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By |2005-05-05T09:00:00-04:00May 5th, 2005|Uncategorized|
Just Out

A Lot Like Love
Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) have anonymous sex in an airplane restroom, exchange names, then spend a day together bickering and probably imagining how cute they look doing it. Then Emily bets Oliver that in six years he won’t be a successful, competent adult. Oliver takes the bet, and the two sporadically reunite in the ensuing six-year span for more bickering and making out. Whether or not they eventually fall in love, however, is irrelevant. Frankly, it’s weird enough that these two irritating, dull, shallow characters manage to sustain interest in anything other than their own reflections. The movie wants to be “When Harry Met Sally” for Generation Y, but its target audience is more likely to walk out feeling punk’d.

Grade: D Kinsey Scale: 1 (Peet appeared in “Isn’t She Great,” and Kutcher made out with Seann William Scott in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Co-star Gabriel Mann appeared in “High Art,” “I Shot Andy Warhol,” and “Stonewall,” while co-star Jeremy Sisto is a regular on “Six Feet Under.” Linda Hunt, who played a man in “The Year of Living Dangerously,” makes a cameo appearance.)

The Interpreter
United Nations interpreter Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) returns to her listening post after business hours and overhears conspirators discussing a plot to assassinate her country’s president. Secret Service agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is assigned to investigate the matter, although he suspects Silvia is either lying or a potential assassin herself. This paranoid thriller suffers from a miscast Kidman and a plot that hinges on too many coincidences, so it is a credit to director Sydney Pollack that he is able to maintain a steady level of suspense despite those distractions. The real reasons to see the film, though, are for the peek it provides into the U.N., and for Penn, who infuses his depressed, skeptical lawman with a kind of wounded grace.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Kidman won her Oscar for playing bisexual writer Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” while Penn appeared in the queer-themed “Before Night Falls.” Pollack directed and co-starred in “Tootsie,” and currently plays Will’s dad on “Will & Grace.”)

Ongoing

The Amityville Horror
The white Long Island colonial looks like a dream home to George (Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George), in spite of the realtor’s admission that its most recent residents died there violently. No sooner have the Lutzes moved in than daughter Chelsea (Chloe Moretz) befriends the ghostly little girl who haunts her room, and George starts hearing voices urging him to kill his family. This silly remake of a 1979 horror classic – based on an allegedly true story – pours on the dripping blood and horrific special effects, but more often provides unintentional laughs instead of chills. Reynolds and George don’t possess the gravity to make the family’s situation believable, and a script that ladles on the cliches further sabotages the action.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (George had a small part in the lesboerotic “Mulholland Drive,” while co-star Philip Baker Hall appeared in the Charles Busch drag comedy “Die, Mommie, Die.”)

Beauty Shop
When Atlanta hairstylist Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) becomes fed up with Jorge (Kevin Bacon), the patronizing owner of the upscale hair salon where she works, she quits and opens her own shop. With the help of stylist friends and clients who follow her, Gina’s new shop manages to stay afloat in spite of financial struggles and Jorge’s attempts at sabotage. That’s the threadbare plot of this warm-hearted, woman-powered spin-off of the “Barbershop” films. But what it lacks in complicated storyline it makes up for in laughs. Although the gags are broad and obvious, the silly, likable interplay of the large ensemble cast keeps everything running smoothly, making for a sweetly affecting crowd pleaser. At this rate, Latifah’s next appointment might be “Beauty Shop 2.”

Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 2 (Newcomer Bryce Wilson plays an is-he-gay-or-not metrosexual stylist. No sexual orientation is explicitly stated for Bacon’s effeminate, Eurotrash character. Latifah played gay in “Chicago” and “Set It Off,” while Mena Suvari was a lesbian on “Six Feet Under” and co-starred in “American Beauty.” The rest of the large cast – Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard – has multiple queer-themed and gay-related film and TV credits.)

