s “Caravaggio.”)
The Polar Express
When a nameless young boy (voiced by Daryl Sabara and acted by Tom Hanks in a digital “motion capture” performance) on the verge of chucking his belief in Santa is awakened on Christmas Eve by a huge train that beckons him to hop aboard for adventure, he obeys and embarks on a strangely emotionless odyssey to the North Pole. Visually, his journey is a swirl of computer-generated marvels, but as a story it’s a series of brushes with danger that have very little to do with supporting the film’s thesis – that human beings must love their friends, have courage, and retain their sense of wonder and belief in, well, Santa Claus. Small children will enjoy the movie, and Hanks is impressive as multiple characters, but this holiday treat is more technical achievement than heartwarming tale. And who decided, in a Christmas movie, to make all the elves Jewish?
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (The late gay actor Michael Jeter, to whom the film is dedicated, plays two characters here. Hanks won an Oscar for playing gay in “Philadelphia” and got his start in drag on TV’s “Bosom Buddies.” Peter Scolari, Hanks’ “Buddies” co-star, appears here as “Lonely Boy.”)
This epic biopic traces singer Ray Charles’ (Jamie Foxx) life from a childhood of grinding poverty – during which he lost both his younger brother and his sight – to his first two decades of stardom. Screenwriter James L. White and director Taylor Hackford take a warts-and-all approach to Charles’ life, so that while the drama presents the many ways that Charles revolutionized popular music under the shadow of Jim Crow, it also spends an inordinate amount of time on his drug addiction and womanizing. The story occasionally bogs down in a morass of show-biz cliches, but remains a powerful testament to a formidable talent, thanks to Foxx’s transcendent performance, in which he seems to inhabit the singer-musician’s very soul, and a soundtrack resplendent with Charles’ awesome music.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 0 (Co-star Kerry Washington played a lesbian in Spike Lee’s “She Hate Me.”)
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
SpongeBob SquarePants (the voice of Tom Kenny) has a problem. The scheming Plankton (Doug Lawrence) is trying to put the Krusty Krab restaurant out of business, so he steals Neptune’s crown and blames Mr. Krabs for it. Then it’s up to SpongeBob and his best friend, Patrick Starfish (Bill Fagerbakke), to venture out of Bikini Bottom and into Shell City to get the crown back. Naturally, there’s no suspense behind this premise, because it’s bound to turn out happily in the end; but none of that’s really important. SpongeBob has become something of a national symbol for stubborn, childlike innocence, appealing to fans across all demographic lines. The character’s genuine sweetness, plus his simple life and loyalty to his friends, render him almost irresistible. And it doesn’t hurt that his watery world is laugh-out-loud funny, making his journey to the big screen a splashy success.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (SpongeBob and Patrick are more silly-acting than gay-acting, but there are odd moments when things do start looking a little queer – a scene in which Patrick is revealed to be wearing fishnet stockings, for one. But it’s all in good fun, and the subtext is genuinely limited unless you’re desperate to find it everywhere you look. Voice talent Alec Baldwin, as hit man Dennis, was in the TV movie “A Streetcar Named Desire” and in the very gay-subtext-heavy “Prelude to a Kiss.”)