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April 9, 2007
NEW THIS WEEK:
Blades of Glory
A fistfight results in a lifetime ban for figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), destroying the bitter rivals’ gold medal dreams. When they realize the ban only extends to individual competition, they put enmity aside to compete as the sport’s first single-sex pair skaters. Building a comedy on the thin premise of figure skater stereotypes is a risky proposition, yet Ferrell and Heder make it work. Both are brilliant physical comedians, making their scenes on the ice an absolute scream, and their chemistry off the ice is nearly as sublime. The movie drags in spots and some of the gross-out jokes are more gross than funny, but this is one silly comedy that serves up lots of laughs.
Kinsey Scale: 3 (Queer skater Brian Boitano makes a cameo appearance as himself. Chazz and Jimmy are both straight, but the movie does not miss an opportunity to exploit both the homoeroticism and the gay panic arising out of the idea of men skating together. Ferrell has several queer-themed projects on his resume, including “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “The Producers,” and “Boat Trip.” Co-star Will Arnett had a guest spot on “Will & Grace.”)
After a car accident leaves him brain-damaged, former high school hockey star Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is reduced to working as a bank’s janitor. Humiliated by his new circumstances, he agrees to help Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) rob the joint. Spargo is dangerous, but as the job goes awry, it is his own short-term memory loss that poses the biggest threat to Chris’ survival. Though this violent thriller sometimes strains credulity, it still creates a great deal of suspense, thanks to Chris’ vulnerability and a snow-covered prairie setting that evokes a genuine sense of dread even as it mirrors Chris’ loneliness and isolation. The entire ensemble is first-rate, but the film belongs to Gordon-Levitt, whose subtle, sometimes heartbreaking performance is nothing short of magnificent.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Gordon-Levitt played a gay teen in “Mysterious Skin” and in a guest appearance on “That ’70s Show,” and he appeared in the queer romance “Latter Days.” Goode was in the lesbian romance “Imagine Me & You.” Co-star Jeff Daniels played lawman Alvin Dewey in the Truman Capote biopic “Infamous,” and Carla Gugino frolicked with Molly Parker in “The Center of the World” and played the lesbian parole officer in “Sin City.”)
ALSO IN THEATERS:
Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) invades Greece with an army of untold thousands, while Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) has a contingent of only 300 men. As the two forces battle on a Thermopylae mountain pass, Leonidas exhorts his few to vanquish the Persian hordes and save Greece, believing strategy and heart can beat superior numbers. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which was in turn inspired by history, this action adventure is visually breathtaking – with stunning cinematography and state-of-the-art special effects – and completely vapid. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is worse, and a literal-minded voiceover narration is both intrusive and dumb. The many battles provide the biggest letdown; action scenes that ought to be suspenseful and exciting are instead repetitive, cliched, and dull.
Kinsey Scale: 2
Bridge to Terabithia
When Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) moves in next door to Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), the dreamy fifth-graders become fast friends. Bullied at school, they create their own kingdom in the woods behind their homes, which they dub Terabithia – a place filled with giants and other fantastic creatures the pair must battle. Based on Katherine Paterson’s 30-year-old, award-winning children’s novel, this family drama celebrates loyalty and friendship, while promoting individuality and creativity among kids. Terabithia and its many monsters come alive through the magic of CGI, but the special effects never distract from the human story. The schoolyard scenes where Leslie and Jesse dodge bullies are truthfully (and painfully) rendered. The two young actors are simply wonderful, bringing warmth, playfulness, and wonder to their roles.
Kinsey Scale: 1
I Think I Love My Wife
Investment banker Richard Cooper’s (Chris Rock) doldrums are more than just the seven-year itch – he and his wife, Brenda (Gina Torres), have fallen into a companionable but sexless relationship. So when seductive old pal Nikki (Kerry Washington) reappears in his life, the renewed friendship, fraught with sexual tension, creates such a distraction that it threatens his marriage and his job. There are laughs in this uneasy romantic comedy, but only for those who can get past Rock’s evident misogyny and a winking, prurient tone that borders on the sleazy. Torres is extremely sympathetic, and Steve Buscemi adds a hilarious turn as an office lothario. Sadly, neither quality applies to Rock or Washington or their vapid, self-absorbed, and above all, grating characters.