Fever Pitch
High-powered consultant Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) falls hard for math teacher Ben (Jimmy Fallon), who is sensitive, kind, and unthreatened by her success. But when she discovers that he is a rabid Boston Red Sox fan, it’s Lindsey who feels threatened by his love for the team. This is one of those romantic comedies that presumes a strictly heterosexual universe where men and women can never get along. It paints a world where women, no matter how successful, are only really interested in their relationships, while men are depicted as childish for caring about things outside of theirs – a premise both dated and insulting. Still, Ben’s fellow Sox fanatics are hilarious, and, however weak the central story, seeing a replay of Boston’s curse-breaking 2004 season is pretty wonderful.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Barrymore is bisexual and starred in the somewhat homoerotic “Poison Ivy” and the lesbian drama “Boys on the Side.” Co-stars Ione Sky, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Michael Rubenfeld, Willie Garson, and Jackie Burroughs have all appeared in gay-themed projects.)

Guess Who
With her parents, Percy (Bernie Mac) and Marilyn (Judith Scott), about to celebrate their 25th anniversary, Theresa (Zoe Saldana) thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce her boyfriend, Simon (Ashton Kutcher), and announce their engagement. But her African-American family only finds out that Simon is white when they meet him, throwing everyone, especially over-protective Percy, for a loop. This comedy works best when it confines itself to physical bits of slapstick, as when Simon teaches Percy to tango. The rest of it plays like an overlong sitcom, with tired race jokes and hackneyed put-upon-dad gags alternating with moments of cringe-inducing sentimentality. Mac makes the best of an underwritten part with a forceful, charismatic performance, stealing the movie away from bland, pretty-boy Kutcher.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Percy in convinced that the party planner for the anniversary fete is gay, while his wife insists he’s merely metrosexual. There are a few fleeting moments of gay panic when Percy and Simon hit the dance floor and share a bed.)

Hitch
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” and “The Anniversary Party,” and in a recurring role on “Six Feet Under.”)

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
FBI agent Gracie Hart’s (Sandra Bullock) last high-profile assignment made her a star, putting an end to her undercover career, so the bureau appoints her as its goodwill ambassador, complete with her own bodyguard in surly agent Sam Fuller (Regina King). But when her friend Cheryl (Heather Burns) is kidnapped, Gracie disobeys orders to jump back into the field. This comic sequel offers occasional laughs but suffers from an uneven tone as it tries to balance celebrity satire with a more traditional crime comedy. Portraying jealous agency bureaucrats who are as villainous as the kidnappers is a misstep, but the satire is worse, since it involves transforming amiable tomboy Gracie into a vain, self-aggrandizing, and arrogant fashion plate. Without a heroine worth rooting for, this comic souffle falls flat.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (The movie never explores the apparent sapphic undertones in the Hart/Fuller relationship, but offers Diedrich Bader as a “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl”-type stylist, as well as characters cross-dressing for a drag show. King had a role in “If These Walls Could Talk 2.” Co-star Treat Williams made his screen debut as an FBI agent staking out a gay bathhouse in “The Ritz,” while co-star Ernie Hudson appeared on the queer-themed TV drama “Oz,” and co-star Eileen Brennan has a recurring role on “Will & Grace.”)

Palindromes
Thirteen-year-old Aviva (played by a rotating cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh) wants to have a baby. When Aviva is impregnated by a teenage boy, her loving but hysterical parents (Ellen Barkin, Richard Masur) force her to have an abortion. Traumatized, Aviva runs away from home and, in her travels, encounters a sympathetic pedophile and sinister pro-life Christians; her circular journey will ultimately lead her back to where she started from – hence the film’s title. This is a brutally funny, emotionally defeated, yet still humane skewering of America’s public and private morality. Director Todd Solondz’s detached filmmaking style rejects the idea of sympathetic characters; he dares his audience to stay the course, and, for a certain brand of adventurous film-goer, that will prove a selling point. Others are advised to approach with caution.}

{ITAL Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Leigh co-starred in “Bastard Out of Carolina,” and co-star Debra Monk appeared in both “In & Out” and “Jeffrey.”)

The Ring Two
In this sequel to “The Ring” – about a videotape that kills everyone who watches it – the sole survivors return to face more evil goings-on. Reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) has taken her spooky son Aidan (David Dorfman) and left Seattle, where so much misery befell them in the first film. But ghosts always find a way to haunt those they’ve chosen, and it’s not long before the cursed videotape’s main character – a little dead girl named Samara (Daveigh Chase) – returns to claim Aidan for her own. Audiences used to regular jolts may be disappointed by this moody, creepy second act. The tone, while relentlessly grim, too often lacks the energetic tension required for a “horror” movie determined not to go the obvious route. Still, Watts capably carries the movie, and little Samara remains the stuff of nightmares.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Watts played a bisexual character in “Mulholland Drive,” and Dorfman appeared in the Don Roos film “Bounce.” Co-star Elizabeth Perkins was in “If These Walls Could Talk 2.”

