Now Playing at the Movies

By |2016-06-11T09:00:00-04:00June 11th, 2016|Entertainment|


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) – that nation’s “sixth most famous man” – travels across the United States to learn about America, but his adventures mostly involve embarrassing the natives he’s duped into showing him around. “Duped” because, of course, Borat is one of the characters created by comedian Baron Cohen for “Da Ali G Show.” While Borat is a racist, sexist, homophobic twit who hilariously mangles the English language – he describes sex as “making sexy-time” – the real joke in this satirical “Candid Camera”-style “documentary” is on the Yanks, who are unfailingly polite in the face of Borat’s weirdness, and ignorant enough about Kazakhstan to take his blatherings at face value. Their discomfort and Baron Cohen’s brilliant adherence to character result in one of the year’s funniest movies.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Borat is all about making sexy-time with the ladies, but he does wear one of the craziest thongs you’ve ever seen; he also wrestles naked with his producer. Another of Baron Cohen’s “Da Ali G Show” creations is gay fashionista Bruno. Baron Cohen also played the gay NASCAR driver in “Talladega Nights.”)

Flushed Away

Upper-crust pet mouse Roddy (Hugh Jackman) wants nothing to do with the community of sewer-dwelling rodents he encounters after he is flushed down the toilet. That begins to change when he meets lovely boat captain Rita (Kate Winslet), but with mad crime boss Toad (Ian McKellen) after them, there is little time for romance. This lively animated family film’s charms begin with the cast’s appealing vocal performances, cute animals that will entrance kids, and smart humor geared to amuse grownups. Furthering its appeal is witty, computer-generated imagery, particularly the rodents’ underground world that re-creates London’s Piccadilly Circus in trash. And while slugs may not sound as if they would make engaging cartoon animals, rendered here as a kind of absurd Greek chorus, they are irresistible.
Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s no queer content, but McKellen is openly gay and has starred in multiple gay projects; Jackman won a Tony for his role as queer singer/songwriter Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz”; and Winslet’s breakthrough role was in the sapphic “Heavenly Creatures.” Co-star Bill Nighy appeared in the homoerotic “Enduring Love.”)

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Santa Claus – aka Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) – is expecting his first child with the new Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell), and the whole family gathers for the blessed event, including Scott’s son, his first wife, and his new in-laws (Ann-Margret, Alan Arkin). But like all holiday get-togethers, this one has its share of complications, most notably the appearance of Jack Frost (Martin Short), who wants to elbow Santa out of the way and make Christmas his own. While this holiday series has suffered from the law of diminishing comic and heart-warmth returns – David Krumholz’s Head Elf from previous installments is sorely missed – “The Santa Clause 3” retains enough of the first two films’ charm to make it worth taking the kids when your feet need a rest after a full day of shopping.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Director Michael Lembeck was also behind the drag-queen farce “Connie and Carla.” Short played flamboyantly queeny characters in “The Big Picture” and the “Father of the Bride” movies. Ann-Margret played the mother of a gay man in the landmark TV movie “Our Sons,” while Arkin co-starred in “Little Miss Sunshine” and played Grace’s dad on “Will & Grace.”)


Catch a Fire
In 1980s South Africa, Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) steers clear of politics but comes under suspicion anyway when a bomb goes off at the refinery where he works. Policeman Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) supervises torture so horrific that it radicalizes Chamusso and leads him to join the rebels dedicated to ending apartheid. Based on a true story, Phillip Noyce’s searing historical drama subtly addresses the current debate over the effectiveness and validity of torture and examines the thin line separating the freedom fighter from the terrorist. But this is no pedantic drama. Instead, it is a suspenseful, heartrending story of one man’s political awakening and struggle to secure the liberty and the dignity of his people, animated by Luke’s warm, powerful performance.
Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 0 (There is no queer content of any kind.)

The Departed

Boston gangster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) thinks that he has outsmarted the police when he plants his protege Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) among the state troopers’ mob detail. But the cops have a mole of their own in Costello associate Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). When both sides realize they have a “rat” in their midst, Sullivan and Costigan race to cover their tracks before they face extermination. What could have been a lean, suspenseful thriller is a plodding, bloated mess, as director Martin Scorsese mistakenly equates a two-and-a-half-hour running time and flamboyantly high body count with an operatic epic. Nicholson is ludicrously over the top, while Damon and DiCaprio are blandly forgettable. Mark Wahlberg is the saving grace, excellent as Costigan’s prickly police handler.
Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Homophobic epithets are the insults of choice among cops and crooks. Nearly everyone in the cast has appeared in queer-themed movies, including Nicholson, Damon, DiCaprio, Wahlberg, and co-star Alec Baldwin. But the most interesting queer credit belongs to co-star Martin Sheen, who played a gay man in the landmark 1972 made-for-TV movie “That Certain Summer.”)

