Harry and Max
Harry (Bryce Johnson) is a teen pop idol slipping into his twenties and career-has-been status. His 16-year-old brother, Max (Cole Williams), is also a teen pop star, career on the ascent. Together they struggle with girlfriend issues, parental difficulties, career angst, Harry’s alcohol dependence, and the thorny issue of being siblings who are also sexually involved with each other. That fact alone will probably be enough to draw an audience to this underwritten, awkwardly directed, stiffly acted yawner – after all, incest isn’t creepy if both the brothers are young and hot, right? But the film feels like a come-on that doesn’t actually deliver any of its dramatic or sexual promises, its half-baked titillation and “edginess” trying to disguise the fact that it’s really not about very much at all. If you’re looking for the vicarious thrill of watching “brothers” get it on, rent some porn instead.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 6 (There’s plenty of smooth young flesh here and a sufficient amount of soft-core sexual suggestiveness to satisfy fans of jailbait. Gay director Christopher Munch is responsible for the gay-themed film “The Hours and Times,” about Brian Epstein and John Lennon, and for “Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day,” which featured Michael Stipe. Co-star Rain Phoenix was in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”)
The Wedding Date
Determined to prove to her ex-fiance (Jeremy Sheffield) that she’s over him, Manhattan-based Kat (Debra Messing) pays Nick (Dermot Mulroney), a male escort, $6,000 to be her date at her sister’s London wedding. But Kat finds her heart melting when Nick turns out be both studly and wise. Call it the distaff “Pretty Woman,” as this unsavory romantic comedy follows that popular movie’s path of having the client fall for the cliched hooker with a heart of gold. Nothing in the script suggests why these two should fall for each other, particularly since neither character is particularly captivating. The normally personable Mulroney is wooden, while Messing simply plays a variant on the whiny, spoiled, self-involved Grace Adler.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 1 (The movie never acknowledges the distinct possibility that Nick might count men among his clientele. Messing is half of “Will & Grace,” while Mulroney previously appeared in “Bastard Out of Carolina,” “Longtime Companion,” and the very similar “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Co-star Amy Adams appeared in the Charles Busch surf comedy, “Psycho Beach Party,” while co-star Holland Taylor has done guest spots on “The L Word” and had a regular role on the cross-dressing sitcom “Bosom Buddies.”)
Alone in the Dark
Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a paranormal investigator on the trail of the evil remnants of an ancient lost civilization. That evil manifests itself in the form of giant subterranean monsters controlled by a crazed scientist, a man who also implants smaller monsters into the spines of orphans. Meanwhile the top-secret government agency that once employed Carnby is also on the trail, as is Aline Sedrac (Tara Reid), an archeologist helping Carnby decipher clues. Of course, no amount of clue-collecting can force this movie to make much sense. The orphans turn into zombies, the zombies chase the humans, the monsters eat everyone they can – both human and zombie alike – and then Reid takes off her blouse. It’s a horror movie that forgot the horror, made by people who forgot how to tell a coherent story. Prepare to be bored senseless and thoroughly confused.
Grade: F Kinsey Scale: 1 (Co-star Stephen Dorff starred in John Waters’ “Cecil B. Demented” and played drag “superstar” Candy Darling in “I Shot Andy Warhol.”)
Are We There Yet?
Nick Persons (Ice Cube) only has eyes for his Lincoln Navigator, until single mom Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long) comes along. Unfortunately for him, her two children only have eyes for their deadbeat dad. So when that deadbeat cancels on a babysitting gig for his out-of-town ex, it’s Ice Cube to the rescue. His mission? To get the kids to their mom by New Year’s Eve. And his only obstacle is their nonstop misbehavior. At every turn, the kids plot to ruin the trip and make their chauffeur’s life a nightmare. And speaking of ruin, unless “Home Alone”-style comic violence perpetrated by bratty kids against a fairly well-meaning adult seems like just the ticket, avoid this humorless, often mean-spirited “family” film. It’s designed to take audiences on a road to nowhere.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Long played a lesbian in “The Broken Hearts Club.”)
