Concluding my mini-reviews of some recent releases, several of which are in the running for an Oscar or two.
Gran Torino: Yes it was quite watchable and extremely funny but borderline corny. The writing could really have been better. If this is what happened to Dirty Harry in his old age, I wish he would have used fewer racial slurs - it becomes really grating after a while. Funny yes but in an uncomfortable way. Very good storytelling though, and it is great to see how Eastwood (does he look good at 78 or what!) imbues this movie with valuable life lessons and personal experience & observations, in a very entertaining manner.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Like (practically) everybody else on the planet, I am also a Brad Pitt fan, but even his most ardent supporter might agree that this is just a little too much of a good thing. Brad Pitt as an old baby, a not so old baby, a young man, a slightly less than young man, an adult, a mature man, a senior baby, wait... I might have gotten the order wrong. I can't say that I was positively bored at any stage, but the movie seems to go on and on and the last 20 minutes or so are really redundant. We get it already. Best movie of the year? No. However with all the Brad Pitt fans out there, the Academy might give it the nod. I hope not.
Revolutionary Road: Very intense movie - if this doesn't provoke some conversation in the car on the way home, turn down the radio. Kate Winslet (for several years running my favorite actress) strips the paint of the walls with her superb acting in this role. I was surprised to see her being nominated for The Reader instead of this one. Probably something to do with the theme (of The Reader). Revolutionary Road is rather dark but fascinating. It's Winslet's movie but Leonardo DiCaprio is no acting slouch either. He keeps getting better as the years go by. I thought he was at his best in The Aviator, until The Departed came along. And now Revolutionary Road. Pity the Academy doesn't seem to agree. Oh and Winslet and Dicaprio still look very good together.
The Reader: I have to admit that one of the reasons why I like and admire Kate Winslet is because she does not have any qualms about taking off her clothes for the camera. When the role calls for it, and sometimes even when it doesn't, there's Kate in the altogether. Not to mention that she is one of the best actresses around nowadays. The Reader is no exception. Her acting is consistently superb. The Reader starts out well but takes a grim turn and on the whole I can't say that I really liked it, and neither would I recommend it very highly. Even so, if you are a Kate Winslet fan, by all means go and see it. She definitely earned the Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for this role.
Australia: While many critics slammed this movie I thought it was one of the most enjoyable films in a very long time. Fabulous production values, amazing cinematography, simply very well made and highly entertaining from beginning to end. I guess you could call it an old-fashioned epic. Sure it is too long and probably should have ended about two thirds through, but I really didn't mind. After a silly start (cliched 'fish out of water' scenario) Nicole Kidman - aka Mrs. Boss - takes control and performs more than admirably. Hugh Jackman does an equally great job as the 'driver', and Brandon Walters (young Nullah) pretty much steals the entire movie. Despite its length, there's never a dull moment, no emotion is left untapped, no color of the rainbow unused, and no story line discarded.