Flags of Our Fathers

Marines Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and Navy corpsman John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillippe) are among the first soldiers to storm Iwo Jima. Photographed raising the American flag on the island, they are hailed as heroes, an image at odds with their devastating personal experiences. Clint Eastwood pays homage to World War II’s battle-scarred veterans, even as he questions the definition of heroism in this epic drama. Brutally visceral combat scenes are elaborately and effectively staged, but it is not the bloodshed that provides the most haunting impression. Instead, it is the characters’ quiet courage, loyalty, and decency that resonates. This is three-quarters of a brilliant film, only losing steam in the final stretch with a wholly unnecessary, modern-day postscript.

Grade: A-
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (There is no queer content in the film at all, but many in the film’s large ensemble have played roles in queer films or plays, including Bradford, Phillippe, and co-stars Joseph Cross, John Benjamin Hickey, Judith Ivey, Melanie Lynskey, Stark Sands, John Slattery, Jon Polito, Chris Bauer, Benjamin Walker, George Hearn, and George Grizzard.)

The Guardian

Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher) is a cocky young Coast Guard water-rescue recruit who’s such a bad-ass that he thinks he can’t learn anything from his teacher, veteran Ben Randall (Kevin Costner). But if you’ve seen “Top Gun” or “An Officer and a Gentleman,” you know that the bratty hotshot always gets schooled by the mentor, eventually learning the true nature of heroism. Yes, you’ve seen this movie before. But at least the water-rescue sequences are pretty exciting, so it’s not a complete waste of time. Kutcher’s irritating performance won’t make you forget “That ’70s Show,” but Costner has the chops and presence to render this compilation of cliches fairly bearable. If you’re a fan of wet men in uniform, this could be the date movie for you.

Grade: B-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Kutcher made out with Seann William Scott in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and had some gay-behind-bars moments in “The Butterfly Effect.” Co-star Sela Ward starred on the series “Once and Again,” which featured a lesbian daughter. Meanwhile, the military setting gives the movie occasional dollops of inadvertent locker-room homoeroticism.)


Author Truman Capote (Toby Jones) abandons Manhattan to investigate murder in small-town Kansas. He soon develops a friendship with killers Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) and especially Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) that leads him to write his masterpiece, “In Cold Blood,” but extracts an enormous emotional toll. What begins as an effervescent comedy gradually darkens as Capote grows closer to Smith. Partially structured like an oral biography with testimonials from pals like socialite Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver), this ultimately moving drama places the writer’s life – from high-society pet to criminal confrere – into context and emphasizes the erotic nature of his bond with Smith. Jones bears a striking resemblance to Capote and captures his voice and mannerisms, but what is truly awesome is his warm, empathetic performance.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 6 (The scenes between Capote and Smith are far more dangerous and erotic than anything in last year’s “Capote,” due in no small part to the chemistry between Jones and Craig. Jones made his screen debut in the gender-bending “Orlando.” Craig’s breakthrough role was as Francis Bacon’s rough-trade lover in “Love Is the Devil,” and he also starred in the homoerotic “Enduring Love.” Among the co-stars with queer credits are Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Gwyneth Paltrow, Juliet Stevenson, and John Benjamin Hickey.)

Man of the Year
Comedian Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) makes a run for the U.S. presidency, not as a serious candidate, but to expose flaws in American politics. When he wins the election, pundits chalk it up to his superior debating skills, but software engineer Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) points to computer error. What begins as a sharp political satire transforms into a paranoid thriller with disastrous results. Whenever Williams is allowed to just riff, the movie is hilarious, and he receives excellent support from Christopher Walken as his cynical manager. It’s shocking just how far off the rails this movie goes in its second half, as writer/director Barry Levinson bungles in his attempt to create suspense and as the normally reliable Linney resorts to cringe-inducing histrionics.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Williams played queer characters in “The Birdcage” and “The Night Listener.” Linney has multiple queer credits, including her memorable turn as Mary Ann Singleton in the “Tales of the City” series. Walken played a gay theater critic in “Illuminata.” Co-star Jeff Goldblum had a recurring role on “Will & Grace.”)

Marie Antoinette

Fourteen-year-old Austrian Duchess Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) marries the future French king Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) and embraces the luxurious royal lifestyle. She develops such a reputation for extravagance that she earns the enmity of her subjects in the dawning days of the French Revolution. Sofia Coppola’s lavish period piece looks spectacular, thanks to the shimmering cinematography, gorgeous art direction, and Versailles’ stunning elegance. But Coppola never delves beneath the royal court’s glittery surface, and she cannot seem to decide whether she is making a comedy of manners, a tragedy, or an epic music video. Dunst’s performance is similarly shallow, making it impossible to care about this regal airhead who grows so tiresome that viewers may long for the revolution – and her comeuppance.

