The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett star in this fascinating tale about a man who continually grows younger rather than older. The film opens with the title character being born. Benjamin is a baby, but his body features - bones, skin, and senses are that of an 86 year old man. His disgusted father abandons him on a door step that happens to be that of a retirement home. A few years into his life, Benjamin notices that something quite unusual is happening to him…..he is getting younger! From that time on the movie takes on the epic feel of watching one man's extraordinary life a la Forrest Gump. However, outside of the fact that he is aging backwards, not much more happens to him that I would label extraordinary. This is where I felt the movie dropped the ball or should I say the Oscar for best picture. It lacked those whimsical moments that lures you even more into the characters' lives, a moment that coats you with cinematic dust. The main emotional artery of the story is Benjamin reuniting with the love of his life as they cross paths in their late 30’s. It is a sad concept to be utterly in love with someone knowing you will not be able to grow old with them. The film explores the themes of love, death and aging, but again I felt it lacked something. It was missing a closing argument. One aspect where the film excelled was the make-up and special effects used to depict the varying ages of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett throughout this epic. They both looked great as teenagers with smooth youthful skin as well as elders with wrinkles and graying hair. This movie had so much going for it. It is one of my favorites of the year, but with a little help it could have been at the very top of my list!
Ry's Rating: B +
If this movie had parents they would be: Forrest Gump & Big
Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood pulls double duty as he stars and directs in this latest feature. Eastwood plays Walt, a recent widower who insists on living in the “old neighborhood” even though the neighborhood is infested with thugs and gangs. His new neighbors are Hmong, an ethnic group originating from Southeast Asia. With Walt being an old Korean War veteran who still looks through the eyes of 1950’s America….this does not make him happy. When Tao, the young man from next store is harassed by neighborhood thugs, Walt steps in to save the day. He does not so much want to save Tao as much as he cannot bear the decline of his neighborhood that he has lived in for so long. However, his neighbors flower Walt with gifts of gratitude for saving their son. This does slowly open Walt up and he finally befriends his new neighbors. What makes this so entertaining is the character Eastwood plays – he is a cross between Dirty Harry and Michael Douglas in Falling Down. He is set in his ways and is not very rational when it comes to solving certain issues. Eastwood also flings racial slurs and one-liners out like nobody’s business. The movie is actually much funnier than I would have ever imagined. On the other hand, I thought the film was a little too formulated. I could tell Clint was buttering us up before the drama in the final act. The story is not all that original, but Clint’s outstanding character makes up for it.
Ry's Rating: B
If This movie had parents they would be: Falling Down & The Karate Kid
Milk: Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. I myself am not a big fan of Sean Penn, but I have to give credit where credit is due - he might just be the best actor working today. He proves this again with the role of Harvey Milk. He does such a good job that you are not even conscious of his outstanding acting, you just believe he is that character. What makes the movie even more impressive is that the rest of the cast is outstanding as well. James Franco is excellent as Harvey’s partner. It is without a doubt his best performance to date. Plus, Emile Hirsch and Josh Brolin also pour in a couple of great supporting roles. Harvey Milk was elected to San Francisco public office in 1977 and was the voice of the people who had a right to be heard. In 1978 he stood up to Proposition 6, a California ballot measure aimed at preventing gay people and supporters from working as teachers in public schools. He was assassinated 3 weeks later. I am not giving anything away by telling you this. The story is not one of suspense, but of hope. The hope that his message is disseminated and helps open people's eyes. The story is extremely powerful and hits home at a time when Proposition 8 (banning of gay marriage) is front page news. This film is directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting). He structures the movie in a way that lets us know the accomplishments of Harvey Milk while getting to know the man himself. This is what makes the movie. It is what makes the message so powerful. Harvey is a person just like you and I, a person living life, loving the people close to him…why shouldn't that person have the same rights as the rest of us?
Ry's Rating: A-
Parents: Brokeback Mountain & Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Australia: Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in Baz Luhrmann’s sweeping epic about the land down under. All of the elements were in place to make the classic Hollywood saga, but yet the story ultimately felt empty. This is not to say that the movie is a total bust. Putting this film on the “perspective scale” you see that it was trying to be a lot more than the standard tale. Australia may have come up short of its goal, but it still lands above much of the junk in theaters today. The movie opens up with Lady Ashley (Kidman) traveling from England to Australia to see her long absent husband at the cattle ranch he purchased. Just before she arrives, her husband is murdered leaving her sole proprietor of the cattle ranch. She can either take the easy way out and sell the cattle business to her evil competitor or keep the business going on her own. It is almost a 3 hour movie…..she picks the latter. In doing so, she must figure out a way to heard 1,500 cattle over treacherous land to the Australian port of Darwin. There she will be able to sell her cattle to the army who is preparing for World War II. Enter Drover (Jackman), the best damn cattle drover in all of the land. With him in the lead and a cast of 5 others including Kidman and an aboriginal boy, the adventure begins. That is only part one of the story. When they finally make it to Darwin there is controversy about who the little boy should stay with since he is of white and aboriginal descent and has no parents to care for him. Then there is the empire of Japan who comes in and bombs Darwin in hopes that it will cut off supplies to the Australian military. Through all of this, the characters finally realize who they truly love and care for…now the question is whether they can save each other from danger. The movie is filled with wide shots of the beautiful landscape and even has some moments of awe during both the cattle herding and war scenes. Luhrmann also finds a way to incorporate the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. I thought the acting was good – Kidman better than Jackman and the boy above them both. I think two things that could have helped strengthen the film would be tweaking the story so that we cared more about the fate of the characters and adding a little more of Luhrmann’s creative directing style to separate it from the norm. The story was grand, but the emotion was shallow. I liked it, but wanted more…
Ry's Rating: B-
If this movie had parents they would be: Out of Africa & Pearl Harbor