Kinsey Scale: 2
The Last Mimzy
Ten-year-old Noah Wilder (Chris O’Neil) and his little sister, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), stumble across a mysterious box of “toys” on the beach at their family’s vacation home. When the unusual objects – particularly a “living” toy rabbit named Mimzy – cause the kids to develop genius-level intelligence, telekinesis, visions of the future, and the power to cause citywide blackouts, their parents – and the FBI – become very concerned. What happens next is a race to save the future of the planet. This messy, sci-fi/New Age lesson in alternative spirituality for older kids is saved from environmental preachiness by an “E.T.”-esque sense of wonder and fun. The message is that power lies within – and you can’t argue with that.
Kinsey Scale: 0
When Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) wakes up one morning, she discovers that her husband (Julian McMahon) is dead, the victim of an auto accident. But when she wakes the next morning, he’s alive again. In fact, she neither has control over which day of the week she’s living in – one day it’s Saturday, the next it’s Wednesday – nor the ability to piece together the chronological puzzle of events that may be key to going back in time and saving her husband from doom. If that plot sounds too far-fetched to buy for 90 minutes, then it’s best if you sit out this wildly silly yet surprisingly daring bit of stern-faced entertainment. Bullock conveys exactly the right amount of petulance, confusion, and tentative grief the role requires, lending gravity to the outlandish proceedings. Viewers are advised to hang on and just roll with it.
Kinsey Scale: 1
In a gritty Philadelphia neighborhood, a recreation center is about to shut down. But former swimmer Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), the man sent to dismantle it, refills the pool and invites the kids loitering outside to form a swim team. For these good but directionless teens, the sport proves eye-opening, as they discover discipline and purpose for the first time in their lives. Based on a true story, this 1970s-set inspirational sports saga doles out laughs while tugging at the heartstrings. The tale follows a familiar formula, but for all the cliches, it is absolutely delightful – in no small part due to its finely drawn characters, evocative period details, Howard’s sensitive performance, and the excellent support he receives from his amiable young co-stars.
Kinsey Scale: 1
Reign Over Me
Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) and Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) were once college roommates and close friends. Years later, a chance meeting between the two men reveals that Alan is successful and stable, but Charlie – whose wife and children died in the terror attacks of 9/11 – has retreated into a solitary world of grief and growing mental illness. With his old friend’s help, Charlie begins to emerge from his shell, but outside forces throw him off course. As the grief-stricken man, Sandler finally proves himself capable of serious roles, even if he does rely on his standard repertoire of physical-comedy mannerisms from time to time. And unlike most Hollywood dramas, there’s no rush to “cure” his character by the final act. Surprising and moving but not exploitative, this is Sandler’s best performance and best film to date.
Kinsey Scale: 1
Recruited to help stop an assassination plot against the president, ex-army sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) realizes that he is the designated fall guy only after shots ring out. With every police agency in the country gunning for him and just one low-level FBI agent, Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), on his side, Swagger races to clear his name and uncover the real conspirators. Wahlberg and Pena are both excellent, delivering understated performances in a thriller that otherwise revels in the overblown. Once the killing starts, it quickly escalates into an absurdly high body count in scene after scene of exaggerated mayhem, with a special emphasis on deadly, fiery explosions. What begins as a smart, paranoid thriller quickly descends into the cheapest kind of revenge fantasy.
Kinsey Scale: 1
Four middle-aged suburban friends (John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen, William H. Macy), dissatisfied with their lives and yearning for their lost sense of freedom and good times, decide to take a motorcycle road trip. There’s a lot of predictable silliness, including run-ins with a mean biker gang and other inhospitable travelers. But what will be most memorable for gay audiences is the low-brow, unapologetic, and rampant homophobia of the script. When confronted with any form of male physical contact, the characters recoil in disgust and threaten violence. Worse, when encountering a gay police officer for the first time, their panic is not the movie’s concern – the gay man’s predatory advances become the problem. What could have been an innocuous family comedy turns into the most despicably antigay big-studio film in a long time.
Kinsey Scale: 4
Fear paralyzes the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969 when a serial killer’s letters and ciphers taunt the police, press, and public. The case becomes an obsession for homicide detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), and especially cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), who turns amateur gumshoe to keep the case alive years after it grows cold. This bloated crime drama begins on a suspenseful note as it limns each murder and the race to catch a killer, but it quickly becomes bogged down in trivial detail. More disastrous is the emergence of Graysmith as the main character. His private investigation quickly grows dull, and what’s worse, the perpetually boyish Gyllenhaal is wholly unconvincing in the role of dogged sleuth.
Kinsey Scale: 1.5