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (A favorite topic of gossip in the court is the sexuality of the various royals – although curiously not Louis XVI, even though his problems in the marriage bed are well-known. Among the cast with queer credits are Steve Coogan, Judy Davis, Molly Shannon, Rip Torn, and Asia Argento.)

Open Season

Abandoned in the wild just before the start of open season, tame grizzly bear Boog (Martin Lawrence) and mouthy deer Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) frantically seek escape. With rogue hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise) hot on their trail, the pair makes a run for the safety of ranger Beth’s (Debra Messing) garage. This first feature film from Sony Pictures Animation suggests the dawning of a new era of mediocrity. There is nothing outstanding about this family movie – not the animation quality, vocal talents, or the script. Boog and Elliot manage the neat trick of being both grating personalities yet completely forgettable, so indifferently are they drawn. Only minor characters – bouncing bunnies, a lonely porcupine, and a rude squirrel – are truly amusing, but none get enough screen time.

{ITAL Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 1} (Messing starred in “Will & Grace.” Kutcher had queer-ish moments in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “The Butterfly Effect.” Co-star Patrick Warburton appeared several times on “Ellen.”)

The Prestige

Nineteenth-century magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) aren’t just professional rivals – they’ve had a mutual vendetta ever since Borden was involved with an illusion that killed Angier’s wife (Piper Perabo) and Angier retaliated by shooting off two of Borden’s fingers. Their ongoing battle of one-upmanship involves a young woman (Scarlett Johansson), an old master (Michael Caine), and even inventor Nicola Tesla (David Bowie). Alas, this new movie from Christopher Nolan starts out interesting and atmospheric but descends into a “gotcha!” film, in which one revelation after another is shoveled upon the audience in the last ten minutes, letting us know that – big surprise – we’ve been completely fooled. And while it’s fun when magic plays tricks with you, it’s tiresome when a movie does it.

Grade: C-
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Bowie has been a longtime icon of androgyny and, depending upon whom you believe, bisexuality. Bale played a young gay man smitten with a Bowie-like rock star in “Velvet Goldmine.” Jackman won a Tony for his Broadway portrayal of gay singer-songwriter Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz” – and he looks great with his shirt off. Caine cross-dressed in “Dressed to Kill,” and Andy Serkis – who plays Tesla’s assistant – was the gay magazine editor in “13 Going on 30.”)

The Queen

Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) has always been a very British icon of decorum, subtlety, and privacy. But when Princess Diana dies in a car accident, that royal decorum doesn’t play well with a grieving British public. Writer-director Stephen Frears brilliantly captures the turmoil of the week following Diana’s tragic death, and how newly elected prime minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) helped coax a reluctant monarch into publicly acknowledging a loss that was devastating not only to her grandchildren but to her people. Even if you think royalty is a useless tradition of a bygone age, Mirren’s performance makes Elizabeth a three-dimensional person, beset by her lifelong duties and obligations. “The Queen” offers a fascinating backstage look at public figures facing a key moment in contemporary history.

Grade: A
Kinsey Scale: 1.5 (Princess Diana was beloved by many gay people for her AIDS activism. Frears directed the queer classics “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “Prick Up Your Ears.” Mirren had a lesbian affair with Kyra Sedgwick in “Losing Chase” and appeared in the pansexual extravaganza “Caligula.” Co-stars Sylvia Syms, who plays the Queen Mother, starred opposite Dirk Bogarde in “Victim” (1961) – one of the very first feature films to feature homosexuality in a sympathetic light – and James Cromwell (as Prince Philip) was Roy Cohn’s doctor in the miniseries “Angels in America.”)

Running with Scissors

Teenage Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) gets dumped by his loony mother (Annette Bening) onto her quack psychiatrist (Brian Cox) so that she can run off and “find herself” or some other 1970s pursuit. Based on Burroughs’ best-selling-memoir, “Scissors” hits all the book’s highlights of nuttiness – playing with an electroshock machine; Burroughs’ teenage affair with a hipster pederast (Joseph Fiennes) – but writer-director Ryan Murphy forgets to provide any breathing room in between shocking incidents. The result is something like the “That’s Entertainment!” of mental illness. But the film does at least provide a platform for two terrific and very different performances – Bening bulldozes over everyone and everything as Burroughs’ attention-starved mommy, but Jill Clayburgh’s deadpan sadness (as Cox’s wife) makes her the most fascinating character in a too-frantic movie.

Grade: C
Kinsey Scale: 6 (Burroughs and Murphy are both gay, and the movie is unapologetic in its presentation of young Augusten’s queerness. Bening’s character has two lesbian lovers, played by Kristin Chenoweth and Gabrielle Union. Bening also starred in “American Beauty,” while Cox starred in “L.I.E.”)

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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.