Assault on Precinct 13
It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve for Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) and a skeleton crew preparing to shut down Detroit’s decommissioned Precinct 13. But bad weather forces a jail transport bus carrying cop killer Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) to stop in for the night, setting up a bloody showdown between the scarcely manned outpost and Bishop’s murder-minded enemies. This action thriller begins effectively, as it builds a palpable sense of dread leading up to a climax of over-the-top violence. But lame black humor doesn’t so much relieve the tension as offer an unwelcome distraction from the suspense, and there’s no getting past the fact that most of the characters are so underdeveloped that they come across like paper targets in a shooting gallery.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hawke and co-stars Brian Dennehy, Drea de Matteo, and John Leguizamo have all appeared in gay-themed films.)
Even though he’s a paranoid obsessive-compulsive, Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) revolutionizes commercial aviation and conquers Hollywood when he pours his inherited wealth into producing movies while bedding such stars as Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). Martin Scorsese’s latest epic is an opulent, eye-popping spectacle: individual scenes dazzle; production design and costuming are spectacular; and the cast is gorgeous, starting with DiCaprio. But nothing in the actor’s callow performance suggests Hughes’ genius or explains what these powerful, sexy women saw in such a socially crude, tortured soul. Nor is Hughes’ story particularly compelling; while the drama amply displays Scorsese’s ardor for filmmaking, it never adequately explains Hughes’ own passions or the roots of his neurotic behavior.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Though the Hughes-produced western “The Outlaw” was controversial in its time for its homoerotic content, Scorsese chooses to focus solely on that film’s other area of contention – Jane Russell’s breasts. DiCaprio played gay poet Arthur Rimbaud in “Total Eclipse.” Co-stars Blanchett, Beckinsale, Jude Law, John C. Reilly, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, and Willem Dafoe have all appeared in queer-themed films.)
The Richmond High Oilers excel only at underachieving, both on the basketball court and in the classroom. Incoming coach Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) engineers a Cinderella season when the team responds to his hardnosed management style. But the dream threatens to unravel when the academic failures of some players lead Carter to bench the entire squad. In spite of the fact that it is based on a true story, there is absolutely nothing new or original in this hackneyed drama. Jackson delivers a charismatic performance, and the basketball scenes are thrilling and effective. Too often, though, the action becomes bogged down in cliched melodramatic subplots that stretch out interminably. Clocking in at over two hours, this hoops tale’s sheer tedium adds up to a flagrant foul.
Grade: C Kinsey: 0 (Movies don’t come any straighter than this. However, co-star Rick Gonzalez did appear in the bi-drama “Laurel Canyon.”)
Hide and Seek
Grieving the suicide death of his wife (Amy Irving), psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) moves to the country with daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) to start a new life. But when Emily creates an imaginary friend named “Charlie,” her behavior grows spookier and more erratic with each passing day. That’s when people start dying. But who is Charlie? And why are the new country neighbors so creepy? And what’s lurking in Emily’s closet, not to mention in the backyard storm drain? The answers don’t add up to anything especially shocking, but getting there is still a certain amount of dread-filled fun. And 10-year-old Fanning’s dead-eyed performance carries enough weight to make anyone’s skin crawl in this mostly pointless yet still frequently effective thriller.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Director John Polson has also acted in his native Australia, appearing in the gay-themed “The Sum of Us.” De Niro starred in “Flawless,” Famke Janssen in “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole,” Irving in the cross-dressing musical “Yentl,” and co-star Dylan Baker appeared in “Kinsey” and “The Laramie Project.”)
In Good Company
Fifty-one-year-old ad executive Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) faces a demotion when a global conglomerate absorbs his company. Making matters worse, his new boss, Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), is a 26-year-old golden boy with little practical experience. But the two form an unlikely bond, as Dan graciously accepts his diminished position while the emotionally stunted Carter admires the older man’s solid family life and falls for his daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson). This offbeat hybrid of corporate satire and family drama proves to be a winning combination, scoring points with snappy dialogue, understated humor, and a story that subtly ponders the human cost of doing business. Quaid and Grace are terrific, both funny and touching, as men trying to navigate an ugly situation without losing their souls.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Quaid’s performance as the closeted husband in “Far from Heaven” earned him some of the best notices of his career and an Independent Spirit Award. Co-stars Selma Blair, Philip Baker Hall, Clark Gregg, and Malcolm McDowell have all appeared in gay-themed films.)