Robots
Rodney Copperbottom (the voice of Ewan McGregor) is a small-town robot with dreams of going to the big city. Rodney’s a genius inventor, wanting to use his creations to make the world better. But when he arrives, he finds that the city is a harsh place with no room for nice robots. He also discovers that a huge, amoral corporation is out to dominate all of robot life by making the population dependent on its products. To fight the bad business-bots, he enlists the help of new friend and love interest Cappy (Halle Berry), as well as some friendly metal misfits (Robin Williams, Amanda Bynes). And while a happy ending is assured in this family movie, the main draw is the spectacular 3-D animation and the reasonably witty script, both of which keep the moral from going down like sugary medicine.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (In one scene, Williams tosses out an obliquely gay, ad-libbed joke about two male robots bunking together for the night. Otherwise, the huge voice cast – including McGregor, Berry, Williams, Greg Kinnear, Jim Broadbent, and Jennifer Coolidge – has a lot of queer credits on its collective resume.

Sahara
Undersea expert Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his sidekick, Al (Steve Zahn), are on a mission to hunt down a lost Confederate ship they believe drifted across the ocean to African waters. They cross paths with a U.N. doctor (Penelope Cruz) who’s researching what seems to be a plague, and collide with French corporate criminals, tribal warlord baddies, and one action sequence after another in a mixed-up stew of a plot. The ridiculous pile-up of characters and perilous moments would be unforgivable if the movie weren’t so much fun. Sure, there’s no reason to believe that any of it could happen – much less that Cruz and McConaughey’s characters could find time to fall in love in the middle of it – but this popcorn movie is so handsomely crafted and excitingly paced that believability is the least of its concerns. It just wants to entertain, and does so with exuberance to spare.

Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Zahn appeared in “The Object of My Affection,” played gay in “Reality Bites,” and pretended to be gay in “Happy, Texas.” Cruz played an HIV-positive nun in Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother”

Sin City
There is no daylight ever in Basin City, where good cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) bucks the system to bring down a politically connected pedophile; warm-hearted psychopath Marv (Mickey Rourke) takes on the establishment to avenge a hooker’s death; and gentlemanly murderer Dwight (Clive Owen) fights to stop a war involving police, pimps, and the town’s prostitutes. Based on a series of graphic novels, this ultra-violent neo-noir offers three terrific lead performances and stunning visuals. But beyond the antiheroic trio, the acting is wildly uneven, and this fifth-rate pulp fiction – with its tin-eared dialogue and vacuous triad of stories – is an example of faux hard-boiled style over substance. Writer Frank Miller betrays his lack of imagination with female characters that are nearly all whores.

Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 2 (One of the few females who is not a hooker – a parole officer played by Carla Gugino – is identified as a lesbian. Owen and co-stars Michael Clarke Duncan, Nick Stahl, Rosario Dawson, and Devon Aoki have all appeared in queer-themed movies.

The Upside of Anger
Embittered suburbanite Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) resorts to oceans of vodka to disguise her heartbreak when her husband deserts their family. While this tactic dismays her four daughters, it does nothing to discourage ex-pro baseball player Denny (Kevin Costner) from romantic pursuit of his newly single neighbor. Writer/director Mike Binder’s domestic-drama gem spans three years in Terry’s life as she recovers from her loss and mends her sometimes-fractured relationship with her girls. Allen is terrific as a woman whose brittle surface always seems on the verge of cracking, and Costner, in one of his finest performances, proves to be her perfect match. Binder, who also plays the reptilian boyfriend of one of the daughters, supports his talented ensemble with a script rich in heart, character detail, and caustic humor.

Grade: A- Kinsey Scale: 1 (Allen starred on Broadway in Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” while Costner was in Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” Co-star Alicia Witt appeared in “Cecil B. DeMented.”

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.