Loan-shark-turned-movie-producer Chili Palmer (John Travolta) has grown jaded with the industry and decides to move into the music business. He signs on to manage up-and-coming singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian), only to discover – as he confronts Russian mobsters, corrupt management companies, and gun-wielding gangsta rappers – that this new world is even more cutthroat than his old criminal life. The dialogue isn’t always sharp in this sequel to 1995’s popular Get Shorty, and this crime comedy suffers occasionally from plodding pacing. But individual performances are often hysterical, particularly Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a gay bodyguard, Vince Vaughn as a jive-talking music-mogul wanna-be, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 as a trigger-happy hip-hop star. Having the biggest blast of all is Travolta as he charismatically reprises one of his signature roles.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 2 (The Rock’s character leans heavily on stereotypes, and many of the characters surrounding him are homophobic and not shy about expressing their sentiments. Director F. Gary Gray previously directed Set It Off. Stars Uma Thurman, Debi Mazar, James Woods, and Seth Green have all appeared in queer-themed films.)
Amnesiac veteran Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) becomes the victim of a bizarre experiment after he is committed to a hospital for the criminally insane. Straightjacketed and drugged, he hallucinates in a morgue drawer until his visions evolve into time travel that thrusts him 15 years into the future, where he connects with slatternly waitress Jackie (Keira Knightley) and discovers that back in the past he faces mortal danger. This slick drama skips across genres, including sci-fi and romance, but emphasizes suspense as it outlines the peril engulfing Jack. The premise is beyond far-fetched, but John Maybury directs with such panache and the actors perform with such conviction that they transcend all disbelief. And visually this is a stunner, filled with excellent effects and eye-popping cinematography.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Maybury is openly gay, was a longtime collaborator of queer provocateur Derek Jarman, and previously made the Francis Bacon biopic Love Is the Devil, which starred Jacket co-star Daniel Craig. Brody, Knightley, and co-stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, and Steven Mackinstosh have all appeared in gay-themed films.)
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.)
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.)
Bride and Prejudice
Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) and Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), the eldest of four daughters in a traditional Indian family, have reached the age where they are expected to marry. While Jaya is headed for a true love match with English barrister Bakraj (Naveen Andrews), their parents try to arrange a union for Lalita, only to watch her fall for Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), the priggish American she ostensibly despises. This candy-colored, semi-musical comedy attempts to wed Bollywood to Jane Austen with uneven results. When the movie focuses on the charismatic sisters or on the Lalita/Balraj romance, it is a fun, frothy delight. But the central romance between Lalita and Darcy misfires badly – there is simply no chemistry between the gorgeous spitfire and former Miss Universe Rai and the completely lackluster Henderson.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Drag queens serenade the girls in one number, while the American emigrant meant for Lalita complains that too many Indian women in the States “have turned to the lesbian.” Director Gurinder Chadha’s previous films, Bend It Like Beckham and What’s Cooking?, both had queer subplots. Andrews played a bisexual in the BBC miniseries The Buddha of Suburbia.)
Chain-smoking, demon-hunting exorcist John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a thorn in Satan’s side. He’s especially bothersome to the devil’s CGI-based son, who conspires with the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) to wreak havoc on earth – little demonic messes Constantine has to keep cleaning up. In the meantime, the overworked devil-chaser also becomes involved with a cop (Rachel Weisz) whose twin sister has committed suicide. Confused yet? You will be if you try to follow the big, sinister goings-on in this stylish but merely passably entertaining comic-book adaptation. It’s all incredibly serious and overblown, and full of eye-popping special effects. But the plot is hellishly mixed up, the characters are paper-thin, and the film’s earth, heaven, and hell all seem like places no one would care to visit for very long.
Grade: C- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Reeves played gay-ish in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho and also appeared in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Weisz portrayed a prostitute in Bent, while co-star Djimon Hounsou was in the film version of Sandra Bernhard’s Without You I’m Nothing, and co-star Pruitt Taylor Vince appeared in Monster. Swinton, the lone bright spot in this murky movie, was screen muse to the late queer director Derek Jarman, and appeared in most of his movies. She also starred in the queer-themed films Orlando, Love Is the Devil, and The Deep End.)
For years, Lizzie Morrison (Emily Mortimer) has maintained the fiction to her deaf young son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), that his father is a sailor at sea. But she used the name of a real ship, and when it heads into their Scottish town’s port, she hires a stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as her husband. This heartwarming, sentimental drama flirts with the maudlin, but winsome good humor always bubbles back up before long. Young McElhone is a charmer, and while Frankie’s hearing loss is never minimized, the film refreshingly treats it as just one facet in the boy’s life and not an impediment. Butler, in the thankless role of a man with no name, manages an appealing chemistry with both mother and son.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 0 (Mortimer appeared in Bright Young Things.)