Meet the Fockers
Before ex-CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) will allow nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) to marry his daughter, he insists on meeting Greg’s parents. A weekend visit to the Fockers’ Florida home jeopardizes the wedding when Jack discovers that matriarch Roz (Barbra Streisand) is a sex therapist, dad Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) is an ultra-liberal househusband, and Greg himself may be keeping a big secret. This sequel to the popular “Meet the Parents” starts off dismally as Greg and Jack’s contentious relationship plays like a tired, one-note joke. But once Streisand and Hoffman enter the fray to steal the movie away from their co-stars, the movie brightens considerably. The two are hilarious and simply adorable together, injecting warmth and fresh humor in this otherwise tepid comedy.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hoffman, De Niro, and co-star Blythe Danner have all appeared in gay-themed films. Stiller and co-star Owen Wilson played metrosexuals in “Zoolander.” And Streisand is, well, Streisand.)
Million Dollar Baby
When 31-year-old boxer wanna-be Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) blows into his gym, down-on-his-luck fight manager Frank Dunn (Clint Eastwood) wants nothing to do with her. Not only is she female, she’s too old to contend for a title. But once she finally wears him down and he takes her under his wing, the two begin a remarkable Cinderella run that transforms both their lives. Paul Haggis’ screenplay is loaded with stereotypes, cliches, and bald emotional manipulation, yet despite these faults, the drama flirts with magnificence. Credit goes to sensational turns by Swank and Eastwood and to Eastwood’s flawless direction as he uses action to illuminate character, expertly staging Maggie’s bouts and their aftermaths so that each deepens the heartfelt relationship between these damaged individuals.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Eastwood directed the gay-themed “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” while Swank took home a Best Actress Oscar for her role as transsexual Brandon Teena in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Co-stars Anthony Mackie and Margo Martindale have both appeared in queer-themed films.)
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom (Gerard Butler), a musical genius who hides his facial disfigurement with a mask, terrorizes the Paris Opera House in order to advance the career of an unwitting young singer named Christine (Emmy Rossum), whom he loves from afar. Meanwhile Christine’s rise in the opera company becomes complicated when she falls in love with Raoul (Patrick Wilson), and romantic tragedy ensues. It’s a story that’s been told so often that the appeal isn’t in wondering how it will all turn out, but in its lowest-common-denominator melodrama. This earnest, ornate, old-fashioned movie, full of inexplicably popular – and terrible – songs, will most likely resonate with audiences who can’t get enough of the long-running stage musical on which it’s based. Although emotionally bland, stiffly acted and directed, and overly long, “Phantom” is a spectacle, lavish and loud.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 2 (There’s queer involvement both in front of and behind the camera. Directed by openly gay Joel Schumacher, who more or less outed his star Butler earlier this year, the film also stars openly gay Brit actor Simon Callow. Rossum made her film debut in the lesbian-themed drama “Songcatcher,” and co-star Wilson played gay in HBO’s “Angels in America.”)
Failed novelist Miles (Paul Giamatti) and fading TV actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) are old college buddies who decide to celebrate Jack’s upcoming nuptials with a wine country vacation. While Jack indulges in a torrid affair with comely pourer Stephanie (Sandra Oh), Miles becomes smitten with fellow connoisseur Maya (Virginia Madsen). But Miles’ self-loathing threatens both the budding relationship and his oldest friendship. This nuanced, occasionally very funny, character-driven comedy-drama offers a satisfyingly adult romance along with a rare, honest glimpse into male friendship. The entire cast is terrific, but Giamatti, whose Miles is pretentious, whiny, self-pitying, yet somehow charming, owns the screen. Wine lovers will delight in snobby Miles’ oenophile chatter, though beer drinkers may wonder what’s the big deal about pinot noir.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Oh appeared in “Further Tales of the City” and played a pregnant lesbian in “Under the Tuscan Sun.”)