Diary of a Mad Black Woman
Helen (Kimberly Elise) is the mad black woman of the title, and with reason – her rich husband has dumped her and kicked her out. Desperate, she returns home to her Aunt Madea (Tyler Perry, in drag) and the lives of her troubled ghetto-bound family. She meets Orlando (Shemar Moore), who’s both too good-looking and too perfect to be true, yet by the rules of this simplistic movie he’s allowed to be both of those things without reservation. In fact, everything about this film is facile, from the heavily Christian message that makes sins like infidelity and drug addiction easily fixed and forgiven, to the lowest-common-denominator sitcom-style humor that pays no mind to complex human behavior. The talented Elise comes out of this mess unsullied; but otherwise, the film is boring and bad enough to make movie-goers mad they spent money on a ticket.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Playwright/screenwriter Perry’s in-drag role as Aunt Madea is the only remotely queer content in this film. Elise co-starred in the lesbian-themed Set It Off, and co-star Cicely Tyson appeared in Fried Green Tomatoes.)
Date “doctor” Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) is so good at coaching socially inept men at romance that he is even able to engineer a love match between shy, slovenly accountant Albert (Kevin James) and gorgeous socialite Allegra (Amber Valletta). But when Hitch falls hard for gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes) and she shoots him down, he is in need of some counseling himself. This pleasant romantic comedy plays up Smith’s ample charm, along with that of his co-stars, and ensures plenty of laughs with liberal doses of slapstick. It is also a glossy confection that delivers a delicious valentine to New York City, as Hitch and Albert take their dates to such notable addresses as Ellis Island and Madison Square Garden.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Smith played a gay man in Six Degrees of Separation, while co-star Matt Malloy has appeared in Far from Heaven, The Anniversary Party, and in a recurring role on Six Feet Under.)
The suicide of their eldest child, Olympic swimming hopeful Matt (Kip Pardue), sends the Travis family into a tailspin. Mother Sandy (Sigourney Weaver) takes up smoking pot; father Ben (Jeff Daniels) increasingly isolates himself; daughter Penny (Michelle Williams) escapes into college life; and sensitive, 17-year-old Tim (Emile Hirsch) struggles with guilt, shame, and the uncomfortable feeling that he will never fit in with his family. As incident piles upon incident, this family melodrama veers into soap-opera territory with plot twists that are either too predictable or completely incredible. But the actors, particularly Weaver and Daniels, are terrific as they transcend the sudsy banality of the script and the dubious motivations of their characters to deliver rich, full-bodied performances.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (Drag act Kiki and Herb appear inexplicably in a cameo. And while Tim has a girlfriend, there are some indications that he may be gay. Weaver, Pardue, Hirsch, Williams, and co-star Ryan Donowho have all appeared in gay-themed movies.)
Inside Deep Throat
More than 30 years ago, Deep Throat became an unintentional cinematic landmark, the first pornographic film to reach mainstream audiences. Now this fast-paced, almost giddy documentary details its ascent from run-of-the-mill smut flick to symbol of the sexual revolution. Documentary filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato combine archival footage of porn star Linda Lovelace – who later claimed to have made the movie under extreme duress – with contemporary commentary from queer culture vultures like Gore Vidal, Camille Paglia, and John Waters, as well as Erica Jong, Norman Mailer, and Lovelace’s co-star Harry Reems (now a real estate agent in Utah). And while its reach – the thesis that Deep Throat is responsible for everything sexual about American pop culture that followed in its wake – is not so easily proven, the documentary’s spirit of playful rebellion is a perfect match for its subject.
Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 2 (Gay filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato directed Party Monster, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and The Real Ellen Story, and have produced a number of other gay-themed projects. Former porn star and disco singer Andrea True makes an appearance.)
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.)
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.)
Son of the Mask
Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) is an irritatingly immature cartoonist afraid of being a parent. But then he finds the Mask of mischief-god Loki (Alan Cumming) and impregnates his wife while wearing it, creating a baby boy with Mask powers all his own. Meanwhile Loki searches the globe for the Mask, while father Odin (Bob Hoskins) threatens him along the way. It all makes about as much sense as a film aimed at children with attention deficit disorder is supposed to make – in other words, very little. The story is all about action, crotch-kicking, and body-fluid gags, a celebration of cartoonish misbehavior and also, very clumsily, a morality tale about the importance of family, even if its equation of adult maturity with child-rearing is hopelessly retro and insulting. Nothing fits together well, but the kids in your life won’t mind once the poop jokes start flying.
Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Unless you count Hoskins’ appearance in The Spice Girls movie Spice World, the cast is free of queer-themed resume projects. However, bisexual Cumming vamps it up quite a bit here, though nothing overtly homo is going on.)